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November 13 2013


Record Greenhouse Gases – Is 2 Degrees Still Possible?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Image credit: Mikael Miettinen, courtesy flickr

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

September 19 2013


The Vital Role of Forests: Carbon, Rain and Food

Forests provide ecosystem services vital to all lifeWe are coming to a better understanding of the vital role that forests play in the general health of planetary ecosystems.  However, alongside our burgeoning awareness, we are also destroying forests in our quest for more land and lumber.

Deforestation is eliminating the Earth’s forests on a massive scale. Each day at least 80,000 acres (32,300 ha) of forest disappear and another 80,000 acres (32,300 ha) of forest are degraded. Overall, FAO estimates that 10.4 million hectares of tropical forest were permanently destroyed each year in the period from 2000 to 2005. About an acre of tropical rainforests are lost every second. If the current trend continues, the world’s rainforests could completely vanish in a hundred years

Forests are being destroyed largely for agricultural purposes and logging. Forests are also cut down as a result of growing urban sprawl. Deforestation results in habitat loss for millions of species that depend on them for their survival. Deforestation undermines the water cycle which can lead to desertification.

Deforestation also drives climate change as trees play a critical role in absorbing or sequestering the greenhouse gases that fuel global warming. The clearing and burning of rainforests are responsible for approximately 15 percent of global carbon emissions. In the U.S., forests absorb 13 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions each year. Based on the most recent satellite data, emissions from deforestation account for 10 percent of global carbon emissions. However, a January 2013 study just out of Dartmouth College shows that deforestation impacts on soil and may release even more carbon than previously thought.

Forest management policy

Wealthy countries have promised to help poorer nations to protect their forests through programs like The Natural Capital Project, The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) and The Partnership for Wealth Accounting and the Valuation of Ecosystem services (WAVES). While the developed world has pledged more than 5 billion dollars for this purpose, the money promised has not lived up to these promises.

One recent example involves the country of Ecuador, which has started cutting down its forests for oil drilling operations after the international community failed to provide necessary funding. Conversely, Costa Rica is one of the best examples of successful forest management. The country has managed to double the size of its tropical forests in the last 20 years through national conservation policies. As reported in the journal Environmental Research Letters, Costa Rica’s ban on clearing of mature forests appears to be a key success factor in encouraging agricultural expansion on non-forest lands.

Success in managing forests requires a sound economic plan in support of conservation. There are a number of steps governments can take to help with reduce deforestation including tax breaks, direct payments, and subsidies.

Water and hydro-electric companies can also charge customers through fees embedded in utility bills in order to generate income to pay forest managers. Governments can also legislate financial mechanisms that value natural resources like trees. Under such a scheme, companies are forced to pay for the pollution they generate.

Setting a mandatory carbon price may be the best way to protect forests as market driven programs seem to offer the best approach. Another approach involves projects like the Forest Footprint Disclosure (FFD) which is working with companies on their impact on forests. Initiated in 2008, this is a not-for-profit project of the Global Canopy Foundation that is backed by investors.

A more workable solution is to carefully manage forest resources by eliminating clear-cutting to make sure that forest environments remain intact. The cutting that does occur should be balanced by the planting of enough young trees to replace the older ones felled in any given forest. The number of new tree plantations is growing each year, but their total still equals a tiny fraction of the Earth’s forested land.


International efforts to curb deforestation are centered on a United Nations-backed scheme called Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD). REDD+, emerged from the 2009 climate talks in Copenhagen, was developed to provide financial incentives to countries and landowners to protect and better manage forests.

Forests are not a renewable source of electricity

One of the most troubling trends involves the use of forests as fodder for energy production. To meet this growing demand, U.S. companies have become the world’s largest exporter of wood pellets in 2012. What makes this even worse is that this is being sold as a renewable form of energy production.

As explored by the NRDC, burning our forests is bad for our climate, bad for local ecosystems, and bad for our communities.  In response to this troubling trend, the NRDC and Dogwood Alliance launched a program to protect Southern trees called Our Forests Aren’t Fuel. This campaign is designed to raise awareness about the alarming and rapidly-growing practice of logging forests and burning the trees as fuel to generate electricity.

Carbon forestry

Supporting reforestration to offset carbon emissions is increasingly popular. This is done through the purchase of carbon credits that are linked with the forestry sector with the idea that these new trees will sequester carbon from the atmosphere.

As reviewed in Ecologist, a report by the monitoring and analysis agency Ecosystem Marketplace indicates that over 30 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) was contracted across forest markets in 2010.

Carbon forests can offer a variety of benefits for the environment, however, there is considerable doubt as to whether these planted forests enhance biodiversity. There is also growing support for research that suggests that planted forests may not be as effective as natural forests in inducing rainfall.

Forests are essential to rain

While the relationship between forests and carbon has received a lot of attention, research suggests that forests may also be the driving force behind precipitation which is so vital to overall ecosystem health. As explored in an article in Mongabay, forests may be the key to rainfall and as a consequence, global ecological restoration.

On September 12, 2013, the U.S. Forest Service published a final rule that is expected to improve the agency’s ability to restore land. “This rule will help us improve the resiliency, health and diversity of our forests and grasslands,” said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. “We will now be able to move forward with our partners to focus more energy on action, and less on paperwork, to restore more acres in less time.”

The final rule includes reference to a paper titled “Where do winds come from?” This paper outlines a new meteorological hypothesis in which condensation, not temperature, drives winds. This paper highlights the importance of the world’s forests as the salient driver of precipitation from the coast into a continent’s interior. The theory, known as the biotic pump, was first developed in 2006 by two Russian scientists

This research explains why deforestation also brings a drop in precipitation. The condensation produced by forests creates zones of low pressure that suck in the air from the surrounding regions. Forests create persistent low pressure zones on land and this causes moist winds to blow from the ocean to land.

