Category Archives: False Solutions to Climate Change

The Perils of Wood-Based Bioenergy: Paraguay Blog Post #2

By Anne Petermann, Executive Director, Global Justice Ecology Project, 20 November 2014

Global Justice Ecology Project is in Paraguay for two weeks of meetings to strategize means to address the impacts of wood-based bioenergy, genetically engineered trees and livestock on deforestation levels, and the solutions to the climate change and deforestation crisis provided by local communities maintaining and caring for their traditional lands.

Ada from the Solomon Islands.  If biomass energy is not stopped, her islands will continue to drown.  Photo credit: GJEP-GFC

Ada from the Solomon Islands speaks at the meeting. If biomass energy is not stopped, her islands will continue to drown. Photo credit: GJEP-GFC

Today’s meetings included the participation of activists from throughout Africa, Asia, the South Pacific, North and South America and Eastern and Western Europe.  The topic at hand was the problem of wood-based bioenergy–specifically electricity derived from cutting down forests, destroying biodiversity, polluting the atmosphere and displacing forest-based Indigenous and local communities.

Biomass also comes with an enormous cost in waste. In the Drax UK biomass plant, Biofuelwatch has calculated that of every three trees burned, two are wasted as heat. Half of one UK power station takes more wood than the entire UK produces every year and supplies only 4.6% of the country’s electricity demand. These power stations require co-generation with coal, so increased use of biomass = increased use of coal. Without the biomass conversion, this Drax plant would have had to close by 2016. The conversion to co-generation with biomass is allowing it to stay open, enabling continued and increased use of coal.

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Filed under Biodiversity, Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Biofuelwatch, Climate Change, Climate Justice, False Solutions to Climate Change, Forests, Forests and Climate Change, Indigenous Peoples, Pollution, The Greed Economy and the Future of Forests

Carbon Capture and Storage–A Bioenergy Myth!

Biofuelwatch co-director and GJEP partner Rachel Smolker has posted an important article on Bioenergy and Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS) at the Washington Geoengineering Constortium website.

Smolker’s piece continues to build on and share her extensive knowledge and critique of bionenergy strategies touted by industry as “climate solutions.” Smolker makes a clear case that these strategies are false solutions to climate change and that environmental thinkers should not naively buy into these strategies.

The Washington Geoengineering Consortium is an initiative of the Global Environmental Politics program in the School of International Service at American University in Washington, DC. They are concerned with the social, political, and legal implications of geoengineering technologies.

Activists drop a banner and lockdown at Forth Energy's offices in 2012. Photo:



By Rachel Smolker, Biofuelwatch, 10 November 2014.

In 2012, Biofuelwatch published a report titled “Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage: Climate savior or dangerous hype?” We had long been working to reveal and oppose large scale industrial and commercial scale bioenergy in various forms ranging from ethanol refineries to soy and palm oil biodiesel to coal plants converting over to burn wood. We had argued that corn ethanol would drive biodiversity loss, cause food prices to rise and contribute to chronic hunger, while failing to reduce emissions, as it has in fact done. We argued that burning wood as a substitute for coal would create a new driver of deforestation, even as protecting forests and ecosystems was recognized as a “best line of defense” against climate change. We pointed out that large scale bioenergy was incompatible with the simultaneous push to quantify, commodify and protect land based carbon sinks and their “services” (often for the dubious purpose of providing offsets to polluters…). We highlighted the human rights impacts, as land grabs for bioenergy escalated in Africa and elsewhere. And we argued over and over that the carbon consequences of bioenergy were far from “climate friendly” or “carbon neutral,” a myth that has been perpetuated by industry proponents and even parroted by many naive environmentalists.


Washington Geoengineering Consortium definitions of geoengineering here.

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Filed under Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Biofuelwatch, Carbon Trading, Confronting Government Agencies, Corporate Globalization, Dr. Rachel Smolker, False Solutions to Climate Change, Forests and Climate Change, Geoengineering, Land Grabs

IPCC Climate Report: Outlook Not Good

If we do not sever our dependence on fossil fuels immediately, the entire planet will be irrevocably damaged, claims the latest report on the climate crisis from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

This news is not surprising, nor is it new. However, the alarming tone taken in the report combined with the immediacy of needed action, is making headlines. The report is long and, at times a bit tedious, but a recent article on Grist breaks it down into an easy-to-digest top ten list.

Photo: Grist

Photo: Grist

“Climate change is already happening” and “Climate change will hit developing nations hardest” are two in the top ten that many environmental activists on the front lines already know. Unfortunately, the report also shows some bias in favor of biofuels and renewable energy, despite the fact that we already know biofuels do not reduce global warming.

