Monday, December 28, 2009

Re-framing the Population Issue As a Womens' Rights Issue

Sightline provides some new ways to frame solutions regarding a topic that many tend to avoid when discussing remedies to our most urgent environmental challenges: population.

Says Sightline author, Lisa Stiffler:

So if we want to slow climate change and save the environment as best we can, we've got to get back around to reproduction.

And Engelman says that the answer isn't in punitive actions: legally limiting couples to a single child, sterilization, or creating a tax structure that rewards small families. Instead, the solution lies in investments that make women smarter, employed, and more equal to men. It's the same case that Sightline Institute founder Alan Durning made back in 1997 in the publication Misplaced Blame: The Real Roots of Population Growth: "If we take care of people, population will take care of itself."

I do think taking a 'women's rights' approach to the human population problem has some traction as a motivator that combines the moral power of two crucial issues -- if it is executed with the lessons of The Tipping Point, Made to Stick, and other messaging works in mind.  Ultimately, we have to deal with the reality that there are too many friggin people on this planet using too many resources too inefficiently, at a huge cost to both ourselves and future generations.

Population is a deeply complex and heated issue that gets into the thorniest of cultural, religious and other such questions.  Yet, it is a folly that humanity continues to 'manage' populations of wild animals that we deem too large for their available resource base, when we can't even comfortably discuss 'managing' our own incredibly destructive population.

It's time for this to change.

We continue to punt the need for smart, respectful and practical sustainable population solutions into the future at our own peril.

Read more>>

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Do People Know How to Use Green Buildings?

While building green homes is important, a key and often overlooked additional step is to make sure the operators of the building (the new homeowners or tenants) are 100% aware of how to reap the economic and environmental savings.

This post from 3P provides a frustrating example of the need to make sure people know how to use their green buildings:

Last summer I attended a sustainable building event where an interesting case study was presented. In April of 2001, a volunteer organization built a cluster of low-income housing units in a Detroit suburb for families in need. Each unit came equipped with energy saving appliances and the latest in green building technology. Floor to ceiling south facing windows flooded the units with warm, natural light and small ventilation windows allowed the rising heat of summer to escape. Each feature was specifically designed to help reduce monthly energy expenses and encourage more sustainable living practices.

After two years of backbreaking work, the job was completed and the first family moved in. The process, however, was never complete because the homes´ story was never told. When the project manger returned to the site after only one month he was shocked to see most of the innovations he´d worked so hard to integrate were not being utilized.

The windows were framed with black curtains, drawn 24 hours a day preventing any natural light to enter the home. The small, ventilation windows downstairs were stuffed with pillows creating a dark, damp, and claustrophobic environment for the tenants. Within a few months, unfortunately, the family couldn´t afford the cost of living and were subsequently evicted. Shortly thereafter a new family moved in, but like those before them, couldn´t afford the cost of living.  Then a new family moved in, and another, and another.

This home had an incredible story that, unfortunately, was never told. If the tenants had known that covering the windows actually increased their heating bill…would they have done it? And if they understood that opening up the small, louvered windows in the summer would have lowered their air conditioning bill…would they have done it?

I'd love to see a study that scientifically evaluates a question like this -- carefully controlled and conducted to get at the answer.  And I hope it would prove me wrong because I honestly don't think they would have done it.  My guess is that these folks had a way they like to live, and the green features were out of step with their habits and comfort zones.  It's like people who drive huge gas guzzling Ford Expeditions for safety reasons and because they like being high up so they can see better.

There comes a certain point where if we're serious about efficiency, then for the sake of both the economy and our environment, we just have to mandate certain types of clean, efficient technologies.  We need to make it so that there are no longer inefficient, wasteful, and polluting buildings, appliances, energy sources and the like even available.  What do you think?

Read more>>

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Obama's Post Copenhagen PBS Interview: Climate Solutions Legislation Needed For America to Lead The World in Clean Energy

Looking ahead into 2010, this is exactly what I want to be hearing from President Obama -- from his recent post Copenhagen PBS interview:

And if we pass a bill in the Senate, reconcile it with the House, that says we are going to invest in wind energy and solar energy and we’re going to be the guys who are producing wind turbines, and we’re going to be the folks who are producing solar panels on rooftops, and we’re going to be the country that is retrofitting all its homes and businesses so that we are 30 percent more energy-efficient than we are right now, that produces jobs that can’t be exported; it reduces our dependence on foreign oil; it is good economics; it will increase our exports – oh, and by the way, it also solves the climate problem. And that is, I think, an argument that I’m going to be making not just next year but for several years to come.


There are a couple of other points to ponder as you head into your holidays.  First, it will be important to ask opponents of climate progress to be clear what they are for if they are against this legislation.  The bill's supporters should make it clear and repeat time and again that a vote against this bill is a vote for continued dependence on oil and other polluting fossil fuels, which threatens our economy, compromises our security, and makes millions of people sick.

Second, there's an important and inspiring patriotic argument to be made here as well, in addition to the common economic/green jobs and energy security/freedom from oil lines.  The bill's supporters should make it clear -- and repeat time and time again -- that a vote against this bill is a vote FOR China: because voting against this legislation will help China to lead the world in clean technology, and will cost Americans millions of jobs and decades of prosperity.

Read more>>

Note: This comes via Andy Revkin's post-Copenhagen update...

Climate Disruption May Be More Severe Than Thought

In a further reminder that when it comes to climate disruption, we really have no idea what we're messing with, a new study by U.S. and Chinese scientists suggests that models have actually underestimated the destabilizing impacts of heat trapping pollutants like carbon dioxide (CO2).  AFP reports:

Global temperatures could rise substantially more because of increases in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere than previously thought, according to a new study by U.S. and Chinese scientists released Sunday.

The researchers used a long-term model for assessing climate change, confirming a similar British study released this month that said calculations for man-made global warming may be underestimated by between 30 and 50 percent.

“This work and other ancient climate reconstructions reveal that Earth’s climate is more sensitive to atmospheric carbon dioxide than is discussed in political circles,” said the paper’s lead author, Yale’s Mark Pagani.

What if these were new findings about an increased likelihood that a common chemical would cause cancer?  Obviously, there's a big scale issue there, but the comparison illustrates the importance of converting these type of climate science findings into appropriate policy solutions.

Read more>>

Update: for a look at another dimension to the research that's going on exploring the link between greenhouse gases and climate disruption, check out this fascinating adventure with an arctic climate science researcher...

Home Energy Efficiency Startup Wins Green Contest

In a sign of the societal transformation that we are in the midst of, the SF Chronicle reports on the winner -- and runners up -- of a California green technology contest:

This year's winner - EcoFactor of Redwood City - beat out 277 other companies drawn primarily from the western United States. EcoFactor has designed a software system that can communicate with home thermostats and cut the amount of energy they use.

