Sea Levels Will Rise Faster Than Ever


 

sea-level-rise

Scientific research indicates sea levels worldwide have been rising at a rate of 0.14 inches (3.5 millimeters) per year since the early 1990s. The trend, linked to global warming, puts thousands of coastal cities, like Venice, Italy, (seen here during a historic flood in 2008), and even whole islands at risk of being claimed by the ocean. Photograph by Andrea Pattero/AFP/Getty Images (National Geographic)

By Scott Waldman, ClimateWire on November 8, 2016

Source: Scientific American The Atlantic coast will be one of the hardest hit regions

Sea levels across the globe will rise faster than at any time throughout human history if the Earth’s warming continues beyond 2 degrees Celsius.

The Atlantic coast of North America will be one of the worst-hit areas as melting glaciers cause the sea level to rise over the next century, a new study published yesterday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences finds.

However, that rise is not expected to be uniform, as gravity and the movement of the ocean will play a role in how the water is distributed, and some areas will be hit worse than others. New York and other cities along the East Coast could see seas rise by more than 3 feet by the end of the century if the Earth warms by 4 or 5 degrees beyond pre-industrial levels.

If the rate of carbon emissions continues unabated, the authors said, the globe would warm by 2 degrees and cause significant sea-level rise by 2040. It would be worse along the East Coast of North America and Norway, which are expected to experience a sea-level rise of about a foot. The relative speed of the sea’s rise means many areas won’t have time to adapt, researchers found. And from there, warming would accelerate even faster.

“The coastal communities of rapidly expanding cities in the developing world and vulnerable tropical coastal ecosystems will have a very limited time to adapt to sea-level rises after the ‘2 degrees Celsius’ threshold is likely to be reached,” said Svetlana Jevrejeva, a researcher at the National Oceanography Centre in Liverpool, England, and lead author of the study.

The sea-level rise comes as the Earth’s record-breaking warmth is expected to become the “new normal,” according to another study published this week in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. While 2015 was the hottest year on record, it could be the average within the next decade if carbon emissions continue to rise at their current rate, it found. And even if countries take action to limit carbon dioxide, humanity may have already locked in the increased warmth by 2040.

But limiting emissions now will mean some of the regions of the globe are not locked in for the new levels of warmth, and that they can still have significant variability.

“It gives us hope to know that if we act quickly to reduce greenhouse gases, seasonal extremes might never enter a new normal state in the 21st century at regional levels for the Southern Hemisphere summer and Northern Hemisphere winter,” said Sophie Lewis, a researcher at the Australian National University.

Millions of urban dwellers at risk

Nations that signed the Paris Agreement limiting warming to a maximum of 2 degrees are meeting this week in Morocco to put the accord into motion. Meanwhile, the United Nations has already cautioned that the emission targets countries voluntarily set may not be strict enough to meet the 2-degree goal.

Two degrees of warming is expected to cause an average global sea-level rise of 8 inches, but virtually all coastal areas will see more of a rise, Jevrejeva found. If warming exceeds 2 degrees by 2100, as some climate scientists worry it might, about 80 percent of the global coastline could experience a rise in sea levels of 6 feet. Such a rapid rise in sea levels is unprecedented since the dawn of the Bronze Age about 5,000 years ago, according to the study.

The research takes further the potential for sea-level rise posed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which argued that sea-level rise of 11 to 38 inches is possible by 2100. Many climate scientists have since claimed that estimate is too conservative.

Absent a concerted effort to limit warming, cities and island nations across the globe are at risk, researchers found.

“Coastal communities, notably rapidly expanding cities in the developing world; small island states; United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization Cultural World Heritage sites; and vulnerable tropical coastal ecosystems will have a very limited time after mid-century to adapt to these rises,” they wrote.

The rise for New York is predicated on a warming of 5 degrees by 2100, which some researchers have contested may be too high. But at the upper scale of that level of warming, tens of millions of people around the world would be displaced. That includes “2.5 million living in low-lying areas of Miami; 2.1 million in Guangzhou [in China]; 1.8 million in Mumbai; and more than 1 million each in Osaka [in Japan], Tokyo, New Orleans, New York, and [Vietnam’s] Ho Chi Minh City,” researchers contended.

The study is part of a growing body of research that looks for possible scenarios that involve the potential for catastrophic sea-level rise, but more attention should be paid to the loss of land ice, as well, said Tad Pfeffer, a glaciologist at the University of Colorado, Boulder. While researchers typically focus on the loss of glaciers in Antarctica and Greenland, the loss of land ice in other spots across the globe is now contributing to sea-level rise at almost the same rate as the Arctic’s melting ice, he said. It’s the full scope of the current glacial loss that concerns political leaders and policymakers because it has already presented a pressing need to be addressed, he said.

“This near-term time scale is the time of greatest concern to decision makers,” he said. “Research that reaches out to 2100 and beyond is scientifically exciting, but really of secondary importance to the people who are trying to make sense of the science for decision-making.”

Reprinted from ClimateWire with permission from E&E News. E&E provides daily coverage of essential energy and environmental news at www.eenews.net.

Remembering Exxon Valdez: Obama Should Cancel Leases in Gulf and Arctic


exoon spill clean

By Margie Alt and Cindy Shogan, EcoWatch -24 March 16
Source: Reader Supported News

Today marks the anniversary of the Exxon Valdez catastrophe—the 11-million-gallon oil spill in Alaska’s Prince William Sound that remains one of the largest human-caused environmental disasters in U.S. history.

Twenty-seven years later, in some ways, not much has changed. The devastation from the spill lingers. Crude oil remains beneath beaches. The orca whale population continues to struggle. Crab and shrimp populations have yet to fully recover.

The BP Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico has surpassed the Exxon Valdez as the largest catastrophe in U.S. history. Shell’s Kulluk drill rig running aground on New Year’s Eve 2012 offered a new, horrific reminder of the risk of offering up one of the world’s most remote and diverse marine environments to oil and gas development.

And last week, the Obama administration issued its latest plan for more drilling and inevitable spilling. The proposal includes 10 new lease areas for drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and three in Alaskan waters – two of which are located in the Arctic Ocean.

But many changes over the last three decades also point to a clean energy future. In fact, the scientific, economic and political momentum to stop new drilling proposals and wean ourselves off fossil fuels altogether is increasingly on our side.

Nearly 200 nations have agreed to a goal of limiting global warming to no more than 1.5 degrees, a benchmark scientists say we can only meet if we keep the vast majority of the world’s fossil fuel reserves in the ground. There’s no better place to start than with the fragile Arctic, and with a just transition off fossil fuels that begins with no new drilling in the Gulf.

Time and again, the Obama administration has also proved itself willing to listen to the call of opposition to ocean drilling.

Last year the administration canceled existing drilling leases in the Arctic Ocean, following the actions of “kayaktivists” who sought to block Shell’s icebreaker headed north from Portland, Oregon.

Earlier this month President Obama announced a wide-ranging joint climate agreement with Canada, pledging to take into account climate science and emergency response plans when determining future oil and gas development in the Arctic Ocean.

Last week, the Department of the Interior withdrew the southern Atlantic Ocean from its leasing proposal after an outcry from citizens, businesses and local governments up and down the coast.

Just yesterday, in the face of spirited protests at the symbolically-charged Superdome in New Orleans, the Bureau of Ocean and Energy Management even temporarily shut down their auction of drilling leases in the Gulf.

Of course, Exxon and its ilk are pushing for the ways of the past. A year ago, in public comments submitted to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Exxon’s Vice President urged the administration to maintain all its proposed leasing areas, and even add the entire eastern Gulf of Mexico, which is currently protected by moratorium. The oil company also lamented at that time that certain areas of Alaska had been removed from consideration.

Today, help us ride the wave of change and push past Exxon and other polluters. Remember the Exxon Valdez disaster by urging the Obama administration to drop its proposals for new drilling in the Arctic and the Gulf.

