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Obama and Jinping Provide Fresh Hope for Universal Action on Climate Change

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ACTION: Thank President Obama for historic action on climate change.

What a welcome surprise, and what satisfaction for those who took part in the September 21 Climate march in New York! Shortly after the November elections shifted Congress even further into the arms of the fossil fuel industries, the Presidents of China and the United States joined in a bold plan to tackle climate change. This cooperative declaration removed one of the major excuses that opponents of climate action have been using – that the US should not move on climate while China does nothing. By demonstrating leadership, the world’s top emitters of greenhouse gases [US – 19 pct and China -23 Pct in 2008] have renewed hope that other nations, including India, will work in alliance at the UN Climate Change conference in Lima next month to prepare an international climate agreement for adoption at the Paris UN conference in December 2015, replacing the inadequate 1997 Kyoto Protocol.

At the November 12 meeting in Peking President Obama announced that (more…)

Growth in Solar Power, Especially in China

Putting teeth in its fresh commitment to shift away from fossil fuels is the fact that in 2013 China led the world in growth of installing solar energy. While the rate of installation dropped in European countries like Germany, China installed 12 GW of solar PV power generation capacity in 2013, an increase of 232 pct over 2012. To place China’s increase in perspective, the worldwide increase in 2013 was 38.7 GW to reach 140.6 GW at the end of 2013.

In 2013 the US installed 4.75 GW of solar power, a modest increase of 41 pct over 2012 compared to China’s, but still meriting the descriptor ‘boom’ for the solar industry. This ‘boom’ is supported by the prediction that by 2016 “solar power will be as cheap or cheaper than electricity from the conventional grid in every state except three.” In the 2nd quarter of 2014 the average cost of installing a 6 kW system was $3.74/W. Leading the ‘boom’ in the US is California, where in the 2nd quarter of 2014 672 MW of Photovoltaic power was installed. Second was Massachusetts at 112 MW. Without support from the state leadership in 2013 , Pennsylvania did not even reach the top ten, where Indiana was tenth at 16 MW.

Local Activists Join Protests Against Expanding Fracking Infrastructure at FERC Offices in DC

Artwork: Mike LaMark

On November 2 activists began a week of protests against the Federal governments approval of fracking infrastructure projects, including pipelines in NY and MD and the Cove Point LNG exporting facility at Cove Point MD. Site of the protests was the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) offices in DC. Among the protesters were participants in the cross-country Great March for Climate Action, a march that recently stopped in Pittsburgh. Also protesting were members of the anti-fracking community of Western Pennsylvania, including representatives of Marcellus Outreach Butler. At times the protests turned nasty, with numerous arrests throughout the week.

US Moves to Meet World-Wide Growth in Demand for Coal

Coal miners in our region began to lose their jobs as companies adopted long-wall mining practices in the Sixties. Then came competition from cheaper open-cast mining in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming, mining which is the subject of an interesting article in the Guardian. Now the Wyoming ‘miners’ are worried about the impact of the switch to cheaper natural gas for power production along with the EPA’s planned restrictions on GHG emissions. So the coal companies look at the growing demand for coal in Asia and look forward to exporting their coal from ports on the West Coast. The problem is, burning coal has a strong impact on the planet’s atmosphere whether it is burned in Pennsylvania or South Korea, even if the new power plants are more effective in reducing GHG emissions.

Linking Current Cold Spell to Climate Change?

NOAA’s weekly temperature forecast on Nov 13.

To some of us it is very tempting to associate this unusual mid-November cold spell to climate change. And we are not alone, for it is a question of interest to climatologists. Their answer seems to be ‘maybe’. There is certainly a connection between the dip of cold weather down the spine of the continent and the strong typhoon Nuri in the Western Pacific. Scientists expect that the recorded heating of the Pacific ocean due to climate change is likely to increase the frequency of extra strong hurricanes that in turn can drive big dips in the jet stream over the US. But relating a single weather event to global climate change is still a dicey business.

Clean Rivers Campaign: Town Hall for Ratepayer Fairness, Pittsburgh, Nov. 18

November 18, 2014
7:00 pmto8:30 pm

We are required to spend BILLIONS of dollars fixing our sewer system and getting sewage out of our rivers. We all want clean water, but we also want the rates we pay to be INVESTED WISELY AND FAIRLY.  Join us at the Clean Rivers Campaign‘s Town Hall meeting:

7:00 to 8:30 pm, Tuesday, November 18
First Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh
320 Sixth Avenue
Pittsburgh PA 15222

Topics to be covered include:

  • Smart Solutions with Maximum Benefits
  • Making Sure Everyone Pays Their Fair Share
  • Protecting Our Neighbors and Our Health

Learn more and RSVP HERE.

