• Reason 7: Essential to Create Public Support to Pass Climate Legislation

    June 06,2012, 08:12 AM

    by Jim Ball

    This post is the last in my 7 Reasons Why series making the case for why the President must talk now about climate change being a top priority.

    To begin to make my final point, let me summarize much of what I've said thus far:

    • global emissions must peak during the next Presidential term to overcome global warming and ocean acidification,
    • the rate of change to achieve this is daunting but doable,
    • forestry and agriculture must be part of the solution, and
    • we must make major preparations to adapt and help the poor adapt.

    All of this requires comprehensive climate legislation with the following characteristics:

    1. Puts a price on carbon in a way that avoids economic harm to the poor and doesn't disproportionately impact any region or major sector of the economy.
    2. Provides significant long-term funding for climate-friendly R&D.
    3. Has specially designed programs to incentivize climate-friendly activities in forestry and agriculture.
    4. Creates and funds comprehensive adaptation programs for both the U.S. and poor countries.

    Clearly whoever is the President cannot do this alone. He needs support. And those of us who have accepted the climate challenge must play our part and help create a movement for climate action.

    But the President also needs to help build support for action. The nature of the threat requires it, given that we only have a few years to launch a revolutionary, society-wide transformation. So too does the creation of public concern and support.

    The work of social scientist Robert Brulle and his colleagues shows that public concern for climate change goes up when senior political leaders talk about the need for action. It goes down when they don't, or when they speak against action.

    As one of Brulle's colleagues, Craig Jenkins, put it:

    "It is the political leaders in Washington who are really driving public opinion about the threat of climate change "The politics overwhelms the science."

    In addition, their study found that the level of public concern also tracked with the amount of media coverage there was, which itself was driven to a large extent by what political leaders were saying.

    In an interview Brulle got right to the point: "The fact that Obama isn't talking about the issue or even using the word matters very much."

    What's normally the case for politicians is that they respond to what the public considers to be an urgent concern. This mentality was captured in a recent interview on climate change with John Huntsman, former Republican candidate for President and former Governor of Utah. According to Gov. Huntsman, who continues to believe in global warming, the climate challenge

    "hasn't translated into any kind of action within the political community because you don't have people on a broad basis who are pushing us because they " just don't see the urgency. The political policy agenda does not move unless it has people who are moving it."

    He went on to observe that the lack of leadership is bipartisan:

    "I don't hear Democrats talking about it either. I don't see it on the agenda anywhere."

    Sad, but true.

    Here's the bottom line. The nature of this challenge, both the threat itself and the public support for action, demands Presidential leadership. He can't be the Facilitator-in-Chief on this one. He has to be the Leader-in-Chief. He can't lay back and wait for support to materialize. He must help create it.

    In his interview Gov. Huntsman reminded us that "Politics is the art of the possible." But in the case of overcoming global warming we need the President to help make it possible.

    Right now, unfortunately, the President is close to being the Neville Chamberlin of the climate challenge, with an apparent strategy of appeasement when it comes to this terrible threat. But President Obama has within him the courage to be the Winston Churchill of overcoming global warming. He must bring forth this God-given courage now and let the country know that it is a top priority. Doing so will give him the moral and political authority to say to the country and Congress that we must do what needs to be done to overcome global warming and create a better future for ourselves, future generations, and those most vulnerable, the world's poor.

    The Rev. Jim Ball is EEN's Executive Vice President for Policy and author of Global Warming and the Risen LORD.

  • Reason 6: The Need to Adapt

    June 05,2012, 06:08 AM

    by Jim Ball

    The world is already experiencing the effects of climate change. Even if the world puts into place a strong program to reduce global warming pollution we will still experience major impacts. And most of these consequences will fall on the poor.

    We are all going to have to adapt, and the rich are going to have to help the poor adapt.

    Climate adaptation is basically planning for hard times to come, like the Patriarch Joseph did in Egypt when he led the country to store up grain for the coming famine (Gen. 41).

    But just like Egypt needed the leadership of Joseph, so too our country needs the President to explain that we must invest in preparations for climate impacts here in the U.S., and that it is in our nation's interest to help the poor in poor countries do the same.

    It's pretty simple. The President can't make the case for climate adaptation if he isn't willing to talk seriously about climate change.

    Next Up: Essential to Create Public Support

    The Rev. Jim Ball, Ph.D., is EEN's Executive Vice President for Policy and author of Global Warming and the Risen LORD.

  • Reason 5: Ocean Acidification

    June 04,2012, 05:39 AM

    by Jim Ball

    Reason 5 in this 7 Reasons Why blog series is not about the consequences of global warming per se, but rather about another consequence of our carbon pollution called ocean acidification.

    God's oceans are a tremendous benefit to humanity. For example, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), "more than a billion people rely on food from the ocean as their primary source of protein."

    Unfortunately, humanity's poor stewardship -- including overharvesting, water pollution, bad development and fishing practices, and the rise of ocean temperatures from global warming -- is stealing God's blessing from the creatures of the sea (Gen. 1:20-22).

    Another major impact that has recently come to light is called ocean acidification, which is being caused mostly by the same carbon dioxide produced from burning fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas) that is also the major cause of global warming.

    Since the start of the Industrial Revolution, anthropogenic or human-caused CO2 has made the ocean 30% more acidic. A just-published study in Science concluded the following concerning the current rate of acidification:

    • it is happening faster than any time in the last 300 million years, and;
    • it is 10 times faster than the last time the oceans were this acidic some 56 million years ago " and that episode was accompanied by a massive extinction.

    In other words, what we are doing to God's oceans through ocean acidification is unprecedented in the history of the earth.

    Anything with a shell or skeleton made from calcium carbonate -- from oysters, clams and shrimp, to coral reefs, to tiny creatures like Pteropods that help create the foundation of oceanic food webs -- is in serious danger from ocean acidification. As NOAA states, "When shelled organisms are at risk, the entire food web may also be at risk."

    NOAA
    NOAA

    Let me briefly highlight two examples. First, coral reefs have been called the rainforests of the oceans for their ability to support so much life " approximately 25 percent of the living creatures of the oceans. They also generate billions of dollars in benefits to humanity. Coral reefs are a focal point of God's blessing of the seas: "God blessed them and said, 'Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas'" (Gen. 1:22).

    Ocean acidification on its own puts coral reefs at risk. In our lifetimes -- on our watch as God's stewards -- we could literally destroy the capacity of many coral reefs to sustain life through ocean acidification and other harmful activities.

    Second, oysters are a major industry, with the West Coast bringing in over $270 million a year. As NOAA reports, "In recent years, there have been near total failures of developing oysters in both aquaculture facilities and natural ecosystems on the West Coast." They consider ocean acidification a "potential factor" in this collapse." A just-published study of a commercial oyster hatching facility in Oregon goes further, concluding that ocean acidification was responsible for a decline to a level that was not economically sustainable.

    Just as with climate change, it is ocean acidification's unprecedented rate of change that requires us not simply to have a gradual transition towards clean energy. The President must help the country understand that we need a revolution, not just a transition. We need a great transformation to overcome these twin challenges of climate change and ocean acidification. But time is running short to bring about this great transformation. The country cannot accomplish this without strong leadership from the President.

    Next Up: The Need to Adapt

    The Rev. Jim Ball, Ph.D., is EEN's Executive Vice President for Policy and author of Global Warming and the Risen LORD.

  • Reason 4: It's Not Just About Energy -- Forestry and Agriculture

    May 30,2012, 05:16 AM

    by Jim Ball

    More than half of the actions to reduce global warming pollution worldwide will need to come from outside the electricity and industrial sectors. While electricity's potential is the largest at 26%, you might be surprised to learn that the forestry sector is the next largest at 21%. And actions in the forestry sector keep overall costs of overcoming global warming worldwide down significantly " it would cost approximately 50 percent more without them.

    Here in the US, forestry accounts for around 11% of potential reductions, the same as transportation, while forestry and agriculture combined equal 17%, the same as what can be achieved via the industrial sector.

    For the President simply to talk about clean energy won't get us where we need to be in the U.S. on forestry and agriculture. And our innovations in these areas are needed to help prime the pump worldwide. But for us to play our part, the President must lead.

    Next Up: Ocean Acidification

    The Rev. Jim Ball, Ph.D., is EEN's Executive Vice President for Policy and author of Global Warming and the Risen LORD.

  • Reason 3: Natural Gas May Be "Fool's Gold"

    May 23,2012, 16:15 PM

    by Jim Ball

    Today's blog provides Reason 3 of the 7 Reasons Why the President must talk about climate change and not just clean energy.

    For years now natural gas has been touted as the "clean" fossil fuel, given that it lacks air pollutants like soot and mercury. And when burned at a power plant to make electricity, it produces about half the global warming emissions as coal.

    As such, natural gas has been pushed by some supporters of climate action as a "bridge" that will help take us from the fossil era into the clean energy era. (See, for example, former Sen. Tim Worth's comments here and here and here.)

    In his 2012 State of the Union address, the President proclaimed his Administration's strong commitment to natural gas development. He recently reiterated this in a speech in New Hampshire on March 1st:

    "We're taking every possible action to develop a near 100-year supply of natural gas, which releases fewer carbons."

    Unfortunately, serious reservations have recently been raised about natural gas serving as a "bridge" to a climate-friendly future. Indeed, natural gas could be "all hat and no cattle" when it comes to overcoming global warming.

    First, two prominent scientists, Myhrvold and Calderia just published the results from "a quantitative model of energy system transitions that includes life-cycle emissions and the central physics of greenhouse warming." Essentially they gamed out scenarios for replacing coal-generated electricity with electricity generated from sources that are less carbon intensive to determine what temperature reductions they would bring and when. They concluded that natural gas "cannot yield substantial temperature reductions this century."

    On its own this study raises important questions about natural gas as part of overcoming global warming. Certainly more study is needed along such lines.

    But other disturbing news has come to light about natural gas.

    Recent studies (here and here and here) have indicated that current and future natural gas production in this country could produce more global warming pollution than coal -- even more when looking at a 20-year time-frame. The main reason? Natural gas fields are leaking much more gas than previously thought.

    Again, more study is needed of such "fugitive emissions" as they are called. But enough has been done to raise very serious questions. These fugitive emissions could be addressed by an upcoming regulation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). By how much is not yet clear.

    Taken together, these studies suggest that natural gas can no longer be relied upon as part of a strategy of climate change mitigation. It could be "fool's gold" when it comes to overcoming global warming, foolish investments that take money away from real solutions.

