Monday, December 31, 2007

Mixed Feelings...

After our first meeting at the Museum of the Earth, I had mixed feelings about the project we were about to begin work on. On the one hand, I was excited to contribute to something “real,” a museum exhibit, instead of doing the usual final project that has significance only in the class I’ve created it for. On the other hand, I wasn’t sure if we were the right people for the job. Originally, I thought that students in a freshman level class wouldn’t have the appropriate level of knowledge and experience to create an information guide to the public on such a delicate, important topic.

After completing the project, my opinion on this is mixed. I’ve definitely come to see the project as a win-win situation for both the Museum and the students in my class. As the students do research and work on the project, they gain knowledge while the Museum gains an addition to their exhibit. It’s true that while doing research I often found myself feeling less knowledgeable than I would have liked about many of the topics I was reading about and then writing about in the project, however I also realized that our less educated perspective was also an asset to the exhibit. As we were often reminded, the exhibit is intended for the general public, so our content should be structured appropriately. As those with a perspective between the well-educated on climate change and the general public perhaps we were the bridge the exhibit needed. I am also reminded that our professor and teaching assistant, who certainly have the qualifications I was worried we may have lacked, were there to guide and edit our work so that any factual errors or gaps were corrected and filled.

In the end, I’m definitely proud of the final product (I know I’ll be bringing my parents to see the exhibit!) and I think it was a fun way to integrate the theme of the semester, taking action, with an academic project.

-Fiona Kirkpatrick, Cornell University Student

Saturday, December 29, 2007


Writing from the tail end of this collaboration with PRI and the Museum of the Earth is much different from initially being unsure of what to expect at the commencement of the project. While researching, writing and completing the final layout for my portion of the design I have learned a number of things that I feel are important for future educational projects regarding the impending global Climate Change.

I think that the most imposing obstacle regarding modern environmental awareness is the challenge of making people realize that rather than some far-off leftist propaganda, climate change is happening today. Whenever I try to encourage awareness I am, overwhelmingly, met with sentiments of frustration and disdain. The “yeah right, not here not now” mentality that is so detrimental to most efforts towards change is completely pervasive in today’s culture. I have to agree that it is an easy issue to discard, especially as we are so isolated in our little collegiate utopia, but as a global policy, this is terrible.

So, in setting out on this project, this was my primary goal. My final layout design included a number of visuals that I hope will be beneficial in spreading the feeling of necessity that will hopefully foster future action. My portion of the project was temperature, so I opted to include the quintessential climate change graph comparing temperature to CO2 concentration over the last 450,000 years. By superimposing this information with details about the possible effects of temperature increase and the incredible rate of anthropogenic atmospheric CO2 change, the pamphlet will (I hope) convey some anxiousness, hopefully enough to encourage public action/policy change.

To conclude: I, you, we, everyone, we are the people that have to deal with this. Not because in fifty or one hundred years our children are going to be screwed, but because we’re going to be screwed now and (maybe) permanently into the future if we don’t do something. This is not an issue to be left to others, to be thrown to the side for others, this is an issue that must be dealt with everywhere, by everyone, now.

-Lloyd Ellman, Cornell University Student

Thursday, December 27, 2007

You Can Make a Difference...

One thing I’ve repetitively found since I’ve started this project and have been sharing my findings with my friends is that many people believe that they can’t make a difference. It made me wonder a lot about how much difference one person can make and if all individual attempts are going to be futile until large corporations find it fiscally beneficial to become environmentally friendly.

Well, a few weeks ago I was at work and was talking to a friend who was nay saying the power of individual choice. I work in a restaurant that is currently using Styrofoam containers to give people their to go food in. By the end of the day it adds up how much is used, and as my friend and I were chatting I thought about the Styrofoam and thought I would say something to the owners to see if we could use something a little more environmentally friendly.

When I asked the owner he said that he was already looking into something else only he was having a hard time getting it from our food distributor. He said that they didn’t offer many environmentally friendly options, but they were planning on soon because of the requests they’ve been getting. I asked him what made him decide to switch and he told me that there were a couple of customers over the past few months that asked if there were something besides the Styrofoam to take their leftovers in. He said that it was the right thing to do for the environment, and also he didn’t want to lose any business because of it. Though it may cost a few more cents to get better containers, the money would be easily compensated by the fact that they wouldn’t lose any customers.

I was really happy to see hear this and I’m glad my friend did too because it showed that just a couple of people can make a change in the practices of a business. Then, after a few businesses start putting pressure on suppliers, the practices of suppliers change. This then presents options to businesses that may not have even considered using less pollutant, recyclable materials.

The few people that mentioned something to one restaurant may not have known that they helped to start such a ripple, but they did and I think that it is a great example of how consumers as individuals in a capitalistic society can affect the practices of larger companies and corporations and help to make noticeable changes in the world.

A few days later my friend told me that she went out and bought reusable grocery bags, inspired no doubt by the few people who simply asked about an alternative to Styrofoam.

-Michael R. Johnson, Cornell University Student

Friday, December 21, 2007

Mitt Romney a Second Opinion...

As a new voter, the process of finding a presidential candidate to support seems overwhelming. Not only are there still many candidates at this time but the number of issues our nation faces is astounding. Trying to pick the best of the bunch requires careful understanding of all subjects relating to their election. In this blog I will focus on the environmental policies of Republican candidate Mitt Romney.

Romney firmly believes that the US needs to reduce its dependence of foreign oil. He proposes that we do this by increasing funding for research into alternative energy sources. He is a strong supporter of nuclear power as well. He also advocates increasing energy efficiency and the cleaner burning of fossil fuels through processes such as carbon sequestration. All of these are environmentally friendly policies but I don’t see how he will implement them. He wants to curb federal spending but claims he is going to implement an, “Energy Revolution if you will. It will be our generation’s equivalent of the Manhattan Project or the mission to the Moon.” ( It is my understanding that a project on that scale will cost a considerable sum of money, while Romney aims to cut government spending. He also claims to support alternative energy but opposes the “Cape Wind” proposal which would put offshore wind turbines off the coast of Cape Cod. It seems that former governor Romney says he supports these alternative energy types but takes a “not in my backyard” stance when they are proposed in his state. Romney also intends to reduce or dependence on foreign oil through the drilling of oil in domestic sites, notably ANWR and the Outer Continental Shelf.

