Tumblelog by Soup.io
Newer posts are loading.
You are at the newest post.
Click here to check if anything new just came in.

February 24 2014


February 07 2014


Keystone XL vs. Renewable Energy


A head-to-head comparison demonstrates the overwhelming superiority of renewable energy over the Keystone XL. If approved, the northern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline will carry 830,000 barrels of tar sands oil per day from Alberta to the Gulf Coast in Texas. In addition to risks from spills and potential water impacts, the pipeline will facilitate the mass extraction of Canada’s global warming causing tar sands.

The Earth is getting warmer and we know that this will have calamitous costs, we also know that fossil fuels are the principle source of greenhouse gases (GHGs). Increased levels of GHGs have significant harmful impacts on our health, our environment, and our climate.

We are currently on track for catastrophic global warming if we continue with business as usual. If we want to have a shot at keeping global temperature increases under the internationally agreed upon upper threshold of 2 degrees Celsius, we must radically reduce our consumption of fossil fuels.

We cannot afford to add more than 310 gigatons of carbon emissions into the atmosphere, if we are to keep warming within two degrees C. We have already emitted 530 gigatons of carbon, and according to the IPCC’s latest report we can only add a total of 840 gigatons of carbon, that leaves us with a carbon budget of 310 gigatons. We will not be able to stay within our carbon budget and move forward if we move ahead with the Keystone XL.

To keep global temperatures below this threshold we will need to abandon much of the world’s fossil fuel reserves. This is particularly true of tar sands oil which has a far higher emissions profile than traditional oil.

If we are to meet growing energy needs, we will need to ramp up our use of renewables. While this entails considerable investment, it is far less than the combined costs of a significantly warmer world.

Emissions from the tar sands

If approved the Keystone XL pipeline will be a game changing contributer to climate change causing emissions. According to the NRDC report, tar sands oil emits 81 percent more emissions than conventional oil. If the Keystone XL goes forward a Sierra report claims it will generate 181 million metric tons of carbon, an emission load which is the yearly equivalent of building 51 new coal-fired power plants or putting 37 million additional cars on the road.

The State Department report

The State Department’s latest report on the Keystone XL does a very poor job of detailing the pipeline’s emissions, oil spill risks, and threats to water resources. The NRDC showed how the pipeline would increase U.S. carbon emissions by between 935 million and 1.2 billion metric tons over the project’s 50-year timeline. This is far more than indicated in the State Department’s report.

The Canadian province of Alberta, home of the tar sands, has a long history of pipeline explosions and spills. In the case of the Keystone XL, a spill could jeopardize a number of rivers and the Ogallala Aquifer, which provides drinking water and irrigates agriculture in parts of eight states. In 2013 alone, TransCanada, the company charged with building the Keystone XL, had 14 U.S. spills in a single year.

Pipelines are not only dangerous for the environment, they also kill and injure people. Since 1986, according to a ProPublica investigation, U.S. pipeline accidents have killed more than 500 people, injured over 4,000, and cost nearly $50 billion in property damages.

The State Department report claims that Canada’s tar sands will be exploited whether or not the pipeline is built. However, this is refuted by a Sierra article which states that the Royal Bank of Canada believes blocking Keystone XL would significantly inhibit Canada’s tar sands development.

Overview of the benefits of renewable energy

Renewable energy provides substantial environmental and economic benefits, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists this includes:

  1. Little or no greenhouse gas emissions: According to data aggregated by the International Panel on Climate Change, life-cycle global warming emissions associated with renewable energy which includes manufacturing, installation, operation and maintenance, and dismantling and decommissioning are minimal. A study by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) explored the feasibility and environmental impacts associated with generating 80 percent of the country’s electricity from renewable sources by 2050 and they found that global warming emissions from electricity production could be reduced by approximately 81 percent.
  2. Improved public health: Implementing renewable energy and transitioning away from fossil fuels will significantly reduce air and water pollution from fossil fuels which lead to breathing problems, neurological damage, heart attacks, and cancer. There is evidence to show that replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy can increase worker productivity, decrease premature mortality and significantly reduce overall healthcare costs.
  3. Vast inexhaustible supply of energy: The 2012, NREL study found that renewable energy can supply 482,247 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity annually which amounts to 118 times the nation’s annual electricity consumption.
  4. Stable energy prices: Unlike fossil fuels, renewable energy is providing affordable electricity across the country right now, and can help stabilize energy prices in the future. While renewable facilities require upfront investments to build, once built they operate at very low cost and, for most technologies, the fuel is free. As a result, renewable energy prices are relatively stable over time. Prices will also benefit from the increased competition that is afforded by scaling renewables. Further, renewable would decrease costs to utility companies that currently spend millions of dollars on financial instruments to hedge themselves against fossil fuel price volatility.
  5. Reliable and resilient energy system: Wind and solar are less prone to large-scale failure than fossil fuel powered systems because they are distributed and modular. To illustrate the point, a Renewable Energy World article cites a study which showed how Hurricane Sandy damaged and disrupted fossil fuel powered electricity generation and distribution in New York and New Jersey, while renewable energy projects in the Northeast weathered the storm with minimal damage or disruption. This is of great importance as we expect to experience more extreme weather due to climate change. Unlike fossil fuel or nuclear power, wind and solar do not require water to generate electricity which makes them better able to deal with issues of water scarcity.

Pros and cons of renewable energy

While there are many very serious problems associated with the Keystone XL pipeline and the dirty bitumen it will carry, a balanced assessment of renewables make a strong case for clean energy. As summarized in an EEP article, renewable energy offers a slew of useful benefits.


Pros: U.S. onshore wind resources have the potential to generate almost 10,500 GW of electricity, 175 times more than the current installed capacity of 60 GW. Based on the average U.S. electricity fuel mix, a one MW wind turbine can displace 1,800 tons of CO2 emissions per year. With a wind power capacity of 300 GW, 825 million metric tons of CO2 emissions could be avoided annually. Most importantly, wind turbines generate very little emissions. Wind emits only 0.02 to 0.04 pounds of CO2E/kWh.

Cons: They generate noise pollution and can prove deadly to bats and birds.


Pros: Solar photovoltaic (PV) modules covering 0.6 percent of U.S. land area could meet national electricity demand. While solar PV modules produce no emissions during operation. Solar emits only 0.07 to 0.2 pounds of CO2E/kWh.

Cons: Solar PV modules require toxic substances (e.g., cadmium and selenium) in their manufacturing.


Pros: Biomass has low net C02 emissions in comparison to fossil fuels. At combustion, it releases only the CO2 it previously removed from the atmosphere.

Cons: Additional emissions are associated with processing. Land use is another problem as it requires 124 acres of land to generate one GWh of energy per year and using crop land to grow fuel can adversely impact global food production.


Pros: U.S. geothermal power offsets the emission of 22 million metric tons of CO2, 200,000 tons of nitrogen oxides, and 110,000 tons of particulate matter from coal-powered plants each year. Geothermal emits only 0.1 to 0.2 pounds of CO2E/kWh.

Cons: Some geothermal facilities produce solid waste such as salts and minerals that must be disposed of in approved sites, but some byproducts can be recovered and recycled.


Pros: Electricity generated from hydropower is virtually emission free. Hydroelectric power emits between 0.1 and 0.5 pounds of CO2E/kWh.

Cons: significant levels of methane and CO2 may be emitted through the decomposition of vegetation that is flooded by the dam. Other environmental concerns include fish injury and mortality, habitat degradation, and water quality impairment. However there are technologies that can help to minimize some of the adverse consequences including “fish-friendly” turbines and smaller dams.

Overall the pros of renewable energy far outweigh the costs.

Declining cost of renewables

The cost of renewable energy has been steadily declining and as we scale renewables this price will continue to decline. The more we produce the lower the cost. As it stands now wind power is currently competitive with fossil fuels and solar has achieved grid parity with coal. Long-term wind contracts are now more than 40 percent cheaper than they were just three years ago and the average price of a solar panel has dropped almost 60 percent since 2011. The cost of generating electricity from wind dropped more than 20 percent between 2010 and 2012 and more than 80 percent since 1980. The cost of renewable energy will decline even further as markets mature and companies increasingly take advantage of economies of scale. These costs could be further reduced with the help of standards. A 25 percent renewable electricity standard would lead to 7.6 percent lower electricity prices by 2030.

Renewable energy currently provides only a tiny fraction of its potential electricity output in the U.S. But a plethora of studies have demonstrated that renewable energy can be rapidly deployed to provide a significant share of future electricity needs.

Rather than supporting Canada’s exploitation of the tar sands, the U.S. should be resisting their northern neighbor’s reckless obsession with hydrocarbons. In addition to scaling renewable energy, the most important single thing that the U.S. can do is to deny Canada a market for its dirty fuel.

While the rampant exploitation of Canada’s tar sands oil means “game over” for efforts to combat climate change, renewable energy offers a secure, clean, and healthy solution to America’s energy needs.

Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of The Green Market Oracle, a leading sustainable business site and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.

Image credit: lamoix, Howl Arts Collective, courtesy flickr


The post Keystone XL vs. Renewable Energy appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

Sponsored post
you are awesome!
Reposted bysirthomasbolton sirthomasbolton

January 23 2014


What is Wrong with Star Powered Environmental Advocacy

Environmental advocacy and star power

What harm can there be from celebrities who provide material support, raise environmental awareness and encourage ecological action? We live in a culture of celebrity worship, we are bombarded with their images in advertising, film, television and online. Whether we are consumers of pop culture or not, there is no denying that celebrities hold a lot of sway with the general public.  The fact is that television, movie and music personalities have vastly larger audiences than the most popular climate scientists.

