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Updated: 52 min 27 sec ago

Closure of Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant

Wed, 06/22/2016 - 15:49

By Lauren McCauley
Common Dreams

In landmark agreement, California’s last remaining nuclear plant will be replaced by greenhouse-gas-free energy sources

The Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant is located in Avila Beach along California’s central coast.  Photo: Nuclear Regulatory Commission/cc

A plan to shutter the last remaining nuclear power plant in California and replace it with renewable energy is being heralded widely as “a clear blueprint for fighting climate change,” which environmentalists hope will serve as “a model” for the nation.

“The end of an atomic era,” is how the San Francisco Chronicle described the announcement, made Tuesday by Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), which operates the aging Diablo Canyon power plant situated on California’s central coast.

The joint proposal (pdf), drafted by the utility company along with a number of labor and environmental groups, states: “PG&E in consultation with the Parties has concluded that the most effective and efficient path forward for achieving California’s SB350 policy goal for deep reductions of [greenhouse gas (GHG)] emissions is to retire Diablo Canyon at the close of its current operating license period and replace it with a portfolio of GHG free resources.”

The licenses are currently set to expire in 2024 and 2025 and under the deal the utility will replace that power source with renewable energy, energy efficiency, and energy storage. The agreement also contains provisions to protect the plant’s workforce, as well as the economy of the local San Luis Obispo community. PG&E further commits to derive 55 percent of the electricity produced across its entire fleet from clean, renewable sources by 2031.

“This is an historic agreement,” said Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth, which helped draft the plan, along with Natural Resources Defense Council, Environment California, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1245, Coalition of California Utility Employees, and Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility.

Pica continues, “It sets a date for the certain end of nuclear power in California and assures replacement with clean, safe, cost-competitive, renewable energy, energy efficiency and energy storage. It lays out an effective roadmap for a nuclear phase-out in the world’s sixth largest economy, while assuring a green energy replacement plan to make California a global leader in fighting climate change.”

Rhea Suh, president of NRDC, said the joint agreement is “a tribute to what can be accomplished when we rally together around a common goal.”

“What’s more,” Suh added, “this plan is a model that can be replicated around the country, where nearly 100 nuclear reactors will retire in the coming decades, and around the world.”

“For years,” she continued, “some have claimed that we can’t fight climate change without nuclear power, because shutting down nuclear plants would mean burning more fossil fuels to generate replacement electricity. That’s wrong, of course, and now we have the proof.”

“Today’s agreement is a good example of how we can replace dirty energy with clean when we set our minds to it,” agreed Rob Sargent, Energy Program director at Environment America. “It’s this kind of commitment that will put us on a path to 100 percent renewable energy.”

Tuesday’s announcement follows years of public opposition to the plant, which sits in an earthquake red zone near four prominent fault lines—one of which runs just 2,000 feet from the two reactors. As anti-nuclear activist Harvey Wasserman recently noted, “[m]ore protestors have been arrested at Diablo than any other American nuke.”

In addition to the risks posed by potential earthquake damage, Wasserman wrote, “Diablo dumps daily some 2.5 billion gallons of super-heated water into the ocean, killing vast quantities of marine life and worsening the global climate crisis. The project’s chemical runoff infamously killed millions of abalone years before it operated.”

The detailed phase out proposal will now go to the California Public Utility Commission and on to federal regulators for approval.

According to the Chronicle, the decommissioning process is estimated to cost $3.8 billion, $2.6 million of which PG&E has already collected in an earmarked fund. The utility is reportedly seeking to raise electricity rates by roughly 51 cents per month to make up the shortfall.

Voicing his support for the plan, California lieutenant governor Gavin Newsom, said: “The idea that the economics— from PG&E’s perspective—work for renewables is a pretty profound moment in energy policy. We’ve been asserting it for decades. And here you have a major utility acknowledging a low-carbon, green future.”

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Categories: Ecological News

Happy American Eagle Day

Tue, 06/21/2016 - 00:20

By The U.S. Department of the Interior

Photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Midwest

Happy American Eagle Day!

As a national symbol, this majestic bird appears on everything from money to memorials, but decades ago, it almost disappeared completely. Because of the ban on the pesticide DDT and habitat protection, the bald eagle is now flourishing across the nation and no longer needs the protection of the Endangered Species Act. It’s a great Wildlife Win and one more reason to celebrate eagles and all they represent.

