According to Sir Nicolas Stern, a former World Bank chief economist and current British government official, the longer the world takes to address climate change, the more expensive it will be to address the problems caused. To me, this logically follows -- the more we pollute, the more money we will need to spend to mitigate the problems, assuming they can be adequately ameliorated. Read the whole article here.
My brother and sister-in-law live in Alaska and they just sent me this study on Alaskan public opinion about climate change. The study surveyed 1,016 Alaskan adults during May-June 2006.
As you probably know, Alaska is primarily Republican and they like oil (gotta love the check). I didn't read the whole study, but here are some interesting tidbits from the executive summary:
Over 81% of Alaskans are convinced that global warming is happening.
A majority (55%) believe it is caused primarily by human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels, as opposed to normal cycles in the earth’s environment(37%).
Most Alaskans believe global warming is already causing or accelerating the loss of sea ice (83%) melting permafrost (82%), coastal erosion (74%), and forest fires (72%) in Alaska, among other impacts.
Two out of three Alaskans (67%) say that global warming will be bad for Alaska, while 26% say it will be good. (I like this one - warmer weather has got to be better for Alaska right?)
Nearly all Alaskans (93%) believe global warming is a problem. However, roughly half (48%) believe it is an urgent problem requiring immediate government action while half (45%) believe it is a longer-term problem requiring more study first.
Most Alaskans say that, due to their concern about global warming, they are likely to buy energy-efficient appliances (73%) or contact their politicians (60%), while nearly
half (48%) say they are likely to join, donate money to, or volunteer with an organization working on issues related to global warming. (Then why don't they?)
Alaskans primarily trust their friends and family (86%), scientists (82%), and environmental groups (63%) to tell them the truth about global warming, but distrust President Bush (66%), Alaskan politicians (70%), and corporations (75%). (Me too!)
Anyway, it goes on from there.
Check it out here.
A seminar titled Climate Change, Adaptation, and Policy Options to be held
When: Monday, Oct. 9 10:45-12:00 refreshments and greeting followed by Seminar and Discussion
Where: St. Paul Campus, McNeal Hall, Room 10
World climate change experts Dr. Habiba Gitay of the World Resources Institute and Dr. Ian Noble of the World Bank will be speaking.
Moving Toward Sustainable Energy Systems: Exploring Global Pathways to a Common Destination
October 24, 2006
8am to 5pm
University of Minnesota, Cowles Auditorium, Humphrey Center, 301 19th Avenue
S., Minneapolis, 55455
Free and open to the public.
This workshop is the second in a three-part series titled Climate Change and Sustainable Development: Paths to Progress.
In what I hope will be a frequently recurring feature on Energista!, I browsed through the local papers to briefly note a few interesting stories.
- Ramsey County will study light-rail loop for St. Paul - Though it may add too much to the LRT price tag for the central corridor, the county is studying a proposal to add stops in downtown St. Paul.
- Climate change and tart cherries - Jill Winkler (U grad) is a professor at Michigan State in geography, meteorology, and climate change. She mentions the sensitivity of cherries to climate change.
- Permit for coal plant appealed: Regulators accused of ignoring emissions impact - The proposed Big Stone II plant has been challenged after saying its additional contribution to GHG emissions was small compared to the world. It will increase carbon dioxide emissions from South Dakota by 34% if built.
I didn't see anything from the local TV stations that was topical, but I would like to include them in these roundups as well. If you have ideas about what sources we should incorporate, comment.
The Economist reports that Sir Richard Branson, the eccentric billionaire behind Virgin and space tourism, has called for airlines to reduce GHG emissions 25%. After meeting with Al Gore, he also pledged to invest $3 billion in biofuels over the next ten years.
Branson's announcement comes after the British Parliament called for dealing with the rapidly growing emissions from aviation. Branson said in effect that there is a lot of low hanging fruit in this area, even as the number of flights increases worldwide: for example, through such simple measures as towing aircraft to runways and gliding "gently" to land.
Does Sir Richard have an ulterior motive, namely to head off future regulations of his aviation business? Possibly. But it's always good to hear a major corporate type talk about curbing global warming.
In an op-ed today, William Sweet, the editor of IEEE's Spectrum magazine, asks whether California might be taking too big a risk in tackling climate change on its own. The recently signed climate bill authorizes California's Air Resources Board to take measures to reduce California's greenhouse emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.
Sweet's point is that California has already done a lot to reduce its emissions- the state has no coal-fired power plants, and through efficiency measures has kept per capita electricity consumption flat since the 1970s. The risk is that if California fails, then critics will hold California up as an example of the futility of addressing climate change.
Well, people are already doing that. Climate skeptics love to bring up how countries are failing to meet their committments under the Kyoto Protocol. (Another example of how it pays to talk to these people.)
