Thursday, April 7, 2016

Hey U.S.A! Let’s win the Clean Energy Race!



Below is the text of my speech for South County Toastmasters delivered on April 5, 2016.

Question: Guess which country invested the most money in renewable energy, primarily solar and wind, in 2015?

According to a Bloomberg News article from January 2016, in 2015 ‘China was the biggest market for renewables, increasing investment 17 percent to $110.5 billion. That’s almost double the $56 billion invested in the U.S. By the way, all of Europe invested $58.5 billion.

Image Source for China: cryptocoinsnews.com


One area where the competition between the U.S. and China is fierce is wind power. The non-partisan scientific news website, ClimateCentral.org, had this headline from March 2016, China, U.S. Lead Global Boom in Wind Power.

This article reported, “China built more wind turbines than any other country in 2015, adding 30,500 megawatts of wind power capacity last year, a roughly 22 percent increase over 2014. China surpassed the European Union last year in wind power production capacity after having built enough wind farms by the end of 2014 to potentially power 110 million Chinese homes."

As of right now, the United States is ahead of China total amount of electricity currently produced by wind. In 2015, U.S. generated 190 million megawatt-hours of wind power, powering about 17.5 million homes. China clocked in at 185.1 megawatt hours. However, with all of its new installations, China could blow past the U.S. this year with total electricity produced by wind. No pun intended!

Image from Brian Ettling taken just outside Great Basin National Park in May 2012. 

That’s wind power, what about solar?  Fortune Magazine had this headline from June 2015, China is utterly and totally dominating solar panels.

The article states “China has emerged as the world’s largest market for solar panels.”

It then notes, “China has long been the world’s largest manufacturer of solar panels…But now China is buying a lot of its own panels, helping give the country dominance in the global solar economy.”

Image from Brian Ettling of solar panels behind the Cold Strings Station Motel,
RV Park and General Store, Cold Springs, Nevada. May 2012

In March 2014, Investment banking giant Citigroup, released a report titled, "The Age of Renewables is Beginning.” This is because of the explosive growth that has been happening for years with solar and wind energy.

We are now in the Age of Renewables and China has every intention of winning this race.

Yet, within the United States, you will often hear this argument:

We should not take any action on climate change until China cleans up its pollution.

That argument reminds me of this joke. One morning, a mother is cooking breakfast for her two sons. The kids are very hungry and impatient. One boy yells out, “I want the first pancakes!”
The other responds, “No, I do!”
This argument continues on until the mother has had enough of this fighting. She calmly says, “Boys, if Jesus was here, he would say, ‘Let my brother have the first pancakes.”
The older brother then glares at his brother and shouts, “You be Jesus!”

Image from Brian Ettling of his nephews Andrew and Sam.

Yes, let’s be honest, if you follow the news, we all know that China has a serious problem with pollution. Air pollution in China is killing up to 4,000 people each day. China’s air pollution has cut life expectancy by an average of 5.5 years in the north of the country.  The Mayor of Beijing said this just one year ago, “At the present time… Beijing is not a livable city.”

China Daily, the widest print English-language circulation newspaper in China, had this editorial in February 2014, “[The government’s] inaction in the face of the heaviest air pollution in a month flies in face of their own promises and their own credibility.”

Image Source: usatoday.com (Ng Han Guan, AP)

Thus, there is a lot of pressure on the Chinese government to reduce their carbon pollution.  You may not know this, but China is taking action on climate change.

The latest news is that for the second straight year, coal use in China has declined. China is looking to the future. China’s President Xi Jinping stated,

“Green and sustainable development represents the trend of our times.”

With all of their investments in renewable energy that I mentioned in the beginning of my talk, China intends to beat us.  As Americans, we should be very concerned. How concerned should we be?

Brian Ettling with former South Carolina Rep. Bob Inglis. January 2014

In November, 2010, my friend, conservative Republican South Carolina Representative Bob Inglis had these blunt words for his fellow conservative Republicans in Congress in one his last speeches in Congress:

"I would also suggest to my Free Enterprise colleagues -- especially conservatives here -- whether you think (climate change) all a bunch of hooey…the Chinese don't. And they plan on eating our lunch in this next century.

They plan on innovating around these problems, and selling to us, and the rest of the world, the technology that'll lead the 21st century. So we may just press the pause button here for several years, but China is pressing the fast-forward button.

As a result, we may wake up in several years and say, 'Geez, this didn't work out very well for us.'”

Sufflolk County Community College Professor Scott Mandia with Brian Ettling, August 2012.

As Americans who love our country and want to be #1 in the world, let’s not let that happen. As my friend, Scott Mandia, professor of meteorology at Suffolk County Community College in New York, explains, in his climate change talks:

"America is great because when we are faced with a challenge and especially with a threat, we collectively take action and we usually do quite well. The energy revolution is akin to the Internet revolution. I want America to take the lead. If we do, we create jobs, we sell products to China instead of buying them, we have cleaner air and water, greater national security, and energy savings put money directly into our pockets.

Imagine it is the Olympics and the event is the Clean Energy Race. The US track team has always won the big events before and appears to be in the best shape to win again.

However, after the starting gun has fired, the American runner is just jogging while China, India, and others are sprinting. Don’t you want the American to win? There is still time for her to step it up but the window of opportunity is getting shorter every year because she is falling farther and farther behind."

As Scott likes to ask his audience: Which you rather have, China selling renewable energy technology to the United States, or the U.S. selling clean energy technology to China?"

I think the answer here is very easy:

Hey U.S.A! Let’s win the Clean Energy Race!






Saturday, April 2, 2016

Climate change action is slowly building movement in Congress

Brian Ettling in front of the U.S. Capitol getting ready to lobby
Congressional Offices on November 17, 2015.  

Below is my speech text that I gave at St. Louis South County Toastmasters on March 30, 2016. My speech text is a short summary of the February 16, 2016 Citizens' Climate Lobby media packet: Supreme Court stay on the Clean Power Plan.

This speech had a total time limit of 11 minutes. I had a 6 minute prepared speech, which is the first half of this blog. I then had a 5 minute question and answer period. I will then cover the questions and how I answered in the second part of the blog.

Part I

The title: Our plan for a healthy planet IS gaining traction with Congress

Good evening, volunteers of Citizens’ Climate Lobby and all of you here.
Today, I want to report on 3 things:
The recent bad news, our next step forward, and then good news.

