Gov. Inslee’s Wastewater Plant Tour Highlights Sea Rise Woes

Dan Grenet (left), the manager of Seattle's West Point Wastewater Treatment Plant, leads Wash. Gov. Jay Inslee of a tour. The visit was intended to highlight the costs of climate change; in this case, as a result of seawater incursion at the facility. | credit: Ashley Ahear

Dan Grenet (left), the manager of Seattle’s West Point Wastewater Treatment Plant, leads Wash. Gov. Jay Inslee of a tour. The visit was intended to highlight the costs of climate change; in this case, as a result of seawater incursion at the facility. | credit: Ashley Ahear

 

By: Ashley Ahearn, KUOW

 

SEATTLE — When Washington Gov. Jay Inslee wanted to show the connection between climate change and an unpleasant and costly consequence for his constituents, he decided to tour a sewage treatment plant.

Inslee’s visit Tuesday to the West Point Wastewater Treatment Plant in Seattle’s Discovery Park was the latest stop on his statewide tour to raise awareness about the costs of climate change.

The problem the governor wanted to highlight: climate change is causing sea levels to rise. And that means homes and buildings that were built a safe distance from the water’s edge are increasingly becoming too close for comfort.

That message was also delivered by the White House Tuesday, when it issued a report that said global sea levels are currently rising at more than an inch per decade — and the rate appears to be increasing.

No one complained about the smell as treatment plant workers and managers led Inslee and other visitors through the facility. But there was a lot of talk about the problems with rising sea level.

Dan Grenet, the manager of the facility, showed Inslee some photographs hanging in the lobby. Waves crash over a cement wall.

“This is a photograph of Puget Sound coming into our facility – causes big problems in our pumps and piping systems and also, it’s a biological process here,” Grenet told the governor. “It doesn’t do well with salt water. Causes big problems.”

Saltwater intrusion could cost King and other shoreline counties tens of millions of dollars in infrastructure upgrades.

But during this visit, as with other stops on his climate change tour, the governor emphasized that the costs of climate change will hit from all directions.

“We’ve had $50 million in costs for fighting fires. Tens of millions of dollars of damage to the oyster industry,” Inslee said. “And here we don’t have an estimate at West Point but we know it’s significant because we know it’s not just this point its all these ancillary pumping stations that are going to have to be if not rebuilt, refortified to deal with sea water intrusion.”

Inslee’s latest task force on climate change has been charged with developing a plan to put a price on CO2 emissions. The plan is expected be presented to the state Legislature this fall.

Americans want the U.S. to act on climate change — even if it goes alone

A massive new study shows that voters are ready for the government to forge ahead even without an international agreement

 

We're starting to get on the same page. (David McNew/Getty Images)

We’re starting to get on the same page. (David McNew/Getty Images)

 

By Neil Bhatiy, The Week

The conventional wisdom on climate change is that the issue is politically toxic. But it turns out the American people may be prepared for the kind of enormous undertaking that would be required to stem the catastrophic effects of climate change — including unilateral action by the U.S. government.

Last month, the Yale University Project on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication published Politics and Global Warming, a massive survey of 860 registered voters on the subject of the government’s role in fighting climate change. While the results appear to confirm that there is still a strong partisan divide on the issue, there is, as the report authors state, “much more going on beneath the surface.”

Perhaps the most crucial finding is that 62 percent of respondents are not content to have the U.S. wait on the sidelines unless and until other nations commit to emissions cuts. All but the most conservative of respondents said the U.S. should reduce its emissions “regardless of what other countries do.” Climate change skeptics have long argued that anything the U.S. does will not count for much if large polluters like India and China do not also take steps to curtail their carbon output. The Obama administration has argued that the U.S. has to exhibit leadership on emissions cuts (most recently through Environmental Protection Agency rules on existing and new power plants), and that the U.S.’s credibility at forthcoming climate talks in Paris rests on a demonstration of American commitment.

The poll numbers suggest many Americans intuitively understand this. The partisan breakdown is intriguing: While Democrats (especially liberals) are solidly behind this flavor of American unilateralism, Republicans are divided: 57 percent of self-described liberal and moderate Republicans would support that effort.

The poll also suggested fairly wide acceptance of several other benefits of emissions reductions, including public health improvements, energy self-sufficiency, and poverty reduction. There is fairly broad agreement that taking steps to reduce global warming will “[p]rovide a better life for our children and grandchildren,” a catch-all statement that indicates Americans are willing to make some sacrifices now in exchange for benefits down the line.

