Listen in as the team at EEN give a recap of the last year and share some of the focuses of the year ahead. Be sure not to miss this one!
by Jim Ball
2012 is turning out to be quite an interesting year when it comes to awareness and action on climate change. This blog focuses on awareness; another on action will follow in early September.
In an election year when the politicians are ignoring or criticizing the need for climate action, when major enviro groups have been disappointingly AWOL, the climate itself refuses to be ignored. Indeed, while politicians, enviro leaders, and much of the media were absconded to the climate change witness protection program,
this year turns out to be the year that climate impacts came to a Facebook page near you.
It's Been Hot!
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), "The average temperature for the contiguous United States during July was 3.3°F above the 20th century average, marking the warmest July and all-time warmest month since national records began in 1895." July 2011 through June 2012 was also the warmest 12 months on record.
While there are many stories associated with this heat -- including the ones you may have lived through -- one of the more memorable has been the massive fish kills.
Here's an excerpt from an excellent AP story:
About 40,000 shovelnose sturgeon were killed in Iowa last week as water temperatures reached 97 degrees. Nebraska fishery officials said they've seen thousands of dead sturgeon, catfish, carp, and other species in the Lower Platte River, including the endangered pallid sturgeon. And biologists in Illinois said the hot weather has killed tens of thousands of large- and smallmouth bass and channel catfish and is threatening the population of the greater redhorse fish, a state-endangered species.
So many fish died in one Illinois lake that the carcasses clogged an intake screen near a power plant, lowering water levels to the point that the station had to shut down one of its generators.
"It's something I've never seen in my career, and I've been here for more than 17 years," said Mark Flammang, a fisheries biologist with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.
Iowa DNR officials said the sturgeon found dead in the Des Moines River were worth nearly $10 million, a high value based in part on their highly sought eggs, which are used for caviar. The fish are valued at more than $110 a pound.
"Those fish have been in these rivers for thousands of thousands of years, and they're accustomed to all sorts of weather conditions," he said. "But sometimes, you have conditions occur that are outside their realm of tolerance."
In Illinois, heat and lack of rain has dried up a large swath of Aux Sable Creek, the state's largest habitat for the endangered greater redhorse, a large bottom-feeding fish, said Dan Stephenson, a biologist with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
"We're talking hundreds of thousands (killed), maybe millions by now," Stephenson said. "If you're only talking about game fish, it's probably in the thousands. But for all fish, it's probably in the millions if you look statewide."
Of course, it's just going to keep getting hotter because of global warming. Much, much hotter. By the end of this century the average temperature in the U.S. could be 11 degrees F hotter. Thus far, we've seen an average increase of 1.5 degrees F. Add 9.5 degrees on average on top of what we've already experienced. Ask yourself -- do you want to live with that?
It's Been Dry!
At the end of July, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, 63% of the country was in moderate to extreme drought. As of the first week in August, 87% of the corn crop, 85% of the soy bean crop, and 72% of cattle were experiencing drought, with over half of the corn and soy beans in extreme to exceptional drought (the top two categories).
Over half the country has been declared a natural disaster area, making this drought the largest natural disaster in U.S. history.
It's Been Violent!
Never in my life had I heard the term "derecho" used until late June. That's when an extreme heat wave helped create the conditions for this type of rare violent storm that stretched in a 600-mile line from northern Indiana through Washington, DC, and beyond.
We were fortunate and only lost power for about 14 hours. Millions suffered in sweltering heat without power for days. All in all, 3.7 million lost power and 22 people died.
Lots of Wildfires!
One of the interesting things about my own knowledge of the occurrence of wildfires this year was that I started hearing about them on Facebook even before I began to see news stories about them. Friends out west posted pics of their neighborhoods burning, sharing stories of loss.
The sad thing is, more wildfires are in our future. According to a report by the National Academy of Sciences, we are on our way to increasing wildfires by 200-400% out west, with portions of western Colorado seeing an increase of over 600 percent.
The Bugs are Biting!
Unfortunately, it's been record-breaking year for cases of West Nile Virus, with my former hometown, Dallas, doing aerial spraying for the first time in nearly 50 years.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), as of August 14:
43 states have reported West Nile virus infections in people, birds, or mosquitoes. A total of 693 cases of West Nile virus disease in people, including 26 deaths, have been reported to CDC " The 693 cases reported thus far in 2012 is the highest number of West Nile virus disease cases reported to CDC through the second week in August since West Nile virus was first detected in the United States in 1999.
Projections are that climate change will bring even more cases of West Nile Virus.
We Just Keep Fiddlin' While the Planet Burns!
According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the official advisor to the G8 on energy matters, humanity released a record high level of global warming pollution in 2011. In order for us to have a 50% chance of staying below 2 degrees C, the world's emissions must peak at a mere 3% above 2011 levels, which the IEA hopes won't be until 2017. As IEA's chief economist puts it, "The new data provide further evidence that the door to a 2°C trajectory is about to close."
Thank God for Sen. Inhofe
One politician who's not afraid to talk about global warming is our old friend Sen. Inhofe (R-OK), who recently pointed out that "President Obama himself never dares to mention global warming ... " Even as his state suffers from extreme heat and drought, he is not one to let his convictions wilt in the face of the facts.
On the Senate floor, he explained this year's climate extremes this way,
"It gets cold, it gets warmer. It gets colder, it gets warmer. God is still up there, and I think that will continue in the future."
The Rev. Jim Ball, Ph.D., is EEN Executive Vice President for Policy and Climate Change and author of Global Warming and the Risen LORD.
Jim Ball interviews Curtis Witek a former graduate at Wheaton College who is involved in A Rocha Wheaton which promotes care for God's creation.
Jim Ball interviews Victor Mughogho at Global Day of Prayer for Creation Care in Washington, DC April 26, 2012
by Jim Ball
President Obama is in the midst of a speaking tour on energy, prodded in large measure by spiking gas prices and dropping approval ratings as many assume the President can do more, but isn't for some reason. The President is trying to convince folks that while he can't really do anything about short-term gas prices -- which is true -- he's got a good handle on the long term. This includes policies to increase fuel economy, thereby saving folks money at the pump, and pursuing an "all-of-the-above," "American-made" energy production strategy. An important part of this "all-of-the-above" approach is alternative or clean energy sources like wind, solar and biomass.
Funny thing is, increasing fuel economy and clean energy is great for climate change, but the President doesn't mention it. You'd think talking about such policies would lead right into the President saying what he's doing about the greatest moral challenge of our time. But it doesn't.
Just the other day on Mar. 16 the President was giving a talk in Atlanta with Oprah Winfrey in attendance. Here's the official transcript:
The President: I was back home in Chicago; came down to Atlanta. It's warm every place. It gets you a little nervous about what's happening to global temperatures, but when it's 75 degrees in Chicago in the beginning of March, you start thinking --
Audience Member [Oprah]: Something is wrong.
The President: Yes. On the other hand, really have enjoyed the nice weather. (Laughter.)
So at this campaign event the most admired woman in America provides the President with the perfect opportunity to say what his administration is doing about climate change, to say that it's going to be a top priority in his next administration. Instead, he makes a joke and moves on.
Gallows humor? Hey, I take a stab at gallows humor myself from time to time. It can provide a good release.
But when it's used to duck the greatest moral challenge of our time? Not good.
I'm sure there are short-term political arguments for why the President is avoiding talking about climate change.
Right now Republicans like Karl Rove are running ads attacking him on gas prices, and coal is vital to the economies of key presidential battleground states like Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia. Any one of these states could end up determining who inhabits the White House in the next Presidential term.
But for the good of the country and the world the President must not remain silent. Here are a couple of reasons why.
First, according to the International Energy Agency, which advises the G8 on climate and energy matters, global emissions must peak during the next Presidential term to avoid what all nations, including the U.S., have agreed is a temperature threshold that should not be crossed.
Second, to achieve this we can't just have a gradual transition away from harmful climate practices, we can't just concentrate on reducing global warming pollution from a couple of sectors. We need to have a society-wide revolution kick-started by comprehensive climate legislation that puts a price on carbon.
Third, the country won't pass such legislation unless whoever is President leads the way.
Here's what I'd like to see. Three weeks after taking office the newly elected (if it's the Republican) or re-elected President addresses a joint session of Congress and say the following: "The time for study alone has passed, and the time for action is now." He'd do so after having campaigned on a pledge to make climate change a top priority. Five months after addressing Congress his administration would have introduced major legislation. The President himself would put the full weight and prestige of his office behind it, and would work hard for its passage. When pushed the President would choose the strongest emission reduction option. And before the end of his first year in office he would sign it into law.
A fantasy you say? Not really. It's history, actually, the history of the 1990 Clean Air Act championed by the elder President Bush (as recounted in a recent Forbes article). And it wouldn't have happened without strong Presidential leadership from someone who ran on making it a top priority.
Social scientist Robert Brulle and his colleagues show that public concern for climate change goes up when senior political leaders talk about the need for action. It goes down when they don't, or when they speak against action. In addition, their study found that the level of public concern also tracked with the amount of media coverage there was, which itself was driven to a large extent by what political leaders were saying.
In an interview Brulle got right to the point: "The fact that Obama isn't talking about the issue or even using the word matters very much."
Here's the bottom line. The nature of this challenge, both the threat itself and the public support for action, demands Presidential leadership. He can't be the Facilitator-in-Chief on this one. He has to be the Leader-in-Chief. He can't lay back and wait for support to materialize. He must help create it.
Politics is indeed the art of the possible. But in the case of overcoming global warming we need the President to help make it possible. No joke.
(Originally posted at the Huffington Post).
The Rev. Jim Ball, Ph.D., is Executive Vice President at EEN and author of Global Warming and the Risen LORD.
Jim Ball talks with former Congressman Bob Inglis (R-SC) about his passion for God's creation, conservative approaches to address climate change, the future of energy, and much more.
Jim Ball talks with Chris Wright International Director of the Langham Partnership (a ministry founded by John Stott) about the work of the partnership in equipping pastors around the world, his role as the Chair of the Statement Group for the Lausanne Movement's Cape Town Commitment, and the emphasis of the Cape Town Commitment on creation care and climate change.
by Jim Ball
Katharine Hayhoe is one terrific Christian. She's a climate scientist who's devoting her life to understanding how climate change will impact human beings and how we can begin to prepare or adapt to such changes. In this way she's like the Patriarch Joseph in the book of Genesis, who helped Egypt prepare for hard times to come.
She also takes time out of her busy life of being a wife, mom, and professor to speak to church groups and other similar settings and patiently teach folks about global warming. She and her husband, a pastor, also took the time to write a book to help Christians accept the truth about climate change called A Climate for Change: Global Warming Facts for Faith-Based Decisions.
She's a climate hero and a faithful Christian.
I recently had the privilege of interviewing her at a conference we were attending. I encourage you to watch the video here to see for yourself what a great person she is.
But right now she's being treated in a manner that is downright shameful -- and even worse, dangerous. It's well past time for her attackers to stop, and to repent from what they have done.
One strategy of hard-core climate deniers has been to intimidate individual scientists by attacking them in public. Their goal is to shut them up and make an example of them so that others won't want to work in the area of climate change.
Katharine is continuing to speak the truth about our need to overcome global warming even in the midst of such attacks, which have recently become voluminous, relentless, hateful, vile, and even dangerous. Some have gone so far as to suggest bodily harm and have mentioned Katharine's child. (Go here only if you want to see a sampling of such emails. The purpose of doing so is not to be salacious, but only to glimpse what our sister in Christ has been dealing with.)
Katharine has been intentionally targeted for such attacks precisely because she is an evangelical speaking to evangelicals and other similar audiences considered to be the purview of the deniers. She's a threat to them and they are lashing out. Unfortunately, some of these folks are Christians and are behaving in a very unchristian manner.
I'm not going to name the one person who is probably the most responsible for these terrible attacks on Katharine, the one who has continually published Katharine's email address. I will not do to him what he has done to our sister in Christ. But I want you to be aware that there is such a person.
I've written this blog with one hope -- that people will pray that such attacks will stop. I'm asking you to:
1. Pray for Katharine, her husband Andrew, and their child. Pray for their safety and wellbeing. Pray for her climate change teaching ministry.
2. Pray for all the other scientists who are being attacked for teaching the truth about the need to overcome global warming.
3. Pray for those who have sent these terrible emails, or for those thinking of doing so, that God will fill their hearts with His love and they will repent from such deeds.
4. Pray for the one most responsible for Katharine's plight, the one that has published her email address, that he too will be filled with God's love so that he repents and asks forgiveness of Katharine and others he has helped to cause harm.
5. Pray for ourselves, that we might not fall into temptation.
6. Pray for our country, that we might have civil, respectful discourse on topics where we disagree.
7. Share this blog with others, and ask them to pray these things.
Finally, let us be encouraged by 1 Peter 4:
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins ... if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name (v. 8, 16, NIV).
The Rev. Jim Ball, Ph.D., is Executive Vice President at EEN and author of Global Warming and the Risen LORD.
Jim Ball of EEN sits down with Katherine Hayhoe to chat about her work as a climate scientist, her missionary background, her formation in InterVarsity, her book with her husband "A Climate for Change," and recent controversies with former Speaker Newt Gingrich.
by Jim Ball
Recent articles by Climate Wire and Daily Climate showed that media coverage of climate change was at a low ebb in 2011 even as belief in global warming by the public increased. This dip in coverage occurred despite the facts that we had record-breaking drought and other extreme weather events across the country, and a Presidential primary season marked by continual reports of climate denial or climate back-tracking by Republican candidates.
In other words, climate coverage didn't match newsworthy climate-related events -- but the public could be making the connections despite the lack of coverage.
From the ClimateWire and Daily Climate stories (and the reports they cite), here are some facts on the dearth of coverage:
Despite this, a recent poll found that belief in global warming had gone up in 2011 compared to 2010, 63 percent compared to 57 percent. Part of the reason may be because more people are starting to connect global warming to changes they are seeing in the climate. The poll found that 65 percent believe that global warming is affecting the weather, and a majority believes this about many of the extreme weather events of 2011. A Rasmussen poll conducted Jan 3-4, 2012, found similar results, with 64% believing that climate change is a serious concern.
So what's up with the media? Are they scared to talk about global warming? Have they been successfully bullied by the deniers into failing to tell the truth to the public?
The Rev. Jim Ball, Ph.D., is Executive Vice President at EEN and author of Global Warming and the Risen LORD.
by Jim Ball
The international climate talks that recently wrapped up in Durban, South Africa, could prove to be an historic turning point in the international community's efforts to overcome global warming. While the urgency for overcoming global warming has never been greater, it was actually helpful that expectations for this meeting were quite low.
Durban achieved significant progress in helping the world to address both the causes and consequences of global warming.
What was the potentially historic progress that Durban achieved? Its greatest breakthrough came in the area of overcoming the causes (also known as mitigation).
In a brief document approved at these negotiations, called the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action, all countries agreed
"to launch a process to develop a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change applicable to all Parties".
Now some of you could be wondering, "They agreed to launch a process to develop ... something ... a something that sounds like legal hairsplitting. Gee, that sounds underwhelming."
Agreeing to a process to create what sounds like legal mumbo jumbo doesn't sound like much. But it's actually a significant accomplishment in a process that must come to fruition if it is ultimately to be meaningful.
Some quick background.
For the United States government, by necessity these international climate negotiations have been guided by two basic facts that lead to the same conclusion. The first is a political fact, the second a substantive one.
The political fact is this: the Senate would never ratify a climate treaty that didn't include China and India having the same types of commitments as the U.S. If the U.S. was to have legally binding caps on emissions, then China and India would also have to have such restraints. Any agreement must clear this hurdle. One without it, like the Kyoto Protocol, is a total nonstarter.
Here's the substantive fact: today China and India are the world's first and third largest emitters of global warming pollution. As I noted in an earlier blog, worldwide energy consumption is projected to grow by over 30% by 2035, and 50% of this will come from China and India -- much of it produced by coal if things continue along their present path.
Thus, both politically and substantively China and India must take on the same types of commitments as developed countries like the U.S. if the world is to have a shot at overcoming global warming. (To be clear, the same type doesn't mean the same level of commitment of emissions reductions, something that will comprise very hard negotiating as the final deal is reached.)
Movement had to come from China and India -- and at Durban it did. These words are the kicker:
"an agreed outcome with legal force ... applicable to all Parties."
For the first time the world's top three global warming polluters, China, the U.S., and India, agreed to work towards a legally-binding agreement to reduce the world's emissions.
What created the Durban breakthrough was three things:
1. The willingness of the European countries as represented by the European Union (EU) to meet a major demand of the developing countries that the Kyoto Protocol and its emissions reductions and other programs be continued for another term.