    As such, the President cannot tout natural gas as part of an energy strategy he privately hopes will also address climate change. Indeed, it requires the Administration to put the brakes on natural gas until these serious climate concerns are thoroughly assessed. To justify such a major change in policy would require the President to talk about a key reason for the switch: climate change.

    Next Up: It's Not Just About Energy: Deforestation, Agriculture

    The Rev. Jim Ball, Ph.D., is EEN's Executive Vice President for Policy and Climate Change and author of Global Warming and the Risen LORD.

  • Reason 1: To Avoid Dangerous Tipping Points Global Emissions Must Peak During the Next Presidential Term

    May 17,2012, 12:22 PM

    by Jim Ball

    Yesterday I posted up the Introduction to this series of blogs providing 7 Reasons Why the President must talk about climate change and not just clean energy. Today's blog presents the first of these seven reasons.

    Whoever is President during the next term (2013-2016) will be the most important President ever -- before or since -- on overcoming global warming. No one person in the history of the world will have more opportunity to lead on climate change. He can't do it alone, but without strong leadership from the President we won't get it done. Simple as that.

    Just talking about clean energy doesn't convey either the urgency or the scale of the changes needed. When it comes to overcoming global warming, the International Energy Agency (IEA), which advises the G20 on energy matters, concluded the following in their latest annual report, the World Energy Outlook 2011:

    • 80 percent of the world's emissions budget is already "locked in" due to existing energy-related infrastructure (e.g. power plants, buildings, vehicles) and we are on track to lock in the remaining 20 percent by 2017.
    • If significant action is delayed until 2015, "around 45 percent of the global fossil-fuel capacity installed by then would have to be retired early or refurbished by 2035."
    • If action is delayed until 2017, all new energy-consuming capital stock will have to produce no global warming pollution if we are to have a chance at overcoming global warming. In other words, all new buildings, vehicles, power plants, etc., must be zero carbon/GHGs in order not to exceed a 2 degrees Celsius rise from preindustrial levels or 450ppm.

    Next up: We Need a Revolution, Not a Transition

    The Rev. Jim Ball, Ph.D., is EEN's Executive Vice President for Policy and Climate Change and author of Global Warming and the Risen LORD.

  • 7 Reasons Why the President Must Talk About Climate Change Before the Election and Not Just Clean Energy: Introduction

    May 16,2012, 09:55 AM

    by Jim Ball

    [Editor's Note: This is the Introduction to a 7-part blog series.]

    Climate change has nearly disappeared from the national conversation. But climate change itself has not disappeared. It still remains the great moral challenge of our time, impacting billions this century and a mortal threat to millions of the world's poor. And if we don't act decisively in the next few years dangerous tipping points could be crossed with consequences yet to be fully imagined. Overcoming climate change is still possible, but that window will soon close.

    Instead of talking about climate change, President Obama talks about clean energy -- and here lately he's shifted from talking about clean energy to talking about "American energy," even using a favorite phrase of Speaker John Boehner and House Republicans, an "all of the above" approach to American energy.

    The Administration's branding of their energy strategy
    The Administration's branding of their energy strategy

    Now there are lots of good things associated with clean energy, with striving for "energy security" and "energy independence." And it is vital to have an emphasis on producing more clean energy here in the United States. Who isn't for clean energy made in America?

    But to be a real leader of our country at this moment requires the President to talk about overcoming global warming, not just energy.

    To have the necessary political and moral authority to be the leader he needs to be, the next President (whether that be our current President or Gov. Romney) must state publicly that overcoming global warming will be a top priority in his Administration; without this, it will be extremely difficult for him to come to Congress and the country and ask for their support, given that major changes are needed that will affect all of us.

    I'm sure President Obama's rhetorical turns of phrase on energy poll quite well. And I'm guessing his political advisors could be telling the President to stay away from talking about climate change.

    But for the good of the country and the world the President must explain to the country why significant climate action is needed.

    Here are 7 reasons why:

    1. To Avoid Dangerous Tipping Points Global Emissions Must Peak During the Next Presidential Term

    2. We Need A Revolution, Not A Transition

    3. Natural Gas May Be "Fool's Gold"

    4. It's Not Just About Energy: Deforestation, Agriculture

    5. Ocean Acidification

    6. The Need to Adapt

    7. Essential to Create Public Support to Pass Climate Change Legislation

    (These 7 Reasons Why also apply to Gov. Romney. But he must also clarify his basic stance on the issue.)

    As part of this series, each of these 7 reasons will be posted as a separate blog post over the coming days.

    Next Up: Reason 1: To Avoid Dangerous Tipping Points Global Emissions Must Peak during the Next Presidential Term

    The Rev. Jim Ball, Ph.D., is EEN's Executive Vice President for Policy and Climate Change and author of Global Warming and the Risen LORD.

  • Attacking Climate Heroes Needs to Stop, and We All Need to Pray

    February 07,2012, 10:28 AM

    by Jim Ball

    Katharine Hayhoe is one terrific Christian. She's a climate scientist who's devoting her life to understanding how climate change will impact human beings and how we can begin to prepare or adapt to such changes. In this way she's like the Patriarch Joseph in the book of Genesis, who helped Egypt prepare for hard times to come.

    She also takes time out of her busy life of being a wife, mom, and professor to speak to church groups and other similar settings and patiently teach folks about global warming. She and her husband, a pastor, also took the time to write a book to help Christians accept the truth about climate change called A Climate for Change: Global Warming Facts for Faith-Based Decisions.

    She's a climate hero and a faithful Christian.

    I recently had the privilege of interviewing her at a conference we were attending. I encourage you to watch the video here to see for yourself what a great person she is.

    But right now she's being treated in a manner that is downright shameful -- and even worse, dangerous. It's well past time for her attackers to stop, and to repent from what they have done.

    One strategy of hard-core climate deniers has been to intimidate individual scientists by attacking them in public. Their goal is to shut them up and make an example of them so that others won't want to work in the area of climate change.

    Katharine is continuing to speak the truth about our need to overcome global warming even in the midst of such attacks, which have recently become voluminous, relentless, hateful, vile, and even dangerous. Some have gone so far as to suggest bodily harm and have mentioned Katharine's child. (Go here only if you want to see a sampling of such emails. The purpose of doing so is not to be salacious, but only to glimpse what our sister in Christ has been dealing with.)

    Katharine has been intentionally targeted for such attacks precisely because she is an evangelical speaking to evangelicals and other similar audiences considered to be the purview of the deniers. She's a threat to them and they are lashing out. Unfortunately, some of these folks are Christians and are behaving in a very unchristian manner.

    I'm not going to name the one person who is probably the most responsible for these terrible attacks on Katharine, the one who has continually published Katharine's email address. I will not do to him what he has done to our sister in Christ. But I want you to be aware that there is such a person.

    I've written this blog with one hope -- that people will pray that such attacks will stop. I'm asking you to:

    1. Pray for Katharine, her husband Andrew, and their child. Pray for their safety and wellbeing. Pray for her climate change teaching ministry.

    2. Pray for all the other scientists who are being attacked for teaching the truth about the need to overcome global warming.

    3. Pray for those who have sent these terrible emails, or for those thinking of doing so, that God will fill their hearts with His love and they will repent from such deeds.

    4. Pray for the one most responsible for Katharine's plight, the one that has published her email address, that he too will be filled with God's love so that he repents and asks forgiveness of Katharine and others he has helped to cause harm.

    5. Pray for ourselves, that we might not fall into temptation.

    6. Pray for our country, that we might have civil, respectful discourse on topics where we disagree.

    7. Share this blog with others, and ask them to pray these things.

    Finally, let us be encouraged by 1 Peter 4:

    Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins ... if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name (v. 8, 16, NIV).

    Amen!

    The Rev. Jim Ball, Ph.D., is Executive Vice President at EEN and author of Global Warming and the Risen LORD.

  • Durban Climate Talks Mark Significant Progress

    December 14,2011, 15:09 PM

    by Jim Ball

    The international climate talks that recently wrapped up in Durban, South Africa, could prove to be an historic turning point in the international community's efforts to overcome global warming. While the urgency for overcoming global warming has never been greater, it was actually helpful that expectations for this meeting were quite low.

    Durban achieved significant progress in helping the world to address both the causes and consequences of global warming.

    What was the potentially historic progress that Durban achieved? Its greatest breakthrough came in the area of overcoming the causes (also known as mitigation).

    In a brief document approved at these negotiations, called the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action, all countries agreed

    "to launch a process to develop a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change applicable to all Parties".

    Now some of you could be wondering, "They agreed to launch a process to develop ... something ... a something that sounds like legal hairsplitting. Gee, that sounds underwhelming."

    Understandable.

    Agreeing to a process to create what sounds like legal mumbo jumbo doesn't sound like much. But it's actually a significant accomplishment in a process that must come to fruition if it is ultimately to be meaningful.

    Some quick background.

    For the United States government, by necessity these international climate negotiations have been guided by two basic facts that lead to the same conclusion. The first is a political fact, the second a substantive one.

    The political fact is this: the Senate would never ratify a climate treaty that didn't include China and India having the same types of commitments as the U.S. If the U.S. was to have legally binding caps on emissions, then China and India would also have to have such restraints. Any agreement must clear this hurdle. One without it, like the Kyoto Protocol, is a total nonstarter.

    Here's the substantive fact: today China and India are the world's first and third largest emitters of global warming pollution. As I noted in an earlier blog, worldwide energy consumption is projected to grow by over 30% by 2035, and 50% of this will come from China and India -- much of it produced by coal if things continue along their present path.

    Thus, both politically and substantively China and India must take on the same types of commitments as developed countries like the U.S. if the world is to have a shot at overcoming global warming. (To be clear, the same type doesn't mean the same level of commitment of emissions reductions, something that will comprise very hard negotiating as the final deal is reached.)

    Movement had to come from China and India -- and at Durban it did. These words are the kicker:

    "an agreed outcome with legal force ... applicable to all Parties."

    For the first time the world's top three global warming polluters, China, the U.S., and India, agreed to work towards a legally-binding agreement to reduce the world's emissions.

    What created the Durban breakthrough was three things:

    1. The willingness of the European countries as represented by the European Union (EU) to meet a major demand of the developing countries that the Kyoto Protocol and its emissions reductions and other programs be continued for another term.

    2. The willingness of other developing countries who will be impacted most severely by global warming to challenge China and India to step up and accept binding commitments.

