This week NASA released new photographs from the DSCOVR satellite launched Feb.11 from Cape Canaveral. DSCOVR, or Deep Space Climate Observatory, is a NOAA Earth observation and space weather satellite. DSCOVR arrived at the L1 Lagrangian point, roughly 1 million miles from Earth, on June 5 and part of its mission is to photograph Earth and transmit images every two hours.
DSCOVR is the result of work initiated in 1998 by then vice president Al Gore. We take for granted the images of the fully illuminated Earth, but for most of the last 35 years, it has been the same set of images taken Dec. 7, 1972 by the crew of the Apollo 17 spacecraft.
Senator Ted Cruz, chair of the U.S. Senate subcommittee on space, science and competitiveness which funds NASA, has said NASA should spend less time studying the planet and more time finding ways to go out into space. Cruz views much of Earth study as “political distractions that are extraneous to NASA’s mandate.”
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden begs to differ.
“Our core mission from the very beginning has been to investigate, explore space and the Earth environment, and to help us make this place a better place,” Bolden said. “It is absolutely critical that we understand Earth’s environment because this is the only place that we have to live. Science helps exploration; exploration helps science.”
Whatever one thinks about the politics of NASA, the new images coming from DSCOVR remind us Earth is our only home, and there is no Planet B.
Yesterday and today will be offering a dramatic contrast of the differences between what the Democratic Party stands for and what the Republican Party stands for.
Last night in Cedar Rapids, Democrats met for their annual Hall of Fame dinner. Speakers for the evening were the declared Democratic candidates for president – Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Martin O’Malley, Jim Webb and Lincoln Chaffee. The general focus of remarks last night were to bring back the middle class for every group in America and reestablish a country that works for all of its citizens, not just the wealthy and well connected. In short, the focus was on putting the citizens back in charge of this country.
Other issues included climate change, student debt, access to education for all, building an economy that works for all including living wages for workers, sensible immigration solutions and many others. The focus was on issues, not personalities or rumors or made up media hype.
Half a day later and 100 miles to the west in Ames we will be seeing Republicans gathering under the auspices of a quasi-Christian group known as the FAMiLY Leader. The focus of this conference is to push the theme that America is Christian and should be run by a set of principles based on their interpretation of Christianity.
Today we will see such Republican presidential candidates as Donald Trump, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz pander to folks who share the Family Leaders’ version of Christianity. In that version, gays are hated and of course the idea that a gay person could marry is anathema to them. Immigrants and immigration policy will be also be in for major criticism. Policies that will come in for praise are those policies that will enrich the already wealthy while continuing low wages and no benefits for the poor and middle class. No doubt there will be veiled references to Muslims being terrorists through comments on the middle east or the new deal with Iran.
Climate change will certainly come in for derision as will science in general. Shoot, I almost wouldn’t even be surprised if someone joked that the Pluto mission was staged in a back lot in Hollywood. The only science that counts for them is that which can be exploited for a buck.
At a time when serious consideration is needed concerning the deal with Iran, Republican will use it as a cornerstone around which to build fear. There will be no sensible discussion as each of the presidential candidates tries to stake out the furthest right position.
No doubt there will also be attacks on Democratic candidates, most likely Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. There will also be attacks on Planned Parenthood which has recently been the subject of another bogus right wing “documentary.” In short, the hate will flow with no real issues discussed nor any solutions offered.
Within one day the contrast between what have become polar opposites should be quite apparent to any American. Do you want solutions? Or do you want more hate and fear?
In 2015, France will be hosting and presiding over the 21st Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21/CMP11), otherwise known as “Paris 2015.”
COP21 will be held from Nov. 30 to Dec. 11 on the Paris-Le Bourget site, bringing together around 40,000 participants in total – delegates representing each country, observers, and civil society members. It is the largest diplomatic event ever hosted by France and one of the largest climate conferences ever organized.
COP21 will be a crucial conference, as it needs to achieve a new international agreement on the climate, applicable to all countries, with the aim of keeping global warming below 2°C.
The stakes are high: the aim is to reach, for the first time, a universal, legally binding agreement that will enable us to combat climate change effectively and boost the transition towards resilient, low-carbon societies and economies.
To achieve this, the future agreement must focus equally on mitigation – that is, efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to limit global warming to below 2°C – and societies’ adaptation to existing climate changes. These efforts must take into account the needs and capacities of each country. The agreement will enter into force in 2020 and will need to be sustainable to enable long-term change.
