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Climate Change

Fact Checking the State of the Union

NPR did a great story on fact checking the recent State of the Union address. Check out the section on climate change. The basic analysis is that though Bush says he is committed to addressing climate change internationally, he really just wants to create a new agreement that looks for new solutions but does not affect emissions. Internationally, his plan "is seen as a way to doge the mandatory commitments in the U.N. system." Some of the candidates, the Democrats and John McCain, are espousing a mandatory cap & trade system and strengthening international agreements. Congress currently seems unlikely to pass anything ground-breaking.

Judge to Bush Administration: Do It Now!

A federal judge has ordered the Bush Administration to produce two reports on climate change mandated by Congress: one, a research plan guiding federal research, and the second, a national assessment on the effects of climate change on the nation's economy, environment, and public health. The first is supposed to be updated every 3 years, and was last done in 2003. The second is supposed to be done every 4 years, but was last done in 2000 by the Clinton Administration. The environmental groups that initiated the lawsuit are calling this a huge victory.

Eating local - not a panacea (but a good start)

lambs A recent NY Times op-ed pointed out that "eating local" doesn't necessarily yield the smallest carbon footprint. The piece was based on a recent study comparing the carbon footprint of lambs raised in New Zealand to those in Great Britain. The conclusion of the peer-reviewed study was that for UK consumers, the carbon footprint of New Zealand lamb was actually four times lower than British lamb, despite the fact that the NZ lamb must be shipped halfway around the world. The reason has to do with the less favorable climate and growing conditions in GB, which requires farmers to use feed. Similar figures were found for other produce and fruit. The gist of the study is that shipping distance is only one component of the carbon footprint of food. Other factors such as the use of fertilizer, feed, water, and pesticides may be equally or more important. Labeling food with "food miles", as proposed in the European Union, may give consumers misleading information as to the carbon footprint of different foods. A better solution is to use lifecycle analysis and perhaps develop some kind of scoring system. From a practical standpoint, global food networks are not going away. We are always going to want "exotic" spices and food that can't be grown locally. Many areas are simply too arid to be completely self-sufficient. Therefore, we should continue to encourage the growth of local food markets while striving to make our transportation systems more sustainable by increasing efficiencies and using alternative fuels.  

Big Stone II ruling out from MN Administrative Law Judges

The long awaited ruling from the Minnesota courts concerning the route permitting for transmission lines running from the Twin Cities to the Big Stone II project is out. From the ruling:    

Based upon the foregoing Conclusions, the Administrative Law Judges make the following:

RECOMMENDATION IT IS HEREBY RESPECTFULLY RECOMMENDED that:

16. The Commission GRANT the Applicants’ Petition for a Certificate of Need for the construction and operation of the Transmission Project.

17. The Commission ISSUE Routing Permits for the transmission lines (a 230 kV line from the South Dakota border to the Morris Substation and a 345 kV line from the South Dakota border to the Granite Falls Substation) along the route preferred by the Applicants and authorize construction of the lines, substations, and other associated facilities described in the applications, including a new site for the Canby Substation as described in the record.

18. The Commission consider imposing one or more of the conditions suggested by the Department.

19. The Commission consider requiring the Applicants to purchase a portion of their future energy and capacity needs from the Mesaba Project pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 216B.1694, subd. 2(a)(5).

20. The Commission find that the Final Environmental Impact Statement prepared by the Department is adequate.

Dated: August 15, 2007

_________________________
STEVE M. MIHALCHICK
Administrative Law Judge

_________________________
BARBARA L. NEILSON
Administrative Law Judge

   

New Global Warming Website

Just saw today that the local Sierra Club chapter (the Northstar Chapter) has rolled out their new global warming website.

Problems in La-la land

Nationally there has been a lot of talk about how California is the standard bearer for global warming and clean energy policy. It appears that when the actual work starts the results are not so rosy. The LA Times reported today the resignation of Catherine Witherspoon, Executive Director of the California Air Resources Board, who left saying that the Schwarzenegger administration "has lost its way on air quality." This comes on the heals of the firing of Richard Sawyer, the board chairman, by Schwarzenegger for aggressively pursuing global warming gas emission reductions.In an interview, Witherspoon said,  

"...there had been a pattern of interference by the governor's top staff in favor of industry lobbyists seeking to weaken or stall air pollution regulations, including the state's landmark global warming law...They were ordering us to find ways to reduce costs and satisfy lobbyists"

She also called out state Democrats for being more focused on playing partisan politics than on making the tough decisions about exactly what industries need to do what. Schwarzenegger has advocated for a statewide cap-and-trade system while Democrats have called for mandatory limits. Witherspoon says, "both approaches were needed."Gov. Schwarzenegger's staff counters that,

"What's important for the administration is to make sure the right leadership is put in place at [the air resources board] and that this state is able to aggressively meet its AB 32 commitment and clean its air," said Adam Mendelsohn, the governor's deputy chief of communications, who dismissed Witherspoon's charges as the comments of a disgruntled employee.

Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez, author of the landmark AB32, is calling for hearings into the loss of members of the team working on implementing California's global warming legislation, saying that

"I don't want this issue to impact our fight on global warming," he said. "The spotlight is on California, and I don't want people in other states to say, 'Oh, look at California. AB 32 is falling apart, so we're not going to do anything either.' "

Witherspoon's 27 year career on the CARB ends with the parting shot,

"I'm happy to be going out with a roar and not a whimper. My objective is to make sure people understand what is going on so it can be straightened out."

