Sustainability & Climate Change Issue Update: Remember the climate change movement?

This is a year that the climate movement would like to forget. Twelve months ago, President Barack Obama vowed to reduce carbon emissions in the U.S. and set the bar for the world. Now, he saysclimate change legislation is off the table for at least the next 3 years. Even with world leaders meeting in Cancun to negotiate an international climate change agreement, the only hope for any environmental legislation at home is tying it to job creation.

  • Radiohead's Thom Yorke is not pleased about any of this. On November 27th he and 2,000 fans used their bodies to create a piece of art that was so large, it could be seen from space. Yorke said, “The plan is to make images visible from the skies to remind those in Cancun that we can't keep putting this off.”
  • He may end up singing the blues. In the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, all 97 newly-elected Republicans flatly refuse that climate change exists. As evidence, Republican climate skeptics cite the Bible and a 2006 report partly based on material lifted from Wikipedia, textbooks and the work of one of the scientists criticized in the same report.
  • With climate off the table, the Obama administration is finding other avenues to pursue its environmental agenda. It has approved large-scale renewable energy projects for placement on public lands, and is reviewing plans for geothermal, wind, and transmission line projects. Foundations have been laid for offshore wind energy development along the eastern seaboard and the nation's first offshore wind farm is coming along, to mixed reviews. The Administration has designated 187,000 square miles of the Arctic as protected habitat for the polar bear population and has announced that the Eastern Seaboard and the eastern part of the Gulf of Mexico are off limits for new drilling for at least the next seven years.
  • These efforts to harness energy from resources other than oil are especially appreciated in the wake of this year’s gulf oil spill. In late Augustthousands of dead fish were discovered in St. Bernard Parish, Mississippi; as was a thick, orange, diesel-scented substance containing tar balls. On November 24, the Administration closed 4,213 square miles of Gulf waters to royal red shrimping because a commercial shrimper found tar balls in his net.
  • Meanwhile, Obama's Oil Spill Commission is wrapping up a report finding that BP did not put profits before safety. Some question these findings though, because BP execs weren't under oathduring the investigation and the Commission deleted a damning slide from their power point presentation, just before presenting their findings. I wonder if this will appear in the full-length film BP is producing about the spill?
  • What's next? House Democrats have been asking the Administration to conclude its investigation into safety failures on the Atlantis, the world's largest, deepest offshore oil and gas platform – also owned by BP, also operating in the Gulf. So far, the Administration has been dragging its feet, so stay tuned on this one!

When you look back on your 2010, I hope you have better memories than the oil spill and the climate bill that went nowhere. Perhaps this year will be viewed as a turning point of sorts, and open the door foreconomically-driven clean energy development, and tighter regulations on the oil industry. But it sure was not the year the climate movement hoped for.