Two other Northern California companies were named as runners-up at the award ceremony, held at the Nob Hill Masonic Center in San Francisco. Alphabet Energy of Berkeley is trying to generate electricity from waste heat - the heat given off by cars, power plants and factories. Micromidas of West Sacramento takes the carbon in wastewater and turns it into bio-plastics.
Read more>>

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

To Save Fish, Conservation Loops in the Locals

EcoTourism is a work in progress, with the conceptual idea (paying locals for the tourism that their local healthy ecosystems attract) still being a work in progress on the ground.

This Discovery article reports on an adaptive effort in Fiji that is meeting with some success:

Not far from one of Tuivuna's favorite dive sites in Fiji, a group of remote villages is working hard to have it all -- tourism, biodiversity and cultural resiliency. About 1,000 people live in the Kubalau district on the island of Venua Levu. Among the members of one local village, Kiobo, 33 have completed ecotourism courses and are eager to host guests.

Scuba divers already have to pay $25 Fijian ($13 U.S.) to dive in the nearby Namena Marine Reserve, which is located inside the Kubalau's traditional fishing grounds, called Quoliquoli. The money goes toward conservation and scholarships.

Through divers and other tourists, the people of the Kubalau hope to bring in even more money that could buy the village some of the things they don't have, including electricity and running water.

"There is a really strong desire through a lot of communities to really come together," said Stacy Jupiter, Fiji's program director for the Wildlife Conservation Society. "It can work."

In the 1980s, ecotourism sprang up as a simple attempt to make money out of nature and people's desire to see it.

At the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, leaders from more than 150 nations (not including the United States) agreed for the first time that protecting biological diversity needed to be an essential consideration during the process of development. As a result, USAID, the World Bank and other agencies began funding so-called Integrated Conservation and Development Projects. From Mexico to Guyana, hundreds of ICDPs attempted to address the needs of local people and involve local participation.

As much as those projects made sense in theory, results were mixed and backlash followed, Merelender said. Indigenous groups were angry about new limitations on their ability to hunt, fish and cut down trees.

Outspoken critics argued that biodiversity conservation could never coexist with economic development.

Moving forward, Merelender said, conservationists are focusing more on the trade-offs involved in trying to protect parts of the Earth where people have lived for many generations. They are admitting that compensation is sometimes necessary, and that people have always impacted the planet -- and always will.

The new model is called community-based natural resource management.

But figuring out what success means is still a work in progress.

"Both man and nature are so complicated, no simple picture is going to allow you to predict what will happen if you change what you are doing," said Les Kaufman, a marine ecologist and conservation biologist. "It's an adaptive dance. We make a move, and we see what nature does."

Trying is the only way to succeed -- kudos to these folks for what sounds like an excitingly innovative approach that I look forward to following.  In fact, I'm sure craving a trip to Fiji right about now...

Read more>>

Has The Copenhagen Accord Showed Us a More Effective Way Forward?

What are the implications of how the final Copenhagen Accord agreement was struck between 5 of the biggest emitters of heat trapping pollutants (The U.S., China, India, Brazil and South Africa)?

First and foremost, it seems pretty clear that this 193 nation UN process isn't the right forum for agreeing to emissions reductions in the short time scientists tell us we have -- if we are to avoid some pretty unpleasant climatic consequences (e.g., devastating water and food shortages).  It's certainly not anywhere near as efficient and effective as it needs to be.

This article on Grist points out how in this respect, the outcome of the conference -- an agreement struck between 5 major polluters -- could be an important game changer in the solutions process:

There is a(n)...aspect of this deal that could be the beginning of a game changer in how the world looks at ending carbon pollution. The Copenhagen Accord was not forged among our closest allies in the developed world; it was the product of cooperation between the U.S. and a group of the largest carbon emitters in the developing world. In fact, this same group had met prior to the Copenhagen meeting in China to declare that they would never move beyond one of the core guiding assumptions of the Kyoto Protocol: that the world is divided between developed and developing countries and that only the former are required to take steps to curb their carbon emissions and be held accountable for those reductions.

This union of the U.S. with these four countries is premised on what could become a new guiding assumption: that the world is divided between the major emitters of carbon pollution and everyone else. In that respect the fact that the accord includes a robust compromise on measurement, reporting, and verification acceptable to both the U.S. and China is significant. A framework has finally been advanced for cooperation between developed and developing countries on reductions rather than continuing a process mired in the old divisions which have hampered us for so long.

Though there will be differences among the expectations of emissions reductions among this group, the major emitting countries all will be expected to carry their fair share of emissions reductions thus avoiding the creation of a world where decreasing carbon pollution is only advanced at the expense of economic competitiveness.

Additionally, while some parties will join us in moving forward some in this forum most likely never will. What is most important about this outcome though is that the biggest objections for getting agreement on the Copenhagen Accord came from Bolivia, Venezuela, Cuba, and Sudan. It’s highly doubtful they would ever go along with a U.S. led process.

As leaders continue to push forward into 2010 to turn the accord into a legally binding document we should also move forward on a parallel path: Exploring the possibility that multilateral emissions reductions can be achieved in smaller arenas like the G20 or the Major Economies Forum, MEF (which includes the 17 largest emitters in the world). This past September the G20 produced an agreement ending fossil fuel subsidies by 2050; throughout the year the MEF has produced an array of technology cooperation schemes fulfilling the promise made in 2007 in Bali to provide technology assistance to developing countries in exchange for emissions reductions.

As Joe Romm and I have argued before, we don’t need 192 nations to come to an agreement on mitigating carbon emissions in order to get the job done. We only need those countries responsible for 85 percent of emissions to move forward on the pathways identified by the IPCC with a promise to the world to do so in a responsible manner. Other agreements should be left to the U.N., such as instruments for dealing with adaptation and technology transfer. But it might be better to find a forum for carbon abatement that is less hampered by the procedural constraints that have hindered this process.

The current process just hasn't worked in the way that scientists have made clear we need it to.  So it's time to blaze new trails to get to the place we need to get to: 350 ppm.  I like the type of thinking that's reflected in this Grist article because it's constructively honest, it's adaptive, it's solution-oriented, and it's not afraid to jump out of the box -- identifying what's clearly not working, and proposing smart, viable new pathways to achieving our goals.

We've just got to keep going until we get there.

Read more>>

Update: The Economist chimes in, agreeing that the outcome of Copenhagen may yet prove more constructive than many now think...

How Sustainable Values Can Bridge the Conservative - Progressive Divide

Posts like this serve as a reminder of just how possible it is for the Green Economy movement to reach new constituencies.

It's a fascinating little story of a massive and highly conservative evangelical church hiring a small and highly progressive Jewish consulting firm to assist it in achieving sustainability goals:

This particular Church is interested in creating a continuum of care for its congregants, a cradle-to-grave development that most of us would recognize in one way or another as good ol’ mixed-use, mixed-income community development. And, as trustees of church coffers, they are interested in energy-saving strategies and water-conservation technologies that reduce costs for its constituents - thus making them similarly invested in being good stewards of our natural capital. In short, a conservative Church finds itself breaking bread with a progressive business on a sustainable real estate  venture.

