Monday, December 14, 2015

Local Plea for Climate Justice was Heard at Paris Talks

UB Law students presented WNY climate pledge 
to national figure

By David Kowalski

The Rise Up For Climate Justice Campaign of Western NY created a pledge calling on President Obama and U.S. negotiators in Paris to make bold cuts in global warming pollution and to ensure justice for communities and workers during the necessary shift from dirty fossil fuels to clean energy sources. 

The campaign succeeded in outreach efforts to diverse groups of people and organizations in WNY and asked them to endorse the Climate Justice Pledge. Signatories included people of different faith groups, labor unions, students, people of color, indigenous peoples, teachers, community activists, environmentalists, artists, performers and local politicians.

Following a well-attended September rally at Niagara Square and subsequent events, the campaign sponsored a community Gathering on November 28 in Buffalo. About 200 supporters of the campaign gathered in the Temple Beth Zion auditorium to express their concerns about climate change and participate in various ceremonies (Video credit: Diana Strablow).

                                       Community Gathering       Photo credit: Jim Anderson
[Click image to enlarge]

One ceremony at the Gathering involved the campaign's Climate Justice Pledge. A scroll bearing names of organizations and people who signed the Pledge was presented by Lynda Schneekloth, chair of the local Sierra Club Niagara Group, to University at Buffalo Law students Bridget Steele and Andrea DiNatale.
 
UB Law students accept the scroll of Pledge signers. Photo credit: Nate Schneekloth
The students and their faculty adviser, Jessica Owley, planned to transport the Pledge scroll to Paris and deliver it to a national Sierra Club official who could pass it on to a U.S. negotiator at the U.N. Climate Conference.

The scroll contained 2,361 names of citizens, organizations and local public officials from Western New York who signed the Climate Justice Pledge. Among the organizations were 17 labor unions, 13 faith groups, 9 socio-economic & civic groups, 7 union leaders, 3 peace groups, 9 elected officials, 1 political party, and 8 environmental groups. The list is here.

Scroll of Climate Justice Pledge signers. Photo credit: Lynda Schneekloth
The UB student-faculty contingent traveled to Paris and arrived at the United Nations Climate Change Conference, which ran from Nov. 30 to Dec. 12. They shared their observations, opinions and photos through social media, primarily on a website called SUNY Buffalo Law School’s Climate Change Blog.

On Dec. 9, a blog titled "WNY Climate Justice Pledge Makes It to Paris" was posted on their website. As it turned out, the Pledge not only made it to Paris, the students managed to connect with a national figure, Michael Brune, the Executive Director of the national Sierra Club, and present to him the scroll of WNY Climate Justice Pledge signers!
Michael Brune holding the Scroll presented by Alyssa Erazo, reading the Pledge, and Collin Doane.
Following the presentation describing the significance of the WNY Climate Justice Pledge scroll and the diversity of pledge signers, Michael Brune accepted the scroll and said "This is how we will win."

"Twenty minutes after receiving the scroll from the representatives of Buffalo, Mike Brune was set to meet with John Kerry, U.S. Secretary of State, to convey to the US Delegation the hopes of the American people, including Western New Yorkers," Chris Kennedy wrote in her blog post. She added:
"I would like to think that it was the commitment and enthusiasm of the people of Western New York that made John Kerry decide that the U.S. needed to support a Climate Change Agreement with a Legally Binding Transparency System.

Although that may not be the case, I am sure it is not coincidence that Kerry changed his tune shortly after meeting with Sierra Club Executive Director Mike Brune who passed our message and our scroll along."
John Kerry served as the top U.S. negotiator at the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Paris. We may never know what transpired between John Kerry and Michael Brune, who heard WNY Climate Justice Pledge message when he received the scroll and said "This is how we will win."

What is clear is that, thanks to this terrific group of young law students and their University at Buffalo faculty advisor, the Western New York plea for Climate Justice was indeed heard at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris. And for that accomplishment alone, we can all feel very proud of them and extremely grateful.


UB law students (L to R): Bridget Steele, Leah Bernhardi, Christina Kennedy, Alyssa Erazo, and Collin Doane. (Center) Michael Brune, Executive Director, Sierra Club in holding the WNY Climate Justice Pledge scroll. (Far Right) Sandy Chelnov, Rise Up for Climate Justice Campaign.
 [Click image to enlarge]

Landmark Climate Deal Approved by All Nations at Paris Talks

Historic deal sets the world on a course to a low carbon future 
fueled by clean, renewable energy

For the first time in history, representatives of 195 nations have unanimously approved lowering planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions to help avoid the worst effects of climate change.

In a statement from the White House, President Obama said “This agreement sends a powerful signal that the world is fully committed to a low-carbon future."

Obama added, "We’ve shown that the world has both the will and the ability to take on this challenge. It won’t be easy. Progress won’t always come quick. We cannot be complacent."

“The world finally has a framework for cooperating on climate change that’s suited to the task,” said Michael Levi, an expert on energy and climate change policy at the Council on Foreign Relations. “Whether or not this becomes a true turning point for the world, though, depends critically on how seriously countries follow through.”

Prior to the Paris talks, 186 nations put forth public plans detailing how they would cut carbon emissions through 2025 or 2030. Enacting those plans will cut emissions by half the levels required to fend off the worst effects of global warming.

