Friday, March 17, 2017

Distinguished Lecture: Climate Change Denial in the Age of Trump

Save the Date!

WHEN: Friday, April 28, 8:30 AM - 10:45 AM

WHERE: University at Buffalo,  Davis 101, North Campus, Amherst

Free and Open to the Public 
 
Dr. Mann is a well-known and distinguished climate scientist. He is author of more than 200 peer-reviewed and edited publications, and has published three books including Dire Predictions: Understanding Climate Change, The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines, and most recently, The Madhouse Effect with Washington Post editorial cartoonist Tom Toles. 
For detailed information, click here

 To Register for the Event, click here

 

Thursday, March 16, 2017

NY State Support for Clean, Renewable Energy will Benefit Health, Climate and Economy

Renewable Energy will Benefit Everyone

By Robert M. Ciesielski

In August, the New York State Public Service Commission established the Clean Energy Standard, a procedure to enable 50 percent of the state’s electricity to be provided from renewable energy sources by 2030. The mechanism implements the 2015 New York State Energy Plan based on a four-year study of our state’s energy system.

New York’s goal is similar to the 50 percent renewable energy by 2030 law adopted by the California legislature last year and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown. The Massachusetts legislature also passed an energy bill in 2016 ensuring that by 2030, 40 percent of the state’s electricity will be provided from renewable sources, while including a major commitment to offshore wind power.

New York, California and Massachusetts comprise 20 percent of our nation’s population. If these states were considered a country, they would comprise the fourth-largest economy of the world. These states are a beacon to the United States, showing the promise of a sustainable, clean, renewable energy economy. Development of renewable energy not only counters climate change and the adverse health effects of polluted water, air and land, but offers substantial economic benefits to

The future economy is already available to us. In December, the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) announced the approval of a 90 megawatt wind farm off eastern Long Island. The project is supported by 85 percent of Long Island’s residents, including a bipartisan political coalition of workers, unions, environmentalists and business leaders. The wind project will supply electricity to some 50,000 homes. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has set a goal of 2,400 megawatts of offshore wind power by 2030, enough to power well over 1 million residences and provide for a healthy downstate economy.

Europe currently supplies much of its energy from wind and solar sources. Europeans supply over 10 gigawatts, or 10,000 megawatts, of electricity from offshore wind alone. The strength of the European economy is based in large part on the conscious decision of many of its countries to proceed with renewable energy development, stimulating investments in manufacturing and the installation of renewable energy sources.

Looking at the Earth, I am concerned about the detrimental effects of our current fossil fuel and nuclear based economy. The Paris Climate Agreement, signed by 194 countries, is a worldwide measure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to prevent the global climate from increasing beyond 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) with the aspirational goal of a no greater than 1.5 degrees Celsius increase.

We have at this time the ability to help create a sustainable energy system capable of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving the life of humankind and all creatures. Let us use the means we have been given to help protect the Earth and our children.

Robert Ciesielski is chairman of the Energy Committee of the Atlantic Chapter of the Sierra Club.

This article above was originally published in The Buffalo News.

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[Click image to enlarge]

CAMPUS ACTIVISM: Protest with Dignity, Not with Rage


College students should resist – not silence – their political foes

by Bill McKibben 

Campuses can be Sites of Powerful Protest and Activism – if Students and Faculty use some Care

Canniness is a virtue, at least for organizers. When protest goes well – the Women’s Marches, the airport demonstrations – it helps immeasurably, limiting the right’s ability to act or at least exacting a high price in political capital. But protest can go badly too, and when it does it gives the bad guys a gift.

I should have gotten a chance to see this close up last week, because Middlebury College in Vermont, where I teach, had a protest go mostly sour. But since my mother was taken to the emergency room early in the week, I was camped out in her hospital room, not on campus. Still, the  picture of events that emerges from Facebook and campus chat rooms is fairly clear.

It began when conservative students at the college invited a man named Charles Murray to speak on campus. Murray is a professional troll – “Milo with a doctorate”, as one observer described him – who made his bones a quarter century ago with a vile book, The Bell Curve, arguing that intelligence tests showed black people less able. Academics of all stripes have savaged the book’s methodology and conclusions, but back in the day it was one of the many bulwarks of the nation’s ugly rightward and racist shift.