The theory put forth in this paper explains why there is so little rain in deserts and further posits that if we were to plant enough trees in these zones we could induce rainfall.

The paper’s authors, Victor orshkov and Anastassia Makarieva, explain that, “Preserving and recovering forest cover may prove to be the cheapest and most reliable means of ensuring regional environmental sustainability.” They also indicate that their research on biotic pumps suggests that industrial plantations do not move rain as effectively as natural forests.

One of the chief findings in this research involves the relationship between forests and agriculture. Put simply, the more forests we lose, the less rain will reach continental interiors.

Forests and agriculture

The relationship between forests and agriculture was also addressed in May at the International Conference on Forests for Food Security and Nutrition. At this conference, scientists and leaders from around the world largely agreed that forests are essenatial to sustainable food supplies. They concluded that forests contribute to food security including the provision of ecosystem services like the regulation of water flow, and the protection of soils against erosion.

The relationship between forests and agriculture is a tragically ironic vicious cycle. We destroy forests to make more room for agriculture, while deforestation appears to undermine agricultural productivity.  We then need more land to produce crops to make up for the reduced productivity.

The issues associated with food supplies will become even more important as we strive to meet the challenge of feeding an ever expanding population. A growing body of research indicates that forests are essential to agricultural productivity.

Forests are far more than an important source of carbon sequestration, they are essential to the water and food on which all life depends.
Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of The Green Market Oracle, a leading sustainable business site and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.

Image credit: CIFOR, courtesy flickr

The post The Vital Role of Forests: Carbon, Rain and Food appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

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August 19 2013


Enviro News Wrap: Climate Change and Conflict; GOP Clings to Global Warming Hysteria; Egypt and the Price of Oil

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 post Enviro News Wrap: Climate Change and Conflict; GOP Clings to Global Warming Hysteria; Egypt and the Price of Oil appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

August 06 2013


Analogues from Earth’s Past Bode Ill for Coral Reefs, Marine Ecosystems

Marine ecosystems in danger in a greenhouse worldIn a bid to anticipate the effects of a warming world, climate scientists around the world are scouring the geological record for modern-day analogues – periods of Earth history when the concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere reached or exceeded the 400 parts per million (ppm) we find today.

Delving into climate, marine biology, ecosystems and the marine ecology of 42 million to 57 million years ago – encompassing the so-called Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) – paleobiologists and colleagues at UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography conclude that the human population just 80 years hence may be living in a “greenhouse world,” dependent, in part, on vastly different marine food webs.

Life in a “Greenhouse World”

The level of CO2 in the atmosphere – the primary contributor to the Greenhouse Effect – hasn’t exceeded 280 ppm throughout human history – up until modern times that is. Having exceeded 400 ppm for the first time in human history several times this May, annual global greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase at ever greater rates despite best efforts to contain and reduce them.

Reporting in the August 2 special edition of Science, Scripps researchers found indications that atmospheric CO2 concentrations between 42 million and 57 million years ago reached 800-1,000 ppm. Tropical ocean temperatures, moreover, were comparable to that of a hot tub (35º C, 95º F), polar ocean temperatures were similar to those of San Francisco Bay today (12ºC, 53º F), and there were no polar ice sheets.

Moreover, marine “food webs did not sustain the abundance of large sharks, whales, seabirds, and seals of the modern ocean,” Scripps News reports. Coral reefs – the “rainforests of the sea” – largely disappeared. Instead, the researchers found the seabed was dominated by accumulations of the tiny, microscopic shells of foramenifera akin to “gravel parking lots.”

The Scripp’s research team project that humans may be living in such a “greenhouse world” in only 80 years, dependent on vastly changed, less rich and less productive marine food webs. Larger diatoms and other plankton typically support the highly productive marine ecosystems and food webs that help us, as well as large marine animals survive and thrive today. The base of the “greenhouse ocean” marine food web of 50 million years ago, in contrast, was characterized by much smaller picoplankton.

“The tiny algae of the greenhouse world were just too small to support big animals,” Scripps Institution, UC San Diego paleobiologist Richard Norris was quoted as saying. “It’s like trying to keep lions happy on mice instead of antelope; lions can’t get by on only tiny snacks.”

Troubling portents of climate change

Rapid warming events similar to those projected today, such as the PETM, occurred during this period of Earth history can serve as indicators for what we can expect should concentrations of atmospheric carbon and other greenhouse gases continue to increase, climate scientists say. Global mean temperatures rose 5-9º C (9-16º F) during the PETM, causing dramatic changes in ecosystems and their productivity, including “massive migrations of animals and plants and shifts in climate zones.”

“Notably, despite the disruption to the Earth’s ecosystems, the extinction of species was remarkably light, other than a mass extinction in the rapidly warming ocean,” according to Scripps News’ report.

“In many respects the PETM warmed the world more than we project for future climate change, so it should come as some comfort that extinctions were mostly limited to the deep sea,” Norris was quoted. “Unfortunately, the PETM also shows that ecological disruption can last tens of thousands of years.”

In another recently released study, scientists at the University of Colorado, Boulder’s Arctic and Alpine Research Center found similarly troubling portents of ecosystems disruption in the Arctic. Sea levels during the Pliocene some 3 million to 5 million years ago – the most recent period of geologic time scientists believe atmospheric CO2 concentrations reached 400 ppm – global mean temperatures were some 3-5ºF (2-5ºC) warmer. What is now Arctic tundra was covered in forest and sea levels were some 65-80 feet (20-24m) higher.

