Global Warming for Dummies — Climate Change for Dummies

Burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas for our energy has increased levels of heat-absorbing gases, especially carbon dioxide, in the atmosphere. So, our planet has warmed over one degree Fahrenheit, and will continue to heat further and faster, as more of these gases build up.* Most climate scientists, including the National Academy of Sciences, agree this is what’s happening, and that something must be done soon to stop the heating, before climate change starts accelerating.

The heat doesn’t sound like much, but a little goes a long way towards changing climate. Scientists predict that our planet could heat up another 6 to 11 degrees by the end of this century, roughly the same DIFFERENCE in temperature that separates our climate from the last ice age, when 300-foot thick ice sheets covered the northern US.

Think of Earth as a big ball, covered with water and air. The sun heats up the water and air, and some heat becomes motion, moving the mix around the ball, just like heating moves water in a pot. The long-term patterns of this heat and these movements are our climate, changing slowly enough over the eons so that most life can adapt to it. But add to this water-air mixture a sudden jolt of heat,* and the planetary water cycle speeds up, something scientists are seeing now. This results in bigger and stronger storms and floods. The extra heat also creates more extreme heat waves, droughts, and melts ice globally, which raises sea levels.  All this is threatening our sources of food, water and shelter, the basics of our survival.

The good news is that we can stop too much harmful climate change if we act fast. We just have to stop emitting global warming gases. We can do this mostly by: a. using energy more efficiently; b. switching from fossil fuels to clean renewable energy — like solar, wind, and geothermal energy; and c. stopping deforestation. We’ve got the technology to do all this, and doing so would create more jobs and improve our economy, as other countries have already shown. So would another important solution: bringing our populations to sustainable levels.

Changing energy sources won’t be easy or cheap politically. But it’s cheaper economically than what we’re doing now. We’ve spent trillions defending foreign oil sources. Furthermore, fossil fuel pollution and mining inflicts heavy damage on human health and our environment.  So, even if climate change wasn’t happening, it pays for us to switch to clean renewable energy anyway.

How do we solve this?  MOVE THE MONEY. Our government must stop supporting fossil fuels and tax breaks for the rich, and start creating tax breaks for clean energy and energy efficiency in the marketplace.  But fossil fuel lobbyists are strong and influential.  So, it’s up to you, the voters, to elect strong leaders who are going to pull the plug on fossil fuels, and promote clean renewable energy and efficiency, as fast as possible.

It’s all about our economy, our future.   

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You can help the planet by making this go viral — please spread it far and wide!

Another way to help? I  started a Clean Energy Voting pledge online, to let Congress know many voters are monitoring their action on climate change. When we can show Congress that a large voting bloc consider this an important voting issue, Congress will act seriously on it. You can pledge here:
http://signon.org/sign/we-are-the-clean-99?source=c.em.cp&r_by=487176
Please help make THIS go viral, too — spread it far and wide! Thanks!

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*SOME BASIC SCIENCE:

for a summary of the science behind climate change that uses the simple analogy of boiling water, see my posting: Climate Change for Dummies: Go Boil Water at the HuffingtonPost

Why do some gases absorb more heat than others?

 All gases can absorb heat, but some absorb more than others. Why? Different gases are made up of molecules of varying complexity. Since the building blocks of molecules are atoms, the more atoms in the molecule, the more complex it is.  More complex molecules can hold, or absorb, more heat than simpler ones, just like larger houses can hold more heat than smaller ones.  So, the more heat-absorbing gases in the atmosphere are ones that have more than 2 atoms (#)  in them – carbon dioxide (3), water vapor (3), methane (4), nitrous oxide (3), and so on. Lucky for life on Earth, there are relatively small amounts of these more complex molecules in the atmosphere.

Large amounts of simpler molecules make up the bulk of our atmosphere:

Nitrogen (2) makes up about 78 percent,

Oxygen (2) makes up about 21 percent

Yeah, that’s right!!  All those bothersome, heat-absorbing, so-called greenhouse gases that are creating climate change make up only about 1 percent of our atmosphere, but boy are they potent, especially in terms of the climate change they can affect when their levels are changed!

