Sunday, November 22, 2009


Scientific American for Nov. 2009 has a very important article by Mark Jacobson (Stanford) and Mark Delucchi (UC Davis) titled, A Path to Sustainable Energy by 2030. The authors have determined that a combination of wind, water and sunlight could provide 100% of the world’s energy, for all purposes, as early as 2030. The cost of generating and transmitting power on a per kWh basis, using a complete life-cycle analysis, will be less for these renewable energy sources than for nuclear or fossil fuel power. The greatest obstacles are shortages of a few specialty materials and a lack of political will. The article is a must read for anyone interested in a clean energy future. At:

The site has a multimedia presentation by with a rank ordering of various energy sources, with wind first: 1) wind; 2) solar-thermal; 3) geothermal; 4) tides; 5) solar PV; 6) wave; 7) hydroelectric; 8) coal with carbon capture and storage; 9) nuclear; 10) natural gas; 11) oil; and 12) ethanol from corn and cellulose. Regular (current) coal plants are off the bottom of the scale.

The Business Standard for Oct. 22 has an article titled, India, China sign 5-yr pact to tackle climate change. The two countries have agreed to establish an India-China Partnership and Working Group on Climate Change to share best practices and policies. They agree that equal priority should be given to adaptation and mitigation. “China and India say wealthy countries including the US should lower emissions by 40 per cent from 1990 levels by 2020 and share technology with poorer nations to help them fight climate change.” At:

James Hansen gave a talk to the Club of Rome Global Assembly 2009 on October 26 titled, Global Warming Time Bomb: Actions Needed to Avert Disaster. In it he gave an impassioned plea for people – especially young people – to get involved to save the kind of planet on which civilization developed. He sees governments out of touch with science and nibbling around the edges of the climate change crisis instead of tackling it head-on. He points out that Antarctic Ice is melting at a rate of about 200 cubic kilometers per year, while Greenland is melting at about 300 cubic kilometers per year, with rates of both accelerating as we continue business as usual. At:

Susan Cutter et al. of the Hazards and Vulnerability Institute at the University of South Carolina have issued a Final Report to Oxfam America, dated June 2009, titled, Social Vulnerability to Climate Variability Hazards: A Review of the Literature. The report considers hazards likely to increase with global warming such as floods, droughts, disease and sea level rise, and the vulnerability of people based on economic status, gender, age and ethnicity. The most vulnerable tend to be poor, members of minorities, women, children and the elderly. At:

The authors have evaluated vulnerability and produced maps of the Southeastern U.S., showing which areas are most vulnerable and least able to adapt. At:

Dana Milbank has an item in the Oct. 28 Washington Post titled, A Senator in a Hostile Climate, describing how Senator Inhofe of Oklahoma – famous (or infamous) for saying that global warming is a gigantic hoax on the American people – got hot around the collar and red in the face when his fellow senators, especially Republicans, said that climate change is an important problem that should be addressed. At:

Laurie Williams and Allan Zabel have an article in the Oct. 31 Washington Post titled, Cap and Trade Mirage. The authors, who are lawyers with the EPA, argue that the offset provisions in the House energy bill (H.R. 2454) and in bills being developed in the Senate weaken the bills so much that they are unlikely to result in any reductions in GHG emissions, and may even result in increases! At:

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development has an excellent October article titled, Now it’s the Business World that is Urging Climate ‘Realism’. It points out that few if any countries that have pledged to reduce their GHG emissions have well-considered plans for how to achieve their goals. At:

Vice Admiral Lee Gunn, President of the American Security Project, has an Oct. 20 article in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists titled, Climate Change Could be the Next Great Military Threat. “Although the United States has faced many threats over the last few decades, climate change may be the most ominous. Specifically, it will contribute to resource scarcity, state failure, increasingly mobile populations, and regional instability.” Unless we begin preparing now, future generations may need “to deal with a world full of conflict, disease, hunger, displacement, and extremism.” At:

Suzanne Goldenberg has an article in The Guardian for Nov. 2 titled, Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth Sequel Stresses Spiritual Argument on Climate. Gore’s latest book, Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis, is based on meetings and conversations he has had with scientists and others. At:

A paper by Dietz et al. in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science, Nov. 3, is titled, Household actions can provide a behavioral wedge to rapidly reduce U.S. carbon emissions. In 10 years we could reduce CO2 emissions by 123 million metric tons, or 7.4% of the U.S. total. At:

