This year offered several events that shone a spotlight directly on the important and urgent issue of climate change, but the question remains, “Was it enough to bring about meaningful efforts to reduce climate change?”
June of 2012 presented the United Nations Earth Summit, held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil which disappointed many as international representatives hemmed and hawed instead of establishing true endeavors to tackle global warming. Meanwhile the continental United States embarked on summer heat waves that were some of the hottest in its history.
This year also saw drought cover more than half the country; farmers suffered as their crops and animals died.
Then October of 2012 brought superstorm Sandy, this year’s biggest example of extreme weather and a deadly harbinger of the devastating effects of climate change. Can we continue to sit idly by in the face of all these signs that global warming is making broad changes to our planet? Should we leave these environmental problems for our children to face as we continue down an unsustainable path?
The close of the year is a time to reflect on the previous events of the year and make resolutions for the coming year. Let’s pledge to make 2013 the year where we confront climate change in every possible way. We can all embark on energy efficiency efforts; reducing what we can and lowering our carbon footprints. Every bit helps. Then it is a powerful combination to offset the rest of our carbon emissions. It would be a genuine shame to let the lessons of this past year slip from our consciousness while there is still time and so much that can and should be done to address climate change.
The Earth cannot use words to speak for itself, but if it could what would be on its climate wishlist this holiday season?
Environmental activists and climate scientists have done a good job of communicating the risks of climate change. Part of the issue is that it’s a delicate balance between scaring people so thoroughly that they don’t think there is anything they can do about global warming and encouraging people to make any changes that positively impact the environment, even small ones to start. Perhaps we’ve also underestimated the importance of personal experience.
The facts on climate change alone are not enough. We’ve had solid, scientific evidence for many years that global warming is man-made and happening right now. However, many people need to experience the effects for themselves in order for the light bulb to go off in their heads. Hurricane Sandy and other extreme weather events are helping people to connect the dots, but now that process has begun the question then becomes, “What next?”
We have a responsibility to be good stewards of the planet. That is what the climate needs and wants this holiday season. There are two main changes that we can undertake to fulfill the planet’s climate wishlist. The first is to lower our carbon footprints. Ask yourself, do I really need to leave my lights on all day at home when I am not there? Can I combine trips in the car to drive less or take public transportation instead? What simple steps can I take to save energy and myself some money as well?
The second change is to offset the rest of your carbon footprint. There are many affordable options to make this holiday season a reality, not just for the planet, but for future generations also. Any positive steps you take are welcome and really do make a difference. Although the planet cannot use words to thank you, reducing what you can and offsetting the rest is a beautiful gift and a wonderful place to start this holiday season.
In a telling and ironic move, coal industry giant BHP-Billiton, is replacing one of its coal export facilities in Queensland, Australia because of its vulnerability to increasingly frequent hurricanes from global warming. BHP-Billiton is an Australian coal company that produces one-fifth of globally traded coal for steel making and is the largest mining company on Earth. The upgrade represents a major investment in planning for climate change. In fact, the company’s coal operations are led by Marcus Randolph, who confirmed they are planning, “to rebuild the facility to be more durable to climate change.”
Readers of this blog already know that increasingly extreme weather events are the result of climate change in addition to the fact that many businesses are planning now for climate change’s effects. Why not a coal company too? The announcement makes it obvious that BHP-Billiton understands that climate change is real and the time is now to begin making changes even if the manufacture of their product contributes to the issue.
Randolph has even warned investors about the implications of remaining dependent on the non-renewable resources of fossil fuels by saying, “In a carbon constrained world where energy coal is the biggest contributor to a carbon problem, how do you think this is going to evolve over a 30- to 40-year time horizon? You'd have to look at that and say on balance, I suspect, the usage of thermal coal is going to decline. And frankly it should.”
When a company that mines and exports coal starts planning for climate change it means the writing is on the wall. Businesses and individuals alike should all be working to decrease carbon footprints and offset the remaining carbon emissions. Let’s give the planet a holiday present and start doing all we can this season to embrace a cleaner energy future.
The issue of climate change has re-entered the public’s conscious in the wake of Superstorm Sandy. In fact, there were accusations of a “climate silence” on the part of the presidential candidates until the megastorm hit the Northeast a week before this month’s election. Now both parties are talking about a potential carbon tax.