Oil Companies Want to Get in on the Action in Cuba


Platform

By Katie Herzog, Grist -23 March 16

It’s a new day for Cuba and the U.S.

A little more than a year after relations between the two nations officially started to thaw, President Obama on Sunday became the first U.S. president to visit the island nation since Calvin Coolidge. During a two-and-a-half-day visit, Obama is meeting with Cuban President Raúl Castro to discuss lifting the 1962 embargo as well as economic opportunities and human rights abuses, according to the White House. He’ll also attend a baseball game.

Obama isn’t the only one interested in Cuba. Big Business, including the oil industry, is eyeing the island nation as well. One hundred and twenty business leaders converged upon the country to discuss offshore oil development last October. While American companies are still barred from owning oil assets in Cuba, U.S. firms can be involved in drilling and safety operations. Cuba might welcome that, as Bloomberg Government reports:

Cheap oil has forced Venezuela to scale back its support for Cuba, and that’s prodding the officially Communist nation to open up to foreign investment and build on its rapprochement with the U.S., according to a Moody’s report in December. And opening up may mean boosting the 50,000 barrels a day of oil now produced there. The U.S. Geological Survey estimated that 4.6 billion barrels of crude oil are lurking in the North Cuba Basin, with most of it within 50 miles of Cuba’s coast; that’s one-fifth of what USGS estimated to exist in the Arctic seas off Alaska. But this oil — if it’s really there — wouldn’t need to be produced in some of the world’s harshest conditions, and would be just a short barge voyage away from U.S. Gulf-area refineries.

Of course, the prospect of more offshore development in Cuban waters isn’t exactly comforting to environmentalists. Drilling could happen as close as 50 miles off the coast of Florida, so a big oil spill there could certainly reach American shores. Plus there’s the whole climate change thing to worry about. Cuba, a low-lying island, is especially vulnerable to sea-level rise.

An official White House fact sheet about Obama’s trip to Cuba mentions climate change and the two countries’ intentions to work together on fighting and adapting to it — and makes no mention of oil or gas. “The United States and Cuba recognize the threats posed by climate change to both our countries,” it reads, “including worsening impacts such as continued sea-level rise, the alarming acidification of our oceans, and the striking incidence of extreme weather events. Cooperative action to address this challenge is more critical than ever.”

Addressing this challenge may be critical, as both Washington and Havana are aware, but as oil companies show an increased interest in Cuba’s oil reserves, we may, once again, see the triumph of profit over progress. It’s happened everywhere else. Why not Cuba as well?

Does Methane Threaten Life?


Source: CounterPunch

The question of whether methane (CH4) in the atmosphere is a threat to life is extraordinarily complex and generally not well understood. But, yes it is a serious threat, very serious and horribly real.

Okay, but don’t scientists understand this, and why aren’t they speaking out?

They are speaking out but only a very few.

Here’s the “speaking out” problem: Leading climate scientists are not willing to honestly expose their greatest fears, as discovered by Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! whilst at CO21 in Paris this past December, interviewing one of the world’s leading climate scientists, Kevin Anderson (University of Manchester) of Tyndall Center for Climate Change Research who said: “So far we simply have not been prepared to accept the revolutionary implications of our own findings, and even when we do we are reluctant to voice such thoughts openly… many are ultimately choosing to censor their own research.”

Straightaway, we know from one of the world’s leading authorities on climate change that climate scientists are censoring their own research. But why?

“What we are afraid of doing is putting forward analysis that questions the paradigm, the economic way that we run society today… We fine-tune our analysis so that it fits into the economic reality of our society, the current economic framing. Actually our science now asks fundamental questions about this idea of economic growth in the short term, but we’re very reluctant to say that. In fact, the funding bodies are reluctant to fund research that raises those questions,” Democracy Now! Top Climate Expert: Crisis is Worse Than We Think & Scientists Are Self-Censoring to Downplay Risk, Dec. 8, 2015.

Accordingly, since the current economic framing throughout the world is all about neoliberalism, then it appears this framing does not frame well with climate scientists. One has to wonder why? Maybe it’s only about fossil fuels, but then again, neoliberalism does not leave much room for science. Neoliberalism’s all about “privatizing everything for profits,” removing regulations and let free enterprise (Milton Friedman) determine what’s good for the atmosphere, not science. Alas, climate science is not (underlined twice) profitable. Who needs it?

The scientists that do talk, sans concerns about the current economic paradigm, are openly alarmed by growing evidence of the risk of CH4’s sudden release from the icy protection of the Arctic, knowing humanity is not ready for it.

Those scientists that do speak out, do so in a video, Abrupt Climate Change, The Hard Truth: (The following quotes come from scientists in the video below.)

A major concern amongst scientists is the ongoing meltdown of the Arctic which in turn could release massive quantities of CH4 which in turn feeds into an irreversible feedback loop leading to uncontrollable self-perpetuating rapid planetary temperature rise, the dreaded doomsday scenario, a fireball planet.

“If global average temperature rises to 2 degrees Celsius above baseline, what that means is that the interior of large continents heats up at least twice that much, so to 4C, or higher. And that’s where all of the grain is grown, and grain is the basis for civilization… That would be sufficient to have civilization collapse… we’re talking about the type of suffering that goes beyond anything we’ve ever seen before… well beyond what goes on in war… well beyond the plagues of the past.”

“We have already lit the fuse on a giant methane subsea permafrost bomb in the Arctic which can go off at any moment.”

A methane monster idly sets in waiting in the shallow waters of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf where 100s to 1000s of gigatons could release from very shallow water. Scientists who have studied the area for over a decade say it only takes destabilization of 1-2% to create irreversible havoc for the planet.

According to a 2013 NASA satellite observation, methane plumes in the Arctic Ocean 150 kilometers (93 miles) wide were observed bubbling up to surface. That explains the upward sloping chart of CH4 into the atmosphere, a steeper slope than CO2.

“We’ve found continuous, powerful and impressive seeping structures more than 1,000 metres in diameter. In a very small area, less than 10,000 square miles, we have counted more than 100 fountains, or torch-like structures, bubbling through the water column and injected directly into the atmosphere from the seabed,” Dr. Semiletov said, “We carried out checks at about 115 stationary points and discovered methane fields of a fantastic scale. I think on a scale not seen before. Some of the plumes were a kilometre or more wide and the emissions went directly into the atmosphere. The concentration was a hundred times higher than normal.” (Igor Semiletov PhD, Pacific Oceanological Institute, Far Eastern Branch, Russian Academy of Sciences, visiting scientist, International Arctic Research Center, University of Alaska- not in the video).

How does this vicious cycle end?

First, how did it start? It started by humans burning too much fossil fuel like gasoline for cars and coal for electricity which in turn spews noxious CO2 into the atmosphere which in turn hangs around for centuries acting like a big blanket retaining more and more heat until Mother Earth develops a horrible cough, disrupting her Jet Streams, which brings tropical storms to Boulder, Colorado for the first time ever and loosens up gigatons of CH4 from below the icy cover of the Arctic Ocean, now iceless blue water, into the upper atmosphere to join CO2 as a much larger down-filled blanket which turns up the heat even more.

This cycle likely does not end, assuming noxious emissions do not stop almost cold turkey, rather it expands via vast, continent-wide swaths of climate disruption to the extent that people are forced into pathways of migration, fleeing flooded zones, like Bangladesh (where cities are already sinking), or in search of food sources as desertification overrides local food production, like vast areas of India with 25% already turned to desert, or the drought-stricken eastern Mediterranean (worst drought ever) pushing out more migrants, or entire communities and cities migrating to find sources of water, like Andean communities and cities, e.g., Lima (pop.8.5M) dependent upon glacial water (the World Bank has already warned about this), or a population of 50,000 picking up stakes to move inland, North Carolina’s Outer Banks where portions of the 200-mile island are already at 25% of original width, or crazed upper atmospheric Jet Streams, under the wavering influence of an overheated Arctic, driving endless torrential tropical storms out of the tropics to America’s heartland, like Colorado (2013 Colorado Tropical Storm), as county after county experiences massive flooding, destroying valuable farmland, or when the high tides in Miami are suddenly relabeled “historic flooding.”