Hopefully, California's move along with international pressure will speed up progress towards national standards. Large companies prefer dealing with national standards over piecemeal state standards.
Here is an interesting speech by Senator James Inhofe Chairman, Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, delivered on the Senate floor on the 25th. This is a great opportunity for all of us to study the arguments of those who say climate change ('climate alarmism' as the Senator says) is a bunch of baloney. There are a fair amount of facts and figures he uses to paint climate change as a media created non-issue. It's pretty well done with some pretty good arguments. This is the kind of argument that we rarely get to have because we normally hang out with people who share our viewpoints. I think we are crippled somewhat for that reason, because the people we reallly need to be convincing are the ones who aren't convinced already.
Here's a lovely little tidbit.
Expanding basic necessities like running water and electricity in the developing world are seen by many in the green movement as a threat to the planet’s health that must be avoided. Energy poverty equals a life of back-breaking poverty and premature death.
Bush is going to stop climate change! I don't know that he has yet admitted that humans are responsible for the massive atmospheric carbon increases which drives the greenhouse effect, but he has a plan to solve our problems.
Don't laugh yet, there will be plenty of time shortly.
Green Clipping's covers the story briefly with links to related press releases and a Congressional Budget Office report entitled "Evaluating the Role of Prices and R&D in Reducing Carbon Dioxide Emissions." (pdf, 31 pages)
The U.S. Department of Energy's "Climate Change Technology Program Strategic Plan" includes $3 billion for research into new technologies and recommends voluntary goals for reducing emissions and capturing carbon dioxide.
The CBO report apparently says that this plan is not the most effective way to accomplish the stated goals. I have only glanced at the summary - which ends with this:
The causes and consequences of climate change are global, and reductions in U.S. emissions alone would be unlikely to have a significant impact. Cost-effective mitigation policies would require coordinated international efforts and would involve overcoming institutional barriers to the diffusion of new technologies in developing countries, such as India and China. If a domestic carbonpricing program significantly increased the prices of U.S.-produced goods—and was not matched by efforts to reduce emissions in other countries—it could cause carbon-intensive industries to relocate to countries without similar restrictions, diminishing the environmental benefits of a domestic program.
Clearly, a policy solely involving voluntary emissions reductions and appropriating some R&D money (something he has promised in the past and then forgotten) is totally insufficient. We need good policy to go with R&D investment. In fact, at this point, we need policy more than we need R&D.
California sues automakers over greenhouse gas emissions from their vehicles, according to CNN.com.
The article states that, "The lawsuit seeks monetary damages for past and ongoing contributions to global warming and asks that the companies be held liable for future monetary damages to California. It said California is spending millions to deal with reduced snow pack, beach erosion, ozone pollution and the impact on endangered animals and fish."
California has recently passed a law to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25%, and automakers are one of the biggest opponents to the California rule-making.
Under the Clean Air Act, California is the only state authorized to create rules stricter than the federal regulations, and other states may choose to adopt the CA standards. Fuel economy, however, is not regulated under the CAA, but the Energy Policy Conservation Act. CA has no exemption under this act, which may pose a problem for this lawsuit, because of the relationship between fuel economy and tailpipe emissions.
Nonetheless, it's great that California is taking steps to hold manufacturers accountable for the pollution produced by automobiles, and attempting to induce automakers to switch to more environmentally-friendly technologies.
It turns out that the large tobacco companies (Philip Morris) have been involved in the strategies to discredit climate change as part of a larger goal of discrediting proper science in general.
While they have been most effective in the United States, the impacts of the climate-change deniers sponsored by Exxon and Philip Morris have been felt all over the world. I have seen their arguments endlessly repeated in Australia, Canada, India, Russia and the UK. By dominating the media debate on climate change during seven or eight critical years in which urgent international talks should have been taking place, by constantly seeding doubt about the science just as it should have been most persuasive, they have justified the money their sponsors have spent on them many times over. It is fair to say that the professional denial industry has delayed effective global action on climate change by years, just as it helped to delay action against the tobacco companies.
The New York Times reports that Al Gore called for an immediate freeze on greenhouse gas emissions akin to the nuclear arms freeze called for by activists during the 1980s. Gore's announcement comes ahead of a planned burst of Congressional hearings on climate change.
While a freeze obviously isn't likely to happen, I applaud Gore for using his high-profile to draw attention to the need for real action now on climate change.
The Minnesota Daily has published an op-ed that encourages the end of debate on whether climate change exists. Potentially worth a quick read if you are confused why the media needs to stop wasting our time about it.
To illustrate how out of control this problem has become, let me introduce you to one of the leading global warming skeptics in the U.S. His name is Pat Michaels. When I "Googled" Michaels, I received an impressive 36,100 hits.