I think this is one of the arenas where true paradigm change takes place: building a bridge across one of the most marked socio-political chasms in American culture.

There's more outstanding food for thought in this piece -- enjoy...

Read more>>

The COP 15 Lesson: We Need a BIGGER and Global Movement

Probably the major take away that's sinking into my brain regarding the COP15 Copenhagen Climate Change conference is that our leaders need to be lead.  It might not be everybody, but it's certainly the leaders of the countries responsible for the bulk of heat trapping pollutants that are causing climate disruption.

Those of us who've worked to strike deals with large companies know how slowly they move, and how frustrating it can be.  "It's like trying to steer an oil tanker," people will say.

These GLOBAL climate change negotiations make trying to strike a deal with a large company seem like child's play.  It's such a BIIIIIIG endeavor.

So to achieve our goals requires a BIIIIIIIGER movement -- something akin to a global Civil Rights movement that really ratchets up pressure on our political leaders.

We also need a big enough tent to attract the swing voters -- by focusing on the 21st century economy, clean energy, and security and patriotism, as a focus on climate is clearly going to fall short, especially here in the U.S.  We're not going to convince everybody, and to try would be a waste of time and energy.  We just need a solid majority.

Probably the best reflection of the need for a BIGGER movement I've read since Copenhagen came to a close comes from this Grist piece -- calling for 10x: a movement TEN TIMES its current size:

Early in COP15’s second week, she and another ten distinguished leaders—this decade’s Diane Nash’s and John Lewis’s—arranged a meeting with a high-level member of the U.S. delegation. By their account, it was highly-charged, emotional, and as frustrating as any 30 minutes they have ever experienced. Behind closed doors, they witnessed what Bill McKibben and—incomparable leaders—were to discover so strikingly two days later; COP negotiators knew all along that their draft plan was nowhere near a trajectory to get to 350. And as the meeting ended, the official seemed to twist the knife when he looked at them and declared: “You haven’t done enough. You haven’t built the popular support that we need to get behind something like a 350 trajectory”.

But after some outrage and some tears, these inspiring leaders did what they have always done since the climate movement began to coalesce seven years ago. They vowed to work even harder, as hard as humanly possible, testing new ideas and mobilizing new resources, to win this fight of the ages.

Here’s Jesse’s money quote later that night, as a handful of us debriefed: “Never again am I going to sit in the room with an elected official and be told that our movement isn’t strong enough.  I’m going to go home and do my part to make it ten times as big.”  In other words, it’s time for 10X.

I'm in!  Please do drop me a line and let me know how I can help this epic movement succeed in achieving our goals...

Read more>>

REDD Agreement to Prevent Deforestation Postponed

I'm continuing to sort through the maelstrom of coverage coming out of the Copenhagen COP15 Climate Change conference.

The latest I've read is a bit of bad news -- that the plan to reduce emissions from forest destruction and degradation (REDD) was put off, postponing this crucial policy tool for making forest conservation a viable, respectable way for people to make a living.

Mongabay reports:

A plan to reduce tropical deforestation by paying developing countries to protect forests was postponed Saturday after world leaders failed to produce a binding climate agreement, reports the Associated Press.

Progress on the proposed REDD+ mechanism, which would compensate poor countries for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, had been seen as one of the only bright spots during climate negotiations in Copenhagen, but it appears to be on hold until there are more advances on a broader agreement. The postponement means that forests around the world may continue to fall, endangering biodiversity, depleting potentially renewable resources, and exacerbating climate change. Tropical deforestation is a larger source of greenhouse gas emissions than all the world's cars, trucks, planes, ships, and trains combined.

The final draft REDD text produced in Copenhagen was weakened from earlier versions. It includes mention of several hot-button issues including rights of indigenous people and the importance of protecting biodiversity, but emphasizes "sustainable management" (logging) over conservation, a disappointment to environmental groups.

While gloomy on the prospect of another year of negotiations, some REDD supporters remained optimistic that progress had been made in Copenhagen.

"The REDD text published is a major backdown from what almost everyone thought was an advanced text on many regards," John O. Niles of the Tropical Forest Group, a forest policy NGO, told "[But] REDD was by several orders of magnitude, the most technically and politically enlightened and advanced topic in Copenhagen." 

It can't be good that I just started thinking about Humpty Dumpty, but I did.  The earth is going to be here for a long long time, but as humanity destroys the earth's life support systems, which sustain civilization as we know it, what's at stake is our quality of life and...civilization as we know it.

Growing up reading and watching Tarzan, visiting zoos, and sitting in my parent's den watching shows like Wild Kingdom, I was spellbound by nature.  Even the word "nature" always had some kind of magical connotation to it.  It was inspiring to just know that these amazing places -- from the rainforests of the Amazon and the Congo, to the grasslands and savannahs of the Serengetti, to the Ancient forests of the Pacific Northwest, USA -- were out there.  I looked at all the people who had destroyed some of these special places and caused beautiful species to go extinct as backwards and cruel.  Surely, I thought, we know better now.

Now as a Ph.D. conservation scientist, I know that we do.  Yet, the power of greed always seems to superceed the power of knowledge, and is on course to be humanity's Achilles heel.

Can humanity wake up and turn things around, especially given that the solutions to our most urgent environmental problems will also make our lives so much better -- via an economy powered by clean technologies that offers more and longer-term jobs, more energy security, cleaner air to breathe, clean water to drink and swim in, and healthier ecosystems full of Mother Nature's wonders, not to mention 'ecosystem services' such as flood protection and pollination?

I'm in to do my best to make it so, all while being sure to have fun and enjoy life (which is so very important for maintaining the balance required to continue to offer my best effort)!

Read more>>

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Tom Friedman on COP15

Great opening quote in this Grist interview with Tom Friedman:

Where the US goes, so goes the world. But we can’t lead the world without charting a path for ourselves.


Here's another heady bit of thought:

The issue of climate change rubs so many Americans the wrong way. You have to start the conversation with the American people on energy, not climate. The conversation has to be about making Americans more innovative, more energy secure,  more economically competitive, a world leader. If you start on climate you’re dead—you can’t move people on this issue, first of all because they don’t feel it in their lives. People don’t want to hear they’re going to die - they’re inspired by self interest and by hope.

I learned one thing covering the Arab-Israeli conflict: the way you get big change is by getting the big players to do the right things for the wrong reasons. If you wait for everyone to do the right thing for the right reason, you’re going to be waiting a long, long time.

I've commented a bit here about my success in getting even climate change deniers to agree on solutions by focusing on energy and the other things Friedman talks about.

Sure, it's frustrating that so many people just can't wrap their heads around climate change.  But given that there are multiple pathways to our solutions, it's certainly easier to go with what works for the bulk of the public to get stuck on one way of getting there.