China Now Leads in Total Carbon Dioxide Emissions

The Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (MNP) announced this week that according to preliminary estimates for 2006 China topped the list of CO2 emitting countries, surpassing the USA by an estimated 8%. To evaluate the implications of these rising emissions in China and other countries in the context of the climate policy issue, other aspects must be taken into account, such as economic development, per capita emissions, historical contribution to the current global warming and the fact that China manufactures many goods for export.http://www.mnp.nl/en/service/pressreleases/2007/20070622ChineseCO2emissionsinperspective.html

Be the EU Leader!!

For those who are concerned that policies will not allow us to meet climate change goals, please check out the game, Climate Challenge, hosted by the BBC.  It's a fun lil flash game that allows you, the leader of the European Union, to choose the policies to bring you from 2000 to 2100 and meet climate change goals.  Your policy options include national, trade, industry, local, and household.  You have an ear to public approval, and  you are told how much each policy will cost, in terms of euros, electricity, food, water, and carbon dioxide emissions.  It's up to YOU to stop climate change.  Power to the people.

Anti-wind, pro-coal

GreenJobs reports that Chairman Nick Rahall (D-WV) (hmm, I'm sure it's just coincidence that he's from coal-laden West Virginia) of the House Natural Resources Committee has introduced a new bill that is extremely hostile towards new and existing wind projects. The bill would require a cumbersome certification process by the Fish and Wildlife Service that would (in the words of the American Wind Energy Association):

Bar any new wind power project until new Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) rules are issued – a process likely to take years – and require FWS certification of every turbine * Require all existing turbines, even small residential units, to cease operating 6 months after issuance of new FWS rules until they are “certified,” an unwieldy bureaucratic process applying to many thousands of turbines that, again, will take years * Make it a crime, punishable by a $50,000 fine or a year in jail, to construct or generate electricity from an unapproved turbine, even for home use * Undermine state and federal efforts to promote renewable electricity generation and subvert the growing movement to reduce global warming pollution * Create an unworkable bureaucracy that will delay clean, emissions-free wind energy projects throughout the U.S.

Hopefully, this bill won't go anywhere, especially in light of promises to fight global warming by the House leadership.Meanwhile, the NY Times reports there is bipartisan support for federal subsidies for coal-to-liquid fuel plants. Dick Gephardt has even been signed on as a lobbyist for Peabody Energy, a major coal producer.

World carbon emissions seen speeding up -- a short update on the state of GHG emissions

MSNBC has a reuters story on the increasing world carbon emissions.

World emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide increased three times faster after 2000 than in the 1990s, putting them at the high end of a range of forecasts by an international climate change panel, scientists reported on Monday.

At the same time, a trend toward cutting Earth's energy intensity — the ratio of how much energy is needed to produce a unit of gross domestic product — appears to have stalled or even reversed in recent years, the researchers reported.

New storage nanotechnology for hydrogen, carbon dioxide

Several significant technology breakthroughs are needed to transition to a hydrogen based economy. The biggest question is how to store and transport copious amounts of hydrogen gas. Researchers at UCLA may have made significant headway in this regard.

Omar Yaghi and his team at the Center for Reticular Chemistry have developed new nanostructures called covalent organic frameworks (COFs). The COFs act as “crystalline sponges” and soak up specific gases. They work in a similar fashion to the molecular sieves that help remove water from ethanol fuel.

Molecular pores are designed to exclusively hold molecules of a specific size and shape. COFs benefit from high thermal stability, extremely low densities and large surface areas. COF-108, the lightest crystalline structure ever, has approximately the same surface area as “30 tennis courts”. COFs can be adapted for a variety of different functions. Yaghi specifically cited COFs as a possible storage medium for carbon dioxide capture and sequestration systems.

Laurie David is Too Hot

Climate Change Graphic

I recently checked out Too Hot Not to Handle from Netflix, not knowing anything about it other than its title and recommendation from the Netflix search engine. Took me until the final credits to realize it was done by Laurie David - who was responsible for An Inconvenient Truth.

This HBO Documentary provides practically no new information to anyone who already knows the science. That being said, this is a useful documentary for those who are new to it and may not be interested in all the science that Al Gore presents. This is much more of a practical explanation of why global warming is bad as opposed to focusing on the why global warming is happening.

It talks about extreme weather events, the greenhouse effect, alternative power, heat waves, viruses and stuff like that. I feel like this was more of an emotional appeal than Gore's carefully reasoned approach. This is not a criticism, because I think the damage caused by global climate change should charge people emotionally.

The best piece I took away from it was its answer to the question of what benefits humans will derive from global climate change. I hate this question, because it suggests that humans should be free to kill off all other species on the planet if we want to. Despite the fact that extincting (my new verb) hurts us in the long run due to the fundamental interconnection of life on earth, humans should not take actions that will harm life on this planet out of a moral imperative as well as pragmatic.

At any rate, this documentary has a good segment on answers to those who claim that global climate change (if they concede it is happening) will improve human life.

Climate Change Mitigation Act passes MN House

Not many details to provide, yet, but the Energy Omnibus Bill passed the Minnesota House tonight. The Climate Change Mitigation Act is included. The controversial Sec. 5 that avoids backsliding while a plan is developed and implemented survived but not unscathed.

Jason Jones on Climate Change

If you need a humorous diversion, check out The Daily Show's Jason Jones and his Gore rebuttal.

GM and 10 others join USCAP

Environmental Defense announced that General Motors and 10 other major companies have signed on to the US Climate Action Partnership, a coalition of corporations and environmental groups calling for a national cap-and-trade regime on greenhouse gases.I'm curious what General Motor's motivation is... are they supporting a cap-and-trade system knowing that automobiles can't be included for practical reasons? In other words, is this a smoke screen for continuing to fight against tougher CAFE standards?Nonetheless, it is pretty remarkable that so many major companies are supporting action on climate change. It looks like most of the USCAP members are either large manufacturers or utilities, so their operations will certainly be affected.

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