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Climate Change Driving Weather off the Charts

By Janet Larsen Meteorologists are calling the typhoon that slammed into the Philippines with 195-mile-an-hour winds on November 8, 2013, the most powerful tropical storm to make landfall on record. Super Typhoon Haiyan had gusts reaching 235 miles per hour and a storm surge swelling as high as 20 feet, so the destruction it left behind matched that of a tornado combined with a tsunami. Three days later, at the opening of the United Nations climate negotiations in Warsaw, Poland, the lead delegate from the Philippines, Yeb Saño, spoke of the “hellstorm” that left “a vast wasteland of mud and …

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What’s Wrong With Xcel’s Proposed Community Solar Program?

Fees and illegal caps, for starters. After the state's solar energy law passed in 2013, Minnesota's largest electric utility, Xcel Energy, was required to create a program to support the development of community solar energy. Since 3 in 4 people can't have solar on their own rooftop (because they rent, or have a nice shade tree), community solar dramatically expands the opportunity for the average person to reduce their energy bill and participate in a clean energy future. Xcel Energy published their proposed community solar program on Sept. 30, 2013 and I've got a few choice words about their proposal, …

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Coal summit in Warsaw confronted by climate activists – and science

As the World Coal Summit kicked off in Warsaw today, activists and scientists sought to remind the negotiators at the UN climate talks that the coal industry’s business plans are incompatible with global efforts to address climate change. Greenpeace activists held a banner on the roof of the Polish Ministry of Economy, where the coal summit is being held, which read, “Who rules the World? Fossil industries or the people?” Another large banner on the building read, “Who rules Poland? The coal industry or the people?” The Polish government’s controversial decision to host an event promoting the coal industry while …

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Country’s Largest Public Power Provider Takes Next Major Step to Move Beyond Coal

Today the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) announced it will retire coal boilers at three of its coal plants in Alabama and Kentucky. Retiring these coal boilers means less pollution in the air and water in the southeast U.S. According to the Clean Air Task Force, the Colbert coal plant in Alabama alone contributed to 940 asthma attacks, 83 heart attacks, and 57 deaths per year. These retirements also mean less of the carbon pollution that is pushing our climate to the brink. This is big. It's a great move for public health, for clean air and water, and for our …

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Overwhelming Support for Climate Action at EPA Listening Sessions

Last week, I rode a bus from Indianapolis to Chicago for one of eleven listening sessions on the carbon pollution standards being proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency. When we arrived in Chicago, I took to the stage to help rally the 500-person crowd (video here), calling on the EPA to put forward strong, just standards for the number one source of the pollution that is wreaking havoc with our climate - power plants. Let me tell you, it was inspiring. The volunteers who rode that bus with me, and the thousands more who rallied at listening sessions around the …

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Fasting for the Philippines

The Climate Action Network International (http://www.climatenetwork.org/press-release/civil-society-announce-they-will-fast-solidarity-philippines-yeb-sano) has organized an international fast in solidarity with Yeb Sano, the lead climate negotiator for the Philippines at the 19th United Nations Climate Conference in Warsaw, Poland. He said in a speech there Monday, on the first day of the conference, that: “In solidarity with my countrymen who are struggling to find food back home and with my brother who has not had food for the last three days, in all due respect Mr. President, and I mean no disrespect for your kind hospitality, I will now commence a voluntary fasting for the climate. …

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How Vermont Has Promoted Local Renewable Energy: Episode 10 of Local Energy Rules Podcast

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“A lot of the utilities don’t totally understand this new paradigm that’s coming.” David Blittersdorf of AllEarth Renewables has been working to advance renewable energy in Vermont for years, and was instrumental in getting the state’s standard offer program (a feed-in tariff) passed in 2009.  He’s adamant that the state should accelerate its standard offer in order to meet its ambitious 2050 goal of getting 90% of its energy from renewable sources.  But some of the state’s utilities have balked and others don’t seem to grasp the pace that’s needed to reach the state’s targets. Podcast (Local Energy Rules): Play …

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The War on Truth: Which side is Harvard on?

originally posted at Grip College students across the country are calling on their schools’ endowments to divest from fossil fuels.  The campaign is taking off. But Harvard University President Drew Faust has rejected the idea, without responding to student requests for a public forum on the issue.  In doing so, she turned her back on the institution’s mission:  truth. The fossil fuel industry, supported in some part by the Harvard endowment, has stooped to a particular form of political manipulation that poses a direct, existential threat to the purposes of academia.  They fund and disseminate climate disinformation and corrupt our …

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People power beats corporate utility 2-to-1 in Boulder

activists on "local power" bus
New Era Colorado

It was a textbook example of a corporation looking to buy an election result. After spending $1 million in a failed attempt to stifle local energy freedom in 2011, Xcel Energy poured over $500,000 of ratepayer money into a ballot measure to hamstring Boulder, Colo.'s exploration of a locally owned alternative to the largely fossil-fueled monopoly utility.

