Friday, October 19, 2007

Ships Are Outpolluting Planes

The was a large global warming protest recently at London’s Heathrow Airport but so far there has been no such protests at any shipping port. Maybe there should be. A shipping industry group called Intertanko has released a report which says that carbon dioxide emissions from shipping are now almost double that from aviation. In an article on the report from ABC News in Australia it says that Intertanko attributes the growth in carbon dioxide emissions from shipping to an increase in global trade and the use of more fuel to speed up the delivery of goods.

Concerns about shipping in this country have largely focused on terrorism. In the US critics of the government’s security measures have complained that a large percentage of shipping containers that arrive in this country are never checked. There has been little concern over the amount of carbon dioxide released getting the containers over here. This report should finally place shipping under the global warming microscope.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Is Preserving the American Lifestyle while Fighting Global Warming Incompatible?

Energy efficiency expert Joe Romm from the Center for American Progress says in a recent post on Gristmill blog that “The deniers and delayers want people to believe that environmentalists are hyping climate change to achieve a hidden agenda of government limits on their consumption,” He also points out that he doesn’t "know any major environmentalist or environmental group that has promoted such a message.” Nevertheless, there are environmentalists (perhaps not considered major environmentalists by Romm) who do have that message and are keeping the debate alive within the environmental community. The position for need to reduce consumption is well articulated by Glenn Barry in a post on his Climate Change blog on his website Climate Ark. Barry states that “The crazily consumptive, super size, sexily scintillating, over the top American lifestyle is precisely the reason global climate is changing and the Earth's ecosystems collapsing.” He goes on to say that “Climate policy can only be effective if based upon ecological truths. And one such truth is that going green DOES mean sacrificing the American lifestyle. And it is deeply wasteful of time and resources necessary to solve global ecological crises to suggest otherwise.”

If we are going to successfully fight global warming we better hope that Barry is wrong. It his highly unlikely that people in large enough numbers will give up the American lifestyle. If we can’t work around that problem then we probably will not solve the problem of climate change.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Biofuels May Be Fueling Global Warming

The main knock against using food like corn for fuel is that because of the high price of gasoline which it can replace as ethanol it drives up the price of food which makes the problems of world hunger even more acute than they already are. Until now at least, those in favor of biofuels could at least argue that by replacing gasoline with ethanol from crops like corn, greenhouse gas emissions are reduced. But even that argument is now in jeopardy as a result of paper by Nobel Prize winner Paul Crutzen and colleagues who found that the nitrogen fertilizer used to grow crops such as corn results in greater amounts of the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide being produced by microbes than was previously thought. In fact, so much nitrous oxide results that it is calculated that by using corn for fuel the contribution to global warming can be as high as 1.5 times as burning fossil fuels. According to an article on SciDev.Net sugar is the only biofuel crop that is exempt from this problem because it requires less fertilizer. However, growing sugar in places like Brazil results in deforestation which also increases global warming.

Considering the effect on food prices alone, the rush to turn corn into ethanol hasn’t made much sense. If the results of this new study are confirmed this transformation from food to fuel will make even less sense.