France will therefore be playing a leading international role to ensure points of view converge and to facilitate the search for consensus by the United Nations, as well as within the European Union, which has a major role in climate negotiations.
To learn more about COP21, go to http://www.cop21.gouv.fr/en
The group is kicking off its North American advocacy effort for firm and substantial governmental commitments to climate action at the 21st United Nations Conference of the Parties (COP-21) to be held in Paris, France on Dec. 11., said Mario Molina, director of the 7,500-member international group of climate activists. Additional trainings are being held this year in Florida and Toronto, Canada to jump-start the effort with 1,000 newly trained climate leaders in advance of COP-21.
They are also here because of Iowa’s first in the nation political caucuses to make sure the need for climate action is heard by the field of presidential hopefuls traversing the state.
On Monday, May 4, State Senator Rob Hogg, a speaker at the training, pointed out in an email that three presidential candidates will be visiting Cedar Rapids this week. He encouraged readers to question the candidates about climate change.
“This gives us an opportunity to tell the candidates that Iowans are concerned about climate change and perhaps even ask the candidates questions about climate change,” Hogg said.
He provided a schedule and possible questions for the candidates.
Tuesday, May 5, 4:30 p.m. – Candidate Ben Carson of Florida (formerly of Maryland and Michigan) will be speaking at the Cedar Rapids Marriott, 1200 Collins Road NE, on Tuesday, May 5, at 4:30 p.m. He will be joined by Congressman Rod Blum. This is a chance to speak with Congressman Blum as well as Carson.
Thursday, May 7, 7:30 a.m. – Candidate Carly Fiorina of California is scheduled to speak Thursday, May 7, from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. at the Blue Strawberry, 118 2nd St. SE, in downtown Cedar Rapids.
Thursday, May 7, noon – Candidate Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas, is scheduled to speak at the Pizza Ranch, 2450 Westdale Dr., in southwest Cedar Rapids, on Thursday, May 7, at noon.
Hogg suggested these questions for the three Republicans:
Did you agree with President Reagan’s decision to sign the Montreal Protocol on stratospheric ozone depletion, and if so, would you support similar international agreements to fight climate change?
Are you concerned about climate-related disasters like record flooding in Iowa, record drought in California, and sea level rise, and if so, what would you do about it?
Climate Reality Project founder and former Vice President Al Gore is expected to be present for the three days of training. Part of the training is related to his slideshow about the science and human impact of climate change, an updated version of the one used in the movie An Inconvenient Truth. He is also expected to meet with key political figures regarding the need for climate action while in Iowa.
About 75 of the training attendees are Iowans, so there is hope the need for climate action can be kept in front of politicians during the 2016 election cycle.
To learn more, visit ClimateRealityProject.org.
We want to get our apology in now. We won’t be around a lot longer and it looks like the one thing we had hoped to give you when you reached adulthood was a world that was at least trying to get a grip on its problems so that humans could share the one planet we have in a way that all could survive. If things continue the direction they are going, we will have failed miserably and left your generation in the worst shape of any that inherited the earth.
For the past 35 years the greedy have ruled the planet with money and their own interests in mind. For the most part that meant that they exploited most everything they could. They exploited raw materials around the world where they sowed the seeds of hate and injustice and eventual war in pursuit of that exploitation. They exploited human labor to the very depths they could and bought off government and officials so they would look the other way when they went even lower than was legal.
They exploited the American constitution so they could essentially run the government. Laws were written such that they could exploit American workers and our environment. They used their money and power to influence elections through gerrymandering, through disenfranchising certain segments of voters and also to confuse and intimidate voters. When their candidates were elected they went about the business of changing laws to keep them in power and filling the judiciary with their lackeys so that their view would almost always win in courts.
They exploited and owned the media to its fullest extent. Finding any alternative news source after the presidency of Ronald Reagan was much like looking for Sasquatch. Rumors were that such things existed, but were seldom spotted. We have been given a steady stream of information that tells us that whatever is good for the rich is good for us. This media has led us cheering into war after war. They have led us to believe that the US committing terrorism by drones within foreign countries is good. They have created fear among citizens to the point where we armed ourselves to the teeth ready to shoot strangers at the drop of a hand. And for every drone, every weapon of war, every gun and bullet that was sold the greedy got richer and our society got poorer.