One more bit for my fellow Patriots -- Friedman's response to a question about what President Obama should have said at Copenhagen:

He should look Wen Jiabao, the Chinese premier, in the eye and say: “Mr. Wen, I just have one thing to say to you: We are going all in on clean tech. I’m going home and I’m going to get through the U.S. Senate a cap-and-trade bill, a carbon price, a carbon tax, whatever it is that will trigger massive scale investment in clean tech in America. And please take this message back to China: We will bury you. We are going to bury you in clean tech.” And then Wen would get up and walk out of the room and he’d go back to China and say: “We are going to bury you, pal. Okay?” And then we have the world’s two biggest powers having an arms race on clean tech.

Really, if I were Obama I’d be working day and night to get through the U.S. Senate a cap-and-trade bill or a carbon price on the assumption that once we do it, everything falls into place. And then you come back to the world and say: “We’ve done it. We’re gonna bury you in solar panels. We’re going to bury you in wind farms. We’re going to bury you in cellulosic ethanol.”

That's the type of positive vision, appealing to our competitive independent spirit, that America really needs right now.  Maybe in the end, China's successes will help unify Americans to strive for victory in a good arms race -- one to lead the world in clean tech... 

Read more>>

Do We Have the Wisdom and the Will to Act?

Here's a fantastic quote from World Resources Institute President, Jonathan Lash:

No generation before ours had enough information to understand the urgent need for action to avert climate catastrophe. No generation after ours will have the opportunity -- it will be too late to avert terrible harm. We have the evidence to prove that action is necessary. We have the technology to shift to a low carbon economy. We may still have the opportunity to avert catastrophic warming. It is an historic moment. The question is whether we have the wisdom and the will to act.

Read more>>

The Copenhagen Communique: An Entrepreneur's Perspective

Some good quotes in this 3P piece on what the Copenhagen Accord means for Entrepreneurs:

What does the Copenhagen Communique mean to an entrepreneur? Am I being too blunt to suggest the answer is “nothing?”

Vinod Khosla has the correct vision for how change will take place. He is billionaire venture capitalist investing in technologies that hold the potential to be price competitive against carbon-centric technologies. Kholsa’s vision is to have bio-fuels that are price competitive against $30 per barrel oil! And it isn’t just visionary entrepreneurs like Kholsa who are financing bio-fuel’s commercial development. ExxonMobil has announced a $600 million investment into algae based biofuel technology and BP is investing $500 million into biofuels in alliance with the University of California-Berkeley. Chevron, Khosla Ventures and Lightspeed Venture Partners recently announced putting $25M into LS9, a bio-diesel company projecting 2011 deliveries at $40/barrel oil equivalent.

The creation of competitively priced, sustainable goods and services by our entrepreneurs will restore our jobs, environment and economy. It would be great if governments could accelerate this adoption process by including it in the price at the pump, meter and cash register the “externality costs” tied to emissions and waste. Taxing cigarettes has contributed to reducing the number of smokers with measurable gains in reduced incidences of cancer. This same path for taxing emissions and waste to encourage positive behavior is available but less likely because climate change and energy independence just doesn’t have as powerful a direct link as having a loved one die a painful death tied to their smoking addiction.

Not that it's directly related to the title of his post, but I like the part of the author's quote that I boldfaced.

I don't agree with his premise that it means "nothing", though.  The simple fact that the COP climate deal negotiation process remains unsettled means something -- in this case that businesses haven't yet gotten the certainty that they desire.  That is, businesses need policy certainty to know how to most effectively -- and profitably -- unleash the tsunami of clean technology investment money that is ready to pounce once the rules of the game have been set.

Hopefully we get this certainty via new climate change and clean energy policy agreements that come out of both the U.S. Senate and Mexico City in 2010.  After Copenhagen, it seems that The People's movement is going to have to continue to rise up until it generates the Civil Rights movement-level inspiration that has, historically, helped society achieve its biggest solutions...

Read more>>

Copenhagen Sees Advances in Efforts to Protect Rainforests' Carbon Sequestration Services

One of the apparent victories of Copenhagen is the advance of strategies to reduce emissions from forest destruction and degradation (REDD).

This exchange between Living on Earth host Steve Curwood and an adviser for Prince Charles' Rainforest Project of Living on Earth gets into the matter -- in a story that also includes some choice quotes from Prince Charles, himself.

CURWOOD: So, REDD made a lot of advances during the Copenhagen conference of the parties on climate. Why so?

JUNIPER: I think it was one of the things that was inadvertently left out at the time of the Kyoto Summit, when it was decided that avoided deforestation wouldn't be a part of the process, and there were many different reasons for that. Not least the idea that the industrialized countries should go first in terms of cutting emissions and the tropical countries should be left out of the framework. But I think people have reflected long and hard on this particular subject over those years. And a lot of tropical countries – they actually would like to keep their rainforests and they would like to have that resource there. They're not clearing them away for reasons that are frivolous, they're doing it because of the economics of their country's development pathways, and so they're having to do it.

They'd rather not do it, and in many cases they thought it was about having a different pathway that could keep one of the principle assets that they have. Namely, these incredible ecosystems that generate rainfall, that harbor biodiversity, that are a potential source of renewable income for centuries into the future. And also, of course, you know, that the western countries are looking for ways in which global emissions could be reduced, without too much pressure on their industrial emissions, it looked like a good deal for them, too.

I just hope that they got REDD right in this agreement -- designed in a way that protects biodiversity and respects the rights of indigenous peoples.  I'll report on this question more as soon as I have some more answers...

Read more>>

Climate Deal in Copenhagen -- Really?

I've spent the better part of my reading over the last few days glancing over analyses of the outcome of the Copenhagen COP15 climate change conference.  Over the next few days, I'll post and ponder my favorite pieces, from re-caps to implications.

Here's a good opener from Living On Earth:

The Obama deal (known as the Copenhagen Accord) would limit global warming to 2 degrees centigrade, it pledges 100 billion dollars a year in aid to help developing nations face the threats and consequences of climate change, and countries would open their doors to the verification of their global warming emissions.

It's not entirely clear what this deal means, it needs to play through a bit more. On it's surface this deal means that the largest greenhouse gas polluting countries and economies in the world have for the first time stepped up, held hands and made a commitment that they will be part of an international effort to deeply reduce greenhouse gas emissions over the next 40 years.

What are the implications for the upcoming, Spring 2010 debate over climate change and clean energy legislation in the U.S. Senate?  Says Kevin Knoblauch of the Union of Concerned Scientists:

To get to 60 votes on cap and trade in the senate we really have to convince those swing senators, the fence sitting senators on a couple counts. One is is China going to eat our economic lunch? You know are they going to grow their economy rapidly while ours might be constrained in a carbon constrained world. That's a big one, competitiveness. And will it hurt the US economy. And I think what this agreement will do is provide some assurance, obviously the details have to be nailed down, it will provide some assurance that in fact those economies will be in a carbon constrained world as ours is.

