Saturday, October 3, 2009

Vermont boosts payoff for renewable energy San Francisco Chronicle

Climate Progress

Climate Progress

Chamber of Overstated Horrors

Posted: 03 Oct 2009 06:03 AM PDT

IT IS refreshing to see three energy companies — the nuclear power operator Exelon; Pacific Gas and Electric; and New Mexico's largest electricity provider, PNM — quitting the US Chamber of Commerce over that organization's increasingly shrill, doom-saying opposition to climate change legislation in Washington. The chamber claims that limits on greenhouse gas emissions by Congress or the Environmental Protection Agency would be "a job killer,'' would "completely shut the country down,'' or, even worse, "virtually destroy the United States.''

chamber-of-horrorsSo begins a great Boston Globe editorial, "Chamber of overstated horrors."  These resignations really brought home the message of the Chamber's extremism to the broader media in a tangible way (see Chamber of Horrors: The incredible, shrinking industry group falsely claims "We've never questioned the science behind global warming").

The rest of editorial makes clear just how much the Chamber brought this on themselves with its Luddite call for "the Scopes monkey trial of the 21st century" on global warming:

The chamber went completely off the rails in August. It proposed to take the climate change debate all the way back to the 1920s, to a "Scopes monkey trial of the 21st century.'' William Kovacs, the chamber's vice president for environmental regulation, told the Los Angeles Times that a public hearing on the evidence of climate change "would be evolutionism versus creationism. It would be the science of climate change on trial.''

The verdict has long been in from the vast majority of climate scientists that humans are changing the atmosphere. What's becoming increasingly clear is that fighting climate change is good for business, because restrictions on carbon emissions will foster innovations in efficiency and renewable-energy technologies. Last month at a forum in New York – organized in part by the Boston-based business and environmental coalition Ceres – a group of 181 investors handling more than $13 trillion in global assets called for greenhouse gas emission reductions of between 50 percent and 85 percent by 2050.

Going backward eight decades was too much for Exelon, PG&E and PNM. Also protesting somewhat this week was Nike. The sneaker maker did not quit the chamber, but resigned from the board of directors. These are welcome cracks in the stone wall of the chamber. The question is how many more of the chamber's 3 million members need to quit before the organization alters its retrograde view.

Arts and Crafts go Green

Posted: 03 Oct 2009 05:49 AM PDT

Durham, North Carolina-based The Scrap Exchange (above) is "a sustainable art supply store that takes unwanted materials and resells them as arts and crafts supplies," as explained in this CAP repost.

Is one person's trash really another's treasure? According to a Durham, North Carolina-based arts and crafts store it is.

The Scrap Exchange lets people explore their creativity while helping out the environment. The Scrap Exchange was founded in 1991 as a sustainable art supply store that takes unwanted materials from businesses and community members and resells them as arts and crafts supplies. Materials sell for 50 to 70 percent off their retail prices, and popular items include paper, fabric, office supplies, marble scraps, and CD cases. The idea is to promote environmental awareness and creativity by providing high-quality, low-cost materials for artists.

The Scrap Exchange also has an in-house art gallery to show off the local artists who turn recycled materials into crafts such as handmade bags, metal sculptures, and jewelry. Classes such as quilting and collage are available for people who may not have a natural creative streak. And the Scrap Exchange offers children's birthday parties that give kids a chance to create fun projects with their friends while teaching them about taking care of the planet.

The Resource Center in Chicago is another nonprofit organization that is encouraging creative re-use. Their Creative Reuse Warehouse finds rejects and by-products that local businesses treat as waste. The materials are donated to Chicago schools, service organizations, performance companies, and individual artists. It's a win-win situation for the CRW's donors and recipients—donors get a tax deduction, and recipients have materials to teach classes and present artwork that they may not have been able to afford otherwise.

Similar programs are available throughout the country. The Scroungers' Center for Reusable Art Parts has been in San Francisco since the 1970s, and it offers unique workshops where participants learn about different crafts and art techniques. And Creative Reuse Pittsburgh, a newcomer to creative re-use, collects reusable discards from businesses and other organizations in its region, offers hands-on creative arts programs, and hosts booths at local arts festivals.

A day at any creative re-use center might be a great way to become re-acquainted with the right side of your brain without the guilt of waste. Participating in the arts isn't just fun—it's beneficial. Art has been linked to developing critical thinking skills, persistence, and lightheartedness. Add that to the environmental benefits of places like The Scrap Exchange, and the lure of creative re-use centers is almost irresistible.