Physical and Ecological Feedbacks Mostly Speed Up Global Warming

Relatively little global warming is caused directly from the heat trapped by the gases emitted from burning fossil fuels — it is what comes next that really creates an ultimately unsafe situation. The initial warming creates physical and ecological effects that usually, in turn, speed up global warming and reinforce themselves. These reinforcing processes are known as positive (as in reinforcing) feedbacks. Remember, all an effect needs to do is to cause a further increase in heat absorption or in atmospheric greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane, which, in turn, reinforce that effect, for it to be a positive feedback.

Physical effects include decreasing the ability of the planet’s surface to reflect light and heat. When the warming causes ice to melt, for example, the light surface of ice is replaced by the much darker surface of water and soil, decreasing its reflective ability, or albedo. This new surface will absorb more heat, causing adjacent areas to melt faster. And so, the albedo effect reinforces itself as it adds to global warming by absorbing more heat.

Warming in the Arctic melts frozen methane deposits in the soils, lake beds, and sea beds. Once melted, the methane rises into the atmosphere, significantly adding to the global warming effect that will help melt more methane deposits. There is a huge amount of methane stored in these Arctic deposits.

Ecological feedback effects occur because many ecosystems store carbon, keeping it from becoming greenhouse gases. Huge amounts of carbon are stored soil and in forest trees, for example. As soils warm, soil microbes start releasing the carbon as carbon dioxide. Global warming also results in warmer drier seasons and more extreme droughts. These create longer fire seasons, increasing the frequency and size of wildfires, which release large amounts of carbon in the form of carbon dioxide.

These are just some examples of physical and ecological feedbacks, the overwhelming majority of which are positive feedbacks that result in further warming of the planet and further climate change. There are plenty more.

About that “Sudden” Jolt of Heat

 “Sudden” is a relative term in time, of course.  What’s sudden for the planet can be nonexistent for us, who usually live less than a century.  The planet as a whole usually changes so slowly that to see its changes, we have to look at the history of how it changes geologically (like how mountain ranges form or continents drift) over millions of years, or how it evolves biologically over the same time scale.   Most atmospheric changes on the planet have happened slowly, over thousands of years.  The rate at which we are changing the atmosphere is SO fast on that timescale, however, that it constitutes a veritable explosion. So, jolt is actually a pretty conservative term.

Although the total average increase in temperature is small so far, this constant infusion of extra heat represents an energy inbalance in our planetary system, points out NASA climate scientist Pushker Kharecha.  “No question about it, it’s a lot of energy,” says senior climate scientist Warren Washingtion at the National Center on Atmospheric Research.  Just how much?  250-500 million Megawatts of energy. It’s like having up to half a million EXTRA, large coal burning plants on Earth. Yeah, a half million….

Sources:

1. Cool The Earth, Save the Economy: Solving Climate Change Is EASY , a free, downloadable book available at: www.CoolTheEarth.US . Readable, and comprehensive, with lots more information and detail, accrued from hundreds of reports, peer-reviewed scientific studies, and informative articles, listed in the Bibliography. Published in 2008 by an award-winning environmental scientist and a biologist (that’s me), online only. Although the sections on technological advances are already outdated, the relevancy of the bulk of it is pretty much unchanged. Am still trying to work on an updated edition.

2.  250-500 Million MW of Extra Energy Now Roiling the Earth’s Climate System

Posted: 29 Jul 2011 09:30 AM PDT.  As extreme weather events multiply, scientists are still in the early stages of understanding how more energy is influencing complex weather phenomena.  By Lisa Song, SolveClimate News

3. Wikipedia, Composition of the Atmosphere:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atmosphere_of_Earth

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Welcome to the Climate Change Reports Blog

Welcome to my blog.  Here you’ll find the Climate Change Reports — newscasts  being uploaded every weekday for those of you who want to keep updated with developments, both good and bad, related to climate change and global warming.  The reports are basically compressed newscasts about events, studies, reports, and more that are being churned out around the planet about the consequences of and solutions to global warming EVERY DAY, but rarely see the light of day, especially in US broadcast media. If you want to listen to most of them, go to http://cooltheearth.us/climate-report.php which features downloadable podcasts, suitable for rebroadcast on radio. While you’re at that website, check out the free, downloadable book co-authored by an internationally recognized climate change scientist and ecologist, John Harte, and myself, Mel (Mary Ellen) Harte.

