Thursday, December 18, 2008
Right now the world seems to be going in the direct opposite direction. Rather than a moratorium on coal plants that do not capture C02 the plans are in the works in a number of countries for hundreds of more typical coal plants. China itself is building one or two new plants each week. The promise of capturing and storing CO2 emissions from coal, which has been dubbed “clean coal” by the coal industry, so far has remained no more than a promise and seems likely never to be fulfilled.
The gap between what it will take to lower the CO2 level to a climate-stabilizing 350 ppm from the ice-melting present level of about 386 ppm and the reality on the ground appears unbridgeable. All the momentum is toward ever upward CO2 levels. Since the United States is responsible for more of the CO2 up there than any other country it seems logical that we should take the first step, that is, declare a moratorium on new coal plants that can’t capture CO2 emissions. Time to leave square one.
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
One of the protesters, Rachel Smolker, whose father was a founding member of the Environmental Defense Fund, has issued a statement which is posted on the Global Justice Ecology Project website. Her statement includes the following sentiments about carbon trading:
“We cannot pretend that handing out permits to pollute and then trading them around like baseball cards is even remotely related to seriously reducing emissions. It is a great get-rich-quick scheme for the brokers, marketers and financiers who enjoy playing games with my childrens, future, and it is a huge gift to the polluting criminals."
Smolker also blasted carbon offsets, another controversial strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
“Offsetting emissions is a similar deceit, nothing but another fine arrangement of smoke and mirrors that allow some people to "feel good" while continuing to carry on business as usual. They provide a convenient way to sidestep and avoid real and necessary change. It is, without question, a lovely idea to provide funding to really good "quality" projects that hold promise of reducing emissions, but there are more straightforward ways to get there that do not require unfounded and unreliable measures of carbon flow, additionality, verifiability or permanence, and do not confuse fossil and biological carbon. We clearly need to halt, not offset emissions, even where it is a hard thing, a very hard thing to do.”
Whether carbon trading as well as carbon offsets will be effective in reducing greenhouse gas emissions or are simply some sort of ploy as Smolker contends or just poor ideas remains to be seen. Both mechanisms are now being used in the Kyoto Protocol and the results so far do not seem encouraging. But there does not seem to be any clear strategy for “Confronting the Root Causes of Climate Change” as Rising Tide North America puts in their logo. A broad consensus on what to do seems always beyond reach.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
It’s obviously too soon to know if salps are playing a role in stabilizing the climate. With global emissions of carbon dioxide still increasing about 3-4% per year despite knowledge on the implications of what this means for the planet it seems hard to believe that salps will matter. However, if because of political reasons we can’t stop global warming maybe the salp, with perhaps the most rudimentary of all nervous systems, can.
Monday, November 10, 2008
Thursday, September 25, 2008
"If you're a young person looking at the future of this planet and looking at what is being done right now, and not done, I believe we have reached the stage where it is time for civil disobedience to prevent the construction of new coal plants that do not have carbon capture and sequestration."
It appears that Gore has given up on the political process producing a moratorium on all new coal plants that do not capture and sequester carbon, an unproven technology. Leading climate scientist James Hansen has said such a moratorium is necessary. If there is a problem with Gore’s call for action it is that the young people who would be carrying out the acts of civil disobedience by and large are probably also excessive consumers of electricity and thereby partly responsible for creating a market for the coal plants. Unless one’s carbon footprint with regard to electricity use is miniscule how do you put your body in front of a bulldozer to stop a coal plant without being hypocritical. Given all the devices in use that require electricity from the grid either directly or through rechargeable batteries such as computers, TVs, iPods, cell phones, radios, dishwashers, refrigerators, air conditioners, and so forth it is going to be hard finding enough young people who have really taken large steps toward energy efficiency and conservation. Unless politicians in office stop worrying about how to meet an increasing demand for electricity and start worrying about how to reduce the demand for electricity it is going to be tough going stopping coal plants from being built, whether by civil disobedience or any other strategy.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Are the methane bubbles an indication that a great positive feedback mechanism has kicked in making it essentially impossible to halt global warming before a global catastrophe occurs? This certainly would seem to be a possibility given the predictions by scientists that such a chain of events could happen. We will have to wait for further evaluation of this finding and what its implications are but clearly there is more to worry about these days than an unraveling economic system.