The American Enterprise Institute compares EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to Clint Eastwood and carbon polluters to criminals

Posted: 02 Oct 2009 10:41 AM PDT a bizarre pop-culture flip-flop, Kenneth Green of the American Enterprise Institute has compared the mild-mannered EPA administrator to Dirty Harry:

You can just see Jackson standing there with a .44 magnum in her hand, and a steely glint in her eye, telling industry "You've got to ask yourself one question, 'do I feel lucky?' Well, do ya, punk?"


Let me get this straight, the right-wing is now saying it's bad to be like Clint, the quintessential tough guy hero lionized by conservatives because he'll do whatever is needed to save human life?  That means Green is directly equating U.S. industry with the psychopathic serial killer and criminals that Clint fights in the iconic 1971 movie.

Well, logic was never a priority of Denier-Industrial-Complex Kooks (DICKs) like Green, who regularly spouts nonsense like, "We're back to the average temperatures that prevailed in 1978….  No matter what you've been told, the technology to significantly reduce emissions is decades away and extremely costly" — from a 2008 speech AEI later removed from their website (excerpts here).

In fact, Green's analogy makes no sense whatsoever since Jackson is simply obeying the command of the highest court in the land to regulate carbon pollution (see here).  Green entirely omits the fact that in 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court determined that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases were pollutants and that the EPA would have to regulate them if they were found to endanger public health and welfare.

So the only part of the analogy that makes sense is that deniers and delayers like Green oppose the rule of law — while Jackson is trying to enforce it.

Ironically, in its zealous quest to kill climate action, AEI has done another flip-flop.  Jackson proposes to start regulating only  "large industrial facilities that emit at least 25,000 tons of GHGs a year."  Jackson explained, "This is a common sense rule that is carefully tailored to apply to only the largest sources – those from sectors responsible for nearly 70 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions sources."  She told the Governors Climate Summit in Los Angeles, "we can begin reducing emissions from the nation's largest greenhouse gas emitting facilities without placing an undue burden on the businesses that make up the vast majority of our economy," adding, "The corner coffee shop is not a meaningful place to look for carbon reductions."

But Green doesn't believe in common sense — he urges big polluters to sue to make sure small businesses and farmers are regulated also:

For that matter, the large emitters would be wise to sue for this also, both to ensure that they're not the only ones disadvantaged by the EPA's actions, and to make manifest the insanity involved with EPA regulating greenhouse gases.

Note that for Green and the American Enterprise Institute, obeying the Supreme Court is "insanity." You don't have to be Dirty Harry to realize which side of the law he is on.

Fundamentally, Green wants to use the legal system to pervert the process.  And this scorched earth strategy is one the big polluters are threatening, too.  I'll end this post with an analysis — "It's Hard To Hide An Oil Refinery Behind a Donut Shop" — from David Doniger, Policy Director at NRDC's Climate Center, and former "director of climate change policy at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and, before that, counsel to the head of the EPA's clean air program":

Two years ago, the Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling that EPA has the authority and responsibility to use the existing Clean Air Act to cut dangerous global warming pollution.  And under President Obama, EPA is starting act.  Under the clean car peace treaty unveiled in the Rose Garden last March, Administrator Jackson has proposed nationwide global warming pollution standards for new cars and trucks, modeled on California's path-breaking standards.  And EPA is working on carbon limits for big power plants, oil refineries, cement plants, and other big factories responsible for most of our heat-trapping pollution.In a fairly desperate reaction, some of America's biggest polluters – led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Petroleum Refiners Association (NPRA), and others – are trying to scare America's small businesses owners into thinking it's them that the EPA is after.

If they force me to curb my pollution, the big boys say, they'll come after schools, homes, and hot dog stands.  No one is safe, they shout.  Be afraid.  Be very afraid.

But it's hard to hide an oil refinery behind a donut shop.

So what is EPA really doing?

Well, when EPA issues its final clean car standards next March, certain other things happen automatically under the Clean Air Act.  The most important is that when companies build or expand big pollution sources — power plants, oil refineries, or cement kilns, for example — they will have to install the "best available control technology" (BACT) for carbon dioxide and the other global warming pollutants.  This is nothing fancy.  It's what they've done for years for other dangerous pollutants like sulfur dioxide.

EPA is proposing to set "thresholds" – carbon pollution levels that separate big sources that will have to meet these requirements from small ones that will not.

This is a common sense concept that NRDC and other environmental groups proposed a more than a year ago.

But along come lawyers and spokesmen for the big boys arguing that EPA can't do that.  If you regulate any of us, you have to regulate all of us, down to the donut shop.