What can be done to avert such relatively rapid and drastic change?

“An abrupt halt to fossil fuel use at current levels would limit the period of future climate instability to less than 1,000 years before climate largely returns to pre-industrial norms,” Scripps News’ paraphrased Norris.

Continuing to burn fossil fuels at our current rate in this and coming decades “magnifies the period of climate instability” and bring about a period of major ecological change stretching out some 20,000 years or more and lasting for 100,000 years, according to the report authors, which included researchers from Yale and the UK’s University of Bristol.

The post Analogues from Earth’s Past Bode Ill for Coral Reefs, Marine Ecosystems appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

July 25 2013


Renewables can Power the World

Renewable can power the world: Gemasolar is a baseload solar thermal plant, using molten salt storage to run 24 hours per day.We already see strong evidence to support the contention that renewable energy can supply the world’s power needs. As explained in Worldwatch Institute, State of the World 2013, we need to move beyond fossil fuels before its too late.

“Renewable technologies broke all growth records in recent years,” said Alexander Ochs, Director of Worldwatch’s Climate and Energy program, and contributing author of State of the World 2013.

“In 2011, new investments in renewables for the first time in modern history topped those in conventional energy technologies with clean energy investments in developing countries now outpacing those in many industrialized countries. These promising trends need to be accelerated, with action on all political levels. Science tells us that global greenhouse gas emissions have to peak well before 2020 if we want to avoid the danger of major climate disruptions.”

Despite the fact that we urgently need to transition away from hydrocarbon based energy systems, there are many who continue to deride renewables as an unstable and unpredictable source of power.  In an effort to debunk the myths about renewable energy being unpredictable, Karl-Friedrich Lenz coined the term “unreliables myth”. He was responding to critics who say that wind and solar only offer intermittent energy (the wind is not always blowing and the sun is not always shining).

Describing wind and solar as unreliable is inaccurate. First, photovoltaic solar and wind can be supplemented with storage capacity that enables them to provide uninterrupted power. A good example of a technique for creating storage capacity involves generating hydrogen with renewable energy which can be stored and used at will. Once you are producing large enough volumes of energy you can stockpile it and avoid concerns about intermittency.

Second, even if part of the energy grid uses intermittent renewable energy without storage, as long as there are other energy sources on the grid (ie concentrated solar power, hydro, and geothermal etc) there will be no interruption of supply.  Even if there is a shortage, this can be managed by smart grids, or as a worst case scenario, energy can occasionally be supplemented by hydrocarbons.

Despite these solutions, many continue to be doubtful about the possibility of an entirely renewable electrical grid. The old energy industry would like to have us believe that it will take at least 50 years before we can wean ourselves off of fossil fuels.

However,  this is refuted by the 50 nations that are currently meeting most of their energy needs with renewables. A total of 11 countries are supplying all of their power demands with renewables and some of these have become net exporters of clean energy.

Paraguay is one of those countries that gets all of its electricity from renewable energy while at the same time exporting 90 percent of its production. Renewable energy is not only clean it also provides good jobs.  Albania, which produces all of its electricity with renewables, is looking to create 100,000 green jobs by 2020.

The following list of countries get 60 percent or more of their electricity from renewable energy. It was compiled from data at the CO2 scorecard site. All the data is derived from this source with the exception of nations designated with an asterix, which are sourced from Wikipedia.

  • Afganistan (62%) *
  • Albania (100%).
  • Angola (96%)
  • Austria (73%)
  • Belize (90%)
  • Bhutan (99%)
  • Brazil (88%)
  • Burma/Myanmar (62%)
  • Burundi (100%)
  • Cameroon (77%)
  • Canada (61%)
  • Central African Republic (81%)
  • Columbia (85%)
  • Congo (82%)
  • Costa Rica (93%)
  • DPR Korea (61%)
  • DR Congo (99%)
  • Ecuador (64%)
  • El Salvador (62%)
  • Ethiopia (88%)
  • Fiji (68%)
  • Georgia (85%)
  • Ghana (75%)
  • Guatemala (61%)
  • Iberia (70%)
  • Iceland (100%)
  • Kenya (62%)
  • Kyrgyzstan (90%)
  • Lao PDR (92%)
  • Latvia (62%)
  • Lesotho (100%)
  • Madagascar (66%)
  • Malawi (86%)
  • Mozambique (99%)
  • Namibia (70%)
  • Nepal (99%)
  • New Zealand (72%)
  • North Korea (61%)*
  • Norway (97.11% )
  • Panama (63%)*
  • Paraguay (100%)
  • Peru (60% )
  • Portugal (70%)
  • Sweden (60%)
  • Tajikistan (98%)
  • Tanzania (61%)
  • Uganda (74%)
  • Uruguay (61%)
  • Venezuela (69%)
  • Zambia (99%)

As most of these figures date back to 2008, the percentage has in many cases increased over the last five years. It should also be noted that most of these states get their energy from hydroelectric projects, which although commonly considered a renewable energy, comes with a number of environmental concerns. Further, there are many small developing nations in this list which have limited power requirements. Nonetheless, this list demonstrates the viability of renewable energy, albeit on a small scale.

Developing countries are not the only ones ramping up renewable energy. In terms of developed nations, Germany is a recent standout for producing almost half of its energy needs from solar.  In the U.S., almost half of all new generating capacity installed in 2012 was renewable, and in Q1 2013, 49 percent of all new US electricity generation capacity came form solar.