2. The willingness of other developing countries who will be impacted most severely by global warming to challenge China and India to step up and accept binding commitments.
3. The U.S. holding firm to the goal of having all major emitters be subject to the same types of requirements.
This troika-of-the-moment led China and India to agree to a process whereby all countries will take on legal requirements. This treaty/protocol/instrument is to be negotiated by 2015 and come into force by 2020.
When combined with continued progress on the political commitments made in the last two international climate negotiations in Copenhagen and Cancun, this gives the world a shot at overcoming the causes of global warming.
Credit should be given where credit is due.
Perhaps no one person had more to do with Durban's success than the EU's representative, Connie Hedegaard.
According to various accounts, she helped bring together the EU, small island states, and least developed countries to forge an alliance that put China and India in a position where they needed to make a deal.
The representatives from small island states and least developed countries (e.g. Grenada) that pressured the emerging economies of China and India also deserve praise. This was the first time that countries within those designated as "developing countries" challenged the major players in this bloc.
Finally, the U.S. negotiating team, headed up by Todd Stern and Jonathan Pershing, are to be commended for holding firm to the goal of having all major emitters be subject to the same types of requirements. This was always the only way forward, and is now what everyone has agreed to work towards.
As for overcoming the consequences through adaptation, some progress was made with the approval of the Green Climate Fund's organizational structure. This entity will be established this coming spring. However, there was no agreement on how it will be funded as part of the fulfillment of the $100 billion pledge made by the rich countries in Copenhagen. In terms of funding the Green Climate Fund as well as bi-lateral efforts to help poor countries adapt, the US needs to play a much more substantive role in the future.
Clearly there is a tremendous amount of work left to be done. But internationally we now have a path forward with the Durban Platform and the Green Climate Fund that gives the world a fighting chance. Whether we will take that path remains to be seen.
Finally, none of this will have any meaning if the U.S. doesn't get its act together and pass major domestic legislation in the next several years. The world needs us to lead the way in creating the clean energy revolution and in helping the poor in poor countries adapt to the impacts of climate change.
Put together, all of this means that the 2012 election is the most important U.S. election there will ever be when it comes to overcoming global warming. Without strong leadership from the next President, I don't see how we will get there. Thus, we need presidential candidates to affirm that overcoming global warming will be a top priority in the next Administration.
The Rev. Jim Ball, Ph.D., is Executive Vice President of EEN for Public Policy and Climate Change and author of Global Warming and the Risen LORD.
by Kara Ball
Each year, Jim takes it upon himself to write our Christmas Letter. I'm so grateful for his work compiling all our activities, work and service for the year. This is a helpful contribution to our advent activities as we prepare for Christmas.
Each year for the past couple of years, he's chosen to end our Christmas Letter with a "note" from one of our animals. This year, our iguana Iggy is prominently featured. Being an herbivore, Iggy's note to our friends and family is "May you have all the kale you desire this holiday season."
I'm glad that Jim chose Iggy to end our Christmas Letter. It seems an appropriate reminder as we celebrate Jesus' coming that He came to reconcile all things to the Father:
15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. (Col. 1:15-20, NIV)
This Christmas I am grateful for the opportunities we have to be co-agents in caring for God's creation. Whether you're a conservationist by vocation or avocation, your talents and dedication are helping provide sufficiency and contentment for all God's creatures, human and nonhuman. There is much work to be done in God's harvest field of creation care, so in the coming year I pray for continued strength and commitment for all those working in the field, and that others will join us.
On behalf of Iggy, Merry Christmas.
[Friends: I delivered these remarks at the launch of the Climate Ethics Campaign on Capitol Hill in DC on Nov. 30, 2011 -- Jim Ball.]
Our country has always been about creating a better future, because we are a nation of immigrants. Our forbearers came here to create a better future for themselves and their children, and of course this is still happening. That's why the Statue of Liberty perhaps best embodies who we are as a nation: a beacon of liberty proclaiming to the world that here is a country where you have the freedom to create a better life.
We are a freedom-loving people because we know that to create a better future you must have the freedom to do so. The two great wars fought on American soil, the American Revolution and the Civil War, were fought for freedom. We are the beneficiaries of the blood of patriots who gave their lives on the altar of freedom.
Because we Americans have believed throughout our history -- and still want to believe -- that the future can be better, we also have a strong belief in fairness. For individuals to be able to create a better future, things need to be fair. Everybody needs a fair shake.
For the poor in developing countries today, the tyranny ofglobal warming is the equivalent of what sparked our American Revolution, taxation without representation. Through a process in which they have no say, by decisions made by those far, far away, are profound limitations placed upon their freedom to create a better life for themselves and their loved ones. It isn't fair.
For freedom-loving, fair-minded people like us, global warming is a worldwide scourge, similar to how communism was in the twentieth century. Global warming is a freedom denier, a freedom destroyer, not only in terms of denying opportunities for individuals, but potentially for the cause of freedom in entire countries.
The creators of the movie Planet of the Apes produced one of the greatest endings in movie history. Charlton Heston's character, Taylor, rides along the beach until he comes to what's left of the Statue of Liberty, one of our greatest symbols of freedom. "Damn you all to hell," he says of those who blew up the Earth with nuclear weapons. But, guess what, we're still here. We didn't blow ourselves up.
While we still have time to overcome global warming, we are quickly running out of time. Let's work together to create a better future for present and future generations. It's time to be great again by overcoming global warming. America can rise to this challenge, because that's who we are: fair-minded, freedom-loving people who live to create a brighter future.
The Rev. Jim Ball, Ph.D., is Executive Vice President for EEN and author of Global Warming and the Risen LORD.
by Jim Ball
The International Energy Agency (IEA), which advises the G20 on energy matters, recently released their annual report on energy consumption and their forecast for where things are heading over the next 25 years -- including the possibility of overcoming global warming.
In their World Energy Outlook 2011 the IEA projects that energy demand will grow 40% by 2035. To meet this demand, the world will need to spend about $1.5 trillion. What we spend it on will determine whether we overcome global warming or not.
Below is my summary of the IEA's findings. (I encourage you to check out their materials and a video of their press conference here.)
The Emerging Economies Outstrip Developed Economies in Energy Consumption and Emissions
The Longer We Wait the More Expensive Reducing Emissions Becomes
As the above findings show, we are almost out of time to overcome global warming. The Risen LORD is leading the way, but not enough of us are following.
The Rev. Jim Ball, Ph.D., is Executive Vice President of EEN and author of Global Warming and the Risen LORD.
by Jim Ball
Paul Epstein, M.D., was a gentle, unassuming, brilliant, caring man who made the world a better place. He died from Lymphoma on Sunday at his home in Boston. He was 67.
While not a Christian, Paul led the type of life Jesus calls us to in the Gospels. As a physician he served the poor in Mozambique in the late 1970s. While there he began to notice the outbreak of diseases such as malaria in places where it had not been before. He was one of the first to put forward the idea that climate change would have an impact on human health.
I first met Paul in the late 1990s when he came to DC to testify on Capitol Hill about climate and health, and every couple of years we would find ourselves at the same meetings or conferences. A special time was when he co-convened with my friend Rich Cizik a seminal meeting between evangelicals and scientists on climate change and creation-care, attended by E. O. Wilson, who had just published his book, The Creation.
Whenever I asked him for anything Paul was always ready to help in any way he could. He was one of my favorite people in the wider environmental community. I will miss him.
Please pray for his wife, Andy, their son, Benjamin, and daughter, Jesse, and Paul's sister, Emily.
More about Paul can be found in his obituary published in the New York Times.
The Rev. Jim Ball, Ph.D., is Executive Vice President of EEN and author of Global Warming and the Risen LORD.
In the last chapter of my book, Global Warming and the Risen LORD, I state:
Let me be frank. Many of us have been plodding along in chronological time on this great challenge, and have not awakened to the fact that we are now in kairos time when it comes to climate change. As used in the New Testament, the word kairos means a right or opportune moment usually associated with decisive action bringing about deliverance or salvation. If not acted upon, such moments can pass us by. We are in the kairos climate moment because there is still time to overcome global warming. There is still time for us to be spared from many of its potential devastating consequences, for the poor to be delivered from even more destructive impacts, for less of God's other creatures to become extinct and be robbed of God's blessing of life. If you are still operating in chronological time when it comes to overcoming global warming, it's time to wake up. Simply put: our kairos moment on global warming has arrived, and it won't last forever (p. 436).
Several recent scientific articles confirm once again that right now is our climate kairos moment.
The first article concludes that unless global warming pollution peaks soon and is in significant decline by 2020, it puts us in danger of not being able to overcome global warming by keeping us from exceeding a temperature increase of 2°C compared to preindustrial levels. The second article finds that if we continue on our current path, significant portions of the planet will begin to exceed 2°C by 2040, with the entire globe there by 2060.
Added to these scientific findings is the fact that, contrary to assumptions that the global recession would slow global warming pollution down and buy us a little more time, global emissions exploded in 2010, according to the Department of Energy's Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center at its Oak Ridge Lab. (These findings are in keeping with those of the International Energy Agency.)
Time Magazine's headline for the article by AP's scientific reporter Seth Borenstein about the increase captured the situation quite well:
As Borenstein comments,
The new figures for 2010 mean that levels of greenhouse gases are higher than the worst case scenario outlined by climate experts just four years ago.
Borenstein is referring to that wild and crazy group of the world's leading experts on climate change called the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Far from being serial exaggerators as deniers would have you believe, the IPCC's reports are quite conservative in their projections, as the latest global warming pollution numbers attest. Even their worst case emissions scenario was too low in comparison with our current reality. We've blown right past it. This means that our current path would have portions of the planet reaching 2°C even before 2040.
It is the Risen LORD who is leading the way in overcoming global warming. But in keeping with human freedom, He does so through human beings. Based on the numbers, we're not doing such a great job of following the Risen LORD in overcoming global warming. What the scientists are telling us is that global emissions must peak by around 2015 and be in significant decline by 2020 to avoid heating the planet to a level where dangerous tipping points could be reached, resulting in far more suffering and destruction.
Can global warming still be overcome with the Risen LORD leading the way? YES. But we must get started in a serious way right now. Join us as we follow the Risen LORD in overcoming global warming.
by Jim Ball
Since my family is from McComb, I'm searching for something more in my review of McComb's civil rights struggle. Did any white Christians from McComb stand up and do the right thing? More specifically, did my grandparents, Jumo and GranHelen, do the right thing?
We are all products of our time and place, and there can be a collective moral denial that groups and communities participate in. But in 1964 in McComb there was no place to run and hide morally when it came to the struggle for civil rights. There was no way to claim ignorance when upwards of 20 bombings occur in your community; when your small town is regularly featured on the national newscasts; when the nation's best-known columnist, whose column is published in your local paper, visits your town and features the civil rights struggles occurring your town at least 14 times during the fall of 1964; when even your own local newspaper's editorials during September and October are highlighting the issue and calling for change. If you own a store in downtown McComb like my grandfather did, there is no way to ignore the economic impacts of people being afraid to shop downtown.
In was clear to those who drafted the statement that they were dealing with issues of right and wrong. Equally apparent was the fact that the actions of those violently opposing change were evil "acts of terrorism." And finally, the statement made clear that there must be "equal treatment under the law" for everyone, regardless of one's personal views or feelings.
It was all too clear to the drafters and signatories, surely it was clear to my grandfather, no? Surely as a prominent merchant, a deacon at First Baptist, a respected member of the community, he would have been asked to sign, right?
As I began to scan the list of signatories I started seeing names that looked familiar.
Is that the father of my mother's best childhood fried? Is so-and-so the father-in-law of my aunt, in whose home I often played with my cousin? Is that the son of the lawyer we consulted as we looked into guardianship for GranHelen? Are any of these folks with the last names of Brewer (GranHelen's maiden name), Wilkinson, or Ball related to me?
But mainly I was searching... hoping... to find my grandfather's name. If Jumo's name was there then maybe the moral questions raised when I first learned nearly 20 years ago that Moses had come to McComb could be assuaged.
And there, at the top of the middle column of the next to last page was a strange entry. No other name looked this way. The last name was right, "Wilkinson." But the first name was tauntingly strange: "J..i..i..y." My grandfather went by "Jimmy." Could this be him?
Did my grandfather sign the Statement of Principles on behalf of himself and my grandmother? After a long investigation the answer is ... I don't know.
Such ambiguity, such lack of clarity, such seeing through a glass darkly, is a plaintive, restive, metaphor for the moral standing of southern white Christians like my grandfather and grandmother and their spiritual offspring. But not knowing if I had found my namesake's name made me face a simple truth: absolution would not have come from finding a name on a list.
What I do know is that I never remember my grandparents or my parents making anything close to racist statements. We were taught to treat all people with respect, to treat others equally regardless of race or religion-- indeed, as Christians, to love everyone.
But righteousness is not the absence of bad acts, of sinful, hurtful acts. It is the presence of good acts, the presence of right relations with everyone and God.
The Heffner's put one foot on this road in terms of race relations and they were runt out of town. The Statement of Principles was a good statement for its day. But while it may have signified a change of heart by some of those who signed it, it was external political and economic pressure that brought it about. True righteousness, doesn't require external pressure. It flows out of a righteous heart
Adapted from Chapter 10 of Global Warming & The Risen Lord, a new book by Rev. Jim Ball Executive Vice President of Policy and Climate Change at the Evangelical Environmental Network. You can learn more about the book by clicking here.
by Jim Ball
I'm just returining from a great several days out in southern California where I spoke to: (1) Point Loma Nazarene University in their chapel, at their "Brewed Awakening" evening series, and in several classes; (2) our EEN Partner, Plant With Purpose (formerly Floresta), and (3) North Coast Calvary Chapel where Mark Foreman is Senior Pastor and a new-found leader on climate change.
If you ever have a chance to get out to PLNU, it literally looks out onto the Pacific Ocean, as this photo at dusk attests.
Today I'm catching up on what's been happening, and here's what I find as the headlines from today's ClimateWire:
- Parties clash on disaster funding as House seeks clean-tech cuts [Rs want to take clean tech funds to use to help with natural disasters; talk about foolishness]
- Gore takes climate change slide show around the world in 24 hours [started Wed. evening]
- Continuing drought threatens more wildfires and winter wheat crop in Texas
- Aid agencies brace for second year of disastrous flooding in Pakistan
- Hydro infrastructure unprepared for shifts caused by climate change
- Arctic sea ice melt nears record
- Walruses are stuck on shore because of melted ice
- Report finds electric car battery production will outpace demand
- Intel presents solar-powered processor
- First Chinese-built car now for sale in America (an all-electric sedan called Coda)
This is not a bad snapshopt as to the type of things that are happening in terms of climate, clean energy, climate politics, and climate activism.
And also today there's a new poll out by Stanford for Reuters showing that belief that the earth is warming has gone up since November 2010, from 75% to 82.5 percent. This includes a 6% increase in the number of Republicans who believe this, and a 9.5% increase in Independents -- the latter being quite important politically. At the same time, there has been a nearly 4% drop in those who believe that global warming is mostly or partly caused by humanity. (Even with this drop, a strong 71.5% believe this.) In addition, the percentage of those who are now extremely or very sure that global warming is or isn't happening has gone up by 13 percent. In other words, more people are becoming more sure that they are right.
Here's my take on what's happening. The extreme weather and hot temperatures are convincing more people that warming is taking place -- but some are still wanting to be in denial about the fact that we're causing most of it. In addiiton, because global warming is now such a hot topic in Republican presidential politics, and powerful skeptics like Limbaugh and others are continuing and even intensifying their opposition, this is combining with the weather to create a situation where more people are making up their minds as to what they believe, as demonstrated by the 13% increase in those who are sure of their views. Thus, things are heating up (in more ways than one) and shaking out.
And it is young people like those at Point Loma Nazarene University who will have to live with the consequences for the rest of their lives, and who therefore need to step up and take leadership on overcoming global warming.
by Jim Ball
For those of you interested in what is happening in terms of US support for helping poor countries address climate change, the Washington Post has an excellent article by Juliet Eilperin. Check it out.
by Jim Ball
It probably won't come as much of a surprise, but it's still noteworthy. This July had the highest "Climate Extreme Index" since records began being kept in 1910, as the graph above demonstrates. (The Index is comprised of extremes in temperature, precipitation, and extreme weather events.)
Here, from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or NOAA (which includes the Weather Service), are some highlights about July's extremes:
- Oklahoma and Texas had their warmest months ever on record, with average temperatures of 88.9 degrees F and 87.1 degrees F, respectively. Oklahoma's statewide average temperature was the warmest monthly statewide average temperature on record for any state during any month.
