Archive for the ‘Global Warming’ Category

texas tribune symposium on waterOn Tuesday, March 10, the Texas Tribune will host a one-day symposium on water in partnership with Texas State University.




Panel topics will include:

  • Life After Proposition 6
  • The Battle Over Groundwater
  • How Much More Can We Conserve?
  • Why Water Along the Border is Undrinkable

And at lunchtime, Tribune CEO and Editor-in-Chief Evan Smith will sit down with Brian McCall, chancellor of the Texas State University System, for a special conversation.

Register Now

Tuesday, March 10, 2015
8 a.m. – 2:45 p.m.

See the full program for panel details.

Texas State University
J.C. Kellam Administration Building
Reed Parr Room (11th Floor)
601 University Drive, San Marcos, TX 78666

This event is free and open to the public, but please register at trib.it/WaterSymposiumInvite so they can save you a seat. Hourly paid parking will be available in the Edward Gary Street Garage.

Can’t make it in person? Tune in to the livestream, and join the dialogue on Twitter with #TTEvents.

Have colleagues or friends who are interested in water issues? Please forward this invitation to them! All are welcome.

This event is generously sponsored by Texas State University, Texas A&M University, the Meadows Center for Water and Environment, SouthWest Water Company, the Texas Farm Bureau and the Meadows Foundation. Tribune events are also supported through contributions from their founding investors and members.

Disclosure: Though donors and corporate sponsors underwrite their events, they play no role in determining the content, panelists or line of questioning.

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Climate Skeptic Industry Shill, Wei-Hock 'Willie' Soon

Climate change skeptic, Wei-Hock “Willie” Soon, revealed as an industry shill.

A climate change denying scientist working for the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics has been accused of taking money from the fossil fuel industry and subsequently publishing research without disclosing his funding sources and potential conflicts of interest. According to documents obtained by Greenpeace through the Freedom of Information Act, Wei-Hock “Willie” Soon received $1.25 million from the Koch brothers, Exxon Mobil, the American Petroleum Institute (API), and Southern Company.

Around the issue of climate change, there is a 97% consensus amongst climate scientists and the research literature that humans are responsible for global warming, mainly through the emission of greenhouse gasses. Soon’s “research” leads him to claim that climate change is caused by the sun [An idea that U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change dismissed in its 2013 report]. Being a climate skeptic, Soon has become very popular in certain political circles. He was praised by Senator James Inhofe, the Republican from Oklahoma who called climate change a hoax. Soon was also called by Republicans in the Kansas state legislature to testify against measures to promote wind and solar power. The Heartland Institute even gave him the “Courage in Defense of Science Award” for his work.

The Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics released a statement saying that Soon is “a part-time researcher at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory,” and they are “greatly concerned about the allegations surrounding Dr. Willie Soon’s failure to disclose funding sources for his climate change research.” The institute also added: “Scientific evidence has demonstrated that the global climate is warming as a result of increasing levels of atmospheric greenhouse gases generated by human activities.”

Of the 58 “experts” listed by the Heartland Institute as heroic deniers of climate change, The Daily Beast found that only three out of the 58 have credentials in climatology or atmospheric science. One of these three certified scientists, Patrick Michaels, has already admitted that 40 percent of his funding is from the fossil fuel lobby. Over time, we can expect that more climate change skeptics and “truthers” will be exposed as paid mouthpieces for fossil fuels.

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China's worsening air pollution has exacted a significant economic toll, grounding flights, closing highways and keeping tourists at home. Photograph from STR/AFP/Getty Images

China’s worsening air pollution has exacted a significant economic toll, grounding flights, closing highways and keeping tourists at home. Photograph from STR/AFP/Getty Images

Back in November 2014, America and China joined hands to fight global climate change, including a plan to decrease China’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. Although there has been a lot of doubt about their plan, China has shown results. According to the China Coal Industry Association, China’s coal production decreased by 2.5% last year, marking the first reduction that the country has seen in years.

As the world’s primary emitter of greenhouse gases, the Republic of China’s decision to create new environmental policies allows China to be a global example in leading the way to reduce CO2 emissions. The global negotiations are also receiving praise because of their economic benefits. The solar power market has seen increases since November, further strengthening industrial market growth and enhancing public health.

However, a recent measure of Beijing’s Air Quality Index brings concerns about the toxic air the Chinese are breathing. Despite the country’s efforts to fight pollution, the consequences of being the world’s number one consumer of coal has caused Beijing to experience another airpocalypse just a few weeks ago. The city reached smog-levels that were, literally, off the charts.

