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January 08 2014

18:38

NY Governor Launches $17B Plan to Enhance Resiliency to Extreme Weather

Hammered by an unprecedented nine federally declared disasters since he took office three years ago and with much of the state now frozen solid as a result of the southward drifting polar vortex, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled details of a far reaching rebuilding plan that aims to enhance New York state’s resiliency to climate change and its emergency preparedness.

Dubbed “Reimagining New York for a New Reality,” the $17 billion plan will see the state invest a wide range of projects “that will transform New York’s infrastructure, transportation networks, energy supply, coastal protection, weather warning system and emergency management system to better protect New Yorkers from future extreme weather,” the governor’s office explained in a press release.

Credit: New York State Office of the Governor

Extreme weather is “The New Reality”

Along with its own funds, the state government is putting federal disaster funds granted in response to 2012′s Superstorm Sandy and 2011′s Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee to work to implement the far reaching plan to enhance New York’s climate change resiliency and emergency preparedness. Its key aspects include:

  • Building the most advanced weather detection system in the nation, with 125 interconnected weather stations to provide real-time warnings of local extreme weather and flood conditions;
  • Launching the nation’s first College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security, and Cybersecurity;
  • Replacing and repairing 104 older bridges at risk due to increasing flooding;
  • Implementing the largest reconstruction of the state’s transit system in 110 years with $5 billion of federal funds;
  • Creating a statewide Strategic Fuel Reserve, and statewide gas station back-up power on critical routes throughout the state;
  • Hardening the state’s electric grid and creating 10 “microgrids” (independent community-based electric distribution systems);
  • Building new natural infrastructure to protect the New York’s coastline, and provide advanced flood control for inland waterways;
  • Training a new Citizen First Responder Corps to make New York residents the best prepared in the nation to deal with emergencies and disasters; and
  • Expanding the $650 million NY Rising Community Reconstruction program to allow 124 communities around the state to create their own individualized storm resilience plans.
  • Issuing special license plates for first responders

Avoiding climate change catastrophe

Besides enhancing New York’s emergency preparedness and climate change resiliency, carrying out the $17 billion plan is sure to provide the state economy with a big, much needed, economic boost.

Unveiling the strategic plan at a press conference in Albany, the state capitol, Governor Cuomo highlighted the new reality of more frequent extreme weather events and recounted the unprecedented disruption and devastation that resulted, both downstate, in and around New York City, as well as across the length and breadth of upstate New York.

Of the one-year process that resulted in creation of the plan, the governor stated,

“This was a special challenge for us, because it called for us to literally reimagine the state in light of what we went through with Hurricane Sandy, Superstorm Sandy, storms Irene and Lee, and taking those lessons, and taking really that trauma, and reshaping our vision of New York through that experience. We call it ‘Reimagining New York’ because we are now facing a new reality after what we went through.”

 

“Extreme weather is the new reality, like it or not. What caused it is a separate discussion for a separate day, but the reality is extreme weather and we have to deal with it.”

The governor also acknowledged that the plan couldn’t have come to fruition without extraordinary support and assistance from the Obama Administration and federal government, as well as local leaders throughout New York State.

Joining Governor Cuomo at the press conference, Vice President Joe Biden praised the plan and Governor Cuomo. “Governor, I am delighted to be able to be here with you today,” the vice president began.

“I think you rebuilding New York, reimagining a future is exactly what we have to do in this country. And once again, in the tradition of this state and the tradition of Andrew Cuomo, you’re leading. You’re not just leading in New York, you’re leading the country. And I think a lot of governors and a lot of folks can learn an awful lot from what they see and what you do here.”

For more on this, check out the Office of the Governor’s press release or watch the press conference below:

Image credit: New York State Office of the Governor

The post NY Governor Launches $17B Plan to Enhance Resiliency to Extreme Weather appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

January 03 2014

16:26

Top U.S. Green Economy Trends and Predictions for 2014

While the overall outlook is good, there is a mixed bag of trends, predictions and problems that will directly impact sustainability, renewable energy, greenbuilding and cleantech in 2014.

Many feel we've turned a corner in cleantech. What are the trends for the green economy in 2014?Sustainability

The year to come may prove a challenging one for sustainability. According to an Ecova report, the growth of sustainability in 2014 will be complicated by increased energy and resource prices. The report titled 2014 Energy and Sustainability Predictions: Findings from Leading Professionals is based on a survey of 500 energy and sustainability professionals.

The combination of cost cutting pressures and environmental disclosure will push firms to develop a total energy and sustainability management strategy to remain competitive and meet resource management needs, says Jeff Heggedahl, Ecova president and CEO.

A total of 70 percent of respondents predicted that water will emerge as the top sustainability initiative in 2014. The report indicates that water is percieved as a significant opportunity for savings and improvement. The survey states that water concerns are second only to energy. Ford’s 2014 Trend’s Report concurs with the Ecova assessment that water will be the priority issue this year as does a Credit Suisse report titled Water: The Next Challenge.

The Ecova report also states that benchmarking regulations will contribute to an increasingly complex environment. However, it further indicates that peer benchmarking is another area where there are opportunities to capture additional costs and energy savings.

Renewable energy

While there is both good and bad news for the U.S. renewable energy industry in 2014, overall, the skyward trend continues. As reported in Renewable Energy World, on December 20 Credit Suisse released a highly favorable report that predicted unprecedented growth for renewable energy in the US.

They attribute their bullish forecasts to a combination of state Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) and cost competitiveness of renewables when compared to conventional power generation including natural gas. Their report predicts that renewable energy will meet 85 percent of future power demand growth through 2025. This translates to a forecast of 100 GW of new renewable capacity with wind and solar market share more than doubling from 2012 to 2025, accounting for approximately 12 percent of US electricity generation.

Despite these positive predictions for renewable energy, a new report called America’s Power Plan points to problems associated with outdated utility business models in the U.S. As it stands now, utilities are being rewarded for building and maintaining fossil-fuel plants and this is having a deleterious effect on U.S. renewable energy. The report suggests that these problems can be addressed with the right shift in policy.

Kevin Wedman, Vice President of Power and Utilities, Bureau Veritas North America, believes that the biggest obstacle to the development of utility scale renewable energy comes from the absence of adequate transmission infrastructure to support renewable energy projects.

George Danner of the Business Laboratory indicated that he is concerned about the fact that electric utility companies use dated models to predict demand. While Brian MacCleery, Principal Product Manager, Clean Energy Technology, National Instruments, believes it’s time to reward utilities for switching to renewable energy.

Solar 

At utility scale power levels, economies of scale have driven down the cost of solar. Due in part to these price declines, the Credit Suisse report anticipates that U.S. solar will increase 11 times and account for 20 percent of the growth in renewable energy between 2012 and 2025. Higher efficiency and the declining price of technology has brought solar into the range of price parity with natural gas. The costs of solar are expected to continue falling for the next several years.

Mercom Capital Group, an Austin, TX-based clean energy communications and consulting firm, released its solar industry outlook for 2014. Their report predicts that new U.S. installations will total 6 GW in 2014 adding to the country’s current total of 10.25 GW.

The report says utility-scale projects and leased residential projects have been the main drivers of U.S. growth. With more than $3 billion in solar lease funds to finance installations, third party-financed residential installations have been the catalysts of growth in 2013.

Mercom predicts that in 2014, the U.S. will install more solar power than Germany, India, Italy and the UK. Only China and Japan are expected to install more solar energy than the U.S. in 2014.

Wind

The Credit Suisse report projects that wind power will double and account for about 80 percent of U.S. renewable energy growth from 2012 to 2025. Wind energy is becoming much less expensive and much more effective at harnessing power and making electricity.

One of the unknowns that will directly impact the future of renewables in the U.S. is the fate of the Production Tax Credit (PTC), which expired at the end of 2013. It remains to be seen what Congress will do when it resumes in January. It is important to note that the PTC has been allowed to expire only to be subsequently resurrected many times in the past.

Green Building

Green building in North America will continue its strong growth in 2014. This is but one of a number of predictions made by Jerry Yudelson, an author and leading green building consultant. He attributes this growth to the confluence of commercial real estate construction along with government, university, nonprofit and school construction.

In 2014, the focus will increasingly be on the greening of existing buildings. He anticipates that we will see growing interest in energy efficiency in all types of buildings involving automation for energy efficiency using cloud-based systems. He calls 2014, “The Year of the Cloud.”

He sees zero-net-energy buildings as the next logical step for building design and development. He further predicts that there will be much more competition for LEED, including the Green Globes rating system offered by the Green Building Initiative.

Other trends that he predicts will continue are Green Building performance and disclosure, healthy building products, disclosures and declarations as well as “Red Lists” of chemicals of concern. Solar power use in buildings will also continue to grow alongside water awareness and conservation.

Cleantech

Cleantech is expected to do well in 2014. This is due to a broad cleantech recovery and the rise of crowdfunding. However, electric vehicles may not perform as well as many had hoped and there are some surprises in store for the rare earth elements (REEs) industry. These are some of the salient predictions from cleantech guru Dallas Kachan, managing partner of Kachan & Co., a cleantech research and advisory firm.

Despite some speculation to the contrary, Kachan believes the term “cleantech” will remain through 2013. He succinctly defines cleantech as shorthand for environmental and efficiency-related technology innovation.

The forecasts offered by Kachan & Co.’s 2014 cleantech predictions are far more optimistic than last year’s assessment or the year before. In 2014, they see an overall upward trend in metrics like corporate, private equity and family office investment, venture debt, project finance, mergers and acquisitions, and new innovation.

While Kachan is bullish about cleantech, he is downright negative about electric vehicles (EVs) for 2014. He anticipates slower-than-expected growth of EVs due to improving efficiency innovations for the internal combustion engine and fuel cell vehicles.

Kachan further predicts that REEs will not generate the huge returns that some had anticipated. He also suggests that this will be due to growth in REEs recycling in 2014.