First, Let me share the background information: 



December 2015 in Paris, 195 nations agreed to limit global warming to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit above pre-industrial levels. This goal was based on the broad understanding that exceeding 3.6 F would result in nasty consequences such as sea level rise, food shortages, worsening storms, and extreme heat waves likely to outpace our civilization’s ability to adapt.

President Obama went to Paris promising that the United States would reduce carbon emissions up to 28 percent by the year 2025. He confidently made that pledge because of a new Environmental Protection Agency regulation, known as the Clean Power Plan. It aims to reduce carbon dioxide emissions at new and existing electric power plants. A strong commitment from the U.S. was essential to getting other nations to make pledges of their own.

Image from Brian Ettling from November 2010. Navajo Generating Station, coal electric plant.
located near Page, Arizona. It's considered to be the 3rd largest emitter of CO2 in the U.S..

Now, the Bad News. 

February 9, 2016, U.S. Supreme Court voted, in a 5 to 4 ruling, to delay the implementation of President Obama’s Clean Power Plan until legal challenges are resolved.

Just how disastrous is the Supreme Court’s recent ruling?

Worse than you realize.

Court decision raises uncertainty

The U.S. Paris climate commitment was based on President Obama’s executive action. Unfortunately, it is now facing aggressive challenges in U.S. courts. This Supreme Court stay raises international doubts if the U.S. can now meet its obligations. People worldwide may worry if this regulation will eventually be upheld.

Image from Brian Ettling of the U.S. Supreme Court Building. November 2015. 

With this disappointing Supreme Court action, this leads to my second point…

2. Our legislative solution is the best step forward. 

What is the meaning of that ruling for us today?
The court "stayed," did not overrule, the Clean Power Plan.
It is a temporary stay or hold.
It highlights the weakness of addressing climate change through executive action.
The Supreme Court could knock this executive action down.
Even if the Court upholds the plan, a future U.S. President could cancel it.
The best and most permanent solution is Congressional action, which will last across presidencies.
This underscores the importance of our work for Congress to pass our proposal. It is market-based approach favored by economists on both the left and the right.

Image from Brian Ettling of U.S. Capitol Building, October 2010. 

Citizens’ Climate Lobby recommends a policy known as Carbon Fee and Dividend,

- This fee starts at $15 per ton of fossil CO2 emitted.
- It is placed at the source, coal mines ,oil wells, and U.S. border.
- It increases each year by $10.
- Clean energy is cheaper than fossil fuels within a decade.
- All of the money collected is returned to equally American households on an equal basis.
- Under this plan, 66 percent of all households would break even or receive more in their dividend check than they would pay for the increased cost of energy. This protects the poor and middle class.
- A predictably increasing carbon price will send a clear market signal, for entrepreneurs and investors to fully invest in the new clean-energy economy.
This is a market-based solution.

Image from Brian Ettling of solar panels behind the Cold Strings Station Motel,
RV Park and General Store, Cold Springs, Nevada. May 2012

A 2014 study from Regional Economic Models, Inc., (REMI) found our policy would achieve within 20 years a 52 percent reduction in CO2 emissions and add 2.8 million jobs.  In 20 years, the dividend checks would also increase household incomes for a family of four up to close to $400 a month or $4800 a year, which would more than cover the increasing fuel costs.

Sounds great, you may be thinking, but what are the chances that this dysfunctional and partisan Congress will take bipartisan action to address climate change?

Actually, there is more hope than you might think.

3. The Good News: the progress happening with Congress

1. In September 2015, GOP Rep. Chris Gibson from New York introduced House Resolution 424. This resolution states that climate change could have a negative impact on our nation and that Congress should start working on solutions.
It is now cosponsored by 12 other Republicans.

GOP Rep. Chris Gibson, NY
Image Source: wikipedia.org

2. A second breakthrough happened last month: the formation of the bipartisan House Climate Solutions Caucus, co-chaired by Florida GOP Rep. Carlos Curbelo and Democrat Rep. Ted Deutch from Florida.

GOP Rep. Carlos Curbelo from Florida and Democrat Rep. Ted Deutch from Florida
Image Source: wikipedia.org/wiki/Carlos_Curbelowikipedia.org/wiki/Ted_Deutch

With this bad news and good news, here is our take home message for you today:

The Supreme Court’s decision to delay the Clean Power Plan exposes the folly of relying solely on executive action to solve the most critical problem facing our civilization. As more Republicans express a willingness to come to the table, Congress must pass our Carbon Fee & Dividend proposal.


Our solution can bridge the huge partisan divide.

At this point, I will take questions from the audience for the next 5 minutes.

Image of Brian Ettling with his t-shirt promoting Citizens' Climate Lobby, May 2015. 
(As soon as I can upload the images from my speech into the video, I will then post my video on YouTube with a link here)

Part II 

I will share below the questions I received from the audience and my attempts to answer the questions.

1. How do I forsee the dividend program continuing when the projection is that fossil fuel usage will decrease? As a result one could see that there would be less money to return to households and eventually it would not be able to sustain the increased costs of fuels. 

The was a question asked by my fellow Toastmaster, Erin. While I did spend hours trying to anticipate questions that would be asked of me, I will now admit that I was stumped by this question.

Here is how I tried to answer the question on the spot:

"According to the 2014 REMI study, the dividend keeps going up."

Since I was stumped, I tried to ask Erin if she meant if the costs of fossil fuels would be higher than the dividend at the end of 20 years.

Erin responded, "If our goal is to move away from fossil fuels and as we use less and less fossil fuels, there would be less money for the dividend."

Image Source: remi.com
Still uncertain how to answer, I gave this reply:

"That is a great question. My understanding from the REMI report is showing is that the revenue for the dividend would keep increasing. As the costs of fossil fuels would keep increasing, it would more than cover the costs. I can always get back to you on that."

Erin still wanted to press me on the point that we would be using less and less fossil fuels. I responded 'That is the goal to keep using less and less fossil fuels and emitting less and less carbon dioxide. At that point we will have won and the economy will have switched over to nearly 100% clean energy.' I then reiterated my point that the dividend would more than cover the costs and I promised to get back to her on that.