All in all, Romney’s environmental reform claims seem promising at first but at a closer glance I think that they conflict with his other policies. Given the nature of politics, I think he is trying to please everybody and that it would be very unlikely for many of the changes he wants to make to occur if he was elected president. For these reasons I give Romney a C on his environmental policies.

Photo Credit: This United States Congress Image is in the public domain.

-Max Royster, Cornell University Student

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Dennis Kucinich

Reading recently about Dennis Kucinich’s position on Global warming I was struck by his apparent concern about the issue. Regrettably however much of his proposed policy seems out of touch with reality, a phenomenon more and more common in today’s politics. Take for example the Safe Climate Act of 2007 a bill which Kucinich is co-sponsoring in the House of Representatives. The bill calls for carbon dioxide emissions to be frozen in 2010 and reduced to eighty percent below 1990 levels by 2050. While the bills ultimate goal of heading off climate change is admirable and many of its propositions such as increased funding for renewable energy, energy efficiency initiatives, and a carbon cap and trade system are long overdue the bill’s ambitious goals seem at odds with reality. Consider how reluctant we are as a nation to accept the Kyoto protocol with its much more limited goal of reducing carbon emissions to 1990 levels and the potentially crippling economic consequences that would result from the abrupt and severe cutbacks in carbon dioxide emissions proposed by Kucinich’s bill. Add to this the fact that Kucinich is a vocal opponent of increased nuclear and hydroelectric power—currently our two largest energy sources unrelated to fossil fuels—and it becomes clear that Kucinich’s proposed energy policy has serious flaws. It’s possible I am being overly skeptical and Kucinich sees some way of successfully implementing the policy he is proposing but even so, working to make the smaller changes that are possible today a reality would seem the best strategy for achieving real progress in combating global warming. The bill’s purpose strikes me as more allow Kucinich to tout having introduced “the toughest climate bill in the house”, than to work in any meaningful way towards a practical solution to the threat of global warming. While we need to recognize and address the threat of global warming, we need realistic propositions aimed at truly achieving change, not fantasies designed to appeal to voters. By no means is Kucinich the only politician guilty of presenting unrealistic propositions designed to appeal to voters and Kucinich’s actions pale in comparison with the immeasurable harm done by candidates who for political reasons refuse to acknowledge global warming’s existence. What we are sadly lacking in this country today are voters and political leaders willing to see beyond party politics and inflated rhetoric who will work towards achieving the change on which our nation’s future depends.

Sources on Dennis Kucinich’s Energy Policy:

Photo Credit: United States Congress

-Patrick Nadeau, Cornell University Student

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A Start? Enough? Not Enough? You Decide!

The official press release from the White House regarding the new Energy Bill passed by the United States Congress and slated to be signed by President George W. Bush:

Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
July 29, 2005

The Energy Bill: Good For Consumers, The Economy, And The Environment

"America must have an energy policy that plans for the future, but meets the needs of today. I believe we can develop our natural resources and protect our environment."

– President George W. Bush


President Bush entered office calling on Congress to pass the first national energy plan in a generation. He proposed a comprehensive energy plan to encourage conservation and energy efficiency; expand the use of alternative and renewable energy; increase the domestic production of conventional fuels; and invest in modernization of our energy infrastructure.

The energy bill passed by Congress this week paves the way for a brighter and more secure energy future with more reliable, affordable, and clean sources of energy to power America forward. It will help put us on the path to reducing our dependence on foreign sources of energy. Our reliance on imported energy did not come about overnight, and it will take time to reverse.

By harnessing the power of American innovation and technological development, the energy bill will help us transform the way that we use and produce energy - resulting in greater energy security, a growing economy, and a healthier environment for generations of Americans to come.

To Encourage Conservation And Energy Efficiency, The Energy Bill:

  • Establishes new energy efficiency standards for a wide variety of consumer products and commercial appliances, and offers tax incentives to encourage their purchase
  • Encourages improved efficiency in homes and buildings, establishes new aggressive Federal energy savings goals, and reauthorizes the Energy Savings Performance Contract program to conserve more energy at Federal facilities
  • Offers tax incentives to consumers to purchase energy-efficient hybrid, clean diesel, and fuel cell vehicles
  • Requires a new, multi-year rulemaking by the Department of Transportation to increase fuel economy standards for passenger cars, light trucks, and SUVs

To Expand The Use Of Alternative And Renewable Energy, The Energy Bill:

  • Establishes a new Renewable Fuel Standard that requires the annual use of 7.5 billion gallons of ethanol and biodiesel in the nation's fuel supply by 2012
  • Extends the existing tax credit for production of electricity from renewable resources, such as wind, biomass, and landfill gas, and creates for the first time a tax credit for residential solar energy systems
  • Authorizes full funding for the President's Hydrogen Fuel Initiative
  • Provides Federal risk insurance and extends the Price-Anderson Act to mitigate the potential cost of unforeseen delays and encourage investment in a new generation of safer, more reliable, and more proliferation-resistant nuclear power plants

To Increase The Domestic Production Of Conventional Fuels, The Energy Bill:

  • Makes needed reforms to clarify the onshore oil and gas permitting process, and reduce conflicts with other laws and regulations (stormwater, CZMA, hydraulic fracturing)
  • Clarifies FERC jurisdiction over siting of onshore LNG facilities to accelerate development of a global market in natural gas and help reduce prices for U.S. consumers
  • Authorizes full funding for the President's Clean Coal Research Initiative and updates Federal coal leasing laws
  • Eliminates the 2 percent "oxygenate requirement" for reformulated gasoline, to improve the flexibility of our fuel supply and reduce the number of "boutique fuels"

To Encourage Investment In Modernization And Reliability Of Our Energy Infrastructure, The Energy Bill:

  • Requires mandatory reliability standards to make the electric power grid more reliable and protect against blackouts
  • Reforms outdated tax laws to expand investments in electric transmission and generation facilities
  • Establishes last-resort Federal siting authority for transmission lines deemed in the "national interest" to ensure a better functioning power grid

The Energy Bill Also Helps Reduce The Global Demand For Energy By:

  • Working with our international partners - including fast growing nations like China and India - to encourage them to deploy the cleanest and most efficient energy technologies as they develop and grow their economies

# # #

Monday, December 17, 2007

Interesting MSNBC.Com Article

Warming seas, disease take toll on coral reefs
A top coral researcher has advice for anyone who admires reefs: enjoy it now, because if sea temperatures continue to rise, expect to see more - and more severe - disease outbreaks that wipe out colonies.