More concretely, most people seem to buy into the EPA’s argument that its emissions reduction plans will have public health benefits (54 percent total; 72 percent among Democrats and 46 percent among Republicans), an improvement from a previous Bloomberg poll that asked the same question.

Many Americans also look forward to climate action reducing dependence on foreign oil (55 percent total), though so far there is no climate-related public policy intervention in the offing that would drastically reduce oil consumption. The EPA regulations affect power plants, very few of which are oil-fueled, and our declining oil imports over the past half decade can largely be attributed to domestic drilling efforts, especially extraction of tight and shale oil. The polling suggests, however, that the American people closely correlate the end-result of climate action with energy security.

The only result that may give climate hawks pause was the benefit that polled as the least popular: That addressing climate change would improve U.S. national security. Even among liberal Democrats, it is not an easy sell (47 percent); it does not even break 30 percent with moderate or conservative Democrats and only 24 percent for Republicans as a whole. Previous studies show that adopting this frame is unlikely to convince conservatives to take climate change seriously (David Roberts has written previously on the “boomerang effect” of such arguments). Indeed, only on poverty reduction is there less agreement than national security improvement.

The belief that climate change and national security are not interrelated is prevalent despite repeated warnings from the U.S. intelligence and defense communities. As The Week‘s Ryan Cooper put it in a recent piece, the imperatives for risk management and self-preservation with regard to climate change are understood very well among the military. There are two points worth making about this.

The first is that it is a relatively novel and recent development to think about climate change in national security terms. People typically think of climate change as an environmental problem, rather than a security one, so it is no surprise that saving plant and animal species and preventing destruction of life scores much higher. Additionally, aside from military responses to natural disasters — such as the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami or the 2013 typhoon that devastated parts of the Philippines — there is no headline event that would cause people to link climate and national security.

The second point is that, on some level, the fact that public opinion is not catching up with some sectors of elite opinion is not necessarily an immediate cause for concern. That the argument is not making inroads with Main Street is less of a problem than it not influencing policy in executive departments. While Congress has abdicated its responsibility on climate change legislation, the Obama administration has been pro-active.

Still, what these findings suggest is that the steady drumbeat of analysis on climate change is having a positive effect. People are generally aware there is a problem, and are generally supportive of policies to fight it, even going so far as to say the U.S. can strike out ahead of other countries. People also recognize that benefits will accrue in such a way as to eventually justify the cost. While there is still a motivated minority resisting these findings, the Yale–George Mason report confirms they are nothing more than that: A minority.

Obama Allocates $10 Million for Tribal Climate Change Adaptation

Newtok Planning GroupThe Alaska Native village of Newtok is one example of an indigenous community at the forefront of climate change. Erosion due to rising sea levels has required the relocation of the entire village.

Newtok Planning Group
The Alaska Native village of Newtok is one example of an indigenous community at the forefront of climate change. Erosion due to rising sea levels has required the relocation of the entire village.

 

President Barack Obama on July 16 released another set of climate-change-resilience guidelines, this batch geared specifically toward tribes, and announced the allocation of $10 million to help tribes cope with climate change.

The allocation was one of a number of measures announced at the final meeting of the White House State, Local, and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience, created by Obama last fall. Karen Diver, chairwoman of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa in Minnesota, and Reggie Joule, mayor of the Northwest Arctic Borough in Alaska, were the tribal officials designated to serve on the task force.

RELATED: A Chat With Fond du Lac’s Karen Diver, Presidential Climate Change Task Force

The money will fund the development of resource management methods, climate-resilience planning, and youth education and empowerment. Climate adaptation grants will also be awarded for the development of climate-adaptation training programs, assessment of vulnerability, monitoring and other aspects of learning about the effects of climate change. Adaptation planning sessions will be offered, and tribal outreach will be funded with the money as well, Interior said. Administration officials said such measures are sorely needed.

RELATED: 9 Tribal Nations Taking a Direct Hit From Climate Change

“From the Everglades to the Great Lakes to Alaska and everywhere in between, climate change is a leading threat to natural and cultural resources across America, and tribal communities are often the hardest hit by severe weather events such as droughts, floods and wildfires,” said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, chair of the White House Council on Native American Affairs, in a statement. “Building on the President’s commitment to tribal leaders, the partnership announced today will help tribal nations prepare for and adapt to the impacts of climate change on their land and natural resources.”