- 41 of the lower 48 states had above-normal, much-above-normal, or a record warmest July. Only seven of the lower 48 states " all west of the Rockies " experienced a July average temperature near or below the 20th century average.
- The South climate region -- Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Texas -- had its warmest single calendar month for any climate region on record. The average temperature of 86.1 degrees F, bested the previous all-time record of 85.9 set in July 1980 in the South climate region.
- Dallas exceeded 100 degrees F on 30 of the 31 days in July. In Oklahoma City, July was the warmest single calendar month, with an average temperature of 89.2, beating the previous record of 88.7 degrees F set in August 1936. Washington, D.C.'s Reagan National Airport had its warmest single calendar month on record, with an average temperature of 84.5 degrees F, breaking the previous record of 83.1 degrees F set in July 2010 and July 1993.
- The July heat wave was characterized by unusually warm minimum temperatures, during nights and early mornings. This is typical of U.S. heat waves in the last decade, and consistent with increasing warm summer nighttime extremes observed across much of the country since the late 20th century.
- Wetter-than-normal conditions occurred along parts of the Gulf Coast, all of the Pacific Coast, and much of the upper Midwest. California tied for its fifth wettest July. Other states that were abnormally wet in July included: Utah (6th wettest), Wyoming (9th), and South Dakota (10th). At the same time, July offered no relief to the parched soils of Texas and Oklahoma where it was the second (tied) and ninth driest July on record, respectively.
- Exceptional drought, as defined by the U.S. Drought Monitor, covers more than 75 percent of Texas (201,436 sq mi). Drought conditions are so harsh in some locations that it would take as much as 20 inches of precipitation in one month to end the drought. In Oklahoma, 100 percent of the state is suffering from moderate-exceptional drought compared to the beginning of the water year (9/28/2010), when drought conditions covered only four percent of the state.
by Brittany Bennett
I am truly astounded by how much has been put into this book. It is packed solid with the most accurate scientific information, true stories, and Scripture - yet it's very easy to read. I can't say it's not challenging, but I really couldn't put it down! I'm sure that you will be able to find the time in your busy life to read it as well, and will come back to it many times. I felt like I was literally taking a journey around the world and the Lord was holding my hand the whole time. I believe that's because He was at all these places and He sees what's going on. He knows all the people we meet and the places that are described. He also has a plan as ever, and that's where we come in.
This is a book to unite generations and denominations into the Church that had the courage to walk with Jesus across the earth, and the faith to believe that there could be healing in the midst of global warming. It's a strong bridge across the widening gap that the followers of Christ are called to stand in.
This book is written with the careful wisdom and understanding that most Christians simply didn't know that the future would look like this. We've tried to live our lives in obedience to the Lord, we've enjoyed what we worked for,and we given what we can - but along the way we became distracted from an understanding about our impact on the environment, and the ways that our neighbors and other living things are struggling to adapt.
This is where I was a couple years ago. I've come to general understanding of what is going on and why I should care. The biggest struggle I have is wondering how I can be more faithful? How can I keep hope and know that in a few more years I won't be devastated from the weight of these challenges? What does it mean to be a son of God in a world where millions are seeking refuge from a climate that is changing around them? How can I be in this world where these things are occurring, but not of it? What are the most accurate specifics about global warming? Where can I give? What can I do with my talents and skills? What can we do together?
So many questions friends! It is not easy to carry the cross down here, though it is an incredibly light burden compared to the alternative. Let me tell you that if you are wondering about these things too, please read this book. Don't be afraid. I have faith that it will bless you and give you sustenance as it has me.
I thought that I had been hopeful, but I realized how little I've actually believed that the Risen LORD can so fully overcome. It is so easy to forget, but How good is He! How powerful and glorious is the Risen LORD that all our sin and weakness has been overcome! Many are the believers and great is the Lord. Let us walk together with Him as He brings redemption, and let us learn more about how we can love and care for all that He has loved.
Brittany Bennett is a recent graduate of Eastern University and has been actively involved with creation care.
Our colleague Rev. Jim Ball is now also blogging at The Huffington Post. Check out his latest post on "God's Love, Truth, and Global Warming."
by Jim Ball
In Part One of this three-part series I discussed how a better understanding of climate adaptation in poor countries is now emerging, as demonstrated by three reports that have recently come out. Part One dealt with one of those reports from Oxfam and CNA entitled An Ounce of Prevention: Preparing for the Impact of a Changing Climate on US Humanitarian and Disaster Response.
This blog, Part Two, will cover a very important report and proposal:
Climate Knowledge for Action: A Global Framework for Climate Services "Empowering the Most Vulnerable." The Report of the High-level Taskforce for the Global Framework for Climate Services.
Oh boy. That's one heck of a title. But it's actually not as bad as all that. Let's keep plugging away.
First of all, by "climate services" they mean "climate information prepared and delivered to meet users' needs" (p. 8). It would be analogous to our getting the weather report so we know how to plan our day; such information is delivered to us in an easily understandable and timely fashion. But in this case, the forecast would be a "climate forecast," designed to help decisions-makers from heads-of-state to heads-of-households plan for current and future climate impacts.
Here's a very helpful quote for understanding what they're about:
Our vision is for an end-to-end system for providing climate services and applying them in decision making at every level of society. Putting this system in place will require unprecedented collaboration across political, functional, and disciplinary boundaries and a global mobilisation of effort (p. 3).
I couldn't agree more, especially that "every level of society" includes poor families and communities have the information they need to make the right decisions.
How would climate services be utilized? Here are some quick helpful examples they provide:
- "Climate predictions can be used by farmers to help them decide, for example, which crops to plant or whether to reduce livestock numbers if a drought is forecast. Farmers making such decisions are likely to use climate outlooks of rainfall and temperature and take into account the uncertainty estimates provided with these products;
- Statistical assessments of the future frequency of extreme weather and climate events can be used by engineers to help them make decisions, including where to invest in disaster mitigation measures such as dams, where to locate buildings, which construction methods to use and how much heating and cooling is needed for critical infrastructure;
- Seasonal climate forecasts and monitoring of actual temperature and rainfall can be used to provide forecasts of when and where disease outbreaks are likely to occur. The impacts of predicted outbreaks can then be minimised by public awareness campaigns, stocking and shipping medical supplies and vector control programmes such as spraying;
- Climate change projections, which can indicate precipitation patterns in the 30-to-50-year timeframe, can be used to guide major investment decisions relating to long-term water management such as whether and where to build new reservoirs" (p18).
What's our current situation in relation to "climate services"? In the Forward, they begin with "a clear and striking appreciation" of three foundational facts:
"Firstly, we know that everyone is affected by climate -- particularly its extremes, which cause loss of lives and livelihoods all over the world, but overwhelmingly in developing countries. Secondly, we know that -- where they exist -- needs-based climate services are extremely effective in helping communities, businesses, organizations and governments to manage the risks and take advantage of the opportunities associated with the climate. Thirdly, we know that there is a yawning gap between the needs for climate services and their current provision. Climate services are weakest in the places that need them most -- climate-vulnerable developing countries."
Here's the kicker. They continue by saying that "this situation is unacceptable and unjust," and they hope their report and proposal will help to bring about a reversal of this situation.
In my book I identify 7 key ingredients to helping the poor adapt to the consequences of global warming:
1) Commitment: Moral and Political Will
2) Adequate Funding
3) Good Governance
4) The Right Policies
5) Accurate, Understandable Information for All Decision- Makers
6) An Integrated, Coordinated Response
7) Community Engagement
At first glance you might think that "climate services" involves only #5, providing all decision-makers accurate and understandable information. But achieving this will require all seven of these key ingredients to be in place.
The High-Level Task Force believes that putting together the system that will make this a reality will cost $75 million a year. This will be money well-spent. It will be an investment whose economic rate of return will be much better than anything Wall Street has to offer. And its moral and spiritual "rate of return"? Even better. Treasure in heaven (Mt. 6:20).
The good news of this report is that the Taskforce has laid out a road-map for how the nations of the world can work together to provide climate services for all who need them. That's progress.
If there is one area where the Christian church needs to make sure that it is actively engaged in this process it is this: ensuring that poor people and communities do in fact receive accurate, understandable information that allows them to make the right decisions. This report talks about this as "the last mile," and recognizes that this is the point where all of their activities could fail. Christians in poor countries, "nationals" and "expats" alike, must ensure that the information makes it "the last mile." It is the day in and day out engagement of Christians in such local communities that will allow us to bring such valuable information that last mile.
The last mile? That's Jesus country.
by Jim Ball
I just finished reading a terrific 3-part series on climate change in Scientific American by senior journalist John Carey, a former reporter for Business Week. (As is clearly stated, the series was funded by the Pew Center on Climate Change.)
I highly recommending reading this series. I think it has a great deal of material that can help you talk about climate change with others.
To whet your appetite, below are the titles and links to the three articles, along with select quotations.
Scientists used to say, cautiously, that extreme weather events were "consistent" with the predictions of climate change. No more. "Now we can make the statement that particular events would not have happened the same way without global warming," says Kevin Trenberth, head of climate analysis at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colo.
That's a profound change"the difference between predicting something and actually seeing it happen. The reason is simple: The signal of climate change is emerging from the "noise""the huge amount of natural variability in weather.
"Our figures indicate a trend towards an increase in extreme weather events that can only be fully explained by climate change," says Peter Höppe, head of Munich Re's Geo Risks Research/Corporate Climate Center: "It's as if the weather machine had changed up a gear. [Munich Re is one of the world's largest reinsurers, or insurers of insurers.]
"All of a sudden we're not talking about polar bears or the Maldives any more," says Nashville-based author and environmental journalist Amanda Little. "Climate change translates into mold on my baby's crib. We're talking about homes and schools and churches and all the places that got hit."
And more about the 2010 Nashville flood:
The water rose in Little's basement"one foot, two feet, three feet (one meter) deep. "You get this panicky feeling that things are out of control," she says. Over at [Rich] Hays's home, fissures appeared in the basement floor, and streams of water turned into a "full-on river," Hays recalls. Then in the middle of night, "I heard this massive crack, almost like an explosion," he says. The force of the water had fractured the house's concrete foundation. He and his wife spent the rest of the night in fear that the house might collapse. ...
And all across the flooded city the scenes were surreal, almost hallucinatory, Little says. "There were absurdities heaped upon absurdities. Churches lifted off foundations and floating down streets. Cars floating in a herd down highways."
Scientists compare the normal variation in weather with rolls of the dice. Adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere loads the dice, increasing odds of such extreme weather events. It's not just that the weather dice are altered, however. As Steve Sherwood, co-director of the Climate Change Research Center at the University of New South Wales in Australia, puts it, "it is more like painting an extra spot on each face of one of the dice, so that it goes from 2 to 7 instead of 1 to 6. This increases the odds of rolling 11 or 12, but also makes it possible to roll 13."
Why? Basic physics is at work: The planet has already warmed roughly 1 degree Celsius since preindustrial times, thanks to CO2 and other greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere. And for every 1-degree C (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) rise in temperature, the amount of moisture that the atmosphere can contain rises by 7 percent, explains Peter Stott, head of climate monitoring and attribution at the U.K. Met Office's Hadley Center for Climate Change. "That's quite dramatic," he says. In some places, the increase has been much larger. Data gathered by Gene Takle, professor of meteorology at Iowa State University in Ames, show a 13 percent rise in summer moisture over the past 50 years in the state capital, Des Moines.
And on the 2010 Russian heat wave, where Carey (the author) reports a disagreement among two prominent scientists about whether climate was involved:
What is not in doubt is that the Russian heat wave is a portent"a glimpse of the future predicted by climate models. Even Hoerling [the scientist who doesn't see the 2010 heat wave as being intensified by climate] sees it as a preview of coming natural disasters. By 2080, such events are expected to happen, on average, once every five years, he says: "It's a good wake-up call. This type of phenomenon will become radically more common."
Scientists hope that rigorously identifying climate change's contribution to individual extreme events can indeed wake people up to the threat. As the research advances, it should be possible to say that two extra inches (five centimeters) of rain poured down in a Midwestern storm because of greenhouse gases, or that a California heat wave was 10 times more likely to occur thanks to humans' impacts on climate. So researchers have set up rapid response teams to assess climate change's contribution to extreme events while the events are still fresh in people's minds. In addition, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is preparing a special report on extreme events and disasters, due out by the end of 2011.
One of the clearest pictures of this future is emerging for the U.S. Southwest and a similar meteorological zone that stretches across Italy, Greece and Turkey. Work by Tim Barnett of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, [Columbia University's Richard] Seager and others predicts that these regions will get hotter and drier"and, perhaps more important, shows that the change has already begun. "The signal of a human influence on climate pops up in 1985, then marches on getting strong and stronger," Barnett says. By the middle of the 21st century, the models predict, the climate will be as dry as the seven-year long Dust Bowl drought of the 1930s or the damaging 1950s drought centered in California and Mexico, Seager says: "In the future the drought won't last just seven years. It will be the new norm."
"Our civilization is based on a stable base climate"it doesn't take very much change to raise hell," Scripps's Barnett says. And given the lag in the planet's response to the greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere, many of these changes are coming whether we like them or not. "It's sort of like that Kung Fu guy who said, 'I'm going to kick your head off now, and there's not a damn thing you can do about it,'" Barnett says.
by Jim Ball
As the title suggests, there is some good news to report in the area of climate adaptation. Indeed, all of this good news can't be covered in a single blog! So Part Two (and possibly Part Three) will be posted next week. To help you understand why this is good news, let me provide some context.
Overcoming global warming is about dealing with both the causes and the consequences. Addressing the causes is called mitigation; dealing with the consequences is called adaptation. When I was researching and writing my book, Global Warming and the Risen LORD, it was abundantly clear that much more effort had gone into thinking about how to address mitigation than is the case with adaptation. (This meant it took me longer to write the adaptation chapters because the field itself was less well-defined and solidified; I had to do some of that myself!)
Until recently in the climate community addressing the problem was assumed to mean mitigation. That's because it has been environmentalists who have dominated the discussion about climate change (although that's starting to change). Enviro organizations are focused on reducing pollution, not dealing with the consequences of intensified floods and droughts or health impacts or water scarcity and food security. Not their area.
But in the past few years the climate community has begun to expand to include relief and development organizations (both religious and secular), humanitarian organizations, and corresponding governmental agencies. And these groups are starting to help develop a deeper understanding of climate adaptation -- that's the good news.
A few days ago (June 21) my colleague Mitch Hescox and I attended two separate events in Washington, DC, held to release major reports on climate adaptation. The morning event was at the Woodrow Wilson Center and featured a joint report by Oxfam and CNA, a national security think tank. The afternoon event was at the historic American Red Cross headquarters, just a stone's throw from the White House. Both the settings and the groups involved were signs that climate adaptation is starting to lose its neglected step-daughter status.
This first blog looks at the Oxfam/CNA report, An Ounce of Prevention: Preparing for the Impact of a Changing Climate on US Humanitarian and Disaster Response. What is perhaps most notable here is the partnership of a respected relief and development organization (Oxfam) with a prominent national security think tank (CNA).
If there is one thing the fight for adaptation needs, it is for the national security community to help the country understand it is in our national interest to help poor people in poor countries adapt or increase their resilience and reduce their vulnerability to the impacts of global warming. Thus, more than anything I hope this report helps the military and the national security community better understand that "an ounce of prevention" via international climate adaptation will help to decrease future instability, which will in turn help to keep our soldiers safe. We especially need former Generals and Admirals to speak out about this.
Here are some sobering statistics from the report:
"Over the past 20 years, more than 75 percent of all disaster events were related to climate, accounting for 45 percent of disaster deaths and 80 percent of economic losses. Flood-related disasters are now four times more frequent than 20 years ago, and they damage larger areas. Losses include direct effects (such as damage to infrastructure, crops, and housing) and indirect consequences (such as loss of revenues, unemployment, and market destabilization)" [p. 8].
While disasters are going up, aid is not keeping up:
"Between 2005 and 2009 the international community provided only 69 percent of the amounts requested in UN humanitarian appeals. In 2010, the figure fell to 63 percent. The response is also biased toward food aid, with donors covering an average of 86 percent of the amount requested in food aid appeals during the past decade, compared with 44 percent, 46 percent, and 43 percent for emergency agricultural assistance, water and sanitation, and health, respectively" (p. 8).
The report looks at what it terms "complex emergencies," meaning those that include violent situations needing additional security -- something that the military will likely have to provide. (I guess we need a name for it, but "complex emergency" almost strikes me as a euphemism; it certainly doesn't communicate that violence is involved.) The report found that over the past decade (2000-09) approximately 80% of US foreign disaster assistance went to situations with violent conflict.