A number of independent researchers have demonstrated that renewable energy sources can replace fossil fuels and provide for all of the world’s energy needs. This research has also debunked claims that the emissions attributable to intermittent power production from renewable sources offer only nominal reductions in greenhouse gas emissions when compared to fossil fuels.

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has conducted research which demonstrates that green energy can affordably replace fossil fuels as the world’s primary source of electricity within 20 years.

The NOAA’s findings add to other studies that also support the feasibility of replacing fossil fuels with renewable sources of energy. In 2011, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report which indicates that nearly 80 percent of global energy demand could be met by renewable sources of energy by 2050. Research published in 2009 by Mark Z. Jacobson and Mark A. Delucchi also supports the contention that renewable energy can replace fossil fuels, as does research published in 2010 by Robert Howarth.

Sandy MacDonald, a director at NOAA said that wind and solar could supply 70 percent of electricity demand in the lower 48 states as soon as 2030.

Together the evidence supports the notion that we can meet our energy needs with renewable sources of energy. This is not just an urgent necessity, it is also a technologically and economically viable solution to the looming threats we face.

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: Beyond Coal and Gas, courtesy flickr

The post Renewables can Power the World appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

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July 15 2013


EarthTalk: Implementation of California’s Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Law

Understanding California's Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection ActEarthTalk® is a weekly environmental column made available to our readers from the editors of E/The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: Three regions in California recently implemented transportation plans as part of a statewide strategy for cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Can you explain? – Bill Oakes, Reno, NV

Americans are becoming increasingly concerned about global warming even as Washington politicians continue to debate whether or not to mandate emissions cutbacks. In lieu of federal action, some states and municipalities are taking action on their own to reduce fossil fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions.

Not surprisingly, California leads the pack, having passed the 2008 Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Law (SB 375), which calls on each of 18 Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) to prepare a “sustainable communities strategy” to show how it plans to meet previously established greenhouse gas reduction targets through integrated land use, housing and transportation planning. Over the past year, three regions—San Diego, Sacramento and Southern California—formally adopted transportation plans specifically designed to reduce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions.

“All three regions have found that most people want to live closer to jobs and retail, and yearn for ways to live without spending so much time driving,” reports the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), which has been tracking California’s progress on sustainability. “These regions are planning communities that reflect these preferences while also reducing harmful air pollution, creating jobs and saving people money.”

NRDC adds that the sustainable community strategies “lay the foundation for smarter, more efficient growth and healthier communities, each of them offering lessons for other regions to follow.”

Under the terms of SB 375, each of the MPOs crafted plans based on local priorities, needs and resources, while adhering to strict statewide emissions reduction goals. San Diego’s 2050 Regional Transportation Plan was the first of its kind in the country when implemented last year. It calls for investing $214 billion in various local, state and federal transportation initiatives around San Diego over the next four decades.

“The largest proportion of the funds will go toward transit, which will receive 36 percent of the funds in the first 10 years, with 34 percent going to highway improvements (largely for the addition of high occupancy vehicle lanes to existing freeway corridors) and 21 percent to local roads and streets,” reports the San Diego Association of Governments, one of the agencies that helped design the plan. “The percentage dedicated to transit will grow each decade, up to 44 percent from 2021 to 2030, 47 percent in the third decade, and 57 percent in the last decade of the plan.”

Most environmental leaders view SB 375 as a step in the right direction, though others worry that it doesn’t go far enough. “The plan will worsen health risks in communities that already suffer from disproportionate levels of pollution,” reports the California-based Environmental Health Coalition (EHC). EHC is concerned about the health of low-income communities of color and feels that the plan allocates too much funding toward highway expansion while deferring investment in public transit for too long.

Meanwhile, 15 more plans will come to light soon across California, giving the rest of the nation that many more models for planning responsibly for a warmer, less environmentally secure future.
EarthTalk® is written and edited by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss and is a registered trademark of E – The Environmental Magazine.

Image credit: NRDC

The post EarthTalk: Implementation of California’s Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Law appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

July 05 2013


Video Friday: Los Angeles, Paris to Participate in Megacities Carbon Project

Cities are responsible for 70 percent of greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels. Los Angeles and Paris are both participating in the Megacities Carbon Project, a research study by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory to develop and test methods for more accurately measuring greenhouse gas emissions from cities and power plants.

The stated goal of the project is to “demonstrate a scientifically robust capability to measure multi-year emission trends of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and carbon monoxide (CO) attributed to individual megacities and selected major sectors.”  The methods and data collected will be shared between international partners to enhance global emissions monitoring from megacities across the globe.

The post Video Friday: Los Angeles, Paris to Participate in Megacities Carbon Project appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

June 27 2013


Reaction to President Obama’s Historic Georgetown University Speech

A group inspired by Obama's climate speechDespite what some detractors may say, the speech delivered by President Obama at Georgetown University will reverberate across America and around the world.  June 25th, 2013 will be remembered as the day America committed itself to act domestically and lead globally on climate change.

It is not overstating the case to say the President’s speech signals an end to the debate on climate change and the beginning of a consorted effort to reign in greenhouse gas emissions.

The President’s ambitious speech has far reaching implications that involve both mitigation and adaptation. “As a president, as a father and as an American, I’m here to say we need to act,” Obama said.

Going forward, climate change impacts will be factored into every governmental decision including procurement, land and water management, infrastructure spending, and resource development.

The President’s national climate strategy will:

  • Reduce emissions from coal-fired power plants, the transportation sector, and people’s homes
  • Increase renewable energy production on federal lands
  • Enhance efficiency standards
  • Prepare communities to deal with climate change

For a more detailed review of the plan, click here. For the full transcript of the President’s speech, click here.