Why don’t more people in the US recognize that global warming exists and is creating harmful climate change?  I don’t buy the argument  that it is “because people tune out news they don’t want to hear.”  Nah. US voters are hearing bad news every day — about jobs, the economy and more — and not tuning out, as the Occupy movement shows.

Rather, I think the lack of recognition of global warming is because mainstream US media rarely mention it or connect it to the every day news events that affect our lives — such as the weather and its consequences, or the latest advances happening in clean renewable energy. Did you know, for example, that the first big heatwave in Russia in 2010 was actually part of a giant continental heatwave that extended across Eurasia, from Europe to Japan?  And which of these facts are you more aware of — the failure of a solar company, Solyndra, or that the solar industry is the fastest growing industry in the US today? And when was the last time you heard a TV meteorologist mention global warming in the context of the record-breaking heatwaves, droughts and floods we’ve been having?

Let’s look at a more explicit recent example.  Despite all the coverage of Hurricane Irene, the media, for the most part, once again managed not to say the words “climate change” or “global warming”.  Apparently, these words are the Potterian “Voldemort” of the daily news media when extreme weather is reported. Media hawks are noticing, as the slate of extreme weather events continues to pile up, and the words are rarely spoken.[1]  Amy Goodman herself noted as much on Democracy Now as she introduced Bill McKibben,[2] who advocates averting climate change.

This surreality reminds me of a Jon Stewart segment in which Samantha Bee tried, without saying the word herself, to get Republicans to utter “choice” at a convention a while back.  Similarly, my husband and I play a spectator form of this game with one of the most liberal mainstream broadcast media, National Public Radio. (There is no sport in even attempting this with the lalaland of Fox et al.) In fact,  we think a record of sorts occurred as we listened one warm morning in July 2011 to a slate of NPR headline topics. It started with the huge wildfires burning in the west, then smoothly segued into US heat waves, and finally discussed the plight of polar bears watching their habitat literally melt away. All of these events are intimately tied to climate change, as our free online book explains.[1] Each time, we slyly speculated if we would hear the forbidden words – would we? would we? — but they remained forbidden, even with polar bears. We laughed through tears of hilarious sadness.

How are we going to vote for leaders who will act on slowing global warming, if we aren’t being reminded every day how global warming is intimately tied to our economy and jobs, our health, and our future?  Just remember, folks, that if we don’t roll on this soon, all those other important voter issues will go out the window as things turn catastrophic. It already has been for farmers (and food prices) affected by drought, and people affected by extreme weather, such as heatwaves, floods and hurricanes.

So, I’m hoping US media coverage will improve, but in the meantime, welcome to my blog.  My reports come from items I find, sifting through feeds from:   The Daily Climate,   World Environment News (Reuters),    Inside Climate News,    GreenTech Media,    EnvironmentalResearchNews,  and RSOE EDIS – Climate Change News, among others. And they represent just my personal highlights. I welcome yours.

Mel (Mary Ellen) Harte

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Logging Threatens Forests, The Human Rights Role, and More!

KEEPING CARBON STORED: FORESTS UPDATE
Forests: the cheapest way to store carbon

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Logging plans for a remote tropical island threatens the existence of this marsupial, the Woodlark Cuscus; Woodlark Island is its only home. Source: arkive.org

OO Extinction Island: Plans To Log Half A Tropical Island Threaten Many Species including ones not yet discovered.

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OO ‘To Save the Planet, Don’t Plant Trees’?
NOT, Scientists Say
in response to a bizarrely illogical NYTimes essay – and they use the author’s own data to support their argument.

OO Brazil Cancels Tapajos Dam Auction Due To Indigenous Concerns

OO The Cheap Option On Climate Change:
Recognize Indigenous Rights To Forests

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Orangutans die when forests are destroyed for palm oil plantations. Rhett Butler/Mongabay

OO Palm Oil Giants Announce Deforestation Moratorium
— Effective Immediately
– although previous such commitments by such companies have not stopped the purchase of deforesting palm oil.

OO Krispy Kreme, Dunkin’ Donuts To Cut
Palm Oil Linked To Deforestation
from their supply chains.