Then, a maddening political scramble will ensue to find some way, shape, or form to come to grips with the planet’s rapidly collapsing ecosystem, as angry mobs roam the countryside to hunt down climate change liars to tar and feather. Still, by the time these overwhelmingly large massive bodies of enraged mobs do their dirty work, most of the planet will mirror the dystopian image projected by Mad Max: Fury Road (Warner Bros. 2015). They’ll fit right into the script.

Dr. Peter Gleick (member of the National Academy of Sciences) director of the Pacific Institute of California recently warned, “What is happening in the Arctic now is unprecedented and possibly catastrophic,” Ian Johnston, Arctic Warming: Rapidly Increasing Temperatures are Possibly Catastrophic for Planet, Climate Scientist Warns, Independent, February 25, 2016.

The Solution

Get off fossil fuels as soon as humanly possible and do not elect a president to the White House who denies anthropogenic climate change because that will be tantamount to voluntarily entering a gas chamber, slamming shut the big thick heavy door, and giving thumbs up to the warden!

Robert Hunziker lives in Los Angeles and can be reached at roberthunziker@icloud.com

Leonardo DiCaprio Devotes Oscars Speech to Climate Change


Leonardo DiCaprio at the Oscars in 2016. (photo: EcoWatch)

Leonardo DiCaprio at the Oscars in 2016. (photo: EcoWatch)

By Lorraine Chow, EcoWatch, 29 February 16
Source: Readers Supported News

After six nominations, Leonardo DiCaprio won his first Oscar for Best Actor for his role in The Revenant at last night’s Academy Awards. The noted environmental activist devoted half of his acceptance speech to call for urgent collective action to fight climate change, calling it “the most urgent threat facing our species.”

The 41-year-old actor, who was favored to win the Oscar and had swept the Best Actor category in every major award show leading up to the Academy Awards, first thanked the cast and crew in his speech and then shined a spotlight on a his passion project.

Making The Revenant was about man’s relationship to the natural world. A world that we collectively felt in 2015 as the hottest year in recorded history,” he said, describing how the entire production needed to move to the southern tip of this planet in Argentina just to be able to find snow.

“Climate change is real, it is happening right now,” DiCaprio continued. “It is the most urgent threat facing our entire species, and we need to work collectively together and stop procrastinating.”

He also spoke about the need to support leaders who fight the biggest polluters, as well as the need to stand up for the rights of indigenous people and for the “billions and billions of underprivileged people” affected by a warming planet.

“For our children’s children, and for those people out there whose voices have been drowned out by the politics of greed. I thank you all for this amazing award tonight. Let us not take this planet for granted. I do not take tonight for granted. Thank you so very much,” he concluded.

DiCaprio’s speech was given a standing ovation by the star-studded audience at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.

The Revenant, which was nominated for 12 Oscars—more than any other film this year—took home two other awards at Sunday’s ceremony, including one for cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki and director Alejandro G. Iñárritu. The entire cast and crew braved the elements and faced extreme weather conditions in locations such as Mexico, Argentina, British Columbia and Alberta.

DiCaprio, who played fur trapper and legendary frontiersman Hugh Glass in the film, made similar comments at previous awards ceremonies about the The Revenant‘s grisly filming conditions.

“We shot at high altitudes in Calgary, and weather conditions were unprecedented,” DiCaprio said backstage after taking home a Screen Actors Guild Award last month.

DiCaprio, who is working on a documentary about climate change, told reporters at the SAG awards, “We are in the process of changing our climate for tens of thousands if not millions of years at this very moment, so this is a very significant turning point for me to witness it first-hand while doing this movie and simultaneously doing the documentary, and it’s absolutely, absolutely terrifying.”

As EcoWatch reported, DiCaprio saw the impacts of climate change first hand while traveling to film the documentary. He was “astonished to see that ancient glaciers” in Greenland and the Arctic are “rapidly disappearing well ahead of scientific models.” In India, he saw farmers’ fields devastated by unprecedented flooding. He said we need to keep fossil fuels in the ground, urged business leaders to divest from fossil fuels and pushed for a rapid transition to renewables.

DiCaprio is so passionate about environmental issues, that he recently told The Sunday Times (via the Mirror) that he once considered saying bye-bye to Hollywood to focus on environmental issues full-time instead.

“I had a friend say, ‘Well, if you’re really this passionate about environmentalism, quit acting,’” he said. “But you soon realize that one hand shakes the other, and being an artist gives you a platform. Not that necessarily people will take anything that I say seriously, but it gives you a voice.”

The longtime environmental advocate formed his Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation in 1998 to protect biodiversity and threatened ecosystems. DiCaprio—who urges a “transition to a clean energy economy that does not rely on fossil fuels”—is a United Nations Messenger of Peace and played an active role at the Paris climate talks, urging mayors and governors to “commit to no less than 100 percent renewable energy as soon as possible.”

Last month, DiCaprio and Pope Francis met at Vatican City to have a conversation focused on how they can work together to address the immediate need for major action to stop the devastating impacts of climate change.

Watch and read DiCaprio’s full Oscars speech below.

“Thank you all so very much. Thank you to the Academy, thank you to all of you in this room. I have to congratulate the other incredible nominees this year. The Revenant was the product of the tireless efforts of an unbelievable cast and crew. First off, to my brother in this endeavor, Mr. Tom Hardy. Tom, your talent on screen can only be surpassed by your friendship off screen… thank you for creating a transcendent cinematic experience. Thank you to everybody at Fox and New Regency … my entire team. I have to thank everyone from the very onset of my career … To my parents, none of this would be possible without you. And to my friends, I love you dearly, you know who you are.

“And lastly I just want to say this: Making The Revenant was about man’s relationship to the natural world. A world that we collectively felt in 2015 as the hottest year in recorded history. Our production needed to move to the southern tip of this planet just to be able to find snow. Climate change is real, it is happening right now. It is the most urgent threat facing our entire species, and we need to work collectively together and stop procrastinating. We need to support leaders around the world who do not speak for the big polluters, but who speak for all of humanity, for the indigenous people of the world, for the billions and billions of underprivileged people out there who would be most affected by this. For our children’s children, and for those people out there whose voices have been drowned out by the politics of greed. I thank you all for this amazing award tonight. Let us not take this planet for granted. I do not take tonight for granted. Thank you so very much.”

The Arctic Is Melting and Big Business is Chomping at the Bit to Dig In


arctic drilling

By Alejandro Davila Fragoso, Think Progress – 27 January 16
Source: Readers Supported News

Standing at a podium before the World Economic Forum, Leonardo DiCaprio briefly smiled as he received an award for his leadership in tackling climate change. Once settled under the spotlight, he quickly moved away from his grateful statements, and began railing on corporate avarice.

“We simply cannot allow the corporate greed of the coal, oil, and gas industries to determine the future of humanity,” said DiCaprio last week while at Davos, Switzerland, where some 2,500 top global business leaders, politicians, and intellectuals gathered to discuss politics, economics, and social issues.

Fossil fuels must be kept in the ground to avoid catastrophic climate change, he continued. “Enough is enough. You know better. The world knows better.”

But while DiCaprio was cheered Wednesday as he stepped off the stage with his Crystal award, the international business community appears interested in venturing into new areas despite potential ecological costs. In fact, a day after recognizing environmental leadership, a World Economic Forum advisory group launched the Arctic Investment Protocol, and with that came a tacit push for extracting resources from one of the least-developed areas of the world.