They exploited fear not only of strangers but of an unseen and unprovable entity called a god. They used this god to extract unquestioning loyalty for fear that the exploited would meet some fearful eternity. Using the fear to create a people scared of their own shadows and afraid to question whatever the greedy did.
When people were full of fear and filled with so much misinformation that reality seemed like a fantasy to those people, the greedy then went about destroying the environment that allowed human life to occur on this one lonely planet that we know of. The air became nearly impossible to breath, the water so filthy it could barely be cleaned any more. The temperatures soared and rivers and aquifers dried up in one spot while floods raged in others driving people from their land and eventually covering coastal areas. Food became scarce for many even while food resources were used to feed animals for consumption by the greedy who had money and power.
Your grandmother and I tried to work in the systems of democracy to stop what was going on. Sadly, our letters to people in power, our marching, our phone calls were easily drowned out by the money on influence of the greedy. We were frustrated, but carried on believing that what was best for all would eventually win out. Slowly we learned that a few greedy people with money and power can easily get their way through access, confusion and fear.
And so you inherit a world that is broken. A world where food and clean water are like gold was to many of us. You inherit a world where fear that has been ground into people is one of the driving forces. You inherit a world full of religious prejudice and fear. You inherit a world that is so warm it is nearly impossible to lived in. We are deeply sorry.
We believed that given choices that most people would choose what was best for the greatest number. We were very wrong. We learned that most people will follow what seems to be the crowd, even if it is an artificially produced crowd. Maybe your generation will respond to the crisis we dropped on you, but I fear forces of greed will stop any progress in your time also.
But we will not stop fighting. Mankind is worth fighting for.
by Ed Flaherty
This week we celebrate Earth Day. It is a day to bring into the active areas of our brains the innate understanding that we have only one Mother Earth to live on, and that she needs our care badly.
We can each help in our own individual ways. We can bike, recycle, eat healthy, garden, plant trees, reduce our carbon imprint, etc. But how can we reconcile our own important but small efforts with our blindness to the fact that most of the discretionary budget of the U.S. federal government is devoted to the military? The U.S. military is the largest consumer of fossil fuels in the world. It emits more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than any other organization in the world.
Forget for a moment the disastrous environmental effects of war itself. Forget for a moment the erosion of moral and civil values as we accept the idea of perpetual war.
Ask yourself one question. Why devote most of our discretionary budget to fund the organization that is doing more than any other to destroy the security of the planet? Our splendid democracy should be capable of allocating our resources to efforts to secure our environment, and should be able to induce the Pentagon to adjust its mission to one of helping, not destroying, our only home.
Warmest 12 Month Period Were The Last 12 Months.
In case you missed it, climate change has not gone away. Here in Iowa we have been spared much of the anguish of the effects of climate change, except for the drenching rains followed by long dry spells. However, reality is setting in elsewhere. Scientists tracking the climate tell us the past rolling 12 month period have been the hottest 12 months on record. It looks like as each month passes the record just keeps going.
This story comes with a couple of scary paragraphs of what may be in the offing:
Besides El Niño, a more worrying, longer-term trend is also taking shape. The Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) is a decades-long periodic warming of the Pacific Ocean that tends to favor bursts of accelerated global warming. As I wrote last October, the Pacific appears to be in the midst of a shift into a new warm phase that could last 20 years or so.
The PDO—or, “the blob” as it’s been referred to recently—is starting to freak out some scientists. There are emerging signs of a major shift in the Pacific Ocean’s food chain, including a dearth of plankton, tropical fish sightings near Alaska, and thousands of starving sea lion pups stranded on the California coast. As Earth’s largest ocean, what happens in the Pacific affects the weather virtually planet-wide, and that means an “imminent” jump in global warming may have already begun—spurred on by the PDO.
The PDO has skyrocketed to record-high monthly levels over the past four months. In fact, there have only been four other similarly warm four-month bursts of the PDO in the last 115 years (in 1940, 1941, 1993, and 1997). A quick look at the historical record (for both 15 years prior to and 15 years after the bursts) shows that global temperatures rose at twice the rate of the 20th century average immediately after these bursts.
