Friday, November 30, 2007
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
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
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” (http://www.richardsonforpresident.com/issues/energy). 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 http://www.ontheissues.org/Bill_Richardson.htm. And to see footage of Richardson presenting his energy plan at “Primary Energy ’08” in Keene New Hampshire last month check out http://fora.tv/2007/10/21/Bill_Richardson_Primary_Energy__08.
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
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. Beyond eliminating the global dependence on oil, he wants to fight deforestation (another key contributor to climate change). Gravel has also voiced his support for the end of coal-powered electricity production, suggesting further that the
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
Climate Change Grade: B+
 “The People’s Crusade: More Like Marcus Cicero than Don Quixote.” Ralph Nader.
 “Gravel On the Record – Interview.” Amanda Griscom Little. Grist Magazine, 8/7/07.
 “Gravel On the Record – Interview.” Amanda Griscom Little. Grist Magazine, 8/7/07.
 “Gravel On the Issues.” Kate Sheppard and Todd Hymas Samkara. http://www.grist.org/feature/2007/08/07/gravel_factsheet/> Accessed 11/1/07
 “The People’s Crusade: More Like Marcus Cicero than Don Quixote.” Ralph Nader.
-Will Whitney, Cornell University Student
-Will Whitney, Cornell University Student
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
On his official campaign site, www.mittromney.com, 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.
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
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 http://www.govtrack.us/congress/billtext.xpd?bill=s110-1055. 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
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.
http://joebiden.com/getinvolved/petitions/energy_security - his official site
http://www.grist.org/feature/2007/08/29/biden_factsheet/ -- live video feeds!Photo Source: Official Photograph from the United States Senate in Public Domain
-Michael Johnson, Cornell University Student
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
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
It seems that many of her stances discuss the war in
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+.
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: http://clinton.senate.gov/news/statements/details.cfm?id=255982&&
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’s position on Climate Change is clearly outlined on his official website (http://www.barackobama.com/issues/environment/); “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: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mountaineerpics/1218476612/. This photo is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.-Fiona Kirkpatrick, Cornell University Student
Monday, November 12, 2007
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
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
Photo Credit: Jason Bedrick/wikimedia
Kelsey Gleason, Cornell University Student
Thursday, November 8, 2007
Check and see if your school made the grade!
Here are links to what are local Universities are doing:
Tuesday, November 6, 2007
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
Monday, November 5, 2007
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
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
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.  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. 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.
 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.)].
 “An Inconvenient Truth – The Science” Accessed 10/11/07.
-Will Whitney, Cornell University Student