There is no legal requirement dictating how, or how much, countries should cut emissions. So the Paris accord has built in a series of legally-binding requirements that countries ratchet up the stringency of their climate change policies in the future. Countries will be required to reconvene every five years, starting in 2020, with updated plans that would tighten their emissions cuts.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Obama’s top negotiator in Paris and who has spent the past year negotiating behind the scenes with his Chinese and Indian counterparts in order to help broker the deal, defended the agreement. While the deal includes no mechanism that would force countries to cut pollution, it will make every nation report emissions, upping the pressure on governments to act, he said.

“There is a uniform standard of transparency and therefore, we will know what everybody is doing,” Kerry said. “The result will be a very clear signal to the marketplace of the world that people are moving into low-carbon, no-carbon, alternative, renewable energy.”

Despite the historic nature of the Paris climate accord, its success still depends heavily on two factors outside the parameter of the deal: global peer pressure and the actions of future governments.

A deal that would have assigned legal requirements for countries to cut emissions at specific levels would need to go before the United States Senate for ratification. That language would have been dead on arrival in the Republican-controlled Senate, where many members question the established science of human-caused climate change, and still more wish to thwart Mr. Obama’s climate change agenda.

The Republican-controlled Congress already voted this month to block the centerpiece of Obama’s climate agenda, rules that would cut emissions by one third from the U.S. fleet of power plants. However, Obama can veto the measure.

As with health care, opponents may find it hard to undo Obama’s environmental legacy. The power-plant rules will probably end up before the U.S. Supreme Court, where the administration has a strong track record on pollution cases. And in the private sector the tide has, arguably, been turning. Utilities have already shuttered dozens of coal-fired power plants in recent years. Last week, Ford Motor Co. said it plans to invest $4.5 billion in electric vehicles to meet ambitious new auto emissions standards put in place by the Obama administration.

“People in the Republican party I speak with know they’re on the wrong side of history on this issue, like with gay marriage,” said Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists. “And Obama is sticking it to them. He’s saying, do you really want to be the party that’s against science and against what people want?”


Read more online at: 
The New York Times: Nations Approve Landmark Climate Accord in Paris
The Bloomberg Politics report at the Buffalo News: Like Obamacare, Climate Gives President Huge But Fragile Win
The Washington Post: 5 things you should know about the historic Paris climate agreement


Bill McKibben: An Agreement to Finally Begin Addressing Global Warming

The New York Times
The Opinion Pages | Op-Ed Contributor

Falling Short on Climate in Paris

By BILL McKIBBEN    DEC. 13, 2015

Paris — THE climate news last week came out of Paris, where the world’s nations signed off on an agreement to finally begin addressing global warming.

Or, alternately, the climate news came out of Chennai, India, where hundreds died as flooding turned a city of five million into an island. And out of Britain, where the heaviest rains ever measured over 24 hours in the Lake District turned picturesque villages into lakes. And out of the Maldives in the Indian Ocean, where record rainfalls flooded atolls.

In the hot, sodden mess that is our planet as 2015 drags to a close, the pact reached in Paris feels, in a lot of ways, like an ambitious agreement designed for about 1995, when the first conference of parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change took place in Berlin.

Under its provisions, nations have made voluntary pledges to begin reducing their carbon emissions. These are modest — the United States, for instance, plans to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 2025 by 12 to 19 percent from their levels in 1990. As the scrupulous scorekeepers at Climate Action Tracker, a non-government organization, put it, that’s a “medium” goal “at the least ambitious end of what would be a fair contribution.”

And that’s about par for the course here. Other countries, like gas station owners on opposite corners looking at each other’s prices, have calibrated their targets about the same: enough to keep both environmentalists and the fossil fuel industry from complaining too much. They have managed to provide enough financing to keep poor countries from walking out of the talks, but not enough to really push the renewables revolution into high gear. (Secretary of State John Kerry, in a fine speech, doubled America’s contribution — to $800 million, which is more than Congress is likely to appropriate, but risible compared to the need.)

So the world emerges, finally, with something like a climate accord, albeit unenforceable. If all parties kept their promises, the planet would warm by an estimated 6.3 degrees Fahrenheit, or 3.5 degrees Celsius, above pre-industrial levels. And that is way, way too much. We are set to pass the 1 degree Celsius mark this year, and that’s already enough to melt ice caps and push the sea level threateningly higher.

The irony is, an agreement like this adopted at the first climate conference in 1995 might have worked. Even then it wouldn’t have completely stopped global warming, but it would have given us a chance of meeting the 1.5 degree Celsius target that the world notionally agreed on.

Instead, as we now know from recent revelations about Exxon Mobil, those were exactly the years the fossil fuel industry set to work to make sure doubt replaced resolve. Its delaying tactics were cruelly effective. To meet that 1.5 degree target now would require breakneck action of a kind most nations aren’t really contemplating. At this point we’d need to leave almost all remaining coal and much of the oil and gas in the ground and put the world’s industries to work on an emergency basis building solar panels and windmills.

That we have any agreement at all, of course, is testament to the mighty movement that activists around the world have built over the last five years. At Copenhagen, world leaders could go home with nothing and pay no price.

That’s no longer true.

But what this means is that we need to build the movement even bigger in the coming years, so that the Paris agreement turns into a floor and not a ceiling for action. We’ll be blocking pipelines, fighting new coal mines, urging divestment from fossil fuels — trying, in short, to keep weakening the mighty industry that still stands in the way of real progress. With every major world leader now on the record saying they at least theoretically support bold action to make the transition to renewable energy, we’ve got a new tool to work with.