    3. The U.S. holding firm to the goal of having all major emitters be subject to the same types of requirements.

    This troika-of-the-moment led China and India to agree to a process whereby all countries will take on legal requirements. This treaty/protocol/instrument is to be negotiated by 2015 and come into force by 2020.

    When combined with continued progress on the political commitments made in the last two international climate negotiations in Copenhagen and Cancun, this gives the world a shot at overcoming the causes of global warming.

    Credit should be given where credit is due.

    Perhaps no one person had more to do with Durban's success than the EU's representative, Connie Hedegaard.

    EU Commissioner for Climate Action, Connie Hedegaard
    EU Commissioner for Climate Action, Connie Hedegaard

    According to various accounts, she helped bring together the EU, small island states, and least developed countries to forge an alliance that put China and India in a position where they needed to make a deal.

    The representatives from small island states and least developed countries (e.g. Grenada) that pressured the emerging economies of China and India also deserve praise. This was the first time that countries within those designated as "developing countries" challenged the major players in this bloc.

    Finally, the U.S. negotiating team, headed up by Todd Stern and Jonathan Pershing, are to be commended for holding firm to the goal of having all major emitters be subject to the same types of requirements. This was always the only way forward, and is now what everyone has agreed to work towards.

    As for overcoming the consequences through adaptation, some progress was made with the approval of the Green Climate Fund's organizational structure. This entity will be established this coming spring. However, there was no agreement on how it will be funded as part of the fulfillment of the $100 billion pledge made by the rich countries in Copenhagen. In terms of funding the Green Climate Fund as well as bi-lateral efforts to help poor countries adapt, the US needs to play a much more substantive role in the future.

    Clearly there is a tremendous amount of work left to be done. But internationally we now have a path forward with the Durban Platform and the Green Climate Fund that gives the world a fighting chance. Whether we will take that path remains to be seen.

    Finally, none of this will have any meaning if the U.S. doesn't get its act together and pass major domestic legislation in the next several years. The world needs us to lead the way in creating the clean energy revolution and in helping the poor in poor countries adapt to the impacts of climate change.

    Put together, all of this means that the 2012 election is the most important U.S. election there will ever be when it comes to overcoming global warming. Without strong leadership from the next President, I don't see how we will get there. Thus, we need presidential candidates to affirm that overcoming global warming will be a top priority in the next Administration.

    The Rev. Jim Ball, Ph.D., is Executive Vice President of EEN for Public Policy and Climate Change and author of Global Warming and the Risen LORD.

  • More Evidence That We Are In Climate Kairos Time, Flirting with Dangerous Tipping Points

    November 08,2011, 14:13 PM

    In the last chapter of my book, Global Warming and the Risen LORD, I state:

    Let me be frank. Many of us have been plodding along in chronological time on this great challenge, and have not awakened to the fact that we are now in kairos time when it comes to climate change. As used in the New Testament, the word kairos means a right or opportune moment usually associated with decisive action bringing about deliverance or salvation. If not acted upon, such moments can pass us by. We are in the kairos climate moment because there is still time to overcome global warming. There is still time for us to be spared from many of its potential devastating consequences, for the poor to be delivered from even more destructive impacts, for less of God's other creatures to become extinct and be robbed of God's blessing of life. If you are still operating in chronological time when it comes to overcoming global warming, it's time to wake up. Simply put: our kairos moment on global warming has arrived, and it won't last forever (p. 436).

    Several recent scientific articles confirm once again that right now is our climate kairos moment.

    The first article concludes that unless global warming pollution peaks soon and is in significant decline by 2020, it puts us in danger of not being able to overcome global warming by keeping us from exceeding a temperature increase of 2°C compared to preindustrial levels. The second article finds that if we continue on our current path, significant portions of the planet will begin to exceed 2°C by 2040, with the entire globe there by 2060.

    Added to these scientific findings is the fact that, contrary to assumptions that the global recession would slow global warming pollution down and buy us a little more time, global emissions exploded in 2010, according to the Department of Energy's Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center at its Oak Ridge Lab. (These findings are in keeping with those of the International Energy Agency.)

    Time Magazine's headline for the article by AP's scientific reporter Seth Borenstein about the increase captured the situation quite well:

    Biggest Jump Ever in Global Warming Gasses 

    As Borenstein comments,

    The new figures for 2010 mean that levels of greenhouse gases are higher than the worst case scenario outlined by climate experts just four years ago.

    Borenstein is referring to that wild and crazy group of the world's leading experts on climate change called the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Far from being serial exaggerators as deniers would have you believe, the IPCC's reports are quite conservative in their projections, as the latest global warming pollution numbers attest. Even their worst case emissions scenario was too low in comparison with our current reality. We've blown right past it. This means that our current path would have portions of the planet reaching 2°C even before 2040.

    It is the Risen LORD who is leading the way in overcoming global warming. But in keeping with human freedom, He does so through human beings. Based on the numbers, we're not doing such a great job of following the Risen LORD in overcoming global warming. What the scientists are telling us is that global emissions must peak by around 2015 and be in significant decline by 2020 to avoid heating the planet to a level where dangerous tipping points could be reached, resulting in far more suffering and destruction.

    Can global warming still be overcome with the Risen LORD leading the way? YES. But we must get started in a serious way right now. Join us as we follow the Risen LORD in overcoming global warming.

    The Rev. Jim Ball, Ph.D., is Executive Vice President at EEN and author of Global Warming and the Risen LORD.

  • Climate Extremes

    August 10,2011, 05:26 AM

    by Jim Ball

    It probably won't come as much of a surprise, but it's still noteworthy. This July had the highest "Climate Extreme Index" since records began being kept in 1910, as the graph above demonstrates. (The Index is comprised of extremes in temperature, precipitation, and extreme weather events.)

    Here, from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or NOAA (which includes the Weather Service), are some highlights about July's extremes:

    • Oklahoma and Texas had their warmest months ever on record, with average temperatures of 88.9 degrees F and 87.1 degrees F, respectively. Oklahoma's statewide average temperature was the warmest monthly statewide average temperature on record for any state during any month.
    • 41 of the lower 48 states had above-normal, much-above-normal, or a record warmest July. Only seven of the lower 48 states " all west of the Rockies " experienced a July average temperature near or below the 20th century average.
    • The South climate region -- Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Texas -- had its warmest single calendar month for any climate region on record. The average temperature of 86.1 degrees F, bested the previous all-time record of 85.9 set in July 1980 in the South climate region.
    • Dallas exceeded 100 degrees F on 30 of the 31 days in July. In Oklahoma City, July was the warmest single calendar month, with an average temperature of 89.2, beating the previous record of 88.7 degrees F set in August 1936. Washington, D.C.'s Reagan National Airport had its warmest single calendar month on record, with an average temperature of 84.5 degrees F, breaking the previous record of 83.1 degrees F set in July 2010 and July 1993.
    • The July heat wave was characterized by unusually warm minimum temperatures, during nights and early mornings. This is typical of U.S. heat waves in the last decade, and consistent with increasing warm summer nighttime extremes observed across much of the country since the late 20th century.
    • Wetter-than-normal conditions occurred along parts of the Gulf Coast, all of the Pacific Coast, and much of the upper Midwest. California tied for its fifth wettest July. Other states that were abnormally wet in July included: Utah (6th wettest), Wyoming (9th), and South Dakota (10th). At the same time, July offered no relief to the parched soils of Texas and Oklahoma where it was the second (tied) and ninth driest July on record, respectively.
    • Exceptional drought, as defined by the U.S. Drought Monitor, covers more than 75 percent of Texas (201,436 sq mi). Drought conditions are so harsh in some locations that it would take as much as 20 inches of precipitation in one month to end the drought. In Oklahoma, 100 percent of the state is suffering from moderate-exceptional drought compared to the beginning of the water year (9/28/2010), when drought conditions covered only four percent of the state.
    Wowza.

    Below is a map of July temperatures in the US.

    I grew up in the Dallas area and went to college at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. So I know how hot Texas summers can be. But this is ridiculous. As of Tuesday, Dallas had 39 days of 100-plus temperatures, and they are forecast for 100-plus for the rest of the week, which would break the record of 42 days of 100-plus temps.
        
    Unfortunately, as our colleague John Elwood has recently pointed out, such climate extremes may become the new normal for Texas because of global warming.
        
    The Rev. Jim Ball, Ph.D., is EEN's Executive Vice President and author of Global Warming and the Risen LORD.

  • My Journey into Creation Care

    August 09,2011, 13:10 PM

    by Matt Walter

    I went to a small, liberal arts Christian college in upstate New York. When I was a student there, I was involved with a group on campus called the ecology club. We helped with highway cleanup, built birdhouses and went on nature hikes. One night, the club was showing Al Gore's new movie, "An Inconvenient Truth." I went around campus plastering the bulletin boards with posters and told all my friends they should come see the movie. After inviting one of my good friends, she laughed and asked, "Why are you showing that movie on this campus?" I responded, "Why not? What's wrong with it?" She told me that she thought the movie was just a political tool and that she could not stand Al Gore. I was able to convince her to at least come and watch the movie (I think the free popcorn helped). After showing the movie, I closed the night with a few words. "Now, I know a lot of you don't like Al Gore and think that global warming is just a political issue. And I will agree that not everything Al Gore says may be correct and some things he presents may be taken out of context. But what if just half of what he is saying is correct? One thing I agree with him on is this: global warming is not a political issue, but a moral one. I could see that a lot of the people who came had their minds changed about global warming. But my friend was still not completely convinced. She asked me, "Even if global warming is real, there are so many other, bigger world problems that Christians should be focused on like feeding the hungry, ending wars, and diseases."

    by rovinglight from flickr creative commons
    by rovinglight from flickr creative commons

    This encounter highlights how I believe a lot of Christians feel about global warming. Even if they do recognize it as an issue, they don't consider it as serious of a moral issue as many other crises facing our world. Consider this; the United Nations World Health Organization released a fact sheet in January 2010 stating: "The global warming that has occurred since the 1970s was causing over 140,000 excess deaths annually by the year 2004." And this number is undoubtedly going to rise in future years as global temperatures continue to rise. 140,000 lives a year is not a political issue, it's a moral one. As Christians, we should be taking the lead on this issue. Even non-Christians who are aware of the full impact of climate change recognize it as a moral issue. Why is it so hard to convince Christians of this fact? Jesus told us to take care of widows and orphans, in other words those who cannot take care of themselves. The biggest victims of climate change are those in developing countries who do not have the technology to overcome the results of raising temperatures. As temperatures increase and farm lands dry out, they go without food since they don't have irrigation to ease the drought. As food supplies run out, more violence is spawned. As forests are consumed for money or fuel, locals must walk further to add fuel to their fires, literally. The people affected by these changes have no power to reverse the trend. The only hope they have is for those of us to have the ability to help to do something.

