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A few well-written words can convey a wealth of information, particularly when there is no lag time between when they are written and when they are read. The IPS blog gives you an opportunity to hear directly from IPS scholars and staff on ideas large and small and for us to hear back from you.

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Entries tagged "global warming"

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Durban Diary: UN Summit's Stormy Backdrop

November 29, 2011 ·

On Sunday night, as I met with colleagues from Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America to prepare for the UN climate summit, the unseasonably blustery evening went from windy to rainy to a huge downpour.

It was a perfect illustration of why we were in Durban, South Africa. Scientists are finding increasing evidence that climate change is behind the recent surge in extreme weather. By the time we ran (literally) down the block for dinner the rain was hard enough to soak us in spite of raincoats and umbrellas.

There's a stormy backdrop as delegates from around the world prepare to discuss the future of the world. Photo by UNClimateChange.We woke Monday morning to news that the violent storm had killed eight people in Durban and neighboring Pietermaritzburg, and destroyed scores of houses. The security guards that checked our badges at the door reported that local farmers' crops were ruined. It was the second deadly deluge in the KwaZulu-Natal province in less than two weeks.

UN climate scientists recently predicted that extreme weather — heavier rainfall, more floods, stronger cyclones, more landslides and, ironically, more frequent serious droughts — will increase as we continue to release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, causing global temperatures to rise.

This is a big part of why I've made the carbon-spewing trip from Washington DC to South Africa.

Over the course of this yearly summit, I'll advocate for rapid and deep cuts in climate pollution from the world's wealthy industrialized countries. I'll also call for financial support for poorer countries to move from dirty development pathways to low-emission strategies for lifting people out of poverty (like access to clean, renewable energy), and to build resilience to the impacts of climate change, like extreme weather-related disasters.

Janet Redman, co-director of the Sustainable Energy & Economy Network at the Institute for Policy Studies, is observing the United Nations climate talks in Durban, South Africa. www.ips-dc.org
Join the global call for climate justice by participating in 1,000 Durbans in conjunction with the December 3rd Day of Action on Climate Justice.

A Lesson Kids Understand, but Congress Does Not

October 23, 2011 ·

A few days ago, I took my son and one of his friends to a birthday party. As we made our way there, I listened in on their conversation - something I like to do if they are truly unaware that I am doing it. They were comparing soccer skills, and why my son's friend wasn't quite as fast as he was on the field.

His friend lowered his voice and in a near whisper said, "I don't like to admit it, but I have asthma. And that's one reason I can't run fast." Later, as they were talking about things they were really afraid of, he added, "Really bad allergies; that's what scares me the most." 

It's a sad commentary on the state of our country that our children are terrified by what our elected officials are failing to do: uphold laws that protect their health. Lisa P. Jackson' writes in the Los Angeles Times about the all-out Republicans assault on environmental laws and regulations in the House of Representatives: 

Since the beginning of this year, Republicans in the House have averaged roughly a vote every day the chamber has been in session to undermine the Environmental Protection Agency and our nation's environmental laws. They have picked up the pace recently — just last week they voted to stop the EPA's efforts to limit mercury and other hazardous pollutants from cement plants, boilers and incinerators — and it appears their campaign will continue for the foreseeable future.

Using the economy as cover, and repeating unfounded claims that "regulations kill jobs," they have pushed through an unprecedented rollback of the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and our nation's waste-disposal laws, all of which have successfully protected our families for decades. We all remember "too big to fail"; this pseudo jobs plan to protect polluters might well be called "too dirty to fail."

The House has voted on provisions that, if they became law, would give big polluters a pass in complying with the standards that more than half of the power plants across the country already meet. The measures would indefinitely delay sensible upgrades to reduce air pollution from industrial boilers located in highly populated areas. And they would remove vital federal water protections, exposing treasured resources such as the Gulf of Mexico, Lake Erie, the Chesapeake Bay and the Los Angeles River to pollution.

Lisa Jackson's hard-hitting op-ed is an important antidote, but we all need to do our part. 

A Mother's Plea for Sasha and Malia: No Tar Sands Pipeline

September 4, 2011 ·

As a single mother whose life's work has largely focused on solving the climate crisis, I'm often in a quandary. How much should I share of the work I do on this issue — which overwhelms those rare adults who immerse themselves in the details with grief — with my 11-year-old son?

When I posed this question in an interview with NASA's top climate scientist, Dr. James Hansen, who often speaks of his grandchildren as his motivator for speaking out on climate change, he advised me that it's more important to let a child be a child. Let them experience the wonder and beauty of nature, not fear it, he said.

And so I was a bit perplexed as to what to tell my son as I prepared to get arrested for the first time in my life. It turned out I'd be joining over 1,000 people from around the United States and Canada in nonviolently protesting a pipeline that President Barack Obama is poised to approve.

