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Night of the Living Dead, Climate Change-Style: How to Stop the Fossil Fuel Industry From Wrecking Our World

TomDispatch.com, January 19, 2016, By Bill McKibben

"When I was a kid, I was creepily fascinated by the wrongheaded idea, current in my grade school, that your hair and your fingernails kept growing after you died. The lesson seemed to be that it was hard to kill something off -- if it wanted to keep going.

Something similar is happening right now with the fossil fuel industry. Even as the global warming crisis makes it clear that coal, natural gas, and oil are yesterday’s energy, the momentum of two centuries of fossil fuel development means new projects keep emerging in a zombie-like fashion.

In fact, the climactic fight at the end of the fossil fuel era is already underway, even if it’s happening almost in secret. That’s because so much of the action isn’t taking place in big, headline-grabbing climate change settings like the recent conference of 195 nations in Paris; it’s taking place in hearing rooms and farmers’ fields across this continent (and other continents, too).  Local activists are making desperate stands to stop new fossil fuel projects, while the giant energy companies are making equally desperate attempts to build while they still can. Though such conflicts and protests are mostly too small and local to attract national media attention, the outcome of these thousands of fights will do much to determine whether we emerge from this century with a habitable planet. In fact, far more than any set of paper promises by politicians, they really are the battle for the future. ..."

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Obama Rejects Construction of Keystone XL Oil Pipeline

The New York Times, November 6, 2015, By Coral Davenport

"President Obama on Friday announced that he has rejected the request from a Canadian company to build the Keystone XL oil pipeline, ending a seven-year review that had become a flash point in the debate over his climate policies.

President Obama’s denial of the proposed 1,179-mile pipeline, which would have carried 800,000 barrels a day of carbon-heavy petroleum from the Canadian oil sands to the Gulf Coast, comes as he is seeking to build an ambitious legacy on climate change.

“The pipeline would not make a meaningful longterm contribution to our economy,’’ Mr. Obama said in remarks from the White House.

The move was made ahead of a major United Nations summit meeting on climate change to be held in Paris in December, when Mr. Obama hopes to help broker a historic agreement committing the world’s nations to enacting new policies to counter global warming. While the rejection of the pipeline is largely symbolic, Mr. Obama has sought to telegraph to other world leaders that the United States is serious about acting on climate change. ..."

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Exxon Mobil Investigated for Possible Climate Change Lies by New York Attorney General

The New York Times, November 5, 2015, By Justin Gillis and Clifford Krauss

"The New York attorney general has begun an investigation of Exxon Mobil to determine whether the company lied to the public about the risks of climate change or to investors about how such risks might hurt the oil business.

According to people with knowledge of the investigation, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman issued a subpoena Wednesday evening to Exxon Mobil, demanding extensive financial records, emails and other documents.

The investigation focuses on whether statements the company made to investors about climate risks as recently as this year were consistent with the company’s own long-running scientific research. ..."

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Warming Climate Is Deepening California Drought

Earth Institute, Columbia University, August 20, 2015

Scientists Say Increasing Heat Drives Moisture from Ground

"A new study says that global warming has measurably worsened the ongoing California drought. While scientists largely agree that natural weather variations have caused a lack of rain, an emerging consensus says that rising temperatures may be making things worse by driving moisture from plants and soil into the air. The new study is the first to estimate how much worse: as much as a quarter. The findings suggest that within a few decades, continually increasing temperatures and resulting moisture losses will push California into even more persistent aridity. The study appears this week in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

 "A lot of people think that the amount of rain that falls out the sky is the only thing that matters," said lead author A. Park Williams, a bioclimatologist at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. "But warming changes the baseline amount of water that's available to us, because it sends water back into the sky."

The study adds to growing evidence that climate change is already bringing extreme weather to some regions. California is the world's eighth-largest economy, ahead of most countries, but many scientists think that the nice weather it is famous for may now be in the process of going away. The record-breaking drought is now in its fourth year; it is drying up wells, affecting major produce growers and feeding wildfires now sweeping over vast areas. ..."

http://earth.columbia.edu/articles/view/3258

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Islamic Declaration Blasts Short-Sighted Capitalism, Demands Action on Climate

Common Dreams, August 18, 2015, By Jon Queally

"Just as scientists announced July was the hottest month in recorded history, and ahead of a major climate summit in Paris later this year, an international group of Islamic leaders on Tuesday released a public declaration calling on the religion's 1.6 billion followers to engage on the issue of global warming and take bold action to stem its worst impacts.

