Climate One at the Commonwealth Club hosted a discussion on the importance of California agriculture in regards to climate change and Assembly Bill 32 – California’s Global Warming Solutions Act. The video features excerpts from the panelists.
Cynthia Cory, Director of Environmental Affairs, California Farm Bureau Federation
Jeanne Merrill, California Climate Action Network
Paul Martin, Director of Environmental Services, Western United Dairymen
Karen Ross, Secretary, California Department of Food and Agriculture
Environmentalist Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Senior Attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, spoke at Climate One at the Commonwealth Club just prior to the San Francisco premiering of the new coal film which he participated in “The Last Mountain“.
In these excerpts Kennedy compares economic and environmental aspects of dirty fossil fuels vs. clean green alternatives, such as solar and wind.
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. spoke at the Commonwealth Club before the S.F. premiering of the coal film “The Last Mountain“. Here he responds to a question on nuclear power.
“There’s not a single utility in this country that will build a nuclear power plant today unless 100% of the construction costs are paid for by the federal taxpayer. Why is that? And then at the end of the life cycle of the plant, we have to store their waste for 30,000 years which is five times the length of recorded human history. What kind of subsidy is that? What kind of deficit spending is that to dump on our children.?”
“…If you’re safe, then get an insurance policy and compete in the free market. You know they can’t get an insurance policy. The insurance industry won’t write them a policy because they’re too risky to insure. And if they had to write them a policy it would be so expensive they couldn’t compete in the marketplace”
“…In a capitalist society, the insurance industry is the final arbiter of risk. You go home and look at your homeowner’s policy. Every homeowner’s insurance policy in this country has a provision in it which says, this policy does not insure you against radiation contamination caused by a nuclear power plant. So you are now insuring yourself against their mistakes. No other industry gets that gift. That is a huge subsidy.”
California Senator Dianne Feinstein appeared at the Intercontinental Mark Hopkins Hotel in San Francisco on Wednesday and was interviewed by Greg Dalton of Climate One at the Commonwealth Club. The video features excerpts from her comments covering several interrelated environmental issues including global warming, fossil fuels, clean energy, nuclear power, national parks, water, and agriculture.
“…if we do nothing, in the next one hundred years the earth will warm from 4 to 7 degrees. It’s catastrophic if that happens.”
Partial transcript of excerpts:
“I happen to believe that global warming is real. I have a constituent breakfast … and I’m surprised how many people don’t know that the atmosphere around the earth is limited, and when you put fossil fuels and carbon dioxide and methane or other things into that atmosphere they don’t dissipate, they warm the atmosphere. And we’ve had a degree of change in the last century, ever since the industrial revolution. And so the temperature of the earth is warming. And I look up at the map at the arctic, and you see for the first time in history the northwest passage open year round. You see the oceans beginning to rise, you see the weather changing which is a product too of global warming. More tornadoes, more heavy hurricanes, raindrops bigger. And you know that if we do nothing, in the next one hundred years the earth will warm from 4 to 7 degrees. It’s catastrophic if that happens.”
“And people believe that the earth is immutable, that it doesn’t change. And I say you know go back 250 million years and look at the fact that the likelihood is that there were just a single land mass, and that land mass all split apart. Based on earthquakes, based on volcanoes that the earth can change, and we can destroy the earth, unless we’re sensitive to these changes.”
“So there is no question in my mind that we need to pay attention. And the way that we need to pay attention is the development of alternatives to fossil fuels, and that can be done. And just the other day the governor signed legislation coming out of the legislature which requires a 33% renewable standard for California energy. That’s positive. And we have led the way. And California will have a cap and trade system, and I think the United States can well learn from that system.”
California’s Clean Energy Policy and Jobs
“I think that energy is the largest source of new jobs for this state. The estimate is that it can create produce a hundred thousand additional jobs. Whether its solar or wind or biofuels, a lot of experimentation at the University of California at the labs to come up with additional fuels. I went over to see the old Toyota factory which is now a Tesla factory, an all electric automobile which is very smart looking and things are happening and we have to support them, and see that the programs are in place that enable solar and wind to really develop to be a substantial share of our energy production.
“..this is not the time, when gasoline is this high, when the nation is trying to pull itself out of recession. We need to keep gasoline below the four dollar mark right now.”
… Nuclear Power:
“I think it’s asking for trouble to keep hot rods in spent pools for decades and dry casks right on the site of nuclear reactors. I think they should be moved away.”
“We have 104 nuclear plants in this country. Two in California. About twenty three I think have the same nuclear system as the Daiichi system. I think there should be deep concern over what happened in Japan. It’s a big learning lesson.”