Last week a carbon tax was once again the topic of discussion at the American Enterprise Institute (a conservative think-tank) and the Brookings Institution (a more liberal think-tank) released a paper on it. The Congressional Budget Office also published a report on potential ways to make a carbon tax less of a burden on lower income people.
A carbon tax works by making those that use fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas pay more. When they are burned, fossil fuels contribute to global warming by producing carbon dioxide, which traps heat. Some experts estimate the price tag of a tax of $20 per ton of carbon dioxide emissions to add 1 or 2 percent to the price of gasoline and electric power. Other pundits view a carbon tax as a tax on economic growth.
Whether or not a carbon tax will have the political backing to make it through a divided Congress is questionable. However, environmental advocates are always interested when climate change is a hot topic. Extreme weather has been linked to climate change. So it’s important to warn people that if we continue on this unsustainable path of dumping 90 million tons of pollution into the atmosphere on a daily basis that the future will include more superstorms with increasingly devastating consequences.
The hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica is allowing more heat to escape there, and the effects from climate change are dramatic. Over 60 years, mid-winter temperatures along the Antarctic Peninsula have risen 10 degrees Fahrenheit. The temperature rise has impacted annual sea ice’s seasonal duration and offshore bulk by approximately 40 percent.
As you read this you may be asking yourself, “Okay so Antarctica is melting, but how does that impact me?” Well, more than 50 percent of the U.S. population lives in coastal areas. Since 1980, eight large ice shelves have broken off the Antarctic Peninsula. As the ice shelves separate from the mainland, they make it easier for glaciers to flow into the sea and melt. As they melt, the seas rise and we have more flooding along coastal areas. All coastal areas, not just on the U.S. coastline, are susceptible to the dangers of flooding. The Wilkins Ice Shelf, which is a floating ice sheet several hundred feet thick the size of the state of Connecticut, is currently hanging on to the Antarctic Peninsula by a thread.
And there’s more. Rapid warming is killing off a priceless resource that we’re just beginning to discover. Sponges, soft corals, starfish, and sea squirts can only live at constant low polar temperatures. These Antarctic seafloor invertebrates could offer cures to human diseases such as cancer, AIDS, cystic fibrosis, and infectious diseases. Scientists at the National Cancer Institute have already found one such example. These researchers discovered that a small Antarctic sea squirt contains chemicals that kill melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.
The Antarctic Peninsula is probably not your backyard, but the losses it’s sustaining from climate change could affect you personally. Take action now. Perhaps start by lowering your carbon footprint. Global warming is having serious, life-threatening impacts and we have to do our parts now to turn the tide.
CarbonFree certification from NSF International and Carbonfund.org Foundation
demonstrate product is carbon-neutral
Sprint, LG Bring Users Carbon Neutral Cell Phone in Time for the Holidays
BETHESDA, Md., Nov. 12, 2012 — The Carbonfund.org Foundation applauded the announcement by LG Electronics USA and Sprint that the LG Mach smartphone with environmentally friendlier features will be available Nov. 11.
LG Mach, available from Sprint for $99 with a two-year contract, has earned the CarbonFree® label under the rigorous product certification program offered by the Carbonfund.org Foundation and NSF International’s Sustainability division.
With the CarbonFree Certified Product program, LG has offset the carbon footprint of the manufacturing of the LG Mach at no extra cost to the customer through the use of third-party verified carbon reduction projects
“Being part of the CarbonFree Certified Product program helps demonstrate LG’s overarching commitment to the environment” said Tom Bruursema, General Manager of NSF Sustainability.
“With its new CarbonFree certified mobile phone, LG is helping to fight climate change and continuing to provide consumers with cutting-edge products” stated Carbonfund.org president Eric Carlson.
The LG Mach is the latest carbon neutral product in a line of CarbonFree certified offerings. LG Electronics was the first in its industry to distribute home appliances, solar panels and other consumer electronics that were part of the CarbonFree Certified Product Program. These CarbonFreeCertified Products represent another step in LG's commitment to environmental sustainability and energy-efficient products and services, including a wide range of ENERGY STAR® -qualified appliances and electronics products.