Daphne Wysham gets arrested at the White House while protesting the Keystone XL pipeline. Photo by Shadia Fayne WoodThis isn't just any pipeline: It is, as Dr. Hansen calls it, a pipeline that, if opened, would ignite the "carbon bomb," a move that would signal "game over" for the climate.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Irene, my son and I watched the movie Avatar on DVD (for the nth time). As it ended, I thought: This might be a good opportunity to explain my plans for that week.

"You know, this movie is very close to what's happening in Canada right now," I explained. "And it's one reason I'll be getting arrested this week."

As my son took in my explanation for my planned act of civil disobedience, he quickly concluded that he, too, wanted to be arrested. But, after some hours of contemplation, I had to reluctantly tell him no.

Why "reluctantly"? Because I felt I was denying my son the right to act, politically, on an issue that would very likely have a much larger impact on his life than on mine. He, far more than the adults who were weighing in, should have a vote on this issue. Yet he, and all our children, have little say on the world they'll inherit, one that may be changed utterly, in ways we can't even comprehend.

As I stood before the White House gates a few days later, listening to the police issue their warnings of our impending arrests to our group of over 100 demonstrators, I thought of what I would say as they carted me away — what cry I wanted the president to hear.

And I recalled the day Obama stood before the American people, in those days and months as BP's deepwater well billowed millions of barrels of oil from that horrifying wound in the Gulf of Mexico floor. I remembered him remarking that, yes, he was very concerned about the spill because, while he shaved one morning, his 11-year-old daughter Malia had asked him, "Did you plug the hole yet, Daddy?"

Children have a way of speaking to our hearts. And so, I mused, even if President Obama didn't hear the songs and the chants of the more than 1,000 people who were arrested over the course of two weeks, even if the prayers of religious leaders and Native American elders went unanswered, even if he didn't read the editorial opposing the Keystone XL pipeline in The New York Times, even if he ignored the advice of his very own EPA, perhaps, in this instance, Sasha or Malia might see us outside the White House gates, and ask him, "Did you stop the pipeline yet, Daddy?"

As the police handcuffed my hands behind me and led me off to a white school bus, I shouted: "For Sasha and Malia!"

I don't think Obama or his daughters heard me, I thought, as I watched my fellow protesters be cuffed, searched and photographed through the bus's caged windows. But perhaps, if we keep this up, they will.

Daphne Wysham is a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, co-director of the Sustainable Energy and Economy Network, and host of Earthbeat Radio. www.ips-dc.org

Earthbeat Radio: We Did It!

September 9, 2010 ·

Daphne bag monsterI’m an accidental radio host. Seven years ago, while directing the Sustainable Energy and Economy Network at IPS, I was invited by Pacifica’s Washington, DC, radio station, WPFW, to host an environmental radio show, together with Mike Tidwell. Like me, Mike had a full-time job — he as the executive director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN). But we both were concerned that the American people just weren’t getting the facts on the climate crisis, which we viewed as the most critical environmental threat of our time. So we agreed to cohost a weekly one-hour broadcast, covering climate change and other environmental issues.

It was rough at first. Though both of us were published writers and former journalists, radio is an entirely different medium. Anything can — and does — go wrong. But bit by bit, we learned the ropes, finally generating enough of a buzz in the DC community to get a small donor to give us an unsolicited donation, followed by a larger donor, followed by a growing number of supporters.  With our funds, we hired a producer.

After our producer started professionalizing the show, one radio station after another starting adding us to their lineup.  Then in 2006, Al Gore’s film “An Inconvenient Truth” came out, and we felt we could finally start to get beyond the basics — to the politics of the climate crisis. Before we knew it, we had over 50 stations airing our show, reaching over 2 million potential listeners in the US and Canada, and we started dreaming big dreams.

Then the crash of 2008 came along. And our largest donor informed us in May of this year that they could no longer fund our work. Mike decided he really needed to devote his time and energy to keeping CCAN going. And I, too, wondered if it were worth my time and effort to keep the show going. With no additional funding, I decided that at the end of August we would have to go off the air.

As word got out, one person after another began telling me that we couldn’t afford to lose Earthbeat, and offered to send out an appeal to their friends and contacts to keep it going. I was skeptical we could raise our target of $10,000 in a matter of days — in time to stave off job offers our producer would soon be forced to accept. But they drafted beautiful letters and the money started coming in. Before I knew it, we had raised $5,000. Then a major donor wrote and asked me how much we needed to raise to keep going through the end of 2010. I told her we were $5,000 short, and would probably not reach our goal. She wrote me back and said she would provide the remaining funds.

I am so moved by all of this: By our producer, Aries Keck, who has been willing to take a (temporary!) cut in pay, rather than other jobs, in order to keep the show going through the end of 2010.  She believes in the mission of Earthbeat that much.  By our volunteer of almost two years, Gerri Williams, who has shown up week after week, in record snow and heat, to help get the show on the air. By our amazing staff and board at IPS, who have cheered us on. By WPFW’s ongoing support of an idea that seven years ago was a pipe dream. And of course by all of you, who wrote letters of support and checks large and small in this time of economic crisis.

I am energized to be a part of a collective effort that is trying — despite the seemingly insurmountable odds — to turn the tide.

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