Friday, December 25, 2009

Post Copenhagen: Wait, what happened

It is the holiday season and I thought that Copenhagen would be a huge present to the world's ecological and green-citizens. The gift instead ended up being the equivalent of socks or $5 from your grandmother; you know a lot of effort was put into it and you can appreciate it, but it is still a bit of a disappointment, even if you were kind of expecting the socks.

The high hopes for a binding and effective agreement coming out of this meeting were short lived as a result of the walkouts, quick infighting and quickly dissolving accords. Eventually it looked as if absolutely nothing would come out of the conference.

During the Copenhagen talks, The Daily Show has poked fun at the ridiculousness of the proceedings, like the 1,200 Limos that were called out for the event to shuttle these VIP's which is reminiscent of the NY Climate Talk Chopper fiasco, but the final agreement was the ultimate punchline.

A colleague of mine and I were discussing it and she mentioned the fact that she was at the conference, I mentioned my jealousy at her being there, "Don't be," she told me, "it was super stressful and cold." For some reason that sums it for me. The result of the conference ended up being a three page "nothing agreement" that included nothing of substance. Yet the UN reps were more than ready to be struck with awe by it;
As a result, the two-week conference ended with a decision to simply “take note" of the political agreement, which did not go through the consensus-style UN process and had pushed aside prepared texts from years of climate negotiations. Despite the controversy, however, UN climate chief Yvo de Boer praised the pact as “an impressive accord" and the final press release from the secretariat did not mention the decision taken on the deal.
The one area of contention that really aggravated me was the issue of transparency regarding reaching goals. While I am unsure that anyone can actually substantiate the claims that China deliberately sabotaged the talks, it is not surprising to see China's behavior in their "promises" before the event. The President himself, during a speech earlier in the conference stressed the necessity of transparency;
Second, we must have a mechanism to review whether we are keeping our commitments, and exchange this information in a transparent manner. These measures need not be intrusive, or infringe upon sovereignty. They must, however, ensure that an accord is credible, and that we're living up to our obligations. Without such accountability, any agreement would be empty words on a page.
Yet a matter of a day or two later, when the three page accord was announced in a press conference centering around the president, he seemed to forget the importance of that issue. In fact, it seems like he was happy with the outcome, in fact he stated “this important breakthrough lays the foundation for international action in the years to come.” What he seems to forget is that anything laid on a shaky foundation has a tendency to fall to ruins.

I am rather saddened by the fact that certain countries are upset by monitoring and transparency aspects, esp. when this new tracking technology was unveiled at Copenhagen. This rainforest tracking technology would be lent out to countries and governments and could eventually be the ecological equivalent of the SETI@home program. Having this information easily available would allow for an overall tracking system that would allow for easier goal setting and behavior modification.

There are some amazing quotes that analyze the Summit and the Accords that I would just like to show here. From Margaret Swink of Grist;
the most depressing fail for the forests out of Copenhagen is the lack of binding targets to reduce fossil fuel emissions and start to halt climate change. If global temperatures rise above 2 degrees Celsius, most scientists predict that tropical forests will be profoundly affected, experiencing extreme droughts, increased forest fires and other catastrophic weather events. Even if a separate deal to reduce deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries had been agreed upon, the lack of commitment to deep fossil fuel emissions in a legally binding climate change agreement would continue to threaten the world’s forests.
Another summary to the final accord;
The final deal at the Copenhagen climate summit, which was convened to develop a comprehensive international response to the threat of global warming, came down to a behind-closed-doors conversation among some of the most powerful people in the world about the difference between two terms: "examination and assessment" and "international consultations and analysis."
A Blogger that goes by the name The Archdruid Report sums up the entirety of the proceedings and the two main players rather nicely;
The United States and China, who head the main power blocs in the negotiations and also generate more CO2 than anyone else, minted a toothless accord that furthers nobody’s interests but theirs, and proceeded to tell the rest of the world to like it or lump it. A few climate activists are still gamely trying to find grounds for hope in the accord; others are shrilly accusing Barack Obama of betraying the messianic expectations they projected onto him; and a certain amount of stunned silence, in response to the failure of climate activism to have the slightest effect on the proceedings, is also being heard.
Now, when exactly and why the summit failed are points of contention, but most agree that the issue of transparency is a pivotal one. There are also those that blame China for the breakdown of the talks. Part of the reason for this was their strong stance against the issue of monitoring. In fact it seems that; "now that Copenhagen is widely seen as a failure, and China as the main culprit, China’s propaganda workers are in overdrive trying to spin the story in China’s favor."

