ExxonMobil exhorts White House to keep Paris agreement

March 31, 2017 by  
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When a fossil fuel company under fire for covering up past knowledge of climate change exhorts the President of the United States to stay in the 2015 Paris agreement , something’s not quite right. ExxonMobil manager of environmental policy and planning Peter Trelenberg wrote a letter to the White House earlier this month reiterating ExxonMobil’s position on the deal. He made it clear ExxonMobil thinks President Donald Trump should not pull out of the historic, hard-fought agreement. On the campaign trail Trump promised to yank the United States out of the Paris agreement. But so far the White House hasn’t taken that step, even in a recent environmentally devastating executive order . Meanwhile Trump’s new Secretary of State, former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson , has said in the past the president is wrong about climate change , and perhaps could have now persuaded Trump to stick with the deal. Related: Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson says Trump is wrong about climate change On March 22, Trelenberg wrote to G. David Banks, Special Assistant to the President for International Energy and Environment, thanking Banks for a recent inquiry on the oil and gas giant’s views regarding the agreement. Trelenberg said ExxonMobil welcomed the agreement both in December 2015, when it was announced at COP21 , and in November 2016 when it went into force. Don’t get too excited – Trelenberg didn’t write off fossil fuels altogether. He said, “We believe that the United States is well positioned to compete within the framework of the Paris Agreement, with abundant low-carbon resources such as natural gas , and innovative private industries, including the oil, gas, and petrochemical sectors.” Trelenberg said natural gas is the “cleanest-burning and least carbon-intensive fossil fuel” that has helped American attain 20-year lows in carbon dioxide emissions . He did point out ExxonMobil has invested $7 billion in lower emission fuels – such as biofuels made from algae – for around 15 years, and ended his letter with a final call to stay in the Paris agreement. The irony of the ExxonMobil letter prompted Senator Bernie Sanders to tweet : “It is pathetic that the largest oil company in the world understands more about climate change than the president of the United States.” Via The Independent Images via Roy Luck on Flickr and Wikimedia Commons

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Head of EPA Scott Pruitt calls Paris Climate Accord a "bad deal"

March 28, 2017 by  
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Don’t count on Scott Pruitt , head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency , to do much environmental protecting. Weeks after rejecting scientific consensus about the role of carbon dioxide in driving global warming, the nation’s top environmental official doubled down on Sunday by describing a landmark accord to curb the planet’s industrial emissions as a “bad deal” for the United States. “You know, what was wrong with Paris was not just that it was, you know, failed to be treated as a treaty, but China and India, the largest producers of CO2 internationally, got away scot-free. They didn’t have to take steps until 2030,” Pruitt said in an interview with ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos. “So we’ve penalized ourselves through lost jobs while China and India didn’t take steps to address the issue internationally. So Paris was just a bad deal, in my estimation.” There’s plenty to nitpick about Pruitt’s stance, which mischaracterizes the positions of China and India, both of which officially ratified the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change in late 2016. For one thing, China is the world’s No. 1 polluter, but India comes in fourth after the United States and European Union. Neither does the 2030 cutoff give China or India special latitude. All 197 countries that have committed themselves to the pact are legally bound to develop plans to curtail greenhouse-gas emissions through 2025 or 2030. And while there’s no legal requirement that specifies how much countries should cut, they must report every two years on their efforts to mitigate emissions levels, which are subject to technical and peer review. Related: EPA chief says carbon dioxide is not a ‘primary contributor’ to global warming Far from getting away “scot-free,” China and India are making inroads in their energy policies. Although it continues to be bogged down by inefficient coal power plants that contribute to its infamous smog, China has been expanding its renewable-energy capacity at a breakneck pace. Even as President Donald Trump decried climate change as a “Chinese hoax” , the Chinese government announced that it intends to spend more than $360 billion through 2020 on renewable power sources like solar and wind, slashing carbon emissions and creating over 13 million jobs in the renewable energy sector in the same time frame. India, in the meantime, has pledged to obtain at least 40 percent of its electricity from non-fossil-fuel sources by 2030. To nudge itself closer to that goal, the South Asian nation is planning 33 solar parks in 21 states, with a capacity of at least 500 megawatts each—no mean feat for a country where millions still have no access to electricity . Indeed India currently houses the world’s largest solar power plant in a single location , a title once held by Topaz Solar Farm in California. For anyone who has been paying attention, however, Pruitt’s statements shouldn’t be too surprising. The former attorney general of Oklahoma has long boasted close ties to the oil and gas industry. He also sued the EPA—the very same agency he now heads—a stunning 14 times , frequently in tandem with companies that donated money to campaigns he was affiliated to. Related: New EPA chief Scott Pruitt’s emails reveal troubling oil-industry ties Pruitt noted on Sunday that President Trump will soon be signing a new executive order that will halt the implementation of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan , an Obama administration policy designed to, among other things, rein in America’s greenhouse gas emissions by 32 percent by 2030. “With respect to this executive order that’s coming out on Tuesday, this is about making sure that we have a pro-growth and pro-environment approach to how we do regulation in this country,” Pruitt said. Pro-growth? Debatable. Pro-environment? Not a chance. + ABC News Via Huffington Post Photos from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

