|Peter Bahouth, Executive Director
May 16, 2011
Talkin’ about Global Warming…
Bill Gates, photo courtesy of
There was a time when Bill Gates’ silence on the issue of climate change was deafening. It seemed inconceivable that America’s richest and most famous entrepreneur didn’t ‘get it’ about climate. Thankfully, those days appear to be gone. At a Climate Solutions event in Seattle, Gates said some important things about the role of both the US and China in transforming our energy infrastructure. While Gates tends to focus his comments on the role of technology and R&D, and less on the immediate action to reduce emissions we need to see from lawmakers, his comments affirm the reality of the new energy economy that is emerging and the need to accelerate the transition from fossil fuels.
As Gates was speaking in Seattle, US and Chinese diplomats were meeting in Washington to continue their strategic and economic dialogue. The two nations agreed to important collaborative efforts on efforts on greenhouse gas inventories, wind power deployment, and smart grid technologies and on to reach agreement in the international climate negotiations. Secretary Clinton applauded these cooperative actions and indicated that they had also agreed to work to make the Durban talks a success. She said, “We want to follow through on the Green Fund that was agreed to in Cancun, set up a climate change technology center and network and write the guidelines for a new regime of transparency and accountability. If the United States and China can work together, then we can make a giant step toward fulfilling the agenda and making the next U.N. climate meeting in Durban, South Africa a success.”
Amidst all this public talk about climate, the newest official entrant into the race for the Republican candidate for President, Newt Gingrich, is clearly wishing he had kept quiet. In his appearance ‘on the couch’ with then-Speaker Pelosi in a 2008 ad sponsored by the Alliance for Climate Protection, Gingrich talked about the need to address climate change. Fox News attacked Gingrich for his comments and his connection to both Speaker Pelosi and Al Gore. But Mr. Gingrich was on solid scientific ground with those statements and should stand his ground rather than run away. Just this week, a new National Academy of Sciences report said, “The risks associated with doing business as usual are a much greater concern than the risks associated with engaging in ambitious but measured response efforts.” The committee of authors was bipartisan and included business leaders along with academic researchers and professional analysts.
Also this week, many USCAN members took issue with some business voices, challenging the coal industry’s funding of misleading information in schools to pointing out the hypocrisy of airlines launching an ‘eco skies’ campaign, while attempting to block EU rules limiting airline pollution . Pollution from coal fired power plants is one of the leading sources of carbon pollution in the US and emissions from aviation are expected to triple in the next few decades. Amid such outlandish real life examples of corporate irresponsibility came the fictional ‘Cloud Peak Energy’ announcement of its give-away program of free, ‘cool’ inhalers for kids who live next to coal fired power plants. Despite Peabody coal’s reaction (which featured more misrepresentations, including a claim that their position was backed by WRI’s research), the truth was out. And as representatives of the biggest oil companies are called to testify in front of the Senate Finance Committee today about oil and gas tax subsidies and rising energy prices, environmental and campaign finance reform groups pointed to the millions of dollars Senators have received from oil and gas company donors and PACs since 1999.
Despite all the confusion, one thing is clear: global warming pollution harms our health and our environment. The facts are on our side and we need to say so with a clear, united and louder voice.
Angela Anderson, Program Director