Thursday, 10 December 2009 17:41

Climate Change Policy Heats Up. Finally!

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I often tell people that Carbonfund.org exists today because socially and environmentally concerned individuals and business leaders stepped up and took action to reduce their climate impact, support burgeoning technologies, and prove to the world that we can tackle climate change -- and do it cost effectively. What makes this more remarkable is that we did this despite a lack of US government leadership over the last three decades on climate change. Just a few years back, academics suggested carbon would cost $50-100 per tonne, a total non-starter for almost any government initiative to reduce emissions. Yet we are here today, talking about Copenhagen, Waxman-Markey and the Senate bill in large part because of the voluntary actions taken by a relatively small group over the last five or six years to prove the concepts, technologies, methodologies, costs and processes. Leadership is about stepping up to the plate when others will not, and I am always amazed and appreciative of our thousands of partners who have done just that. This is why it is so important these early leaders receive credit for their voluntary actions. Their vision and commitment turned into the first offset projects and investments. (I still can’t imagine what it must have been like for the person at a large company to go into their boss’s office a few years ago and say they wanted to offset their electricity use in California by buying these REC-things from Texas, or this carbon offset doohickey from New York.) Finally, we’re making headway. The EPA has approved their first-ever carbon offset project, which Carbonfund.org has supported and brought through the EPA process. The House of Representatives has passed a great bill, thanks to the leadership of Reps. Waxman and Markey and many others, the Senate is working on a similar version, and thousands of delegates from around the world are in Copenhagen to work on a global deal to reduce emissions by about 80% by 2050. We’re at a tipping point and Carbonfund.org must now participate in the national and international policy debates to ensure we maximize carbon reductions and verification while unleashing capital, technology and innovation to achieve these goals as quickly and cost effectively as possible. I am heading to Copenhagen this weekend for the climate talks to help push for a global consensus on massive carbon reductions during my lifetime, not just my kids’. This is a new space for us and we’re working with policy experts to advocate for the best possible legislation in the US on climate change. These next several months will be crucial to our future, and we need the experiences of organizations like Carbonfund.org that have proven the concepts to ensure we get a bill (or treaty) that will work. We’re enlisting the best minds in Washington and as a first step we’re pleased to be working with the Podesta Group, a leading government relations firm, to help Carbonfund.org achieve its objectives. Done right, fighting climate change will create millions of jobs, save taxpayers money, reduce or eliminate our reliance on foreign oil, reduce our overseas defense responsibilities and help the developing world leapfrog on technologies and help their people. It will also clean the air, reduce asthma and other health effects of burning fossil fuels and save us billions in health costs. We’d hoped to get a US climate bill in 2009 but 2010 will work too. We’re just so glad we’re all talking climate policy. Finally!
Thursday, 11 March 2010 19:03

Climate Change Evidence Still Strong

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A recent op-ed in the Houston Chronicle by climate scientists from the state of Texas sums up the state of the science well:

• The global climate is changing.

A 1.5-degree Fahrenheit increase in global temperature over the past century has been documented by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Numerous lines of physical evidence around the world, from melting ice sheets and rising sea levels to shifting seasons and earlier onset of spring, provide overwhelming independent confirmation of rising temperatures.

Measurements indicate that the first decade of the 2000s was the warmest on record, followed by the 1990s and the 1980s. And despite the cold and snowy winter we've experienced here in Texas, satellite measurements show that, worldwide, January 2010 was one of the hottest months in that record.

• Human activities produce heat-trapping gases.

Any time we burn a carbon-containing fuel such as coal or natural gas or oil, it releases carbon dioxide into the air. Carbon dioxide can be measured coming out of the tailpipe of our cars or the smokestacks of our factories. Other heat-trapping gases, such as methane and nitrous oxide, are also produced by agriculture and waste disposal. The effect of these gases on heat energy in the atmosphere is well understood, including factors such as the amplification of the warming by increases in humidity.

•?Heat-trapping gases are very likely responsible for most of the warming observed over the past half century.

