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Obama: I will only OK Keystone if it won’t significantly increase CO2 emissions

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about his vision to reduce carbon pollution while preparing the country for the impacts of climate change while at Georgetown University in Washington, June 25, 2013.
Reuters/Larry Downing

Big news from President Obama's climate speech: He says he won't approve construction of the Keystone XL pipeline if it will "significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution."

It's hard to know exactly what he means by that, but it's a surprise that he mentioned Keystone at all. Pundits expected he would keep silent on the issue.

Here's what he said:

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Obama’s climate plan in 3 easy bullet points (and a few sub-bullet points)

Wait, how many bullet points was that?
Shutterstock
Wait, how many bullet points was that?

We have assembled here the highlights of President Obama's new climate plan.

Congress isn't going to play along, obviously, so the plan consists of executive actions his administration can take on its own. Even some of these could be blocked by Congress through budgetary moves, and others could be blocked by courts. But he's at least going to give them a try.

The big takeaway: Obama will crack down on coal-fired power plants, not just new ones but existing ones as well. Finally, the long-awaited "war on coal"! We'll have to wait a while to find out how aggressively it'll be waged -- the EPA needs to actually write its regulations. Still, this is big news for climate hawks, the critical regulatory step we've been waiting for. (One sign that it matters: Coal stocks plummeted on Monday.)

The plan's three main goals:

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How climate deniers are like ignorant patrons of ’80s gay bars

gay bar sign
Ryan Cannon

Writer and gay-rights activist Dan Savage has a provocative piece in the Seattle alt weekly The Stranger, comparing today's climate deniers to gay men in the early '80s who refused to face up to the reality of AIDS.

He starts out discussing a recent This American Life segment on ranchers in Colorado who won't acknowledge that climate change is happening, even as it's ravaging their land and livelihoods.

Listening to the ranchers in [reporter Julia Kumari] Drapkin's report—hearing the anger, denial, and fear in their voices—took me back 30 years. They sounded like another group of people whose world was on fire and who also couldn't bring themselves to face reality. They sounded like people I used to know. They sounded like those faggots who stood around in gay bars in 1983 insisting that AIDS couldn't be a sexually transmitted infection. Even as their friends lay dying, even as more of their friends and lovers became sick, they couldn't accept that sex had anything to do with this terrifying new illness.

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living

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Obama climate plan finally coming, on Tuesday

Barack Obama
The White House
He's thinking hard about that upcoming speech.

First we heard it from unnamed sources. Then we heard it from White House climate advisor Heather Zichal. And now we've heard it from Obama himself: The president is gearing up for a big speech in which he'll unveil his long-awaited second-term climate plan.

Obama announced the news in his weekly video address on Saturday. "This Tuesday at Georgetown University, I'll lay out my vision for where I believe we need to go: a national plan to reduce carbon pollution, prepare our country for the impacts of climate change, and lead global efforts to fight it," he said in the video, which was set to overwrought music and peppered with gauzy scenes of American landscapes. (Watch for yourself below.)

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Obama in Berlin: “We have to get to work” on climate change

Obama and Angela Merkel
Reuters/Michael Kappeler
Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, enjoying Berlin's unseasonably hot weather.

President Obama keeps saying bold things about climate change in his big speeches. There was his second inaugural address in January. Then his State of the Union address in February. And today, a high-profile speech in Berlin, Germany, in front of the Brandenburg Gate.

But doing bold things about climate change? Well, that's a whole different issue. Rumor has it that he will unveil a package of climate initiatives in July. We'll see. For now, all we have are words.

So let's look at those words.

"I come here today, Berlin, to say complacency is not the character of great nations," he said before outlining a number of lofty aspirations, most notably a goal to cut back America's nuclear arsenal by as much as a third.

Midway through the speech, Obama got to the climate bit:

Peace with justice means refusing to condemn our children to a harsher, less hospitable planet. The effort to slow climate change requires bold action. And on this, Germany and Europe have led.

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No, we’re not running out of people

crowd of people
Shutterstock
No shortage in sight.

Every few months we see a spate of "news" stories warning that population growth rates are declining in the U.S. and/or the world, potentially leading to a shortage of babies and outright "demographic disaster." In an extreme (and extremely stupid) example from January of this year, one Slate writer warned that if trends continue over the long term, "we could be looking at the literal extinction of humanity."

Well, you can strike that worry off your list, according to the latest stats from the U.N.

The Associated Press sums up the news:

The United Nations forecast Thursday that the world’s population will increase from 7.2 billion today to 8.1 billion in 2025, with most growth in developing countries and more than half in Africa. By 2050, it will reach 9.6 billion. ...

Read more: Living

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California’s San Onofre nuclear plant gets final death blow

San Onofre nuclear plant
Shutterstock
San Onofre nuclear plant -- now just a blight on the seashore.

Southern California Edison is officially giving up on the San Onofre nuclear power plant -- and it's about time. When workers have to resort to masking tape and broomsticks to patch up a leaky pipe, you know things are bad. And that's just one of many reasons why the name of the plant is usually preceded by the word "troubled."

Speaking of which, from CBS News:

The troubled San Onofre nuclear power plant on the California coast is closing after an epic 16-month battle over whether the twin reactors could be safely restarted with millions of people living nearby, officials announced Friday.

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Keystone backers hire lobbyists with ties to John Kerry

John Kerry
State Department
Will John Kerry be swayed by former colleagues who are now pushing the Keystone pipeline?

The fight over the proposed Keystone XL pipeline is getting personal -- or should that be personnel?

Pipeline company TransCanada and the Canadian province of Alberta have been hiring lobbyists and consultants who previously worked with Secretary of State John Kerry, hoping they'll help convince him that Keystone XL deserves a thumbs-up.

After the State Department finishes environmental and other reviews of the pipeline plan, Kerry will make a recommendation to President Obama about whether it should be approved. Obama will then make the final call.

From The Boston Globe:

In mid-March, about six weeks after Kerry was confirmed as secretary of state, the province of Alberta hired new consultants — some with ties to Kerry — to help them ensure the project wins approval.

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Obama may delay Keystone decision until 2014

foot kicking can
Jim Barber
Kick ... kick ... kick ...

The Obama administration has been procrastinating on its decision on the Keystone XL pipeline for years -- and now comes word that it may kick the can even further down the road. From Reuters:

The Obama administration is unlikely to make a decision on the Canada-to-Nebraska Keystone XL pipeline until late this year as it painstakingly weighs the project's impact on the environment and on energy security, a U.S. official and analysts said on Friday.

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GOP throws tantrum over Obama’s EPA nominee

Gina McCarthy
Reuters/Jason Roberts
Gina McCarthy -- she's just too EPA-ish.

Republicans on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee refused to show up for work Thursday morning, basically because they really don't like the EPA.

The committee was scheduled to vote on the nomination of Gina McCarthy, President Obama's pick to head the EPA. The vote had already been delayed three weeks to accommodate grumbling Republicans, according to committee chair Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.). Then, this morning, right before the scheduled committee hearing, the eight GOP members sent a letter saying they were going to boycott.

From Politico:

“This has nothing to do with Gina McCarthy,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who charged that the boycott has more to do with a desire to obstruct EPA’s role in climate change regulations. ...