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About LG Electronics USA: LG Electronics USA, Inc., based in Englewood Cliffs, N.J., is the North American subsidiary of LG Electronics, Inc., a $49 billion global force and technology leader in consumer electronics, home appliances and mobile communications. In the United States, LG Electronics sells a range of stylish and innovative mobile phones, home entertainment products, home appliances, and air conditioning systems and energy solutions, all under LG’s “Life’s Good” marketing theme. LG Electronics is a 2012 ENERGY STAR® Partner of the Year. For more information, please visit www.lg.com.
About Carbonfund.org Foundation: Carbonfund.org is a leading nonprofit climate solutions organization, making it easy and affordable for individuals, businesses and organizations to reduce their climate impact and hasten our transition to a low-carbon economy. Carbonfund.org supports innovative renewable energy, energy efficiency and forestry projects globally that reduce carbon emissions and help people. Carbonfund.org has worked with over 2,000 corporate and nonprofit partners. More at www.carbonfund.org.
About NSF International: NSF International is an independent organization that writes standards, tests and certifies products for the construction, food, water and consumer goods industries to minimize adverse health effects and protect the environment (nsf.org). NSF Sustainability (inserted hyperlink) draws upon this expertise in standards development, product assurance and certification, advisory services and quality management systems to help companies green their products, operations, systems and supply chains. Product assessments include testing and certification for sustainable products such as green chemicals and building products. Through its National Center for Sustainability Standards, NSF also develops sustainability standards for products such as carpet, flooring, and other commercial building materials.
Climate change is causing sea levels to rise, and this week’s super storm Sandy gave us a preview of the devastation that this kind of flooding can cause. In fact, five years ago, a study named, “Nation Under Siege” constructed a series of 3-D maps using federal science agency and the United Nations' climate panel data that demonstrated what areas of the Atlantic coastline will look like as sea levels continue to rise. The maps from 2007 are eerily similar to the destruction we saw from super storm Sandy. The main difference being that the flooding from Sandy is beginning to recede and the rising waters from global warming are permanent.
There’s no denying that sea levels are rising. Since 1900, the world’s oceans rose an average of seven inches, according to data from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Those of us that live on the East Coast are seeing higher than average sea level rise. According to a report by the New York State Sea Level Rise Task Force, sea levels along New York's coast range between 9 and 11 inches over the last 100 years.
Super storm Sandy painfully demonstrated that coastal cities are woefully unprepared for flooding and other dangers from extreme weather, which is increasing due to climate change. According to Katharine Hayhoe, an associate professor of atmospheric sciences at Texas Tech University, there are three reasons why climate change made Sandy that much worse. The first is already higher sea levels made the storm surge more severe. The second is higher sea surface temperatures from global warming provided more energy for the super storm. The third is Sandy may turned towards the coast because of a record loss of sea ice in the Arctic this year.
Preparing at-risk communities for coming floods and coastal erosion includes determining the best way to heighten sea walls or whether to construct surge barriers to protect flood-prone areas. These preparations require study and then construction costs in the billions. However, the latest estimates from IHS Global Insight, a forecasting firm, calculate that super storm Sandy will end up causing about $20 billion in property damages and $10 billion to $30 billion more in lost business. It sounds like the time is now to make those investments before further extreme weather from global warming costs more in the long run. We can couple those investments with our own efforts to lower our carbon footprints, which contributes to slowing down climate change.
Five years ago the CEO of News Corporation, Rupert Murdoch, claimed that news coverage of climate change in his media outlets would improve gradually. However, a recent study indicates that not only has that not happened, but that the preponderance of climate change information on Fox News primetime and in the Wall Street Journal’s opinion page is overwhelmingly misleading.
The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), a science-policy nonprofit, analyzed six months of global warming discussions on Fox News primetime programs (February 2012 to July 2012) and one year of Wall Street Journal op-eds (August 2011 to July 2012). UCS found that climate science was inaccurately covered in 93 percent of Fox News primetime programs and 81 percent of Wall Street Journal editorials.
The analysis found denial that climate change is caused by humans, dismissals of climate science as a legitimate science, and derogatory comments about select scientists. The worst part is that this misleading coverage encourages scientific distrust and portrays climate change as a left-wing idea, rather than based on scientific facts.
How many people are misled about climate science by these media outlets? Well the number is in the multi-millions. In 2011, Fox News Channel (FNC) was the United States’ most popular cable news channel. During prime time, FNC reaches a median of 1.9 million people plus. The Wall Street Journal has over 2 million daily readers and the largest circulation among American newspapers.