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Indonesia Finally Ratifies Transboundary Haze Agreement in Asia reports Loren Bell at Mongabay, after 12 years of delay; a big move, since Indonesia has been a big source of hazardous international air pollution from 1000s of forest fires yearly. Over 1000 fires burn there right now.

OO Changing Climate Threatens Boreal Forests, a Major Part of Worldwide Forests – disrupting important fire cycles and threatening to leave behind the evergreens that now dominate it.

Join the swelling numbers of voters TELLING Congress they’ll vote for Clean Energy candidates here. This is an ongoing campaign (the next Congressional election is this year!) so please, spread the word. It’s our way of telling Congress that a strong clean energy voting bloc is out there. This is how YOU can make a difference.

 

For more on Climate Change, check out my weekly column at the HuffingtonPost, Climate Change This Week

 

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US Climate Risks: Rising Wildfire Costs, Farmland Loss, and More!

WHY WE SHOULD ACT NOW: RISING RISKS

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Planetary Warming Will Cost US In Fire And Farmland says a new study,reports Seth Zuckerman at ClimateCast. Global warming could increase the cost of U.S. wildfires by $60 billion a year.

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The same warming trends will shrink the snowpack that feed the spigots of California’s Central Valley, whose worsening drought is described vividly in National Geographic, and where residents’ wells are drying up as farmers sink deeper pipes in pursuit of a falling water table.

OO Coca Cola, Heinz, Other Major Food Companies Warn
Climate Change Threatens Business

OO In Washington D.C., Record-Breaking Floods Could Happen Yearly

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Despite the colors on this map, it isn’t a rosy picture of the world. NASA

OO NASA: Hottest August Globally Since Records Began In 1880 – the globe just keeps warming.

OO Natural Disasters Displaced 22 Million People Last Year,
3 Times More Than War
– floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, droughts and other hazards now cause twice as many people to lose their homes as in the 1970s.

OO Pakistan: 150,000 Stranded Kashmiris Face Disease Outbreak After Historic Floods

Restricting Personal Freedom:

OO Southern California Heat Wave Forces Schools To Cancel Outdoor Activities

OO Oregon: Residents Warned To Avoid River
After Potentially Toxic Algal Bloom

Heat, drought and extreme rainfall could make harmful algal blooms like this more common.

Join the swelling numbers of voters TELLING Congress they’ll vote for Clean Energy candidates here. This is an ongoing campaign (the next Congressional election is this year!) so please, spread the word. It’s our way of telling Congress that a strong clean energy voting bloc is out there. This is how YOU can make a difference.

 

For more on Climate Change, check out my weekly column at the HuffingtonPost, Climate Change This Week

 

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Why Fossil Fuels Worsen Inequality, the Population Factor, and More!

WHAT DOESN’T WORK

Fossil Fuel Follies:

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OO How Fossil Fuels Make Inequality Worse – Jobs, health, safety, or concentration of wealth: fossil fuels help the well-off at the expense of the less well-off.

OO USGS: The Fracking-Earthquake Connection Is Real - just the latest in a string of studies that have suggested injected wastewater from drilling is migrating along dormant fault lines, changing their state of stress, and causing them to fail.

OO Coal Miners’ Black Lung Disease At Highest Level In 40 Years just 15 years after it was “virtually eradicated.”

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OO Study Links Water Contamination To Fracking Operations
In Texas, Pennsylvania

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OO UN Data on Population Growth is Bad News for Climate
A growing population has serious implications for food security, political stability − and climate change.

Population Explosion Lowers Chance Of Managing Climate Change says a new study reports Tim Radford at Responding To Climate Change. It’s very likely (80%) that our population will explode through 9 billion to 12 billion or more by 2100. Such catastrophically unsustainable levels will also seriously threaten the underpinnings of our civilization.

OO Chinese Now Emit More Carbon Per Capita Than Europeans – highlights another population-connected dilemma: as populous developing nations prosper and consume more, emissions levels accelerate. A new study notes that carbon emissions continue to rise to record high levels.

Delaying Action:

OO Three Decades Until Carbon Budget Is Eaten Through – if current trends continue, we’ll blow past the world’s 3.7°F warming goal in 28 years.

Join the swelling numbers of voters TELLING Congress they’ll vote for Clean Energy candidates here. This is an ongoing campaign (the next Congressional election is this year!) so please, spread the word. It’s our way of telling Congress that a strong clean energy voting bloc is out there. This is how YOU can make a difference.

 

For more on Climate Change, check out my weekly column at the HuffingtonPost, Climate Change This Week

 

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400,000 Call for Climate Action, Solar Schools, and More!

WHAT WORKS

Speaking Out:

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400,000 Strong: History’s Largest Climate Demonstration Calls For Climate Action – Up to 400,000 people marched through Manhattan calling for climate action September 21st, reports Seth Zuckerman at ClimateCast, representing the diverse faces of the climate movement, and the many messages they brought to it.

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Rockefellers, Descendents Of Big Oil Founders, Say No To Fossil Fuelsreports Seth Zuckerman at ClimateCast. The $860 million Rockefeller Foundation said that it will divest of fossil fuels, citing both the “moral and economic dimension” of investing in companies whose activities contribute to global warming.

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Divesting from coal is not just a good moral move, but a good economic one, too.Source: apcdaily

They join 180 institutions with assets worth more than $50 billion that have vowed to sell off their fossil fuel energy stocks. Not a bad investment move, too, given the bleak news about coal plant retirements, falling exports, problematic leases, and China’s diminishing appetite for coal

OO Denying Climate Change ‘Will Cost Us Billions Of Dollars,’
US Budget Director Warns

Good Ideas:

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Source: Weyvalleysolar

OO Putting Solar Panels On School Roofs Could Dramatically Up US Solar Capacity - says a new report, adding 5.4 gigawatts to US solar capacity. What a great lesson for all of us!

OO How To Build Your Own Wind Power Generator From Scratch
Or, if you live in Malawi, collect some discarded timber, and get to work, as one man did.

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William Kamkwambas caught the wolrd’s attention when he built this first of several wind generators to power his village. Wikipedia.

Join the swelling numbers of voters TELLING Congress they’ll vote for Clean Energy candidates here. This is an ongoing campaign (the next Congressional election is this year!) so please, spread the word. It’s our way of telling Congress that a strong clean energy voting bloc is out there. This is how YOU can make a difference.

 

For more on Climate Change, check out my weekly column at the HuffingtonPost, Climate Change This Week

 

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Clean, Unsubsidized Renewables Increasingly Rival Dirty Fossil Fuels, and More!

GOOD CLEAN NEWS

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OO Unsubsidized Renewables Increasingly Rival Fossil Fuels – says a new cost analysis; fossil fuels are becoming expensive, dirty energy fossils.

OO Five US States Leading The Distributed Energy Revolution
And Profiting From It
by laying out the regulatory groundwork needed to attract business and the bucks – New York, Hawaii, California, Massachusetts and Minnesota. To the other 45: Game On!

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Source: AP/Julie Jacobson

Leaders Announce Climate Actions Ahead Of UN Summit reports Seth Zuckerman at ClimateCast
to cut carbon pollution. Obama rolled out a potpourri of projects to boost renewables and reduce energy demand, including new efficiency standards for air conditioners, and touted voluntary commitments from big business to phase out a climate-tweaking refrigerant.

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Wikipedia

California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a package of bills to promote more CA electric cars, while New York Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled plans for $1 billion in energy retrofits for municipal buildings and pressuring landlords into reducing energy use.

Related Headlines:

OO White House Commits $68 Million To Boost Solar, Cut Greenhouse Gases

OO Obama Administration Unveils Plan To Improve Efficiency In Hotels

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Broad Base Of Nations, Investors Back Carbon Price reports Seth Zuckerman at ClimateCast. More than 70 countries, seven states, and three Canadian provinces, collectively responsible for over half the world’s global warming pollution, went public Monday with their support for the World Bank’s call for a price on carbon.

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The statement, signed by all three West Coast states, also won the backing of investors managing $24 trillion in assets, even as demonstrators massed on Wall Street in opposition to continued reliance on fossil fuels.

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Smart meters and solar houses, as these in Hawaii, mean big savings for everyone.Source: NREL

OO 50 Million US Smart Meters and Counting – over 40% of households have smart meters–and the benefits are rolling in for many.

OO More US Coal Plants Are Retiring Than Previously Thought says a new government report.

OO Vermont: Largest City Gets All Its Power From Wind, Water, Biomass- and Burlington is benefiting.

