Newsroom | Catalyst Fall 2010
- Science Under Attack in Virginia
- A New Way to Deliver Jobs
- Getting Biofuels Back on Track
- Sowing Sees of a Cooler Climate
- New UCS Ads Generate Media Buzz
- UCS Inspires Young Scientists
- We Put Every Dollar to Work
This spring, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli—a vocal global warming contrarian—accused climate scientist Michael Mann, a former University of Virginia professor, of fraud. Cuccinelli claimed Mann received research funding based on falsified data, and the attorney general issued subpoenas for all the emails, data, and draft papers Mann generated during his tenure.
These actions could set a dangerous precedent. Science thrives on rigorous debate and a frank exchange of ideas and perspectives, and scientific discovery is held back when government officials harass or intimidate scientists. UCS therefore spoke out strongly against Cuccinelli’s actions, working with coalition partners to organize a letter from more than 800 Virginia scientists and academic leaders urging Cuccinelli to drop his investigation, and to file a court brief in support of the university’s decision to fight the subpoenas.
Multiple independent investigations found Mann’s methods to be sound, and at the end of August, a Virginia judge dismissed Cuccinelli’s case, citing a lack of evidence. The attorney general, however, is planning to resubmit the subpoenas and may appeal parts of the judge’s ruling to the Virginia Supreme Court. To follow this case and UCS’s involvement in it, visit www.ucsusa.org/cuccinelli.
In May, President Obama announced plans to set the first-ever fuel economy and global warming emissions standards for large trucks, a category that includes everything from delivery vans and concrete mixers to long-haul tractor-trailers. These trucks consume 20 percent of all the transportation fuel used each year in this country, despite representing just 4 percent of all vehicles on the road.
Just prior to the president’s announcement, UCS and CALSTART (a clean-transportation technology consortium) released the findings of a joint analysis examining the economic benefits of improving heavy-duty truck fuel economy. The study found that an increase in average fuel economy from about six miles per gallon today to 9.7 miles per gallon by 2030 could create as many as 124,000 jobs across the nation and, after paying for technology improvements, save $24 billion in fuel costs that year. Increasing truck efficiency would also decrease America’s oil dependence, cutting annual consumption up to 11 billion gallons by 2030 and reducing global warming emissions by 140 million metric tons—equivalent to removing 21 million of today’s passenger vehicles from the road.
To read the report Delivering Jobs, visit the UCS website at www.ucsusa.org/deliveringjobs.
Biofuels hold the promise of reducing two major problems: oil dependence and global warming emissions from transportation. Yet despite numerous government programs and subsidies, biofuels are not measuring up to their potential.
Corn ethanol production, for example, has taken off, but growing corn for fuel puts increased strain on the food system and environment—and fails to reduce global warming emissions over the fuel’s full life cycle. “Cellulosic” biofuels made from grass, wood waste, or even garbage promise to be cleaner, but are struggling to reach commercial scale.
In The Billion Gallon Challenge, released in June, UCS lays out a plan to quickly develop 1 billion gallons of clean biofuels. The first component of the plan is a set of financial incentives that would support construction of the first commercial-scale cellulosic biofuels facilities around the country. The second component is a Biofuels Performance Tax Credit that would reward biofuels producers who clean up their production processes.
Replacing current biofuels tax credits with this new credit would save more than $5 billion a year. To learn more, visit the UCS website at www.ucsusa.org/smartbioenergy.
Since our spring release of The Climate-Friendly Gardener, UCS has been partnering with groups around the country to spread the word on how smart gardening practices can improve soils while reducing heat-trapping emissions. One of these partnerships was with Eden Place Nature Center in Chicago, where we co-hosted an event in July to celebrate the many benefits of urban gardening.
Eden Place Director Michael Howard and UCS Analyst Karen Perry Stillerman explained the benefits of climate-friendly gardening to Chicago residents.
Karen Perry Stillerman, an analyst in the UCS Food and Environment Program and author of our report, joined Eden Place Director Michael Howard in leading more than 100 participants on a tour of the center, highlighting its contributions to both the local community and the global environment. For example, Eden Place addresses the lack of affordable, nutritious foods in this low-income neighborhood by growing produce on-site, making it available to the community at a weekly farmers market, and teaching area residents gardening and cooking skills. The center helps increase carbon storage in its soil and reduce heat-trapping landfill emissions by composting animal and plant waste (which also fertilizes the garden). The center’s trees also store carbon while providing shade and cooling the surrounding air, which helps reduce the neighborhood’s need for air conditioning.
At the end of the tour, the participants signed our pledge (online at www.ucsusa.org/gardenpledge) to adopt climate-friendly gardening practices at home.
Our “Curious for Life” ads, launched this summer, have succeeded in bringing increased national attention to both our organization and our efforts to counter attacks on climate scientists.
The ads, which show how scientists’ childhood curiosity about the natural world motivated their research on global warming, have been discussed in USA Today, on National Public Radio’s “Marketplace” segment, and in blogs by Time and New York Times reporters.
You can learn more about the campaign and download full-size versions of the ads at www.ucsusa.org/evidence.
Robert Goddard is not a household name. But the Worcester, MA, scientist was a pioneer in developing rockets to carry satellites (and eventually people) into space. To honor him, and draw attention to space-related problems such as growing levels of debris in orbit, the Goddard School of Science and Technology—a Worcester elementary school with a science focus—started the Goddard Lecture Series this year. For the inaugural lecture, Principal Marion Guerra invited David Wright, physicist and co-director of the UCS Global Security Program, to speak at the school in June.
David explained to the students how space and satellites serve critical scientific, military, and civilian functions and how the increased use of space has led to growing amounts of debris (mainly pieces of old satellites) that can damage or destroy active satellites. He also explained what needs to be done to keep space safe and usable.
The presentation was part of a daylong series of educational and engaging events related to space, including a model-rocket launch and a game of space-junk bingo. David’s talk, which was filmed by a local public-access TV station, and other information on space security can be found on our website at www.ucsusa.org/spacesecurity.
We are pleased that UCS continues to receive the highest possible recognition from the United States’ premier charity rating agencies: an accreditation seal from the Better Business Bureau, an A rating from the American Institute of Philanthropy, and a four-star rating from Charity Navigator.
These independent organizations have assessed our finances and practices and determined that we rank among the most trustworthy charities in the country.
UCS has a long and proud history of sound financial management. Our careful and effective use of your donations—fully 85 percent of which go directly to fund our program work—ensures that your gift will have a direct impact on the issues that concern you most.
We know how important it is for you to be confident that your money is being invested wisely, so we hope you share our pride in these testaments to our fiscal responsibility.
Your ongoing support makes it possible for us to deliver the expert analysis, policy savvy, and citizen engagement that together can address the most pressing environmental and security issues facing us today.