Archive for September, 2009

As part of Terry’s superb weekly links, he highlighted a UN report that was released. The rapid increase of warming even under the best of scenarios was very sobering news. Do you think the recent tsunami had anything to do with climate change? An easy answer after reading this report: It did.

The report states that even if the U.S., Europe and the rest of the world reach their most optimistic goals for reduction of greenhouse gas emissions (in the U.S. that would be cutting domestic emissions 73% from 2005 levels by 2050), the earth’s temperature will still rise 6.3 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100. In fact, the report states that the damage we’ve already done will increase it 1.6 degrees by the middle of this century – on top of the 0.6 degree rise we’ve already encountered.

What havoc has the 0.6 rise we’ve already seen since last decade done? In the U.S. since the IPCC issued its 2007 report, there has been a lot of proof of natural disasters worsening, according to the report: Heaviest rain and floods since 1993 across the Midwest; Tropical Storm Fay was 1st storm on record to strike Florida 4 times; third worst fire season and persistent drought in western and southeast U.S.; So. California had its worst wildfire in 30 years; one of the top 10 years for tornado-ralted fatalities since 1953.

This U.N. report, which aims to fill in the gaps until the IPCC issues its next report in 2014, states:

Irreversible climate changes due to carbon dioxide emissions have already taken place. Continuing carbon dioxide emissions in the future means further irreversible effects on the planet, with attendant long legacies for choices made by contemporary society.

The report also says that the Arctic Ocean may be ice-free in September by 2030. If you’re wondering what effect the resulting sea-level rise will have on people consider this nugget: Currently, about 100 million people worldwide live within 1 meter of sea level and that number is growing every day.

And so, the report sums up what we face in the future

Society has very important decisions to make. Even if GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions ceased immediately, the warming of the Earth and associated changes—as well as those of ocean acidifcation—would continue beyond this century and perhaps this millenium. Management practice decisions for addressing such monumental issues must be effective, efficient, and equitable, within the realization there are no instantaneous sollutions.

This report is daunting and shows that more management of dealing with climate change is needed (since it’s coming in one way or another), but we need to stay focused as well at reducing greenhouse gas emissions immediately. Go to our pledge page NOW and pledge to take a small step.

A new analysis warns that temperatures may rise 6 degrees this century, even if countries take action (Washington Post).  The Post also reports that last week’s G20 summit produced an agreement to phase out fossil fuel subsidies over time, although time was left undefined.  And from last week, this article talks about World Car Free Day.

Waste from Europe is being illegally sent to developing countries (New York Times).  Also in the Times, columnist Thomas Friedman says that China is moving ahead of the U.S. in green technology, and the paper takes a closer look at a climate change skeptic at the EPA.

Turf scientists are trying to create a superlawn (LA Times).  The Times also reports that California is set to expand bottle deposits, as money from the deposits has been raided to plug budget gaps.

Urban agriculture was a key idea at Saturday’s Providence Sustainability Festival (Providence Journal).

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s stance on climate change has caused some dissension in the ranks (MSNBC, also see this Washington Post article).  And the U.S. may not have a climate bill in time for December’s Copenhagen talks (MSNBC).  Meanwhile, blue-green algae is suffocating waterways in the Upper midwest (MSNBC).

The EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme remains a contentious matter (BBC).  The New York Times notes that the EU is basically going it alone on emissions trading.

And finally, if you can build a better incandescent bulb, the Energy Department has a $10 million prize for you (New York Times).

Buy only the books, CDs and DVDs you really want and use your local library for the rest.

There was a lot of hot air moving through New York yesterday and while it did have something to do with global warming, it’s too early to tell if it will effect any change on the climate.

In the U.N.’s first climate change summit (Ban Ki-moon says global leaders are moving too slow, but what took so long for you to have a summit?), China and the U.S. both had their heads of state pledge to do more to stop climate change.

President Obama’s speech came as the EPA solidified its plan to start counting companies’ specific carbon-based emissions (a key to any cap-and-trade proposal). While it showed he is taking action (as well as the new auto standards), there is still the Senate passage of the cap-and-trade policy – not a sure thing, especially since I don’t see Dems passing it and health care … and I do see them passing health care because when the chips are down it matters more to Obama. So in the U.S. corner there is a lot of action to be done in the two months before Copenhagen’s ultimate climate summit when they need to nail down a treaty. More action is needed to prove this country is serious about halting climate change.

China’s speech from Hu Jintao drew the biggest headlines. Jintao promised to reduced his countries emissions by 2020. Do you believe him? Are you rolling your eyes? If so, now you know what the rest of the world is doing at the U.S. There is, however, a little hope that China might back up its word.