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Head of EPA Scott Pruitt calls Paris Climate Accord a "bad deal"

Trump’s new executive order to undo Obama climate action

March 28, 2017 by  
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President Donald Trump’s onslaught on the environment continues. He is set to sign a new executive order today that would undo the Clean Power Plan and slash the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget by one third. The White House claimed this move will boost job creation even as clean energy jobs swiftly outpace fossil fuel jobs . Trump could cancel some of Barack Obama’s actions on climate change with his executive order, which could tell federal regulators to rewrite rules aimed at curbing carbon emissions and lift a federal coal leasing moratorium. Trump has claimed some of these rules, which have placed restrictions on the fossil fuel industry, hurt the economy, and the White House said his steps would “help keep energy and electricity affordable, reliable, and clean in order to boost economic growth and job creation.” Never mind that renewable energy prices have been falling , or that burning fossil fuels pumps greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Related: Trump to purge climate change from federal government The Washington Post quoted an anonymous senior administration official who spoke to reporters on Monday and said, “This policy is in keeping with President Trump’s desire to make the United States energy independent . When it comes to climate change, we want to take our course and do it in our own form and fashion.” Will the executive order create jobs ? Trump supporters say yes, as the order would liberate oil and gas industries. Opponents say the new jobs will be for lawyers, according to the BBC, as some environmental organizations have announced their intention to sue. But one person the BBC referred to as a green source said the Trump administration wants delay; lawsuits could give the Trump administration what it wants. The executive order doesn’t address the 2015 Paris climate agreement . Via the BBC and The Washington Post Images via Wikimedia Commons and Gage Skidmore on Flickr

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Clean energy jobs outnumber fossil fuel jobs in most US states

March 28, 2017 by  
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Clean energy is increasingly providing work for people across the United States, contrary to what the president might think, and a new Sierra Club report reveals just how much of an impact on the economy it has made. Renewable energy jobs now exceed jobs in coal, oil, and gas in 41 American states and Washington, D.C., according to the report. Sierra Club drew on 2017 Department of Energy jobs data to discover clean energy jobs exceed those in fossil fuels by more than 2.5 to one. The energy jobs of the future, including those in wind , solar , energy efficiency , battery storage , and smart grid technology, already exceed coal, oil, and gas jobs nationally, including positions in extraction, mining, and power generation. According to Sierra Club’s analysis, clean energy jobs outnumber fossil fuel jobs by over 2.5 to one, and exceed gas and coal jobs by five to one. While only nine states have more fossil fuel than clean energy jobs, just six states have more jobs in coal and gas, according to the report. Related: Solar power now provides twice as many jobs as coal in U.S. In a statement Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said, “Right now, clean energy jobs already overwhelm dirty fuels in nearly every state across America, and that growth is only going to continue as clean energy keeps getting more affordable and accessible by the day. These facts make it clear that Donald Trump is attacking clean energy jobs purely in order to boost the profits of fossil fuel billionaires.” If Trump really wants to increase jobs as he claims – and not just fill the pockets of his fossil fuel friends – he should look no further than renewable energy. The report concludes policies to invest in and incentivize clean energy could generate millions of new jobs across America, more than could be created in the fossil fuel sector. Sierra Club also said the clean energy transition should benefit everyone; this means putting first communities and workers who depended on fossil fuels in the past. You can read the full report here . Via Sierra Club ( 1 , 2 ) Images via U.S. Department of Agriculture on Flickr and Walmart on Flickr

