Rediscovering the Lesson of the Inchcape Rock

By: Larry J. Schweiger

In the 18th century, English poet Robert Southey wrote about a 14th century holy Abbot of Aberbrothok who mounted a bell on a treacherous sandstone reef eleven miles off the east coast of Scotland to warn mariners during severe weather. As the story goes, a notorious pirate Ralph the Rover vandalized the bell and dropped it into the sea on his way to plunder other vessels. Having been gone for a time and on his journey back to Scotland with a ship laden with booty, Ralph the Rover encountered a severe storm and without warning, struck the reef and sank his vessel. Southey writes of the Rover’s final moments as the ship sank:

“But even in his dying fear,

One dreadful sound could the Rover hear;

A sound as if with the Inchcape Bell,

The Devil below was ringing his knell.”

For many generations, “The Inchcape Rock” was taught as a cautionary tale to dissuade those who might seek to destroy warning bells.

The poem and the moral justice of the story have long been forgotten as the incoming Trump Administration and the Republican-led Congress are moving to destroy the warning bells of climate disruption by ending NASA climate research efforts. Trump advisor and former Congressman turned lobbyist working largely for the space industry, Bob Walker wants to purge what he called “politicized science” by ending NASA’s climate change research and shifting the funding to a “deep space” program in a blatant move to eliminate the warning bells of climate science. California Governor Jerry Brown responded that the state of California might even launch its own space program if Trump shuts down the climate satellites and ends NASA’s role in climate science. For the past several weeks, climate scientists have been busy copying Federal climate databases to private servers to prevent their destruction.

Once the warning bells of NASA are silenced, the Trump administration will undo EPA’s carbon pollution regulations and fulfill the promise of abandoning the Paris Accord. These are not idle campaign promises by the Twitterer-in-Chief. Despite the many clear climate-warming signals across the planet in 2016, Trump has assembled an administration for accomplishing his reckless ambitions against climate and environmental protections.

Secretary of State:

His nomination for Secretary of State, ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson (Putin’s friend) is ripe for blatant self-dealing over President Obama’s Russian oil sanctions and as he unwinds the Paris Accords. As the head of a global corporation more powerful than many nations, Tillerson has repeatedly misrepresented basic climate science, supported borderless world trade in oil while calling for “a global free market for energy.” Tillerson who has never shown any interest in representing America’s broader National interests in the world will now be our Secretary of State. While ExxonMobil has always had its thumb on the scale of our State Department policies, never before has a CEO of a major oil company ever been suggested for this critically important public office.

Environmental Protection Agency:

I cannot think of a worse choice for EPA Administrator than Scott Pruitt. Pruitt has deep and troubling entanglements with the fossil fuel industry as Oklahoma’s Attorney General. He ignored thousands of Oklahoma homeowners who suffered structural damages from earthquakes-now occurring every 12 hrs.-caused by fracking injection wells. As Oklahoma’s Attorney General, he disassembled the environmental enforcement division and Pruitt led a Nationwide fight against EPA’s efforts to address climate change, toxic air pollution and to protect the waters of the US. I suspect the Koch Brothers are high-fiving over this announcement, as the fox will be put in charge of the chicken coop.

Department of Energy:

At the Department of Energy, Trump is replacing a brilliant Dr. Ernest Moniz with former Texas Governor Rick Perry who is best known for dancing with the stars and for promising to eliminate several federal agencies as a presidential candidate five years ago. When asked to name the agencies, Rick Perry forgot the Energy Department’s name and ended by saying “oops”. Perry’s A&M college transcript consisted mostly of C’s and D’s and contrasts with Moniz who has a Bachelor of Science degree summa cum laude in Physics from Boston College and a Doctorate in Theoretical Physics from Stanford University. Perry apparently hates efficiency and clean energy investments and hopes to abolish the energy department that oversees everything nuclear as well as a large and complex portfolio. What could go wrong with this appointment?