In China, where local bureaucrats and executives at state-owned companies and banks are keenly sensitive to political shifts, the smoke will send an important signal that low-carbon projects will get priority for bank loans and regulatory approval.

The worst news from the summit was that India really balked at any action.

At Roundtable Two — one of the four simultaneous meetings at the conference — a strongly worded statement by the minister said that the talks should focus on the developed countries who are reluctant to meet their commitments on emission reduction, let alone provide technological and financial support to developing countries. “Instead, the onus for action is sought to be shifted on to developing countries, which have contributed little to the accumulation of greenhouse gasses and face the huge burden of adaptation. Protectionist trade and border tax response measures, which basically seek to protect their competitiveness, are being talked about in developed countries under the garb of climate change,” he said.

Yes, they’re a developing country and they didn’t create this mess, but if they develop with no regard to waste and pollution, they’d be missing a unique chance to take it into account while they’re building up infrastructure.

The good talk from China is surely outweighed by India’s stubbornness. If India doesn’t come along, who is to say China won’t just quit at the last moment. Tense days – and it will only get tougher as Copenhagen gets closer. After all that talk, maybe we can clear the way for action.

With a summit tomorrow on climate change, the New York Times says there’s no clear leader on the issueBrokering a deal could be hindered by significant, yet familiar obstacles, writes the Washington Post (also see this New York Times article), and British prime minister Gordon Brown has said that a climate deal is in peril (BBC).  On the other hand, this Post article says that businesses are starting to warm to the idea of dealing with climate change.

Consumer electronics sure are nice, but they have a big appetite for electricity (New York Times).  It’s gotten to the point where California is considering energy efficiency standards for televisions (LA Times).

A proposed solar energy farm in the California desert has been scrapped, ending a struggle that had pitted conservation and renewable energy against each other (LA Times).  Meanwhile, this Washington Post article offers some tips for consumers to go solar.

Talk about a game of chicken; Oklahoma’s suing the poultry industry over water pollution (MSNBC).  Also from MSNBC, instead of being a place to park, perhaps a parking space could a place for a park, as activists showed this past Friday.

Finally, you may recall that, back in February, I obtained a first person account from a venture capitalist, talking about his role in nurturing green technology.  This weekend, the LA Times had an article on this very subject.  Just remember where you heard it first.

You can improve indoor air quality with philodendrons, spider plants and ivy.

The NFL season kicked off last weekend and although the league has a testosterone-filled, gladiator-type reputation, it has the most gentle environmental impact of all other sports. There’s a simple reason of course: There are so few games that the fans can’t produce as much waste.

Although many teams have made changes to reduce the carbon footprint of sporting events as The New York Times reported last month, the simple fact is a lot of waste is produced by each sporting event:

The researchers essentially calculated the total energy and resource use associated with the match — from energy use and food and drink consumption to travel and waste generation — and then estimated the area of land that would be required to support such resource consumption. How much hypothetical land was needed to produce the food, absorb the emissions and otherwise provide for the 2004 Football Association Cup final in Britain? Roughly 3,000 hectares, or 7,400 acres — or about one-quarter of Manchester United’s namesake city.

As I mentioned in the running diary kept last March on my environmental impact from one day (I went to a Celtics game that day), some venues are better than others, but one place where a lot of waste occurs is in the actual production of physical tickets.

When the NBA tips off in late October, patrons in Denver, Houston and Cleveland and a couple other cities won’t be using physical tickets anymore. The Cavs have been using the system for season-ticketholders since 2006 and now everyone entering the game can just use a credit card or driver’s license that will be scanned to confirm their ticket. It makes it easier to transfer tickets, cuts down on scalping and most of all reduces the waste put into producing tickets. The “Flash Seats” system replaces Ticketmaster – and considering Ticketmaster’s reach and contracts with other pro teams, I wondered if local pro teams would be looking into such a system. No reply was given by the folks at Fenway (their green guru is on maternity leave), but the ticket folks at the TD Garden and Gillette Stadium graciously answered.

“While a ticketless entry system for season-ticket holders is one of the amenities we have explored for the future, any new program we implement also has to integrate easily into the greater Gillette Stadium environment that also includes another professional team and various other events,” New England Revs spokeswoman Lizz Summers wrote in an e-mail to Lights Out, Green In.

Summers went on to explain how grey water is used for facility urinals and restrooms, wind energy powers the stadium and all bottles and cans are recycled at the stadium and in the offices. Heather Walker, the PR director for the Celtics, also said the TD Garden isn’t set up for a ticketless system at this time.

That leaves New England with just one pro team using the ticketless entry and that team is on the outer edges of the region, the WNBA’s Connecticut Sun in Uncasville, CT. An AP article details exactly how the system works and has fans and team officials hailing it as a success.

