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Posts Tagged ‘Global warming’

It started with a tweet:

tweet_lamarguerite05

Twitter is great that way. I know of no better forum for validating one’s seemingly universal thoughts and feelings. Yesterday, I got seized with a severe case of eco² panic. Eco like green. Eco like economic. Images of CO2 going nuts, and us still not getting our act together, despite almost daily global warming alerts. And the specter of another Great Depression, only worse this time around.

Thank God, Franke was there to tweet back prompto to shake me up good:

tweet_lamarguerite04I must say, I felt a bit ashamed for having given into “defeatism”.  Imagine if all the citizens voiced out their secret despair as I did. That would be the end of it. Even Bill’s chiming in and lecturing Barack, telling him he’s not hopeful enough. Yes, we can. And we shall. Still, I could not let go completely of the reality of my malaise.

tweet_lamarguerite03That was a pretty wishy-washy tweet. I wasn’t even sure where I was going with it. Until Franke’s response:

tweet_lamarguerite01

Thank you, Franke for gifting me, us with your such a wonderful image. Now, whenever I start feeling blue, I will imagine a green window, opening to a new landscape of windmills, and solar farms, and electric cars, and workers going about their green jobs . . .

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Today, four stories displayed next to each other, in the National section of the New York Times:

Boise Region Grapples With Smog, a Growing Threat

After years of growth and suburban development, the region that includes Boise and its suburbs, known as the Treasure Valley, is on the brink of violating federal clean air standards, and experts say the only real solution is one that might seem awfully un-Idahoan: persuading people to drive less.

List of Tainted Peanut Butter Items points to Complexity of Food Production

Tracking how the paste travels through the food supply can be challenging, because several companies can be involved in making the final food. For example, one manufacturer might coat the paste in chocolate and make a peanut butter cup, which is then sold to another company that mixes it into ice cream that may or may not also contain peanut butter. A grocery chain might buy that ice cream and sell it under a private label.

Environment Issues Slide In Poll of Public Concern

In the poll, released Thursday by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center, global warming came in last among 20 voter concerns; it trailed issues like addressing moral decline and decreasing the influence of lobbyists. Only 30 percent of the voters deemed global warming to be “a top priority,” compared with 35 percent in 2008. “Protecting the environment,” which had surged in the rankings from 2006 to 2008, dropped even more precipitously in the poll: only 41 percent of voters called it a top priority, compared with 56 percent last year.

Environment Blamed in Western Tree Deaths

Rising temperatures and the resulting drought are causing trees in the West to die at more than twice the pace they did a few decades ago, a new study has found. The combination of temperature and drought has also reduced the ability of the forests to absorb carbon dioxide, which traps heat and thus contributes to global warming, the authors of the study said, and has made forests sparser and more susceptible to fires and pests. 

A bit much to take, all at once . . . if you are at all concerned with what sustains us. Of course the one bright spot in this otherwise dire picture, is our new Commander-in-Chief, President Obama. I can feel his sense of urgency, and that gives me hope. 

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A mail this morning from my friend Lynn Miller, at OrganicMania, made me realize I failed to properly close the chapter on all work that took place here on this blog, on critical issue of climate change:

I read your blog post on La M about the new direction, and really wanted to respond but felt like I should run this by you first….I am happy for you that you are on a path that excites you….but at the same time, I do really miss the old global warming focused La Marguerite. You were my main source of information and inspiration on global warming, and I felt a part of your community. I thought you were the top female voice on global warming, bar none, and one of the very top in the world (Ok, I really like Friedman, but you were up there!)   

Will you still be writing about global warming under “social issues?” I felt like in your post you were a bit dismissive of the incredible work you did in global warming. I’m sure I’m not the only one  who feels this way…

First, let me apologize for my haste and for appearing ‘dismissive’ of all the work that took place on La Marguerite, regarding raising awareness and looking for behavioral solutions to global warming. It is one thing for me to decide to take a turn. It is another to not properly acknowledge the community that formed and contributed so much. There has been many ripples from the discussions held at La Marguerite. Sharing of information that would not otherwise have made it into the mainstream media. Connections formed that led to enduring collaborations outside the scope of this blog. Acts of activism. Personal awakenings . . . Lynn is right. 

Still, I am closing the climate change chapter for good. After eighteen months of being a voice and a community organizer for climate solutions, it is time for me to move on, and leave it to others to carry the torch. With the election of Barack Obama, I feel the stakes are different, and the path is more clear. What is needed now, more than ever, are new policies, quick, and the support of the people to pass these new policies. 

I am very much looking forward to the opening of  the next chapter on La Marguerite, as discussed in earlier post. My professional interests are now gravitating towards social media and social change ventures, and it is only natural for my blog to follow. 

Let me end with a big thanks to all who contributed to the climate change chapter on La Marguerite. I wish you to continue your awesome work in the many venues available to you, both online and in the outer world. 

