Category Archives: Policy and Legislation

State of the Union Addresses Climate Change

President Obama directly rebuked attempts to deny the existence of human-induced climate change in yesterday’s State of the Union address. Below are his full remarks on climate and energy issues, as released before the speech:

We believed we could reduce our dependence on foreign oil and protect our planet. And today, America is number one in oil and gas. America is number one in wind power. Every three weeks, we bring online as much solar power as we did in all of 2008. And thanks to lower gas prices and higher fuel standards, the typical family this year should save $750 at the pump…

So let’s set our sights higher than a single oil pipeline. Let’s pass a bipartisan infrastructure plan that could create more than thirty times as many jobs per year, and make this country stronger for decades to come…

And no challenge—no challenge—poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change.

2014 was the planet’s warmest year on record. Now, one year doesn’t make a trend, but this does—14 of the 15 warmest years on record have all fallen in the first 15 years of this century.

I’ve heard some folks try to dodge the evidence by saying they’re not scientists; that we don’t have enough information to act. Well, I’m not a scientist, either. But you know what—I know a lot of really good scientists at NASA, and NOAA, and at our major universities. The best scientists in the world are all telling us that our activities are changing the climate, and if we do not act forcefully, we’ll continue to see rising oceans, longer, hotter heat waves, dangerous droughts and floods, and massive disruptions that can trigger greater migration, conflict, and hunger around the globe. The Pentagon says that climate change poses immediate risks to our national security. We should act like it.

That’s why, over the past six years, we’ve done more than ever before to combat climate change, from the way we produce energy, to the way we use it. That’s why we’ve set aside more public lands and waters than any administration in history. And that’s why I will not let this Congress endanger the health of our children by turning back the clock on our efforts. I am determined to make sure American leadership drives international action. In Beijing, we made an historic announcement—the United States will double the pace at which we cut carbon pollution, and China committed, for the first time, to limiting their emissions. And because the world’s two largest economies came together, other nations are now stepping up, and offering hope that, this year, the world will finally reach an agreement to protect the one planet we’ve got.

Gov. Inslee Unveils Plan to Reduce GHG Emissions

Gov. Jay Inslee introduced his plan to bring Washington State into alignment with the goals for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that were set into state law in 2008. His proposal is to develop a system for cap-and-trade of GHG pollution that would be “the most comprehensive and probably the most progressive carbon-pollution regulation system anywhere in the world,” according to Alan Durning, executive director of the Sightline Institute, as quoted by the Seattle Times. Inslee’s plan would raise $947 million in 2017 and the money would be allocated to the following programs:

  • $400 million on transportation projects.
  • $380 million on education.
  • $163 million on tax rebates and other help for low-income communities.
  • $3.5 million on administering the program.

Read more from the Seattle Times here.

Lima, Peru Conference: First Steps for Climate Accord

Yesterday, the Twentieth Conference of the Parties (COP-20) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) concluded. After 2 weeks of meetings, climate negotiators from 195 countries have crafted an agreement for all countries to develop plans for limiting greenhouse gas emissions.

The plans are due to the UN climate committee by October 1. At that point the UN will analyze the impact the plans have on slowing climate change. Negotiators will begin working on an introductory document to all the plans at meetings in early 2015 in Bonn, Germany, and Geneva, Switzerland. The document will be presented and (it is hoped) approved at the next Conference of the Parties in Paris.

You can read analyses of the meeting results at Mother Jones or from Robert N. Stavins, participant in the meetings and Director of the Harvard Environmental Economics Program.

Remarks by the President at UN Climate Change Summit

THE PRESIDENT:  Mr. President, Mr. Secretary General, fellow leaders:  For all the immediate challenges that we gather to address this week — terrorism, instability, inequality, disease– there’s one issue that will define the contours of this century more dramatically than any other, and that is the urgent and growing threat of a changing climate.

Five years have passed since many of us met in Copenhagen.  And since then, our understanding of climate change has advanced — both in the deepening science that says this once-distant threat has moved “firmly into the present,” and into the sting of more frequent extreme weather events that show us exactly what these changes may mean for future generations.

No nation is immune.  In America, the past decade has been our hottest on record.  Along our eastern coast, the city of Miami now floods at high tide.  In our west, wildfire season now stretches most of the year.  In our heartland, farms have been parched by the worst drought in generations, and drenched by the wettest spring in our history.  A hurricane left parts of this great city dark and underwater.  And some nations already live with far worse.  Worldwide, this summer was the hottest ever recorded — with global carbon emissions still on the rise.

So the climate is changing faster than our efforts to address it.  The alarm bells keep ringing.  Our citizens keep marching.  We cannot pretend we do not hear them.  We have to answer the call.  We know what we have to do to avoid irreparable harm.  We have to cut carbon pollution in our own countries to prevent the worst effects of climate change.  We have to adapt to the impacts that, unfortunately, we can no longer avoid.  And we have to work together as a global community to tackle this global threat before it is too late.