It makes sense that China who has a history steeped in isolationism and being the victim of colonization would be sensitive to the concept of foreign oversight. As a Wall Street Journal Article states;
Verifying compliance with a climate treaty is likely to be "orders of magnitude more difficult" than verifying other international agreements, such as arms-control treaties, says Kenneth Lieberthal, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Brookings Institution.

For China, he adds, "the main concern is sovereignty, and a desire not to allow others to dictate what they see, and the conditions on which they see it."
But China must realize that this is a world issue and necessitate world collaboration and that this is an effort hold countries accountable.

Though this Accord is pretty much a parody, it is interesting to see who was on board and not on for the Copenhagen Accord but it is not surprising that Cuba is not because of Castro's comments on Copenhagen.
He called the summit "a fallacy, a farce" and said Washington used back-room deals and strong-arm tactics to foist on the world a deal that he labeled "undemocratic" and "suicidal" because it urges — but does not require — major polluters to make deeper emissions cuts.
What world leaders seem to forget is that the ramifications of the failures at Copenhagen affect not just politics and progress on a national scale, but even states and municipalities as well. California itself had a massive delegation at Copenhagen during the "trainwreck period" and many commented on the fears regarding the future of the climate-progressive state;

"People who are trying to use AB32 (California Global Warming Solutions Act) in next year's election will use any negative result out of Copenhagen," said Mary Nichols, chairwoman of the California Air Resources Board, the powerful agency that is drawing up the web of regulations that will enforce the bill. "They already believe they've caught something they can use to get people to the polls."

Copenhagen made me wonder if it would be more effective to take government entities slightly out of the picture and put the emphasis on NGOs. With NGOs you have more mulit-national flexibility and the ability to break down goals regionally instead of socio-politically. Perhaps that will be the more effective method. Whatever the solution is, it should come a little bit sooner than later based on the fact that apparently the "Earth (is) on track for (an) epic die-off" according to scientists.

So what does this leave us with? A ton of money spent, no real binding agreement, the finger of blame pointed everywhere, a bunch of beaten up protesters, and to wait for next year’s December meeting of the UNFCCC in Mexico City.

I will leave you with a sweet "Dr. Suess"esk version of the proceedings please watching/listen to this amazing video;

Friday, December 11, 2009

Obama, Copenhagen, and Tracking Systems

The other day Obama accepted his Nobel Peace Prize and while there, "Norwegians were incensed over what they view as his shabby response to the prize by cutting short his visit." Instead of analyzing it myself I am going to let two people speak for me;

Darrell Irwin of the Star News, writes a very flowery and interesting piece about Obama comparing him to the likes of Archbishop Tutu, Teddy Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln.

Before Obama's presidency ideals mattered and, in Oslo, the president announced that actions mattered. He stated that "meeting these challenges will require the same vision, hard work, and persistence of those men and women who acted so boldly decades ago." It is apparent that our intensified war in Afghanistan, a response to the 9/11 attacks, have replaced peace as an ideal with action. Today, Obama's tone resembles more Teddy Roosevelt and less Jimmy Carter.

On Democracy Now, the new head of Greenpeace was interviewed regarding the Nobel Acceptance Speech;

"I think the speech spent too much of time on justifying war, too little time looking at the root causes of war, and, in fact, the one—just only one passing reference to climate change and, in fact, this big summit taking place here." -the new head of Greenpeace, Kumi Naidoo

He goes on to explain, rather well, the connection between Climate Change and conflict. As the Climate changes and resources such as potable water and livable spaces become scarcer conflicts rise. Kumi also goes on to express further disappointment at the lack of discussing Copenhagen and the roll America is to take there.

So lets talk Copenhagen, first, Climate Debt.

Climate Debt is the concept that Developed Nations (First World) owe a first world and developed countries "owe the world" for the pollutions created during their development and that these debts should be used to assist the development of third world nations.

At Copenhagen they are gathering reparations from nations in payment for this "Debt" to assist current developing nations in curtailing the climate problems.

Later on the show, Amy Goodman, brings shows Todd Stern who is the Climate Change Envoy, this is what he had to say about it.