“I visited now the two nuclear plants. Both Diablo run by PG&E and San Onofre run by Southern California Edision and what I found there was staff very much concerned about safety. Really good staff. 1100 staff at Diablo, and 3000 staff and San Onofre, each one producing about the same amount of megawatts. ”
“However what we have is a lack of attention to the whole fuel cycle, and particularly the spent fuel cycle. Hot rods are put in pools where they remain for up to 24 years now in our state. They should remain there for five to seven years. Then they can be transferred to what are called dry casks, which are like cylinders that are made to survive – they were made as transfer products for the fuel rods to be put in and transferred into permanent nuclear storage somewhere. That was going to be Yucca Mountain. Yucca Mountain is no more. I believe very strongly that we need either regional or centralized nuclear fuel storage. I think it’s asking for trouble to keep hot rods in spent pools for decades and dry casks right on the site of nuclear reactors. I think they should be moved away.”
“What they’re finding in Japan now is that corners were cut and things were not done that should have been done.”
[21:10] “The people of California have spoken through initiative. They do not want oil drilling off the coast. And both Senator Boxer and I respect that, and we will fight anything that’s going to put oil drilling off the coast of California.”
[21:50] “Corn ethanol is not the best thing as we know, and there’s a big subsidy for ethanol. You don’t need to have these subsidies and they cost billions of dollars a year. In this respect I agree with Senator Coburn who also has a bill. We will come together and hopefully do away with the ethanol subsidies”
Edited video featuring excerpts from Berkeley Lab (LBNL) sponsored discussion ‘Fukushima: Fact Vs. Fiction’ at the David Brower Center. Speakers included 3 Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Ph.D. scientists – Robert Budnitz, Thomas McKone, and Edward Morse – who discussed details of the nuclear reactor meltdown crisis which followed the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. The event was moderated by Lance Knobel.
“…those systems failed. And when they failed, quickly, the reactors, all three of them, one after the other, got too hot. Water boiled off, there was no replacement water. The core melted, at least in our estimation, the estimation of the community that looks at this, somewhere between a third and two thirds of the cores melted in all three of those reactors. The exact numbers aren’t really known yet and we’re not going to know until some time later when we get inside. So those cores melted and a lot of the fuel slumped to the bottom.” ~ Robert Budnitz
The discussion focused on many issues and details of the nuclear accident which followed the earthquake and tsunami. Budnitz and McKone described the nuclear fuel rods and how their zirconium coating can oxidize when there is insufficient cooling water inside the reactor core. In the event of a water pump failure (such as follows an electrical blackout), the zirconium coating comes into contact with steam and oxidizes. This took place in the three active Fukushima reactors (as well as in the Three Mile Island accident in 1979). As the zirconium coating oxidized, oxygen atoms were stripped from from the water vapor molecules leaving behind pure hydrogen, an explosive gas which accumulated to dangerous levels and was responsible for the explosions which destroyed the buildings housing two of the reactors. McKone described that if the rods in one of these reactors were to completely oxidize it would produce as much hydrogen gas as 1/15th of a Hindenburg – equivalent in explosive energy to 60 tons of TNT.
The fuel rods also melted as the accident progressed, and thus Budnitz describes the accident as ‘a meltdown’, with an estimated one third to two thirds of the fuel rods in the three active reactor cores having melted with radiation escaping into the environment. The other three reactors, four five and six, did not experience meltdowns simply because the fuel in the core had already been removed well before the disaster began.
The presence of these spent fuel rods in storage pools inside the reactor buildings has been a complicating factor. According to Robert Budnitz, these spent fuel rods in pools inside the Fukushima reactor buildings were limited to those that were recently removed (less than one year ago) from the reactor cores and as such were still too hot – both in terms of temperature and radioactivity – to have safely been moved to a nearby pool which serves all six reactors for containing rods which are somewhat less ‘hot’. By contrast, in the United States it is common to also store even the cooler rods onsite for many years, though this is a question of policy and is not an engineering requirement.
An additional and bizarre problem was that the hydrogen explosion in reactor three blew the roof completely off – and it landed on top of reactor four. The core of reactor four had been removed last November, but the spent fuel rods were in the storage pool – outside and of containment and still highly radioactive. The extra roof made it difficult to get water to the storage pool and radiation was released.
The health danger from radioactive fallout here in the Bay Area was strongly discounted due to dilution, and even in Japan secondary health effects from stress and factors other than radioactivity were highlighted by some of the panelists.
