Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009
Warning that the global climate threat could produce “an irreversible catastrophe,” President Obama told world leaders gathered at the United Nations that developed nations should take the lead in finding solutions, but that emerging countries must also be ready to act.
And while conceding that the economic recession has added to the challenge, he vowed that the U.S. “will meet our responsibility to future generations.”
Obama urged leaders to find a compromise as the world approaches global climate talks in Copenhagen in December.
Tuesday, September 1st, 2009
NPR’s Morning Edition recently aired this story, a variation on a theme that I have written about in the past on CleanTechies and in scholarly work: green backlash against renewable power. The Morning Edition piece focused on the land use implications of renewables, noting that it takes a lot more land to generate a terawatt of solar, wind or biofueled electricity than of coal or natural gas power.
True enough. But, for me, it all comes down to the threshold question: do you believe the worst-case climate scenarios? If your answer is yes, and you have the courage of those convictions, then you realize — as I have — that we have no choice, and no time to dawdle. People who answer that question affirmatively know that the paradigm shifts in energy production and consumption that are necessary if we are to have any chance of righting our climatological ship will face knee-jerk opposition and demagoguery from opponents (s, e.g., the spring time bloodbath over the Waxman-Markey bill). A movement that remains — however gallingly — on such tenuous footing cannot afford to endure the additional obstacle of in-fighting over policy nuances. To twist a familiar and over-used metaphor:
Wednesday, August 26th, 2009
Facing the prospect that the federal government may soon begin regulating greenhouse gas emissions, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is proposing a public hearing in which the chamber and allied scientists question whether human-caused global warming is real.
William Kovacs, the chamber’s senior vice-president for environment, technology, and regulatory affairs, is asking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to hold the rare public hearing, complete with witnesses, cross-examinations, and a judge who would rule whether man is indeed warming the planet.
Kovacs likened the hearing to “the Scopes monkey trial of the 21st century,” referring to the famed 1925 court case in which a Tennessee teacher was illegally accused of teaching evolution. “It would be the science of climate change on trial,” said Kovacs, adding that if the EPA refuses to hold a hearing, the chamber will file a lawsuit in federal court challenging the notion of man-made global warming.
Friday, August 21st, 2009
In light of our desire to Think Globally and Act Locally, CleanTechies is raising $5,000 to support GRID Alternatives during Solarthon 2009.
As mentioned in my previous post, Solarthon 2009 will be GRID’s largest event of the year, with plans to install solar electric systems on 16 low-income houses in one community in one day.
Tuesday, August 18th, 2009
Earlier this year, everyone in the environmental punditocracy had an opinion on what domestic policy moves the leading economies and emerging nations might make to position themselves in advance of December’s climate change conference in Copenhagen.
The US? President Obama would arrive wearing a badge of victory: the world’s first-ever all-auction cap-and-trade system. China and India? The world’s fastest growing economies would put domestic Potemkin policies in place to demonstrate good faith. Western Europe? With a carbon cap in place and a bona fide legacy of environmental leadership, the Old West would continue to carry the mantle by pushing for significant advancement beyond Kyoto standards.
The global economic meltdown has rendered impossible any determination of how accurate those predictions might have been. Although things are looking up economically, there is no telling what history will be written in Denmark this winter. The signs are not promising.
Monday, August 10th, 2009
Biofuels – made from algae and non-food plants – are emerging as a potentially viable alternative to conventional jet fuels. Although big challenges remain, the reductions in greenhouse gas emissions could be major.
Earlier this year, a Continental jet accelerated down the runway at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston. Nothing out of the ordinary for Capt. Rich Jankowski, who countless times in his 38-year career had eased such two-engine Boeing 737-800s into the sky. Except on this experimental flight, one of the engines Jankowski relied on was burning fuel derived from microscopic algae to push the 45-ton aircraft into the air and keep it aloft — a first in aviation history.
Monday, August 10th, 2009
For thousands of years, the native Aymara people have been harvesting scarcely fallen raindrops along the Andean foothills in northern Chile by capturing the rainwater in nets for irrigation and drinking purposes. The people in this region, in and around the Atacama desert, are accustomed to fragile ecosystems and an extremely dry climate. However, today, even in the fertile central and southern regions of Chile, there are noticeable tensions over water rights and water availability.
Presently, it is not as if there are times when nothing flows out of the tap here. Nor are the urban folks of Santiago running outside their homes with their own polypropylene mesh nets ready to catch any drop of rain that falls. However, a convergence of factors – an increase in population growth, perceptible changes in climate patterns, and competition for water resources between various industries and hydro power – have caused a national “war over water” of sorts to emerge at the forefront of national environmental, economic, and political discussions.
Tuesday, August 4th, 2009
Update: This article has been modified since its initial publication. Please note that the report mentioned in this article is not a United Nations publication. More information about the authors and the report can be found here.
A major report issued by the United Nations Millennium Project has just been released. It finds that half the world appears vulnerable to social instability and violence due to increasing and potentially prolonged unemployment from the recession as well as several longer-term issues: decreasing water, food, and energy supplies per person; the cumulative effects of climate change; and increasing migrations due to political, environmental, and economic conditions. It also finds some good in the global financial crisis, which may be helping humanity to move from its often selfish, self-centered adolescence to a more globally responsible adulthood.
After 13 years of the Millennium Project’s global futures research, it is increasingly clear that the world has the resources to address its challenges. Coherence and direction has been lacking. But recent meetings of the U.S. and China, as well as of NATO and Russia, and the birth of the G-20 plus the continued work of the G-8 promise to improve global strategic collaboration. It remains to be seen if this spirit of cooperation can continue and if decisions will be made on the scale necessary to really address the global challenges discussed in this report.
Wednesday, July 29th, 2009
“No doubts remain. Climate change is real and the build-up of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere is increasingly at an alarming rate.” With these words, Rafael Quiroga, General Manager of Accion RSE, initiated the seminar “Corporate Strategic Management of Climate Change and Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions.” This is not another “green business” seminar from a European or North American city, it took place here — in Santiago, Chile.
The event brought together speakers from the Chilean private sector that gave concrete examples of their companies’ climate change and GHG management initiatives. First, it showed how Essbio, a water purification company, has been dealing with the ever-prescient and escalating challenges of decreasing water reserves due to climate change. Second, it illustrated the emissions and energy reductions Xstrata Copper, a mining company, has committed to and the steps it has taken to minimize the release of contaminants in its industrial processes. Third, it explained what Natura cosmetics has done since 2007 to become a “carbon neutral” business by calculating all GHG emissions in the company’s supply chain, transportation, and production of its various cosmetics products, and purchasing the equivalent amount of CO2 tonnage in carbon credits on the international carbon markets.
Tuesday, July 28th, 2009
“No Drama” Obama somehow managed to step in it again last week, plunging himself into the Skip Gates arrest and racial politics when he was meant to be drumming up support for health care reform.
If the measure of how badly the White House narrative veered off course is to observe that many of the Sunday shows spent more time on ObamaGates (I might have to trademark that one) than they did on health care, it is worth noting that Waxman-Markey is barely in the rear view mirror anymore. It does not appear to be on the Senate’s radar either.