Kachan’s optimistic assessment is in part derived from an earlier report which compares investments in cleantech with other technology booms. Whether we are talking about dot coms, networking, biotech or the PC, there are parrallels that bode well for the future of cleantech. In all of these technological revolutions there were periods of rapid growth that ultimately gave way to corrections, after which we saw more stable growth. This appears to be where cleantech is at in 2014.

As explained by the Kachen report, “we believe the world turned an important corner in cleantech in 2013.”
——————-
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: Artis Rams, courtesy flickr

The post Top U.S. Green Economy Trends and Predictions for 2014 appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

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December 31 2013

18:42

2013 A Promising Start for California’s Carbon Cap-and-Trade Program

If California were a nation, its economy would be the twelfth largest in the world. Not only does the Golden State have the largest and one of the most diverse economies in the U.S., it has been at the leading, even cutting, edge of efforts aimed at forging a leaner, cleaner, low-carbon society for the 21st century.

When it comes to government-led efforts to reduce carbon emissions and mitigate and adapt to the potentially devastating effects of rapid climate change, 2013 marked another path-setting year for California. In 2013, its first full year of operation, the value of carbon allowances traded under the state’s pioneering carbon emissions Cap-and-Trade Program totaled $1.1 billion and brought nearly $500 million in much needed revenue to a fiscally challenged state government.

California's first year of its cap-and-trade program is a successSetting a price on carbon pollution

As  News10 ABC reported, California’s climate change law sets annual caps on greenhouse gas emissions for heavy polluters, such as coal-fired power plants, oil refineries, and industrial companies. The carbon/greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions pollution cap will slide lower 3 percent each year beginning in 2013.

Those that cannot reduce their GHG emissions to the cap level or below are required to offset their emissions by investing in cleaner, less polluting operations, such as reforestation projects, or purchase carbon emission offset allowances on the cap-and-trade market. These are offered by companies whose emissions fall below the cap or issuers that have developed projects that effectively offset quantifiable amounts of carbon and GHG emissions.

Auctions of carbon cap-and-trade allowances brought in nearly $477 million for the California treasury in 2013, News10 ABC reported. “Those pollution allowances are selling like hotcakes,” commented political editor John Myers.

California’s carbon cap-and-trade program “brings together the best aspects of regulation and using the market to drive flexible mechanisms,” added Stanley Young of the California Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Resources Board (CARB).

Making polluters pay for pollution

As CARB explains on its website,

“Market forces spur technological innovation and investments in clean energy. Cap-and-trade is an environmentally effective and economically efficient response to climate change.”

As originally enacted, California’s cap-and-trade auction revenues were earmarked to be invested in efforts to combat climate change. Struggling to balance the state’s budget, the governor and state congress suspended that aspect of the legislation and used them to help balance the state’s budget, however.

With huge budget surpluses projected in coming years, proponents and supporters of the cap-and-trade bill are now urging Governor Jerry Brown and state legislators to repay that money and invest it in the type of projects for which it was originally intended.

“Let’s spend the climate change revenues to reduce the pollution that causes climate change,” Bill Magavern of the Coalition for Clean Air stated in an News10 interview, such as home weatherization or subsidizing solar panel installations for low-income households.

Moreover, even more in the way of cap-and-trade revenue would have come the state’s way had oil companies and other big polluters not been given carbon emissions allowances for free, Magavern noted.

“The oil companies are essentially getting off the hook…I think politics has everything to do with it,” he commented.

Other governments are now looking to emulate and/or link to California’s carbon cap-and-trade market. Quebec looks like it will be the first. An announcement was made back in October that representatives from the respective U.S. state and Canadian provincial governments had signed “an agreement outlining steps and procedures to fully harmonize and integrate the two programs.”

With some luck, opposition legislators in Washington D.C. may finally see the light and hold polluters responsible for the pollution they create and the health and environmental damage that results. Enacting a national carbon emissions cap-and-trade program, or perhaps even a national carbon emissions tax, would be a historic step in that direction.

The post 2013 A Promising Start for California’s Carbon Cap-and-Trade Program appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

December 27 2013

01:35

Roundup of U.S. Environmental Achievements in 2013

In 2013, concerned people, organizations and companies in the U.S. and around the world helped move environmental causes forward. From new legislation to the protection of habitats and ecosystems, here is a sampling of U.S. environmental achievements in 2013.

The environmental achievements  of 2013 show that we can act as good stewards of the planetEnvironmental success stories

A new study showed that a solid majority of Americans accept the reality of global warming and are calling for action on climate change.

U.S. President Obama launched the most ambitious government wide climate action plan in the history of the nation. In the summer of 2013, Obama said, “As a president, as a father, and as an American, I’m here to say we need to act.” The President’s Climate Action Plan includes limiting pollution from power plants, new standards for energy efficiency on public lands, doubling renewable energy, and working on leading efforts to forge international action.

The EPA’s new standards to reduce emissions from U.S. power plants are of great importance as these plants produce approximately 40 percent of American greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The U.S. joined the U.K. and the World Bank in a decision to limit financing to coal power plants around the world. The U.S. Treasury Department indicated that except for some rare circumstances, it will not finance any new coal projects.

A study published this summer suggested that global warming may have slowed somewhat over the past 15 years. The observed slow down may be at least partly attributable to a global phase out of potent greenhouse-trapping gases called chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). The eradication of CFCs is attributable to the Montreal Protocol. This finding can be interpreted as evidence that international agreements can be effective at reducing climate change causing GHGs.

Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), another GHG have largely replaced CFCs and these are also being phased out. President Obama and his Chinese counterpart, President Xi Jinping, forged a new historic agreement that outlines critical steps both nations will take to end the use of HFCs. Other world leaders are following suit.

The WWF highlighted a dozen environmental success stories in 2013. Here is a their summary of U.S. achievements:

  • People are getting involved with events designed to raise awareness and increase actions that will help reduce our environmental impacts. One such event was Earth Hour. On March 23, 2013, Americans joined hundreds of millions of people around the world who switched off their lights for one hour to show their commitment to the planet. American cities are among the 60 cities worldwide that are participating in the 2013 Earth Hour City Challenge. This challenge involves quantifiable actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, expand renewable energy, and/or increase energy efficiency.
  • The U.S. is also taking action in support of native people’s land and animal stewardship. One such initiative is the first tribal national park for Oglala Sioux in South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. This park will more than double the number of Bison stewarded by the tribe.
  • Responsible forest management and trade practices were adopted by International Paper. This brings the number of companies and communities involved in the WWF’s Global Forest & Trade Network to 200 worldwide.
  • In Alaska, Royal Dutch Shell shelved a plan to drill for oil and gas in mammal-rich Beaufort and Chukchi seas in 2013.
  • In July, U.S.-based multinational Coca-Cola renewed an agreement with the WWF through 2020 that will help to conserve the world’s freshwater resources and measurably improve Coca-Cola’s environmental performance across the company’s value chain. This includes agriculture, climate, packaging and water efficiency impacts.
  • President Obama is working to address wildlife crime including poaching and trafficking around the world and in Africa in particular.  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services in Denver crushed six tons of illegal elephant ivory tusks, trinkets and souvenirs. This event highlighted U.S. intolerance to ivory trafficking and wildlife crime.

Here is a summary of the Sierra Club’s list of 10 clean energy success stories in 2013.

  • The American Electric Power announced it would add enough wind energy to power 200,000 homes in Oklahoma while providing substantial savings to customers.
  • Governor John Hickenlooper of Colorado signed into law new legislation that will double the state’s renewable energy standard. Under the new law, 20 percent of the state’s energy will from clean sources.
  • In Minnesota, comprehensive legislation passed the state legislature that will boost the state’s solar electricity from 13 megawatts (MW) to 450 MW by 2020. This represents an increase of more than 1,200 percent.
  • Facebook announced that its Altoona, Iowa data center will be fully powered by wind by early 2015 due to a 138 megawatt wind farm in Wellsburg.
  • Nebraska’s huge wind potential is being tapped after Governor Dave Heineman signed progressive wind energy legislation.
  • The Nevada state legislature passed legislation to retire the Reid Gardner coal-fired power plant and bring an end to the importing of coal power from Arizona. The state will also expand local clean energy development.
  • California’s growing solar industry reached a major milestone with more than 150,000 homes and businesses with rooftop solar installations.
  • Environmental groups and Georgia’s Tea Party teamed up to create the Green Tea Coalition. The group pushed for the Georgia Public Service Commission to approve Georgia Power’s proposal to retire 20 percent of its coal plants and add 525 MW of solar power to Georgia by 2016.
  • The Long Island Power Authority is investing in 100 MW of new solar power on the island, and they have plans to add an additional 280 MW of renewable energy. This is the single largest investment in renewable energy in New York history. New York City also announced a 10 MW project at Staten Island’s Freshkills Park, once known as the world’s largest landfill.
  • Maryland is moving forward with clean energy legislation known as the Offshore Wind Energy Act of 2013 and Prince George’s County Council voted to require renewable energy in all new and renovated governmental facilities.

The Wilderness Society is at the forefront of efforts to protect forests, parks, refuges and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands. Here is thier summary of their environmental success stories for 2013.

  • President Obama designated 5 new national monuments in March.
  • California’s Pinacles National Park, was upgraded from national monument status.
  • Washington state legislature passed a bill that protects 50,000 acres of land in the Teanaway River Valley, east of Seattle.
  • Sensitive areas in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska gained protection from oil and gas drilling when the Department of the Interior issued a final management plan that will protect 11 million acres of “Special Areas.” The BLM also announced a strategic plan to clean up more than 130 abandoned oil and gas well sites.
  • Utah’s red rock lands were protected by a federal judge who struck down a management plan that prioritized off-roading over Utah’s wildlands.
  • Yosemite National Park was removed from a logging bill after a public outcry.
  • A ban on new uranium mining was upheld by the court’s ruling on the Greater Grand Canyon
  • In Montana a bill introduced by Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) is moving forward. The bill will add 67,000 acres to protected areas in that state’s eastern fringe of the existing Bob Marshall and Scapegoat Wilderness Areas.
  • The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is safe for another year despite repeated efforts by Governor  Parnell (R-AK) to launch seismic testing to search for oil and gas in the refuge. All three of Parnell’s attempts were rejected by the Interior Department.

