The Rutland Herald has reported that at an international conference of the Society of Environmental Journalists held in Burlington, Vermont, home state Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy attacked the Bush administration for withholding important information on climate change as well as other environmental problems from the public. Another speaker who voiced dismay over the extent of government secrecy was NASA climate scientist James Hansen who warned that “I think people are unaware how close we are to the tipping point. That’s not speculation. The science is clear.”Hansen has been at odds for some time with the White House since he called for making prompt reductions in greenhouse gas emissions to combat global warming. Hansen pointed out that the reason the administration is withholding needed scientific information from the public is that revealing the information would lead to policy implications that they are against. Basically it appears that Bush administration would rather go down with their ideology that opposes government regulation of business intact than take action to save us from a growing climate crisis.
Tuesday, October 31, 2006
Monday, October 30, 2006
The leading advocates of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the Europeans, seem to be better at talking about reducing emissions than actually doing it according to the latest European Union projections for meeting the EU target for the original 15 members of an 8% reduction below 1990 levels. The Guardian reports that at the moment EU-15 countries are on course to achieve a mere 0.6% reduction below 1990 levels by 2010.
This lack of progress by the Europeans does not bode well for the fight to stave off serious climate change. The Europeans need to be able to tell the United States something to the effect that if we can do it you can do it. Also, advocates of emissions reductions in the United States will require all the ammunition they can get for countering the tactics of the powerful oil and coal industries which have such an influential role on government decision-making in Washington, DC.
Friday, October 27, 2006
Thursday, October 26, 2006
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
Monday, October 23, 2006
Mayors of U.S. cities are continuing to sign up at a rapid pace to take action against global warming. In the last two weeks seven more mayors have signed the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement according to the Web site of Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels who launched the initiative last year. The additional seven mayors brings the total to 320. In this agreement the mayors pledge to support the following:
A. We urge the federal government and state governments to enact policies and programs to meet or beat the target of reducing global warming pollution levels to 7 percent below 1990 levels by 2012, including efforts to: reduce the United States’ dependence on fossil fuels and accelerate the development of clean, economical energy resources and fuel-efficient technologies such as conservation, methane recovery for energy generation, waste to energy, wind and solar energy, fuel cells, efficient motor vehicles, and biofuels;
B. We urge the U.S. Congress to pass bipartisan greenhouse gas reduction legislation that includes 1) clear timetables and emissions limits and 2) a flexible, market-based system of tradable allowances among emitting industries; and
C. We will strive to meet or exceed Kyoto Protocol targets for reducing global warming pollution by taking actions in our own operations and communities such as:
1. Inventory global warming emissions in City operations and in the community, set reduction targets and create an action plan.
2. Adopt and enforce land-use policies that reduce sprawl, preserve open space, and create compact, walkable urban communities;
3. Promote transportation options such as bicycle trails, commute trip reduction programs, incentives for car pooling and public transit;
4. Increase the use of clean, alternative energy by, for example, investing in “green tags”, advocating for the development of renewable energy resources, recovering landfill methane for energy production, and supporting the use of waste to energy technology;
5. Make energy efficiency a priority through building code improvements, retrofitting city facilities with energy efficient lighting and urging employees to conserve energy and save money;
6. Purchase only Energy Star equipment and appliances for City use;
7. Practice and promote sustainable building practices using the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED program or a similar system;
8. Increase the average fuel efficiency of municipal fleet vehicles; reduce the number of vehicles; launch an employee education program including anti-idling messages; convert diesel vehicles to bio-diesel;
9. Evaluate opportunities to increase pump efficiency in water and wastewater systems; recover wastewater treatment methane for energy production;
10. Increase recycling rates in City operations and in the community;
11. Maintain healthy urban forests; promote tree planting to increase shading and to absorb CO2; and
12. Help educate the public, schools, other jurisdictions, professional associations, business and industry about reducing global warming pollution.
Some actions that cities have already taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are described in a report by the Associated Press.