Join the swelling numbers of voters TELLING Congress they’ll vote for Clean Energy candidates here. This is an ongoing campaign (the next Congressional election is this year!) so please, spread the word. It’s our way of telling Congress that a strong clean energy voting bloc is out there. This is how YOU can make a difference.

 

For more on Climate Change, check out my weekly column at the HuffingtonPost, Climate Change This Week

 

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Solar Power Could Prevent Millions of Deaths, and More!

SOLAR KEEPS SURFING

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Solar Getting Cheaper, Attracting More Investment reports Seth Zuckerman at ClimateCast. The price of rooftop solar dropped up to15% in 2013, says a newreport, continuing a trend that has seen prices cut in half since 2009, and continues in 2014.

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The prices bolster the business case for US residential and commercial solar, which is seeing a 50% increase this year in private investment.

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Check it out here, right now!

More Solar Headlines:

OO Indoor Air Pollution Kills Millions
But Solar Could Help Save Them
– with solar ovens and lights for the developing world’s poor. Here’s how.

Even in the developed world, if solar power replaced fossil fuels, it would prevent millions more deaths — by the elimination of fossil fuel pollution, which kills millions every year in developed countries as well!

OO Duke Energy Commits To Largest Solar Farm East Of Mississippi

OO Wisconsin: Push To Impose Extra Fees On Solar Customers Draws Outrage – “It would not only end solar but remove the economic viability for any renewable energy in Wisconsin.”

Join the swelling numbers of voters TELLING Congress they’ll vote for Clean Energy candidates here. This is an ongoing campaign (the next Congressional election is this year!) so please, spread the word. It’s our way of telling Congress that a strong clean energy voting bloc is out there. This is how YOU can make a difference.

 

For more on Climate Change, check out my weekly column at the HuffingtonPost, Climate Change This Week

 

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Soy Beans, Palm Oil Drive Forest Loss, and More!

KEEPING CARBON STORED: FORESTS UPDATE
Forests: the cheapest way to store carbon

OO As Bolivia Plans Dramatic Agro-Expansion,
Forests To Pay The Price (PART II)

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When palm oil plantations replace forests, orangutans die, and local villages lose important water sources.
Source: Mongabay.com

OO Indonesia: Palm Oil Company Keeps Operating Illegal Plantation
– Despite Court Ruling

OO Malaysian Palm Oil Chief Misleads On Deforestation

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The FSC could be an important influence in guiding the lumber market away from old growth forests.

OO Forest Stewardship Council Passes Motion For Greater Protection Of Primary Forests

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Illegal conversion of forest into farmland drives 50 percent of tropical deforestation.

Illegal Tropical Deforestation Driven Globally By “Agro-Conversion”reports John C Cannon at Mongabay. Nearly 50 percent of tropical deforestation to make room for commercial agriculture between 2000 and 2012 was done so illegally, says a new report by Forest Trends, looking at the global tide of tropical forest “agro-conversion.”

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Soybean demand worldwide fuels tropical deforestation from agro-conversion.

The study systematically documents abuses of national and international laws that resulted in deforestation to satiate the world’s hunger for cheap agricultural products.

In Bolivia, for example, land clearing to plant soybeans, three-quarters of which end up being exported, has been the main cause of deforestation

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A green label? Read the fine print. Palm oil, kernel, fruit – whatever it is labeled as – is an unhealthy ingredient that also fuels major deforestation in the tropics, destroying valuable carbon-storing systems.

A full 40% of exported palm oil – the cheap fat found in so many of the products found on supermarket shelves in wealthy countries – comes from plants that illegally replaced forests.

OO Next Big Idea In Forest Conservation:
Harness The Power Of Marketing

OO Domestic Conservation: Indonesia’s Rich Should Save
Their Dwindling Natural Resources
– middle and upper classes increasingly support environmental conservation. It is in their interest to do so.

Join the swelling numbers of voters TELLING Congress they’ll vote for Clean Energy candidates here. This is an ongoing campaign (the next Congressional election is this year!) so please, spread the word. It’s our way of telling Congress that a strong clean energy voting bloc is out there. This is how YOU can make a difference.

 

For more on Climate Change, check out my weekly column at the HuffingtonPost, Climate Change This Week

 

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