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Klaus Esterluß | Ideas

United States and China team up against climate change

Smoke Stacks, photo credits: CC BY-SA 2.0 - machinecodeblue/flickr.com

Two of the main contributers to global greenhouse gas emissions are working on a collaboration to finally take on the world’s biggest challenge. “Both sides recognize that, given the latest scientific understanding of accelerating climate change and the urgent need to intensify global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, forceful, nationally appropriate action by the United States and China – including large-scale cooperative action – is more critical than ever”, a statement, both countries released lately, reads.

US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Beijing during his tour through the region. The paper could be seen as a step forward, as both states, the world’s two biggest economies, are business rivals. China describes itself as a developing country, which emits far less carbon per capita and therefore should not have to bear the same burden as advanced economies in tackling the problem.

“By agreeing to raise the issue of climate change and energy policy to the ministerial level … we put on an accelerated basis at a higher level our joint efforts with respect to energy and climate”, US Secretary of State Kerry said. “And I think that globally that will be a very significant step and significant message.”

According to Chinese State Councillor Yang Jiechi , the nation’s top foreign policy official, the two sides would “strengthen practical cooperation” in areas including the economy, energy and environmental protection.

“Such action is crucial”, the statement adds, “both to contain climate change and to set the kind of powerful example that can inspire the world.”

Date

April 16, 2013

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Klaus Esterluß | ClimateChamps

Climate Champ – This isn’t a game. Our future is at stake.


Do you feel responsible for our future? Are you tired of waiting for a breakthrough at climate conferences? If you are already taking action yourself, you are our ClimateChamp and we want to get to know you! Answer our questionnaire to become a part of our new blog series, take your chance to be nominated as a Climate Champ.

1.What is your name, how old are you and where do you live?
My name is Srijesa Khasnabish and I’m eighteen years old. I’ve lived in Lexington, Massachusetts (USA) for most of my life.

2.How does the climate change affect your everyday life / your community?
I am shocked by how climate change impacts so many different aspects of my everyday life. For example, how I get to school in the morning: if I wake up early, I take the bus and save some carbon dioxide emissions. If I wake up late, miss the bus, and have to drive to school, I’m further contributing to global warming. I always shake my head in disgrace when I see my peers driving to the town center in the middle of the day whereas it only take seven minutes to walk there.  This is one thing that motivates me to action.
What is most detrimental to my community is the severe storms we’ve been experiencing. During Hurricane Sandy, damages were extensive.  An old pine tree even fell on my house and crashed into my living room!  Many people’s basements were also flooded and most of our community was without power for up to 3 days.

3.What trigger event led you to start fighting climate change?
What sparked my interest in the climate change movement was an assembly I watched four years ago, presented by the Alliance for Climate Education (ACE) and created to educate youth about climate change and inspire solutions. The forty-five minutes I spent watching this assembly changed my perspective radically and converted me into a fervent climate activist. Today I am the New England Youth Representative for ACE, where I help to galvanize the Youth Climate Movement in my local community.

4.How exactly do you fight climate change?
I fight climate change on several levels. First of all, in my house: my family recycles, we’re conscious of the energy we use, we hang our clothes out to dry, and eat vegetarian several times a week. At school, I’m the president of the Global Warming Action Coalition. This year, we’re working to maintain a student run vegetable garden and establishing a school-wide composting system. We’ve purchased bike racks and are working on getting hand dryers in our school’s bathrooms to reduce waste. Outside of school, I’m the New England Youth Representative for ACE. As a Youth Rep, I help facilitate at monthly Youth Leadership Trainings, give speeches and raise awareness about youth climate action in Massachusetts, and blog about climate change and my experiences. Last year I was a keynote speaker at a Youth Climate Summit at MIT, and I participated in a  Climate Vigil to encourage the Massachusetts Senate candidates to address climate change in their debates. I consider the work I do with ACE extremely important because I’m helping to educate and motivate youth to take action against climate change. I’m spreading a cause I earnestly care about and I find it exceptionally rewarding.

5.What is your opinion about climate change skeptics?
I strongly believe all skeptics must wake up to the climate change crisis because it’s a universal issue – it doesn’t matter where you live, or how rich or poor you are, you’re impacted by climate change. And if I could realize that when I was just fifteen years old, children and adults worldwide should be able to acknowledge it too. More importantly, the amount of time we have to address climate change is limited. The sooner the world acknowledges this issue, the sooner we can cooperate to build a brighter future, one where policies are enacted to protect the planet and there’s a change in the human way of life. This means people are conscious of their emissions: they think about where their food comes from and how their houses are being heated, and how all of this affects the environment. People think twice before buying a plastic water bottle or throwing a half-eaten apple in the garbage, where it will be buried under pounds of trash and release methane as it decomposes.

6.Worst case scenario: What do you think your city looks like 10 years from now, if no action had been taken to fight climate change?
I envision more frequent, monstrous storms that damage homes, power lines, trees and people’s lives. The destruction caused by these storms will reduce the quality of life in Lexington and be detrimental to the economy as well (especially because Lexington makes a large income on tourism). The intense summer heat will cause many people to perish, and emissions from cars will cause smog in the air, leading to more children suffering from asthma.

7.Best case scenario: What do you think your city looks like 10 years from now, if more and more action had been taken to fight climate change?
Ten years from now I hope to see a variety of infrastructure improvements throughout Lexington. I imagine plastic bags and bottles will be rare and backyard vegetable gardens will flourish behind every house. I also envision smaller houses and cars, perhaps even zero cars per household because buses and subways will be the preferred mode of transportation. The bike paths throughout town will be reworked such that they are easily accessible by everyone and the optimal way for children to get to school when the weather permits. The town will save a tremendous amount of money on energy, as solar panels will be mandatory and the rest of the needed energy will be wind energy, produced in one section of town. Education about climate change will begin in elementary schools, where children will also develop the habit of recycling and composting – sustainability will be second nature to them by the time they are in high school.
Perhaps my vision of the future is a bit unrealistic or is more accurate as a description of what my city will look like in 20 years, but the core of what I want to see in the future is more education on the causes and impacts of climate change. I feel that if more people understand how human choices and actions are triggering problems like sea level rise and severe weather conditions, they will be more likely to ameliorate their lifestyle in an earth-conscious way.

8.Short and simple: What do you demand from your government as far as climate change is concerned?
I demand that the US government 1) reject the Keystone XL pipeline and 2) take climate change seriously by passing laws that are in line with the science and protect our planet and its inhabitants.  This isn’t a game. Our future is at stake.

Date

April 1, 2013

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claudij | Ideas

Fracking: Promised Land

Following the international premiere of “Promised Land” at the packed Berlinale film festival press conference in Berlin last week, actor Matt Damon said the movie, directed by Gus van Sant which deals with fracking,  is a film about American identity but at the same time a global issue.

The film’s international premiere was accompanied by news agencies announcing that Russian gas company and  exporter Gazprom plans to cut gas prices for European customers in the billions in 2013. According to several experts, this maneuver could be linked, besides strong competition in the liquefied gas export sector, directly to sinking gas prices: the fracking boom in the US is believed to have already lowered international gas prices even though the US is not exporting gas (yet!) to Europe.

It’s yet another example of the so-called US shale gas revolution that’s already transforming the political global power structure. And it looks like fracking will likely increase globally for geostrategic, power and profit reasons in the next years.

“Promised Land” takes place exactly against this backdrop. It takes an in-depth look at how the industry operates  and shows the possible consequences by using an intelligent and precise analogy of a psychological war happening in the US in areas with huge underground gas reservoirs. It focuses on how a nine-billion-dollar corporation tries to get its hand on much-needed land, how they operate psychologically and what alternatives citizens are left with. The film shows how the corporate salesman Steve Buttler (Matt Damon) and his colleague Sue Thomason (Francis McDormand) work hard to buy the village community with some entertaining and clever twists and turns of the plot.

The main aim of the film obviously is to raise awareness among people and to get them to think deeply about the dynamics and consequences of fracking. Matt Damon said after the premiere that if you are searching for more in-depth information about the fracking process you should research online. It would be simply impossible to lay out all the pros and cons of fracking in one feature film but it’s still packed with information.

The movie avoids black and white clichés, but it’s pretty clear that the makers of the film care about the “small people” and how big corporations are trying to manipulate them with scare tactics and playing on existential fears – circumstances which have heightened in the last decades through an unsustainable neoliberal capitalistic system.  It is pretty clear that the corporation in the movie is a child of that system and that the same unregulated system produced and created in many ways the situation the village’s residents are in right now: earning less money, living in constant fear of losing their jobs, drowning in debt, not being able to give their children a decent education, not knowing if they can die with dignity.

The film addresses all these issues but it hasn’t been too successful in the US. It remains to be seen how it will fare at the international box office and what impact it will have on the ongoing fracking debate.

Date

February 20, 2013

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claudij | Ideas

Fracking in a Nutshell (Part 5)

We’re ending our blog series about the hydraulic fracturing method with a selective overview about particular occurrences connected with fracking which may lead you deeper into the layers of the fracking process.

# The movie “Gasland” by director Josh Fox in 2010, has become a popular basis for discussions about fracking. The director and activist set a milestone with his work, raising some key questions that marked the public discussion in the US. Perhaps we can mention two specific incidents to underline the far-reaching impact of his work.

#  The Independent Petroleum Association of America felt obliged to send a detailed public letter to the Oscar Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in February 2011. It was a reaction to the Oscar nomination for “Gasland.” The eight-page paper which contradicts every single theory in the film about the harm and damage resulting from fracking ends laconically with the words: “Anything we miss? Guess we’ll be seeing you at the movies. Maybe not this one, though.”

# The IPAA financed a documentary which has been available on the internet since June 2012 and which contradicts every premise of Gasland, it’s called Truthland.

# At the beginning of 2012, the New York Times gathered and published with a short statement hundreds of leaked intern industry e-mails, which showed the majority were sceptical about the fracking boom: “Over the past six months, The New York Times reviewed thousands of pages of documents related to shale gas, including hundreds of industry e-mails, internal agency documents and reports by analysts. A selection of these documents is included here; names and identifying information have been redacted to protect the confidentiality of sources, many of whom were not authorized by their employers to communicate with The Times.”

# Environmental activist Erin Brokovich called fracking not specifically “longterm solution-driven” in a TV interview  in August 2012 as she gathered a ton of e-mails from anxious US citizens living in areas which might be affected by fracking and as she claimed: “Let’s stop the bullshit and get down to finding some solutions to our problems.”

# Recently “Promised Land,” the first Hollywood fiction film about fracking was released in US cinemas and led to a huge discussion even before it was shown to the public. “The energy industry is worried that it will be presented in a critical light and is preparing possible responses, such as providing film reviewers with scientific studies, distributing leaflets to moviegoers and launching a ‘truth squad’ initiative on Twitter and Facebook,” the Journal said.

Additionally, here are some international events connected with fracking which one might not necessarily have expected.
# Speculations say Russian oil company Gazprom is interested in seeing an European fracking ban. “Some predict what was once unthinkable: that the U.S. won’t need to import natural gas in the near future, and that Russia could be the big loser.”

# It is said that  Exxon Mobil thanks to fracking became fond of Siberia:

“According to reports, the Russian government is placing its hopes on Exxon Mobil to help it unlock oil trapped in the Bazhenov shale formation in Western Siberia. Estimates say that the block could 13 billion barrels of oil and Rosneft and Exxon are targeting old fields in the region that no longer produce oil.”

# Several Indian farmers supposedly “profit” from the Fracking Boom:

“US companies drilling for oil and gas in shale formations have developed a voracious appetite for the powder-like gum made from the seeds of guar, or cluster bean, and the boom in their business has created a bonanza for thousands of small-scale farmers in India who produce 80 percent of the world’s beans.”

# Famous artists such as Yoko Ono, Sean Lennon and Susan Sarandon are campaigning against fracking. They are touring together through different US states to discuss the issue.

# Fracking finally has also entered  popular fiction: Comics, romance novels and Grisham-esque thrillers are already dealing with it.

It’s fair to say that fracking is unlikely to disappear in the upcoming years in the global energy supply discussion. Whether you want to get deeper into the subject, campaign against it or are simply interested in the economic outcome, we hope the blog gave you a good overview of the subject.

 

Date

January 30, 2013

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claudij | Ideas

Fracking: A Bridge to the Future? (Part 4)

At the start, several economists, environmentalists and non-profit organizations considered fracking to be a solid bridge technology on the way to a completely renewable energy supply.

“This is a real opportunity for your industry – this is not a ‘bridge to nowhere’ that we are talking about.  Natural gas provides a bridge to the future.  To the extent that you can deliver gas at a reasonable cost, you can be part of the solution to climate change.”

That statment from Eileen Claussen, president of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES), came from her controversial speech in 2008.

But now, fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, has come under fire from all sides. In fact, they believe it’s a counter-productive bridge to nowhere.

Oil and gas are becoming cheaper and competitive again due to fracking. That has in turn put the transition from fossil fuels to renewables in danger.

So what is the solution? Is there any way to reconcile the two driving factors, economic profit and ecologic sustainable development?

Or is there simply not enough research into the pros and cons of fracking yet?

Yale University posed that question to a panel of experts last September:

The opinions diverge, to say the least. If you are still new to the subject, get a short overview in the upcoming 5th and last part of the Global Ideas Fracking Blog series.

 

Date

January 26, 2013

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