18 Dec 2008: Forum

A Green Agenda for the
President’s First 100 Days

Environmentalists – from Bill McKibben and Paul Hawken, to Fred Krupp and Frances Beinecke – offer President Obama their advice on the priorities he should set for the first 100 days of his administration.

Yale Environment 360 asked a wide-ranging group of environmental activists, scientists, and thinkers to answer the following question: If you were advising Barack Obama, what would you tell him are the most important environmental and energy initiatives that he should launch during his first 100 days?

Although the respondents — including entrepreneur Paul Hawken, Rajendra Pachauri of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, activist Van Jones, and green investing leader Mindy Lubber — represent a broad range of interests, they were largely in agreement on how best to solve the current economic and environmental challenges. Basically, they agree that weaning the country off fossil fuels and onto renewable sources of energy is the single best way to rebuild the U.S. economy; that Obama must use all the tools at his disposal — from invoking the Clean Air Act for regulating greenhouse gas emissions to persuading the new Congress to put a price on carbon — to tackle climate change and spur the move to alternative energy; that under an Obama administration the United States must lead in forging a new global climate change treaty; and that, given the rapidity of global warming, Obama must be made fully aware of the “scary” scientific facts — as environmentalist Bill McKibben puts it — and move with a sense of urgency.

Here are their responses:

Bill McKibben | Rajendra K. Pachauri | Mindy Lubber
Paul Hawken | Joseph Romm | Frances Beinecke
Fred Krupp | David W. Orr | Van Jones | William K. Reilly
Paul R. and Anne H. Ehrlich | Betsy Taylor | Bill Chemeides

Bill McKibben
Bill McKibben, author, scholar in residence at Middlebury College, and founder of 350.org.
It seems to me that job number one with climate change involves Obama sitting down with his new employees — most importantly the world's premier climatologist, Jim Hansen at NASA — and making sure he has a full grounding in the latest climate science. The new president needs to understand what the cutting edge is telling us: that the targets and goals of even two or three years ago are insufficient — 350 parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere has become the new red line.

If Obama understands that, much else will eventually flow — especially a much deeper examination of whether coal can continue to be a part of the way we power this planet. Without a deep and scary sense of the science, Obama will do lots of good and useful things, but nothing that adds up to the scale of change that we actually need. So I think the first hundred days should be less about action and more about information gathering.

Our one hope is that Obama is as smart as he seems — that he can assimilate the complex but not especially technical science, reach a conclusion about who is right, and then set policy. Scientific realism has to drive political realism in this case, because as the problem is currently understood in Washington, political realism won't come anywhere near grappling with it.

PRajendra K. Pachauri
Rajendra K. Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which was awarded the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.
I believe the most important initiative that President Obama should undertake would be to announce an ambitious plan for reduction in emissions of greenhouse gases on par with what the European Union has put forward — namely the 20-20-20 plan. This would require the U.S. to cut its emissions by 20 percent over 1990 levels, as well as generate 20 percent of its electricity through renewable energy sources, by 2020. Everything else would flow out of this set of goals, because business and industry would take immediate action in developing new technologies and refining existing ones to make them economically viable before 2020.

One major area in which the new President could bring about a major structural change would be to strengthen passenger railway transport in the U.S. by providing low interest loans to build high-speed lines that would lure passengers away from air travel. Simultaneously, the new administration must mandate stringent mileage standards to produce energy-efficient cars. States and local governments should be provided with financial support to carry out energy-efficiency retrofits in existing buildings and ensure much higher targets of energy efficiency in new construction.

The U.S. should also donate liberally to the adaptation fund that hopefully will be part of the new agreement on climate change to be negotiated by the end of 2009 in Copenhagen. Several poor countries that bear no responsibility for the increase in greenhouse gases will need major resources to adapt to the impacts of climate change, and as a matter of international justice, the U.S. must play a large role in these adaptation efforts.

I would tell the new President that all these measures would not only meet the challenge of climate change and establish the willingness of the U.S. to be part of the solution, but would also ensure energy security for the U.S. in the future and create much-needed new employment.
Mindy Lubber
Mindy Lubber, president of Ceres, a U.S. coalition of investors, environmental groups, and public interest groups working with companies on sustainability issues. She also directs the Investor Network on Climate Risk.
Barack Obama’s presidency comes at an extraordinary moment. Our economy is reeling, our planet is overheating, and our national security is unstable. Yet the convergence of these crises offers him a pivotal opportunity to reset the course of this nation and to reform the instruments of our society to assure a future that is livable, safe, and just for everyone.