And we’ll try to keep hoping that it adds up fast enough to matter. That’s a little hard, as the hottest year ever measured draws to a close. One doesn’t want to rain on the Paris parade — but that’s what seems to be happening somewhere every day now.

Like Washington State, where high temperatures and heavy rainfalls led the governor to declare a state of emergency late last week, as landslides closed highways. Or Portland, Ore., which had the rainiest December day in its recorded history. Or Norway, which had the worst flooding in more than a century of record keeping. Or …

Bill McKibben is the founder of 350.org, the global grass-roots climate campaign. He teaches environmental studies at Middlebury College.


Article online at the New York Times: Falling Short on Climate in Paris

~   ~   ~ 
@billmckibben on Twitter


"We've got a 1.5 degree target, and a 3.5 degree plan. So, let's get to work"
Bill McKibben 

TALK: Climate Change and Human Responsibility


Thursday, December 10, 2015

NY Renews - A Climate Justice and Jobs Campaign - Dec.16 Launch Party

On December 16, 2015, leaders and members of labor, community, and environmental organizations across New York State will unite to launch a climate justice and jobs campaign - NY Renews - that aims to win progressive policy reform in the 2016 NYS legislative session and beyond.

The NY Renews platform contains three planks that each respond to the needs and interests of the campaign's core constituencies.

It calls for mandatory and legally enforceable greenhouse gas emission reduction and renewable energy procurement goals that match a set of aspirational goals already adopted in the 2015 NYS Energy Plan and carried forward in the Reforming the Energy Vision regulatory initiative. These goals include 80% emission reductions by 2050 (from 1990 levels), with an interim goal of 40% by 2030; and a clear path to 100% renewable energy procurement, with an interim goal of 50% renewable energy procurement by 2030.

The platform calls for the creation of a reinvestment fund targeted to low-income communities, and environmental justice and climate vulnerable communities across the state, and mandates that 40% of existing public funds collected by NYSERDA be allocated to targeted communities for purposes of renewable energy and energy efficiency reinvestment and local job creation.

The third plank of the platform calls for mandatory job standards on publicly supported projects and direct financial support to workers and communities caught in the transition from dirty energy to renewable energy. Workers would receive re-training and retirement support and communities would receive revenue support to offset diminishing tax revenues from industries in transition.

UPDATE Dec. 16, 2015: TimesUnion - Coalition launches campaign to make NY climate leader

[Click image to enlarge]      
The launch event in Buffalo - 'Party for the Climate!' - will take place at the Tralf Music Hall from 6:00pm to 9:00pm on December 16. Its a free, all-ages event (under-21 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian). A cash bar and food will be provided. With support from Ujima Theatre Company, we've booked a couple of local musical powerhouses - the 16-piece Buffalo Afrobeat Orchestra and DJ Milk - to keep the energy high and bring people together. This event will reveal - through the voices of local labor, community, and environmental leaders - our unity of purpose and showcase our collective power.

Click Here to Join the Facebook Event

The NY Renews campaign will kick into high gear in early 2016 so your organizational support for the campaign and participation in the event are critical. Join us! 

WNY Climate Justice Campaign: Reports from Paris - Join Us!


The Paris Climate Talks are Over and the Time for Action is NOW!

Join us on this International Day of Action
to hear the reports of the
UB Law Students and Faculty and other colleagues
who attended the U.N. Climate Talks in Paris.

What did they learn?
What have we all learned?

What do we do now?

Sweetness 7 Cafe - Parkside and Russell

301 Parkside Avenue

Buffalo, NY

(Across from the Zoo Entrance)

Saturday, Dec 19, 2015

6:00 PM - 8:00 PM

 
Visit Rise Up for Climate Justice!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

FORUM: Taking Climate Action - Future of Western NY


WHEN: TUESDAY, December 8, 5:30pm Networking & more; 6:30pm Panel Discussion

WHERE: Buffalo Museum of Science, 1020 Humbolt Parkway [Map]

The WNY Environmental Alliance’s annual Environmental Congress is a future-oriented forum, exploring innovative solutions for a cleaner and sustainable WNY.

We're bringing together a panel of climate action leaders for a proactive and critical discussion of solutions being offered, their impacts on the WNY community and implications for climate justice. The panel represents a range of perspectives, including environment, science, social justice, local government, faith, labor and business.

Join us on December 8 at 5:30 pm!

There will be networking, refreshments and an exhibition of local projects demonstrating climate innovation. Also view the fantastic Museum of Science second floor exhibits that will be open to our guests.

RSVP HERE to attend

The panel discussion will begin at 6:30 pm  


PANELISTS:
- Business  – Joseph Mendelson, Director, Policy & Electricity Markets and Regulatory Counsel, SolarCity
- Environment – Adrienne Bermingham, Roots & Shoots Program Coordinator, The Jane Goodall Institute
- Social Justice – Anne Petermann, Executive Director, Global Justice Ecology Project
- Public Sector – Brendan Mehaffy, Executive Director, Buffalo Office of Strategic Planning
- Science – Jason Briner, Associate Prof. of Geology, University at Buffalo
- Labor and Economic Justice – Franchelle C. Hart, Executive Director, Open Buffalo
Moderator – Robert Shibley, Dean of the UB School of Architecture and Planning; One Region Forward
RSVP HERE to attend

Check out the Event and Activity on Facebook

EVENT PARTNERS:   
- Rise up for Climate Justice Campaign of WNY: visit their website and Facebook page 
- WNY Sustainable Business Roundtable: visit their website

WORKSHOPS added to WNYEA Environmental Congress Event on Dec. 8

We've added afternoon WORKSHOPS to the program of the WNYEA's 9th Environmental Congress on on Tuesday, December 8. Join us!