Obama has been highlighting the effects of climate change on Native peoples in his efforts to construct a plan for dealing with the inevitable changes.

RELATED: Obama Taps Tribes to Assist in Adapting to Climate Change

“Impacts of climate change are increasingly evident for American Indian and Alaska Native communities and, in some cases, threaten the ability of tribal nations to carry on their cultural traditions and beliefs,” said Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn. “We have heard directly from tribes about climate change and how it dramatically affects their communities, many of which face extreme poverty as well as economic development and infrastructure challenges. These impacts test their ability to protect and preserve their land and water for future generations. We are committed to providing the means and measures to help tribes in their efforts to protect and mitigate the effects of climate change on their land and natural resources.”

The Interior Department will also team up with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to create a subgroup on climate change under the White House Council on Native American Affairs, the DOI said. This cooperation between Jewell and EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy will entail working with tribes to pool data and information on climate change effects that are directly relevant to issues faced by American Indians and Alaska Natives. Traditional and ecological knowledge will be a cornerstone of the initiative.

“Tribes are at the forefront of many climate issues, so we are excited to work in a more cross-cutting way to help address tribal climate needs,” said McCarthy in the statement. “We’ve heard from tribal leaders loud and clear: when the federal family combines its efforts, we get better results—and nowhere are these results needed more than in the fight against climate change.”

 

Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2014/07/16/obama-allocates-10-million-tribal-climate-change-adaptation-155890

Obama’s Climate Initiatives in the Northwest

A 3-D map of the Olympic National Forest.Credit Martin D. Adamiker / Wikimedia

A 3-D map of the Olympic National Forest.
Credit Martin D. Adamiker / Wikimedia

 

By: Courtney Flatt, Northwest Public Radio

 

President Obama Wednesday announced several initiatives to help prepare for a warming climate. He said wildfires, heat waves and rising sea levels brought on by climate change threaten public safety.

One of the main problems that the initiatives will address in the Northwest is the risk people face from floods and landslides.

Climate scientists say warmer winter storms will lead to more frequent and prolonged periods of rainfall. And that could trigger more landslides like the Oso disaster that killed 47 people last march in Washington’s north Cascades. But detailed 3-D maps can help predict where disasters like the Oso landslide could happen.

Check out our earlier coverage of landslide risks to homeowners and how changing rainfall could lead to more landslides.

Obama’s climate initiative will give $13 million dollars to the U.S. Geological Survey to help map more areas, which is not much money for this expensive technology. But Tom Carlson, a geographer with the USGS, says every little bit helps.

He says only about one-fourth of Washington has been mapped by this technology.

“It’s very patchy. There are lots of doughnut holes out there, lots of blank spots,” Carlson says.

About one-third of Oregon and very few parts of Idaho have been mapped.

Also in the president’s initiative:

  • Tribes will get $10 million to help mitigate and plan for climate change. Tribes will be awarded grants to start planning how to adapt and monitor changes and vulnerabilities. They’ll also get money to help gather and share more data about the effects of climate change.

“Impacts of climate change are increasingly evident for American Indian and Alaska Native communities and, in some cases, threaten the ability of tribal nations to carry on their cultural traditions and beliefs,” said Bureau of Indian Affair’s assistant secretary Kevin Washburn in a statement.

Read about some of the challenges tribes face dealing with climate change:

Obama’s initiative will also help communities build more green stormwater infrastructure, like rain gardens and urban forests, something Northwesterners know about.

EarthFix backgrounders on green infrastructure in the Northwest:

The initiative will also provide funding for coastal communities to deal with rising sea levels. One way to do that, Obama says, is to build stronger sea walls. Seattle officials say parts of the city will be underwater by 2050.

Along with the president’s initiatives, the Centers for Disease Control released a guide for local health departments that outlines the threats climate change poses to human health.

For more on how climate change will affect people’s health, check out EarthFix’s Symptoms of Climate Change series. We explored urban heat islands, increases in wildfire smoke, toxic algal blooms, and farmworkers in a warming climate.

Secretary Jewell Announces new Tribal Climate Resilience Program


Obama Administration dedicates nearly $10 million to help tribes prepare for climate change
 
Source: Department of the Interior

WASHINGTON, D.C. – As part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan and continued commitment to support Native American leaders in building strong, resilient communities, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn today announced the Administration has dedicated nearly $10 million this year to help tribes prepare for climate change through adaptation and mitigation.  The Tribal Climate Resilience Program, which will be announced today at the fourth and final meeting of the White House State, Local, and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience, is part of a new initiative to work toward addressing the impacts of climate change already affecting tribal communities.