In his first 100 days, the new president must move quickly to pass a recovery package that not only jumpstarts the economy, but also catalyzes a green and sustainable future — one that creates new business opportunities, triggers new jobs, and helps heal the environment.

We believe that investors, companies, and those who work for them are waiting for the signals from Washington to begin this work. Those signals should come quickly, and we recommend they include these specific steps:

Paul Hawken
Paul Hawken, environmentalist, entrepreneur, journalist, and best-selling author.
The single most important task at hand for the new administration is the economy. The most powerful tool to address deflation, joblessness, and negative GDP growth is energy-source distribution and efficiency. I believe we need to approach energy as a moon shot project, not an incremental change in efficiency and carbon content. The U.S. should commit $6 trillion to $8 trillion to retrofit the entire country in ten to fifteen years. This includes transport, the electrical grid, electric storage, biofuels, solar, solar thermal, geothermal, wind, and building retrofits for energy efficiency. This would be a massive amount of debt if seen traditionally, but it should be seen as investment.

While there would be inflationary pressures created by this vast change in infrastructure, it would create more jobs than any other program, be highly visible in all towns and communities, create a national sense of purpose, enhance security, raise morale, stimulate innovation and investment in research, and recreate the American economy.

I recognize that the administration is committed to all the above, except for the scale. It is critical to anticipate that the precipitous drop in oil prices from their historic high of $147 a barrel to under $40 is undermining, if not eliminating, investment in new oil production. When the economy recovers in 2010-11, there simply won't be sufficient supply, and we will revert quickly to overpriced oil. The commitment to this level of funding and timing will ameliorate oil prices to a certain degree. Without this, I am afraid we will be caught flat-footed again without the level of internal commitment that will allow us to become energy independent in a reasonable time. Over the suggested time frame, we are talking about an investment equal to approximately 3% of GDP. The return on the investment will be spectacular. It is time for the government to create a set of books like businesses, with capital investment separated from revenue and expenses. And it is time that America invests in itself.
Joseph Romm
Joseph Romm, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, where he runs the blog, climate progress.org. He is a former acting assistant secretary of energy.
Obama's top priority should be to stop the country from building any more traditional coal plants. The Environmental Protection Agency has the authority to do that today.

If we don't stop building new dirty coal plants, we can't meet the greenhouse gas targets needed to avoid catastrophic warming — targets Obama himself has embraced, including a 17 percent cut in total U.S. emissions by 2020, and then a further 80 percent cut by 2050. If developed countries can't show that sustainable growth is possible without coal, then developing countries will never shift away from it. Ultimately, coal with carbon capture and storage may prove practical and affordable, but that technology is at least a decade or two away.

Fortunately, with energy efficiency, wind power, solar photovoltaics, and concentrated solar thermal, plus other renewables, the country has more than enough cost-effective technologies to not only replace new coal, but to start shutting down existing plants. Obama should use the economic stimulus package and a major 2009 Energy Bill to launch a massive effort to vastly improve energy efficiency, create clean electricity, and develop smart grid technology. The next priority is aggressively jumpstarting the transition to plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. Electricity is the only alternative fuel that can provide an abundant domestic, low-carbon, alternative fuel with a per-mile fueling cost that is considerably cheaper than gasoline or diesel.

The third priority is a climate bill that sets a price on carbon. Such a price is crucial for stimulating the ingenuity of the marketplace. But such a bill won’t deal with existing coal plants or the transportation sector fast enough to meet urgent near-term emissions targets. Only smart regulations can do that, which is why they are a higher priority.
Frances Beinecke
Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council.
The economic crisis is clearly at the top of President-elect Obama's long list of pressing challenges. Fortunately, he seems to recognize that the path to economic stability leads right through clean energy investments — solutions that create jobs and curb global warming.

In the first 100 days, Obama should announce his commitment to passing a massive, clean energy stimulus plan that will include incentives for: retrofitting homes and offices to become more energy efficient, expanding public-transit infrastructure, making the nation's electric grid smarter and capable of managing renewable power, and retooling manufacturing plants to produce high-mileage cars and other efficient goods.

All of these measures, from installing new insulation to writing software for smart meters, will create millions of jobs right here in America.