Categories: Ecological News

Norway Becomes the First Country to Ban Deforestation

Sat, 06/11/2016 - 02:36

By Ruth Milka
Nation of Change

On May 26th the Norwegian Parliament pledged to be deforestation-free. They are the first country in history to ban deforestation.

The ban is a part of the government’s procurement policy and includes eliminating the use of any product that contributes to deforestation as well as a request that the government exercise due care for the protection of biodiversity in its investments.

This will also affect how Norway sources products such as palm oil, soy, beef, and timber in order to leave little to no impact on their ecosystems. These products are responsible for 40 percent of deforestation between 2000 and 2011 in several countries, including Argentina and Brazil.

The Rainforest Foundation Norway has been working towards this policy for years. They pushed for the pledge, recommended officially by Norwegian Parliament’s Standing Committee on Energy and Environment as part of the Action Plan on Nature Diversity.

In addition to pledging to stop deforestation, Norway is also responsible for funding several environmental projects worldwide, including $250 million invested in protecting Guyana’s forest. They also paid $1 billion to Brazil for completing a 2008 agreement to prevent deforestation.

Fighting deforestation could not only save the world’s rain forests, which could completely vanish in a hundred years, but also helps with climate change. When forests are cleared by burning the carbon in trees is released as carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is the leading greenhouse gas contributing to climate change.

 

Categories: Ecological News

Solar Surges: Renewable Energy Jobs Topped 8 Million in 2015

Wed, 06/01/2016 - 15:48

By Andrea Germanos
Common Dreams

On the heels of clean fuel milestones in Germany and Portugal , a new report finds that the renewable energy industry employed over 8.1 million people worldwide in 2015.

According to the International Renewable Energy Agency’s (IRENA) annual review, that figure marks a 5% increase from the previous year. China led the pack, accounting for 3.5 million jobs. Brazil and U.S. ranked second and third, respectively, for the highest number of renewable energy jobs.

The solar photovoltaic (PV) sector shot up 11% and accounted for biggest number of jobs at 2.8 million globally.

In the U.S. alone, solar grew nearly 22%.  That’s “12 times faster than job creation in the US economy­—surpassing jobs in oil and gas,” the report states. The other country seeing growth in solar was Japan, which notched a 28% increase in solar PV employment in 2014.

Wind saw “a record year” in employment, the report states. Wind energy employment in the U.S. grew 21%; worldwide it grew 5%. At the same time, oil and gas extraction jobs fell by 18 percent in the U.S.

“This increase is being driven by declining renewable energy technology costs and enabling policy frameworks,” stated IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin. “We expect this trend to continue as the business case for renewables strengthens and as countries move to achieve their climate targets agreed in Paris,” he added, referring to the UN climate deal sealed at the end of 2015.

Mark Kenber, CEO of The Climate Group, an organization that advocates for reining in carbon emissions, added, “A clean revolution is key to growth, investment, jobs, health, security: there is no high-carbon prosperous future.”

The new review follows a separate brief released (pdf) by IRENA on “the true costs of of fossil fuels,” which found that doubling the global share of renewables by 2030 would save not only $4.2 trillion annually but also as many as 4 million lives.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

Categories: Ecological News

President Barack Obama – Our Responsibility to Act

Sat, 04/23/2016 - 00:29

President Barack Obama
The White House

Today is Earth Day — the last one I’ll celebrate as President. Looking back over the past seven years, I’m hopeful that the work we’ve done will allow my daughters and all of our children to inherit a cleaner, healthier, and safer planet. But I know there is still work to do.

That’s why, today, the United States will join about 170 other countries in signing the Paris Agreement, a historic deal to reduce carbon emissions across the globe.

When Secretary of State John Kerry stands with other countries to support this agreement, we’ll advance a plan that prioritizes the health of our planet and our people. And we’ll come within striking distance of enacting the Paris Agreement years earlier than anyone expected.

This is important because the impact of climate change is real. Last summer, I visited Alaska and stood at the foot of a disappearing glacier. I saw how the rising sea is eating away at shorelines and swallowing small towns. I saw how changes in temperature mean permafrost is thawing and the tundra is burning. So we’ve got to do something about it before it’s too late.

As the world’s second-largest source of climate pollution, America has a responsibility to act. The stakes are enormous — our planet, our children, our future. That’s true not just here in America, but all over the world. No one is immune.

