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Auden Schendler's Posts

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Citi takes energy efficiency all the way to the bank

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Disclosure: I used to crawl under trailers in poor parts of Western Colorado in a suit made from air-mail envelope material. I wasn’t being a weirdo, at least not intentionally. I had a job as a “weatherization technician,” making these homes more energy efficient, working for the government’s catastrophically acronymed LIHEAP program (for Low Income Household Energy Assistance Program, but still, guys, come on). It was hard work. We had little funding. And the program is now defunct. And yet, that very work is exactly what we ought to be undertaking at huge scale to help solve climate change.

Well, 20 years after I worked those trenches, I have some good news to deliver. Quietly, in the recesses of the financial machine, we've begun to do just that. Few know about it. But you should.

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Green sleaze: The EPA helps corporations scrub their images while screwing the planet

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is so progressive on climate change that it is currently responsible for the entirety of U.S. climate policy. The agency is moving forward with regulations on new and existing coal-fired power plants, by far the largest source of CO2 emissions in the country, and has already locked in historic vehicle mileage standards. The current EPA administrator, Gina McCarthy, is both a climate warrior and a down-to-earth person, who fully understands the climate challenge and intends to use EPA authority to fix it. In short, the EPA is amazing, and may even save civilization through its …

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Corporate sustainability is not sustainable

That's not going to cut it, bucko.
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That's not going to cut it, bucko.

Green initiatives are ubiquitous these days, implemented with zeal at companies like Dupont, IBM, Walmart, and Walt Disney. The programs being rolled out -- lighting retrofits, zero-waste factories, and carpool incentives -- save money and provide a green glow. Most large companies are working to reduce energy use and waste, and many have integrated sustainability into strategic planning. What’s not to like?

Well, for starters, these actions don’t meaningfully address the primary barrier to sustainability, climate change. According to the International Energy Agency, without action, global temperatures will likely increase 6 degrees C by 2100, “which would have devastating consequences for the planet.” This means more super droughts, floods, storms, fires, crop failures, sea-level rise, and other major disruptions. “Sustainability” simply isn't possible in the face of such a problem, as Superstorm Sandy demonstrated.

So despite perceptions that “sustainable business” is up and running, the environment reminds us we’re failing to deal with the problem at anywhere near sufficient scale.

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Three battle plans for fixing climate in Obama’s second term

This is how Obama should be on climate.

Two things have happened since the obscure holiday of St. Crispin's day, Oct. 25, this year. First, Hurricane Sandy emphatically reset the American conversation on climate change. A recent cover of Bloomberg Businessweek was "It's Global Warming, Stupid!" Second, the presidential candidate who understands climate science and wants to take action has been elected. In his victory speech Obama said: "We want our children to live in an America that isn't threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet."

In history, St. Crispin's day happens to have marked two legendary battles where armies overcame overwhelming odds. The U.S. and Australia's improbable victory, outgunned and outnumbered, at Leyte Gulf during World War II, was one. And in 1415 at Agincourt, Henry V and his men used longbows to defeat the numerically superior French forces. It's worth noting that the catastrophic Charge of the Light Brigade also happened on St. Crispin's day, reminding us that great boldness often carries great consequences.

Perhaps this year, St. Crispin's day marked another improbable victory against all odds: The date when Americans finally started talking about realistic paths to climate solutions.

Where do we go from here? There are at least three viable options today, and here they are:

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Climate Change is Fracking Society

Fracking isn’t only happening in the gas fields. Because of the never before seen and almost impossible to grok (or solve) problem of climate change, fracking is happening all over the environmental movement. Moms are fighting kids. Boards are fighting staff. Nonprofits are fighting each other. Left is fighting right and left. Republicans are getting sick of their weird and lame leaders, like Romney, Gingrich, and McCain who clearly understood climate science until they didn’t understand it, and are spinning off on their own to fix the thing. http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2012/07/10/513568/climate-republicans-global-warming-initiativ/?mobile=nc. Just this year, I supported state legislation on a key climate …

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Selma, Montgomery, and Climate Change

(Reposted from Huffington Post) How weird would it have been if, in the 1960s, the press had reported from Selma, Birmingham, and Montgomery like this: "Selma, Al. March 7 (AP) -- Protests Swell in the South! Hundreds marched out of Selma on Highway 80 today. Many protesters were left bloodied, coughing, and severely injured when State Troopers used tear gas and Billy clubs on the crowds. Man, people were pissed off. They really were demonstrating!" Of course, what's weird about that reporting is that the article doesn't say why the people were angry. To not report that would have simply …

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Hope and climate change: Reasons to remain optimistic

No need to hide in a corner: There are a few signs of hope when it comes to climate change. (Photo by Zen Sutherland.)

Cross-posted from Huffington Post.

With magazines like Scientific American publishing articles titled "Global Warming Close to Becoming Irreversible," and 15,000-plus temperature records set this spring in the U.S., it's no wonder the CFO of the business I work for said to me recently, "I have this crippling anxiety about climate change ... what are our children going to have to deal with?"

At Keystone, in Colorado, ski season is still going on, but a nearby fire meant the lodge was being used as an evacuation center a few weeks ago. Meanwhile, the Washington Post expressed bafflement about U.S. inaction in the face of obvious climate threats highlighted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

This all leaves most of us in the movement to solve climate change with a borderline-debilitating creeping terror that haunts our daily activities, and inclines many of us to want to rock in the corner holding our knees, eating Chinese food out of the box.

But that's neither productive nor healthy, and Kung Pao stains carpet.

Instead, we need to find signs of hope. And surprisingly, there are a few.

Read more: Climate Change

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The Wall Street Journal’s willful climate lies

It wasn’t surprising that the Wall Street Journal published an error-riddled op-ed about climate change last week, essentially saying it was bunk and we shouldn’t “panic” about it. We’ve gotten used to that. But what has really started to amaze me about that newspaper’s editorial page and the far right is that they now venture beyond delusion or misinformation. They lie, and they know they are lying.

That’s a big claim, but how else do you account for the statement that “the earth hasn’t warmed for well over 10 years now” when it is well known by anyone working on climate that 2010 was the hottest year on record?

Despite the fact that many of the authors of the article are funded by ExxonMobil through the George C. Marshall Institute, and despite the fact that none of them are leading scientists, they, and the editor of the opinion page, simply had to know that that statement was false. They may be unethical, but they are not stupid.

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Midas Triumphant: The Climate Year in Review

Events of 2011 show that no matter how solid the science, some people will never accept that humans are causing global warming.  So how can we cut the Gordian Knot that is manmade global warming? by Auden Schendler, reposted from the Atlantic One version of the myth of King Midas holds that he was not greedy. Instead, he loved his daughter so much that he longed to leave her a stable future. When given the chance, he asked for the golden touch as a way to create an endowment. But when they embraced, she turned to gold as well. In …

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End of year existential rant and giving ideas: For humans

"In a place without people, be a person." -old saying, source unknown to me. I am a parent and a 41-year-old human denizen of planet earth, climate warrior, dormant mountaineer. So like others of my ilk, I spend a lot of time in mid-life/existential crisis. That state of mind is ameliorated to some extent by my charitable giving, often done at this time of year. To that end I'm offering Grist readers my annual philanthropic suggestions. I will preface the suggestions with a short description of the conditions of my life that lead, on any given day, to me enjoying …

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