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Climate Change Is a Clear and Present Danger, Landmark U.S. Report to Say

May 4, 2014

Climate change has moved from distant threat to present-day danger and no American will be left unscathed, according to a landmark report due to be unveiled on Tuesday.

The National Climate Assessment, a 1,300-page report compiled by 300 leading scientists and experts, is meant to be the definitive account of the effects of climate change on the US. It will be formally released at a White House event and is expected to drive the remaining two years of Barack Obama's environmental agenda.

The findings are expected to guide Obama as he rolls out the next and most ambitious phase of his climate change plan in June – a proposal to cut emissions from the current generation of power plants, America's largest single source of carbon pollution.

The White House is believed to be organising a number of events over the coming week to give the report greater exposure.

"Climate change, once considered an issue for a distant future, has moved firmly into the present," a draft version of the report says. The evidence is visible everywhere from the top of the atmosphere to the bottom of the ocean, it goes on.

"Americans are noticing changes all around them. Summers are longer and hotter, and periods of extreme heat last longer than any living American has ever experienced. Winters are generally shorter and warmer. Rain comes in heavier downpours, though in many regions there are longer dry spells in between."

The final wording was under review by the White House but the basic gist remained unchanged, scientists who worked on the report said.

On Sunday the UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, said the world needed to try harder to combat climate change. At a meeting of UN member states in Abu Dhabi before a climate change summit in New York on 23 September, Ban said: "I am asking them to announce bold commitments and actions that will catalyse the transformative change we need. If we do not take urgent action, all our plans for increased global prosperity and security will be undone."

Gary Yohe, an economist at Wesleyan University and vice-chair of the NCA advisory committee, said the US report would be unequivocal that the effects of climate change were occurring in real-time and were evident in every region of the country.

"One major take-home message is that just about every place in the country has observed that the climate has changed," he told the Guardian. "It is here and happening, and we are not cherrypicking or fearmongering."

The draft report notes that average temperature in the US has increased by about 1.5F (0.8C) since 1895, with more than 80% of that rise since 1980. The last decade was the hottest on record in the US.

Temperatures are projected to rise another 2F over the next few decades, the report says. In northern latitudes such as Alaska, temperatures are rising even faster.

"There is no question our climate is changing," said Don Wuebbles, a climate scientist at the University of Illinois and a lead author of the assessment. "It is changing at a factor of 10 times more than naturally."

56 Senators Back New Keystone Fast-Track Bill

May 1, 2014
(The Hill)

Keystone XL supporters on Thursday introduced legislation they said was backed by 56 senators that would immediately greenlight the controversial oil pipeline.

"I have 56 hard yeses," Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.), who introduced the bill with Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), told reporters Thursday.

"Beyond that I've got six or seven maybes. Our challenge is going to be to get to 60 votes," he said.

Eleven Democrats are among the 56 senators backing the bill, which would immediately give pipeline developer TransCanada the green light on a permit to begin construction of Keystone XL, according to a release from Landrieu's office. 

Dutch Arrest 40 Greenpeace Activists Protesting Gazprom Arctic Oil Shipment

May 1, 2014

More than 40 Greenpeace activists have been arrested in Rotterdam protesting against the first delivery of oil extracted from offshore Arctic waters.

According to a report from the NGO, Dutch security agents also took control of Greenpeace's flagship Rainbow Warrior, which was trying to prevent Gazprom oil tanker Mikhail Ulyanov from docking.

The tanker is carrying 70,000 tonnes of crude oil extracted by the Prirazlomnaya oil rig, located in the Pechora Sea, 60 kilometers off the Russian coast.

French oil giant Total has bought this shipment, which it will distribute to European markets.

Last year 30 Greenpeace activists were jailed in Russia for 100 days after staging anti-drilling protests alongside the Prirazlomnaya oil rig.

Last year 30 Greenpeace activists were jailed in Russia for 100 days after staging anti-drilling protests alongside the Prirazlomnaya oil rig.

Oil Train Derails in Fiery Blast in Virginia, Leaks Into River

May 1, 2014

A CSX Corp train carrying crude oil derailed and burst into flames in downtown Lynchburg, Virginia, on Wednesday, spilling oil into the James River and forcing hundreds to evacuate.

In its second oil-train accident this year, CSX said 15 cars of a train traveling from Chicago to Virginia derailed at 2:30 p.m. EDT. Fire that erupted on three of the cars was extinguished several hours later, the company said.

The three cars, each weighing 100 tons, fell down an embankment into the river and were still leaking oil on Wednesday evening, city mayor Michael Gillette told Reuters.

