September 30, 2009

Bring the Blue-Green Games to Chicago

There's a lot riding on the International Olympic Committee vote Friday, including a very unique opportunity to make the Chicago region a cleaner, greener, healthier place for 2017 and beyond.

Chicago 2016 has put together an impressive vision for a Blue-Green Games that deals with the air, water, habitat, open space, climate, and other issues associated with an event on this scale. Chicago's games will be very compact, not contributing to urban sprawl. All spectators will take public transit to all events - no parking lots. The games will be powered by 100% renewable energy, and leave our wonderful parks bigger and better after the Games leave town.

There is a tremendous amount happening in our city and our region in the area of sustainability. With environmental protection at its heart, the 2016 games have the potential to bring new energy, audiences, funding, and commitment to these already strong efforts.

I've really enjoyed being a part of the 2016 environment team, and am excited to get to work on the next phase of implementing the Blue-Green vision after we win on Friday!

September 16, 2009

Mark Kirk: Solving Global Warming a "Narrow Interest"

Last Saturday at an event in DuPage County, Mark Kirk discounted what had looked like a courageous vote in favor of the American Clean Energy Security Act in June.

On Saturday, here's how Kirk described his vote on preventing climate change:

"I voted for it because of the narrow interests of my Congressional district. But, as your representative, representing the entire state of Illinois, I will vote no".

Climate change is a "narrow interest"?

It is hard to imagine anything that this, or any, Congress could vote on that is a broader interest than climate change. Scientists agree that urgent action is needed by the world, and the U.S. in particular, if we have any chance to avert catastrophic change that threatens life as we know it.

When he says that climate change is a "narrow interest" of north suburban voters, does he mean it won't affect other parts of Illinois? The Union of Concerned Scientists recently released a report that found these risks to Illinois agriculture:

The Illinois agriculture sector would suffer from substantially more heat stress, which would impair livestock productivity. Illinois hog producers -- whose hog sales reached $800 million in 2007 -- already lose $20.5 million annually due to heat-stressed animals. By the end of the century, nearly permanent heat stress would plague hogs, dairy cattle and other livestock unless they are kept cool, for example, in costly air-conditioned barns.

Crop yields would also suffer. Illinois has 67 percent of its land in crop production and ranks second among the states in crop value. A 1988 heat wave that cost the United States $40 bil lion -- mostly due to crop losses -- reduced Illinois corn and soybean yields by more than 75 percent of their average annual yields from 1978 to 1997. By mid-century under the high er-emissions scenario, all Illinois summers are projected to be hotter than 1988.

Warmer winters and a growing season as much as six weeks longer than during the baseline decades would enable pests, such as the corn earworm, to expand their range. Between 1961 and 1990, conditions favorable to the corn earworm occurred once every 15 years in the middle of the state and once every three years in southern Illinois. With unchecked global warming, by the end of this century corn earworm infestations could happen nearly half the summers in the state's midsection and nearly every summer in the south.

Crop production also would be threatened by changing rain patterns, ranging from wetter springs -- which delay planting and increase flood risk -- to nearly 15 percent less rain during increasingly hot summers. Crop-damaging three- and seven-day heat waves would occur at least every other summer toward the end of the century. During the report's baseline period, three-day heat waves occurred only about once a decade, and seven-day heat waves occurred once out of 30 summers.
So global warming threatens our entire state, not just the 10th Congressional district. What about public support? I have not seen district-specific polling, but this recent national poll finds the American people in favor of the legislation Kirk has apparently disowned by about a 2:1 margin.

To be sure, there are powerful narrow interests working hard against these changes. Dirty coal is pulling out all the stops to keep their loophole, exempting CO2 pollution, wide open. Big oil is trying hard to keep us all on their hook, including scaring farmers, most of whom depend on fertilizers and fuels made out of their oil.

Kirk's vote for a clean energy future, and a chance to avoid the worst consequences of climate change, was the right choice for the broader interest. Now that he has told us all he wouldn't do it again, lots of Illinois voters want to know -

Mark Kirk - is my interest in a cleaner, better energy future a "narrow interest", or the public interest?

September 01, 2009

Springfield an Ironic Choice for Rally Against New Energy

Tuesday oil and coal lobbyists are bringing outsiders to Springfield for a few hours to protest the clean energy jobs legislation pending in Washington, and to attempt to argue for the status quo.

I know the location was picked by the American Petroleum Institute inside the beltway, but still - haven't they heard that Springfield is basically doing what the clean energy jobs bill proposes for the country?

Most of the "energy citizens" are getting a free ride, a free lunch, and a day's pay to show up and protest clean energy Tuesday. Here's what the DC organizers of the rally are against, and how Springfield is already doing just that:

-Targets for reducing global warming pollution
Springfield has committed to reducing global warming pollution 7% below 1990 levels by 2012, and gave residents cleaner air by shutting down an old dirty coal plant to help meet these levels

-Investing in the future with renewable energy
Springfield is leading the transition to a new energy future with its investments in wind energy, which protect local ratepayers by diversifying their power supply, and make our state capitol 100% wind-powered.

-Creating jobs cutting power bills
Springfield has begun major new energy efficiency programs to help residents and businesses use less energy, and create good jobs for skilled workers qualified to do energy efficiency upgrades.

So while Springfield moves to the future, national and state lobbyists gather here to argue for failed energy policies that leave most of us with high prices and pollution, and make the companies financing this “rally” richer and richer.

Springfield is showing that solving global warming works - they are doing it NOW, and know that it creates jobs, lowers energy prices, and cleans the air.

These are the same major changes before Congress this fall. Springfield knows these were good choices, and we are already seeing the results.

Maybe big oil and dirty coal can take some of those lessons back to Washington.