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Forests, Agriculture, and Climate Change: Why the U.S. Needs Action, Not Just Accounting, in its INDC

The United States has now told the world what it intends to do about climate change in the 2020s, by submitting its INDC (“Intended Nationally Determined Contribution”) to the United Nations. As we found in our report Halfway There? in January, the U.S.’ land sector – agriculture and forests – could be a big deal for the climate negotiations in Paris next December. Of course, our actions to reduce fossil fuels will be critical, but land use is important both as a source of global warming pollution and a way to take it back out of the atmosphere. Read More

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Pizza Hut, KFC, and Taco Bell’s New Relationship with Palm Oil: It’s Complicated

Every time I visit my hometown in Grand Rapids, Michigan, I go out for pizza with my parents. You’d think I’d be jonesing for a local pizza joint, but the truth is I want Pizza Hut. I grew up on their pan crust cheese pizza and it will always have a special place in my heart (and stomach!).  So when I heard that Yum! Brands, Inc (Yum!), owner of Pizza Hut, KFC and Taco Bell and America’s second largest fast food chain had come out with a new palm oil commitment, I was pretty happy. Read More

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Not Where You Expected to Find Deforestation?: Examining the Palm Oil Commitments of 40 of America’s Top Companies

A lot can change in a year.

Thirteen months ago, UCS released a report scoring 30 of America’s top companies’ palm oil commitments. Since that time a lot of things have happened, both good and bad. Back then, nobody knew that Meghan Trainor was all about that bass or how fancy Iggy Azalea is. We are one step closer to buying Cuban cigars on American soil and a machine landed on a comet! Read More

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More Than Scientists, Mauna Loa, and Better Climate Communication

At UCS when we are thinking about the best way to communicate new scientific results, my colleague Aaron Huertas often asks me, “How do the results make you feel?” As he wrote, the exercise can be helpful in bringing scientific findings back to human emotions and why the results might matter to others. A new campaign called More Than Scientists seeks to enact this effect on a broader scale and I was happy to take part in it. Read More

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U.S. Can Lead on Global Climate Action: Clean Power Plan Is a Linchpin

Today we are expecting the U.S. to make public its proposed contribution to the global effort to tackle climate change as part of the UNFCCC process. This announcement will come in the form of the so-called U.S. ‘Intended Nationally Determined Contribution’ or INDC. The Clean Power Plan to limit carbon emissions from power plants is a critical element of the emissions reductions that the U.S. can make by 2025. Read More

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High and Dry: Reservoir Levels Tell Only Half the Story, Leaving California Dry as Drought Continues

You’ve probably heard about the California drought by now. If you live in California, it’s hard to hear about anything else. Unfortunately, the drought may be even worse than we realize, because the way we often measure water supply doesn’t consider future water availability. By relying on measurements of current reservoir levels, agencies in charge of water distribution are missing an important part of the water supply picture, leaving their customers vulnerable to longer and more severe droughts.

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Arizona Superior Court Protects Academic Freedom in Climate Email Disclosure Case

Arizona basketball fans may be glum after this weekend’s loss to Wisconsin, but there’s some very good news today out of Arizona: a superior court has found that the University of Arizona was right to protect more than 1700 emails to and from university climate scientists from disclosure under the state’s open records act. Read More

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Fossil Fuel Firms Are Still Bankrolling Climate Denial Lobby Groups

BP has withdrawn support to ALEC, a group known for misrepresenting climate science, but appearances can be deceptive. Oil, gas and coal companies remain firmly behind climate disinformation campaigns. Read More

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Testifying about Sustainability and the American Diet

The day before yesterday, together with my UCS colleagues Lindsey Haynes-Maslow and Deborah Bailin, I went to the National Institutes of Health to testify on the Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. This report, prepared by a committee of experts every five years, provides the basic information for federal food programs such as school lunches and SNAP (formerly called food stamps), and is used to create the official U.S. Dietary Guidelines that are the basis for the MyPlate graphics.

Lindsey, Deborah and I testified about different aspects of the DGAC report, and they have already put their testimony up on their blogs. Here is mine, which focuses on food sustainability issues such as the climate impacts of the American diet.
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When It Comes to Palm Oil, PepsiCo Is Less than Perfect

Growing up, Back to the Future Part II epitomized what the future would look like. I dreamed of owning a hoverboard or riding in a flying car (it didn’t have to be a DeLorean, I wasn’t that picky). Well, that distant future of flying cars, dehydrated food, and self-drying clothes takes place in 2015, so the future is now.

However, on a recent viewing of the film what caught my attention wasn’t the hoverboards or holograms but a drink that Marty McFly orders at a diner. That drink: Pepsi Perfect. Through the work I’ve done investigating  companies’ links between deforestation and palm oil, I’ve learned a lot about PepsiCo’s policies and asked myself how close is the real PepsiCo to being “Pepsi Perfect”? Read More

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