The Arctic Investment Protocol is a voluntary set of guidelines for nations looking to do business where diminished ice coverage from man-made climate change is allowing access to once-unreachable sea routes as well as vast mineral and fossil fuel reservoirs.

The protocol calls for building resilient societies through economic development, pursuing measures to protect the Arctic environment, and respecting and including local communities, to name a few. The Guggenheim Partners, a major global investment and financial services firm, quickly endorsed the protocol, saying the Arctic represents one of the last great economic frontiers.

With more than $240 billion in assets, Guggenheim Partners was the first major firm to endorse these guidelines. In doing so, it also gave a strong indication of where global business is headed as South America, Asia, and Africa receive increasing investment. “The Arctic Investment Protocol is an important step forward and a solid foundation upon which to build for the future,” said Scott Minerd, global chief investment officer of Guggenheim Partners, in a statement.

On the one hand, such a business trend would bring economic prosperity and infrastructure that experts say is lacking in many Arctic communities. On the other, human history shows that economic development is very often intertwined with ecological costs.

Exponential Arctic development thus raises serious environmental questions involving a region known for its fragile endemic species, where maritime environmental protection codes are in infancy, and so remote that pollution cleanup operations are difficult and costly. Not to mention the major role the Arctic plays in global climate since its already receding ice reflects a large amount of solar radiation, all while holding onto CO2 that if released would accelerate global warming.

And yet the northernmost region of the world has seen its share of development for many years. Researchers reached said the Arctic became part of the global economy at least two centuries ago with the emergence of the whaling industry, followed by oil and gas exploration. Researchers noted, however, that a new boom is taking place because the area is more accessible, and that Guggenheim could be a watershed for even more investment.

This comes as studies have found that Arctic ice is receding and thinning at an accelerated pace. Annual mean ice thickness has decreased from nearly 12 feet in 1975 to some four feet in 2012, a 65 percent reduction, according to a 2015 study. Moreover, the Arctic warms twice as fast (or more) than the Earth as a whole does.

“You can say that it is the era of [the] Arctic,” said Mohamed A. Essallamy, an expert in Arctic maritime issues and a professor at the Arab Academy for Science, Technology & Maritime Transport, via email to ThinkProgress.

In 2009, only five cargo ships went through the Russian Northern Sea Route, according to a recent study by the Council on Foreign Relations. By 2013, that figured climbed to 71. Meanwhile, investment in the Arctic could potentially exceed $100 billion within the next six years, according to a 2012 Arctic Opening report by Lloyd’s of London Ltd, the world’s oldest insurance market.

Profiting from the Arctic is costly, however. In a statement, Guggenheim Partners said the Arctic needs about $1 trillion in infrastructure. The firm said it’s working with international partners to establish the Arctic infrastructure inventory to identify and prioritize such needs across the region.

“There is a great need for infrastructure,” said Jessica M. Shadian, a researcher and professor at Iceland’s University of Akureyri, in a phone interview with ThinkProgress. Telecommunications, affordable energy, but also more basic infrastructure like sewage and potable water is lacking in many areas, she said.

“People want economic development in the Arctic, in the north, just as much as anyone does anywhere else,” said Shadian, who like many noted that local support for economic development is abundant, even if that development means unearthing fossil fuels.

The Arctic Slope Regional Corporation and the Aboriginal Pipeline Group, she said, are just two large examples of organizations owned by Arctic communities that back resource extraction. Environmentalists in the Arctic and elsewhere have questioned development for years as well, saying extraction will industrialize land, pollute water, and generate greenhouse gas pollution.

Just last week, Greenpeace Norway director Truls Gulowsen told Climate Home that the group aims to challenge oil development in Norwegian courts. “We have already discovered more fossil fuels than it is safe to burn in a 1.5°C or 2°C scenario,” he said.

Last year governments agreed on a framework that puts the world on track to limit global warming to no more than 2°C, a threshold many in the scientific community say will prevent the most catastrophic effects of climate change. By some estimates, this threshold requires keeping as much as two-thirds of fossil fuel reserves in the ground.

For the Arctic, moreover, development may come at time of serious local environmental frailty. In recent research, Essallamy explained that many Arctic species live long and produce only a few offspring, making them particularly sensitive to any change that could affect mortality. He further noted that slow biological processes lead to slow revegetation, so for instance, impacts on tundra from heavy vehicles may be observed for decades. And then there are invasive species that ships could bring and the unavoidable leakages of lubricant and fuel oils.

All these effects would come as maritime environmental protection codes are barely developing, and when laws in the high seas are difficult to enforce to begin with. In fact, a code for ships operating in polar waters is yet to be applied. The International Maritime Organization has adopted regulations in the last couple of years and more are expected, Essallamy said, but the earliest polar code will come into force in 2017.

Still, the notion that the Arctic is lawless is deceptive, experts said. For more than two decades the Arctic Council, a high level intergovernmental forum including arctic governments and indigenous communities, has been meeting to promote coordination. It has eight member countries: Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and the United States.

“The fortunate aspect about a lot of parts of the Arctic is that they are in highly developed countries,” said Shadian, “and so you are not going to really see just extracting resources at any cost because there are a lot of environmental standards.”

Drue Pearce, a former Alaska State senator, said in an email to ThinkProgress that in Alaska the National Environmental Policy Act of 1970 that regulates development, “and the rest of every permitting process, is more rigorous than anywhere else in the world.”

The Arctic region has nonetheless suffered ecological damages for years. Russia has struggled to enforce its environmental standards, although it holds stringent environmental laws, experts said. According to published reports, environmentalist and experts agreed that at least 1 percent of Russia’s annual oil production, or 5 million tons, is spilled every year. Much of the spillage reportedly happens in the oil-rich Russian Arctic.

Alaska too, has had its share of issues with oil, most notably during the Exxon Valdez oil spill in the 1980s. Responding to environmentalist catastrophes — and other emergencies — is quite difficult and costly, experts said, and many resources need to be concentrated in developing safety systems.

Two Russian oil workers use a boat and shovels to gather oil and mud from the waters of a small river, a tributary of the Kolva River, some 37 miles north of Usinsk, an Arctic town six miles from the Arctic Circle in Russia, Friday, Oct. 28, 1994. (photo: AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

Two Russian oil workers use a boat and shovels to gather oil and mud from the waters
of a small river, a tributary of the Kolva River, some 37 miles north of Usinsk,
an Arctic town six miles from the Arctic Circle in Russia, Friday, Oct. 28, 1994.
(photo: AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

Yet Shadian said local communities that have inhabited the Arctic for thousands of years still don’t necessarily agree that their development should be discounted, particularly over climate change. The brunt of climate change, she said, didn’t originate in the Arctic. “What happens in the south doesn’t stay in the south, it goes straight to the Arctic.”

And with that, Shadian touched on how the world may be unfairly weighing on development and the environmental costs associated with climate change, an issue that has received increased attention in recent times. During the Paris climate talks for instance, the issue of how rich nations have benefited from fossil fuels while passing many of the costs to developing countries was front and center. This in turn emboldened the argument that resource demand in some areas drives resource extraction elsewhere, which when ill-managed exacerbates climate change and increases the risk for ecological disasters.

For the Arctic, this argument and the ecological paradox it carries is no different, and in part places the responsibility of what happens in the Arctic on the global consumer. That’s because economic theory says demand largely drives supply, and if that’s the case, then global demand will establish the rate of Arctic development, not the other way around.

Indeed, as commodity prices continue declining in value, costly Arctic development may very well be following the same trend, at least in the short term. “Right now mineral and oil and gas prices are so low that a little bit of a hype in the Arctic is dying down,” said Shadian, who like many others who’ve lived in the region, welcomed Arctic development, so long it’s environmentally responsible and sensible to local control.