Erin still wanted to keep pressing me on this. She was still convinced that the increased carbon taxes and the diminishing use of fossil fuels would cause the dividend checks to get smaller. Therefore, it would not cover the increasing costs.

I tried to respond by saying that "We would be using less and less fossil fuels and it would be covered under the fee, if that makes sense."

Erin then argued that 'The fee will eventually go away because we will no longer be able to pay out the dividend.'

I then tried to explain that 'by that time we will have switched to the clean energy economy and we will no longer have to pay out the dividend.'

Fellow Toastmaster Adam then jumped into the conversation saying, 'By then, the dividend will be diminished and there will not be enough money to cover the fee.'

At that point, a guest visiting the club then spoke out to defend the carbon fee and dividend. It was hard for me to hear his opinion because he turned his back to me to address Erin and Adam.

To regain control of the question and answer period, I then pivoted to the next Toastmaster who had a question for me.

Image of Brian Ettling during his March 30, 2016 Toastmasters Speech 

The response I would like to have given: 

This was an excellent question from Erin. Since I am not an economist and I do not run economic models for a living, I felt out of my league trying to answer that question. Thus, I did e-mail Scott Nystrom, Senior Economic Associate at REMI, who was the lead author of the study, for a response. If I do not hear back from Scott, I will make sure to ask staff with Citizens' Climate Lobby more familiar with the details of the 2014 REMI study how they would have responded.

Since I have been a member of South County Toastmasters for the past five years, I have become friends with Erin and Adam. I even invited Erin and Adam to my wedding last November. Adam and I have very different on politics and climate change. I look at the world through a very strong progressive view with a strong acceptance of climate change. Adam considers himself to be a strong libertarian and he is very doubtful of human caused climate change. We have struck up a friendship through Toastmasters. I have even sought out Adam's advice for my climate change speeches to be able to better reach his segment of my audience. Adam and Erin are dating. In conversations with Erin, she seems to agree with many of his world views. Thus, I was fully expecting to get skeptical questions from Adam and Erin.

In the past, I have met with Adam to practice my climate change speeches and draw out his questions so I would be better prepared. I debated to do this for this speech. Professional speakers do know how to better control a question and answer session where anything can happen. Some use techniques of having friends in the audience ask a question that they will know in advance how to answer. I did not want to do that trick for this Toastmasters speech because I did want to be able to fully think on my feet. I have given around 100 climate change talks over the past five years. I fielded lots of questions from the audience during these talks. Sometimes I felt I succeeded with my answers with the audience. Other times, I failed because I did not know enough information or my response ended up triggering a contentious argument with the audience member.

Adam Kutell and Brian Ettling receiving a reward from Toastmasters, May 2012. 

Adam or Erin and I are probably never going to agree on climate change, the policy solutions and other political issues. However, they are still friends and want me to succeed as a Toastmaster and a public speaker. Thus, I wish could have answered Erin's question more like this:

"Erin, that is an excellent question. Believe it or not, in my previous years of talking about climate change, Citizens' Climate Lobby and the the REMI Report, nobody has asked me that question before  today. I spent many hours trying to prepare for this question and answer period. However, you asked me one question where I will admit my knowledge is limited.

Here is my quick response to attempt to answer your question: My understanding from the REMI report is showing is that the revenue for the dividend would keep increasing over 20 years. As the costs of fossil fuels would keep increasing, it would more than cover the costs.

However, I don't have any details beyond that so I will do more homework and get back to you. I am fully confident that economists involved with this study are aware of your concern and I have no doubt they have already addressed it.

When Citizens' Climate Lobby (CCL) commissioned REMI to do this study, CCL deliberately sought out REMI because they 'are committed to quality data free of ideological taint that you might get from some think tanks.' REMI is truly nonpartisan advising organizations from the the American Gas Association (AGA) and the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) to the National Education Association (NEA) and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. They have a stellar reputation in Washington D.C. and nationally for providing impartial and totally independent economic analysis.

CCL did not attempt to influence the outcome of the report in any way.  Their first priority is a livable world, and we can’t get there without an honest and clear-eyed view of the facts.

Scott Nystrom. Image Source: linkedin.com
Having said that, I can still understand how you are skeptical. I would just ask that you let me dig deeper. Let me see if I can contact the author of the study, Scott Nystrom, and get back to you.

You may find this ironic or funny. I have heard from friends in Citizens' Climate Lobby that Scott Nystrom is a staunch libertarian, like Adam. He is not a tree hugger like me. He would probably agree a lot more with you on politics than me. However, his day job and passion is running economic models. That's it. However, since Scott has a similar perspective on economics and politics as you, I have no doubt he has already thought of your question. Let me get with Scott or others who are more knowledgable about the 2014 REMI study and get back with you."

2. I understand you clearly said that this is a market driven solution and not government regulations. My interpretation is that it is not market based. It is not the free enterprise. Corporations are not going to freely volunteer do this. It will only happen with major rigid government controls. Can you please explain that?

This second question was from my friend and fellow Toastmaster Jim Bubash. He freely calls himself a "climate denier," so I was not surprised that he would ask a question that was critical of my speech.

From the readings I did on the Citizens' Climate Lobby website, I felt much better prepared for Jim's question and more confident in my answer.

My response: "That is a great question because already ExxonMobil, Walmart, BP, etc. are already doing their own internal carbon tax. They anticipate that we are going to eventually get a carbon tax. Keep in mind that nearly 50% of global emissions of countries worldwide, they are now doing either a carbon tax or cap and trade. So, this is happening more and more on a global scale. More and more business are saying that 'we should have a carbon tax' and countries throughout Europe are doing it. China now has seven provinces with cap and trade. This year they are suppose to implement a nationwide (cap and trade) program. There is actually a global movement towards it. There are actually a lot companies saying that we should have a carbon tax."

Countries that are or getting ready to price carbon. Image Source: worldbank.org and citizensclimatelobby.org

Jim was not happy with my answer, so he then reiterated:
"As far as you explained, worldwide and in the United States, wouldn't this need major government regulations?"

I replied, "It does not (need major government regulations). It is the simplest plan you can come up with. Are you familiar with former Secretary of State George Shultz?"

"Yes," Jim responded.

