A lot going on back at home and in Copenhagen.
Allies from the Center for Biological Diversity are in Copenhagen joining
tens of thousands of others there pushing for real action on climate change.
Monday's attendance was said to be 11,000, with more people arriving every
On Tuesday, the Center for Biological Diversity's Climate Law Institute
released a report demonstrating that President Obama has clear legal
authority to commit the United States to reducing greenhouse gas pollution.
The report, titled "Yes, He Can: President Obama's Power to Make an
International Climate Commitment Without Waiting for Congress", concludes
that the President need not wait for Congress to act before taking strong
action to reduce U.S. emissions.
The report was released at an event hosted by Greenpeace at the conference
site. The take away: President Obama's hands are not tied by Congress's
lack of action or the grossly inadequate cap-and-trade bills currently under
debate. President Obama can lead, rather than follow, by using his power
under the Clean Air Act and other laws to achieve deep and rapid greenhouse
emissions reductions from major polluters. The Constitution and existing
domestic environmental laws give President Obama all the power he needs to
join with other nations in making a real commitment to solve the climate
The report cites prominent legal scholars and U.S. Supreme Court opinions
recognizing the President's broad power to make binding international
agreements that do not need to be ratified by a two-thirds majority vote in
the Senate. For example, the President could enter into either a
"congressional-executive" agreement under authority already granted by
Congress, or a "sole executive" agreement based on his own constitutional
powers. It cites agreements such as NAAFTA and the WTO that the US signed
without ratification of two-thirds of the Senate.
The report also details the President's broad authority to reduce domestic
greenhouse gas emissions under existing environmental laws, including the
Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, and National
Environmental Policy Act. The release of the report follows an important
finding by the Environmental Protection Agency issued earlier in the week
that greenhouse gases endanger public health and welfare and the Center and
350.org's petition to the EPA of last week asking EPA to set a national
pollution cap on greenhouse gases.
You can follow the Center's work in Copenhagen on their blog "The World on
Thin Ice: The Center Live From Copenhagen 2009" at
Didn't make it to Copenhagen? That's ok, because there is plenty to do
On Thursday, December 10, President Obama will receive the Nobel Peace
Prize. Before he heads off to Copenhagen next week for the most important
international meeting on climate change ever, the Center for Biological
Diversity is asking everyone to take one minute to call the White House at
(202) 456-1111 to congratulate him on the Nobel Prize and to let him know
that the world's inhabitants -- people, animals, and plants -- are relying
on his bold leadership to bring with him to Copenhagen emissions reductions
targets of 45% or more below 1990 by 2020, rather than his current proposal
to reduce emissions only 3% below 1990 by 2020, which would lead to climate
In addition to your calls, the Center will be delivering to the White House
and Senate offices petitions with nearly 30,000 signatures from people like
us calling for a climate agreement that sets an overall cap on atmospheric
carbon dioxide levels of no more than 350 parts per million; maintains and
uses all of the Clean Air Act's ability to regulate critical polluters; and
eliminates or greatly reduces offsets and other loopholes. It's essential
we get it right the first time. This may be our only chance.
Want even more to do? On Friday, December 11, 350.org is organizing vigils
around the world. Find one near you: http://www.350.org/weekend
Back at home this week, The Center for Biological Diversity and 350.org took
an historic step: they petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency to
set national limits for carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas pollution
under the Clean Air Act. The petition seeks to have greenhouse gases
designated as "criteria" air pollutants and atmospheric CO2 capped at 350
parts per million (ppm), the level leading scientists say is necessary to
avoid the worst impacts of global warming.
"It's time to use our strongest existing tool for reducing greenhouse gas
pollution - the Clean Air Act. The Act's provisions should cap carbon
pollution at no more than 350 parts per million," said Kassie Siegel, an
author of the petition and director of the Center for Biological Diversity's
Climate Law Institute. "For four decades, this law has protected the air we
breathe - and it's done that through a proven, successful system of
pollution control that saves lives and creates economic benefits vastly
exceeding its costs."
Last week, in advance of the international climate negotiations in
Copenhagen, the Obama administration proposed emissions reduction targets of just 3 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, far below the cuts of
approximately 45 percent necessary to get back to 350 ppm. The current
atmospheric CO2 level is approximately 385 ppm.