“From the Everglades to the Great Lakes to Alaska and everywhere in between, climate change is a leading threat to natural and cultural resources across America, and tribal communities are often the hardest hit by severe weather events such as droughts, floods and wildfires,” said Secretary Jewell, chair of the White House Council on Native American Affairs. “Building on the President’s commitment to tribal leaders, the partnership announced today will help tribal nations prepare for and adapt to the impacts of climate change on their land and natural resources.”  

“Impacts of climate change are increasingly evident for American Indian and Alaska Native communities and, in some cases, threaten the ability of tribal nations to carry on their cultural traditions and beliefs,” said Assistant Secretary Washburn. “We have heard directly from Tribes about climate change and how it dramatically affects their communities, many of which face extreme poverty as well as economic development and infrastructure challenges. These impacts test their ability to protect and preserve their land and water for future generations.  We are committed to providing the means and measures to help tribes in their efforts to protect and mitigate the effects of climate change on their land and natural resources.”  

The program will offer funding for tribes and tribal consortia and organizations to develop science-based information and tools to enable adaptive resource management, as well as the ability to plan for climate resilience. The program will offer nationwide climate adaptation planning sessions and provide funding for tribal engagement and outreach within regional and national climate communities. 

Support will also be provided to empower and educate youth to become leaders in tribal climate change adaptation and planning, and enable them to participate in leadership and climate conferences, as well as independent research projects. 

The program will provide direct support through climate adaptation grants that will be awarded in four categories: development and delivery of climate adaptation training; adaptation planning, vulnerability assessments and monitoring; capacity building through travel support for climate change training, technical sessions, and cooperative management forums; and travel support for participation in ocean and coastal planning. 

To further the President’s commitment, as part of an Administration-wide Tribal Climate Resilience Initiative, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy will establish an interagency subgroup on climate change under the White House Council on Native American Affairs. The subgroup will work with tribes to collect and share data and information, including traditional ecological knowledge, about climate change effects that are relevant to American Indian Tribes and Alaska Natives. The subgroup will also identify opportunities for the federal government to improve collaboration and assist with climate change adaptation and mitigation efforts. 

“Tribes are at the forefront of many climate issues, so we are excited to work in a more cross-cutting way to help address tribal climate needs,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.  “We’ve heard from tribal leaders loud and clear: when the federal family combines its efforts, we get better results – and nowhere are these results needed more than in the fight against climate change.”

The Interior Department will also establish a tribal climate liaison to coordinate with tribes across the federal government and help ensure tribal engagement in climate conversations at the federal level. In addition, five tribal Climate Extension Support Liaisons will be placed in the Department of the Interior’s Climate Science Centers, while building tribal capacity by contracting the positions to tribal organizations to ensure strong ties to tribal practitioners. These liaisons will work at the regional level with tribes to identify basic climate information and knowledge needs of tribes and work with other federal partners to address those needs. Tactics will include forming national tribal climate-focused practitioner working groups, supporting tribal workshops, and addressing regional training needs for specific impacts.

Video: National Climate Assessment Focuses on Natives Bearing the Brunt

NOAA/VimeoNational Climate Change Assessment Focuses partially on Indigenous Peoples and the challenges they face.

NOAA/VimeoNational Climate Change Assessment Focuses partially on Indigenous Peoples and the challenges they face.

 

As the effects of climate change become more and more pronounced and better understood, the concerns of Indigenous Peoples are coming more and more to the fore. Conventional science is beginning to understand not only that they suffer inordinately from the phenomenon, but also that their traditional knowledge could hold some keys for adaptation, if not mitigation.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Change Assessment in May highlighted the effects on Indigenous Peoples, including those from the Pacific Islands and the Caribbean. In concert with that the authors made a video that lays out some of these challenges and how they are interconnected. Below, an interview with T.M. Bull Bennett, a convening lead author on the National Climate Assessment’s Indigenous Peoples chapter.

RELATED: Obama’s Climate Change Report Lays Out Dire Scenario, Highlights Effects on Natives

“We’re starting to see a change in how we interpret the environment around us,” Bennett says below. Indigenous populations, he adds, are “on the short end of the stick.”