A EurekaAlert posted by Cheryl Cybas of the National Science Foundation posted Nov. 11 was titled, Record highs far outpace record lows across US. Temperature records for the continental U.S. over the past decade from thousands of weather stations show that the ratio of the number of record daily highs to record daily lows has increased by a factor of two relative to earlier decades. Models project that business-as-usual continuation of carbon emissions could increase the ratio to about 20-to-1 by mid-century and 50-to-1 by 2100, as average temperatures continue to rise. At:

Skeptical Science has a post from John Cook dated Nov. 17 titled, Why is Greenland’s Ice Loss Accelerating? He shows that ice loss determined by measurements of precipitation, water runoff and ice flow are consistent with satellite gravity measurements in showing an accelerating rate – particularly in the past 5 years. The major contributor is the increasing rate of glacial ice flow and calving into the sea. At:

In a Nov. 18 article in the Wall Street Journal titled, Senate to Put Off Climate Bill Until Spring, Ian Talley reported that the Senate is unlikely to have an energy/climate bill before March. There is a danger that the legislation will get lost in the race of members of Congress to get themselves reelected in 2010. At:

The following items are from the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI), Carol Werner, Executive Director. Past issues of its newsletter are posted on its website under "publications"

EESI’s newsletter is intended for all interested parties, particularly the policymaker community. For more information regarding either the newsletter or EESI please contact Amy Sauer at

Industrialized Nations Emissions Grew for Seventh Consecutive Year in 2007

On October 21, the United Nations announced that greenhouse gas emissions produced by industrialized countries rose 1 percent in 2007, the seventh consecutive year of emissions growth. The data comes from the 40 industrialized countries with reporting obligations under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). “The continuing growth of emissions from industrialized countries remains worrying, despite the expectation of a momentary dip brought about by the global recession,” said UNFCCC Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer. “So the numbers for 2007 underscore, once again, the urgent need to seal a comprehensive, fair and effective climate change deal in Copenhagen in December.”

For additional information see: AFP, AP, United Nations Press Release

Studies Question Carbon Accounting of Biofuels

In the October 22 issue of Science, two studies were published which called into question the carbon neutrality of biofuels. The first study, led by Jerry Melillo of the Marine Biological Laboratory, found that a major expansion of biofuel production could increase global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The researcher's model indicated that the amount of land used for biofuel production would exceed the total area currently devoted to agriculture and would displace food crops and drive deforestation, resulting in higher GHG emissions. The second study, conducted by Tim Searchinger of Princeton University, identified an accounting error regarding biofuels present in the Kyoto Protocol and the cap and trade legislation currently being considered by Congress. Both studies concluded that biofuels are not truly carbon neutral, arguing that increasing biofuel production displaces existing vegetation which sequesters more carbon than the new biofuel crops, which is known as land-use change. “Our analysis, which we think is the most comprehensive to date, shows that direct and indirect land-use changes associated with an aggressive global biofuels program have the potential to release large quantities of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere," said Melillo. Searchinger warned, “The error is serious, but readily fixable.” He recommended that Congress correct this flaw by including biofuels in the cap and trade program and then crediting those that are grown in a truly renewable fashion with carbon offsets.

For additional information see: Science, Reuters, Science, Washington Post, New York Times, AFP

Polls Find Fewer Americans Believe in Global Warming, Concern over Economy Greater than Climate

On October 22, a new poll from the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found that 57 percent of Americans believe there is strong scientific evidence that the Earth is warming, down from 71 percent in April 2008. Thirty-six percent of respondents agreed that temperatures were rising because of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel combustion, down from 47 percent in 2008. Fifty percent supported setting limits on carbon emissions even if this leads to higher energy prices. “The priority that people give to pollution and environmental concerns and a whole host of other issues is down because of the economy and because of the focus on other things,” explained Pew Research Center Director Andrew Kohut. “When the focus is on other things, people forget and see these issues as less grave.”

On October 19, Public Strategies Inc./POLITICO released a new poll indicating that Americans care more about economic recovery than they do about taking action on climate change. Sixty-two percent of respondents agreed that “economic growth should be given priority, even if the environment suffers to some extent.” Additionally, only four percent of respondents said climate change was their most important issue. Public Strategies Managing Director David Iannelli said, “Concerns, although a little less extreme, are still overwhelmingly negative about the economy. Even though things may be getting a little better, you get the sense that people really want to focus on the economy until we get it locked down.”