Taken together, these victories give us reason to hope that we are capable of acting more responsibly to defend the planet for future generations.
——————-
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: Chauncey Davis, courtesy flickr

The post Roundup of U.S. Environmental Achievements in 2013 appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

December 17 2013

23:23

First Map of World E-Waste Highlights Staggering Extent of Growing Problem

People all over the world are snapping up consumer electronic devices like never before, and while smartphones, tablets and more portable PCs offer much in the way of benefits, their proliferation also highlights a glaring, dangerous oversight in our consumer-driven societies and manufacturing value chains, as well an urgently pressing environmental problem: e-waste.

The worldwide volume of end-of-life electronics is expected to surge higher by 1/3 by 2017, to 65.4 million metric tons per annum. That’s the equivalent of nearly 200 Empire State Buildings or 11 Great Pyramids of Giza, according to a forecast and study by “Solving the E-Waste Problem (StEP) Initiative,” a partnership of U.N. Organizations, industry, government and science organizations.

The staggering amount of e-waster generated globally often ends up in the most poverty-stricken parts of the worldE-Waste: The gift that keeps growing and growing

To highlight and zero-in on the issue, StEP has produced the world’s first global e-waste map: the StEP E-Waste World Map. The map presents comparable data from 184 countries, shows the estimated amount of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE – anything with a battery or a cord) put on the market and how much resulting e-waste is eventually generated (i.e. comes out of use or post-use storage destined for collection by a recycling company or disposal,” StEP explains in a press release.

Though increasing amounts of end-of-life consumer electronic devices are being recycled or reused in some regions, most consumers continue to simply throw them away. Growing mountains of e-waste are accumulating in countries around – and at what’s expected to be a much faster rate in coming years. All that e-waste poses significant threats to human health and well-being, as well as the health and integrity of land and water resources, ecosystems and biodiversity.

Accompanying the map is a report that characterizes “U.S. domestic and transboundary flows of used electronics no longer residing in households. Elaborated Jane Nishida, Acting Assistant Administrator, US-EPA Office of International and Tribal Affairs,

“EPA partnered with the United Nations University’s Solving the E-waste Problem (StEP) Initiative understanding that the growing e-waste problem can only be addressed effectively when we have better information on the global flows of used electronics. We are pleased that StEP, working with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the National Center for Electronics Recycling, was able to deliver a report that provides a scientific-based approach to generating information on US exports of used electronics.”

Nearly 48.9 million metric tons of e-waste was produced last year alone, “an average of 19.6 kg (43 pounds) for each of the world’s 7 billion people,” StEP highlights.

When it comes to e-waste and electrical and electronic equipment (EEE), China and the U.S. topped the ranks of countries in 2012. China produced 11.1 million tons of EEE and the U.S. 10 million, according to StEP’s data and calculations. The U.S. topped the world’s nations in terms of e-waste, producing 9.4 million tons, and China ranked second, producing 7.3 million.

The StEP e-waste report and world map are intended to help governments and companies better plan e-waste management.

Stated Ruediger Kuehr of United Nations University and Executive Secretary of the StEP Initiative,

“Although there is ample information about the negative environmental and health impacts of primitive e-waste recycling methods, the lack of comprehensive data has made it hard to grasp the full magnitude of the problem. We believe that this constantly updated, map-linked database showing e-waste volume by country together with legal texts will help lead to better awareness and policy making at the public and private levels.”

StEP offers a series of recommendations to address the e-waste issue. Among them:

  • Create trade codes for used electronic products to enable better tracking and distinction of shipments for example only for repair.
  • More open access to shipment level trade data to enable more accurate analyses of export flows
  • Greater reporting of re-export destinations to improve the accuracy of final destinations
  • Track flows over multiple years to discern trends

Featured image credit: transmediale, courtesy flickr

The post First Map of World E-Waste Highlights Staggering Extent of Growing Problem appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

December 10 2013

23:31

EPA Launches 2013 Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on December 5 released its 2013 Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan as it looks to build on four years of efforts to streamline operations, cut expenditures, and reduce waste and the carbon footprint of federal government operations.

The inaugural Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan for the federal government was produced in October 2009 in the wake of President Obama issuing Executive Order 13514 on Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance, which set “aggressive targets for reducing waste and pollution in Federal operations by 2020,” according to an EPA press release.

The EPA launches its Strategic Sustainability Performance PlanThe Federal government’s Green Economy leadership

Strengthening the federal government’s leadership in forging a “greener,” more dynamic economic model, the President this past June launched the nation’s first Climate Action Plan.

Coincident with the release of EPA’s 2013 Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan, the President on December 5 issued a Presidential Memorandum that further reduces federal government waste and pollution by setting a target of more than doubling the amount of renewable energy consumed to 20% by 2020.

The 2013 Strategic Sustainability Plan adds impetus to and seeks to realize the aims of these initiatives, providing “an overview of how the agency is saving taxpayer dollars, reducing carbon emissions, and saving energy.

“Meeting this renewable energy goal will reduce pollution in our communities, promote American energy independence, and support homegrown energy produced by American workers,” the EPA stated.

As the EPA highlighted, in just the past four years, the Obama Administration’s waste, energy efficiency and renewable energy initiatives have:

  • Reduced energy use by almost 8 percent; allowing EPA to avoid $1.5 million in utility costs annually. Compared to the 2003 baseline, EPA has reduced energy by more than 25 percent
  • Used renewable energy and purchased Green Power Renewable Energy Credits equal to 100 percent of its conventional electricity use. Use of Green Power, coupled with energy conservation and fleet management efforts, reduce EPA Scope 1 and 2 Greenhouse Gas emissions by nearly half from FY 2008 levels.
  • Reduced annual water use by more than 25 percent – that’s more than 30 million gallons per year.

The principal goals the EPA aims to achieve in the 2013 Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan include:

  • Pursuing reconstruction of key EPA research infrastructure. Projects completed at the Cincinnati, OH, A.W. Breidenbach Environmental Research Center, EPA’s second largest research center, have already reduced energy use by more than 30 percent.
  • Consolidating the Research Toxicology Laboratory in Durham, NC into the Main laboratory at Research Triangle Park, NC. This project will reduce agency rent costs, cut greenhouse gas emissions, and result in a net reduction in EPA space without impacting research capacity.
  • Continuing work on EPA’s award winning water conservation program.

The EPA has published Strategic Sustainability Performance Plans for federal agencies online.

The post EPA Launches 2013 Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

01:00

Shrimp Fishery Collapse in Gulf of Maine

Shrimp moratorium

A moratorium for the 2014 shrimp fishing season was announced for the US Northeastern Gulf of Maine shrimp fishery last week as stocks of shrimp for 2012 hit record lows. The last time the shrimp catch was halted was 35 years ago in 1977.

“The Northern Shrimp Technical Committee has considered the Gulf of Maine northern shrimp stock to have collapsed with very little hope for recovery in the near future,” Kelly Whitmore, chairwoman of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission told members of a section advisory panel on December 3rd, effectively halting all shrimping activities for the 2014 season, usually lasting from December through May. “There are no small shrimp around right now,” added Whitmore, “it doesn’t bode well for the future.”

shrimp-fishery-collapseDeclining shrimp stocks became strikingly apparent in 2012, with the annual survey last year showing the lowest number of adult shrimp ever recorded in the survey’s 30 year history.  Despite pressure to halt the 2013 season, fishing went ahead with a reduced catch limit of  625 tons, or a 72 percent decrease from the allowable catch set for 2012. Even then, shrimpers only caught 307 tons for the 2013 season.

“I think everyone was startled by what we saw in 2012, and there was a lot of pressure to close down the fishery for the 2013 season,” said Chief Scientific Officer John Annala of the Gulf of Maine Research Institute. “The survey this summer found just 20 percent of the 2012 record low, so it has fallen off incredibly sharply.”

Of particular concern is the fact that no juvenile shrimp have shown up in any of of the surveys since 2010. Shrimp in the Gulf of Maine live for only about five years so the lack of any young shrimp for the past three years portends trouble for the future of the fishery for many years to come.

Overfishing, warming ocean waters

The sharp decline in shrimp in the region is largely attributed to overfishing and warming ocean waters.

“During the last ten years the water temperature in the Gulf of Maine has been running about 2.5 degrees Celsius or about 5 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the previous one hundred year average,” Annala said. “We don’t know what the thermal threshold of this species is, but the Gulf of Maine has always been the southernmost extreme of their range, so we probably don’t have much wiggle room.”

Even if shrimp prove  heat tolerant, which shouldn’t be assumed, the warming oceans of the Gulf of Maine are deadly to tiny zooplankton, the shrimp’s principal food supply. Warmer water also make the region more hospitable to predators of shrimp like dogfish and red hake.

Other species upon which the northeastern fisherman depend are also feeling the heat. The iconic lobster has been heading steadily northward in recent years in search of colder waters.

For the shrimp, the future remains tenuous. At this point, nobody is confident that 2014 will be the end of the moratorium.

“Decisions like this one show how fishermen are on the front lines of the battle against climate change,” said Michael Conathan, Director of Ocean Policy at the Center for American Progress. “This is not a nebulous, maybe-someday-in-the-future problem. This is unchecked carbon pollution affecting livelihoods here in Maine today.”

 

Image credit: Doug DuCap, courtesy flickr

 

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December 05 2013

00:16

Diversified Renewable Energy Base Emerging in the US Northeast

A mix of renewable energy sources are emerging in the US Northeast

Renewable energy initiatives and investments in the northeastern US are producing results and paying dividends economically, socially and environmentally, according to a report from ACORE, the American Council on Renewable Energy.