Saturday, September 13, 2008
One of the most feared positive feedback mechanisms that could propel global warming is the melting of permafrost containing large amounts of carbon dioxide and methane. It now appears that the vast amounts of greenhouse gases that are stored in permafrost are even greater than previous estimates, in fact, about twice as much. According to an article in theage.com scientists have published a report in the journal Bioscience in which they describe arriving at this new calculation by reanalyzing data from Russia and digging far deeper into the permafrost areas than has been done before. The results suggest that the potential for permafrost to melt, release greenhouses gases which further increase the global temperature and thereby melt more permafrost and so forth is even worse than has been thought. This recent finding seems to make it even more urgent to quickly get greenhouse gas emissions under control. Permafrost has been called a ticking time bomb. That about sums it up.
Friday, September 05, 2008
Sunday, August 31, 2008
Since John McCain is one of the few Republican leaders who has defied President Bush by supporting a mandatory cap on carbon emissions to fight global warming his pick of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin for a running make is surprising, not only because she is a woman and has no experience in foreign policy but based on a statement to Newsmax Magazine she denies that global warming is being caused by human sources. When asked “What is your take on global warming and how is it affecting our country?” she replied, “A changing environment will affect Alaska more than any other state, because of our location. I'm not one though who would attribute it to being man-made.” Okay, then what would you attribute it to? To bad there was no follow-up question. And, so much for science. Even Bush is no longer that far out. Apparently McCain, who is 72 years old, not only hopes to survive his term in office if he wins but is sure that he will. Given his views on global warming he must know that if Palin ever became president it would be a disaster. How could she work with the Europeans who are frantic over the looming catastrophe that climate change poses? Who would be left to convince the Chinese, who now lead the world in greenhouse gas emissions, to reduce their emissions? As the Arctic ice cap melts away to water and Greenland begins to live up to its name it is clear that George Bush’s victory (if you can call it that) in the 2000 election has spelled disaster in the effort to fight climate change. Perhaps it is already too late to reverse course, but if we really have one last chance that reprieve seems certain to go down the tube if Sarah Palin were to become president.
Friday, August 22, 2008
Saturday, August 09, 2008
This all seems a little reminiscent of the 1950s in the United States when citizens were given instructions on how to survive a nuclear war with the Soviet Union. The government put out films showing how families could build underground shelters in their backyards to hide until it was safe to come out and school children were given duck-and-cover drills in which they hid under their desks protecting their ears and eyes from the nuclear explosion. Looking back it seems obvious that the only thing accomplished was mass self-delusion that the public could survive a nuclear war. This era of self-delusion was followed by the realistic strategy of mutual assured destruction which reduced the likelihood of a first strike since it was evident that neither country would survive.
It seems unlikely that a 4C increase in temperature would be as destructive as a nuclear war although scientists seem to think that a large percentage of all species would face extinction. Former UK chief adviser Sir David King is quoted in the article as saying that “My own feeling is that if we get to a 4 degree rise it is quite possible that we would begin to see a runaway increase.” That suggests the survival of civilization is at stake if not the survival of Homo sapiens.
With all these uncertainties is hard to know what to do. It seems the best course is to go all out to reduce carbon emissions and deforestation and hope for some good luck.
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Sunday, July 20, 2008
In one short speech Al Gore compressed the time frame for generating all electricity without the use of fossil fuels from perhaps 40 years to only 10 years. He believes that 10 years is the maximum for the country to set a goal and that a massive effort should be undertaken to increase the use of renewable energy such as solar, wind, and geothermal. Considering that only a tiny fraction of our electricity now comes from solar, wind, and geothermal his challenge appears to be a tall order to say the least. According to The New York Times Gore said that the “goal is achievable, affordable and transformative.” Everyone would probably agree that it is transformative. Far fewer would agree that it is achievable and affordable. As do many people, Gore seems to emphasize the wonders of technological innovation as a key element in solving the global warming problem as well as the energy dependence problem. However, it appears that existing technology can take us pretty far.