    Al Gore said, "There are good people who hold this issue at arm's length because if they recognize it and acknowledged it, the moral imperative to make big changes is inescapable." Global warming is a moral issue. Christians must realize this and take the lead in combating this. If you would like to dig deeper into this issue, I recommend Jim Ball's new book Global Warming and the Risen Lord. This book is an excellent source for understanding global warming and how it affects our Christian walk. Most importantly, global warming is not about you and me, it's about the "least of these" in todays' world and the generations yet to come.

  • Global Warming & the Risen Lord Book Review

    August 08,2011, 08:07 AM

    by Brittany Bennett

    I am truly astounded by how much has been put into this book. It is packed solid with the most accurate scientific information, true stories, and Scripture - yet it's very easy to read. I can't say it's not challenging, but I really couldn't put it down! I'm sure that you will be able to find the time in your busy life to read it as well, and will come back to it many times. I felt like I was literally taking a journey around the world and the Lord was holding my hand the whole time. I believe that's because He was at all these places and He sees what's going on. He knows all the people we meet and the places that are described. He also has a plan as ever, and that's where we come in.

    This is a book to unite generations and denominations into the Church that had the courage to walk with Jesus across the earth, and the faith to believe that there could be healing in the midst of global warming. It's a strong bridge across the widening gap that the followers of Christ are called to stand in.

    This book is written with the careful wisdom and understanding that most Christians simply didn't know that the future would look like this. We've tried to live our lives in obedience to the Lord, we've enjoyed what we worked for,and we given what we can - but along the way we became distracted from an understanding about our impact on the environment, and the ways that our neighbors and other living things are struggling to adapt.

    This is where I was a couple years ago. I've come to general understanding of what is going on and why I should care. The biggest struggle I have is wondering how I can be more faithful? How can I keep hope and know that in a few more years I won't be devastated from the weight of these challenges? What does it mean to be a son of God in a world where millions are seeking refuge from a climate that is changing around them? How can I be in this world where these things are occurring, but not of it? What are the most accurate specifics about global warming? Where can I give? What can I do with my talents and skills? What can we do together?

    So many questions friends! It is not easy to carry the cross down here, though it is an incredibly light burden compared to the alternative. Let me tell you that if you are wondering about these things too, please read this book. Don't be afraid. I have faith that it will bless you and give you sustenance as it has me.

    I thought that I had been hopeful, but I realized how little I've actually believed that the Risen LORD can so fully overcome. It is so easy to forget, but How good is He! How powerful and glorious is the Risen LORD that all our sin and weakness has been overcome! Many are the believers and great is the Lord. Let us walk together with Him as He brings redemption, and let us learn more about how we can love and care for all that He has loved.

    Brittany Bennett is a recent graduate of Eastern University and has been actively involved with creation care.

  • Progress in Understanding Climate Adaptation, Part Two

    July 15,2011, 13:57 PM

    by Jim Ball

    In Part One of this three-part series I discussed how a better understanding of climate adaptation in poor countries is now emerging, as demonstrated by three reports that have recently come out. Part One dealt with one of those reports from Oxfam and CNA entitled An Ounce of Prevention: Preparing for the Impact of a Changing Climate on US Humanitarian and Disaster Response.

    This blog, Part Two, will cover a very important report and proposal:

    Climate Knowledge for Action: A Global Framework for Climate Services "Empowering the Most Vulnerable." The Report of the High-level Taskforce for the Global Framework for Climate Services.

    Oh boy. That's one heck of a title. But it's actually not as bad as all that. Let's keep plugging away.

    First of all, by "climate services" they mean "climate information prepared and delivered to meet users' needs" (p. 8). It would be analogous to our getting the weather report so we know how to plan our day; such information is delivered to us in an easily understandable and timely fashion. But in this case, the forecast would be a "climate forecast," designed to help decisions-makers from heads-of-state to heads-of-households plan for current and future climate impacts.

    Here's a very helpful quote for understanding what they're about:

    Our vision is for an end-to-end system for providing climate services and applying them in decision making at every level of society. Putting this system in place will require unprecedented collaboration across political, functional, and disciplinary boundaries and a global mobilisation of effort (p. 3).

    I couldn't agree more, especially that "every level of society" includes poor families and communities have the information they need to make the right decisions.

     How would climate services be utilized? Here are some quick helpful examples they provide:

    • "Climate predictions can be used by farmers to help them decide, for example, which crops to plant or whether to reduce livestock numbers if a drought is forecast. Farmers making such decisions are likely to use climate outlooks of rainfall and temperature and take into account the uncertainty estimates provided with these products;
    • Statistical assessments of the future frequency of extreme weather and climate events can be used by engineers to help them make decisions, including where to invest in disaster mitigation measures such as dams, where to locate buildings, which construction methods to use and how much heating and cooling is needed for critical infrastructure;
    • Seasonal climate forecasts and monitoring of actual temperature and rainfall can be used to provide forecasts of when and where disease outbreaks are likely to occur. The impacts of predicted outbreaks can then be minimised by public awareness campaigns, stocking and shipping medical supplies and vector control programmes such as spraying;
    • Climate change projections, which can indicate precipitation patterns in the 30-to-50-year timeframe, can be used to guide major investment decisions relating to long-term water management such as whether and where to build new reservoirs" (p18).

    What's our current situation in relation to "climate services"? In the Forward, they begin with "a clear and striking appreciation" of three foundational facts:

    "Firstly, we know that everyone is affected by climate -- particularly its extremes, which cause loss of lives and livelihoods all over the world, but overwhelmingly in developing countries. Secondly, we know that -- where they exist -- needs-based climate services are extremely effective in helping communities, businesses, organizations and governments to manage the risks and take advantage of the opportunities associated with the climate. Thirdly, we know that there is a yawning gap between the needs for climate services and their current provision. Climate services are weakest in the places that need them most -- climate-vulnerable developing countries."

    So:

    1. climate impacts hit everyone, but the poor the hardest;
    2. getting people information they can use " a "climate forecast," " can help them prepare for bad stuff and "take advantage of the opportunities";
    3. those who need the climate forecast the most " the poor and vulnerable " are the ones least likely to get it.

    Here's the kicker. They continue by saying that "this situation is unacceptable and unjust," and they hope their report and proposal will help to bring about a reversal of this situation.

    In my book I identify 7 key ingredients to helping the poor adapt to the consequences of global warming:

    1) Commitment: Moral and Political Will

    2) Adequate Funding

    3) Good Governance

    4) The Right Policies

    5) Accurate, Understandable Information for All Decision- Makers

    6) An Integrated, Coordinated Response

    7) Community Engagement

    At first glance you might think that "climate services" involves only #5, providing all decision-makers accurate and understandable information. But achieving this will require all seven of these key ingredients to be in place.

    The High-Level Task Force believes that putting together the system that will make this a reality will cost $75 million a year. This will be money well-spent. It will be an investment whose economic rate of return will be much better than anything Wall Street has to offer. And its moral and spiritual "rate of return"? Even better. Treasure in heaven (Mt. 6:20).

    The good news of this report is that the Taskforce has laid out a road-map for how the nations of the world can work together to provide climate services for all who need them. That's progress.

    If there is one area where the Christian church needs to make sure that it is actively engaged in this process it is this: ensuring that poor people and communities do in fact receive accurate, understandable information that allows them to make the right decisions. This report talks about this as "the last mile," and recognizes that this is the point where all of their activities could fail. Christians in poor countries, "nationals" and "expats" alike, must ensure that the information makes it "the last mile." It is the day in and day out engagement of Christians in such local communities that will allow us to bring such valuable information that last mile.

    The last mile? That's Jesus country.

    The Rev. Jim Ball, Ph.D., is Executive Vice President at EEN and author of Global Warming and the Risen LORD.

  • Terrific Climate Change Series in Scientific American

    July 05,2011, 14:59 PM

    by Jim Ball

    I just finished reading a terrific 3-part series on climate change in Scientific American by senior journalist John Carey, a former reporter for Business Week. (As is clearly stated, the series was funded by the Pew Center on Climate Change.)

    I highly recommending reading this series. I think it has a great deal of material that can help you talk about climate change with others.

    To whet your appetite, below are the titles and links to the three articles, along with select quotations.

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Storm Warnings: Extreme Weather Is a Product of Climate Change

    Scientists used to say, cautiously, that extreme weather events were "consistent" with the predictions of climate change. No more. "Now we can make the statement that particular events would not have happened the same way without global warming," says Kevin Trenberth, head of climate analysis at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colo.

    That's a profound change"the difference between predicting something and actually seeing it happen. The reason is simple: The signal of climate change is emerging from the "noise""the huge amount of natural variability in weather.

    And

    "Our figures indicate a trend towards an increase in extreme weather events that can only be fully explained by climate change," says Peter Höppe, head of Munich Re's Geo Risks Research/Corporate Climate Center: "It's as if the weather machine had changed up a gear. [Munich Re is one of the world's largest reinsurers, or insurers of insurers.]

    And

    "All of a sudden we're not talking about polar bears or the Maldives any more," says Nashville-based author and environmental journalist Amanda Little. "Climate change translates into mold on my baby's crib. We're talking about homes and schools and churches and all the places that got hit."

    And more about the 2010 Nashville flood:

    The water rose in Little's basement"one foot, two feet, three feet (one meter) deep. "You get this panicky feeling that things are out of control," she says. Over at [Rich] Hays's home, fissures appeared in the basement floor, and streams of water turned into a "full-on river," Hays recalls. Then in the middle of night, "I heard this massive crack, almost like an explosion," he says. The force of the water had fractured the house's concrete foundation. He and his wife spent the rest of the night in fear that the house might collapse. ...

    And all across the flooded city the scenes were surreal, almost hallucinatory, Little says. "There were absurdities heaped upon absurdities. Churches lifted off foundations and floating down streets. Cars floating in a herd down highways."

    Global Warming and the Science of Extreme Weather

    Scientists compare the normal variation in weather with rolls of the dice. Adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere loads the dice, increasing odds of such extreme weather events. It's not just that the weather dice are altered, however. As Steve Sherwood, co-director of the Climate Change Research Center at the University of New South Wales in Australia, puts it, "it is more like painting an extra spot on each face of one of the dice, so that it goes from 2 to 7 instead of 1 to 6. This increases the odds of rolling 11 or 12, but also makes it possible to roll 13."