For additional information see: Pew Research Center, AP, AFP, The Guardian, Politico, Politico Poll Results

Mississippi Landowners Get Go-Ahead for Global Warming Lawsuit

On October 16, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans ruled that a group of Mississippi landowners can move forward with their climate change lawsuit. In the lawsuit, filed in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the landowners argued that over 30 fossil fuel companies were responsible for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that had increased the damage of the storm. Lead Attorney Gerald Maples said, “My primary goal [of the lawsuit] was to say you (Mississippi Energy Officials) are at risk within the legal system and you should be cooperating with Congress, the White House and the Kyoto Protocol.” The lawsuit was previously dismissed by a District Court, but the three-judge panel overturned this decision, arguing that both Mississippi and federal law permits the landowners the legal standing to attempt to prove the linkage between GHGs and Hurricane Katrina.

For additional information see: The Times-Picayune, U.S. 5th Circuit of Appeals

Leaders at Major Economies Forum Urge Progress in Climate Talks

On October 18-19, the Major Economies Forum (MEF) on Energy and Climate, consisting of the world's 17 largest greenhouse gas (GHG) emitters, met in London to discuss obstacles to a new international climate change treaty. Delegates at the MEF said that two of the key issues addressed were the transfer of green technologies and financial assistance to developing nations for climate change adaptation. Leaders at the summit urged negotiators to overcome their differences. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said, “There are now fewer than 50 days to set the course of the next 50 years and more. If we do not reach a deal at this time, let us be in no doubt: once the damage from unchecked emissions growth is done, no retrospective global agreement in some future period can undo that choice. By then it will be irretrievably too late.” Brown then asked world leaders to attend the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of the Parties in Copenhagen this December in person

For additional information see: Bloomberg, AP, The Guardian, Reuters, Wall Street Journal

EU Offers to Cut Emissions 95 Percent by 2050 if a Deal is Reached in Copenhagen

On October 21, the European Union (EU) offered to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent below its 1990 baseline by 2020 and up to 95 percent by 2050 if an international climate change agreement is achieved this December in Copenhagen. This new position was negotiated at a meeting of the environment ministers of the EU's member states. Swedish Environment Minister Andreas Carlgren, who chaired the meeting, said, “This should be a clear message to the world.” UK Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband added, “Environment ministers are determined that the EU maintains its leadership position on climate change in order to promote an ambitious deal at Copenhagen.” The talks failed to find agreement on how to share the load among EU countries for a funding package for developing countries, as many poorer Eastern European countries are unwilling to offer financial assistance to rapidly growing economies such as China and India.

For additional information see: The Guardian, Deutsche Welle, Wall Street Journal, AFP

Eight South Asian Nations Resist Binding Emission Cuts

On October 20, eight South Asian countries, including India and Pakistan, announced they will not support any international climate change treaty that sets legally binding emission caps on developing nations. After a two-day regional meeting, Indian Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh said, “There is a consensus among South Asian nations that we should not budge from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Kyoto Protocol and the Bali declaration,” all of which set no constraints on greenhouse gas emissions from developing nations. Following questions of India changing its position on emission targets, Ramesh reiterated, “India will never accept internationally legally binding emission reduction targets or commitments as part of any agreement or deal or outcome.”

For additional information see: AP, AFP, India Times

UK's Met Office Launches Climate Change Map Showing Impact of 4°C Rise

On October 22, the United Kingdom (UK) Met Office released a new map which shows the impacts of a 4°C increase in global temperatures. Last month, a Met Office study found that temperatures could rise by 4°C by 2060 if serious action is not taken to mitigate climate change. This map now shows the potential impacts in the United States, including drought and reduced agricultural productivity. “We cannot cope with a 4°C world. This map clearly illustrates the scale of the challenge facing us today,” said UK Foreign Minister David Miliband alongside his brother, Energy and Climate Change Minister Ed Miliband. “To tackle the problem of climate change, all of us, foreign ministries, environment ministries, treasuries, departments of defense, and all parts of government and societies, must work together to keep global temperatures to 2°C.”

