Monday, May 24th, 2010
Flying dwarfs any other individual activity in terms of carbon emissions, yet more and more people are traveling by air. With no quick technological fix on the horizon, what alternatives — from high-speed trains to advanced video conferencing — can cut back the amount we fly?
In most departments I have excellent green credibility, and my carbon footprint is small. I have not owned a car in more than 20 years and commute to work by subway. I walk to the market and generally no longer buy produce flown in from far away. I recycle. I have an air-conditioner, but use it only on the hottest of days. I have gone paperless with all my bills.
But my good acts of responsible environmental stewardship are undercut by one persistent habit that will be hard to break, if it is possible at all: I am a frequent flyer, Platinum Card. Last year, I traveled nearly 100,000 miles of mostly long-haul travel. And that figure puts me in the minor leagues compared to legions of business consultants, international lawyers, UN functionaries — and even climate scientists — who certainly travel much more.
Monday, May 24th, 2010
Often when going to the beach the common complaint is that the ocean is too cold. They appear to be warming up a bit. The upper layer of Earth’s ocean has warmed since 1993, indicating a strong climate change signal, according to a new international study co-authored by oceanographer Josh Willis of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. The energy stored is enough to power nearly 500 100-watt light bulbs for each of the roughly 6.7 billion people on the planet.
“We are seeing the global ocean store more heat than it gives off,” said John Lyman, an oceanographer at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research, who led the study that analyzed nine different estimates of heat content in the upper ocean from 1993 to 2008.
Saturday, May 22nd, 2010
Living four days without consuming plastics hasn’t been such a challenge yet; nevertheless it became more fun. As a quick reference to my last blog post, I aim to reduce my plastic use significantly for 30 days and reuse the products that I already have. My main motivation to do this is to help drawing attention to the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” and other marine debris around the world.
Plastics can live longer than human beings. It takes 100 years for a plastic bottle to degrade in a marine environment. Given that plastics were invented only in the 19th century, almost all of the plastic content that was produced still exists somewhere in the world.
It is indeed very easy to live without plastic bags and plastic bottles. I bring my own shopping bag when I go grocery shopping and I reuse my old bottles and try to avoid plastic bottles in any kind. It was hard to give up some of beverages that I like. However, I can find access to drinking water easily in many developed cities. Hence, glass bottles and cans always seem to be good options.
After three days, I can say the hardest part of a non-plastic life is when I get coffee to-go from a coffee shop but I’m not supposed to get the plastic lid. It’s difficult to carry and drink cofee without the lid. Moreover, there is even a debate about the coffee cup itself. (more…)
Tuesday, May 18th, 2010
Is human activity altering the planet on a scale comparable to major geological events of the past? Scientists are now considering whether to officially designate a new geological epoch to reflect the changes that homo sapiens have wrought: the Anthropocene.
The Holocene — or “wholly recent” epoch — is what geologists call the 11,000 years or so since the end of the last ice age. As epochs go, the Holocene is barely out of diapers; its immediate predecessor, the Pleistocene, lasted more than two million years, while many earlier epochs, like the Eocene, went on for more than 20 million years. Still, the Holocene may be done for. People have become such a driving force on the planet that many geologists argue a new epoch — informally dubbed the Anthropocene — has begun.
In a recent paper titled “The New World of the Anthropocene,” which appeared in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, a group of geologists listed more than a half dozen human-driven processes that are likely to leave a lasting mark on the planet — lasting here understood to mean likely to leave traces that will last tens of millions of years. These include: habitat destruction and the introduction of invasive species, which are causing widespread extinctions; ocean acidification, which is changing the chemical makeup of the seas; and urbanization, which is vastly increasing rates of sedimentation and erosion.
Human activity, the group wrote, is altering the planet “on a scale comparable with some of the major events of the ancient past. Some of these changes are now seen as permanent, even on a geological time-scale.” (more…)
Monday, May 17th, 2010
According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, tax fraud is the carbon trading market’s most egregious form of cheating, affecting about seven percent of this $125 billion market in 2009.
In August 2009, seven people were arrested near London for not paying tax on the sale of carbon permits, for a total of £38 million (about U.S. $63 million). The taxes were levied as part of the European Union Greenhouse Gas Emission Trading System, created in January 2005 and based on Directive 2003/87/EC, which was enforced beginning Oct. 25, 2003.
Carbon emissions trading, or cap-and-trade, is a system whereby governments tell industry how much carbon dioxide a particular factory or operation can emit. If the factory or operation manages to emit less than the mandate allows, it can sell its excess on the open market, but either it or its designated seller is required to report the transaction and pay taxes on it, as on any financial gain. (more…)
Monday, May 17th, 2010
The successful development of the controversial oil sands in Canada has prompted oil companies to invest in similar operations elswhere, including Russia, Venezuela, the Congo, and Madagascar, according to a new report.
With the price of crude oil rising, companies — including BP and Shell — are increasingly looking to so-called “unconventional” oil deposits similar to the massive resources of bituminous sands found in Alberta, according to the report by the environmental group, Friends of the Earth. (more…)
Monday, May 17th, 2010
Germany, one of the more frequently discussed countries when it comes to investment in renewable energy projects through its highly touted feed-in-tariff, seeks to attract a new crop of young scientists to partner with German research institutions and corporations.
The Federal Ministry of Education and Research is sponsoring a competition called “Green Talents: International Forum for High Potentials in Sustainable Development.” They are seeking 15 outstanding scientists, 35 years of age or younger, in the following fields:
Friday, May 14th, 2010
While many environmentalists were disappointed after the Copenhagen Accord , one positive development was a renewed focus on forestry. Over the past several months there has been a growing commitment from countries including the United States, Norway, Britain, and Japan, to make significant financial contributions to forests, carbon offsets, and climate change.
Eighty percent of people polled held positive opinions about forestry offset projects, up from 58 percent in 2009, according to the second Forest Carbon Offsetting Report. It focuses on corporations’ attitudes regarding forest offsets from forestry projects.
EcoSecurities, Conservation International, the Climate, Community & Biodiversity Alliance, the Norton Rose Group and ClimateBiz produced the report, which gathered in-depth responses from more than 200 organizations around the world.
Among the report’s findings: (more…)
Wednesday, May 12th, 2010
(Reuters) – The climate bill unveiled by U.S. Senators John Kerry and Joseph Lieberman on Wednesday would reward many businesses for cutting output of greenhouse gases but could add costs for those who do not.
Kerry and Lieberman hope that companies who see opportunities in energy conservation and low-carbon power will convince lawmakers to support the bill which needs 60 votes to pass.
Utilities such as FPL Group, Duke Energy and Exelon have lobbied alongside environmental groups for the climate bill as has General Electric, a manufacturer of clean coal and natural gas systems for power plants and wind turbines.
Here are some initial reactions to the bill from companies and business groups: (more…)
Wednesday, May 12th, 2010
The U.S. Senate’s long-awaited energy bill, which will be officially unveiled Wednesday, would require utilities to begin paying for carbon dioxide emissions in 2013 and return two-thirds of the money to U.S. taxpayers to offset rising energy costs; it would also encourage the development of nuclear power with tax credits and other incentives and allow offshore drilling along new sections of the U.S. coast with certain restrictions and environmental safeguards.
The Senate bill, known as the “American Power Act,” limits entities that can trade directly in the carbon emissions permits to the utilities and, eventually, the factories that will be required to purchase the permits — a provision designed to avoid a speculative market in carbon trading. (more…)