The other thing that is so clear that is not fully understood I the US and particularly in the Congress is that China is well on its way to transforming its economy into a clean energy economy. We are wringing our hands back home while China is on the march. They have a national renewable energy standard. We don't yet. They have national fuel economy standards that are more stringent then our recently strengthened ones.

China is committed and on its way to building a bullet train network across their nation. Yes, they are building coal plants but the coal plants they're building are state of the art efficient plants replacing highly polluting plants. The point is once we pass national legislation and the president signs it will now be the policy of the land to transform our economy into a clean energy economy and I think we will see an economic growth and an economic explosion unlike anything we've seen in the last century.

That's my bold-facing above.  Key points -- whether you believe in climate change or not, this legislation is tremendously important for economic, energy and security reasons. 

Regarding the Copenhagen Accord, first and foremost, it's clear that despite all the "good first step" talk, the deal is not nearly enough to stop the dangerous progress of climate disruption (my favorite term for it, which I may start using exclusively).  One piece I read today -- I think by Marc Gunther -- talked about how climate change defies the nature of politics.  That is, the political process tends to solve problems gradually -- especially really big problems.  Climate disruption is so dangerous in terms of its impacts on the ability of human civilization to sustain our well being that it's something that we can't afford to take on gradually.  Which of course flies in the face of how politics works!  This problem has become pretty obvious.

What, then, is the answer?

Got a few evenings around a campfire -- and some single malt Scotch to sip on as we brainstorm answers?  Seriously, though, I'll blog more thoughts over the next few days, but I honestly am wondering whether our politicians are up to the challenge, or whether the people need to lead here, Civil Rights movement-style.  Certainly, as many have said, the UN is not the right venue, as if you think it's hard to get 60 Senators to agree to a new policy, how about 192 countries composed of dozens of cultures and worldviews.

My sense is that the bright, energized youth movement has it right in that we need to build a movement that ratchets up the political pressure on our leaders until they take the steps needed to adequately address this unique crisis.

Listen to the story>>

Monday, December 21, 2009

CBO: Senate Climate Bill Will Create Jobs, Boost Clean Tech Investment and Cut the Deficit

Some good news here, flying in the face of those who call climate change legislation "Cap and Tax", and claim that it will bankrupt the U.S. Government and wreck the economy.  Grist reports:

The Congressional Budget Office—the arbiter of the federal budget impact of all legislation—just released an analysis that the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act, S. 1733,

... would reduce budget deficits (or increase future surpluses) by about $21 billion over the 2010-2019 period ... In years after 2019, direct spending would be less than the net revenues attributable to the legislation in each of the 10-year periods following 2019. Therefore, CBO estimates that enacting S. 1733 would not increase the deficit in any of the four 10-year periods following 2019.

This is crucial given that the annual budget deficit has exploded due to spending for two wars, prevention of the financial system collapse, and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which has created thousands of jobs during this horrible recession that begun during President George W. Bush’s last year in office.

Obviously, the projected $21 billion budget cut pales in comparison to the $1.2 trillion deficit. Nonetheless, this cut is another benefit of legislation that would create clean energy jobs, reduce oil use, and global warming pollution. Despite false attacks by ex Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, this clean energy and global warming bill is “cap-and-cut,” not “cap-and-tax.”

So this legislation will not only reduce pollution, stimulate investment in green technologies, and result in the creation of millions of green jobs.  It will also cut the deficit, finds the CBO!

Will the Senate weaken and water down this bit of good news, or will it actually build on what works and make the legislation better, resulting in a still more favorable final CBO score?  Stay tuned...

Read more>>

Kenya REDD Project Becomes First in Africa to Win Gold Certification

Here's an actual story of a well-run payments for forests ecosystem services scheme being recognized for its successes:

A Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) project in Kenya has become the first in Africa to win GOLD level validation under the Climate Community and Biodiversity (CCB) Alliance's REDD Standard, a certification program to ensure that communities and biodiversity benefit from such projects.

The Kasigau Corridor REDD Project aims to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 3.5 million tons over its 20-year lifetime, generating carbon credits that may receive a premium relative to other credits due to the CCB certification. The project is run by Wildlife Works in partnership with local communities and the Kenya Forest Service (KFS).

"This is a milestone in the progress of REDD towards achieving legitimacy in the global carbon marketplace, and sets a positive example for those millions of Africans who have the potential to gain financial reward from REDD to help them move forward with sustainable development in the face of massive and growing pressure to their livelihoods caused by climate change," said Mike Korchinsky, Wildlife Works' Founder and President, in a statement. "We believe this demonstrates clearly that REDD is ready for prime time in Africa."

The project is funding construction of new schools, free health programs, and organic farming and agroforestry initiatives for local communities.

Kenya was one of 14 countries to receive funds in the first round of the World Bank's Forest Carbon Partnership Facility, a scheme to kick-start REDD projects in developing nations. REDD is widely seen as an attractive way to reducing greenhouse gas emissions while simultaneously conserving forests and sustaining rural livelihoods.

I'd still love to learn more about the carbon accounting here -- how the emissions are counted and verified, as well as safeguarded over time -- but it's great to see forest protection benefiting local communities like this.  We've got to start somewhere, and will inevitably learn how to fine tune these types of projects as we go...

Read more>>

Amazon Losing "Flying Rivers", Ability to Curb Warming

Alarming news comes via National Geographic about the Amazon's diminishing ability to both store the heat-trapping gas, carbon dioxide (CO2) and generate rainfall critical to Brazil's agriculture and economy.

Rising temperatures in the Amazon region, in large part due to climate change, are creating more arid savannas, which disrupt the water cycle vital to Brazil's farming and energy industries.

Deforestation also plays a role. As more of Brazil's rain forests fall to logging and agriculture, there are fewer trees to release the water vapor that creates these flying rivers.

Until recently, Amazon forest loss has been primarily linked to the trees' role in trapping greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide (CO2), which are a root cause of global warming.

"Most people look at the Amazon as the lungs of the world, or as a solution to capture CO2," said Gérard Moss, an engineer and founder of the Flying Rivers Project, an ongoing effort to document the humid air currents and their effects.

"But I'd like people to realize that the Amazon Basin is a huge water pump—rain is [our] most valuable asset," he said by phone Wednesday in Copenhagen, where he gave a press briefing on the project earlier this week.

Flying rivers may transport as much water as the Amazon River itself, he added. "This huge rain machine needs to be preserved."

I often say that the next major market for ecosystem services like carbon is going to be water -- paying people to protect forests and other habitats to protect water.  This article paints a clear picture of the connection between our forests and our increasingly scarce fresh water resources:

More than half of the Amazon's rainfall emanates from trees, with the rest coming from vapor from surface water bodies.

"So if the trees are chopped down, the rainfall rates could be reduced through this mechanism," Muri said by email.

