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.
It was a sad day in 2010 when Congress failed to pass cap-and-trade legislation. However, a study by Dallas Burtraw, a senior fellow at Resources for the Future, released this month says that the failure had the unexpected consequence of helping to lower greenhouse gas emissions. There are two reasons why U.S. carbon dioxide emissions are likely to be lower by 2020: regulatory measures and market changes.
This is not to say that there is no need for cap-and-trade or a carbon tax. On the contrary, they are still necessary to achieve long-term cuts in emissions and to help establish worldwide support on the issue of climate change. The American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (ACES) was an energy bill that would cap the amount of carbon dioxide power plants and manufacturers could emit, and set up a system to trade for carbon offsets.
When ACES failed in the Senate after receiving approval in the House of Representatives, a series of piecemeal measures were put into place. This hodgepodge of regulatory measures put the U.S. on track to meet a pledge set by President Obama of cutting climate change emissions by 17 percent by the end of this decade. The first of which this blog already covered is Groundbreaking Fuel Economy Standards. President Obama pushed for higher vehicle fuel efficiency standards with automakers and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) when ACES died in the Senate. Also, the president is pressing for higher emission standards on coal-fired power plants.
Further regulatory measures in the wake of national cap-and-trade’s demise include California and some Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states establishing their own cap-and-trade programs, and 29 states setting clean-energy requirements for utilities.
Market changes putting the U.S. on the path to lower carbon emissions by 2020 have been covered by this blog also. Low natural gas prices have been shifting the market away from dirtier coal as power plants' fuel of choice.
If ACES, also called the Waxman-Markey Bill, had passed the law would have barred the EPA from issuing carbon standards for power plants, refineries or factories. Furthermore, it may have very well headed off establishing the higher vehicle fuel efficiency standards. Lastly, under a national cap-and-trade program, any regional or state efforts would be offset by increased emissions elsewhere.
So the planet still needs further, faster and more wide ranging cuts in fossil-fuel use, but the U.S. is on the right path to curbing carbon emissions with the help of some regulatory measures and market changes.
Some businesses express reluctance when it comes to embracing the path to a cleaner energy future. They see nothing but dollar signs. However, a recent case study by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) Climate Corps demonstrates that it is possible to get into a “virtuous cycle” of energy efficiency that pays dividends for both the company’s bottom line and the environment.
EDF Climate Corps is a great program that matches either specially-trained MBA (Masters in Business Administration) or MPA (Masters in Public Administration) students as summer fellows with companies, cities and universities interested in achieving energy efficiency to cut costs and greenhouse gas emissions. Since 2008, the program’s fellows have built business cases for smart energy investments. The end results are lighting, computer equipment and heating and cooling system efficiencies that can cut 1.6 billion kilowatt hours of electricity use and 27 million therms of natural gas annually, equivalent to the annual energy use of 100,000 homes; avoid over 1 million metric tons of CO2 emissions annually, equivalent to the annual emissions of 200,000 passenger vehicles; and save $1 billion in net operational costs over the project lifetimes.
The Virtuous Cycle of Organizational Energy Efficiency has five components: executive engagement; resource investment; people and tools; identification, implementation and measurement; and results and stories. According to EDF, the virtuous cycle is a model of change for energy efficiency across even extremely different organizations.
The business profiled in the case study is Diversey, which is a subsidy of Sealed Air. Diversey entered the virtuous cycle of energy efficiency by establishing a public commitment to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions from operations to eight percent below 2003 levels by 2013. This was also the initial component of the virtuous cycle, executive engagement.
Once Diversey’s leaders committed, policies from the top down required that energy efficiency projects produce a positive return on investment in a payback period of three years or less. This criterion allowed Diversey to invest $19 million, and yield $32 million in cash savings over the life of the program in order to reach their emissions reduction goals.
Because the goals and criteria were clearly articulated, Diversey’s ability to measure success was also positively impacted. In fact, Diversey’s environmental health and safety department received a 40 percent year-on-year budget increase, which is significant because all other divisions of the company at the time were undergoing a 50 percent budget cut. This was due to the capacity to produce data that demonstrated energy project performance. According to the report, plant managers were also engaged and incentivized to implement efficiency measures due to centralized capital budgeting.
This is all to say that there are easy and affordable ways for businesses to invest in a commitment to combat climate change that is both good for the company and the environment. Saving money is always in style; simply combine that goal with one of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and you’ll be maximizing the good you can do.
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.
According to data recently uncovered from the Energy Information Agency, electricity coming from non-hydroelectric renewable sources (solar, wind, geothermal, and biomass) has doubled in the U.S. to almost 6 percent in a scant four years’ time.
It’s a bit surprising that this significant fact hasn’t been splashed all over the news. Businesses are portrayed as not believing clean energy is worth the investment, but that is simply not true for all. Some companies see the wisdom and fiscal prudence in planning for climate change. The press appears to focus more on manufacturing problems in the sector.
While it is true that the green manufacturing industry is experiencing some growing pains, take solar panel makers for example, it’s worth noting that the green industry is growing overall, and quickly too. China made enormous investments in solar, and they are the face of rising competition. They’ve brought down the price of panels by 65 percent in a mere 18 months. So this leads to fewer and bigger solar manufacturers, which is what happens in all mature industries. However, the explosion of growth in the solar industry comes from the businesses that sell, install, and maintain solar.
Perhaps renewable energy seems like small potatoes since it’s only a fraction of total electricity generation. But the magic is in the industry’s potential for exponential growth. If non-hydro renewables were to double three more times, they would provide nearly half of US electricity needs. That’s more than we get from coal or natural gas right now.
The renewable energy industry’s growth is not just limited to the U.S. either. Countries such as Portugal and Germany have transformed their power grids to generate 25 – 45 percent of their electricity needs from renewable sources.
The big question is if non-hydroelectric renewables can continue to double every four years? Well let’s start by taking a look at what kind of growth would be required to do so. Non-hydro renewables need 19 percent annual growth in order to double every four years. Some sectors grow that much or more. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, the solar sector is growing 30 percent annually.
The bottom line is that the payback time for investing in renewable energy is getting faster every day. Wise homeowners, businesses, and governments are ahead of the curve because they see that the future is in renewable sources.