His transition shouldn't be too difficult. Up until now he has served as the deputy director for climate at the White House, where he's worked since 2010. Before joining the Obama administration, Utech worked for the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and served as energy and environment adviser to then-Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y).
Yet another oil-hauling train has derailed and exploded, this one sending flaming cars loaded with North Dakota crude into Alabama wetlands.
The 90-car train derailed early Friday, causing flames to shoot 300 feet into the air. No injuries were reported. One family living in the marshy area was evacuated from their home following the accident. The L.A. Times has the details:
A train that derailed and exploded in rural Alabama was hauling 2.7 million gallons of crude oil, according to officials.
The 90-car train was crossing a timber trestle above a wetland near Aliceville late Thursday night when approximately 25 rail cars and two locomotives derailed, spilling crude oil into the surrounding wetlands and igniting a fire that was still burning Saturday.
It's hard to comprehend the scale of the disaster in the Philippines, where a massive typhoon may have killed more than 10,000 people. But climate delegates who have gathered today in Warsaw, Poland, for a fresh round of U.N. climate talks will need to do just that.
The Philippines is a densely populated, low-lying archipelago state that sits in warm Pacific Ocean waters -- and warm ocean waters tend to produce vicious tropical storms. The country's geography puts its islands in the path of frequent typhoons (typhoon is the local word -- Americans call such storms hurricanes and others refer to them as cyclones). The Philippines' low and unequally distributed national wealth, meanwhile, leaves its populace highly vulnerable to them.
And in terrible news for Filipinos, climate models show that global warming is making typhoons even more powerful.
When Canadian fishermen headed out for their annual sardine hunt in the Pacific Ocean earlier this fall, they got a rude surprise. Their nets came up empty.
Sardine numbers have been in severe decline along the entire West Coast this season, prompting U.S. fisheries authorities to slash catch limits. Fears abound that the fishery's decline will reverberate through the coming years, if not decades. It's happened before: Monterey, Calif.’s famed Cannery Row turned into a ghost town following a sardine collapse in 1950s.
Fishermen lucky enough to come across schools of sardines off the coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington during the first six months of next year will be allowed to haul in no more than 5,446 metric tons of the baitfish, down nearly 70 percent from the quota this year. The Associated Press reports:
Marci Yaremko of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife says the [Pacific Fishery Management Council] decided to take an even more precautionary approach than management guidelines call for because the current assessment was lacking some information, such as surveys showing too few sardines are being born to replace the ones that are caught or eaten by other fish.
"Nothing is suggesting the biomass is stable," said Yaremko, who made the motion to cut the harvest. "Everything suggests a decline."
Carbon capture involves funneling carbon dioxide produced by power plants deep beneath the ground, where it should do the climate no harm. There's plenty of space beneath some parts of North America where the greenhouse gas could be stashed (sorry, coal-burning Wisconsin, not so much near you, though). But so far affordable methods for injecting CO2 underground remain out of reach.
On Thursday, Moniz announced nearly $84 million in grants to help make economical carbon-capture technology a reality.
To slow climate change and protect the world's vulnerable poor from the effects of global warming, the West is going to have to give developing nations a hand. And that hand will need to come in the form of cold, hard cash.
Unfortunately, not a lot of that is on offer right now. That fact will take center stage during international climate talks in Poland over the next two weeks.
The U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change's next Conference of the Parties, commonly known as a COP, begins Monday in Warsaw. Officials representing nearly 200 countries will bicker and beg as they try to move forward in the quest for a new agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol. That deal was struck way back in 1997. The U.S. never ratified it, Canada ultimately walked away from it, and the agreement expired last year. It's been sticky-taped together through amendments to extend its life until a new agreement can be reached.
During COP talks in Durban, South Africa, in 2011, delegates struck a deal to strike a deal: They agreed to finalize an agreement by 2015 to replace the Kyoto Protocol. The new agreement would cap warming at 2 degrees Celsius (3.7 Fahrenheit) and begin to take force in 2020 -- and that's under a best-case scenario. Which is also a horrible-case scenario, given that the world's annual greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise every year.
The issue of equity is always one of the biggest sticking points in U.N. climate talks. How much should rich countries sacrifice and how much should developing countries sacrifice as they try to curb emissions together? It was during the talks in Durban that a solution to this conundrum was concocted: Rich countries would provide $100 billion a year by 2020 to help developing countries reduce emissions and adapt to the warming world.
The federal government wants to fine Exxon $2.7 million for the March oil spill from its 70-year-old pipeline in Mayflower, Ark. The ruptured pipe spewed 5,000 gallons of tar-sands oil and triggered the evacuation of 22 houses, some of which had to be bulldozed.
We told you on Monday about an open letter penned by James Hansen and three other prominent climate scientists calling on the world to ramp up development and deployment of "safer" nuclear power. The scientists argue that renewable energy isn't enough to spare the world from the wrath of global warming, and that the power of the atom needs to be better tapped to help get us off fossil fuels.
The issue of nuclear power bitterly divides environmentalists, so plenty of people were not pleased to hear Hansen, a darling of climate-activism circles, leading a call for more nuke power. Many of the environmentalists and scientists who have written rebuttals in recent days have focused on safety concerns and the flailing economics of nuclear power. Here are excerpts from a few of those rebuttals.
Air-quality officials in the oil-refinery-dotted and highway-laced San Francisco Bay Area committed Wednesday to substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the famously progressive region.
Bay Area Air Quality Management District leaders directed agency staff [PDF] to begin the work needed to reduce emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. The unanimous vote by the air district's directors was celebrated by environmentalists, including 350.org and the Sierra Club, which described it as "historic."
"This is a little more significant than most climate action plans, in that the air district has real regulatory teeth," 350.org Bay Area spokesperson Rand Wrobel told Grist. "This resolution will mean that the five refineries in the Bay Area could basically not function, as they produce some 40 percent of the stationary source industrial and commercial emissions."
A key tax incentive credited with boosting wind-energy capacity in the U.S. is due to expire in eight weeks, and fossil fuel lobbyists are working hard to blow it to oblivion.
The Koch-backed conservative group Americans for Prosperity is launching an advertising campaign calling on lawmakers to allow the production tax credit (PTC) to expire on Dec. 31.
The wind industry says the tax credit was critical in helping it to attract as much as $25 billion in private investment last year, all the while helping the country reduce carbon emissions. A single multinational company credits it with adding hundreds of jobs at its American factories.