I answered, "George Shultz is on is actually in favor of our plan. He is on the Advisory Board for Citizens' Climate Lobby. He has said (the carbon fee and dividend plan) is the simplest, most transparent, and the easiest to administer because basically you collect the fee at the source, the coal mine, oil mine or the U.S. border and you return that revenue. It is strictly passing through the government. You do not have to increase any regulations with this.

Former Secretary of State George Shultz. Image Source: newsmax.com

It is a much more efficient plan than President Obama's Clean Energy Plan. President Obama's plan only reduces emissions 30% over 20 years, whereas (Citizens' Climate Lobby's carbon fee and dividend) reduces carbon emissions over 50% (over 20 years). Thus, it is much more efficient and it uses the market to do that."

Final Thoughts 

For the final minute of my question and answer period, Cathy Bell, a guest who found out about the Toastmasters meeting from an announcement I put on the Climate Reality-St. Louis Meetup.com page, gave this comment to the audience:

"This is not a question but to really address what some people are saying. If you owned a restaurant and you dumped your garbage into the street, you would not be allowed to do that. (Garbage collection) is supposed to be factored into your cost of business that you pay someone to collect your garbage. Yet, we are letting these companies dump what this is, which is garbage, which is going to poison our planet and going to destroy this civilization and the human race. We are letting them dump their garbage into our atmosphere and poison all of us.

They should not be allowed to do that no more than you or I should be allowed to open a restaurant and dump our garbage into the street. As far as the costs going up for households, look at what is happening in California with the costs of solar. The sun is free. The costs of solar is going to come down and it is already coming down. (Unfortunately, the U.S. Government) is subsidizing fossil fuels to the tune of billions of dollars of our tax dollars."

At this point, my 11 minutes were up, I had to cut off Cathy, end my time, and thank the audience for their time.

Friends who attended my Toastmasters speech from March 30, 2016
From left to right: Ron Trimmer, Don Diekmann, Brian Ettling, Robert Vest, and Cathy Bell. 

In that final minute of my question and answer period, I did think that Cathy did a eloquent job of expressing a key point of climate scientists, economists, and climate activists. We must stop using our air supply as an unregulated and unpriced sewer to dump our carbon emissions. Citizens' Climate Lobby's carbon fee and dividend is just a tool to correct a market failure. This market weakness could led to very nasty consequence if we don't act fast to reduce the threat of climate change.

Just like what I talked about in my speech, Citizens' Climate Lobby's carbon fee and dividend is a solution that can help create a more livable and sustainable planet.

Thank you for reading my blog.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

My Winning proposal for you (for climate contrarians looking to change my mind)


Below is the text from a speech I gave to my South County Toastmaster group on March 23, 2016.

Who here thinks they can perform heart transplant on a family member or fellow Toastmaster better than a heart surgeon?

My fellow Toastmasters I am here today to tell you that I would not recommend myself if you need urgent heart surgery. You may be surprised by this, but I do not have the skills, knowledge and experience to operate on your heart safely. Instead, I have been working as a seasonal park ranger for the past 20 years.


Ironically, one of I the things I quickly learned when I started giving ranger talks is that people expect park rangers to know everything, don’t you?

Image Source:goodreads.com
Around 18 years ago, I was giving ranger talks in Everglades National Park, Florida. Visitors started asking me about this global warming thing. Visitors hate when park rangers tell you, “I don’t know. ” As soon as I could, I rushed to the nearest Miami bookstore and bought the first book I could find. It was Laboratory Earth: the Planetary Gamble We Can't Afford to Lose, by the now late climate scientist Dr. Stephen Schneider of Stanford University. At that time, Dr. Schneider was considered to be one of the top and most respected experts on climate change in the world. I soon became hooked reading all I the scientific books I could find on climate change.

I discovered sea level rise along our mangrove coastline in Everglades National Park. The sea level rose 8 inches in the 20th century, four times more than it had risen in previous centuries for the past three thousand years. Because of climate change, sea level is now expected to rise at least three feet in Everglades National Park by the end of the 21st century. The sea would swallow up most of the park and nearby Miami since the highest point of the park road less than three feet above sea level.

It really shocked me that crocodiles, alligators, and beautiful Flamingos I enjoyed seeing in the Everglades could all lose this ideal coastal habitat because of sea level rinse enhanced by climate change.

Image from Brian Ettling of wild Greater Flamingoes in Florida Bay
in Everglades National Park in 1999. 

What is causing current sea rise in Florida and globally? Currently the melting of the land-based ice in Greenland and Antarctica primarily causes it. Why is Greenland and Antarctica melting?

NASA scientists meticulously documented that the average global temperature of Earth rose 1 degree Celsius or 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit from 1884 to today. They think that the current rise of temperature is due mostly due to humans burning fossil fuels such as oil, coal, and natural gas. As you burn fossil fuels, carbon dioxide is released. They noticed a 43% increase of carbon dioxide in our air supply over the past 130 years.


More carbon dioxide in our air causes more extreme weather. In other words, we are putting our weather on steroids. It is contributing to drier droughts, such as the extreme 2012 Midwest drought and heat wave, which centered here in St. Louis. Who remembers that event?

Climate change also causes wetter rains and stormier storms, such as the 2016 New Year’s Day flooding we just experienced in the St. Louis area. Who was impacted by that event?

Photo from Brian Ettling of flooding by Creve Coeur Park near St. Louis, MO.
Taken on January 1, 2016.

Besides that, I brought the ultimately proof of climate change with me today. Are you guys ready? The change is underwear fashion from what our grandparents were wearing to what the kids have been wearing today.


The agreement among climate scientists about human caused climate change is incredibly high.  Researchers at University of Illinois interviewed 79 of world’s top climate scientists.  Stanford University researchers interviewed over 908 climate scientists, and University of Queensland in Australia surveyed over 10,306 climate scientists. All of them determined that over 97% of climate scientists agree that human caused climate change is happening.

Image Source: skepticalscience.com

Yet, even with the 97% agreement, polls from the Pew Research Center show that 55% of Americans still think scientists are still in disagreement or don’t know about the strong scientific agreement. This public misunderstanding is frustrating for climate scientists. Dr. Marshall Shepard, Climate Scientist at University of Georgia Athens had this comment:

‘This gap is like saying that 97% of heart surgeons agree how to do heart transplant, 
but the public disagrees.’

Despite all I have learned about climate change as a park ranger and private citizen, my Toastmaster friend James Bubash likes to ask me: ‘What can I do to get you to ‘see the light’ to change your mind about climate change?’