Northeast region state governments have been at the leading edge of the drive to craft and implement policies to foster development and use of a distributed, diversified mix of renewable energy resources. With supportive policies in place in nearly every state in the 12-state region, the Northeast ranks second in the US for both solar and biomass power capacity. This progressive policy framework, which includes establishment of the pioneering Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), is driving renewable energy deployment and driving down costs to the point where they are competitive with fossil fuel power, ACORE’s “Renewable Energy in the 50 States: Northeastern Region,” the third in a four-part series of reports on renewable energy conditions and prospects nationwide.

As the ACORE report authors highlight:

“Renewable energy is steadily becoming more cost competitive in the Northeast. Three large utilities in Massachusetts recently signed long-term contracts to purchase renewable energy at less than $0.08 per kilowatt hour, below the cost of most conventional sources. If the contracts are approved by state regulators, they would save customers between $0.75 and $1.00 a month.5 Likewise, if it doubles the amount of wind power it plans to build, the PJM Interconnection could actually reduce wholesale energy market prices and save nearly $7 million per year in the mid-2020s.”

Renewable Energy Resource Diversity: The Northeast’s Strength

“Renewable Energy in the 50 States: Northeastern Region,” ACORE

Heavily dependent on imported energy and affected by retirements of fossil fuel power plants, Northeastern states have good reason to develop and deploy local renewable energy sources, ACORE notes in its latest regional report. Supportive state and local policy initiatives are proving instrumental in helping residents, businesses and the public sector realize the economic, social and environmental benefits that renewable energy resource development, along with greater energy conservation and energy efficiency, offer.

Eleven of the 12 states profiled in the report have instituted renewable portfolio standards (RPS) that mandate power utilities increase their use of renewable energy resources. Vermont, the 12th, has instituted a standard contract program along the lines of a renewable energy feed-in tariff (FiT), the first of its kind in the US, ACORE highlights in its report. Established to spur clean energy and energy efficiency investments across the region and reduce the regional greenhouse gas emissions that are fueling climate change, the RGGI, is also helping fund New York’s $1 billion Green Bank, the report authors note.

With less in the way of large, utility-scale wind and solar farms, the US Northeast ranks lower overall than other regions profiled in ACORE’s “Renewable Energy in the 50 States” series. It’s comparatively strong when it comes to local, distributed renewable power capacity, as well as the diversity of renewable energy resources available, however.

“An array of policies and incentive programs, including feed-in tariffs, renewable energy credits (RECs), green banks, and rebates, support the development of renewable power, heat, and fuels in the Northeast.

“Many Northeastern states have set targets for solar energy generation, which, coupled with financial incentives, are largely responsible for driving more solar power capacity in the Northeast than in the Midwest or the Southeast. In fact, ISO New England, the regional transmission organization serving six Northeastern states, anticipates distributed generation installations within its territory to increase from 250 MW in 2012 to 2 GW by the end of 2021, with generation forecast to be mostly solar power.”

Moreover, most of the states in the region are working to produce clean energy from waste and biomass by  making use of municipal solid waste, wood waste and landfill gas. They’re also looking to produce more and make greater use of biodiesel and ethanol to reduce reliance on petroleum, an area where they have lagged other regions.

“To reduce reliance on expensive heating oil, some states, such as New Hampshire, have set goals for renewable thermal energy use. With the availability of wood waste from the forestry sector, homes in New England use wood for space heating, water heating, and cooking at nearly twice the national rate, and growth in this sector is expected to continue.”

Large-scale hydropower has and will continue to play a large role in the Northeast region’s energy mix. Meanwhile, recent developments suggest that offshore wind power could play a significant role in fueling renewable energy growth.

“The Northeast’s wind power market has grown more slowly than other regions’, but this fact could change soon,” the report authors state.

“Coastal states in the region have identified immense offshore wind power potential, and developers are in the advanced stages of planning what would be the first offshore wind projects in the country. In August 2013, the U.S. Department of the Interior held the nation’s first offshore wind lease sale off the coast of Rhode Island and Massachusetts, the scale of which could support enough turbines to power one million homes.”

“Renewable Energy in the 50 States: Northeastern Region,” ACORE

 

Main and featured image credit: All Earth Renewables

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November 26 2013

19:15

Ocean Acidity Rising 10x Faster Than At Any Time in the Past 55 Million Years

Credit: Christopher Krembs, TAMU

Ocean acidification continues to rise at a rate “unprecedented in Earth’s history,” a direct result of past and current increases in carbon and greenhouse gas emissions, posing significant threats to the health and integrity of marine ecosystems and the diverse range of products and services they provide the world over, according to a report produced by the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme, UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission and the Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research (SCOR) and released for the Third Symposium on the Ocean in a High CO2 World..

The latest scientific research on ocean acidification indicates the pH of the oceans is decreasing 10-times faster than at any time in the past 55 million years and may be decreasing faster “than at any time in the last 300 million years,” according to “Ocean Acidification: A Summary for Policymakers” presented at the Third Symposium on the Ocean in a High CO2 World.

The culprit: rising anthropogenic (human) emissions of CO2. The amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) in our atmosphere has risen 40 percent since the start of the Industrial Revolution. The oceans historically have absorbed about ¼ of all the CO2 released into the atmosphere by humans since that time. Today, they absorb some 10 million metric tons of CO2 on a daily basis, the report authors note in an executive summary. To date, those emissions have led ocean acidity to increase 26 percent.

Ocean acidification: Rising human carbon emissions the culprit

Increasing ocean acidification lowers the capacity of the oceans to absorb seawater and hence also threatens the viability of marine ecosystems. That spells potential trouble for already troubled ocean plant and animal species, many of which are of vital importance to human societies the world over.

As the authors highlight, the gathering of 540 experts from 37 countries in Monterey, California for the Third Symposium on the Ocean in a High CO2 World attests to the growing amount of interest, scientific research, and sense of urgency, regarding “ocean acidification, its impacts on ecosystems, socio-economic consequences and implications for policy.”

What do we need to do in respone to what amounts as a “clear and present danger” to the health and integrity of marine ecosystems? The report authors state the solution plainly and succinctly:

“Reducing CO2 emissions is the only way to minimise long-term, largescale risks.”

Source:

Source: “Ocean Acidification Summary for Policymakers”

Considerations for Policy Makers

In the executive summary, they go on to highlight a summary of considerations they recommend policy makers take into account in their decision making:

  • The primary cause of ocean acidification is the release of atmospheric CO2 from human activities. The only known realistic mitigation option on a global scale is to limit future atmospheric CO2 levels.
  • Appropriate management of land use and land-use change can enhance uptake of atmospheric CO2 by vegetation and soils through activities such as restoration of wetlands, planting new forests and reforestation.
  • Geoengineering proposals that do not reduce atmospheric CO2 – for example, methods that focus solely on temperature (such as aerosol backscatter or reduction of greenhouse gases other than CO2) – will not prevent ocean acidification. Adding alkaline minerals to the ocean would be effective and economically feasible only on a very small scale in coastal regions, and the unintended environmental consequences are largely unknown.
  • The impacts of other stressors on ocean ecosystems such as higher temperatures and deoxygenation – also associated with increasing CO2 – will be reduced by limiting increases in CO2 levels.
  • The shellfish aquaculture industry faces significant threats and may benefit from a risk assessment and analysis of mitigation and adaptation strategies. For example, seawater monitoring around shellfish hatcheries can identify when to limit the intake of seawater with a lower pH, hatcheries can be relocated, or managers can select larval stages or strains that are more resilient to ocean acidification for breeding.
  • At local levels, the effects of ocean acidification on ecosystem resilience may be constrained by minimising other local stressors3,4,5 through the following:
  1. Developing sustainable fisheries management practices such as regulating catches to reduce overfishing and creating long-term bycatch reduction plans. If implemented and enforced, this type of management has been shown to sustain ecosystem resilience.
  2. Adopting sustainable management of habitats, increased coastal protection, reduced sediment loading and application of marine spatial planning.
  3. Establishing and maintaining Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) that help manage endangered and highly vulnerable ecosystems to enhance their resilience against multiple environmental stressors.
  4. Monitoring and regulating localised sources of acidification from runoff and pollutants such as fertilisers.
  5. Reducing sulphur dioxide and nitrous oxide emissions from coal-fired power plants and ship exhausts that have significant acidifying effects locally.

Main image credit: Christopher Krembs, TAMU

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November 19 2013

23:21

Energy, Climate Scientists Call for a Moratorium on Coal-Fired Power Plants

Energy and climate scientists call for a coal moratorium, saying unabated coal is the road to climate catastrophe

Coal Sunrise over Beijing

An international group of 27 prominent energy and climate scientists are calling for a moratorium on construction of new coal-fired power plants, a policy they say has become a global imperative if “climate catastrophe” is to be avoided this century.

Their call comes amid renewed efforts by coal and power utility lobbies “to portray ‘high efficiency low emissions coal combustion’ as a climate solution.” Global carbon emissions are set to hit another new record high this year, according to a report released earlier this week as UN climate treaty negotiators meet in Warsaw. Ironically, taking place at the same time in the Polish capital is the Coal and Climate Summit.

The assertion that coal combustion to produce electricity should be considered a “climate-friendly” power technology flies in the face of the facts, all good judgment, and, needless to say, any semblance of adhering to the “precautionary principle.” Agreeing to it would set humanity and ecosystems around the world firmly on course for global warming of 6°C (10.8°F) , according to the scientists.

That’s three to four times the 1.5-2°C cap (compared to pre-industrial era levels) and climate warming threshold world leaders agreed to at the UN’s climate treaty negotiations in Cancun in 2010.