So, many students and faculty at Middlebury were mad that he was coming, as they should have been – it’s gross, in particular, that students of color should have to deal with this kind of aggressive insult to their legitimacy. But of course, that was the point for Murray and his enablers at the American Enterprise Institute: they’re trolls.

They want these kinds of fights, over and over, as part of their campaign to discredit academia and multiculturalism. And once some students had made the invitation, the die was cast, if only because Americans by and large believe that colleges and universities should be open to all ideas (and they’re probably right to think so, if for no other reason than it’s hard to imagine the committee that could vet what was proper and what wasn’t).

College authorities made their share of mistakes in the days that followed: there was no real reason for the political science department to officially support Murray’s visit, for instance. But other parts of the college reacted the right way: the math department, say, which held a series of seminars to demonstrate why Murray’s statistical methods were rubbish.

Instead, it was goodhearted campus activists – both some students and some faculty – that really fell for the troller’s bait.

Some began demanding that the college cancel the visit, and others threatened to prevent him from speaking. They failed at the first task but they largely succeeded at the second: when Murray arrived on Thursday he was greeted by a wall of noise, as protesters chanted and screamed him down.

When administrators took him off to a room where his remarks, and questions from a professor, could be live streamed, a few people pulled fire alarms. When they tried to rush Murray from the building, a small throng, many in masks, blocked the car and sent the professor who had been escorting the racist to the hospital with a concussion.

The result was predictable: Murray emerged with new standing, a largely forgotten hack with a renewed lease on public life, indeed now a martyr to the cause of free speech. And anti-racist activism took a hit, the powerful progressive virtue of openness overshadowed by apparent intolerance. No one should be surprised at the outcome: in America, anyway, shouting someone down “reads” badly to the larger public, every single time. And it is precisely the job of activists to figure out how things are going to read, lest they do real damage to important causes – damage, as in this case, that will inevitably fall mostly on people with fewer resources than Middlebury students.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Wacky Winter Weather: Record Warmth in Buffalo and U.S. - Linked to Global Warming?

By David Kowalski

February 2017 was the second warmest February in the 123-year period of record for the contiguous U.S., according to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The average U.S. temperature was 41.2°F, a whopping 7.3°F above the 20th century average.

Nearly one-quarter of the U.S. showed record warmth in February (NOAA's U.S. map, below). This included Buffalo, which set a record for its warmest temperature for February.

[Click image to enlarge]

Buffalo also broke a 111-year-old record for one day’s warmth. The city shattered the record for Feb. 24 when the temperature soared to 71 degrees, the all-time warmest day in February in Buffalo’s history.  On Feb. 26, 2000, the thermometer also crested to 71 degrees.

On average, Buffalo's normal daily high temperature doesn't reach 71 degrees until May 30, according to weather service data.

The monthly average temperature for February as recorded at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport was 34.8 degrees.

Buffalo had one of its least-snowiest Februarys on record, with only 5 inches of snow over the 28 days. February's normal monthly average is 17.3 inches.

Elsewhere, Chicago, a city that's also known for snowy days during the second month of the year, had no measurable snow in February. February 2017 will go into the record books as only the third February with just a trace of snow, joining 1998 and 1987.

Below is a map of the recent weather pattern for February 9-22 across the country posted at weather. com


The map indicates record warmth dominating the Eastern two-thirds of the country. More than 4000 heat records were broken. Also, an abundance of heavy rain ("atmospheric river" events) and snow (over 400 inches at ski resorts) fell along the West Coast. Flowers bloomed in the South. And closer to home, there was very little ice in the Great Lakes.

For the second consecutive year, mild winter weather conditions resulted in little to no ice cover on Lake Erie.

In the Buffalo area, the absence of snow cover and presence of warm temperatures on some days this February were suitable for people to play golf

While the warm winter temperatures are welcomed by many people, such unseasonal warmth can put area apple and cherry growers as well as grape growers on edge. When trees and vines begin budding early, and then are hit with cold weather and hard frost, the crop can be ruined.