As for the future:
"In an environment where climate change has contributed to an increase in the number of failed states and exacerbated existing conflicts, the chance of encountering a threatening security environment during a rapid-onset disaster response may increase. Moreover, as the number of both slow- and rapid-onset disasters increases, the chance that a response will occur in a fragile or failed state will also increase. As a consequence, the cost, to either civilian or military US government agencies, for each response will also increase. Security will be needed more frequently. The affected nation will be less able to contribute its own capabilities. This double challenge --increased demand combined with increased instability -- could test all organizations that provide humanitarian aid" (p. 10).
It goes on to recognize:
"The need for integration of US or international military security forces into disaster operations will be one of the most serious challenges that the current disaster response system will face under climate change" (p. 12).
In sum, climate change will create more bad situations in places where things are already bad. And the latter quote helps us begin to appreciate the description "complex emergencies," because integrating soldiers into disaster operations to provide security will indeed be complex.
Here's the bottom line: climate change will create more instability; climate adaptation, by enhancing resilience and reducing vulnerability, can preemptively reduce such instability; less instability means less need for soldiers to provide security and find themselves in harm's way. Conversely, the less we help poor people in poor countries adapt, the more we'll need our soldiers to provide security in "complex emergencies."
My hope is that as more in the military and the national security community reflect upon the increase in "complex emergencies," and that we have an opportunity to reduce the number of such situations via prevention through adaptation, the more they will help our country understand that it is in our national interest to help poor people in poor countries adapt to climate change.
by Jim Ball
No one who denies that anthropogenic or human-induced climate change is a serious problem that must be overcome should be elected President of the United States. While many of the contenders for the Republican nomination have sadly run away from their previous positions affirming the need to address climate change, thankfully Mitt Romney has not.
According to Reuters, at a recent campaign event in New Hampshire Romney was asked about climate change. Here's what he said:
"I believe the world is getting warmer, and I believe that humans have contributed to that " It's important for us to reduce our emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases that may be significant contributors."
Given that the Tea Party has pressured others to flip-flop, Romney showed backbone with these words. It's a promising sign.
The Rev. Jim Ball is EEN's Executive Vice President for Policy and Climate Change and author of Global Warming and the Risen LORD.
by Jim Ball
The New York Times continues to ignore climate change in stories where it clearly belongs. (See my earlier blog on this topic.) Once again they are doing so regarding China, this time in a major story published on June 1st about water scarcity. In an otherwise terrific article by Edward Wong, "Plan for China's Water Crisis Spurs Concern," not once is it mentioned that China's two major rivers, the Yellow and the Yangtze, the ones that the article primarily focuses on, are fed by glaciers of the Tibetan Plateau (which includes the Himalayan glaciers), and that these glaciers are retreating because of climate change. As I say in my book, Global Warming and the Risen LORD,
"The glacial loss has already begun due to global warming from greenhouse gases as well as the regional and localized warming effects of black carbon. China's glaciers have declined 21% since the 1950s. As much as two-thirds of the glaciers in the Himalayas are retreating at a rate that is the quickest in the world" (p.102).
In China alone over 500 million will face additional water scarcity due to this glacial loss.
And yet not one word from the paper of record about this in an article on the tensions and conflicts being created by a massive effort to divert water from the rural South to the water scarce mega-cities of the North. The article does mention that throughout human history the North has faced droughts and water scarcity, leading to political unrest. All the more reason for global warming's intensification of this situation to be included. Global warming will make an already bad situation worse. Why would this not be mentioned? I assume that it isn't because Mr. Wong and his editors aren't aware of this. I won't insult their intelligence in this way. So I'm led to conclude that it was intentionally left out.
To me this serves as another example of the failure of the mainstream media to adequately report on climate change.
The Rev. Jim Ball, Ph.D., is EEN's Executive Vice President for Policy and Climate Change and author of Global Warming and the Risen LORD.
by Jim Ball
Recently I viewed the film "Carbon Nation" and had lunch with the director/producer, Peter Byck. With all due respect to "An Inconvenient Truth," I found Carbon Nation to be the best film on climate change that I've seen. I definitely think it should be in the running for the Academy Award for documentary.
Not only is it simply and incredibly well-made film, its focus on solutions is quite empowering. But it's the stories of Red State folks creating the clean energy revolution that steal the show. Entertaining, informative, empowering -- quite a combination. We will definitely be using it in our educational outreach.
I strongly encourage everyone to check it out and use it to help educate others -- especially those who are still unsure about climate change.
The Rev. Jim Ball, Ph.D., is EEN's VP of Policy and author of Global Warming and the Risen LORD.
by Jim Ball
In the final chapter of my book, Global Warming and the Risen LORD, I write:
"It is this decade, 2010-2020, a small sliver in time, which looms the largest in this great challenge to overcome global warming. What we do -- or fail to do -- will determine in large measure what global warming will do to the world in this century and beyond. Will our failure lead to a cascade of irreversible tipping points that result in a world unrecognizable to us? Or will we use our freedom to expand freedom around the world?" [p. 435]
"Many of us have been plodding along in chronological time on this great challenge, and have not awakened to the fact that we are now in kairos time when it comes to climate change. As used in the New Testament, the word kairos means a right or opportune moment usually associated with decisive action bringing about deliverance or salvation. If not acted upon, such moments can pass us by. We are in the kairos climate moment because there is still time to overcome global warming. There is still time for us to be spared from many of its potential devastating consequences, for the poor to be delivered from even more destructive impacts, for less of God's other creatures to become extinct and be robbed of God's blessing of life. If you are still operating in chronological time when it comes to overcoming global warming, it's time to wake up. Simply put: our kairos moment on global warming has arrived, and it won't last forever" [p. 436].
Now comes an excellent report from the Australian Climate Commission that echoes this same message. I've copied and pasted in below the summary or "Key Messages" document of the larger report, which is titled simply, The Critical Decade. (Find the full report here.)
Australian Climate Commission Report Summary
THE CRITICAL DECADE: KEY MESSAGES
Over many decades thousands of scientists have painted an unambiguous picture: the global climate is changing and humanity is almost surely the primary cause. The risks have never been clearer and the case for action has never been more urgent. Our Earth's surface is warming rapidly and we can already see social, economic and environmental impacts in Australia. Failing to take sufficient action today entails potentially huge risks to our economy, society and way of life into the future. This is the critical decade for action.
The following points highlight the key messages arising from the report The Critical Decade:
1. There is no doubt that the climate is changing. The evidence is overwhelming and clear.
- The atmosphere is warming, the ocean is warming, ice is being lost from glaciers and ice caps and sea levels are rising. The biological world is changing in response to a warming world.
- Global surface temperature is rising fast; the last decade was the hottest on record.
2. We are already seeing the social, economic and environmental impacts of a changing climate.
- With less than 1 degree of warming globally the impacts are already being felt in Australia.
- In the last 50 years the number of record hot days in Australia has more than doubled. This has increased the risk of heatwaves and associated deaths, as well as extreme bush fire weather in South Eastern and South Western Australia.
- Sea level has risen by 20 cm globally since the late 1800s, impacting many coastal communities. Another 20 cm increase by 2050, which is likely at current projections, would more than double the risk of coastal flooding.
- The Great Barrier Reef has suffered from nine bleaching events in the past 31 years. This iconic natural ecosystem, and the economy that depends upon it, face serious risks from climate change.
3. Human activities -- the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation -- are triggering the changes we are witnessing in the global climate.
- A very large body of observations, experiments, analyses, and physical theory points to increasing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere - with carbon dioxide being the most important - as the primary cause of the observed warming.
- Increasing carbon dioxide emissions are primarily produced by the burning of fossil fuels, such as coal and oil, as well as deforestation.
- Natural factors, like changes in the Earth's orbit or solar activity, cannot explain the world-wide warming trend.
4. This is the critical decade. Decisions we make from now to 2020 will determine the severity of climate change our children and grandchildren experience.
- Without strong and rapid action there is a significant risk that climate change will undermine our society's prosperity, health, stability and way of life.
- To minimise this risk, we must decarbonise our economy and move to clean energy sources by 2050. That means carbon emissions must peak within the next few years and then strongly decline.
- The longer we wait to start reducing carbon emissions, the more difficult and costly those reductions become.
- This decade is critical. Unless effective action is taken, the global climate may be so irreversibly altered we will struggle to maintain our present way of life. The choices we make this decade will shape the long-term climate future for our children and grandchildren.
The Rev. Jim Ball, Ph.D., is EEN's Executive Vice President for Policy and Climate Change and author of Global Warming and the Risen LORD.
by Jim Ball
Last week former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger had an op-ed on clean air in the Wall Street Journal.
Here are some excerpts.
The Clean Air Act Keeps Us Healthy
Congress can't be trusted to interfere with the EPA's scientific standards.
By ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER
I love American success stories. Start-up companies that change the marketplace, inventors who create new technologies, and, of course, immigrants who make it big in Hollywood. That's why I love the Clean Air Act, one of the most successful laws in American history. Over the last 40 years, it has made our air dramatically cleaner, saved hundreds of thousands of lives, and substantially boosted our economy.
In 1968, I came to California and didn't know why my eyes were constantly filling with tears. I quickly learned about smog and bad-air days. These days, the air is much cleaner thanks to the Clean Air Act and technologies that resulted from it, such as catalytic converters on cars and particle traps on diesel exhaust. Those toxic smog days motivated everyone to act.
Today, I have tears in my eyes again, but for a very different reason. Some in Washington are threatening to pull the plug on this success. Since January, there have been more than a dozen proposals in Congress to limit enforcement of our clean-air rules, create special-interest loopholes, and attempt to reverse scientific findings. These attacks go by different names and target different aspects of the law, but they all amount to the same thing: dirtier air.
This is not an abstract political fight. If these proposals are passed, more mercury, dioxins, carbon pollution and acid gases will end up in the air our kids breathe. More Americans will get sick, end up in the hospital, and die from respiratory illness. We would be turning our backs on the sound science and medical advice that has reduced air pollution from large industrial sources by more than 70% since the late 1960s, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
The rules that are under attack put common-sense limits on dangerous chemicals in our air. Mercury, which after 20 years is finally being regulated from power plants, is a dangerous neurotoxin that damages brain development and lowers IQs in young children "
Hobbling the Clean Air Act will also hurt the economy. More air pollution causes more sick days, and thus hurts productivity. And, as I know from California's experience, clean-air rules have led to innovation and new technologies that have created hundreds of thousands of new jobs and billions in clean-energy investment.
Congress should not substitute political calculations for scientific and medical facts. According to a recent poll by the American Lung Association, 69% of Americans believe that EPA scientists should set health standards, rather than members of Congress. Yet one proposal under consideration would actually overturn a finding by EPA experts on the impact of carbon pollution on our atmosphere. Another would prevent government scientists from even gathering information on the amount of this pollution going into the air.
I began my public service by promoting fitness for kids, so I know how much parents worry about keeping their children healthy. We choose the right foods, encourage exercise, wear bike helmets, and keep them away from danger whenever we can. But there are some threats, like air pollution, that we can't protect them from on our own. We can't tell our kids not to breathe or control what toxins blow into our air from neighboring states.
For this, we rely on our nation's clean-air laws.
I'm proud that it was a fellow California Republican, President Richard Nixon, who signed the Clean Air Act into law in 1970. In 1990, the act was strengthened by huge bipartisan majorities in Congress. Let's keep that bipartisan tradition alive to make sure no more tears are shed over the clean air that the American people deserve.
The Governator is providing some excellent leadership.
The Rev. Jim Ball, Ph.D., is EEN's Executive Vice President and author of Global Warming and the Risen LORD.
by Jim Ball
Gas must really be cheap somewhere else other than where I fill up here in northern Virginia, because yesterday I paid $3.99 for regular unleaded. A little over a month ago, on March 3, I posted a blog saying there was a chance that by this summer the average price for gas would be over $4 a gallon. A report yesterday from the federal government's Energy Information Administration (EIA) states that
"Current market prices of futures and options contracts for gasoline suggest a 33-percent probability that the national monthly average retail price for regular gasoline could exceed $4.00 per gallon during July 2011."
Well, I hate to break it to you EIA, but some of us are already there! The EIA predicts that the national average for gas during what they term the "summer driving season" (April 1 thru Sept 30) will be $3.86. So we've already entered the summer driving season, and for some of us, we've already experienced $4 a gallon.
According to Lisa Margonelli at the Energy Policy Initiative of the New America Foundation,
"Every 25 cent jump in the price of gas siphons $90 million a day away from the recovering American economy."
Margonelli and her colleagues are running an excellent program called "The Energy Trap" (see the nice little YouTube video) where they are telling the stories of how our lack of choices for American consumers is hurting the average family. As she explained in a blog for the NYTimes,
"Last week I interviewed a man in Maine, who, with his wife, works three jobs. One of their jobs basically pays for their transportation to the other two. He told me he has no choice."
That lack of freedom of choice when it comes to energy is what they call "The Energy Trap."
Last month our country spent $41 billion on gas, money mainly being siphoned out of our country primarily to unstable regions and countries that don't like us very much. To get out of this trap will require a comprehensive energy independence policy that focuses on fuel economy, alternative fuels, and electric vehicles powered by clean sources. We won't get there with pandering political slogans like "Drill, baby, drill."
by Jim Ball
GOOD NEWS: Four separate efforts to strip, delay, or modify the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) authority to regulate greenhouse gases and have our country move forward in overcoming global warming were defeated late this afternoon in the Senate.
50 Senators voted to uphold the EPA's authority, meaning that the opponents of action to protect the poor and vulnerable from global warming thankfully were not even able to muster a simple majority. (Sixty votes were needed on this vote to pass.)
Unfortunately, 50 Senators also voted to strip EPA's authority, including the following: Pryor (D-AR), Snowe (R-ME), Manchin (D-WV), Graham (R-SC), Landrieu (D-LA), Kirk (R-IL), Nelson (D-NE), and Lugar (R-IN).
On the Democratic side, it's especially disappointing to see Senators Pryor and Landrieu vote against EPA's ability to overcome global warming.
A key Democrat who voted for delay (the Rockefeller Amendment) but not to strip EPA's authority (the McConnell/Inhofe Amendment) was Claire McCaskill (D-MO), who is up for reelection in a state that just elected Roy Blunt, a conservative Republican, as Missouri's other Senator. That probably explains why she threaded the needle in this fashion. I would hope that if her vote were the deciding one she would not have voted for delay.
On the Republican side, Senators Graham, Snowe, and Lugar have all been leaders on efforts to overcome global warming, but sadly were on the wrong side of this vote. Snowe and Lugar are both up for reelection.
The 50 votes to affirm the EPA should help to stiffen the spine of the Obama Administration and Majority Leader Reid in their budget struggles with the House Republicans, as perhaps a greater threat to the EPA's authority could lie in the anti-environmental riders passed by the House to defund the EPA's regulation of global warming pollution. As I write, the fate of the EPA's authority still hangs in the balance in the budget negotiations, which are currently in stalemate and could lead to a government shut-down.
Thus, it is vital for President Obama and Majority Leader Reid to hang tough and resist these anti-environmental riders.
While ultimately we won these votes, it also shows how much work we have left to do to create the support necessary to have our elected officials do the right thing. Having more evangelical Christians who are actively engaged in the fight to overcome global warming will go a long way to creating such support. We must play our part and live up to the gift of our citizenship and the Lordship of Christ who is leading the way in overcoming global warming.
The Rev. Jim Ball, Ph.D., is Executive Vice President for Policy and Climate Change at EEN and author of Global Warming and the Risen LORD.
by Jim Ball
Former Senator Tim Wirth and former Rep. Alice Madden recently had an interesting op-ed published in The Denver Post arguing that natural gas is an important part of (1) overcoming global warming and (2) helping to secure energy independence. However, given public concerns about the environmental impact of new techniques like hydrofracking, Wirth and Madden urge that the industry itself come up with a code of conduct to help ensure extraction is done in a creation-friendly manner, and then get that codified into law.
Here are some excerpts:
"The sudden abundance of low-cost natural gas from deep underground shale formations is a gift that can increase U.S. energy production, improve our energy security, allow the shutdown of our oldest, dirtiest coal-fired power plants, and thus reduce the air pollution that threatens both the health of millions of Americans and the global climate.
Yet land owners and environmental advocates in the Northeast are understandably concerned about the arrival of a major extraction industry and its talk about hydraulic fracturing, the Marcellus shale, and other specialized terms associated with the drilling boom. Precious landscapes and pristine water sources are threatened by trucks and drilling pads and ponds filled with contaminated, even radioactive wastewater.
The industry protests that it goes the extra mile to protect the environment ...
How is anyone to know the truth?
There's actually a simple, tried- and-true answer to that: get independent experts to monitor the industry's practices and ensure that what it says is true. States can set strong standards for gas production and enforce them vigilantly, supported by fees on producers.