Republican resistance to the President’s initiatives are as dependable as a Swiss watch.  Even before Obama unveiled his plan on Tuesday afternoon, Republicans in Congress were already on the attack. They declared the plan to be a job killer that would undermine the recovery.

Republicans continue to flog the same ideas knowing that they will gain some traction with the American public. “It’s tantamount to kicking the ladder out from beneath the feet of many Americans struggling in today’s economy,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said on the floor of the Senate.

In a more blatant effort to inflame the public, Don Stewart, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said imposing carbon rules on power plants amounts to a national energy tax.

The President responded to his critics preemptively when he remarked, “that’s what they said every time and every time, they’ve been wrong.” Obama stated that research, technology and innovation are American strengths that will help lead the world in the war on climate change.

Republicans are almost unanimously impervious to reality. They refuse to comprehend that the planet is warming, they seem blind to melting arctic ice and devastating droughts. They will not even acknowledge that extreme weather already causes hundreds of billions of dollars worth of damage.

Republicans in the Congress are hell-bent on denying the truth and they seem to exist with their heads perpetually in the sand. While Republicans are disconnected from the facts on climate change, the President has carefully crafted a reality-based perspective. In response to Republican outrage over Obama’s use of his executive powers to circumvent the legislature, White House spokesman Jay Carney said, “we’ve seen Congress attempt to deal with this issue, and fail.”

Obama is simply making good on the warning he issued in his State of the Union address. As he said last February, “if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will.”

Republicans deride the employment potential from the green economy.  They ignore the current staggering cost of climate change including extreme weather, and they seem oblivious to the fact that the situation is destined to get far worse if we continue with business as usual. Most importantly, they refuse to appreciate that the devastating impacts of runaway climate change will dwarf any costs associated with transitioning to a greener  economy and more sustainable employment. The longer we wait the more it will cost and the less likely we will be to stave off the worst impacts.

In a comment that directly addressed Republican climate deniers, the President mockingly said “we do not have time for the meeting of the flat earth society.” He went on to say he has no patience for those who deny that humans are contributing to the warming of the planet.

As the President said, history will judge the present generation by our success or failure in meeting and surmounting this existential challenge. No matter how many Republicans line up against the national climate strategy, we must do what we can to combat climate change. As explained in a White House statement, “we have a moral obligation to act on behalf of future generations.”


Many environmentalists are heaping praise on the President and lauding his leadership. Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defence Council said, “the President nailed it,” and Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said, “President Obama is finally putting action behind his words.”

Support for the President’s national climate strategy is far from unanimous even among environmentalists.  Those who want to see more from the President need to view his actions from a historical perspective. Obama’s national climate strategy is the most consorted effort to combat climate change in the history of the United States. Even in his first term Obama made more environmental progress than any President in American history, including great strides in renewable energy and fuel efficiency.

Bill Snape of the Center for Biological Diversity is among those who were not satisfied with the President’s speech. He described it as too little, too late.

“What he’s proposing isn’t big enough, doesn’t move fast enough, to match the terrifying magnitude of the climate crisis,” Snape said.

While Snape may even be right, he is still wrong. He and others like him do not understand the politics at play nor do they countenance the limitations of the President’s executive powers. Further, the President has to protect the interests of his party ahead of the 2014 midterms.

Dan Lashof of the Natural Resources Defence Council is among those who disagree with Snape.

“The country is facing a threat; the President is facing facts,” said Lashof. “Reducing that pollution is the most important step we can take as a nation to stand up to climate change.”

It is understandable that many people are frustrated that the President did not go further. In particular, his apparent support for domestic fossil fuels and fracking in particular was undeniably disappointing.  However, those who wish the President would have done more need to understand that the President is not omnipotent, nor does he operate in a vacuum.

He can expect legal challenges from interests in the old energy economy and by sidestepping Congress he can also expect that lawmakers will introduce legislation to stymie his national climate strategy.  House Republicans have shown themselves to be especially tenacious in their opposition to the President and they will do everything in their power to undermine him and his plan.

Unlike many of Obama’s detractors, Al Gore is a man who understands politics and he applauded the President’s speech. Gore referred to the Georgetown address as “historic” calling it, “the best Presidential address on climate change ever.”

“This action – if followed by skillful and thorough execution of the plan – has the potential to fundamentally alter the course of our nation’s energy infrastructure development and help to promote a sustainable future. On the international front, this action will bolster U.S. credibility and moral authority in negotiations with other countries,” Gore said.

While Gore conceded that more needs to be done, he also indicated that Obama can succeed if he uses the bully pulpit of the Presidency to good effect.

Gore concluded by saying, “I urge the nation to follow President Obama’s lead…to keep fighting. We’ve got a lot more work to do.”

Obama’s speech vindicates those who have supported the President and who held out hope that he would make a serious attempt to combat climate change.  His detractors, particularly those who call themselves environmentalists, should be ashamed of their lack of support for these ambitious actions. Within the purview of his power, and the realities of the current political landscape, the President is moving boldly forward.

June 25, 2013 is an important day for us and for our planet and it will be remembered as the point in history when America enjoined the struggle against climate change and assumed a leadership role.

Stay tuned for the companion piece to this article on the politics of fracking to be published in Global Warming is Real next Thursday.
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: DailyKos, Energy Action


The post Reaction to President Obama’s Historic Georgetown University Speech appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

September 05 2012


Obama and Romney Agree that Global Warming is Real

Obama and Romney agree that global warming is realProviding written statements to the independent website ScienceDebate, both president Obama and his GOP challenger Mitt Romney acknowledged that human-caused global warming is happening.