There is nothing wrong with fully examining and debating the merits of policies aimed at addressing climate change. However, it is ludicrous and irresponsible to deny the overwhelming body of scientific evidence that climate change is man-made and happening right now.
The analysis shows that sadly these media groups continue to waste time and effort that could be put to better use in combating climate change. Readers of this blog already know that global warming is man-made and many are putting their energies toward what they can do about it by supporting organizations such as Carbonfund.org. These climate change leaders seek out quick and affordable ways for individuals and businesses to calculate and offset the carbon emissions they generate.
The science is clear. Invest in renewable energy sources and support reforestation projects because the time is now to build a clean energy future.
Global warming currently cuts into the planet’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 1.6 percent annually. This translates into $1.2 trillion, and the number is expected to double to 3.2 percent by the year 2030 if carbon dioxide emissions aren’t curbed.
According to the “Climate Vulnerability Monitor: A Guide to the Cold Calculus of a Hot Planet” report, the costs of inaction far outweigh the costs of taking on climate change. The report estimates reducing emissions at a cost of 0.5 percent GDP over the next 10 years.
And if money isn’t motivation enough, take a look at the almost 5 million deaths annually due to climate change. The report estimates it causes an average of 400,000 deaths each year, mainly from hunger and contagious diseases, plus an additional 4.5 million deaths annually from related global warming causes such as air pollution, dangerous occupations in the fossil fuel industry, and cancer.
The average of 3.2 percent losses to global GDP disguises the plight of poorer, developing nations who are disproportionately affected. The estimate for these countries, such as Bangladesh, for example, is an average of 11 percent of GDP by 2030. This is not to say that major economies avoid the effects either. China alone is estimated to lose more than $1.2 trillion in less than 20 years. By 2030, the total economic losses for the United States, India, and China will reach $2.5 trillion. According to the report, these three nations also will suffer over 3 million deaths annually, or half of all deaths.
A report released in July by the European Commission Joint Research Centre and PBL, the Netherlands’ environmental assessment agency calculated that last year global carbon dioxide emissions reached their highest point ever at 34 billion metric tons.
It’s time to tackle climate change now to reverse this scary trend and save lives. The price tag for doing nothing is too high.
We’ve already examined and defined a carbon footprint, but have you ever heard of an ecological footprint? An ecological footprint compares human demands on nature with the Earth's ability to regenerate resources and provide services.
Ecological footprints are ever changing because of advances in technology and a three-year lag for the UN to collect and publish statistics. However, it is a standardized measure that begins by assessing the amount of biologically productive land and sea area necessary to supply the resources a human population uses. This is then contrasted with the planet’s ability to absorb associated waste and ecological capacity to regenerate. Think of it like how much of the Earth (or how many planet Earths) it would take to support humanity given an average lifestyle. In 2007, humanity's total ecological footprint was estimated at 1.5 planet Earths. This means humans are currently using ecological services 1.5 times quicker than Earth can renew them.
William Rees was the first academic to publish about an ecological footprint in 1992. He supervised the PhD dissertation of Mathis Wackernagel who outlined the concept and offered a calculation method. Rees penned the term ecological footprint in a more accessible manner than the original name of “appropriated carrying capacity” after a computer technician described Rees’ new computer as having a small footprint on the desk. Wackernagel and Rees published the book Our Ecological Footprint: Reducing Human Impact on the Earth in early 1996.
The implications are dire according to Rees who wrote in 2010, “…the average world citizen has an eco-footprint of about 2.7 global average hectares while there are only 2.1 global hectare of bioproductive land and water per capita on earth. This means that humanity has already overshot global biocapacity by 30% and now lives unsustainabily by depleting stocks of ‘natural capital’.”
We’re definitely overspending the planet’s resources. Just take a look at man-made global warming and climate change. We need to continue on the path to seeking a sustainable lifestyle, and do it on a global scale. All of us working together can reduce the amount of the earth’s resources that we consume. Start with yourself and get creative with how many ways you can save energy and recycle. What’s great about beginning with energy efficiency is that it can save you money too. Then there are cost effective ways to offset the rest such as by contributing to Carbonfund.org’s development of renewable energy technologies and carbon emissions reduction projects. The important thing is to get started right away.