 The Jagged Rocks of Climate Change:

The World Meteorological Organization reported that the global temperature in 2016 is about 1.2C above pre-industrial levels, dangerously close to the 1.5C threshold of the Paris climate agreement. Last year set another new record as the hottest year in record keeping and not surprisingly, 2016 also set new records for severe and devastating weather. According to the American Red Cross: “the American Red Cross provided more assistance to the hundreds of thousands of people impacted by these disasters across the United States than in the past two years combined. In 2016, Red Cross volunteers responded to 180 significant disasters in 45 states and two U.S. territories including wildfires, storms, flooding, Hurricane Matthew and other emergencies…”

Things can only get much worse if the Trump administration pretends that the growing threats from storms, sea level rise, droughts and forest fires don’t exist or if they ignore the consequences of massive volumes of carbon pollution-trapping enormous amounts of heat and acidifying our oceans. Regardless of our political ideology, religion or worldview, there will be a severe price to be paid for silencing the bells of climate science.




Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Trump and the Paris Accord

After 21 painful years of negotiations following the sabotaged Kyoto Climate Agreement, 191 countries finally found agreement on a new strategy to confront climate change and agreed to the Paris Climate Accord last December. Since then, the Paris Accord has been ratified by 82 nations with sufficient emissions to trigger the early launch of the Accord. It finally took effect on November 4th.

The goals of the Accord are to reduce greenhouse emissions, help countries adapt to wrenching changes brought about by a warming climate and finance projects in developing nations that repair damage wrought by climate change. The explicit goal is for all nations to work together to hold global average temperature increases to well below 3.6 °F (2 °C) above pre-industrial levels in an effort to avoid the vast damages caused by dangerous climate change.

President-elect Trump has vowed to pull the United States out of this historic agreement, and rescind the Clean Power Plan that requires coal-fired power plants to cut carbon pollution. That would be a tragedy for our country and our families. It would also be a huge lost opportunity to capitalize on the economic advantages of leading the transition to safe, clean energy.

Pennsylvania has a significant responsibility to cut carbon pollution. As the third largest carbon emitter in the nation, Pennsylvania produces about 2 days of the year’s worldwide total emissions. But Pennsylvania has much to gain from aggressively pursuing efforts to cut carbon emissions by committing to an ambitious effort to clean up our energy production by investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Pennsylvania already has 66,000 people working in clean energy industries – more than those employed in the coal and gas industries combined. With the right mix of state policies including strengthening our renewable energy and energy efficiency standards, giving renewable energy full access to the electricity grid, and fairly paying homeowners for the excess power they generate from rooftop solar power plants, we could significantly increase the jobs and the economic impact of clean energy.

But right now, that’s not the path our misdirected state legislature is taking. Under the influence of the shale gas and coal interests, the legislature has repeatedly tied the hands of the Wolf administration and the DEP to work on a rational climate plan or increase our renewable energy standards. They have attempted to significantly weaken our successful energy conservation program.

Pennsylvania clearly risks heading down a blind alley by investing in the wrong energy path promising enormous risks and stranded fossil fuel assets. There are 32 additional gas-powered plants proposed for Pennsylvania in various stages of consideration, development, and construction. The planning assumption going into these new plants is not based on growing urgency for constraining carbon emissions but is based solely on sufficient recoverable gas reserves and traditional capitalization considerations over the expected lifetime of new gas combustion turbines up to about 60 years. These assets along with the new pipelines, compressor stations and other gas appurtenances will not be viable in short order as we approach climate tipping points.

The stakes could not be higher. Thirty-one highly respected American scientific organizations recently came together to warn Congress: “If we are to avoid the most severe impacts of climate change, emissions of greenhouse gasses must be dramatically reduced. In addition, adaptation will be necessary to address those impacts that are already unavoidable.” The well-known former director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, Jim Hansen has gone so far as to warn, “2 degrees of warming is actually a prescription for long-term disaster”.

The Paris Accord is an important first step to move 191 nations in the direction of addressing our common future to avoid a long and growing list of catastrophic climate consequences. The Clean Power Plan offers a specific way forward, and Pennsylvania is in an enviable position to capitalize on the new economic development that a transition to clean energy offers. Working together we can and we must do our part as responsible stewards. To walk away from this vital work is both immoral and stupid. (Follow this on

Posted in global warming, Pennsylvania Politics and the environment, Trump, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Addressing Over-Population in an Overheated World

Temperatures on earth have rapidly moved outside of human experience. The earth is warmer today than it’s been in 100,000 years and because of the long lag times of temperature momentum, much more warming is already baked in. Current carbon dioxide levels are sufficient without ongoing carbon pollution to push the earth to hit the highest temperatures experienced in the past 2 million years.