To read more, click here.

People’s Climate March

World leaders, including President Obama, will gather in New York next week to discuss climate change at the United Nations Climate Summit. While big breakthroughs seem unlikely at the summit, tens of thousands of people are expected to march in the streets of New York and other cities on Sunday to demand stronger action.

The Climate Knows No Borders International Rally at the Peace Arch

On Saturday, September 20 at 1 pm, First Nations, Native American tribes, Canadians, and Americans will gather at the Peace Arch Park near the border crossing between Vancouver, B.C. and Washington. This action is organized by 350 Seattle, Wilderness Committee, and the Georgia Strait Alliance to defend the Salish Sea from fossil fuel development and climate change. Details can be found here.

It is occurring in conjunction with the Nawt-sa-maat Alliance for Protecting and Restoring the Sacredness of the Salish SeaThe Nawt-sa-maat Alliance is bringing together a broad multi-national, cross-cultural collaboration of Coast Salish tribal governments, organizations, and impassioned individuals who love this region and call it home to take “Unprecedented Unified Action” to Protect the Sacredness of the Salish Sea. First Nations and Native American tribes include the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, Lummi Nation, and Tulalip Nation. One meaning of the Coast Salish word Nawtsamaat is: “One House. One Heart. One Prayer. United in Power to Protect the Sacred!”

Seattle People’s Climate March

In Seattle, a rally at Westlake Center will be held on Sunday, September 21 at 1pm in solidarity with the People’s Climate March in NYC calling on the U.N. Climate Summit to take urgent and serious action to stop climate change. Details can be found here.

 

 

White House Climate Change Initiatives

The White House has released a factsheet today about a series of climate change initiatives that were based on the recommendations of the State, Local and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness. The initiatives are intended to improve local planning for flooding, coastal erosion, and storm surge; predicting landslide risks under sea level rise and storms; and protecting the electricity supply. You can read a summary in the New York Times here.

Highlights include:

  • National Disaster Resilience Competition. Nearly $1 billion to make resources available to communities that have been struck by natural disasters in recent years.
  • Helping tribes prepare for climate impacts. A $10 million Federal-Tribal Climate Resilience Partnership and Technical Assistance Program that will help tribes prepare for climate change by developing and delivering adaptation training.
  • Investing in the nation’s rural electric system. The USDA will award $236.3 million in funding for eight states to support improved rural electric infrastructure.
  • Developing advanced mapping data and tools. USGS launched a $13.1 million 3-D Elevation Program partnership designed to bring Federal agencies, academia, corporate entities, states, tribes, and communities together to develop advanced mapping for flood risk management, water resource planning, mitigation of coastal erosion and storm surge impacts, and identification of landslide hazards. More information is available athttp://nationalmap.gov/3DEP/.
  • Safeguarding access to quality drinking water amid drought. USDA will announce additional funds to help rural communities struggling with drought.

Rebuilding stronger and safer after natural disasters:

  • Establishing a Mitigation Integration Task Force.  Working with State, tribal, local, and eligible private non-profit partners, FEMA will identify pilot projects in current and emerging disasters where there are specific opportunities to make investments that result in a more resilient outcome than using a single funding source and program.
  • Accounting for Climate Change in Hazard Mitigation Planning.  More information is available at http://www.fema.gov/multi-hazard-mitigation-planning.

Building more resilient communities:

  • Committing to “Preparedness Pilots.”  Two “Preparedness Pilots” in cooperation with the City of Houston and the State of Colorado, with NASA (Johnson Space Flight Center) and the Energy Department (National Renewable Energy Laboratory).  T
  • Making our coasts more resilient.  NOAA announced new program guidance under Section 309 of the Coastal Zone Management Act to ensure greater consideration of how climate change may exacerbate challenges in the management of coastal areas. $1.5 million of competitive funding will be available to help states and tribes make improvements to their coastal management programs.  More information is available at http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/.
  • Improving stormwater management. The EPA launched a Green Infrastructure Collaborative among government agencies, NGOs, and other private sector entities to advance green stormwater infrastructure.
  • Assessing climate-related health hazards. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention today released a new guide, “Assessing Health Vulnerability to Climate Change,” to help public health departments assess local vulnerabilities to health hazards associated with climate change:  http://www.cdc.gov/climateandhealth/pubs/AssessingHealthVulnerabilitytoClimateChange.pdf

Public Hearing in Spokane on Oil Transport Last Week

This article in Spokane’s Spokesman-Review describes a public hearing held by members of the state Senate Committee on Energy, Environment and Telecommunications on a bill that would regulate trains carrying crude oil across Washington. The “Spill Prevention and Response Act” would require companies to disclose the amount and type of crude oil they’re shipping. It would also levy a 5-cent-per-barrel “oil spill response tax” to fund training for first responders. The safety of transporting oil from North Dakota’s Bakken fields to refineries in western Washington and Oregon is of great concern to many, particulalry in light of several major derailment accidents, including in Quebec and Virginia.