We will be taking a deeper dive into some of the topics that the membership has put forward. Alliance members will be leading four simultaneous working group sessions in the Buffalo Museum of Science classrooms from 4:00 - 5:30pm.


Email antonina@timbreconsultants.com if you plan to attend, and include the title of the workshop you would like to join.

WORKSHOPS:

NY Renews: Building a strong and just coalition for a winning legislative campaign
In December, a broad coalition of labor, environmentalist and social/economic justice advocates are releasing a climate justice and jobs campaign – NY Renews. The aim of this campaign is to win progressive policy reform in the 2016 NYS legislative session and beyond. The platform calls for (1) mandatory and legally enforceable greenhouse gas emission reduction and renewable energy procurement; (2) a reinvestment fund for low income and vulnerable communities to support energy democracy; and (3) mandatory job standards on publicly supported projects and funds for just transitions for workers and communities displaced by the energy transition. The workshop will discuss the underlying values of the campaign, the Jemez Principles,the three platforms and their relevance to WNY, and to seek appropriate ways of engagement for the Buffalo Niagara region.
- Facilitated by: Meghan Maloney de Zaldivar, Energy Democracy Organizer, PUSH Buffalo

Engaging Youth in Climate Justice Action
This workshop will be a working session to bring together climate justice partners and potential partners working with youth, to get to know one another and learn how our groups engage K-12 youth in climate justice efforts. We hope to learn from each other about various participatory climate justice education activities, and determine if there’s interest in continuing to work together to involve more youth in climate justice work in a meaningful way.
- Facilitated by: Derek Nichols, Program Manager, Grassroots Gardens of Buffalo, and Rebekah A. Williams, Youth Education Director, Massachusetts Avenue Project

Environmental Justice and the Campaign for Green Jobs
A workshop on the who, what, where and how of energy based economic development in Buffalo. Using the Home Energy Conservation Kit (HECK) project case study as the basis for conversation, project leaders will present and facilitate a discussion about initiatives, impacts, partnerships and the role of worker owned cooperatives in the just transition to a clean and inclusive economy.
- Facilitated by: Johnnie Fenderson, Workforce Development Coordinator, PUSH Buffalo, and Art Wheaton, Director of Western NY Labor and Environmental Programs, The Worker Institute at Cornell

Our Buffalo, Our Outer Harbor "seeking pathways to a sustainable future.”
The Western New York Environmental Alliance has been fully engaged in discussions about appropriate steps to take regarding the development of the Outer Harbor. We argue against "sprawl" and for "smart growth". We advocate for appropriate development around the Times Beach Nature Preserve and Tifft Nature Preserve. We push for financial accountability from the State of New York and the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation. We advocate for the protection of critical natural resources such as Lake Erie and the Niagara River strait. We have stood behind our members that are working to make sure that decisions about our common and publicly owned waterfront are made by an informed community. We believe in the Public Trust.
- Facilitated by: Jay Burney, co-founder of GreenWatch, the Learning Sustainability Campaign, and chair of the Friends of Times Beach Nature Preserve.

DECEMBER EVENTS: Rise Up For Climate Justice Campaign of WNY


For Details and Maps to specific events, see the EVENTS listed in the SIDEBAR.

STAY TUNED for additional Events!


FILM & TALK: 'The Doctrine of Discovery' - Roots of Domination

[Click image to enlarge]

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

COMMUNITY GATHERING: WNY Campaign for Climate Justice


Sending Our Voices to the U.N. Climate Conference in Paris

In preparation for the critical United Nations Climate Conference in Paris, the Rise Up For Climate Justice Campaign of WNY sponsored a public rally at Niagara Square in September calling on our elected officials to act in earnest to curb Climate Change:
  • To protect people and all living things on our planet from the worst impacts of climate change, now and into the future, by stoping global warming pollution caused by burning fossil fuels.
  • To ensure a just transition for communities and workers impacted by the shift from fossil fuels to clean energy sources.
Photo by Nathan MacFarlane
Now, as the start of U.N. Climate Conference nears, the Rise Up For Climate Justice Campaign will sponsor a Community Gathering to collect our voices and make them heard by U.S. negotiators in Paris.

Supporters have signed a Climate Justice Pledge. A scroll bearing the names of the pledge signers will be revealed at the Community Gathering and ceremoniously passed on to UB law students who will travel to Paris and present it to an official at the U.N. Climate Conference

Please Join Us at the Community Gathering

Food will be provided along with Music and Ceremony.

Families and children are welcome.

WHEN: Saturday, November 28 at 5:30pm-8:30pm

WHERE: Temple Beth Zion (auditorium), 805 Delaware Ave., Buffalo [Map]

The Community Gathering is Free and Open to the Public.

RSVP HERE

Come show your support for our student representatives as they prepare to leave for Paris to call on U.S. leaders for bold action on climate change for a just and livable future.

The Community Gathering is registered as one of the Global Climate Events at 350.0RG. Show your support for the Global Climate Justice Movement by adding Your Name Here: act.350.org/event/global-climate-march_attend/11869

 

QUESTIONS? Contact niagarasierraclub@gmail.com or embodiedcosmology@gmail.com 

On Nov. 30 through Dec. 11, Rise Up For Climate Justice will sponsor a community-wide vigil for the duration of the U.N. Climate Summit.