    Why? Basic physics is at work: The planet has already warmed roughly 1 degree Celsius since preindustrial times, thanks to CO2 and other greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere. And for every 1-degree C (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) rise in temperature, the amount of moisture that the atmosphere can contain rises by 7 percent, explains Peter Stott, head of climate monitoring and attribution at the U.K. Met Office's Hadley Center for Climate Change. "That's quite dramatic," he says. In some places, the increase has been much larger. Data gathered by Gene Takle, professor of meteorology at Iowa State University in Ames, show a 13 percent rise in summer moisture over the past 50 years in the state capital, Des Moines.

    And on the 2010 Russian heat wave, where Carey (the author) reports a disagreement among two prominent scientists about whether climate was involved:

    What is not in doubt is that the Russian heat wave is a portent"a glimpse of the future predicted by climate models. Even Hoerling [the scientist who doesn't see the 2010 heat wave as being intensified by climate] sees it as a preview of coming natural disasters. By 2080, such events are expected to happen, on average, once every five years, he says: "It's a good wake-up call. This type of phenomenon will become radically more common."

    Our Extreme Future: Predicting and Coping with the Effects of a Changing Climate

    Scientists hope that rigorously identifying climate change's contribution to individual extreme events can indeed wake people up to the threat. As the research advances, it should be possible to say that two extra inches (five centimeters) of rain poured down in a Midwestern storm because of greenhouse gases, or that a California heat wave was 10 times more likely to occur thanks to humans' impacts on climate. So researchers have set up rapid response teams to assess climate change's contribution to extreme events while the events are still fresh in people's minds. In addition, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is preparing a special report on extreme events and disasters, due out by the end of 2011.

    And

    One of the clearest pictures of this future is emerging for the U.S. Southwest and a similar meteorological zone that stretches across Italy, Greece and Turkey. Work by Tim Barnett of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, [Columbia University's Richard] Seager and others predicts that these regions will get hotter and drier"and, perhaps more important, shows that the change has already begun. "The signal of a human influence on climate pops up in 1985, then marches on getting strong and stronger," Barnett says. By the middle of the 21st century, the models predict, the climate will be as dry as the seven-year long Dust Bowl drought of the 1930s or the damaging 1950s drought centered in California and Mexico, Seager says: "In the future the drought won't last just seven years. It will be the new norm."

    And

    "Our civilization is based on a stable base climate"it doesn't take very much change to raise hell," Scripps's Barnett says. And given the lag in the planet's response to the greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere, many of these changes are coming whether we like them or not. "It's sort of like that Kung Fu guy who said, 'I'm going to kick your head off now, and there's not a damn thing you can do about it,'" Barnett says.

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The Rev. Jim Ball, Ph.D., is Executive Vice President at EEN and author of Global Warming and the Risen LORD.

  • Climate Truth-telling by a Presidential Contender

    June 07,2011, 06:57 AM

    by Jim Ball

    No one who denies that anthropogenic or human-induced climate change is a serious problem that must be overcome should be elected President of the United States. While many of the contenders for the Republican nomination have sadly run away from their previous positions affirming the need to address climate change, thankfully Mitt Romney has not.

    According to Reuters, at a recent campaign event in New Hampshire Romney was asked about climate change. Here's what he said:

    "I believe the world is getting warmer, and I believe that humans have contributed to that " It's important for us to reduce our emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases that may be significant contributors."

    Given that the Tea Party has pressured others to flip-flop, Romney showed backbone with these words. It's a promising sign.

    The Rev. Jim Ball is EEN's Executive Vice President for Policy and Climate Change and author of Global Warming and the Risen LORD.

  • NYTimes Ignores Climate Change Again

    June 02,2011, 08:26 AM

    by Jim Ball

    The New York Times continues to ignore climate change in stories where it clearly belongs. (See my earlier blog on this topic.) Once again they are doing so regarding China, this time in a major story published on June 1st about water scarcity. In an otherwise terrific article by Edward Wong, "Plan for China's Water Crisis Spurs Concern," not once is it mentioned that China's two major rivers, the Yellow and the Yangtze, the ones that the article primarily focuses on, are fed by glaciers of the Tibetan Plateau (which includes the Himalayan glaciers), and that these glaciers are retreating because of climate change. As I say in my book, Global Warming and the Risen LORD,

    "The glacial loss has already begun due to global warming from greenhouse gases as well as the regional and localized warming effects of black carbon. China's glaciers have declined 21% since the 1950s. As much as two-thirds of the glaciers in the Himalayas are retreating at a rate that is the quickest in the world" (p.102).

    In China alone over 500 million will face additional water scarcity due to this glacial loss.

    And yet not one word from the paper of record about this in an article on the tensions and conflicts being created by a massive effort to divert water from the rural South to the water scarce mega-cities of the North. The article does mention that throughout human history the North has faced droughts and water scarcity, leading to political unrest. All the more reason for global warming's intensification of this situation to be included. Global warming will make an already bad situation worse. Why would this not be mentioned? I assume that it isn't because Mr. Wong and his editors aren't aware of this. I won't insult their intelligence in this way. So I'm led to conclude that it was intentionally left out.

    Why?

    To me this serves as another example of the failure of the mainstream media to adequately report on climate change.

    The Rev. Jim Ball, Ph.D., is EEN's Executive Vice President for Policy and Climate Change and author of Global Warming and the Risen LORD.

  • The Governator on the Need for Clean Air

    April 25,2011, 13:29 PM

    by Jim Ball

    Last week former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger had an op-ed on clean air in the Wall Street Journal.

    Here are some excerpts.

    The Clean Air Act Keeps Us Healthy

    Congress can't be trusted to interfere with the EPA's scientific standards.

    By ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER

    I love American success stories. Start-up companies that change the marketplace, inventors who create new technologies, and, of course, immigrants who make it big in Hollywood. That's why I love the Clean Air Act, one of the most successful laws in American history. Over the last 40 years, it has made our air dramatically cleaner, saved hundreds of thousands of lives, and substantially boosted our economy.

    In 1968, I came to California and didn't know why my eyes were constantly filling with tears. I quickly learned about smog and bad-air days. These days, the air is much cleaner thanks to the Clean Air Act and technologies that resulted from it, such as catalytic converters on cars and particle traps on diesel exhaust. Those toxic smog days motivated everyone to act.

    Today, I have tears in my eyes again, but for a very different reason. Some in Washington are threatening to pull the plug on this success. Since January, there have been more than a dozen proposals in Congress to limit enforcement of our clean-air rules, create special-interest loopholes, and attempt to reverse scientific findings. These attacks go by different names and target different aspects of the law, but they all amount to the same thing: dirtier air.

    This is not an abstract political fight. If these proposals are passed, more mercury, dioxins, carbon pollution and acid gases will end up in the air our kids breathe. More Americans will get sick, end up in the hospital, and die from respiratory illness. We would be turning our backs on the sound science and medical advice that has reduced air pollution from large industrial sources by more than 70% since the late 1960s, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

    The rules that are under attack put common-sense limits on dangerous chemicals in our air. Mercury, which after 20 years is finally being regulated from power plants, is a dangerous neurotoxin that damages brain development and lowers IQs in young children "

    Hobbling the Clean Air Act will also hurt the economy. More air pollution causes more sick days, and thus hurts productivity. And, as I know from California's experience, clean-air rules have led to innovation and new technologies that have created hundreds of thousands of new jobs and billions in clean-energy investment.

    Congress should not substitute political calculations for scientific and medical facts. According to a recent poll by the American Lung Association, 69% of Americans believe that EPA scientists should set health standards, rather than members of Congress. Yet one proposal under consideration would actually overturn a finding by EPA experts on the impact of carbon pollution on our atmosphere. Another would prevent government scientists from even gathering information on the amount of this pollution going into the air.

    I began my public service by promoting fitness for kids, so I know how much parents worry about keeping their children healthy. We choose the right foods, encourage exercise, wear bike helmets, and keep them away from danger whenever we can. But there are some threats, like air pollution, that we can't protect them from on our own. We can't tell our kids not to breathe or control what toxins blow into our air from neighboring states.

    For this, we rely on our nation's clean-air laws.

    I'm proud that it was a fellow California Republican, President Richard Nixon, who signed the Clean Air Act into law in 1970. In 1990, the act was strengthened by huge bipartisan majorities in Congress. Let's keep that bipartisan tradition alive to make sure no more tears are shed over the clean air that the American people deserve.

    The Governator is providing some excellent leadership.

    The Rev. Jim Ball, Ph.D., is EEN's Executive Vice President and author of Global Warming and the Risen LORD.

  • $4 A Gallon? Some of Us Are Already There!

    April 13,2011, 07:20 AM

    by Jim Ball

    Gas must really be cheap somewhere else other than where I fill up here in northern Virginia, because yesterday I paid $3.99 for regular unleaded. A little over a month ago, on March 3, I posted a blog saying there was a chance that by this summer the average price for gas would be over $4 a gallon. A report yesterday from the federal government's Energy Information Administration (EIA) states that

    "Current market prices of futures and options contracts for gasoline suggest a 33-percent probability that the national monthly average retail price for regular gasoline could exceed $4.00 per gallon during July 2011."

    Well, I hate to break it to you EIA, but some of us are already there! The EIA predicts that the national average for gas during what they term the "summer driving season" (April 1 thru Sept 30) will be $3.86. So we've already entered the summer driving season, and for some of us, we've already experienced $4 a gallon.

    According to Lisa Margonelli at the Energy Policy Initiative of the New America Foundation,

    "Every 25 cent jump in the price of gas siphons $90 million a day away from the recovering American economy."

    Margonelli and her colleagues are running an excellent program called "The Energy Trap" (see the nice little YouTube video) where they are telling the stories of how our lack of choices for American consumers is hurting the average family. As she explained in a blog for the NYTimes,

    "Last week I interviewed a man in Maine, who, with his wife, works three jobs. One of their jobs basically pays for their transportation to the other two. He told me he has no choice."

    That lack of freedom of choice when it comes to energy is what they call "The Energy Trap."

    Last month our country spent $41 billion on gas, money mainly being siphoned out of our country primarily to unstable regions and countries that don't like us very much. To get out of this trap will require a comprehensive energy independence policy that focuses on fuel economy, alternative fuels, and electric vehicles powered by clean sources. We won't get there with pandering political slogans like "Drill, baby, drill."

    The Rev. Jim Ball, Ph.D., is Executive Vice President at EEN and author of Global Warming and the Risen LORD.