Partially sponsored by the National Academies and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, ScienceDebate has long held that questions about science be included in televised presidential debates. Realizing there is little chance of that in the next debate on October 3rd, the website prepared a written list of 14 questions addressing the top science-based issues facing the country today. The questions were selected from suggestions by thousands of “scientists, engineers, and concerned citizens” and refined with the help of leading scientific and engineering organizations to represent the most important science policy issues. Among the list were questions of energy policy, food, fresh water, ocean health, natural resources and, of course, climate change.

While both candidates agreed that anthropogenic climate change is happening, not surprisingly they differed on what should be done about it.

In his 484-word answer, Romney made clear he opposed any carbon tax or cap-and-trade approach to mitigating global warming. Instead he suggested pursuing “no regrets” policies the would limit emissions and still be beneficial to the economy should climate change somehow “not come to pass.” Romney provided little in the way of specifics as to what those policies might be.

“Ultimately, the science is an input to the public policy decision;” Romney said in his written statement, “it does not dictate a particular policy response.”

For his part, Obama pointed to his actions in his first term and his agenda going forward. Among his achievements Obama cited aggressive vehicle efficiency standards, renewable energy investments, the proposed rule allowing the EPA to limit greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, and the hard-fought agreement from COP17 last year in Durban, South Africa calling for all major international greenhouse gas emitters to face equal obligation to cut those emissions by 2020. (See Andrew Burger’s post from September 4 on the accomplishments of the Obama administration in energy and efficiency.)

“Climate change is one of the biggest issues of this generation,” Obama said in his 181-word response. “And we have to meet this challenge by driving smart policies that lead to greater growth in clean energy generation and result in a range of economic and social benefits.”

Thanks to DonkeyHotey for image resource 






August 17 2012


A 20-Year Low in U.S. Carbon Emissions

Energy-related emissions were lower in January to March than for any first quarter since 1992, partly because of the shift from coal to natural gas in power generation.

August 15 2012


GOP VP Candidate Ryan’s Unsustainable Voting Record on Energy and the Environment

Paul Ryan is the Republican Party’s pick for VP and he is also an outspoken climate change skeptic. Representative Ryan is an unflinching supporter of the fossil fuel industry who has a very poor voting record on environmental and energy issues. Although he is touted as the intellectual leader of the GOP, Ryan has cast aspersions on climate science and he has inferred that unusual snowfalls suggest that global warming is not real.

On the Issues reports that as a member of the House of Representatives, Ryan’s voting record earned him very low marks from three separate organizations. In December 2003, the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) gave Ryan a grade of only 10 percent, because of his anti-environment votes. In December 2006, the CAF gave him a rating of 0 percent, indicating his opposition to energy independence. And in January 2012, the Humane Society Legislative Fund (HSLF) gave him a grade of 13 percent, due to his anti-animal welfare voting record.

Ryan has an anti-environment policy perspective that dates all the way back to the start of his career. In the mid to late 1990s, Ryan worked as the legislative director for then Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas. Brownback’s record on the environment can be best summarized as anti-regulation and pro-growth. Brownback has repeatedly voted against regulations, even those designed to protect Americans against dangerous toxins like mercury.

As reported in On the Issues, here are several examples from Brownback’s anti-environment voting record:

  • Against banning drilling in ANWR (Roll Call #52, 03/16/05)
  • For prohibiting an increase in CAFE standards (Roll Call #48, 03/13/02)
  • Against requiring the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions (Roll Call #420, 10/30/03)
  • For preventing the government’s protection and acquisition of land for parks and open space (S.Amdt. 3640 to H.R. 2419; #429, 12/13/07)
  • Against protecting fish habitats (table Bryan Amdt. #1588; Bill H.R. 2466)

Brownback’s voting record on the environment was so bad that he earned a 0 percent score from the LCV.

Big oil and right wing social engineering

Ryan was first voted into the U.S. House of Representatives for Wisconsin’s first congressional district in 1989. Ryan currently chairs the House Budget Committee, where he has garnered a lot of attention for his alternative to President Obama’s 2012 budget proposal. Ryan’s controversial budget would support Big Oil, reduce taxes on the wealthy and cut government spending including clean energy investments. His radically conservative views on economic policy are so extreme they have been dismissed by arch-conservative Newt Gingrich who referred to them as “right wing social engineering.”

In addition to his controversial economic views, Ryan is also a climate denier of the first order. As explained in a Think Progress article, Ryan has accused scientists of engaging in conspiracy to “intentionally mislead the public on the issue of climate change.”

Another Think Progress article explored how his family directly benefits from his stalwart support of Big Oil.  As stated in the article:

“Paul Ryan’s budget, which means austerity for most Americans, turns out to mean prosperity for Ryan and his family.”

Ryans proposed FY 2013 budget provides oil subsidies and tax shelters worth more than $40 billion. In addition Ryans’ budget helps the fossil fuel industry by eliminating billions of dollars of investments in clean energy technologies (CAP, 3/20/12).

According to Ryan’s financial disclosure forms for Congress, he and his wife, Janna, own interests in land leases to oil and mining companies including XTO Energy, a recently acquired subsidiary of ExxonMobil.

Ryan’s close ties to fossil fuels do not end there. He is also an associate of the powerful Koch brothers, two of the most destructive spin masters in the American oil industry. This climate denying duo uses their extraordinary wealth to spread their influence and promote their self-centered pro-oil agenda. Just one of the many Koch founded organizations; known as Americans for Prosperity (AFP) has already spent $27 million on anti-Obama ads.