On Tuesday, people power buried Xcel. By a margin of 2-to-1, Boulder voters resoundingly rejected Question 310. As Stephen Fenberg of New Era Colorado said late that night, “Go home, Xcel. Your money is no good here.”

At stake was one community’s multi-year effort to power itself in a fashion that is more friendly to the local economy, to the climate, and to local oversight. It had previously culminated in a tough ballot fight in November 2011, when Xcel used ratepayer money to outspend locals 10-to-1 and still lost, as Boulder citizens narrowly granted the city permission to explore a clean-power-focused, city-owned utility.

Since then, the city and its citizen allies have turned traditional thinking on its head, envisioning a city-owned electric utility that maximizes local benefit rather than shareholder returns, that generates power in town rather than importing it, and that maximizes renewable energy instead of clinging to fossil fuels. They have rigorously studied other city-run utilities (29 others in Colorado alone) to learn best practices for running a local electric system. They have shown that switching to a locally owned utility could nearly triple renewable energy, halve greenhouse gas emissions, and compete on price with their current two-faced corporate overlords.

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CNBC Marks Sandy Anniversary By Mocking Climate Change

Kernen on Superstorm Sandy

CNBC host Joe Kernen marked the one-year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy by questioning the wisdom of investing to protect utility customers from extreme weather. In an October 24 interview with Steve Holliday, the CEO of utility company National Grid, Kernen cited Bjorn Lomborg’s recent global warming denial op-ed in the Washington Post, “Don’t Blame Climate Change for Extreme Weather.”

Kernen’s repeated dismissal of global warming and attacks on climate scientists and activists as the “eco-taliban” have spurred a 45,000-signature petition drive organized by climate accountability group Forecast the Facts.

Reading from Lomborg’s op-ed, Kernen rebuked Holliday for investing in resilience to damages from extreme weather, which have been rapidly rising. In particular, both extreme precipitation and sea level are increasing in the Northeast, both due to fossil-fueled global warming. Holliday's National Grid is a British-based utility company with customers in the U.S. Northeast. Kernen claimed that his dismissal of the well-known connection between global warming and extreme weather was backed by prominent climate scientist Gavin Schmidt, of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

I contacted Dr. Schmidt about Kernen’s use of his words, which he called a “red herring.”

“My statement in no way implies that no extremes are changing,” Dr. Schmidt retorted, “and certainly not that electricity companies shouldn’t invest in increased resilience, which, as Holliday rightly notes, is prudent regardless.”

How did Kernen's confabulation come to pass? It's a classic example of the climate-denial machine's manipulation of the journalistic infrastructure. About a month ago, E&E News interviewed Dr. Schmidt about a paper that found that increases in weather extremes are concentrated in North America and Europe:

The study noted that the greatest recent year-to-year changes have occurred in much of North America and Europe, something confirmed by a separate study last year. The result, according to several scientists, is a misperception across the West that the weather extremes occurring there are occurring everywhere. . . . “General statements about extremes are almost nowhere to be found in the literature but seem to abound in the popular media,” Schmidt said. “It’s this popular perception that global warming means all extremes have to increase all the time, even though if anyone thinks about that for 10 seconds they realize that’s nonsense.”

Bjorn Lomborg then misleadingly contrasted Dr. Schmidt’s quotation with comments from President Obama, in his Washington Post op-ed approved by editor Fred Hiatt:

President Obama has explicitly linked a warming climate to “more extreme droughts, floods, wildfires and hurricanes.” The White House warned this summer of “increasingly frequent and severe extreme weather events that come with climate change.” Yet this is not supported by science. “General statements about extremes are almost nowhere to be found in the literature but seem to abound in the popular media,” climate scientist Gavin Schmidt of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies said last month. “It’s this popular perception that global warming means all extremes have to increase all the time, even though if anyone thinks about that for 10 seconds they realize that’s nonsense.”

Kernen then used Lomborg’s article to argue that climate change has no influence on extreme weather:

I’m looking at a Washington Post piece, Steve. It’s the Washington Post. “Don’t blame climate change for extreme weather.” It goes on to say that in popular — um — well, you see that is in the popular media, but the science does not support it at all. . . . Gavin Schmidt of NASA Goddard Institute: “General statements about extremes are almost nowhere to be found in actual scientific literature but abound in popular media. It’s a popular perception that global warming means that all extremes have increased although anyone who thinks about that for ten seconds realizes is nonsense.”

Kernen’s comments ironically appeared with the chyron “SUPERSTORM SANDY: LESSONS LEARNED.”

Join over 45,000 people in protest of Kernen's global warming denial.

Transcript:

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