It's hostage taking.  We're gonna take everyone down with us.  Listen to Charles Drevna, of the National Petroleum Refiners Association:

"This proposal incorrectly assumes that one industry's greenhouse gas emissions are worse than another's," Drevna said. "Greenhouse gas emissions are global in nature, and are not isolated to a few select industries. The Clean Air Act stipulates unequivocally that the threshold to permit major sources is 250 tons for criteria pollutants.  EPA lacks the legal authority to categorically exempt sources that exceed the Clean Air Act's major source threshold from permitting requirements, and this creates a troubling precedent for any agency actions in the future."

EPA argues that it can set a different threshold – it has proposed 25,000 tons of carbon dioxide – to recognize that each power plant or other big source emits roughly 100 times more carbon dioxide than conventional pollutants like sulfur dioxide.  Accordingly, EPA says the proposed 25,000 ton threshold respects Congress's decisions about which big plants should have to install the best available control technology, and which small ones should not.  Congress, EPA contends, never wanted to treat mom and pop shops the same as the big boys.  In short, EPA argues that its new thresholds avoid absurd results and administrative nightmares.

The big boys' lawyers are getting ready to argue that EPA can't do this, that only Congress can change these threshold numbers.  They claim the courts will strike EPA's rule down.  But who'll bring that suit?  It won't be NRDC or any of the other environmental groups active in this fight.  And it's not clear that the big boys have "standing" – the kind of legal injury needed to take to take this complaint to court.  And the courts themselves have recognized the doctrines of avoiding absurd results and administrative nightmares..

So I'm betting on EPA.  And then, with small businesses safely shielded, the Chamber and NPRA will have no one to hide behind.

What's more likely is that Congress will clear this up well before the courts weigh in, by writing the EPA's thresholds into new comprehensive climate and energy legislation.  That's an idea with support from both environmental organizations and responsible companies.

Maybe I'm a dreamer, but it's never too late for the Chamber and its allies to stop the scare-mongering and join the effort to pass this new legislation.

Well, the Chamber's call for a 'Scopes monkey trial of the 21st century' worked out so well for them (see "Nike runs fast and loud from the incredible, shrinking U.S. Chamber Board over its global warming denial"), that if they want to pursue this lawsuit, which I suspect will be equally popular with their members, I say, "Go ahead, make my day!"

Great collection of Obama climate and clean energy quotes

Posted: 02 Oct 2009 10:30 AM PDT

For the source of this video — and for youth action — go here.

1000 mayors agree to reduce greenhouse gas emissions Los Angeles Times

Obama Pressured to Return to Copenhagen for Climate Talks Bloomberg

Will Carbon Capture & Storage (CCS) Conflict With Mineral ... Treehugger

Carbon may be grabbed out of air with new technologies China Post

Are the Governors Our Best Hope for the Climate? TIME

Climate Bill Signing 'Not Going to Happen' by Copenhagen -- Browner New York Times

Leaders From Indonesia, Brazil Join 3 US States in Deforestation ... New York Times

Bill McKibben: 'The most important number in the world' -- 3 of 3 National Catholic Reporter

Sens. Boxer, Kerry Brace for Delicate Talks as Climate Bill ... New York Times

Another Inconvenient Truth: The World's Growing Population Poses a ... Scientific American

A Flood of Solar Events and The Weekend Poll Washington Post

Saving energy may generate billions, study says Boston Globe

Climate Progress

Climate Progress

Energy and Global Warming News for October 2nd: Experts see Arctic warming decades faster than models predict; A plan to save rainforests gains international momentum

Posted: 02 Oct 2009 10:27 AM PDT

Experts see Arctic warming decades faster than models predict

When it comes to climate change, what happens in the Arctic doesn't stay in the Arctic.

The latest science suggests that warming in the far northern region will affect ocean currents and weather patterns around the world, said Nalân Koç, director of the Centre for Ice, Climate and Ecosystems at the Norwegian Polar Institute.

Koç is in Washington this week for a Capitol Hill briefing on the state of polar ice. But much of her attention right now is focused on upcoming U.N. climate talks in Copenhagen. She's leading an international group of scientists writing a report on the state of Arctic ice. Norway's foreign minister, Jonas Gahr Støre, and former U.S. Vice President Al Gore will officially release the scientific update at the U.N. negotiations.

The scientists, many of whom participated in an April conference organized by Støre and Gore, are still writing their report, which draws on science released since a 2007 U.N. Environment Programme report on the state of the world's ice and snow.

But Koç said that some themes are emerging from recent observations of Arctic ecosystems and scientific studies.

