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Is Palm Oil-Driven Deforestation the Secret Ingredient in Your Favorite Products?

Like most Americans, I’m really devoted to the products I buy. I’ve been using Old Spice since I was 15 and entered my “Frank Sinatra” phase, on a bad day nothing cheers me up quite like a bowl (or six) of Lucky Charms or Cinnamon Toast Crunch, and seeing a Taco Bell sign or McDonald’s golden arches on a long car trip never fails to reinvigorate me. For better or worse, we Americans have developed an attachment to these brands and the companies that make them. Read More

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How the EPA Can Set a Strong, Flexible Power Plant Carbon Standard

A draft of the EPA’s carbon standards for existing power plants is due on June 1, 2014. There’s been a general call for flexibility in the design of these standards, which the EPA has committed to. Great River Energy Cooperative, Minnesota’s second-largest electric power supplier, recently proposed a regional carbon cap accompanied by a fee as one possible way to meet the upcoming standards. It’s a positive step, showing leadership and highlighting the importance of diverse regional approaches for getting significant, cost-effective reductions in carbon emissions. Read More

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Palm Oil: To Boycott or not to Boycott?

I get asked a lot whether you should stop buying products with palm oil altogether. The answer is “no,” for three major reasons.

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The Facts About Peat Soils in Sarawak, Malaysia

As you may have seen, there has been a lot of news from the palm oil industry in recent months, with companies like Hershey’s, L’Oréal, Kellogg’s, and Unilever committing to source deforestation- and peat-free palm oil.  But it’s the announcement by Wilmar, the largest trader (and one of the largest producers) of palm oil, that is likely to have the greatest impact on the palm oil industry. Read More

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Climate Change in Maryland: The Health of the State’s Economy Depends on How We Respond

According to a new report from the Labor Network for Sustainability, Maryland’s working people are already suffering the consequences of climate change and many jobs may be under threat in the future. Read More

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The Social Cost of Carbon: Counting the Costs of Climate Change and the Benefits of Cutting Carbon Pollution

Last November the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) solicited comments on the administration’s social cost of carbon (SCC) calculations. Today, as the extended comment period closes, the Union of Concerned Scientists filed joint comments with Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), Institute for Policy Integrity (Policy Integrity), and Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) in support of the SCC. The current SCC value is an important start for measuring the benefits of cutting carbon pollution. At $37 per metric ton of CO2 in 2015 (2007 dollars, using a 3% discount rate), it is also almost certainly an underestimate of the costs of climate change and can be improved in the future. Read More

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Grimm-Cassidy Bill Seeks to Gut Biggert Waters Flood Insurance Reforms

In an extraordinary turnabout, House members seem set to abandon bedrock principles of fiscal conservatism by voting on a bill to undermine the Biggert-Waters flood insurance reforms. Those reforms would have put the highly-indebted National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) in a more solvent position, benefiting taxpayers who have been footing the growing bill for costs of flooding. They would have also helped shine a light on the growing risks and costs of development along parts of our coasts threatened by sea level rise, storm surge, and flooding. Read More

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Early Wildfire Season in New Mexico Starts as U.S. Considers New Funding Sources to Fight Extreme Wildfires

I experienced very dry conditions in the mountains of northern New Mexico a few weeks back. I spoke with someone who travels to Taos nearly every winter and this was the least snow he could remember. The fire risk sign said “low” in the surrounding forests, but if more snow did not come soon I suspected those signs would start nudging to the yellow and red colors that warn of fire risk. Unfortunately, fires have already erupted in New Mexico this February. Some officials say that if 2014 continues to be the sixth year in a row with drier-than-average conditions on New Mexico’s Rio Grande, this would be the longest dry stretch since before the Rio Grande river gauges existed. Read More

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“Courage, Creativity, and Boldness” — A 2030 Target for California Climate Action

Midway through 2014’s very weird winter it might be easy for those of us who understand the need for urgent action on climate change to feel discouraged. A do-nothing Congress is virtually certain not to make progress on climate policy (or much else) any time soon, and international progress also seems chronically stalled. But there has been some good news recently out of the west. Read More

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CVS, Tobacco, and Aligning Companies’ Actions with Their Sustainability Brands on Climate Change

This week I am at the GreenBiz Conference, an annual meeting of leaders in sustainable business, many from the world’s top companies. One of the discussion topics that keeps coming up is values—specifically, the need to align company operations with their corporate values around sustainability. But what does this mean in practice? Read More

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