Read this article now: Warming Seas

Friday, December 14, 2007

Green Holiday Tips from the Sierra Club

RECYCLE YOUR OLD CELLPHONE. Getting a new cell phone for Christmas? Not sure what to do with the old one? Now, you can drop off that old phone at any Staples store, as part of the Sierra Club cell phone recycling program. Each year, 130 million cell phones are thrown out, weighing approximately 65,000 tons. Recycling your old phone prevents hazardous elements like mercury, cadmium and lead from ending up in our landfills.
Find out more.

MAKE YOUR OWN WRAPPING PAPER. Most mass-produced wrapping paper you find in stores is not recyclable and ends up in landfills. Instead, here's a great chance to get creative! Wrap presents with old maps, the comics section of a newspaper, or children's artwork. If every family wrapped just three gifts this way, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields.

ADD ORGANIC & LOCAL FOODS TO YOUR HOLIDAY FEAST. Support local family farmers who grow sustainable meat and produce. Not only does it taste better, you'll be doing your part for the planet too. Looking for an organic turkey or ham for Christmas dinner? Find out where to get local green products in your neighborhood.

STOCKING STUFFERS: TEST YOUR ECO- KNOWLEDGE. do you have a family member who loves the outdoors? Stuff their stockings with Sierra Club Knowledge Cards, which come in a variety of outdoor themes ranging from survival skills to baby animals. Another great stocking stuffer is "guilt-free" chocolate! Give the gift of organic, fair-trade chocolate and you can eat your way to a better planet.

DO A "COOL HOME" TOUR WITH OUR ENERGY-SAVING CHECKLIST. Take a pledge this New Years' to reduce your home energy use by buying energy-efficient light bulbs. Installing only 6 compact fluorescent light bulbs will save the average American family $60 per year. You can also use our handy "Cool Homes" checklist to see what easy things you can do in your home to save energy. If there's a fire in your fireplace this Christmas, turn down that thermostat! Lowering the temperature even five degrees can take 10% off your energy bill.
Check out a complete list of energy-saving tips.

BUY ENERGY-SAVING "LED" HOLIDAY LIGHTS. Now you can decorate your house with LED lights that use 90 percent less energy than conventional holiday lights, and can save your family up to $50 on your energy bills during the holiday season! LED lights are available at many major retailers, including Target, CostCo, and Ace Hardware.

GET A PESTICIDE-FREE TREE. Demand is on the rise for Christmas trees that are not covered in chemicals; some growers use 40 different pesticides, as well as chemical colorants. The good news is that there are now a number of tree-farms that sell pesticide-free trees, so ask your local Christmas tree seller, or search for an organic tree farm near you.

RECYCLE YOUR CHRISTMAS TREE. Ninety-eight percent of Christmas trees were grown on farms, not in forests, so at least it's not as if you're cutting down an ancient tree. Each year, 10 million Christmas trees end up in the landfill. While your tree won't fit in the recycling bin with your newspapers and bottles, you can recycle your tree: many cities offer programs to turn your tree to mulch or wood chips. Call (800) CLEANUP or visit to find the tree-recycling program near you.

DONATE YOUR TIME OR MONEY TO AN ENVIRONMENTAL GROUP. Get into the holiday spirit by volunteering! There are countless ways to help improve your community—and the planet—from cleaning up a local river to helping inner city kids experience the outdoors for the first time. Contact your local Sierra Club to find out about volunteer opportunities near you. A donation in honor of a loved one can also be a special holiday gift.

LAST BUT NOT LEAST: GET READY FOR DINNER-TABLE DEBATE. Are you likely to be the lone environmentalist at the dinner table sometime soon? Win arguments and influence people with our famous holiday survival guide. You'll find ready responses to the predictable dinner table arguments that'll be directed at you. Who knows, you might even make a few converts!

Dreaming of a Green Christmas

Follow this link to see how we can be more "green" during the holidays. I thought you might like it. (NBC is not allowing us to embed their videos yet, so you will have to follow the link!)

Dec. 13: LED lights are lighting up holiday displays across the US, and with potential energy savings worth billions, their use could spread beyond the holidays. NBC's Mark Potter reports.

Link: NBC Nightly News

Friday, December 7, 2007

Becoming Carbon Neutral

Eden Mills a small village in Canada is doing something that we can't seem to do here. They are going carbon neutral. Take a look at their website for more information:

Eden Mills is Going Carbon Neutral

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

In Their Own Words...


Brad Pitt has announced that he is helping to create "green" homes for those affected by hurricane Katrina in New Orleans' 9th Ward. He recently appeared on the Today Show to discuss MIR9's mission and plan.

Friday, November 30, 2007

John McCain

When considering a Presidential candidate (this is really my first time partaking in such a patriotic pastime) I think it is important to take a look at the balance of issues. John McCain says that he is “Ready to Lead” the country into an environmentally sound future, just what does that mean in terms of a Presidential candidate, especially one aligned with the conservative side of the coin?
By his own admission, McCain leans heavily left on many environmental issues; specifically the truth of climate change and the need to take action to combat future problems. In this way he differs from the conservative ignorance displayed by his party-mates towards the most important long-term issue of our time. One would be inclined to hail McCain as the evolved, modern Republican, an idea that he embodies in some senses, but his environmental policy does leave some doubts, specifically in the interplay between activism and foreign policy.