"We've observing changes that are happening much faster than the climate models have predicted," Koç said.

During the last four years, she said, the extent of Arctic summer sea ice has fallen below the average level recorded since 1979, when satellite measurements began. In fact, in 2007, sea ice hit a record low.

Climate models predicted a similar drop below the average, along with abrupt decreases like that seen in 2007 — but they projected that pattern wouldn't emerge for decades.

"These events have happened 30 years ahead of time," Koç said….

She cited a recent study by scientists at Rutgers University and the University of Delaware, which concluded that Arctic thaw has the potential to alter weather patterns throughout the Northern Hemisphere. Much of North America, including Alaska, and northern Europe would become drier than normal. The western and central Mediterranean and Japan would become wetter than normal.

"It's all connected," Koç said. "There are no walls on the Arctic."

A plan to save rainforests gains international momentum

… negotiators have made steady progress on the plan, known by its acronym REDD, which stands for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation.

The underlying concept seems simple at first glance. Industrialized countries pay to lock carbon into developing nations' forests. The money, if directed as intended, would provide a long-absent motive for local landowners and indigenous populations to abstain from clear-cutting their trees to create ranches, plantations and farms. Conservationists hope it will save the rainforests where decades of other efforts have fallen short.

"We have to value forests when they are alive and standing. Presently, we only value them when they're dead," Conrad told reporters yesterday. He spoke after a high-level meeting at the United Nations yesterday, attended by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and key world leaders.

A deal with appeal to rich and poor nations

… REDD is powerful because it is one of the quickest and cheapest available options for slowing the trajectory of rising temperatures in the atmosphere. Deforestation causes nearly 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, the equivalent of the world's entire transport sector. Indonesia and Brazil are, respectively, the world's third- and fourth-largest emitting nations. In Brazil, deforestation is responsible for 70 percent of emissions.

"Protecting tropical forests is one of the most affordable ways to reduce climate pollution," Glenn Hurowitz, Washington director of the nonprofit Avoided Deforestation Partners.

According to figures cited at the U.N. meeting, a ballpark of $22 billion to 36 billion dollars of global investment in REDD by 2015 — a relatively small amount in the grand climate financing scheme — could cut global deforestation rates by a quarter.

That low cost is a big carrot for the United States. At a bargain price of about $5 a ton, REDD credits could either slash expenses in meeting emissions targets or afford lawmakers the flexibility to propose more lofty aims. For example, the cost of the climate legislation passed by the House, sponsored by Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Edward Markey (D-Mass.), would rise by 89 percent without its international offset options, most of which would come from tropical forest projects, U.S. EPA estimated…..

Brazil and the United States are the two countries with perhaps the most at stake in the answers. High-level leaders of the former were notably absent from yesterday's meeting and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, on the program to attend, did not come due to a scheduling conflict.

Brazil has sovereignty worries

For years, Brazil's leaders, fearful of ceding sovereignty over its own lands, opposed any discussion of tropical deforestation in climate negotiations. But since 2003, the country has reversed that attitude and has also promised to slash its forestry emissions by an impressive 80 percent by 2020, with the help of a $1 billion investment from Norway.

After: "Slash and burn" farming techniques turn forests into ash and rubble for relatively short-term economic gains.

The Amazon nation, however, has big reservations about sharing the fruits of its efforts by offering credits on a market, which could ultimately give the United States a free pass to make fewer of its own sacrifices. Instead, it wants to receive most of its funds outright to meet its own goals, although even that stance is slipping as powerful state leaders push Brazil's leadership for access to open markets, said Hurowitz of Avoided Deforestation Partners.

Less powerful countries are also pushing back. The Coalition for Rainforest Nations, a bloc of 32 countries, including Indonesia and Guyana, wants developed nations to fund two successive REDD start-up phases. These would help individual countries build the capacity to create, measure and verify legitimate forest carbon projects, according to Federica Bietta, deputy director of the coalition, which Conrad heads.

Ultimately, the coalition envisions a third phase, one that is key to the United States: credits sold to the market to offset buyers' emissions. This market approach, the coalition believes, would make it harder for a few countries to monopolize the wealth.

And African nations in the Congo Basin, which have so far maintained more of their forests, don't want to be left out of the pool. That may eventually require a different payment plan to reward landowners despite their low historic deforestation rates. "The Copenhagen process must not leave precious forests like the Congo Basin unprotected just because it is not so-called 'high risk,'" wrote Denis Sassou Nguesso, president of the Republic of the Congo, in an op-ed in the Boston Globe this week..