    TODD STERN: I actually completely reject the notion of a debt or reparations or anything of the like. I mean, let’s just be mindful of the fact that for most of the 200 years that—since the Industrial Revolution, people were blissfully ignorant of the fact that emissions caused a greenhouse effect. This is a relatively recent phenomenon. So I think that’s the wrong way to look at this. We absolutely recognize our historic role in putting the emissions in the atmosphere up there that are—you know, that are there now. But the sense of guilt or culpability or reparations, I just—I categorically reject that.

I understand the argument that the sins of the father do not always or should not always fall to the son, but we must recognize that we are one world. And if we can buffer the effects of National Development then livelihood of all humans will be so much the better. We need to get past the concept of isolationist because the Climate is affected by global

By bolstering developing nations in a safe way, we prevent a horrible situation in the future. Perhaps it is a question of marketing; if the funds that were being collected for investment in green growth in developing nations was called "investing in the safe future of our climate"
would it be more attractive than "reparations" perhaps it would be more palatable.

Also if there was a something with a little more bite and openness to it. If we knew EXACTLY how this money would be spent and what would happen if it wasn't, then I would take it more seriously.

Finally, really quick, I want to mention two cool things; 1. A little more on Gosat (the CO2 tracking satelite) and 2. the google deforestation map.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


So, last night (this morning) at approximately 3 am I gave a call to action to call your legislators regarding the Recycling Funds and SB 402 and today I took my own advice and called Assemblymember Jim Beall's Office. I had a great conversation with a leg. aide who was in charge of environmental issues regarding my concerns and requested support of a reintroduction or a gut and amend action.

We began to talk a little bit about our disappointment with the veto letter and he joked; "At least there was no hidden profanity in it." I laughed.

For those who don't know, back in October a controversial veto letter to Assemblyman Tom Ammiano of San Francisco had an acrostic spelling out a four lettered profanity starting with the letter F followed by "you." In other words, reading down the page, the first letter of each line read out "F--- you." There were articles about it and speculation on the reasons (perhaps as retaliation for a heckling the Gov. at an event and screaming out "kiss my gay ass") but the more hilarious rip on the governor comes from "news"/talkshow host Steven Colbert in his "Alpha Dog of the Week" segment.

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As if the "girlie man" comments or the fact that he has created debacle after debacle weren't enough, this action furthers the belief that California Politics is a joke. Way to gov Gov'nator. Way to go.

California Recycling Program Broke

A disturbing trend throughout California is emerging, recycling centers will shut down due to the state of California cutting funding to more than 2,400 recycling centers. Currently 90 centers have closed statewide, but more are expected to close causing job loss in an important sector that is growing in other aspects; the green economy. Workers at these centers, administrators and processors will begin to lose jobs at a higher rate as more centers shut down. The recycling program that was once the pride of California since its introduction in 1986 is bankrupt due to inefficient handling of the program's funds and other factors.

Two major things occurred to cause this bankruptcy; the State saw that the program was running a surplus and continuously borrowed against it, and, when the program was starting to lose large amounts of money through this borrow and spend practice the program began to succeed in its original purpose.

The Beverage Container Recycling Fund (BCRF) has a revenue of $1.2 billion per year from the small deposit that is charged for beverage containers and are meant to be reimbursed to the consumer when the container is recycled. The original goal of the program was to hypothetically have all the deposits paid back to the consumer and have a (near) 100% recycling rate of these containers. There is a very informative page on this put up by Californian's Against Waste(CAW) for more background information.

A great article from the Mission Local goes on to describe the program.
California’s bottle bill program, in place since 1986, charges consumers a small deposit for beverage containers, which is reimbursed to them when they recycle. Each year, around $1.2 billion in deposits pass through the Beverage Container Fund. The fund was designed to cycle deposits from manufacturers to consumers to recyclers, theoretically leaving it with a zero balance.
The article goes on to explain that since the recycling rate remained at “50% for decades”(though this figure may not be accurate) the fund generated a huge surplus. This deposit became a fee of inconvenience and generated huge money for the state. The excess money went, through various venues, towards subsidizing the industry and creating a type of dependency on the funds for administrative and operating aspects.

