Stephen Leahy / Common Dreams & Renee Schoof / McClatchy – 2009-03-01 21:11:48
The Heat Is on Washington: March 2 Protests
Stephen Leahy / Common Dreams
WASHINGTON (February 28, 2009) — A boiling point over government inaction on climate change may have been reached in the United States.
More than 12,000 mainly young people are planning to gather in Washington on Monday, March 2, to insist that their elected officials legislate immediate and deep cuts in US emissions of carbon dioxide, just as scientists revealed this week that the global climate is more sensitive to rising temperatures than expected.
And on the same Monday, at least 2,000 people led by eminent scientist James Hansen of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) plan to close the coal/oil powered Capitol Power Plant that supplies heat to government buildings on Capitol Hill, breaking the law if necessary.
“For more than 30 years, scientists, environmentalists and people from all walks of life have urged our leaders to take action to stop global warming; and that action has yet to come,” said Hansen, one of the world’s leading climate scientists.
“The world is waiting for the [Barack] Obama administration and Congress to lead the way forward on this defining issue of our time. They need to start by getting coal out of Congress,” Hansen said in a statement.
For 30 years, Hansen has “consistently been the voice of courage on climate change,” said Michael Crocker of Greenpeace USA, one of a coalition of more than 40 environmental, public health, labor, social justice NGOs that plan to shut down the Capitol Power Plant at least for part of the day.
“We want to send Congress the message that carbon emissions can’t be cut without phasing out coal-power plants,” Crocker told IPS.
Hansen and other scientists have shown that coal-powered plants are the major source of carbon emissions, and if they were phased out in every country by 2030, there would be real hope of stabilizing the climate. Coal is also a major air pollutant that kills hundreds of thousands, and the single largest source of toxic mercury emissions. Mining coal has significant environmental and health impacts.
“The industry claim that there is something called ‘clean coal’ is, put simply, a lie,” said leading environmental writers Wendell Berry and Bill McKibben, who are participating and called on young people to join them in shutting down the plant.
“It is probable that people will be arrested. This is the start of series of actions on coal until the government takes real action on climate,” said Crocker.
The US needs to have legislation that sharply cuts carbon emissions and increases clean energy in place before the international climate negotiations in Copenhagen at the end of this year, said Jessy Tolkan, director of the Energy Action Coalition.
The Energy Action Coalition, made up people under the age of 30, has organized a separate but complementary effort bringing more than 10,000 young people from every state to the US capital to lobby their members of Congress for action on climate change.
“There will be a wide cross-section of young people, and a real cross-section of our generation,” said Tolkan.
These aren’t just college kids from the Northeast states, she told IPS. There will be young people who have “been abused by dirty energy by polluting their air, native youth whose lands have been damaged by coal mining, Latinos and Latinas lobbying for jobs in green energy, sons and daughters of autoworkers looking for green transportation, and Christian evangelicals who want proper stewardship of the environment.”
While her generation is deeply worried about the economy, they are “terrified” about climate change and realize this is the time for bold action on climate and to create a new green economy, she said. They want to see 5 million green jobs and to “turn the [US] midwest into the Saudi Arabia of wind and the southwest into the Saudi Arabia of solar.”
“This is the solution to so many problems including ending wars over oil,” Tolkan added.
To reach these ends, the coalition has arranged more than 325 meetings with nearly every member of Congress on Monday. In one such meeting, more than 500 students from Virginia will meet their two senators and insist on “just and bold climate legislation,” said Laura Comer, a student at Hofstra University in New York.
“This will be the biggest lobby day in US history,” Comer, a volunteer organizer for the Coalition, told IPS. “We know the science [about climate change] is well-established and what actions are needed for us to survive.”
And that science is becoming more dire. This week scientists reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that global temperature increase of less than 1.8 C is very likely to result in “increases in drought, heat waves and floods” resulting in increased water stress, wildfire frequency and flood risks. Previously they thought temperatures would have to rise above 1.8 C.
The present temperature rise is 0.8 C and even if all carbon emissions ended today, temperatures would likely reach 1.8 C, previous reports have found.
Comer said young people realize that even though they strongly support President Obama, who has made climate a priority, they know that many in Congress do not share their desire for immediate and bold action on climate and to green the U.S economy.
So far elected officials have been “shocked” by the organization and numbers of young people who raised funds to make the journey to Washington and arranged meetings to tell their representatives how much action on climate matters to them, said Comer.
“We know older generations have failed us so they better not cut corners this time because we will be watching,” the activist added.
Copyright © 2009 IPS-Inter Press Service
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
DETAILS FOR MARCH 2
The Capitol Climate Action Team
We will meet at Spirit of Justice Park, C St. and Capitol St SE in Washington, DC at 1pm and march to the Capitol Power Plant.
We’re asking everyone to look their best for the action – but it doesn’t need to be a business suit. Folks from different cultures have different ways of “dressing up” — feel free to do what feels right and don’t forget you’ll need to stay warm as temperatures are likely to be in the 40s.
JOIN THE TEXT LOOP
We’ve set up a text loop for the Capitol Climate Action. That means you can get up to date text messages on your cell phone WHILE THE ACTION HAPPENS.
