Archive for November, 2011

The Copenhagen Hangover from 2009 continues two years later as the UN is still unable to come up with a new treaty on climate change. Despite the low expectations, the focus still remains on the UN talks this year in Durban.

The U.S. has been criticized for showing no leadership and in stead being an obstacle to progress:

The letter, signed by 16 different organizations, says that while President Obama pledged in November 2008 to “engage vigorously in these negotiations, and help lead the world toward a new era of global cooperation on climate change,” he has failed to deliver on that vow. The letter is to be released Wednesday, in an unusual public rebuke. The Washington Post obtained it Tuesday.

“Three years later, America risks being viewed not as a global leader on climate change, but as a major obstacle to progress,” they wrote. “U.S. positions on two major issues – the mandate for future negotiations and climate finance – threaten to impede in Durban the global cooperation so desperately needed to address the threat of climate change.”

This comes as a UN scientist implores countries that the cost of doing nothing far exceeds the cost of stopping climate change now:

Rajendra Pachauri, head of the Nobel-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, summarized a litany of potential disasters at a U.N. climate conference in the South African city of Durban. Although he gave no explicit deadlines, the implication was that time is running out for greenhouse gas emissions to level off and begin to decline. Heat waves currently experienced once every 20 years will happen every other year by the end of this century, he said.

But, alas, the U.S. ignores calls for action in Durban and instead is kowtowing to climate change deniers by doing nothing. And that perfectly sums up why there is little hope in Durban

India and Brazil join the US and other rich nations in calling for climate talks to be delayed (BBC). India and China also hold up a deal to curb hydrofluorocarbons (Washington Post).

A hacker attempts to revive “Climategate” (BBC).

A study says the climate may not be as sensitive to CO2 as originally thought (BBC).

Depending on the audience, businesses tell different stories about environmental regulations (Washington Post).

California tries to keep a bullet train project on track (NY Times).

The feds are investigating problems with the Chevy Volt’s battery (LA Times).

As next week’s annual UN climate change conference drew close, there were increasing signs that governments would no longer be able to ignore the environmental issues.
First came the report that greenhouse gases will linger for decades even at the amount currently produced. On the heels of that was the UN panel finding that climate change is already responsible for some of the recent extreme weather events and it will get worse soon.
But all optimism for hope at the UN conference was dashed yesterday.
Ahead of critical talks starting next week, most of the world’s leading economies now privately admit that no new global climate agreement will be reached before 2016 at the earliest, and that even if it were negotiated by then, they would stipulate it could not come into force until 2020.
The eight-year delay is the worst contemplated by world governments during 20 years of tortuous negotiations on greenhouse gas emissions, and comes despite intensifying warnings from scientists and economists about the rapidly increasing dangers of putting off prompt action.
After the Copenhagen climate talks in 2009 ended amid scenes of chaos, governments pledged to try to sign a new treaty in 2012. The date is critical, because next year marks the expiry of the current provisions of the Kyoto protocol, the only legally binding international agreement to limit emissions.
The UK, European Union, Japan, US and other rich nations are all now united in opting to put off an agreement and the United Nations also appears to accept this.
Developing countries are furious, and the delay will be fiercely debated at the next round of international climate talks beginning a week on Monday in Durban, South Africa.
To summarize, we’re already feeling the effects of climate change from storms that cost billions to clean up. The gases are going to get worse, but we have 8 more years to wait – at the earliest – until the government decides to do anything binding as a world community. If you were planning on being grateful for strong world leadership this Thanksgiving, you’ll have to find something else.


Extreme weather events are increasingly likely, says an IPCC report (BBC).

UN climate talks are next week in South Africa (Washington Post).

The Sierra Club’s leader steps down, and the organization struggles to set its direction (LA Times).

Brazil and Chevron battle over an offshore spill (NY Times).

The New York times has this in-depth look at the political calculations and behind-the-scenes intrigue in delaying new smog rules. It also has this extensive look at natural gas drilling in Pennsylvania.

The U.S. seeks to double fuel economy standards by 2025 (LA Times).

The Energy secretary defends the Solyndra loan (Washington Post).

Oklahoma wonders what’s going on with all the earthquakes (LA Times).