  • EPA's Ability to Help Overcome Global Warming Affirmed by Senate

    April 06,2011, 15:08 PM

    by Jim Ball

    GOOD NEWS: Four separate efforts to strip, delay, or modify the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) authority to regulate greenhouse gases and have our country move forward in overcoming global warming were defeated late this afternoon in the Senate.

    50 Senators voted to uphold the EPA's authority, meaning that the opponents of action to protect the poor and vulnerable from global warming thankfully were not even able to muster a simple majority. (Sixty votes were needed on this vote to pass.)

    Unfortunately, 50 Senators also voted to strip EPA's authority, including the following: Pryor (D-AR), Snowe (R-ME), Manchin (D-WV), Graham (R-SC), Landrieu (D-LA), Kirk (R-IL), Nelson (D-NE), and Lugar (R-IN).

    On the Democratic side, it's especially disappointing to see Senators Pryor and Landrieu vote against EPA's ability to overcome global warming.

    A key Democrat who voted for delay (the Rockefeller Amendment) but not to strip EPA's authority (the McConnell/Inhofe Amendment) was Claire McCaskill (D-MO), who is up for reelection in a state that just elected Roy Blunt, a conservative Republican, as Missouri's other Senator. That probably explains why she threaded the needle in this fashion. I would hope that if her vote were the deciding one she would not have voted for delay.

    On the Republican side, Senators Graham, Snowe, and Lugar have all been leaders on efforts to overcome global warming, but sadly were on the wrong side of this vote. Snowe and Lugar are both up for reelection.

    The 50 votes to affirm the EPA should help to stiffen the spine of the Obama Administration and Majority Leader Reid in their budget struggles with the House Republicans, as perhaps a greater threat to the EPA's authority could lie in the anti-environmental riders passed by the House to defund the EPA's regulation of global warming pollution. As I write, the fate of the EPA's authority still hangs in the balance in the budget negotiations, which are currently in stalemate and could lead to a government shut-down.

    Thus, it is vital for President Obama and Majority Leader Reid to hang tough and resist these anti-environmental riders.

    While ultimately we won these votes, it also shows how much work we have left to do to create the support necessary to have our elected officials do the right thing. Having more evangelical Christians who are actively engaged in the fight to overcome global warming will go a long way to creating such support. We must play our part and live up to the gift of our citizenship and the Lordship of Christ who is leading the way in overcoming global warming.

    The Rev. Jim Ball, Ph.D., is Executive Vice President for Policy and Climate Change at EEN and author of Global Warming and the Risen LORD.

  • Natural Gas - Part of the Solution?

    April 06,2011, 12:22 PM

    by Jim Ball

    Former Senator Tim Wirth and former Rep. Alice Madden recently had an interesting op-ed published in The Denver Post arguing that natural gas is an important part of (1) overcoming global warming and (2) helping to secure energy independence. However, given public concerns about the environmental impact of new techniques like hydrofracking, Wirth and Madden urge that the industry itself come up with a code of conduct to help ensure extraction is done in a creation-friendly manner, and then get that codified into law.

    Here are some excerpts:

    "The sudden abundance of low-cost natural gas from deep underground shale formations is a gift that can increase U.S. energy production, improve our energy security, allow the shutdown of our oldest, dirtiest coal-fired power plants, and thus reduce the air pollution that threatens both the health of millions of Americans and the global climate.

    Yet land owners and environmental advocates in the Northeast are understandably concerned about the arrival of a major extraction industry and its talk about hydraulic fracturing, the Marcellus shale, and other specialized terms associated with the drilling boom. Precious landscapes and pristine water sources are threatened by trucks and drilling pads and ponds filled with contaminated, even radioactive wastewater.

    The industry protests that it goes the extra mile to protect the environment ...

    How is anyone to know the truth?

    There's actually a simple, tried- and-true answer to that: get independent experts to monitor the industry's practices and ensure that what it says is true. States can set strong standards for gas production and enforce them vigilantly, supported by fees on producers.

    The top gas producers have nothing to fear. The industry's best practices are protective of the water, land and air. Instead of trying to suggest that the public concerns are not real, or are trivial and can be ignored, industry leaders should come together around a recommended code of conduct (e.g., on water disposal, chemical disclosure, well integrity, and operational footprint) and then work closely with regulatory authorities to make sure everyone follows the code. It's the bad actors that will get penalized, and that's in the interest of the industry as well as the public.

    The natural gas industry has spent many millions of dollars over the years establishing its product as a clean fuel, and not without reason " natural gas burns much cleaner than coal in power plants or oil in transportation. But all that advertising will go up in smoke if the industry resists regulation and lets its worst performers define the fuel ...

    We are at an energy crossroads today, and if the natural gas industry seizes the opportunities that are so clearly in front of it, it will help determine our nation's energy future for decades to come.

    Gas can be a game-changer, nationally and globally " but in the United States the industry is poised on a knife-edge of public acceptance that could affect its license to operate for years to come. To be recognized as the clean alternative in power generation and transportation, and to reap the benefits of public policies that would reward such a fuel, the industry must choose the right path " one that is palpably in its own self-interest, in the interest of our national security and in the interest of our environmental future."

    An interesting proposition.

    The Rev. Jim Ball, Ph.D., is Executive Vice President at EEN and author of Global Warming and the Risen LORD.

  • President Obama's Blueprint for Creating a Clean Energy Future

    March 31,2011, 16:30 PM
    President Obama delivering a major address on energy at Georgetown University, March 30, 2011. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press)
    President Obama delivering a major address on energy at Georgetown University, March 30, 2011. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press)

    by Jim Ball

    There are many things to like about President Obama's speech at Georgetown University yesterday on creating a clean energy future, some things to go along with, some things we have concerns over, and one important issue that went unmentioned -- whether the President is going to stand by the EPA's authority to regulate global warming pollution in the current budget battles.

    Let's start with the positive.

    First, the President painted a realistic picture of our situation:

    "But when you look at the long-term trends, there are going to be more ups in gas prices than downs in gas prices. And that's because you've got countries like India and China that are growing at a rapid clip, and as 2 billion more people start consuming more goods -- they want cars just like we've got cars; they want to use energy to make their lives a little easier just like we've got -- it is absolutely certain that demand will go up a lot faster than supply. It's just a fact.

    So here's the bottom line: There are no quick fixes. Anybody who tells you otherwise isn't telling you the truth. And we will keep on being a victim to shifts in the oil market until we finally get serious about a long-term policy for a secure, affordable energy future.

    We're going to have to think long term "

    There are no quick fixes, and we need to think long term. Right.

    Second, the President, while recognizing the reality of our situation and some of the costs of inaction, was very bullish, very committed to creating a clean energy future:

    "We're already paying a price for our inaction. Every time we fill up at the pump, every time we lose a job or a business to countries that are investing more than we do in clean energy, when it comes to our air, our water, and the climate change that threatens the planet that you will inherit -- we're already paying a price. These are costs that we are already bearing. And if we do nothing, the price will only go up.

    So at moments like these, sacrificing these investments in research and development, in supporting clean energy technologies, that would weaken our energy economy and make us more dependent on oil. That's not a game plan to win the future. That's a vision to keep us mired in the past. I will not accept that outcome for the United States of America. We are not going to do that."

    Third, the President offered some positive goals and policies for both moving our country towards energy independence and a clean energy future, announcing the release of his Administration's Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future.

    President Obama at a Chevy Volt factory.
    President Obama at a Chevy Volt factory.

    A major goal is to reduce oil imports by one third by 2025, primarily achieved by: (1) additional improvements in fuel economy; (2) putting 1 million advanced technology vehicles on the road by 2015, including electric vehicles; (3) continuing advances in biofuels, and: (4) increasing the use of natural gas in vehicles.

    As the President said:

    "Just last week, our Air Force -- our own Air Force -- used an advanced biofuel blend to fly a Raptor 22 -- an F-22 Raptor faster than the speed of sound. Think about that. I mean, if an F-22 Raptor can fly at the speed of -- faster than the speed of sound on biomass, then I know the old beater that you've got, that you're driving around in -- (laughter) -- can probably do so, too. There's no reason why we can't have our cars do the same."

    Energy independence and a clean energy future have a common technological bridge: the electric vehicle. Again, the President:

    "Now, one other thing about electric cars -- and you don't need to talk to Chu [Energy Secretary Chu] about this -- it turns out electric cars run on electricity. (Laughter.) And so even if we reduce our oil dependency, and we're producing all these great electric cars, we're going to have to have a plan to change the way we generate electricity in America so that it's cleaner and safer and healthier. We know that ushering in a clean energy economy has the potential of creating untold numbers of new jobs and new businesses right here in the United States. But we're going to have to think about how do we produce electricity more efficiently."

    Here at EEN we've also been emphasizing this connection via electric vehicles between energy independence and clean electricity. And so I was very glad to see the President making the same connection.

    The President went on to once again call for a Clean Energy Standard with an ambitious but achievable goal of having 80% of our electricity be produced by clean sources (including hydro, nukes, natural gas, and clean coal) by 2035. This was something he devoted a good deal of attention to in the State of the Union, and we were glad to see the President emphasize it again.

    So those were some of the good things about the President's speech and the Administration's Blueprint.

    There were also some things we could go along with as part of a long-term strategy on creating a clean energy future: (1) utilizing more natural gas as a transitional power source while we ramp up efficiency and renewables, and (2) continued reliance on nuclear power, as long as it is safe and we more adequately deal with the waste.

    But here is where our concerns lie as well. Natural gas has already been serving as a transitional power source for creating electricity. And while it is better than coal in that burning it produces lower levels of nitrogen oxides (major contributor to smog), hardly any particulates (soot), and no mercury (a very damaging neuro-toxin to the unborn and young children), it still produces global warming pollution (about half as much as coal). So from a global warming perspective, it is better to have renewables and efficiency be the primary places we make our investment in the electricity sector.

    Recently there has been a push to also use natural gas in vehicles instead of gasoline produced from oil (i.e. the stuff we all put in our tanks). This additional potential use of natural gas is aided by the ability to extract heretofore untapped domestic natural gas reserves via new technologies like horizontal drilling and a controversial technique called hydrofracking.

    While the President in his speech and the Administration's Blueprint talk of having this done in a safe and creation-friendly manner, serious concerns have been raised about water pollution in relation to hydrofracking, including in a recent series of articles in the New York Times. And, frankly, our concerns are not assuaged by what the Administration's Blueprint proposes --studying the issue, "leading by example," calls for the industry to disclose the chemicals being used. None of this is sufficient, frankly. Industry needs to be required to make sure such extraction methods like hydrofracking are safe and creation-friendly. Unfortunately, the 2005 Energy Policy Act amended the Safe Drinking Water Act to explicitly exclude procedures like hydrofracking from the regulatory authority of the EPA. This needs to be changed.