“We want to be cutting-edge,’’ Sun GM Chris Sienko said. “We also want to simplify things for ourselves. Plus, you’re going green and you’re saving money on printing costs of a paper ticket.’’ By going paperless, Sienko estimates, the Sun will save between $13,000 and $15,000 in printing costs this season.

One can only hope that the news makes its way to Boston.

Sure, you’ll lose that perfect game memento – a ticket stub. But with tickets being printed out from printers or on generic Ticketmaster stubs, the stub has already lost some of its luster. I’m sure it can be replaced with some e-memento that can be stored on your computer. Is it the same? No. But all these wasteful acts we ignore can really add up. Either we change or the generations after us will have a lot more than lost mementos to worry about. The climate crisis will be in full tilt. That’s not something we should play games with.

Clean water laws are being neglected, and at a heavy price, writes the New York Times, which also reports that residential windmills face some stiff headwinds, and that nations remain divided on global warming policy.

John Kerry has taken the lead on the Senate’s climate bill, while John McCain has largely stayed out of it, says the Washington Post, which also has this story about rooftop gardening.

National security issues can be effective in selling the climate bill, reports the L.A. Times.  Also in the Times, industry groups are suing to try to stop California’s stricter vehicle emissions standards, and a water reform package in the Golden State was felled by partisan concerns.

Researchers are tagging 3,000 pieces of trash in Seattle to see where it all goes (MSNBC).  And now, thanks to warmer temperatures, ships can traverse the Arctic’s Northeast Passage (MSNBC).

After Portsmouth’s success, North Kingstown may be the next Rhode Island town to get a wind turbine (Providence Journal).

In this op-ed column, the head of MassDevelopment says that homes that use zero net energy are possible, and has challenged developers to do just that (Boston Globe).

Skepticism (or scepticism) over climate change is becoming more common in the UK (BBC).  Also happening across the pond is an EU proposal to aid developing countries in fighting climate change (BBC), and a possible carbon tax in France (BBC).

And finally, you might have noticed on LOGI’s overview page that “walruses stampeding” is mentioned as one of the signs of global warming.  Well they’re stampeding with good reason; the Pacific walrus is heading towards an Endangered Species listing, says the Washington Post.

A well-tuned engine delivers the best possible fuel economy and lowers emission levels.

More than 1,000 people echoed Ted Kennedy’s call for universal health care nationwide earlier this week on the Boston Common. We know by now that the Democrat who died late last month after serving 47 years in the Senate will be forever linked with health care. But what about his legacy on another cause close to the hearts of many liberals: the environment.

Kennedy was very rarely out in front on environmental issues, but according to this roll call type of list of achievements he was loyal to his party on such votes (scroll down to Energy and Environment sections). He often voted the same way the pro-environment lobby would’ve asked him to vote.

But did he ever really take up the cause on anything? His 1975 push ending an exemption that allowed oil companies to claim 22 percent of their revenue as tax-free was passed, but it favored the government’s pockets rather than having much environmental effect.

A look at the record provided by his office showed he did take initiative on environmental stuff when it benefited his constituents at home with money, jobs or designations.  A few examples:

In 2009, Senator Kennedy urged that funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act be used to build a wind blade technology testing facility in Massachusetts, and in May 2009, Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced that $25 million of such funds will be available for the project at the Autoport in Charlestown.

In 2008, he had legislation enacted to expand the boundary of Lowell National Historical Park to allow for the expansion of the city’s historic canal walkways.

Senator Kennedy has worked for years to clean-up the 18,000-acre New Bedford Superfund site, which is located in a tidal estuary. The area’s sediments are highly contaminated with PCBs. Senator Kennedy urged that funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act be used for the clean-up, and in April 2009, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson announced that up to $35 million of such funds will be available for the project.

And so forth – and so on. Like any politician, he supported stuff when he could go home and tout what he “got” for the people.

His firmest stance in recent memory on an environmental issue was against the Cape Wind project. As an avid sailor and owner of land in Hyannis Port, he took up the flag against the energy project, with a distinct NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) approach. After years and years of the Cape wind people clearing environmental hurdles and aesthetic ones to boot, Kennedy still would not waver in his opposition to building 130 turbines off the coast of Nantucket Sound. The project will soon get under way, but Kennedy attempted to block it many times.

There are two big bills floating around the Senate these days. One is health care and the other is a cap-and-trade environmental bill. I highly doubt we will see people invoking Ted Kennedy’s name in the cause for cap-and-trade. The man, who was so often seen at sea in his later years, will likely be remembered as a man who advanced the cause of the environment when it was the right move politically – keeping in step with party lines and sending pork back home – but he opposed the environment when it personally affected him – Cape Wind. For a man who was loved for embracing his shortcomings and moving beyond them, a mixed legacy seems fitting.