Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Faith and Environmental Leaders Gather at Senator Bingaman’s Office to Show Solidarity With Gulf Coast

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As the Gulf Coast oil catastrophe quickly grows into one of the largest environmental disasters in US history, Albuquerque-area faith and environmental leaders gathered in front of Senator Jeff Bingaman’s district office to protest BP’s reckless behavior and call for an end to risky offshore drilling and other dirty energy.

Black plastic and red caution tape was used to stage a mock oil spill today to show why we need a moratorium on drilling off our coasts. People waved signs saying “Clean it Up” and “No More Drilling,” and called on BP to clean up their mess.

“In a region still struggling to recover from Hurricane Katrina, coastal communities cannot afford the economic and environmental blow that this oil spill will deliver,” Molly Brook of Conservation Voters New Mexico said. “This is a wake-up call. We need to clean up the Gulf Coast, and we need to clean up America's energy.”

Speakers also highlighted the clean energy solutions to our country’s oil dependency with signs that read “Better Fuel Efficiency” and “Make our Energy Clean: Make it American.”

Senator Bingaman chairs the Energy & Natural Resources Committee, which is why local faith and environmental leaders and activists gathered in front of his office and called on the Senator to help deliver a plan to get America off oil.

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“We already have the technology and solutions for 21st century transportation systems -- we just need the political will to implement them,” said Shrayas Jatkar of the Sierra Club. “We need a ban on all new offshore drilling immediately to protect our coasts and coastal communities. At the same time, the BP oil disaster should shake up Congress to protect our climate by pass strong and comprehensive legislation that transitions America to a clean energy economy now.”

“We are at a crossroads,” said Franciscan sister Joan Brown of NM Interfaith Power & Light. “We have a choice to make. We either continue to stand with large corporations and oil companies like BP and Haliburton who make billions from outmoded energy sources or we stand with the families of those who lost loved ones in this disaster and the people of the coastal region whose livelihood and beloved land and water are being destroyed. Standing with families for the common good and viable life in the future means investing resources in efficiency, conservation and clean energy such as wind and solar.”

Today’s gathering in Albuquerque was part of a massive grassroots movement taking place around the country, of communities calling for an end to offshore drilling and the need to move towards a clean energy future. Over 50 protests nationwide are expected this week.

For more information on the spill in the Gulf Coast, please visit

Caption photo 1: Joan Brown of NM Interfaith Power & Light pours water over the mock oil spill site to honor 11 workers killed at BP Deepwater Horizons offshore rig explosion. Holding inflatable globe are other speakers, Shrayas Jatkar of the Sierra Club in NM & Molly Brook of Conservation Voters NM.

Caption photo 2: Shrayas Jatkar of the Sierra Club in NM calling for an immediate moratorium on all new offshore drilling, while urging Senator Bingaman to lead the charge for a strong, comprehensive plan for clean energy and climate protection. (Other speakers in the background: Joan Brown, NM Interfaith Power & Light & Molly Brook, Conservation Voters NM.)

Photos by Jake Horowitz, Environment NM (May 12, 2010)

May 12, 2010 at 07:11 PM in Climate, Corporatism, Energy, Environment, Faith Community, Obama Clean Energy Reform, Oceans, Sen. Jeff Bingaman | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

New UN Science Report Underlines Urgency for Governments to Seal the Climate Deal in Copenhagen


Climate Change Science Compendium 2009, a report released today by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), has enough alarming news about accelerating climate change that even the most dedicated couch potatoes should be stirred into action. With the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen less than 80 days away, we need to pressure the President and members of Congress to get serious and enact a tough and comprehensive energy bill that doesn't cut corners or delay actions until it's too late to counteract the bulk of greenhouse-gas induced climate change.

This week, President Obama gave a speech at the UN Climate Change Summit in New York, which included admonitions about the urgent need for action to combat human-caused climate change. Now the United States needs to walk the walk, not just talk the talk. 

A fairly tame energy bill passed the U.S. House in June. The Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee also passed an energy bill in June -- S. 1462, the American Clean Energy Leadership Act -- but it's been on the back burner ever since. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, who chairs the Senate Energy Committee, discussed the bill he sponsored this week with Grist. Click to see the interview. Finally, a comprehensive bill is set to be introduced next week by Sen. Barbara Boxer and Sen. John Kerry. 

