Barack Obama: ‘no’ to solar panels on the White House roof

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Campaigner Bill McKibben says solar panels would demonstrate presidential leadership on climate change

A quest to get Barack Obama to shout his commitment to solar power from the roof tops – by re-installing vintage solar panels at the White House – ended in disappointment for environmental campaigners today.

Bill McKibben, the founder of, had led a group of environmental activists to Washington in a bio-diesel van hoping to persuade Obama to re-install a set of solar panels originally put up by Jimmy Carter.

The actual Carter-era solar panels – which weigh in at 55 kilograms and are nearly 2 metres long – are out-dated now. But campaigners had hoped that the White House would embrace at least the symbolism of going solar – much like Michelle Obama kicked off her healthy food movement by planting a vegetable garden.

“Clearly, a solar panel on the White House roof won’t solve climate change – and we’d rather have strong presidential leadership on energy transformation. But given the political scene, this may be as good as we’ll get for the moment,” McKibben said in a Washington Post comment this morning.

A California company Sungevity had offered to equip the White House with the latest technology.

But the White House declined – twitchy perhaps about inviting any comparison to one-term Democratic president Carter in the run-up to the very difficult mid-term elections in November. The White House did send three staffers to meet the campaigners.

McKibben told reporters after the meeting:

“They refused to take the Carter-era panel that we brought with us and said they would continue their deliberative process to figure out what is appropriate for the White House someday. I told them it would be nice to deliberate as fast as possible, since that is the rate at which the planet’s climate is deteriorating.”

The White House offered up its own version of the meeting in a statement:

“Representatives from the White House met with the group to discuss President Obama’s unprecedented commitment to renewable energy including more than $80 billion in the generation of renewable energy sources, expanding manufacturing capacity for clean energy technology, advancing vehicle and fuel technologies, and building a bigger, better, smarter electric grid, all while creating new, sustainable jobs…They concluded by reiterating our continued commitment to promoting renewable energy development.”

Carter held a rooftop press conference in 1979 to show off the 32 solar panels and drive home a message to Congress that it was time to get America off imported oil. The panels were used to heat water for the White House staff mess.

The message did not take though, and the panels themselves did not even survive Ronald Reagan. The panels were removed in 1986 during roof repairs. They eventually ended up at Unity College in Maine where they were used to heat water in the student cafeteria until 2005 when they were retired.

The van carrying the solar panels is now parked a few blocks away from the White House and will be rolling again on 10th October as part of the 10:10:10 international day of action on climate change.

  • © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010

One Stop for Climate Change Info

 CC2New site consolidates climate change data in one easy-to-use portal

Posted: September 7, 2010

By Marlene Cimons, National Science Foundation

The “Climate-1 Stop” aims to be just what its name implies: a single place where people easily can find all the reliable information, resources and tools about climate change that they need.

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“There’s plenty of information out there, but it’s really difficult to find the one specific thing you need,” said Jessica Coughlin. “You can become overwhelmed.”

Coughlin heads the Institute for the Application of Geospacial Technology, a nonprofit organization located in Auburn, N.Y. and affiliated with Cayuga Community College. The institute, which provides expertise in geographic information systems technology, including GPS, remote sensing, digital mapping, and geospatial data, among other things, has created a new single Web site on climate change.

The goal is to help scientists, decision-makers, nonprofit workers, other officials, and even lay people, find the right climate change data they are seeking. The site will provide access to research papers and other documents, news articles, other Web sites and useful tools from other agencies.

“The initial focus is to foster collaboration among climate adaptation and mitigation practitioners—people who are working in the field, especially countries with more need,” Coughlin said. “The effects of climate change are going to be felt more severely in underdeveloped nations that don’t have the resources to change as rapidly as the United States. But, can anyone use it? Of course. Researchers already are using it. A lot of different people are using it.”

The Web site, or geoportal, first unveiled last December at the climate conference in Copenhagen, is funded by a two-year $299,853 award as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. It is a collaboration of three federal agencies, the National Science Foundation, USAID (The United States Agency for International Development), and NASA (the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.)

Others who are involved include experts from the University of Alabama at Huntsville, NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, and the Water Center for the Humid Tropics of Latin America and the Caribbean (CATHALAC), in Panama.