Any changes in vegetation can impact the local "water budget" and create drought conditions that impact agriculture and industry, she added.

Brazil's economy may wither if the flying rivers dry out, project founder Moss said.

Farmers in the Amazon's fertile Matto Grosso state are highly dependent on Amazon rain to grow their crops, for example. The agriculture industry in the region is extremely profitable because so little irrigation is needed.

"Rainwater has been taken for granted ... ," Moss said.

"In addition, 80 percent of Brazil's energy is related to hydroelectric power, so every single drop of rain counts," Moss said. "If we start losing rain, it will have a huge impact [on our energy]."

Pretty amazing.  This article doesn't even get into the subject of how Amazon rainfall patterns influence weather in America's farmlands -- but there is a connection...

Read more>>

GE's New Efficient Appliances Generating Green Jobs

GE is poised to release a new line of smart grid-ready appliances, manufactured right here in the U.S.  The Triple Pundit reports:

GE’s new laundry products will incorporate smart grid technology that enables them to communicate with utility smart meters to help reduce energy demand during peak usage times with features that will empower consumers to control consumption and save money, especially in areas where time of use pricing is currently in effect or is planned in the future.

Production of GE’s new smart washers and dryers alone will result in the creation of more than 430 new jobs at the Louisville operation. This is great news for many Americans, since currently 90 percent of GE’s front-load washers and dryers are manufactured outside the U.S.

Over a period of less than six months, GE plans to invest more than $150 million to bring these new product lines to Louisville, expanding its workforce by more than 800 jobs and creating millions of dollars of positive economic impact for the state of Kentucky. These good paying jobs are part of an emerging “green technology” sector that holds promise for the new green economy.

Now there's a bit of inspiration for your Monday morning...

Read more>>

EPA Deal to Phase Out Toxic Flame Retardants

Good news -- the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has struck a deal to phase out toxic flame retardants, which we've blogged about here due to their threats to human health and the environment alike:

Negotiations between the Environmental Protection Agency and manufacturers of toxic flame-retardant chemicals will result in a three-year phase-out of the last polybrominated diphenyl ether, the deca form.

Steve Owens, EPA’s assistant administrator in the Office of Prevention, Pesticides and Toxic Substances, had this to say in a news release today:

“Though DecaBDE has been used as a flame retardant for years, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has long been concerned about its impact on human health and the environment. Studies have shown that decaBDE persists in the environment, potentially causes cancer and may impact brain function. DecaBDE also can degrade to more toxic chemicals that are frequently found in the environment and are hazardous to wildlife.

“Today’s announcement by these companies to phase out decaBDE is an appropriate and responsible step to protect human health and the environment.”

Alarms bells have been sounding over PBDEs for several years. Concerns relate to liver and thyroid disease, neurological development and potential effects on the immune and reproductive systems.

Because they are persistent in the environment, these chemicals have (even) been accumulating in the tissues of the familiar killer whales that frequent Puget Sound (near Seattle).

I can't tell you how happy I am about this as both a father and a pet owner -- I'll sleep easier at night.  This phasing out of PBDE's will certainly save me time having to search for furniture and other home products that I can trust to be safe.

Read more>>

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Wisconsin's Governor Doyle Talks Up Climate Change Solutions As Economic Opportunities

Several governors of U.S. states attended the COP15 Copenhagen Climate Change conference, in search of economic opportunities for building green industries that will create thousands of 21st century jobs.

Here's an excerpt from his interview with Grist's Amanda Little:

Q. The first thing people say when they hear about climate solutions is, “It’s going to cost us, it’s going to hurt the economy.” Why are people focused so much on the economic harm that climate solutions will bring rather than the economic benefits?

A. In some ways I think the environmental community hasn’t talked enough about that as this has all developed. But I’ll tell you there a lot of businesses, a lot of big businesses, that are very, very much behind this. So just today I met with Johnson Controls, which is our biggest publicly traded corporation in Wisconsin. It obviously makes much of its business ... helping governments and businesses bring their energy costs down. There’s a good example right in Wisconsin. Our biggest company is doing that. And big into battery development… I think that the business organizations, ... particularly the National Association for Manufacturers has taken this head-in-the-sand approach. But I believe ... there are great businesses out there that are doing this not only because it’s the right thing to do, but if they can reduce their energy costs they can be much more profitable.

Q. Did you have a “eureka” moment where you realized when you decided climate and energy was extremely important.

A. I’d like to say there was some big eureka moment, but I just learned about it and studied it and then I talked to a lot of business people that really saw what the advantages were here. So I think anybody who looks at this understands climate change is a really significant issue, and we have to do something about it. So now the choice is do you do something about it in a way that actually grows your economy and creates jobs, or do you do something about it where you just get regulated to death? To me that choice is pretty easy. I was the [Wisconsin] attorney general before and was involved in a lot of environmental issues, but ... within my first year as governor (seven years ago) we were moving on this.

From what I've seen, when people slam Al Gore and other leaders pushing for climate change solutions, and just call for letting the market do the job, they haven't yet realized how the lack of policy certainty in the U.S. is blocking the floodgates of private investment.  The CEO of General Electric and the head of the Venture Capital firm, Kleiner Perkins, bemoaned this situation in a Washington Post op-ed piece earlier this year.

The environmental community, and the media in general, need to do a better job of explaining this important need for smart climate change and clean energy policy advances to the American people.

Read more>>

Jane Goodall Excited About REDD's Prospects for Slowing Rainforest Destruction

Via Treehugger comes word that REDD (paying countries to reduce emissions from forest destruction and degradation) has gotten words of support from Jane Goodall:

On her way out the door after a long day, Dame Goodall said she hopes that REDD would draw more money by the end of the conference, expressed wonder at the big commitments flowing in, and explained that people increasingly appreciate that this kind of program is one of the best ways the world can prevent intentional forest fires (and other kinds of deforestation).

This has the potential to be the type of program that rainforest conservationists have sought for decades.  I look forward to doing whatever I can to help make it so.

Read more>>

Getting at the Roots of Unsustainable U.S. Agriculture Policy

Grist has an interesting summary of the ties between agriculture, food, ecosystem health and climate change -- talking about the problems in some of the USDA's current solutions.

Around one third of global greenhouse gas emissions come from the way we produce, process, distribute, and consume the food we eat according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Meanwhile, farmers the world over will be the most affected by climate change, as higher carbon in the atmosphere and higher temperatures increase erratic weather patterns, pests, and disease occurrence, while decreasing water availability, disrupting relationships with pollinators and lowering yield and the efficacy of herbicides like glyphosate (aka Round-Up)—all detailed in a revealing new report from the USDA called The Effects of Climate Change on U.S. Ecosystems [pdf].

Among the author's critiques of current U.S. ag policy, there is some good commentary about the importance soil-building farming techniques that both boost resilience to climate change and increase the power of agriculture to store carbon (as well as to remain more fertile, thus reducing fertilizer costs).