Hanging on every word. Despite their best intentions, does star-powered environmental advocacy run the risk of succumbing to the fickle and shallow tendencies in our society?Many of these stars do more than pay lip service to green lifestyles, they show their concern for the environment by driving hybrid cars, living in green homes or changing their dietary habits. A few have even become stalwart activists.

Leonardo DiCaprio is an environmental advocate who serves on the boards of several environmental organizations. He co-wrote, produced and narrated the documentary film the 11th Hour, in which he called global warming “the number-one environmental challenge”. He has been known to drive electric vehicles including a Toyota Prius, Tesla Roadster and Fisker Karma. He has also installed solar panels on his house. He has his own foundation that is dedicated to protecting the Earth’s wild places.  He is a passionate supporter of tigers and he actively works on protecting their habitats particularly in Nepal. In November 2010, DiCaprio donated $1,000,000 to the Wildlife Conservation Society at Russia’s tiger summit. In 2011, DiCaprio joined the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s campaign to free a tiger who was languishing at a Truck Stop in Louisiana.  He has also advocated for a number of other environmental causes including access to clean water, renewable energy and forest preservation.

Matt Damon is a celebrity best known to environmentalists for his water advocacy. Recently in Davos, the movie star was honored by the World Economic Forum for his work as co-founder of Water.org, a nonprofit organization whose motto is “safe water and the dignity of a toilet for all.” During his acceptance speech he said that Water.org is extending “water credit” to poor families so they can afford to install a toilet or connect their homes to a waterline that for them is “literally a lifeline.”  Water.org has already helped more than 5 million people, and he noted that McKinsey consultants have estimated his organization could reach 100 million by 2020.

Daryl Hannah is serious about her green activism and involvement. In February 2013, Hannah was arrested in front of the white house for protesting against the Keystone XL. Hannah has been an environmental advocate for years. She has participated in many  environmental protests, including two tree sit-ins. In 2012, she spoke out against the fallacy of ‘ethical oil’, ‘clean coal’ and ‘natural gas.’ She is also the founder of the Sustainable Biodiesel Alliance (SBA), and sits on several environmental advocacy boards such as the Environmental Media Association (EMA), Sylvia Earle Alliance, Mission Blue and the Action Sports Environmental Coalition. Her website dhlovelife.com provides solutions for living a green lifestyle.

Ed Begley jr. is a longtime environmental advocate who lives in a solar-powered home and drives an electric car. Begley and his family are currently documenting the construction of a LEED Platinum-certified home for Begley Street, a television and Web series.

Cameron Diaz is another celebrity well known for her green activism. Her sustainability advocacy even attracted the attention of unlikely publications like Vogue magazine. Diaz also worked with Al Gore to raise awareness about climate change and she is allegedly one of the first celebs to buy an electric vehicle.

Hayden Panettiere has been involved in the fight to protect whales and other marine life since she was 15 years old. She filmed the slaughter of dolphins and the footage appeared in the acclaimed documentary The Cove. She is a spokesperson for the Whaleman Foundation, which works to protect whales and dolphins from the impact of climate change and fishing, and has also appeared before the U.S. Congress.

Edward Norton is very vocal about environmental concerns and he has served as the United Nations Goodwill Ambassador for Biodiversity.

Natalie Portman has a long history of ecological advocacy. She is a vegetarian who has designed a line of vegan shoes. She also participated in a documentary film about gorillas.

Sting is a longtime supporter of the Amazon’s rainforests and he has established a charity called the Rainforest Foundation, which is dedicated to the protection of the rainforests and their inhabitants.

Brad Pitt has helped with rebuilding New Orleans by contributing green building materials after the city was ravaged by Hurricane Katrina.

Don Cheadle has taken action against the genocide in Darfur, and he has also worked with the United Nation on climate change concerns.

Alicia Silverstone owns a home made of sustainable materials, she’s vegan and she has written a book about sustainability.

Pamela Anderson has advocated for animal rights and forest preservation. She has worked with the Inga Foundation which fights the “slash-and-burn” process of clearing land. She has also supported efforts to ban oil tankers off of Canada’s west coast.

Mark Ruffalo is a vocal opponent of horizontal hydraulic fracturing (fracking), and he co-founded waterdefense.org to educate the public about fracking concerns.

Ted Danson is involved in ocean activism and he even started his own charity.

American actor Robert Redford and Canadian rocker Neil Young have been vocal opponents of Alberta’s tar sands. Redford appears in a video released by the National Resources Defense Council saying the tarsands are “destroying our great northern forests at a terrifying rate” and “killing our planet.” Neil Young put together a concert tour to help the indigenous people who are suffering from the effects of the tar sands in Alberta. He also speaks out against the Canadian government’s unconscionable support for oil interests.

There are a host of other stars who have come out in support of environmental causes including:

  • Arnold Schwarzenegger
  • Bonnie Raitt
  • Christie Brinkley
  • George Clooney
  • Jessica Alba
  • Jon Bon Jovi
  • Julia Louis Dreyfus
  • Pierce Brosnan
  • Sir Paul McCartney
  • Tony Hawk

These are just a few of the many famous people who advocate for the environment. So how could there be anything wrong with stars who support environmental issues?

Even though our culture appears to venerate stardom, celebrities are treated like disposable commodities which are worshiped one day and forgotten the next. The hollow and transient nature of celebrity worship is at odds with the attitude required to foster global action. While the popularity of celebrities is superficial and fleeting, the environmental challenges we face demand that we very seriously take the long view.

We require the type of perspective that enables us to appreciate and act on behalf of that which is most important. Our veneration of people who are famous is a colossal bastardization of a balanced understanding of the fundamentally prescient elements that constitute a healthy planet.

Some celebrities clearly work hard on behalf of noble causes, while others may be involved for more selfish reasons. Celebrity is all about popularity, they engage a phalanx of press agents to advise them on what kind of public statements are the most politically correct for the demographic they are playing to. Few know what they really think. Regardless of what they may actually believe, people who are household names have been co opted by the public and as such, they are deprived of their identity apart from their characterizations in the popular media. They become two dimensional cutouts.

By contrast, our appreciation of climate change and other environmental issues requires that we go beyond glossy exteriors so that we can collectively get our heads around the scope of the challenges that confront us.

While some stars may know what they are talking about, others appear to have a passing interest that may be more about generating good press than genuine concern. That is not to deny that those in the public eye can sometimes help the average person to come to a better understanding of complex issues.

The point is that star worship is a reflection of our own shallowness. We do not really know these people, although we may come to know a two dimensional character they play, or what their publicists feel would be good for their careers.

It is a sad reflection on our society, but our preoccupation with celebrity is born from the same place as the impulse to exploit and dispose of our world. Our values and our priorities are out of balance and the veneration of stardom is a comes from the same mass confusion that created the ecological crisis we now face. Our interest in the lives of the rich and famous is part of the same mindlessness as the environmental nightmare we are perpetrating against ourselves and future generations.

A 2010 national survey by Rasmussen indicated that 84 percent of Adults admit that Americans pay too much attention to celebrity news and not enough attention to news that has real impact on their lives.

Our preoccupation with the habits of celebrities detracts from our appreciation of the issues that are most pressing. We do not have the luxury of willful negligence, nor can we afford to succumb to paralysis if we do pay heed to the most pressing concerns of our times. The fact is that when we feel overwhelmed or hopeless we commonly indulge in escapism which is at the heart of what celebrity worship is all about.

We need to get real and take a serious look at what is happening to the world we live in. How are we to come to terms with the work that needs to be done if we refuse to take a hard look at the facts?

Stars may be well meaning supporters of noble causes, but the way that the general public co opts their identity, artificially elevates them (and ultimately drops them), make them less than ideal representatives for environmental activism.

The cult of celebrity feeds into all that is wrong with our world. It is not that celebrities are inherently untrustworthy, the problem is that star culture exacerbates the valueless and fickle myopia of the public eye.

Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of The Green Market Oracle, a leading sustainable business site and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.

Image credit: Gordon Vasquez, courtesy flickr


The post What is Wrong with Star Powered Environmental Advocacy appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

November 14 2013


Climate Finance and Why We Cant Give Up on the UN COP Process

Progress, however halting, in climate finance and other important issues is reason to not give up on the COP processDespite the expectation that we will see progress on climate finance, there are a number of people who are cynical about the outcome of COP 19. Every year around this time, as we settle in for UN climate talks, an army of pundits come out and tell us why we will not see anything of great consequence from the negotiations. They usually end up being right, even if their attitudes are dead wrong.

With current atmospheric carbon readings around 400 parts per million, it is not hard to see why they are so pessimistic. Concentrations of CO2 have increased by 40 percent since pre-industrial times and global average temperatures have risen by 0.8 degrees Celsius (1.4 Fahrenheit) since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. WMO secretary general Michel Jarraud recently indicated that growing levels of anthropogenic greenhouse gases (GHGs) mean “our climate is changing, our weather is more extreme, ice sheets and glaciers are melting and sea levels are rising.” Given our current trajectory, temperatures are set to increase well beyond the upper threshold of 2C (3.7 Fahrenheit) by the end of the century.

