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Everyone has The Right To Breathe clean air. Watch a video featuring Earthjustice Attorney Jim Pew and two Pennsylvanians—Marti Blake and Martin Garrigan—who know firsthand what it means to live in the shadow of a coal plant's smokestack, breathing in daily lungfuls of toxic air for more than two decades.

Coal Ash Contaminates Our Lives. Coal ash is the hazardous waste that remains after coal is burned. Dumped into unlined ponds or mines, the toxins readily leach into drinking water supplies. Watch the video above and take action to support federally enforceable safeguards for coal ash disposal.

ABOUT EARTHJUSTICE'S BLOG

unEARTHED is a forum for the voices and stories of the people behind Earthjustice's work. The views and opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent the opinion or position of Earthjustice or its board, clients, or funders.

Learn more about Earthjustice.

View Terry Winckler's blog posts
15 December 2009, 8:19 AM
Highlights from the climate change conference on Dec. 15

(Editor's Note: This file presents news and information from the Copenhagen climate change conference on Dec. 15, distilled from news outlet reports. Check for updates during the day.)

<Update>: In a report released at the conference, the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture says climate change is already affecting America and "poses significant threats and challenges for farmers, ranchers, and those who make a living off the land, which will have a serious impact on our ability to feed the people of the United States and the world."

President Obama is literally calling on world leaders to make a climate deal in Copenhagen. According to The Los Angeles Times, the president, who is coming to the conference Friday, is making round-the-world phone calls, hoping to solidify some kind of agreement.

A worldwide grassroots green revolution is needed to attack the climate change crisis, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger says in a speech today in Copenhagen. The governor, who once boasted of owning five gas-guzzling Hummers, said his state's clean energy initiatives should be emulated by the nation and the world. <Update>: A Grist columnist describes the governor's speech as "a shockingly defeatist speech tricked out with sunny language about private-sector innovation."

With only a few day before the world's leaders arrive in Copenhagen, it's time for things to start happening at the conference, says the U.N. climate chief. Progress is "too slow."

The pope today weighed in on the climate crisis, calling it a moral issue that the world's nations must urgently address.

Check out The Copenhagen News Collaborative for a variety of blog reports from Copenhagen.

View Martin Wagner's blog posts
15 December 2009, 8:07 AM
Conference organizers put tight limits on observer participation

(Editor's Note: Earthjustice attorneys Martin Wagner and Erika Rosenthal are blogging live from the Copenhagen climate change conference. This is today's post by Martin)

There is no shortage of irony in Copenhagen this month.

I wrote previously about the efforts of some countries to avoid recognizing that the planet has rights. The conference organizers delivered Monday's dose when they announced severe restrictions on access of non-governmental organization observers (that's what we are officially called) to the conference center over the next several days.

Today and Wednesday, only a portion of any non-governmental organization's delegation can enter the building. Thursday, only 1,000 will be permitted in total (the building holds 15,000). Friday, we're limited to 90.

The irony is that one of the main objectives of negotiations is defining the governments' shared vision for long-term cooperative action to prevent dangerous human interference with the climate system. (The emphasis is mine; the governments seem unable so far to find much they can agree on, and have closed so many negotiating sessions that it's clear they're not interested in sharing with others either.)

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View Shirley Hao's blog posts
14 December 2009, 5:11 PM
A tale of octopus and coconut shells
Octopus merrily scampering along with coconut shell. Photo: BBC.

While Copenhagen and climate change are crowding the headlines at the moment, Monday Reads is breaking ranks to bring you news of a lighter—but we hope just as interesting—variety. Tool-use was once thought to be the exclusive realm of humans, but one by one other species have been added to the club—and now we welcome the octopi.

Researchers from Australia’s Museum Victoria observed the veined octopus (Amphioctopus marginatus) digging up coconut shells from the ocean floor, specifically to use as a protective cover. Not wanting to be left empty suckered when they needed to hide and there was not a shell to be found, the octopus jauntily scamper around with oversized shells in tow. See for yourself (fast forward to 0:50 for the goods; stay until 2:05 to experience the sensation of being enveloped by an octopus):

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View Terry Winckler's blog posts
14 December 2009, 8:24 AM
Highlights from the climate change conference on Dec. 14

(Editor's Note: This file presents news and information from the Copenhagen climate change conference on Dec. 14, distilled from news outlet reports. Check for updates during the day.)

<Update>: As we head into the conference's final week, The New York Times gives a quick review of what's happened so far, what to expect over the next few days, the real issues at stake, and who are the key players.

Climate change negotiations came to a sudden halt today as a bloc of developing nations led by China withdrew in protest of what they called the Danish government's tilt toward the interests of developing countries. <Update>: Talks have resumed, according to reports.

Mayors from around the world are holding their own climate conference in Copenhagen, based on the premise that since cities produce two-thirds of greenhouse gas emissions they should be on the front line of controlling them. <Update>: California's Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will speak at the mayor's conference tomorrow to push his theme that local government action is essential for planetary success.

CO2 is the bogeyman in Copenhagen for good reason—it accounts for half of global warming. But how about that other half? wonders The Los Angeles Times. We're talking about methane, black carbon (soot) and other emissions that could be reined in more easily, more quickly, and at much less cost than carbon dioxide.

<Update>: For a mix of reports from environmental journalists, check out the "Copenhagen News Collaborative" reports. The collaborative comprises Mother Jones, Grist, The Nation, Treehugger, The Uptake, ForaTV, Pulitzer Center, Discover, and OnEarth. 

