Climate & Energy

Casten gospel reaches NYT

Congrats to our own Sean Casten for getting the following letter to the editor in The New York Times: Re "States’ Battles Over Energy Grow …

A Southern Baptist conversion to concern about climate change

Young theologian discusses denomination’s recent declaration

Jonathan Merritt is a young theologian in Atlanta who broke into the national conversation this month by championing, within the conservative Southern Baptist faith, the declaration of a new set of principles regarding creation care and climate change. While noting continuing debate on some global warming questions, the declaration made a point of stating that we as a species can damage the planet and that such actions are wrong. The declaration stressed that "we do not believe unanimity is necessary for prudent action," and that "humans must be proactive and take responsibility for our contributions to climate change -- however great or small." The declaration was signed by three of the four most recent presidents of the Southern Baptist Convention, including the current office holder, Frank Page. In a phone interview, Merritt conceded that the resolution, like all resolutions issued by the SBC, is non-binding, but he and his fellow counselors are pleased that, since the declaration made the national news, hundreds of prominent Southern Baptists have signed on, including divinity school presidents, pastors, seminary professors, and missionaries. Merritt said that it represented an "evolution" of the Southern Baptist position on the issue, but the mildness of that description is debatable. In the Resolution on Global Warming issued in June 2007, the Southern Baptist Convention used the dismissive rhetoric of climate change denial, claiming the science was "divided" on the question of global warming and that measures to reduce emissions were "very dangerous" and costly. Because the Southern Baptist denomination is the second largest in the country, with over sixteen million adherents, the church's position on social issues makes news. Not only do these believers stake out a new position on the issue, but they use the language of repentance to describe the change, which makes their change of heart sound almost like a conversion experience. The declaration mentions the "study, reflection, and prayer" the signatories underwent before reaching consensus on the declaration, and added in a widely-quoted statement: We believe our current denominational engagement with these issues have often been too timid, failing to produce a unified moral voice. Our cautious response to these issues in the face of mounting evidence may be seen by the world as uncaring, reckless and ill-informed. I asked Merritt about this language, saying that if I were a reporter in a courtroom, I would describe this as a statement as "remorseful."

Fewer zero-emission vehicles will be required on California roads by 2014

California’s Air Resources Board has voted to reduce the number of zero-emissions vehicles required to be sold in the state by 2014 from 25,000 to …


Why consumer protection means selling carbon permits

One of the thorniest problems in cap-and-trade programs is deciding how to distribute the carbon permits. Should the public sell pollution privileges or give them away for free? Some folks worry that if we make polluters pay for carbon permits, they'll just raise prices for consumers. That's a perfectly legitimate concern. Unfortunately it turns out to be true, whether we sell the permits or give them away for free. Prices rise by the same amount in either scenario. (The only difference is whether polluters reap windfall profits or whether the public earns revenue from selling the permits.) It may be counterintuitive, but it's true. It's also very hard to explain why this is the case without resorting to a lecture on economics. So in an attempt to clear things up, Sightline has put together this easy-on-the-eyes summary. It comes in four parts: A simple explanation. A slightly more detailed explanation. A look at Europe's carbon trading market. A review of the (basically unanimous) economic literature. Take a look and let us know what you think.

Another urban legend is spawned

Prius ‘proven’ to get worse gas mileage than BMW 520d

This story in the U.K.'s Times Online is racing around the interwebs. Google "BMW 520d" and note how many pages deep it goes. Two goofballs journalists took a road trip, one in a Prius and the other in a BMW 520d. The BMW purportedly got about 4 percent better gas mileage than the "gas guzzling" Prius, which amazingly only managed a dismal 40 mpg. Coincidentally, that is exactly what our Prius got on a road trip last summer, which was not only jammed with people and camping gear but also had a giant cargo carrier strapped to the roof! Odd how the Prius always manages to lose these contests ... unless they're performed by independent third parties like Consumer Reports (Prius: 44 mpg, TDI Jetta: 34). The Prius has set the bar and competitors are finally going after it. This is how homo sapiens are. This is what motivates them to build skyscrapers and airliners. For the first time in human history, they are finally competing over green issues, which is all good. The following story carefully orchestrated farce is, in reality, a tribute to the Prius engineering that kicked this whole show off. Somebody has a serious case of mileage envy.

EPA will request public comment on GHG regulation this spring

SCOTUS decreed that the U.S. EPA must decide whether the climate-change effects of carbon dioxide endanger public health, and, at long last, the agency is …

Down the rabbit hole with Roger

L.A. Times mischaracterizes Pielke Jr.’s arguments in such a way as to make them newsworthy

Early in this L.A. Times piece, reporter Alan Zarembo characterizes Roger Pielke Jr.’s views as follows: His research has led him to believe that it …

Don't look now, but clean tech is contributing to climate progress

New report on massive growth of renewables last year

Climate Progress is the title of my blog posts' main home, as much as the "progress" part strains credulity at times. I only see two major quantitative areas of sustained progress: clean energy deployment (especially in Europe) and private sector clean-tech funding. Those folk at Clean Edge, who wrote the best 2007 book on clean tech, The Clean Tech Revolution, have quantified these gains -- and made predictions about the future -- in a new report you can read here. Some interesting factoids:

Commute conundrum

Should emissions from employee commutes be included in company GHG inventories?

When businesses dip a toe in the rising sea of corporate action on climate change, the first box they check before diving in involves tabulating their own greenhouse-gas inventory. In getting your corporate house in order, the first step is defining where your yard ends and your neighbor's begins. The good news: There is a clearly accepted international standard providing guidance to companies sorting "what's in" and "what's out" for their GHG inventory. The Greenhouse Gas Protocol: A Corporate Accounting and Reporting Standard is the playbook everyone is working from. The bad news: Some issues are more clearly defined in the guidance than others, leaving individual companies to sort out their own best way forward. Emissions from employee commutes are one such gray area. In these early days, how leading companies come down on this issue is critically important in setting a precedent. The GHG Protocol does provide general guidance on this issue, but more specific direction is needed.