Thursday, November 30, 2006

Energy Use Can Be Cut by Efficiency, Survey Says



Steve Lohr, NY Times



The growth rate of worldwide energy consumption could be cut by more than half over the next 15 years through more aggressive energy-efficiency efforts by households and industry, according to a study by the McKinsey Global Institute, which is scheduled to be released today.



The energy savings, the report said, can be achieved with current technology and would save money for consumers and companies. The McKinsey report offers a long list of suggested steps, including the adoption of compact fluorescent light bulbs, improved insulation on new buildings, reduced standby power requirements, an accelerated push for appliance-efficiency standards and the use of solar water heaters.



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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Carbon Emissions Show Sharp Rise



by Richard Black BBC



The rise in humanity's emissions of carbon dioxide has accelerated sharply, according to a new analysis.



The trend towards increased energy efficiency is levelling off.



The Global Carbon Project says that emissions were rising by less than 1% annually up to the year 2000, but are now rising at 2.5% per year.



It says the acceleration comes mainly from a rise in charcoal consumption and a lack of new energy efficiency gains.



The global research network released its latest analysis at a scientific meeting in Australia.



Dr Mike Rapauch of the Australian government's research organisation CSIRO, who co-chairs the Global Carbon Project, told delegates that 7.9 billion tonnes (gigatonnes, Gt) of carbon passed into the atmosphere last year. In 2000, the figure was 6.8Gt.



"From 2000 to 2005, the growth rate of carbon dioxide emissions was more than 2.5% per year, whereas in the 1990s it was less than 1% per year," he said.



The finding parallels figures released earlier this month by the World Meteorological Organization showing that the rise in atmospheric concentrations of CO2 had accelerated in the last few years.



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Saturday, November 25, 2006

What Did You Buy?

Well, Black Friday has come and gone. Buy Nothing Day seems to take on more of an urgency for me this year. Oh it's not that I didn't feel the crush of impending doom last year, I did. This year we have seemed to turn a corner of sorts in regards to public awareness (note I did not say "acceptance") of global warming. There appears to be varying degrees of understanding of just what is going on here with the public and the numbers of deniers seem to be going the way of many of our animal species. ExxonMobil continues to use it's mighty power in the media to keep those oil I.V's firmly attached. It is going to be a hard realization for those of us who have become dependent upon big media for their information to understand that the enemy is us. Uncle Al's movie Inconvenient Truth did seem to help. I was somewhat comforted to see that upon a visit to my local video store none of the dozen or so DVD's of Inconvenient Truth were available, all rented. Something IS going on around here.


This year it appears to be generally accepted on many college campuses that global warming is real and that the future could be very nasty. Students seeking higher education are coming out with increasingly higher and higher debt and are willing to go to the bank to make up the difference in unprecedented numbers. They are investing in their future believing that it will pay off. Perhaps they will get it enough to help change our world for the better. If you count the number of "Sustainability Directors" on campus you will find at least some college officials understand that for their institutions to continue business as usual will kill us all.



I did honor "Buy Nothing Day" while at the same time trying hard to keep my relationships positive with those in my life who are still caught up in the "sale frenzy" that stores try to elicit from vulnerable shoppers. My approach to the futility of this yearly ritual is to have the long view. Wanting us all to wake up and try to figure our way out of this mess, is, of course, where I go when I think about what world my kids and grandkids will inherit. But wanting it now, without the necessary re-evaluation of all the things that make communities’ sustainable what we need?



For those of us who invest a good chunk of time trying to understand the complex issues of creating long-term and sustainable wealth in our community we can be a challenge to live with. Keeping those relationships strong and intact is what helps keep our community more sustainable. Yet there are the many and varied actions that we take each day that demand to be re-examined if we want to create a future worth living for our children. For me, taking the longer view with family about destructive consumerist habits is much like raising teenagers. You have to carefully pick your battles. Deciding ahead of time, what the issues are that you will put your energy into in terms of educating, cajoling, and humoring can be helpful. It is equally helpful to know what you can let go of, knowing that over time the obvious will become more of a national imperative.



I say this all with considerable trepidation. Recent news about global warming provides us with two high-profile disaster warnings that will take your breath away. Sir Nicholas Stern has predicted that climate change will cause the most massive market failure in history. As a result of a major study, the journal Science published information that it is likely there will be a near-total collapse of global fisheries within the next 40 years. Eminent NASA scientist Dr. James E. Hansen has publicly stated that we have about 10 years left to reduce our carbon releases, after that period of time, nothing we do will be likely to help.