Bottom line: we must convince our government that there's an urgent need for legislation that can make our appearance in Copenhagen meaningful. We must lead, not procrastinate.

Indications of Accelerating Climate Change
According to the Compendium, compiled in association with scientists around the world, the pace and scale of climate change may now be outstripping even the most sobering predictions of the last report of the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) -- including in North America and here in the Southwest. An analysis of the very latest, peer-reviewed science indicates that many of predictions at the upper end of the IPCC's forecasts are becoming ever more likely.

Meanwhile the newly emerging science points to some troubling impacts -- originally thought likely to occur in longer-term time horizons -- as already happening or set to happen far sooner than expected.

Important Discoveries
Here's a summary of just some of the disturbing discoveries reported today in the new report:

--Persistent drought crisis conditions for the southwestern United States and northern Mexico, unprecedented loss of sea ice in the Canadian archipelago and seasonal upwellings of acidic seawater off California are all being observed years or even decades ahead of earlier projections.

--Losses from glaciers, ice-sheets and the polar regions appear to be happening faster with the Greenland ice sheet, for example, recently seeing melting some 60 percent higher than the previous record of 1998.

* Some scientists are now warning that sea levels could rise by up to two metres by 2100 and five to ten times that over following centuries.

--There is also growing concern among some scientists that thresholds or tipping points may now be reached in a matter of years or a few decades. These include dramatic changes to the Indian summer monsoon, the Sahara and West Africa monsoon and other factors that affect critical ecosystems like the Amazon rainforest.

--The report also underlines concern by scientists that the planet is now committed to some damaging -- and perhaps irreversible impacts -- as a result of the greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere.

* Losses of tropical and temperate mountain glaciers affecting perhaps 20 percent to 25 percent of the human population in terms of drinking water, irrigation and hydro-power.

* Shifts in the hydrological cycle resulting in the disappearance of regional climates with related losses of ecosystems, species and the spread of drylands northwards and southwards.

Time Running Out
Recent science suggests that it may still be possible to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of climate change. However, this will only happen within the time span of the current civilization if there is immediate, cohesive and decisive action to both cut emissions and assist vulnerable countries adapt.

In a foreword to the document, the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon -- who this week hosted heads of state in New York -- writes that, “This Climate Change Science Compendium is a wake-up call. The time for hesitation is over. We need the world to realize, once and for all, that the time to act is now and we must work together to address this monumental challenge. This is the moral challenge of our generation.”

The Compendium reviews some 400 major scientific contributions to our understanding of Earth Systems and climate change that have been released through peer-reviewed literature, or from research institutions, over the last three years.

Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, said, “The Compendium can never replace the painstaking rigour of an IPCC process -- a shining example of how the United Nations can provide a path to consensus among the sometimes differing views of more than 190 nations. However, scientific knowledge on climate change and forecasting of the likely impacts has been advancing rapidly since the landmark 2007 IPCC report.”

“This is the most sobering assessment yet of how global warming is already affecting our climate and makes it very clear that we must take action,” said Phyllis Cuttino, director, U.S. Global Warming Campaign, at the Pew Environment Group. “The U.S. Congress, President Obama and other world leaders must act now to reduce the threat of global warming. Doing so will create a new clean energy economy, reduce dependence on fossil fuels and sustain our environment for future generations.”

Key Scientific Findings
Key scientific observations and developments documented since the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report in 2007 include:

North America:
* Observation and modeling is pointing to an irreversible transition in the southwestern USA and Northern Mexico towards a sustained, drier climate. It may have been under way since 2000. “Dustbowl” conditions are projected to become the norm for the dry season in the region. This change, unprecedented in the instrumental record, is linked to global shifts of rainfall regimes as sub-tropical dry zones move towards the poles.

* Seawater acidic enough to corrode a shell-making carbonate substance called aragonite is already welling up during the summer along the California coast, decades earlier than models predict. It is an indication that oceans are becoming more acidic more quickly than expected, jeopardizing the ability of shellfish and corals to form their external skeletons.