CEOs Urging Action in 2015 on Global Climate
In an open letter released on Thursday evening, 43 chief executive officers from leading global companies called on governments around the world to take bold action at the pivotal UN climate meeting set for later this year. The CEOs are listed in a full-page ad appearing in Friday’s issue of Financial Times (see image below), in conjunction with the spring meetings of the World Bank Group and International Monetary Fund. The signatories to the letter include David Kenny, chairman and CEO of The Weather Company, the umbrella organization that includes Weather Underground. “Climate change is one of the biggest global challenges that will shape the way we do business now and in the coming decades,” the CEOs stated. “We extend an open offer to national governments to meet and co-design tangible actions as well as ambitious, effective targets that are appropriate for their different jurisdictions.”
Looking toward a post-Kyoto climate deal
Representatives from around the world will meet in Paris this December for the 21st UN Conference of Parties (COP21), a product of the 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change that was signed by U.S. President George Bush and the heads of 164 other nations. Delegates in Paris will be working toward a new global agreement on carbon emissions to succeed the Kyoto Protocol, whose initial phase expired in 2012. The CEOs’ open letter outlines their shared vision for a successful climate deal at COP21, as well as their companies’ commitments to reduce their environmental and carbon footprints, serve as climate action ambassadors, manage climate risks, and help strengthen societal resilience to climate change.
“Hastening the shift to a low-carbon economy in an economically sustainable manner will generate growth and jobs in both the developing and developed world. Delaying action is not an option–it will be costly and will damage growth prospects in the years to come,” states the open letter. “The CEO Climate Leaders call on government leaders and policy makers to align on global measures, to be consistent in policy-making and to develop helpful innovation frameworks. A comprehensive, inclusive and ambitious climate deal in Paris on mitigation, adaptation and finance–in combination with a strong set of clear policy signals from the world’s leaders–is key to accelerating this transition. This opportunity should not be missed.”
Ed talks about the Pipeline Walk with State Rep. Dan Kelley today at 11:00 a.m. Also, State Reps. Bruce Bearinger and Sally Stutsman discuss the House Rural Caucus – Catch the Fallon Forum live on Monday from 11:00 am – 12:00 noon on KDLF 1260 AM (Des Moines) Join the conversation by calling in at (515) 528-8122. And you can hear the Fallon Forum on KHOI 89.1 FM (Ames) at 4:00 pm on Wednesday and on KPVL 89.1 FM (Postville) at 7:00 pm on Wednesday.
Iowa Pipeline Walk: Day Seventeen & Eighteen
Thursday, March 19, 2015 – Mingo, Iowa/Friday, March 20, 2015 – Maxwell, Iowa
Walkin’ the Bakken is proving to be a bigger undertaking than I imagined. My deepest thanks to all of you along the route who have helped with logistics or who have walked with me. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
I also want to acknowledge three colleagues who are making a huge difference in the success of the Walk. Shari Hrdina, who served as the Administrative Director of the Great March for Climate Action, keeps all the pieces from falling through the cracks. And there are so many pieces! Shari is the glue behind the scenes, and we could not do this without her.
Peter Clay works with our local supporters along the route to organize meetings. Peter joined last year’s Climate March for 700 miles, and is now instrumental as a volunteer with the Bakken Pipeline Resistance Coalition. He continues to keep us networked and supporting each others’ efforts.
Landowners are asking lots of legal, procedural and technical questions that I can’t answer. Managing this critical task is David Goodner of the Des Moines Catholic Worker. David is one of the most promising young organizers I know, and he’s getting back in touch with the hundreds of landowners and rural Iowans I’ve met along the Walk.
Of course, with legal questions, it helps to have . . . a lawyer! Several experienced attorneys are working with landowners and other parties opposed to the pipeline. Wally Taylor with the Iowa Chapter of the Sierra Club and I recently discussed the contracts signed by landowners – many of whom are opposed to the pipeline. Here’s what Wally shared:
“A number of attorneys agree that the easements landowners are signing or being asked to sign by Dakota Access have serious problems that adversely impact landowners. In fact, for landowners who have already signed easements, they could declare the leases null and void. Landowners should not sign anything until they have discussed the easements with an attorney. Review by an attorney would only require a short conference that would not be very expensive but would save the landowners a lot of heartache.
“We have also discovered that Dakota Access is now presenting an addendum to the easement to provide insurance coverage. The insurance allegedly covers liability of the company up to $5 million per year. This is per occurrence, not per landowner. There is also an additional umbrella coverage for another $5 million. One problem with this is that $10 million doesn’t even begin to cover the cost of cleanup.