The nineteenth session of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC convened in Warsaw on November 11 and runs until November 20. According to the 2012 Doha Climate Gateway, the timetable for a universal climate agreement is 2015, but it will only come into effect in 2020.

In the twenty years since climate change became a global policy priority, we have yet to find a way to secure a binding deal on mitigation. It is understandable why so many environmentally concerned citizens feel betrayed by the successive failures to address the climate crisis. However, given the magnitude of the threat we face from the climate crisis, we do not have the luxury of behaving like jilted lovers. The UN climate negotiations are the best hope we have of reigning in climate change and without popular support, we are even less likely to succeed.

No matter how long it takes, we need to tirelessly press our political leaderships to act. The reasons why we must be so doggedly determined should be obvious, we simply cannot afford to fail.

As the most powerful storm ever to make landfall, Typhoon Haiyan graphically illustrates why we urgently need immediate action to reduce climate change causing greenhouse gases.  We need concerted international action that can only come through global negotiations. This is indeed a Herculean undertaking, but as demonstrated by the carnage in the Philippines, we cannot accept the cataclysmic implications of failure.

If we are to succeed, we must stand together as a community of nations, which is a difficult task at the best of times. We are being driven together by a powerful impetus, namely the right of future generations to inhabit an earth that is livable. No one said it would be easy, but it is work that must be done.

A key part of this collaborative effort entails some form of climate finance and here we have reason to be hopeful that we will see progress at COP 19.  Developed nations are mainly responsible for climate change and they are expected to move forward with provisions that will allocate funds for developing countries to help them with mitigation and adaptation efforts.

New institutional support for developing nations in finance, adaptation and technology will include progress on the Green Climate Fund (GCF), loss and damage mechanisms, compensation and adaptation funds. All of which were agreed in 2010 at the Cancun climate talks (COP 16).

Added support for climate finance comes from two reports shared with delegates at COP 19. Typhoon Haiyan also adds urgency and highlights the importance of these finance issues. If all goes well, we will be on the road to seeing these issues finalized at the Paris climate conference in 2015 and developing nations will make good on their $100 billion a year promise by 2020.

Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Christiana Figueres, reiterated this point, saying that she believes COP 19 can make progress on GCF.

“We must clarify finance that enables the entire world to move towards low-carbon development,” she said. “We must launch the construction of a mechanism that helps vulnerable populations to respond to the unanticipated effects of climate change.”

During the opening session of the Summit, Mr. Yeb Sano, the lead negotiator of the Philippines, demanded real commitments on climate finance.

“What my country is going through as a result of this extreme climate event is madness. The climate crisis is madness,” Sano said. “We call on this COP to pursue work until the most meaningful outcome is in sight – until concrete pledges have been made to ensure mobilization of resources for the Green Climate Fund; until we see real ambition on stabilizing greenhouse gas concentrations. We must put the money where our mouths are.”

Developed nations should also lead the effort to phase out fossil fuels, adopt energy efficient technology, shift towards renewable energy and prevent greenhouse gas emissions. This is the type of leadership that will help less developed nations move in the right direction.

The U.S. must lead because it is both the richest country on the planet and the biggest cumulative contributor of climate change causing greenhouse gases. President Obama and the Democrats are trying to mitigate and adapt to climate change. For their part, Republicans continue with their denial and they are likely to ignore pleas for action. This effectively precludes any hope for legislative progress before at least 2014.

The urgency of action is supported by reams of science, not the least of which is the latest IPCC AR5 document. However, the sad truth is that those who most need to understand the science are the least interested in the facts.

Nonetheless, we must not allow the heartless self interest of the GOP to undermine our efforts. Quite the contrary, their intransigent partisanship should bolster our efforts to expose them for what they are, an impediment to climate progress.

It is true that we are very unlikely to secure a binding global agreement before 2015, if at all. Global leaders have failed to grasp the urgency of the threat and take immediate bold action. After several years with little progress, many are left feeling understandably hopeless.

Sano challenged this lethargy and urged his fellow negotiators to take a bold stance.  “[L]et Warsaw, be remembered as the place where we truly cared to stop this madness.” Sano said. “Can humanity rise to this occasion? I still believe we can.” To highlight his dedication, Sano is fasting as he awaits a successful outcome.

We may have to settle for another small, but meaningful step forward, but this should not erode our support for the COP process. We are less likely to succeed if there is a widespread expectation of failure. Popular support buoys negotiations while public indifference or outright cynicism  detracts from their ability to get things done.

We must strive to build a better future with an unshakable tenacity. The message that needs to be heard in Warsaw must affirm the belief that we can get this done. However, we must make it emphatically clear that we will accept no more delays and we demand bold movement toward a binding deal.

Because we so desperately need to see results in Warsaw, it is incumbent upon all who have the audacity to hope that we press our elected officials and those at the negotiating table to work tirelessly to secure a deal.

Some of the cynical pundits will be quick to say that there is no chance that we will ever see a comprehensive global treaty. They may be right, but we must not let realism temper our advocacy. We are engaged in the most important struggle our civilization has ever known. The fact that we may not succeed should not be an excuse for inaction. Even if it amounts to tilting at windmills, tilt we must, till the very last.
Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of The Green Market Oracle, a leading sustainable business site and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.

Image credit: Karoli, courtesy flickr

The post Climate Finance and Why We Cant Give Up on the UN COP Process appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

November 13 2013


Record Greenhouse Gases – Is 2 Degrees Still Possible?

A new report from the WMO shows record greenhouse gas emissions in 2012, and rising. Can we get our act together in time to avoid the worst of climate change?The latest Greenhouse Gas Bulletin released last week by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) revealed that global atmospheric greenhouse gases hit a new record high, rising 2.2 parts-per-million (ppm) from 2011 levels to an average 393.1 ppm in 2012. The rate of change accelerated in 2012 as well, up from the 2.02 annual ten-year average to 2.2 ppm. The volume of CO2 in the atmosphere is currently at least 41 percent above pre-industrial levels, before the wholesale burning of fossil fuels began.

The WMO report also said that the current year-on-year upward and accelerating trend of greenhouse gas levels are on track to be 8 to 12 billion tonnes higher in 2020 than what is required to keep warming within the 2 degree Celsius limit scientists say is needed to avoid the worst of global warming in the coming decades.

“The more we wait for action, the more difficult it will be to stay under this limit and the more the impact will be for many countries, and therefore the more difficult it will be to adapt,” WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud said at a press conference last week.

For years scientists, analysts and advocates have called for aggressive climate action, warning of the “closing window” on global warming. Writing earlier this year in WRI Insights, Kelly Levin, Senior Associate of the World Resource Institute’s Climate & Energy Program, said that the most recent data suggests the developed world must commit to halving emissions by 2020 over 1990 levels to contain warming within the 2 degree target this century. Levin says that current emission reduction targets from developed countries only add up to between a 12 to 18 percent reduction from 1990 levels, far short of what is needed.

“The findings from this most recent study suggest that the challenge we already knew was great is even more difficult,” writes Levin. But even with an increased level of reductions necessary, the study does show that a 2°C goal is still attainable – if we act ambitiously and immediately.”

So the window has not slammed shut just yet, but with each passing year the ambition and immediacy required grows, along with greenhouse gas emissions. Can we rise to the challenge of climate change? I could say “time will tell,” but there really is none left. What is clear, right now more than ever, is that what we decide to do today will determine the fate of many generations to come.

Soon the hour will pass when we can no longer say there is still time to offset at least some of the worst consequences of climate change, but only hunker down for what we’ve brought upon ourselves.


Image credit: Mikael Miettinen, courtesy flickr

The post Record Greenhouse Gases – Is 2 Degrees Still Possible? appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

September 23 2013


Enviro News Wrap: Latest IPCC Report; Colorado Flood Aftermath; Coal’s Long Goodbye, and more…

The Latest Environmental News HeadlinesGlobalWarmingisReal contributor Anders Hellum-Alexander wraps-up and comments on the climate and environmental news headlines for the past week:

  • I spent last weekend in Denver and it turned out to be a terrible time to visit. In the Boulder area floods carved out the land and roads. Gas and oil tanks were disrupted during the flood, spilling their contents. There is a fundamental problem with using dirty energy sources, in the end we spill it.
  • The newest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report expands on the certainty that humans are the cause of climate change. Arguing against the theory of climate change is like arguing against the theory of evolution. Well, I guess people try to do that too.
  • The International community has yet to agree on and act out a plan to address climate change. The balance of our climate should be of interest to every country and person. Earth is on track for increasingly disruptive climate change that continues to assault the wealth and health of humans. We need to address this issue both locally and globally.
  • Global warming is not the only reason to reduce emissions of pollutants. We live and breath in our ocean of air, the atmosphere. Pollutants have a real impact on human life, illustrated by this map from NASA.
  • A lot of the oil coming out of Nigeria has been illegally siphoned off of pipelines. Besides the damage to the oil industry the process of stealing oil from pipelines is really dirty and broken pipes are just left to spill after thieves have taken their fill. We should be dependent on less destructive energy sources.
  • Google has invested a lot of money in renewable energy. The effort continues with a wind energy contract.
  • Wind-Turbine-Syndrome is a thing. I really don’t know what to think of it. Maybe its a psychosomatic reaction of people that live next to wind turbines and politically don’t like renewable energy.
  • Coal in America will have to clean up its act. The EPA is enacting new stricter rules and its a win for us and our environment. Even with these new rules coal has been on the decline due to the booming natural gas industry. Coal and gas are easy substitutes and investors are choosing gas over coal. Coal is being attacked from two fronts and this might be the beginning of the end for the industry. This is not just happening in the US, China is another large stage for the decline of coal.
  • Ever wonder how the managers of evil corporations maintain their sanity? What if they weren’t? Dirty energy companies, banks, they make huge profits off of obviously hurting people. Maybe we are being played by sociopaths.
  • A negative externality is the cost of producing a good or service that is not included in the price paid by the consumer. Unaccounted for environmental externalities are messing up our economy because it creates a false market signal with dirty energy priced low and renewable energy priced high. But, renewable energy has a lower cost to society than dirty energy.