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UK becomes 111th country to ratify Paris climate agreement

November 18, 2016 by  
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The election in the US of the only world leader to deny climate science is not deterring the United Kingdom from moving ahead with climate action. While President-elect Donald Trump promises to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement , the UK just became the 111th country to ratify the landmark accord aimed at preventing dangerous global warming by keeping global average temperatures well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Foreign Minister Boris Johnson signed the pact in London on Thursday after a 21-day parliamentary review period passed with no objections raised by the House of Commons or Lords. “The UK is ratifying the historic Paris agreement so that we can help to accelerate global action on climate change and deliver on our commitments to create a safer, more prosperous future for us all,” Nick Hurd, UK climate change minister, said at the UN climate summit in Marrakech, Morocco. “I hope this will send a very strong message of continued international commitment to implement Paris because it is obviously very important to send that signal out.” Related: John Kerry says Obama administration will work to stop Trump from leaving Paris agreement The UK has set an ambitious climate target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 57 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. However, Barry Gardiner, shadow minister for international climate change, said the country faces a 47 percent shortfall to meet its 2030 decarbonization goal. With the US likely to lose its leadership role on climate change because of Trump’s anti-science stance and pro-fossil fuel policies, the UK could play an important part in making sure that the rest of the international community, including China and India, keeps the commitments in line with the Paris climate agreement to decarbonize their economies so catastrophic climate change is averted. Via Guardian Images via Wikimedia

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Slovenia becomes first EU nation to enshrine human right to water in their constitution

November 18, 2016 by  
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While the United States faces a major environmental backslide under President-elect Donald Trump, a small eastern European nation has become the first to enshrine the right to drinking water in their constitution. The new amendment to Slovenia ‘s constitution states that drinkable water is a human right . Largely to prevent the commercialization of the country’s water resources, the Slovenian parliament just voted in favor of the new law. Prime Minister Miro Cerar, in favor of the amendment, described water as “the 21st century’s liquid gold.” “Everyone has the right to drinkable water,” Slovenia’s constitution now says. “Water resources represent a public good that is managed by the state. Water resources are primary and durably used to supply citizens with potable water and households with water and, in this sense, are not a market commodity.” Related: Two-thirds of Americans are exposed to cancer-causing drinking water, new report finds The new law wasn’t without some controversy; the Slovenian Democratic party, which leans center-right according to The Guardian, felt the law wasn’t necessary, that it was put forward only to gain public approval, so they did not vote. There were 64 votes for and zero against the new law. There are 90 seats in Slovenia’s parliament. Cerar said the quality of Slovenian water is high, and due to that fact foreign corporations would likely want to obtain the water in the future. “As it will gradually become a more valuable commodity in the future, pressure over it will increase and we must not give in,” he said. Slovenia isn’t the first country in the world to state water is a human right, but it is the first European Union country to include such an article in its constitution. Two million people live in Slovenia. 10,000 to 12,000 of those people are Roma, many of whom currently lack access to drinkable water, according to Amnesty International. Deputy Europe Director Fotis Filippou said in a statement , “Enshrining access to drinking water as a constitutional human right is an important legal step forward for Slovenia, but Roma communities need more than legal changes. Action is now needed to ensure the changes flow down to all those without water and sanitation.” Via The Guardian Images via Pixabay and Wikimedia Commons