    The second proposal we could go along with if our concerns are met has to do with nuclear power. As news accounts highlighted, the President stuck with nuclear power even after the terrible events in Japan. The political reality is this: any major efforts like a Clean Energy Standard are going to have to include nuclear. And yet safety and storage of waste remain chronic problems that still have no adequate solutions. Such solutions need to be found for nukes to continue to be a part of our energy mix. The bright side is that nukes produce no air or global warming pollution. Those are huge pluses.

    Finally, a huge concern for us is what the President didn't say. While he very briefly mentioned concerns about global warming in relation to creating a clean energy future, he didn't say anything about defending the EPA's authority to regulate global warming pollution.

    As I type this, there are major threats to the EPA's authority in Congress. Several votes in the Senate have been hanging over our heads starting last week and through this week and now look like they will occur next week. Right now none are likely to reach 60 votes and be able to move forward. But we still need to keep up the pressure and drive down the votes for inaction and demonstrate support for action.

    Where we especially need the President to stand tall is in the current budget negotiations with the Republicans in the House. Their budget has a rider that prevents the EPA from spending money to enforce its regulations on global warming pollution. However, there are news reports from anonymous sources saying the Administration may be ready to throw the EPA's authority under the bus to achieve a budget deal.

    This would be a terrible outcome. It would reflect very poorly on the President's leadership on global warming. We certainly hope the President will stand by his strong and repeated assertions that global warming must be overcome and defend the EPA's authority to regulate greenhouse gases. Right now, and for the forseeable future, at the federal level the EPA is the only game in town.

    The Rev. Jim Ball, Ph.D., is Executive Vice President at EEN and author of Global Warming and the Risen LORD.

  • Overcoming Global Warming and Poverty in Nepal Via Clean Energy

    March 31,2011, 08:52 AM

    by Jim Ball

    In my book, Global Warming and the Risen LORD, I tell many positive stories of how global warming can be overcome. Here's one such story of overcoming both global warming and poverty by creating a clean energy future in Nepal (p. 382):

    Significant investments in small, household-based biogas power plants for the rural poor have occurred in Nepal, a country of 27 million where 80% of the population lives in rural areas with no electricity, relying on wood for cooking and heating. Over 200,000 such mini-power plants have been installed, providing energy to over a million people. Three-fourths of the leftover by-product (called "bio-slurry") is being used as an organic fertilizer, and 65% of these systems have the household toilet connected, helping to solve sanitation issues.

    These households have also saved approximately three hours of work a day by avoiding the need to collect firewood, and reducing time spent both cooking and cleaning off the black carbon from their pots and pans and inside their homes. These biogas systems cost about $350, with the government covering a third of the price and microcredit helping the poor pay their up-front cost.

    Before her family bought a biogas mini-power plant, one mother named Khinu Darai from the southern village of Badrahani had to walk three miles every day to collect firewood. As she put it, "Biogas is a blessing for my family. These days I don't have to go into the jungle to collect wood." She added, "It is clean and safe, and we are healthier now as we are not breathing in smoke all the time."

    Because of the avoided emissions from reducing deforestation, some of the biogas projects in Nepal have received carbon credits equivalent to over $600,000 annually through an international program called the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), which the government is using to help pay for the program.

    The Rev. Jim Ball, Ph.D., is Executive Vice President of EEN and author of the award-winning Global Warming and the Risen LORD.

  • Energy Independent, Award-Winning Credit Union Building in Florida

    March 28,2011, 13:26 PM

    by Jim Ball

    In my book, Global Warming and the Risen LORD, I talk about a near-zero energy home built in 1998 in a subdivision of Lakeland, FL in cooperation with the Department of Energy (DOE). I highlighted this project to show that over a decade ago we had the capacity to build such houses.

    Now comes word that another pioneering effort in Lakeland, this time the state of Florida's first net-zero commercial building, a branch of one of the local credit unions called Magnify. This credit union building has just won an award from the Sustainable Buildings Industry Council (SBIC). Bud DeFlaviis, Executive Director of SBIC, said that the award committee "was thoroughly impressed with Magnify Credit Union," and that its building and commitment "should serve as an example for other communities to follow."

    As the term "net-zero" implies, over the course of a year Magnify's building will not consume any more energy than it produces. Indeed, not only is Magnify's building net-zero, it will actually produce more energy than it consumes during the year. Solar panels on the roof, a highly efficient design, and Energy Star (or efficient) appliances make the difference. In October of last year, for instance, 45% of the electricity being produced by the solar panels was being put back on the grid and being sold back to their electric utility (according to a ClimateWire story).

    Magnify's President John Santarpia, holding one of the roof's solar panels, during construction.
    Magnify's President John Santarpia during construction, holding one of the roof's solar panels.

    This medium-size credit union has shown what's possible when people make a commitment to do so. "Our goal is to educate the community," said John Santarpia, Magnify's President and CEO.

    The Rev. Jim Ball, Ph.D., is Executive Vice President of EEN and author of Global Warming and the Risen LORD.

  • Op-Ed Supporting EPA by Two Former Republican EPA Chiefs

    March 25,2011, 12:17 PM

    by Jim Ball

    Some common-sense words of wisdom on the Washingon Post Op-Ed page today from two former Republican Administrators of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), William Ruckelshaus and Christine Todd Whitman. (Ruckelshaus served under both Nixon and Reagan, and Whitman under George W. Bush.)

    Their piece is titled, "A Siege Against the EPA and Environmental Progress." Here are some excerpts:

    "The Senate is poised to vote on a bill that would, for the first time, "disapprove" of a scientifically based finding, in this case that greenhouse gases endanger public health and welfare. This finding was extensively reviewed by officials in the administrations of presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. It was finalized by the Environmental Protection Agency in response to a 2007 Supreme Court decision that greenhouse gases fit within the Clean Air Act definition of air pollutants."

    (FYI, on action in the Senate, see our Action Alert for how you can respond.)

    "Earlier this year, the House of Representatives approved a bill that would cut the EPA's budget by nearly a third and in certain areas impede its ability to protect our air and water ... It has taken four decades to put in place the infrastructure to ensure that pollution is controlled through limitations on corporate, municipal and individual conduct. Dismantle that infrastructure today, and a new one would have to be created tomorrow at great expense and at great sacrifice to America's public health and environment. The American public will not long stand for an end to regulations that have protected their health and quality of life."

    I hope their fellow Republicans in Congress (and wavering Democrats, especially in the Senate) heed their warning.

    The Rev. Jim Ball is Executive Vice President for Policy and author of Global Warming and the Risen LORD.

  • $4 A Gallon Here We Come? And We're Still Giving Subsidies to Oil Companies?

    March 03,2011, 15:42 PM

    by Jim Ball

    In the summer of 2008 gas prices reached over $4 a gallon, helping to tip the economy into the Great Recession from which we are still recovering. Could we be heading towards $4 a gallon once again, this time helping to stall our still fragile recovery?

    According to the federal government's Energy Information Administration (EIA), the average price for gas around the country was higher than any February in history even before the crises in Egypt and Lybia kicked in. Subsequently, gas prices during the last week alone jumping 20 cents a gallon.

    One reason gas prices spiked in 08 was due to speculators, a situation that probably won't be repeated this year. However, unease in the Middle East has been driving prices upward, and no one can predict what the situation there will be when the summer driving season hits.

    Even without such instability, EIA projects that prices will continue to rise. Looking even further out to 2012, a recent CEO of Shell, John Hofmeister, has predicted that gas could be over $5 a gallon in 2012. And secret State Department cables on WikiLeaks has revealed that even a senior Saudi official privately admits that Saudi reserves may have been overstated by as much as 40%, and that by 2012 his country could no longer be counted on to pump enough extra oil to keep prices from rising too high.

    Meanwhile the current rise in gas prices threatens our recovery and is already having detrimental impacts on US consumers. According to an economic analyst at Moody's, if the price for a barrell of oil averages over $90 this year -- and EIA's projection even before the Middle East unrest was $93 -- it would erase a quarter of the $120 billion payroll tax cut recently enacted to further stimulate the economy.

    As for consumers, the NYTimes reports:

    Rising gasoline prices have already led Jayme Webb, an office manager at a recycling center in Sioux City,Iowa, and her husband, Ken, who works at Wal-Mart, to cutback on spending.

    In the last month, they have canceled their satellite television subscription and their Internet service. They have also stopped driving from their home in rural Moville to Sioux City on weekends to see Ms. Webb's parents.

    Along with making their commutes to work more expensive, rising oil prices have driven up the cost of food for animals and people. So the couple have stopped buying feed for their dozen sheep and goats and six chickens and instead asked neighboring farmers to let them use scraps from their corn fields.

    "It's a struggle," said Ms. Webb, 49. "We have to watch every little penny."

    Interestingly, in the same NYTimes article they interviewed an owner of a company that makes church pews:

    "Revenue is down, costs are up, and you can't make anymoney," said R. Jerol Kivett, the owner of Kivett's Inc., a company that manufactures pews and other church furniture in Clinton, N.C. "You're just trying to meet payroll and keep people working, hoping the economy will turn. But it just seems like setback after setback after setback."

    Given all of this, isn't it well past time we really started moving the country towards energy independence through increased fuel economy and the development of alternative fuels and electric vehicles powered by clean electricity?

    Rising gas prices are bad news for most of us and the economy in general, but good news for oil companies because their profits go up. Indeed, the big 5 oil companies have done exceedingly well over the past decade, earning nearly $1 trillion in profit.

    So here's an idea. Why not take the billions in subsidies we give to oil companies and use it instead to invest in efficiency, renewables, electric vehicles, and alternative fuels -- in a true transition towards energy independence, in other words? Certainly in an era of national debt and budget cutting some of the richest corporations in America don't need public assistance to incentivize them to find and produce oil when it's at $100 a barrel? Indeed, former President George W. Bush, a former oil man himself, proposed that the oil companies do without public assistance when oil was at $55 a barrel. So, surely, they don't need our subsidies when it's at $100 and they've earned nearly $1 trillion in profit in the last decade? Surely this rich and mature industry, which began receiving subsidies in 1916, is ready to be weaned off public assistance? Let's take the $36 billion they would receive this decade and create a better future with it, ok?

