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Posts Tagged ‘greenhouse gases’

“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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When I wrote about the opportunity to align desired green behaviors with individual needs and wants, this is what I had in mind:

Different people will rank these needs and wants differently. Using myself as an example, the primary motivators for me to bike more, are fun and convenience. If I was in a lower-socio-economic group, where making ends meet was the primary issue, I would probably pick money. If I was a mother of young children, the bonding potential would work best. Etc. 

Seems like a no brainer to me! The question is how come so few green marketers and environmental communicators think along those lines? The last time I read something that made really sense to me, was in Steve Bishop’s article, “Don’t Bother With the Green Consumer“. He uses a bike example as well! 🙂 (I also refer to Steve’s article in a recent post I wrote for the Huffington Post)

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That show last night was pretty depressing!” Hubby Prad did not sleep well after watching ‘We Were Warned: Out of Gas‘, the latest in CNN’s Special Investigations Unit series. Neither did I. Listening to most of the comments in the show, you would never know we are at the brink of a planetary disaster. Hardly any mention of conservation. No, instead it is all about looking everywhere in search of yet more oil, no matter what the cost. Cost in dollars per barrel. And more importantly, cost to our future in terms of carbon emissions.

Never before has the addiction to oil metaphor been more apt. Big Oil is leaving no soil unturned, no ocean unprobed, to satisfy our need for our daily oil fix.

Now, here’s the part that really, really got to me, best conveyed in trailer for new movie, Pay Dirt:

Just when I thought  coal mountain top removal was as bad as it could get . . . 

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For an edifying picture of China’s real status on the environmental front, I suggest you read Peter Navarro‘s latest article in Energy Bulletin. Peter is the author of the upcoming book, ‘The Coming China Wars‘. In summary:

  • Every single week, China adds one new large coal power plant to its energy base.
  • China is now adding 15,000 new cars a day to its roads, and it expects to have more cars than the United States — as many as 130 million — as early as 2040.
  • China is expected to construct fully half of all the buildings in the world over the next 25 years. Beyond sheer quantity, the nightmare here is that these buildings will be electricity sinkholes because Chinese buildings are notoriously energy inefficient. 
  • China plans to move almost a half a billion peasants off the farm into factories and cities over the next several decades. As a rule, urbanites introduced to the magic of refrigerators, TVs, and toasters use more than three times the amount of energy as their rural counterparts.
  • Chinese manufacturers are extremely energy inefficient. To produce an equivalent amount of goods, they use six times more resources than the United States, seven times more resources than Japan, and, most embarrassingly, three times more resources than India, to which China is most frequently compared.
Guess who is feeding China’s gigantic pollution factory? Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, touted by Adam Werbach as the new corporate environmental hero, represents 30 percent of foreign purchasing in China. 27 billion dollars total. No greening strategy can make up for the fact that we, the 89% of American people who shop at Wal-Mart, are contributing in no insignificant terms, to China’s lethal gases spewing frenzy.  

More than ever, let us make ours, the old ‘Reduce-Reuse-Recycle

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Barbara Boxer, one of the four senators to sponsor the Climate Security Act, touts it as:

the world’s most far-reaching program to fight global warming, instituting an economy-wide cap on emissions that would cut greenhouse gases below 1990 levels by 2020 and slash emissions by nearly 70% by 2050. In addition to fighting global warming, our bill will provide cleaner air, greater energy efficiency, relief for consumers, and the alternative energy choices that American families deserve — significantly reducing America’s dependence on foreign oil.

Opposing senators, such as vocal climate denier James Inhofe, see it as a threat to the welfare of the American people:

Any action has to provide real protections for the American economy and jobs, and we must protect the American families. Any action should not raise the cost of gasoline or energy to American families, particularly the low-income and elderly who are most susceptible to energy costs.

For an objective view, I turned to a recent analysis from NRDC and The International Resources Group. According to that report, the Lieberman-Warner Bill will greatly:

  • reduce our oil consumption and imports
  • increase our clean energy production, and electricity from renewables,
  • increase the number of fuel-efficient vehicles
  • increase our energy efficiency
  • all at a minimal cost to our energy system, less than one half of one percent
  • benefit companies that lead the transition to clean and efficient technologies
  • contribute to the creation of jobs, manufacturing opportunities, and spark innovation
I have always trusted NRDC on all green matters. This one is no exception.