The post Enviro News Wrap: Latest IPCC Report; Colorado Flood Aftermath; Coal’s Long Goodbye, and more… appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

September 04 2013


World Water Week: On the Ground in Stockholm

World Water WeekIt’s my third day here in Stockholm, home of World Water Week.

In that time I’ve had opportunities to meet and discuss issues of safe water access, sanitation and water resource management with Dan Bena, Senior Director of Sustainable Development for PepsiCo,  Gary White, co-founder of Water.org and Amanda Gimble, Senior Vice President of Strategic Initiatives for the Safe Water Network.

There’s much to discuss and share from what we’re all learning here in Stockholm, but for now let me leave you with a simple quote from a young woman with whom I shared lunch today, responding to my question as to her own purpose for attending World Water Week:

“to be inspired.”

May we all be inspired to make a better world. Without that inspiration, there is no hope.

Good night from Stockholm.

The post World Water Week: On the Ground in Stockholm appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

August 15 2013


ALEC Must Die

ALEC seeks to thwart open democracy and progress on clean energy and climate actionThere is a sinister force that is corrupting American politics by giving the most environmentally destructive elements of Big Business significant control over state legislatures. The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) turns 40 this year. This organization is composed of large corporations and state lawmakers. They draft environmentally harmful model laws that have been adopted in state legislatures across the country.

ALEC describes itself as “nonpartisan public-private partnership” and is registered as a not for profit organization. While the organization enjoys 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status, many groups see it as little more than a front for one of the most powerful and influential lobby groups in America.

The threat to America’s democracy from ALEC should not be underestimated as this is a well-funded and well-coordinated organization that has a proven track record of successfully manipulating state legislatures.

According to a new report from the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), ALEC continues to hold sway over statehouses across the country. In total, CMD identified 466 ALEC bills that were introduced in state legislatures during the first seven months of 2013. At least eighty-four of these measures have become law.

As reviewed in PR Watch, ALEC’s real mission in state legislatures is, “to allow dirty energy companies to pollute as much as they want, to attack incentives for clean energy competitors and to secure government handouts to oil, gas and coal interests,” says Connor Gibson, a Research Associate at Greenpeace.

Fossil fuel lobby

One of the most egregious threats to the public interest comes from the fossil fuel industry’s involvement with ALEC. “Disregarding science at every turn, ALEC is willing to simply serve as a front for the fossil fuel industry,” says Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org.

Corporate sponsors of ALEC include the leaders of the fossil fuel industry. Companies like Koch Industries, ExxonMobil, Duke Energy, Peabody Energy, BP, Shell, Chevron, TransCanada and American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, as well as industry trade associations and large corporate foundations provide almost all of ALEC’s funding.

ALEC’s goals are clear, they seek to provide financial rewards and protections to the companies that they work with.

According to Calvin Sloan, a legislative researcher with People for the American Way, corporations pay $50,000 each for full membership in ALEC. The purpose of the ALEC meetings is to instruct lawmakers on policy initiatives, which according to Sloan is “a fossil fuels-funded agenda.”

“They [ALEC] have participating corporations like fossil fuel companies drafting legislation that benefits those corporations directly, and then can get that legislation introduced in 50 states within a year,” Sloan said. “It’s part of an overall framework of corporations exerting their will and agenda upon the people.”

ALEC supports some of the most destructive fossil fuel legislation ever tabled including bills supporting coal, fracking and the Keystone XL Pipeline project.  It should come as no surprise that TransCanada Corp., the company that wants to build the Keystone XL pipeline, is also a member of ALEC. The company even sponsored an expense-paid trip called “ALEC academy” for nine ALEC-member state legislators. Following the trip, some of those in attendance introduced resolutions backing the pipeline in their state legislatures.

According to CMD, 77 ALEC bills promoting fossil fuels and undermining environmental protections were introduced in 34 states in 2013. At least seventeen of these measures have become law.

Climate change denial

ALEC’s activities extend beyond support for fossil fuel interests and encompass climate change misinformation. The Environmental Literacy Improvement Act which passed in at least four states, teaches children that climate change is a “controversial theory.” (The truth is that with 98 percent support, there are few theories that have garnered more support from scientists than anthropogenic climate change).

ALEC is a leading organization that actively denies the veracity of anthropogenic climate change and opposes limits on climate change causing emissions. At the 2013 meeting of ALEC, climate change was one of the items on the agenda.

One of the speakers at this year’s ALEC meeting was Joe Bastardi, he is a leading climate change denier and television weather forecaster who frequently comments on Fox News. He has called human-caused global warming an “obvious fraud.”  This year, Bastardi was the speaker at a plenary breakfast meeting misleadingly titled “A Thoughtful Approach to Climate Science.” In 2011, he spoke about “The Many Benefits of Increased Atmospheric CO2″ at ALEC’s annual meeting.

As reported in a May 2013 Forbes article, Bastardi says that “blaming turbulent weather on global warming is extreme nonsense.” While many have speculated as to whether he is willfully ignorant, willful, or just plain ignorant, as a meteorologist Bastardi should know better.

Opposition to renewable energy

ALEC does not only work in support of dirty hydrocarbons, it also is working to snuff out renewable energy. “ALEC’s long time role in denying the science and policy solutions to climate change is shifting into an evolving roadblock on state and federal clean energy incentives, a necessary part of global warming mitigation,” says Gibson.

Through legislation called the Electricity Freedom Act, ALEC sought to prevent states from requiring energy companies to increase electricity production from renewable energy sources. Because the Electricity Freedom Act failed to gain the support of state legislatures, ALEC is modifying its plan of attack against renewable energy standards. At its August 2013 meeting, ALEC introduced a bill called the Market Power Renewables Act, which seeks to undermine the Renewable Portfolio Standard or RPS.

As explained by PR Watch, this legislation “would phase-out a state’s RPS and instead create a renewable “market” where consumers can choose to pay for renewable energy, and allow utilities to purchase energy credits from outside the state. This thwarts the purpose of RPS policies, which help create the baseline demand for renewables that will spur the clean energy investment necessary to continue developing the technology and infrastructure that will drive costs down.”

Opposition to emissions reduction

ALEC has drafted laws that seek to oppose state efforts to reduce emissions. This includes a model bill titled, “State Withdrawal from Regional Climate Initiatives”, which opposes limiting climate change causing carbon emissions.

ALEC bills have not only opposed efforts from state agencies to regulate pollution, they even tried to stop the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from regulating greenhouse gas emissions.

In essence, ALEC’s goal is to undermine emissions reduction efforts and to continue our reliance on fossil fuels. Resistance to limiting atmospheric CO2 represents a serious threat to global health as it is widely understood that failure to reign in carbon emissions will have catastrophic consequences.

Control of water, land and information

An ALEC bill titled “Environmental Services Public-Private Partnership Act” would give for-profit companies control over wastewater treatment and drinking water. Another ALEC law titled “Disposal and Taxation of Public Lands Act” would give states access to resources in federal lands that are protected as wilderness preserves.

In addition to promoting anti-environmental bills, and seeking control over resources, they also craft legislation to control information and help industry escape public accountability. ALEC’s Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act would quash the First Amendment rights of reporters, investigators and videographers by making it harder for them to document issues associated with food safety and animal cruelty.  This is similar to Utah’s ag-gag law of 2012, which led to charges against a young woman named Amy Meyer, who filmed the outside of a slaughterhouse from public land. This ALEC model bill could also criminalize environmental civil disobedience.

Click here to view the full list of 2013 bills from the ALEC Energy, Environment, and Agriculture Task Force bills.

Growing resistance

The American public is increasingly aware of ALEC’s activities. As ALEC gathered for its 40th annual meeting in Chicago on August 7, they were met by protesters who marched outside the Palmer House Hotel where the meeting was held. The thousands who demonstrated included environmentalists, union members, civil rights activists, and social justice campaigners. Although this was not the first protest against ALEC, it was the largest to date.

Groundbreaking news coverage has helped to expose ALEC. Some of the most inclusive coverage of ALEC was provided by the CMD in the 2011 piece titled “ALEC Exposed.” Another was a documentary from Bill Moyers & Company titled “United States of ALEC.

One of the ways that ALEC has managed to wield so much power is by virtue of the fact that they have always functioned in the shadows. However, people are increasingly coming to terms with the nefarious ways in which ALEC threatens democracy and efforts to combat climate change.

The normally clandestine activities of ALEC are no longer hidden under a blanket of secrecy. Companies are increasingly understanding that involvement with ALEC is a PR liability.  Already, there have been a number of big multinationals that have withdrawn from the organization. Over the past year-and-a-half, almost 50 global corporations have dropped their ALEC membership and national campaigns are encouraging others to abandon ALEC.