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McKinsey just released a must read for green marketers. ‘Helping Green Products Grow‘ outlines five steps businesses need to take to sell green products successfully. Most of it is common sense. Still there were a few surprises, most notably in the area of consumers’ awareness of most concrete actions to reduce global warming:

These findings present enormous educational opportunities, not just for green marketers, but also for environmental educators, hoping to make a difference in greenhouse gas emissions. Bloggers, journalists, teachers, environmentalists need to turn up the volume on eating less beef, improving home insulation, and driving more fuel-efficient car, less often. These are all concrete actions that citizens can understand, and that also can help them save money, particularly during these hard economic times.  

Here are the five steps, with selected some highlights:

1. Educate consumers:

Because consumers are largely unaware of green products, a business that sells them must see itself first as an educator, not a sales machine. Our study shows that more than one-third of the consumers who want to help mitigate climate change don’t really know how . . .

2. Build better products:  

Consumers will not think better of green products until companies make them equal to, or better than, their conventional alternatives. It’s no surprise: most people value performance, reliability, and durability much more than ecological soundness. . . .

3. Be honest:

To rebuild public trust, companies must come clean about the true environmental impact of their products and their attempts to reduce it, and many will need to address historical concerns about specific products or operations . . .

4. Offer more:

Companies must ensure that consumers understand the financial and environmental returns on their investment in green products, for they are more willing to try new ones-especially those that cost more-when they find it easy to track the savings . . .

5. Bring products to the people:

Having decided to buy green products, many consumers encounter a last hurdle-finding them-either because manufacturers don’t keep up with demand or advertise where they can be bought, or because wholesalers and retailers don’t stock them or display them prominently. Biofuel enthusiasts, for example, must often drive out of their way to fill up . . .

I will end with my usual rant. Buying green stuff is good as long as it translates in net carbon reduction. Otherwise, we are all better off following the old conservation adage of, ‘reduce, re-use, recycle‘. 

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I just got a peak at William Becker‘s new book, ‘The 100 Day Action Plan to Save the Planet –  A Climate Crisis Solution for the 44th President‘.

William Becker is the Executive Director of the Presidential Climate Action Project, a non-partisan initiative, based out of the University of Colorado School of Public Affairs. The Climate Action Project plans to deliver the plan to the next President right after the election. Here are the key parts of the plan:

  • Take early action by using the powers Congress already has delegated to the executive branch
  • Move rapidly away from investments that lock the nation into more long-term carbon emissions
  • Rebuild the federal government’s leadership capacity by restoring respect for science and bringing America’s best experts on energy and climate security into public service
  • Mobilize the marketplace to build a new twenty-first century economy
  • Launch and economy wide “clean energy surge”
  • Ensure that climate action is equitable and fair
  • Create an agenda for natural resource stewardship that responds to climate change
  • Help the nation adapt to the climate changes already underway
  • Redefine national security to include climate and energy security
  • Work with leading governors and mayors to create an intergovernmental action plan
  • Reengage the community of nations to find solutions to the climate and energy crises
  • Work closely with Congress to create additional laws and to fund the programs we need to effectively address energy and climate security

Broad strokes, that get broken down into hundreds of specific steps, in the book. This is serious stuff, and exactly the kind of thinking we need for the next four years. As pointed by William Becker in his introduction, we are running out of time, and action at all levels, starting at the top, is needed now.  In that respect, I find Barack Obama‘s recent answer to Time reporter Joe Klein, quite encouraging:

Finding the new driver of our economy is going to be critical. There is no better potential driver that pervades all aspects of our economy than a new energy economy … That’s going to be my No. 1 priority when I get into office, assuming obviously that we have done enough to just stabilize the immediate economic situation. We’ve got a boat with a lot of leaks, and we need to get it into port. That’s what the financial rescue package is about. But once we get it into port, once the credit markets are functioning effectively, then it’s time for us to go back to the fundamentals of this economy.

The big question of course is, how long before we get ‘it’ into port? Nature has been patient enough, and it cannot wait much longer, for us to take remedial actions.

Last, kudos to Martin’s Press for deciding to publish William Becker‘s book, electronically. That’s what I call walking the writing! You can order the book here.

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Dear Al,

You and I just met last weekend. I had traveled far in my Prius for the chance to have a few words with you, my hero. When my turn came, I made sure to let you know how grateful I was, for the presentation you gave three years ago, at Stanford, on “An Inconvenient Truth”. I told you I had come out of the event transformed and determined to help somehow with the global warming crisis. You seemed flattered, and you moved on to the person next in line, a funny guy named Dana Carvey.

You were supposed to give a political speech, but you could not stay away from your favorite topic. And you spoke at length about the need to bring about a change in consciousness, regarding the moral challenge of our time, our role in the destruction of the future of our planet. I loved listening to you, and so did the rest of the audience. You delivered your message with feeling and conviction, and we readily joined you in your outrage, down to your last word. “Damit!”

That’s all good. And that’s not enough. You see, what I took away from this time with you, was not the thrill of meeting you, nor the heartfelt speech you gave, nor the majestic scenery surrounding us. No, instead I will remember the sight of all the cars parked along the road, and filling every free parking space on the compound. Call me a party spoiler, but it bothered me that you seemed oblivious to the lack of carpooling for the event. When I brought up the subject with my neighbors at the lunch table, all expressed interest. I know this is a small detail, and you are dealing with the big picture.

