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Category Archives:

environment

Paris Climate Agreement Image

U.S. rejoins the Paris Climate Agreement

Paris Climate Agreement ImageThe United States is rejoining the Paris climate agreement, fulfilling one of President Joe Biden’s earliest campaign promises and generating sighs of relief around the world as governments struggle to keep the planet’s temperature from surging to even more dangerous levels.

On Wednesday, just five hours after his inauguration and amid a flurry of other presidential actions, President Joe Biden signed an executive order returning the U.S. to the landmark accord to slash carbon emissions. The move will be official in 30 days.

Rejoining the agreement, however, is just the first step. To fulfill its obligations under the pact, the Biden administration will have to quickly throw together a plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions before the next U.N. climate meeting, scheduled for December in Glasgow. Other countries will expect the U.S. to come with a goal to slash CO2 emissions by 45 to 50 percent by 2030 (compared to 2005 levels) and get overall emissions to zero by the middle of the century. And it won’t be enough for the United States just to set those targets. Biden will also have to show the country can reach them — and that it can be counted on not to back out for a second time.

You can more about this on Grist.org here.

Arctic Drilling Photo

Sales of Drilling Leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge Attract Few Bidders

Arctic Drilling PhotoIn a blow to the outgoing administration’s efforts to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to fossil fuel development, only half of the oil and gas leases offered for sale Wednesday received bids, and all but two of those came from the state of Alaska itself.

Only two companies, neither of them major oil producers, made bids to acquire 10-year rights to explore and drill for oil on two tracts totaling about 75,000 acres. A state-owned economic development corporation, offering the minimum of $25 an acre, was the sole bidder on the other tracts, totaling about half a million acres. The rights to another 400,000 acres remained unsold.

Once billed as a potential windfall that, over time, could bring in close to a billion dollars for the federal Treasury, in all the sale netted less than $15 million, with half of that going to the state.

Both the financial results, and the lack of interest from major companies, are quite likely a disappointment to the administration, and to Alaska officials who have long favored oil development for the jobs and revenue it could bring.

You can read more on the NY Times website here.

Linda Zall

“I Was A Spy for Planet Earth”: The CIA’s Dr. Linda Zall

Linda ZallLinda Zall played a starring role in American science that led to decades of major advances. But she never described her breakthroughs on television, or had books written about her, or received high scientific honors. One database of scientific publications lists her contributions as consisting of just three papers, with a conspicuous gap running from 1980 to 2020.

The reason is that Dr. Zall’s decades of service to science were done in the secretive warrens of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Now, at 70, she’s telling her story — at least the parts she’s allowed to talk about — and admirers are praising her highly classified struggle to put the nation’s spy satellites onto a radical new job: environmental sleuthing.

Dr. Zall’s program, established in 1992, was a kind of wayback machine that looked to as long ago as 1960. In so doing, it provided a new baseline for assessing the pace and scope of planetary change. Ultimately, it led to hundreds of papers, studies and reports — some classified top secret, some public, some by the National Academy of Sciences, the premier scientific advisory group to the federal government. The accumulated riches included up to six decades of prime data on planetary shifts in snowfall and blizzards, sea ice and glaciers.

“None of this would have happened without her,” said Jeffrey K. Harris, who worked with Dr. Zall as director of the National Reconnaissance Office, which runs the nation’s fleet of orbital spies. “You have to decide if you’re going to break down the wall or climb over it, and she did a little bit of both.”

You can read more on the NY Times website here.

Indigenous Congress Members

Where Do Congress’s New Indigenous Members Stand on Climate Issues?

Indigenous Congress MembersNative Americans make up about 1 percent of the U.S. population, but they’ve long been underrepresented in Congress. Since the founding of the country, just 23 Native Americans have served in the legislative body. That slow pace is starting to pick up, however. The 2020 election resulted in victories for a record six Native Americans who will serve as voting members of Congress. Four were reelected, and two were elected for the first time, bringing the historical total to 25.

Indigenous representation in Congress first surged two years ago, after the 2018 midterm elections. Deb Haaland, who is an enrolled member of the Pueblo of Laguna and has Jemez Pueblo heritage, was elected to represent New Mexico’s first congressional district. Sharice Davids, an enrolled member of the Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin, was elected to represent Kansas’ third congressional district. Both Democrats were reelected this month.

The victors represent Hawaii, New Mexico, Kansas, and Oklahoma. An additional three representatives from the territories of Guam, American Samoa, and the Mariana Islands are non-voting members. Split between the two parties, the voting members’ views span the ideological spectrum — from Representative-elect Kai Kahele, a Democrat from Hawaii and an ardent supporter of the Green New Deal, to Representative-elect Yvette Herrell, a hard-line conservative who has called the Green New Deal a “radical government takeover.

To find out exactly where each of them stands on climate issues, you can read more at Grist.org here.

NYC Sunset Image

Solar One Statement on the 2020 Election

NYC Sunset ImageIt seemed like it would go on forever, but the 2020 U.S. election is finally over. However the work of restoring and repairing our democracy for the future is just beginning.

Many of us had hoped for a more decisive end to the division that has roiled our body politic for the last few years. We hoped that the face that we would show to the world would be one of reconciliation, healing and a recommitment to our oft-stated values of peace, justice and equality. But after four years of bitter disagreement, we are perhaps even more bitter and divided towards those who see the world differently than ever before. The damage caused by deceit, authoritarianism, racism and cruelty, especially toward immigrants, women, and BIPOC and LGBTQ+ people, along with the disproportionate effects of the coronavirus on our communities, over the past four years will not be fixed or disappear in an instant.

At the same time, these election results show that the future is not bleak. On Inauguration Day, women will be closer to the highest office in the land than ever before. Kamala Harris will take her place as the first Black woman, as well as the first person of South Asian descent, to serve as Vice President in our government’s 244-year history. And BIPOC and LGBTQ+ candidates made record gains in Congress and in state legislatures, winning elections where no one thought they could compete. Even more interestingly, these gains were made on both sides of the aisle, proving that groups of U.S. citizens are not as monolithic as we used to believe. That brings us one step closer to the Enlightenment ideal of truly seeing every single person as an independent individual regardless of race, creed, national origin, gender identity, sexual orientation or any other personal characteristic.

The heart of the work we do at Solar One, across every single program and activity that we are involved in, is education. Oftentimes we may imagine that education just means memorization and getting the right answer. But education encompasses far more than that. It means expanding our worldview in directions we never conceived before. It means opening up to the possibility that we may be mistaken in the ways that we have approached the problems inherent in just existing as humans in a complex world. It means using our imaginations to the fullest to find the best answers, not just the ones we’d prefer to be the best, and it means finding ways to communicate those answers that make people feel respected and seen, instead of insulted and ignored. That is what Solar One has been doing for the past 15+ years, and that is what we will continue to do for as long as it takes to get it done.

No matter who you may have supported in this election, our hope at Solar One is that we can all move forward by listening, learning and pushing each other toward more understanding, more shared values and more opportunity than ever before to prosper and thrive in a world that we all have to share. There is no other way.

Got questions about the incoming administration’s plans for climate action? The NY Times has the answers!

Marsh with city

Scientists Recommend Rewilding to Mitigate Climate Change

Marsh with cityRestoring natural landscapes damaged by human exploitation can be one of the most effective and cheapest ways to combat the climate crisis while also boosting dwindling wildlife populations, a scientific study finds. If a third of the planet’s most degraded areas were restored, and protection was thrown around areas still in good condition, that would store carbon equating to half of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions since the industrial revolution.

The changes would prevent about 70 percent of predicted species extinctions, according to the research, which is published in the journal Nature.

Scientists from Brazil, Australia, and Europe identified scores of places around the world where such interventions would be most effective, from tropical forests to coastal wetlands and upland peat. Many of them were in developing countries, but there were hotspots on every continent.

You can read more about this on Grist.org here.