Realistically, it seems that the only way fossil fuels can be phased out as a source of electricity in the near future is for the demand for electricity to sharply decrease. Initiatives such as The 30% Solution and The 2030 Challenge are aimed at doing just that as well a reducing the use of fossil fuels (oil and natural gas) for heating buildings. These initiatives are based on the use of stricter building energy codes. More efficient building can be built without the need to develop new technologies. Extremely energy efficient buildings are already being built. What we need is all new buildings to be built in this manner. Many buildings are also being renovated to make them far more energy efficient. Again, what we need is all new significant renovations to be done in this way.
Gore’s call for a phase out of fossil fuels for electricity within 10 years will probably just cause more apathy because it seems impossible and probably is. The trick is to call for changes that really are achievable but are still drastic enough to reduce greenhouse gas emissions enough to solve the climate crisis. It appears that Gore has yet to find the right formula.
Wednesday, July 09, 2008
One way to comprehend the feebleness of the G8 global warming statement is to compare it with The 2030 Challenge from the nonprofit organization Architecture 2030. This challenge calls for the global architecture and building community to immediately reduce the fossil fuel greenhouse emissions of all new buildings, developments, and major renovations by 50% and then by increments of 10% every five years beginning with 2010 so that by all 2030 all new buildings and major renovations are carbon neutral. This would permit an immediate moratorium on new coal-fired power plants and a phase out of such plants by 2030. It wouldn’t completely solve the problem but it would be a very significant step. The action could begin at once and no new technology is needed. Of course the coal industry would take a big hit and that is not something the G8 leaders are eager to confront. Maybe we need new G8 leaders. Perhaps the only hope is that we will be getting a new leader of the United States very soon.
Thursday, July 03, 2008
More trouble for biofuels as an energy solution appears to be on the horizon. The Guardian is reporting that leaked information from a report by the World Bank which is not yet published says that 75% of the increase in global food prices is attributable to biofuels. According to the Guardian the US government has said that biofuels from plant sources are to blame for less than 3% of the rise in food prices. Quite a difference in opinion. The Guardian also says that the World Bank estimates that so far 100 million people have fallen below the poverty line because of rising food prices.
Only last year biofuels seemed to be a savior for both fighting global warming and achieving energy independence. There has been so much enthusiasm over biofuels that about one third of the US corn crop now goes to producing ethanol. And the US Congress was so enthralled with this replacement for gasoline that last year it mandated that billions of gallons of biofuel be produced in the coming years. But this year has been a different story entirely. Not only have there been concerns about the link to increasing food prices but scientists have argued that clearing land to grow crops for biofuels actually would result in a net increase in greenhouse gas emissions compared with using gasoline. The emerging problems associated with biofuels were outlined a few months ago by Michael Grunwald in an article in Time magazine titled The Clean Energy Scam.
The big question that this negative information raises in the US is whether Congress will roll back their mandate for biofuel production. Based on the science and concerns about humanity it is hard to see how the mandate can remain intact. Yet, because of political considerations predicting what Congress will do isn’t a given. It has to be hoped that the mad rush to biofuels will be replaced by a cautious approach based on an assessment of the facts. We don’t want to plant ourselves into oblivion.
Thursday, June 19, 2008
Earlier this year a Norwegian scientist predicted that the Arctic sea ice might completely disappear as early as this summer. With the Arctic covering a larger area this winter compared with the previous winter this prediction didn’t look too good but a recent report that the Arctic ice is melting faster this year than last year suggests that prediction may yet have a chance of being on the money. The BBC reports that scientists from the US National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado have found that even though there was a greater area of ice this year the area is now down to where it was last year when records for sea ice loss were broken indicating that it is melting faster. A scientist from the NSIDC predicted that all the ice would be gone within a decade. Whether all the ice disappears this year, by 2012, or by even by 2018 this seems to spell big trouble. The article quotes Ian Willis from the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge, England.