28:06 “The risks from this technology are apparently greater than we thought. This accident tells us that, that’s for sure. Nobody anticipated this. Whether they’re unacceptable is something the broader society is going to have to figure out I’m not going to speculate on that in fact I’m not even sure we know yet. But that’s for sure, and one of the sort of humbling things is, that despite all the things we do to make these things safe, somehow these – and there were three of them and not just one, so it’s three of them and they were repeated, the same issue – somehow these reactors got into trouble that nobody in the engineering community anticipated would happen in the way it did. So that’s a humbling experience and we’re going to all have to not only eat crow but try to figure out what to do about it”. ~ Robert Budnitz
A panel discussion on coal followed a screening of a new coal film Dirty Business. Panelists included filmmaker Peter Bull, Rainforest Action Network Executive Director Rebecca Tarbotton, and carbon expert Dr. Julio Friedmann of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The event was held at the David Brower Center adjacent to the UC Berkeley campus.
Topics covered included carbon capture and storage, top down vs. bottom up strategies for reducing coal carbon emissions, China’s clean energy efforts, the politics of climate change and energy in the United States, and more.
Arianna Huffington, co-founder and editor in chief of the Huffington Post, appeared at the Commonwealth club to discuss a variety of topics, including her recent book, “Third World America”. This video contains excerpts from the discussion.
Sounding the alarm – before the iceberg hits the Titanic
“Third World America is obviously a very jarring title, America is not a third world country yet. The reason I chose a very jarring title is because I wanted to sound the alarm. Growing up in Athens, Greece, my favorite heroine was Cassandra, because she had the gift of prophecy, but she had also this curse from Apollo not to be believed. And so when she told the Trojans that the Trojan horse was full of Greeks they ignored her they didn’t believe her, and they let the Trojan horse in, and what happened is they turned out to be proved very dead and very wrong, the Trojans. So I feel that while we have time to course correct, this is time to sound the alarm. You know, there is no point in sounding the alarm after iceberg has hit the Titanic. It’s good to sound the alarm beforehand. And so if you look at what’s happening in this country you do see the disappearance of the middle class. Right now you have 100 million Americans who are worse off than their parents were at a similar age. You have two thirds of Americans who said in a recent survey that they expect their children to be worse off than they are. Now that is fundamentally un-American. You know as an immigrant to this country you know we came here because we believe in the American dream and we believe the American dream so upward mobility is in our DNA, it’s in the American DNA. So when you have American being number ten on the list of countries with upward mobility, you know, behind France and the Scandinavian countries and Spain. There is something wrong, you feel like we should be suing France for copyright violation. It would be like we were ahead of France in croissants, fine wines, and afternoon sex.”
Disconnect between war spending and unemployment benefits
“These are incredibly hard times, and as were sitting here focusing on what individuals and communities can do, let me just say, that at no point can we let government off the hook, because there is no question that the fact that unemployment benefits were not reauthorized for the 99ers and beyond is really tragic and it’s such an incredible statement about our country at the moment, that while we are spending 2.8 billion dollars a week in Afghanistan pursuing a war that is not in our national security interest, while we are propping up a correct regime and allowing our young men and women to die and spending money we do not have in pursuit of this war, we are not reauthorizing unemployment benefits. So there is a fundamental disconnect here that we need to obviously be exposing every day, and at the Huffington Post that was a huge splash headline today.”
On the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear
“This was a pilgrimage. That people wanted to be together for the journey, they didn’t just want to be together for the rally. I when I say be together, these are people who were not even talking to each other about who they were going to vote for or what political party they were from. They had this sense that we needed to be all in this together if we’re going to get out of the dark times were in. And that there was something about our humanity and the fact that we’re all in this together in some very fundamental profound way that we needed to rediscover.”
A modern day Cassandra steps up to the mic – the Titanic is already sinking
During the question and answer session, poet /activist Shailja Patel, sounding not unlike a modern day Cassandra, took Huffington’s Titanic metaphor in another direction, decrying the historic impact of America’s middle class affluence on the Global South and on the global climate,
“The rise and the heyday of the U.S. middle class was founded on the fiction of unlimited cheap fuel and unlimited cheap resources from the Global South. What we’re seeing now as the result of that is global warming. The latest and most reliable data available to us from the most responsible thinkers we have, say that even if we implemented every technology available to cut carbon emissions and to reduce fossil fuel consumption and eliminate dependence on fossil fuels, we cannot reverse global warming, we’re past the point of no return. So essentially we’re all on the Titanic. The people in the Global South are already drowning, those of us in this room are in the top deck and have the privilege of rearranging the deck chairs and examining our menu options. My question is, how do we actually wake up the U.S. population from a nostalgic nationalistic dream of a return to that heyday of the middle class to the reality of being on the Titanic and the suffering of those on the lower decks. Thank you”
Arianna Huffington’s reply
“Thank you. Actual back in 2001 together with some friends, we launched the Detroit project, which was trying to wake people up to the dangers of our dependence on oil. In fact, we linked our oil consumption not just to global warming, but also to our national security. And look at what happened, Detroit turned a blind eye, and instead spent billions of dollars to basically buy public policy and we saw the results. So there is no question that what has happened recently, with they’re reluctant to actually accept the scientific evidence about the reality of global warming has made things even harder, and instead of using this opportunity – which the crisis presented us with – to really invest in a new economy based on renewable energy, we saw the Obama administration say that we can basically turn the clock back, and just before the BP oil collapse, say that we can actually go back to offshore oil drilling. So I’m not very optimistic, I’m sorry to say about what we are doing in that area.”