LA may soon have to look elsewhere for some of its water (LA Times).

The good news is smart meters are now in 13% to 18% of homes. It’s at least double and maybe triple the amount of smart meters from 2 years ago. But beyond the digitized meters, there lurks a few problems.

In Vermont, concerns over the safety of the wireless signal that smart meters emit, as well as how private energy use can be used by authorities, has many residents opposing the installation of the meters. In Illinois, one city is hoping to stop the installation of the meters by putting the $22 million project to a vote. And they have collected enough signatures.

All this energy is being exercised just to stop the installation of the meters. One utility exec, who has championed the technology for more than a decade, looks at the meters as a possible distraction from simple solutions – you know like turning off your lights when natural light will light up a room.

You can install smart meters in homes, but the homes probably still have dumb appliances and homeowners who are too busy to be bothered. At least for now, simple measures such as caulking might save more energy.

“Somehow all of us collectively decided to skip the low-hanging fruit and go for the top of the tree,” he said at a recent energy conference sponsored by The Washington Post.


The Keystone delay probably won’t slow down oil companies looking to Canada’s tar sands (Washington Post).

Continental makes the first U.S.  commercial flight on biofuel (LA Times).

Offshore oil reserves may increase naval tensions between nations (NY Times).

Smart grid technology isn’t such a hit with consumers (Washington Post).

Greenhouse gas levels continue climbing, says a federal report (LA Times).

Public support for federal spending on clean energy is at its lowest level since 2006 (Washington Post).

Climate skepticism isn’t as prevalent in other countries (BBC).

The Climate Vulnerable Forum meets in Bangladesh (BBC).

Mazda aims for fuel efficiency while keeping a gasoline engine (NY Times).


The decision on the Keystone pipeline is delayed until after the 2012 election (BBC, also see LA Times and Washington Post).

The energy giant EDF is fined for spying on Greenpeace (BBC).

A project to capture CO2 from coal plants has hit a wall (NY Times).

The US will open new areas to offshore drilling (NY Times).

Three years ago, when President Obama was elected, it seemed the tide was turning in the fight against climate change. But as the president then moved forward, he declared an unofficial race between climate change policy and health care policy. Health care won and in the next three years, climate change dropped from the political consciousness. A series of recent reports have stirred up a bit of optimism.

The New York Times reports that developing countries are hoping to do more to fight climate change:

A 2010 survey found that more than 70 percent of people in China, India and South Korea would be willing to pay more for energy if this would help mitigate the effects of climate change. Fewer than 40 percent of Americans are willing to do that.

The IEA warned last week that we have five years to change our ways before we’re “locked in” to irreversible effects of climate change:

If current trends continue, and we go on building high-carbon energy generation, then by 2015 at least 90% of the available “carbon budget” will be swallowed up by our energy and industrial infrastructure. By 2017, there will be no room for manoeuvre at all – the whole of the “carbon budget” will be spoken for, according to the IEA’s calculations.

In wake of some solar energy companies closing in the U.S., many people think that the industry is struggling, but it’s the opposite. It is thriving globally as China makes cheaper and smaller panels that will allow us to help solve the climate change crisis.

This has already led to rapid growth in solar installations, but even more change may be just around the corner. If the downward trend continues — and if anything it seems to be accelerating — we’re just a few years from the point at which electricity from solar panels becomes cheaper than electricity generated by burning coal.

Add this on top of this year’s crazy weather and you have a perfect climate to change human behavior – start today by pledging to turn off your lights from 11-1 p.m. every day and use natural sunlight.

Last week’s storm ruined 1,000 trees in Central Park (LA Times).

The upcoming UN climate summit looks to be divisive (BBC).

The UK is urged to account for shipping in its climate change budget (BBC).

Foes of the Keystone pipeline plan demonstrations (Washington Post).

The death toll climbs to 500 in Thailand’s flooding (BBC).

Emissions jumped 6% between 2009 and 2010, the largest jump on record (LA Times). Meanwhile, Beijing’s air quality is even worse than what the official reports say (LA Times).

Insufficient power for the grid is nothing new, but the opposite scenario is happening increasingly (NY Times).