Changes in the timing of spring can affect human health, bringing early-season disease-carriers such as ticks and mosquitoes, and an earlier, longer and more vigorous pollen season, the National Phenology Network warned.

But typical winter weather is definitely not over, and neither are strong winds.

Wind gusts over 35 mph have been recorded in Buffalo on more than one of every three days since Dec. 1, a Buffalo News analysis of National Weather Service data shows.  Only one winter season since 2009-10 has been windier: 2013-14.

A double whammy of wind and snow was recently forecast. For March 13 through March 15, a winter storm watch with heavy and blowing snow has been issued for much of Western New York.

[Click image to enlarge]  

Could the unusually warm and wacky winter weather patterns across the country be linked to global warming?  

We know that the planet continues to get warmer. 2016 record global warming beat the 2015 record which in turn beat the 2014 record, as documented previously. In fact, 16 of the 17 warmest years occurred in the consecutive years 2001 through 2016.

Climate scientists have repeatedly warned that, with global warming, we should "expect the unexpected" in terms of weather.  Higher global temperatures mean more energy in the weather systems of Earth. That energy along with a complex mix of ocean circulation, water evaporation & precipitation, and moving air masses combine to produce our everyday weather and long-term climate.

Higher global temperatures have changed the environment on Earth. Polar ice and glaciers are melting, oceans are warming and sea level is rising. Unprecedented droughts, deadly heat waves, destructive wildfires fed by heat and drought, and historic floods are all occurring more frequently.

 “All weather events are influenced by the changed environment,” says Kevin Trenberth, a climate researcher with the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research. 

As a result of the Paris Climate Agreement, virtually all nations of the world have begun to implement plans to curb global warming by reducing greenhouse gas emissions primarily from burning fossil fuels. But stable greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, already in the air and oceans, will continue to raise global temperature and influence weather events for decades to come. The sooner the world acts in earnest to curb global warming, the better.

UPDATE - March 19, 2017 
Cold snap kills nearly half of cherry blossoms, pushing back peak bloom date 

Read the report at  The Washington Post 

3/14/2017 Cherry blossom buds are covered in ice after a snowstorm in DC. Susan Walsh/AP


Saturday, March 11, 2017

RALLY: Stop the Fracked Gas Pipeline - Ride the Bus to Albany


Join Us March 27th to Rally in Albany!

Ride the Bus from Buffalo!

We need you! 

  More Pipelines mean More Fracking for Gas, More Leaks and More Toxic Waste. These are incompatible with Clean Water, Clean Air, and a Stable Climate.

National Fuel is planning to build a 96 mile pipeline to move fracked gas from the drilling fields of PA through our beloved Southern Tier crossing 180 streams, 270 wetlands and 7 ponds along the way. The proposed project includes a strongly opposed  compressor station in Pendleton and a dehydration station in Wheatfield to prepare the gas for export under the Niagara River and into Canada.

For more information, go to: Sierra Club Niagara Group

 

Monday, March 6, 2017

Panel Discussion: Buffalo at the Crossroads - Advocating for Climate Justice in a Cold City - Friday March 10 at 4:00 - 5:30 pm

Click for a Map to O'Brian Hall on the UB North Campus

Celebration and Fundraiser for the Public Accountability Initiative - 'Pie for PAI' on 3.14 - Pi Day!


Pie for PAI, a celebration and fundraiser for the Public Accountability Initiative, will be held Tuesday, March 14th (3.14, which just happens to be Pi Day! π = 3.14... get it?), at Rohall's Corner. 

Please join us for homemade pie and a drink at the bar.

Pie for PAI
Tuesday, March 14, 6PM - 8PM
Rohall's Corner in the backroom (540 Amherst St, Buffalo, NY)
$20 suggested donation
Free pie, cash bar


Over the past nine years, PAI’s watchdog research on undue influence and corruption has spiked rotten deals, prompted resignations and recusals, and exposed corporate front groups, in Buffalo and beyond.