For additional information see: UK Met Office Map, The Guardian, Global and Mail

Arctic Lake Sediment Suggests Signs of Climate Change

A study published in the October 19 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that biological and chemical changes at an Arctic lake are unprecedented over the past 200,000 years and are most likely a result of climate change. The scientists tracked the rise and fall of various macroinvertebrate and algae populations by examining the fossilized specimens in the sediment layers. The scientists found unprecedented increases of some algae types dependent on warmer weather that were almost never found during the pre-industrial era. Additionally, the midge species that had inhabited the lake for tens of thousands of years had disappeared in the last 50 years. “The past few decades have been unique in the past 200,000 years in terms of the changes we see in the biology and chemistry recorded in the cores,” said lead author Yarrow Axford of the University of Colorado at Boulder. Since 1950, periodic, well-understood variations in climate which would have normally led to cooling have been overridden by human activity and greenhouse gas emissions, according to the study of sediment cores in the lake. "Our results show that the human footprint is overpowering long-standing natural processes even in remote Arctic regions," said co-author John Smol of Queen's University.

For additional information see: Science, Globe and Mail, Boulder Daily Camera

Survey: Economists See Threat in Climate Change

On November 3, the New York University School of Law's Institute for Policy Integrity (IPI) released a new survey which found that 84 percent of economists polled believe that climate change poses a significant risk to the U.S. economy. IPI surveyed 289 economists who had published climate change-related studies in the top 25 economic journals over the past 15 years. Ninety-two percent of respondents wanted to set a price on carbon emissions through either a cap and trade program or a carbon tax. Ninety-four percent believed that the U.S. should negotiate an international agreement to curb greenhouse gas emissions. “An economist treehugger is an imaginary creature," said IPI's Michael Livermore. “But we found that economists really see climate change poses a lot of risk to the economy.”

For additional information see: New York Times, Institute for Policy Integrity Press Release, USA Today

Companies Announce Formation of American Businesses for Clean Energy

On November 4, a group of companies, including several electric utilities, announced the creation of the lobbying group American Businesses for Clean Energy (ABCE). The group said it supports “Congressional enactment of clean energy and climate legislation that will significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” Founding companies include FPL Group, PNM Resources, Calpine, Gap, Aspen Skiing Co., and Deutsche Bank Climate Change Advisors. Members of ABCE say it will not delve into the fine details of legislation the way other associations do, but instead will focus on a simple message of support for congressional action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. “We know that leveraging each others' strengths will only help to drive this important work forward more quickly," said Gap Senior Director of Global Responsibility Kindley Walsh Lawlor.

For additional information see: Wall Street Journal, San Francisco Chronicle

EU Reaches Funding Deal on Climate Change

On October 30, European Union (EU) leaders concluded a two-day summit in Brussels during which they reached an agreement on funding for climate change adaptation for developing nations. The EU determined that developing nations will need 100 billion euros annually by 2020 to tackle climate change and have agreed to pay up to 50 billion euros a year as their share of the financial assistance. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said, “The European Union and its member states are ready to contribute their fair share.” Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt added that “the EU now has a very strong negotiating position” to take to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of the Parties in Copenhagen this December. European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso warned other nations, “Our offer is not a blank check. We are ready to act, if our partners deliver.”

For additional information see: New York Times, AFP, Financial Times, Irish Times

Report: 250,000 Children Could Die Annually as a Result of Climate Change

On November 2, Save the Children, a UK-based charity, released a new report titled “Feeling the Heat” which concluded that 250,000 children will die next year because of climate change impacts. The report asserted that climate change is the largest health threat to children in the 21st century. It estimated that 160 million children will catch malaria and over 900 million will be affected by water scarcity over the next generation. Annually, 175 million children will be affected by climate change by 2030. Save the Children Director of Policy David Mepham said, “This is not just Africa's problem, it affects everyone. Global leaders need to act now to stop the needless deaths of millions of children.”

For additional information see: The Telegraph, The Guardian, UK Press

Up to 10 Percent of the Global Population Could Be Displaced by Climate Change by 2050

On November 3, the Environmental Justice Foundation released a new report called “Climate Refugees – No Place Like Home,” which estimated that climate change will result in the migration of up to 150 million climate refugees to other countries by 2050. Overall, 500-600 million people, or 10 percent of the global population, are at risk of displacement because of climate change over the coming years. The report said that 20 million people were temporarily displaced by climate-related natural disasters in 2008 and also predicted that 26 million people have already relocated. “Climate change impacts on homes and infrastructure, food and water and human health. It will bring about a forced migration on an unprecedented scale,” said Environmental Justice Foundation Director Steve Trent. “We must take immediate steps to reduce our impact on global climate, and we must also recognize the need to protect those already suffering along with those most at risk.”