Released during an international symposium taking place in Istanbul, the Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change is signed by 60 Muslim scholars and leaders of the faith who acknowledge that—despite the short-term economic benefits of oil, coal, and gas—humanity's use of fossil fuels is the main cause of global warming which increasingly threatens 'a functioning climate, healthy air to breathe, regular seasons, and living oceans.'

The declaration states there is deep irony that humanity's 'unwise and short-sighted use of these resources is now resulting in the destruction of the very conditions that have made our life on earth possible.'

'Our attitude to these gifts has been short-sighted, and we have abused them,' it continues. 'What will future generations say of us, who leave them a degraded planet as our legacy? How will we face our Lord and Creator?'

The declaration by the Muslim leaders follows the widely lauded encyclical released by Pope Francis, leader of the Roman Catholic Church, earlier this summer in which he called for a drastic transformation of the world's economies and energy systems in order to stave off the worst impacts of an increasingly hotter planet. Additionally, hundreds of Jewish Rabbis also released a Rabbinic Letter on the Climate Crisis and dozens of other denominations and churches have joined the global movement to divest their financial holdings from the fossil fuel industry. ..."

http://commondreams.org/news/2015/08/18/islamic-declaration-blasts-short-sighted-capitalism-demands-action-climate

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Temperatures in June set another global heat record

CBS News, July 20, 2015, By Michael Casey

"The world endured record temperatures in June that helped make the first six months of this year the warmest ever, setting the stage for 2015 to be another unprecedented scorcher.

Temperatures across global land and ocean surfaces were 1.58 degrees above the 20th century average and the highest for June since modern record-keeping began in 1880, surpassing the previous record set last year by 0.22 degrees, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's monthly summary, released Monday.

On land, the temperature was 2.27 degrees above the 20th century average, which was the highest for June in the 1880-2015 record, surpassing the previous record set in 2012 by 0.11 degrees.

A similar trend was seen in the world's oceans, with average sea surface temperature 1.33 degrees above the 20th century average. Sea surface temperatures were the highest for June in the 1880-2015 record, surpassing the previous record set last year by 0.11 degrees. ..."

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/temperatures-in-june-were-hottest-on-record/

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New climate report says Earth in hotter water

Al Jazeera America, July 16, 2015, by Renee Lewis

Record land and ocean temperatures highlighted in NOAA's annual ‘State of the Climate’ report

"Sea levels, greenhouse gases and both land and sea temperatures reached record highs in 2014, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s annual 'State of the Climate' report published Thursday.

'This report represents data from around the globe, from hundreds of scientists and gives us a picture of what happened in 2014,' Thomas R. Karl, director of the NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center, said in a statement.

'The variety of changing indicators shows us how our climate is changing, not just in temperature but from the depths of the oceans to the outer atmosphere,' Karl said.

The annual report...was published in partnership with the American Meteorological Society. ..."

http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2015/7/16/noaa-releases-state-of-the-climate-report.html

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Internal Documents Expose Fossil Fuel Industry’s Decades of Deception on Climate Change

EcoWatch, July 9, 2015 | Elliott Negin, Union of Concerned Scientists

"... Back in 2007, a Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) report revealed that ExxonMobil—then the world’s largest publicly traded oil and gas company—had spent $16 million between 1998 and 2005 on a network of more than 40 front groups to try to discredit mainstream climate science. Billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch, meanwhile, were outed by a 2010 Greenpeace report revealing they spent significantly more than ExxonMobil between 2005 and 2008 on virtually the same groups. Many of those groups and the scientists affiliated with them had previously shilled for the tobacco industry.

Despite their outsized role, ExxonMobil and the Koch brothers are just a part of a much bigger story, according to a new UCS report, The Climate Deception Dossiers. After spending nearly a year reviewing a wide range of internal corporate and trade association documents pried loose by leaks, lawsuits and Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, UCS researchers have compiled a broader tale of deceit.

