Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009
Speaking with young climate activists on a conference call last Tuesday night, U.S. Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) said that even though the timing of his climate bill was tricky, it is doable.
Senator Kerry, co-author of the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act along with Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Cali.), told the young leaders that he was confident the Senate would vote on a climate bill before the upcoming Copenhagen COP-15 climate talks in December, but he also tempered his optimism with a note of caution about what would kind of agreement would actually be reached at Copenhagen.
“I don’t expect Copenhagen to come up with a full treaty,” said Kerry, citing the short amount of time the negotiating teams will have to hammer out the technical specifics of a plan. Kerry said the important part would be agreeing to strong political targets and that the technical specifics could be hammered out in upcoming meetings.
Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009
Passage of climate change legislation in the U.S. Senate appears increasingly unlikely in the face of divisions among Democrats and stiff opposition by Republicans, the Washington Post reports.
Top Democrats have been unable to enlist key Republican lawmakers to support the bill, which would create a cap-and-trade system and gradually cut the level of carbon emissions allowed. One of the key Republicans targeted to back the bill, Sen. George V. Voinovich, R-Ohio, has instead led the opposition, organizing a boycott of the bill’s markup at a hearing of the Environment and Public Works Committee last week.
Monday, November 2nd, 2009
I recently finished reading a book I strongly recommend to anyone interested in sustainable development and energy. It is packed with figures and findings that I believe will easily start discussions among CleanTechies.
The author, David JC MacKay, is Professor in the Department of Physics at Cambridge University and was recently appointed Chief Scientific Advisor to the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change responsible for the Low Carbon Transition Plan.
One of the main findings of this book is that electrifying our cars and installing heat pumps in our buildings would enable us to cut significantly both our greenhouse gas emissions and fossil fuel consumption. Both solutions are much more efficient than the current traditional ones and could benefit from massive electrification to answer all our energy needs.
Thursday, October 29th, 2009
A study by Robert Goodland and Jeff Anhang of the World Bank looked at the relative importance of anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gasses from oil, natural gas, and coal compared to the life cycle and supply chain emissions of domesticated animals raised for food. They conclude that greenhouse gases (GHGs) from the lifecycle and supply chain of animals raised for food account for 51% of annual emissions caused by humans and should be given higher priority in global efforts to fight climate change.
While livestock are already known to contribute to GHG emissions, their levels have been underestimated or simply overlooked, former and current World Bank environmental experts Robert Goodland and Jeff Anhang.
The authors recognize that the 51% figure put forward “is a strong claim that requires strong evidence,” but stress that if their argument is right, “it implies that replacing livestock products with better alternatives” would have far more rapid effects on the climate than actions to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy.
Friday, October 23rd, 2009
Amid a growing call for reducing atmospheric concentrations of CO2 to 350 parts per million, a group of economists maintains that striving to meet that target is a smart investment — and the best insurance policy humanity could buy.
The climate change news from Washington is cautiously encouraging. No one in power is listening to the climate skeptics any more; the economic stimulus package included real money for clean energy; a bill capping U.S. carbon emissions emerged, battered but still standing, from the House of Representatives, and might even survive the Senate. This, along with stricter emission standards in Europe and a big push for clean energy and efficiency standards in China, provides grounds for hope for genuine progress on emissions reduction.
But while climate policy is finally moving forward, climate science is moving faster. One discovery after another suggests the world is warming faster, and climate damages are appearing sooner, than anyone had expected. Much of the policy discussion so far has been aimed at keeping the atmospheric concentration of CO2 below 450 parts per million (ppm) — which was until recently thought to be low enough to prevent dangerous levels of warming. But last year, James Hansen, NASA’s top climate scientist, argued that paleoclimatic evidence shows 450 ppm is the threshold for transition to an ice-free earth. This would imply a catastrophic rise in sea levels, eventually flooding all coastal cities and regions.
Wednesday, October 21st, 2009
Interfering with the Earth’s climate system to counteract global warming is a controversial concept. But in an interview with Yale Environment 360, climate scientist Ken Caldeira talks about why he believes the world needs to better understand which geoengineering schemes might work and which are fantasy — or worse.
Atmospheric scientist Ken Caldeira first became known for his groundbreaking work on ocean acidification, a phrase originally coined as a headline for one of his papers. Of late, however, Caldeira’s research has led him into the controversial area of geoengineering — the large-scale, deliberate manipulation of the Earth’s climate system.
Many scientists have shied away from the subject because they feel it is a wrongheaded and dangerous path to pursue. But Caldeira — who heads a research lab at the Carnegie Institution for Science’s Department of Global Ecology at Stanford University — has not been so dismissive, in part because his climate modeling has demonstrated that some geoengineering schemes may indeed help reduce the risk of climate change. In fact, few scientists have thought harder about the moral, political, and environmental implications of geoengineering.
Wednesday, October 14th, 2009
The U.S. Energy Secretary, Steven Chu, and a leading senator predicted that Congress will make good progress on climate legislation — and may even pass a bill — before a meeting in Copenhagen in December to forge an international treaty to slow global warming.
The remarks by Chu and Sen. Barbara Boxer of California were markedly more optimistic than those of President Obama’s chief climate and energy adviser, Carol Browner, who said 10 days ago that a U.S. climate bill would not be passed before Copenhagen.
Wednesday, October 14th, 2009
The importance of doing nothing well will play a big role in the conservation of energy and the fight against climate change.
According to a 2007 study by the Institute of Electrical & Electronics Engineers, an energy-efficient computer server consumes 50 percent of its peak power when idle. The article pushed for energy-proportional computing, in other words, to consume more power as you compute more.
This may sound intuitive, but it is not how designers of many computers and more importantly, computer networks implement their systems today. The relevance to climate change becomes apparent when one considers that computers contribute the same amount of greenhouse gas emissions as aviation according to a report published by the Climate Group, and overall percentage from computers will grow by 2020 if business as usual continues. (more…)
Friday, October 9th, 2009
Renewable energy and energy efficiency are key to solving crises in the economy, climate and security, said Al Gore on Friday (videos below).
The former vice president lauded fellow Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Barack Obama for efforts including an economic stimulus package with a significant renewable energy component.
“One way or another the reductions in emissions are about to accelerate,” said Gore at the conference of the Society of Environmental Journalists in Madison, Wis. “What is important, directly or indirectly, is that we put a price on carbon.”
He expressed hope that the U.S. Senate will pass a bill similar to that of the House, even in advance of the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December. “There is much more bipartisan dialogue behind the scenes than is publicly visible,” he added.
Wednesday, October 7th, 2009
The world stands to gain 6.9 million jobs by 2030 in the clean energy sector if a strong deal is reached in Copenhagen, according to a report released recently by Greenpeace International and the European Renewable Energy Council (EREC).
A switch from coal to renewable electricity generation will not just avoid 10 billion tons of CO2 emissions, but will create 2.7 million more jobs by 2030 than if we continue business as usual. Conversely, the global coal industry — which currently supports about 4.7 million employees worldwide — is likely to contract by more than 1.4 million jobs by 2030, due to rationalization measures in existing coal mines.