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Green-roofed timber cabin floats above the ground in Mexico City

November 18, 2016 by  
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Set within a grove of trees, the Black Cabin is protected from acoustic disturbance and visual pollution. In a nod to the environment, the contemporary cabin is clad in black-stained black pine planks and punctuated by large glazed panels that frame views of the landscape and promote passive ventilation and natural light. The building’s green roof doubles as a thermal filter and is accessible as a secondary garden space and outdoor dining area. Related: Green-roofed home with rusting walls appears to grow out of a Finnish forest The 106-square-meter cabin comprises three modules: a private module containing the bedroom and bathroom; a semi-public module with the kitchen, guest bathroom, and laundry room; and the public module housing the living room and outdoor terrace. The building frame is made from recyclable metal and is elevated 60 centimeters above the ground to protect the house from water, humidity, and cold. The airy interior is made warm and welcoming with natural timber surfaces and white-painted gypsum-paneled walls. + Revolution Architects Via ArchDaily Images via Revolution Architects , by Black Rabbit

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Green-roofed timber cabin floats above the ground in Mexico City

John Kerry says Obama administration will work to stop Trump from leaving Paris agreement

November 16, 2016 by  
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As Donald Trump ‘s advisers seek a way out of the historic Paris climate change agreement , it appears the current administration doesn’t intend to let them succeed without a fight. United States Secretary of State John Kerry said the Obama administration will attempt to prevent Trump from leaving the Paris agreement. Before his address at COP22 in Marrakech, Kerry said, “This is bigger than one person, one president. We have to figure out how we’re going to stop this.” Kerry’s address at COP22 never mentioned Trump by name. But the Secretary of State delivered a call for action that seemed to be aimed at the president-elect. He asked for leaders in positions of power around the world to research the reality of climate change as they make decisions, and to listen to the voices of faith leaders, Fortune 500 businessmen, economists, farmers, and military leaders who take the threat of climate change seriously. Related: Trump advisers seek loopholes to allow ASAP withdrawal from Paris climate deal “Do your own due diligence before making irrevocable choices…And above all, consult with the scientists who have dedicated their entire lives to expanding our understanding of this challenge, and whose work will be in vain unless we sound the alarm loud enough for everyone to hear. No one has a right to make decisions that affect billions of people based on solely ideology or without proper input,” Kerry said in his speech . In his comments before the speech, Kerry didn’t provide many specifics on how the Obama administration might stop Trump. But he did leave the world with a warning at his last UN climate conference address: “We don’t get a second chance. The consequences of failure would in most cases be irreversible…So we have to get this right, and we have to get it right now.” At COP22, the United States released one of the first long-term climate strategies along with Mexico, according to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change . Under the strategy, America aims to reduce emissions by 80 percent under 2005 levels by 2050. Via The Guardian Images via screenshot and W ikimedia Commons

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Glyphosate found in Cheerios, Kashi cookies and other popular food items