For additional information see: Environmental Justice Foundation Report, The Guardian

Energy Watchdog Urges Deal on Climate

On November 12, the International Energy Agency (IEA) released their World Energy Outlook 2009, in which they urged world leaders to reach an international climate change agreement at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change this December. The IEA warned that temperatures will rise by 6°C if business continues as usual. “The time to act has arrived," the report said. “As the leading source of greenhouse-gas emissions, energy is at the heart of the problem and so must be integral to the solution.” A deal on emissions could reduce world oil demand by 16 million barrels a day by 2030, the agency projected. Failure to reach such a deal could raise the U.S.'s cost to import oil and gas from 1 to 2 percent of its gross domestic product. They further warned that the cost of keeping temperatures from rising above 2°C would increase by $500 billion each year that action to address climate change is delayed.

For additional information see: Wall Street Journal, Reuters, Bloomberg, International Energy Agency World Energy Outlook 2009 Executive Summary

EU-15 on Track to Meet Kyoto Targets

On November 12, the European Environment Agency (EEA) released a new progress report which concluded that the founding nations of the European Union (EU-15) are on track to meet the greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction targets that were promised in the Kyoto Protocol. The EEA forecasted that GHG emissions in the EU-15 will drop by 13 percent below the 1990 baseline by 2012, even lower than the 8 percent below the 1990 level that was promised in the Kyoto Protocol. The EEA credited the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, the EU's cap and trade program, and their Renewable Energy Directive for the largest share of the emission reductions. “With the EU climate and energy package adopted earlier this year, we have already put in place the key measures to reduce our emissions much further to at least 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. No other region of the world has yet done this,” said EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas.

For additional information see: EurActive, PR Newswire, AFP

EPA Sends Final CO2 Endangerment Finding to White House

On November 9, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson announced that the EPA had submitted its greenhouse gas (GHG) endangerment finding to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The finding states that carbon dioxide (CO2) and other GHGs pose a danger to human health and welfare, and, if approved, would allow the EPA to regulate GHG emissions under the Clean Air Act. Jackson said OMB has 90 days to review the finding, but that she is “hoping for an expedited review” because automakers need to know if new fuel economy standards will be imposed on their 2012 models by March 2010.

For additional information see: Reuters, Denver Science News Examiner

First Power Facility to Capture and Store Carbon Begins Operating in West Virginia

On November 6, American Electric Power's Mountaineer Power Plant in West Virginia became the first coal-fired power plant to begin operating with technology for capturing and sequestering its carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. The plant will be able to capture 100,000 tons of CO2 per year, a small fraction of the plant's annual total emissions of 3.5 million tons. U.S. Department of Energy Undersecretary for Energy Kristina Johnson said, “This pilot plant today shows that we can power our country, clean our air and grow our economy . . . It's a stunning demonstration of elegant engineering, design and innovation. This project is a critical step in the commercial-scale deployment of carbon capture and storage.”

For additional information see: AFP, Scientific American, Media General News Service

Religions Challenge World Leaders on Climate Change

On November 10, religious leaders from the Baha'ism, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Shintoism, Sikhism and Taoism faiths met with British Royalty and United Nations (UN) representatives at Windsor Castle in England to urge world leaders to take action on climate change. At the event organized by the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC), called “Faith Commitments for a Living Planet,” religious leaders unveiled programs intended to motivate their followers to take action on climate change. ARC Head Martin Palmer said, “The Secretary General of the United Nations goes to Copenhagen not just with the prayers and best wishes of every major faith tradition in the world, but with the knowledge that if, God forbid, the nations of the world are unable to rise to the occasion at Copenhagen, the faiths will - and already have.” UN Assistant Secretary General Olav Kjorven added, “We expect to send a strong signal from religion to governments that we are extremely committed. It's about religions mobilizing their followers to act against climate change.”

For additional information see: AFP, Jerusalem Post, The Hindu, Alliance of Religions and Conservation Press Release

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Chad A. Tolman
Coalition for Climate Change Study and Action

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