“The Arctic is not any different when it comes to development or the right to do so,” said Inuuteq Holm Olsen, a Greenland diplomat, in an email to ThinkProgress. “For us, it is not a choice between development or the environment. The right to development is a universally recognized principle and that applies to the Arctic as well.”

Bernie Sanders: Combating Climate Change to Save the Planet


Sen. Bernie Sanders joined marchers on September 21, 2014 for the People's Climate March for action on climate change in New York City. (Photo: Sanders Office)

Sen. Bernie Sanders joined marchers on September 21, 2014 for the People’s Climate March for action on climate change in New York City. (Photo: Sanders Office)

By Bernie Sanders,
Source: Reader Supported News

07 December 15

Right now, we have an energy policy that is rigged to boost the profits of big oil companies like Exxon, BP, and Shell at the expense of average Americans. CEO’s are raking in record profits while climate change ravages our planet and our people — all because the wealthiest industry in the history of our planet has bribed politicians into complacency in the face of climate change. Enough is enough. It’s time for a political revolution that takes on the fossil fuel billionaires, accelerates our transition to clean energy, and finally puts people before the profits of polluters.

                                                                                                — Senator Bernie Sanders

The Problem

Climate change is the single greatest threat facing our planet. The debate is over, and the scientific jury is in: global climate change is real, it is caused mainly by emissions released from burning fossil fuels and it poses a catastrophic threat to the long-term longevity of our planet. If we do nothing, the planet will heat up five to ten degrees Fahrenheit by the end of this century. That would cause enough sea level rise from melting glaciers to put cities like New York and Miami underwater – along with more frequent asthma attacks, higher food prices, insufficient drinking water and more infectious diseases.

But this isn’t just a problem for the future – the impacts of climate change are apparent here and now. Whether it’s more intense forest fires on the West Coast, or more frequent hurricanes in the Gulf Coast, or damaging flash floods in California, climate change is here and it’s already causing devastating human suffering. The worst part is this: people who live in low-income and minority communities will bear the most severe consequences of society’s addiction to fossil fuels.

This is every kind of issue all at once: the financial cost of climate change makes it an economic issue, its effect on clean air and water quality make it a public health problem, its role in exacerbating global conflict and terrorism makes it a national security challenge and its disproportionate impacts on vulnerable communities and on our children and grandchildren make acting on climate change a moral obligation. We have got to solve this problem before it’s too late.

Why Haven’t We Solved it Yet?

Solving this should be straightforward. After all, the majority of Americans understand the seriousness of climate change, and they demand action. 97 percent of scientists agree about the urgent need to act and the vocal minority who don’t are bought and paid for by the fossil fuel industry. More and more countries around the world are beginning to do their part, by stepping up to significantly curb their use of fossil fuels to become part of the solution. If our democracy worked the way it’s supposed to, that would be enough – the debate would be over, the facts would be heard and lawmakers would obey the will of the people.

But that’s where the billionaire class comes in. Instead of engaging on this issue in good faith and allowing democracy to play out, executives and lobbyists for coal, oil, and gas companies have blocked every attempt to make progress on climate change, and thrown unprecedented amounts of money at elected officials to buy their loyalty. Recent reporting even shows that executives at Exxon pioneered the research on climate change before anyone else did, but may have deliberately lied about it to spread disinformation and confusion to protect their bottom line. It’s eerily reminiscent of the fight over tobacco regulation, when executives from the tobacco companies repeatedly testified before Congress that cigarettes don’t cause cancer. Recently leaked internal documents show that even they knew they were lying.

Let’s be clear: the reason we haven’t solved climate change isn’t because we aren’t doing our part, it’s because a small subsection of the one percent are hell-bent on doing everything in their power to block action. Sadly, they have deliberately chosen to put their profits ahead of the health of our people and planet.

The Future

The debate is over. The vast majority of the scientific community has spoken. Climate change is real, it is caused by human activity, and it is already causing devastating harm here in the United States, and to people all around the globe. So what are we going to do about it? We will act boldly to move our energy system away from fossil fuels, toward energy efficiency and sustainable energy sources like wind, solar, and geothermal because we have a moral responsibility to leave our kids a planet that is healthy and habitable.

                                                                                                — Senator Bernie Sanders

Here’s the good news: our society is already moving in the right direction. Solar panels cost 80 percent less than they did in 2008 and they’re popping up on rooftops everywhere. In fact, nearly a full quarter of the world’s electricity today comes from clean, sustainable resources like the sun and wind. The leaders of the seven major industrialized nations, including the United States, agreed in the summer of 2015 to a long-term goal of phasing out fossil fuels entirely and moving to an economy powered entirely by clean energy sources like wind, solar and geothermal. We’re already transitioning to a clean energy economy – but scientists say we need to do it faster and we need to do it right.

Doing it right means ensuring that workers have the skills, equipment, and training they need to succeed in a clean energy economy. It also means workers need to be able to organize and advocate for good wages and safe working conditions. Bernie knows these workers do some of the most important work in America and we need to ensure without a doubt that their livelihoods will be helped – not hurt – by the transition to clean energy. That’s why Bernie is introducing the Clean Energy Worker Just Transition Act to provide comprehensive benefits to workers as they transition to making the solar panels, wind turbines, and batteries of tomorrow.

The key is to stop funding the problem by subsidizing fossil fuels and instead accelerate our path to progress by showcasing our American innovation to accelerate the transition. This is important, because the support of the American people can make an enormous difference. In the 60’s, President Kennedy set a goal that many said was impossible – but by the end of that decade, Neil Armstrong had successfully taken his giant leap for humanity. Our government needs to think that big today and commit to prioritizing the transition to an economy powered by more than 80 percent clean energy sources by 2050. That starts with simple, commonsense steps: instead of subsidizing massive fossil fuel corporations, we can create millions of jobs for working families by investing in clean energy. The answer is clear and affordable. The solutions are within our reach – we just need average Americans to come together to make it happen.

The Goals

Bernie’s comprehensive plan to combat climate change and make sure our planet is habitable and safe for our kids and grandkids will:

    • Cut U.S. carbon pollution by 40 percent by 2030 and by over 80 percent by 2050 by putting a tax on carbon pollution, repealing fossil fuel subsidies and making massive investments in energy efficiency and clean, sustainable energy such as wind and solar power.
    • Create a Clean-Energy Workforce of 10 million good-paying jobs by creating a 100% clean energy system. Transitioning toward a completely nuclear-free clean energy system for electricity, heating, and transportation is not only possible and affordable it will create millions of good jobs, clean up our air and water, and decrease our dependence on foreign oil.
    • Return billions of dollars to consumers impacted by the transformation of our energy system and protect the most vulnerable communities in the country suffering the ravages of climate change. Bernie will tax polluters causing the climate crisis, and return billions of dollars to working families to ensure the fossil fuel companies don’t subject us to unfair rate hikes. Bernie knows that climate change will not affect everyone equally – disenfranchised minority communities and the working poor will be hardest hit. The carbon tax will also protect those most impacted by the transformation of our energy system and protect the most vulnerable communities in the country suffering the ravages of climate change.

The Plan

Reclaim our Democracy from the Billionaire Fossil Fuel Lobby

The fossil fuel industry spends billions and billions of dollars lobbying and buying candidates to block virtually all progress on climate change. At the national level where companies have to report what they spend on lobbying and campaign contributions, the oil companies, coal companies and electric utilities spent a staggering $2.26 billion in federal lobbying since 2009 and another $330 million in federal campaign contributions. Even in Washington, that’s a lot of money.

But that’s just the part we know about. Thanks to the disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision, the fossil fuel industry can pour unlimited amounts of money into the political system without having to disclose how much or where they spend it.