The top gas producers have nothing to fear. The industry's best practices are protective of the water, land and air. Instead of trying to suggest that the public concerns are not real, or are trivial and can be ignored, industry leaders should come together around a recommended code of conduct (e.g., on water disposal, chemical disclosure, well integrity, and operational footprint) and then work closely with regulatory authorities to make sure everyone follows the code. It's the bad actors that will get penalized, and that's in the interest of the industry as well as the public.
The natural gas industry has spent many millions of dollars over the years establishing its product as a clean fuel, and not without reason " natural gas burns much cleaner than coal in power plants or oil in transportation. But all that advertising will go up in smoke if the industry resists regulation and lets its worst performers define the fuel ...
We are at an energy crossroads today, and if the natural gas industry seizes the opportunities that are so clearly in front of it, it will help determine our nation's energy future for decades to come.
Gas can be a game-changer, nationally and globally " but in the United States the industry is poised on a knife-edge of public acceptance that could affect its license to operate for years to come. To be recognized as the clean alternative in power generation and transportation, and to reap the benefits of public policies that would reward such a fuel, the industry must choose the right path " one that is palpably in its own self-interest, in the interest of our national security and in the interest of our environmental future."
An interesting proposition.
by Jim Ball
There are many things to like about President Obama's speech at Georgetown University yesterday on creating a clean energy future, some things to go along with, some things we have concerns over, and one important issue that went unmentioned -- whether the President is going to stand by the EPA's authority to regulate global warming pollution in the current budget battles.
Let's start with the positive.
First, the President painted a realistic picture of our situation:
"But when you look at the long-term trends, there are going to be more ups in gas prices than downs in gas prices. And that's because you've got countries like India and China that are growing at a rapid clip, and as 2 billion more people start consuming more goods -- they want cars just like we've got cars; they want to use energy to make their lives a little easier just like we've got -- it is absolutely certain that demand will go up a lot faster than supply. It's just a fact.
So here's the bottom line: There are no quick fixes. Anybody who tells you otherwise isn't telling you the truth. And we will keep on being a victim to shifts in the oil market until we finally get serious about a long-term policy for a secure, affordable energy future.
We're going to have to think long term "
There are no quick fixes, and we need to think long term. Right.
Second, the President, while recognizing the reality of our situation and some of the costs of inaction, was very bullish, very committed to creating a clean energy future:
"We're already paying a price for our inaction. Every time we fill up at the pump, every time we lose a job or a business to countries that are investing more than we do in clean energy, when it comes to our air, our water, and the climate change that threatens the planet that you will inherit -- we're already paying a price. These are costs that we are already bearing. And if we do nothing, the price will only go up.
So at moments like these, sacrificing these investments in research and development, in supporting clean energy technologies, that would weaken our energy economy and make us more dependent on oil. That's not a game plan to win the future. That's a vision to keep us mired in the past. I will not accept that outcome for the United States of America. We are not going to do that."
Third, the President offered some positive goals and policies for both moving our country towards energy independence and a clean energy future, announcing the release of his Administration's Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future.
A major goal is to reduce oil imports by one third by 2025, primarily achieved by: (1) additional improvements in fuel economy; (2) putting 1 million advanced technology vehicles on the road by 2015, including electric vehicles; (3) continuing advances in biofuels, and: (4) increasing the use of natural gas in vehicles.
As the President said:
"Just last week, our Air Force -- our own Air Force -- used an advanced biofuel blend to fly a Raptor 22 -- an F-22 Raptor faster than the speed of sound. Think about that. I mean, if an F-22 Raptor can fly at the speed of -- faster than the speed of sound on biomass, then I know the old beater that you've got, that you're driving around in -- (laughter) -- can probably do so, too. There's no reason why we can't have our cars do the same."
Energy independence and a clean energy future have a common technological bridge: the electric vehicle. Again, the President:
"Now, one other thing about electric cars -- and you don't need to talk to Chu [Energy Secretary Chu] about this -- it turns out electric cars run on electricity. (Laughter.) And so even if we reduce our oil dependency, and we're producing all these great electric cars, we're going to have to have a plan to change the way we generate electricity in America so that it's cleaner and safer and healthier. We know that ushering in a clean energy economy has the potential of creating untold numbers of new jobs and new businesses right here in the United States. But we're going to have to think about how do we produce electricity more efficiently."
Here at EEN we've also been emphasizing this connection via electric vehicles between energy independence and clean electricity. And so I was very glad to see the President making the same connection.
The President went on to once again call for a Clean Energy Standard with an ambitious but achievable goal of having 80% of our electricity be produced by clean sources (including hydro, nukes, natural gas, and clean coal) by 2035. This was something he devoted a good deal of attention to in the State of the Union, and we were glad to see the President emphasize it again.
So those were some of the good things about the President's speech and the Administration's Blueprint.
There were also some things we could go along with as part of a long-term strategy on creating a clean energy future: (1) utilizing more natural gas as a transitional power source while we ramp up efficiency and renewables, and (2) continued reliance on nuclear power, as long as it is safe and we more adequately deal with the waste.
But here is where our concerns lie as well. Natural gas has already been serving as a transitional power source for creating electricity. And while it is better than coal in that burning it produces lower levels of nitrogen oxides (major contributor to smog), hardly any particulates (soot), and no mercury (a very damaging neuro-toxin to the unborn and young children), it still produces global warming pollution (about half as much as coal). So from a global warming perspective, it is better to have renewables and efficiency be the primary places we make our investment in the electricity sector.
Recently there has been a push to also use natural gas in vehicles instead of gasoline produced from oil (i.e. the stuff we all put in our tanks). This additional potential use of natural gas is aided by the ability to extract heretofore untapped domestic natural gas reserves via new technologies like horizontal drilling and a controversial technique called hydrofracking.
While the President in his speech and the Administration's Blueprint talk of having this done in a safe and creation-friendly manner, serious concerns have been raised about water pollution in relation to hydrofracking, including in a recent series of articles in the New York Times. And, frankly, our concerns are not assuaged by what the Administration's Blueprint proposes --studying the issue, "leading by example," calls for the industry to disclose the chemicals being used. None of this is sufficient, frankly. Industry needs to be required to make sure such extraction methods like hydrofracking are safe and creation-friendly. Unfortunately, the 2005 Energy Policy Act amended the Safe Drinking Water Act to explicitly exclude procedures like hydrofracking from the regulatory authority of the EPA. This needs to be changed.
The second proposal we could go along with if our concerns are met has to do with nuclear power. As news accounts highlighted, the President stuck with nuclear power even after the terrible events in Japan. The political reality is this: any major efforts like a Clean Energy Standard are going to have to include nuclear. And yet safety and storage of waste remain chronic problems that still have no adequate solutions. Such solutions need to be found for nukes to continue to be a part of our energy mix. The bright side is that nukes produce no air or global warming pollution. Those are huge pluses.
Finally, a huge concern for us is what the President didn't say. While he very briefly mentioned concerns about global warming in relation to creating a clean energy future, he didn't say anything about defending the EPA's authority to regulate global warming pollution.
As I type this, there are major threats to the EPA's authority in Congress. Several votes in the Senate have been hanging over our heads starting last week and through this week and now look like they will occur next week. Right now none are likely to reach 60 votes and be able to move forward. But we still need to keep up the pressure and drive down the votes for inaction and demonstrate support for action.
Where we especially need the President to stand tall is in the current budget negotiations with the Republicans in the House. Their budget has a rider that prevents the EPA from spending money to enforce its regulations on global warming pollution. However, there are news reports from anonymous sources saying the Administration may be ready to throw the EPA's authority under the bus to achieve a budget deal.
This would be a terrible outcome. It would reflect very poorly on the President's leadership on global warming. We certainly hope the President will stand by his strong and repeated assertions that global warming must be overcome and defend the EPA's authority to regulate greenhouse gases. Right now, and for the forseeable future, at the federal level the EPA is the only game in town.
by Jim Ball
In my book, Global Warming and the Risen LORD, I tell many positive stories of how global warming can be overcome. Here's one such story of overcoming both global warming and poverty by creating a clean energy future in Nepal (p. 382):
Significant investments in small, household-based biogas power plants for the rural poor have occurred in Nepal, a country of 27 million where 80% of the population lives in rural areas with no electricity, relying on wood for cooking and heating. Over 200,000 such mini-power plants have been installed, providing energy to over a million people. Three-fourths of the leftover by-product (called "bio-slurry") is being used as an organic fertilizer, and 65% of these systems have the household toilet connected, helping to solve sanitation issues.
These households have also saved approximately three hours of work a day by avoiding the need to collect firewood, and reducing time spent both cooking and cleaning off the black carbon from their pots and pans and inside their homes. These biogas systems cost about $350, with the government covering a third of the price and microcredit helping the poor pay their up-front cost.
Before her family bought a biogas mini-power plant, one mother named Khinu Darai from the southern village of Badrahani had to walk three miles every day to collect firewood. As she put it, "Biogas is a blessing for my family. These days I don't have to go into the jungle to collect wood." She added, "It is clean and safe, and we are healthier now as we are not breathing in smoke all the time."
Because of the avoided emissions from reducing deforestation, some of the biogas projects in Nepal have received carbon credits equivalent to over $600,000 annually through an international program called the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), which the government is using to help pay for the program.
The Rev. Jim Ball, Ph.D., is Executive Vice President of EEN and author of the award-winning Global Warming and the Risen LORD.
by Jim Ball
In my book, Global Warming and the Risen LORD, I talk about a near-zero energy home built in 1998 in a subdivision of Lakeland, FL in cooperation with the Department of Energy (DOE). I highlighted this project to show that over a decade ago we had the capacity to build such houses.
Now comes word that another pioneering effort in Lakeland, this time the state of Florida's first net-zero commercial building, a branch of one of the local credit unions called Magnify. This credit union building has just won an award from the Sustainable Buildings Industry Council (SBIC). Bud DeFlaviis, Executive Director of SBIC, said that the award committee "was thoroughly impressed with Magnify Credit Union," and that its building and commitment "should serve as an example for other communities to follow."
As the term "net-zero" implies, over the course of a year Magnify's building will not consume any more energy than it produces. Indeed, not only is Magnify's building net-zero, it will actually produce more energy than it consumes during the year. Solar panels on the roof, a highly efficient design, and Energy Star (or efficient) appliances make the difference. In October of last year, for instance, 45% of the electricity being produced by the solar panels was being put back on the grid and being sold back to their electric utility (according to a ClimateWire story).
This medium-size credit union has shown what's possible when people make a commitment to do so. "Our goal is to educate the community," said John Santarpia, Magnify's President and CEO.
The Rev. Jim Ball, Ph.D., is Executive Vice President of EEN and author of Global Warming and the Risen LORD.
by Jim Ball
Some common-sense words of wisdom on the Washingon Post Op-Ed page today from two former Republican Administrators of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), William Ruckelshaus and Christine Todd Whitman. (Ruckelshaus served under both Nixon and Reagan, and Whitman under George W. Bush.)
Their piece is titled, "A Siege Against the EPA and Environmental Progress." Here are some excerpts:
"The Senate is poised to vote on a bill that would, for the first time, "disapprove" of a scientifically based finding, in this case that greenhouse gases endanger public health and welfare. This finding was extensively reviewed by officials in the administrations of presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. It was finalized by the Environmental Protection Agency in response to a 2007 Supreme Court decision that greenhouse gases fit within the Clean Air Act definition of air pollutants."
(FYI, on action in the Senate, see our Action Alert for how you can respond.)
"Earlier this year, the House of Representatives approved a bill that would cut the EPA's budget by nearly a third and in certain areas impede its ability to protect our air and water ... It has taken four decades to put in place the infrastructure to ensure that pollution is controlled through limitations on corporate, municipal and individual conduct. Dismantle that infrastructure today, and a new one would have to be created tomorrow at great expense and at great sacrifice to America's public health and environment. The American public will not long stand for an end to regulations that have protected their health and quality of life."
I hope their fellow Republicans in Congress (and wavering Democrats, especially in the Senate) heed their warning.
The Rev. Jim Ball is Executive Vice President for Policy and author of Global Warming and the Risen LORD.
by Jim Ball
In an earlier post I told of an important event on energy independence by the Christian Coalition held yesterday on Capitol Hill. One of the keynote speakers was Sen. Richard Lugar. I've included the text of his speech as prepared in its entirety below.
It is a great pleasure to join you today for this important discussion on energy, faith, and family. I want to thank Roberta Combs for her invitation and for her personal leadership and advocacy that solving our energy crisis is fundamental to ensuring the security, economy, and well-being of all Americans.
Hoosiers and Americans feel the pain of our foreign oil addiction each day at the gas pump. This morning at the Phillips 66 station at the corner of Ohio and East Streets in Indianapolis, regular unleaded gas cost $3.65 per gallon. The situation for consumers could get worse if costly oil stokes inflation, driving up the cost of consumer goods and food. For many Americans, and especially for the nearly 1 in 10 Hoosiers without a job, high pump prices require difficult choices between what they can and cannot provide to their families, churches, and communities.
Rising oil prices also threaten job growth and economic recovery. In the first three quarters of 2010, Americans sent approximately $927 million per day overseas for oil. The figure will be even higher when updated reports arrive. That steady outflow is money that cannot be reinvested in American productivity and jobs. In general, every 10 percent increase in the price of oil cuts about a quarter of one percent off global GDP. That amount may not send the world into recession, but it would be a major setback to job creation.
One group of Americans that feels the consequences of foreign oil dependence even more than motorists is our military and civilian personnel serving overseas. They and their families have endured long deployments to the Middle East on missions that are connected to maintaining the stability of that oil producing region. But despite the strategic risks of our dependence, the United States is importing more oil now than we were prior to September 11, 2001. This is especially concerning when you consider that some of the hundreds of billions of dollars we spend on oil each year are diverted to governments and groups that do not wish us well. Governments rich in oil from Iran to Venezuela are emboldened or insulated by their dominant position in oil markets. For example, we continue to pressure Iran to stop its nuclear weapons program, yet other nations are hesitant to endanger their access to Iran's oil and natural gas supplies. In many oil rich countries, revenues are used to entrench corruption and authoritarianism even as citizens live in dire poverty.
The problem of our foreign oil dependence is especially severe now because global demand is once again surging and at the same time production from conventional oilfields is dropping faster than expected. This puts a squeeze on the amount of oil that producers could put on the market but are holding back, which is essential for preventing market volatility. Violence in Libya dramatically demonstrates that Americans are directly affected by events far beyond our borders.
Recently, Saudi Arabia announced that it is increasing production to calm oil markets. We welcome what relief this can bring to rising prices. But Americans understand that we should not have to depend on the good will of rulers in the Middle East.
Ending our dangerous over-reliance on oil imports necessitates greater use of domestic resources, improved efficiency, and strong international cooperation. I am working to reverse the Obama administration's de facto prohibition on new oil drilling, promote new forms of liquid fuels such as from Indiana biomass and coal, and encourage dramatic increases in vehicle fuel efficiency. I also am working to improve reliability and transparency in global markets by encouraging diversified supply routes and increased trade with reliable suppliers such as Canada. Transition will take time, but that is all the more reason to work quickly and assertively. In a world of tight oil supplies, every barrel produced or saved is important for America's security and prosperity.
The energy plan I introduced last year would have cut foreign oil imports by 40 percent by 2030. I am revising this plan to find even more gains.
As a legislator, it is my duty and privilege to address fundamental challenges to American society such as energy security. As a Christian, I join you in recognizing that we have a duty to be good stewards of the Earth that has been given to us. I recall working with my father Marvin and brother Tom on our 604 acre family farm in Marion County. When we were boys, Tom and I put our savings into planting wheat that was subsequently destroyed by a flood. Loss of our investment was a good business lesson. Our Dad built a higher and longer levee that prevented future floods. But it also was a profound testament that the resources provided by God's Earth cannot be taken for granted.
When we care for the Earth, it provides in abundance. How we use and generate energy is critical to stewardship.
Thank you for the opportunity to join with you in fellowship today, and I look forward to our conversation.
The Rev. Jim Ball is Executive Vice President at EEN and author of Global Warming and the Risen LORD.
by Jim Ball
Yesterday our colleagues and friends with the Christian Coalition of America held an important briefing on Capitol Hill for their grassroots leaders and invited guests focused on the importance of energy for families and our responsibility as stewards. Roberta Combs, President of the Christian Coalition, announced a major initiative by the group to build support for energy independence. We heartily welcome their efforts and look forward to continuing to work together to be better stewards of our energy resources.
Here are some excerpts from a Greenwire story by Sarah Abruzzese published on the NYTimes website on yesterday's event.
