A Way to Win

The fight against climate change just got a powerful new ally: LeadingGreen. The NRDC Action Fund and the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) formed this alliance to galvanize influential leaders in business, media, and research to call for climate action in Congress. And it will help elect and support environmental champions across America.

As Juliet Eilperin wrote in the Washington Post on Monday, this is a breakthrough in the conservation movement.

LeadingGreen is the first environmental initiative to make a full-throttled commitment to building political will for climate action. The LBGT community and women’s organizations have used similar strategies to expand their reach. Now the NRDC Action Fund and LCV are strengthening our ability to advocate for cleaner air and a more stable climate.

Let’s face it: in a divided political landscape dripping with money from fossil fuel companies, we have to work hard to be heard. LeadingGreen will amplify our voices in the halls of Congress and in districts around the country. And it will help us build the environmental majority across both parties.

We launched LeadingGreen because the stakes are so high. Last month’s report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change—the world’s top experts on climate science—confirmed once again that climate change is having sweeping effects on our communities.  I live in California, where the worst drought on record is drying up reservoirs and pushing farmers to the brink. I don’t want to leave my son and daughter to deal with even more destructive weather and costly damages.

The single most important thing we can do to combat climate change is to reduce dangerous carbon pollution from power plants—the source of 40 percent of all US carbon pollution. The Obama Administration will propose carbon limits in June. Poll after poll shows that most American voters welcome these limits, but dirty polluters and their allies in Congress are attacking them. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has already vowed to block the Environmental Protection Agency from putting carbon limits in place.

Now these obstructionists will have to contend with LeadingGreen. We will activate our advocates—clean tech entrepreneurs, Latino business owners, public health experts, media executives—who have relationships with members of Congress. Together we will deliver a coordinated message on the Hill, on the fundraising circuit, and on the campaign trail: vote for climate action, not for dirty polluters.

And we will continue to deploy our LeadingGreen strategy until our nation has addressed the climate crisis. We will encourage people to Give Green: support candidates who champion clean energy and low-carbon solutions. We will encourage them to Meet Green: connect with an active network of influential leaders working toward the same goal. And we will encourage them to Speak Green: raise their voices at the right time with the right lawmakers to promote smart climate policies.

We want to let environmental champions know that voters and donors have their back. This isn’t an easy time to be a lawmaker. They are under constant pressure to raise money in the age of Citizens United, and many have to stave off primary challenges from the right. LeadingGreen will show them there is a movement behind them—a movement to shield future generations from the threat of climate change. And with the support of the American people and the combined force of the NRDC Action Fund and LCV, we will win.

Climate Change is a Looming Threat: Time to Fix Our Fragile Energy Infrastructure

NBC’s new science fiction drama Revolution is set in a world that 15 years after the start of a worldwide blackout. This post-apocalyptic future shows how the lack of a preparation for a blackout led to ultimate chaos and governments collapsing. As much as I enjoy post-apocalyptic science fiction thrillers, this hits close to home. Threats to our energy infrastructure are a real concern. Back in 2003, a software bug at a control room of the FirstEnergy Corporation in Ohio caused a widespread power outage throughout parts of the Northeast and Midwest. The blackout affected an estimated 55 million people in Canada and the US. Power, water, transportation, and communications were all impacted.

Troubling news. It can happen again. This time severe weather influenced by climate change is now increasing the risk of that occurring. In 2012, for example, storm surge and high winds from Hurricane Sandy downed power lines, flooded electrical substations, and damaged several power plants and ports, according to DOE, leaving over 8 million people without power.

A recent government report by the independent Government Accountability Office presented troubling findings on how climate change can threaten the America’s core energy infrastructure. The study shows that “U.S. energy infrastructure is increasingly vulnerable to a range of climate change impacts—particularly infrastructure in areas prone to severe weather and water shortages.” They examined how it could affect our infrastructure in four main ways: (1) resource extraction and processing infrastructure, (2) fuel transportation and storage infrastructure, (3) electricity generation infrastructure, and (4) electricity transmission and distribution infrastructure.

GAO blog chart 3.23.14

Luckily, the GAO reports that measures exist to help reduce these climate-related risks. Hardening and resiliency measures would adapt the US’s energy systems to weather and climate-related impacts. Hardening measures involve physical changes that improve that stability of infrastructure, whereas resiliency measures allow energy systems to continue operating after damage and allow for a quick recovery. Whether it be sealing water-sensitive equipment or installing back-up generators, there are things that can be done.

Key federal entities can play important supporting roles that can influence private companies’ infrastructure decisions. The government can influence companies’ decision through providing information, regulatory oversight, technology research and development, and market incentives and disincentives.

A wide range of studies have shown that U.S. energy infrastructure is at risk for damage and disruptions to service due to severe weather events. The damage from this could impose large costs on the energy industry, as well as influence the local and national economies.

One thing is for sure. More can be done, and needs to be done.

