Climate & Energy

Season's greetings: Oregon Peaceworks starts on a 5% solution

Combating global warring by addressing global warming

A long-established statewide peace organization in Oregon has initiated a new project called "The 5% Solution" as a way to give people a SMART (specific, measurable, appropriate, realistic, and timed) goal for climate action. It asks people to pledge to reduce their own carbon footprint 5 percent a year, each year, and to spread that commitment through their communities, and then states, and then country. As the material here notes, if the developed world stops increasing emissions and makes 5 percent cuts per year from 2008 to 2050, its emissions will go down about 88 percent and the developing world will have some flexibility to increase emissions for a few more years before joining the rich countries on the glide path to an overall drop of about 80 percent.

An ice-free Arctic by 2013?

Scientist claims that climate models are too conservative in predicting ice loss

Maybe I'm not alarmist after all. Maybe this future is nearer than everyone thinks: I was called "over-alarmist" by one of the people who took my bet that the Arctic would be ice-free by 2020. But one of the country's top ice experts, non-alarmist Professor Wieslaw Maslowski of the Naval Postgraduate School, told an American Geophysical Union audience this week:

This week in ocean news

Killer farmed salmon and non-deadly sharks

More than 10,000 people worked to clean up the worst oil spill in South Korean history after a crane punched a hole in an oil tanker, releasing 2.7 million gallons of crude. A 63-year-old shellfish farmer wept as she showed dead tar-coated oysters to a reporter ... ... a study published in Science suggested that leaving more fish in the sea leads to higher profits than the traditional target known as maximum sustainable yield. "We like to say it's a win-win," said one of the study's authors ... ... a detailed new study of salmon farming found that farmed fish spread sea lice, which killed juvenile wild salmon ...

Question of the day

What about the RPS in Texas?

So Senate Republicans managed to kill the Renewable Portfolio Standard in the energy bill. One question: who was the big-government, nanny-state liberal who forced one of the nation's largest and most successful RPSs on the poor, unwitting state of Texas? Hint: As Governor of Texas in 1999, he signed the RPS into law and later moved to the District of Columbia to pursue other opportunities, like threatening to veto a bill that would have treated all Americans like Texans.

Annals of irritants, part four

Press peddles Republican talking points on energy bill

I’m seeing this kind of thing all over the place: Faced with stiff Republican opposition that is backed by Bush’s veto threat, Democrats made misstep after misstep in trying to pass this energy bill. It was too ambitious. It tried to force utilities to increase production of renewable energy in the face of fierce opposition by the utility industry group, and it included a tax package that the White House has long indicated it would not support. Second, Republicans also felt like they were left out of the negotiating process in reconciling the House and Senate versions of the bill. …

Notable quotable

“We seek your leadership. But if for some reason you are not willing to lead, leave it to the rest of us. Please get out of the way.” – Kevin Conrad, U.N. delegate from Papua New Guinea, during contentious last-minute climate talks in Bali. Conrad’s blunt declaration was met with applause.

The big picture

An unbiased, factual report on biofuels: How rare is that?

The Worldwatch Institute has produced an interesting summary of what's happening in the world of grain supplies. They also just published a book called Biofuels for Transport. Along with all of the positive potential for biofuels, I'm sure it also discusses the "potential" problems with "first generation" biofuels. These are some of the latest buzzwords being used to support industrial agrofuels. The word "potential" suggests that there are not yet any actual problems. The words "first generation" suggest that all of these "potential" problems will fail to materialize thanks to the timely arrival of "second generation" fuels. The reality, of course, is that these fuels (i.e., industrially grown food monocrops) are already wreaking all kinds of havoc and are likely to remain the only commercially viable biofuels for the foreseeable future (i.e., forever).

Letter from Bali: A tragic truth

Professor Andrew Light laments the unnecessary line in the sand the U.S. has drawn in Bali

This is a guest essay from Andrew Light, an environmental ethicist and professor of philosophy and public affairs at the University of Washington in Seattle. He attended the Bali meetings as an observer and participant in a side event. The essay comes to us from Nusa Dua, Indonesia. ----- I must admit, I clapped. I was probably among the loudest. A line in the sand. Photo: iStockphoto With the negotiations here in Bali for the U.N. conference on climate change facing an apparent intractable deadlock going into their last day, I was in a standing-room-only auditorium to hear former Vice President Al Gore address the assembled environmental community, business leaders, and state representatives. For those familiar with Gore's stump speech on global warming, and his acceptance address for the Nobel Peace Prize earlier in the week, much in his comments was familiar. One line changed all that. Cautiously hoped for by some, unanticipated by most, it changed the climate in the room considerably: "I am not a representative of my government, so I am not bound by diplomatic niceties. My own country, the United States, is principally responsible for obstructing progress here in Bali. [Applause.] We all know that." With these words, Gore expressed the extreme sense of frustration most in the room had been feeling this past week over the U.S. delegation's refusal to commit to language in the Bali roadmap for cuts of 25 to 40 percent of greenhouse gases below 1990 levels by industrialized countries in the next extension of the Kyoto Protocol due to be settled in 2009. More than that, by openly criticizing the Bush administration, Gore had definitively answered those tempted to lump all Americans together on this issue -- a welcome relief for those of us who had become progressively more embarrassed by our country's position and inability to effectively explain its reasons. When offered, those reasons were simply lame. Why did the U.S. block the emissions cut goal? To avoid "prejudging" the outcome of the next treaty. In the end they won, finally getting an agreement from the E.U. for a document that will not require an outcome wherein the U.S., or any other country, embraces a goal for eventual caps on its emissions. What exactly would the 25 to 40 percent goal have prejudged? This is a difficult question to answer, especially in light of American negotiators' public praise this week of the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and their recognition of the validity of the conclusions drawn in its most recent Fourth Assessment report. It can't be that cuts are needed -- only skeptics still hold that view, and the administration has renounced this position. It must be the specific figure proposed in the Bali document and the sorts of economic transformations that would be required to meet cuts in that range. It didn't need to be this way though. The stakes were actually low enough at this meeting that no hard-line brinksmanship was necessary. We could have instead showed up intent on demonstrating a more constructive role for the U.S., sending a message to the world that we are now serious on this issue. Instead, we drew an unnecessary line in the Bali sand.

High drama leads to compromise at climate conference

After days of bitter fighting and an overtime stretch filled with twists and turns and even tears, world leaders on Saturday came to agreement on a rough roadmap for developing a new global climate treaty by 2009. The European Union had pushed for industrialized countries to commit to cuts in greenhouse-gas emissions of 25 to 40 percent by 2020, but the U.S., Canada, and Japan, among others, said no way. The final, agreed-upon text lacks specific numbers, but says that “deep cuts” in emissions are needed. The U.S. also refused to back compromise language that called on rich nations to …

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