Most importantly, we can make these investments in the nation's clean-energy infrastructure without increasing the federal budget deficit. Instead, we will generate clean energy capital by enacting clear limits on global warming pollution and requiring polluters to buy permits for each ton they release.

That's why it is critical for Obama to make a public commitment to support legislation that will cap carbon emissions — as he indicated recently. Scientists say that to prevent the worst impacts of global warming, we must cap and decrease emissions by 80 percent by 2050. Obama should let that science guide his climate efforts.

Obama can also use the executive branch's powers under existing laws to tackle climate change. For instance, he should allow California and other states to enforce their own standards for global warming pollution from cars, and use our energy laws to strengthen fuel economy and appliance efficiency standards.

The entire federal government has a critical role to play in unleashing these solutions, but it is the president who will set the tone. In his first 100 days, President-elect Obama has an opportunity to galvanize the nation by announcing bold measures that will channel America's ingenuity into solving the entwined economic, climate, and environmental crises.
Fred Krupp
Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund.
What should the top environmental priority for our next president be? One that goes hand-in-hand with efforts to rebuild our economy. When President-elect Barack Obama told a bipartisan group of governors in late November that the effort to create millions of jobs and restore American leadership on climate change will "start with a federal cap-and-trade system," he got it exactly right.

Obama's commitment turns two of our nation's greatest challenges — economic turmoil and unchecked global warming — into a singular opportunity. Dealing with them together makes perfect sense: A cap on greenhouse gas pollution will help solve climate change and reinvigorate U.S. manufacturing.

How? First, by creating vast new demand for low-carbon energy solutions. Behind every clean energy technology, from wind turbines and solar cells to carbon capture and advanced lighting, lies a parts-and-labor supply chain that runs through the heartland of U.S. manufacturing. Every wind turbine contains 8,000 parts, including bolts, copper wiring, ball bearings, concrete foundations, and steel towers. Cap-and-trade would instantly create new markets, new customers, and new jobs for the companies that make them.

At the same time, auctioning emissions allowances under cap-and-trade can potentially raise billions in new revenue that can be dedicated to investment in American infrastructure — in turn creating more jobs that cannot be outsourced, more solutions for combating climate change, and a firm foundation for a new energy economy.

Post-election polling conducted for the Environmental Defense Fund shows a majority of voters believe now is the time to address climate change by investing in clean energy and creating new jobs. Congress and the president-elect should work quickly to pass a cap-and-trade bill that builds our way out of the economic challenges we face, and makes America more efficient, more competitive, and more safe and secure. It is precisely the leadership the American people are looking to the next president and the new Congress to provide.
David W. Orr
David W. Orr, Paul Sears Distinguished Professor of Environmental Studies and Politics at Oberlin College.
The incoming Obama administration must grapple with the largest and most portentous policy debate we’ve ever had about the biggest issue ever on the human agenda — planetary destabilization brought about by our overwhelming dependence on fossil fuels. Unfortunately, climate destabilization will compete for attention and resources with the effort to solve the economic crisis.

The conventional wisdom with which we’re starting the debate on climate policy is seriously flawed in several ways. Politicians, pundits, and even most NGO advocates believe that climate change is a solvable problem, is mostly an economic issue and is far less important than economic growth, and is only one issue on a list of mostly unrelated problems.

The conventional wisdom is wrong on all counts. Since most mistakes occur early in the policy process, embedded in unexamined assumptions, it is crucial at the outset that the president-elect understand the nature of climate destabilization. No known technology can “solve” the climate problem in a time span meaningful for us. But we do have control over the eventual size of climate impacts now underway. Assuming that we are successful, say, by the year 2050, we will not have forestalled many of the changes, but we will have contained the scope, scale, and duration of the destabilization.

The chasm between the science on one side, and the slow, piecemeal politics of Washington on the other, calls for leadership far beyond ordinary expectations. Climate destabilization calls for rethinking governance and the practice of democracy on a scale and time-span commensurate with the changes we’re setting in motion. Policies that govern climate and energy are crucial to policies that affect the economy and national security. Obama must demonstrate leadership that helps the public understand fundamental connections, including those between what we drive and the weather we experience. He must help us calibrate hope with the hard realities ahead and initiate deeper transformations that would otherwise be dismissed as utopian, but that are now the only practical options left to us.