The Christian Coalition of America came to Capitol Hill today, not to proselytize or discuss issues like abortion or gay marriage, but to talk about the United States' energy policy and the need to end the country's dependence on foreign oil.
The conservative group often comes to Washington, D.C., to discuss issues with lawmakers, but the "Capitol Hill Roundtable Discussion on Energy" marked the first time the group has focused on energy issues with members of Congress.
The group founded by the Rev. Pat Robertson has traditionally focused on social issues but has broadened its reach in recent years to include the environment and related topics.
Announcing the event, the coalition said in a statement, "We believe that there needs to be a conservative discussion on a national energy policy that speaks to the values of energy independence, national security, prosperity, family and stewardship. That is why we are sponsoring this discussion."
Among the speakers was Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.) -- a target of conservatives as he prepares to run for a seventh term next year. He told the assembled group of more than 50 people that "solving our energy crisis is fundamental to ensuring the security, economy and well-being of all Americans."
Larry Schweiger, the president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, lauded the president and CEO of the Christian Coalition, Roberta Combs, for taking a stance that is unusual in the conservative community. Schweiger noted that energy independence is a "family value as well as an issue of faith." ...
Other speakers who addressed the group were C. Boyden Gray, who was a U.S. special envoy, White House special counsel and ambassador to the European Union under Republican administrations; Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.); Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.); Sen. Richard Burr (S.C.); and Rear Adm. John Nathman, the retired former commander of the U.S. Fleet Forces Command ...
Gray spoke about the perils the nuclear industry is facing as well as the unrest in the Middle East that is negatively affecting gas prices.
"The solution to it is not going to be found in 'Drill, baby, drill,'" Gray said, "because the increase in U.S. production is not going to be big enough to impact the price."
Meanwhile, Burr promised that legislation he has crafted with Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) will be introduced soon that focuses on promoting multiple forms of energy, including nuclear.
That is not to say that the country has not been "impacted by what has happened over the weekend, the tragedies in Japan," he said -- only that it will take time to figure out exactly what happened.
Gray said the best way is to find a solution to the energy shortage that is not linked to the price of oil and that the country must develop products that are not "held hostage" to events in the Middle East.
He went on to say that "rising oil prices also threaten job growth and economic recovery."
In a forthcoming blog I will post Sen. Lugar's speech in its entirety.
The Rev. Jim Ball is Executive Vice President at EEN and author of Global Warming and the Risen LORD.
by Jim Ball
In the summer of 2008 gas prices reached over $4 a gallon, helping to tip the economy into the Great Recession from which we are still recovering. Could we be heading towards $4 a gallon once again, this time helping to stall our still fragile recovery?
According to the federal government's Energy Information Administration (EIA), the average price for gas around the country was higher than any February in history even before the crises in Egypt and Lybia kicked in. Subsequently, gas prices during the last week alone jumping 20 cents a gallon.
One reason gas prices spiked in 08 was due to speculators, a situation that probably won't be repeated this year. However, unease in the Middle East has been driving prices upward, and no one can predict what the situation there will be when the summer driving season hits.
Even without such instability, EIA projects that prices will continue to rise. Looking even further out to 2012, a recent CEO of Shell, John Hofmeister, has predicted that gas could be over $5 a gallon in 2012. And secret State Department cables on WikiLeaks has revealed that even a senior Saudi official privately admits that Saudi reserves may have been overstated by as much as 40%, and that by 2012 his country could no longer be counted on to pump enough extra oil to keep prices from rising too high.
Meanwhile the current rise in gas prices threatens our recovery and is already having detrimental impacts on US consumers. According to an economic analyst at Moody's, if the price for a barrell of oil averages over $90 this year -- and EIA's projection even before the Middle East unrest was $93 -- it would erase a quarter of the $120 billion payroll tax cut recently enacted to further stimulate the economy.
As for consumers, the NYTimes reports:
Rising gasoline prices have already led Jayme Webb, an office manager at a recycling center in Sioux City,Iowa, and her husband, Ken, who works at Wal-Mart, to cutback on spending.
In the last month, they have canceled their satellite television subscription and their Internet service. They have also stopped driving from their home in rural Moville to Sioux City on weekends to see Ms. Webb's parents.
Along with making their commutes to work more expensive, rising oil prices have driven up the cost of food for animals and people. So the couple have stopped buying feed for their dozen sheep and goats and six chickens and instead asked neighboring farmers to let them use scraps from their corn fields.
"It's a struggle," said Ms. Webb, 49. "We have to watch every little penny."
Interestingly, in the same NYTimes article they interviewed an owner of a company that makes church pews:
"Revenue is down, costs are up, and you can't make anymoney," said R. Jerol Kivett, the owner of Kivett's Inc., a company that manufactures pews and other church furniture in Clinton, N.C. "You're just trying to meet payroll and keep people working, hoping the economy will turn. But it just seems like setback after setback after setback."
Given all of this, isn't it well past time we really started moving the country towards energy independence through increased fuel economy and the development of alternative fuels and electric vehicles powered by clean electricity?
Rising gas prices are bad news for most of us and the economy in general, but good news for oil companies because their profits go up. Indeed, the big 5 oil companies have done exceedingly well over the past decade, earning nearly $1 trillion in profit.
So here's an idea. Why not take the billions in subsidies we give to oil companies and use it instead to invest in efficiency, renewables, electric vehicles, and alternative fuels -- in a true transition towards energy independence, in other words? Certainly in an era of national debt and budget cutting some of the richest corporations in America don't need public assistance to incentivize them to find and produce oil when it's at $100 a barrel? Indeed, former President George W. Bush, a former oil man himself, proposed that the oil companies do without public assistance when oil was at $55 a barrel. So, surely, they don't need our subsidies when it's at $100 and they've earned nearly $1 trillion in profit in the last decade? Surely this rich and mature industry, which began receiving subsidies in 1916, is ready to be weaned off public assistance? Let's take the $36 billion they would receive this decade and create a better future with it, ok?
Well, unfortunately, House Republicans still think these rich oil companies need our tax dollars even as they cut funding for research that would help to create energy independence and a clean energy future (see my earlier blog). On Tuesday (Mar 1) every single House Republican (except for 4 who didn't vote) voted to keep the billions in public assistance/subsidies flowing out of the US Treasury and into the oil company's coffers. As they vote to protect public assistance for oil companies, they do so against the wishes of the American people, as reflected in a NBC/WSJ poll out this week showing 74% approval for eliminating these unnecessary subsidies.
With gas prices once again approaching $4 a gallon this summer and many families like the Webbs already struggling just to get by, the oil companies certainly don't need any more of our money. And it's well past time for us as a country to make real investments in energy independence and clean energy.
by Jim Ball
Today former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger gave a rousing, entertaining speech to the Department of Energy's ARPA-E team that focuses on cutting edge clean energy R&D (click here to listen). And given the fact that House Republicans have profoundly cut their funding in the budget they just passed, they could use some bucking-up. (Click here for a great NYTimes article on ARPA-E.)
The former Governor was quite impressive and persuasive in making the case that there is a great deal of political common ground to be found in creating a clean energy future. And I certainly hope he will continue to help create that common ground. Thankfully, he concluded by quoting one of his lines from The Terminator movie: "I'll be back."
We need leaders like Gov. Schwarzenegger to help create common ground, especially at the federal level.
Here were some of the excellent points he made:
But we can't go along completely with his prescription for finding common ground, because it includes setting aside discussions about global warming. Because powerful people in his own political party won't see the light, his solution is to avoid the discussion.
I agree that we must find common ground on creating a clean energy future, one that can deliver great benefits in terms of jobs and health. I provide numerous examples of how we can do so in my book.
But overcoming global warming is not just about the causes or the pollution. It is also about the consequences or impacts, and what we need to do to prepare or adapt to them -- and how we need to help the poor in poor countries adapt. As Christians, that's just not something we can agree to disagree on. But with that important caveat aside, we're grateful for the Governor's words.
The Governor concluded by saying to DOE's ARPA-E team of energy innovators that while he played action heros in movies, "You are the true people of action ... [working] to overthrow the old order and to transform the world."
Hear, hear, and Amen to that.
The Rev. Jim Ball is Executive Vice President at EEN and author of Global Warming and the Risen LORD.
by Jim Ball
One of our two major political parties, one of the great political parties in our nation's history, the party of our greatest President, Abraham Lincoln, who signed into law the creation of the National Academy of Sciences (our premier scientific body), is gaining a reputation as the anti-science party right before our eyes. It's a sad spectacle.
The rhetoric, frankly, has been there for awhile. But now that the Republicans control the House, rhetoric is turning into votes.
A former Republican Chair of the House Science Committee, Sherwood Boehlert, provided this warning after the election in November:
"My fellow Republicans should understand that wholesale, ideologically based or special-interest-driven rejection of science is bad policy. And that in the long run, it's also bad politics."
Now comes an editorial in the esteemed journal Science from the former head of the science office of the Department of Energy during the George W. Bush Administration, Raymond Orbach:
"It was with a mixture of astonishment and dismay that I watched as the U.S. House of Representatives approved H.R. 1, a bill to fund the federal government for the rest of the 2011 fiscal year. Left intact, the massive cuts in research contained in the bill passed on 19 February would effectively end America's legendary status as the leader of the worldwide scientific community, putting the United States at a distinct disadvantage when competing with other nations in the global marketplace."
An anti-science bent was even more on display in a successful vote -- at 1:50am Saturday morning Feb. 19 -- on an amendment to totally defund the world's premier scientific body on climate change, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Only three Republicans voted against this shameful amendment (go here to see the recorded vote).
Like any human endeavor, the IPCC has its imperfections and has made a few mistakes in its 30-plus years of existence. But it is universally recognized -- including by our own National Academy of Sciences -- as the most respected scientific authority on climate change, having also won the Nobel Prize in 2007. Furthermore, the funding amount is so small -- about $10 million -- in comparison to the total federal budget, that the primary reason for this amendment was to significantly damage the IPCC's ability to do its job. (The IPCC's thousands of scientists and policy experts from around the world are primarily volunteers. So it's one of the greatest bargains around.)
The IPCC's work is absolutely essential, and this misguided vote to completely zero out the US contribution to their funding is at the forefront of an extreme attack by House Republicans on the funding of science. Wisdom and prudence dictates that the Senate and the Administration reject these efforts that would have the US forfeit its worldwide leadership in science.
The Rev. Jim Ball, Ph.D., is EEN's Executive Vice President and author of Global Warming and the Risen LORD.
by Jim Ball
As I discuss in my book, Global Warming and the Risen LORD (pp. 375-380), 2.5 billion people on the planet cook using simple but inefficient stoves. Amazing as it seems, such stoves are contributors to global warming, and therefore offer tremendous opportunities to both help the poor and overcome global warming simultaneously. The contribute in two basic ways: (1) through deforestation (if the fuel is wood) and (2) the release of black carbon (a form of soot), which is the second leading cause of global warming. As I say in the book,
"Unlike greenhouse gases, black carbon and other pollutants associated with it can also have regional impacts affecting about 3 billion people, including 20%-50% more warming, the melting of snowpacks and glaciers in the Himalayan region, and regional drought" (p. 375).
That melting in the Himalayan region is significant, as it is the fount for water for 40% of the world's population.
Now comes word that a company I talk about in the book, Envirofit, has just announced a major cookstove project in Nigeria.
According to a ClimateWire article by Lisa Friedman,
Nigeria could become a testing ground for the world's most ambitious effort to provide affordable clean cookstoves that can also earn carbon credits and turn a profit.
In a partnership announced today between the nonprofit cookstove maker Envirofit International, the Shell Foundation and the carbon finance company C-Quest Capital, officials laid out a plan to deliver 2 million improved cookstoves to Nigerian homes over the next seven years. The effort, C-Quest CEO Ken Newcombe said, is expected to eliminate 9 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions.
"It's really only, in my view, in the last 18 months, realistically 12, that it's been possible for the private sector to take risks" on projects like clean cookstoves, Newcombe said.
This is quite significant. In my book I argue that cookstoves projects at the scale needed will only be succussful if a business model rather than a charity mentality is the guiding force.
According to the article, the reason this project is moving forward is
because the United Nations' Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), which enables polluting companies and countries to earn carbon credits in return for establishing clean energy projects in developing countries, recently published methodologies to support capturing the carbon emissions-saving values of cookstoves and also enabled the bundling together of individual cookstove projects into a larger program that can obtain CDM credits.
This is terrific news for cookstove projects around the world, such as the project EEN supports by one of our network partner organizations, Plant With Purpose.
The benefits of such efficient cookstoves are much more than their contributions to overcoming global warming. Indeed, such contributions are simply an added bonus. Here's how I summarized the benefits in my book:
(1) use energy more efficiently;
(2) reduce deforestation and its greenhouse gas emissions;
(3) reduce or eliminate black carbon emissions;
(4) improve human health;
(5) reduce time spent collecting fuel and cooking, thereby providing women and girls more opportunities;
(6) increase the family budget; and
(7) provide local employment.
I conclude by saying that one word can sum this all up: freedom. Efficient cookstoves are freedom stoves. So three cheers for Envirofit's new Nigeria project, and for the ability of other projects to get CDM carbon credits.
by Jim Ball
It's hard to know where to buy gas these days. I can't wait until we break our addiction to oil. Did you notice during the Super Bowl ads by Chevron touting what humanitarians they are? The ads failed to mention a lawsuit against the company by poor indigenous tribes from the Amazonian rainforest.
Today, a court in Ecuador ordered Chevron to pay $8.6 billion in what could be the largest judgment ever in an environmental lawsuit according to an article in the Wall Street Journal.
The case involves conduct by Texaco (purchased by Chevron in 2001) in the Amazonian rainforest that goes back to the mid-1960s and extended through the early 1990s.
It would be nice if Texaco/Chevron had done the right thing early on, admitted its culpability, and adequately cleaned up the mess and compensated the victims. Instead, they chose a scorched earth policy in the courts and to work with, shall we say, "friendly" government officials to implement a fig-leaf clean-up plan in the 1990s.
As the WSJ article notes,
"Few legal experts expected the case to get this far. The plaintiffs first sued Texaco in New York in 1993. Texaco, and later Chevron, successfully argued that the case should instead be heard in Ecuador, which was then run by a government seen as friendly to American business interests."
Of course, the legal fights aren't over. But this judgment is a blow to Chevron's carefully crafted public image, if nothing else.
Click here to see a video showing some of the damage and the people whose lives have been ruined by this pollution.
And those Chevron ads? They were so ripe for spoof that several environmental groups couldn't help themselves and did just that. (Click here to go to the spoof's website.)
Rev. Jim Ball, Ph.D., is Executive Vice President at EEN and author of Global Warming and the Risen LORD.
by Jim Ball
In its legislation to fund the federal government through September (in this instance a Continuing Resolution or CR), House Republicans, driven in large measure by tea-party inspired new Members, have offered radical cuts in funding for climate and clean energy programs. Here are some examples:
(For more, go here.)
These cuts and the effort to stop EPA from implementing climate regulations by cutting off funding are reckless and irresponsible. Instead of beginning to play our part as a nation in overcoming global warming, instead of beginning to seriously play our part in helping poor countries adapt to climate impacts and make sustainable economic progress via clean energy, instead of investing in the clean energy future in this country, House Republicans would take us in the opposite direction.
Rev. Jim Ball, Ph.D., is Executive Vice President at EEN and author of Global Warming and the Risen LORD.
by Jim Ball
In my book, Global Warming and the Risen LORD, I tell of the many success stories out there when it comes to overcoming both the causes and the consequences of global warming. We can overcome global warming, but we need to get started in a major way very soon.
Here is one such recent succes story from our evangelical colleagues in Great Britain working at Tear Fund, a Christian relief and development organization doing excellent work on climate change. It involves a four-year project focused on food security and climate adaptation in over 50 rural villages in Malawi, one of the most densely populated and least developed countries in the world.
"This study found that the programme had a highly positive impact on target communities in terms of household income and assets, education, health and reduced mortality rates. Remarkably, for every US$1 invested, the project activities delivered US$24 of net benefits for the communities to help them overcome food insecurity while building their resilience to drought and erratic weather. This is a conservative estimate and the true figure could be as much as US$36. This positive financial return on investment provides a powerful argument for investing in preventative activities in vulnerable small-scale agricultural communities." [p. 3]
Remarkable: for every $1 invested a return of $24-36. Try finding that rate of return in a business investment in the US!
Rev. Jim Ball, Ph.D., is Executive Vice President at EEN and author of Global Warming and the Risen LORD.
by Jim Ball
A terrific news blog by Time's Bryan Walsh summarizes several recent studies about future climate-enhanced drought in the Southwest and West here in the US. (Does this suggest that the Main Stream Media are starting to appropriately report on climate change, something I claimed wasn't happening in an earlier blog? Nope. Walsh's blog is a web post in a special "Ecocentric" blog page on Time's site.)
