Tag Archive | "Barack Obama"

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The Good, Bad & Ugly of Obama’s Climate Speech

Posted on 30 June 2013 by Jerry

In a major speech on climate change at Georgetown University Barack Obama showed us the risks that lie in our future.  While hailed as long overdue and somewhat underwhelming but positive, it outlined steps he is taking to reduce climate change.  Some people were enthusiastically supportive.  Al Gore was quoted in his blog as saying the Obama speech was “historic” and “the best address on climate by any president ever.”

His speech should give us pause however to see the political challenge that lies ahead.  He laid out steps he could directly order with his administrative powers.

Among the good things he said was that he would order the following:

  • the Environmental Protection Agency to develop and implement new pollution standards for new and existing U.S. power plants
  • the Interior Department by 2020 to use public lands and funds to install new green energy power sources that equal the power use of more than 6 million homes
  • the Department of Defense to install 3 gigawatts of renewable power on its bases
  • and that a budget be sent to Congress that contains funds to help with community projects and insure that they protect citizens from the negative effects of climate change

These are not the only steps the president has taken on climate change.  Without fanfare he logged positive accomplishments in his first term.  See our past post of 11/1/12 “Obama Stealth Objective: Reduce Greenhouse Gases.”

Among the bad things referred to in his speech were the positions taken by the climate deniers.  He argued, citing the scientific evidence and consensus that climate change is real, that human beings are contributing or causing our climate to deteriorate.  Further he said, “I don’t have much patience for anyone that denies this challenge is real.  We don’t have time for a meeting of the Flat Earth Society.”

Unfortunately the ugly reality underlying the entire speech is that he does not expect the Republican controlled House of Representatives to allow any legislation to pass that would alter the present course we are on.  In fact, he acknowledged the significant pressure on him to allow the building of the Keystone XL pipeline.  This pipeline would provide a path for Canadian oil developers to get oil extracted from Canadian tar sands to market.

An article in the July issue of Scientific American entitled “Oil Sands May Irrevocably Tar the Climate” gives an excellent description of the entire project. These Canadian tar sands encompass an area that is about the size of the State of Florida.  Tar sand processing has created vast lakes of toxic water residues, with its bright yellow sulfur, that are so large they can be seen from space.

The article describes the open pit mining of the tar sands, the numerous Caterpillar 797Fs each carrying 400 metric tons of tar sands to conveyors to separation cells.  It explains multiple processes in use to show how it is cooked at high heat to remove carbon and create a hydrocarbon stew or mixed with lighter hydrocarbons to produce diluted bitumen.  Both processes make the tar sand oil liquid enough to flow in the long distance Keystone XL pipeline.

The environmental damage is not the critical issue however.  Physicist Myles Allen with six of his associates calculated in 2009 a “carbon budget” we must stay within in order to keep the worldwide climate change average temperature rise to just two degrees.  This budget sets a one-trillion-metric-ton limit on the amount of carbon human beings can burn by the year 2050.  Since CO2 lasts for centuries in the atmosphere, it doesn’t matter what (coal, oil or natural gas) we burn, where we burn it or when it is burned as long as it is before 2050 to affect the budget.

These facts have prompted James Hansen, a retired NASA climatologist, to be arrested multiple times at protest rallies opposing the building of the pipeline.  In an April 2013 op-ed he wrote in the Los Angeles Times he said, “Researchers now say that the Alberta tar sands contain 360 to 510 billion tons of carbon – more than double that of all oil burned in human history.  While only a fraction is considered economically recoverable right now, we humans are genius at finding new and better ways to dig junk out of the ground.”

Further his op-ed stated that “mainstream financial analysis and industry documents….show the Keystone XL is the linchpin for tar sands expansion in the next decade.”  He sums up by saying “The science on climate change has been in for a quarter of a century.  There are no more mixed messages, just catastrophe after catastrophe.  The president stands at a fork in the road: Rejecting the pipeline will show the world we are serious and determined to be on the right side of history.  Approving it will signal we are too entrenched with business-as-usual to do what’s right by the people, planet and future generations.”

Hansen argues it is time to draw a firm line in the sand beyond which we will not go.  We are fighting the avarice of capitalists we have encouraged.  They admit in private that climate change is real.  Their only hope however is that they can convince us to do nothing long enough for them to profit.  It is time to tell the buggy whip manufactures of our energy industry that their time has passed and they are being left behind by today’s better technologies, their own past plundering of our planet and our present need to insure a positive future for our children.

Use the following links to obtain more information on these subjects:

For a complete transcript of the President’s speech go to http://ens-newswire.com/2013/06/25/president-obamas-climate-change-speech-full-text/

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/elements/2013/06/power-politics-obamas-overdue-climate-change-speech.html

http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/307695-gore-obama-climate-change-speech-the-best-by-any-president-ever

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=oil-sands-may-irrevocably-tar-the-climate

http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-hansen-keystone-obama-20130404,0,3169887.story

 

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Obama to Act, New Climate Assessments, and Mock Controversy

Posted on 16 February 2013 by Jerry

In his State of the Union Address, Barack Obama called for continued progress on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  Facing an intransigent House of Representatives he indicated his administration is prepared to unilaterally impose new regulations to limit gas emissions.  These include limitations on emissions from new and existing power plants, which account for about 40% of our emissions. In the interim he will continue to work towards a political compromise on some form of carbon tax or cap-and-trade agreement.