Friday, October 20, 2006
As concerns about global warming have been increasing over at least the last 20 years to the point of outright alarm the religious right has remained focused on other issues such as abortion, gay marriage, and stem cell research. However, it looks like finally many of these religious fundamentalists are waking up to the danger of accumulating greenhouse gases. The Los Angeles Times reports that the Christian Coalition and the National Association of Evangelicals are announcing a Call to Action on the global warming issue in a number of states as the election on November 7th approaches. Obviously this must be making Republican strategist Karl Rove somewhat nervous.
Bill Moyers’ recent PBS show Is God Green? showed some glimpses into this transition that many evangelicals are undergoing as they are beginning to respond to the dangers of global warming by deciding to join the fight to avert potential disaster. It could be that rather than being certain voters for the Republican ticket in 2008 the votes of these people who are now deeply concerned about global warming might be up for grabs.
Thursday, October 19, 2006
Here is a brief excerpt:
The phrase "tipping point" is heard a lot more from scientists. This is where a small amount of warming sets off unstoppable changes, for example the melting of the ice caps. Once the temperature rises a certain amount then all the ice caps will melt. The tipping point in many scientists' view is the 2˚C [about 4˚F] rise that the EU has adopted as the maximum limit that mankind can risk. Beyond that, as unwelcome changes in the earth's reaction to extra warmth continue, it is theoretically possible to trigger runaway climate change, making the earth's atmosphere so different that most of life would be threatened.
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
The Associated Press has reported that a visit to New York City by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has resulted in the governor deciding to have California join six northeastern states (it should be seven when Maryland joins next year) in a program to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by power plants. Under this program, power plants are allowed to emit a certain amount of carbon dioxide and those plants that exceed their limit can buy credits from plants that do not reach their limit. Whether this type of market trading scheme is effective for capping carbon dioxide emissions remains to be seen.
The following analysis of the criticism of emissions trading comes from the PBS Online NewsHour:
Not all agree that the current cap-and-trade proposals are the best way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Ellerman [Danny Ellerman, Executive Director of The Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Reseach at MIT] divides critics of emissions trading into two groups: those that oppose putting a price on carbon and those that prefer taxes or a command-and-control approach over emissions trading.
"In the U.S. at least, I think it is fair to say that companies would prefer emissions trading to any other alternative if they are going to be required to take action to address some environmental problem," wrote Ellerman in an e-mail.
The complexity of any trading program makes it difficult for people understand and also difficult for them to follow. It requires setting up a detailed registry of emissions and a complicated system of accounting.Because trading works in some sectors and not others, there are complaints about the fairness of regulating certain sectors such as power plants when greenhouse emissions come from the entire economy. Environmentalists and politicians are pushing for trading programs as part of a broad spectrum of policies tailored to each sector.
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Monday, October 16, 2006
Friday, October 13, 2006
In my previous post I pointed out that Phoenix, Arizona could not be found among the list of U.S. cities that have joined climate protection initiatives for reducing carbon dioxide emissions. In wandering through the Sierra Club’s Cool Cities website I found an explanation for the absence of Phoenix in a letter written by Karen O’Regan, Environmental Programs Manager for the City of Phoenix, which was posted last spring. Here is a portion of what she wrote:
After careful consideration, we have decided not to participate in the U.S. Conference of Mayor’s Climate Change Protection Agreement. The City of Phoenix is actively involved in wide range of programs and projects that address climate change. However, we believe that the inventory and tracking requirements of the Agreement will require extensive staff time and significant new funding for specialized consultant assistance. We feel that our limited public resources are better spent on implementing the programs that will directly impact climate change.