The administration argues that its hands are tied by the weak cap-and-trade
bills passed by the House of Representatives and under consideration by the
Senate. This Clean Air Act petition, however, demonstrates that the Obama
administration already possesses the legal tools to achieve deep and rapid
greenhouse emissions reductions from major polluters consistent with what
The UN's top climate scientist, Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, endorsed reducing carbon in our
atmosphere to no more than 350 ppm. NASA's top climate scientist James
Hansen has long advocated the need to reach 350.
"The science, unfortunately, is all too clear - 350 ppm is the most CO2 we
can have in the atmosphere if we want a planet 'similar to the one on which
civilization developed.' Around the world people have rallied around that
number, in what CNN called 'the most widespread day of political action in
the planet's history;' 92 national governments have endorsed it as a target.
Now it's time for the nation that invented environmentalism to use its most
progressive set of laws in the same effort," said Bill McKibben, founder of
While the Obama administration is moving forward to reduce greenhouse
pollution from automobiles and smokestacks under the Clean Air Act, two
laudable and critically important steps, the administration to date has
failed to implement other important and legally required provisions of the
The petition seeks a national pollution cap for CO2 and other greenhouse
pollutants through a central provision of the Clean Air Act requiring EPA to
designate "criteria" air pollutants, set national pollution limits for these
pollutants to protect the public health and welfare, and then assist the
states in carrying out plans to reduce emissions from major sources to
attain or maintain the national standards.
To date, EPA has designated six criteria pollutants: particle pollution
(PM), ground-level ozone (O3), carbon monoxide (CO), sulfur oxides (SOx),
nitrogen oxides (NOx), and lead. The petition seeks the addition of seven
greenhouse gases to the list, including CO2 with a cap of no more than 350
ppm, as well as designation and caps for methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O);
hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs); perfluorocarbons (PFCs); sulfur hexafluoride
(SF6); and nitrogen trifluoride (NF3).
Setting science-based national pollution caps for these greenhouse gases
would mark a critical step in the fight against global warming and add more
tools to the Clean Air Act programs the Obama administration is beginning
to implement. A national pollution cap for greenhouse gases would also
activate and coordinate the efforts of all 50 states, all of which currently
implement plans for the reduction of the existing criteria air pollutants,
and 38 of which are already drafting or implementing climate action plans.
"The Clean Air Act is a bipartisan bill signed by a Republican president.
Leading scientists at NASA and around the world say we need to get to 350
ppm. This petition simply asks EPA to do its job as science, the law, and
common sense require," said McKibben.
"Rather than perpetually wait for flawed and inadequate new climate
legislation before taking meaningful action, the Obama administration can
and must use the existing authorities under the Clean Air Act to set a
target of 350 parts per million to protect the climate and our future," said
The climate bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, as well as
legislation currently pending in the Senate, would eliminate EPA's authority
under the Clean Air Act to designate greenhouse gases as criteria air
pollutants and to set a cap on such emissions as requested in today's
If you belong to a group, the Center and 350.org need your organization to
stand with them by signing on to a letter of support that can be found at
ming_litigation/clean_air_act/sign-on_letter.html. Email your group's name, along with a contact person and title, to Rose Braz, the Center's climate
campaign coordinator, at email@example.com
Now is the time to enforce the Clean Air Act - not gut it. Together, we can
save the Clean Air Act and put it to work to save our climate
Well, it's that time of year again. Thanksgiving -- when everyone in the U.S. is supposed to be identifying what we are thankful for. I want to look ahead and think about what I hope to be thankful for. I hope to be thankful for the U.S. designating critical habitat for our beloved and imperiled polar bears!
A world without polar bears by the end of the century? That's what scientists are predicting unless we take action now. As global warming accelerates, the sea ice they depend on for survival is literally melting away. If polar bears are to survive into the next century, we must do everything we can to protect their sea ice habitat.