    Well, unfortunately, House Republicans still think these rich oil companies need our tax dollars even as they cut funding for research that would help to create energy independence and a clean energy future (see my earlier blog). On Tuesday (Mar 1) every single House Republican (except for 4 who didn't vote) voted to keep the billions in public assistance/subsidies flowing out of the US Treasury and into the oil company's coffers. As they vote to protect public assistance for oil companies, they do so against the wishes of the American people, as reflected in a NBC/WSJ poll out this week showing 74% approval for eliminating these unnecessary subsidies.

    With gas prices once again approaching $4 a gallon this summer and many families like the Webbs already struggling just to get by, the oil companies certainly don't need any more of our money. And it's well past time for us as a country to make real investments in energy independence and clean energy.

    The Rev. Jim Ball, Ph.D., is Executive Vice President at EEN and author of Global Warming and the Risen LORD.

  • Efficient Cookstoves Help the Poor -- and Tackle Global Warming

    February 24,2011, 05:10 AM

    by Jim Ball

    As I discuss in my book, Global Warming and the Risen LORD (pp. 375-380), 2.5 billion people on the planet cook using simple but inefficient stoves. Amazing as it seems, such stoves are contributors to global warming, and therefore offer tremendous opportunities to both help the poor and overcome global warming simultaneously. The contribute in two basic ways: (1) through deforestation (if the fuel is wood) and (2) the release of black carbon (a form of soot), which is the second leading cause of global warming. As I say in the book,

    "Unlike greenhouse gases, black carbon and other pollutants associated with it can also have regional impacts affecting about 3 billion people, including 20%-50% more warming, the melting of snowpacks and glaciers in the Himalayan region, and regional drought" (p. 375).

    That melting in the Himalayan region is significant, as it is the fount for water for 40% of the world's population.

    Now comes word that a company I talk about in the book, Envirofit, has just announced a major cookstove project in Nigeria.

    According to a ClimateWire article by Lisa Friedman,

    Nigeria could become a testing ground for the world's most ambitious effort to provide affordable clean cookstoves that can also earn carbon credits and turn a profit.

    In a partnership announced today between the nonprofit cookstove maker Envirofit International, the Shell Foundation and the carbon finance company C-Quest Capital, officials laid out a plan to deliver 2 million improved cookstoves to Nigerian homes over the next seven years. The effort, C-Quest CEO Ken Newcombe said, is expected to eliminate 9 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

    "It's really only, in my view, in the last 18 months, realistically 12, that it's been possible for the private sector to take risks" on projects like clean cookstoves, Newcombe said.

    This is quite significant. In my book I argue that cookstoves projects at the scale needed will only be succussful if a business model rather than a charity mentality is the guiding force.

    According to the article, the reason this project is moving forward is

    because the United Nations' Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), which enables polluting companies and countries to earn carbon credits in return for establishing clean energy projects in developing countries, recently published methodologies to support capturing the carbon emissions-saving values of cookstoves and also enabled the bundling together of individual cookstove projects into a larger program that can obtain CDM credits.

    This is terrific news for cookstove projects around the world, such as the project EEN supports by one of our network partner organizations, Plant With Purpose.

    The benefits of such efficient cookstoves are much more than their contributions to overcoming global warming. Indeed, such contributions are simply an added bonus. Here's how I summarized the benefits in my book:

    (1) use energy more efficiently;

    (2) reduce deforestation and its greenhouse gas emissions;

    (3) reduce or eliminate black carbon emissions;

    (4) improve human health;

    (5) reduce time spent collecting fuel and cooking, thereby providing women and girls more opportunities;

    (6) increase the family budget; and

    (7) provide local employment.

    I conclude by saying that one word can sum this all up: freedom. Efficient cookstoves are freedom stoves. So three cheers for Envirofit's new Nigeria project, and for the ability of other projects to get CDM carbon credits.

    The Rev. Jim Ball, Ph.D., is Executive Vice President at EEN and author of Global Warming and the Risen LORD.

  • Chevron Found Guilty, Ordered to Pay Largest-ever Judgment for Polluting Amazon

    February 15,2011, 14:40 PM

    by Jim Ball

    It's hard to know where to buy gas these days. I can't wait until we break our addiction to oil. Did you notice during the Super Bowl ads by Chevron touting what humanitarians they are? The ads failed to mention a lawsuit against the company by poor indigenous tribes from the Amazonian rainforest.

    Today, a court in Ecuador ordered Chevron to pay $8.6 billion in what could be the largest judgment ever in an environmental lawsuit according to an article in the Wall Street Journal.

    The case involves conduct by Texaco (purchased by Chevron in 2001) in the Amazonian rainforest that goes back to the mid-1960s and extended through the early 1990s.

    It would be nice if Texaco/Chevron had done the right thing early on, admitted its culpability, and adequately cleaned up the mess and compensated the victims. Instead, they chose a scorched earth policy in the courts and to work with, shall we say, "friendly" government officials to implement a fig-leaf clean-up plan in the 1990s.

    As the WSJ article notes,

    "Few legal experts expected the case to get this far. The plaintiffs first sued Texaco in New York in 1993. Texaco, and later Chevron, successfully argued that the case should instead be heard in Ecuador, which was then run by a government seen as friendly to American business interests."

    Of course, the legal fights aren't over. But this judgment is a blow to Chevron's carefully crafted public image, if nothing else.

    Click here to see a video showing some of the damage and the people whose lives have been ruined by this pollution.

    And those Chevron ads? They were so ripe for spoof that several environmental groups couldn't help themselves and did just that. (Click here to go to the spoof's website.)

    Rev. Jim Ball, Ph.D., is Executive Vice President at EEN and author of Global Warming and the Risen LORD.

  • Climate Adaptation in Malawi: An Investment with a Tremendous Rate of Return

    February 14,2011, 17:38 PM

    by Jim Ball

    In my book, Global Warming and the Risen LORD, I tell of the many success stories out there when it comes to overcoming both the causes and the consequences of global warming. We can overcome global warming, but we need to get started in a major way very soon.

    Here is one such recent succes story from our evangelical colleagues in Great Britain working at Tear Fund, a Christian relief and development organization doing excellent work on climate change. It involves a four-year project focused on food security and climate adaptation in over 50 rural villages in Malawi, one of the most densely populated and least developed countries in the world.

    "This study found that the programme had a highly positive impact on target communities in terms of household income and assets, education, health and reduced mortality rates. Remarkably, for every US$1 invested, the project activities delivered US$24 of net benefits for the communities to help them overcome food insecurity while building their resilience to drought and erratic weather. This is a conservative estimate and the true figure could be as much as US$36. This positive financial return on investment provides a powerful argument for investing in preventative activities in vulnerable small-scale agricultural communities." [p. 3]

    Remarkable: for every $1 invested a return of $24-36. Try finding that rate of return in a business investment in the US!

    Rev. Jim Ball, Ph.D., is Executive Vice President at EEN and author of Global Warming and the Risen LORD.

  • Water in the SW & West - Trouble Brewing Via Global Warming

    February 11,2011, 11:59 AM

    by Jim Ball

    A terrific news blog by Time's Bryan Walsh summarizes several recent studies about future climate-enhanced drought in the Southwest and West here in the US. (Does this suggest that the Main Stream Media are starting to appropriately report on climate change, something I claimed wasn't happening in an earlier blog? Nope. Walsh's blog is a web post in a special "Ecocentric" blog page on Time's site.)

    The new studies suggest that population growth alone in the Southwest and West will severely exacerbate water shortfalls, potentially costing over $2 trillion to fix. Global warming would increase the problem by up to 25%.

    It's a no-brainer, of course, that you certainly don't want to make a bad situation 25% worse, costing an additional $350-550 billion. As I point out in my book, Global Warming and the Risen LORD, scientists are worried climate change will help to create a "mega-drought" of historic proportions in the SW and West (pp. 70-71). These new studies add a more detailed economic analysis of the potential costs.

    But Walsh doesn't just speak about drought in the US. He helpfully expands the conversation this way:

    "Even scarier might be the impact of climate drying on agriculture. Food prices are already at a record high"thanks to extreme weather events, rising demand in developing nations and likely some speculation"but in the decades to come farmers will need to feed billions more, many of them wealthier and demanding more meat. (One lb. of animal protein can require 100 lbs. of grain to produce, and thousands of gallons of water.) 70% of the world's freshwater is used for irrigation, so when we talk about water-related climate problems, we're really talking about farming. Even more worrying, agriculture in much of the world has already been propped up by groundwater pumped from aquafiers"but half the planet lives in areas where water tables are falling due to overdepletion. According to the World Bank, 15% of India's food supply is grown with water produced by aquafiers ..."

    Here Walsh does what others in the MSM have failed to do: integrate climate impacts on food and other areas into current concerns about rising food prices and the possibility that climate change will help create social instability in the future.

    Rev. Jim Ball, Ph.D., is Executive Vice President at EEN and author of Global Warming and the Risen LORD.

  • Dan Boone's review of Global Warming and the Risen LORD

    January 14,2011, 15:42 PM

    Dan Boone, President of Trevecca Nazarene University and Nashville, has reviewed Jim Ball's book, Global Warming and the Risen LORD.

    Here's an excerpt:

    "I see two primary strengths of the book. First, Jim has connected the dots between local and global, legislation and practice, money and method. He takes us to a grieving family in New Orleans and a Selco customer in India. He meets the global community as it wrestles with the impact of global warming. In connecting these dots, Jim fairly assesses the responsibility of the United States for causing and curing global warming. He calls our government to act in tandem with leading businesses, energy producers and consuming customers. It is a joint effort whose workload falls equally on us all.

    The second strength is that a man who has carried this banner for 20 years and has experienced opposition from those who share his faith in the Risen Lord, from those whose greed compels them to earn by polluting, from those in the halls of Congress whose wallets are thicker than his, from those who purport themselves to be fair and balanced, and from those who simply wish to be left alone to consume as they wish without regard for the future " after all this, Jim is a man of deep hope.

    The dying world has not squeezed the joy of God's tomorrow from him. Not once does he become the angry, guilt-heaping, finger-wagging prophet of doom, consigning the church to hell for ignoring the obvious signs of danger. Instead, he still sees the people of God as the world's best chance for change. And he roots this, not in our moral duty, but in our response to a loving God who also loves every global neighbor. In short, Jim gives me hope that together the people of God can respond to global warming as an act of loving the neighbor."

    Click here to read Dan's complete review. And let us know your thoughts.

Copyright © 2011 Evangelical Environmental Network.
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