On the road to climate catastrophe

The world’s known coal reserves contain more than 2,000 gigatons (Gt) of CO2. Burning or combusting these reserves “would dramatically overshoot the remaining global carbon budget of about 1,000 gigatons CO2. This comes on top of oil and gas reserves accounting for more than 1600 gigatons,” the scientists highlight in a press release.

“The current global trend of coal use is consistent with an emissions pathway above the IEA’s 6°C scenario. That risks an outcome that can only be described as catastrophic, beyond anything that mankind has experienced during its entire existence on earth,” the scientists state.

Source:

Source: “New Unabated coal is not compatible with keeping
global warming below 2°C”

“The IEA’s medium-term coal market report (IEA, 2012) projects a further expansion of coal use that is even higher than IEA’s own 6DS scenario for 6°C warming in the long-term,” they elaborate.

“The 6DS scenario assumes around 4°C warming by 2100 (Schaeffer and Van Vuuren, 2012). As the Secretary General of the OECD warns: ‘Without CCS, continued reliance on coal-fired power is a road to disaster. (OECD, 2013)”

Source:

Source: “New unabated1 coal is not
compatible with keeping
global warming below 2°C”

“We are not saying there is no future for coal”, added Professor P.R. Shukla of the Indian Institute of Management, “but that unabated coal combustion is not compatible with staying below the 2°C limit, if we like it or not.”

Following is a short list of the main points of the climate and energy scientists’ statement:

  • Unabated coal is not a low carbon technology
  • Avoiding dangerous climate change requires about 3/4 of known fossil fuel reserves to stay underground
  • Current trends in coal use are harbouring catastrophic climate change
  • To keep global warming to less than 2°C above pre-industrial, use of unabated coal has to go down in absolute terms from now on
  • Alternatives are available and affordable
  • Public financing institutions and regulatory agencies are reining in unabated coal, but more is needed to prevent new unabated coal to be built

False claims, Sustainable energy scenarios

The group of scientists also noted that “false claims about ‘high-efficiency coal’ as a low-emissions technology” were made by the World Coal Association (WCA) in their recently released Warsaw Communiqué. In it the WCA “calls for ‘the immediate use of high-efficiency low-emissions coal combustion technologies as an immediate step in lowering greenhouse gas emissions.”

Contrary to such assertions, Dr Bert Metz, former Co-Chair of the IPCC’s Working Group on Climate Change Mitigation, stated,

“New or retrofitted coal plants without CO2 capture and storage will have a life time of 40-50 years. We need to dramatically reduce emissions over the next 40 years. That is not possible with unabated coal.”

“Alternatives to fossil fuels are already available and affordable. It is therefore up to the coal industry to show that coal-fired plants with CCS can compete with other zero carbon options.”

The scientists welcomed the growing number of prominent multilateral and international financing institutions and regulatory agencies, including the World Bank, the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the U.S. Ex-Im Bank, to curtail or “rein in unabated coal.” Much more action is needed, and now, however, they added.

As Professor William Moomaw of the Fletcher School, Tufts University, USA pointed out:

“The trend of future coal use is changing rapidly. The World Bank, US development assistance and the US Import-Export Bank will no longer finance or support new unabated coal power plants internationally, except in rare cases.

“The United States Environmental Protection Agency has proposed carbon dioxide emission standards that rule out unabated coal power plants altogether. The European Investment Bank and Scandinavian countries have taken similar steps.”

Genuinely low-emissions alternative, renewable energy technology are readily available, competitive with fossil fuels, and continue to decline in cost, the scientists highlight. This stands out in stark contrast to trends in fossil fuels, which are increasingly costly in narrowly defined dollars-and-cents terms, and much more expensive over the long-term when their environmental, health and other socioeconomic costs, such as military interventions, are factored into the equation.

In their statement, the scientists lay out a range of alternative energy and emissions scenarios:

Source:

Source: “New unabated1 coal is not
compatible with keeping
global warming below 2°C”

For more on this topic, check out the scientists’ full statement on coal

 

Main and featured image credit: Shel Israel, courtesy flickr 

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November 12 2013

20:19

Is Phasing Out Fossil Fuel Subsidies Even on the Agenda in Warsaw?

A sunny day in Beijing

A sunny day in Beijing

For all their potential promise, apparent earnestness and gravity – not to mention their possible effects and potential ramifications – it’s hard at times not to be cynical about high-level political negotiations. Such might be felt of the United Nations (UN) climate treaty negotiations which got under way this week in Warsaw, Poland.

People have good reason to be skeptical of the climate treaty process, not because global warming and climate change are based on faulty science or because viable options aren’t in hand, but because governments and societies around the world are so invested in fossil fuels that the thought that political leaders would collectively take aggressive action to phase out carbon and greenhouse gas emissions is nigh unthinkable.

Take, for example, that even as representatives from the 195 UN member nations party to the UN Framework on Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meet to establish the framework of an agreement to reduce global carbon and greenhouse gas emissions, the International Energy Agency (IEA) estimated that G20 governments doled out $523 billion in subsidies to fossil fuel producers in 2011, the latest year such figures are available. What’s more, fossil fuel subsidies are rising, even as the UN World Meteorological Organization (WMO) just last week reported that global greenhouse gas emissions reached a record high in 2012.

To say such subsidies are counterproductive would be gross understatement. Perverse would be a better modifier. Eliminating fossil fuel subsidies would remove a perverse incentive that stands in the way of leveling the energy markets “playing field,” putting a true cost on carbon in an attempt to address global warming and climate change.

Releasing a report entitled Time to change the game: Fossil fuel subsidies and climate, the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) documents “the scale of fossil fuel subsidies and sets out a practical agenda for their elimination in the context of the global goal of tackling climate change.”

Climate treaty negotiators convene in Warsaw

Against the backdrop of devastation in the Philippines caused by Typhoon Haiyan – reportedly one of, if not the largest and strongest, typhoon ever recorded – the 19th Conference of Parties (COP 19) to the UNFCCC is convening November 11-22 in (ironically enough) Warsaw, Poland, a nation with a government that has steadfastly resisted efforts to shift off coal and fossil fuels toward a more diversified energy mix centered on cleaner, renewable alternatives.

Convening at COP 19 in Warsaw over the next 11 days, representatives from the 195 UN member nations that are parties to the international climate treaty (the U.S. included) and the 192 that have signed and ratified the Kyoto Protocol (the U.S. excluded) will attempt to hammer out the framework of a successor to the Kyoto Protocol. Full details of a new accord to reduce global carbon and greenhouse gas emissions are to be ready for signing by 2015 to go into effect in 2020.

Trying to make the negotiations as inclusive as possible, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of Parties (COP) has become a major public event. At COP 19 in Warsaw, representatives of 195 UN member nations will be joined by a host of NGOs, civic groups, other public and private sector organizations, the press, and, more than likely, large numbers of demonstrators.

Enhancing the efficacy and credibility of global climate change action

The UNFCCC’s public credibility – not to mention its efficacy – would be greatly enhanced if the national governments party to the international treaty were to take one expedient, cost-effective step: eliminate fossil fuel subsidies, ODI asserts, and they are by no means the first to advocate taking such a step.

Source:

Source: “Time to change the game,” ODI, 11/2013

Straight from the executive summary of “Time to change the game: Fossil fuel subsidies and climate,” here are ODI’s key points:

  • Fossil fuel subsidies are expensive. They were at over $500 billion globally in 2011, and up to $90 billion in the OECD alone.
  • These subsidies are increasing and are a major obstacle to green investment, and seriously undermine attempts to put a price on carbon.
  • In developing countries the majority of benefits from fossil fuel subsidies go to the richest 20 percent of households.
  • Domestic and international support for fossil fuels dwarfs spending on health and education in a number of countries, and outstrips climate finance and aid.
  • Phasing out fossil fuel subsidies in G20 countries by 2020 (and globally by 2025), with proper safeguards for the poor, would enable the triple win of inclusive green growth.

Perverse incentives indeed, and the above is only a short list. According to ODI’s study, “international financial institutions (IFIs) also support carbon-intensive energy systems.

“Over 75 percent of energy-project support from IFIs to 12 of the top developing-country emitters went to fossil fuel projects. There has been no significant shift in this trend: in the last financial year alone (2012-13), the World Bank Group increased its lending for fossil fuel projects to $2.7 billion, including continued lending for oil and gas exploration (Oil Change International, 2013).”

As ODI goes on to state:

“If their aim is to avoid dangerous climate change, governments are shooting themselves in both feet. They are subsidizing the very activities that are pushing the world towards dangerous climate change, and creating barriers to investment in low-carbon development and subsidy incentives that encourage investment in carbon-intensive energy.

“Coal, the most carbon-intensive fuel of all, is taxed less than any other source of energy and is, in some countries, actively subsidized (OECD, 2013a). For every $1 spent to support renewable energy, another $6 are spent on fossil fuel subsidies (IEA, 2013).”

Following, in summary form, are the key actions ODI is urging G20 UNFCCC climate treaty delegates take in Warsaw:

  •  G20 countries use the Warsaw CoP meeting to agree a broad timeline for action
  • G20 governments call on technical agencies to agree a common definition of fossil fuel subsidies
  • G20 governments commit to phasing out all fossil fuel subsidies by 2020, with early action by rich-country members on subsidies to coal and to oil and gas exploration by 2015
  • that governments and donors work together to ensure that measures are put in place to protect vulnerable groups from the impact of subsidy removal.

Eliminating fossil fuel subsidies would be one of the most straightforward, cost-effective and effective steps world governments could take to address the profound threats and rising costs of addressing global warming and climate change. Will they muster the will and toughness to do so? Not likely, but one can at least hope for the best.