For Jim or others are looking to change my mind about climate change: here is my winning proposal for you. I am challenging you today to meet with a climate scientist, just like I have done. In December 2011, I briefly got to meet NASA climate scientist Dr. James Hansen.

Brian Ettling with NASA Climate Scientist James Hansen
Photo taken at American Geophysical Union meeting, December 6, 2011. 

When you meet a climate scientist, I wan you to give them your best Toastmasters speech. Lay out your best case for them why they are wrong and you are correct. There are a couple climate scientists here in St. Louis I could introduce you to give your talk.

There is a catch though. After they hear your talk how they are wrong and you are correct, they get to evaluate the evidence and content of your speech. They get to critique your argument. Just like a tough Toastmasters evaluation from Carl Hendrickson, you must be able to politely accept their evaluation of the weaknesses of your argument.

St. Louis South County Toastmasters member Carl Henrickson 

If you are not willing to agree to that, then there is no deal.  Climate scientists don’t have time to just argue with people. Neither do I. You have to be able to show us that the weight of your evidence is stronger than their evidence in order to disprove science.

If you meet with a climate scientist and then convince them that they are wrong, that human caused climate change is not real, then I will gladly change my mind. You will have won.


It’s just like if one of us here needed heart surgery. You are convinced that that all heart surgeons are wrong and we should not listen to them. We would want you to meet with one of the top heart surgeons to convince them and us that the field of cardiology is completely false.

I caution you though this will be a very difficult task if you accept this proposal.

Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone, President of the National Academy of Sciences, said this at the end of his
Dr. Ralph Cicerone
Image Source: ametsoc.org
lecture at the St. Louis Science Center, January 31, 2011 about disproving climate change:

 “I continue to think is there anything wrong with this picture (of climate change science) because scientists become rich and famous not by agreeing with everyone else.  They become recognized by doing something different by showing that everyone else is wrong and doing something new, so I think about this all the time.

For 35 years, I have not been able to crack this thing (find ways to prove it as wrong).  A lot of people who are smarter than me are always looking for new explanations.  However, the consensus has come down stronger than ever that what we are seeing is due to the human enhanced greenhouse effect."

Again, Jim and my fellow Toastmasters, my winning proposal to you is to meet with one of the top climate scientists and prove to them and me they are wrong. Just like performing heart surgery on a family member or fellow toastmaster, let’s see if you are up to this very difficult challenge.

Mr. Toastmaster.



Thursday, February 11, 2016

Creating the political will for effective climate action


"Politicians don't create political will. They respond to it." – Mark Reynolds, Executive Director of Citizens' Climate Lobby.

Are you alarmed about climate change but you are unsure what to do? At some point, you must decide to become part of the solution. You must rise up and take action. The famous quote attributed to Mahatma Gandhi famously says, 'You must be the change you seek in the world.'

Wow! That is a very broad statement. But, how are we to be the change? What must we do?

For me, the road map for action with a very complex problem like climate change comes from this quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr:

Martin Luther King, Jr.
Image Source: biography.com
“Through education we seek to change attitudes; through legislation and court orders we seek to regulate behavior. Through education we seek to change internal feelings; through legislation and court orders we seek to control the external effects of those feelings. Through education we seek to break down the spiritual barriers to integration; through legislation and court orders we seek to break down the physical barriers to integration. One method is not a substitute for the other, but a meaningful and necessary supplement. Anyone who starts out with the conviction that the road to racial justice is only one lane wide will inevitably create a traffic jam and make the journey longer.”

The clear message in this quote is that change on any complex societal issue happens with both education and legislation. 

For many years now, I have devoted my energy to educating others to take action on climate change as a park ranger, teacher, public speaker, Toastmaster, co-founder of the St. Louis Climate Reality Meet Up, and Climate Reality Project Leader. On my Climate Reality Project Leader page, I have documented presenting nearly 80 climate change talks and spoke to over 3,000 people since I was trained in San Francisco in 2012. Since 2011, I have been writing this blog and contributing over 200 posts to the website Climatebites.org. You can easily say that I love speaking and writing about climate change.

However, I know this is not enough. As my friend, Larry Lazar, fellow Climate Reality Project Leader and co-founder with me of Climate Reality-St. Louis Meet Up group, once advised me, "We can facebook and blog all we want, but we stand no chance to solve (climate change) unless we accept the fact that we have to change."

Yes, individual actions to reduce your carbon footprint are great. Since November 2011, I have been giving this talk about energy efficiency around the St. Louis area called "It's Easy to Be Green." In this talk, I definitely encourage people to change their light bulbs and give tips our to cut their energy bills. However, this not enough to save us from the worst impacts of climate change.

As Al Gore said in 2008 during a TED talk,

"As important as it is to change the light bulbs, it is more important to change the laws."

Here are two of my biggest heroes, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and former Vice President Al Gore telling me that I am going to have to find a way to change the laws. Gulp. It is so much easier for me to just write and give public talks.

Fortunately, as mythologist Joseph Campbell said about the hero's journey that you don't have to do it alone. You can bring friends, partners, and others along to complete the journey. Success on this journey is a creating the political will to change the laws for a stable climate.


The most effective group I know that is doing this is Citizens' Climate Lobby (CCL). I first blogged about the impact CCL had on my life with the blog posts from January 2013, Want to change the world? Be Persistent! and from November 2013 Want to change to change the world? Then start a climate change group!

Citizens' Climate Lobby's methodology

Around the time of writing that second blog in November 2013, Carol Braford asked me to be the co-leader of the St. Louis group of Citizens' Climate Lobby. With my love of public speaking about climate change, Carol then recruited me to speak at the April 2014 Webster University Sustainability Conference.

The title of my talk was Citizens' Climate Lobby's central mission: Creating the Political Will for a Livable World. CCL creates this political will by empowering individuals, like you and me, to experience breakthroughs in exercising their personal and political power.

My presentation at Webster began by asking the vital question: Do you know who your Congressperson is?

This was a sophisticated, informed audience attending a sustainability conference at a university, so they did not seem to have trouble answering this question. However, this is a crucial question to ask because CCL is "betting the ranch on relationships," as Executive Director Mark Reynolds likes to say.