WHO ARE WE: The Rise Up For Climate Justice campaign comprises diverse groups of Western New Yorkers including people of different faiths, students, people of color, teachers, indigenous people, labor unions, community activists, environmentalists, artists, performers and local politicians. The campaign is open to all people

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Climate Change Theatre Action at Hallwalls - Dec.1


A reading of short plays, poems, and songs on the theme of climate change by some of today's most exciting writers.

WHEN: Tuesday, December 1, 2015 - 7:00pm-8:30pm
WHERE: Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center, 341 Delaware Ave., Buffalo

As part of Climate Change Theatre Action and in partnership with Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center and Rise Up for Climate Justice, director Matthew Clinton Sekellick presents a semi-staged reading of 18 short plays, poems and songs by national and international playwrights on the subject of climate change. 

This action is in support of the United Nations 2015 Paris Climate Conference (COP21) taking place November 30-December 13, 2015

Ranging from comedy to drama, this diverse group of texts by some of today’s most exciting playwrights presents a global perspective on issues related to climate change, from community gardens to refugees, climate deniers to drought.

Climate Change Theatre Action is a series of worldwide readings and performances intended to bring awareness to, and foster discussion about, climate change during the months of November and December 2015.

It is part of ArtCOP21, Cultural Programme for Paris Climate 2015.


Saturday, November 14, 2015

EVENTS: Rise Up For Climate Justice Campaign of WNY

~      ~     ~



Funded in part by grants and donations from the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, 
Communication Workers of America, WNYEA, Peace Education Fund, Sierra Club Niagara Group

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Film Screening: THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING - The Global Climate Crisis and Solutions


Thursday, November 12, 2015
6:00pm to 8:00pm
Buffalo & Erie County Public Library—Auditorium
1 Lafayette Square, Buffalo, NY 14203 [MAP]
(Enter from Clinton St. between Washington St. and Oak St.) 
For more information:
Clarke Gocker, PUSH Buffalo, 716-884-0356
Or the Library, 716-858-8900


Film Trailer

HAPPY THANKSGIVING from Re-ENERGIZE Buffalo!


A Time to be Thankful for Family, Friends, Food and More.


The image is Norman Rockwell's painting "Freedom from Want" (1943), which is often referred to as 'The Thanksgiving Picture'. Rockwell inserted a partial self-portrait in the lower right corner.

The painting was inspired by the speech delivered by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to Congress in his State of the Union address (1941). Roosevelt spoke about Four Freedoms: freedom of speech, freedom from fear, freedom of worship, and freedom from want.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Justice Dept. Investigation into ExxonMobil requested -- Alleging Climate Science Cover-up

Democrats Request a DOJ Investigation Into ExxonMobil, Alleging Climate Science Cover-up

By Rebecca Leber | New Republic | October 16, 2015

California Democrats on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee requested a Department of Justice investigation into ExxonMobil on Wednesday, writing that the company's behavior "is similar to cigarette companies that repeatedly denied harm from tobacco and spread uncertainty and misleading information to the public." There have always been pronounced parallels between the tobacco and oil industry—both working to undermine regulatory action that could hamper profit—but a federal investigation may mean they share the same fate, as well.

In 1999, the DOJ investigated and eventually sued big tobacco for spreading misleading evidence about the connection between cigarettes and cancer. The companies violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, and faced repercussions for lying to the public about science. Now, Congressmen Ted Lieu and Mark DeSaulnier of California say it could be Exxon's turn.

"We ask that the DOJ similarly investigate ExxonMobil for organizing a sustained deception campaign disputing climate science and failing to disclose truthful information to investors and the public," they wrote, according to a letter provided to the New Republic. "We request the DOJ investigate whether ExxonMobil violated RICO, consumer protection, truth in advertising, public health, shareholder protection, or other laws.

“The apparent tactics employed by Exxon are reminiscent of the actions employed by big tobacco companies to deceive the American people about the known risks of tobacco,” the letter says.

Two investigations undertaken by Los Angeles Times and Inside Climate News show that Exxon scientists accepted the role fossil fuels play in driving global warming in the 1970s and 80s, and briefed corporate executives on the need for “major reductions in fossil fuel combustion.” In the years that followed, executives spearheaded efforts to cast doubt on the science community’s findings to halt action on climate change. Exxon financed the Global Climate Coalition, which worked against climate action in the 1990s before disbanding in 2002. Eight years ago, the company also promised to stop funding climate deniers, yet continues to contribute today to prominent skeptics, including Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe.

And this attitude appears to have seeped into the DNA of Exxon itself. Just this spring, Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson questioned climate change: “What if everything we do, it turns out our models are lousy, and we don’t get the effects we predict?” Tillerson said. “Mankind has this enormous capacity to deal with adversity, and those solutions will present themselves as those challenges become clear.” While other major oil companies have endorsed a global climate deal in Paris at the end of the year to tackle emissions, Exxon has opted out of pushing for climate action.

Activists, including Bill McKibben of 350.org and R.L. Miller of the Climate Hawks Vote PAC, have been pushing for a more formal investigation and prosecution of Exxon.  "In the 28 years I’ve been following the story of global warming, this is the single most outrageous set of new revelations that journalists have uncovered," he posted to Tumblr. On Thursday, McKibben was arrested for protesting at an Exxon station in Burlington, Vermont.