So what does the fossil fuel industry get in exchange for all that money? They get friends who help them keep $135 billion dollars in tax subsidies and corporate welfare over the next decade. They write legislation to build the Keystone XL pipeline. They block efforts to move us beyond oil by blocking the development and deployment of clean, sustainable energy.

This makes it harder to take action to fight climate change. But the solutions are possible. Together there is nothing we can’t achieve.

As president, Bernie will:

      • Ban fossil fuels lobbyists from working in the White House. Massive lobbying and unlimited super PAC donations by the fossil fuel industry gives these profitable companies disproportionate influence on our elected leaders. This practice is business as usual in Washington and it is not acceptable. Heavy-handed lobbying causes climate change skepticism. It has no place in the executive office.
      • End the huge subsidies that benefit fossil fuel companies. When fossil-fuel companies are racking up record profits, it is absurd to provide massive taxpayer subsidies to pad their already enormous earnings. After all, it is immoral that some in Congress advocate harsh cuts in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security while those same people vote to preserve billions in tax breaks for the most profitable corporations in America.
      • Create a national environmental and climate justice plan that recognizes the heightened public health risks faced by low-income and minority communities. Low-income and minority neighborhoods will continue to be the hardest hit if we don’t act to stop climate change now. Ten years ago, Hurricane Katrina decimated the Gulf Coast, flooding 80 percent of the city of New Orleans. Some areas of the city were submerged in as much as 10 feet of water, and 28 percent of residents had no way to leave the city. Almost 100,000 African American residents who left New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina never returned. The reality of the impacts of the storm on the African American community in New Orleans exposed the broader trend that low-income and minority communities face the brunt of climate change impacts first and worst.
      • Bring climate deniers to justice so we can aggressively tackle climate change. It is an embarrassment that Republican politicians, with few exceptions, refuse to even recognize the reality of climate change, let alone are prepared to do anything about it. The reality is that the fossil fuel industry is to blame for much of the climate change skepticism in America. Bernie recently called for the Department of Justice to investigate Exxon Mobil, which may have not only known about the dangers of climate change, but has spent millions of dollars to spread doubt about the causes and impacts of burning fossil fuels.
      • Fight to overturn Citizens United. In a 5-4 decision in 2010 in the Citizens United case, the Supreme Court opened the floodgates for corporations and the super wealthy to spend unlimited and undisclosed money to buy our elected officials. The Supreme Court essentially declared that corporations, including fossil fuel corporations, have the same rights as natural-born human beings. This decision has enabled billionaires and special interests to increasingly control the political campaign finance system, and amounts to legalized bribery.

Bernie’s Record:

Bernie introduced a constitutional amendment that prohibits for-profit corporations from making contributions or expenditures into political campaigns. In other words, Bernie’s amendment reaffirms what’s already in the Constitution: the right to vote belongs to people, and not corporate entities whose money is drowning out the rest of us.

      • Back legislation to publicly finance elections. Bernie wants to move toward public funding of elections to promote a more even playing field where anyone can run for office without having to beg for money from the wealthy and the powerful. Public funding of elections increases voter participation, helps lower the influence of outside money and lowers the amount of time politicians spend fundraising, allowing them to implement solutions, as they were elected to do. He envisions a future of inclusivity that would restore our American democracy by ensuring each citizen has equal power in determining the future leaders of our nation.

Accelerate a Just Transition Away from Fossil Fuels

Scientists warn us if we continue burning fossil fuels, we will experience cataclysmic change, in terms of more disease, more hunger, more drought, more famine, rising sea levels, more floods, more ocean acidification, more extreme weather disturbances and more human suffering. That means we must leave the vast majority of global reserves of coal, natural gas and oil in the ground.

Bernie’s Record:

Bernie recently co-sponsored the Keep It in the Ground Act to ban future fossil fuel leases on our public lands. His legislation would keep over 90 percent of the potential carbon emissions from fossil fuels on our federal lands and waters underground forever.

Bernie believes we must transition away from fossil fuel consumption to prevent the worst impacts of climate change. But our transition away from fossil fuels must be fair to those currently working in the energy sector, which means those workers and their families must be able to depend on safe, living-wage jobs.

As president, Bernie will:

      • Embrace a science-based standard for carbon pollution emissions reductions. We have a very limited window of time to transition away from fossil fuels toward clean energy for all Americans to prevent a global temperature increase that will cause cataclysmic impacts. Bernie knows that to maintain a safe and healthy planet for our kids and grandchildren we must listen to the scientists who say we must decrease carbon pollution emissions by at least 80 percent from 1990 levels by 2050.
      • Put a price on carbon. Bernie agrees with leading economists on both ends of the political spectrum: a tax on carbon is one of the most straightforward and cost-effective strategies for quickly fighting climate change.

Bernie’s Record:

Bernie is introducing the gold standard climate change bill that will tax polluters causing the climate crisis and return billions of dollars to working families to ensure the fossil fuel companies don’t subject Americans to unfair rate hikes. The carbon tax will also protect low-income and minority communities that are most impacted by the transformation of our energy system and protect the most vulnerable communities in the country suffering the ravages of climate change.

      • Protect the health of our children. Kids are uniquely threatened by air pollution from sources like coal plants and oil refineries. Children’s lungs are more sensitive to air pollution than adults. Climate change exacerbates existing air pollution problems, which will only increase the health impacts on children, especially those with respiratory diseases like asthma. As a father of four and a grandfather of seven, Bernie cares about leaving clean air and a healthy, livable planet for all of our kids and grandchildren.
      • Create clean, domestic energy alternatives to power our cars and trucks. The transportation sector accounts for about 26 percent of carbon pollution emissions. We must move our transportation sector beyond oil by running our cars and trucks on electricity generated by solar and wind power. We need efficient public transportation, advanced renewable fuels and high-speed passenger and cargo rail.
      • Ban Arctic oil drilling. Bernie knows that drilling in the Arctic Circle and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge at a time when we face a serious climate emergency is unthinkable. Research shows that drilling in the Arctic is inconsistent with efforts to prevent catastrophic global temperature increases. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which spans 19.6 million acres in Alaska and boasts the greatest biodiversity of any protected area north of the Arctic Circle, is too precious to put at risk from the detrimental consequences of oil production and extraction.
      • Ban offshore drilling. If we are serious about moving beyond oil toward energy independence, lowering the cost of energy, combatting climate change and cutting carbon pollution emissions, then we must ban offshore drilling. If there is a lesson to be learned from the 2010 BP oil spill disaster, it is that Congress must not open new areas to offshore oil drilling.
      • Stop dirty pipeline projects like the Keystone XL. Back in August 2011, Bernie was the first national politician to publicly oppose Keystone XL, because he saw that it would move us in exactly the wrong direction, toward greater dependence on fossil fuels, specifically tar sands oil, but also on one of the dirtiest and most expensive fossil fuels imaginable. Bernie was again the first presidential candidate to oppose the Bakken oil pipeline that would cross Iowa and the first to oppose the Northeast Energy Direct Pipeline that would bring fracked natural gas through New Hampshire. We need to invest in clean energy infrastructure not lock ourselves into long-term payments and significant carbon pollution emissions for a pipelines that could cause disastrous oil spills.
      • Stop exports of liquefied natural gas and crude oil. The Department of Energy has found that exporting even half of the natural gas already approved for export could raise U.S. prices by up to 54 percent. Oil and natural gas exports must be in the interest of consumers, the economy, our manufacturing sector and national security – not merely the interest of fossil fuel companies’ bottom line. Especially while we still import oil, we should be transitioning toward clean, sustainable energy instead of incentivizing more extraction and consumption of fossil fuels.
      • Stand with Vermont and other states to ban fracking for natural gas. Fracking threatens our air and water. Disposal of wastewater from fracking causes earthquakes. Oklahoma became the number one place for earthquakes on Earth this year because gas companies inject fracking fluid back into the ground. Fracking is a large-scale industrial process that doesn’t belong in anyone’s backyard or deserve exemption from laws that protect the health of our children. That’s why communities all over the country from New York to California and Texas to Colorado have stood up to the oil and gas industry and said they don’t want fracking in their backyards. Bernie was very proud when Vermont became the first state to ban fracking. We have clean energy solutions to climate change, and fracking is not one of them.
      • Ban mountaintop removal coal mining and invest in Appalachian communities. Across the Appalachian Mountain Range, coal companies are blowing up entire mountaintops to get at the thin coal seams below. The communities in the region are paying for this destructive practice in their health, their culture and their natural heritage. Bernie is in staunch opposition to this dirty and damaging practice and believes we must invest in Appalachian communities to help them transition to a clean, prosperous, and healthy future.
      • Close the loopholes that allow the chemical, oil and gas industries to pollute our air and water. Bernie served as mayor of Burlington, Vermont, which sits on one of the largest freshwater lakes in the United States, Lake Champlain. Bernie understands the importance of clean water practices and recognizes how it impacts communities. The federal Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act have reduced pollution, but they are always under attack by polluters who put profits before the health of our children and grandchildren.
      • Increase fuel economy standards to 65 miles per gallon by 2025. Recent fuel economy standards put us on track to reach 54.5 miles per gallon in 2025, which moves us in right direction, but still leaves us lagging behind the rest of the world. Japan is set to reach that level five years before us, and Europe will do even better, reaching over 65 miles per gallon by 2020. Bernie knows we can do more and make our cars internationally competitive by raising our fuel economy standards to 65 miles per gallon by model year 2025. This will save car owners money at the pump, cut carbon pollution emissions and create good-paying American jobs.
      • Protect public lands by promoting natural resource conservation and habitat preservation. Conservation of our public lands such as our National Parks and Forests are an American tradition and a vehicle for economic growth. Our conserved public land also serves an important role in not only preventing climate change but also in mitigating the catastrophic effects of climate change like floods, hurricanes and other extreme weather that have been increasing in frequency. Bernie is committed to ensuring that Americans have access to urban, suburban and rural recreational green space that are vital to our national heritage and our country’s tradition of recreation and conservation.