* The average amount of sea ice within the Canadian Arctic Archipelago has decreased by an average of 8.7 per cent each decade since 1979. The melting season has lengthened by seven days per decade, with 2008 witnessing a record 129 days of melting.

* Vegetation surveys of California’s Santa Rosa Mountains between 1977 and 2007 show that dominant plants have on average moved their range 65 metres (213 feet) higher in altitude. Research suggests this has been a response to warming, more variable precipitation and less snow cover, rather than other factors such as air pollution or fire.

The compendium also documents a number of significant recent climate anomalies for North America, including:

* The third-worst fire season and persistent drought in the western and southwestern USA in 2008.

* The worst drought in 70 years in Mexico, in August 2009, affecting about 3.5 million farmers, wiping out some 17 million acres of cropland and leaving 50,000 cows dead.

* The worst wildfire in 30 years in Southern California, in April 2009.

* Alaska’s snowiest winter for 30 years in 2007-8, which also saw Toronto’s third snowiest winter on record.

* Hurricane Gustav in August 2008, the worst storm to hit Cuba in five decades, with recorded gusts of 341 km per hour at one location, the strongest in the country’s history.

* The growth in carbon dioxide emissions from energy and industry has exceeded even the most fossil-fuel intensive scenario developed by the IPCC in the late 1990s. Global emissions were growing by 1.1 per cent each year from 1990-1999 and this accelerated to 3.5 per cent per year from 2000-2007.

* Growth of the global economy in the early 2000s and an increase in its carbon intensity (emissions per unit of growth), combined with a decrease in the capacity of ecosystems on land and the oceans to act as carbon “sinks”, have led to a rapid increase in the concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. This has contributed to sooner-than-expected impacts including faster sea level rise, ocean acidification, melting Arctic sea ice, warming of polar land masses, freshening of ocean currents and shifts in the circulation patterns of the oceans and atmosphere.

* The observed increase in greenhouse gas concentrations are raising concern among some scientists that warming of between 1.4 and 4.3 degrees Centigrade above pre-industrial surface temperatures could occur. This exceeds the range of between 1 and 3 degrees perceived as the threshold for many “tipping points”, including the end of summer Arctic sea ice, and the eventual melting of Himalayan glaciers and the Greenland ice sheet.

* In 2007, summer sea ice in the Arctic Ocean shrank to its smallest extent ever, 24 per cent less than the previous record in 2005, and 34 per cent less than the average minimum extent in the period 1970-2000. In 2008, the minimum ice extent was 9 per cent greater than in 2007, but still the second lowest on record.

* Until the summer of 2007, most models projected an ice-free September for the Arctic Ocean towards the end of the current century. Reconsideration based on current trends has led to speculation that this could occur as soon as 2030.

* Recent findings show that warming extends well to the south of the Antarctic Peninsula, to cover most of West Antarctica, an area of warming much larger than previously reported.

* The hole in the ozone layer has had a cooling effect on Antarctica, and is partly responsible for masking expected warming on the continent. Recovery of stratospheric ozone, thanks to the phasing out of ozone-depleting substances, is projected to increase Antarctic temperatures in coming decades.

* Recent estimates of the combined impact of melting land-ice and thermal expansion of the oceans suggest a plausible average sea level rise of between 0.8 and 2.0 metres above the 1990 level by 2100. This compares with a projected rise of between 18 and 59 centimetres in the last IPCC report, which did not include an estimate of large-scale changes in ice-melt rates, due to lack of consensus.

* Under the IPCC scenario that most closely matches current trends – i.e. with the highest projected emissions – between 12 and 39 per cent of the Earth’s land surface could experience previously unknown climate conditions by 2100. A similar proportion, between 10 and 48 per cent, will see existing climates disappear. Many of these “disappearing climates” coincide with biodiversity hotspots, and with the added problem of fragmented habitats and physical obstructions to migration, it is feared many species will struggle to adapt to the new conditions.

To download the full report, visit

Get Active
A good place to start getting active about battling climate change is at Learn more and sign up. Also, please call Senators Bingaman and Udall and urge them to push for quick passage of an effective, comprehensive bill in the Senate. Contact the White House and do the same.