We are also concerned that the Mayor’s Agreement states that participating cities will strive to meet or exceed the Kyoto Protocol targets reducing emissions to seven percent below the 1990 levels by 2012. The cities that have had the greatest success in reducing greenhouse gas emissions are those who have municipal-owned electric utilities. Those cities are able to shift power production from coal to wind, solar and hydro-power or to implement customer incentive programs, to achieve significant emission reductions. Although the City of Phoenix is aggressively implementing a wide range of energy conservation and sustainability programs, the potential for emission reductions is much lower because we do not generate or sell power. The bulk of the emissions in the valley are related to vehicle miles traveled and development. Consequently, our focus is on smart growth policies, transportation improvements such as light rail and expanded bus service, energy conservation programs and building codes, and other sustainable practices including recycling and water conservation. Many of these activities are very difficult to quantify with respect to emission reductions.
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
Among the nine cities in the United States with a population exceeding 1 million only one is not listed as either having a mayor who has signed the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement or has joined the international Cities for Climate Protection Campaign. That city is Phoenix, Arizona, the nation’s sixth largest city. The next largest city in size that so far has not joined either climate protection initiative is Detroit which once had a population of well over 1 million but has now dipped below that mark.
Only four states, Alabama, South Dakota, West Virginia, and Wyoming, do not have even one municipality with a mayor who has signed the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement. Not surprisingly, California leads the states with mayors who have signed on, now having a total of 59. Perhaps surprisingly, New Jersey is the state with the second most mayors, with 25 so far signing the agreement. However, in terms of number of Americans represented by the agreement, New York state is right up there with California as New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s signature alone represents over 8 million people.
Monday, October 09, 2006
Friday, October 06, 2006
Thursday, October 05, 2006
The architect Maya Lin is best known for her design of a monument to the past, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC. In contrast, her recently dedicated work constructed in a wooded area on the campus of Manhattanville College here in Westchester County, New York, speaks to the future. This work, which was described in The Journal News, is an environmental park and it incorporates many building design features that need to be used on a widescale basis if we are to avoid overheating the planet. This project includes a small building that was a dilapidated chapel but now is being refurbished with a glass roof designed by Lin. Nearby is a classroom she designed that is made from recycled materials and heated with solar energy. The classroom also has a heat pump which uses geothermal principles.
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
Most Americans would probably cringe at the thought of our landscapes dotted with wind turbines but such a situation seems acceptable in Denmark where it not unusual to have such an electricity generating device in your backyard. Frances Beinecke, President of the Natural Resources Defense Council, went to Denmark herself to look over the situation with regard to offshore wind turbines and recently described her findings on Ecotalk, the Air America Radio show. She found that the Danes have concluded that it is better to have wind turbines all over the place including offshore than to have coal and nuclear power plants. If this Danish view swept the world dealing with the threat of global warming would obviously become more manageable.
Here in the northeast with our beautiful green hills and mountains technological intruders of large dimension are not warmly welcomed in many places. It seems that no cell tower gets plopped on top of a hill without a good fight. Some are camouflaged as trees to make their presence more acceptable. There is a major fight going on now in Massachusetts about siting wind turbines off the Cape Cod coast. Beinecke pointed out in the interview that the Danes have a long experience of living with windmills in their midst whereas Americans do not which she said probably accounts for the difference in attitudes.
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
A number of American cities have decided not to wait for the federal government to take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and are taking action on their own. One city that seems to be doing more than most is Keene, New Hampshire. In 2000 the City of Keene joined the worldwide Cities for Climate Protection Campaign. Joining the campaign meant that Keene had to analyze its emission of greenhouse gases for the year 1995 and predict what the emissions would be in the target year of 2015 if no actions were taken to reduce emissions. It also meant that the city had to set a greenhouse gas emission reduction target and devise a plan to meet the target and then implement the plan.
According to the executive summary of the plan successfully implementing the plan would not be easy:
“Achieving a 10% reduction below 1995 levels will be challenging. It will take each new and existing measure to reach it. It will take the commitment of the City government to provide adequate funding to implement the actions outlined here. It will take the commitment of businesses, small and large, to pay attention to energy consumption and waste generation, and strive to reduce it. It will take the commitment of each individual citizen to make the choices to drive less, conserve energy, produce less garbage, and recycle more. No one entity has the responsibility or the ability to do it alone.”