CCL primary focus is to lobby in support of their Carbon Fee and Dividend proposal by friendly relationships with our federally elected representatives. CCL volunteers and staff achieves this positive rapport with members of Congress and their staff by showing respect, appreciation and gratitude for their service.

Obviously, before you can develop a great working relationship with a member of Congess, you have to know who exactly is your member of Congress.

The Success of RESULTS and Sam Daley-Harris

The methodology of Citizens' Climate Lobby can be traced back to an organization working to eliminate global poverty called Results and its founder, Sam Daley-Harris. To prepare for my Webster talk on CCL, I read Sam Daly Harris' book, Reclaiming our Democracy.  This is book is an excellent resource for those looking for proven models for how to successfully lobby members of Congress to get legislation passed.

Sam Daley-Harris
Image: reclaimingourdemocracy.com
This book is a must read because it is about gaining hope and inspiration to become a fully engaged citizen. The subtitle nails how we overcome the pessimism and despair we feel with our current democracy, "Healing the Break Between People and Government." Sam states early in his own introduction that "Reclaiming Our Democracy' is a book that challenges this civic despair and offers a new model of citizen empowerment and leadership."

It is so easy to become cynical about politics when you turn on the TV news, open up the newspaper, and chat with friends. Sam shares his story how he founded and spent years developing the organization, RESULTS. This organization, founded by Daley-Harris around 1980, created a new model for citizen activism with its dedication to create the political will to end world hunger. The achievements of RESULTS highly motivated citizen volunteers regularly engaged their elected members of Congress is beyond impressive.

According to the RESULTS.org website, over the past 35 years, RESULTS has accomplished:
* Child deaths are down by nearly two-thirds.
• The number of children in primary school has doubled.
• TB deaths have fallen by almost half.
• More than 1 billion people have moved out of extreme poverty.
• Safety net programs cut the U.S. poverty rate nearly in half every year.
• Micro nance programs have reached 114 million families living in extreme poverty.

Image Source: results.org

These results may not have occurred without the founding vision of Sam Daley-Harris guiding this organization from the beginning. We tend to think that great people are somehow different than us. Before he decided to become a citizen organizer, in the late 1970s, Sam was a high school music teacher and a percussionist with the Miami Philharmonic Symphony. Early in the book, Sam shares a quote by futurist and inventor Buckminster Fuller:

"The things to do are the things that need doing, that you see need to be done and that no one else seems to see needs to be done."

While working as a teacher, Sam stumbled across a world hunger presentation from his yoga teacher. He decided to get involved by speaking to hundreds of high school students for the political will to end world hunger. He soon discovered that almost all high school students and adults did not even know their members of Congress. The following chapters then recounts how Sam traveled across the United States and world to recruit people to get involved with RESULTS and form their own local chapters. Sam then writes how he and the RESULTS volunteers continuously lobbied Congress to finally get them to pass funding bills to successfully reduce world hunger.

Carol & Tom Braford
Dedicated former RESULTS volunteers included friends I now know from Citizens' Climate Lobby: retired San Diego real estate broker Marshall Saunders and St. Louis residents Tom & Carol Braford. RESULTS showed such a successful model for citizen engagement to get Congress to pass legislation. Marshall Saunders then used the RESULTS' model with the blessing and mentoring of Sam Daley-Harris to create Citizens' Climate Lobby (CCL).

As a climate activist, this was the group I was the group I was seeking my whole life. From the template of RESULTS, Citizens' Climate Lobby's mission is to "create the political will for climate solutions by enabling individual breakthroughs in personal and political power." CCL borrowed from RESULTS the political will to regularly engage members of Congress with letters, meetings and letters to the editor in their newspapers. When they met with elected officials they would show them respect, gratitude and admiration so the members of Congress would be more willing to listen to the ideas to end global poverty or climate change.

According to Sam, meeting and fully engaging our elected officials is the best way to be an effective citizen advocate. Early in his book, Sam cites "Soul of a Citizen" author Paul Rogat Loeb for this observation:

"those e-mail petitions are counted in Congressional Offices, but they are also discounted. Yes mouse-click advocacy can and does make a difference, but if you are truly passionate about an issue, once the mouse has been clicked, the Facebook friends alerted, and the action tweeted, there is often a feeling of some emptiness, a yearning for something deeper. The real question is 'What can be done to provide that 'something deeper'?"

Whether it is RESULTS, Citizens' Climate Lobby or other advocacy groups, Sam stresses the importance to get connected with a group. He writes, "“People need to find an organization that gives them a deeper level of support, so they can get to 1st grade, 7th grade, 9th grade and college as an activist, rather than hanging around kindergarten all the time.”

Image Source: reclaimingourdemocracy.com
Even more, we need to effectively target our actions as citizen advocates with our letters to the editor and our meetings with elected officials. Thus, he introduced me to the Buckminster Fuller concept of 'Trimtabbing.' A trimtab is the small rudder fround on the back of a larger rudder on an ocean liner or commercial jet airplane. The trimtab is easier to turn. Buckminister Fuller coined this term when he said that if you wanted to turn the ship of state, you shouldn't try to push the ship around the front or even try turning the rudder. Instead, find the trimtab and turn that. Then the rudder and ship will turn more easily.

In Sam's book and his public appearance, effective engagement to influence our democracy starts with healing ourselves. I once Sam say on a YouTube interview, "If the government is broken, we are part of that brokenness and we must engage in healing ourselves too."

Next time you or someone you know feels hopeless that Congress does not respond to citizens, remember Sam Daley-Harris. Since he founded RESULTS in 1980 to end global hunger and poverty, the federal funding for childhood immunizations, reducing poverty, tuberculosis, malaria, and starvation increased from $42 million a year in 1984 to nearly $600 million dollars annually.

If you ask members of Congress, how is that possible? They will tell you it is because of the work of current and past RESULTS volunteers, such as Marshall Saunders.

Marshall Saunders

Like his mentor Sam Daley-Harris, Marshall Saunders shows us that one person can make a difference in the world and generate political will. He is 77 year old retired real estate broker in San Diego, Califonria.

Marshall Saunders,
Founder of Citizens' Climate Lobby
Image Source: citizensclimateeducation.org
Early in his career, he join the Rotary Club. It offers their members an opportunity to learn about the root problems facing the world and the best solutions out there. As a Rotary member, Marshall learned about the problem of global poverty. He also learned about an effective solution of microcredit loans.

