Letter to Obama

November 18th, 2008

President-elect Barak Obama
713 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear President Obama,

Your election has given me hope for the future of our planet. I know that you care about climate change, and that you and your team are planning to make some important changes that will help prevent catastrophic global warming.

I have made the Solutions to Climate Change Quilt because I believe that it is possible to solve this problem. However, the solutions to climate change are complex, and scientists are telling us we only have 10 years at most to act. We do not have time to waste implementing false solutions. I, together with the more than 500 people who have signed this quilt so far, urge you to carefully consider the following issues:

Carbon tax vs. Cap and trade:

I understand that a carbon tax is less popular than a cap and trade program, but the evidence shows that cap and trade programs for greenhouse gasses are simply not working. As you probably know, the EU-ETS has raised energy prices with no reduction in greenhouse gasses, and RGGI, even with auctions, has set a price on carbon at around $3/ton. We cannot afford to spend years and dollars on a cap and trade program that is so complicated it is next to impossible to set an accurate cap, monitor actual emissions, or set a reasonable price on carbon.

A carbon tax on the other hand is the simplest and most efficient way to cut carbon emissions (according to the Congressional Budget Office, Al Gore and James Hansen, among others). It is also the best way to encourage investment in a clean energy economy because there is a clear price signal to investors, one that does not fluctuate with, for example, a heat wave. There is no expense of monitoring, no way to game the system, and consistent revenue for government.

The websites http://www.carbontax.org and http://www.carbonfees.org have excellent detailed information on the problems with cap and trade, and the benefits of a carbon tax.

350 maximum parts per million CO2:

The Solutions to Climate Change Quilt has 350 squares, to represent the 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide that NASA climatologist James Hansen has said is the maximum safe level of CO2 in our atmosphere. Since we are already experiencing signs of dangerous climate change at our current level of 387ppm, I urge you to support an international agreement capping carbon at 350ppm or below at the climate negotiations in Copehagen in December 2009.

Renewable energy:

There are the many sources of renewable energy – clean coal is not one of them. The technology simply doesn’t exist yet, and probably will not for many years. Nuclear energy is dangerous and expensive to produce. Using cropland to grow biofuels has already had negative effects on the price of food worldwide. Drilling for oil will not lower gas prices.

We do not need to rely on the above sources of energy. Scientific American has reported that converting only 2.5 percent of the sun’s energy in the Southwest of the US into electricity would match the nation’s total energy consumption for 2006. Wind, concentrated solar heat using mirrors and possibly wave technology also hold promise as sources of renewable energy. The investment in our future and safety is worth it.

Greenhouse Development Rights:

“The Greenhouse Development Rights framework is designed to support an emergency climate stabilization program while, at the same time, preserving the right of all people to reach a dignified level of sustainable human development free of the privations of poverty. More specifically, the GDRs framework quantifies national responsibility and capacity with the goal of providing a coherent, principle-based way to think about national obligations to pay for both mitigation and adaptation.” – http://www.ecoequity.com

The developed world has been responsible for the vast majority of greenhouse gas emissions up until now – the United States has put 30% of the total accumulated CO2 emissions in the atmosphere. It is only just that we also accept a larger share of the responsibility for contributing to the solution. If we do not we may be unable to reach an international agreement with developing countries around climate change, which is of utmost importance.

I also urge you to support the following:

Green jobs: Green jobs and investment in a green overhaul in the economy are necessary steps toward a sustainable future.

Cap carbon at the source: An “upstream” cap to limit the amount of carbon producing substances where they enter the economy i.e. at the point of importation or extraction, is the easiest place to cap carbon.

Public transportation/High speed rail: Transportation accounts for 30% of the carbon dioxide emissions in the United States. Making public transportation more accessible and affordable is a necessary step in the path towards a sustainable future. High speed rail is more energy efficient than air travel and uses less land than highways do.

Energy efficient buildings: Energy use in buildings contributes to about a third of greenhouse gas emissions globally. Implementing LEED – Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards to make sure buildings are built efficiently as well as providing funds for retrofitting existing buildings, is an important piece of the puzzle.

We have the chance to make the earth safe for ourselves and our children. I know that it won’t be easy, and that you need our support in order to implement the massive changes we need. I, together with those who have worked on and signed the Solutions to Climate Change Quilt urge you to be brave and make unpopular decisions when they are necessary. Our future is in your hands.

Thank you for your time and attention,

Ulla Nilsen


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