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November 07 2013

19:25

Recent Elections and Ballot Initiatives May Suggest A New Era of Environmental Interest is Dawning In U.S. Politics

The recent elections indicate a shifting momentum for environmental awareness in the electorateIn previous U.S. Elections, environmental concerns were largely absent, but this changed on Tuesday November 5, 2013. Ecological issues were an important part of Virginia’s Gubernatorial race, they were also the primary focus of a county council election in Washington and several ballot initiatives.  Taken together, these results may be indicative of changing attitudes. Voters showed their support for renewable energy, and better water management, they also stood up to the fossil fuel industry and won.

Virginia Gubernatorial Race

In Virginia, Terry McAuliffe’s win over Ken Cuccinelli bodes well for the state’s environmental efforts. These candidates presented two diametrically opposed visions of the environment and climate change. The differences between these two candidates underscores the contrast between Republicans and Democrats.

The policy differences between the two candidates for governor could not be more stark. McAuliffe expressed his support for the President’s climate change offensive, and repeatedly talked about the need to address environmental concerns. Conversely, Tea Party favorite Ken Cuccinelli received most of his financing from the fossil fuel industry and he ran on a platform that doubts the veracity of climate change.

While McAuliffe raised about $34 million, Cuccinelli was only able to raise $20 million. However, the real story here is not the discrepancy between the funds raised by these two men, it has more to do with where the funding came from. McAuliffe’s campaign was financed by environmental groups and concerned citizens.

Cuccinelli has enjoyed the support of the dirty energy industry for more than 12 years. In 2012, Cuccinelli’s office was accused of impropriety for helping a coal company which provided a $143,544 donation. The case was so egregious that the people of southwest Virginia launched a class-action lawsuit in which a state judge called the conduct of a senior member of Cuccinelli’s staff shocking. Even the State’s inspector general deemed the behavior to be inappropriate.

When a reporter from NBC Washington asked McAuliffe if he supported the new proposed guidelines on carbon pollution for new power plants, McAuliffe said: “I do. You bet. What I’ve looked at I support, what we need to do to protect our air and water.”

Rather than support the EPA, Cuccinelli sued them over their finding that carbon pollution posed a danger to human health. In 2012, the D.C. Court of Appeals found the EPA to be “unambiguously correct.”  This was not the only time Cuccinelli used the courts to advance an anti-environment agenda.

Cuccinelli is infamous for using his powers as attorney general to launch an unjustified attack against University of Virginia (UVA) climate scientist Michael Mann. During the campaign, McAuliffe railed against Cuccinelli’s attacks on Mann saying, “the fact that UVA was forced to spend $600,000 to defend itself from its own Attorney General is outrageous.”

While McAuliffe wants clean air and water and sees the economic merits of renewable energy, Cuccinelli denies basic climate science. A report from the Center for American Progress Action Fund suggested that Cuccinelli’s climate denial could have cost the state $45 billion and 314,000 Virginians jobs, if he were to have been elected.

Although Virginia is a conservative-leaning swing state, a Fall poll showed Cuccinelli was out of step with voters’ views on climate change and a range of other issues. Another poll found that 85 percent of Virginians think climate change is happening. A July poll found that 73 percent of young voters (18-35) associated people who deny climate change with words like “ignorant,” “out-of-touch” or “crazy.” That included 53 percent of Republican respondents. In the same poll, 80 percent of respondents supported President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, and 79 percent reported they were more likely to vote for a candidate who wanted to take action on climate change.

In response to the election, Virginia LCV’s executive director Jeff Painter said, “Voters sent a strong message tonight in support of Terry McAuliffe’s vision for Virginia’s renewable energy future and trusting him to appoint strong conservation leaders to his administration.”

Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said in a statement, “the voters have spoken and a climate denier has been denied. By electing Terry McAuliffe, Virginians are sending a clear message: they want a leader who will stand up for good jobs and climate action, not an extremist who will stand with big polluters.”

Climate scientist Michael Mann succinctly summarized the sentiments of many when he wrote that he is “pleased that Virginia voters rejected his [Cuccinelli's] dangerous brand of politics & his contempt for science & rational thought.”

New Jersey Gubernatorial Race

In New Jersey, Republican Chris Christie won as expected easily defeating Democratic nominee Barbara Buono. His take on climate change is far more nuanced than the GOP’s typical denial. Despite Christie’s exit from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), in June 2011, he said that “climate change is occurring and that humans play a contributing role it’s time to defer to the experts.”  A point which he reiterated in the last campaign debate. However, Christie also said he does not believe there is any proof that Hurricane Sandy was caused by climate change. It would appear that Christie is playing politics with the climate issue as he knows that many in his base are deniers. It has been widely reported that Christie will seek the GOP Presidential nomination in 2016. He may be straddling the fence on the climate issue in anticipation of a change in public attitudes. This may also explain why he regularly distances himself from his Republican colleagues.

New York City Mayoral Election

Bill de Blasio was elected in New York City making him the first Democratic mayor of that city since 1993. This bodes well for action on climate adaptation efforts in one of the world’s largest cities. While neither candidate focused on climate change during the campaign, de Blasio is very progressive and as such he is expected to continue Mayor Bloomberg’s proactive stance on adaptation.

County Council Election in Washington

Four candidates opposed to coal exports defeated their Republican aligned opponents and won seats on the seven member Whatcom County Council in Washington State. The newly elected County Council will resist the proposed building of a gateway that would have shipped 48 million tons of coal to Asia. Anti-coal forces won in the county despite opposition from coal umbrella groups like the Alliance for Northwest Jobs and Exports.

“Tonight, the people of Whatcom County stood up to hundreds of thousands of dollars in big polluter cash to secure a victory for a healthy future for our communities, our families and our planet,” said Natalie McLendon, a Sierra Club volunteer leader in Bellingham, WA.

Colorado’s Fracking Ballot Initiative

Three out of four towns in Colorado said no to fracking. Colorado voters in Boulder, Lafayette and Fort Collins agreed to impose a fracking moratorium despite almost one million dollars spent on city specific campaigns by Colorado Oil and Gas Association. In Broomfield, the anti-fracking measure failed by just 13 votes.

Boulder, Colorado Utility Ballot Initiative

In two ballot initiatives, voters in Boulder cleared the way for the city to take control of its own electric grid. One ballot initiative enables the city to incur debt to buy Xcel Energy’s infrastructure and the other kept the city on the path to municipalization which will enable the city to create its own utility and increase its reliance on renewable energy. The win for renewable energy comes in spite of a million-dollar campaign waged by Xcel.

“We made it really clear that this issue is about our environmental and economic future,” Boulder Mayor Matt Appelbaum said.

Texas Water Ballot Initiative

A Texas Water Ballot initiative gave the state the right to amend the constitution and invest in better water management. The $2 billion investment will come from the state’s rainy day fund and be poured into a water bank that will finance water planning projects.

Portland, Maine Tar Sands Ballot

By a slim margin of only 200 votes, South Portland, Maine residents narrowly defeated (4,453 to 4,261) a ballot initiative intended to prevent the export of Canadian tar sands oil. A grassroots coalition was defeated by a group of oil companies and affiliates who outspent them by a margin of nearly six to one.

“It is clear to all of us why this vote played out why the vote was so close: oil companies and the American Petroleum Institute poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into South Portland, in one of the biggest expenditures on a local referendum in Maine history,” Pohlmann continued. “This money was used to fund a relentless campaign that spread misinformation and fear.”

Despite the loss, they are not yet ready to capitulate to big oil. Led by Mayor Blake, the council voted for a 180-day moratorium banning new construction on the piers.

Adirondacks Land Swap Ballot Initiative

Voters across New York state approved amendments to the state Constitution clearing the way for land swaps in the Adirondack Park. The ballot initiative authorized the state to exchange a 200 acre old-growth forest preserve for land of equivalent value from mining company NYCO Minerals. After NYCO’s mining of wollastonite is completed, the land will then be returned to the state.

With voters showing their support for a wide range of ecologically themed initiatives, the environment was the big winner on Tuesday night.  Overall, these elections and ballot initiatives suggest that there is growing support for environmental concerns in the U.S.  These results give us reason to believe that democracy can withstand the powerful influence of the old energy interests. We may very well be witnessing the beginnings of changing public attitudes.

“Public opinion polls across the country show that the call from voters for clean energy and climate action is loud and clear—now, its time our political leaders listen,” Brune said. ”Those running for office now must choose whether they stand with solutions or whether they stand in the way. The climate crisis won’t wait, and neither will we.”

These elections and the outcomes of the ballot initiatives can be interpreted as a referendum on the changing environmental attitudes of American voters.
——————-
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: Steve Wall, courtesy flickr 

The post Recent Elections and Ballot Initiatives May Suggest A New Era of Environmental Interest is Dawning In U.S. Politics appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

November 05 2013

16:44

14 Steps to Reduce Black Carbon and Stabilize the Cryosphere

on_thin_iceClimate change is causing unprecedented changes in the Earth’s regions of snow and ice, portents of profound, dramatic change for ecosystems and societies around the world, according to a joint report released by The World Bank and The International Cryosphere Climate Initiative (ICCI) November 4.

The Earth’s cryosphere is warming more rapidly than anticipated – “at a pace unprecedentd in the historic record.” Rather than abating, in most cases warming and melting is accelerating, posing ecosystems and societies around the world with a variety of fundamental threats, including an increasing frequency of droughts and floods, and dramatic shifts in water, food and energy resource availability, according to “On Thin Ice: How Cutting Pollution Can Slow Warming and Save Lives.”

The Earth’s cryosphere: “On Thin Ice”

Stabilizing and preserving the cryosphere merits inclusion as a global imperative, the report authors stress. Leadership – in the form of explicit and sustained guidance, direction, support and incentives – is needed across markets, industries, the government, private and public sectors if there is any chance of this objective being realized, however.

In “On Thin Ice,” the World Bank and ICCI report authors lay out 14 practical measures that if enacted by 2030 could drastically reduce short-lived carbon pollutants (SLCPs) – primarily black carbon and methane – and stabilize conditions in the world’s threatened snow and ice-bound regions. Doing so, they assert, would bring “multiple health, crop, and ecosystems benefits and decrease risks to development from water resource changes, including flooding and other major impacts or climate feedbacks we may not foresee today.”