The system was a shining example of a program that not only pushed an industry but attempted to affect behavior change and protect the environment. A 2002 report entitled “Understanding Beverage Container Recovery – A Value Chain Assessment” showed that California's program had been rather successful;
In the study year of 1999, California’s unique redemption system achieved a redemption rate of 69percent and targeted 79 percent of container types, for an overall recovery rate of 54.5 (373 containers per capita). California’s program was greatly expanded in 2000 and the percentage of containers redeemed has initially declined. It should be watched closely as it continues to adjust to this expansion.
The report went on to show that California was recycling beverage containers at dramatically higher volumes than in states without deposit laws. It even called California's system unique and the most cost-effective in the nation. The word must have reached the legislature because they saw this fund as a piggy bank to borrow from. The state legislature borrowed around $415 million from the BCRF from 2003-2009.

According to [name redacted] from [a highly respected waste issue/recycling non-profit];
[The $415 million was] all loans in Budget Acts from the Bottle Bill fund (BCRF) to the General Fund. The general fund pays for everything that is not a special fund program, so schools, prisons, etc. The loans carry the condition that they be paid back with interest, and that they do not interfere with the program, but both aren’t really enforceable because the legislature can (and has) postpone repayment, and a $99 million loan was made in the most recent budget act despite the not-so-secret fact that the fund was in trouble.
After the state continued to borrow against this program, they were warned of the danger to the funds. On June 23, 2009, the Department of Conservation advised that an 85% reduction in costs would be necessary to keep the program going and to maintain the program's functions. The legislature, instead of protecting this fund, borrowed $99 million to help cushion the State's depleting General Fund.

The “loans were supposed to be repaid this year, but the Legislature postponed repayment until 2013, while transferring millions more out of the fund in 2008 and 2009.”

Because the economy has been down and the eco-movement is on the rise, more and more Americans are recycling. In fact; “from 1990 to 2005, the amount of MSW [Municipal Solid Waste] going to U.S. landfills has decreased by 9 million tons and continues to decrease each year.

I would love to see a graph or graphic of the United States Recycling Statistics and patterns by date and regionality. If I had the data and programing capabilities, I would do it myself but it would be a great reference to have available, but enough of the tangent.

The facts that the State was siphoning money from the fund and that more than 85 percent of beverage containers were recycled in the first six months of 2009 meant that the BCRF had less money, about 15% of the actual fund to pay for all of the programs and the State decided to cut funding to centers.

These cuts mean a horrible blow to California Jobs. According to an article in the Sacramento Bee;
The number of supermarket parking-lot recyclers has grown gradually in recent years to about 2,100. But two of the largest operators, Tomra Pacific and NexCycle, announced the shutdown of about 90 centers recently, laying off more than 100 workers.
Another article from the Monterey Herald mentions at risk youth who are employed at these centers;
Scott Dosick, spokesman for the California Association of Local Conservation Corps, said the state's 12 programs typically employ 4,000 youths, but cutbacks this year have eliminated about 500 of those jobs.
(Also see the LA Times article on this for more.)

This is a pressing time in America when jobs are few and investment in the green economy is what many, including myself, believe can save our Nation's future. Now is not the time to be cutting jobs from this field, now is the time to invest in it. I call upon the Legislature to not only rectify this situation but increase investment in the system. I do not believe, as some say, that this proves a "systemic flaw in the state's recycling strategy” I say that the actual legislative process and practices are what caused the bankruptcy of the fund and it is those practices that need to be addressed.

There was a bill that was attempting to provide a remedy to this financial situation, SB 402 by Senator Lois Wolk (bill analysis found here). This bill was supported by many organizations such as Californian's Against Waste and the Sierra Club alike. According to the Californian's Against Waste the bill would;
Balances the Bottle Bill Fund by ending program exemptions and decreasing the 10 cent CRV threshold to 20 ounces from 24 ounces, ending the exemption given to non-bottle-and-can beverage containers, and other measures.
This bill was unfortunately vetoed by the Governor for a long list of “reasons” which CAW responded to quite brilliantly. All in all I am highly disappointed in California for allowing this situation to occur. I had hoped we were more intelligent in our money management but apparently we are not and now one of our best programs is suffering from it, as are those who depend on it to survive.

There is also coalition of recyclers (including Tomra Pacific and NexCycle) suing California over this and over losses in their industry as a result of this debacle. I just hope a real and lasting solution to this problem presents itself or a bill gets gutted and amended to reintroduce the Wolk language.