That’s why, when I ran for this office, I promised I’d work with anyone — across the aisle or on the other side of the planet — to combat this threat. It’s why we brought together scientists, entrepreneurs, businesses, and religious organizations to tackle this challenge together. It’s why we set the first-ever national fuel efficiency standards for trucks and set new standards for cars. It’s why we made the biggest investment in clean energy in U.S. history. It’s why we put forward a plan to limit carbon pollution from existing power plants. And it’s why in Paris, we rallied countries all over the world to establish a long-term framework to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions — the first time so many countries had committed to ambitious, nationally determined climate targets.

Now, we’re building on that momentum. When all is said and done, today will be the largest one-day signing event in the history of the UN.

Thanks to this agreement, we can be more confident that we’ll leave our children a planet worthy of their promise.

That’s what this is all about. And that’s why today, America is leading the fight against climate change.

President Barack Obama

Categories: Ecological News

Secretary Kerry Signs Paris Agreement on Climate Change on Earth Day 2016

Sat, 04/23/2016 - 00:16

Remarks by John Kerry, Secretary of State at the Opening Ceremony of the United Nations Signing Ceremony of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, April 22, 2016
My State Department

SECRETARY KERRY:  Mr. Secretary General, Monsieur le President de la France, Your Excellencies, friends and partners in this significant endeavor:

It’s an enormous privilege to be here on Earth Day to join in signing this historic agreement.

I was a young organizer and speaker, not so long back from Vietnam, on the first Earth Day in 1970.  And I was a young senator and advocate in Rio in 1992 when we held the first Earth Summit.  To say the least, it has been an interesting journey of 46 years to this podium today.  And after many COPs, many miles traveled – and many more debates – it’s fair to say that all of us could feel an extraordinary sweep of emotion and joy at the moment in Paris when 196 nations simultaneously said a resounding yes, we will do our part – we will live up to our responsibility to future generations and together, citizens of the world, we will work to save our planet from ourselves.

Now, that was a special moment in the plenary at Le Bourget, one of – one that I am confident those who were privileged to be there will never forget.

So for certain, today is a day to mark and to celebrate the hard work done by so many to win the battle of securing the Paris agreement.  But knowing what we know, this is also a day to recommit ourselves to actually win this war.

Paris was a turning point in the fight against climate change.

Paris marked the moment when the world finally decided to heed the ever-rising mountain of evidence that had been piling up for years.  It marked the moment that we put to rest once and for all the debate over whether climate change is real – and began instead to galvanize our focus on how, as a global community, we are going to address the irrefutable reality that nature is changing at an increasingly rapid pace due to our own choices.

For sure, the agreement that we reached in Paris is the strongest, most ambitious global climate pact ever negotiated.  But the power of this agreement is not that it, in and of itself, guarantees that we will actually hold the increase of temperature to the target of 1.5 degrees or 2 degrees centigrade.  In fact, it does not and we know that, we acknowledge it.  The power of this agreement is the opportunity that it creates.  The power is the message that it sends to the marketplace.  It is the unmistakable signal that innovation, entrepreneurial activity, the allocation of capital, the decisions that governments make, all of this is what we now know definitively is what is going to define the new energy future – a future that is already being defined but even yet to be discovered.  The power of this agreement is what it is going to do to unleash the private sector, and it is already doing to set in pace the global economy on a new path for smart, responsible, sustainable development.

Already last year, my friends, renewable energy investment was at an all-time high – nearly $330 billion.  And it is predicted that we will invest tens of trillions of dollars by the middle of this century.

For the first time in history – despite the low prices of oil, coal, and gas – more of the world’s money was spent fostering renewable energy technologies than on new fossil fuel plants.

Today we know:  The new energy future, the efficiencies, the alternative resources, the clean options – none of what we have to achieve is beyond our capacity technologically.  The only question is whether it is beyond our collective resolve.

Indeed, even in the time since we convened in Paris, we have seen new evidence of the danger that the climate change pace poses to our planet.  We learned that 2015 was the hottest year in recorded history – by far – and we learned that after knowing that the past decade was the hottest on record, and the one before that was the hottest on record, and the one before that the third hottest on record.  And now we know that this year is already on track to be the warmest of all, and last month, March, was the hottest recorded March in all of history.  This past winter, the maximum extent of Arctic sea ice was the lowest ever reported – breaking the record that was set just one year ago.

So the urgency of this challenge is only becoming more pronounced.  And that is why our gathering today is, in fact, historic.  The United States looks forward to formally joining this agreement this year, and we call on all of our international partners to do so.