There is no question that natural causes, such as changes in energy from the sun, natural cycles and volcanoes, continue to affect temperature today. Human activity has also increased the amounts of tiny, light-scattering particles within the atmosphere. But despite years of intensive observations of the Earth system, no one has been able to propose a credible alternative mechanism that can explain the present-day warming without heat-trapping gases produced by human activities.

• The higher the levels of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere, the higher the risk of potentially dangerous consequences for humans and our environment.

A recent federal report, “Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States,” commissioned in 2008 by the George W. Bush administration, presents a clear picture of how climate change is expected to affect our society, our economy and our natural resources. Rising sea levels threaten our coasts; increasing weather variability, including heat waves, droughts, heavy rainfall events and even winter storms, affect our infrastructure, energy and even our health.

While there may be debate around the margins, it is hard to argue comprehensively with the science of climate change. There will always be room for improvement in studies and reports, but small errors should not cause us to 'throw the baby out with the bathwater.' The time to act is now, and in spite of what you may have heard from some, the science of climate change is still very clear. For a few more answers to typical climate change skeptic questions, please see this recent article in Scientific American.
Concern about climate change and the environment edges the general economy as the greatest threat in the Global Pulse Survey of city dwellers by HSBC Bank USA. 38% of those surveyed believe climate change and environmental issues comprise the biggest threat, while 35% said the economy generally. However, when unemployment and poverty, which are listed separately in the survey, are factored in, economic issues still concern people around the world the most. A unique aspect about the survey is it asks what the greatest concern is among many leading issues globally, from international relations and public health to energy and the environment. Incidentally, energy came in 6th at 19%.

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The Survey focuses on spending and investing habits and the opinions of respondents in 11 cities around the world, including 4 in the US (New York, Washington, Chicago and Los Angeles). To learn more about the survey, take a look at this article in Environmental Leader, which published the above chart.
Monday, 01 November 2010 17:23

Climate Change & The Elections - How You Can Help

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Keep the climate in mind this Election Day. How do you know where your candidates stand on fighting climate change? The nonprofit, nonpartisan Project Vote Smart has launched an interactive tool, VoteEasy, that matches you with candidates based on your view of climate change and other current issues. Enter your zip code and get a local report of your candidates' positions. You can use VoteEasy at http://votesmart.org/voteeasy. No doubt this election will affect how the nation addresses climate change at home—where Congress has yet to pass comprehensive climate legislation—and abroad, with the next major round of U.N. climate talks in Cancun, Mexico later this month. As The Washington Post's Juliet Eilperin notes, the U.S. could be in a bind should Congress become further deadlocked on the issue of climate change, despite the fact that the administration says it is not backing away from the pledged 17 percent reductions in greenhouse gas emissions vis-a-vis 2005 levels. The elections will affect whether or not, and how, Congress or the EPA acts, and how the administration will act in the international arena. If you care about climate change, know how your vote affects the issue and be sure to get out and vote.
Three out of the four US companies with the largest carbon-reduction programs with Carbonfund.org—Dell, Staples and Motorola—are ranked in the top of Newsweek’s 2010 Green Rankings for US companies. Carbonfund.org partners Samsung and Unilever are ranked in the top global companies. As the leading nonprofit climate solutions organization, Carbonfund.org has helped these top-ranked companies and over 1,700 other partners reduce their climate impact. The rankings take into account companies’ climate change policies and performance. Dell ranked #1 for US companies. The company partnered with Carbonfund.org in establishing its Plant a Tree Program to reduce carbon emissions in the atmosphere and engage consumers on environmental sustainability. Dell’s Plant a Tree Program enables consumers to plant trees to reduce emissions, restore habitats and protect the biodiversity of animal and plant species. The program was launched in 2007 and is restoring ecologically critical areas like the Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley of the US. Eric Carlson, President, Carbonfund.org said, “Carbonfund.org’s partners represented on the Newsweek rankings are outstanding examples for other US and global corporations in addressing their climate impact as part of their sustainability initiatives. These companies are setting the pace in reducing the carbon footprint of their businesses and demonstrating leadership in fighting climate change—the greatest environmental problem facing the world today.” Carbonfund.org’s business programs help reduce the carbon footprint of operations, products, shipping, events and websites, and can be customized for specific goals and needs. For example, Staples has partnered with Carbonfund.org to further reduce the carbon footprint of certain ENERGY STAR qualified products by offsetting the average energy consumed over three years of use in support of reforestation. Motorola has certified products carbon neutral, including the manufacturing, distribution and operation of phones like the new Motorola CITRUS™, with Carbonfund.org’s CarbonFree® Product Certification Program. Meanwhile, Samsung, which received a Corporate Climate Leadership Award for making the World Cyber Games Grand Final carbon neutral this year, and Unilever have reduced the carbon footprint of company-sponsored events by offsetting in support of Carbonfund.org’s carbon-reduction projects. Carlson said, “We’re seeing more inquiries about carbon-reduction projects every year, with the strongest consistent interest from the transportation and electronics sectors. It’s not just about the rankings; the more interesting story is that corporate climate programs are going mainstream.” The complete rankings can be viewed here. You can learn more about Carbonfund.org's business programs at www.carbonfund.org/business.
Thursday, 29 April 2010 16:59

