Climate & Energy

350 ppm or bust

Hansen paper released; WaPo fails to link to Grist

Several posts on this site have mentioned a recent paper from James Hansen et al. — Target CO2: Where Should Humanity Aim? (PDF) — which argues that the official E.U. target of 550 ppm global atmospheric CO2 is far too high, and that anything over 350 ppm risks putting human beings in a world radically different than anything they’ve ever known. The final version of the paper is now up, and there’s been some good news coverage. For a good overview, see Ed Pilkington in The Guardian. Juliet Eilperin at the Washington Post picks out the crucial part of Hansen’s …

World Health Organization says climate change bad for world health

Officials at the World Health Organization used the occasion of World Health Day today to stress climate change’s negative impacts on human health, warning that warming temperatures are already affecting the spread of disease. Increased temperatures have slowly expanded the range of malaria-carrying mosquitoes into new areas, including South Korea and the highlands of Papua New Guinea and Rwanda, and increased flooding of communities with poor sanitation has increased cases of cholera by mixing drinking water with sewage, among other effects. “The core concern is succinctly stated: climate change endangers human health,” said WHO Director-General Margaret Chan. “The warming of …

The 2030 Blueprint

Solving climate change can save billions, boost the economy, and create jobs

A new report from Architecture2030 shows that solving the climate change crisis can save billions of dollars, stimulate a deteriorating U.S. economy, and create high quality jobs (full report here). Complex problems sometimes require the simplest of solutions. One of the most important questions facing those attempting to solve the climate crisis is, "How do we reduce CO2 emissions dramatically and immediately?" The simplest answer is, "Turn off the coal plants." Although coal produces about half of the energy supplied by the electric power sector, it is responsible for 81% of the sector's CO2 emissions. According to recent paper by Dr. James Hansen et al., titled "Target CO2: Where Should Humanity Aim?" (PDF), if we are to have any chance of averting a climatic catastrophe, we must implement an immediate moratorium on the construction of any new conventional coal-fired power plants and complete a phasing out of all existing conventional coal plants by the year 2030. Anything short of this will fail (call Congress on Earth Day, April 22nd, supporting the Markey Waxman bill and a moratorium on coal). To turn off the coal plants, one must replace them with another energy source and/or eliminate the demand for the energy produced by these plants. And the economic feasibility of any proposed actions regarding climate change is a particularly important consideration in this time of looming recession. Today, of the approximately 38.5 QBtu of primary energy consumed by residential and commercial building operations in the U.S. each year, 27.3 QBtu is consumed in the form of electricity. About 14.2 QBtu of this electricity is produced by conventional coal-fired power plants. According to a recent McKinsey Global Institute report, the implementation of straightforward, off-the-shelf residential and commercial building efficiency measures would reduce energy consumption by 11.1 QBtu for an investment of $21.6 billion per QBtu.

Up, up, and away: corn edition

Corn hits a new record — $6 a bushel

At the end of February, I blogged on a Fortune article that had the subhead "The ethanol boom is running out of gas as corn prices spike." That article noted: Spurred by an ethanol plant construction binge, corn prices have gone stratospheric, soaring from below $2 a bushel in 2006 to over $5.25 a bushel today. As a result, it's become difficult for ethanol plants to make a healthy profit, even with oil at $100 a barrel. Just six weeks later, we have an AP article with the subhead "Corn Prices Jump to Record $6 a Bushel, Driving Up Costs for Food, Alternative Energy." And it gets better worse:

Blankenship to reporter: 'You're liable to get shot'

Massey wins W. Va. Supreme Court case; not doing so well in public relations

A while back, a case against mountaintop-removal giant Massey Energy reached the West Virginia Supreme Court, which overturned a previous judgment fining the company. But then pictures turned up of Massey CEO Don Blankenship canoodling around the French Riviera with one of the court judges and two female “companions.” Oops. The court decided to re-hear the case, minus the offending judge. Then another judge, who had said that “the pernicious effects of Mr. Blankenship’s bestowal of his personal wealth, political tactics, and ‘friendship’ have created a cancer in the affairs of this court” — got bullied off the case by …

Mississippi town not enthusiastic about storing strategic petroleum

Richton, Miss., is the lucky town picked as the fifth storage site for the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve. To create space to store strategic petroleum, the Department of Energy will drain 50 million gallons of water a day for five years from the Pascagoula River to dissolve underground salt caverns, pumping the resulting brine through likely-to-leak pipelines over fragile wetlands and dumping it into the Gulf of Mexico. (The DOE assures that this all will be done in an “environmentally friendly” manner.) In the face of public outcry, the DOE will hold a second round of public meetings next week; …