At the first – as the first Earth Day proved here in the United States, when 20 million Americans came out into the street and said we do not want to live beside a toxic waste dump, we do not want rivers that actually light on fire – when enough people come out and make their voices heard, when they turn their policy into a voting issue, when they work together towards the same real goal, then, measureable change is possible.

Today, as we think of the hard work ahead, I am reminded of Nelson Mandela’s very simple words:  “It always seems impossible until it is done.”  And while it isn’t done yet, today we are on the march.  And for our children and our grandchildren, we are living up to President Kennedy’s inauguration admonition that here on Earth, God’s work must truly be our own.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

Categories: Ecological News

More Than 1 Billion People Will Be Involved in Earth Day 2016

Sat, 04/09/2016 - 02:07

Earth Day Network

World leaders to sign Paris climate agreement on Earth Day

In less than one and a half months, over one billion people in 192 countries will take action to protect our shared environment. All across the globe, in big cities to small villages and everything in-between, people are organizing, demanding climate action, cleaning up their local communities, meeting with their elected officials, planting trees, and teaching their children to protect our planet.

This year, in a rare and special event, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has invited every world leader to the United Nations to officially sign the Paris Climate Agreement reached this past December. It is no coincidence that the agreement is being opened for signatures on April 22nd, Earth Day.

“Earth Day is the largest, most recognizable face of the environmental movement,” said Kathleen Rogers, president of Earth Day Network. “Millions of people in dozens of different countries will become lifelong environmentalists this and every Earth Day. Hundreds of thousands will be children – our planet’s future. They will join the more than 1 billion people who already use Earth Day to focus on the urgent need to stabilize and reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, fight climate change, act locally, become climate voters, and protect their children’s futures.”

This year Earth Day Network is focusing on the urgent need to plant new trees and forests worldwide. Throughout the year, EDN sponsors and takes part in tree plantings across the US and worldwide. But this year we are raising the stakes. As we begin the four year count down to Earth Day’s 50th anniversary in 2020, Earth Day Network is pledging to plant 7.8 billion trees worldwide – one for every person on Earth! That’s incredibly ambitious, but we believe this down-payment must be made in order to combat climate change and keep our most vulnerable eco-systems from facing extinction.

“We have no higher priority this year than to make sure the United States, China, India, the EU, and all the largest CO2 emitters sign the Paris Agreement. EDN has launched a petition calling on world leaders – including President Obama — to show leadership. (You can sign the U.S. petition).We need to prove that what happened in Paris last December was not all talk. We need to take action.  Signing the Paris Agreement this Earth Day at the United Nations is just the beginning,” Rogers said. “That, coupled with our global activities, will make this the largest, most significant Earth Day in years. And it’s the perfect start in our countdown to Earth Day 2020, our 50th!”

Across the world, millions of schoolchildren and their teachers will take part in education, civic, and outdoor programs that will teach them about the importance of clean air and water, how to begin a lifelong practice of civic participation, and experience the wonders of nature. In almost every country on Earth, citizens will be making demands of their governments to take action to address the climate crises, starting with the signing of the Paris Climate Agreement on April 22nd, Earth Day.

This is Earth Day’s legacy – the largest and most active citizen engagement campaign on Earth. To learn more about Earth Day 2016, Trees for the Earth, and how you can get involved, visit: http://www.earthday.org/earth-day/ To sign the petition go to http://chn.ge/21bpCsi

ABOUT EARTH DAY NETWORK

The first Earth Day on April 22, 1970, activated 20 million Americans from all walks of life and is widely credited with launching the modern environmental movement. Growing out of the first Earth Day, Earth Day Network (EDN) works with tens of thousands of partners in 192 countries to broaden, diversify and mobilize the environmental movement. More than 1 billion people now participate in Earth Day activities each year, making it the largest civic observance in the world. For more information, visit www.earthday.org

Categories: Ecological News

SeaWorld Ends its Orca Breeding Program

Fri, 03/18/2016 - 17:02

By Nika Knight
Common Dreams

After years of pressure and protest from animal rights advocates, SeaWorld will make its current population of whales the ‘last generation’ in captivity.

Three orca whales swim off the New Zealand coast. SeaWorld made major concessions to animal rights groups’ demands on Thursday, but stopped short of agreeing to release its orcas into the wild.  Photo: Victoria Hoete-Dodd – flickr/cc

In a decision that animal rights advocates hailed as a “game changer,” SeaWorld CEO Joel Manby declared on Thursday that the amusement park will “end all orca breeding programs” in response to intense criticism from protesters.