This provides a quick and easy way for us to communicate to you.
It’s really easy to set up, just send a text message to 40404 with the message “follow capitolclimate” (no quotations) and you will be following our text messaging.
Once you are in the loop, you’ll get regular messages about the action.
Also, don’t forget to sign up for Powershift 09. From February 27th to March 2nd, young people from across the country will converge on Washington D.C. to take a message of bold, comprehensive and immediate federal climate action to Capitol Hill. More than 10,000 people are expected to participate. You can register at http://www.powershift09.org . When they ask how you found out about Powershift, you can write “Capitol Climate Action.”
YOU DON’T NEED TO RISK ARREST TO PARTICIPATE
Anyone can actively participate in the action and choose not to risk arrest. While nothing is ever guaranteed in an action scenario, we have a very high degree of confidence that this will be a controlled, intentional, safe environment and people will be able to chose their own involvement levels.
The Capitol Power Plant powers Congress with dirty energy and symbolizes a past that cannot be our future. With a new administration and a new Congress, this is our window of opportunity. But we have to open it together. On March 2, you’re going to help make history. Get all the latest at
Can’t wait to see you in D.C.!
Expert: Carbon Dioxide Emissions
Could Last Millenniums
Renee Schoof / McClatchy Newspapers
WASHINGTON (February 24, 2009) — Until now, most discussion of climate change has been about what scientific evidence shows is likely to happen between now and 2100. However, scientific research shows that the carbon dioxide gas released from burning fossil fuels lasts in the atmosphere much longer than mere decades.
David Archer, a leading climate researcher who teaches at the University of Chicago, has written a new book that looks at carbon dioxide’s “long tail” and what it means for changes on Earth in the future.
If the world continues its heavy use of coal over the next couple of hundred years until it’s essentially used up, it would take several centuries more for the oceans to absorb about three-quarters of the carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere. In those centuries, there would be a “climate storm” that Archer says would be significantly worse than the forecast from now to 2100.
The remaining carbon dioxide — the long tail — would stay in the atmosphere for thousands of years, leaving a warmer climate. About 10 percent of it would still be in the atmosphere in 100,000 years, Archer wrote in “The Long Thaw: How Humans Are Changing the Next 100,000 Years of Earth’s Climate.”
“Ultimately, the amount of fossil fuel available could be enough to raise the atmospheric CO2 concentration higher than it has been in millions of years,” Archer wrote.
Because of the long life of CO2 from fossil fuels, the climate impacts would last for many thousands of years. Ice sheets would melt, raising seas high enough to swamp 10 percent or more of the world’s agricultural land. Other climate impacts could include uncomfortable heat and drier continental interiors, Archer tells his readers. “In the long run, it could be a steep price to pay for a century or so of fossil fuel energy.”
Archer studies the carbon cycle of Earth as it interacts with global climate. His slim book is a clear explanation of carbon dioxide and climate change for nonscientists. It also explains how the climate has changed in the distant past and looks ahead to the deep future.
His work has been a part of what John Holdren, whom President Obama named as his science adviser, has called the “tremendous effort” among scientists to reach a “center of gravity” in the understanding of climate change. The results of that work are available in the reports of the National Academy of Sciences and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The conclusion, as Holdren summed it up at his confirmation hearing recently: “Climate change is real, it’s accelerating, it is caused in substantial part by human activity, it is dangerous and it is getting more so.”
Like Holdren and other climate experts, Archer concludes that there’s still time to cut fossil fuel emissions enough to avoid disaster.
“The question may come down to ethics, rather than economics,” Archer wrote, much as the issue of slavery did more than a century ago. “Ultimately it didn’t matter whether it was economically beneficial or costly to give up. It was simply wrong.”
Some questions and answers with David Archer:
Q: You write that the climate effects of fossil fuel burning will last longer than nuclear waste. Most discussions of climate change focus on this century. Why did you look farther out?
A: Everyone knows that nuclear waste lasts a long time, and it seems to make a difference to them. It makes a difference to me the longevity of global warming, too.
Q: Some people, though, don’t believe it’s a problem.
A: There are people who will “believe” anything they want to; the question is whether anyone has a scientifically credible justification for that belief. It was predicted over a century ago that rising CO2 concentrations in the air would warm the planet. Now it seems to be doing just that, just as predicted. If anyone can explain why things should not work in this way, then I’d be interested to hear, but so far there are just no completing ideas, just beliefs stemming from whatever source, and an active campaign at disinformation sponsored by the fossil fuel industry.
Q: What difference does the long view make?
A: The book makes the point that global warming from CO2 emissions will last for thousands of years into the future. To me that changes the picture, especially when thinking about the economics of climate change or the possibility of “engineering” the planet cooler by putting haze in the stratosphere or something like that. It also means that the eventual sea level rise from releasing CO2 could be a hundred times greater than the forecast for the year 2100.
Q: Is Earth doomed to an ice-free state, mass extinctions and rising seas?
A: No, the damage has not yet been done. We could stop releasing CO2. Technologically that is not so hard.
© 2009 McClatchy Newspapers
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.