The effects of climate change are being seen and felt disproportionately in the Earth’s cryosphere, whether it’s Arctic sea ice, Antarctic ice shelves, the Greenland ice sheet, the Alaskan coast or the freshwater glaciers of the Andes, Rockies and Himalayas. Moreover, “rapid changes in the cryosphere observed during the first decade of this century are continuing or accelerating,” according to the report.

“Warming in the cryosphere poses serious threats to disaster preparedness, to water resources in some heavily populated regions, and to adaptation and ecosystems preservation. Intensified monitoring in cryosphere regions is needed to provide better and earlier warning of changes.”

Ongoing warming “has the potential to trigger disastrous feedback mechanisms from the cryosphere into the global climate systems,” the report authors continue, including “loss of albedo from sea ice and snow cover and loss of permafrost leading to greater carbon fluxes into the atmosphere (particularly where emissions occur as methane.”

Credit:

Credit: “On Thin Ice,” World Bank, ICCI

Methane emissions from thawing permafrost alone could increase atmospheric carbon “as much as 5-30% by the end of this century if current cryosphere warming is not slowed,” they warn.

Reducing Black Carbon and methane emissions

Implementing the 14 measures recommended in the report by 2030 “could slow warming in the Arctic by more than a full degree by 2050, resulting in up to 40 percent reduced loss of summer sea ice and 25 percent reduced loss of springtime snow cover compared to the baseline,” however.

As stated in the report’s executive summary,

“Accelerating actions to decrease short-lived pollutants from key sectors can make a real difference by slowing these dangerous changes and risks to development while improving public health and food security.”

Rapidly scaling up just four cleaner cooking solutions alone could save as many as 1 million human lives a year. Reducing diesel emissions in transportation can prevent 340,000 deaths Achieving a 50% reduction in open field and forest burning could avoid 190,000 deaths from air pollution, according to the report.

Source:

Source: “On Thin Ice,” World Bank, ICCI

There’s no time to waste, they emphasize. “With projections of large cryosphere impacts such as Arctic sea ice loss occurring by mid-century, speed is of the essence in addressing and operationalizing these cryosphere and development challenges.”

Of potentially profound significance for coastal regions and populations, “rates of sea-level rise might be significantly slowed by 2050, with a potential near-leveling-off in rates before the end of the century if SLCP measures are combined with CO2 emissions held to 450ppm.

“This decrease in sea-level rise could range from 10 cm to half a meter or more. Perhaps more important, temperature reductions in polar regions from these measures would help minimize the risk of essentially irreversible ice sheet loss or disintegration in West Antarctica and Greenland, which could ultimately raise ocean levels by several decimeters by 2100—and by many meters over a period of centuries or millennia.”

The post 14 Steps to Reduce Black Carbon and Stabilize the Cryosphere appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

October 29 2013

20:22

Phase-Out of Greenhouse Gas Emissions by 2050 Technically, Economically Feasible

rosietheriveterCompletely phasing out net greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050 is not only technically feasible, but could be done at very manageable cost, according to a comprehensive study by Ecofys for the Global Call for Climate Action.

“It is technically and economically feasible to reduce emissions to zero for roughly 90% of current sources of GHG emissions with technological options that are available today and in the near future.” The remaining 10% of GHG emissions could be offset by enhancing carbon sinks, the Ecofys’ report authors conclude. The cost of doing so: around 5% of GDP per year.

Realizing this goal would effectively assure that mean global temperature would not exceed the 2ºC climate change tipping point theorized by the world’s leading climate scientists and agreed to by world leaders in the Copenhagen Accord of 2009. It would also improve the odds of keeping global mean temperature increase to 1.5ºC by the end of the century to 50%.

Phasing out GHG emissions by mid-century

Affecting the changes required to phase out net GHG emissions by 2050 would require globally coordinated action of unprecedented speed, scope and scale, the report authors rightly point out:

“Reducing net emissions close to zero by mid-century means fundamentally restructuring all of our economic sectors in the coming decades.”

“The energy system presents the greatest potential for emission reductions through efficiency savings and fuel shift,” the Ecofys report authors found. Use of fossil fuels for energy, transport, buildings and industry accounts for some 2/3 of global GHG emissions. The other 1/3 results from land use, raising livestock and industrial processes, they explain.

imageedit_3_5663497138

In their study, “Feasibility of GHG emissions phase-out by mid-century,” Ecofys modelled “several low emissions scenarios that result in (nearly) zero net GHG emissions by 2050…Thse are categorized as one of two types, reflecting two slightly different modelling approaches and resulting strategies:

  • Scenarios with (near) 100% renewable energy by 2050: These scenarios aim, at the outset, at a certain emissions target as well as a certain contribution of renewables. They find that 100% renewable energy by 2050 is possible. Saving energy is a key strategy in these scenarios because high efficiency facilitates an energy supply based almost entirely on renewable sources.
  • Scenarios with less than 100% renewable energy but carbon capture and storage (CCS): So-called integrated assessment models are commonly used to choose from different technological options to achieve a cost optimal global energy system within certain economic boundary conditions, e.g. very low emissions. Energy efficiency is modelled on a more generic level. Consequently, these scenarios result in a higher use of energy and a lower share of renewables. To still meet certain emissions targets, the models assume that carbon capture and storage (CCS), and possibly also nuclear power, are deployed on a large scale. The use of biomass with CCS enables these scenarios to sometimes reach net negative emissions in the second half of the century.”

The possible and the probable

While technically and economically feasible, the likelihood of such fundamental, globally coordinated change occurring is remote given current political, economic and social conditions and trends. While GHG emissions are on the wane in the world’s largest industrialized countries, including the EU and US, responsible for the bulk of anthropogenic GHG emissions in the atmosphere, they’re increasing by greater amounts in rapidly industrializing countries such as China and India.

Barring a series of climate-linked disasters, it seems clear that enacting anything remotely akin to a national strategic plan to phase out GHG emissions in the US would continue to be stymied in a Congressional quagmire of opposition and debate. For their parts, China, India and other large, emerging market economies are clearly unwilling to accept the uncertainty and take the risks of seeking to develop their economies and societies in ways that don’t require locking in their own dependence on fossil fuels.

In their report, Ecofys’ authors echo calls by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the conclusions reached in groundbreaking, comprehensive studies such as the “2010 Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change.” As the Ecofys report authors state,

“Initial steps taken to decarbonise need to be amplified drastically. The longer we wait to act, the more expensive change becomes. Whether a phase-out is politically feasible will be determined in the coming years.”

The post Phase-Out of Greenhouse Gas Emissions by 2050 Technically, Economically Feasible appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

October 25 2013

19:32

Video Friday: The Nature Conservancy – Investing in Forests and Fish in Michigan’s Northern Forests

A collaborative effort between the timber industry, scientists and forest ecologists to help restore and maintain Michigan’s northern forest, a vital ecosystem for the region and the world. This Nature Conservancy video highlights the costs and benefits of forest conservation.

Featured image credit: jimflix, courtesy flickr

The post Video Friday: The Nature Conservancy – Investing in Forests and Fish in Michigan’s Northern Forests appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

October 21 2013

18:14

Enviro News Wrap: LA Times Says NO to Deniers; Economic Impact of Climate Change; Challenges to EPA Carbon Regulation, 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:

  • The LATimes has decided to not publish any letters to the editor that contain factual inaccuracies regarding climate change. Not surprisingly, the conservative media freaked out and framed it as a repression of debate. Debate is healthy, but to be of any real value it needs to be based on fact. Ignoring facts makes a real debate impossible.
  • Climate change has an economic impact, and a large one at that. The Asian Development bank did a study and found that climate change could reduce the GDP of Asian countries.
  • Fighting climate change involves more technological development. We have the tools to do some mitigation, but the full effort to avoid climate change involves the continued development of technology. It seems like a trap though, the more we develop technology the more we can deal with the effects of past technologies, but the more we are able to hurt ourselves in the present. I hope its not a paradox that humans get caught in.
  • Environmentalists want the EPA to regulate carbon emissions as a pollutant thus allowing them to reduce carbon emissions. There is a challenge to the EPA’s authority to regulate carbon that will be decided in the Supreme Court.
  • SunPower produces the world’s most efficient commercially-available solar panel. They have been in business for 25 years and it has been a hard fight, especially with the rise of Asian manufacturers. SunPower is surviving and weathering the storm of low Asian prices. Now it is the Asian solar companies that are struggling to stay afloat.
  • The strength of an industry can be shown in the number of new patents it is creating. Solar is creating many new patents and hopefully the innovation will pay off with a future filled with inexpensive, well-built and efficient solar panels.
  • Nuns are allies to the environmental movement. Their voice should be elevated so church-goers are more sympathetic to the good cause.

The post Enviro News Wrap: LA Times Says NO to Deniers; Economic Impact of Climate Change; Challenges to EPA Carbon Regulation, and more… appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

October 08 2013

19:50

New Research Reveals Climate Warming 55 MYA was Geologically Instantaneous

PETMfig1 (1)New research into past changes in climate indicates that global warming can take place much more suddenly than previously thought – over the course of only about 13 years. Temperatures at high latitudes rose as much as 8ºC (14ºF) and oceans warmed from surface to bottom some 55 million years ago during what’s known as the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM).

The rapid rise in global temperature caused massive disruptions and changed climate conditions, weather patterns, the distribution of plant and animal species, and ecology the world over. Driving it all was a massive increase in the amount of CO2 released into the atmosphere. The massive, abrupt injection of CO2 into the atmosphere, in turn, was driven by intense volcanic activity on the seafloor, which also drove a further separation of the American and Eurasian tectonic plates and the widening of the North Atlantic Ocean basin.