After four decades of covert operations, ALEC is starting to feel the pressure from public scrutiny. Although ongoing resistance can be expected from the fossil fuel industry, public awareness can divest ALEC of its influence over state legislatures.

Shinning a spotlight on ALEC’s activities will kill the succubus that is draining the lifeblood of America’s democracy.
Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of The Green Market Oracle, a leading sustainable business site and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.

Main image credit: DonkeyHotey, courtesy flickr
Featured image credit: Light Bridgading, courtesy flickr


The post ALEC Must Die appeared first on Global Warming is Real.


Citizen Science Projects Help Scientists Understand Past and Future Climate

Citizen science projects like OldWeather help climate scientists understand past environmental conditions and improve climate modelsWith the rise of computer and social networks, crowdsourcing is changing the way we fund ideas, raise awareness of important issues and motivate community action. Citizen science projects is also a growing trend that lends itself to the crowdsourcing  concept, providing opportunities for interested citizens to use their computers and/or time to help with scientific research.

The citizen-scientist

The basic idea isn’t necessarily new, for many years organizations like the Earthwatch Institute have engaged volunteers on the ground and around the world with scientists pursuing research of all types. In 2007 we participating in one such project with Dr. Peter Kershaw called Climate Change at the Arctic’s Edge.

But the citizen scientist doesn’t have to travel to the Canadian Arctic, or anywhere else, to help further scientific inquiry and improve our understanding of the world around us. OldWeather.org is a project that helps scientists recover Arctic and global weather observations made by U.S. ships since the mid-nineteenth century. Volunteers help transcribe and digitize these log records, improving our knowledge of past environmental conditions and contributing to future climate model projections. The better we understand our past, the more accurately we can project possible future scenarios.

“We hope to unlock millions of weather, sea ice and other environmental observations which are recorded in these documents,” said NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D in a recent Weather.com interview.

OldWeather.org is a part of the Zooniverse Project, a collection of individual research projects ranging from space and cosmology, environment and biology, history and humanities, and climate. The Cyclone Center is another climate-focused project in the Zooniverse catalog. The project enlists volunteers to help record cyclone patterns of the past 30 years so climate scientists can better analyze the immense amount of data available to them in their reseaarch.

The dialog surrounding global warming, at least in certain politically motivated circles, has too often cast climate scientists as suspect, as “the other,” apart from the mainstream citizen going about their daily lives. In the process science, knowledge and inquiry itself is diminished. This does nobody any good.Working side-by-side with scientists in the field in an Earthwatch project, or assisting from the comfort of home with nothing more than your curiosity and a computer, helps to bridge this gap.

Citizen science is a vital piece in the puzzle of understanding our world and our future here on this planet. So check out Earthwatch of Zooniverse and join the ranks of citizen scientist!

What is Old Weather from National Maritime Museum on Vimeo.

Image credit: National Archives

The post Citizen Science Projects Help Scientists Understand Past and Future Climate appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

August 08 2013


Climate Change Exacerbates Social Tensions and Leads to Conflict

The consequences of climate change will lead to greater conflict, social change and violence. A wide array of research reveals that climate change plays a salient role in social change, violence and war. This research summary is one of the most comprehensive surveys of the social impacts of climate change ever assembled.

Climate change and conflict

The relationship between climate change, social tensions and conflict is well laid out by Kate Johnson. She provides a good overview of many of the ways in which climate impacts human behavior. She explains how climate change has the potential to increase conflict in environmentally and politically vulnerable states.

Johnson does not believe that climate change will necessarily lead directly to conflict, rather, she suggests that climate is a factor in the outbreak of conflict. According to this author, climate change will exploit preexisting ethnic, nationalist and religious divisions.

Johnson does not share the view that climate change is a causal factor in terrorism. She states that, “Climate change in less developed countries is not likely to lead to terrorism, but to conflict.” Climate change will cause inter-communal conflict when communities cannot meet their basic needs as a function of the Earth’s diminished carrying capacity or as a result of competition over specific resources.

She expects competition for water resources to be a major source of strife. With over 200 river basins touching multiple nations, “The potential for conflict over water is huge.” Johnson predicts that we will see “water-wars” as demand from growing populations outpace supply. One example could involve Israel, the Palestinian Territories and Jordan, all of which draw their water from the River Jordan.

Violence may also occur as a consequence of states or groups within a given state who wish to draw attention to life threatening climate change impacts. In eco-terrorism environmental extremists may use violence to demand ecological actions and safeguards.

As resources become more scarce due to climate change, people will be forced to migrate to meet their basic survival needs. These migrations between and within states may increase existing tensions and/or create new ones, potentially leading to conflict. The Bangladeshi migration to India in the 1980′s is a good example of how such movement can cause civil unrest. As far as migrations to Western European states are concerned, racial tensions could lead to racially motivated violence.

International Alert nations at risk

In a 2009 report titled “Climate Change, Conflict and Fragility,” the peace-building organization known as International Alert explores the relationship between climate change and conflict. It highlights the ways in which social and political realities interact with the impacts of climate change.

Policy makers are urged to look beyond technical fixes and to address the interlinked political, social and institutional aspects of the issues.

The report identifies a total of 61 countries at risk from climate change and conflict. However, more recent research suggests this estimate may be low.

AAAS statistical research

According to an August 1, 2013 study titled “Quantifying the Influence of Climate on Human Conflict” published in The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), there is a clear statistical link between climate change and conflict. This research indicates that increases in temperature and precipitation are correlated with higher risks of social upheaval, as well as personal violence.

These researchers drew on a wide array of disciplines from archaeology, criminology, economics, geography, history, political science, and psychology. They assembled and analyzed the 60 most rigorous quantitative studies and document a “substantial” correlation between climate and conflict. These studies explored the connection between weather and violence around the world from about 10,000 BCE to the present day.

The study showed that climate change exacerbated existing social and interpersonal tensions. Extreme rainfall, drought and hotter temperatures increased the frequency of interpersonal violence and inter-group conflict.

Going forward the researchers anticipate more conflict as the world is expected to warm 2 to 4 degrees C by 2050. They estimate that a 2C (3.6F) rise in global temperature could see personal crimes increase by about 15 percent, and group conflicts rise by more than 50 percent in some regions.

Climate change has been specifically correlated with a rise in assaults, rapes and murders, as well as group conflicts and war. These researchers point to the observation of an increase in domestic violence in India and Australia during recent droughts, and a spike in assaults, rapes and murders during heat waves in the US and Tanzania. They also report a relationship between rising temperatures and larger conflicts, including ethnic clashes in Europe and South Asia as well as civil wars in Africa.

It would appear that changes in the economic conditions caused by climate change are one of the main mechanisms at play. There may also be a physiological basis to the relationship between warming and conflict as higher temperatures appear to cause people to be more prone to aggression.

These research findings are succinctly summarized by Solomon Hsiang, one of the scientists that contributed to the research:

“[T]here is a causal relationship between the climate and human conflict…People have been skeptical up to now of an individual study here or there. But considering the body of work together, we can now show that these patterns are extremely general. It’s more of the rule than the exception…Whether there is a relationship between climate and conflict is not the question anymore. We now want to understand what’s causing it. Once we understand what causes this correlation we can think about designing effective policies or institutions to manage or interrupt the link between climate and conflict.”

United Nations Security Council

As noted in Resolution 1625, the UN Security Council is concerned with the prevention of armed conflict. Climate change is increasingly under scrutiny as a salient factor in the genesis of conflict.

In 2007, the United Nations Security Council was meeting to discuss the security implications of climate change. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon talked about resource scarcity, fragile ecosystems and severe strains placed on the coping mechanisms of groups and individuals, potentially leading to “a breakdown of established codes of conduct, and even outright conflict.”

In 2011, the Security Council agreed to a statement expressing “concern that the possible adverse effects of climate change may, in the long run, aggravate certain existing threats to international peace and security.”

Extreme weather in 2012 added a sense of urgency to UN discussions leading to the following statement, “The impacts of climate change, such as sea-level rises, drought, flooding and extreme weather events, can exacerbate underlying tensions and conflict in part of the world already suffering from resource pressures.”

Information presented to the Security Council earlier this year explicitly made the link between climate change and conflict. A February 2013 Bloomberg News article reviews the research presented by Joachim Schellnhuber to the security Council. Schellnhuber is the director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Angela Merkels’ chief climate advisor. Schellnhuber’s research shows the connection between climate change and global security challenges.

The Security Council session was evidence of the increased focus on the link between climate change and global security. As articulated in notes prepared for diplomats at the council’s session, “There is growing concern that with faster than anticipated acceleration, climate change may spawn consequences which are harsher than expected.”

Either rich nations will find a way to supply needy nations suffering from damaging climate effects “or you will have all kinds of unrest and revolutions, with the export of angry and hungry people to the industrialized countries,” Schellnhuber said.

Center for American Progress on migration and security

The Center for American Progress has released a series of reports on how climate change, migration and security factors will play out in different regions of the world. This series of reports examines the relationship between climate change, security and conflict.

A January 2012 report titled “Climate Change, Migration, and Conflict,” reviews the growing evidence of links between climate change, migration, and conflict.

