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Action on coal plants

Environmental and health groups will announce the next step in their campaign to clean up Chicago’s coal plants at a press conference Tuesday morning, 10 a.m., at Dvorak Park, 1119 W Cullerton, in view of Midwest Generation’s Fisk power plant.

Researchers have estimated that nine Midwest Generation plants in Chicago and circling the city are responsible for over 300 deaths, 4,100 ER visits, and 21,500 asthma attacks a year.

Newstips reported in 2004 that the plants have violated air emissions limits thousands of times over recent years; no new pollution-control technology has been added since then, as state and federal regulators have delayed issuing more stringent requirements for plants, which due to their age aren’t fully covered by Clean Air Act standards.

The city has declined to step up as well; an ordinance requiring modern pollution controls on the plants has failed to win mayoral support, and as the Reader noted last week, the city’s climate change plan leaves out the plants, which are the city’s largest industrial source of global warming emissions.

Groups participating in the campaign include the Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization and Little Village Environmental Justice Organization, along with the Environmental Law and Policy CenterNatural Resources Defense CouncilRespiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago and Sierra Club.

How to close coal plants

With 2,500 expected to a sit-in at the Capitol Power Plant tomorrow, congressional leaders asked the Capitol architect to switch the building’s heating and cooling system from coal to natural gas, the Tribune reports.

The participants in what will be the largest civil disobedience action against global warming ever — organized by Capitol Climate Action and led by pioneer climate scientist James Hansen — are among 10,000 in Washington this weekend for Power Shift 09. The event is billed as “72 non-stop hours of panels, workshops, speeches and concerts with a take-no-prisoners message: It’s time for the White House and US Congress to stand up to the dirty energy lobby and pass the energy and climate policies we truly need.”

The Obama administration has taken a number of positive steps on climate change, but on one issue they diverge from the activists, who say the idea of “clean coal” is an industry myth aimed at delaying the day of reckoning for an inherently dirty energy source.

Learning of the congressional statement, environmental writer Bill McKibben e-mailed Climate Progress with this message: “This civil disobedience stuff kind of works.  How many coal plants are there?”

To start with, two of the oldest and dirtiest coal plants are still operating in Chicago.

George Will v. U. of I. – round 2

The Washington Post just published a second George Will column where he cherry-picks evidence from a report by the University of Illinois Arctic Climate Research Center — which ACRC has already called him on — to argue there’s no scientific consensus around global warming.  Media Matters has details.

Tar sands oil, boreal forest

The one concrete measure that came out of President Obama’s Thursday meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper was a Canada-U.S. decision to look into carbon capture as a solution to global warming, the Toronto Star reports.

Star commentator Thomas Walkom takes this as a sign of “Obama’s willingness to sign on to Harper’s search (much criticized by Canadian environmentalists) for a miraculous new technology that would allow oil refineries and coal plants to keep polluting and then permanently store the resultant carbon emissions underground.”  But Obama’s been a “clean coal” advocate at least since running for the U.S. Senate.

Pioneering climate scientist James Hansen says tar sands development (see previous post) “constitutes one of our planet’s greatest threats” — not just because of dramatically higher carbon emissions, but also because Canada’s boreal forest is one of the planet’s best carbon-reduction tools.

“This forest plays a key role in the global carbon equation by serving as a major storehouse for terrestrial carbon – indeed, it is believed to store more carbon per hectare than any other ecosystem on Earth. When this pristine forest is strip mined for tar sands development, much of its stored carbon is lost. Canada’s Boreal Forest is also the reservoir for a large fraction of North America’s clean, fresh water, home to some five billion migratory birds, and some of largest remaining populations of caribou, moose, bear and wolves on the planet.”

Writes Hansen: “The U.S. and Canadian governments must agree that the unconventional fossil fuels, tar sands and tar shale, will not be developed. They will thus send a message that their statements recognizing ‘a planet in peril’ are not empty rhetoric.”

Scientific literacy at the Washington Post

A reply by the Washington Post ombudsman to complaints about George Will’s column on climate change (see previous post) cites a statement from the University of Illinois Arctic Climate Research Center which he says backs up Will.

But a Washington Monthly blogger finds it says the opposite of what Will and the Post claim, and wonders if the ombudsman actually bothered to read it.

“I don’t know what would be worse: that he did, and takes it to support Will, or that he didn’t take his job seriously enough to bother.”

U of I center to George Will: Huh?

George Will cites a local research center and gets it wrong (via TPM).

Will, in the Washington Post:  “According to the University of Illinois’ Arctic Climate Research Center, global sea ice levels now equal those of 1979.”

A statement on ACRC’s website:

“We do not know where George Will is getting his information, but our data shows that on February 15, 1979, global sea ice area was 16.79 million sq. km and on February 15, 2009, global sea ice area was 15.45 million sq. km. Therefore, global sea ice levels are 1.34 million sq. km less in February 2009 than in February 1979. This decrease in sea ice area is roughly equal to the area of Texas, California, and Oklahoma combined. It is disturbing that the Washington Post would publish such information without first checking the facts.”

Green Christmas

Dreaming of a Green Christmas? The new Green Community Center in Oak Park is holding a Green Holiday Bazaar featuring local eco-friendly vendors this Saturday, December 6, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at New Spirit Community Church, 542 S. Scoville, Oak Park.

The Green Community Center was created to help people respond to concern over climate change and habitat destruction by learning about how they can make a difference in their daily life choices, said founder Karen Heart. A winter lecture series begins in January, along with weekly groups that will meet, using The Low-Carbon Diet as a guide, to support participants in reducing their own carbon footprint.

“People are concerned about global warming but they don’t really understand how they contribute to climate change themselves — and what they can do about it,” Heart said. “Unless we change our behaviors, we’re going to lose this battle.”

The bazaar will feature local vendors offering organic cotton t-shirts and baby clothes, soybean candles, homemade soaps, children’s toys made from recycled materials, “green books” with stories about the environment and ecological activities for kids, and organic pet food and treats, along with a green restaurant (offering gift certificates and baked goods), green home experts, and a green laundry.

Ideas for Obama

President-elect Barack Obama faces tremendous challenges, and local advocates and organizers — many of whom have worked with Obama over the years — offer a range of ideas on how to make the bailout work, address the foreclosure crisis, target economic stimulus to jobs and better transportation, and move forward on immigration, education, media reform and campaign financing.

In addition, some express concern over the prospect of administration positions for local establishment figures Rahm Emanuel, Valerie Jarrett and Arne Duncan.

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