 

National parks are in the forever business and climate change is bad for business

Bryce Canyon National Park is a national park located in southwestern Utah in the United States.CREDIT: flickr/ James Gordon

Bryce Canyon National Park is a national park located in southwestern Utah in the United States.
CREDIT: flickr/ James Gordon

By Ari Phillips July 3, 2014 ThinkProgress.org

In June, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said, “we’re in the forever business; our charge in national parks is to preserve them unimpaired for future generations.”

A new study from National Park Service scientists William B. Monahan and Nicholas titled Climate Exposure of U.S. National Parks in a New Era of Change shows just how much of a challenge this will be.

Published in PLOS One Journal, the report confirms that climate change is underway in America’s treasured national parks. The science is clear that the parks are changing in fast-moving and highly concerning ways.

“This report shows that climate change continues to be the most far-reaching and consequential challenge ever faced by our national parks,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “Our national parks can serve as places where we can monitor and document ecosystem change without many of the stressors that are found on other public lands.”

Using climate data from the last three decades for 289 national parks and comparing it to historical variability, the researchers found that temperatures are currently at the high end of the range of temperatures measured since the turn of the 20th century.

They corroborated certain regional patterns already present in climate change literature. Parks in the desert southwest are warmer and drier. Parks in the northeast are warmer and wetter. Parks in the Midwest are warmer, and parks in the southeast shows signs of a warming hole, where temperatures have remained mostly flat.

With the impacts of climate change often lacking in immediate and powerful imagery aside from extreme weather events, annual trips to national parks can be one way for people to notice the slower changes over time.

“Whether or not you choose to think about the causes of climate change, all you have to do is open your eyes and look around you to see that climate change is real,” said Jewell in June, admitting that maintaining national parks in the long-term means incorporating some adaptation measures. “So we can no longer pretend it’s going to go away. We have to adapt and deal with it.”

Grand Canyon National Park has recently experienced temperatures far above historical norms. Not only does this weigh heavily on the millions of visitors who frequent the sprawling Arizona park every year, but it is also a direct threat to the wildlife in the area. Joshua Trees are dying in Joshua Tree National Park in California due to drought and heat. In the east, parks are getting hotter and wetter for the most part, threatening infrastructure and increasing the chances of devastating storms.

Glacier National Park in northwestern Montana may end up glacier-less in the next couple decades as only about 25 of the 150 glaciers around at the park’s founding in 1910 remain. One of the larger glaciers, Grinnell Glacier, has lost 90 percent of its ice. A visit to Glacier National Park is already in many ways an homage to the former landscape rather than a trip through a timeless one.

The National Parks Service (NPS) was created almost 100 years ago in 1916. Going forward, climate change will present a number of obstacles to the agency’s mission of preservation.

“The new century brings new challenges in terms of stewarding park resources in the face of environmental drivers that operate beyond park boundaries,” write the scientists. “Climate change further challenges us to develop new, ecologically viable desired conditions to guide the preservation of park resources in this new era of change.”

Around 275 million people visit National Parks every year. The NPS cannot reverse climate change or even manage the best adaptation measures without the help of the public and elected officials. While education is one means of progressing the conversation, it will take a coordinated effort to get in front of the problem.

Interior Secretary Jewell was formerly the CEO of REI. She compared her responsibilities there to those as leader of the NPS.

“People accuse businesses of having a short-term mentality, but I’ll tell you, businesses do strategic planning, and they think forward,” she said. “This is very difficult to do in Washington. We are funded lurching from continuing resolution to continuing resolution.”

However she sees the Obama administration’s Climate Action Plan as a step in the right direction.

“Beyond benefiting public health and the economy, the President’s Climate Action Plan and other Administration efforts to cut carbon pollution will greatly benefit the parks, refuges, other public lands and cultural resources entrusted to the Department of the Interior on behalf of all Americans,” she said.

The Climate Guide To Governors

Thinkprogress.org

 

By Tiffany Germain, Guest Contributor and Ryan Koronowski on July 1, 2014

Climate denial runs rampant in the halls of Congress, with over 58 percent of congressional Republicans refusing to accept the reality of basic climate science. A new analysis from the CAP Action War Room reveals that half of America’s Republican governors agree with the anti-science caucus of Congress.

 

Click image to view detailed information on each state.

Click image to view detailed information on each state.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy has made it clear through countless meetings with governors and state figures that the only way the new Clean Air Act regulations targeting carbon pollution will work is if the nation’s governors are on board.

