Thursday, June 3rd, 2010
Adapting to climate change is a complex matter for human communities, as Mark Carey makes abundantly clear in his newly published book In the Shadow of Melting Glaciers: Climate Change and Andean Society. Carey is a historian and explores nearly sixty years of disaster response in Peru since the beginning of his story in 1941 when an outburst flood from a glacier lake in the Cordillera Blanca mountain range sent a massive wave of destruction on the city of Huarez, obliterating a third of the city and killing an estimated 5000 people.
There have been further disasters since that one. Peruvians have, Carey points out, suffered the wrath of melting glaciers like no other society on earth. Further outburst floods followed in 1945 and 1950, and glacier avalanches in 1962 and 1970 (the latter following an earthquake) killed many thousands. (more…)
Wednesday, May 26th, 2010
Environmentalist David Orr says the easy part of helping the United States live within its ecological limits may be passing laws, such as one that puts a price on carbon. The hard part, he maintains in an interview with Yale Environment 360, is changing a culture of consumption that causes extensive environmental damage — and unhappiness.
Long before buzzwords like “carbon footprint” entered the general lexicon, David W. Orr was working on ways to help humanity lighten its impact on the natural world. A professor of environmental studies at Oberlin College and the author of six books, including Ecological Literacy, Orr has focused on how to best educate students about using the Earth’s resources prudently. He also has been a leading proponent of sustainable design on the country’s college campuses, and was the driving force behind building Oberlin’s $7 million Environmental Studies Center, considered a model of green architecture in the U.S. (more…)
Monday, May 24th, 2010
United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, appointed Costa Rican expert on climate change, Christiana Figueres, as the new U.N. climate chief on May 17th. She will replace Yvo de Boer as executive secretary of the United National Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) on July 1st.
De Boer, of the Netherlands, announced his resignation last February after the Copenhagen climate summit where 120 world leaders failed to come to a binding agreement on global warming.
Figueres, 53, is the first person in this U.N. position to come from a developing country. She has been a member of Costa Rica’s negotiating team on climate change since 1995. She represented the Caribbean and Latin American on the Executive Board of the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism in 2007, and from 2008 to 2009, Figueres served as vice president of the Bureau of the Convention.
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…)
Tuesday, May 11th, 2010
“The momentum of the heating, and the momentum of the economy that powers it, can’t be turned off quickly enough to prevent hideous damage. But we will keep fighting, in the hope that we can limit that damage.”
Bill McKibben’s words occur on the final page of his newly published book Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet. The misspelling indicates a planet still recognizable but fundamentally changed. A planet that he first warned about over twenty years ago in his earlier book, The End of Nature.
McKibben is an activist as well as a writer. He led the 350.org campaign last year. Three hundred fifty parts per million is the level James Hansen and other scientists consider the upper limit of a safe level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Monday, May 10th, 2010
Taking a cue from of America’s most popular television shows, “The Biggest Loser,” The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is sponsoring a national energy contest entitled “Working off the Waste with Energy Star” among 14 commercial buildings across the country.
The 14 contestants will compete to demonstrate the largest percentage-based energy use reduction over a 12-month period from September 1, 2009 to August 31, 2010. The winning building will be announced in October 2010 in a public ceremony featuring Bob Harper, one of the winners of “The Biggest Loser.” (more…)
Thursday, May 6th, 2010
“Wetlands are wastelands” was the explanation the chair of a local trust in my city gave for opposing a grant to a wetlands restoration project. He’s a rabid climate change denier and hence unlikely to read Melanie Lenart’s book Life in the Hothouse: How a Living Planet Survives Climate Change.
If he did he would discover how wrong he was. Not that he needed wait for her book: it has been evident for many years that wetlands are vital to ecological health. So are forests, which play an equal part in Lenart’s explanation of how Gaia, or, if you don’t like metaphor, the complex interacting system of the biosphere, responds to maintain a temperature within a range suitable for life.
A scientist with a background in journalism, Lenart is well placed to provide a coherent account for the general reader of the work of a host of researchers who have explored some of the intricacies of response to warming in Earth’s ecosystems. (more…)
Thursday, May 6th, 2010
Two separate high-level diplomatic events last week gave more credence to the notion that in the months leading up to the next round of U.N. climate talks in Mexico in December, developing countries are working on building some strategic alliances — strategic alliances structured around the principle that it will be harder to develop without the help of fossil fuels like coal and oil, than it was to develop with them.
If there is ever going to be an international climate treaty that puts limits on the emissions of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, developing nations are going to make sure they don’t get the short end of the stick.
Making sure they don’t end up with that deal, the environment ministers of Brazil, South Africa, India and China (BASIC) met in Cape Town over to discuss their approach at upcoming global climate change negotiations. In a joint statement issued by the environment ministers, the BASIC countries said that a legally binding follow-up treaty to the Kyoto protocol should be agreed no later than the U.N. climate summit late 2011 in Cape Town.
The BASIC countries are responsible for about 30 percent of global carbon emissions, but represent a much larger proportion of the world’s population. In some respects, they command more bargaining power than the industrialized countries of the global North. (more…)
Wednesday, April 28th, 2010
In another display of the sea change that has occurred at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under the current, Obama administration, a new report was issued yesterday regarding indicators of climate change. The report, “Climate Change Indicators in the United States,” measures 24 separate indicators showing how climate change affects the health and environment of U.S. citizens.
The report represents another step in a series of actions and statements taken on the climate change by the EPA. This EPA has proved to be more active than during previous administrations on this issue. It has labeled CO2 as a gas that can be regulated under the Clean Air Act as a significant greenhouse gas.
New vehicle emissions standards have been established as well as greenhouse gas standards for such vehicles. On April 15, the EPA published the National U.S. Greenhouse Gas Inventory. The Climate/Energy Bill currently working its way through the Senate has been heavily influenced by EPA actions and consultations. And now a report is issued regarding the indicators of climate change. (more…)