For years, activists and scientists have charged Exxon with taking the world down an irresponsible path, rejecting climate science in favor of increased fossil fuel consumption and profits. Lieu and DeSaulnier believe it's illegal, too.

This article originally appeared in the New Republic.



The Department of Justice Must Investigate ExxonMobil
You can join the call to action by signing a petition to the DOJ here.
350.0rg | Oct. 30, 2015

Leaders of many of the country’s largest environmental groups, civil rights organizations, and indigenous peoples movements issued a joint letter today calling on the Department of Justice to investigate ExxonMobil, after revelations that the company knew about climate change as early as the 1970s, but chose to mislead the public about the crisis in order to maximize their profits from fossil fuels.

The full text of the letter and the list of signatories are here.


Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Gerry Rising: How I Lost My Column at the Buffalo News

On October 4 my final Sunday Buffalo News column was published. The column, my 1,280th over a period of 25 years, was critical of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). On October 8 I was informed that the entire science page of the Sunday News would no longer appear so, according to my editor, “I do [sic] no longer have a place to run your column.”

On October 15 a rebuttal to my column from HSUS representative Brian Shapiro appeared in the News’s ”Another Voice” column. I find this coincidence interesting, because, as I pointed out in my original column, HSUS has a history of intimidation.

As is typical of the News, no fact-checking was done for Shapiro’s article, nor indeed was any ever done for my own columns. This throw-it-out-there-and-see-if-it-sticks approach to journalism is, of course, not specific to the News; it is standard for all of today’s media. In this case, however, it apparently contributed to the further dumbing down of this region’s major newspaper through the termination of its one page per week regularly devoted to science.

In response to Shapiro’s misleading screed I first remind you what I said in my original column. It began:
    An attractive dog or cat peers out at you from your television screen, its pleading eyes sending the clear message: “Why am I abandoned?” Your heart goes out to that animal as the message comes on screen: “Donate $19.00 per month to the Humane Society of the United States.” (And get a “Humane Hero” T-shirt.)

    Many do just that. HSUS’s 2013 income fell just short of $133 million. But what fraction of that amount goes to care for those pleading pets? In one recent year it was less than one percent.

Then I went on to detail some other facts about HSUS: Against that one percent for those animals in their ads, it spends 35 percent on salaries and 39 percent on fundraising. I also told the story of HSUS intimidation of its former employee Didi Culp, who was operating an animal shelter that HSUS considered competition. More significant, I wrote:
    The other legal problem was as large as this one was small. HSUS recently settled with a Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey circus representative for $15.75 million to avoid a RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) charge for bribing a witness. The society has claimed that this was forced on them by an organization they absorbed. I interpret that differently. I suspect that HSUS saw dollar signs in the circus suit when they took on their new partner and, having failed to do due diligence, were blindsided by this behavior. Who pays for those kinds of error? Those $19 per month contributions and certainly not contributions by HSUS administrators.

I indicated too my abhorrence for many HSUS policies and my agreement with Dr. Ron DeHaven, president of a veterinary organization HSUS attacked, who said, “They represent every kneejerk response based solely on emotion.” As a result of all this, I recommended that donors support local animal shelters and rehabilitators rather than HSUS.

Now consider Shapiro’s response. He begins with the claim that my column “got a lot wrong about the organization.” But what follows rebuts none of my charges: not a word about the one percent, nothing about the circus fiasco, no response to the intimidation example. Instead he makes a series of grandiose claims for HSUS. Consider two.

First he claims that those TV ad animals “were directly aided by our rescue teams, veterinary services and other programs focused on pets.” But HSUS has no rescue teams, no veterinary services, and no other in-house programs focused on pets. Instead they have a modern five-story building in Washington housing lobbyists and PR people like Shapiro. HSUS even admits on some of its ads that they don’t help those particular animals.

What HSUS does have are several “affiliated groups” that include some animal shelters. Why are those groups affiliated? Because they give HSUS a way of claiming those services.

More important, they are made part of HSUS annual reports, disguising the amounts the main organization devotes to its activities. This leads some accrediting agencies that fail to check closely to give them high marks; others see through this ruse. I spent hours studying HSUS income tax returns and other evidence and my figures stand. You too can check those returns, for they are on the web. For still more information, visit the Humane Watch and National Animal Interest Alliance websites.

So much for Shapiro’s snide demand that “Rising and others will do more research rather than simply parrot false claims about our work.” Shapiro’s idea of research is going to the HSUS website and accepting its deceptive and self-serving misinformation.

I thank The Public for providing this opportunity to respond to Shapiro’s attack on my integrity and to the Buffalo News’s reaction.

Gerry Rising is a retired University at Buffalo professor who continues to write math and natural history books.

This article originally appeared in The Public  
Photo by Jay Burney




Editor's Note: Gerry Rising's 'Nature Watch' column will be sorely missed. All are welcome to attend a community event on November 19 at 6PM to celebrate Gerry Rising's quarter century of contributions to the Science page of The Buffalo News. For details, click here.



Panel to Discuss Climate Justice at Working Families Party Meeting

Working Families Party Chapter Meeting

Wednesday, November 4th   6:00 PM
UAW Region 9
35 George Karl Blvd. (Wehrle near Transit)
Williamsville, NY

Food will be served

Agenda

 Welcoming
Paul Schuh, UAW Region 9/NYS WFP co-chair
Debora Hayes, Director, CWA District 1

Announcements
Nurse staffing campaign; NYS geo-thermal bill; marijuana legalization; local election outcomes

Panel Discussion
David Kowalski:  “The Climate Crisis:  Global Warming”
Lynda Schneekloth:  “The Rise Up for Climate Justice Campaign”
Bill Nowak/Roger Cook:  “NYS Campaign for Climate Justice Legislation”

Please Attend and Invite Friends!!