Global warming is melting Arctic sea ice at an alarming rate. Just yesterday, a report by UN climate scientist found that arctic sea ice is melting 40 percent faster than the panel estimated just a few years ago. Every year more and more polar bears are starving and drowning as they have to swim farther and farther to reach solid ice. Some are even turning to cannibalism in a desperate search for food. Two-thirds of all polar bears - including all bears in Alaska - will be extinct by 2050 if current trends continue. The rest of the species will be gone by the end of the century.
Since the 1997 Kyoto agreement, the level of carbon dioxide pollution has increased 6.5 percent, climate change has worsened and its impacts are greater than anticipated. Once frozen summer Arctic sea ice now has open ship passages. In Greenland and Antarctica, ice sheets have lost trillions of tons of ice. Glaciers in Europe, South America, Asia and Africa are shrinking faster than before.
Sea level has risen by about an inch and a half. Droughts and wildfires have turned more severe worldwide. And the species impacted are so many that the Center for Biological Diversity struggled to pare down the list to 350 for its "350 Reasons we need to get to 350ppm: 350 Species Threatened by Global Warming" web installation (http://350.biologicaldiversity.org).
The only way to prevent the complete loss of polar bears in the wild is to aggressively tackle global warming and institute strong protections for polar bear habitat to reduce other threats. Unfortunately, the Obama administration has been slow on tackling global warming and worse on protecting the polar bear's sea ice habitat.
In 2008, the Bush administration leased 2.7 million acres of prime polar bear habitat in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska to oil companies. Now, not only is the Obama administration defending these Bush-era leases, but Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has issued permits to oil companies allowing harassment of polar bears during oil exploration in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas off Alaska, he has approved a new proposal to drill in the Beaufort Sea next summer and is considering a similar proposal for the Chukchi Sea.
The good news is it's not too late to save the polar bear if we join together and take immediate action. Thanks to a lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity, the Obama administration has proposed designating more than 200,000 square miles of Arctic coastline and sea ice as critical habitat for the polar bear!
The administration is seeking comments on its proposed critical habitat now. Please tell the Obama administration that the proposed critical habitat is essential to the survival of the polar bear and that it must be protected against threats from offshore oil and gas drilling. Take action with the Center for Biological Diversity at http://mail.google.com/mail/?hl=en&tab=wm#inbox/12527f22b04c90a1 to make sure we don't have to face a world without polar bears.
As Eric left for his expedition to save the poles late last week, the U.S.
Senate Environment and Public Works Committee passed a global warming bill.
While we love to see action on global warming, this bill needs some big
changes for our beloved plant to stand a chance of avoiding climate
There are three fundamental problems with the bill that we need to address
as the bill moves through the Senate.
First, the bill would set an emissions reduction target far below what
scientists agree is necessary to stop global warming and ocean
acidification. Emission scenarios developed by the Intergovernmental Panel
on Climate Change indicate that the United States must reduce emissions 45
percent or more below 1990 levels by 2020 in order to stabilize the
atmosphere at a safe level of 350 parts per million or below. The Senate
bill is projected to reduce emissions just 4% below 1990 levels by 2020 -
far too little, too late.
Second, the bill would rollback one of our nation's most successful
environmental laws: the Clean Air Act. The Clean Air Act is our only
existing environmental law that could allow us to reach a goal of 350 ppm,
but the bill as it currently stands would remove the Act's authority to do
so. The bill would bar the Environmental Protection Agency from setting an
overall cap - such as 350 ppm -- on the permissible amount of carbon
pollution. Just when we need every tool in the toolbox to fight global
warming, the Senate bill would take away one of our most important tools.
Third, the bill's offset provisions are so vast and poor that they undermine
its modest emission-reduction goals. Economists have determined that many
industries will invest in dubious offsets instead of reducing their carbon
The political climate in Washington, D.C., is failing the very real,
physical climate of places like the poles, which have already changed for
the worse. Our elected leaders need to fix the problem, not apply false
band-aids. Join the Center for Biological Diversity and sign our petition
to President Obama and the Senate for strong global warming legislation that
1) sets an overall cap on atmospheric carbon dioxide levels of no more than
350 parts per million; 2) maintains the Clean Air Act's ability to curb
carbon pollution, and 3) eliminates or greatly reduces offsets and other
Center for Biological Diversity