 

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In the process of doing research for the 350 campaign, I came across an AFP press release from a few weeks ago, that is too important to be ignored:

Global warming has plunged the planet into a crisis and the fossil fuel industries are trying to hide the extent of the problem from the public, NASA’s top climate scientist says.

“We’ve already reached the dangerous level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere,” James Hansen, 67, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, told AFP here.

“But there are ways to solve the problem” of heat-trapping greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, which Hansen said has reached the “tipping point” of 385 parts per million.

In a paper he was submitting to Science magazine on Monday, Hansen calls for phasing out all coal-fired plants by 2030, taxing their emissions until then, and banning the building of new plants unless they are designed to trap and segregate the carbon dioxide they emit.

The major obstacle to saving the planet from its inhabitants is not technology, insisted Hansen, named one of the world’s 100 most influential people in 2006 by Time magazine.

The problem is that 90 percent of energy is fossil fuels. And that is such a huge business, it has permeated our government,” he maintained.

“What’s become clear to me in the past several years is that both the executive branch and the legislative branch are strongly influenced by special fossil fuel interests,” he said, referring to the providers of coal, oil and natural gas and the energy industry that burns them.

In a recent survey of what concerns people, global warming ranked 25th.

The industry is misleading the public and policy makers about the cause of climate change. And that is analogous to what the cigarette manufacturers did. They knew smoking caused cancer, but they hired scientists who said that was not the case.”

Hansen says that with an administration and legislature that he believes are “well oiled, our best hope is the judicial branch.”

Last year Hansen testified before the US Congress that “interference with communication of science to the public has been greater during the current administration than at any time in my career.

Government public relations officials, he said, filter the facts in science reports to reduce “concern about the relation of climate change to human-made greenhouse gas emissions.”

While he recognizes that he has stepped outside the traditional role of scientists as researchers rather than as public policy advocates, he says he does so because “in this particular situation we’ve reached a crisis.”

The policy makers, “the people who need to know are ignorant of the actual status of the matter, and the gravity of the matter, and most important, the urgency of the matter,” he charged.

“It’s analogous to an engineer who sees that there’s a flaw in the space shuttle before it is to be launched. You don’t have any choice. You have to say something. That’s really all that I’m doing,” he explained.

On my end, I am going to contact NRDC and E2 to get their counsel, and see what kind of actions can be taken to address Mr. Hansen‘s concerns. I would love to get your ideas as well.

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The Swiss are proving that a few hundred thousand citizens, is all it takes to get authorities moving on the climate fight:

A people’s initiative calling for the government to slash greenhouse gases by 30 per cent by 2020 is set to come to a nationwide vote.

Pressure is mounting on the authorities to do more to fight global warming in Switzerland, especially after the government’s latest package of measures met with a mixed response.

Green groups and centre-left parties handed in their initiative to the Federal Chancellery in the capital, Bern, on Friday.

They managed to collect more than 150,000 signatures in just a year. To force a vote, 100,000 signatures have to be collected in 18 months under Switzerland’s system of direct democracy.

For Thomas Vellacott, president of the initiative, the popularity of the proposal – people were reported to have queued up to sign it – showed how important the environment was to the Swiss.

People Power Prepares to Fight Global Warming

“We know that people are getting fed up with a situation where everyone’s talking about doing something about climate change but no one’s actually doing anything,” he told swissinfo. “People are ready to see some action.”

The initiative calls for carbon dioxide emissions to be cut 30 per cent below 1990 levels.

“We’re saying that we want it to be achieved in Switzerland, so we don’t want it to be achieved by buying cheap credits abroad when we know that four out of ten are actually insufficient or nothing happens,” explained Vellacott.

The committee, which includes the non-governmental organisations WWF Switzerland and Greenpeace, as well as the Social Democratic and Green parties, also want to push for action concerning energy efficiency and renewable energy.

Now, all we need, is to change the laws to turn the United States into a direct democracy. In the mean time, we can always sign petitions and take the matter to the streets.

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