Climate Bill Faces Impasse

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Progress on a landmark climate change bill seems to have reached a standstill, as a key Senate backer Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has announced that he is withdrawing his support. Senator John Kerry was scheduled to unveil the energy and climate change legislation on Monday. It has now been put on hold.
Harry Hamburg/AP
The current Senate bill has been months in the making, for the House bill that passed ten months ago did so by a slim margin. Supporters in the Senate have added provisions for offshore drilling, revenue sharing, and loan guarantees for nuclear power plants to appeal to moderate Democrats and Republicans. Such provisions were not included in the original House bill. Sen. Kerry, with the backing of key environmental groups, aspires to cut emissions of harmful greenhouse gases 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 with this legislation. The loss of Graham’s support, however, is a huge blow, and the outlook for climate change legislation in 2010 appears more uncertain. When, if ever, will our legislators realize that climate change is real, and that a call to action cannot wait? Image Credit: Harry Hamburg, AP
Friday, 11 June 2010 16:46

Climate Change Risks Further Spread of Diseases

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Scientists have found that malaria, dengue fever, yellow fever and even the human plague may be advancing northward with rising temperatures. An independent group of 26 national science academies in the European Union, the European Academies Science Advisory Council issued a report, saying, "fundamental influences of climate change on infectious disease can already be discerned.” The spread of disease is from insects that are maturing faster and producing more offspring in higher temperatures. While the European scientists cautioned against assuming a direct causal link between the diseases advancing and global warming-- the Council’s chairman said the risk was undeniable, and he called for further study based on this research. Moreover, the Council noted that “it is likely that new vectors and pathogens will emerge and become established in Europe within the next few years.” With global temperatures rising, the spread of disease is but one of the serious public health concerns. So are flooding, heat waves, scarcity of drinking water in more places on our planet, not to mention rising sea levels and its problems that affect large cities and populations. Climate change is occurring and will affect everyone in all corners of the planet, unless we further our efforts to fight it together. You can do your part today by reducing your carbon footprint. To read more about the Council’s research,  please see this Reuters article.
Wednesday, 03 November 2010 19:26

Climate Change Action Gets Boost from Prop 23 Defeat

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Supporters of action on climate change can look to the defeat of Proposition 23 in California as another example that voters support a strong response to global warming. A divided Congress was apparent from the contentious midterm elections, but that didn't faze voters who defeated what would have suspended California's climate change law, the Global Warming Solutions Act. The law established a timetable to bring California's greenhouse gas emissions down to 1990 levels by 2020 and has been supported by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger as well as Jerry Brown, who won the seat on Tuesday. Brown also wants to bring about investment in the state to create about 500,000 green jobs and 20,000 megawatts of clean power. Over 60 percent of Californians voted to defeat Prop 23. This underscores national polls by The Washington Post and Stanford University from the summer which show that over two-thirds of Americans support action on climate change by the country.