An April 2012 report called “Climate Change, Migration, and Conflict in Northwest Africa,” explores the overlays and intersections of climate change, migration, and security create an arc of tension in Northwest Africa comprising Nigeria, Niger, Algeria, and Morocco.

A December 2012 report called “Climate Change, Migration, and Conflict in South Asia,” analyzes South Asia through the prism of climate, migration, and security. The report details the underlying trends shaping the entire region and elucidates the risks posed by current long-term trajectories.

A June 2013 video titled, “Climate Change, Migration, and Security in South Asia,” shows how climate shifts have the potential to create complex environmental, humanitarian, and security challenges in South Asia.

US Intelligence Community on Security Threats

In the U.S. intelligence communities, there is an emerging consensus that conflicts ensuing from global warming constitute a bonafide threat to American security.

A February 2012 National Intelligence Assessment titled Global Water Security indicates that over the next two or three decades, vulnerable regions (particularly sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, South and Southeast Asia) will face the prospect of food shortages, water crises, and catastrophic flooding driven by climate change.

In addition, the depletion of groundwater in agricultural areas will pose risks to national and global food markets in the next decade, threatening “social disruption.” The U.S. intelligence community has also identified water management, particularly the mitigation of trans-border riparian risks, as a source of major concern in the next three decades.

A November 2012, National Research Council (NRC) report commissioned by the CIA, titled “Climate and Social Stress: Implications for Security Analysis”, found that climate change causes considerable stress to the people of affected areas.

“Security analysts should anticipate that over the next decade, droughts, heat waves, storms, or other climate events of surprising intensity or duration will stress communities, societies, governments, and the globally integrated systems that support human well-being.”

According to a December 2012 National Intelligence Council report titled “Global Trends 2030,” climate change will force migration and exacerbate existing social tensions surrounding resources and other environmental factors, which will in turn lead to conflicts.

The report notes that critical resources of food, water and energy will be adversely impacted. Climate change along with water shortages will impact agricultural production at the same time as increased energy demands may limit the amount of raw materials available to make fertilizers.

Climate change will constrain natural resources, drive migration, and exacerbate tensions globally. The report says that climate change and extreme weather will be key factors fueling tensions over access to food, water, and energy.

“…many developing and fragile states-such as in Sub-Saharan Africa- face increasing strains from resource constraints and climate change, pitting different tribal and ethnic groups against one another and accentuating the separation of various identities. Ideology is likely to be particularly powerful and socially destructive when the need for basic resources exacerbates already existing tensions between tribal, ethnic, religious, and national groups.”

According to the report, the impacts of climate change will be particularly acute in Asia where monsoons are crucial to the growing season. The report further predicts that increasing global temperatures could provoke conflict between Europe and Russia.

A March 2013, Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community, reiterates the idea that a changing climate and competition for natural resources can fuel tensions and conflicts.

The report reviews how competition for scarce resources (food, water, minerals, and energy) “are growing security threats.” It also explores how extreme weather events can cause a host of problems ranging from disruptions in the food and energy supply, human migrations, riots, civil disobedience and vandalism, all of which can exacerbate state weakness.

Not only can climate change increase the price of food, when combined with population growth it can also increase the risk of conflict between farmers and livestock owners. This is especially true in sub-Saharan Africa and Central Asia. We can also expect to see more disputes over fisheries as water scarcity becomes a growing problem in major river basins, and as marine fisheries are depleted.

The growing scarcity of freshwater due to climate change and extreme weather are expected to combine to harm the economic performance of important US trading partners. As noted in the report,”many countries are using groundwater faster than aquifers can replenish in order to satisfy food demand.”

Global population increases, a burgeoning middle class and an increased proportion of the world’s population living in urban areas will put intense pressure on food, water, minerals, and energy.

DoD, Military and National Security

A number of leading U.S. Defense officials have declared that climate change is a national security issue including Thomas Fingar, the former chairman of National Intelligence Council and Leon Panetta, the former Secretary of Defense.  Another former Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, said “Over the next 20 years and more, certain pressures-population, energy, climate, economic, environmental-could combine with rapid cultural, social, and technological change to produce new sources of deprivation, rage, and instability.”

Other top military officials that have also directly linked climate change to instability. This includes General Gordon Sullivan, Vice Admiral Dennis McGinn, General Anthony Zinni, Brig. General Bob Barnes and General Chuck Wald.

Brig. General Steven Anderson, USA (Ret.), former Chief of Logistics under General Petraeus and a self-described “conservative Republican added, “I think that [climate change] increases the likelihood there will be conflicts in which American soldiers are going to have to fight and die somewhere.”

The relationship between climate change and conflict is not new in military circles. A  2007 report titled “National Security and the Threat of Climate Change”  by a U.S. based think tank known as the Military Advisory Board of the CNA Corporation, links climate change and terrorism.  As stated by retired Admiral T. Joseph Lopez, “climate change will provide the conditions that will extend the war on terror”. This statement is based on the premise that greater poverty, increased forced migration and higher unemployment will create conditions ripe for extremists and terrorists.

A 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review report called climate change a threat to national security that “may spark or exacerbate future conflicts.” This report indicated that climate change could have significant geopolitical impacts around the world. As reviewed in the report, climate change was expected to cause devastating droughts, crop failures, and mass migrations, all of which will coalesce to create the kind of dangerous conditions that breed violent extremism.

On June 21, 2013, the University of Maryland announced that the Department of Defense (DoD) is providing a $1.9 million grant for a new 3 year research project that will model the relationship between climate change and conflict.

The research is being led by a team of researchers from the University of Maryland. They are at the head of a team of policy experts and scientists that are developing new models based on the relationship between conflict, socio-economic conditions and climate. These statistical models and case studies will identify the best predictors of climate-related conflict. These models will also be used to project future conflict and develop military and policy interventions.

“It’s likely that physical and economic disruptions resulting from climate change could heighten tensions in sensitive areas of the world,” says lead researcher Elisabeth Gilmore, an assistant professor in the University of Maryland’s (UMD) School of Public Policy. “We hope to develop an integrated model to help researchers and policy makers better anticipate civil conflict under a range of climate change scenarios.”

In regions with ongoing conflicts such as sub-Saharan Africa, additional changes in food and water availability, public health crises, and disruptive migration could further destabilize civil order.

PNAS Research on Africa

The notion that climate change can lead to tension and even war is not a matter of speculation. In Africa, climate already drives armed conflict. What could be described as the world’s first war caused by climate change has already occurred in Darfur, Sudan.

In Darfur land degradation (drought and desertification) as a result of climate change has led to protracted conflicts.  As explained in 2006 by former British Defense Secretary Dr. John Reid, “the blunt truth is that the lack of water and agricultural land is a significant contributory factor to the tragic conflict we see unfolding in Darfur.”

These climate conflicts can take a terrible toll on human life. According to UN figures, the war in Darfur has killed 200,000 people and forced two million from their homes.

A comprehensive examination bears out a strong link between climate change and armed conflict in sub-Saharan Africa. According to 2009 research from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), titled “Warming Increases the Risk of Civil War in Africa,” warming causes war.

The report notes that conflict was about 50 percent more likely in Africa in years when it was unusually warm. Overall, this research demonstrates how conflict arises in conjunction with scarce food supplies and warm conditions.

The research revealed “strong historical linkages between civil war and temperature in Africa, with warmer years leading to significant increases in the likelihood of war.”

Over the last two decades, conflicts have increased by 50 percent. Even smaller skirmishes have been linked to food scarcity and warmer temperatures in Africa. The research reveals that even if we see economic development and more responsible governance, we can still expect to see a rise in strife from climate change.

“We were very surprised to find that when you put things like economic growth and better governance into the mix, the temperature effect remains strong,” said Dr Marshall Burke, one of the studies authors.

As temperatures continue to rise on the continent, the research shows that conflicts are also expected to increase.

“When combined with climate model projections of future temperature trends, this historical response to temperature suggests a roughly 54 percent increase in armed conflict incidence by 2030, or an additional 393,000 battle deaths if future wars are as deadly as recent wars.”

Center for Climate & Security on Syria

As reviewed in a March 2012 report from the Center for Climate & Security titled “Syria: Climate Change, Drought and Social Unrest,” the current conflict in Syria has been linked to climate change. According to the hypothesis put forth by these authors, climate change has caused internal displacement, rural disaffection and political unrest that ultimately contributed to the state of civil war we have today in Syria.

“Syria’s current social unrest is, in the most direct sense, a reaction to a brutal and out-of-touch regime and a response to the political wave of change that began in Tunisia early last year. However, that’s not the whole story. The past few years have seen a number of significant social, economic, environmental and climatic changes in Syria that have eroded the social contract between citizen and government in the country, have strengthened the case for the opposition movement, and irreparably damaged the legitimacy of the al-Assad regime. If the international community, and future policy-makers in Syria, are to address and resolve the drivers of unrest in the country, these changes will have to be better explored and exposed.”

This research cites water shortages, drought, crop-failures and displacement as contributing factors to Syria’s civil war. Syria’s farmland has collapsed due to climate change.

As explained in the report from 2006-2011, up to 60 percent of Syria suffered from “the worst long-term drought and most severe set of crop failures since agricultural civilizations began in the Fertile Crescent many millennia ago.” In the northeast and the south nearly 75 percent of crops failed. Herders in the northeast lost around 85 percent of their livestock, and 1.3 million people were directly impacted.