“It’s almost like an electronic table of contents to help you find the information,” Coughlin said. “For example, if you don’t know whether NOAA [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] has what you need, or NASA, or the World Bank, you would have to go to all those individual sites. This is very taxing and time-consuming. This is more of a filter that helps narrow down what you are looking for.

“We didn’t want to redo what is already out there, so this is more of a ‘pointer’ data base,” she added. “We will keep things current. This helps somebody looking for a specific piece of information, who doesn’t know where it came from. It means they don’t have to look at 22 different agency Web sites.”

The new climate portal builds upon NASA’s existing SERVIR site, which uses satellite imagery and other data to rapidly map locations where a flood, fire, hurricane, earthquake or other natural disaster has struck. With facilities in Central America and East Africa, SERVIR tries to help policymakers decide where to send aid in a hurry. The SERVIR team also monitors and delivers information on climate change and environmental threats, and, since its March 2005 introduction in Central America, has tracked more than 11 environmental threats and 25 natural disasters, according to NASA.

Scientists and others will be able to add research and other data to the new climate site, “but we’re not allowing anybody to just type in any random thought,” Coughlin said. The site will have a moderator who will monitor entries. “He’s not going to go through every single link and judge it, but if there is some piece of junk that doesn’t belong, he will let us know and we will remove it,” she said.

As part of the undergraduate research component of the project, a group of students from Cayuga and Alabama went to Panama last January to work with researchers and educators at CATHALAC. Among other things, the trip included a visit to Barro Colorado, a tropical island that serves as a lowland moist tropical forests study site for the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.

The students blogged about their experiences throughout their journey and delivered presentations at their home schools upon their return.

“The thing I take away most from this trip was the ability to see a problem from so many sides, through the eyes of so many different communities…affected by the same problem,” one of the students wrote on his blog. “I know here in the United States we are generally apathetic to climate change these days, simply ignoring it because we haven’t seen any big problems yet, aside from some nasty hurricanes, and the last two cool years didn’t help either. Seeing it from another perspective is something everyone needs, to help us see how we need to fix the world.”

 CC2Climate Change Effects Hugely Unequal Globally

By Edger Created Aug 13 2010 – 8:00am

“Climate Change is the biggest global health threat of the 21st century.”

On May 16, 2009 a collaboration between the British medical journal The Lancet and University College London released the first UCL Lancet Commission report, assessing the impact of global warming on global health, and on populations.

Titled Managing the health effects of climate change (.PDF), the year long study highlights the threat of climate change on patterns of disease, water and food insecurity, human settlements, extreme climatic events, and population migration. The report also highlights the action required by global society to mitigate the health impacts of climate change.

“Climate change,” the report concludes, “is the biggest global health threat of the 21 century.”

But the impact on and cost to human societies globally is hugely unequal, with the populations of developed countries that benefit most from fossil fuels projected to suffer the least, while poorer countries that because of the projected health cost to their peoples have the maximum incentive to prevent climate change have virtually no power to do anything to prevent the changes.

It’s the old story of the comparatively few rich benefiting in comfort at the expense of poverty stricken multitudes.

The report presents the two distorted maps shown below (click the images to view full size) – density equalizing cartograms depicting a comparison of undepleted CO2 emissions by country for 1950-2000 versus the regional distribution of four climate sensitive health consequences (malaria, malnutrition, diarrhea, and inland flood-related fatalities).

The first image shows the world in terms of carbon emissions. America, for instance, is huge. So is China. And Europe. Africa is hardly visible.

The second map shows the world in terms of increased mortality — that is to say, deaths — from climate change. Suddenly, America virtually disappears. So does Europe. Africa, however, is grotesquely distended. South Asia inflates.

In Barack Obama’s commencement address Sunday May 17, 2009 at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, Obama exhorted the graduates to recognize that “that our fates are tied up, as Dr. King said, in a ‘single garment of destiny.’” and “Your generation must decide how to save God’s creation from a changing climate that threatens to destroy it.”

But the peoples of the world are not bound equally.

“Loss of healthy life years as a result of global environmental change (including climate change) is predicted to be 500 times greater in poor African populations than in European populations,” states the UCL Lancet Commission report bluntly.

Source URL (retrieved on Sep 11 2010 – 8:07am):

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