“I believe climate change is real…I agree…we may reach a tipping point where we cannot save our climate,” these are both quotes that show both an evolution in the policies of the Republican party and a unique quality about John McCain himself. In his willingness to accept the scientific evidence for modern global warming, McCain has proven his awareness and maturity in the modern world. Yet he still shows a darker political lining by stating that the US was right to reject the Kyoto Protocol, based on the fact that China and India have not ratified the contract. This is a simply illogical comparison. India and China are the two most populous countries on the Earth and are still very definitely in developmental stages, strikingly unlike the modern, industrialized US. Indeed these countries should be kept in check, but to refuse to sign the treaty on this basis alone is simply asinine.

McCain’s final issue presented details his policy regarding the reduction of reliance on foreign oil in the nation. He aims to simultaneously convert to less carbon-dependent fuel sources while extracting oil from our own land and the land of those allied with the country. Presumably this would require drilling in Alaska and in similarly protected regions, certainly not a positive point for a self-proclaimed environmentalist.

Quantitatively, I’ll give the man a B, but until he clarifies a few logistical issues he seems to fall just short of a true environmentalist.

Photo Credit: Official Portrait from the United Sates Senate

-Lloyd Ellman, Cornell University Student

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Bill Richardson

Bill Richardson, a democratic candidate for president and the current governor of New Mexico, has made altering America’s energy usage and protecting our environment one of his top priorities. Richardson aspires to “make America a clean energy nation like [he] made New Mexico a clean energy state” ( Some of his specific proposed policy points include: cutting oil demand by 50% by 2020, requiring electrical companies to generate 50% of their power from renewable sources by 2050, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 90% by 2050, restoring the Clean Water Act, and providing incentives to encourage states with low recycling rates to improve their programs. Richardson supports increasing funding for the development of alternative energy sources including wind, solar, and nuclear, although he does not support nuclear waste storage at Yucca Mountain. To read quotes from Richardson on climate and energy as well as other issues, check out And to see footage of Richardson presenting his energy plan at “Primary Energy ’08” in Keene New Hampshire last month check out

It seems pretty clear that Bill Richardson has made a point of putting together a comprehensive, rigorous, and hopefully viable plan make Americas energy use more sustainable, and less harmful to our environment. In addition, Richardson’s record as governor of New Mexico would seem to indicate that these are not empty promises, as he has in fact worked hard to make New Mexico’s energy use more sustainable. On a standard letter grade scale, I would give Richardson’s climate and energy policy an A.

Photo Credit: United States Department of Energy

-Win Wharton, Cornell University

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Mike Gravel

Maurice Robert “Mike” Gravel supports serious environmental and energy reform. He states on his website that if elected president, he will implement a tax on carbon emissions. One of his goals is to create a global effort to combat climate change, encouraging nations that produce a lot of carbon to work together in conservation and science.[1] Beyond eliminating the global dependence on oil, he wants to fight deforestation (another key contributor to climate change).[2] Gravel has also voiced his support for the end of coal-powered electricity production, suggesting further that the US energy system should work toward a base in hydrogen power.[3] With respect to transportation, Gravel is a proponent of far stricter automotive fuel-economy regulation. He also supports the adoption of a national magnetic levitation train system, a technology that has already been implemented in several other countries.[4] His record as a senator (representing Alaska from 1969 to 1981) includes helping to allow the Trans-Alaska Oil Pipeline to be built, and campaigning against the use of nuclear power for energy production or warfare.[5]

Mike Gravel addresses most of the issues of climate change well. His ideas and proposals would combat greenhouse gas emissions at large point sources (switching away from oil and gas power) as well as consumer sources such as cars (increased fuel-economy standards). Furthermore, he has ideas on a number of different time scales. Automobile efficiency and emissions could be improved almost immediately with the proper legislation. Maglev trains and the infrastructure for vehicles and fuel stations that use liquid hydrogen could be created within a few (or perhaps several) years. Further down the road, cooperation with India, China and other global polluters could have incredible benefits. On the other hand, Gravel’s rejection of nuclear power might be idealistically admirable, but it also ignores a technology that could power the US into its transition to more renewable fuels. Furthermore, his senate record of supporting the Trans-Alaska Oil Pipeline falls opposite to his supposed desire to eliminate US oil dependence. The vote may have been decades ago, but it could shows a desire to see economic growth over conservation. In general, Mike Gravel has some ambitious and potentially effective goals in climate change and energy policy. However, in some areas (such as his hydrogen-powered economy), his suggested policies lacks the detail needed for such a revolutionary platform.

Climate Change Grade: B+

[1] “The People’s Crusade: More Like Marcus Cicero than Don Quixote.” Ralph Nader.

Accessed 11/1/07.

[2] “Gravel On the Record – Interview.” Amanda Griscom Little. Grist Magazine, 8/7/07.

Accessed 11/1/07

[3] “Gravel On the Record – Interview.” Amanda Griscom Little. Grist Magazine, 8/7/07.

Accessed 11/1/07

[4] “Gravel On the Issues.” Kate Sheppard and Todd Hymas Samkara.> Accessed 11/1/07

[5] “The People’s Crusade: More Like Marcus Cicero than Don Quixote.” Ralph Nader.

Accessed 11/1/07.

-Will Whitney, Cornell University Student

In Their Own Words

John Edwards

Edward’s position on Climate and Energy is to stall global warming, use technology to gain more energy independence, and to use global warming to indirectly create revenue for the United States. He plans to halt global warming by capping the levels of CO2 emissions according to scientific recommendations. This will be achieved through “pollution permits” which will allow companies to exceed their limits. The approximate $10 billion raised through this will be used to create technologies that will be clean, renewable, and efficient and to create 1 million jobs for Americans.

Another portion of his plan involves adopting caps on CO2 emissions in order to give the US credibility and a foothold in the politics behind halting global warming. In order to help developing countries become clean as they adopt a higher standard of living, the plan will also involve the US sharing its technology to prevent newer sources of CO2 emissions before they begin.

A third portion of the plan involves gearing the US towards making cleaner, more efficient and renewable products from everyday products to our methods of transportation. In addition to this, his plan will meet the ever growing demand for electricity by using better technologies to cut various products’ electricity usage.

