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.
The main theme at this year's Green Intelligence Forum in Washington, DC presented by The Atlantic magazine is climate change- perhaps the greatest environmental challenge to face the world, as the problem affects every nation and ways of life. Industry, NGO and government representatives participated in today's discussion on both policy and pragmatic approaches to solving climate change. I attended on behalf of Carbonfund.org. Was2045486Most participants see the value of cap-and-trade as a policy and economic solution. A good analogy of cap-and-trade was expressed by Phil Sharp, president of the policy organization Resources for the Future. "Cap-and-trade is like a budget on how much carbon is allowed to be emitted into the atmosphere." Bills such as the American Clean Energy and Security Act, which passed the House, use the mechanism to cost-effectively reduce emissions over time. Timing-wise, while healthcare is currently debated in Congress, some see a climate bill debated in the Senate this year. Maggie Fox, president and CEO of the Alliance for Climate Protection, said the momentum to move legislation exists this year, and that's necessary for political will. World Resources Institute (WRI) President Jonathan Lash said, "Congress will decide that doing nothing is worse than doing something." A lot of the momentum will come from the Administration, which over the summer has engaged key Midwestern states on the issue of global warming and why proposed legislation would benefit farmers and other stakeholders. The chairman of the Clinton Climate Initiative of the former president's foundation, Ira Magaziner, said that what motivated the foundation to get involved on climate change pilot projects is the sheer avoidance of the problem by many. The US and other countries have to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, or "our children and grandchildren will pay very serious consequences." The Initiative has worked with cities such as Los Angeles on ways to reduce energy consumption, such as by street lighting. 80 percent of the electricity used for street lighting in many cities is wasted as heat; whereas new approaches such as using light-emitting diodes (LED's) can result in up to 60 percent energy savings. Some of the major needs cited in addressing climate change are more access to capital and financing for research & development (R&D), and more focus on energy efficiency by companies as well as individuals to reduce energy consumption. Google's director of climate change and energy initiatives, Dan Reicher, said it will take a commitment by the US to invest in clean energy and other technologies to address climate change. A wind farm, for example, can take $500 million to build. By comparison, it took about $25 million in venture capital to start Google. If the US doesn't invest in R&D to address climate change, technologies will be developed in other countries rather than here. Siemens Industry sees a lot of opportunities for energy savings from buildings. Daryl Dulaney, the appointed president & CEO of the company, estimates that 38 percent of all carbon emissions come from buildings. Institutions, commercial building owners and lessees will need to do what they can to reduce this substantial carbon footprint. The country's commitment to addressing climate change doesn't have to cost a lot. In fact, notes WRI's Jonathan Lash, from the carbon trade part of cap-and-trade, states as well as the federal government can realize savings and revenues; about $12 billion a year could be realized by states from carbon credits allocated for renewable energy and energy efficiency. As we know at Carbonfund.org, carbon offsets are supporting innovative projects in renewables, energy efficiency and reforestation that are making emissions reductions today and help the transition to a clean energy future. Offsets are part of current bills such as Waxman-Markey to help achieve emissions reductions.