With the election of Trump, climate change is now considered a hoax and a plot by the Chinese to make the U.S. non-competitive by the one who will soon lead America. He promises to renege on the Paris Accord and abandon EPA’s Clean Power Plan. He will end what he called the “Obama Administration’s war on coal’ and eliminate the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency while giving most of his tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans. He also wants to end restrictions on energy production on federal lands and he supports fossil fuel developments across America including the Keystone XL pipeline and other ill-conceived pipeline developments.

Even if the Paris climate deal is somehow achieved and all signatory nations do their part to further limit carbon dioxide emissions to hold worldwide temperatures to the so-called “safe” limit of 2 degrees C, the earth will experience water scarcity, droughts, crop stresses and fish and shellfish suppression from hot acidic waters. These degrading changes will pose an enormous threat to much of the world’s population.

We are leaving the climate regime that watered our crops and provided fresh water to support nearly 8 billion people and provided a wonderful context for human civilization and for nature. As an example, 1 billion people currently rely on fish harvested from coral reef systems which are in rapid decline and collapse worldwide from carbonic acid, warming waters, pollution and poor fisheries and coral reef management. One study from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research suggests that over 600 million people will face new or aggravated water scarcity if the world hits 3.5 degrees C. of warming above pre-industrial levels, as it is projected to do under current climate pledges. Nearly a half billion people, particularly in the Near and Middle-East will experience severe water scarcity. About 668 million people will either live in water-scarce river basins or find existing water scarcity is aggravated as the earth overheats.[i] Water scarcity, food shortages and sea-level rise will trigger growing numbers of climate refugees year by year.

An ongoing population explosion in the face of these threats greatly compounds the danger. Human numbers have doubled since1970, food consumption has tripled while energy use has quadrupled while the numbers of fish and wildlife populations have been cut by more than half worldwide, falling by a staggering 58 percent between 1970 and 2012 according to a recent report by the WWF and the Zoological Society.

In the face of climate change, ocean acidification, fisheries depletion, coastal dead zones, deforestation, and with the fast-approaching sixth great species extinction, it is clear that human population is out of balance with nature and life support systems. Internationally respected naturalist Sir David Attenborough has warned of the many dangers facing the Earth’s ecosystems from climate change, pollution and habitat changes associated with profound population growth. The Population Reference Bureau calculates that if current trends continue that by 2053, human populations could hit 10 billion. In the light of such projections, it’s clear that as world populations continue to grow, while the world’s capacity to provide food and water and to sustain vulnerable communities. is shrinking and severely strained in many regions calamity is in our future.

The world’s capacity to supply food and water is shrinking while the number of mouths to feed is continuing to grow. So many of the major threats facing our planet would be less challenging and more manageable if there were fewer people and no threat is lessened by an exploding world population, yet there seems to be a taboo on bringing over-population into the open. Sir David challenges those who pretend that population is not a problem. His compelling views are presented in his 2011 RSA President’s Lecture:

With growing evidence of a worldwide environmental crisis, more, more and more young men and women are struggling with questions about starting a family in greater numbers than ever before. A recent NPR segment, asks “Should we be having kids in the age of climate change.”

I am increasingly asked by informed young people alarmed by the recent election and deeply worried about the declining environmental conditions on earth, “Should I plan on having children?” It’s a hard question and I believe each must make their own decisions with their eyes wide open. As a father and a grandfather, I grieve over the Hobson’s choice many now face on family planning that we are leaving to the next generation.

Rhonny Dam, a climate speaker, tells her powerful personal journey, including sometimes painful and flawed relational choices on her path as a childfree “atypical chick”. Dam shares her personal struggle as a childfree-by-choice person in a very transparent way. She explores that after many struggles how she came to believe that childfree women and men must be willing to create a new path. By creating a paradigm shift, childfree leaders can confront the urgent need for a smaller population on earth and ease the adaptation to our rapidly changing world by serving others. Read more: For those who consider being childfree, I would encourage those who do to devote themselves not just to being childfree but being childfree for service to the world. Nature desperately needs to be nurtured now more than ever before. Low-lying populations and those regions with strained food and water supplies are particularly in need of more support and leadership. Dam’s very provocative book should stimulate a deeper conversation about important issues and can be purchased:

[i] Dieter Gerten1, Wolfgang Lucht1, Sebastian Ostberg, Jens Heinke, Martin Kowarsch, Holger Kreft, Zbigniew W Kundzewiczl, Johann Rastgooy, Rachel Warren and Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, Asynchronous exposure to global warming: freshwater resources and terrestrial ecosystems, September 12, 2013, Environmental Research Letters, Volume 8, Number 3,

Posted in global warming, population | Tagged , | Leave a comment

In Search of the Truth about Climate Denial: Exxon Mobil has pulled out all stops to squash its history in fostering climate denial

By: Larry Schweiger
In the old days, lawmakers would carefully hide their ties to major corporate funders and especially their deep connections to the oil giants. Not anymore, Republican members of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology are acting as handmaidens of big oil.
Responding to ExxonMobil’s lobbyists, the House Science, Space and Technology Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and the Committee majority are actively interfering with an ongoing fraud investigation by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D) and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey (D) who have been investigating whether Exxon committed fraud by hiding information that goes as far back as 1977.
It turns out based on documents that are now publically available, back in the 1970’s, Exxon gathered data on carbon dioxide’s role in causing climate change from top-notch scientists that they funded. When the scientists warned that their products were causing climate change, they rejected the scientific warnings, suppressed the information from their stockholders and for the next nearly forty years lied to investors and to the consuming public about climate change and their products’ role in causing it.
Instead of supporting this important fraud investigation, the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology subpoenaed the attorneys general who are doing their job by investigating to see if Exxon Mobil Corp. fraudulently suppressed information about climate change from stockholders and consumers. For good measure, the committee also subpoenaed nine environmental groups who may have gathered incriminating evidence against Exxon Mobil.
The Union of Concerned Scientists was one of the groups subpoenaed. Kenneth Kimmell, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists responded at the time, “We believe this investigation is actually compromising our First Amendment rights to petition government and (to) have freedom of association,” adding “We think this is not a lawful subpoena.”
The Climate Accountability Institute, the Climate Reality Project, the Rockefeller Family Fund, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Greenpeace,, the Global Warming Legal Action Project and the Pawa Law Group were also subpoenaed in this deliberate interference with an ongoing fraud investigation.
Chairman Lamar Smith and his witch-hunting committee are trying to intimidate environmental leaders who have been exposing the truth about Exxon Mobil and through bogus subpoenas attempting to thwart state Attorneys General from doing their job. Talk about Federal overreach and hubris, the Republican Party with a penchant for claiming state’s rights through Smith’s leadership is Federally interfering with a legitimate and much-needed state-level fraud investigation.
Concurrent with the Congressional interference, Exxon Mobil has also launched a Federal District Court action in friendly oil-rich Texas to block a Massachusetts state subpoena.  Responding to this, in a friend of the court brief the States of Maryland, New York, Alaska, Connecticut, Hawai‘i, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia, Alaska and Virgin Islands have submitted “this brief to explain that governing precedents—and the federalism principles underpinning those cases—bar the recipient of a state Attorney General’s subpoena from bringing a federal lawsuit to stymie an Attorney General’s investigation, where the recipient already has a comprehensive process for challenging the subpoena in the courts of the Attorney General’s State.”
“The amici States have a compelling interest in the traditional authority of their Attorneys General to investigate and combat violations of state law. As the chief legal officers of their respective States, Attorneys General have long used their state law powers—including the issuance of civil subpoenas, which are often called civil investigative demands (CIDs)—to
gather information necessary to determine whether a company has engaged in fraudulent or misleading conduct harmful to the people of the Attorney General’s State. Proper respect for the States’ sovereign interests has long dictated that the federal courts should not needlessly impede this core duty of state Attorneys General to detect and halt misconduct.”
Exxon Mobil has a lot at stake in this fraud investigation. if found guilty, it could eventually be held liable for its proportional share of the enormous damage that climate change is doing all over the world. If the company  was innocent of fraud, they would perhaps not welcome the inquiry but would be quick to respond to the civil investigative demands in this matter. Instead, Exxon Mobil is doing what it did after the ExxonValdez oil spill by using its political power and its vast legal resources to thwart accountability.

Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Our State Parks are Open to All… Let’s keep it that way


waterfall at McConnells mills

Waterfall in McConnell’s Mills State Park


By: Larry Schweiger

The National Park Service just celebrated its one-hundredth birthday. I have been privileged to visit many if not most of our National Parks over my career. Sadly, far too many people never get the chance that I have had to experience some of the most magnificent places on earth. Some people will never even visit a single National Park in their lifetime.

Seeing this injustice years ago the late Dr. Maurice Goddard became a great champion advancing the creation of a state park within twenty-five miles of every Pennsylvanian. Goddard wanted “every family with a few gallons of gas and a picnic basket” to be able to enjoy nature and he spent his life making that happen. His final confirmation appointment as DER Secretary was held up thirteen months because he put a proposed park over his own career.

We are beneficiaries of Goddard’s visionary leadership. Some of the finest spots to visit in Western Pennsylvania were protected as state parks by Goddard and other forward-thinking individuals and organizations including Graham Netting, Frank Preston, the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy and the R. K. Mellon Foundation and so many others.

Western Pennsylvania is blessed with some pretty special places. Names like Ohiopyle, McConnell’s Mills, Moraine, Presque Isle, Pymatuning, Erie Bluffs, Goddard and Point State Parks -just to name few- trigger good memories. In many ways, these parks define what is wonderful about living in and around Pittsburgh and they are free, accessible to all regardless of social class. We can sail, kayak, hike or just contemplate the great glacial forces that carved the Slippery Rock gorge when a supraglacial lake ruptured. There is much to enjoy and learn while visiting our nearby state parks.

Goddard also fought against many attempts by politicians to privatize the parks with hotels, golf courses, ski resorts and private marinas. Goddard was an outspoken champion of the constitutional amendment that declared “Pennsylvania’s public natural resources are the common property of all the People” (emphasis added) and he beat back attempts to privatize parklands or even proposals for the state to charge user fees. Goddard started his life in meager circumstances and he never forgot the disadvantaged. He was a champion for all the people regardless of the color of their skin or their status in life. He firmly believed that parks should never be put behind any kind of pay wall.

Goddard’s vision was for full and free access to our state parks could be radically changed forever if State Representative Brian L. Ellis (R) gets his way on his House Bill 2013. This bill would take power away from the Secretary of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the Governor by creating an unelected board of special interests comprised of legislative appointees charged with soliciting, reviewing, and approving private development projects in Pennsylvania’s state parks. It would authorize this political board to advance construction of golf courses, office parks, hotels, amusement parks and who knows what other encroachments that have absolutely no place in our state parks.

More than ever before, we need 21st-century places to escape all the screens, noise, and nonsense. Our children are particularly at risk while spending an average of 8-11 hours a day in front of screens. Newly published research out of UCLA found kids who went five days without exposure to phones, televisions and computers were significantly better at reading human emotions than kids who were living in front of such screens. There is no better place for children to escape from their ubiquitous devices than by playing in one of state parks.

We must not give the decision-making for our parks over to crony capitalists who seek public assets for private gain? Make no mistake, there is money to be made in our state parks by damaging the very qualities we should be protecting.

In defending his bill, Representative Ellis claims, “We’ve got to move the state parks of Pennsylvania into the 21st century and deliver a product that the changing world is looking for.”

Really? I don’t think so.

The environmental and conservation community was able to stop recent attempts to pass the Ellis bill but since the Governor’s office indicated support, we need to be prepared for future efforts to encroach on our parks by educating the public about the threats.

Goddard was right. Our parks are and must remain tranquil places of reflection and contemplation, free and available to everyone in the community. They must not be carved up by some political hacks so their friends can make money by creating golf courses amusements and other encroachments so that just the moneyed few can afford to access.


Posted in Maurice K. Goddard, parks, Pennsylvania Politics and the environment | 2 Comments

A Painful lesson in Climate Injustice

As our world overheats, the poor and elderly will struggle and suffer the most. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned, “Susceptibility to climate change differs across sectors and regions… Recent modeling of heat wave impacts in 44 U.S. urban populations, allowing for acclimatization, suggests that large U.S. cities may experience, on average, several hundred extra deaths per summer.”