These ideas seem well founded and are broadly consistent with what many scientists agree with is necessary to halt global warming and minimize any effects on climate change that we have already incurred. However, these goals may be difficult to accomplish to their full extent, and will most likely be boiled down to a few key changes. Nonetheless, as his intentions seem well founded and a few key changes would make a great difference, I give him a B+ for his plan and the likelihood that he will make positive changes.

Photo: United States Congress: Official Senate Portrait

-Tyler Huth, Cornell University Student

Monday, November 19, 2007

Mitt Romney

On his official campaign site,, Mitt Romney has a section devoted to his stands on political issues called "Issue Watch". In the page on "Energy", he is quoted as saying:

"We're using too much oil... We have an answer. We can use alternative sources of energy -- biodiesel, ethanol, nuclear power -- and we can drill for more oil here. We can be more energy independent and we can be far more efficient in the use of that energy."

- Governor Romney, Waterloo Courier, September 29, 2006

This is a somewhat vague stance to have on such an important issue. In one brief paragraph, his motivation for pursuing alternative energy and drilling for more oil in America is summarized as: "we must become independent from foreign sources of oil". Thus, his reasoning behind any reduction in energy consumption is political; he implies that a reduction in oil consumption would reduce our ties to the Middle East, which he vehemently crusades against on other parts of his site. He makes no mention of climate change, which should be a major issue in politics right now considering the most recent data taken at the North pole, which shows dramatic and unexpected decreases in the size of the ice sheets this summer. Instead, he suggests oil drilling in the Arctic national Wildlife Refuge, which would wreak havoc on the natural environment there.

In a press release from Thursday, Mar 08, 2007, Romney states that he is willing to fund research for alternative energy such as “biodiesel, ethanol, nuclear, and coal gasification”, but he makes no mention of how much money he will allocate to this research.
As governor of Massachusetts, Romney allowed the passage of Massachusetts Climate Protection Plan , which committed Massachusetts to achieve ten specific goals, including the reduction of "GHG emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2010" and in the long term, a reduction in CO2 levels to "75-85% below current levels" ( Massachusetts State Government). However, when he announced the passage of this plan, Romney seemed ambivalent about the veracity of climate change. In an official letter attached to the plan, he stated, "If climate change is happening, the actions we take will help…If climate change is largely caused by human action, this will really help. If we learn decades from now that climate change isn't happening, these actions will still help our economy, our quality of life, and the quality of our environment" (Ebbert). Today, as he adopts a running platform that he believes will appeal to conservative America, Romney seems unlikely to strive to implement a similar program on the national level. In a February 2007 press release, Governor Romney stated, "Unfortunately, some in the Republican Party are embracing the radical environmental ideas of the liberal left. As governor, I found that thoughtful environmentalism need not be anti-growth and anti-jobs. But Kyoto-style sweeping mandates, imposed unilaterally in the United States, would kill jobs, depress growth and shift manufacturing to the dirtiest developing nations." Governor Romney is concerned about the economic implications of environmental reforms, and is presumably unwilling to strive for better fuel economy standards or any serious reduction in CO2 emissions. He is only willing to support research as a means to reduce oil consumption because he believes it will create jobs and benefit the economy.

The bottom line is that we need a President with enough courage and foresight to make huge changes in America's environmental policy. Mitt Romney gets a D+ for understanding that we need to decrease our dependence on foreign oil and research alternative energy sources, but being unwilling to accept the reality of climate change.

Works Cited

Ebbert, Stephanie. "Romney hedges on global warming". Boston Globe. 7 May, 2004.

Massachusetts State Government. Executive. Office for Commonwealth Development. Massachusetts Climate Protection Plan 0 2004. 31 Oct. 2007 .

Photo Credit: This United States Congress Image is in the public domain.

Elena Moreno, Cornell University Student

Friday, November 16, 2007

Joe Biden

For this blog my assignment was to research presidential candidate Joe Biden and find out what his political views on the environment are. Was I amazed! It turns out he is extremely pro-environment, which really impresses me. He seems to have the beliefs and vindication of Al Gore but with more political boldness.

In case you don’t know who he is, Joe Biden is the Democratic Senator of Delaware and has been for 34 years. He is a serious advocate for the reducing of greenhouse gases and trying to reduce global warming. He has been the sponsor and co-sponsor of many important environmental bills such as the Clean Power Act and Boxer-Sanders Global Warming Pollution Reduction Act. The latter is currently the most restrictive climate bill in the senate right now and will reduce emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, and to 80% of 1990 levels by 2050.

Another legislation Senator Biden has sponsored is the American Automobile Industry Promotion Act of 2007. The exact initiative can be viewed at Its basic agenda is to promote the research and distribution of hybrid and flex fuel cars. The Senator has also spoken about making all cars required to be flex-fuel by certain dates some not so far in the future. He also hopes to make legislation that would require fuel efficiency to increase by an average of 1mpg/year, which I find to be a slow but steady rate.

Reducing automobile emissions is not the only way that this candidate wants to help the global warming problem. He sponsored the FLIP to SAVE bill, which allocated government incentives to people and companies for changing to fluorescent light bulbs to save energy. He is also a strong supporter of biofuels as a new, renewable energy source. In an interview I watched he said that he believes that corn is a good starting point to get biofuels off the ground, but then we’ll have to move on to other crops and methods.

Senator Biden seems willing to put his money where his mouth is on this subject, and he believes we should repeal tax breaks for oil companies. He seems to be more aggressive and outspoken about the environment in his campaign than many other candidates have been in the past. He has an 84% lifetime rating from the League of Conservation Voters and claims that he makes energy security a “top priority.” He has said:

"If I could wave a wand, and the Lord said I could solve one problem, I would solve the energy crisis. That's the single most consequential problem we can solve. It's what you have to do to get greenhouse gases under control."

--March 3, 2007, at a rally in Hartsville, S.C.

If you’d like to know more about Senator Joe Biden’s environmental and energy platform you can check out some of the following sites. The last has actual video clips of interviews and questions. - his official site -- live video feeds!