The 10 things you need to know from the new IPCC climate report

By John Light, Grist, 2 November 2014

The latest IPCC report is out, and the news is not happy.

The chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Rajendra Pachauri,called today’s report the “strongest, most robust and most comprehensive” to come out of the IPCC, which has been tracking climate change since 1988. It is “yet another wake-up call to the global community that we must act together swiftly and aggressively,” the White House said in a statement.

The report’s language is stronger than in years past: Warming is “unequivocal,” and the changes we’re seeing are pervasive, it states clearly. We must take action quickly to cut our dependence on fossil fuels, it warns. If we don’t, we’ll face “further warming and long-lasting changes in all components of the climate system, increasing the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems.”

Get the rest of the highlights from Grist’s top ten list.


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Filed under Biofuelwatch, Climate Change, False Solutions to Climate Change

The American Chestnut Foundation puts forests at risk with Frankentrees!

The American Chestnut Foundation is leading efforts to introduce genetically engineered (GE) American Chestnut trees back into the eastern North American deciduous forest ecosystem.

The native tree (Castanea dentata) was nearly obliterated by an imported blight during the first part of the 20th century.  It was a crucial part of the forests ecosystem which stretched from Maine in the U.S.; south through the Appalachians and into Missouri; throughout much of New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, the Virginias, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Alabama.  This forest also is found in Southeastern Canada including Quebec and Ontario.

The Campaign to STOP GE Trees, in collaboration with Global Justice Ecology Project is developing a major campaign to challenge the introduction of genetically engineered American Chestnuts into these ecosystems.

Read a fact sheet here.

The American chestnut tree reigned over 200 million acres of eastern woodlands from Maine to Florida, and from the Piedmont plateau in the Carolinas west to the Ohio Valley, until succumbing to a lethal fungus infestation, known as the chestnut blight, during the first half of the 20th century. An estimated 4 billion American chestnuts, up to 1/4 of the hardwood tree population, grew within this range.

The American chestnut tree reigned over 200 million acres of eastern woodlands from Maine to Florida, and from the Piedmont plateau in the Carolinas west to the Ohio Valley, until succumbing to a lethal fungus infestation, known as the chestnut blight, during the first half of the 20th century. An estimated 4 billion American chestnuts, up to 1/4 of the hardwood tree population, grew within this range. Source: American Chestnut Foundation

While lauded in many quarters as a step toward “bringing back the native forests,” there are critical reasons to believe that the introduction of GE American chestnut trees is a dangerous practice and may lead to further demise of ecosystems, the wildlife that depends on them, and ultimately human well-being. In their October campaign appeal, the American Chestnut Foundation may have let the real cat out of the bag, or revealed the camels nose under the tent–funding for research and introduction of synthetic trees into forest ecosystems.

Excerpts from the appeal letter from American Chestnut Foundation, October 2014

As important as the American chestnut is to our ecosystem, its successful restoration will have an even greater significance. We believe our model can be applied to other endangered trees such s the ash, elm, and hemlock. Our continue success will help ensure that other trees under grave threat of annihilation will also be saved.

Our scientists, in partnership with many universities and non-profits, are using the best tools available to advance our American chestnut breeding program. We are using cutting edge technologies to develop genetic makers for blight resistance, hypo virulence strategies, and advance screening techniques for ink disease. Only through science can we successfully restore this iconic species.

Betsy Gamber, Interim President and CEO

Kim Steiner, Ph.D Chairman of the Board of Directors

Read more about GE Chestnut work here.

We know that the ultimate achievements of these programs will further institutionalize the commodification of forests and forest products, turning more of our unprotected natural resources into short term profits for industry that considers the environment an externality. We want you to know this as well. Read more about GE Trees and the STOP GE Trees Campaign.

We intend to stop this and we need your help. In the coming weeks and months we will be posting here at Climate Connections news and maybe an occasional fundraising appeal to support our work. We will work to keep ourselves, our partners, and our readers educated and informed on these critical forest and ecosystem issues.

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Filed under Biodiversity, False Solutions to Climate Change, Forests, Forests and Climate Change, GE Trees, GMOs, Great Lakes, Greenwashing, Pollution, Synthetic Biology, The Greed Economy and the Future of Forests

12 Flood Wall Street protestors use “necessity defense” plea

Twelve of the more than 100 protestors arrested during the Sept. 22 “Flood Wall Street” demonstration have pled “not guilty” citing “necessity defense.” In a post on Earth First Journal, the protestors might find success using the plea because, their lawyer argues, that the climate crisis is such a serious issue that the defendants’ “action was a necessity for them to sit down to bring attention to the problem.”