SeaWorld will also invest $50 million over the next five years in the rescue and rehabilitation of marine animals and Humane Society advocacy campaigns. The Humane Society reported that SeaWorld agreed to all these changes as a result of negotiations with the animal rights advocacy organization.

“The sunsetting of orcas in captivity is a game changer for our movement, one that’s been a long time coming, and one that is only possible because of your advocacy and participation,” the president and CEO of the Humane Society, Wayne Purcell, thanked his organization’s members on Thursday.

SeaWorld has been criticized for years by animal rights groups for its orca whale breeding and theatrical programs, which critics have condemned as cruel and inhumane.

In 2013 the documentary Blackfish highlighted abuses by the amusement park in the case of Tilikum, an orca whale responsible for three people’s deaths, which the film highlighted as a tragic result of the cruelty of his treatment and the amusement park’s unethical confinement of its killer whales.

Critique of SeaWorld’s practices reached a fever pitch in response to the devastating film, culminating in calls for a boycott. The amusement park’s revenue and stock price has tanked in the last two years, yet it still refused to concede to activist pressure. It even received further backlash when it came to light in February that rather than respond to animal rights activists’ pleas on behalf of its whales, SeaWorld had dispatched employees to secretly spy on the protesters’ activities.

The changes Manby described on Thursday were a major concession to advocates’ demands for better treatment of its captive animals, and it followed the amusement park’s November announcement that it also plans to phase out its theatrical orca shows.

But while People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) celebrated Thursday’s announcement, they also argued that “more must come.” The animal rights group urged, “For decades orcas, dolphins, beluga whales, seals and many other animals have suffered in SeaWorld confinement, and to do right by them now, SeaWorld must open the tanks to ocean sanctuaries so that these long-suffering animals may have some semblance of a life outside their prison tanks.”

Manby claimed that releasing the remaining orcas into the wild is “not a wise option,” saying that orcas raised in captivity will not survive in the wild and noting that habitats for orcas are diminishing as a result of climate change.

PETA rebuts, “Animals who are members of endangered species are no happier in cages and tanks than are animals who aren’t endangered. The ultimate hope for those animals lies in protecting their habitats, not in life sentences in a tank.”

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Categories: Ecological News

Human Influence on Global Climate Traced Back to 1930’s

Wed, 03/09/2016 - 18:20

The Melbourne Newsroom

The human impact on our global climate has now been traced back as far as the 1930’s

Humans have triggered the last 16 record-breaking hot years experienced on Earth (up to 2014), with the new research tracing our impact on the global climate as far back as 1937.

The findings, led by Dr Andrew King from the University of Melbourne and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science, suggest that without human-induced climate change, recent hot summers and years would not have occurred.

It’s also a conclusion that has been masked until recent decades in many areas by the wide use of industrial aerosols, which have a cooling effect on temperatures – another key finding of the paper.

“Everywhere we look the climate change signal for extreme heat events is becoming stronger,” Dr King said.

“Recent record-breaking hot years globally were so much outside natural variability that they were almost impossible without global warming.”

The record-breaking hot years attributable to climate change globally are: 1937, 1940, 1941, 1943-44, 1980-1981, 1987-1988, 1990, 1995, 1997-98, 2010, 2014.

“In Australia, our research shows the last six record-breaking hot years and last three record-breaking hot summers were made more likely by the human influence on the climate.”

“We were able to see climate change even more clearly in Australia because of its position in the Southern Hemisphere in the middle of the ocean, far away from the cooling influence of high concentrations of industrial aerosols,” Dr King said.

Aerosols in high concentrations reflect more heat into space, thereby cooling temperatures. However, when those aerosols are removed from the atmosphere, the warming returns rapidly.

This impact was seen very clearly by the researchers when they looked at five different regions, Central England, Central Europe, Central US, East Asia and Australia.

There were cooling periods, likely caused by aerosols, in Central England, Central US, Central Europe and East Asia during the 1970s before accelerated warming returned. These aerosol concentrations also delayed the emergence of a clear human-caused climate change signal in all regions studied except Australia.

“In regards to a human-induced climate change signal, Australia was the canary in the coal mine for the rest of the world,” said Dr King.

For the study, Dr King and PhD student Mitchell Black examined weather events that exceeded the range of natural variability and used climate modelling to compare them to a world without human-induced greenhouse gases.

The study has been published in the journal, Geophysical Research Letters.

 

Categories: Ecological News