Such insurance will also prevent loggers and ranchers from getting visas and moving to new nations where they can still slash and burn. This is a prospect several small island nations, slated to disappear off the map as sea level rises, fear the most.

… Depending on its structure, a forest payment plan could allow major emitters, such as Brazil, to adopt binding emissions targets financed in part by international funds.. Smaller nations, such as Papua New Guinea and many African countries, meanwhile, could use the aid to prove they are contributing what they can to global goals.

And because U.S. businesses so desperately want the cost savings of offset credits, the scheme gives tropical nations leverage to push the United States to adopt more stringent emissions targets. Brazil, for example, has signaled that it plans to do exactly this, said Hurowitz. That dynamic tension could even nudge along a U.S. deal with China, said Environmental Defense Fund counsel Petsonk…..

The pending U..S. legislation does look promising. The Waxman-Markey bill would offer 5 percent of annual emissions revenues to fund extra emissions reductions through tropical forest projects, and would also permit up to 2 billion tons a year of offsets. And yesterday, dozens of prominent U.S. ecologists wrote to President Obama, urging him to definitively link tropical forest conservation with his global climate mission.

But as with the broader negotiations, progress is slow. "So far, it's all talk. There is no REDD," said the Environmental Defense Fund's tropical forest policy director, Steve Schwartzman. But he said efforts to change that over the next few months look promising. "You can really see some light at the end of the tunnel."

India takes a climate pledge, finds Senate's climate target 'measly'

Indian Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh slammed the U.S. Senate's newly proposed greenhouse gas emission targets as "measly" yesterday even as he outlined broad plans for India to reduce its own levels of carbon dioxide.Calling his proposal "per capita-plus" to build on a promise Indian leaders have made that the country's per-person emissions would never exceed those of industrialized nations, Ramesh said India may be ready to impose domestic legislation mandating that energy intensity declines at least 5 percent by 2020; building efficiency standards by 2012; and mandatory fuel economy standards by 2011.

"India, unfortunately, for some strange reason is portrayed as a stumbling block to Copenhagen," where nations hope to hammer out a global emissions deal in December, Ramesh said. "We are not going to be a deal breaker at Copenhagen."

Speaking at a forum sponsored by Yale University, Ramesh also noted that the cap-and-trade legislation introduced by Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) on Wednesday calls for reducing emissions 20 percent from 2005 levels in the coming decade. That's a more ambitious plan than one the House approved in June.

But when calculated from 1990 emission levels — the benchmark that India, Europe and many other countries prefer to use — Ramesh said America's plan calls for only a "mealy 5 percent reduction" in levels of CO2 output. Meanwhile, he added, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has recommended that wealthy nations cut emissions 25 to 40 percent below 1990 levels over the next 10 years.

"Compared to the IPCC recommendations, both the House bill and the Senate bill fall short," Ramesh said.

The comments come as delegates from hundreds of nations gather in Bangkok to work out the details of a new global emissions treaty. That agreement, which many had hoped would be sealed at the December U.N. summit in Copenhagen, is now looking unlikely. Leaders, meanwhile, are looking for a fallback — or, as some are calling it, a "Plan B."

That might wind up being a proposal in which nations put their domestic actions onto a type of registry or schedule that would somehow be held to international standards.. U.S. officials have been floating the idea this week in Bangkok, to the consternation of several environmental activists who say they worry the plan will not be the binding treaty many feel is critical to averting catastrophic global warming.

But U.S. climate envoy Todd Stern, speaking at the same forum, yesterday said that nations "need to move that way" and called a national schedule a "viable" option.

Stern indicated that India's proposal — which he called "a huge big step and a great start" — could fit into that type of framework.

An Indian emits 1.7 tons of carbon; an American, 23.5 tons

India has long argued that because it did not cause global warming — having only just begun to industrialize about 20 years ago — it should bear no responsibility for fighting it. Leaders routinely note that each Indian causes about 1.2 tons of CO2 emissions annually (the independent World Resources Institute think tank puts it slightly higher, at 1.7 tons), while the average American emits 23.5 tons.

Yet the country, with one of the fastest-growing economic engines in the world, also is seeing its bulk emissions skyrocket. A report prepared recently by several independent Indian groups found that the country's CO2 outpout will triple by 2030. The United States has called on fast-developing nations like India to avert what Stern calls the "unforgiving math of accumulated emissions."

India's leaders have steadfastly refused to accept any binding international targets as part of a global deal, and Ramesh emphasized that again yesterday..

"There is absolutely no change in India's international negotiating position," he said. "We are not in a position to take an internationally, legally binding cut."

