Archive for November, 2012


BP is temporarily suspended from new U.S. government contracts (BBC).

Researchers have determined the sea level rise from the polar ice melt (BBC).

Cities can show what global warming effects look like (NY Times).

U.S. cattle are on the decline (BBC).

2012 will likely be the planet’s 9th-warmest in 160 years (NY Times).

The Keystone pipeline would become a conflict of interest for Susan Rice if she becomes Secretary of State (Washington Post).

This year’s UN Climate Change conference has opened in Doha – and the problems are familiar, while the solutions seem even farther away. To nobody’s surprise, the developing countries and the developed countries can’t agree on a path forward. The arguments are the same we’ve heard for years:

Issues that need to be resolved relate to equity, providing finances and technology to developing countries, and higher emission reduction targets by industrialized countries.

But what seems to be most distressing is that the developed countries have a muddle path forward at home. Four years ago, it seemed President Obama was preaching clean energy. Now, you hear natural gas and fracking come from him as solutions. Let me be clear: This is only a solution if you are intent on destroying the environment and creating catastrophes for the climate. If the U.S. goes forward with all of its natural gas drilling, then it WILL destroy the climate.

And – according to this story and what we’ve seen from the UK – they’re even falling back on their pledges to lead the climate change fight:

Here in the UK, instead of heeding the evidence from major respected organisations with global reach, there has been disarray over the crucial Energy Bill, with the Treasury seemingly determined to undermine the Department of Energy and Climate Change and weaken commitments to renewable energy and carbon targets.

When you can’t win the fight at home, you have no chance to save the world at the UN conference.


Hot air may derail the Doha climate talks (BBC).

The first large tanker is set to cross the Arctic (BBC).

Climate change effects are already being felt in Europe (BBC).

Coal-fired power plants are on the decline (Washington Post).

Climate skeptics target renewable energy mandates (Washington Post).

Rain forest cities are rapidly growing (NY Times).

A Colorado town votes to ban fracking (NY Times).

Solar power plants can burden their host communities (LA Times).

One artist aims to put gardens in billboards (LA Times).

Strongly worded reports by a pair of international agencies this week further underscored the havoc that climate change is unleashing upon the globe, but the nation’s course for the next 4 years was set last week and its ambition wouldn’t even match that of a guy putting on a bathrobe to get the newspaper.

The World Bank, with finances on its mind, warned that the world is on track to warm the globe by 4 degrees C by 2100. You know the drill of what’s forecast: “Inundation from rising sea levels, declining food production, malnutrition, global famines, drought, unavailability of fresh drinking water, hotter heat waves, colder cold snaps, tropical cyclones that are both more intensely destructive and more frequent and the loss of biodiversity across the planet.”

The World Bank’s leader called for spending money not only to adapt to the new reality, but to immediately cut back emissions with green energy. And the poorest areas of the world are the most vulnerable.

“The lack of action on climate change not only risks putting prosperity out of reach of millions of people in the developing world, it threatens to roll back decades of sustainable development.”

The World Bank’s report overshadowed an announcement by the United Nations that cited greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere reached a record high last year (390.9 parts per million). The data now shows a 30% increase in greenhouse gases since 1990.

“These billions of tons of additional carbon dioxide in our atmosphere will remain there for centuries, causing our planet to warm further and impacting on all aspects of life on Earth,” WMO secretary general Michel Jarraud said in a statement.

And so, we must act now. Right? The question was posed to President Obama last week during a press conference that set his agenda for his upcoming 4-year term. And it came on the heels of superstorm Sandy. And, the president started out with a great answer.

“I am a firm believer that climate change is real, that it is impacted by human behavior and carbon emissions,” Obama said. “And as a consequence, I think we’ve got an obligation to future generations to do something about it.”

You got it – just like the obligation to future generations about America’s deficit. It’s what you’d call an environmental cliff.

“What we do know is the temperature around the globe is increasing faster than was predicted even 10 years ago,” Obama stated. “We do know that the Arctic ice cap is melting faster than was predicted even five years ago. We do know that there have been an extraordinarily large number of severe weather events here in North America, but also around the globe.”

Now, he’s finally articulating science and facts and all sorts of reasons that back up this very sound argument.

“Understandably, I think the American people right now have been so focused and will continue to be focused on our economy and jobs and growth that, you know, if the message is somehow we’re going to ignore jobs and growth simply to address climate change, I don’t think anybody’s going to go for that. I won’t go for that.”