Photo: Earth First Journal

Photo: Earth First Journal

Flood Wall Street Protesters Plead Not Guilty, Assert “Necessity Defense”

by James Woods, DC Media Group, 29 october 2014

Last month, more than 400,000 people took to the streets of New York City to protest against the global systems which continue to contribute to accelerated climate change in the mad dash to increase profits. Billed as the largest climate rally in the history of the world, the “People’s Climate March” was largely ignored by the mainstream media after filling Manhattan with activists and celebrities trying to garner attention to their cause.

The following Monday, a much smaller group numbering in the thousands stormed through the Financial District en route to Wall Street and staged a “sit-in” large enough to wreak havoc on traffic and commerce in the area for the entire day. As a result, the “Flood Wall Street” action received more press coverage than the previous day and more than 100 protesters (including a large polar bear) were arrested for failing to disperse after being confronted by the NYPD.

Read the full article here.

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Filed under Actions / Protest, False Solutions to Climate Change, Law

National Bioenergy Day is a “Dirty Sham”

This press release was sent on Oct. 22, 2014, from Biofuelwatch, Dogwood Alliance, Energy Justice Network, Partnership for Policy Integrity, Save America’s Forests, and Global Justice Ecology Project.

Groups across the country denounce “National Bioenergy Day” as a dirty sham


Groups around the country denounce the Biomass Power Association, Biomass Thermal Energy Council and their industry partners’ designation of this date as “National Bioenergy Day.” Pointing to growing opposition to bioenergy facilities around the nation and the world, they say burning trees, contaminated wastes, and garbage is grossly and dangerously misrepresented by industry advocates as “clean, green, and carbon neutral.”  The groups point out that biomass power pumps more CO2 into the atmosphere than even coal, along with comparable amounts of toxic air pollution, while also posing new threats to forests, ecosystems, and our health.

Rachel Smolker, Ph.D., co-director of Biofuelwatch, states: “The biomass industry has perpetrated a series of dangerous myths that they just keep repeating to ensure ongoing subsidies and supports. The Biomass Power Association website, for example, is rife with misleading statements, for example proclaiming to ‘Light America with clean, green biomass power—a natural solution to energy independence.’ This is utter nonsense as we would need several planets worth of biomass to provide any significant portion of overall US energy demand from biomass.” (1)

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Filed under Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Biofuelwatch, BREAKING NEWS, Dr. Rachel Smolker, Energy, False Solutions to Climate Change, Greenwashing

Partnership for Policy Integrity Maps Biomass Polluters in Pennsylvania

BurningWoodJust in time for National Bioenergy Day (October 22), the biomass industry’s biggest BS marketing day, the Partnership for Policy Integrity (PFPI) has released a new report and online database identifying “The 100 Most Polluting Biomass Energy Facilities in Pennsylvania.”

Industry calls biomass energy “a way to keep forests healthy” and touts burning wood as a “green” solution to energy and climate change.

This false solution, characterized by destruction of forest ecosystems and release of airborne toxins, should be an embarrassment, not a marketing ploy.

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Filed under Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Biofuelwatch, Energy, False Solutions to Climate Change, Forests and Climate Change, Greenwashing

Don’t like Coal, how about Nukes?

A cautionary tale of the unintended consequences of stopping fossil fuels without addressing the problem of overconsumption and demand for energy.  And yet another example of why we need to fundamentally address the system driving ecological destruction and climate change and not just promote bandaids.

In Tennessee, Time Comes for a Nuclear Plant Four Decades in the Making

Cooling towers rise above two adjacent nuclear reactors, Watts Barr 1 and 2. Construction on the second was suspended in 1988 and resumed in 2007. CreditShawn Poynter for The New York Times 

SPRING CITY, Tenn. — When the Tennessee Valley Authority first ordered Watts Bar 2, the nuclear reactor now approaching completion here, demand for electricity was growing at 7 percent a year and coal supplies were uncertain. The mercury, soot and acid rain that coal produced were simply accepted as the way things were, and many of the people who now worry about global warming had not yet been born.

But that was 1970. Today nearly all of that is reversed as Watts Bar 2, the nuclear industry’s version of a time traveler, prepares to begin operations. Now there is barely any growth in electricity demand, and plenty of coal, but most aging coal-burning plants need expensive cleaning or replacement. Thus the reactor, the T.V.A. reasons, is arriving at an opportune moment, even if almost every projection made over the last 44 years has proved wrong. With halting progress amid changing projections, construction has taken longer than that for the Panama Canal or the Great Pyramid of Cheops.

Read the rest of the story here

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Filed under Climate Change, Coal, Ending the Era of Extreme Energy, Energy, False Solutions to Climate Change, Nuclear power, Uncategorized