TALK: 'Truth to Power' -- November 2nd


Visiting Author to address Indigenous Knowledge for Biodiversity Conservation


Tuesday, November 10, 2015, 6 pm

Peter and Elizabeth C. Tower Auditorium, Burchfield Penney Art Center

6:00 pm Reception  - 7:00 pm Presentation  - This event is free and open to the public.

Dr. Robin W. Kimmerer, mother, plant ecologist, writer and SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry is the founding Director of the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment. Her programs introduce the benefits of traditional ecological knowledge to the scientific community in a way that respects and protects indigenous knowledge. Dr. Kimmerer is the author of “Braiding Sweetgrass: indigenous wisdom, scientific knowledge and the teachings of plants.” As a writer and a scientist, she is interested in the restoration of our relationships to land.

Funding for this event was provided by the Western New York Land Conservancy, Niagara Frontier Botanical Society, Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper, Buffalo Audubon Society, and Nature Sanctuary Society of Western New York.

For more information at the Burchfield Penney Art Center, click here.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Call on Obama for Bold Action at UN Climate Talks in Paris

The RISE UP FOR CLIMATE JUSTICE campaign needs YOUR Help
 

A diverse group of people in Western New York are involved in a campaign for climate action and justice. Recently, over 300 citizens rallied in support of the campaign in Buffalo.

Now, we want to draw attention to President Obama who will play a major role in the outcome of the United Nations Climate Conference in Paris. 

With your help, we want to send out huge numbers of a message using social media. In the message, we call on President Obama for bold cuts in greenhouse gas emissions at the UN Paris Talks to protect people and the planet.

You can view our message in context by clicking on this link http://thndr.me/3mTlLv. To support the message, simply click the Facebook or Twitter button and agree to support. 

That's it. Done. Easy!

With your support, our message will be greatly amplified. Also, the message from every supporter will be released at the same time through the Thunderclap website, creating a virtual 'thunderclap' on social media.

The release is scheduled for 1:00 pm on Friday, October 23, the day before United Nations Day. Check for the 'thunderclap' on Facebook or Twitter after 1:00 pm on Friday.

Please help us do this. Thanks!

The Rise Up for Climate Justice Campaign

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Film: 'MERCHANTS of DOUBT' - Free Screening in Williamsville, October 25th

How a handful of so-called 'experts' obscured the truth on vital issues from 
tobacco smoke to global warming ...

MERCHANTS of DOUBT

A 'Must See' Documentary Film

 Free and Open to the Public

WHEN: Sunday, October 25 at 3:00pm

WHERE: North Presbyterian Church, 300 N. Forest, Williamsville [Map]

View the Film Trailer:



Panel Discussion: How is Buffalo Niagara really doing?


Buffalo Niagara: How Are We Really Doing?
A panel of local experts will answer this question. The panel will be hosted by Larry Brooks, author of the new book Buffalo Niagara: Diagnosis and Prescription for Change.

The panel includes:
  • Philip Haberstro, Executive Director, Wellness Institute of Greater Buffalo & WNY
  • Jay Burney, Founder and Chair, Friends of Times Beach Nature Preserve
  • Sam Magavern, Co-director, Partnership for the Public Good
  • Marlies Wesolowski, Executive director, Lt. Col Matt Urban Human Services Center

Friday, October 9, 2015

Film: THE WISDOM TO SURVIVE - Climate Change, Capitalism & Community

Join Us for the Buffalo Premier of the Film

Hosted by the Buffalo Zen Dharma Community

in support of the

Rise Up for Climate Justice Campaign

MAP to the Event Site: Click Here

View the Film Trailer: 

FORUM: Love Canal and Beyond - Environmental Justice in Niagara Falls


WHAT: Panel discussion for the community and campus at Niagara University

WHEN: Thursday, October 15, 6:00pm-8:00pm

WHERE: Gallagher Center (lower level), Niagara University [Campus Map] [Road Map]

WHY: The purpose of this forum is to consider the legacies of environmental injustice in Niagara Falls and to determine strategies for empowering the community. 

Panelists will reflect on how Niagara Falls residents were able to organize to respond to the toxic threats of the Love Canal community in the 1970s and 1980s, how hazardous conditions continue to threaten our local citizens, and how the lessons and strategies of Love Canal can be applied to today’s environmental dangers.  

PANELISTS
  • Stephen Lester, Center for Health and Environmental Justice
  • Luella Kenny, Former Love Canal Resident
  • Rebecca Newberry, Executive Director of the Clean Air Coalition
  • Mayor Paul Dyster, Niagara Falls (Invited)
The event is open to the public and all are encouraged to attend—please share with others who might be interested!

The event is sponsored by the Niagara University Political Science Department and the Levesque Institute for Civic Engagement at Niagara.

For additional information, please contact Dave Reilly at dreilly@niagara.edu or by phone at (716) 286-8088.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Pope Francis inspires Local Citizens to Act on Climate

By David Kowalski

Last Thursday, Pope Francis spoke to Congress and reminded the members about his Encyclical on man-made climate change. "I call for a courageous and responsible effort to 'redirect our steps' and to avert the most serious effects of the environmental deterioration caused by human activity," Francis said.