Indeed, much of the progress that has already been made to address climate change and begin the switch from fossil fuels to clean energy started in the states. California has been busily implementing its cap-and-trade law, doubly approved by voters in 2010. It’s been going so well that recent auctions have sold out of permits, and its governor, Jerry Brown, is implementing the rest of the law fairly smoothly. California is so far ahead of the rest of the country that when Congress passed the Clean Air Act, it granted special authority to the Golden State so it could adopt even stronger fuel efficiency standards.

RGGI (pronounced “Reggie”) is the cap-and-trade program adopted by nine states in the northeast. Though it stalled at first, a simple correction last year lowered the cap and its last two auctions have been quite successful. This means that as those states seek to comply with the Clean Air Act regulations on power plant carbon pollution once they are finalized, it will be that much easier because their economies have already started to build in a cost of emitting carbon dioxide through RGGI. Most of their governors have taken additional steps to invest in energy efficiency and renewable power sources, but one of them, Maine Governor Paul LePage has denied the reality of climate change and stood in the way of clean energy development. Chris Christie actually pulled his state out of RGGI, and has rejected recent suggestions that rejoining the pact would be the easiest way for businesses to comply with the Clean Air Act carbon rule.

Governors who deny the science behind climate change can do significant damage to our nation’s environmental and public health protections. LePage has claimed that “scientists are divided on the subject,” when in actuality, less than 0.2 percent of published researchers reject global warming. During LePage’s tenure, he has argued that Maine could potentially benefit from the effects of climate change, vetoed legislation that would help the state prepare for extreme weather, and has attempted to dramatically reduce the states renewable energy standards to benefit large corporations. He also tried to sneak through a proposal that would exempt the state from certain anti-smog regulations, undoing protections that have been in place for almost 25 years. These views are wildly unpopular among his constituents –- a 2013 poll found that 85 percent of residents believe climate change is happening and 75 percent believe it’s the government’s responsibility to take action.

Meanwhile, Governor Rick Perry (R-Texas) has reiterated time and again that he’s “not afraid” to call himself a climate change denier. Yet his home state has suffered more climate-fueled disasters than any other, with an astounding 58 climate-fueled disaster declarations since just 2011. The ongoing severe and widespread drought has directly impacted the agriculture industry, which is one of the largest in Texas. 2011 was the driest year in state history, causing a record $7.62 billion in agricultural losses.

When asked if he believes in climate change, Florida Governor Rick Scott (R) replied “No.” “I have not been convinced.” Yet Florida is one of the first states that will feel the very severe impacts of climate change, as sea-level rise and severe storms threaten to wipe away popular tourist destinations along the coast. In fact, Rolling Stone reported that the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has listed Miami as the number-one most vulnerable city worldwide in terms of property damage, with more than $416 billion in assets at risk to storm-related flooding and sea-level rise.

Fossil fuel interests have been funneling millions to Republican governors who are willing to block regulations that could potentially hurt their bottom line. In total, the fifteen governors who have denied climate change have taken $15,013,754 in campaign contributions from oil and gas over the course of their careers, with a large majority of that going to Gov. Perry. Republican governors who haven’t denied climate change have taken only $3,019,123. In contrast, all Democratic governors have taken a total of $1,403,940. That means that over 77 percent of all oil and gas contributions are being funneled to governors who are outspoken about their disbelief in climate science. On average, climate deniers have taken $1,072,397, while the remainder of governors have only taken an average of $126,373.

While the oil and gas industry is able to reap the benefits, local communities and taxpayers are suffering the dire long-term consequences. Combined, the states who are represented by climate deniers have suffered from 167 climate-fueled extreme weather events that required a presidential disaster declaration in 2011 and 2012. This has cost the federal government, and therefore taxpayers, almost $17 billion in cleanup costs.

Now, more than ever, governors will play a critical role in combating the impacts of climate change. While Congress has refused to move forward on any climate action plan, even voting 109 times last year alone to undermine environmental protections, some governors have pushed forward on their own. “Governors see the impacts of climate change first hand, and have a real understanding of the costs related to health, infrastructure, and their state’s economy,” said Ted Strickland, President of the Center for American Progress Action Fund and former governor of Ohio.

“If the U.S. is serious about being a leader in addressing climate change and taking advantage of the economic opportunity in clean energy and energy efficiency, it is going to be because states and governors lead the way. The only way the Clean Power Plan is successful is with governors getting on board, as many already have.”