Michaels's stance is that global warming isn't caused by human activities, and he downplays what effects - if any - global warming will have. Michaels often mentions that he is a climatologist of the University of Virginia to give some credibility to his statements. However, the state of Virginia has publicly asked Michaels to stop referring to them when he makes his unsupported statements.
Economic growth should be accompanied by global efforts to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations associated with this growth, containing them at a level that prevents dangerous human interference with the global climate. Our overall objective is to reduce America’s greenhouse gas emissions relative to the size of our economy, cutting such emissions per unit of economic activity by 18 percent over the next 10 years, by the year 2012. Our strategies for attaining this goal will be to:
- remain committed to the basic U.N. Framework Convention for international cooperation;
- obtain agreements with key industries to cut emissions of some of the most potent greenhouse gases and give transferable
credits to companies that can show real cuts;
- develop improved standards for measuring and registering emission reductions;
- promote renewable energy production and clean coal technology, as well as nuclear power—which produces no greenhouse gas emissions, while also improving fuel
economy for U.S. cars and trucks;
- increase spending on research and new conservation technologies, to a total of $4.5 billion—the largest sum being spent on climate change by any country in the world and a $700 million increase over last year’s budget; and
- assist developing countries, especially the major greenhouse gas emitters such as China and India, so that they will have the tools and resources to join this effort and be able to grow along a cleaner and better path.
I guess this was just something that would sound nice. I don't think we have actually seen any of this - much like his energy-related State of the Union promises.
Nonetheless, I am surprised to see such a candid discussion of carbon and human-induced climate change from any 2002 Bush Administration document...
Update: It turns out that the Bush Administration looks back on these goals and reevaluates them in the 2006 National Security Strategy.
The Administration has worked with trading partners and energy producers to expand the types and sources of energy, to open markets and strengthen the rule of law, and to foster private investment that can
help develop the energy needed to meet global demand. In addition, we have:
- Worked with industrialized and emerging nations on hydrogen, clean coal, and advanced nuclear technologies; and
- Joined with Australia, China, India, Japan, and the ROK in forming the Asia-Pacific Partnership for Clean Development and Climate to accelerate deployment of clean
technologies to enhance energy security, reduce poverty, and reduce pollution.
Several challenges remain:
- Protectionist impulses in many countries put at risk the benefits of open markets and impede the expansion of free and fair trade and economic growth.
- Nations that lack the rule of law are prone to corruption, lack of transparency, and poor governance. These nations frustrate the economic aspirations of their people by
failing to promote entrepreneurship, protect intellectual property, or allow their citizens access to vital investment capital.
- Many countries are too dependent upon foreign oil, which is often imported from unstable parts of the world.
- Economic integration spreads wealth across the globe, but also makes local economies more subject to global market conditions.
- Some governments restrict the free flow of capital, subverting the vital role that wise investment can play in promoting economic growth. This denies investments,
economic opportunity, and new jobs to the people who need them most.
So, basically, in 6 years they went from pretending to have a mildly ambitious agenda to dropping the fig leaf and essentially forgetting about energy issues.
Renewable Energy Access covered a new feature in the dot.com era of travel websites. Expedia.com now offers the option to offset your air travel carbon emissions by partnering with TerraPass.
TerraPass funds clean energy projects and offers carbon calculators so people can offset all their carbon emissions. It claims to have already eliminated 150 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions.
Now you can offset your carbon emissions from air travel when you purchase your tickets. I wonder how many people will actually exercise this option - considering it actually only seems to add some $20 - $30 to the price of the ticket.
California's legislature approved the broadest restrictions on carbon dioxide emissions in the nation yesterday, marking a new stage in the accelerating drive for a more aggressive national response to global warming.
The California bill requires a 25 percent cut in carbon dioxide pollution produced within the state's borders by 2020 in order to bring the total down to 1990 levels.
The vote was 46-31 which is fairly surprising to me. Apparently polling is strong across California's Dems, Repubs, and Indys for controlling Greenhouse gases (specifically carbon dioxide).
California is a massive emitter (emiter?) of carbon - 12th largest in the world - so this is a big step forward. Some, like Senator Inhofe (R-OK) continue to stonewall such action federally. Some business alliances in CA will be trying to challenge the law, so we'll see what happens on that front.
However, with Pacific Gas & Electric supporting the CA bill, this movement seems to be gaining some serious traction.
The problem with doing this on state by state basis is that those building the worst polluting plants - such as coal plants - will most likely continue to do so, but in Wyoming or other nearby states which are rather unlikely to enact such legislation.
In the end, we must act both regionally and nationally. Without the national component, big emitters will focus on states that do not regulate. As we know, carbon emissions are not a local phenomenon - when they are released anywhere, they affect climate everywhere.