If you live in California, PLEASE CALL YOUR ASSEMBLYMEMBER OR STATE SENATOR, and ask them to concentrate on this problem.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Climategate and Jon Stewart

It was great to see the recent episode of the Daily Show talk about ClimateGate; his analysis did touch upon the statistical issues, though I am still not entirely sure that they were deliberately altering data for malicious reasons I do agree with this;

But that's the point, if you care about an issue, and want to make it your life's work, don't cut corners. It's disheartening for people inclined towards the scientific method and it's catnip to these guys who are going to end up celebrating tonight, drunk, roaming the Arctic Circle trying to scullf*ck polar bears. Which are quickly disappearing because of rising oceans. Caused now, apparently, by God's tears.
I love how there were articles and blogs galore about this, even the Huffington Post wrote an interesting article about it.

I would have liked to see Tom Friedman talk a little less about Afghanistan and use the pulpit to address the data verses display issue which has spurred this controversy but glad to see it on there in the first place.

If you get a minute, take a look at the comments on this YouTube video for an interesting look at a demographic's view on the topic.

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Monday, November 30, 2009

Something I Missed

So, back when I was working for San Jose City Councilman Kansen Chu I worked on and wrote an initial draft of legislation to ban plastic bags in the City of San Jose. I worked with the excellent city staff on language, stake holder meetings and in drumming up support. The submitting of the legislation to committee made front page news, they even quoted a speech I wrote for the Councilman. I was most impressed by the fact that our story beat out the Mayor's state of the city address. After that day the 18th floor of the City Hall knew me as "the plastic bag man."

During the stake holder meetings we actually met with members of the Grocer's Associations and the American Chemical Council and attempted to explain to them (something I was instructed not to do but couldn't contain myself) that if they wanted to maintain their revenue from "plastic bags" that they should stop investing in petroleum and recycled based plastics and look into bio-plastics. I told them that this was not going to be a localized incident and that it would end up being a national movement to rid our waste-stream of this stuff.

I stopped paying attention to it after I left that office and found out that it was being held in committee. Not 45 minutes ago I found out that not only did it come out committee but it was passed. My baby had gone through. They even were able to get some paper bags on the ban. To the detractors I say that they have but one reasonable argument. While I have to agree that the Minority or Lower Income families are affected more by this than some other groups initially. We had tried to start a program to rectify this. While I was with Kansen Chu's office I also co-headed the "green bag give away" program that gave away over 500 reusable bags to (mainly) lower income community centers. It was hugely successful and got great response. One constituent actually called in and said it was "the best use of taxpayer funds" that she could think of. I worked with Stufflebean and other city staff to try and get this program going and wanted to try and turn it into a continuing program but I have heard little of it since leaving.

I am very happy to see that this band was passed and that it also included a success measuring program and outreach efforts.

It is unfortunate that Councilmember Chu's name fails to be mentioned in any of the articles I found on the subject. In fact, in looking at Council minutes he doesn't even seem to be anything more than an AYE vote.

There is actually a story here about some version of an epiphany that Kansen apparently had (though during my time with his office I never heard this story). I can tell you this, from what I recall the plastic bag ban came from an effort on my part and on the part of city staff after Kansen and then Chief of Staff Chen said to me "any projects you want to take on?". An interesting anecdote though.

I am happy to see it go through, being the largest municipality in the nation to push this through should make it a bit easier for some of the other ones across the nation, who knows, may even reach federal levels.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Copenhagen 2: Lies, Cheats and Hopes

With the Copenhagen talks inching closer and closer, there have been several points that I think need to be discussed.

First let me start by mentioning this amazing radio show I stumbled upon called "EARTHBEAT" that is fresh and amazing. The stories actually are intriguing, informative and engaging. You can listen to podcasts of their broadcasts and read summaries of their broadcasts. They also plan to have daily dispatches from the Copenhagen talks with "the most important movers and shakers of the climate movement." They have a great podcast named Mike Tidwell about Rush Limbaugh, population control/emissions control and the 350 rally.

The 350 rally is brought about through the efforts of the 350 organization; an international campaign dedicated to building a movement to unite the world around solutions to the climate crisis--the solutions that science and justice demand. Their goal is to reduce CO2 in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million, the designated "safe" level for human existence on the planet. The rally was the largest environmental rally on earth, ever. Thousands of cell-rallies in around160 countries, all of them urging world leaders to commit to a climate treaty. An amazing accomplishment.

