Skip to content Skip to site navigation

Contributors

Comments

City-Owned Texas Utility Already Serves 40% Renewable Energy

cityofdentonlogo-320x185

Is having local control of a utility the key to ramping up renewable energy? In 2011, Boulder citizens voted to have their city take over the electric utility, joining 1 in 7 Americans served by municipal electric utilities.  Their feasibility study suggests they can more than double renewable energy on their system to over 50%, slashing greenhouse gas emissions.  A study in Santa Fe, NM, suggests a similar increase (to 45% clean energy) is possible, while reducing electricity costs.  Other cities, like Minneapolis, MN, are also studying the option. Many of these communities are inspired by examples like Denton, TX, a municipal …

Read more: Uncategorized

Comments

#ClimateThanks: 5 Things I’m Thankful for this Year

This Thanksgiving, people around the country are using the hashtag #ClimateThanks on Twitter to share who and what they're thankful for in the fight against climate disruption. As director of the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign, I have the great honor of working with people across the U.S. who are winning big climate victories week after week, and then seeing those wins add up to real progress on climate change. From that perch, here are five things I'm thankful for this year: 1. The volunteers, staff and allies from over 100 organizations who have worked to win the retirement of …

Read more: Uncategorized

Comments

Proud moment: The U.S. is no longer the world’s biggest jerk on climate change

american flag guy
Shutterstock

What stood out most about the United States’ role in the United Nations climate talks that just wrapped in Warsaw, Poland, was how little the United States stood out.

While the U.S. is used to being the bad guy -- or at least one of them -- in the international climate arena, this year the Americans seemed perfectly happy to keep their heads down, quietly do their business, and let other big polluters take the punches.

It doesn’t usually work this way. For the nearly two decades that the U.N.’s annual climate talks have been held -- and especially for the past 12 years, since the U.S. backed out of the Kyoto Protocol that it had helped design -- the world's largest historical greenhouse gas polluter has taken most of the blame from environmental groups and poor countries for essentially causing the problem and doing squat to solve it.

This year, though, American negotiators are heading home relatively unscathed, if severely sleep deprived from the marathon, 36-hour session that was needed to wrap up the talks with something resembling an agreement. (You can read all about the outcomes in John Upton’s somewhat-less-than-disheartening wrap-up.)

It’s impossible to know if this was a guiding strategy going into the talks, but the U.S. managed to offer just enough to avoid smelling as bad as a host of other countries whose behavior was downright putrid.

Consider this comment by Tim Gore of Oxfam, who was talking specifically about some positions on climate finance (or how rich countries will help poor ones deal with climate change), but who might as well have been talking about the whole UNFCCC process: “Ironically, this is even making the U.S. look good. Not because they’ve actually done anything here, but because other countries are going backwards.”

Comments

Moving Up the Food Chain

For most of the time that human beings have walked the earth, we lived as hunter-gatherers. The share of the human diet that came from hunting versus gathering varied with geographic location, hunting skills, and the season of the year. During the northern hemisphere winter, for instance, when there was little food to gather, people there depended heavily on hunting for survival. Our long history as hunter-gatherers left us with an appetite for animal protein that continues to shape diets today. As recently as the closing half of the last century, a large part of the growth in demand for …

Read more: Uncategorized

Comments

Google and Facebook green guys baffled why their companies are in ALEC

Google-Facebook

At a recent forum on the Internet industry’s support for green energy, Facebook and Google representatives could not explain why their companies are members of a powerful lobbying organization that opposes that mission. This year, Google and Facebook became members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a nationwide lobbying group that links corporations and conservative foundations with Republican legislators at the state level.

Read more: Politics

Comments

Warsaw walkout: Big green groups bail on U.N. climate talks

WARSAW, Poland -- For the first time ever, environmental groups have staged a mass walkout of a U.N. climate summit. Citing immense frustration with the lack of productive action in the COP19 climate talks, which have been dogged by a persistent rift between rich and poor countries on the responsibility of paying for climate damages, hundreds of people from dozens of environmental groups and movements from all corners of the Earth have voluntarily withdrawn from the talks. According to a spokesperson for Oxfam, around 800 civil society members (which is the label applied to all advocate and activist types at these meetings) have walked out. In a joint statement, group leaders offered that “the best use of their time” was to now focus “on mobilizing people to push our governments to take leadership for serious climate action.”

"Polluters talk, civil society walks."
"Polluters talk, civil society walks."

Participants in the walkout -- which included members and organizers from Oxfam, Greenpeace International, 350.org, WWF International, the International Trade Union Confederation, ActionAid International, Friends of the Earth Europe, and dozens of other groups large and small from around the world -- assembled just after lunchtime outside the main food court in the National Stadium that is hosting the meetings. After statements from the heads of a handful of international orgs, including Kumi Naidoo, executive director of Greenpeace International, members of civil society headed for the exits.

"The real hooligans are the CEOs of fossil fuel companies," Naidoo told the crowd.

Comments

Warsaw warning: World on pace to miss already awful climate targets

Since putting some emissions reduction pledges (don’t call them commitments!) down on paper after the climate conference in Copenhagen, countries have had nearly four years to start building policies to meet the goals. Would it surprise you terribly to find out that those pledges -- paltry though they were -- aren’t being met? This morning, scientists with the indispensable Climate Action Tracker (CAT) injected some sober reality into the climate talks in Warsaw, reminding gathered delegates and environment ministers that, so far, the only thing getting done in the UNFCCC is a lot of talk and a hell of a …

Read more: Uncategorized

Comments

Illinois College Students Vote Six to One in Favor of Divestment

Mary Anne Hitt: Americans continue to demand clean energy from the local to national level, and here's yet another amazing example of quick, successful organizing by college students in Illinois. I'll let my colleagues tell you all the wonderful details: Illinois College Students Vote Six to One in Favor of Divestment Co-written by Anastasia Schemkes of the Sierra Student Coalition and University of Illinois Graduate Student Katie Mimnaugh. On Friday night, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC or UofI) became the latest school (of the 300+ campuses working on fossil fuel divestment) to pass a student-wide divestment referendum. With …

Read more: Uncategorized

Comments

Coal industry tries to crash Warsaw climate talks, gets spanked

coal trucks
Shutterstock

WARSAW, Poland -- The masters of the black-rock industry gathered at the International Coal & Climate Summit in Warsaw this week -- strategically hosted just a stone’s throw from the U.N. climate conference (COP19) — and they would like you to believe that coal has a place in a climate-friendly future.

At the summit, hosted by the World Coal Association (WCA), industry reps are promoting “high-efficiency” coal plants, carbon capture and storage (CCS), and other, wacky tech “breakthroughs” (gasification, anyone?).

The overall theme of the coal summit is that countries can keep burning coal and meet climate targets. They can have their cake and eat it, too.

Probably because CCS and other breakthroughs are still entirely unproven commercially, there’s been particular hype around so-called “high-efficiency coal.” In its Warsaw Communique that preceded the summit, the WCA called for “the immediate use of high-efficiency low-emissions coal combustion technologies as an immediate step in lowering greenhouse gas emissions.”

It’s a claim oft-repeated this week in Warsaw: High-efficiency coal is a climate solution.

Except it isn’t, says a group of 27 scientists from around the world who together released a report on Monday on how coal is absolutely incompatible with current internationally agreed-upon climate goals.

Comments

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 …

Read more: Uncategorized