Drawing on evidence culled from 85 documents, the report reveals that ExxonMobil and five other top carbon polluters—BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, coal giant Peabody Energy and Royal Dutch Shell—were fully aware of the reality of climate change but continued to spend tens of millions of dollars to promote contrarian arguments they knew to be wrong. Taken together, the documents show that these six companies—in conjunction with the American Petroleum Institute (API), the oil and gas industry’s premier trade association, and a host of front groups—have known for at least two decades that their products are harmful and have intentionally deceived the public about the climate change threat. ..."

https://ecowatch.com/2015/07/09/fossil-fuel-industry-climate-change/

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Pope Francis: "Bold Cultural Revolution" Needed to Save Planet from Climate Change & Consumerism

Democracy Now! via YouTube, June 18, 2015

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Why we fight for the living world: it's about love, and it's time we said so

The Guardian, June 16, 2015, By George Monbiot

Pope Francis reminds us that our relationship to the natural world is about love, not just goods and services

"Who wants to see the living world destroyed? Who wants an end to birdsong, bees and coral reefs, the falcon’s stoop, the salmon’s leap? Who wants to see the soil stripped from the land, the sea rimed with rubbish?

No one. And yet it happens. Seven billion of us allow fossil fuel companies to push shut the narrow atmospheric door through which humanity stepped. We permit industrial farming to tear away the soil, banish trees from the hills, engineer another silent spring. We let the owners of grouse moors, 1% of the 1%, shoot and poison hen harriers, peregrines and eagles. We watch mutely as a small fleet of monster fishing ships trashes the oceans.

Why are the defenders of the living world so ineffective? It is partly, of course, that everyone is complicit; we have all been swept off our feet by the tide of hyperconsumption, our natural greed excited, corporate propaganda chiming with a will to believe that there is no cost. But perhaps environmentalism is also afflicted by a deeper failure: arising possibly from embarrassment or fear, a failure of emotional honesty.

I have asked meetings of green-minded people to raise their hands if they became defenders of nature because they were worried about the state of their bank accounts. Never has one hand appeared. Yet I see the same people base their appeal to others on the argument that they will lose money if we don’t protect the natural world.

Such claims are factual, but they are also dishonest: we pretend that this is what animates us, when in most cases it does not. The reality is that we care because we love. Nature appealed to our hearts, when we were children, long before it appealed to our heads, let alone our pockets. Yet we seem to believe we can persuade people to change their lives through the cold, mechanical power of reason, supported by statistics.

I see the encyclical by Pope Francis, which will be published on Thursday, as a potential turning point. He will argue that not only the physical survival of the poor, but also our spiritual welfare depends on the protection of the natural world; and in both respects he is right.

I don’t mean that a belief in God is the answer to our environmental crisis. ...

What I mean is that Pope Francis, a man with whom I disagree profoundly on matters such as equal marriage and contraception, reminds us that the living world provides not only material goods and tangible services, but is also essential to other aspects of our wellbeing. And you  don’t have to believe in God to endorse that view. ...

If the acknowledgement of love becomes the means by which we inspire environmentalism in others, how do we translate it into political change? But I believe it’s a better grounding for action than pretending that what really matters to us is the state of the economy. By being honest about our motivation we can inspire in others the passions that inspire us."

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jun/16/pope-encyclical-value-of-living-world

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'Climate Is a Common Good': Pope Francis Calls for Justice on Warming Planet

Common Dreams, July 18, 2015, by John Queally

Leader of Catholic Church says the richest owe the poorest a 'great social debt' for creating the climate crisis, ignoring warnings of its dangers, and refusing to act

"A message to leaders and supporters of the Roman Catholic Church by Pope Francis, cataloging the threat of climate change and the moral imperative to act aggressively to combat its root causes, is being heralded around the world on Thursday as a powerful—even 'radical'—statement from one of the world's most recognizable religious leaders.

Released in the form of a 180-page Papal Encyclical (pdf)—a formal letter to all the bishops of the church—the document codifies an official message from the spiritual leader, who makes the case that acting on climate change is not just a matter of decreasing the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that are fueling global warming, but also involves addressing the inequities and injustices caused by the fossil fuel-driven economy and resulting climate change.

'This home of ours is being ruined and that damages everyone, especially the poor,' reads the pope's message on the environment, climate, and social justice.