We are rapidly approaching climate thresholds that we must not cross. The president-elect must be prepared to act quickly and boldly, develop unified policies for energy, security, the economy, and social equity, and use the White House as a “bully pulpit” to build a constituency for the long haul.
Van Jones
Van Jones, founding president of the group, Green for All, and a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.
During the Great Depression, Franklin Roosevelt created the Civilian Conservation Corps to put people to work tackling the economic and environmental challenges of his day. The new administration must help create an economy that is based on building, not borrowing; on creativity, not credit and consumption. We need to establish a Clean Energy Corps to help us meet our modern challenges. This corps should be charged with retrofitting and re-powering America. It would have three components: The first would be fully funded green community service programs — for example, getting volunteers to plant trees and gardens. The second would be green job training programs; trainees would learn how to install solar panels, weatherize buildings, and do green construction. And lastly, green jobs; the federal government should invest heavily in renewable energy and energy retrofits for buildings. Much of this work would pay for itself in energy savings. Such an effort would jumpstart the economy.
William K. Reilly
William K. Reilly, administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 1989-1993, and founding partner of Aqua International Partners, a private equity fund that invests in water and renewable energy.
In the first year, the Obama administration should quickly put the nation's clean air laws and other appropriate authority to work to cut global warming pollution and help deliver dramatic reductions in oil use. The Clean Air Act is flexible and well suited to address global warming pollution from the transportation and electric generating sectors, which account for more than half of greenhouse gas emissions. Aggressive action by the president can both spur Congress to early action on a more comprehensive climate program and complement congressional action.

The following measures are important to jumpstart progress on solving our nation’s climate and energy crisis.

The current economic crisis will be raised as a reason to defer President-elect Obama's promises to address energy and climate challenges. However, carefully crafted actions on climate change, alternative energy, and new incentives for green technologies can put the country on a path to a future that better reconciles our environmental goals with our economic aspirations.
Paul R. and Anne H. Ehrlich
Paul R. and Anne H. Ehrlich, are in the Department of Biology and the Center for Conservation Biology at Stanford University, where he is Bing Professor of Population Studies and Professor of Biological Sciences and she is Senior Research Associate.
The monumental task before us, and the new president, is to solve the human predicament — the combined crises of overpopulation, wasteful consumption, deteriorating life-support systems, growing inequity, increasing hunger, toxification of the planet, declining resources, increasing resource wars, and a worsening epidemiological environment that increases the probability of unprecedented pandemics.

The new administration should embrace a population policy that strives to reduce birthrates in the U.S. and abroad, promotes access to legal abortion, and immediately lifts ideological restrictions imposed on government Web sites dealing with reproductive health. The administration should also promote programs to educate and open job opportunities for women and to provide effective contraception in poor countries.

Overall, the administration’s policies should adhere to a number of overarching principles: embrace zero population growth, emphasize conserving more than consuming, expand global educational opportunities, and initiate a Millennium Assessment of Human Behavior to begin a debate on what population size, consumption patterns, economic arrangements, and technologies will lead to a sustainable future.

We hope the new president is willing to dramatically change how the U.S. and the world work. We hope he will not employ conventional economists who will try to restore the same old growth machine that is destroying the world. We hope Obama will take steps to transform our energy economy so the nearly inevitable eventual war with China over fossil fuels can be avoided. Then there is the issue of curbing rich-world consumption. The U.S., with 4.5 percent of the global population, cannot continue to consume roughly a quarter of Earth’s resources; similar statements apply to the other rich nations.
Betsy Taylor
Betsy Taylor, founder and board president of 1Sky campaign to urge federal action on global warming.
President Obama must rally the nation to action but first he should announce a national day of prayer and reflection. The president can only prevail with a bottom-up outpouring of public support for transformational change. He must ask us to reclaim our best selves and a new ethos of public service, rather than greed, as the core of the American identity.

President Obama should help us visualize a promising future: a world without fossil fuel and with five million new green jobs, clean energy, and basic security for all. He should issue an “all hands on deck” call to action and focus overwhelmingly on programs and policies that simultaneously cut global warming emissions and foster economic opportunity. I recommend the following three policy initiatives on climate and energy:

Set a national goal for reducing greenhouse gases and engage all sectors in moving beyond rhetoric to action.

Urge Congress to enact comprehensive climate legislation that puts a price on carbon, compensates Americans for rising energy costs, and funds adaptation programs

Place an immediate moratorium on all new coal-fired power plants that emit global warming gases. If we don’t do this, we lose.
Bill Chameides
Bill Chameides, dean of the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University.
Let’s face it, when Obama takes office the environment will not be Priority Number 1. Getting America on a firm financial footing will. But addressing environmental needs can help stimulate economic growth. Here’s how the new president can address the underlying drivers of climate change while taking care of our flagging economy.

I believe that sinking federal subsidies into renewable energy (like solar and wind projects) is an ineffective way to spend our limited resources. Far more effective would be using federal dollars to (1) spur the wealthier private sector to invest in renewable energy and efficiency, and (2) build the infrastructure needed for large-scale, private deployment of renewable energy.

Infrastructure projects are critical for getting the economy going and addressing environmental needs. A top priority is redoing the nation’s electric grid. Today's system for moving electrons from power plants to homes and workplaces is outdated. The current grid maxes out, and can crash, when electricity coming from renewable sources makes up about 20 percent of its capacity. We need a "smart grid" that can integrate large amounts of intermittent energy from wind and solar while remaining stable and dependable.

Obama and the Congress must also invest in transportation. While rebuilding our aging roads and bridges, we must greatly expand mass transportation, which is fundamental to addressing energy security, congestion, air pollution, and climate change.

While we're talking transportation, don’t forget the Internet. What does the Net have to do with transportation? Plenty. More bandwidth makes telecommuting and teleconferencing more practical for more people, reducing consumption of imported oil. Finally, America needs a comprehensive climate policy, and the new administration should send Congress a climate bill during its first 100 days. But waiting for Congress would be a huge mistake. The failed Warner-Lieberman Climate Security Act showed that getting climate legislation passed will not be easy. President Obama should jumpstart the country’s climate policy by using the authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate carbon dioxide as an air pollutant.

There is every reason for optimism. After eight long years, we have a president and Congress committed to an ambitious climate and energy policy. President Obama has the mantel. Godspeed, he’ll need it.

POSTED ON 18 Dec 2008 IN Climate Policy & Politics Policy & Politics North America 


I'm struck that there is nothing directly said about planning as a tool for greening (although there may be hidden planning implications for such concepts as pedestrian and bike commuting), and little said about local and state-driven solutions. The latter is likely to garner the Republican support that the new President will sorely need to make effective changes.
Posted by Trevor Burrowes on 18 Dec 2008

The contributors to this piece are some of the most respected environmentalists in the United States. I have great regard for all of them. Hence, my regret that the loss of biodiversity and the current extinction crisis are not mentioned even once. While human climate disruption and our economic straits are clearly a priority, the ongoing loss of species across the planet - the Sixth Great Extinction - surely deserves a measure of our concern. I hope the President-elect will be so advised.
Posted by Tim Hogan on 18 Dec 2008

This is an impressive array of perspectives but they seem to be entirely "supply-sided" in nature and regulatory in spirit. The role of the private sector and household decision-making needs to be the driver for long-term change and engaged at the outset of any stimulous package.

Reducing demand by providing household-level credits for existing technologies (insulation, films, HVAC controls, replacement windows etc. - simple off the shelf things where immediate gains can be made and felt) would provide immediate GHG reductions that would allow everyone to participate more efficiently. Local contractors, DIY'ers and retailers would benefit and this would stimulate increased production for both current and new technologies and driving prices down.

There should also be more honest talk about ethanol realities and immediate reconsideration of the absurd import tarrifs on sustainable biofuels which have kept energy prices high.

Posted by Dave Gibson on 19 Dec 2008

If he was smart he would talk to people on both sides of the issue and form his own opinion. Not just the radical left.
Posted by Brent Dahl on 19 Dec 2008

Nobody here said anything about regulating the worst polluters on the planet: China and India, as well as the 3rd world.

The US could go as "green" as North Korea (live like cavemen) and the increasing pollution and greenhouse gasses from China, India and the 3rd world would quickly eclipse US reductions.

Obama pledged during the campaign to "necessarily skyrocket electric rates" and to "bankrupt" the coal industry. This is a prescription for national bankrupcy.

Replacing coal-generated electricity will take building 250 nuclear reactors, which would take decades; yet nuclear is shunned for emotional reasons by most environmentalists. Solar and wind won't generate even 10% of what's needed. The fact is there is no way to scrap or greatly reduce coal using current technology while pretending nuclear doesn't exist. None. Yet the coal industry is cleaning up coal plants.

Strict, expensive and mandatory limits, cap and trade, and other schemes will just force our remaining manufacturers to go to China where there is no cost to polluting at all--result will be HIGHER global emisions, not lower. WTO is the polluters dream.

By the way, 2008 is the COLDEST year this decade! Most climate change is caused by solar variations. Look at the medieval warm period, the Mini-Ice Age in the 1600's, the warm period in the 1930's/1940's. Greenland was mostly ice-free 1,000 years ago. Those were NOT caused by man or CO2, but by solar variations, as was the Ice Age. Man today contributes to warming, but most is solar; yet computer models pretend the sun is 100% constant, in the face of the facts.

Simply taxing everyone and bankrupting the economy will not solve the problem. Find real, practical, inexpensive answers and the world will beat a path to our door.
Posted by W.W. on 20 Dec 2008

Who on his cabinet is "radical left"? He's been
pretty conservative with his choices.
Posted by Ed Firmage on 20 Dec 2008

The Miller Center of Public Affairs recently had a Climate Change Conference. Everyone should check out the webcast from it.

Posted by Joe on 20 Dec 2008

Carol Browner, Socialist Internationalist Member, can ONLY be described as "radical Left."


Socialist International Link:

Posted by W.W. on 20 Dec 2008

I would like to invite Dave Gibson and W. W. to visit www.amass.us, read my blogs on http://push.pickensplan.com/profile/LarryMAden, and contact me, Larry M. Aden, to help guide developments in this area of political manipulation, as you both seem to have a firm grip on reality on these subjects.
Every nitwit and liberal loon on the planet seems to have a CO2 Derangement Syndrome that equals their Bush Derangement Syndrome.
CO2 is not a pollutant!
It is the natural, stable, non-toxic habilitator of all plant life, and thus, the primal source of all of the food energy and Oxygen that we animals need to survive on this biosphere!
As CO2 acts like a super-fertilizer to plants, this is a completely self-regulating process that has never in 200 Million years required the machinations of man to proceed unabated.
So, if our atmosphere is experiencing an imbalance of CO2, it is not because there is too much CO2; it is because there are too few plants! We need to increase plant production, and we need CO2 to feed them!
No plant cares whether the source of its CO2 is recent or ancient, renewable or fossil!
As usual, the leftists are working on the wrong side of the equation.
The problem is not in burning carbon; it is the burgeoning growth and urbanization of the human populace with the paving and desertification of fertile lands that this unsustainable trend has brought us.
Liberals have to decide whether they will come out of their cities, get their hands dirty, plant seeds, and harvest food in an infinite cycle of productive life, or would they rather wallow in their self-pity and hatred of their fellow man until the only remaining option is to kill or forcibly neuter those who would compete for the last crumbs of finite resources in a downward spiral of death and destruction.
Just as their Messiah, Al Gore, who doth protest too much, all of the tree-huggers and carrot-killers need to decide whether they will educate themselves and change their own ways, or will they continue in their ignorance until they have loved all Nature to death?
Posted by Larry M. Aden on 21 Dec 2008

"As usual, the leftists are working on the wrong side of the equation.
The problem is not in burning carbon; it is the burgeoning growth and urbanization of the human populace with the paving and desertification of fertile lands that this unsustainable trend has brought us.
Liberals have to decide whether they will come out of their cities, get their hands dirty, plant seeds, and harvest food in an infinite cycle of productive life, or would they rather wallow in their self-pity and hatred of their fellow man"

Not having needed science (academically speaking) to convince me (very long ago) that the western lifestyle was unsustainable and destructive, I must admit to holding considerable agreement with what's written above. I'm mystified that so few seem to understand that the root cause or solution for our problems lies in what occurs on land and not what’s up in the air.

Posted by Trevor Burrowes on 21 Dec 2008

"So, if our atmosphere is experiencing an imbalance of CO2, it is not because there is too much CO2; it is because there are too few plants! We need to increase plant production, and we need CO2 to feed them!"

I like this very refreshing outlook.

"Liberals have to decide whether they will come out of their cities...or would they rather wallow in their self-pity and hatred of their fellow man until the only remaining option is to kill or forcibly neuter those who would compete for the last crumbs of finite resources in a downward spiral of death and destruction."

But I don't see this as a liberals vs conservatives issue. Maybe a bit more like a like a left-brain vs right-brain one. Or more like the presence vs absence of common sense.

Posted by Trevor Burrowes on 21 Dec 2008

". . . more like the presence vs absence of common sense."

Bearing always in mind, of course, the old caveat about the uncommoness of common sense.
Posted by patrick johnson on 21 Dec 2008

Pick up a pick and shovel and join us in the hard work of chopping wood and carrying water.

the work has begun @ http://www.otoyk.com
find. share. act locally
Posted by Brewse on 22 Dec 2008

There is no debate that CO2 is natural, as is mercury, lead and arsenic. What is of concern is whether the current level of CO2 in the atmosphere is part of the world's natural fluctuations. At 385 parts per million, there is more CO2 in the atmosphere than there has been over the last 800,000 years. Soon, analysis of ice core samples will tell us if that is so for the last 1.5 million years. Evolutionary theory places humans on earth for approximately 400,000-450,000 years.

Reforestation can play an important role in mitigating humanity's impact; however, reforestation reabsorbs CO2 much slower than combustion (of cleared forests and fossil fuels) releases it. It will take an immense replanting effort to overcome the current rate of burning. For the long-term, reforestation is essential and should start immediately. For the short term though, it will not be sufficient on its own to counteract the increasing concentrations of CO2 humanity is releasing into the atmosphere.

Solar and volcanic activity do have significant impacts on the earth's temperature. However scientific models indicate that the solar and volcanic activity from 1950-2000 should have led to a cooling period on earth. That the earth rapidly warmed instead is an indicator that something else is having a profound effect.

2008 is projected to be the coldest year this decade; however, that should be compared with the long-term record: 2008 will also be the 10th hottest year on record. The coolness of this year was predicted due to La Nina and should not be considered a refutation of the fact that the trend has been a sharp rise in anthropogenic CO2 and a sharp rise in land, sea and air temperatures.

Posted by EverettRowdy on 23 Dec 2008

If these comments are from our "best and
brightest" we are in more trouble than we think.
Only one comment said we must end economic
growth, and one other said we need to reduce
energy demand. One said we need to end coal.
Betsy Taylor's comments were by far the most
comprehensive and sane and the only one
mentioning a CARBON TAX, which we
desperately need immediately. Only one
mentioned the biodiversity crisis. Most of the
others are still in that American dream world
(fast becoming a nightmare) of endless
renewable energy that will rescue us next year.
Face the facts, commentators: renewable energy
won't support the consumer society and demand
we are used to. You are naive in the extreme if
you think that renewable energy can sustain the
consumer growth society. You are being
deceptive in hiding the fact that sacrifices MUST
be made. The cliched 80% reduction in CO 2 by
2050 is ecocide without a doubt. If we don't
reduce energy consumption and greenhouse
gases by 80% in the coming decade, we are
toast. Stop painting the crisis with a Smiley Face
and rosy promises of jobs and a healthy
economy. Energy demand must be curbed by all
means necessary: regulation, rationing,
incentives and disincentives, and most of all by
PRICE via a carbon tax. Anyone who doesn't put
the reduction of energy use first and foremost is
whistling in the dark. Most of these comments
are just nonsense and need to be revealed as
such. Go back to your drawing boards and your
science books. Time is short and getting shorter.
Posted by Lorna Salzman on 26 Dec 2008

Of course we need to reduce 'waste' which includes the 200hp engines of cars. Admittedly, mfg 'life-long products' can save resources (re. stone axes), but the most likely option is to get people to save on cars. Hence,

P. R.
Here is the clue to getting rid of wasteful lifestyles. The system could supplement cars, replace them, or be another kind of railroad (but MUCH better).
Amcars use renewable energy (about 20hp), travel anywhere, and can be faster than plane travel. Try the idea at :

* The ideas in the story are factual, with a prologue explaining them, and a bibliography covering some of the work done in the field. It offers a major solution to the most polluting problem in the world – the traffic system.

* As a long-time activist with an MS degree in Environmental Engineering, the author worked in the Aircraft Industry, the EPA, as an Engineering magazine editor and as a Consultant. Had short stories and articles published in local publications, and has spent years noting the problems associated with cars, greenhouse effects and pollution world-wide. The manuscript published as The Power Play to end the car offers a mostly fictional, yet practical, solution to the most notable of those problems.

Or as a printed book through : bbbuntingauthor@yahoo.com

Posted by B B Bunting on 29 Dec 2008

In an oped published in today’s Washington Post, Vikki Spruill put forward the key steps President-elect Barack Obama can make to begin building his blue legacy. Spruill, president and CEO of Ocean Conservancy, makes the case that at 71% of the earth’s surface and creating much of the air we breathe and food we eat, the oceans need and deserve strong protection. The proposed steps include:

Make oceans a priority when discussing climate change. The real impacts of climate change can be seen today in the world’s oceans from bleaching coral to rising seas. When decisions are to be made on fighting climate change, the oceans must be taken into consideration.
Focus on the Arctic. The most severe impacts of climate change can be seen in the Arctic. Melting sea ice and costal communities and villages falling into the sea are just a few examples. Oil and gas leases that have been marked for sale should be put on hold until a thorough scientific assessment of their impacts can be completed.
Bring Order to the Ocean. From major shipping lanes to fishing waters and recreational use, the ocean has any number of uses. A comprehensive plan for sustainable ocean use will ensure that we can use the ocean while preserving it for future generations.

The piece appears on page A13 of today’s Washington Post and can be viewed here:


Posted by OceanAdvocates on 06 Jan 2009

President-elect Obama should remove all federal subsidies for "fossil fuels" and atomic fission. He should explain his actions by telling the American people that oil, coal and gas are ancient geologic materials (ie. not truly energy resources) and were subsidized heavily in the 20th century but should no longer be in the 21st century. Then develop a tax shift from labor to carbon and remove insurance indemnification for fission (so we don't create the folly of moving from the frying pan into the fire).
Posted by Jim Newberry on 07 Jan 2009

Very good introspects for the future. My preference is to have the US lead by example. Conservation and sustainability should be the cornerstone of this movement. Complete revisions of gov't policies need to be the catalyst including the obvious Depts. of Energy, Ag., and Interior but also Depts. of Education, Transportation, Health, and even Commerce and Defense.

This can be done. We have to start somewhere with everyone working toward the bigger picture.
Posted by Gerry Snyder on 07 Jan 2009

The scare of Global Warming was started under the guidance of V.P. Gore and President Clinton when they were aspiring candidates and it resulted in bringing them millions of dollars as the senate did not allow any drilling thus permitting Cartel to demand any rate for their product. Both of these individuals are still taking money from the oil tycoons of these countries declaring that it is the money being earned by their speeches (delivered to the people who do not speak or understand English) in the countries which hate us immensely.
It is very unfortunate that EPA, which has become the guardian of the planet earth’s atmosphere by the action of some judges of the court who never took any course in biology. Well, let me remind you that the radicals in EPA are those personnel who were dodging draft by continuing graduate studies in the universities all over USA and this entity was created by the then President Nixon to find jobs for these graduates. Some of my friends at that time when rejected by the major corporations swore to get even when with them when they got the position with the new agency of Federal Government. I sincerely hope that they are not still on the track of vengeance. I hope that some of these writers from Yale do not belong to the same group of graduates.
The scare spread by EPA is based on wrong assumptions. The carbon dioxide is the most wonderful gas needed by plants to manufacture food and energy for all living organisms in the planet including all categories of animals and plants from the lowest to the advanced form. No person on this planet would be able to survive if there was no CO2 and there was no photosynthesis. The readings of the CO2 which are being quoted are taken in Hawaii, on top of the mountain and there is a lava flow and expulsion of all kind of gases nearby. Please read my articles on the subject at www.aaetonline.org. (The page may be temporarily down as it being updated)

Posted by Mahmood Anwar on 14 Jan 2009

Of all the contributors of these ideas, only Paul and Anne Erlich recognized that slowing consumption by stabilizing or reducing population growth is fundamental to reducing carbon emissions over the long term. One appreciates the enthusiasm of several here that have set tough goals for reducing emissions by 20 or 25 percent by 2020 or 80 percent by 2050. But population growth is moving those goal posts as we speak. The additional 125 million Americans now expected by 2050 will make it excruciatingly difficult to hold emissions to their present level, even with severe reductions of current per capita carbon output.

Hail to the Ehrlichs for the call for an Obama-led Millenium Assessment -- a great "national debate on "what population size, consumption patterns, economic arrangements, and technologies will lead to a sustainable society."
Posted by David Simcox on 20 Jan 2009

Sorry to disappoint you all with this one:


Epic fail for the green agenda.
Posted by DCRepublican on 24 Jan 2009

Comments have been closed on this feature.



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