As reported in an Alternet article, Ryan has enjoyed AFP’s financial support for years. The nomination of Ryan prompted the article’s author, Adele M. Stan to write, “The Republican Party is now officially a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Koch brothers’ political enterprise.”

Wisconsin is both Ryans’ home state and the home of the now infamous Tea Party victory that aggressively moved that state to the right. With considerable help from the AFP, Republican Governor Scott Walker won reelection after ramming a bill through the state legislature that “all but ended collective bargaining for the state’s public employees.”

Ryan has even received special recognition from the AFP. Walker personally presented Ryan with the Wisconsin AFP chapter’s “Defending the American Dream” award.

A voting record against scientific fact and the future of civilization

Truth-Out calls Ryan a “virulent denier of climate science, with a voting record to match,” adding, “Paul Ryan stands with Big Oil against scientific fact and the future of human civilization.

A succinct summary of Ryan’s voting record reveals his allegiance to oil and his contempt for the environment, efficiency and clean energy. Ryan voted against the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) efforts to limit greenhouse gas pollution (Roll Call 249, 4/7/11); he tried to eliminate the role of a White House climate adviser (Roll Call 87, 2/17/11); and block the U.S. Department of Agriculture from preparing for climate disasters (Roll Call 448, 6/16/11). Ryan is on record as having voted to end the Department of Energy Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA-E) (Roll Call 55, 2/17/11) while supporting the Keystone XL Pipeline (Roll Call 650, 7/26/11). He even voted to eliminate light bulb efficiency standards (Roll Call 563, 7/12/11).

As reviewed in Vote Smart, here are some more examples that further expose Ryan’s agenda on energy and the environment:

Ryan voted for the following bills:

Ryan voted against the following bills:

A vote for Romney and Ryan in 2012 will bring back the same Republican policies that caused the meltdown of the global economy 5 years ago, it also means four years of policies that invite environmental abuse. Ryan’s vision for America is unsustainable and his anti-environment voting record is deplorable. Americans have to decide if they want to “unshackle Wall Street” or liberate themselves from Republicans beholden to Big Oil.
Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of The Green Market Oracle, a leading sustainable business blog and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.

Image credit: DonkeyHotey, courtesy Flickr

August 06 2012


On Our Radar: Oklahoma's Wildfires

Some people who were evacuated are allowed to return home, but the blazes continue in pockets in the northeastern part of the state.

August 01 2012


A Glimpse of the Alternative Fuel Future

While the biofuel, electric battery and liquefied natural gas technologies are advancing, the internal combustion engine will reign supreme for decades, a group reports.

July 28 2012


The Real Train Wreck: ALEC and "Other ALECs" Attack EPA Regulations

When business-friendly bills and resolutions spread like wildfire in statehouses nationwide calling for something as far-fetched as a halt to EPA regulations on greenhouse gas emissions, ALEC is always a safe bet for a good place to look for their origin.

In the midst of hosting its 39th Annual Meeting this week in Salt Lake City, Utah, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is appropriately described as an ideologically conservative "corporate bill mill" by the Center for Media and Democracy, the overseer of the ALEC Exposed project. 98 percent of ALEC's funding comes from corporations, according to CMD**.

ALEC's meetings bring together corporate lobbyists and state legislators to schmooze and then vote on what it calls "model bills." Lobbyists, as CMD explains, have a "voice and a vote in shaping policy." In short, they have de facto veto power over whether the prospective bills they present at these conferences become "models" that will be distributed to the offices of politicians in statehouses nationwide.

For a concise version of how ALEC operates, see the brand new video below by Mark Fiore.


ALEC, though, isn't the only group singing this tune.

As it turns out, one of the "Other ALECs," or a group that operates in a similar manner to ALEC, will be hosting its conference in the immediate aftermath of ALEC's conference: the Council of State Government's (CSG) regional offshoot, the Southern Leadership Conference (SLC).

Like ALEC, CSG produces its own "model bills," which it calls "Suggested State Legislation" (SSL). SSL is enacted via an "up or down" vote manner at CSG's national meetings. This process mirrors that of its cousin ALEC, with corporate lobbyists also able to vote in closed door meetings.

Some key differences between CSG and ALEC: the former is bipartisan in nature, while the latter is Republican Party-centric; CSG has a far larger budget, due to the fact that 43 percent of its funding comes from taxpayer contributions; and CSG is not explicitly ideological in nature because it was founded as a trade association for state legislators (not as a corporate front group like ALEC, although CSG is now heavily influenced by the same forces).

SLC's annual meeting will be held in Charleston, West Virginia from July 28-31.

TruthOut's ongoing "Other ALECs Exposed" series (written by yours truly) digs deep into the machinations of "Other ALEC"-like groups.

One of the key threads tying these two particular groups together is their agreement on derailing what they describe as "job-killing" EPA greenhouse gas emissions regulations. ALEC has referred to these sensible standards on multiple occassions as a "Regulatory Trainwreck."

ALEC, SLC and EPA "Regulatory Trainwreck" Resolutions

ALEC's "Regulatory Trainwreck" Resolution

ALEC has two model bills on the books that call for EPA regulations to be eliminated: the State Regulatory Responsibility Act and the Resolution Opposing EPA’s Regulatory Train Wreck. Essentially clones, the two bills passed nearly a decade apart from one another, the former in 2000, the latter in 2011.

ALEC's description of EPA regulations reads like the apocolypse is looming.

"The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has begun a war on the American standard of living," it wrote. "During the past couple of years, the Agency has undertaken the most expansive regulatory assault in history on the production and distribution of affordable and reliable energy…These regulations are causing the shutdown of power plants across the nation, forcing electricity generation off of coal, destroying jobs, raising energy costs, and decreasing reliability."  