“Other pipeline spills have incurred costs of hundreds of millions of dollars, or even over a billion dollars. Another problem is that this is an insurance policy. Anyone who has dealt with insurance companies knows that the company will either deny coverage or try to limit the amount of the insurance payment. A landowner would have to take legal action to be properly compensated, involving great time and expense.”
More and more Iowans are stepping forward to help defeat the pipeline. Perhaps you are already engaged as well. If not, and if you’d like a niche in this critical undertaking, let me know and we’ll make it happen!
Please follow Ed Fallon’s walk across Iowa along the route of the proposed Bakken Oil Pipeline. Go to http://fallonforum.com/pipeline-walk/
Iowa Pipeline Walk: Day Thirteen
by Ed Fallon
Saturday, March 14, 2015 – Mahaska/Jasper County line
Toady marks 150 miles of walking as I step into the seventh county along the pipeline route. A heartfelt “Thank you!” to State Rep. Dan Kelley and Kathy Holdefer (a landowner near Mingo), who each organized a meeting today with landowners and other concerned Jasper County residents.
At a 7:00 a.m. meeting at Uncle Nancy’s on the Newton town square, Dan spoke about his strong opposition to the pipeline. He has introduced legislation and also signed a letter from 15 lawmakers to the Iowa Utilities Board calling for an environmental impact assessment.
Today, Dan surprised me with a new angle that throws a whole new wrinkle into the pipeline conversation.
Apparently, no one had ever asked the Iowa Utilities Board’s staff if there already existed in Iowa another oil pipeline. Dan asked, and was told that there was, indeed, one other crude oil pipeline running through Iowa.
This pipeline travels north-south, roughly following I-35. It was built in the 1950s and is now owned by the infamous Koch Brothers. It was mothballed in 2013.
“I don’t want an oil pipeline running through Iowa,” said Dan. “But if Dakota Access wants to build one, why tear-up farmland diagonally across Iowa when there’s already an established right of way?”
This begs so many additional questions. Where did the oil transported through this pipeline come from? What was its final destination? Who were the original owners? How long have the Koch Brothers owned it? Were there ever any leaks or accidents? How many gallons a day did it move? Why was it abandoned in 2013? Why hasn’t Dakota Access considered using this route?
Dan and I will talk about this on today’s Fallon Forum at 11:00. Also, State Rep. John Forbes joins Dan with talk about industrial hemp. What would it do for Iowa’s economy? And find out why John feels industrial hemp is also good for the environment.
Catch the Fallon Forum live on Monday from 11:00 am – 12:00 noon on KDLF 1260 AM (Des Moines) Join the conversation by calling in at (515) 528-8122. And you can hear the Fallon Forum on KHOI 89.1 FM (Ames) at 4:00 pm on Wednesday and on KPVL 89.1 FM (Postville) at 7:00 pm on Wednesday.
Thanks! – Ed Fallon
March 2 – April 22 (Earth Day) – Iowa Pipeline Walk
Ed Fallon will walk over 400 miles following the proposed path of the Bakken Oil Pipeline to help landowners opposed to having their land taken by eminent domain – an area of law Ed worked on extensively while a state lawmaker. Ed will also discuss the urgency of the climate crisis and the need to protect our water. For information on the route, click here. Contact email@example.com.
March 16 – Meeting to discuss the Bakken Oil Pipeline (Farrar)
A public meeting for residents of Polk County at the United Methodist Church at 7:00 p.m. to meet with Ed Fallon to discuss concerns about eminent domain, climate change, water quality and related issues during Ed’s 400-mile walk along the proposed route of the Bakken Oil Pipeline. Contact Peter Clay at firstname.lastname@example.org.
March 18 – Meeting to discuss the Bakken Oil Pipeline (Ames)
A public meeting for residents of Story County at the Ames Public Library from 7:00-8:30 p.m. to meet with Ed Fallon to discuss concerns about eminent domain, climate change, water quality and related issues during Ed’s 400-mile walk along the proposed route of the Bakken Oil Pipeline. Contact Susan Franzen at email@example.com.
March 27 – April 12 – Climate Action Across America
Congress will be on Easter recess, or home for district work periods, for these 17 days this spring. Please call your Congressional representatives and Senators to arrange a time to meet with them about the need for climate action.