November 16, 2016 by  
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Once again, residues of the herbicide glyphosate have been found in commonly consumed foods . A new report produced by Food Democracy Now and the Detox Project found “extremely high levels” of glyphosate residues in popular foods, from Cheerios and Ritz Crackers to Kashi cookies. According to the report, glyphosate, the main ingredient in Monsanto ‘s Roundup, “is the most heavily used chemical weedkiller in food and agricultural production in human history.” San Francisco laboratory Anresco tested 29 foods for glyphosate at the request of Food Democracy Now and Detox Project. In the report, the two organizations detail new evidence revealing humans could be harmed with glyphosate levels above 0.1 parts per billion (ppb). Anresco testing meanwhile found foods contained far greater amounts of the herbicide than considered safe. Cheerios contained a whopping 1,125.3 ppb, Ritz Crackers contained 270.24 ppb, and Kashi soft-baked oatmeal dark chocolate cookies contained 275.57 ppb. Other foods tested include Wheaties, Oreo cookies, Goldfish, Lay’s potato chips, Whole Foods 365 crackers, and Annie’s cookies, among several other brands (you can see a full list on pages eight and nine of the report here ). Related: Are you eating Monsanto weed killer for breakfast? According to the report, the acceptable daily intake (ADI) for glyphosate allowed by the United States is much higher than levels set in other countries. For example, the European Union sets ADI at 0.3 milligrams per kilogram of bodyweight per day (mg/kg/bw/day). But ADI in the U.S. is 1.75 mg/kg/bw/day. Meanwhile, Monsanto still claims glyphosate residue levels in food are small enough that they won’t harm humans. The company garners $5 billion yearly from selling glyphosate products. The Environmental Protection Agency says glyphosate is used during production of around 70 crops. The report states Food Democracy Now is “calling for a federal investigation into the likely harmful effects of glyphosate on human health and the environment and is also seeking an investigation into the relationships between the regulators and the regulated industries, which has resulted in the public being exposed to levels of glyphosate which scientific studies show can be damaging to human health.” Via The Huffington Post Images via Y’amal on Flickr and Chafer Machinery on Flickr

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Glyphosate found in Cheerios, Kashi cookies and other popular food items

Trump advisers seek loopholes to allow ASAP withdrawl from Paris climate deal

November 14, 2016 by  
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US President-elect Donald Trump has promised on more than one occasion to “cancel” the country’s participation in the historic Paris climate deal, leading many to ask, “Can he even do that?” Although ratifying nations can undo their commitment to the international climate accord, the process is not exactly simple or fast. Yet, a new report says Trump is looking for the quickest way out . An anonymous source from Trump’s climate and energy transition team told Reuters that the president-elect and his advisers are trying to find a way to bypass the typical four-year exit process called for in the terms of agreement, which activated on November 4, 2016. The source told Reuters last week “it was reckless for the Paris agreement to enter into force before the election.” The historic international climate deal (written December 2015) met the participation threshold on October 4 that called for the agreement to activate 30 days later, on November 4. As of this weekend, 109 of nearly 200 countries around the globe have ratified the agreement. The accord outlines measures for nations that wish to withdraw from participation, citing a four-year wait before exit procedures could begin. Since the deal just went into force this month, it means the first opportunity to withdraw would not come until November 4, 2020 according to Article 28 of the international agreement. Related: Trump taps top climate denier to lead EPA transition team Trump’s advisers, according to Reuters’ anonymous source, are considering other methods of sidestepping the US commitment to the Paris climate deal. The possible options include pulling out of the 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (the Paris deal’s parent treaty), nullifying US participation in both agreements in one year from now, or creating an executive order to delete the US signature from the Paris deal. Any of these moves would be controversial in its own right, creating conflicts with other nations and paving the way for dangerous US policies that work against environmental protections, rather than for them. To say that climate change is a serious issue is the understatement of our lifetime; a recent United Nations report showed that global temperature increases are on track to exceed the parameters that the Paris climate deal were based on. Rather than fending off a 1.5-2C increase (over pre-industrial levels), world leaders may actually be tasked with combating a 3C increase that will wreak havoc on the globe unless drastic action is taken to cut greenhouse gas emissions. According to 2011 figures, the US is responsible for around 16 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels, so the nation’s role in the Paris climate agreement is key to global survival. Yet, with a president-elect who firmly rejects the concept of climate change and has called it a Chinese “hoax,” the US may be primed to lead the charge to destroy the Earth’s environment for good. Via The Guardian Images via Gage Skidmore/Flickr and  UNclimatechange/Flickr

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Trump advisers seek loopholes to allow ASAP withdrawl from Paris climate deal

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