A recent Greenpeace study stated that most cities in China are “failing to meet China’s own national standards”, regardless of the country’s initiatives to combat pollution. Additionally, a Peking University and Greenpeace study shows that more than 200 thousand Chinese could die from pollution-related diseases if there is no further caution taken by the Chinese government. The recent “airpocalypse” further raised the concerns of the Chinese government, who are more driven to push the country to continue its initiatives to combat climate change.

The city’s Air Quality Index of over 600 and new Greenpeace studies should stand to be an example to the rest of the world. The high levels of coal consumption, power plants, and fracking that China has experienced in less than a decade has proved to be dangerous. Although the country is taking action now, the effects evidently will linger for a long time. As the United States continues its high consumption of coal, building of power plants, and fracking, it is important to look at China as an example and as a reminder that we need to start taking action before it is too late.

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Obama Reject Keystone XLThe Keystone XL pipeline would result in the release of 1.3 billion tons of climate destabilizing pollution over its expected lifespan — and that’s even before the oil gets burned overseas.

This information presented in the State Department’s final review of Keystone contributes to the overwhelming evidence against approving the tar sands pipeline.

In fact, President Obama has more than enough information to determine that the Keystone pipeline is not in our national interest.

Tell President Obama to reject the Keystone XL pipeline once and for all.

1.3 billion tons of carbon emissions.

That’s the equivalent of putting another 120,000 cars on our roads — every year, for 50 years.

We simply cannot afford to spew that much more climate-disrupting pollution into our atmosphere.

Any day, the president could make a decision on whether to allow this disastrous project to go forward.

That’s why we must keep the pressure on: Sign our petition to President Obama urging him to declare that the Keystone XL pipeline is not in our national interest.

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For over six years, the Keystone XL pipeline has been under a long controversial discussion due to its numerous environmental concerns, including jeopardizing clean water along the pipeline all the way from Canada to Texas. Recently, the Environmental Protection Agency has raised even further environmental concerns due to the possible increase of greenhouse gas emissions if the pipeline is built. Plunging oil prices make the alternative of transporting the tar sands oil by rail uneconomical. Building the pipeline would offer a cheaper method of transport and would therefor increase greenhouse gas emissions.

Alberta tar sands operation in 2008 - Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Alberta tar sands operation in 2008. Photo from Wikimedia Commons

EPA Assistant Administrator Cynthia Giles’ letter calls for both the Department of State and President Obama’s attention to the EPA’s review of the proposed $7 billion pipeline. Tar sands have significantly greater total greenhouse gas emissions than other crude oils. The emissions equate to 1.3 to 27.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year, which is “equivalent to the annual greenhouse gas emissions from 5.7 passenger vehicles or 7.8 coal fired power plants,” according to Giles. “Over a 50-year lifetime of the pipeline, this could translate into releasing as much as 1.37 billion more tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.”

President Obama has continuously promised citizens that the pipeline’s entire potential climate hazards would be considered during his decision-making for Keystone, further supported in his speech back in 2013 regarding climate change.

Despite Obama’s inferred veto, there is still continued support for the Keystone pipeline. Companies like TransCanada, the energy company trying to build the international pipeline, claims that the drop in global oil prices will soon pass and that there has been a decrease in Canada’s gas emissions, but the company’s other claims, particularly about job creation have proved false.

Despite concerns about the project, the Senate has approved the Keystone Bill to start building the pipeline, further dividing the chamber and highlighting the Senators’ different stances on climate and environmental issues. The Obama administration is currently evaluating the nation’s comments along with the EPA’s review. Because Keystone crosses international borders, President Obama holds the ultimate right to either approve or reject the proposal.

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Film screening of Pay 2 Play: Democracy’s High Stakes.

This documentary follows filmmaker John Ennis’ quest to find a way out from under the Pay 2 Play System, where Politicians reward their donors with even larger sums from the public treasury — through contracts, tax cuts, and deregulation.  Along the way, he journeys through high drama on the Ohio campaign trail, uncovers the secret history of the game Monopoly, and explores the underworld of L.A. street art on a humorous odyssey that reveals how much of a difference one person can make.   This entertaining film is a layman’s guidebook to taking back our democracy.