All of this gloom and doom can in fact instill as sense of futility. We have all heard or thought, "What I do won't really matter." This pervasive myth perhaps is the greatest obstacle for most in our community who remain concerned with what we are doing to the earth. The reality is that this thinking is the exact opposite of what we need to do. One thing we can do is begin to change how we think about the materials we bring into our homes. If we begin to think about the true cost of an item besides it's monetary pricetag, then we are well on our way to making a real difference. The true cost of an item has to include the fossil fuels used to create it including the power used by the machinery, the plastics taken from petroleum, fuels used to transport by rail, truck or air, the energy required to use to product and lastly disposal. Reducing the heating of our homes, becoming wiser about our personal transportation, and reducing our electric consumption are within our means and is a start we can all do now. Supporting locally produced food and products will also strengthen our economy, support local families, and lessen our impact on the natural world. So to become good ancestors means that we take action now. When our grandchildren sit down with us someday and ask, " did you know about global warming? Did you do anything to stop it? " You will be able to tell them the truth.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Pace of Global Warming Causes Alarm




'Very different and frightening world' coming faster than expected, scientists warn


by Seth Borenstein, Associated Press, posted on Commondreams




"...Just five years ago biologists, though not complacent, believed the harmful biological effects of global warming were much farther down the road, said Douglas Futuyma, professor of ecology and evolution at the State University of New York in Stony Brook. "



"I feel as though we are staring crisis in the face," Futuyma said. "It's not just down the road somewhere. It is just hurtling toward us. Anyone who is 10 years old right now is going to be facing a very different and frightening world by the time that they are 50 or 60."



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Saturday, November 18, 2006

USA: Wanted for Crimes Against the Planet




Center for American Progress. Posted November 16, 2006. Posted on Alternet



World temperatures are rising to levels not seen in at least 12,000 years. Greenland's ice mass is melting at "what what NASA calls a 'dramatic' rate of 41 cubic miles per year." And unless climate change is reined in, "extreme drought could eventually affect one-third of the planet." More than 5,000 activists, scientists, and diplomats understand these facts and have gathered in Nairobi, Kenya for the annual two-week U.N. Climate Change Conference, which is now in its final three days. As U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan wrote in a Washington Post op-ed, "The stakes are high. ... Yet too often climate change is seen as an environmental problem when it should be part of the broader development and economic agenda." The Bush administration and the 109th Congress haven't understood these stakes. Hopefully, the 110th Congress will. Incoming Senate Environment and Public Works chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) recently said, "Time is running out, and we need to move forward on this." The Bush administration's chief climate negotiator, however, promised conference participants that the White House would continue to do as little as possible.


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City Approves ‘Carbon Tax’ in Effort to Reduce Gas Emissions

Katie Kelly, NY Times




BOULDER, Colo., Nov. 14 — Voters in this liberal college town have approved what environmentalists say may be the nation’s first “carbon tax,” intended to reduce emissions of heat-trapping gases.



The tax, to take effect on April 1, will be based on the number of kilowatt-hours used. Officials say it will add $16 a year to an average homeowner’s electricity bill and $46 for businesses.



City officials said the revenue from the tax — an estimated $6.7 million by 2012, when the goal is to have reduced carbon emissions by 350,000 metric tons — would be collected by the main gas and electric utility, Xcel Energy, and funneled through the city’s Office of Environmental Affairs .



The tax is to pay for the “climate action plan,” efforts to “increase energy efficiency in homes and buildings, switch to renewable energy and reduce vehicle miles traveled,” the city’s environmental affairs manager, Jonathan Koehn, said.



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Friday, November 03, 2006

Study Sees ‘Global Collapse’ of Fish Species







by CORNELIA DEAN, NY Times



If fishing around the world continues at its present pace, more and more species will vanish, marine ecosystems will unravel and there will be “global collapse” of all species currently fished, possibly as soon as midcentury, fisheries experts and ecologists are predicting.



The scientists, who report their findings today in the journal Science, say it is not too late to turn the situation around. As long as marine ecosystems are still biologically diverse, they can recover quickly once overfishing and other threats are reduced, the researchers say. But improvements must come quickly, said Boris Worm of Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, who led the work. Otherwise, he said, “we are seeing the bottom of the barrel.”



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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Dawn of the "Solar Salon" in US Living Rooms






by Timothy Gardner,Reuters posted on Commondreams



Solar power is likely to get more attention as governments look at ways to cut emissions of gases that cause global warming. Ministers from almost 190 governments meet in Nairobi from November 6 to November 17 for annual U.N. talks about ways to speed up the fight against global warming.Solar power is likely to get more attention as governments look at ways to cut emissions of gases that cause global warming. Ministers from almost 190 governments meet in Nairobi from November 6 to November 17 for annual U.N. talks about ways to speed up the fight against global warming.



Environmentalists and many financial analysts envision a not-too-distant future when the 35 cent per kilowatt hour cost of power from solar panels will halve to equal the average cost of power from fossil fuels.



"Whether it's 2010, 2012, or 2015, I think everyone can see the writing on the wall," said Jesse Pichel, solar industry analyst with investment bank Piper Jaffray in New York. When costs become equal, "solar power demand is infinite," he said.



David Smith, an analyst at Citigroup in New York wrote in a research report in October that solar power has "crossed the tipping point and is on the cusp of a significant expansion between now and 2010."





Environmentalists and many financial analysts envision a not-too-distant future when the 35 cent per kilowatt hour cost of power from solar panels will halve to equal the average cost of power from fossil fuels.



"Whether it's 2010, 2012, or 2015, I think everyone can see the writing on the wall," said Jesse Pichel, solar industry analyst with investment bank Piper Jaffray in New York. When costs become equal, "solar power demand is infinite," he said.



David Smith, an analyst at Citigroup in New York wrote in a research report in October that solar power has "crossed the tipping point and is on the cusp of a significant expansion between now and 2010."



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