I next want to mention something a friend was kind enough to tell me about; this so called "Climate Gate." To begin, let me just say that if all the facts indeed are straight as presented I will say that the scientists at fault do not represent the entire scientific community. In fact, there have already been many sites to debunk this concept that these e-mails "prove" climate change is a lie."

In reading one of the excerpts of these so called damning e-mails through a lay-person's eyes it can be construed as interesting at best;

"I've just completed Mike's Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (i.e., from 1981 onwards) and from 1961 for Keith's to hide the decline."

When looked at from a statistician's eyes it can be seen that what he is referring to is a display method that show the significance of the data. As seen here from a Wired Magazine article;

The comment refers to Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University. Mann told Wired the "Nature trick" refers to a solution for displaying data that he and others used in a paper they published to get around a problem in the way that temperature data is traditionally displayed.

The solution allows for better viewing and understanding of the data, Mann said, and pointed to a post on the RealClimate blog that his colleagues have made to explain the reference. That post also indicates that the hacker first tried to post the trove of stolen data to the RealClimate blog on Tuesday.

I truly feel that this is a "nothing" controversy, I also feel that as long as the data itself wasn't altered and just the visual reference that nothing illicit really happened. In a few weeks this should blow over and the focus again will return to Copenhagen and the crucial moment we are in.

With both the U.S. and China being indispensable to these Climate Change talks and even China, one of the largest polluters on earth, calling for real solutions we can expect interesting things. Both China and America have already made a power plays in announcing their own climate solution goals before Copenhagen and this has only fueled concerns over the actual role of Copenhagen. Leaders in the Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation have declared that they believe no real solution will be reached at Copenhagen.

The actions of the President are also concerning. Obama's plan to attend and speak for American concerns has encouraged many nations of the success of the project, yet even more recent announcements are drawing concern. There is talk of postponing the conference into a two-stage multi-year process the concerning aspect is that Obama is backing this idea. Perhaps he is right, perhaps we do need more time to get things together, a slower yet more involved process. Or, perhaps slowing down the process will kill it.

I am, however, ever hopeful that these talks will lead to three key elements; an internationally agreed upon emissions cut line, an agreed upon tracking mechanism and a plan to assist developing and fragile nations to circumvent the pollutions path we walked.

Even if nothing is reached at these talks the fact that they occur will still be progress. The problem remains that it may be too slow to be useful. For now all we can do is wait and see.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Copenhagen: Green Center 2009

A lot of fuss has been made recently about the actions of United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as of late. He has lobbied China's top officials and even the United States Congress in an attempt to bring them in as players to a Global Climate Change Conference. It seems that he was successful and Obama will be attending this most recent meeting of the U.N.'s Climate Change Conference.

There have been 5 big conferences in the post Kyoto-years that the United Nations has set. These conferences are places where member nations can meet, exchange knowledge and information and set goals for the future. The next one is going to be taking place in Copenhagen between December 7th and December 18th. Some of you may be wondering, “didn't we just have a conference?” referring to the conference in the United States in April that included leaders from 16 major economies. This was just a preparatory conference that was held for many reasons but the first and foremost was that Statesmen could get an idea of what to expect in December. Based on the reactions to certain propositions, the representatives could come back knowing how to prepare of the oncoming discussion and the real international conference.

These Conferences are part of the Post-Kyoto negotiations which attempt to address global warming through limiting greenhouse gas emissions on a global scale. Through talks and conversations and some basic steps that can lead to treaties such as the Kyoto agreement these leaders meet to basically determine the global course towards a solution for the Climate Change problem. These talks are beginning to heighten in importance, not only because of the impending doom of a global climate cataclysm but more because the Kyoto Protocol is set to expire after 2012, at the end of Obama's 1st (and hopefully not last) term. With the end of the Kyoto Protocol comes the opportunity to set a new and more forceful international Climate Change agreement. The standards that were set by the Kyoto Agreements, which are now considered a meager settlement, can be replaced by even higher standards to protect tomorrow. The Kyoto Protocol extended standards of reducing greenhouse emissions by 5.2% from the 1990 level. The only country in the world that was a part of process yet had no intention of ratifying the Protocol was the United States.

There has been significant worry about two major world powers in the upcoming Copenhagen conference; China and the United States of America. To really understand why there is a threat of Failure of the Kyoto Accords and what they intended to do we must look back to 2007.