The encyclical states:

'The climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all. At the global level, it is a complex system linked to many of the essential conditions for human life. A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system. In recent decades this warming has been accompanied by a constant rise in the sea level and, it would appear, by an increase of extreme weather events, even if a scientifically determinable cause cannot be assigned to each particular phenomenon. Humanity is called to recognise the need for changes of lifestyle, production and consumption, in order to combat this warming or at least the human causes which produce or aggravate it. ... The problem is aggravated by a model of development based on the intensive use of fossil fuels, which is at the heart of the worldwide energy system. Another determining factor has been an increase in changed uses of the soil, principally deforestation for agricultural purposes. ...

Many of those who possess more resources and economic or political power seem mostly to be concerned with masking the problems or concealing their symptoms, simply making efforts to reduce some of the negative impacts of climate change. However, many of these symptoms indicate that such effects will continue to worsen if we continue with current models of production and consumption. There is an urgent need to develop policies so that, in the next few years, the emission of carbon dioxide and other highly polluting gases can be drastically reduced, for example, substituting for fossil fuels and developing sources of renewable energy. ...

The same mindset which stands in the way of making radical decisions to reverse the trend of global warming also stands in the way of achieving the goal of eliminating poverty.'"

http://commondreams.org/news/2015/06/18/climate-common-good-pope-francis-calls-justice-warming-planet

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Religious climate activists energized by pope’s environment encyclical

Al Jazeera America, June 17, 2015, By Sarah Posner

"Pope Francis’ forthcoming encyclical on the environment and climate change is being met with enthusiasm among religious environmental activists, who say it could represent a transformational moment to spur increased faith-based activism and, they hope, break the political gridlock on addressing the climate crisis.

'Given his large platform and the number of people, not just Catholics, he’s speaking to and for, we think it can be one of the most important, game-changing events in the whole discussion of climate change,' said Rabbi Moti Rieber, a coordinator at Kansas Interfaith Power and Light, part of a national movement aimed at mobilizing religious activists to combat climate change.

On Monday a leaked draft revealed the pope’s affirmation of a scientific consensus about 'the presence of an alarming warming of the climatic system.' The final version will be released on Thursday.

For state and local activists like Rieber, Francis’ upcoming visit to the United States in September, during which he will address the United Nations and Congress, will 'make this a visible issue, with the full strength of his office.' Rieber hopes that the pope’s discussion of climate change 'will reach into areas that have not really been reached with climate change messaging — like Kansas.'

Although care for the environment has long been a central tenet not just of Catholicism but also of Judaism, Islam and other faiths, the environmental movement has long been animated largely by secular activism. Religious activists working on climate issues at the grass-roots level are delighted that Francis’ encyclical is expected to support the scientific consensus on climate change, declare a moral imperative to address an urgent crisis and focus on the disproportionate impact of climate change on the world’s poor. ..."

http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2015/6/17/encyclical-pope-climate-activists.html

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One-Third Of The World's Largest Groundwater Sources Are In Serious Trouble: Study

The Huffington Post, June 17, 2015, By Hilary Hanson

"The earth's biggest groundwater basins are being depleted far more quickly than previously believed, according to two new studies by the University of California, Irvine (UCI).

The studies used data from NASA's Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellites gathered between 2003 and 2013 to examine the 37 largest aquifers on the planet. Twenty-one of those aquifers have exceeded their sustainability 'tipping points,' meaning they lose more water every year than is being naturally replenished through processes like rainfall or snow melt, said Jay Famiglietti, senior water scientist at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory and principal investigator in the two studies.

Out of those 21, eight were found to be 'overstressed,' meaning there is 'nearly no natural replenishment' to restore water used by humans, according to a statement from UCI. Another five were designated 'extremely or highly stressed,' signifying that they are "still in trouble" but have "some water flowing back into them.' ..."

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/06/17/groundwater-depletion-nasa-study_n_7603292.html

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Fix the Soil, Feed the Planet, Save the World: The Power of Regeneration

Common Dreams, June 8, 2015, By Deidre Fulton

"Seeking to elevate sustainable forms of agriculture such as agroecology, holistic grazing, cover cropping, permaculture, and agroforestry over industrial practices that degrade soil, introduce toxins to the food supply—and exacerbate climate change—a group of farmers, scientists, and activists are convening for the Regenerative International Conference in Costa Rica this week. 

The conference, the first of a planned series of similar gatherings around the world, will focus on uniting movements, developing campaigns, and creating a global media plan to communicate specifically how restoring soil health can reverse damage to ecosystems around the world.

'This is new science that’s connecting the food issues with the