Photo Source: Official Photograph from the United States Senate in Public Domain

-Michael Johnson, Cornell University Student

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Hillary Rodham Clinton

So I’ve been asked to research Democratic presidential hopeful Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and her stance on climate change and global warming. For the most part I have found a pretty solid performance from her, but sometimes I wonder if it is for different reasons than what could be, such as to stop the Iraq War rather than for the good of the globe. This makes me wonder if she will drop or become lax on policies later on in her term. I will be fair and say that she has other reasons to do these things, but the war and dependence on foreign oil seem to be the ones she mentions the most. This discussion is solely on global warming and climate change issues, not the war itself, so I will stay away from these topics as best I can.

Her policy and platform on global warming, climate change, and energy usage has been growing, with the clearest beginning starting in 2005 when she was running for the senate seat in the 2006 elections. She is currently on the Environment and Public Works Committee in the Senate. She has co-authored numerous bills regarding climate change, global warming, energy conservation, and what the people can do about it. One of her more recent efforts is the Strategic Energy Fund that she proposed last May, which takes away tax breaks for big oil and relieves them of some of their profits in order to use the money gained to do research on clean energy. Also, she started talking about “something like a national institute of energy” (speech, May 2006). She has also voted for many different bills that are in favor of taking steps to combat global warming, as well as voting against the numerous bills that have come up that will contribute in some way to climate change, be it taking away preservations of land or giving breaks to oil and gas companies. Some of these such measures included the McCain-Lieberman Climate Stewardship Innovation Act, which failed to pass, and the more recent (and more hardline) Boxer-Sanders Global Warming Pollution Reduction Act.

However, she is a proponent for “clean coal,” which is not as clean as we would like. To be fair she has stated that “… I think you have got to admit that coal – of which we have a great and abundant supply in America – is not going away. So how do we best manage the possibility of using clean coal, but having very strict environmental standards?” (Clinton on the Record, article), which shows to me that she is thinking about it as logically as she can and is only looking into clean coal as an option since we cannot get away from it. It is a very sound point that we would not be able to immediately switch to all renewable energy right now because first, it cannot support our energy use, and, second, we don’t have the resources, plants, or processes in place to pull it off. Looking into cleaner ways to deal with fossil fuels until technology arrives is a thought, but not as green a thought as one would hope.

It seems that many of her stances discuss the war in Iraq and wants to “break the addiction to foreign oil” (“Powering Up For 2006 – and Beyond, article). ”These are only supplementary reasons, if reasons at all, in my mind. There is no guarantee that once these “reasons” go away that the eco-friendliness of the government will continue. I would much rather see someone in higher office giving the better reasons to do these things, including making sure the world is a good place for generations to come. She also lobbied and voted for a trial tire burn in New York State, which ended very early after too much pollution was caused.

All in all, a solid record that someone can stand on. There are detractions from her stance, but very few blatant inconsistencies. Also, I see a lot of talk, but not a similar amount of action, though she has taken steps to work on the issue itself. I think that she should get a B+.

Please note:

In looking up Senator Clinton’s stances, I’ve done my best to stick to her own words, because I think that they are the most accurate gage. No one can spin something if it is the full text of someone’s words. On her supporting sites, they can pick quotes and choose bill proposals that put her in the best light, just as on opposing sites they can do the complete opposite. However, using the full text of speeches I think one can find a clear picture without these lenses.

For further reference:

The speech I referenced from May 2006:

A good interview and a link to a summary of key points on her campaign:

And for those who don’t know, CNN did a debate in partnership with YouTube. I highly recommend watching both the Democratic and the Republican debates. I think it puts a good spotlight on all of the issues facing the presidential candidates.

Photo Source: Official U.S. Senate Photo of Senator Clinton used with out permission under the terms of Title 17, Chapter 1, Section 105 of the US Code.

-Laura Santamaria, Cornell University Student

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Barack Obama

Barack Obama’s position on Climate Change is clearly outlined on his official website (; “Barack Obama believes we have a moral, environmental, economic, and security imperative to address our dependence on foreign oil and tackle climate change in a serious, sustainable manner.” Obama’s website cites several current and possible future consequences of global warming as support for his position, for example the melting of the ice caps and more.

In order to address the problem of global warming, Obama promises to reduce carbon emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 and to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050 using cap-and-trade programs instead of a carbon tax. These programs establish an overall cap on carbon emissions that is divided into “allowances that represent the permission to emit that amount,” which companies are free to buy and sell. Some of the money generated from these allowances will go towards the development of clean energy and will help “lower-income Americans afford their energy bills by expanding the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, expanding weatherization grants for low-income individuals to make their homes more energy efficient, and establishing a dedicated fund to assist low-income Americans afford higher electricity and energy bills.”

Obama believes that the path to “achieving the necessary revolution toward low carbon energy production” includes “increased investment in basic research and human capital” by doubling science and research funding for the development of clean energy and by using funds from the cap-and-trade auction program to train workers on clean technology and development; “investment in key technology development” by creating a “Clean Technologies Development Venture Capital Fund;” and “setting standards to allow the market to invest and innovate” through a national low carbon fuel standard.

Obama also believes that “improving energy efficiency is the fastest, cheapest most cost-effective method to reducing greenhouse gas emissions…” Obama plans to make the federal government the leader in saving electricity, ensuring that new federal buildings are at zero-emissions by 2025, by making federal buildings more efficient and by overhauling federal efficiency codes. Obama also plans to make all new buildings carbon neutral by 2030, to eliminate the use of traditional incandescent light bulbs by 2014, and to invest in a “digital smart grid.”

Barack Obama also plans to make America energy independent, reducing oil consumption by 35% by 2030. To do this, Obama will “increase fuel economy standards,” “invest in developing advanced vehicles,” “build biofuel distribution infrastructure,” and “build more livable and sustainable communities.”

In addition to and as a consequence of these numerous domestic changes, Obama will “make the U.S. a leader in combating climate change around the world.” Overall, Obama’s Climate Change policy is ambitious and impressive. However, I did find myself wishing he had outlined the intended environmental impact of his plans in more detail and with more scientific basis instead of just providing a laundry list of projects without a description of exactly what effect each project is intended to have. So, overall, I give Barack Obama an A-.