Microcredit loans lends people who are so poor in third world countries on one would ever lend them loans of $10, $20, or $50. One woman was lent $50 to buy and fix a broken sewing machine.  She then starts a business to lift her family out of poverty. 98% of these loans are repaid. When these loans are repaid, it goes to the next set of loans for the village. Once this gets started, it has a remarkable impact wherever it is generated.

Marshall then became aware of Mohammed Yunis, winner of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize. Yunis  started the modern micro credit loan in Bangladesh when he founded the Grameen Bank. Marshall went to Bangladesh to visit Mohammed Yunis to see firsthand the success of microcredit loans.

When Marshall returned to the US from Bangladesh, he started getting Rotary Club grants to support micro credit loans all over the world.  Because of his efforts, Marshall received the Rotary Distinguished Service Award for 1998-1999. He also started microcredit loan program in Mexico.

Image Source: youtube.com
In 2006, Marshall was retired and he could have just rested on his laurels that he made a difference in the world. However, Marshall went to see the Inconvenient Truth documentary about Al Gore.  It really shook him up when he saw it.

Marshall had this revelation that there are millions of families living in poverty in Bangladesh who lifted themselves out with microcredit loans. Bangladesh is one of the low elevation countries in the world. Any sea level rise jeopardizes their ability to grow crops there. Marshall says to himself: ‘Wow! I generated a million microcredit loans and it could all possibly be wiped out because of climate change.’

That was the moment Marshall decided to spend the rest of his life working on climate change.  In 2007, he asked Al Gore to train him as a Climate Reality Project Leader. Since 2007, The Climate Reality presentation led by Vice President Gore has now trained over 9,200 volunteers worldwide, including Marshall.  In 2012, I became a Climate Reality Leader. After the volunteers are trained, folks like Marshall and me give public talks about the science and solutions to climate change.

Marshall gave 43 presentations in 10 months.

About three presentations in, he started to have serious doubts about what he was doing. He was inspiring people to change their light bulbs, carpool more, be more energy efficient etc. However, one morning he opened up the front page of his newspaper on the kitchen table to see that Congress had just given the oil companies an $18 billion tax break.

Marshall thought, ‘Hmm, I got 23 people to change their light bulbs last night and then oil companies get billions of dollars from the government. How do I match that?’

He then realized that the people he really needed to change were in Congress. That was the bad news.  The good news is that the whole time he had been working on microcredit in a long time volunteer with RESULTS.  This is what RESULTs proves: if you are organized, structured, disciplined, and have volunteer groups set up in Congressional districts, you can get Congress to make a positive and effective actions.

Marshall then said, ‘Piece of cake. All I have to do is find an environmental group using this same methodology and we can get climate legislation passed.’

He then talked to the big environmental groups to see if they were using the RESULTS model. He found a lot of great people doing great things, like the Sierra Club. What he could not find was anyone with a specific and effective plan to get legislation passed.

Thus, in 2007, he started Citizens’ Climate Lobby with one group in San Diego. By the end of the year, there were 6 groups in southern California. Citizens' Climate Lobby philosophy: 'We are going to take a system, an approach, a methodology that has been proven to be successful with Congress. We are then going to apply it to the climate issue.'


The purpose of Citizens' Climate Lobby

Citizens' Climate Lobby (CCL) prides itself on having a dual purpose:

1. To create the political will for a sustainable climate.

2. To empower individuals to have breakthroughs in exercising their personal and political power.

This mission of Citizens' Climate Lobby is a living example of Mahatma Gandhi's quote:
“When the people lead, the leaders will follow.”

Brian Ettling with Dr. James Hansen 
One of the best advocates for CCL is retired NASA climate scientist, Dr. James Hansen, one of the most respected climate scientists in the world. He stated, 

"If you want to join the fight to save the planet, to save creation for your grandchildren, there is no more effective step you could take than becoming an active member of Citizens Climate Lobby."

Citizens' Climate Lobby's Goal: Get Congress to pass revenue-neutral carbon fee and dividend.

A tax is placed on carbon-based fuels at the source (oil well, coal mine, or U.S. border).

This tax starts at $15 per ton of fossil CO2 emitted. It increases steadily each year by $10 so that clean energy is cheaper than fossil fuels within a decade.

All of the money collected is returned to American households on an equal basis.

Under this plan 66% percent of all households would break even or receive more in their dividend check than they would pay for the increased cost of energy, which protects the poor and middle class.

A predictably increasing carbon price will send a clear market signal which will unleash entrepreneurs and investors in the new clean-energy economy.


CCL considered this to be the best market based solution to appeal to conservatives in Congress. Carbon fee and dividend does not grow the federal government, taxes, or federal debt. 

1. How is CCL creating the political will for a sustainable climate? 

As citizens, the only way you get members of Congress to respond your cause is strength in numbers.  

When citizen activists met with President Franklin Roosevelt, there are unconfirmed stories that he told one or more of them, 'I agree with you, I want to do it, now make me do it.'

One way that Citizens' Climate Lobby gets Congress to notice them is the total number of groups nationwide. Over the past six years, the growth of CCL is very impressive. 

In 2010, they had a total of 13 groups nationwide. 2011, 42 groups. When I first got involved in 2012, there was 74 groups. In April 2014 when I gave my talk Creating the Political Will for a Livable World for the Webster University Sustainability Conference, there was 170 groups. As of February 2016, there are now 312 active groups, with four more groups starting soon.

Members of Congress and their staff read the opinion section of the newspapers in their district to understand the views of their constituents. Thus, another benchmark to be noticed by elected officials is published media, as such letters to the editor or opinion editorials written by CCL volunteers in newspapers. Published media also includes official editorial endorsements of CCL written by the newspaper editorial staff. In 2010, CCL had 65 published media. In 2012, CCL had 646 published media. In 2015, CCL had 3,876 published media. 

Several years ago, the e-politics project looked at its first in-depth study of how Canadian MPs use online communication & respond to grassroots campaigns. Even though it is Canadian, I still think lessons can be learned for reaching American politicians. 

In 2009, former and current members of the Canadian Parliament were asked in a survey, 'what motivates you to take action on the based on interactions with your constituents?