And that’s the ballgame. The whole enchilada. The point at which he hit the third rail.

We finally have a president willing to stand up and say what’s wrong with the environment in more than a 5-second soundbite. That’s certainly a step in the right direction. Now, we just need a president willing to do something about it. For that, we might have to wait longer.


Sandy took a big toll on wildlife refuges (Washington Post).

A Pennsylvania county tries to break drilling’s boom and bust cycles (NY Times).

Energy independence is not a silver bullet (NY Times).

Solar power is shining too brightly in Hawaii (LA Times).

Rehabbing its image may be tougher for BP than fines (LA Times). Meanwhile, the settlement is a boon for the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (Washington Post).

BP pays a $4 billion fine and pleads guilty to 14 criminal counts (Washington Post).

Shale gas is reviving American industry (Washington Post).

An attack on the power grid would have long-lasting consequences (NY Times).

The EU suspends its plane emissions rules (BBC).

Biomass is a double-edged sword (BBC).

Countries besides Egypt want more access to the Nile’s resources (LA Times).

Climate change may have doomed the Mayans (LA Times).

While there is no clear agenda for the U.S. climate change policy over the next 4 years, there is item that keeps popping up in “to-do lists” for the administration – and there seems to be a consensus to fix it. Methane gas leaks.

First let’s look at methane. According to the NRDC:

Pound for pound, methane is at least 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide, over a 100-year period, and as much as 100 times more powerful over a 20-year period. Releasing increasing amounts of it into the atmosphere could accelerate the pace of climate change.

And so how much is being released? Once again, we go to the NRDC:

The World Bank estimates that in North Dakota alone, natural gas flares produce the same amount of global warming pollution as 2.5 million cars. Across the board, the oil and gas industry wastes two to three percent of all the natural gas in the country, according to the EPA, due to flaring, leaks, and other waste. Other experts think this number is even higher, and that unconventional gas production, like fracking, wastes up to 8 percent.

And how do we fix it? Well, aside from stopping all gas production in the country, there’s a few fixes according to the NRDC:

A process called green completion, for example, captures liquids and gases coming out of wells after they are fracked, and routes them to a separate tank for processing. … In addition to green completions, a host of otherĀ cost-effective techniques, such as better pipes, and improved monitoring and maintenance, which pay for themselves within a few years, or even months, can dramatically reduce methane leakage. If these practices were widespread, we could stop 80 percent of methane waste across the industry, and recover $2 billion worth of natural gas. It would reduce global warming pollution equivalent to the emissions of 50 coal-fired power plants, or 40 million passenger vehicles.

And so there you have it. While methane leaks in Australia are gaining attention, we also are seeing some attention paid to it here in the U.S. New research will be released in January that will further spell out the problem and allow Americans to brainstorm solutions.


New York City contemplates sea gates (NY Times).

California prepares for its first cap-and-trade auction (LA Times).

Warming is likely to be on the high end of current projections (Washington Post).

The second term is likely to be a mixed bag for environmentalists (Washington Post).

Climate change is threatening coffee crops (BBC).

Europe investigates Chinese solar panel manufacturers (NY Times).

Sandy may change the conversation on climate change (LA Times).

President Obama’s re-election last night, which was on the heels of a surge in demand for climate change action in the past 10 days, stirred up expectations for new environmental policies in his second term. Those of us in the climate change industry are restless. Obama got off to a great start on the environment, but his push stalled after the 2010 midterms went against him. What can he do in a second term where doesn’t have to worry about re-election?

Bloomberg’s Businessweek had a number of ideas for 2nd term policy. And the Washington Post also has a few ideas for policies. It seems that the biggest push could be for a carbon tax that Congress would have to enact. If that doesn’t happen, then Obama can continue to push for clean energy subsidies (wind, solar, etc.), while cracking down on regulations for fracking, cutting off new pipelines and denying new oil permits for offshore drilling.

In his first term, Obama was unwilling at times to wield his power as a threat, but if he wanted to, he could enforce tighter regulations that cripple the oil industry. Or the Republicans could agree to change, enforce a carbon penalty (as the EPA already has the power to measure carbon emissions from businesses) and let’s get serious so it makes it easier to force the rest of the international community to get a real climate change pact from India, China, Russia, Brazil and others.



Climate change is getting more talk after Sandy (BBC).

There are many questions on how best to protect New York in the future (NY Times).

The Jersey Shore may never be the same (LA Times, also see Washington Post).

Hyundai and Kia admit to overstating gas mileage (LA Times).