September 24, 2009 at 06:06 PM in Climate, Energy, Environment, Green Economy, International Relations, Obama Administration, Oceans, Science, Sen. Jeff Bingaman, Sen. Tom Udall, Water Issues | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Latest Greenpeace Sustainable Seafood Scorecard: Whole Foods Slips, Trader Joe's Worst of National Chains Surveyed

In the third edition of Greenpeace’s seafood sustainability scorecard --Carting Away the Oceans -- released today, more than half of the leading supermarket chains in the U.S. have now made some sign of progress in increasing the sustainability of their seafood operations. You can see the full Greenpeace report and details .

The supermarket chain Wegmans received top ranking followed by Ahold USA, while Whole Foods dropped to third place from its December 2008 first place ranking. Trader Joe’s remains ranked at #17, the worst ranking of the national supermarket chains surveyed. Also trailing behind are Smith’s at #9 and Albertson’s at #13. Surprisingly, Target has the #4 rank, Walmart is #7 and Costco comes in at #10. Trader Joe's and Costco have not many any progress since the last Greenpeace scorecard was issued.

Despite the progress of many companies, all continue to stock “red list” seafood like orange roughy, swordfish, or Chilean sea bass – some of the world’s most critically imperiled species. None of the companies featured in the report guarantee that they won’t sell seafood from fisheries that are harming sea turtles, dolphins, seals, sea lions, or other marine mammals.

"The good news is that seafood sustainability is now on the radar of many major retailers so we are seeing a shift in practices, but much more progress is needed," said Greenpeace’s Senior Markets Campaigner, Casson Trenor, in a press release. "Unfortunately, our oceans remain in crisis and retailers that ignore this fact are contributing to the collapse of our marine ecosystems.”

Of the 20 largest retailers in North America, nine remain that have made no visible effort to increase the sustainability of their seafood operations and continue to ignore scientific warnings about the crisis facing global fisheries and the marine environment. These include: Aldi, Costco, Giant Eagle, H.E.B., Meijer, Price Chopper, Publix, Trader Joe’s, and Winn Dixie.

The rankings:

  1. Wegmans
  2. Ahold USA (Stop & Shop, Giant)
  3. Whole Foods
  4. Target
  5. Safeway (Dominicks, Genuardi's, Pavilions, Randall's, Von's)
  6. Harris Teeter
  7. Walmart
  8. Delhaize (Bloom, Food Lion, Hannaford Bros., Sweetbay)
  9. Kroger (Baker's, City Market, Dillon's, Fred Meyer, Fry’s, King Soopers, Ralph's, Smith's, Quality Food Center - QFC)
  10. Costco
  11. Aldi
  12. A&P (Food Emporium, Pathmark, Super Fresh, Waldbaum's)
  13. Supervalu (Acme, Albertson's, Bristol Farms, Jewel-Osco, Save-A-Lot, Shaw's)
  14. Giant Eagle
  15. Publix
  16. Winn-Dixie
  17. Trader Joe’s
  18. Meijer
  19. Price Chopper
  20. H.E. Butt (H.E.B., Central Market)

To help ensure the long-term sustainability of fisheries and marine ecosystems, Greenpeace advocates the creation of a worldwide network of marine reserves and fisheries management based on a precautionary, ecosystem-based approach. Today, supermarkets can help the oceans and meet consumer demand for sustainable products by refusing to sell seafood from fisheries that:

  • exploit endangered, vulnerable and/or protected species, or species with poor stock status;
  • cause habitat destruction and/or lead to ecosystem alterations;
  • cause negative impacts on other, non-target species;
  • are unregulated, unreported, illegal or managed poorly, and
  • cause negative impacts on local, fishing dependent communities

For more information, contact Greenpeace's New Mexico Field Organizer Joe Smyth at

If you really want to get scared about the state of our oceans and the horrible impacts of overfishing and irresponsible fishing, check out the website for the new documentary film, The End of the Line. Also this this commentary on the film by Casson Trenor of Greenpeace.

June 30, 2009 at 11:14 AM in Environment, Oceans | |