Investing in Clean, Sustainable Energy

Choosing to lead the clean energy technology revolution to stop the worst effects of climate change means America will remain a worldwide leader in job creation, domestic manufacturing, local community revitalization and clean energy technology development and implementation.

The solar industry is adding workers at a rate nearly 20 times faster than the overall economy. Solar industry employment has grown by 86 percent in the past five years, resulting in nearly 80,000 domestic living-wage jobs.

For every dollar invested in energy efficiency, families and businesses can enjoy up to $4 in energy savings, and for every billion dollars invested in energy efficiency upgrades we can create up to 7,000-8,000 new jobs, roughly ten times as many jobs as we would create from the same investments in coal. Investments in clean energy technologies will also keep jobs in America and prevent harm to the economy by preventing the worst impacts of climate change.

Bernie strongly supports efforts to develop and deploy clean, sustainable energy technologies like energy efficiency, solar, wind and geothermal.

As president, Bernie will:

      • Work toward a 100 percent clean energy system and create millions of jobs. Scientists tell us we have a short time to make an aggressive cut in our carbon pollution emissions. Transitioning toward a completely clean energy system for electricity, heating, and transportation is not only possible and affordable it will create millions of good jobs, clean up our air and water and decrease our dependence on foreign oil.
      • Invest in clean, sustainable energy sources powered by the sun, wind and Earth’s heat. Massive and sustained investment in clean energy technology development and implementation can get us where scientists tell us we need to be. It’s no great secret that clean energy technologies are a good investment. We actually get more energy out of the money invested in sustainable energy technologies than we do out of fossil fuel. Clean energy technology has no associated fuel costs, which means there are no price spikes like we see with oil and gas. The cost of deploying solar panels has gone down by more than 80 percent since 2008, thanks to tax credits and federally funded research and development. Our national solar capacity will soon provide enough energy to power four million homes.

        Similarly, wind tax credits spurred the development of wind farms that now provide enough power for 16.7 million American homes. In fact, wind provided almost 30 percent of all new domestic power capacity in the last five years. Last year, nearly 30 percent of the electricity used in Iowa came from the wind. The decreasing cost of wind and solar demonstrates that we can have a 100 percent clean energy future.

      • Invest in advanced renewable fuels and keep our energy dollars at home. Renewable fuels have become a key component of our national strategy to move beyond oil in the fight against climate change. Renewable fuels must be produced in a way that achieves our environmental and energy security goals. We must both ensure that our renewable fuels production is truly sustainable, and we must also prevent the oil companies from derailing our progress in developing cleaner and more sustainable alternatives to gasoline and diesel. We should emphasize new, clean technologies like cellulosic ethanol and algae-based fuels. Advanced biofuels have enormous potential to deliver dramatic reductions in carbon pollution and strengthen rural economies, all while keeping our energy dollars here at home instead of sending them overseas to oil oligarchs in Russia and the Middle East.
      • Invest in solar energy and put money back in the pockets of consumers. Bernie believes that solar energy is one of the most promising sources of clean energy for America’s future. That’s why he supports making billions of dollars of investments in renewable energy, like solar. Bernie recently introduced the Low Income Solar Act to increase low-income families’ access to solar energy by making it more affordable for people who own their own home and incentivize access to community solar projects. Investing in solar energy is just as important for the economy as it is for the Earth. Bernie supports solar net metering, which means that people who invest in solar should be able to offset the cost – or in some cases even make money – on their electric utility bill. He recognizes that as we lower the cost of solar energy and increase our use of solar, we can create hundreds of thousands of good-paying manufacturing and installation careers in this country.
      • Invest in making all American homes more energy efficient. Energy Efficiency is a “low-hanging fruit” because the investments made in energy efficiency are so effective in reducing carbon pollution emissions, and the return on investment is so quick. For every dollar invested in energy efficiency technologies, like weatherization and efficient light bulbs, energy customers can enjoy up to four dollars in savings. Bernie has long been a champion of the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP), the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), and the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) that help rural and low-income families make their homes more energy efficient and lower their energy bills. At a time when we spend on average of $350 billion a year on foreign oil, we must take every possible step to invest in cheaper energy here in the United States. That’s why Bernie recently introduced the Residential Energy Savings Act to provide federal loans to states to perform energy efficiency updates to provide homeowners with valuable energy savings.

Bernie’s Record:

Bernie secured $3.2 billion dollars for the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant initiative in the stimulus bill, which was consistently rated a top-15 job creating program in the years after it was implemented. This grant helped to install over 9,500 solar systems and perform energy upgrades on approximately 86,000 buildings, which is saving consumers many billions of dollars in energy costs while also making our air cleaner by reducing pollution.

