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Huge March in New York Sets a New Tone for Action on Climate Change

A sea of Climate Action humanity in New York, Sept. 21. Photo: Mark Dixon.

ACTION. To help curb Climate Change, the EPA’s proposed new rule on emissions from power plants is important. Please submit your comments now.

They went to New York in their thousands; students, grand-parents, union members, community organizers, and faith groups.  Lead by UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon, Al Gore, the French prime minister, and Jane Goodall, 400,000 of them passed through Times Square in a festooned march that stretched for four miles. Their numbers stunned the organizers and surprised the NYPD. They called on the world’s leaders to ACT NOW on climate change, to move away from our dangerous reliance on fossil fuels, and for protection of the poorest inhabitants of all nations. This was the largest demonstration for social action in many years, and was the strongest call for action on climate change ever.

Aboard the three Sierra Club/Thomas Merton Center buses from Pittsburgh were one hundred members plus 16 members of the SEIU union and 25 CMU students.  Another two buses from Pittsburgh were filled with Pitt students and members of Action United.  These worthy souls who climbed aboard their buses in the early morning hours and got back late at night all deserve our thanks for representing Pittsburgh in a great and very successful event.

Shifting Economics of Climate Change

The day after the huge People’s Climate March, attention shifted to the economic aspects of climate change. Highlighting the fact that Wall Street is physically threatened with flooding if climate disruption continues unabated, Flood Wall Street demonstrators marched to Wall Street called for a shift to a green economy, and suffered 100 some arrests. Adopting a less radical approach, on the same day fifty members of the Global Divest-Invest Coalition representing foundations, pension funds, and individuals with assets of $50 billion pledged to divest from fossil fuels to green energy. Making the headlines was the inclusion of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund in the divestment move.

Countering the argument that we cannot afford to shift to a green economy, Nobel economist Paul Krugman referred to reports from the New Climate Economy Project and the International Monetary Fund when he recently wrote that “Saving the planet would be cheap” but wondered who might be listening to this significant shift in economic thinking.

Finally, at the Climate Summit seven countries pledged $1.325 billion to the UN Green Climate Fund, which has a goal of at least $15 billion. Established in 2010, the fund is designed to provide developing countries with money to skip over the fossil fuel phase of development and go directly to a green economy. The fund was given a major boost in July with a $960 million pledge from Germany. The largest of the pledges at the Climate Summit was $1 billion from France, with $100 million each from Switzerland and Korea, and the rest from Denmark, Norway, Luxembourg, and the Czech Republic. As shown at the Mashable site, not all pledges at the Climate Summit were to the Green Climate Fund.

NOTE: See the video of Sept. 27 talk by Christina Figueres, on “Towards Paris 2015: Why climate matters to investors and what they should do

Climate Action, the United Nations, and Paris December 2015

Two days after the People’s Climate March in New York, President Obama spoke at the special UN Climate Summit. While accepting his own country’s contribution to climate disruption, Obama explained the extensive measures he has taken to curtail climate change, and he called for stronger action from the whole international community. In support of this world-wide need for action, China’s Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli pledged that his country would reduce carbon emissions by 2020.

The march on Sunday, the economic news on Monday, and the UN speeches on Tuesday had the underlying goal of setting the tone for positive and ambitious action at the UN Climate Change Conference in Lima at the beginning of December. At that conference a draft agreement evolving from the Kyoto Protocol will be presented, followed by a year of negotiations before approval of the final climate agreement in Paris, Dec. 2015. As Mary Robinson, former Premier of Ireland and now the UN Special Envoy for Climate Change has explained, there is now the will to avoid the disappointment of the Copenhagen conference in 2009 and acknowledge that the Paris agreement is the last chance for dealing globally with the emission of greenhouse gases.

Coalition Designed to Protect Schools from Fracking

Coming to a school near you? Photo from the PA DEP

Causing alarm in some Pennsylvania communities is the possible siting of fracking operations near schools. A coalition of parents, concerned citizens, and advocacy groups has now been created to keep shale gas drilling and infrastructure one mile from schools. The ‘Protect Our Children’ coalition is open to new members and provides support for local campaigns.

Hillary Clinton’s State Dept. and Fracking

It may place a damper on some environmentalists’ ardor for a Hillary presidency. In the latest issue of Mother Jones the role of Hillary Clinton’s State Department in the fostering of fracking abroad is explored in detail. Along with energy companies like Chevron, the State Department sought to allay the skepticism of European officials and public opposition regarding fracking, with Secretary Clinton playing an active role.

Sierra Club Endorses Re-Election of Dan Frankel to the State House

In recognition of his strong support on environmental issues over the years, the Pennsylvania Chapter of the Sierra Club has announced its endorsement of Dan Frankel in the upcoming General Election. Rep. Frankel currently represents citizens in the 23rd District, which includes Hazelwood, Squirrel Hill, and parts of Oakland and Point Breeze.

A Climate Change Lesson from the Ozone Layer

NASA image

The layer of naturally occurring ozone in the atmosphere high above the Earth is a vital shield against harmful ultraviolet radiation.  Fifty years ago chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) from aerosols and refrigerants began to deplete the ozone layer and in 1996 the use of global CFCs was banded.  Now a group of scientists from national and international organizations report that the ozone layer is finally recovering.  This is welcome news in itself, but it is also a climate change lesson.  We cannot simply dump CFCs and CO2 into our fragile atmosphere without disastrous consequences. In the CFC case nations acted in time; whether we can still act in time to avoid a tipping point for climate change we will soon know, for greenhouse gas pollution is surging, and reached a carbon equivalent of 397 ppm last month.

September is National Wilderness Month

Tionesta Research Natural Area old-growth forest. Photo by Kirk Johnson.

September 3, 2014 marked the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Wilderness Act and the creation of the National Wilderness Preservation System (NWPS). Today it is hard to image a Congress having such foresight and wisdom as was employed in 1964. Fortunately, President Obama has been able to continue the ‘wilderness tradition’ as he explained in his Proclamation for National Wilderness Month.

Added to the NWPS in 1984, there are two Wilderness Areas in the Allegheny National Forest, Hickory Creek and Allegheny Islands. A 2003 proposal to added another 54,460 acres to the existing 9,000 acres on the 513,000 acre National Forest has not yet won the support of the local Congressman Glenn Thompson, who tends to favor the extractive industries.

Ten Current Reasons to be Hopeful about Tackling Climate Change

ACTION: Join the bus to the Peoples Climate March in NYC, Sept. 21

Avoiding the worst of climate change is challenging, requiring more from ourselves and our leaders, but there are some signs for hope. In a detailed article Karl Mathieson of the Guardian provides ten good signs:

  1. Barack Obama has made it one of his defining issues
  2. China has ordered coal power plants to close
  3. The cost of solar has fallen by two thirds
  4. People are taking their money out of fossil fuels
  5. Bangladeshi women are being retrained as solar technicians
  6. Renewable energy will soon take the lion’s share of new power
  7. European homes are using 15% less energy than they were in 2000
  8. Cutting emissions has become a business imperative
  9. Oil is becoming much more expensive to find
  10. Electric car sales are doubling each year
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