Over 800,000 Syrians have lost their entire livelihood as a result of the droughts. A total of one million Syrians were made “food insecure”and two to three million were driven to extreme poverty. Overuse of groundwater is seriously depleting the aquifer stocks which further complicates the issue.

In response to these events, there has been a massive exodus of farmers, herders and agriculturally-dependent rural families from the countryside to the cities. In the farming villages around the city of Aleppo alone, 200,000 rural villagers left for the cities.

The fact that the rural farming town of Dara’a was the focal point for protests in the early stages of the Syrian civil war illustrates how climate change induced drought was a central issue in the initial uprisings.

Of course, there were other factors adding to Syrian instability, they include Influxes of Iraqi refugees which have added to the strains and tensions of an already stressed and disenfranchised population. Over-grazing of land and a rapidly growing population also compounded the land desertification process. However, climate does appear to have been a factor leading to the civil war we see in the country today.

Climate models predict that the situation in Syria will worsen as climate change impacts intensify. Yields of rainfed crops in the country are expected to decline between 29 and 57 percent from 2010 to 2050.


Taken together, these reports provide irrefutable evidence that climatic events can increase social tensions and conflict. From the dawn of human civilization to the present the research shows a clear causal link between climate and strife. Climate change not only fans the flames of social tensions, it is a pivotal catalyst in they dynamics of conflict.

Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of The Green Market Oracle, a leading sustainable business site and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.

Image credit: CIFOR, courtesy flickr


The post Climate Change Exacerbates Social Tensions and Leads to Conflict appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

July 18 2013


Congress Submits to Monsanto as Consumers Start Growing Their Own Food

Monsanto gets its way in Congress, but consumer are pushing backBy Ellen Henderson

Monsanto’s website declares that the company could not exist without farmers. The public, however, is no longer buying the rhetoric the company has pushed since its founding in 1901.

Monsanto has sued small family farmers, taken small dairy farmers to court, pushed cotton farmers into bankruptcy, and coerced taxpayers into funding their efforts to poison the world with their genetically modified products.

On May 25, millions of people took to the streets, chanting things like “stop poisoning the people.” Dubbed, the “March Against Monsanto,” the protests were largely ignored by mainstream media.

HR 933, known as the “Monsanto Protection Act” to opponents, easily passed through Congress and was signed into law by President Obama in March. Officially called the Farmer Assurance Provision, the Act forbids federal courts from stopping the sale or use of GMO seeds regardless of any health risks that may be discovered in the future. Though research is revealing the potential dangers of GMO food, the International Business Times says the Monsanto Protection Act gives the corporation immunity from any sort of liability.

Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., has been a vocal critic of the act, which he says forces Americans to eat GMOs whether they want to or not. Vermont is one of few states that have passed a bill requiring food manufacturers to label GMO ingredients. Sanders proposed an amendment to the federal bill that would require all states to have similar labeling laws. The presence of the powerful GMO lobby, which has a lot of influence on Congress, helped reject the proposal in the Senate.  Even at the state level, particularly California, big names in the food industry like Pepsi, ConAgra and Smuckers are fighting against similar labeling proposals.

Disillusioned by the government and lacking the financial resources to fight such massive multinational organizations, many citizens are gathering gardening tools and aquaponics equipment to cultivate their own food. Urban farmers are growing their own fruits and vegetables, with some also producing their own meat, eggs, and honey.

Consumers not only save money by cultivating their own food, but also protect the health of their families. Hydroponic gardening, composting, fish farming and other simple, yet revolutionary ideas present people the opportunity to sustain their families without using a lot of space. The number of people with hunting licenses and permits has increased by nearly 2 million since 2010, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. A hunting license and an accurate shot can fill your freezer with meat for the winter, while a Michigan boaters license and a small paddle boat are all you need to find GMO-free fish.

Reaction since the Monsanto Protection Act was passed indicate that consumers aren’t quietly succumbing to the GMO giant. Whether they are lobbying their senators, weeding their backyard gardens by hand or just sitting by the stream hoping for a bite, its clear consumers want safe, GMO-free food with clear labels.


Ellen is a mom and DIY maven. She writes primarily about health, wellness and sustainable living issues.

The post Congress Submits to Monsanto as Consumers Start Growing Their Own Food appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

August 08 2012


How Morality Can Win the War on Climate Change

Finding a moral imperative to fight climate changeThe climate movement must go beyond preaching economics and explaining science, we must create a moral imperative that compels us to act. To get people involved in the war on climate change we must weave environmental awareness into our codes of conduct.

The reasons why more people are not demanding action on the environment is a glaring moral failing. If we are to see a critical mass of support for efforts to combat climate change, we must understand that in addition to an economic and ecological crisis, we are also facing a moral crisis. To bridge the gulf between morality and climate change we need to go to the places where morality still has value.

Religions are a primary source of ethical conduct, and as such they are an ideal platform for communicating a moral argument. Although governments and businesses have a central role, churches, temples, mosques, synagogues and other places of worship may be the best venues for disseminating the moral dimension of the climate change issue.  We need to tap into the deeply embedded preexisting morality of the vast majority of people who consider themselves followers of religion. (Even those who do not subscribe to religion also respond to moral arguments about the need for action on climate change).

Religious leaders from all the major traditions see action on climate change as a moral imperative. As reviewed in an extensive list of Climate Change Statements, all of the world’s major religious traditions espouse a harmonious relationship between people and the planet.

One group called Interfaith Moral Action on Climate  is a collaborative initiative of religious leaders and groups that are promoting a moral call to action on climate change. This group feels compelled by their “traditions and collective conscience to take action on this deeply moral challenge. [They] believe that a moral voice is essential in inspiring action on climate change, since scientific and economic arguments alone have not moved the United States to adequately address this deepening crisis.”

Interfaith is calling for policies that dramatically reduce wasted energy, support renewable energy and phase-out all fossil fuel subsidies. Despite the radical change they advocate, their message is positive. They seek a “brighter vision” to unite the world around “a set of clear widely held moral principles.”

Their third guiding moral principle is to protect the Earth, they reiterate the aboriginal beliefs that we have a moral obligation to be good stewards of the Earth and all of its creatures and processes.  Interfaith’s vision advocates a moral response to climate change while acknowledging scientific research.

They have circulated their Interfaith Declaration on Climate Change, and an Interfaith Statement on Climate Change was submitted by representatives of the world’s religions at the COP17 in Durban, South Africa.

“We recognize that climate change is not merely an economic or technical problem, but rather at its core is a moral, spiritual and cultural one. We therefore pledge to join together to teach and guide the people who follow the call of our faiths.”

In an article titled “Rekindling the Moral Call to Action,” climate change is construed as a “fundamental moral and humanitarian issue.”  The article urges action from leaders and works towards a unified effort to combat climate change.

On July 23rd,  2012, there was a phone conference briefing on “How to Communicate about Climate Action as a Moral Imperative.” The event was co-hosted by Climate Access, US Climate Action Network, Interfaith Moral Action on Climate Change, and the National Climate Ethics. The speakers indicated that we need to create a moral movement that urges people to take personal responsibility and choose sides on the issue of climate change.

Even American Evangelical Christian Leaders have clearly articulated a moral argument for supporting action on anthropogenic climate change. They state that their Christian moral convictions demand their response to climate change. They go on to advocate national legislation in the U.S., requiring emissions reductions through market based mechanisms like cap-and-trade.

As reviewed in a Guardian article, NASA scientist Jim Hansen calls climate change a moral issue on a par with slavery. He is calling for a global carbon tax and sees inaction on climate change as an “injustice of one generation to others”.

Morality is also the key issue in an article titled Why Few Americans View Climate Change as a Moral Problem by Ezra Markowitz. He is a doctoral candidate in Environmental Sciences at the University of Oregon and a research fellow with the Climate Shift Project at American. In a 2012 publication Markowitz points to an absence of strong moral intuitions on climate change.

Markowitz and his colleague Azim Shariff have published research on the moral psychology of the public (dis)engagement with climate change. Their new paper in Nature Climate Change is called Climate change and moral judgment.” In the paper, Markowitz and Shariff explore six reasons why climate change is not a more common moral issue and six strategies that may help to compel us to act.

According to these researchers, the human moral judgment system fails to acknowledge climate change because: Climate change is complex, distant and abstract; it represents an untraditional type of moral transgression where it is sometimes hard to attribute blame; people have an aversion to guilt; they see the future as uncertain and they fail to identify with victims of climate change. Finally, concerns about climate change are not at present core moral values.

To help people engage efforts to combat climate change, the authors recommend that we use existing moral values. They go on to suggest that we should focus on communicating the problems that climate change will wreak upon future generations, rather than on the potential benefits. The idea here is that it is counterproductive to focus on “extrinsic motivators” for action on climate change (i.e. economic growth and jobs). According to the researchers, it weakens moral engagement by deemphasizing intrinsic values and non-materialist motives.

The research indicates that it is more productive to use messaging that generates positive emotions (eg: hope, pride and gratitude), rather than negative emotions (eg: guilt, shame and anxiety). The study reports that we need to expand our group identity, incorporate shared goals, and finally, we need to highlight positive social norms where pro-environmental action is lauded.

“The point I want to drive home is this: truly engaging with climate change as a moral issue—really feeling its moral significance viscerally—is no easy feat” Markowitz said, “regardless of how often we hear about the people and animals that will be harmed or the injustice of richer individuals and nations misappropriating a life-sustaining, common resource.”

