Climate & Energy

Red List not enough

Experts push for an intergovernmental biodiversity panel

For this enviro, Christmas is shaping up pretty nicely this year. Today, as post-Kyoto discussions commence in Bali, Australia has ratified the Kyoto Protocol, sweeping aside decades of Howard's curmudgeonly climate skepticism. Another unexpected gift came last month, when a group of 80 experts convened in France to mull over the future of biodiversity. Their consensus? That we need to establish a new intergovernmental panel -- akin to the IPCC -- to begin aggressively addressing the biodiversity crisis. In words that would surely make E.O. Wilson proud, the committee said: "It is not enough to draw up a list of threatened or extinct species. Biodiversity needs to be seen as a whole, in terms of management but also of environmental services rendered, for instance from the point of view of adaptation to climate change." They hope to have a structure in place by 2008. Keep 'em rollin' in, Santa!

This Hanukkah, make time to reflect on climate and conservation

There are three levels of wisdom through which Hanukkah invites us to address the planetary dangers of the global climate crisis — what some of us call “global scorching” because “warming” seems so pleasant, so comforting. Light a candle, heal the earth. Photo: iStockphoto We can encode these three teachings into actions we take to heal the earth, each of the eight days. 1. The Talmud’s legend that for the Maccabees to rededicate the Temple desecrated by the Seleucid Empire, it took only one day’s oil to meet eight days’ needs: a reminder that if we have the courage to …

Rational expectations

Winning the battle in Bali, and then winning the war

Since COP13 / MOP3 -- hereafter "Bali" -- has begun, I thought I'd send a brief note on expectations and strategy. Brief because there's too much to say, so I shouldn't try. Besides, I'll try to post again in a few days. Here's the thing: Bali is freighted with terrific expectations, which are entirely appropriate given the state of the science. We now "know," insofar as we can know these things, that we've got to do everything to hold total temperature increase from global warming below 2 degrees Celsius, and that to have a good chance of doing so global emissions are going to peak by 2015. In other words, we now know this is an emergency situation. So why would we demand anything except emergency action? No reason at all. Which is why EcoEquity signed the "Call for Climate Talks to Accelerate Global Economic and Energy Transitions: What Bali Must Achieve" (PDF), now being circulated by the Institute for Policy Studies and the International Forum on Globalization. The Call urges negotiators to pursue three paths:

What will we look like in 2050?

America’s climate and energy future

This post is by ClimateProgress guest blogger Bill Becker, Executive Director of the Presidential Climate Action Project. A few weeks ago, one of the presidential candidates' advisors challenged a group of climate leaders to describe America's future. His challenge triggered a flurry of e-mails as we attempted to articulate a vision. We talked about carbon caps and price signals and new investments in R&D. That's fine, the advisor responded, but what it the vision? What is America's perfect future? I'm not sure we ever satisfactorily answered this very good question, but I found myself trying to describe what America might look like 10, 20, and 40 years from now.

As climate conference kicks off, defenses are up

When I visited Bali 20 years ago, the beaches teemed with people offering any manner of products and services, and the most abundant seemed to be blowguns. Lying in the sand with your eyes closed, you could just hear, above the rhythmic lapping of the waves, the repeated murmur of “Blowgun? Blowgun? Blowgun?” What the connection with Bali was, I couldn’t make out, but I can’t help but think they could come very much in handy to defend your own patch of beach over the coming two weeks as 20,000 people descend on the tranquil isle for the U.N. negotiations …

Getting married? Five trees, please

Divorce costs even more for these Java couples

It may be better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all, but authorities in the Indonesian region of Sragen think it’s better to have loved, lost, and helped the climate. Couples seeking divorce have to pay a fee that goes toward planting 25 trees in the area where they live. Lovebirds getting married have to pay a similar, but smaller fee — for a mere 5 trees. Because … their impact will be less, especially if they start having kids? Hmm.

The tropical global warming solution

Bali conference could end deforestation overnight

This post was co-written with Dorjee Sun, the head of Carbon Conservation, a company that works to protect forests in Indonesia from destruction. ----- Photo: www.viajar24h.com Bali, Indonesia, is the perfect backdrop for this week's climate summit. No country better embodies the immense peril of inaction -- and the immense opportunity this meeting has to make massive and immediate progress in stemming the climate crisis. Indonesia is the world's third largest global warming polluter, behind the United States and China, and just ahead of Brazil. But in Indonesia, like Brazil and the rest of the tropical world, pollution isn't coming from factories, power plants, or cars like it is in the industrialized world. Instead, almost all of it is coming from the rapid burning of the world's vast tropical forests to make room for timber, agriculture, and especially palm oil plantations. (Despite its green reputation, palm oil is anything but: a recent study in Science found that palm oil, like other biofuels, produces two to nine times more greenhouse gases than regular old crude oil because of the forests and grasslands destroyed for its production.) Companies like Starbucks, Procter & Gamble, Cargill and Seattle's Imperium Renewables are paying top dollar to turn palm oil into food, cosmetics and biodiesel. That global demand has driven the value of a hectare of palms above $1000 (PDF) in some cases -- providing a powerful financial incentive to corporations, investors, and farmers to raze the forests, regardless of the consequences to the climate or to the endangered orangutans, tigers, and rhinoceroses - and indigenous people -- who need them to survive. The Bali conference could immediately eliminate that perverse accounting by making sure forests and other wild lands around the world are financially valued for the carbon they store, and not just their potential as timber or agricultural land. The way to do that is to allow polluters to get credit for protecting forests that they can apply against their pollution reduction obligations, an idea called carbon ranching or avoided deforestation. Polluters would jump at this opportunity. Protecting forests from destruction can cost as little as 75 cents per ton of carbon dioxide - even at higher costs, it's a fraction of the price (PDF) of cleaning up most industrial pollution. In the past, some environmentalists criticized carbon ranching for this very reason: they were concerned that if polluters focused their greenhouse gas reduction efforts on forest conservation, that would divert money from necessary clean-ups in industrial pollution. That's the wrong way to look at it. Because locking up carbon dioxide by protecting forests is so cheap, it means that the world can achieve bigger reductions in global warming pollution faster and for less money. Carbon ranching should be an argument for bigger immediate pollution reductions, from both forests and industry, not a way for polluters to get around their responsibility to clean up their own pollution.

White House renews energy bill veto threat

The White House just sent this letter (PDF) to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, renewing its threat to veto any bill that doesn’t follow exactly the (absurd) guidelines it laid out in its last letter.

Tasting notes: How to select the best green wine

Tips for low-carbon merrymaking

See that green line on the map? Study it closely, boozehounds. Those of you to the right of it can enjoy a nice French Bordeaux. Those to the left should be getting your Pinot from Napa. So concludes Dr. Vino in his excellent -- and topical! -- study, "Red, White and 'Green': The Cost of Carbon in the Global Wine Trade." The paper is nicely readable in addition to being thorough. Few details go unconsidered. Dr. Vino cares about the CO2 produced from the breakdown of sugar during the fermentation process. He mulls the land-use implications of grape production. He knows his screw caps from his corks. All of these factors (well, not the corks) feed into a model that allows the paper's authors to compute the carbon content of different bottles of wine drunk in various points in the U.S. Some conclusions:

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