Still, many governors will not be guiding their states to lower greenhouse gas emissions because they aren’t convinced carbon pollution is a bad thing, while actively discouraging strong renewable energy industries in their states.

Sioux reservation has mixed feelings about Obama’s visit

Obama visits to address education, economy; tribal leaders use opportunity to voice opposition to Keystone pipeline

By Al Jazeera America

President Barack Obama made his first presidential visit to Indian Country on Friday – and some residents of the Sioux reservation used the opportunity to voice their opposition to a proposed pipeline that would carry tar sands oil through their land.

The president and first lady arrived by helicopter at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, which straddles the border between North Dakota and South Dakota. Native Americans, some dressed in full feathered headdresses and multicolored, beaded outfits, greeted the couple.

“We can follow the lead of Standing Rock’s most famous resident, Chief Sitting Bull. He said, ‘Let’s put our minds together to see what we can build for our children,” Obama said. Sitting Bull was a Sioux chief who defeated Gen. George Custer at the 1876 Battle of the Little Bighorn.

The Obamas also spoke privately with tribal youth about their challenges growing up on the 2.3 million-acre reservation, home to nearly 1,000 residents who struggle with a lack of housing, health care, education and economic opportunity.

Some Sioux leaders used the visit to tell Obama that the proposed Keystone XL pipeline — which would run through their land — would be a treaty violation.

Bryan Brewer, president of the Ogalala Sioux Tribe, said in a statement that the Keystone pipeline was “a death warrant for our people,” and that it would violate treaty rights. Critics of the pipeline warn of possible oil spills, environmental impact from the line’s construction, and Keystone’s overall effect on raising carbo

‘The cause is us’: world on verge of sixth extinction

A golden lion tamarin, which is listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Speacies. (Photo: Jo Christian Oterhals/cc/flickr)

A golden lion tamarin, which is listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Speacies. (Photo: Jo Christian Oterhals/cc/flickr)

 

Species loss soaring at ‘pace not seen in tens of millions of years’

By Andrea Germanos, May 30, 2014. Source: Common Dreams

A new study showing that the human activity has driven current rates of species extinction to 1,000 times faster than the natural rate is “alarming” and “should be a clarion call” to work towards greater conservation efforts, an environmental group charges.

The study, published Thursday by the journal Science and led by conservation expert Stuart Pimm, also warns that without drastic action, the sixth mass extinction could be imminent.

From habitat loss to invasive species to climate change to overfishing, humans are contributing to the plummet in biodiversity.

“This important study confirms that species are going extinct at a pace not seen in tens of millions of years, and unlike past extinction events, the cause is us,” stated Noah Greenwald, endangered species director with the Center for Biological Diversity, who was not involved in the study.

While new technology like smart phone apps and crowd-sourcing have increased the amount of data collected on species, much still remains a mystery.

“Most species remain unknown to science, and they likely face greater threats than the ones we do know,” Pimm said in a statement.

“The gap between what we know and don’t know about Earth’s biodiversity is still tremendous,” added study co-author Lucas N. Joppa, a conservation scientist at Microsoft’s Computational Science Laboratory in Cambridge, UK, “but technology is going to play a major role in closing it and helping us conserve biodiversity more intelligently and efficiently.”

While the study illustrates a dramatic pace in biodiversity loss, Greenwald emphasized that it also highlights the successes of conservation efforts, such as the 50-year-old Wilderness Act and the Endangered Species Act.

“Were it not for the huge effort over the past 50 years to protect wilderness, we would have had a 20 percent higher extinction rate,” Greenwald told Common Dreams. “Protecting places, standing up for places, leaving some places untouched does make a difference,” he said.

As for what people can do to help those conservation efforts, Greenwald said people should let their legislators know that they support protecting areas as wilderness or parks, “because that is really what this study shows” — that the conservation laws and efforts over the past several decades have helped thwart further losses.

“The findings of this study are alarming to say the least,” Greenwald’s statement continues. “But it also shows we can make a difference if we choose to and should be a clarion call to take action to protect more habitat for species besides our own and to check our own population growth and consumption.”

As Greenwald said, the cause of the problem is us, but the solution, too, lies with us.

“We are on the verge of the sixth extinction,” Pimm told the Associated Press. “Whether we avoid it or not will depend on our actions.”