Laurie David, well known as the producer of ‘An Inconvenient Truth’, appeared at Climate One at the Commonwealth Club to talk about her new book, ‘The Family Dinner”.
As part of the discussion, focused primarily on the benefits of sit down family dinners, Laurie David touched on food issues related to health, diet, meat consumption, and climate.
“Every single thing that we all care about crosses the dinner plate. I mean this is the perfect place where all these issues come together. And the kitchen is the greenest room in your house to start practicing and teaching these values.”
“…our appetite for meat has become gargantuan and absolutely unsustainable”
“I am a meat reducer. And I honestly – I really hate labels, because they put this pressure on you. You don’t have to put a label on yourself, you just have to find healthier ways to live”
“Today thirty five percent of what we eat everyday is fast food. We’ve doubled our spending on buying food away from the home, and food that’s almost always higher in fat, salt, and sugar. Our obsession with sugary drinks has also doubled in the last three decades, about 10% of the calories our kids consumer every day, the building blocks of their brain, bones, liver and heart, come from soda. And our appetite for meat has become gargantuan and absolutely unsustainable, and what was once a weekly treat is now often inhaled at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I mean it’s impossible to respect what you are eating when you eat so much of it. ”
“Most of us in this room consume 150 times as much chicken as our grandparents did. And 99% of our meat and dairy comes directly to us from filthy factory farms that are devastating our air and water, and where animals are force fed food that is unnatural to their systems, pumped with hormones and antibiotics to make them get bigger faster so they can be slaughtered quicker and sold to us to keep up with the growing demand. That is what we are eating and feeding our kids”
“Animal products are the main source of saturated fats which contribute to a whole host of diseases, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that diet related illnesses is now America’s top killer. We are in the midst of a tsunami of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, allergies. Yale University scientists recently reported that child obesity has tripled over the past thirty years, so today over half of all American kids are now officially classified as overweight. And overweight people have more heart disease, cancer, and are three times more prone to suffer from diabetes.”
“A 2009 Gallup study found diabetes hits one in nine Americans. But that number will soon be outdated. The CDC just released figures warning that by mid century that figure would go to one in three. One in three. So that’s like, look to your right and to your left, one of the three of you will have diabetes. I means that is a huge percentage of our population with a serious, chronic and expensive disease.”
Climate One at the Commonwealth Club held a eleventh hour debate on Proposition 23, on the eve just before the election. While the positions discussed were charged and contentious, the speakers on both sides of the issue maintained a respectful demeanor throughout.
This video segment shows the opening statements of each speaker, beginning with Tom Tanton and then Jack Stewart on the pro Prop 23 side, and followed by Nancy Floyd and Bob Epstein arguing the nay case.
Since Proposition 23 is largely funded by Texas oil companies, the nay side has taken to framing Prop 23 as a sort of state’s self-determination issue. So Bob Epstein humorously ended his opening statement with a reference to another ongoing California/Texas clash, the world series. While the debate was going on, those in attendance of course were missing watching the game between their home team, the San Francisco Giants and the Texas Rangers, being played out in Texas. After the debate, several people from the audience, including two of the debaters, slipped into a bar across the street just in time to catch the final inning of the World Series. In this case the California side prevailed, while the fate of proposition 23 remained to be determined the following day.
This brief video shows the ecstatic reaction of San Francisco Giants fans inside the bar as they watch the final moments of the game.
October 28, 2010 University of California, Berkeley
Erin Rogers, Western Region Manager of the Climate & Energy Program, Union of Concerned Scientists spoke at the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley on the potential impacts of Propositions 23 and 26 on the implementation of the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (AB 32).
Citing polls showing support for Prop 23 falling, she drew attention to lesser known Prop 26, which could also impact California’s ability to implement AB 32 by recasting carbon emission ‘fees’ as ‘taxes’, each of which would then require an elusive two thirds majority vote before implementation.
In response to questions from the audience, she discussed many topics including the use of feed in tariffs to support the development of solar energy and green jobs, expected free emission permits for polluting industries such as cement and glass during the initial years of AB 32, studies on the AB 32 net effect on California job numbers, and possible broader economic impacts of climate change in California.
The event was co-sponsored by the Goldman School of Public Policy and BERC, the Berkeley Energy and Resources Collaborative