This is a positive feedback process. Sea ice has a higher albedo (reflectivity) than ocean water; so as the ice melts, the water absorbs more of the Sun's energy and warms up more, and that in turn warms the atmosphere more - including the atmosphere over the Greenland ice sheet.
Not only would the Greenland ice sheet affected, which if completely melted would raise sea levels over 20 feet, but as was described in my previous post, the vast permafrost in the Arctic region would be affected which could release enormous quantities of the greenhouse gas methane and thereby set off another positive feedback process. It doesn’t seem to take too much imagination to realize how this whole global warming thing can get completely out of hand.
Sunday, June 15, 2008
The vast stretches of permafrost in the northern hemisphere could start to melt at three times the anticipated rate because of increased warming due to the shrinking amount of ice in the Arctic which results in a reduction in reflected light from the sun and increased absorption of heat. This possibility was discovered from computer models run by scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado. A member of the research team, David Lawrence, told The Independent that about 30% of all carbon stored in soils is stored in soils in the Arctic region. Melting of the permafrost could release huge amounts of the powerful greenhouse gas methane from the soils which could have a drastic effect on climate.
Since many scientists believe that all of the Arctic ice will melt in the summer within the next few decades if not sooner no matter what actions are taken to stop global warming this looks like a situation where we just have to cross our fingers and hope for the best. However, it is not comforting that computer models seem to often underestimate the effects of warming rather than overestimate the effects. In fact, the speed at which the Arctic ice is melting had been a great surprise. As has been the speed that glaciers are melting. All in all this has so far been a bad century for global warming optimists and the worst might still be ahead.
Sunday, June 01, 2008
Before anyone thinks the global warming problem is solved and stops trying to prevent the building of coal-fired power plants it should be noted that some serious problems would remain even if a prototype device, which should be functioning within 2 years, meets all expectations. One of the problems is what to do with the captured carbon dioxide. The storage problem remains to be solved. The article says that the research team, led by Columbia University physicist Klaus Lackner, is working on a solution. Another problem might be cost. Although each device is expected to initially cost only a couple hundred thousand dollars there will be a need for millions of the devices to be operating. A total cost of over a trillion dollars seems possible.
This proposal may turn out to be a dead end in the effort to limit global warming but then again perhaps not. At this point it seems a better bet than the world leaders agreeing on how greenhouse gas emissions can be meaningfully reduced. That effort appears to be going nowhere.
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
It is particularly surprising that Germany is planning so many new coal plants when that country has such a successful solar power program. The success of this program was evident in a documentary film shown on the PBS show NOVA. That film makes it feel that burning coal for fuel in Germany is on the way to becoming a thing of the past. Apparently not so.
The momentum to consume more and more energy in developed countries and in developing countries appears unstoppable. If renewables are to replace fossil fuels for generating electricity in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions somehow the demand for energy has to be drastically reduced. To accomplish that energy efficiency measures need to be quickly implemented on a vast scale. The last thing this planet needs is more coal-burning power plants.
Thursday, April 24, 2008
Monday, April 21, 2008
Here is some potentially catastrophic climate news. According to an article at Spiegel Online, Russian scientists are reporting that methane stored as frozen methane hydrates under the Arctic Ocean is being released into the atmosphere because of thawing that is taking place in Siberia. This is one of the positive feedbacks that climate scientists dread the most because of the enormous volume of methane that is stored as frozen hydrates. Although methane doesn’t last in the atmosphere as long as carbon dioxide does each molecule of methane traps much more heat. The scientists found that the permafrost had become porous on a shelf below the sea off the Siberian coast. They also found that the seawater in the area was oversaturated with methane and higher methane levels were detected in the air as high as about one mile above the site.
During the last several years it has been reported that methane levels in the atmosphere have leveled off. No one seems to know quite sure why. There have been reports of methane being released from below the thawing permafrost on land in Siberia but if this is occurring it hasn’t yet affected methane levels in the atmosphere. The next bit of very bad news regarding methane could be that atmospheric levels are beginning to sharply rise. Such news could leave us with few options other than to get ready for the oncoming catastrophe.