Photo Credit: This photo is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

-Fiona Kirkpatrick, Cornell University Student

Monday, November 12, 2007

Rudy Giuliani

Up until recently, Republicans have been associated with turning their heads and smoothly changing the subject whenever issues of Global Warming has come up. Rudolph Giuliani may be one of the first Republican candidates in the upcoming presidential election who takes a stand and speaks publicly on global warming issues. Giuliani says that he “definitely” believes in global warming, and continually praises Governor Schwarzenegger for being so progressive on the subject of global warming. According to a California newspaper, Giuliani was quoted on the topic of global warming saying "The big question has always been how much of it is happening because of natural climate changes and how much of it is happening because of human intervention.'' In the same article he bashes Al Gore for not “recommending solutions”. I searched and I searched and I still have yet to find a single published article, website, or journal where Giuliani offers up solutions for Global Warming. Maybe he is right in that Gore should be more explicit in saying what should be done about the issue, but Giuliani, while continually stating what a great job Schwarzenegger is doing on the subject of global warming, has yet to offer up any solutions himself. Because Republicans have typically avoided the subject of Global Warming all together until recently, it is a good thing that the former NYC Mayor is even giving thought to the subject publicly at all. Even by seeing what little Giuliani has to say on the matter is good news because it means that global warming and environmental issues all together are no longer predominantly democratic issues, but republican issues also.

Overall, Giuliani gets a C. Think back to high school—a C is average. You put in the right amount of effort, you said the right things, but it’s not quite A quality. He addresses the fact that global warming does in fact exist, but he doesn’t offer solutions or really state what a prevalent issue it has become. So Giuliani, sorry, but you’re average.

Check out these websites. The first is the article that I mentioned a lot from the California newspaper, and the second is a publication that gives all the important candidates positions on global warming. Interestingly enough, not much is to be said for Giuliani…

Photo Credit: Jason Bedrick/wikimedia

Kelsey Gleason, Cornell University Student

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Is Your School Green?

Below is a link to the Sierra Club's listing of the "Big 10" Green Universities:

Check and see if your school made the grade!

Here are links to what are local Universities are doing:

Cornell University:

Ithaca College:

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

What's Next!

There are many actions that each of us, individually, can take to counteract anthropogenic climate change. We can focus on energy efficiency—switching to compact fluorescent lightbulbs, better insulating our homes, and choosing efficient appliances. We can reduce consumption—carpooling, investing in alternative home energy systems such as solar hot water, photovoltaic electricity, wood stoves instead of oil or electric. We can purchase personal carbon offsets when we travel, in so doing, investing in companies that are producing clean and renewable energy. We can think more broadly about sustainable practice in every aspect of our lives—buying locally so as to reduce the energy required to produce and transport goods, eating organic foods that do not require fossil fuel-based fertilizers nor aggressive soil-damaging farm practice. We reduce, reuse, recycle. And all of this is good, and necessary. But it is not enough. As we convert ourselves to more sustainable living we also need to convert our communities. Individual actions are essential, and are the first step to positive global change, but at the same time we need to think more comprehensively about far-reaching change. Community activism and raising awareness are key, and these activities require strong leadership – scientific, educational, economic, political. Perhaps the single most important action that any of us can take is to choose elected officials who have the commitment, the skill, and the vision to effect change. Outstanding political leadership, at the local, state, and national levels is needed—now more than ever—to design incentive and conservation programs, to support energy alternatives, and to collaborate internationally on effective global stewardship.

With this in mind, the students of EAS 220 have reviewed the positions of the major presidential candidates, both Republican and Democratic, on issues of climate and energy policy. A summary is provided for each candidate, with links for more information, and each student has assessed the candidate’s position and awarded him/her a letter grade for overall effectiveness and potential.


Alexandra Moore, Ph.D.

Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences

Cornell University

Monday, November 5, 2007

Above All Nations is Humanity...

Sitting down to write about global warming quickly reveals just how ignorant I am on the subject. Would I be more accurate saying climate change? And while the consensus now seems to be that within my lifetime we will begin to see the affects of global warming more and more clearly how will this affect daily life? Stories circulate of rising sea levels submerging New York City and possible mass extinctions but how credible is any of this? It seems people are concerned but the scope and complexity of the issues surrounding global warming are such that simply defining much less intelligently discussing and affectively dealing with global warming becomes a major challenge.

However global warming does exist and appears to have to potential to have far reaching impacts not only on the distant future but also on our own lives in the coming years, so it would seem imperative that we educate ourselves on the issue and honestly asses what steps can be taken now to prevent the catastrophic consequences of inaction. Equally as important, we need to ask our leaders to be honest with themselves, and act responsibly on our behalf. Obviously there is no quick fix but to simply pretend the problem does not exist may mean throwing away our collective future.

To accomplish anything meaningful to combat global warming we need to act together and be willing to go out of our way to do the little things. We all share a stake in the future of our planet and now more than ever we need to take responsibility for this shared future. How tragic would it be if we prove to be too shortsighted and self-interested to prevent an unprecedented catastrophe which we saw coming and might have avoided? “Above all nations is humanity” reads an engraving I pass often on my way to and from class and I think it is in this spirit that we must each do what we can, whether as nations, communities or individuals, to address the challenge of global warming. Together I am confident we can and will be successful preserving our world and our future.

-Patrick Clark Nadeau, Cornell University Student

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Contained in a Photograph

Today in class, we looked at a picture of the earth taken from one of the first Apollo moon missions. This photograph, dated 1969, brought to light an important difference between our current generation and those of the past. We, unlike present and past policymakers, have grown up with this image; we imagine the earth as this same small, illuminated, blue orb in space. To our generation, the earth isn’t quite so unimaginably large as it has been in the past. It can be contained in a photograph.

While this photograph is only a symbol, the ideas behind it extend into a much larger dichotomy. Where in the past the earth was considered to be a system beyond human influence, the more recent generation has the conceptual tools to conceive of it as something more special and fragile. While those born in the sixties and before were raised in the fever of technological excitement and advancement, we have entered into a more cautious world. The harm technology and industry can have on the environment has passed from potential to tangible. Where climate change was once a possible risk for the future, it is now a clear and present danger.