The new studies suggest that population growth alone in the Southwest and West will severely exacerbate water shortfalls, potentially costing over $2 trillion to fix. Global warming would increase the problem by up to 25%.
It's a no-brainer, of course, that you certainly don't want to make a bad situation 25% worse, costing an additional $350-550 billion. As I point out in my book, Global Warming and the Risen LORD, scientists are worried climate change will help to create a "mega-drought" of historic proportions in the SW and West (pp. 70-71). These new studies add a more detailed economic analysis of the potential costs.
But Walsh doesn't just speak about drought in the US. He helpfully expands the conversation this way:
"Even scarier might be the impact of climate drying on agriculture. Food prices are already at a record high"thanks to extreme weather events, rising demand in developing nations and likely some speculation"but in the decades to come farmers will need to feed billions more, many of them wealthier and demanding more meat. (One lb. of animal protein can require 100 lbs. of grain to produce, and thousands of gallons of water.) 70% of the world's freshwater is used for irrigation, so when we talk about water-related climate problems, we're really talking about farming. Even more worrying, agriculture in much of the world has already been propped up by groundwater pumped from aquafiers"but half the planet lives in areas where water tables are falling due to overdepletion. According to the World Bank, 15% of India's food supply is grown with water produced by aquafiers ..."
Here Walsh does what others in the MSM have failed to do: integrate climate impacts on food and other areas into current concerns about rising food prices and the possibility that climate change will help create social instability in the future.
by Jim Ball
I have just finished watching the head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Administrator Lisa Jackson, successfully defend the EPA's regulation of greenhouse gases at a hearing of the House Energy and Power Subcommittee. I hope the Committee will post up video of Administrator Jackson's appearance and I urge anyone who can to watch some or all of it to do so. (We'll post a link if/when it becomes available.)
I think any fair-minded individual who watched the hearing would come away grateful that a person of Administrator Jackson's gifts, abilities, and temperament was heading up the EPA. I also think that she successfully: (1) defended the need for regulations to protect human health, (2) explained that the EPA was doing what the Supreme Court said the Clean Air Act (CAA) required the EPA to do, and (3) explained that the EPA had taken economic consequences into consideration in promulgating the various GHG rules. Indeed, she successfully made the case that it would actually benefit the overall economy.
The stated purpose of the hearing, according to the Chair of the Energy and Power Subcommittee, Rep. Whitfield (R-KY) was as follows:
"Today's hearing will focus on a greenhouse gas (GHG) rulemaking within the Environmental Protection Agency that many of us believe attempts to address an issue properly within the purview of the Congress, and legislation that would restore the proper balance to decision-making affecting it."
The draft legislation referred to by Chairman Whitfield is the Upton-Whitfield-Inhofe Energy Tax Prevention Act, which according to today's hearing would prevent the EPA from regulating GHGs. While EEN agrees with Congressman Whitfield that the best public policy approach would be a new law passed by Congress, we oppose any efforts to roll back the authority of the EPA to regulate global warming pollution absent such legislation. If Congress wants to pass a law that would actually have our country play its proper role in overcoming global warming, terrific. But a do-nothing stance is not acceptable. From what I heard at the hearing, the Upton-Whitfield-Inhofe bill is a do-nothing approach
Rev. Jim Ball is Executive Vice President at EEN and author of Global Warming and the Risen LORD.
by Jim Ball
Did you know that China is the world's #1 producer of wheat? I didn't. That's just one of the interesting facts to be found in a great New York Times article by veteran reporter Keith Bradshear that was prominently featured on their homepage today. One of the reasons this fact may be less well known is that much about China's wheat production and reserves is kept secret by China's government. Another reason is that until now China has been self-sufficient when it comes to wheat. China, a self-sufficient, silent wheat giant.
But that has started to change.
What prompted the NYT article was the fact that the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) just issued an alert that China's severe drought has started to significantly impact its wheat crop. According to the NYT, the Chinese government itself reported that its most important area for wheat production "was bracing for its worst drought in 200 years unless substantial precipitation came by the end of this month."
The article goes on to note the following:
So prices are already high enough to cause unrest in a strategic part of the world. What's going to happen when China really enters the market?
Could global warming have something to do with unprecedented heat waves, floods, and droughts? Could increasing global warming bring about even worse situations in the future? Is there any mention of this in Bradshear's NYT's article?
Nary a peep. Zip. Nada.
You won't find a mention of global warming in Bradshear's article. But you will find it in a terrific op-ed published two days before the FAO's food security alert and Bradshear's article. Who wrote the op-ed and where was it published? Paul Krugman, in the NYT. Krugman had the foresight to be ahead of this story.
Here are a few quotes:
"While several factors have contributed to soaring food prices, what really stands out is the extent to which severe weather events have disrupted agricultural production. And these severe weather events are exactly the kind of thing we'd expect to see as rising concentrations of greenhouse gases change our climate -- which means that the current food price surge may be just the beginning."
"Consider the case of wheat, whose price has almost doubled since the summer. The immediate cause of the wheat price spike is obvious: world production is down sharply. The bulk of that production decline, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data, reflects a sharp plunge in the former Soviet Union. And we know what that's about: a record heat wave and drought, which pushed Moscow temperatures above 100 degrees for the first time ever.
The Russian heat wave was only one of many recent extreme weather events, from dry weather in Brazil to biblical-proportion flooding in Australia, that have damaged world food production.
The question then becomes, what's behind all this extreme weather?
To some extent we're seeing the results of a natural phenomenon, La Niña " a periodic event in which water in the equatorial Pacific becomes cooler than normal. And La Niña events have historically been associated with global food crises, including the crisis of 2007-8. But that's not the whole story " As always, you can't attribute any one weather event to greenhouse gases. But the pattern we're seeing, with extreme highs and extreme weather in general becoming much more common, is just what you'd expect from climate change."
It's a sad day when the "paper of record" relegates to its op-ed page the connection of climate change to events being covered on its front page. (And the lack of a legitimate mention of climate change in its reporting is a pattern with the NYT.) Have they been cowed by the climate skeptics?
When the Silent Wheat Giant is suffering its worst drought in 200 years in its bread basket, when wheat prices are already high due to unprecedented heat waves in Russia (although now considered by scientists to be a rare but natural event) and floods in Australia, when such prices are helping to contribute to unrest in the Middle East, and when the wheat shortage will only get worse when China enters the market in earnest, it is well past time for the mainstream media to connect the dots for their readers and help inform them of how climate change may be contributing to this situation, and certainly will contribute in the future.
Rev. Jim Ball is Executive Vice President at EEN and author of Global Warming and the Risen LORD.
by Jim Ball
Recently the latest statement from the Lausanne movement was finalized and released on their website. We believe this Cape Town Commitment, as it is known, to be a watershed document for worldwide evangelical Christianity. It has been endorsed by the leadership of the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) and is the product of a three-year process involving hundreds of Christian leaders from around the world. The biblical/theological section (Part 1) of the Cape Town Commitment was presented to the over 4,000 evangelical leaders who attended the third Lausanne Congress, Cape Town 2010. As Christianity Today reported, this gathering was "undoubtedly the most representative body of the evangelical church ever assembled." The application/praxis section, or Part 2, not only was shaped by the three-year listening process, it also took into account the presentations and conversations that occurred at Cape Town 2010. (This is why the final two-part document took several more months to be finalized.)
From our perspective the final document has been well worth the wait, and Christians here in the US will benefit greatly from serious study and reflection upon the Cape Town Commitment.
Why all the superlatives? Why all the praise?
It speaks from both the heart and the head to reflect what's best about contemporary, worldwide, evangelical Christianity. And by that I don't mean that it pretends that we have all the answers. I mean that it presents a genuine struggle to represent with humility and integrity what evangelical Christians believe are some of the most important ways to love God and others today. It doesn't shy away from stating our Christ-centered and biblically informed convictions boldly. On the contrary. But neither does it hesitate to declare many instances of where we've fallen short in living out those convictions. It's certainly not a perfect document. But it's clearly a labor of love that will help any reader who takes it seriously to become more conformed to Christ (Rom 8:29; 12:2).
Because the Cape Town Commitment represents much that is good in worldwide evangelical Christianity, as well as some of the chief concerns today of evangelical Christians, it is very heartening to see explicit mentions of creation-care and climate change.
More importantly, however, is the fact that the reconciliation of the whole of creation by Christ's blood shed on the cross is an integral part of the document. It is not some token inclusion or limited to one section. Rather, it is intrinsic. And the reason is because it is accurately reflecting a biblical world-view.
This is a huge development in evangelical Christianity -- focused as we are on redemption, the heart of the gospel -- to understand and proclaim in such an important document that Christ's reconciliation does not just include humanity. As the NT clearly teaches, the whole of creation is gathered at the foot of the cross (e.g. Col. 1:15-20). And Christ's reconciliation of all things is explicitly reflected at least 25 times throughout the document.
Here is just one example from the Preface, where it is explained why the language of love is such a central ordering principle in the statement (emphasis added):
"This Statement is framed in the language of love. Love is the language of covenant. The biblical covenants, old and new, are the expression of God's redeeming love and grace reaching out to lost humanity and spoiled creation. They call for our love in return. Our love shows itself in trust, obedience and passionate commitment to our covenant Lord. The Lausanne Covenant defined evangelization as 'the whole Church taking the whole gospel to the whole world'. That is still our passion. So we renew that covenant by affirming again: Our love for the whole gospel, as God's glorious good news in Christ, for every dimension of his creation, for it has all been ravaged by sin and evil ..."
In Part 1, section 7, there is also a concentrated discussion of why we do creation-care, which I will quote in full:
"We love the world of God's creation. This love is not mere sentimental affection for nature (which the Bible nowhere commands), still less is it pantheistic worship of nature (which the Bible expressly forbids). Rather it is the logical outworking of our love for God by caring for what belongs to him. 'The earth is the Lord's and everything in it.' The earth is the property of the God we claim to love and obey. We care for the earth, most simply, because it belongs to the one whom we call Lord.
The earth is created, sustained and redeemed by Christ. We cannot claim to love God while abusing what belongs to Christ by right of creation, redemption and inheritance. We care for the earth and responsibly use its abundant resources, not according to the rationale of the secular world, but for the Lord's sake. If Jesus is Lord of all the earth, we cannot separate our relationship to Christ from how we act in relation to the earth. For to proclaim the gospel that says 'Jesus is Lord' is to proclaim the gospel that includes the earth, since Christ's Lordship is over all creation. Creation care is a thus a gospel issue within the Lordship of Christ.
Such love for God's creation demands that we repent of our part in the destruction, waste and pollution of the earth's resources and our collusion in the toxic idolatry of consumerism. Instead, we commit ourselves to urgent and prophetic ecological responsibility. We support Christians whose particular missional calling is to environmental advocacy and action, as well as those committed to godly fulfilment of the mandate to provide for human welfare and needs by exercising responsible dominion and stewardship. The Bible declares God's redemptive purpose for creation itself. Integral mission means discerning, proclaiming, and living out, the biblical truth that the gospel is God's good news, through the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ, for individual persons, and for society, and for creation. All three are broken and suffering because of sin; all three are included in the redeeming love and mission of God; all three must be part of the comprehensive mission of God's people."
As mentioned, the Cape Town Commitment also explicitly talks about climate change, and it does so right at the beginning of the Preamble (emphasis added):
"Some things we face cause us grief and anxiety " global poverty, war, ethnic conflict, disease, the ecological crisis and climate change."
A fuller discussion is found in Part 2, section 5, entitled "Christ's peace for his suffering creation":
"All human beings are to be stewards of the rich abundance of God's good creation. We are authorized to exercise godly dominion in using it for the sake of human welfare and needs, for example in farming, fishing, mining, energy generation, engineering, construction, trade, medicine. As we do so, we are also commanded to care for the earth and all its creatures, because the earth belongs to God, not to us. We do this for the sake of the Lord Jesus Christ who is the creator, owner, sustainer, redeemer and heir of all creation.
We lament over the widespread abuse and destruction of the earth's resources, including its bio-diversity. Probably the most serious and urgent challenge faced by the physical world now is the threat of climate change. This will disproportionately affect those in poorer countries, for it is there that climate extremes will be most severe and where there is little capability to adapt to them. World poverty and climate change need to be addressed together and with equal urgency.
We encourage Christians worldwide to:
A) Adopt lifestyles that renounce habits of consumption that are destructive or polluting;
B) Exert legitimate means to persuade governments to put moral imperatives above political expediency on issues of environmental destruction and potential climate change;
C) Recognize and encourage the missional calling both of (i) Christians who engage in the proper use of the earth's resources for human need and welfare through agriculture, industry and medicine, and (ii) Christians who engage in the protection and restoration of the earth's habitats and species through conservation and advocacy. Both share the same goal for both serve the same Creator, Provider and Redeemer."
While the Cape Town Commitment represents tremendous progress for evangelicals in the areas of creation-care and climate change, it also highlights areas for further improvement. (I'm sure some of you were wondering when the other shoe was going to drop!)
First, creation-care is not just about caring for the rest of creation. Pollution and poor stewardship have tremendous impacts on human beings, especially the poor and the vulnerable. Pollution is a justice issue, a love-your-neighbor opportunity. Creation-care is not simply about the stewardship of natural resources. Creation-care is a both/and. It's holistic love. Given how much the Cape Town Commitment reflects a holistic understanding of what it means to love God and neighbor today, this is an interesting blind spot.
Ironically, the both/and nature of creation-care is simultaneously recognized and not recognized in the subsection where climate change is discussed (quoted above), which is revealingly titled "Christ's peace for his suffering creation." This begins with a theological recap of why we should care for the rest of creation. As you can see, the first thing mentioned is the impact on "biodiversity" (i.e. non-human creatures) from our poor stewardship. Then comes climate change, which the statement rightly connects to impacts on the poor. It then states that addressing poverty and climate change are both urgent matters, but it does so in a way that would suggest doing so is at odds with each other (or at least unrelated) and somehow we'll have to pay for both even if they could be at cross purposes sometimes. As I demonstrate in my book, Global Warming and the Risen LORD, done right overcoming global warming can enhance the lives of the poor.
Why is climate change framed as primarily a "stewardship" issue as opposed to, say, a justice issue, or a peace issue, or a love-your-neighbor issue, or a love "the least of these" concern? It is all of these, of course. (And, again, the document does recognize that global warming will have serious consequences for the poor.) The reason, I think, is because the document views climate change as an "environmental" issue, a framing it inherited uncritically from Western culture. And environmental/stewardship/creation-care issues are thought of in the document primarily as efforts focused on the treatment of the rest of creation and only secondarily as something dealing with loving our neighbors.
One final thing to highlight is the juxtaposition several times within the document (and quoted above) of those who use the rest of creation for the benefit of humanity (e.g. farmers) and those who seek to protect the rest of creation (called "environmental advocacy" in the document). At first blush this would seem to be a nice balancing of these two groups. However, we would argue that fulfillment of a biblical approach to creation-care would put the second group out of business. Christian farmers and others who use the rest of creation for the benefit of humanity should be creation-care advocates themselves, not implicitly seen as in tension with creation-care.
So while in the theological reflections of Part 1 we find tremendous progress with the integration of the rest of creation in our understanding of Christ's reconciliation " something the Bible clearly teaches " in Part 2 it appears we have a culturally-influenced understanding of creation-care and climate change that seems to underplay how much addressing such concerns are about loving people. Thus we have more properly balanced approach in the first instance, with more balance needed in the second case.
It is our role here at EEN to help evangelical Christians understand a biblical, Christ-centered approach to creation-care and climate change. So hopefully these last comments are helpful, constructive criticism. Given all of the topics the Cape Town Commitment bravely tackles, it is progress to see climate change included.
Again, we hope the Cape Town Commitment is widely read and discussed, as doing so will greatly benefit the Church.
(UPDATE: The Board of EEN has now officially affirmed the Cape Town Commitment.)
by Jim Ball
Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) is one of the most respected Senators in our country, and such respect is well-deserved. He has long toiled in areas that are vital to America's well-being yet don't get much attention or appreciation, such as his great work with former Senator Sam Nunn (D-GA) to secure the nuclear weapons programs of the former Soviet Union once the Cold War ended. These great efforts have helped to keep America and the rest of the world safe.
Continuing in the tradition of Senator-Statesman, Sen. Lugar gave an important speech at the Clean Economy Summit on how America can create a clean energy future and move towards energy independence. While we don't agree with everything Sen. Lugar said, there is much to appreciate in the speech.
One of his first important points is that while America has begun to wake up to what needs to happen, we have not yet begun to act in a serious and meaningful way:
"Although Americans and their leaders are embracing the idea of changing our energy destiny, we have not committed ourselves to the action steps required to achieve an alternative future ... If our economy is crippled by an oil embargo, if terrorists succeed in disrupting our oil lifeline, or if we slide into a war because oil wealth has emboldened anti-American regimes, it will not matter that before disaster struck, the American public and its leaders only began to gain an understanding of our vulnerability."
As the saying goes, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.
After noting that both President Bush and President Obama have failed to create a bold, bi-partisan approach to weaning us off our addiction to oil (as President Bush put it) and the creation of a clean energy future, Sen Lugar states:
"I believe it is possible to revitalize energy security as a bipartisan issue. To do this, the President and leaders in Congress should explore the most fertile ground for cooperation " overcoming U.S. oil dependence. There is little disagreement that our oil dependence is a major threat to our economy and security. A disruption of oil supplies due to war, political instability, terrorism, embargo or other causes is one of the most troubling and likely short-term threats to our economy. Rising gasoline prices give Americans a visible reminder of this on a weekly basis."
Sen Lugar wanted to see a clear statement to this effect in President Obama's State of the Union address on Tuesday. While the President didn't address oil dependence explicitly, he did put forward a goal of having 80% of America's electricity come from clean sources by 2035.
We agree with both President Obama's goal for a clean energy future and Sen. Lugar's goal of overcoming oil dependence. And when you look at the energy bill that Sen. Lugar introduced in the last Congress, his Practical Energy Plan, it has policies to do both, including one similar to the Clean Energy Standard that the President and others like Sen Lindsay Graham (R-SC) have been talking about.
(As an aside, Sen Lugar's bill from last year was actually called the "Practical Energy and Climate Plan," but in his speech on Monday he dropped the word "Climate." In his speech he was also critical of past efforts on climate. We'll agree to disagree and let bygones be bygones.)
Our question of Sen Lugar is this: who will bring along enough of his fellow Republicans to achieve these goals of overcoming oil dependence AND having 80% of our electricity come from clean energy sources?
Another question to Sen Lugar: will your Practical Energy Plan introduced in this Congress once again have a Clean Energy Standard?
We certainly hope so, and are ready to join Sen Lugar and the President to achieve both of these goals.
Sen. Lugar has achieved great things with little fanfare in his career. We hope both he and President Obama will work together on these vital goals, and that both will help to bring along their parties to do what's best for America.
by Jim Ball
Michael Levi of the Council on Foreign Relations has done some quick crunching of the numbers to compare President Obama's goal of 80% of electricity coming from clean energy by 2035 announced last night in his State of the Union speech.
By Levi's calculation, this would generate more clean energy than last year's proposed legislation by Senators Kerry, Graham, and Lieberman (74% by 2035). It would also have carbon's price per ton at around $90 in 2035, which would be a healthy price signal.
If a Clean Energy Standard that achieved 80% by 2035 were to pass Congress this session (a very big if), it would be a major step forward in overcoming global warming and helping our country create a clean energy future. It's not all we need to be doing. But it would be very important.
by Jim Ball
Last night President Obama gave his State of the Union speech. His basic theme was summed up in this phrase: "The future is ours to win." He went on to say, "But to get there, we can't just stand still. As Robert Kennedy told us, 'The future is not a gift. It is an achievement.' Sustaining the American Dream has never been about standing pat. It has required each generation to sacrifice, and struggle, and meet the demands of a new age."
We were pleased to see that the first thing he said we needed to invest in as a country to win the future was clean energy. Here's an extended excerpt:
"This is our generation's Sputnik moment. Two years ago, I said that we needed to reach a level of research and development we haven't seen since the height of the Space Race. And in a few weeks, I will be sending a budget to Congress that helps us meet that goal. We'll invest in biomedical research, information technology, and especially clean energy technology -" (applause) -- an investment that will strengthen our security, protect our planet, and create countless new jobs for our people.
Already, we're seeing the promise of renewable energy. Robert and Gary Allen are brothers who run a small Michigan roofing company. After September 11th, they volunteered their best roofers to help repair the Pentagon. But half of their factory went unused, and the recession hit them hard. Today, with the help of a government loan, that empty space is being used to manufacture solar shingles that are being sold all across the country. In Robert's words, "We reinvented ourselves."
That's what Americans have done for over 200 years: reinvented ourselves. And to spur on more success stories like the Allen Brothers, we've begun to reinvent our energy policy. We're not just handing out money. We're issuing a challenge. We're telling America's scientists and engineers that if they assemble teams of the best minds in their fields, and focus on the hardest problems in clean energy, we'll fund the Apollo projects of our time.
At the California Institute of Technology, they're developing a way to turn sunlight and water into fuel for our cars. At Oak Ridge National Laboratory, they're using supercomputers to get a lot more power out of our nuclear facilities. With more research and incentives, we can break our dependence on oil with biofuels, and become the first country to have a million electric vehicles on the road by 2015. (Applause.)
We need to get behind this innovation. And to help pay for it, I'm asking Congress to eliminate the billions in taxpayer dollars we currently give to oil companies. (Applause.) I don't know if -- I don't know if you've noticed, but they're doing just fine on their own. (Laughter.) So instead of subsidizing yesterday's energy, let's invest in tomorrow's.
Now, clean energy breakthroughs will only translate into clean energy jobs if businesses know there will be a market for what they're selling. So tonight, I challenge you to join me in setting a new goal: By 2035, 80 percent of America's electricity will come from clean energy sources. (Applause.)
Some folks want wind and solar. Others want nuclear, clean coal and natural gas. To meet this goal, we will need them all -- and I urge Democrats and Republicans to work together to make it happen. (Applause.)"
The President's call to have 80% of our electricity come from clean energy sources by 2035 was a pleasant surprise. And we think paying for the innovation to get us there by using subsidies we currently give to oil companies is exactly right.
by Jim Ball
Politico is reporting that Carol Browner, President Obama's point person on energy and climate change, will soon be leaving the White House. That's unfortunate. We hope it doesn't signal a diminishment of the President's commitment to both clean energy and climate change.
We would like to publicly thank Ms. Browner for her service to our country these past few years (and again for her time as EPA Administrator during the Clinton Administration). While we didn't achieve the success we all wanted with the passage of a comprehensive climate and energy bill, Ms. Browner did her best in a difficult situation. She was always open to meeting with representatives from the religious community, and communicated our views to others within the Administration.
Again, we greatly appreciate Ms. Browner's service during this tour of duty in the White House, and we look forward to continuing to work with her in the future. We know she'll be continuing the fight.
Dan Boone, President of Trevecca Nazarene University and Nashville, has reviewed Jim Ball's book, Global Warming and the Risen LORD.
Here's an excerpt:
"I see two primary strengths of the book. First, Jim has connected the dots between local and global, legislation and practice, money and method. He takes us to a grieving family in New Orleans and a Selco customer in India. He meets the global community as it wrestles with the impact of global warming. In connecting these dots, Jim fairly assesses the responsibility of the United States for causing and curing global warming. He calls our government to act in tandem with leading businesses, energy producers and consuming customers. It is a joint effort whose workload falls equally on us all.
The second strength is that a man who has carried this banner for 20 years and has experienced opposition from those who share his faith in the Risen Lord, from those whose greed compels them to earn by polluting, from those in the halls of Congress whose wallets are thicker than his, from those who purport themselves to be fair and balanced, and from those who simply wish to be left alone to consume as they wish without regard for the future " after all this, Jim is a man of deep hope.
The dying world has not squeezed the joy of God's tomorrow from him. Not once does he become the angry, guilt-heaping, finger-wagging prophet of doom, consigning the church to hell for ignoring the obvious signs of danger. Instead, he still sees the people of God as the world's best chance for change. And he roots this, not in our moral duty, but in our response to a loving God who also loves every global neighbor. In short, Jim gives me hope that together the people of God can respond to global warming as an act of loving the neighbor."
Click here to read Dan's complete review. And let us know your thoughts.
by Jim Ball, Executive Vice President of Public Policy, Climate Campaign
As I lay out in my new book, Global Warming and the Risen LORD, climate change is both a major threat but also a tremendous opportunity for the world's poor. In Cancun last week at the international climate talks, important but modest progress was made in addressing the threat and creating opportunities. Dealing with the threat includes addressing both the causes (i.e. the pollution) and the consequences or impacts. Reducing the causes is called mitigation, and dealing with the consequences is called adaptation.
Concerning mitigation, Cancun essentially ratified the approach of the Copenhagen Accord last year that was forged due to the leadership of President Obama. This includes pledges by both the US and China to reduce their emissions in a verifiable way. Such verifiable pledges are extremely important for an eventual international legally-binding treaty, given that the US and China are the largest emitters. Such pollution-reduction pledges, along with the pledges from other countries, are not yet sufficient to overcome global warming. But they are a beginning. They are based on what countries can realistically get done domestically. In the US this will require both EPA regulations under the Clean Air Act, actions by the states (e.g. California'slaw, AB 32), and additional clean energy laws in this next Congress and eventually a price on carbon after 2012. The most important thing right now is to get started in a way that begins to move the big economies into the clean energy future. And this will happen with actions at the domestic level. For those of us who are Christians here in the US, we need to support the necessary government actions, but also find ways to spur the clean energy revolution (My book lays out the possibilities.).
This coming clean energy revolution is good news for the poor, because as the developed countries and China continue to create products that use less energy and technologies that produce clean energy like wind, solar, and biogas, the prices for such items will continue to come down. This will allow them to get it right from the beginning to grow cleanly instead of the dirty and inefficient way we did. At Cancun, initial agreements were reached on what is called "tech transfer" to help poor countries receive such climate-friendly, clean, and efficient technologies to power sustainable economic progress.
Another important way to do mitigationis through planting and maintaining trees and forests. (Live trees soak up carbon; dead trees release it.) In the wonk-speak of climate policy maintaining forests is called "REDD" or reducing deforestation and forest degradation. A REDD framework was affirmed, but how such activities will be financed is not yet clear. Importantly, the framework does state that there must be "The full and effective participation of relevant stakeholders,in particular, indigenous peoples and local communities." We must continue to insist that the rights of the poor are respected and protected, so that perverse incentives are not created that would lead to them being pushed off their land.
As I stress in my book, two-thirds of mitigation activities in this century need to occur in developing countries. This will create tremendous opportunities for the poor to create sustainable economic progress for themselves. But such activities won't happen at the scale required without agreements being finalized in the international talks on how much each country will mitigate, and how much funding will go to "tech transfer" and REDD.
Furthermore, such an international deal won't be finalized without there being sufficient funds from the developed countries to help the poorest and the most vulnerable countries adapt to the consequences they didn't cause.
Last year at Copenhagen, Secretary Clinton put forward the proposal that developed countries provide $30 billionin "fast start" financing, increasing to $100 billion by 2020. Such funds were to come from both the publicand private sector, and be for both mitigation and adaptation. This was ratified at Cancun. In addition, the framework for the actual institutional mechanism to deal with a good portion of these funds, christened at Cancun as the "Green Climate Fund," was created. Such institutional progress might not sound very sexy, but it is essential. Importantly, the Green Climate Fund "shall be governed by a board of 24 members comprising an equal number of members from developing and developed country Parties." (In other words, poor countries have significant representation.) Equally importantly, such funding can be both "bilateral" and "multilateral."
Here in the US it is essential for there to be the flexibility to have roughly half of such assistance be bilateral or country-to-country assistance. This could include funding given by USAID to US-based relief and development organizations such as World Vision or Food for the Hungry for climate adaptation programs in poor countries. Bilateral funding helps build the political confidence within Congress that the funds are being used to achieve their intended purpose. Multilateral funding through the Green Climate Fund will provide developing countries more confidence about such funds given their representation on the Fund's board.
It is crucial to maintain both types of confidence, and the Cancun Agreement does that. The one thing it doesn't do is determine where the multilateral/Green Climate Fund money, especially for adaptation, will come from.
One final thing to note is something else that was approved: the "Cancun Adaptation Framework." This began the process of formalizing what is meant by climate adaptation, that countries must create national adaptation plans, and that the poor countries must be provided technical and financial assistance in creating such plans and programs.
Thus, the Cancun Agreements formally approved much of what was put forward at Copenhagen as relates to mitigation and funding, and made important but modest progress in creating frameworks for action in the areas of adaptation and REDD. All of this can eventually bring tremendous opportunities for the world's poor through reduced pollution, diminishment of future impacts from global warming, and creation of clean sustainable economic progress.
Ultimately, each country must summon the will to do its part. Here in the US, Christians must help to provide that will. As I describe in depth in my book, it is by following the Risen LORD that we Christians will be able to play our part. He is the One Who is leading the way in overcoming global warming.
by Jim Ball
In a forthcoming article to be published in the journal Psychological Science, Robb Willer and Matthew Feinberg, social scientists at U C-Berkeley, present evidence suggesting those who believe the world is "just, orderly, and stable" are primed to become global warming skeptics. This will happen if such individuals are presented with messages about global warming that significantly contradict these very notions. Here is an extended excerpt from their paper that explains this theory (subsequently confirmed by their experiments):
We contend that one cause of global warming skepticism may be that such dire messages [i.e., messages "that highlight the dire risks associated with unchecked global warming"] threaten individuals' need to believe that the world is just, orderly, and stable, a motive that is widely held and deeply ingrained in many people (Lerner, 1980; Lerner & Miller, 1978). Research shows that many individuals have a strong need to perceive the world as just "believing that future rewards await those who judiciously strive for them, and punishments are meted out to those who deserve them" (Dalbert, 2001; Furnham, 2003). Research on Just World Theory has demonstrated that when individuals' need to believe in a just world is threatened, they commonly employ defensive responses, such as dismissing or rationalizing the information that threatened their just world beliefs (forreviews, see Furnham, 2003; Hafer & Begue, 2005).
Furthermore, in their experiments Willer and Feinberg found that when those who believe in a just, orderly, and stable world were presented with dire global warming messages and then asked if they would be willing to take actions to reduce their carbon footprint, such willingness dropped even further.
So it is the need to believe that the world as it exists is just, orderly, and stable, which is threatened by the consequences of global warming. And instead of modifying one's worldview to accept the fact that global warming is indeed a threat to justice, order, and stability, denial is the solution for those whose climate skepticism increases when presented with the facts.
Contrary to what some may think,belief in a just, orderly, and stable world is not simply some infantile delusion of those who cannot accept the world as it really is. Rather, it is an echo of God's original design. We were created to live in such a world, and our desire for it to currently reflect justice, order, and stability is a good thing. It is the way God's creation should be.
But to believe that it is the way things currently are is a profound theological mistake with serious ramifications. Genesis 3 tells us that sin entered the world and it is still not what God intended. Christ's death reconciles all things (Col. 1:20) but creation is still groaning until we become all God created us to be when God will create a new heaven and a new earth (Rom 8; Rev 21). In our "already/not yet" existence where we have been redeemed but the fullness of reconciliation is not yet a reality, to believe that the world is already just, orderly, and stable can become spiritually dangerous. Empowered by Christ's grace and guided by the Holy Spirit, God's will for each of us is that we do what we can to create such a world. To fail to do so is a failure of righteousness. If our God-created desire for such a world actually becomes a belief that such a world currently exists, and if threats to such a world like global warming are denied instead of faced and overcome, then we have been captured by a spiritual perversity that will prevent us from doing God's will. Not good!
So one way to help resolve this problem is simply to continue to expound and teach a full biblical worldview, because without it one can head in the wrong direction. Let's not let a good desire lead us to a bad outcome!
Willer and Feinberg's research suggests an additional way of avoiding an increase in climate skepticism for those who desire a just, orderly, and stable world. And that is to help people understand that global warming can be overcome. As they put it, if dire messages about global warming "are delivered coupled with a potential solution, it allows the information to be communicated without creating substantial threat to these individuals' deeply held beliefs."
Balancing realism with hope is something I do in my new book, Global Warming and the Risen LORD. You can see the balance right in the title. While I provide a realistic depiction of future impacts of global warming, with a particular focus on the unjust impacts that will befall the poor in poor countries, I also stress that the key to global warming is the literal presence of the Risen LORD in our lives " because He is the one leading the way in overcoming global warming." The book also provides numerous stories of people making a difference, and shows how it is indeed possible with technologies available today to overcome global warming.
Our desire for a just, orderly, ands table world is right and good, because it corresponds with God's "original plan" and is what His Kingdom will be like when it comes in its fullness. We must let this desire help propel us to follow the Risen LORD as He leads the way in overcoming global warming.
Click here for more information on Global Warming and the Risen LORD. To join the conversation sparked by the book, check out the book's Facebook page.