I just want to raise this question with you. What if the big picture was all in the details? How different would have your message been, if you had sent a request ahead of time to all the guests, asking them to carpool? You could have carpooled yourself, rather than just driving with your daughter in her Prius.

Al, I hope you will consider. As the world leader on climate,  you bear a huge responsibility. Please do not misuse it, and realize the power of your actions, not just your words.

Respectfully,

Marguerite Manteau-Rao

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“Next year, when my youngest daughter goes to college, I wouldn’t mind spending more time in Hawaii” I mused over dinner with my friends Tom and Betsy. And quickly added that I felt conflicted about the idea. Given the climate situation, I told them, it felt irresponsible to engage in such gratuitous behavior. Both of my friends looked at me as if I was some crazy woman. Why wouldn’t I want to fly to Hawaii? No way would they change their habit of flying to Europe three of four times a year.  Tom started ranting about not subscribing to moralistic attitudes towards climate change. No, the solution lied in new technologies. What about all the predictions that keep getting worse and worse? I asked. Tom, an engineer with an interest in data visualization, expressed skepticism. There is a lot we don’t know. All those data are to be taken with a grain of salt. No, both he and Betsy were adamant they were not about to change their lifestyle, one bit. I was shocked. And changed subject.

This morning came this alarming news from the Associated Press:

The world pumped up its pollution of the chief man-made global warming gas last year, setting a course that could push beyond leading scientists’ projected worst-case scenario, international researchers said Thursday.

The new numbers, called “scary” by some, were a surprise because scientists thought an economic downturn would slow energy use. Instead, carbon dioxide output jumped 3 percent from 2006 to 2007.

That’s an amount that exceeds the most dire outlook for emissions from burning coal and oil and related activities as projected by a Nobel Prize-winning group of international scientists in 2007.

Meanwhile, forests and oceans, which suck up carbon dioxide, are doing so at lower rates than in the 20th century, scientists said. If those trends continue, it puts the world on track for the highest predicted rises in temperature and sea level.

The pollution leader was China, followed by the United States, which past data show is the leader in emissions per person in carbon dioxide output. And while several developed countries slightly cut their CO2 output in 2007, the United States churned out more.

Still, it was large increases in China, India and other developing countries that spurred the growth of carbon dioxide pollution to a record high of 9.34 billion tons of carbon (8.47 billion metric tons). Figures released by science agencies in the United States, Great Britain and Australia show that China’s added emissions accounted for more than half of the worldwide increase. China passed the United States as the No. 1 carbon dioxide polluter in 2006.

Emissions in the United States rose nearly 2 percent in 2007, after declining the previous year. The U.S. produced 1.75 billion tons of carbon (1.58 billion metric tons).

“Things are happening very, very fast,” said Corinne Le Quere, professor of environmental sciences at the University of East Anglia and the British Antarctic Survey. “It’s scary.”

Gregg Marland, a senior staff scientist at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, said he was surprised at the results because he thought world emissions would drop because of the economic downturn. That didn’t happen.

“If we’re going to do something (about reducing emissions), it’s got to be different than what we’re doing,” he said.

The emissions are based on data from oil giant BP PLC, which show that China has become the major driver of world trends. China emitted 2 billion tons of carbon (1.8 billion metric tons) last year, up 7.5 percent from the previous year.

“We’re shipping jobs offshore from the U.S., but we’re also shipping carbon dioxide emissions with them,” Marland said. “China is making fertilizer and cement and steel and all of those are heavy energy-intensive industries.”

Developing countries not asked to reduce greenhouse gases by the 1997 Kyoto treaty – and China and India are among them – now account for 53 percent of carbon dioxide pollution. That group of nations surpassed industrialized ones in carbon dioxide emissions in 2005, a new analysis of older figures shows.

India is in position to beat Russia for the No. 3 carbon dioxide polluter behind the United States, Marland said. Indonesia levels are increasing rapidly.

Denmark’s emissions dropped 8 percent. The United Kingdom and Germany reduced carbon dioxide pollution by 3 percent, while France and Australia cut it by 2 percent.

Nature can’t keep up with the carbon dioxide from man, Le Quere said. She said from 1955 to 2000, the forests and oceans absorbed about 57 percent of the excess carbon dioxide, but now it’s 54 percent.

What is “kind of scary” is that the worldwide emissions growth is beyond the highest growth in fossil fuel predicted just two years ago by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said Ben Santer, an atmospheric scientist at the Lawrence Livermore National Lab.

Under the panel’s scenario then, temperatures would increase by somewhere between 4 and 11 degrees Fahrenheit (2.4 to 6.3 degrees Celsius) by the year 2100.

If this trend continues for the century, “you’d have to be luckier than hell for it just to be bad, as opposed to catastrophic,” said Stanford University climate scientist Stephen Schneider.

I read this, and I think about my conversation with Tom and Betsy. And I wonder, what is it going to take, for the reality to sink in, with people like them. The message is not getting through.

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