Global warming is a heated issue. In the media, in government, and in homes around the world, people care deeply, and disagree, about the reality of climate change. But despite this controversy, the great majority of scientists agree that the earth’s climate is changing because of human influence. [1] The effects of these changes can already be seen in the frequency of severe storms, the flow of glacier ice and the proliferation of tropical disease.[2] While details and predictions can be variable, there is little question as to the existence of climate change.

The problem of climate change puts our generation in a unique position. Until today, decisions about environmental policy have been made by political and industrial leaders who won’t be around to see the effects. When I choose to either conserve or waste energy, my choice will directly affect my life some years down the road. Those more skeptical about the status and speed of climate change must at least admit that my decision will affect the lives of my children. We, the generation approaching adulthood, bear the weight of the future of our planet. While we “practice” thinking about climate change and what we can do about it in this cooperative project with the PRI, we are preparing for a difficult job that lies ahead for us as we become the leaders and citizens of tomorrow.

[1] IPCC, 2007: Summary for Policymakers. In: Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Solomon, S., D. Qin, M. Manning, Z. Chen, M. Marquis, K.B. Averyt, M.Tignor and H.L. Miller (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA.

[2] “An Inconvenient Truth – The Science” Accessed 10/11/07.

-Will Whitney, Cornell University Student

Friday, October 26, 2007

Globalizing American Ingenuity

One of the most important things I think to remember about this global climate change problem is that it is global. America, as the world leader in CO2 emissions, must take a more pro-active stance in fighting this worldwide problem. I think that part of the problem in America is that we aren’t seeing the affects as much as other countries so it hasn’t hit home as much so to say. Katrina was the first major event due in part by global warming and many count it out as something that would have happened anyway or blames something else as its catalyst. While they may be right to some extent, there are many events in other parts of the world that are directly correlated to global warming and many other places that will suffer far greater if a warmer future is what is in store for them.

On the bus just this morning I overheard a conversation between a women and a young Australian student. She mentioned to him that it wasn’t too nice a day because it was raining. He quickly responded to her that in much of Australia rain was such a good thing because they had been in a drought for nearly a decade. He explained that in many places there was water rationing because the increased heat from global warming has caused precipitation to drop and wells to run dry. He is not the first person I’ve heard this from. An Australian principal, Andy Best, said the same thing a few weeks ago. He told about how his hometown was having problems with water and subsequently with food supply. His hometown was not very far south of the major city of Sydney. Australia has picked up the reigns locally and nationally and is working hard at reducing emissions of greenhouse gases. They have independent companies that for free will go into a homes and reduce the amount of energy they use even as detailed as changing light bulbs. This not only saves the homeowner money, but also helps to reduce the reliance on power and subsequently fossil fuels. Australia is trying to change, but where is America?

Another place that will be greatly affected by global warming is the country of Bangladesh. With nearly most of its country less than 100 feet above sea level, a rise in sea level could destroy nearly their entire country. There country has 150 million people, about half that of the United States. Other islands in the south pacific and the Caribbean such as Haiti and Cuba, could be devastated as well. And Cuba is a place that deserves least to be ransacked by global warming.

Cuba has been called the leader in organic farming. They are likely one of the only sustainable countries in the world. They have made it a point to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and to reinstitute organic farming procedures and curtail their use of pesticides. In 2005 they had 5,000,000 of the light bulbs in the country replaced with low energy light bulbs cutting their lighting energy requirement by a third for the country as a whole. The Cuban government just recently began the Solar Institute in Santiago to find ways that they can take advantage of the suns power. This is a country where they are trying to eliminate tractors and use animals in their agrarian lifestyles. This is a country, where approximately 30% of all there energy comes from biomass, mainly sugar mills. Cuba is a country where they have, with the government at the helm, successfully increased their forested lands by 4% and that’s only the beginning. 55% of their forests are protected and 15% are used for scientific studies. I reiterate that Cuba is the only sustainable country in the world, yet with a slight increase in sea level they would lose 15 to 25% of their entire country.

These are certainly not the only countries that will be affected by global warming. All countries will be affected, yes including America. We are currently the largest agitator of global warming and it is time that we start acknowledging that and change our ways. There are many ways that we can do this even the American way: with a profit. Our country is gifted with the greatest higher education system in the world and with properly focused energy this gift could lead us to the forefront of this new technology making it cheap and accessible. It may seem like it is such an undertaking, and it is, but like John Hennessey, the president of Stanford, said it is “a series of great opportunities disguised as insoluble problems.” Now is when we should take American ingenuity global and heal not only our position as a leader, but the world itself.

-Michael Johnson, Cornell University Student

Thursday, October 25, 2007

I Believe...

I came into this project with a vaguely understood yet strongly rooted opinion on global warming. While the extent of my research and education on the science behind climate change and human impact on climate change is shallow, I’ve found myself surrounded by enough of the well educated in the issue to confidently say I “believe” in global warming. That is, I think the climate is changing, that the significant portion of that change is due to human activity, and that if nothing is done it will very negatively affect us in return. I’ve become so comfortable with this being fact that it surprises me when every so often I encounter another peer who claims not to “believe” in global warming. While we’ve certainly conquered the opinion of the scientific community, I think we still have a while to go on the convincing front before any solution to the problem will come easily. In my opinion, the greatest ground must be covered through political means, and political battles are won, at least in America, through gaining the support of the majority. I’ve come to the conclusion that even most “believers” don’t seem to have the sense of urgency necessary to push for the creation of the legislation I believe we will need to solve the problem of climate change.

However. I know that making the switch from a passive “believer” in global warming to an active worker in reducing it isn’t difficult because I’ve found myself making the change over the past few months. I think the inspiration to change in the individual is best when it comes from somewhere close. I found myself imitating my parents’ changing of their light bulbs to more energy efficient ones, and my local grocery store’s use of reusable bags. So, after beginning to dive more deeply into the issue of climate change through this project in combination with personal experiences over the last few months, I’ve found that the big change that I know needs to happen will come from the culmination of the work of individuals fueled by inspiration from their personal lives and local community.

-Fiona Kirkpatrick, Cornell University Student