      • Support American workers moving into clean energy jobs. Our transition to a clean energy economy has created hundreds of thousands of jobs all over the United States, and Bernie’s climate change plan will create millions more. But we must ensure our transition from fossil fuels to clean energy is a just transition for workers. That’s why Bernie is introducing the Clean Energy Workers Just Transition Act, which provides the most comprehensive package of benefits for workers, including extended unemployment benefits, education opportunities, health care and job training for those transitioning to a career in the clean energy industry. Additionally, the bill ensures that workers in the clean energy industry will be able to organize a union to ensure living wages and safe working conditions. It also makes billions of dollars of investments in communities most affected by a transition to a clean energy future.
      • Invest in an affordable energy storage solution that will allow us to fulfill our clean energy needs. Affordable energy storage technologies like batteries allow clean energy technologies like wind and solar to be integrated onto the electric grid – even when the wind is not blowing and the sun is not shining. Effective storage systems can affordably balance energy supply with demand by capturing energy at times when there is excess energy on the system for use during hours of high demand. Battery storage continues to develop and is becoming increasingly more affordable for families all over the country.
      • Build geothermal power plants to create full time family-wage jobs for operations, engineering, maintenance, and administration. Bernie believes that geothermal energy should play an important role in our country’s future energy portfolio. Geothermal systems can use the constant underground heat to provide heating when it is cool outside and to pull heat from buildings when it is warm outside. Geothermal energy power plants are less expensive than new modern natural gas plants and can be called on to produce power when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing. Geothermal conserves energy, reduces pollution and saves money all at once.
      • Utility-Scale Clean Energy Generation. There are hundreds of thousands of roofs with solar panels, but research and technology developments have significantly improved sustainable energy technologies that are making large-scale clean energy an affordable reality. For example, advancements in utility-scale concentrated solar allows power from the sun to be stored for later use, even when the sun is not shining. Most importantly, concentrated solar power installations create permanent jobs and provide economic support for surrounding communities, which tend to be rural.
      • Enable greater consumer choice in energy. Americans should have the ability to choose affordable clean technologies for their home and businesses. Additionally, the electric utilities and fossil fuel industries should not be able to get in the way of that choice. Grid modernization technologies enable greater consumer choice and ultimately utility bill savings by making it easier for families to connect clean energy resources to the grid.
      • Begin a moratorium on nuclear power plant license renewals in the United States. Bernie believes that solar, wind, geothermal power and energy efficiency are proven and more cost-effective than nuclear – even without tax incentives – and that the toxic waste byproducts of nuclear plants are not worth the risks of the technology’s benefit. Especially in light of lessons learned from Japan’s Fukushima meltdown, Bernie has also raised questions about why the federal government invests billions into federal subsidies for the nuclear industry. We can have an affordable carbon-free, nuclear-free energy system and we must work for a safe, healthy future for all Americans.
      • Provide global clean energy funding to vulnerable countries. The United States should lead the international community in funding technology development and deployment solutions for the most vulnerable developing countries as part of any international agreement.

Revolutionize our Electric and Transportation Infrastructure

In the United States, the transportation sector accounts for about 26 percent of carbon pollution emissions. That’s the second largest contribution to our total carbon emissions after the electricity sector, which accounts for about 31 percent.

When we built out our state-of-the-art rail system in the early 1860’s we became global leaders. But now our rail system pales in comparison to Japan, Germany and even China in terms of our high-speed passenger and cargo rail systems. Bernie will invest in interstate and intercity high-speed rail systems to bring people and commodities to their destinations more efficiently to save time and money.

We must also invest in electric vehicle charging infrastructure, just as we built an interstate highway system in the 1950s and 1960s. Many customers are interested in moving beyond oil toward an electric car, but the concerns of cost and whether there will be access to a charging station prevent many people from being able to choose this low-carbon option.

Both our transportation and electricity infrastructures must be updated. We still have electric lines and bridges that were built around the time Thomas Edison invented the light bulb. Modernizing the electrical grid helps balance higher amounts of clean energy, decreases outages and improves efficiency.

Bernie believes that infrastructure investments can create jobs and lead to a cleaner future.

As president, Bernie will:

      • Build electric vehicle charging stations. In a country where nearly 30 percent of carbon pollution emissions come from the transportation sector, it is imperative that we end our dependence on gasoline. Vehicles that run on electricity are more efficient than internal combustion engines and can be powered with renewable energy resources like wind and solar. We need to support the development of vehicle charging stations that will allow us to drive cleanly and sustainably.
      • Build high-speed passenger and cargo rail. Our nation’s rail system is largely obsolete, even though our energy-efficient railroads move more freight than ever, and Amtrak’s ridership has never been higher. While Amtrak’s fastest train travels at an average speed of just 65 mph, high-speed rail now crisscrosses most of Europe, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea and China with trains that run up to 200 mph. Once we have a state-of-the-art rail system, we will not only be able to move passengers and cargo faster and more efficiently, we will make significant cuts in carbon pollution emissions that cause climate change and create millions of permanent family-wage jobs for electricians, pipe fitters and sheet-metal workers.

Bernie’s Record:

Bernie introduced the Rebuild America Act to invest $15 billion to improve rail so America can begin to catch up with the rest of the world.

    • Make our cities more walkable and take more cars off the road. Public transit can move more people in fewer vehicles, which is good for clean air and reducing carbon pollution emissions. Public transportation saves enough electricity to power nearly 5 million homes in the United States. Despite the potential for public transit and biking to save Americans money and reduce emissions, the United States has a long way to go to make the roads safe for those who choose these alternative modes of transportation.
  • Update and modernize the energy grid. Some of our grid infrastructure has not been updated since it was first built in the 1920s and 1930s. This causes hundreds of avoidable power failures and interruptions each year. Today, power failures cost the economy $164 billion annually, stemming from impacts like lost productivity and wasted food. Those costs are only expected to increase as climate change causes more extreme weather, which can knock the power out. Additionally, our grid is highly centralized and therefore susceptible to cyber and physical attacks. Technology development in clean energy resources and electric grid improvements have enabled “smart” technologies, programs and policies to create a safer, more sustainable energy system. The “smart grid” offers real benefits for consumers and the environment.

Bernie’s Record:

Bernie introduced the Rebuild America Act, which would invest $10 billion a year for power transmission, distribution and modernization projects that will improve the reliability and resiliency of our ever more complex electrical grid. The bill will also help increase access to broadband internet, which can also enable better, safer and more reliable electrical service.

Lead the International Community to Solve Climate Change and Prevent International Conflict.

Climate change is not just an “environmental issue,” but a global security issue as well. Climate change is an international crisis that threatens vulnerable communities all over the world.

The CIA and the Department of Defense both say that climate change is one of the great security issues facing this planet. As we see more and more drought, as people around the world are unable to grow the food they need to survive, people will migrate for survival. Instability can cause international conflict.

The United States must lead the world by working with China, Russia, India and the rest of the international community to transform our energy system away from fossil fuels toward energy efficiency and sustainable energy. We need a global commitment to reduce carbon pollution emissions.

The U.S. needs to lead the international community in the fight against climate change to maintain American economic strength and global security.

The United States has a unique opportunity to lead the international community in innovating strategies to cut climate pollution to avoid the most devastating damage of global climate change and adapt to the impacts that we cannot avoid. Our progress in reducing pollution levels over the last ten years has given us the credibility to demand that major developing nations also take bold action. In the past year, we have seen historic new commitments from countries like China and India who are for the first time putting forth their own aggressive climate agendas.

As president, Bernie will:

    • Convene a climate summit with the world’s best engineers, climate scientists, policy experts, activists and indigenous communities in his first 100 days. The United Nations Paris climate talks in December are an important milestone toward solving climate change, but even optimistic outcomes of these talks will not put the world on the path needed to avoid the most catastrophic results of climate change. We must think beyond Paris. In the first 100 days of Bernie’s Presidency, he will convene a summit of the world’s best climate experts to chart a course toward the healthy future we all want for our families and communities.
    • Lead countries in cutting climate change. Climate change is the greatest global challenge, and must be met with global solutions. The United States has contributed greatly to climate change, but also has the greatest opportunity and know-how to lead in implementing climate change solutions. The argument that we shouldn’t act until other countries do is falling by the wayside as China, India and many other countries have come to the table with initial commitments to take significant action to solve climate change.
  • Plan for peace to avoid international climate-fueled conflict. Changes in rainfall patterns, higher temperatures and more frequent natural disasters such as droughts and flooding due to climate change pose a direct threat to our global food and energy supply. In the United States, this could mean higher food and energy prices. In some developing countries, the effects could be even worse, and lead to temporary or more permanent situations where not enough food or water is available for everyone. This has the potential to result in an international climate-fueled conflict. Bernie believes that we must plan for peace now in order to prepare for this sort of dire conflict that is already beginning to unfold in parts of the world.

 

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