Friday, April 11, 2008
So far it appears that neither Barack Obama nor Hillary Clinton have adjusted their policies on biofuels to the new scientific realization that large scale production of both ethanol and biodiesel are contributing to global warming rather than being a partial solution. The other major presidential candidate, John McCain, doesn’t seem to have any policy on biofuels or for that matter on how to reduce greenhouse gases from transportation as his website simply says that he offers to limit carbon emissions “by harnessing market forces that will bring advanced technologies, such as nuclear energy, to the market faster, reduce our dependence on foreign supplies of energy, and see to it that America leads in a way that ensures all nations do their rightful share.” At least Obama and Clinton do get down to some specifics.
Barack Obama’s website says that he “will require 36 billion gallons of renewable fuels to be included in the fuel supply by 2022 and will increase that to at least 60 billion gallons of advanced biofuels like cellulosic ethanol by 2030.”
Hillary Clinton’s website says that she will have “60 billion gallons of home-grown biofuels available for cars and trucks by 2030.”
That’s a lot of biofuels to be promising considering that so far the use of biofuels has led to increasing food prices around the world and increased emissions of greenhouse gases in instances where land was cleared for planting. Cellulosic ethanol at this point remains unproven as a source of fuel and hardly something to count on.
What we should be hearing from all three candidates is that they want to put a halt to large scale production of ethanol and biodiesel and carefully review whether the using these fuels in place of petroleum-based fuels at this time makes any sense. Unfortunately that is not what they want to hear in Iowa or neighboring farm states so there is little if any chance anyone will be hearing it from the candidates very soon.
Sunday, April 06, 2008
Heralded as an answer to both attaining energy independence and limiting global warming biofuels have enjoyed great popularity during the last few years even though concerns about using crops for fuel instead of food has raised concerns in many places. Biofuels have become so popular in fact that last year Congress passed legislation mandating that the US produce 36 billion gallons of the stuff annually by 2022. However, here we are only a few months after this legislation was passed and signed and it appears that the wheels are starting to come off the biofuels bandwagon. Biofuels have lost their “green” appeal almost overnight because scientists have found that rather than reducing greenhouse gas emissions compared with burning gasoline biofuels for the most part increase greenhouse gas emissions.
It turns out that the main problem with biofuels is that when land clearing to plant the crops is included in the equation the amount of carbon released from the cleared plants is so great that it dwarfs the carbon saved by using biofuels versus gasoline. Biofuels were thought to produce less carbon emissions because the next crop of plants sequester as much carbon as is released by burning ethanol or biodiesel. The crop clearing “inconvenient truth” is described in a Time magazine article by Michael Grunwald called The Clean Energy Scam. Grunwald concludes his article by saying that:
Advocates are always careful to point out that biofuels are only part of the solution to global warming, that the world also needs more energy-efficient light bulbs and homes and factories and lifestyles. And the world does need all those things. But the world is still going to be fighting an uphill battle until it realizes that right now, biofuels aren't part of the solution at all. They're part of the problem.
The challenge facing the environmentalists is convince the public and politicians that biofuels should not be used after there has been so much written and said about the benefits of using biofuels. This could be a tough sell.
Friday, March 14, 2008
Much, much harder to achieve may even be an understatement. Perhaps impossible to achieve is more accurate. With all the positive reports about increasing numbers of wind turbines and solar installations being in the news it seems that there is some reason for optimism that atmospheric CO2 levels can kept to a level that does not precipitate catastrophic climate change, but this report on China is quite a reality check.
Saturday, March 01, 2008
Predicted dates when the Arctic polar ice cap will disappear during a summer have been getting earlier and earlier. The date can’t get any earlier than the one predicted by Dr. Olav Orheim, head of the Norwegian International Polar Year Secretariat, in an interview with the Chinese news service Xinhua. Orheim says that the ice cap may disappear this very summer. All it would it would take according to Orheim is that the average temperature for Norway this year equal that of last year. He said that in 2000 the ice cap was 7.5 million square kilometers whereas during the warmest weeks of the summer last year it reached a low of 3 million square kilometers.