View Martin Wagner's blog posts
13 December 2009, 7:41 PM
Bolivia leads movement to respect all natural beings

(Editor's Note: Earthjustice attorneys Martin Wagner and Erika Rosenthal are blogging live from the Copenhagen climate change conference. This is today's post by Martin)

What makes these negotiations so important, of course, is that human activities are changing our planet's systems of self-regulation. Global warming pollution from human activities is altering those systems faster than many ecosystems and species—including humans—can keep up with.

In recognition of this, a number of countries, led by Bolivia, are advocating for the final Copenhagen agreement to "take into account not only the right of human beings, but also the right of Mother Earth and its natural beings."

When countries object to proposals in the formal negotiations, they do so by insisting that the problematic proposal be surrounded by brackets in the formal negotiating documents. The brackets indicate that the proposal is not a consensus position, and thus remains subject to further discussion. In negotiations late last night, the United States and a number of other developed countries insisted that any reference to the rights of the earth be bracketed.

Given what is at stake here, it is frightening to think that Mother Earth might remain in brackets.

 

View Terry Winckler's blog posts
12 December 2009, 4:54 PM
Highlights from the climate change conference on Dec. 12

(Editor's Note: This file presents news and information from the Copenhagen climate change conference on Dec. 12, distilled from news outlet reports. Check for updates during the day.)

It may seem contradictory, but business interests are among the strongest supporters of climate change action in Copenhagen, reports The Los Angeles Times. The growing international market in alternative energy will really boom if nations turn away from fossil fuels.

Thousands of people and hundreds of organizations across the planet participated today in "Global Day of Climate Action," but Copenhagen is where the real action happened, where some 1,000 protesters were arrested.

View Martin Wagner's blog posts
12 December 2009, 12:38 PM
While U.S. fritters, Tuvalu could disappear underwater

I was in a plenary session of the Copenhagen climate meeting this morning, when Ian Fry, the representative of the Pacific island nation of Tuvalu made an impassioned statement to the assembled government representatives.

He noted that nearly everyone in Tuvalu lives less than 7 feet above sea level, which puts them at risk of rising sea levels and increased storm intensity. He called for governments to adopt a legally binding agreement to cut carbon emissions, and expressed his frustration that "[i]t appears we are waiting for some senators in the US Congress to conclude before we can determine what will happen to the rest of the world."

On the verge of tears, he concluded by saying, "I woke up this morning and I was crying, which is not easy for a grown man to admit. Madame President,…the fate of my country is in your hands."

View Erika Rosenthal's blog posts
11 December 2009, 4:57 PM
Nightmare of drought and drowning is no dream scenario

(Editor's Note: Earthjustice attorneys Martin Wagner and Erika Rosenthal are blogging live from the Copenhagen climate change conference. This is today's post by Erika).

The Copenhagen talks opened with nightmare images of catastrophic climate crisis. The first session included an apocalyptic video in which a Danish girl dreams a parade of climate horrors—first she's walking through endless drought-stricken land, then she's clinging for dear life as the sea rises around her.

New research indicates that both these nightmare scenarios could come to pass far sooner than scientists dreamt even a few years ago.

Global warming is accelerating snow and ice melt around the world. When Arctic glaciers like the Greenland Ice Sheet melt it shrinks the planet's cooling ice cap and sea causing sea level to rise. When high mountain glaciers melt, like the massive "third pole" in the Himalayas, it threatens drought for more than a quarter of the world's population.

View Terry Winckler's blog posts
11 December 2009, 11:14 AM
Highlights from the climate change conference on Dec. 11

(Editor's Note: This file presents news and information from the Copenhagen climate change conference on Dec. 11, distilled from news outlet reports. Check for updates during the day.)

<Update>: What the Los Angeles Times described as a "flurry" of draft proposals flooded the conference today, bringing fresh impetus. Meanwhile, The Times of London portends that two agreements will come out of the conference because the major countries can't agree on key issues.

<Update>: The official draft climate plan has just been released in Copenhagen - and it's a doozy. The goals it sets for getting major countries to limit carbon emissions and to pay off developing countries are much more than what President Obama is pledging. This should generate a lot of developments during the day. <Update>: The chief U.S. negotiator ispooh-poohing the official draft plan because it is too lenient on China and India.

China verbally attacked the U.S. chief climate negotiator today in Copenhagen for being "irresponsible" in saying that China should not get climate financing from the U.S. It's all about his assertion that the U.S. owes nothing to the world for past greenhouse gas emissions.

The latest version of a Senate climate change bill calls for 17 percent cuts in carbon emissions by 2020 - matching what President Obama is proposing at Copenhagen. It also includes nuclear power plants and increased offshore oil and gas drilling.

View Martin Wagner's blog posts
10 December 2009, 6:10 PM
Nations must put human rights on their agenda at Copenhagen

(Editor's Note: Earthjustice attorney Martin Wagner is blogging from the Copenhagen climate change conference. Here is his report for Dec. 10).

Happy Human Rights Day.

Sixty-one years ago, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was born. The Declaration and subsequent human rights agreements represent humanity's best expression of the minimum conditions for a life of dignity, and of the need to hold governments accountable for guaranteeing them.

Climate change threatens those rights.

 Warming temperatures melt glaciers that communities rely upon for dry-season water, directly undermining their rights to water, health and life. Increased droughts and ecosystem loss threaten the right to food. Sea-level rise and more intense storms threaten to wipe out island and coastal communities, undermining their right to life and physical security.

The list goes on, with unfortunate emphasis on indigenous peoples, the low-income, women and people of color—all of whom are the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

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