On the 30th of November 2007 a communique was published calling for a legally binding and comprehensive framework to combat climate change. This communique was directed at the United Nations from business leaders of 150 global companies. This document can be found here; It is short, sweet and to the point. This document actually led to the “Bali Road Map” which was a two-year process to finalizing a binding agreement in 2009 in Denmark.

In other words, this upcoming conference will be the end point. The agreement reached there will be set before the nations of the world to (hopefully) have them come together and take the first steps towards a Climate Change solution on a global scale. This is why there has been so much pressure to get the leaders of China and America to attend. If it wasn't bad enough that many developing nations feel that most standards are unfair and most post industrial nations seem to be intractable, the United States and China have both been going through major changes - making it hard to determine how to influence them. What resonates with these two powers can set the tone of the rest of the process. This conference will be the next milestone to set this next period in the War on Climate Change; possibly even a new international binding agreement on emission and pollution standards. By getting China and America; the two largest CO2 emitters in the world (China overtook US in 07) to this conference and getting this publicity, it can force both of these countries to act instead of ignore.

Some concerns exist about what Obama will or wont do. Even if he is able to agree to this not-yet-existing treaty, he will still have to bring it back to the U.S. to have it officially ratified by Congress. However the steps have been taken and I am filled with what this administration has attempted to fill all of America with; hope. But one cannot eat and breathe “hope”we must have real actions and movement. So with baited breath I watch what will happen. Hopefully it wont be all rhetoric and posturing and real progress can be made. There are still those that wonder what Obama can really do in any case.

What I am wondering is, can't Obama, if he is willing, push his own agenda? What ever happened to setting industry standards? When Carter and Regan and Johnson were President, each administration attempted to establish standards on industries for environmental/economic reasons (obviously Reagan was more influenced by economic incentives but still it is an example). A major example is the standards set on the auto industry alternate intensely between political years. During Carter's term there were emission and millage standards that the Reagan administration found too harsh so they were slashed. Our current President has been looking westward towards us over here in California, who have been attempting to pass stricter standards for a while. The White House's decision came shortly after the announcement that thirteen states and D.C. are planning to adopt similar standards. These standards set the “new national fleet mileage rule for cars and light trucks of 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016...” So if the precedent exists that an executive order can determine industry standards then why not simply set them for other industries? For example; let it be a fact that mining companies, currently one of the highest producer of pollutants in the United States, have to reduce their pollutants released into the system by 25% by 2020 (this would be the minimum total reduction requirement on “rich countries” by the Bali Communique'. There had been significant push back by American business since the 1997 Kyoto Accords were first published, this being the main reason for the US still failing to ratify it. Lobbyists even today, are attempt to fight against Climate Change Legislation. While I will admit, that businesses will get hit for these new standards, I will also say that is the situation we are in. The industries must attempt to meet these new standards or fail and allow new blood to enter the market and take the reigns.

If we look at what is happening with National Motor Industry standards we can learn a lesson; state and regional programs can turn into National ones even if they at first glance seem rather harsh. Regional entities, municipalities and even neighborhoods need to come together to do their part to shrink their global footprint.

There is an excellent quote from a December 10,2008 interview between an Australian reporter and their Minister for Climate Change and Water, Penny Wong; “...the point about these negotiations and the need for an effective global agreement is this: it is not a single issue negotiation. We need truly global action and there are a whole range of matters in terms of developed and developing country action; in relation to adaptation; in relation to reducing emissions; and a whole range of other matters which need to be resolved and negotiated.”

I agree with this fully, that the solution to Climate Change is a global one, but it is up to Regionalities and Municipalites to try and sidestep the red-tape that Nations and even States can be tripped up by. With local action and local innovation regarding solutions, we can impact higher strata of government, thus moving forward, instead of dragging behind to be left in the global warming aftermath. The only problem is that it takes an act of Congress to actually accept a “Treaty” though Obama could always just call it an “Executive Agreement” and curtail some the legal issues. This, however, would cause the agreement to be as impotent as our approach to the Kyoto Accords.