We got a painful reminder of how that will play out in the years ahead in Pittsburgh. During the blistering heat of summer, a window air conditioner that was overworking in the stifling heat sparked a fire trapping two boys; Dylan, 7, and Nicholas Taylor, 12, who were apparently sleeping in the attic. This family lost everything; two precious children, a family dog and all of their possessions. The fire marshal reported that the smoke and flames spread rapidly and trapped the children and concluded that it was an electrical fire triggered by an overheated air conditioner that was plugged into a power strip.

In August 2003 a massive heat wave enveloped Europe for three weeks and killed about 70,000 people mostly elderly and poor according to a data compiled by Richard Keller at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and author of “Fatal Isolation: The Devastating Paris Heat Wave of 2003”.

Pittsburgh like the rest of the world has been very hot. According to the Climate Prediction Center, this will be the first time that the three-month forecast is for above average temperatures for all fifty states for each of the next three months. In recent days, based on what has happened so far this year, NASA scientists are predicting that we have a 99 percent chance that this will be the hottest year ever recorded, surpassing the current record holder-2015.

The scientific and moral dimensions of climate change are clear. Pope Francis for example, issued a powerful 184-page papal letter “Laudato Si,” warning that climate change presents far-reaching environmental and social consequences especially for the poor. He pointed to “(t)hose who possess more resources and economic or political power” and he observed that they “seem mostly to be concerned with masking the problems or concealing their symptoms”. The pope warned that climate change “represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day.”

The NAACP has long recognized: “Global climate change has a disproportionate impact on communities of color in the United States and around the world.” They go on to warn “(h)istorically, American society has failed to make the connection in terms of the direct impact of environmental injustices, including climate change, on our own lives, families, and communities, which depend on the physical environment and its bounty.”

I feel a measure of personal guilt sitting in my solar-powered air-conditioned home and thinking about families like the Taylors who are just trying to survive hyperthermia in a poorly insulated, overheated home in an overheating world. The things I witnessed in the natural world including the melting of the Arctic, Greenland, Alps and in the decline of the Amazon Rainforests are now happening in our neighborhoods and the pace of warming appears to be moving faster than projections.

We should learn a lesson from horrendous tragedies. It’s been ten years since former Vice President Al Gore let me listen to an uncut version of Melissa Etheridge’s “I Need To Wake Up” on his IPod. Why has it taken us so long to wake up? I have concluded that some are blinded by their ideology, others by their paychecks, and far too many Western Pennsylvania politicians are blinded by fossil-fuel lobbyists and the checks they bring.

While our lawmakers procrastinate curbing carbon pollution, many on fixed or limited income may not have a way for relief as our world overheats. We must do more to help the poor, disabled and elderly to prepare for the coming heat that will only get worse year by year.

We must wake up to what is happening to our world and commit to ending carbon pollution in all of its forms while helping each other adapt to a warmer world. There is some good news. In May, five Republican senators including Lindsey Graham, Kelly Ayotte, Susan Collins, Mark Kirk and Rob Portman joined five Democrats and sponsored an amendment calling on Congress “to take actions that reduce emissions and combat climate change”. As a part of any comprehensive climate policy that might emerge in the coming months, we must put a price on carbon pollution and make sure that a portion of the money collected is reinvested in insulating homes, LED lights and in rooftop solar panels for the poor.

In the meantime, Western Pennsylvania community leaders must explore new ways to help the most vulnerable in our communities adapt to a warming world. You can help the Taylor family directly by donating at:

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The President’s Great Wakening

We are witnessing a profound shift by a President who when faced with compelling scientific evidence has changed direction. Candidate Obama was obviously ill informed about the real threat of climate change when he promised to have an “all of the above” energy policy. He even used the mythological term “clean coal” in his campaign speeches. We have forgotten that John McCain was the first Senate sponsor of climate legislation and had a better record on climate than Obama.

In his early years as President, Obama followed those promises. Consider the following actions:

** The Obama administration leased vast quantities of coal under the Powder River Basin and more BLM proposals are coming to light for even more coal leasing in the face of stated climate policies. Much of the Powder River coal will be shipped to China if special interests get their way with ports and railroad projects.

