When President Obama met with Chinese President Xi Jinping in California, one of the numerous topics to be discussed was clean energy technology. For background, it is worth examining what drives each country to move away from fossil fuels. For every person in the United States the amount of CO2 emitted to generate electricity in 2011 was 17.6 metric tons. That was almost three times the emissions per capita in China. If China were to reach the same living standards as we currently enjoy in the U.S., with its same reliance on fossil fuels, its total tonnage of emitted CO2 for power generation would rise from 8.715 billion tons in 2011 to 23.706 billion tons. That picture raises a number of questions. (more…)
|October 16, 2013|
|6:00 pm||to||9:00 pm|
The year the theme of the annual Wild and Scenic Film Festival will be perhaps the greatest ecological crisis our society has ever faced, global climate disruption. To be held Wednesday, October 16, at the Phipps Conservatory in Oakland, the festival is being organized by the Allegheny Defense Project and co-hosted by the Phipps Conservancy, Heartwood, and the Allegheny Group of the Sierra Club.
ACTION: Send a message urging the PA-DEP to provide the strongest pollution limits to all coal-fired power plants.
A new two-minute video from the Sierra Club encapsulates all that is wrong with our reliance on coal for power generation. Part of the problem is the emission of sulfur dioxide, with the Homer City Generating Station in Indiana County having been the largest source of SO2 emissions in the country. Now the plant has installed new scrubbers in accord with a DEP agreement, and the Sierra Club has dropped its lawsuit regarding the permitting of the plant’s upgrade.
Given all the news from Oklahoma it is quite reasonable to wonder what impact global warming may have on the frequency and strength of tornadoes in the US. Although the data required to determine any trends is limited, scientists apparently understand that global warming has two opposing effects; warmer sea water means more moisture in air coming north from the Gulf, but the wind shear is expected to be less, resulting in no net effect. For a more detailed account see the Climate Central article.
ACTION: Contact your local newspaper, TV and radio stations and ask for more coverage of climate change news.
When recently asked what was the #1 problem of the day, former Secretary of Energy Steven Chu promptly answered “Climate change. We’re heading into an era where if we don’t change what we’re doing, we’re going to be fundamentally in really deep trouble. We’re already in trouble. So we have to transition to better solutions.“ In an interview with the Guardian former NASA scientist Jim Hansen expanded on his view that the Canadian government’s push for exporting crude oil from the Athabaskan tar sands is moving us beyond the point of on return for climate change.
ACTION. Read this report and then ask your Congressman and both Senators how they plan to reduce the cost of climate disruption in the next five years.
The cost of climate-related disasters has increased considerably over recent years. At a time when there is much discussion of reducing the Federal deficit, a new analysis from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) titled “Who Pays for Climate Change? “ shows that in 2012 “the costs of disaster recovery, flood insurance, crop insurance, and forest firefighting represent a major expenditure in U.S. federal budgets, reaching an all-time high of $96 billion in 2012. This high is in addition to the costs borne by private insurance companies.“
On May 16 the U.S. Senate confirmed MIT professor Dr. Ernest Moniz as the new Secretary of Energy. Among his responsibilities are oversight of investments in clean energy and Federal measures to address the global climate crisis. He will also have full authority to decide what role domestically-fracked gas will play in the nation’s energy future, which is of concern to environmentalists. Please view the OPEN LETTER to Secretary Moniz from Deb Nardone, the Sierra Club’s Beyond Natural Gas Campaign Director.
In an analysis of more than 4,000 academic papers that considered the possibility of human activity being the root cause of climate change, John Cook of the University of Queensland found that only 0.3 pct disputed human influence and 2.2 pct were unclear. To learn more about climate change see an Introduction for Beginners, Debunking the Myths, NASA’s map of Global Warming, Rising Sea Levels, Chemistry Toolkit, and the weekly news summary at Climate Progress.
The remote mountaintop Mauna Loa Observatory (MLO) in Hawaii is an ideal location for monitoring the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. For 24 hours on May 9 the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere atop exceeded 400 parts per million, or 0.04 pct. That is the highest CO2 level for more than two million years, it is the highest concentration in human history, and is a historically rapid increase of about 120 ppm since before the industrial revolution began in 1750. Passing 400 ppm is also an indication that the current efforts to curb CO2 emissions are inadequate, and we are on course for dramatic changes in the Earth’s climate. (more…)
Just how serious is President Obama about tackling climate change is a question that goes back at least to his 2012 acceptance speech, and has continued. In an interesting article Jonathan Chait suggests that Obama may indeed turn out to be the Environmental President, managing to bypass Congress and using the Federal environmental laws that were enacted during the Nixon years. Chait expands on this “EPA” approach in a subsequent on-line article. Both Chait’s articles are well worth reading.
Because it crosses international borders, a permit for the Keystone XL Pipeline must be approved by the US State Department. Part of that approval involves preparation of a draft Environmental Impact Statement (dEIS), which State did in March, 2012. Responding to strong criticism from the environmental community State prepared a second dEIS. In a happy coincidence, on Earth Day the EPA wrote to State Dept. officials and pointed out that the dEIS was still lacking sufficient information in several areas; GHG emissions, pipeline safety, alternative pipeline routes, community and environmental justice impact. And so the matter continues, with the President having to make decision at some point.
Numerous events were held around the region on Earth Day, but two events are highlighted here. As part of the continuing campaign to at least regulate Marcellus shale gas drilling, if not stop it completely, in the morning about 75 activists marched from the North Shore to the DEP regional office on Washington Island. At the DEP office the protesters called for less industry influence on regulation, some moratoria, and a re-newed emphasis on renewable energy. The later point was the topic of an evening Town Hall meeting where environmental, labor and business leaders hosted a Climate Legacy Town Hall meeting to call on President Obama to make America a leader in solving the climate crisis by doubling down on clean energy. (more…)
On April 17 a group of states and cities, as well as NRDC, EDF, and the Sierra Club, issued a notice of intent to sue the EPA after the agency missed an April 13 deadline for new CO2 emission standards for new power plants. This is the second time the Obama administration has chosen to postpone new standards that were announced in March 2012 following a 2007 Supreme Court ruling. Emissions from coal-fired power plants constitute the single largest source of GHG emissions.
The picture of what is being done to slow down climate change is better at the national level over the past decade than at the stalled international level. That is the somewhat optimistic conclusion by the Climate Policy Institute report (PCI), based on progress made since 1980 in five key economies – Brazil, China, India, the EU, and the U.S. In a review of the PCI report Tim McDonnell of Climate Desk used the phrasing ‘messy by kinda working” for the US effort. The report offers lessons and insights from each region: (more…)
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