As far as personal interactions with constituents, the members of Parliament listed direct meetings with constituents as the best way to influence them. Next was direct phone calls, followed by personally written letters, meetings with organizations, and letters to the editor. 

Thus, a top benchmark for Citizens' Climate Lobby is counting the meetings that CCL volunteers have with Congressional Offices, which includes staffs and/or directly with a member of Congress. For many years now, CCL has also had groups in Canada, so they also include Canadian actions in their statistics. In 2010, CCL had 106 meetings with Congressional or Parliament offices. When I first got involved in 2012, CCL had 534 meetings with Congressional or Parliament offices. In 2015, CCL had 1,273 meetings with Congressional or Parliament offices. 

Included in these yearly statistics, I organized a meeting with the district staff and local CCL volunteers of my Congresswoman, Rep. Ann Wagner on February 12, 2014. The year before I helped establish a CCL group in southern Oregon. Thus, it was a big thrill for me to be part of three meetings in one day that local CCL group had with the district staff of Oregon U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, Senator Jeff Merkley, and Senator Ron Wyden on August 27, 2013. 

Before I joined Citizens' Climate Lobby, I had no idea that I would be meeting with the staff of Congressional offices. As I blogged about last November, I traveled to Washington, D.C. and I lobbied five different Congressional over two days, November 17 & 18, 2015. It was a very empowering experience for me to speak directly about climate change to the staffs of 5 Congressional offices, including the staff my congresswoman, Rep. Ann Wagner of Missouri.

Brian Ettling (on left) meeting with the staff of Rep. Ann Wagner in front of her
Washington, D.C. office. Erik Rust, Environmental & Energy Aide for Rep. Wagner,
wearing a red tie, with his intern Sarah. Larry Kremer, another CCL volunteer, pictured on right side. 

It is not just me that Citizens' Climate Lobby empowered me. Another area of growth that makes an impact with Congress are the number of volunteers that come to Washington D.C. directly, many at their own expense, to lobby Congress during the annual June CCL Lobby Day. In June 2010, CCL had 27 volunteers lobby 52 Congressional offices. In June 2015, around 900 Citizens' Climate Lobby volunteers from all across the United States lobbied 487 Congressional offices.

2. Empowering me to have breakthroughs in exercising my personal & political power.

Citizens' Climate Lobby and Sam Daley-Harris encourage climate activists to step outside of their comfort zone because that is where the magic happens. 

CCL encourages its volunteers to build positive relations with newspaper editors and the media to build political will. On December 12, 2012, Steve Valk, Communications Director for Citizens' Climate Lobby, came to St. Louis for a day to meet with our local CCL group. During his visit, volunteers from St. Louis group and I met with the editorial board of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. We met with Kevin Horrigan, Deputy Editorial Page Editor of the Post-Dispatch. During our meeting, we successfully persuaded Kevin to write an official editorial to endorse CCL's carbon fee and dividend. 

Brian Ettling, Carol Braford, Tom Braford, Steve Valk and Lucas Sabalka
after meeting with the editorial board of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 12, 2012.

As a result the Post-Dispatch did publish this editorial on December 27, 2012: Editorial: Save the planet. Save Social Security. Save Medicaid. Tax carbon. Since I had the Post-Dispatch since I was a child, it seemed surreal to me to be meeting with editorial staff inside the Post-Dispatch building. During the meeting, Steve Valk asked Kevin Horrigan if we could submit opinion editorials periodically to be published. Kevin responded very positively that they would fully consider running opinion editorials from us. 

I can personally attest that Citizens' Climate Lobby empowered me to step outside of my comfort zone to experience where the magic happens. In my wildest imagination, I hoped I could write a climate change opinion editorial for the St. Louis Post Dispatch. My CCL volunteer friends challenged me to do this in early April, 2013. That evening, I composed it and submitted it to the Post-Dispatch. It was published on April 19, 2013, For Earth Day, a GOP free-market solution to climate change.

Before I knew it, I was on a roll writing opeds for the next year. On July 10, 2013, I wrote an oped for the Post-Dispatch about coal pollution in the St. Louis area, What keeps me up late at night. Even more, I ended up writing 8 opeds for Oregon newspapers, including the Portland Oregonian, in the autumn of 2013. These opeds were written while I was working that summer as a seasonal park ranger at Crater Lake National Park, Oregon.

The Post-Dispatch published another oped I wrote for Earth Day 2014, For Earth Day: Asking our elected officials to be climate heroes. The print edition even had a beautiful picture of Crater Lake National Park to go with my opinion editorial.


On December 23 2015, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch published my latest oped, A GOP market-friendly alternative to Obama’s Clean Power Plan

Before I got involved with Citizens' Climate Lobby in 2012, it is inconceivable to me that I would have written 12 opeds for newspapers across the U.S and numerous letters to the editor. 

You can create the political will for effective climate action 

A favorite source for quotes for Sam Daley-Harris and me, Buckminister Fuller, once said, 

"If the future of all civilization depended upon me, what would I do? How would I be?"

Citizens' Climate Lobby and the model for citizens' engagement Sam Daley-Harris created with RESULTS has really helped me become a much more effective climate change advocate. If you are concerned about climate change as I am, following the example of CCL and Sam can help you create the political will for effective climate action.

To increase your effectiveness, remember what Sam emphasizes: you will need to 'find an organization that gives you a deeper level of support, so you can get to 1st grade, 7th grade, 9th grade and college as an activist, rather than hanging around kindergarten all the time.'

My friend Larry Schweiger, former President and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, once wrote, "It's not enough to care; we must link our concern to each other and act collectively."

It is very rewarding to get involved with a group like Citizens' Climate Lobby because you gain friends and a sense of hope.

Image Source: wardrobeadvice.com
Singer and songwriter Joan Baez once said, "Action is the antidote for despair."

Dr. David W. Orr, Professor of Environmental Studies, Oberlin College, Ohio, proclaimed, "Hope is a verb with its sleeves rolled up."

Former Vice President Al Gore likes to quote this old African proverb, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

If you are as concerned about climate change as I am, I challenge you today to commit yourself to take action. Even more, consider joining a group making an impact like Citizens' Climate Lobby which is creating the political will for effective climate change action.

As I like to say, "Think Globally, Act Daily."



Thank you Carol Braford for getting me involved with Citizens' Climate Lobby in 2012.