The “National Climate Assessment and Development Advisory Committee” has released its third Draft Climate Assessment Report.  The report which reconfirmed global climate assessments also in part parallels a recent report from the Government Accountability Office which added Climate Change to its High Risk Series.  Both reports speak of the financial risks to the U.S. from climate change events such as flooding as seen with Hurricane Sandy and 2012 which was the hottest year on record for the nation.

The Met Office, the U.K.’s national weather service, issued a revision to its climate forecast which lowered the projected temperature rise of the long term average over the next five years from 0.54 C to 0.43 C.  At the same time the Research Council of Norway also reported a cooler estimate of the world’s temperature rise by the mid-century.  They forecasted 1.9°C sensitivity to doubling atmospheric CO2 which is lower than the United Nation’s IPCC Four Assessment Report which estimated a range from 2°C to 4.5°C with 3°C as the most probable temperature rise.

These changes and new reports were immediately seized by the world’s climate skeptics as proof that estimates of climate change were overblown or the result of a conspiracy to misstate study results.  In fact, the only conclusions one can draw relates to the precision of computer modeling and the differences in assumptions used by various modeling groups.  Without placing a lot of emphasis on the very slight differences these models suggest vis-à-vis what was estimated by the U.N.  IPCC, climate deniers pointed to the differences as proof of their position.  The perspective of knowledgeable observers is that this is a politically inspired tempest in a teapot.

Use the following links for more information:

http://www.whitehouse.gov/state-of-the-union-2013

http://www.nature.com/news/obama-rekindles-climate-hopes-1.12322

http://ncadac.globalchange.gov/

http://www.gao.gov/products/gao-13-359t

http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/news/releases/archive/2013/decadal-forecasts

http://www.bbc.co.uk/ news/science-environment-20947224

http://www.globalwarming.org/2013/01/28/global-lukewarming

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Climate Change Awaits Obama & Democratic Congress Reelection

Posted on 20 March 2012 by Jerry

The most recent world climate change summit in Durban, South Africa failed. The summit once again postponed meaningful agreement on an extension of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol where developed nations are legally required to meet emission reduction targets.  With political gridlock in the United States and economic woes in the European Union, there was no major power capable of assuming world leadership on climate change. None of three roadblocks was overcome; the U.S. continues to refuse to sign the Protocol, the Protocol still imposes no mandates on the developing nations of China, India, Brazil and South Africa, and poorer nations continue to believe their financial needs are being neglected by the major economic powers.  For this reason, the only agreement that was reached was to negotiate a new worldwide protocol by 2015.  Meanwhile opportunity and time passes

In 2009, at the climate change summit in Copenhagen, world leaders agreed to an objective of limiting global warming to two degrees Celsius (~three and a half degrees Fahrenheit).  The Copenhagen Accord, which Barack Obama personally helped negotiate, lacked any enforcement mechanism to insure movement toward the objective.  Unfortunately, in the years since 2009, carbon-dioxide emissions have continued to rise and world energy efficiency has declined.  Many climate change scientists believe we are rapidly approaching a day when the 2° objective is no longer attainable. See http://scim.ag/modelclimate.

The prevalent approach today to climate modeling is to combine multiple model outcomes to get a better picture of possible future developments.  The attached two charts were developed by merging 19 general climate circulation models to predict differences in vegetation loss between an increase in temperature of two Kelvins (one Kelvin is equivalent to one degree Celsius) and five Kelvins. For the many scientists who are afraid we have waited too long to achieve a 2° limit on temperature rise, five Kelvins, or five degrees Celsius, is what they believe is still attainable. As you can begin to see in these charts, which go out of their way to not be sensational, a five degree temperature rise takes us to much more noticeable levels of lost vegetation in the higher latitudes around the globe.

The Durbin agreement to negotiate a new protocol by 2015 has only one key element, the upcoming presidential elections in the United States.  This represents an international “Hail Mary” pass that assumes the reelection of Barack Obama as President, continued Democratic Party control of the U.S. Senate, and the Democratic Party reacquisition of control in the House of Representatives.  It is only under this scenario that the United States will have the freedom to assume much needed global leadership of the world’s efforts to limit climate change.  For this reason, all citizens of the U.S. who believe we are running out of time must act to accomplish these election objectives.  Besides giving assistance and votes to Barack Obama, we must insure sufficient funds and effort to return control of the House of Representatives to the Democratic Party.

Use the following links for more information on the present status of worldwide efforts to control global warming;

http://www.nature.com/news/durban-maps-path-to-climate-treaty-1.9635

http://scim.ag/modelclimate

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/comment/2011/11/two-degrees-of-disaster.html

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-15992519

http://www.nature.com/news/watching-the-players-at-the-climate-poker-table-1.9640

http://www.dccc.org

 

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