Climate & Energy

IPCC Synthesis Report coming out Saturday

Policymakers of the world, get ready. Tomorrow, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change releases its Synthesis Report that will attempt to summarize the world’s climate-y plight in a language governments can understand. Saturday’s report will be the official abbreviated version of the 2,500 pages of scientific reports the IPCC churned out earlier this year. The summary aims to walk the fine line between polite appeals for action and making sure governments know just how screwed we are in the face of inaction on climate change.

Shameless self-promotion

RED positioned to fund $1.5 billion of recycled energy projects

While humility makes it awkward for me to be posting this, David said it would be OK. (I swear!) More seriously, this is a day of great pride at RED and I wanted to share a bit with you -- and perhaps explain the lack of time I've had for more insightful posts lately. We've just completed a pretty substantial equity raise, with funds available to invest in recycled energy projects that convert waste heat to power. The target for our investments are places where we can simultaneously generate profits, lower energy costs, and reduce greenhouse-gas emissions - in other words, all the things I've blogged about here before. But now instead of just being an academic idea, we have the financial resources to go out and prove the concept. And, it bears noting, quite a bit of financial pressure to do so. More important than that, though, is that we have a platform to change the way the world makes power. Lots of good press today in Bloomberg, the Chicago Tribune, and The International Herald Tribune, among others. (Or, if you're a stickler for original source material, our press release is here.) But perhaps the best piece -- and the one that really gets what we're out to do -- is on the Dow Jones newswire, printed below the fold ($ub req'd, or else I'd give the link).

Made for the USA?

On who is accountable for Chinese greenhouse-gas emissions

Yesterday a D.C. nonprofit, the Center for Global Development, released an inventory of the world's power plants. Its nifty database shows that on a national level, China trails only the the U.S. in total emissions of greenhouse gases, and not by much. This will disappoint the global warming proponents at the National Review, who have been predicting for months that China will surpass the traditional emissions champ -- the United States -- this year. But both the scoffers on the right and the worriers on the left may be overlooking a central question, which was broached this Monday in a news story from The Wall Street Journal. Simply put: a high percentage of Chinese emissions are produced in factories making products for buyers around the world. Shouldn't that be considered in the emissions accounting? The vast majority of the world's MP3 players are made in China, where the main power source is coal. Manufacturing a single MP3 player releases about 17 pounds of planet-warming carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. iPods, along with thousands of other goods churned out by Chinese factories, from toys to rolled steel, pose a question that is becoming an issue in the climate-change debate. If a gadget is made in China by an American company and exported and used by consumers from Stockholm to São Paulo, Brazil, should the Chinese government be held responsible for the carbon released in manufacturing it? The story hints at the complexity of fault-finding when it comes to emissions, which we as a nation and as a species have barely begun to unpack. Not only must we contend with the fact that carbon dioxide is indivisible -- and equally warming no matter if it's emitted in a Communist nation such as China, a capitalist nation such as the U.S., or a third-world nation such as India -- but there is also what The Stern Review calls the "intergenerational" aspect of emissions. Carbon released today may have catastrophic effects thirty years from now, when the original emitters are long dead. Who will the children of today blame then? But to continue with Jane Spencer's thoughtful, probing story:

Notable quotable

“It certainly appeared a year ago that we were going to have a national push on ethanol, and we wanted to have the vehicles ready. But we always knew that food-based ethanol would not be the answer. The shift to cellulosic ethanol has been slower than we were led to believe. If we don’t end up with cellulosic ethanol quickly, we are going to hit the wall on ethanol.” – William Clay Ford, Jr., chairman of Ford Motor Co.


What will it take to reduce Washington state GHG emissions 10 million tons by 2020?

Earlier this year, the governor of Washington set an ambitious goal (PDF): reducing the state's greenhouse-gas emissions by 10 million tons by 2020. That would put the state's emissions back to about where they were in 1990 -- roughly an 11 percent decline, all told, from today's levels. Of course, that's only a start. Real climate leadership will require reductions on the order of 80 to 90 percent by the middle of this century. Still, a 10-million-ton reduction in annual CO2 emissions seems like a tall order -- especially since the U.S. Census Bureau projects that the state's population will grow by 20 percent between now and 2020. Measured per person, Washingtonians' greenhouse emissions will have to fall by about one quarter by 2020 to meet the goal. The Washington Department of Ecology recently asked us what it would take to meet that 10-million-ton goal. Based on emissions data compiled by the state (PDF), here's what we came up with:

The price of oil will go ... down

We have $100-a-barrel oil due to speculation and fear

As this Foreign Policy article points out, there is no fundamental rationale for the current prices; oil should be between $40-$60 a barrel, but because of speculation and fear the price has been driven up much higher. The peak oil people love to say "I told you so" when the price goes up. What are they going to say when the price goes down? I expect crickets.

Database on world’s 50,000 power plants launched, Florida coal plant scrapped

The Center for Global Development, a think tank in Washington, D.C., launched a database Wednesday (with maps!) containing all sorts of useful information on over 50,000 of the world’s power plants, quantifying their CO2 emissions as well as the energy they produce, their locations, and more. (It’s more exciting than it sounds.) For instance, power plants account for 40 percent of U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions and the power sector itself is responsible for about 25 percent of world carbon emissions. According to CGD, there are 9,190 power plants in the U.S. that together spew 2.79 billion tons of CO2 each year. …

Learn more about what's killing us

Three new sites track individual power plants and your connection to them

Three excellent new sites went up in the last few days, all related to the single biggest source of CO2 emissions in the world: power plants. CARMA contains "the world’s most detailed and comprehensive information on carbon emissions resulting from the production of electricity." You can track power plants in any zip code or any part of the world, see how much CO2 they emit, and how they rank relative to other plants. Here are some tips to get you started using the site. Fascinating stuff. The Sierra Club’s coal plant tracker "lists every new proposed coal-fired power plant in …

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