Read more>>

Newsweek: The Next Industrial Revolution

Last Monday, Newsweek featured a story pumping the Green Economy, titled "The Next Industrial Revolution":

Can business save the planet? Champions of an environmental New Deal have often cast the corporation as the enemy in the struggle against global warming. But the more than 800 corporate leaders who've signed the -Copenhagen Communiqué on Climate Change argue the opposite line: the business community wants—and needs—an ambitious global agreement that will spur the creation of a low-carbon economy.

Five of those leaders spoke with NEWSWEEK'S William Underhill: Ian Cheshire, CEO of Kingfisher, an international home-improvement retail chain; Noel Morrin, VP for sustainability and green construction at Skanska, an international construction company based in Sweden; James Smith, chairman of Shell U.K.; -Reinoldo -Poernbacher, CEO of Klabin S.A., Brazil's biggest paper producer, exporter, and recycler; and Jeffrey Swartz, CEO of Timberland.

Read more>>

Denmark: A Strong Economy With Half The Carbon Footprint and Universal Health Care

From economist and Director of the National Teach In on Global Warming Solutions, commenting on his stay in Dennark:

The Danes have shown the world what a few decades of sensible laws can do. My host family, in their comfortable suburban townhouse, enjoys the 21st Century Good Life. This includes of course, the family car, internet, cell connections, shiny appliances of all sorts, Christmas holiday spent at a country home—and also, universal healthcare, a year’s paid maternity leave, six weeks of paid vacation, great public transportation, and other benefits and services for working people that have been driven outside the imagination of the American dream.

We have a three and a half-month old baby, and my wife's employer doesn't cover her health benefits after 12/31, so we have to pay two months of painfully high health insurance premiums -- on top of our new baby costs -- for the next 2 months.

In this economy, it's brutal.

We won't be buying much until Suzanne's employer coverage of our benefits kicks back in.  We're feeling, firsthand, how America still needs to fix the problem of our exorbitant health insurance costs, not to mention giving mothers longer maternity leaves, as they get in Europe.  If we didn't have to spend this money on health insurance premiums for the next two months, we'd be saving some, and spending some on ski trips, some new things we need for the house, and probably some new clothing (in my case, stuff that my wife tells me I really need to replace).  But instead of these retailers getting our money, it's going to the health insurance company.

Good for the Danes for showing the world a thing or two about how to live well at the same time as they slash their carbon footprint.

Read more>>

Living on Earth reports on the Happiness of the Danes>>

Friday, December 18, 2009

Do We Really Want to Trust Mother Nature As the 'Climate Referee'?

The N.Y Times' John Tierney recently posted an op-ed titled, "Trusting Nature as the Climate Referee," which I found to be maddeningly flawed for several reasons.

A few of them were covered by these scathing critiques in The New York Times, The Economist and The Green Grok, a blog by Bill Chameides, Dean of Duke University's prestigious Nicholas School of the Environment.

So what I'll contribute is my problem with the metaphor of 'referee', itself.

What if Mother Nature, as the 'climate referee', decides to penalize humanity?  Do we really want to know what a yellow card looks like?  What the penalty is for "unnecessary roughness"?

I sure don't want to find out!

What if she tosses us from the game, as Jared Diamond's, 'Collapse' illustrates has happened to past civilizations that have overshot their resource base?

As the father of a 3-month-old daughter, especially, that's the last thing I want to leave open as a possibility!

Do we really want to just let Mother Nature be the 'climate referee', or do we want to make sure we win the game on our own terms?

I know which path I prefer, and that's why I continue to do the work that I do.

Overwhelming U.S. Support for Global Warming Solutions

Some good news comes from two new polls, which reflect that Americans favor taking action to stop global warming.  For example, reports Grist:

A poll released today by USA Today/Gallup found clear majority support for the United States to sign a binding agreement to reduce its greenhouse gas pollution.

Conducted 12/11-13; surveyed 1,025 adults; margin of error +/- 3.1 percent. Subsample of 898 RVs; margin of error +/- 3.3 percent (release, 12/14).

Do you favor/oppose the U.S. signing a binding global treaty at the Copenhagen meeting that would require the U.S. to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions?
Favor     55 percent
Oppose  38

The thing is, if you're against solutions to global warming, then what are you for?  Continued dependence on foreign oil and other polluting fossil fuels?  Continuing to fund the construction of obscenely humongous castles in Saudi Arabia, the machismo of Venezuela's Chavez, and Iran's human rights violations; not to mention governments that support terrorists?

More and more people seem to be realizing that the types of solutions needed to solve global warming also solve many other of our most important societal problems, from our slumping economy, to our dependence on oil and its related ills, to public health problems like childhood asthma, to terrorism. 

Read more>>

A Report on Clean Energy Investments and the Jobs They Create

How much progress have we made in the last year advancing the Clean Energy Economy?  The Vice President has a new report coming out, says Grist's David Roberts:

On Tuesday, the Vice President’s office will send Obama a progress report on “The Transformation to A Clean Energy Economy” (PDF). It’s a wide-angle assessment of the stimulus spending that has gone to clean energy projects, the private capital that has been leveraged by those investments, and the jobs that will be saved or created as a result.  (H)ere are the top line results:
  • Recovery Act investments in renewable generation and advanced energy manufacturing of $23 billion will likely create 253,000 jobs and leverage over $43 billion in additional investment that could support  up to 469,000 more jobs, putting us on track to meet the goal of doubling our renewable energy  generation, including solar, wind and geothermal, in just 3 years.
  • The Federal Government, partnering with industry, has already committed to invest up to $16 billion in plug-in hybrids, all-electric vehicles and the infrastructure needed to power them, as well as new clean fuels.
  • The $4 billion in Recovery Act smart grid investments will likely result in 43,000 new jobs, and be matched more than one-to-one by private sector funding that could support up to 61,000 additional jobs on smart grid projects that will reduce cost, increase reliability and give consumers more choice and control over their energy use. .
  • We are on track to weatherize the homes of half a million low income Americans through retrofits by the end of next year.
  • We are also setting long overdue standards for everyday appliances like refrigerators, microwaves and washer/dryers. 
  • With Recovery Act funding and existing loan guarantee authority, we are investing over $10 billion in CCS projects, which will secure at least an additional $4 billion in private funds to produce $14 billion of public-private investment in clean coal technology.
  • By the end of our first two years in office, we will have provided conditional commitments for loan guarantees for two nuclear power operators to add three to four new nuclear reactors.
  • In 2010, our budget includes $12.6 billion in funding for key science agencies to support advanced research and development at our national labs and universities.
I'd really like to see how that 'clean coal' research does, and how well CO2 stores...  I just don't see this is a viable technology yet, and won't until I'm 100% convinced they've figured out a way to keep all that CO2 in the ground in a safe, secure manner.  Is that really possible?

I'd also like to see the cost effectiveness of these new nuclear plants.  Are they really worth our tax dollar investments in terms of providing cost-effective long-term clean energy solutions?