If Orheim’s prediction comes true perhaps this will be a good thing in that it could be a wake up call just before decisions have to made about what to after the Kyoto Protocol ends in 2012. As we have seen it is nearly impossible to put a dent in the business-as-usual attitude which pervades the world. Some tangible evidence of a startling change in the climate such as the temporary loss of the Arctic polar ice cap might help trigger a reaction in politicians and the public to finally take climate change seriously.
Sunday, February 24, 2008
Saturday, February 16, 2008
Environmental author and activist Bill McKibben, who launched the Step It Up campaign last year, has revealed the next phase of his plan to fight global warming with local activism. The Brattleboro Reformer reports that McKibben told a group of local activists that this next phase will call for a target of 350 parts per million of atmospheric carbon dioxide. As things stand now we are at about 385ppm and heading upward at about 2ppm per year. He is calling his plan 350. McKibben said that “What we need is people in their own communities to take that number and spread it, with music, with art, and take pictures and get it back into that centralized area.” Unlike his Step It Up campaign which was limited to the United States, this new 350 campaign he envisions as international. McKibben clearly understands the precarious situation that excessive emissions of greenhouse gases from human sources has caused saying that “We are in a big, freaking hole and there’s absolutely no guarantee that we are going to get out of it.” So, it is on to 350.
Monday, February 11, 2008
The aim of most people fighting global warming is to keep atmospheric carbon dioxide levels from increasing above 450ppm, which is approximately 65ppm above today’s levels. This target has been advocated by climate scientist James Hansen, the head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, and has been also been advocated by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. But Hansen is now saying that the target is too high. In an article in the British newspaper The Sunday Times he says:
“If humanity wants to preserve a climate resembling that in which civilisation developed, then the palaeoclimate evidence and ongoing climate change suggest CO2 must be reduced from its current level to between 300-350ppm. A 350ppm target is only achievable by phasing out coal use….We need a moratorium on the construction of coal-fired power plants and we must phase out the existing ones within two decades.”
If Hansen is right, it appears we will just have to accept a planet that does not resemble the one we are familiar with. Limiting CO2 to 450ppm appears to be an almost impossible task, particularly with China and India counting on coal to lift hundreds of millions of people out of a meager existence. Reducing CO2 to 350ppm or even lower doesn’t seem to be a feasible goal. It is hard to imagine the world only 20 years from now without any operating coal-fired plants. According to the article, Hansen will support his view of setting a lower target in a research paper. Until that paper is published and other scientists have a chance to review it is unlikely that the target of 450ppm will revised. However, perhaps we should be prepared for an even gloomier view of the possibility of extracting ourselves out of our global warming predicament than we now have.
Friday, February 08, 2008
Saturday, February 02, 2008
Citing rising costs, the US Energy Department cancelled a project called FutureGen which was supposed to demonstrate how carbon dioxide released by burning coal could be captured and stored. With the price of the project, which was supposed to be built in Mattoon, Illinois, reaching $1.8 billion and seemingly still going up the Energy Department called it quits. According to a report in The New York Times the Deputy Secretary of Energy, Clay Sell, said that the project would be revamped. The chief executive of the FutureGen Alliance said that canceling the project would probably result in a 4-year delay.
So, where does this leave us. With a leading climate scientist James Hansen calling for a moratorium on new coal-burning power plants which can not capture and store carbon dioxide to keep carbon dioxide from increasing to atmospheric levels that will cause catastrophic climate change this decision clearly leaves us in a bad spot. Efforts to promote energy efficiency and renewable energy simply do not seem to going fast enough to provide enough electricity if new coal plants are entirely out of the picture. However, if more new coal plants are built without the capture and storage capability carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere will almost surely overshoot the target of 450 ppm which is supposed to limit warming to 2C above preindustrial levels.
The cancellation of the FutureGen project should be a wake-up call. Maybe capturing and storing carbon dioxide from coal plants is just pie in the sky, either technologically impossible or so expensive that coal could not economically compete as a fuel. Maybe instead of holding on to the coal option, we should start gradually dismantling coal plants and go all out to promote energy efficiency and renewable energy. Do we really have any other good choice?