Partners in the Clean Rovers Campaign include Action United, Clean Water Action, Pittsburgh United, Nine Mile Run Watershed Assoc., and Sierra Club. (more…)

Allegheny County Council Presented with Petition to Put Hold on Fracking in County Parks

Joni Rabinowitz (L) ready to present petition with other representatives of the Protect Our Parks coalition. Photo: D. Peterson

On November 6 members of the Protect Our Parks coalition presented to the clerk of Allegheny County Council a citizen’s petition regarding County regional parks. The petition calls for placing on the Council’s agenda an ordinance that will place a two-year hold on leasing of mineral rights at eight parks, following the first royalty payment from the leasing beneath Deer Lakes Park.

Although only 500 valid signatures are required for such a petition, (more…)

What the Election Means for the Climate Movement.

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Obviously it will take time to realize the consequences of the Republican victories on Tuesday, but some things look likely. For example: slimmer chance of Congressional action on climate change (see below), ‘denier’ Sen. Jim Inhofe (OK) to take chairmanship of the Environment Committee from Barbara Boxer (CA), and attacks on the EPA’s Clean Power Plant rules.

On her blog at 350.org May Boeve expanded on the following conclusions from the elections:

  • The fossil fuel industry knows it’s in a fight for its life.
  • Solutions are coming, from the ground up.
  • Keystone XL is back on the agenda.
  • Divestment from fossil fuels matters more than ever.

Five Simple Things that Governor Tom Wolf can do for Pennsylvania’s Environment

The following is from Joanne Kilgour, Executive Director of the Sierra Club Pennsylvania Chapter:

In the last four years, Governor Corbett and the Pennsylvania House and Senate have made repeated attacks on environmental protection and sought to maximize the profits of the gas, oil and coal industries at the expense of Pennsylvania’s health and safety.

The November 4th election saw the loss of pro-environment seats in both houses of the legislature, predicting further attacks on the environment. (more…)

Allegheny County Council Approves Fracking at County Airport in West Mifflin

Coming to an airport near you? Photo from the PA DEP

To the disappointment of environmentalists, Allegheny County Council continues to allow fracking beneath the county’s public property, first at Pittsburgh International Airport, then at Deer Lakes County Park, and now at the County Airport. By a vote of 9 to 3, on November 5 the council approved the leasing to Consol Energy of mineral rights beneath the airport in West Mifflin, despite warnings from witnesses about the environmental impacts on the nearby residential areas. Voting in favor of the lease were Baker, De Fazio, Finnerty, Futules, Kress, Macey, Martoni, Palmiere, and Rea, with no votes from Danko, Ellenbogen, and Means. Heidelbaugh abstained and Green-Hawkins and Robinson were absent. In a few weeks council members will be asked to break the fracking pattern and place a two-hold on fracking in the remaining eight County Regional parks.

Komen Breast Cancer Charity Urged to Stop ‘Pinkwashing’ with Frackers

ACTION: Send a message urging Komen to stop their ‘pinkwashing’ partnership with frackers Baker Hughes.

It is a classic response; if the public imagines that your product is unhealthy then give financial aid to a health advocacy group and reap the ‘good citizen’ mantel from such aid. In the case of breast cancer it is called ‘pinkwashing’ and that is exactly what fracking company Baker Hughes has done with the Susan G. Komen charity in the campaign ‘Doing our Bit for Cancer’ where the bit is a pink drill bit. (more…)

NPR Cuts and How the Media Covers Environmental Issues

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ACTION: Sign the petition urging NPR to restore coverage of environmental issues.

At a time when the need to cover environmental issues is stronger than ever, the news that NPR has cut its ‘environment’ staff from three reporters and one editor to just one part-time reporter is not good. The reason for the shift in emphasis is not clear. (Fortunately, In Pennsylvania environmental news is covered by StateImpact on WESA.) In January 2013 the New York Times closed down its nine-member environment desk but restored the cuts recently. These moves raise the question of how the media in general covers the environment. (more…)

PA Environmental Scorecard Shows Local Legislators Less Supportive than Easterners

November 4, 2014
7:00 amto8:00 pm

ACTION: Let your legislator know what you think about their Conservation Voter score.

Few of the western Pa incumbents in the state House and Senate are being seriously challenged in the Nov. 4 election. East of Harrisburg the Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania (CVPa) found it necessary to only endorse Lisa Stout Bashioum (39th Dist in the Mon valley) out of a total of thirteen endorsed candidates for the state House.  So it is useful to know how these incumbents behaved environmentally during the 2013-2014 sessions. (more…)

Ten Current Reasons to be Hopeful about Tackling Climate Change

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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