Date: Wednesday, January 21

Time: beginning at 6:30 PM

Where:  Alamo Drafthouse in the Village Shopping Center at 2700 W. Anderson Lane

6:30-7:00 meet and greet and order dinner
7:00-8:30 show film
8:30-9:30 panel and audience discussion

Panelists Include:
Tom “Smitty” Smith, Public Citizen Texas;
Craig McDonald, Texans for Public Justice;
Sara Smith, TexPIRG;
Todd Jagger, Wolf-PAC; and
Caroline Homer, Move To Amend

Buy Tickets ($10.25)

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Coalition for Sensible SafeguardsThe Coalition for Sensible Safeguards strongly opposes the Regulatory Accountability Act (RAA), which the House passed on Tuesday. They are urging members of Congress to oppose it and The White House  has issued a veto threat for the Bill . This innocuous-sounding bill is designed to undermine our nation’s environmental, public health, workplace safety and consumer financial security protections – not improve them.

The RAA would rewrite dozens of laws, including the Clean Air Act, the Consumer Product Safety Act and the Food Safety Modernization Act by requiring federal agencies to put corporate profits ahead of the health and safety of American workers and families. Agencies would have to produce highly speculative estimates of all the indirect costs and benefits of proposed rules and do the same for any potential alternatives. What counts and does not count as an indirect cost or a potential alternative? The bill leaves that up to the imagination of industry.

In addition, the RAA would hamstring the work of agencies like the Securities and Exchange Commission, the National Labor Relations Board, the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The bill would subject their work to review by the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, which is infamous for delaying, diluting and blocking important new safeguards. Federal agencies already take years to issue health and safety standards. The dozens of cumbersome requirements added by this bill would make that process even longer.

Any high-stakes rule that miraculously made it through these roadblocks would face unprecedented challenges. The RAA would allow industry lobbyists to second-guess the work of respected scientists through legal challenges, sparking a wave of litigation that would add even more costs and delays to the rulemaking process – while putting the lives, health and safety of millions of Americans at risk.

The costs of blocking crucial standards and safeguards are clear: The Wall Street economic collapse, the Upper Big Branch mine explosion in West Virginia, the West Fertilizer Company explosion in West, TX, countless food and product safety recalls and massive environmental disasters including the Dan River coal ash spill in North Carolina and the Freedom Industries chemical spill in West Virginia are just some of the most recent examples.

It’s no wonder polling shows that Americans want better enforcement of our nation’s rules and standards. Congress should listen to the public and stop trying to sabotage the safeguards that protect us all.

To learn more about the potential effects of the bill, see the Coalition for Sensible Safeguards’ 2011 report: Impacts of the Regulatory Accountability Act. The latest version of the bill has been partially revised, but the problems at the heart of the bill remain.

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According to NOAA and NASA, 2014 was the warmest year on record.  A new report names 2014 as the warmest year since records were first kept in 1880.

Across all land and ocean surfaces, the average temperature was up 1.24 degrees Fahrenheit over the 20th century average, according to numbers released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). That caused 2014 to pass the previous record-holders: 2005 and 2010. The warmest December since 1880 helped push 2014 into record territory. The same conclusion was reached by NASA, who also called 2014 the warmest year on record in a separate analysis released on Friday.

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Be a Public CitizenAs the start of the 84th Texas Legislative Session approaches, we’re looking to add a couple more passionate advocates to our team.  As usual, we’ll be working primarily on energy, environmental and ethics issues.  If you want a good learning experience with an opportunity to make a difference, read on.

Environmental/Energy Research/Social Media/Administrative Assistant

Public Citizen’s Texas office seeks an organized and motivated person to provide research, social media and light administrative assistance to a former Texas State Representative that will be volunteering with us for the Legislative session.

Duties will include assisting a former state representative with social media (Facebook and Twitter), Capitol office visits, research, and some light administrative work – mostly helping to keep things organized. This will include research on radioactive waste and fracking, but could include other topics as well. The assistant will help develop factsheets and blog posts based on this research. The assistant will be asked to track bills as they are filed and move through the legislative process and to help distribute materials to state legislative offices.

Qualifications: Ability to commit to 25+ hr/week through June 1; Professional business attire required most days; Desire to make a difference; Great writing and communication skills; Ability to use computer programs, such as Word, Excel, and Power Point; Ability to stay organized; Ability to work with a team; Self-motivation; Desire to learn is a must; Background in energy, environmental issues, politics, economics, or public policy is helpful, but not required

To Apply: Send a cover letter detailing why you want to work with Public Citizen, your resume, and a writing sample to Kaiba White at [email protected]

Environmental/Energy Policy and Advocacy Internship

Interns work with the Texas Legislature, the media, and other public interest groups to change laws and educate the public on environmental issues, especially those relating to energy use.