Former CMD reporter Jill Richardson wrote in a July 2011 story that the concept behind the resolution originated at ALEC's December 2010 policy summit. Richardson explained,

The policy summit included a session led by Peter Glaser of Troutman Sanders LLP law firm in which Glaser, an attorney who represents electric utility, mining and other energy industry companies and associations on environmental regulation, specifically in the area of air quality and global climate change, told the crowd that "EPA's regulatory trainwreck" is "a term that's now in common use around town. I think everybody should become familiar with it." (See the video here.) Along with the presentations, ALEC published a report called "EPA's Regulatory Trainwreck: Strategies for State Legislators" and provided "Legislation to Consider" on its site, RegulatoryTrainwreck.com. For the public, they created the website StopTheTrainwreck.com.

The Resolution calls for the EPA to stop regulating greenhouse gases for the next two years as a "jobs creation" mechanism.

After the midterm election ransacking, in which the GOP won large majorities in state legislatures nationwide, it was off to the races for "Regulatory Train Wreck" resolutions to pass around the country, and pass they did. 

The "Regulatory Trainwreck" resolution, according to ALEC, has been introduced in an astounding 34 states, passing in 13, as of a June 2011 press release.

This assault conducted by ALEC and its corporate backers is merely the tip of the iceberg. ALEC itself boasts,

There are 27 groups of state and local officials that opposerecent EPA action, including tens of thousands of state legislators, utility commissioners, agricultural department officials, foresters, drinking water administrators, fish and wildlife agencies, solid waste management officials, state wetland managers, mayors, counties, and cities.

One of these 27 groups included CSG's Southern Leadership Conference.

SLC Adopts the "Regulatory Train Wreck" Resolution as its Own

On July 19, 2011, the SLC adopted the ALEC Regulatory Train Wreck resolution at its 65th Annual Meeting in Memphis, TN. The Resolution called for, among other things, to

  1. "Adopt legislation prohibiting the EPA from further regulating greenhouse gas emissions for the next 24 months, including, if necessary, defunding the EPA greenhouse gas regulatory activity;"
  2. "Impose a moratorium on the promulgation of any new air quality regulation by the EPA, including, if necessary,the defunding of the EPA air quality regulatory activities, except to address an imminent health or environmental emergency, for a period of at least 24 months;"  

In other words, this is a copycat of the ALEC Resolution. SLC, like ALEC, chocks it up to the false dichotomy of regulation vs. jobs, and regulations "killing jobs." As DeSmogBlog has written, the opposite is actually the case.

The resolution's opening paragraph is a case in point. It reads,

"The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed, or is in the process of proposing, numerous regulations regarding air quality and regulation of greenhouse gases that likely will have major effects on Southern state economies, impacting businesses, manufacturing industries and, in turn, job creation and U.S. competitiveness in world markets."

Lobbyists representing the Nuclear Energy Institute, the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE), Southern States Energy Board (a lobbying tour de force, which has a whole host of dirty energy clients in the oil, gas, and nuclear power sectors), Piedmont Natural Gas, Spectra Energy, and Southern Company were all in attendance to vote on this resolution. 

Dirty energy sponsors of the 2011 SLC meeting included the likes of Spectra, General Electric, ACCCE, Chevron, Honeywell, Piedmont Natural Gas, BP, Southern Company, and Atmos Energy, to name several.

If adopted at a federal level, this resolution would, of course, make all of these companies a hefty fortune.  

ALEC's Bifurcated Approach: Strip Federal Regs, Attack Local Democracy

Oil, gas, nuclear and utility corporations that fund ALEC and groups like CSG would like nothing more than to see EPA regulations disintegrate into thin air.

Part one of DeSmog's investigation on ALEC's dirty energy agenda showed that, along with pushing for the elimination of EPA regulations, it has also succeeded in promulgating legislation that would eliminate local democracy as we know it, including altering key standards such as zoning rights - a Big Business giveaway of epic proportions.

This would mean only extremely underfunded and understaffed state regulatory agencies like the New York Department of Environmental Conservation would have any oversight on environmental regulatory issues. 

If anything is clear, it's this: statehouses have become one of Big Business' favorite domiciles for pushing its "Corporate Playbook." 

Image CreditLane V. Erickson ShutterStock

(**Full Disclosure: Steve Horn is a former employee of CMD and worked on the ALECExposed project)

July 23 2012


Enviro News Wrap: Tipping Points; Climate Change and Food Prices; Heat Waves and Denial, 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:


May 10 2012


May 08 2012


Canada Is Slow to Act on Emissions, Audit Warns

The government has not undertaken the kinds of analyses that would be needed to reduce emissions sector by sector, the environment commissioner warns.

May 04 2012


75% of Americans Support Regulating CO2; 60% Support Carbon Tax

Two-thirds of Americans support regulation of greenhouse gas emissions, a majority support a carbon tax as a means of doing so.The following post is republished from my colleague Zach Shahan, site director for CleanTechnica.com. Zach explores the disconnect between the GOP “party line” on taking action to curb greenhouse gas emissions, clean energy development and what people actually want.

May 01 2012


A Grim Portrait of Palm Oil Emissions

A new study suggests that, if anything, a recent E.P.A. finding underestimated the greenhouse gas emissions related to palm oil production in Asia.

Q&A: Greening the City's Zoning Rules

New York City's sustainability director and a green developer discuss how changes in zoning rules could speed the adoption of green roofs, renewable energy and energy-efficient features.
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