LittleSis, our database and research community that tracks ties between politicians, lobbyists, financiers, and their affiliated insti
tutions, continues to grow and inform hard-hitting journalism and organizing.

Some quick local highlights from this past year:

PAI research was behind a front-page Buffalo News story on Rep. Chris Collins' insider investment tips to Buffalo-area elites, as well as Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price. Check out the article in the Buffalo News: https://buffalonews.com/2017/01/19/buffalos-elite-joined-collins-australian-investment/

PAI exposed the political influence strategies of three New York State oil and gas pipelines, two of which were later canceled. Check out the report: http://public-accountability.org/2016/03/natural-gas-infrastructure-lobby-ramps-up-spending-in-new-york-state/

PAI helped kickstart the Buffalo Research Collective, a network of local organizers who are mapping out Buffalo’s power structure to help guide local campaigns. Check out the Buffalo Research Collective here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/113244239150002/

Come hear about all these and much more at Pie for PAI!

By challenging corporate power, we change the terms of the debate and make sure people – not just wealthy corporations – get a seat at the table and a piece of the pie (wink wink).
Please join us! 

But if you can't make it, you can always donate online at this link: http://public-accountability.org/donate/

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Is there an Environmental and Economic Place for Nuclear Power, Given the Awesome Potential of Renewable Energy?


Nuclear power is not the answer to our energy needs

By Lynda Schneekloth


There are some of us still alive today who were here when the first atomic bomb was exploded on July 16, 1945, near Socorro, N.M.

That test was code-named Trinity. Within one month, on Aug., 6, 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan. Another was dropped Aug. 9 on Nagasaki. At least 200,000 people were killed instantly. After the war, we developed procedures to harness the power of nuclear material to make steam and electricity.

In 1953, President Dwight Eisenhower proposed “Atoms for Peace.” Those of us in our 70s, 80s and 90s well remember “duck and cover,” the drill to hide under our school desks to protect us if an atomic bomb exploded nearby.

We also remember “The Atom is your Friend,” with lovely animated characters assuring us that nuclear power was an enormous contribution to civilization. Or was it?

I won’t go into the dangers of nuclear war right now, except to say that the Doomsday Clock, which gives a scientific approximation of the probability of global catastrophe from nuclear war, is at 2.5 minutes to midnight, not this close since the 1950s.

But let’s look at nuclear power, since it is being promoted as the solution to climate change. Those of us who live in Western New York have intimate relationships with nuclear material because the Manhattan Project, which conducted research on the atomic bomb, had facilities here.

Many here died from unprotected exposure while working on that project and, in fact, some land in our region remains contaminated with nuclear material. Since the 1970s, nuclear waste from energy and military production has been stored at the West Valley Demonstration Project, a nuclear waste facility 30 miles south of Buffalo.

This site is still being “studied” to figure out what to do, and in the meantime, it is leaking.

After more than 70 years of exploding bombs and splitting atoms, we do not know what to do with the deadly waste, much of which will persist on the Earth for 10,000 years.

Here in Western New York we have more nuclear problems than West Valley and illegally disposed of waste. We are a route for shipping liquid, highly radioactive waste from Canada to South Carolina. Further, we live in a state where the governor proposes to offer a $7.6 billion subsidy to a private company – Exelon – so it can continue running aging nuclear power plants in our state, generating more dangerous waste. This in spite of excellent science that argues that nuclear power worsens climate change. Remember, there is no safe level of exposure to nuclear radiation.

No one asked us if we wanted to split the atom; no one has said he was sorry. In my lifetime, we have spread lethal material across the globe. Perhaps in the lifetime of my grandchildren we should find, contain and secure the deadly nuclear waste and pledge to not make anymore.

Lynda Schneekloth is a member of the Nuclear Committee of the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter, and the Sierra Club Niagara Group

This article was originally published in The Buffalo News


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So do we really need nuclear power? 

Is nuclear sustainable? Given the awesome potential of renewable energy, is there an economic place for nuclear power? Why is nuclear power globally in decline at present? What are the limitations?

These are some of the key questions examined in a detailed report, Nuclear Power - Game Over, by Derek Abbott, physicist and electrical engineer.