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A study by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication on the public perceptions of climate change indicates that the majority of citizens grossly misunderstand the repercussions of climate change and its effects on health. The report shows analysis of results from a national survey conducted in October of 2014 and indicates that most US citizens have given little or no thought to the potential health effects of climate change.

Few Americans are aware of any current health consequences of global warming. When asked ‘In your view, what health problems related to global warming are Americans experiencing, if any?’ a majority either didn’t answer the question (43%) – which likely indicates they didn’t have an answer – or answered that they ‘don’t know’ (14%).  Only one in four (27%) named at least one health problem related to global warming, and 10% answered, incorrectly, that there are no health problems associated with global warming.

The health effects of climate change are very prevalent and encompass a wide range of issues. According to the World Health Organization climate change affects both social and environmental determinants of health, including clean air, safe drinking water, sufficient food and secure shelter. The WHO predicts that:

Between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to cause approximately 250 000 additional deaths per year, from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency also states that weather and climate change play a significant role in people’s health. Warmer temperatures lead to heat waves which lead to most heat-related deaths and play a part in spreading diseases and increasing water and air pollutants. Increased frequency in extreme weather poses immediate and severe threats to people in dangerous areas. The consequences can be life-changing and efforts towards solving the issue are dependent on various factors.

The impacts of climate change on health will depend on many factors. These factors include the effectiveness of a community’s public health and safety systems to address or prepare for the risk and the behavior, age, gender, and economic status of individuals affected. Impacts will likely vary by region, the sensitivity of populations, the extent and length of exposure to climate change impacts, and society’s ability to adapt to change.

A variety of factors can increase the vulnerability of a specific demographic group to health effects due to climate change. Graphic from from US National Climate Assessment

A variety of factors can increase the vulnerability of a specific demographic group to health effects due to climate change.
Graphic from from US National Climate Assessment


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(Reuters) – Children whose mothers were exposed to high levels of fine particulate pollution in late pregnancy have up to twice the risk of developing autism as children of mothers breathing cleaner air, scientists at Harvard School of Public Health reported on Thursday.

The greater the exposure to fine particulates emitted by fires, vehicles, and industrial smokestacks the greater the risk, found the study, published online in Environmental Health Perspectives.

Earlier research also found an autism-pollution connection, including a 2010 study that found the risk of autism doubled if a mother, during her third trimester, lived near a freeway, a proxy for exposure to particulates. But this is the first to examine the link across the United States, and “provides additional support” to a possible link, said Heather Volk of the University of Southern California Children’s Hospital, who led earlier studies.

U.S. diagnoses of autism soared to one in 68 children in 2010 (the most recent data) from one in 150 in 2000, government scientists reported in March. Experts are divided on how much of the increase reflects greater awareness and how much truly greater incidence.

Although the disorder has a strong genetic basis, the increasing incidence has spurred scientists to investigate environmental causes, too, since genes do not change quickly enough to explain the rise.

The Harvard study included children of the 116,430 women in the Nurses’ Health Study II, which began in 1989. The researchers collected data on where the women lived while pregnant and levels of particulate pollution. They then compared the prenatal histories of 245 children with autism spectrum disorder to 1,522 normally-developing children, all born from 1990 to 2002.

There was no association between autism and fine particulate pollution before or early in pregnancy, or after the child was born. But high levels of exposure during the third trimester doubled the risk of autism.

Evidence that a mother-to-be’s exposure to air pollution affects her child’s risk of autism “is becoming quite strong,” said Harvard epidemiologist Marc Weisskopf, who led the study, suggesting a way to reduce the risk.

It is not clear how tiny particles might cause autism, but they are covered with myriad contaminants and penetrate cells, which can disrupt brain development.

Last year the Environmental Protection Agency, citing the link to asthma, lung cancer and cardiovascular disease, tightened air quality standards for fine particulate pollution. States have until 2020 to meet the new standards.
(Reporting by Sharon Begley; editing by Andrew Hay)

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As you close out 2014, consider joining or making a gift to Public Citizen’s work in Texas and support our efforts to move into a sustainable green building – click here.

Thank you and we wish you a safe and happy holiday.

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As climate talks in Lima enters its final day there are still long-running issues dividing the parties. Earlier in the week it seemed that the diplomats from 196 countries were closing in on the framework of a potentially historic deal that would for the first time commit every nation in the world to cutting its planet-warming fossil fuel emissions, albeit – still not be enough to stop the early impacts of global warming.