He repeated a pledge the government has made in the past that India's per capita emissions will always remain lower than those of major industrialized nations. And IPCC Chairman Rajendra Pachauri, also speaking at the forum, defended India's position. While the world's atmosphere may not care about political notions like "per capita" versus bulk emissions, he argued, ethics also play a role….

Meanwhile, others at the panel said they were encouraged by India's proposed domestic plan of action. Reid Detchon, vice president for energy and climate at the U.N. Foundation — while not calling it an CO2 target — called it "a very constructive initiative" that essentially takes the same steps a country would take in order to implement an emissions cap.

And John Podesta, president of the liberal Center for American Progress, called the plan an important first step.

"Somehow we need to take those national commitments and find a formula to bind them internationally," he said.

Boxer: Climate Bill to Ease Energy Costs

Senate Democrats will initially devote 70 percent of the pollution allowances in their new climate measure to making it easier for people to pay their energy bills, Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman Barbara Boxer said in an interview to be aired Sunday on C-SPAN.

Boxer (D-Calif.) introduced legislation this week with Senate Foreign Relations Chairman John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) aimed at limiting U.S. greenhouse gas emissions nationwide. It would force any facility emitting at least 25,000 tons of carbon dioxide a year to obtain pollution permits. The bill does not indicate how these pollution allowances would be allocated, but Boxer said on C-SPAN's "Newsmakers" program that Democrats are prepared to give away allowances to make carbon-intensive commodities such as electricity more affordable.

"The vast majority of allowances will go to consumers to keep them whole," Boxer said.

An aide to the senator said the panel was still working on the precise language of the bill, so it was too early to say whether all of those allowances would be given away free. It probably will be modeled on the House-passed bill, which aids consumers by providing free allowances to local electricity distribution companies as well as low income consumer rebates and tax credits and other measures.

Boxer also acknowledged that the climate bill does not have enough votes to pass right now in the Senate, adding that she will work to change that. "We're gaining ground, but at this point I can't count to 60," she said. "But you just do your job and move forward."

To win votes, Kerry and Boxer have said they are willing to make compromises, and Boxer reiterated that in her interview, suggesting that the current target of reducing U.S. greenhouse gases 20 percent by 2020 compared with 2005 levels could change.

"I can't predict the end game," she said, adding that she is confident her panel will produce an ambitious bill but that it might change as it moves through the Senate. "This is the environment committee, not the pollution committee. . . . This should be the high-water mark."

Climate Change Threatens Brazilian Agriculture

A freak tornado and floods last month may be a harbinger of a troubled future for Brazilian farmers, who worry that climate change could severely disrupt production in one of the world's breadbaskets.

Rising temperatures, a shift in seasons, and extreme weather in coming decades are likely to cut output in some areas and wipe out crops entirely in others, experts say.

"Brazil is vulnerable. If we don't do anything, food production is at risk," says Eduardo Assad, an agronomist at the government's agriculture research institute, Embrapa.

At stake is a $250 billion farm industry, food for millions of poor and supplies to world markets of Brazil's major export crops such as soybeans and coffee.

Brazil is seeking a leadership role in global climate talks and says it will adopt targets on greenhouse gas emissions, after agreeing last year to slash Amazon deforestation in half. But it has been slow to research climate change, its impact and how Brazilian agriculture can adapt to the changes.

In the poor northeast region, sparse rains will diminish further and temperatures will rise by 3-4 degrees Celsius (5.4-7.2 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2050, compared to a 2 degree Celsius national and global average rise, according to Brazil's National Institute for Space Studies (INPE).

Higher temperatures threaten to wipe out staple foods, such as cassava, for millions of people in the region.

"The northeast will lose one-third of its economy if we do nothing," Environment Minister Carlos Minc told Reuters.

Big export crops are also likely to suffer, according to a study by Assad and Hilton Silveira Pinto, an agronomist at the University of Campinas in Sao Paulo state.

The report, completed in May, says by 2020 soy output will fall by 20 percent and coffee by 10 percent.

Brazil is the leading exporter of coffee, beef, soybeans, orange juice, and other farm products. Only one cash crop stands to gain: warmer temperatures will double the area suitable for sugar cane as early as 2020, Pinto and Assad say.

US Solar Industry to Challenge Tariff Ruling

The U.S. solar energy industry hopes to persuade Customs officials to reverse a decision to impose a 2.5 percent tariff on solar panel imports after more than two decades of duty-free trade in the product, an industry official said on Thursday.