It is the consensus of climate scientists that human activity is to blame. Primarily due to burning fossil fuels in industrialized countries, the atmosphere is rapidly accumulating levels of greenhouse gases far exceeding those observed over the past 800,000 years.

Consequently, the planet is experiencing a record-breaking warming trend, causing ice at the poles and glaciers to melt, sea-levels to rise and deadly heat waves. Severe droughts and uncontrollable wildfires are occurring in some locations, while unprecedented floods are happening in others.

On the same day that Francis spoke to Congress, citizens gathered at Niagara Square in Buffalo for a rally: Rise Up for Climate Justice! People from all walks of life participated: Faith leaders, community activists, students, teachers, indigenous people, environmentalists, performers, union leaders and local politicians.

The rally is the beginning of a citizen campaign leading up to the UN Climate Change Conference at the end of the year. Government leaders from around the world will meet and aim to arrive at a universal, legally-binding agreement to address the problems of global warming and climate change.


Paris will be the site of the 21st of such conferences. In the past, most governments, including our own, have failed to come to a binding agreement. Consequently, the problems have worsened and become more harmful to humans and more difficult and expensive to solve.

We can no longer delay. This is a crisis and governments must agree on global solutions now!

And so we rallied in Buffalo to call attention to the environmental pollution and the climate crisis impacting the lives and well-being of humans here and around the globe.

We rallied to call attention to the injustices of the crisis. Poor, undeveloped countries, least responsible for the pollution problem, remain susceptible to the impacts but lack the resources to adapt. Furthermore, our own children and future generations will inherit the consequences of the pollution problems that human activity is creating now.

We rallied for practical solutions to the crisis, including:
  1. Adopt energy efficiency measures to reduce both energy usage and global warming pollution
  2. End subsidies and investments for dirty fossil fuels
  3. Invest in clean, sustainable energy
And we rallied so that our elected leaders will hear our message and feel our frustration concerning government inaction.

We need strong leaders to rise up to the challenges of the crisis and to realize the benefits and opportunities that will result from solving the crisis.

We need to remind our elected officials that there is a climate crisis and that they need to recognize it and take action. Finally, we need to elect strong leaders who are not beholden to the polluting industries responsible for the crisis.

For more information and photos of the Rally for Climate Justice, click here

Current Climate Pledges are not enough to limit Global Warming to 2 deg. C (3.6 deg. F)!

Buffalo Rally for Climate Justice -- Photos and Videos


SCIENCE tells us we must stop burning fossil fuels to curb greenhouse gas pollution that causes global warming and drives Climate Change.

JUSTICE for People, Future Generations and our Environment demands that we act in earnest NOW.

WE RALLIED for Climate Justice at Niagara Square in Buffalo on Sept. 24, 2015 in solidarity with Pope Francis, a champion for the environment and social justice, who addressed the U.S. Congress on that same day.


Some highlights of the Rally shown in a 1 minute Video Slide Show with music:

Photos & Video: D.Kowalski   


Photo Album of the Rally with video clips:

To open the Photo Album, Click on the image below:

Rally for Climate Justice
Photos: D.Kowalski, Nate Schneekloth; others cited
HINTS for navigating the Photo Album after you open it:
- Hover the mouse pointer over a photo to see the Caption.
- Click on a photo to Enlarge it to full size.



List of Moderators, Speakers and Performers (Click image to enlarge):
- Speakers included Faith leaders, environmentalists, students, teachers, indigenous people, performers, union leaders and local politicians.


Moderators included Lynda Schneekloth, Sierra Club Niagara Group; Advocacy Chair, WNY Environmental Alliance; and,
Roger Cook, Convener, WNY Interfaith Climate Justice Community

Opening Remarks by Lynda Schneekloth, Click Here

Closing Remarks by Lynda Schneekloth are shown below (Click image to enlarge):

Monday, September 21, 2015

Rise Up for Climate Justice! Rally at Niagara Square on THURSDAY

All are invited to attend a CLIMATE RALLY in Buffalo: 

 Rise Up for Climate Justice! 


WHEN: Thursday, Sept. 24 at 5pm; *Festivities at 4pm
The same day Pope Francis meets with the U.S. Congress and is expected to call for moral action to address the injustice of human-caused Climate Change as laid out in his recent Encyclical.

WHERE:  Niagara Square in Buffalo, NY 
MAP with Metro Rail stations & Bus routes, Click Here 

SPEAKERS include members of: Physicians for Social Responsibility, WNY Interfaith Climate Justice Community, Buffalo Common Council, Sierra Club Niagara Group, PUSH Buffalo, Seneca Nation, and other groups.

SIGN UP for RALLY: 
- Facebook: Click Here - Invite your Friends! 
- Not a Facebook user? Sign up Here

*Pre-RALLY FESTIVITIES: Live Music, Song, Dance and Fun!


SCIENCE tells us we must stop burning fossil fuels to curb greenhouse gas pollution that causes global warming and drives Climate Change. 

JUSTICE for People and our Environment demands that we act in earnest NOW. 
 
WE THE PEOPLE call on President Obama and elected officials to back a global, legally-binding agreement to combat Climate Change and provide the necessary support for a Just Transition from fossil fuels to Clean, Sustainable Energy.

Please sign the Climate Justice Pledge  petitioning Obama for bold Climate Action.

For more information visit:
- facebook.com/riseupforclimatejustice
twitter.com/SierraNiagara
- niagarasierraclub.com
- twitter.com/RU4CJBuffalo