Wednesday, February 10th, 2010
Todd Stern, the United States’ chief climate negotiator, said that China, India, Brazil and other rapidly developing countries have been making “ambiguous” statements about their intention to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and that further foot-dragging could leave the Copenhagen climate accords “stillborn.”
Speaking at a think tank in Washington, Stern said, “The statements we have seen from China and the other [rapidly developing] countries do evince a desire to limit the impact of the accord.”
China, India, Brazil, and South Africa have refused to make binding commitments to limit greenhouse gas emissions, and Stern warned that without such pledges “there is simply no other way to head off the coming [climate] crisis.”
Tuesday, February 9th, 2010
The Obama administration is creating an office to coordinate and report the latest climate change data, a unit analogous to the National Weather Service that officials hope will help planners, businesses, and the public better understand and prepare for the effects of global warming.
The office, which will be part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, will assemble about 550 scientists already working on climate issues under one roof. All data will be accessible on a website, www.climate.gov. (more…)
Sunday, February 7th, 2010
“All indications are that we should be alarmed about the future of sea level rise and should be doing something about it now.”
So say Orrin Pilkey and Rob Young, eminent coastal scientists, who wrote The Rising Sea to provide substance for that alarm and to offer suggestions as to how we can plan ahead to reduce the severity of the impact of the rising sea.
The authors begin by reminding us that it’s not a distant prospect. They describe what is happening to Alaskan shoreline villages such as Kivalina and Shishmaref, the Pacific atoll nations such as Kiribati, the Maldives, the Marshall Islands, Tokelau and Tuvalu, and the city of Venice, places already grappling with rising sea level.
Rising tide gauge data and an increase in coastal erosion along many of the planet’s shorelines provide clear evidence of the rising sea and of the warming of the planet.
Friday, February 5th, 2010
Friday, December 18th, 2009 was one of the saddest days of my career. The Copenhagen Climate Conference had ended with a non-binding Copenhagen Accord. And no one knew what it meant. When I returned to the negotiating center, it was as empty as the Copenhagen Accord. The NGO and government leaders had abandoned the center. And the accord’s emission reduction commitments were blank.
On January 31st, we got to see what the pledges are. The small island nation of the Maldives has committed to 100% mitigation by 2020. The Maldives foreign minister announced, “The Maldives’ submission of its mitigation action is voluntary and unconditional…The Maldives looks forward to its mitigation action being registered and publicly available.” That’s leadership.
Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010
Not much in terms of effective policy came out of the 2009 climate conference in Copenhagen, or COP15. In fact, the best that can probably be said is that nations agreed to disagree; poor ones unwilling to take on carbon emission reductions that would stunt their industrial growth, and rich ones unwilling to take the blame for emissions that have, to date, caused most of the problems and benefited rich nations most of all.
To highlight this ambivalence, on January 26 Yvo de Boer, United Nation’s senior climate change official, noted that governments could either comply with proposed emissions limits by the deadline, or later if they preferred – a paradox that has led many to ask what the purpose of the deadline was?
Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010
In a report to Congress, the U.S. military for the first time is warning that the effects of climate change may cause or exacerbate future global conflicts and complicate U.S. missions worldwide.
In its regular Quadrennial Defense Review, the Defense Department warns that the effects of a warming world, including increased poverty, hunger and disease, could further weaken fragile governments and perhaps provoke mass migrations.
Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010
Fifty-five major industrial powers that produce nearly 80 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions have submitted voluntary CO2 reduction targets, but a top UN climate official says they still fall short of what’s needed to limit future temperature increases to 2 C (3.6 F).
Meeting a Jan. 31 deadline established at the December climate summit in Copenhagen, the European Union set a goal of reducing emissions 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2020; Japan pledged to slash CO2 emissions by 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2020; the U.S. set a more modest target of reducing carbon dioxide emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020; and China vowed to cut the so-called “carbon intensity” of its economy — the amount of CO2 produced per unit of gross domestic product — by 40 to 45 percent by 2020.
Monday, February 1st, 2010
This is the second book review of Stewart Brand’s new book “Whole Earth Discipline” posted on CleanTechies. Read the first review by Todd Woody here.
When James Lovelock, Edward O. Wilson and Ian McEwan jostle to praise a book I assume it will be worth attention. Stewart Brand’s Whole Earth Discipline: An Ecopragmatist Manifesto doesn’t disappoint. The title echoes the Whole Earth Catalogue which he founded over forty years ago as an ambitious reference aid for skills, tools and products useful to a self-sustainable lifestyle.
Times have changed and Brand has changed with them. Climate change has become a clear and present danger. He has become more of a pragmatist, though no less of an environmentalist. His pragmatism leads him to regard with favour three factors which put him to some extent at odds with others in the environmental movement. The three are urbanisation, nuclear power and genetic engineering, and part of the purpose of the book is to urge the Green-inclined to consider how the three may now be considered significant contributions to facing up to climate change.
Monday, February 1st, 2010
Tom Friedman spent most of 2009 beating the China-is-winning-the-green-race-drum, and he has started 2010 with the same focus.
In Sunday’s New York Times, the news side of the house joined their editorial page colleague, writing in a front page story that Chinese “efforts to dominate renewable energy technologies raise the prospect that the West may someday trade its dependence on oil from the Mideast for a reliance on solar panels, wind turbines and other gear manufactured in China.”
To his credit, Friedman’s push has been all about policy. He wants the United States to go all-in in a space-race-like push to match Chinese innovation in energy technology (“E.T.,” as he has glossed it). But, what has eluded his attention – and is absent again in Sunday’s news piece – is the recognition that in order to match Chinese innovation, the policy changes that would be required in the U.S. electricity markets would necessarily have to go far beyond decoupling, one of Friedman’s personal causes.
Thursday, January 28th, 2010
President Obama called on Congress to pass climate and energy legislation that would include the construction of a new generation of nuclear power plants, more offshore oil drilling along the U.S. coast, and increased funding for developing renewable energy and improving energy efficiency.
But the president made no mention in his State of the Union speech of controversial legislation to impose a price and a cap on carbon emissions. By backing away from cap-and-trade legislation that already has been passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, Obama signaled his willingness to work with Republicans to pass a scaled-back version of climate and energy legislation this year.