I also agree with Roberts' two points of analysis:

1. Why not a few victory laps? I worry that in all the anguish about climate legislation and Copenhagen, green activists aren’t doing enough to publicize and build on what the administration is doing.  (S)ocial psychology tells us...(that) people are subject to peer pressure and herding instincts; they like to do what other people are doing. When they hear that other people are investing in energy and efficiency, it will make them more inclined to do the same, not less. It would be better to create the (self-fulfilling) impression that this kind of thing is mainstream than to keep insisting that nothing worthwhile is being done.

2. Investments and regulatory standards create tangible change in the short-term. Everyone is obsessively focused on the exact mechanism for putting a price on carbon, as if it’s the end-all be-all of climate policy. But no politically realistic price on carbon will bite in any substantial way for the next 5-10 years. In the interim, it’s these kinds of investments and standards that will drive immediate private capital deployment and job creation.

Greens should learn the lesson: fight for stronger complementary policies in climate legislation! Larger investments, tighter efficiency standards, higher renewable energy standards. This is the kind of stuff the spurs short-term action; short-term action is what builds political support; political support is what will allow greens to come back later and improve the carbon pricing system. You need a carbon pricing system as the long term engine, but the policies funded by the stimulus bill are spark plugs.

Very good analysis on both fronts.

Point one is something that we talk about fairly frequently on this blog, and also reflect in our actions by doing our part to publicize all the emerging Green Economy solutions that are better for people and planet alike.

Point two is reflected in earlier today's post about the impact of California's tightening efficiency standards for televisions, and is reflected in past posts about California's renewable energy, net metering and other clean energy-advancing standards.

All we can do is our best, and have fun.  And when our best works, and there is progress that ends up being beneficial -- as it is -- we've got to get out there with our horns and build public support for both these successes, and future ones.

Read more>>

Sea Levels Set to Rise More Than Expected Due to 'Deeply Surprising' Greenland Melt

Oh boy...

A new study by the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program estimates that the sea will rise by 0.5 to 1.5 meters by 2100, threatening coastal cities and flooding island nations. This is double the predicted rise estimated by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on climate Change (IPCC) in 2007, which did not incorporate sea level rise due to the melting of Greenland and Antarctica's ice sheets.

Most surprisingly, the study found that discharge from Greenland had increased by 30 percent over the last decade: jumping from 330 billion giga tons in 1995 to 430 billion giga tons in 2005.

"We know that the Arctic has warmed enormously over the past 50 years and that the temperatures over Greenland have increased by more than twice the global average. Despite these observations, it is deeply surprising and worrying to see the pace of the changes in the Greenland Ice Sheet", lead author, Professor Dorthe Dahl-Jensen, University of Copenhagen said in a press release.

"Greenland’s Ice Sheet is the single largest body of freshwater ice in the northern hemisphere. It contains around 3 million km of ice and, if it were to melt completely, this would cause global sea level to rise by roughly 7 meter.

It sure would be interesting, in 2050, to look at how the costs of sea walls and adaptation steps stacked up in the 2010's - 2040's compared to the amount we'd need to invest now to slow the pollution causing warming. 

My sense is that if we don't take bold action now, warming is going to end up being a story similar to the way people talk about the beginning of World War II: "What if we HAD stopped Hitler in 1936?" (apologies for using the now hackneyed Hitler comparison, but I wanted to use it more appropriately than it's been used of late)

Read more>>

Schwarzenegger: Beyond Copenhagen, global warming requires grassroots action

Strong piece by the Governator here:

One hundred and fifty years ago, the Industrial Revolution changed the world and ushered in a new era of prosperity. Today, the Green Revolution can do the same.

I don't agree with everything Arnold says in here, but I do agree that environmental groups can't both oppose new coal plants AND new transmission lines (and wind farms and solar facilities).  We do, of course, need to make sure that the transmission lines and renewable energy infrastructure are planned and installed in as ecologically sound of a manner as possible, minimizing impacts to ecosystem services and biodiversity.

That's a major reason I'm so in favor of using otherwise wasted roof tops (especially of buildings) to install solar panels.  Additional intriguing locations for solar and wind development include former (and even current) copper, gold and coal mines, and other such places where the land has already been disturbed and degraded.


Read more>>

Update: Amanda Little at Grist shreds the governor's speech at Copenhagen.  As we've reported here at CV Notes, the type of policy uncertainty that seems to be continuing in Copenhagen is holding back the market from really unleashing the types of solutions that Schwarzenegger is touting!

Wind Energy Meets Environmental Resistance in Wyoming...From the Fossil Fuel Industry

They can't be serious.  High Country News reports about a bizarre combination of resistance that wind energy is running into in Wyoming:

(Wyoming's wind energy) faltering. Today, Wyoming has just 1,000 megawatts of wind capacity, one-eighth of what Texas has. Facing regulatory and political uncertainty, at least one wind-farm proposal has been yanked off the table, and the future of others is in doubt. Legislators, wildlife officials and people in the governor's office have sent out increasingly mixed messages about the wind rush -- or onslaught.

It is, indeed, confusing. Because most of the objections to wind farms cite environmental problems, it might appear that Wyoming has finally gone green -- standing up to energy developers in hopes of preserving its wild lands. And many environmentalists do see wind as yet another "clean" energy source with a dark side -- like hydroelectric dams or coalbed methane, which has transformed swaths of the state into drill-rig pincushions.

Look closer, however, and you'll find that much of the resistance to wind actually comes from the fossil fuel industry and the politics it bankrolls. Wyoming is the largest coal producer in the nation and the third-largest producer of natural gas; at least one town is named after an oil company. Severance taxes and royalties from these industries keep the state's government, schools and other services afloat. In an indirect and sometimes convoluted way, wind threatens that old-school energy dynamic. At an August symposium on wind energy at the University of Wyoming in Laramie, Aaron Clark, an advisor to the governor, put it candidly: "We can't let wind development hurt the state's revenue stream from extractive minerals."

The conflict manifests itself in two unlikely and disparate characters: The oil-baron scion of one of Wyoming's most influential families, and a chicken-sized bird that may soon be listed as endangered. Wyoming's politics, tumbled by the wind, have become almost as peculiar as the state's mammalian icon, the mythical jackalope.

This is one of those situations where the Federal government (and/or perhaps some appropriate NGO's) need to have a transition program in place to help states and communities that depend on fossil fuel revenues work through these types of roadblocks to clean energy development.

As far as impacts on endangered Sage Grouse, there's got to be a capacity to use GIS maps of the species' habitats that planners can use to avoid placing wind farms in areas where they could threaten the beautiful fowl.

There is a right way to proliferate wind farms in an appropriate state like Wyoming, from an environmental standpoint.  It is the right thing to do, and done in an ecologically sound manner, we just have to move forward with these types of climate change and clean energy solutions.

Read more>>