The draft that was circulating among negotiators on Tuesday represented a fundamental breakthrough in the impasse that has plagued the United Nations for two decades as it has tried to forge a new treaty to counter global warming. The key to breaking through the impasse was that the draft did not bind nations to a single, global benchmark for emissions reductions.

Under the terms of the draft, every country would publicly commit to enacting its own plans to reduce emissions — with governments choosing their own targets, guided by their domestic politics, rather than by the amounts that scientists say are necessary.

The plan is to reach a global deal to be signed by world leaders in Paris next year, incorporating 196 separate emissions pledges.

Until recently, the United States and China, the world’s two largest greenhouse gas polluters, have been at the center of the impasse over a climate deal.

But in November, President Obama and President Xi Jinping of China announced plans to reduce emissions, helping inject new life into the global climate talks.

Perhaps tomorrow, we will know how impactful the US and China’s new commitment to emission reduction are in these talks.

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Join Public Citizen and other Environmental groups working in Austin for the 7th Annual Austin Green Holiday Party on December 3rd, a great running tradition for “green” networking in Austin.

Barr Mansion & the Shades of Green Radio Show Present
Seventh Annual Austin “Green” Holiday Party

 Holiday party logo Co-Hosted by:

  • Austin EcoNetwork
  • USGB, Central Texas-Balcones Chapter
  • Solar Austin
  • Austin Zero Waste Alliance
  • SEED Coalition
  • Texas Campaign for the Environment
  • Texas Solar Energy Society
  • Chicas Verdes
  • Climate Buddies
  • Green Sanctuary Ministry
  • Public Citizen


Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014  6pm-10pm

Hosted by Barr Mansion
10463 Sprinkle Rd., Austin, TX 78754 (www.barrmansion.com)

Music by reggae artists Don Chani

Beverages generously provided by Blackstar Coop and Maine Root Sodas.

$30 Advance Tickets – Online Registration HERE
(Tickets include live music, all food and beverages. We will email you for your names and meal choices along with your registration confirmation.)

Join us for the Austin green mixer of the year, co-hosted by 11 area organizations, the Barr Mansion and Shades of Green, Austin’s live green talk radio show.  For seven years running, Austin environmentalists have come together for holiday cheer at our Austin Green Holiday Party, a great annual opportunity for “cross-pollination” in the eco-community.

Enjoy a sit-down, family style, “Farm to Plate” dinner at the beautiful Barr Mansion, the nation’s first organic certified events facility, for an evening of great music, food, drink and mingling with leadership, members and friends of a wide variety of environmental and green building focused organizations.

The Menu- Choose from 2 meal options (we will email you for your names and meal choices along with your registration confirmation):

Entree Option #1 (Vegetarian)

  • Vegan Vegetable Stacks with Cashew Hummus

Entree Option #2

  • Wine Braised Chicken with Olives, Apricots and Almonds-with-
    • Milk Punch Cocktails, Beer & Wine
    • Mt. Tam Triple-Cream and Spicy Pickled Veggie Sourdough Crostini
    • Artisan Wood-Fired Oven Breads
    • Black-eyed Peas, Mushrooms and Arugula with Honey Pistachio Vinaigrette
    • Braised Winter Greens topped with Egg
    • Smashed Sweet Potato Crowns
    • House-Made Christmas Candy

After dinner, enjoy music by Don Chani, whose music stays true to the bass-heavy, harmony laden roots reggae sound, while also incorporating rocksteady, ska, cumbia and dancehall.

We look forward to seeing you for a great evening of dancing, food, drink and socializing to kick off everyone’s 2014 holidays!

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Earlier today Senators supporting the Keystone XL pipeline on Tuesday came up one vote short of securing approval for the controversial project.

Fourteen Democrats joined all 45 Republican senators in voting for the pipeline, which needed 60 votes to pass. The finally tally was 59-41.

The House passed their version of the bill on Friday, 252-161-1, with 31 Democrats joining Republicans to pass it.

The Obama administration has said that it wants to wait for a full State Department review of the project’s effects – and it has been skeptical that the project would create the long-term job gains touted by the pipeline’s backers.  in fact, during an interview November 16, 2014 on ABC’s “ThisWeek”, Russ Girling, current CEO of TransCanada, the company behind the Keystone XL Pipeline, conceded a claim by Reuters last year that, once constructed, the Keystone XL would produce as few as “FIFTY permanent jobs” which seems to have played out in the construction of the Southern leg of the pipeline from Cushing, OK to the the Texas Gulf Coast.

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