Monday, January 21, 2008
Saturday, January 19, 2008
The state of Texas is known for doing things in a big way and polluting the atmosphere with greenhouse gases is no exception. The Telegraph reports that the US Energy Information Administration says that in 2003 Texas emitted 670 million metric tons of carbon dioxide which would make it the seventh largest polluter in the world. The Telegraph article notes that in contrast to states that are attempting to reduce travel by automobile, in Texas, the governor, Rick Perry, is pushing to get a swath of highway built across his state that in some places would be as wide as one quarter of a mile. The article also notes that in a poll last spring fewer than 4% of Texans said that the environment as one of the country’s most pressing issues.
Although at the Republican-dominated state level anti-environmentalism appears to hold sway, at the local level things look more green. At least 19 mayors of Texas cities, including the mayors of Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, and San Antonio, have signed the US Mayors’ Climate Protection Agreement. This document includes a nonbinding pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in communities to 7% below 1990 levels by 2012. Whether political pressure from below will be enough to get state leaders to come to their senses remains to be seen. Clearly the US can’t reduce its greenhouse gas emissions enough to fight global warming if Texas doesn’t join in.
Thursday, January 17, 2008
According to the Sierra Club, Tim Russert asked 755 questions on Meet the Press and never mentioned global warming, Wolf Blitzer asked 329 questions on the Situation Room and mentioned global warming once, George Stephanopoulus asked 726 questions on This Week and never mentioned global warming, Chris Wallace asked 436 questions on Fox News and mentioned global warming twice, and Bob Schieffer asked 238 questions on Face the Nation and never mentioned global warming. There seems to be a pattern here.
It seems unlikely global warming will get much more attention as the campaigns move forward because the media has never really conveyed the urgency of the situation. If a candidate without a real global warming policy such as Mike Huckabee or Mitt Romney wins the presidency we will know that the corporate media should receive much of the blame. Unfortunately of course it will be too late for the Earth.
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
In an op-ed piece in The Washington Post, Anne Applebaum points out a disturbing issue raised by the marketing of the Tata Nano, the $2,500 car that has just been introduced in India. She states that:
There must be a way to reconcile mass car ownership with global warming, but, at the moment, we haven't found it. There is no profound reason that good environmental policies have to come into conflict with economic growth, but they often do. In many countries, the desire not to be poor is stronger than the desire to breathe clean air.
It is hard to ignore that the fight against global warming seems to be on a collision course with efforts to provide masses of poor people in developing countries with better lives. Or as Applebaum states it:
What happens when the laudable, currently fashionable movement to improve the environment comes directly into conflict with the equally laudable, equally fashionable movement to improve the lives of the poor?
Right now there do not seem to be any good answers. China is said to building the equivalent of one coal-burning power plant a week. That certainly will improve the lives of tens of millions who lack electricity but pretty much negates efforts around the world to reduce carbon emissions. India seems to following the same course but at a slower rate. The situation appears even more hopeless when you consider the situation in the United States where everyone has electricity but about 150 coal-burning power plants are in the planning stage to meet projected increased electricity demand presumably because of such reasons that people are no longer satisfied with watching a 30-inch cathode ray tube television but want an energy gobbling 60-inch plasma screen instead. In the US more energy is needed to lift tens of millions of people out of a materially great life to an even more fantastic life. The world leaders who will be working the next two years to create an agreement to limit global warming may need something close to a miracle to succeed.
Saturday, January 12, 2008
Sunday, January 06, 2008
In the Republican debate Arizona Senator John McCain raised the issue of global warming but not surprisingly none of the other candidates really addressed the issue at all. The Republicans, except for McCain, seem to be operating in a post 9-11 world but a pre-An Inconvenient Truth World as if they are hoping people wouldn’t notice that the Al Gore film on global warming had ever been shown or that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had ever issued their fourth report stating that if greenhouse gas emissions do not peak globally by 2015 catastrophic climate change probably can not be avoided. Hopefully enough people have noticed and will make this know at the ballot box in November.