"We're taking it very seriously and we will be responding. … The industry is in the process of preparing a challenge," said Rhone Resch, president of the Solar Energy Industries Association, whose members include both U.S. and foreign solar energy companies.

In the worst case scenario, U.S. importers of solar panels could face some $70 million in tariffs and penalties for product already imported this year.

The tariff comes at a time when concern about global climate change has prompted the United States and the European Union to push for deal with other leading developed countries and China to eliminate duties on environmental goods.

As the New York Times reported on Wednesday, the U.S. Custom service ruled in January a panel made by Trina Solar of China was a generator because it contains a diode that allows electric current to pass around shaded areas of the panel.

That ruling was a surprise because "all solar panels contain bypass diodes and have forever. It's a safety issue not to have them," one industry official said.

Although the ruling only applies to the Trina panel, it has implications for other manufacturers, he said.

The industry hopes it can persuade officials at U.S. Customs and Border Protection headquarters in Washington to overturn the ruling made by the New York office..

Misleading 'energy sprawl' study pollutes climate debate. In fact, clean energy protects our land while dirty energy destroys it.

Posted: 02 Oct 2009 05:31 AM PDT

A massive shift to clean energy is needed to stop one third of the planet's habited land from turning into a permanent Dust bowl and to stop several meters of sea level rise (see "Hell and High Water").  And unrestricted fossil energy use is "capable of wrecking the marine ecosystem and depriving future generations of the harvest of the seas" and, at the same time, it is expected to sharply increase Western wildfire burn area — as much as 175% by the 2050s.

But that doesn't stop really bad analysis from suggesting dirty energy somehow protects our land better for than clean energy, with wind supposedly 8 times as destructive as coal!  In fact, modern wind turbines are so tall that they take up very, very little land — allowing virtually all of the surrounding  land to be used for other purposes, including farming.

Guest debunker Dr. Matthew Wasson, Director of Programs for Appalachian Voices, notes "the habitat impact of the Mount Storm Wind Farm in the first image [below left] is assumed to be 25% greater than the impact of the 12,000 acre Hobet mountaintop removal mine in the second image (images are taken from the same altitude and perspective; the bright connect-the-dots feature in the windfarm image is the actual area disturbed)":

MtStorm2 Mount Mine Site from 9 miles

The rest of this post is a reprint of his entire analysis first published here.
As Congress was returning from the August recess, there wasn't much news about the climate bill. The only energy-related news breaking through the coverage of the rancorous health care debates and town-hall tea parties was a study on "energy sprawl" published by five staff members of the Nature Conservancy.

"Renewable Energy Needs Land, Lots Of Land" was the headline of an August 28th story on NPR about the study.

"Renewable technologies increase energy sprawl," was the headline summary on the journal Nature's website.

[Anti-climate action] Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, in an Op/Ed published in the Wall Street Journal, summed up the message that was heard by legislators and the public from the news coverage of the study:

"We're about to destroy the environment in the name of saving it."

The interesting thing about the news coverage is that none of it addressed the actual analysis. The study didn't actually measure the impacts of different energy technologies, but rather compiled estimates from a smattering of reports, fact sheets and brochures from government and industry sources in order to arrive at an acre-per-unit of energy figure for each energy technology. Those figures were then applied to the Energy Information Administration's modeling of four climate policy scenarios under consideration by Congress.

So the coverage was generated not by the study's results, but entirely by the assumptions that went into it about the relative impacts of renewable versus conventional energy technologies. Looking at the counter-intuitive findings (wind is 8 times as destructive as coal), it's no wonder that the media took such an interest.

To put those assumptions in perspective, the habitat impact of the Mount Storm Wind Farm in the first image is assumed to be 25% greater than the impact of the 12,000 acre Hobet mountaintop removal mine in the second image (images are taken from the same altitude and perspective; the bright connect-the-dots feature in the windfarm image is the actual area disturbed) — [see figures above].

"Garbage in, garbage out" is a concept most people are familiar with, but the problems with the "energy sprawl" study go farther than that.

When I taught a course in ecological modeling, we used a hypothetical study on acts of violence in industrialized countries to examine how you could generate any result you desire simply by choosing how to define an "act of violence." For instance, if you wanted to show that the French are the most violent industrialized society, you might define rude treatment by waiters as an act of violence. The study does something very similar, but worse – it fails to define a consistent measure of land-use impact across the various energy technologies it purports to compare. It's as though we defined "acts of violence" to include rude treatment only by French waiters, but not by German, English or American waiters.