Latinos and the Environment: Time to Retool the Republican Party

The GOP continues to wander in a desert of its own creation regarding how to reach out to Latinos.  The most recent episode is an apparent decision by its U.S. House leadership to bow to extreme elements in the party and call off its on-again-off-again courtship of bipartisan immigration legislation.  At some point Republicans need to accept that rebuilding their relationship with Latino voters requires pursuing issues that Latinos care about.

A dramatic example surfaced in recent polling by NRDC regarding the strong support by Latinos for action on climate change and protection of the environment generally. Latinos polled overwhelmingly came out in favor of tackling air pollution, addressing climate change, and using renewable energy, among many other pro-environmental positions. As my colleague Adrianna Quintero has written, Latinos understand specifically the threat from climate change to their families and communities and they want action against this threat.  These data are consistent with other polling results from political swing states during the 2012 election season (see infographic below).

In the wake of very bad election results in 2012, Republicans commenced some serious soul-searching about what their future holds. Some argue that the losses are due to candidates being too extreme while others assert too many were too moderate.  In its assessment of the path forward for the party, the Republican National Committee gave particular emphasis to appealing to a more diverse range of Americans, including our country’s quickly growing ethnic minority groups.

The crux of the argument in favor of seeking a broader appeal has focused on the nation’s changing demographics, specifically the need to appeal to a growing Latino population. Many conservatives seem to believe that immigration reform is the answer to winning over Latinos. However, as various pundits have already stated, moderation and problem-solving on the immigration issue may not be sufficient to bring Latinos into a tent that is not otherwise welcoming to them.

If it wants to succeed in a changing America, the Republican party must remake itself. In doing so, it will have to appeal to key groups on issues of importance to them.  Latinos support action on climate change with an exceptional intensity. In fact, polling specialist Latino Decisions has observed that only the issue of immigration reform provokes a more impassioned response from the Latino community. With that in mind, embracing the concern of Latinos for protecting health and addressing climate change could be a good starting point.

Latino infographic 2.11.14


It’s a Fact.

I just finished watching State of the Union.  President Obama gave his laundry list to Congress and then reminded lawmakers that if they can’t get their act together, he will move forward without them to make progress.

If you are an environmentalist who watched the speech, you undoubtedly found things you liked and disliked, but we can all embrace the President’s direct aim at climate deniers.

Check out his language from the 2010 State of the Union:

“I know that there are those who disagree with the overwhelming scientific evidence on climate change.”

Tonight’s statement was much more direct:

“Climate change is a fact.”

We couldn’t agree more. Now is the time for candidates to follow President Obama’s lead by being direct in our need to address climate change.

Extensive polling shows voters all across America are ready to act on climate by reducing carbon pollution. And candidates who chose to “run clean” in 2012 not only won, but laid out a roadmap for why it’s not just good policy, but good politics.

We have a moral obligation to act so we can leave the world a better place for our children and our children’s children.

The debate is over.

“And when our children’s children look us in the eye and ask if we did all we could to leave them a safer, more stable world, with new sources of energy, I want us to be able to say yes, we did.”

President Obama, 2014 State of the Union Address


New Year’s Resolution

Intro look at why 2014 is so important and how the enemies of climate science are real and not giving up. We can’t fight them dollar for dollar, but we have voters on our side.

Resolving to Combat $1 Billion Per Year

The December 20 headline screamed, “Conservative groups spend up to $1bn a year to fight action on climate change.” It’s not exactly the “happy new year” message that a clean energy professional likes to hear as she looks ahead to the dawn of an election year. I always like to think that the environmental community is sort of small and mighty, but one billion dollars sure is daunting. Luckily, it’s the season of hope, of possibility and of resolutions — and I know that our clean energy activists are resolved in their commitment to address climate change.

The headline referred to a new study, published in the journal Climatic Change, which looked at the funding of “91 think tanks, advocacy groups and industry associations which have worked to block action on climate change.” Over the course of the 8 years studied, the groups received about $900 million per year. While some of that funding may have been directed to other non-climate projects, many of those dollars went directly to fund activities like skeptics conferences and witch hunts and insults against climate scientists and to pay the salaries of climate deniers who could spout anti-climate change talking points to cable news pundits.

It would be easy to feel discouraged by seeing the numbers laid out in black and white. And I won’t pretend that these billions haven’t had an impact – inaction in Congress is evidence that they’ve had some success. There’s no question that we can’t compete dollar for dollar with these denying billionaires. But, they can’t seem to penetrate the place that really matters: the brains of American voters. Despite their billions, Americans persist in accepting the science and favoring action. For example, one recent poll found that three of five Americans say global warming is a very serious global problem, and two of three say it will hurt future generations either a lot or a great deal if nothing is done to reduce it. Even in deep red states, Americans support action to address climate change.

It’s a new year and it’s an election year. The deniers have failed to turn the public against climate science. But we have yet to fully succeed at mobilizing the public that so strongly supports climate action. I know many people would say that New Year’s resolutions are meant to be broken. But, we just can’t afford to let this one go. My resolution for 2014 is to make sure that every politician in America understands what their voters believe and to make sure they vote and campaign accordingly. Will you help us?

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