Ben Block

Ben Block is a staff writer at the Worldwatch Institute. He can be reached at bblock@worldwatch.org.

tasty tariffs

North American feed-in tariff policies take off

Gainesville’s feed-in tariff program is limited to 4 megawatts of solar PV each year. The program is already fully subscribed through 2015 — a 24-megawatt commitment.Photo courtesy U.S. NRELClean energy advocates in Europe have long considered the feed-in tariff as an antidote to the industrial world’s fossil fuel dependency. Now, the United States and Canada are starting to catch on as well. Feed-in tariffs (FITs) guarantee that anyone who generates electricity from a renewable energy source — whether they are a homeowner, small business, or large electric utility — is able to sell that electricity into the grid and receive …

A climate change we can disbelieve in

Sarah Palin’s record on climate change

  Sarah Palin, U.S. vice presidential candidate, may be an influential actor in Congressional efforts to pass climate change legislation. Photo Courtesy State of Alaska. When comparing the U.S. presidential candidates’ green credentials, both contenders support greater action to address climate change through a cap on U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. While Republican candidate John McCain’s reduction targets are more modest than the promises of Democrat Barack Obama, either candidate should offer a significant shift from the largely stalled policies of the current administration. Among the vice presidential candidates, however, the choices offer significant contrasts in ideology and policy. Democrat Joe …

A climate hero: An outspoken truth

A look back at James Hansen’s seminal testimony on climate, part three

Worldwatch Institute is partnering with Grist to bring you this three-part series commemorating the 20-year anniversary of NASA scientist James Hansen's groundbreaking testimony on global climate change next week. Part three of three follows. Part one is here; part two is here. ----- In May 1989, a few months after NASA scientist James Hansen declared that global warming had arrived, he would provide another testimony to clarify the risks of future climate change. But before Hansen could make his presentation to Sen. Al Gore's subcommittee, the White House's Office of Management and Budget intercepted the testimony and rewrote its conclusion. According to the revised copy, the cause of climate change was still unknown. NASA headquarters said Hansen could accept the changes or not testify, he later recalled. It was not the first OMB revision of a Hansen testimony. This time, he decided, would be different. Hansen notified Gore that his testimony did not reflect his actual opinion, which led Gore to frame the hearing's questions to reveal the OMB edits. It was the lead story on all major television networks that night.

A climate hero: The testimony

A look back at James Hansen’s seminal testimony on climate, part two

Worldwatch Institute is partnering with Grist to bring you this three-part series commemorating the 20-year anniversary of NASA scientist James Hansen's groundbreaking testimony on global climate change next week. Part one is here; part three is here. ----- An unprecedented heat wave gripped the United States in the summer of 1988. Droughts destroyed crops. Forests were in flames. The Mississippi River was so dry that barges could not pass. Nearly half the nation was declared a disaster area. The record-high temperatures led growing numbers of people to wonder whether the climate was being unnaturally altered. Meanwhile, NASA scientist James Hansen was wrapping up a study finding that climate change, caused by the burning of fossil fuels, appeared inevitable even with dramatic reductions in greenhouse-gases. After a decade of studying the so-called greenhouse effect on global climate, Hansen was prepared to make a bold statement. Hansen found his opportunity through former Sen. Tim Wirth (D-Colo.), who chose to showcase the scientist at a Congressional hearing. Twenty years later, the hearing is regarded as a turning point in climate science history.

A climate hero: The early years

A look back at James Hansen’s seminal testimony on climate, part one

Worldwatch Institute is partnering with Grist to bring you this three-part series commemorating the 20-year anniversary of NASA scientist James Hansen’s groundbreaking testimony on global climate change next week. It is written by Worldwatch staff writer Ben Block. Here follows part one. Part two is here; part three is here. ----- The speakers at a Washington, D.C., climate rally this past Earth Day, April 22, showcased the range of the modern environmental movement. They included an activist who engaged in a hunger strike, an outspoken preacher from the Hip Hop Caucus, and a folk duo that performed, "Unsustainable," a parody of Frank Sinatra's "Unforgettable." Yet it was a comparatively dry, 20-minute scientific presentation that brought the crowd to its feet. The speaker, introduced as a "climate hero," was James Hansen, a long-time scientist with the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Hansen is not a revolutionary by character. He is a mild-natured man who speaks with a soft, Midwestern tone. Raised in southwest Iowa, the fifth child of tenant farmers, Hansen would later commit his life to studying computerized climate models. With human-induced climate change now widely regarded as the greatest challenge of this generation, Hansen is considered a visionary pioneer. Theories of climate change first surfaced more than a century ago. But it was Hansen who forever altered the debate on climate change 20 years ago this month.

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