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Ken Ward's Posts

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U.S. groups desert precautionary principle, 53 to 6

After ducking the matter for a decade, U.S. environmental organizations finally pulled together a climate policy, but the National Call to Action on Global Warming issued by 53 organizations on March 5 is a mistake and should be reconsidered. The National Call contains key elements that have been startlingly absent from our efforts to date -- an assessment of climate risk, bright-line definition of solution, and a platform -- but in attempting to thread a path between fundamentally irreconcilable political worldviews, the groups have fashioned a pushmepullyou compromise that will not gain us the traction we now require and squanders …

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Lessons from cognitive dissonance theory for U.S. environmentalists

If we accept the worst, or precautionary assessment, then U.S. environmentalists have perhaps a year to avert cataclysm, and nothing we are doing now will work. We are dealing with this terrible situation in a very ordinary and human way: by denying it. Our denial comes in a variety of forms: we believe that President Obama can and will solve the problem; we ignore Jim Hansen's assessment and timeline; we concentrate on our jobs and organization agendas and pass over the big picture; we focus on the molehill of climate policy rather than tackle the mountain of climate politics; we …

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Q&A with a board candidate I wish I could vote for

Checking out the statements of candidates for the Sierra Club national board, I was disappointed to find no champions for vigorous climate action, so in an idle moment I drafted answers to the Candidate Questionnaire from the sort of candidate for whom I'd like to cast my vote. Q. What leadership positions have you held in the Sierra Club, and what have you accomplished in those positions? A. None. I stand for the vast majority of members who have a deep and abiding affection for the Club, but lack the time, interest or patience for Chapter politics. Q. What needed …

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Send us your responses to our questionnaire on climate action

A questionnaire for Powershifters -- click for larger version It is a strange but not uncommon experience for youth to hear veterans of the 1960s disparage protest. Youthful protest, it is implied, can never hope to achieve the cultural and political breakthroughs of the civil rights and anti-Vietnam era; it's nothing more than nostalgic play-acting by those too young to know what the '60s were all about and too naive to understand a changed and nuanced world, where simplistic slogans and confrontational tactics are at best a waste of time and probably do more harm than good. This is hogwash. …

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Producing a true green 2010 budget

I perused the Green Budget 2010 released last week by a large group of U.S. environmental organizations, including EDF, LCV, NRDC, NWF and WWF. Unable to find a total cost figure for the wish list of federal programs it includes, I assumed this omission stemmed from hesitancy to draw attention to a hefty price tag. After toting up the numbers, this seems not to be the case. The total cost of the Green 2010 budget is $74 billion, just $4 billion more than the FY 2008 Bush administration budget reference. This is a diddly amount, not even a small down …

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Understanding polling in terms of core vs. general public

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. -- Margaret Mead (1901-1978) Almost every environmental organization uses this quote at some point. Mead's organizing truth is comforting to those laboring in the activist vineyards, but it is almost precisely opposite the actual approach we have taken, which would more appropriately be written ... It goes without saying that a small group of thoughtful, committed program officers and professional staff can mold public opinion and shift voting patterns, which should change the world. Indeed, it's the only …

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Obama should make like Lincoln and abolish fossil fuels

As the economy tailspins, President Franklin D. Roosevelt has replaced Abraham Lincoln as the favored Great President of commentators, against whom Obama is most often measured (or illuminated). President Obama still expresses his "affinity" with Lincoln and, as we are learning about this smart and subtle man, he makes the point with small, deft gestures. Seafood stew was served for lunch on Inauguration Day, just as it was for President Lincoln. So which is he, another Lincoln or an FDR? And which crisis -- the looming secession of the southern states in 1862 or the Great Depression of 1932 -- …

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A small example of dynamic ice

Looking up from my keyboard, I saw a perfect illustration of what's happening underneath ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica. Two recent snowstorms dumped eight inches of heavy snow, followed by an afternoon of very warm air and a sharp rain. The rainwater lubricated the snow packs on my neighbor's roof and they began to slide. The temperature fell quickly with nightfall, leaving us with a perfect example of dynamic ice. See the photo below the fold:

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As meaningful as his presidency is, Obama will not act fast enough on the climate crisis

Now is the winter of our discontent Made glorious summer by this sun of York; And all the clouds that lowered about our house In the deep bosom of the ocean buried. -- William Shakespeare, King Richard the Third To complain that President Barack Obama is not serious enough about climate strikes most U.S. environmentalists as strange, almost incomprehensible behavior. This is a time for celebration and new beginnings and any small doubts we harbor are easily assuaged by our confidence in the man who is president. Those who are not swept up in the new optimism seem small -- …

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An open letter to President Obama on how to make the climate challenge real and urgent to Americans

Dear President Obama, James and Anniek Hansen urge you to pay attention to the particulars of your administration's climate policy as a first order of business. The devil's in the details, the Hansens argue, and the broad language with which you address the crisis does not seem to acknowledge the "profound disconnect" between climate policy and climate science. Your approach to global warming was deftly crafted to appear strong and be vague, of course, a smart reading of what the electorate, even in Democratic primary states, would tolerate and one reason why you triumphed in a field of candidates that …

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