** Obama administration leased to Shell Oil portions of the Arctic Ocean for oil development in arguably the riskiest place for oil exploitation. This is especially troubling after Obama presided over the biggest oil spill in US history. This action was bewildering to say the least especially in the face of a worldwide oil glut that may take oil prices to $33/barrel.

**The Obama administration nearly issued a permit for the Keystone XL Pipeline moving dirty tar-sand oil to market until thousands of protesters marched around the White House and more than 1200 protestors were arrested, forcing President Obama to shelve the permit.

** Ironically, the auto rules that Obama adopted after the auto bail-out, are proving that the best place to drill for oil is under the hoods of our cars. Efficiency is a significant factor driving down oil demand worldwide.

**To stimulate the economy after the market crash and to encourage clean energy investments, Obama unleashed unprecedented investments in “shovel-ready” clean power projects.

** The recently issued clean power plant rules place the President on the map as the first President to take significant action to address climate change. While much of the action will need to occur at the state level, it is an important first step. (Pennsylvania must cut its emissions by twenty six to thirty percent.)

Somewhere along the way, the President clearly discovered at the science of climate change and he is making profound mid-course corrections. In a speech in Anchorage this week, the President warned that no issue would “define the contours of this century more dramatically than any other — and that’s the urgent and growing threat of a changing climate.”

I am pleased that President Obama is on a tour to draw attention to damage being caused by climate change and to warn Americans that we are not moving fast enough to solve climate change. His travel to the Alaskan Arctic combined with his stop in New Orleans on the ten-year anniversary of the most costly hurricane in American history are forcing elements of the media to cover something they have been reticent to talk about. Obama was right to ignore the oil-controlled Governor of Louisiana when he reminded us that Hurricane Katrina was clearly amplified by hot water in the Gulf of Mexico. The storm passed over Florida as a category 1 hurricane and then hit the overheated waters in the loop current in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico and powered up to a category 5 before it struck the Gulf Coast as a massive category 3 storm.

Each year since Katrina, we are witnessing a growing list of tragedies caused by or exaggerated by global warming. Consider just some of the consequences of 2015’s droughts, ice melt and the hot water feeding strong storms:

**California and the desert South west are facing long-term threats from climate change enhanced droughts that will undermine agricultural production and threaten residential and commercial water supplies. Climate change has contributed about twenty-five percent to the current California drought and its contribution will increase year by year.

**Viet Nam’s monsoon rains dumped a half a meter of rain on Ha Long City in one day causing the worst flooding in 40 years.

**Three Category 4 hurricanes (Kilo, Ignacio, and Jimena) were moving across the overheated waters of the Pacific Ocean at the same time in a never-before-seen meteorological event. Jimena had sustained winds of up to 225 km/h.

**Unprecedented in terms of extent and magnitude of harmful algal “Red Tides” along the Pacific Coast close fisheries as warm water conditions prevail offshore in the Pacific from California to Alaska;

**Obama arrived in Alaska as the 2015 Alaska fire season surpassed the 5-million acre mark from 743 fires that burned 5,013,053.4 acres ranking in the top three fire seasons so far in 2015.

**The fire complex burning in north-central Washington is the largest in state history, beating a record established just last year.

**Fires across the West have consumed nearly six million acres already and could potentially exceed eight million acres burned. Before 2000, there was no year on record with more than eight million acres burned across the U.S. Since 2000, six of the fourteen years had more than eight million acres burned, and three years saw over 9 million acres burned.

**Greenland subjected to the rapidly warming temperatures of the Arctic is losing several hundred gigatons of ice each year— a gigaton is a billion metric tons. Tidal cities like Philadelphia need to understand that a three-foot sea level rise is already locked in and much more is possible by mid century.

**The recently released 2015 Pennsylvania Climate Impacts Assessment report indicated that Pennsylvania has warmed 1.8°F in the past 110 years and by 2050 temperatures are expected to average 5.4°F warmer than it was in the year 2000.
Climate change is affecting us all—some much more than others– and we each must act quickly to avoid the worst consequences of climate disruptions. President Obama is setting an example in his willingness to change course. Other politicians on both sides of the isle must follow. Let’s demand that they do before it’s too late. Please support PennFuture as we seek to enact legislation to properly implement the Clean Power rules in ways that will meet the long-term needs of Pennsylvania consumers for reliable, clean and affordable energy.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment