“Vatican Announces Major Summit On Climate Change” – ThinkProgress, 16 April 2015

Pope Francis has made climate change one of the cornerstones of his papacy, recently hosting a climate change summit at the Vatican, which he hopes will bridge the gap between climate change and religion.

The conference, called “Protect the Earth, Dignify Humanity. The Moral Dimensions of Climate Change and Sustainable Development,” was held on April 28 and featured prominent leaders, like the Director of the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network, Jeffrey Sachs, and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who gave the opening speech.

Pope Francis hopes that his followers — and followers of other religions — will see the connection between their faith, environmental conservation, and the future of people. The pope’s upcoming encyclical, to be published in either June or July, will focus on the environment.

During Francis’ inauguration in 2013, he gave a moving speech that fixated on climate change, even calling abuse of the environment a sin. The following year, in 2014, he hosted a five-day conference that targeted sustainability, which brought microbiologists, economists, legal scholars, and various scientific experts to the Vatican to discuss our worsening climate.

April’s summit at the Vatican also hit close to home for Americans. As we all know, many conservatives and members of the GOP have rejected the concept of climate change and have found fault with Francis for being pro-green. Francis is slated to talk to Congress this coming September, and it’s certainly likely that he’ll bring up environmental conservation.

According to the Center for American Progress Action Fund, 56 percent, or 169 members, of our current Congress are skeptical of the science backing climate change. Moreover, thirty-five of those 169 members recognize themselves as Catholic. It will be compelling to see if these Congress members’ faith — and the pope’s influence — can sway any of the Congressmen and women.

However, in the final analysis, it is not religion but economic — supply, demand, availability, and prices — environmental, and societal pressures, and technology issues, such as cost and effectiveness, that will determine the final outcome. Having said that, Vatican’s proactive approach will sway public opinion, which could be very significant.

(From ThinkProgress)

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

April 17, 2015

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“Keystone pipeline: Obama’s unpleasant options” – Politico, 31 January 2014

It is still unknown whether Obama will approve the Keystone XL pipeline, but after the State Department’s January report on Keystone XL, it is safe to say that Obama will eventually authorize it. It is also safe to say that Obama’s choice will anger his liberal base—the pipeline involves an oil extraction process that expends more greenhouse gas emissions than any other means of production. Moreover, there is a big chance that the pipeline could break.

But advocation efforts by pipeline builder TransCanada—backed by the American Petroleum Institute—and conservatives are relentless, the former promoting the jobs the pipeline will creates, and the latter blaming Obama for US unemployment rates and high gas prices. There is no promise that the pipeline would help with either issue, or that these groups’ lobbying efforts are doing anything to sway Obama.

It’s easy to see why Obama is taking his time. If he outright rejects the proposal, he could face major backlash from the GOP for the remainder of his term. In order to take that extra anti-Obama talking point out of the conservatives’ arsenal, and to dodge any kind of disagreement with Canada, some moderate Senate Democrats are voicing their approval of the pipeline. This might not be a redeeming factor for Obama—the Senate Democrats’ approval or his own—when it comes to the GOP’s views on his energy and climate policies, namely the Climate Action Plan.

Ultimately, the choice is up to Obama; the Keystone Pipeline falls under Obama’s purview, as an executive order. While he gave a nod to natural gas and climate-altering policies during his SOTU speech, Obama didn’t comment on the pipeline. Stalling a decision has proved to be in Obama’s favor—the constant bickering between the GOP and environmentalists will allow the administration to follow up on other climate policy plans without the watchful eye of the public.

A little wait may be good, but we should not prolong the decision. All the major elements of this project—cost, jobs, environmental and strategic—are sensitive issues. It is time to approve the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline to bring the world’s third largest oil supply to US from friendly NAFTA country Canada, with whom we share the globe’s largest land border. Let us stop sending petrodollars to Middle East and Venezuela, but rather share the wealth within our own continent.

See also:
Pipeline Fight Lifts Environmental Movement

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

February 18, 2014

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“Americans Back Greenhouse Gas Cuts from Power Plants” – USA Today, 13 November 2013

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USA Today

Gone are the days of pretending that climate change isn’t real: according to a recent poll taken by Stanford University, an overwhelming amount of Americans think global warming is a real and serious threat to our world. The concentration of those concerned by global warming were marginally higher in coastal areas — with growing sea levels — and areas plagued by drought.

Stanford’s poll reported that 75% of American adults believe that global warming has been continually occurring, while 84% or more of those living in drought-stricken states (Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas) or states susceptible to rising tides (Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island) also believe in global warming.

Though many in Congress postulate that global warming and climate change haven’t been happening, US adults don’t agree. A majority do agree, however, that environmental warming is mainly due to human activities (ranging from 65% in Utah to 92% in Rhode Island) and that the government is right to place limits on power plants’ greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (ranging from 62% in Utah to 90% in New Hampshire). Surprisingly, polls from the major coal-producing states of Kentucky and West Virginia were high as well: 78% for Kentucky and 85% for West Virginia.

A national Pew poll from October found that there is a rift in the Republican party: only 25% of Tea Party Republicans believe there’s evidential support of global warming, while 61% of other Republicans agree. The Pew poll also reported that 67% of Americans believe in the effects of global warming.

People who do not believe in manmade global warming are obviously living in an “Echo Chamber” — i.e. they are moved only by ideological belief (similar to the pre-Copernicus thinking that the “sun goes around earth”), and not persuaded by scientific data-driven facts.

Among the most popular questions on Stanford’s poll were whether more efforts should be made to increase energy efficiency for cars, appliances and buildings; and if there should be tax incentives to generate renewable energy, and curb air pollution from coal.

Last week, the House Subcommittee on Energy and Power introduced legislation that could obstruct Obama’s sweeping climate policy reforms to restrict new power plants’ carbon emissions. If all goes well for Obama, then next year his policy will be enacted by the EPA, which will also introduce new restrictions for existing power plants.

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

November 14, 2013

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