There were no injuries, and the nearly 350 residents who were evacuated earlier in the day were allowed to return to their homes, he said.

Harvard Carbon Divestment Activists Blockade Entrance to President's Office

Apr 30, 2014
(Boston Herald)

Harvard students have blockaded the main entrance to university President Drew Faust's office, calling for an open meeting with Harvard's governing body about fossil fuel divestment.

The protest began at 6 a.m. outside the administrative offices in Massachusetts Hall with about 30 members of the Divest Harvard campaign, part of a global movement with more than 400 campuses calling for endowments to divest from the top 200 publicly traded oil, coal and gas companies that own the majority of the world's carbon reserves and are responsible for the climate crisis, the students said. No arrests have been made.

"Lots of students feel that Harvard investing in fossil fuel companies is not socially responsible, both for the damage fossil fuels cause through climate change and the political activities the industry engages in to block climate change legislation and to fund climate change misinformation," said graduate student Ben Franta, one of the protesters.

Sen. Reid in Talks to Hold Keystone Pipeline Vote Next Week

Apr 30, 2014
(The Hill)

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is talking with Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and other senators about voting on the Keystone XL pipeline next week.

Reid said Tuesday that he has had discussions with Republican Sens. John Hoeven (N.D.) and Rob Portman (Ohio) about linking a nonbinding amendment on Keystone to energy efficiency legislation that will come to the Senate floor next week.

But he is also coming under pressure from some members to consider a vote on legislation urging President Obama to greenlight the controversial pipeline, according to a Senate aide.

A Senate Democratic aide said Reid has a tough decision to make on whether to set up a vote on a sense-of-the-Senate resolution or binding legislation.

World's Biggest Fund Manager to Help Create Index That Bars Fossil Fuel Companies

Apr 30, 2014
(Financial Times, sub. req.'d)

BlackRock, the world's biggest fund manager, has teamed up with London's FTSE Group to help investors avoid coal, oil and gas companies without putting their money at risk.

In a sign that a global campaign against fossil fuels is entering the financial mainstream, companies that extract or explore for such fuels are excluded from a new set of indices created by FTSE, a large provider of stock market indexes

Several market benchmarks have already been developed to cover companies likely to profit from tougher environmental regulations, such as renewable energy or water management groups.

But the FTSE ones are believed to be the first from a leading index group that specifically bar fossil fuel companies.

Supreme Court Upholds EPA Rules on Cross-State Coal Pollution

Apr 29, 2014
(New York Times)

In a major environmental victory for the Obama administration, the Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld the Environmental Protection Agency's authority to regulate the smog-causing pollution from coal-fired power plants that wafts across state lines from 27 Midwestern and Appalachian states to the East Coast.

The 6-to-2 ruling upholds a centerpiece of what has become a signature of President Obama's environmental agenda: a series of new Clean Air Act regulations aimed at cutting pollution from coal-fired power plants. Republicans and the coal industry have criticized the effort as a "war on coal."

Legal experts said the decision, written by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, signaled that the Obama administration's efforts to use the Clean Air Act to fight global warming could also withstand legal challenges. The E.P.A. is expected to unveil in June a sweeping new climate change regulation, using the authority of the Clean Air Act to rein in carbon pollution from coal plants.

'Green Nobel' Goes to 6 Activists, Including Indian Coal Campaigner, NY Fracking Activist

Apr 29, 2014

Six environmental advocates from India, Peru, Russia and three other nations have won this year's Goldman Prize, which is awarded annually for grassroots activism.

India's Ramesh Agrawal received the prize for helping villagers fight a large coal mine in Chhattisgarh state, the San Francisco-based Goldman Environmental Foundation said Monday.

Peru's Ruth Buendia was recognized for helping to prevent construction of two large dams that would have displaced nearly 10,000 indigenous people in the Peruvian Amazon, and Russian zoologist Suren Gazaryan won for defending protected areas around Sochi from illegal land seizures for Olympic construction projects, it said.

National Wildlife Federation Sues for Release of Tar Sands Pipeline Documents

Apr 25, 2014
(Portland Press Herald)

The National Wildlife Federation has filed a federal lawsuit in an attempt to force the U.S. Department of State to release documents pertaining to the potential reversal of an oil pipeline to carry so-called tar sands crude oil from Montreal to South Portland's waterfront.

The federation filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Vermont on Wednesday, according to a news release from the federation.

Jim Murphy, the federation's senior counsel, claims the State Department has failed to comply with a Freedom of Information Act request made nearly two years ago for documents that would shed light on plans that the pipeline's owner, Portland Pipe Line Corp., may have to reverse its pipeline.