We will need to be creative and develop evidence-based approaches that help people to understand climate change as a moral imperative. Despite the subtle psychological nuances needed to effectively communicate the point, the moral argument is capable of unleashing unprecedented activity.
Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of The Green Market Oracle, a leading sustainable business blog and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.

Image credit: Mal B, courtesy Flickr

July 25 2012


A Carbon Tax is More Viable than Cap and Trade

A carbon tax is a more viable solution than cap-and-tradePricing carbon is the cornerstone of a blueprint to contain climate change as it would provide both incentives and disincentives to reduce emissions. It would also drive investment and research dollars into renewable energy and efficiency. The best thing that governments can do to reduce emissions is to implement a cap and trade scheme or failing that, a carbon tax.

Cap and Trade

Creating carbon markets is among the most expedient ways to address climate change. Cap and trade rewards efficiency and punishes polluters. It would also increase green jobs, lower electricity bills, enhance competitiveness, and forestall a climate catastrophe.

The cap and trade strategy allows governments to set incrementally lower limits on CO2 emissions. Those who emit CO2 could either reduce their emissions to meet the targets, or they could buy emission credits from those who can come in under the targets.

Several economists, including University of Wyoming economics professor Edward Barbier, say cap and trade has the broadest political appeal because it’s a market-driven incentive to achieve emission reductions as cheaply and efficiently as possible.

Although price volatility and scandals have undermined the European Carbon trading market, others like China and Australia are looking to improve on Europe’s failings. Further, a new report on Tokyo’s cap and trade efforts suggests it has been a great success, as has carbon trading in British Columbia.

Early in 2012, BusinessGreen reported that China is getting ready to set up a direct tax on its largest greenhouse gas emitters by 2015. Seven Chinese cities and provinces are already preparing to launch the country’s first emissions trading schemes.

The results of the first fiscal year of operation of Tokyo’s cap and trade validate the city’s groundbreaking initiative to introduce a market-based approach to emissions reductions at the urban scale. Launched in 2010, new reports indicate that there have been collective emissions reductions of 13 percent over base-year figures. Cited as a “world-leading policy” by World Green Building Council (WGBC), Tokyo’s cap and trade program provides a compelling example for other cities to follow.

Nations like Australia are starting with a carbon tax, then transitioning to cap and trade. Australia’s carbon tax went into effect in July and carbon trading is scheduled to come online in 2015. The current Australian government sees the importance of pricing carbon. “The science is convincing, the threat is real, the economic and environmental benefits are tangible, the need for action imperative,” Wayne Swan, Australia’s finance minister, said in 2011.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has predicted the tax would cut Australia’s emissions by 160 million tonnes within a decade, the equivalent of taking 45 million cars off the road. Right now, the tax affects the country’s 500 biggest polluters and will be followed by a carbon trading program in 2015, which allows companies to meet 50 percent of their carbon reduction targets by paying for offsets.

Australia’s cap and trade program is expected to benefit emerging countries like Mexico.  Cool nrg International is an example of an Australian company that is providing offset projects. They are planning to distribute 45 million energy efficient light bulbs to 6.5 million low-income households in Mexico City. The project is expected to save 33,000 gigawatt hours of energy, equivalent to about a third of Mexico City’s auto emissions.

“Employment continues to grow just as strongly after we put a price on pollution…Our economy will continue to grow solidly while making deep cuts in carbon pollution,” Swan said. The renewable electricity sector is projected to grow by 600 percent by 2050. “But the only way to get these kinds of outcomes in a cost-effective way is with a market mechanism.” said Swan.

Nonetheless, it remains a tough sell with Australian voters. According to a July 23rd survey, Gillard’s Labor party has the support of only 28 percent of voters. However, a new study by the Climate Institute has found that more information could change the minds of voters.

Carbon Taxes

Historically, taxes have been a non-starter in U.S., particularly with Republicans. However, with the failure of cap and trade, many economists and a growing number of business leaders are looking towards a carbon tax to reign in emissions.

The Breakthrough Institute estimates that a carbon tax of as little as $5 per ton could result in $30 billion a year in the U.S. This could be used for R&D funding, project development, and other clean-tech supports, including a potential rebate for consumers initially hit with higher energy costs in some regions.

Business leaders like Microsoft founder Bill Gates is among those who support a carbon tax. In 2010, Gates expressed his support for a tax over cap-and-trade, stating “it’s ideal to have a carbon tax, not just a price on carbon…”

It is clear that Republican opposition makes cap and trade a dead issue in the U.S. for the foreseeable future. However, one prominent Republican claims that it is still possible to introduce a carbon tax.

In July, George Shultz said that his party could eventually support a carbon tax. The former Secretary of State for the Regan administration has called for a carbon tax to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and oil consumption. Shultz is the head of the Hoover Institution’s Task Force on Energy Policy, which calls for boosting energy efficiency, reducing dependence on oil exports to improve national security, and putting a price on carbon.

“We have to have a system where all forms of energy bear their full costs,” Shultz said. “For some, their costs are the costs of producing the energy, but many other forms of energy produce side effects, like pollution, that are a cost to society. The producers don’t bear that cost, society does. There has to be a way to level the playing field and cause those forms of energy to bear their true costs. That means putting a price on carbon.”

“We’ve studied a variety of ways to do that, and to me the most appealing way is a revenue-neutral carbon tax. That is, you distribute all the revenue from the carbon tax in some fashion back to taxpayers, so there is no fiscal drag on the economy. British Columbia has a revenue-neutral carbon tax. They started low and increased the tax over five years to a much higher level, so people could adjust. The revenue is distributed mostly to individuals, so it’s popular.”

According to a new report released in June, the Canadian province of British Columbia introduced a carbon tax that has successfully reduced fossil fuel consumption to the lowest in Canada with little economic damage. The study titled British Columbia’s Carbon Tax Shift, produced by the Ottawa-based think-tank Sustainable Prosperity, offers clear evidence that the tax has helped reduce emissions while producing tangible economic benefits.

Economist and Sustainable Prosperity senior director Alex Wood said as a consequence of the carbon tax, “you’re starting to see in B.C. a separation between economic growth and fossil fuel use.” That “decoupling,” he added, would lead to a more “resilient” economy insulated from oil price shocks.

“The B.C. model is simple, it’s elegant; it’s a lot of different things,” said Wood. “You reduce taxes on income, on corporate income, and you promise to be revenue neutral and you make sure that happens.”

Despite controversy, British Columbians are increasingly on board. Wood says the report demonstrates that dire predictions are unfounded and he further claims that B.C.’s carbon tax policy could be easily exported.

Reasons to Support a US Carbon Tax 

A solid rational for a carbon tax in the US comes from a recent book titled, The Case for a Carbon Tax, written by Shi-Ling Hsu, a professor at the University of British Columbia. According to Hsu, a carbon tax is the most effective mechanism to combat climate change and motivate the private sector while raising much-needed revenue for governments. As reviewed by the Energy Collective, here are 10 reasons to support a U.S. carbon tax from Hsu’s book.

  1. It is economically efficient.  An accurate disincentive for using carbon-based fuels could mimic the increment of damage — the marginal damage — caused by each ton of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere. “The simple genius of a carbon tax is that it aggregates disparate pieces of information, transmitting a price signal at every stage in which there is fossil fuel usage . . . no data collection is required and no model is required.”
  2. It avoids creating physical capital that could actually harm the environment — e.g. coal-fired power plants. “The problem with capital is that once we have it, its high cost makes it difficult to dispose of.”
  3. It doesn’t interfere with other regulatory instruments or jurisdictions. “A carbon tax would have the advantage, because of its simplicity, of forming the strongest foundation upon which other policies can stand.”
  4. Government is better at reducing bad actions than increasing good actions. Taxes work better than subsidies.
  5. Incentives for innovation — price effects. It would impact emissions not only from the largest carbon sources such as power plants and industrial facilities but all carbon sources.
  6. Incentives for innovation — price breadth. It focuses new products and services no matter how much money can be saved by using less electricity or electricity from a different source, e.g. renewables.
  7. It is easy to administer. There are no “offsets” as would be needed with a cap-and-trade program. “Awarding an offset for a project that purports to avoid emissions increases rather than actually reducing them is a tricky proposition.”
  8. International coordination is doable. “An international accord based on a carbon tax scheme would avoid the unfortunate appearance of China being allocated some cap amount by an external bureaucracy.” It “would not represent  . . . a binding limit to economic growth.”
  9. It raises badly needed revenue. There is a lot of money that could be raised from discouraging carbon emissions. However, the less carbon emitted, the lower revenues would be.
  10. It avoids the risk of catastrophe. In the long-run, this is the ultimate measure of efficiency from a public welfare perspective.

A carbon tax may succeed where emissions trading schemes have failed because a tax sends a clear and consistent message to the markets with little opportunity for speculative manipulation.


Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of THE GREEN MARKET, a leading sustainable business blog and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.

Image credit: swanksalot, courtesy flickr

Older posts are this way If this message doesn't go away, click anywhere on the page to continue loading posts.
Could not load more posts
Maybe Soup is currently being updated? I'll try again automatically in a few seconds...
Just a second, loading more posts...
You've reached the end.
No Soup for you

Don't be the product, buy the product!

YES, I want to SOUP ●UP for ...