One thing I must say is that I am amazingly (or if I allow the influence of my time in Boston to creep in I should say “wicked”) impressed by Senator John Kerry. He has garnered attention from his recent work in Afghanistan and if that weren't impressive enough I am significantly impressed with his desire for real climate change. He has taken the position of being in the forefront of the Senate in regards to the Copenhagen Conference even going so far as to “complete a framework of an elusive US climate change deal in time for next month's high-stakes summit in Copenhagen, vowing not to let the world down.” I am pleased and curious to see this would be Presidential contender facing off in such an issue and I look forward to the interesting aspects of the months ahead. I think that with Kerry in the Senate, we need to find a good Jockey in the House and have Al Gore come in with the populist move to actually get whatever comes out of Copenhagen ratified in the US.

Fingers Crossed.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Article Posting

Wanted to let you all know that I have an article on the Apollo Alliance's website;
"America Invests in Advanced Battery Manufacturing"

It is all about how the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act is affecting Job Creation in the American Advanced Battery Market.


Hi and Welcome to My Blog, or - new beginings

So, for a while now, I have been keeping a political blog under the pseudonym "Leon Cohn" to try and keep these writings and my work life separate. I would write about what ever pressing political issue came to mind that I just had to speak out on. Most times this was as a result of a discussion or disagreement in my work place. For the majority of my professional career I have worked in the Political and Advocacy Realm. Many positions were working for elected officials and I felt that it would be inappropriate to write on issues where I may hold a contrary view than my employer. If these articles got out it could cause some level of a scandal that a staffer would openly oppose the Legislator/Representative they work for.

Since I am currently unemployed in that aspect and have matured to the point where I know that there is a separation between personal beliefs and the beliefs of the work place, I have decided to actively write a blog that I can proudly take responsibility for.

Some of the posts from my old blog are going to be edited and transfered over, back dated but still over here. The majority of what I am going to be posting about will be regarding progressive news and policy ideas and environmental issues. The environmental issues that I am probably going to focus on the most are sustainability, conservation and green-economy. This, however, is always subject to change as a result of what whims take control.

Again, thank you for visiting the blog and welcome; hope you enjoy your time.

Andrew Kornblatt

P.S. - If, at any time, I am hired again onto the staff of an elected official or an advocacy agency, let it be known that the opinions expressed in this blog by no means represnent the opinions of said official or agency.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

An Open Letter to Rush Limbaugh

Ok, Again, sorry for not posting as much as I should.

Been busy trying to find a new job in a bad economy.

I recently read about some disturbing comments made by pundit Rush Limbaugh.

I am not talking about his Obama the Magic Negro comments.

More recently he stated; "I hope Obama fails"

This upset me so I wrote him an open letter using my real name.

Here is the open letter;

Mr. Limbaugh,

First let me say that I do not listen to your show; I attempted to do so once, just to see what you had to say and I found it so full of meaningless jargon and yet devoid of any real content that I could barely swallow 20 minutes.

As a non-listener, and a non-fan, I know this e-mail will either be disregarded or subjected to some diatribe to attempt to publicly humiliate the subject matter but, still I attempt to reach out to a fellow American, a fellow Human.

I wish to register a complaint.

When I read that you gleefully desired to be listed as saying "I hope Obama Fails" I was not shocked or surprised.

This comment is on the tail of your "Obama the Magic Negro" debacle. I could not have been less surprised to find you throwing garish remarks about how horrible Obama's policies are when they were shockingly similar to what Bush was trying to do. What is more socialistic than the Bush administration's plan of buying up the bad assets of failing companies; public ownership of debt and business. That is an aspect of socialism.

Furthermore, stating that you wish Obama to "fail" implies that you whish his goals to fail as well. When those goals are trying to stabalize an economy spiriling the drain, to reinvigorate the work force, to cap and lower the unemployment rate; it appears that you are wishing ill on America just for petty political reasons. If this was not your intent then please, let me and the rest of America know.

I find you and your programming distasteful and detrimental to America. Yet, as a patriot and believer in the US Constitution and the rights it puts forward; I will never stoop to the level that I saw during the Mccarthyistic 9/11 rants that stated; you are either with us or against us. I will never stop people and scream at them for being "unAmerican" for voicing their concerns or beliefs. I will never call people terrorists for not siding with the current administration. I believe in the freedom of speech and will never call someone unAmerican for exercising their right to question their government, but I will call someone hypocritical.

My complaint that I wish to registers is that you are a hypocrite that seems only interested in instigating division amongst Americans. For the good of the country, I request that you take some quiet time to reflect on how your actions affect the world. Ask yourself; "Am I making the world a better place? Am I trying to fight for the good of mankind or just my pocket book and ratings?"