Instantaneous Global Warming

The scientific consensus was that a massive release of CO2 into the atmosphere over a period of some 10,000 years drove the PETM temperature rise. Research conducted by two Rutgers University geologists indicates that a doubling of atmospheric CO2 during the PETM occurred in a geologic instant, over a mere 13 years, driving a global temperature rise of 5ºC (9ºF), however, according to a Phys.org report.

Studying drilling core samples from an area of southern New Jersey that was covered by a warm sea during the PETM, Rutgers’ geologists Morgan Schaller and James Wright discovered an alternating, cyclic pattern of dark clay bands about 2 centimeters thick rich in organic material. Analyzing the clay bands, the pair of researchers found changes in ratios of heavier carbon-13 and lighter carbon-12 isotopes.

The 20% drop in atmospheric carbon-13 concentration they measured in the core samples can “plausibly account” for their observations is “a large, instantaneous release of C-13-depleted carbon,” associated with intense volcanic activity, according to their report, “Evidence for a rapid release of carbon at the Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum,” in the current issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Scientists have been using this event from 55 million years ago to build models about what’s going on now,” Schaller was quoted as saying. “But they’ve been assuming it took something like 10,000 years to release that carbon, which we’ve shown is not the case. We now have a very precise record through the carbon release that can be used to fix those models.”

The research pair estimates the intense marine volcanic activity some 55 million years ago caused some 3,000 gigatons of carbon to be released into the atmosphere from hydrocarbon-rich, organic mudstone, and methane hydrate deposits on the seafloor of the continental margins.

In addition to forcing rapid warming, this led to an abrupt rise in the acidity of the oceans, which, in turn, led to mass extinctions of the phytoplankton that not only form the base of the marine food chain, but produce as much as half the oxygen in the atmosphere and absorb as much as half the total atmospheric CO2 sequestered as part of the carbon cycle. Similarly drastic changes have been found in terrestrial flora and fauna.

Though nowhere near the same order of magnitude, human CO2 emissions are causing similarly profound and abrupt climate and ecological change today. “We’ve shown unequivocally what happens when CO2 increases dramatically – as it is now, and as it did 55 million years ago,” Wright was quoted.

“The oceans become acidic and the world warms up dramatically. Our current carbon release has been going on for about 150 years, and because the rate is relatively slow, about half the CO2 has been absorbed by the oceans and forests, causing some popular confusion about the warming effects of CO2. But 55 million years ago, a much larger amount of carbon was all released nearly instantaneously, so the effects are much clearer.”

The post New Research Reveals Climate Warming 55 MYA was Geologically Instantaneous appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

October 07 2013

18:06

Enviro News Wrap: Climate Denial Propaganda; Tesla EV Catches Fire; Fukushima Leaks Radioactive Water, 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:

  • With the IPCC publishing it latest findings on climate change the denial campaign has been stepped up. American and British organizations are partnering to create confusion over science that is very clear. The denial propagandists have spent a lot of time creating strategies that only a sharp and studied person can see through. Think about this, how many climate change skeptics are scientists from a relevant field of study doing current research? Very few if any. The denial side is filled with pundits, otherwise known as regular people paid money to provide non-expert (but touted as expert) opinions.
  • A Tesla electric car caught fire when a metal object pierced the 3-inch protective case to the battery. It is important to remember that cars are inherently unsafe (if less so than decades ago with improvements in safety features and designn), especially the ones driving around with gallons of highly flammable gasloline. Tesla is responding to the incident.
  • The decline of coal continues! Two plants in Pennsylvania are closing  because they are no longer profitable. This is the power of economics, you don’t need to argue with anyone because if something doesn’t make money then it stops. So, good-bye coal, and hello cheaper renewable energy.
  • The government shutdown, while ultimately ridiculous, is impacting renewable energy. Larger projects with permitting timelines and completion deadlines for government incentives are at risk of not meeting their development targets.
  • Renewable energy has become cheaper, but natural gas is still the cheapest energy source in 2013. Natural gas extraction and use is skyrocketing, but what happens when the price spikes and we are stuck on yet another dirty and expensive energy source.
  • There is a single word that sums up the argument against nuclear power: Fukushima. If an energy source carries an unacceptable risk to the environment and human health then it should not be used. The joke goes, an oil spill is a disaster, a solar spill is called a nice day.
  • Methane gas is a byproduct of materials breaking down; our landfills produce a lot of methane and now it is being sold as car fuel in California. Recapturing our waste to use it again is a very good idea.
  • Roads are pollution corridors and lots of people live right next to big roads. Ever see a home on the side of the freeway with black smudge on the outside walls, well that is the same stuff that people are breathing.

The post Enviro News Wrap: Climate Denial Propaganda; Tesla EV Catches Fire; Fukushima Leaks Radioactive Water, and more… appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

September 24 2013

15:30

More Wind & Solar Can Reduce Utility Costs and Emissions

renewable-energy-girlThose opposed to spurring development and adoption of renewable solar and wind energy resources continually assert that their intermittent nature not only reduces grid reliability and raises the cost of electricity, but negates the carbon and greenhouse gas emissions reductions that contribute so greatly to their rapid adoption in the first place.

While it’s true that bringing greater amounts of solar and wind-generated electricity on grids means utilities have to cycle more frequently – ramp down and ramp up or stop and start – fossil fuel generators to ensure a smooth, reliable flow of electricity, a study by the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) shows that the carbon emissions that result from cycling are negligible – less than 0.2% – of the carbon reductions realized by generating electricity from the sun and winds.

Not only that, but the research revealed that bringing “high levels of wind and solar power [on to the grid] would reduce fossil fuel costs by approximately $7 billion per year across the West, while incurring cycling costs of $35 million to $157 million per year.” That amounts to an increase in operations and maintenance costs of only $0.47-$1.28 per megawatt-hour (MWh) of electricity generation for the average fossil fuel power plant, according to a September 24 NREL press release.

How can this be?  The explanation lies in the fossil fuel costs utilities avoid by making greater use of solar and wind energy generation.

Avoiding fossil fuel costs, and pollution

According to Debra Law, the project manager for NREL’s study,

“Grid operators have always cycled power plants to accommodate fluctuations in electricity demand as well as abrupt outages at conventional power plants, and grid operators use the same tool to accommodate high levels of wind and solar generation.

“Increased cycling to accommodate high levels of wind and solar generation increases operating costs by 2% to 5% for the average fossil-fueled plant. However, our simulations show that from a system perspective, avoided fuel costs are far greater than the increased cycling costs for fossil-fueled plants.”

Besides determining that the carbon emissions associated with greater cycling of fossil fuel generating capacity is negligible (<0.2%) compared to the reductions from bringing wind and solar energy generation on to the grid, the NREL project team found that sulfur dioxide emissions reductions from wind and solar are 5% less than expected due to greater cycling of fossil fuel generators. Nitrogen oxide emissions reductions were 2% greater than expected.

This latest study, entitled “Phase 2 of the Western Wind and Solar Integration Study” (WWSIS-2), is a follow-up to NREL’s initial, May 2010 research into “the viability, benefits, and challenges of integrating high levels of wind and solar power into the western electricity grid.”

Source: Western Wind and Solar Integration Study, Phase 2; NREL

Source: Western Wind and Solar Integration Study, Phase 2; NREL

NRELchart_cycling_cost_system

Impacts of 33% renewable energy on the Western Interconnection grid

To calculate the emissions and cost of wear-and-tear, the NREL research team designed five hypothetical scenarios to examine generating as much as 33% of the U.S. portion of the Western Interconnection power system for the year 2020 from wind and solar energy. “This is equivalent to a quarter of the power in the Western Interconnection (including Canada and Mexico) coming from wind and solar energy on an annual basis,” the report authors explain.

The researchers’ model also assumes a future average natural gas price of $4.60/MMBtu – an optimistic assumption given the volatility and uncertainty inherent in natural gas prices – as well as “significant cooperation between balancing authorities, and optimal usage of transmission capacity (i.e., not reserving transmission for contractual obligations).”

Modeling the entire Western Interconnection power system at five-minute intervals for each year, the researchers found “that high wind and solar scenarios reduce CO2 emissions by 29%-34% across the Western Interconnection, with cycling having a negligible impact.”

The modeled reductions in sulfur dioxide (SO2) were 5% less than anticipated due to greater cycling, yet SO2 emissions would nonetheless be reduced by 14%-24% in the high solar and wind scenarios. Nitrogen oxide emissions would be reduced by 16%-22%, 1%-2% greater than expected. Added Lew,

“Adding wind and solar to the grid greatly reduces the amount of fossil fuel — and associated emissions — that would have been burned to provide power. Our high wind and solar scenarios, in which one-fourth of the energy in the entire western grid would come from these sources, reduced the carbon footprint of the western grid by about one-third. Cycling induces some inefficiencies, but the carbon emission reduction is impacted by much less than 1%.”

On average, it takes 4 MWh or renewables to displace 1 MWh of coal generation and 3 MWh of natural gas, according to the researchers, with the ramping up and down of coal-fired power plants having the biggest potential increase in terms of cycling.

Other key takeaways from the report include:

  • Because of sunset and sunrise, solar power creates the biggest ramping needs on the grid in this study. However, because we know the path of the sun through the sky every day of the year, system operators can predict these large ramping needs and plan accordingly. Solar variability due to fast-moving clouds is much less predictable, but it creates relatively smaller ramping needs.
  • Errors in day-ahead wind forecasts can make it challenging for operators to decide which power plants need to be online the next day. However, because forecast accuracy increases four hours ahead compared with 24 hours ahead, a four-hour-ahead decision on whether to start up those power plants that can be ramped up relatively quickly can help to mitigate these forecast errors.
  • Despite the differences between wind and solar in terms of grid operations, the study finds their impacts on system-wide operational costs are remarkably similar.

The post More Wind & Solar Can Reduce Utility Costs and Emissions appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

September 23 2013

16:18

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.

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