While I won't get into detail of the math and science (a full analysis and response is in preparation), here are just a few of the jaw-dropping errors and assumptions that went into the study:

  • A 2 megawatt wind turbine is assumed to disturb between 100 and 120 acres of wildlife habitat (smell test: does it really make sense that one of those wind turbines you always see on television is disturbing more than 100 football fields worth of land?). These estimates were not from published studies, but from portions of brochures discussing the area required for ideal placement of a windfarm. Instead of using additional estimates from those same brochures that only 3-5% of that area is directly impacted, the study used vaguely-worded, unreferenced and unsupportable biological justifications to include the other 95-97% in their analysis.
  • The acreage impacts of coal mining, from Wyoming to Alabama, were extrapolated from one mine in Illinois, and apparently one other mine, though no location, details or references were provided. In the case of Appalachian mining, a casual examination of available data reveals that many – probably most – Appalachian mines exhibit a "landuse intensity" 5 to 10 times higher than either estimate used in the study.
  • The impacts of blowing up a mountain and dumping resulting toxic-laden waste into nearby valleys and streams is treated as a comparable disturbance to, say, being located several hundred yards away from a wind turbine. Worse, fragmentation of habitat (the category that increased wind's alleged impacts by 95-97%), was only considered for renewable technologies but not for nuclear and coal, despite a wealth of published studies showing fragmentation effects as much as five times greater than the footprint of a strip mine.

It's obvious that the authors of this study don't spend a lot of time thinking about coal mining (the fact that they refer to underground or deep mines as "pit" mines is revealing). That could partly explain the distorted picture the study gives of the impacts of coal mining, but the assumptions are so consistently weighted against renewable energy that it gets hard to ignore. If the pattern of assumptions so consistently tilted against renewables and in favor of coal and nuclear doesn't raise a red flag, consider the language used in the study. The EIA's "No International Offsets/Limited Alternatives" scenario, which would emphasize rapid expansion of renewable energy technologies (and which purportedly creates the most "energy sprawl"), was renamed the "Few Options" scenario by the authors. A real gem of a PR strategy from the group that came up with "energy sprawl."

As for the policy options that the study's results (and assumptions) favor, the "Core" scenario from the EIA's analysis of the Warner-Lieberman climate bill was renamed the "CCS" scenario – shorthand for carbon capture and storage. This could also represent a real tipping of the hand as to the policy priorities at the Nature Conservancy. That, in turn, would go a long way toward explaining the blind spot the Nature Conservancy possesses regarding the wholesale destruction of the most biologically diverse forests and streams on the continent through mountaintop removal coal mining. The fact that plants installing CCS will need to consume at least 15-30% more coal to produce the same amount of electricity (if and when CCS becomes available), would cause a little cognitive dissonance in anyone concerned about the environment but supportive of widespread CCS deployment.

What the study didn't look at

From the perspective of communities impacted by coal mining, a study on energy impacts that looked no further than the land area affected by mining was never going to carry much weight anyway. EPA biologist Gregory Pond, who published a study in 2008 showing the loss of entire orders of insects downstream from mountaintop removal mines, told the news media when the study was released:

While habitat degradation from mountaintop mining is what one sees on the surface, we found that chemical effects are quite pronounced and limit much of the expected biodiversity from what were once naturally rich, diverse Appalachian stream systems.

The most important factors in the "what the study doesn't look at" category, however, are the impacts of energy on people and communities. The thousands of people in Appalachia without access to clean and safe drinking water do not show up in the "energy sprawl" study's land impact estimates. The photo on the right of a child in Prenter, West Virginia, is the lead photo of a remarkable piece of reporting from the New York Times that provides a lot of insight into the awful tragedies faced daily by families in Appalachia who are forced to drink and bathe in water polluted with coal waste.

The authors of the "energy sprawl" study stated explicitly that aquatic and health issues are not what the study was about, and it wouldn't be fair to blame them for any failure to address those problems. It's the inevitable distortions of the study that do the most violence to those fighting for safe homes and clean drinking water in coal and uranium-bearing regions. The lead author addressed some of those distortions directly, shortly after Senator Alexander's "We're destroying the environment in the name of saving it" op-ed. Here are a few excerpts from his post on the Nature Conservancy's blog:

First, climate change is the big threat to America's wildlife (and to our communities). Severe climate change has the potential to imperil many more species than energy sprawl.
Moreover, we show in our paper that most of the energy sprawl from now to 2030 will happen regardless of whether or not there is a comprehensive climate bill. By far the largest amount of energy sprawl will come from biofuel production, driven by the renewable fuel standard and other laws already in place.

So I say to everyone writing or blogging about energy sprawl: If you are concerned about energy sprawl, then fight for energy efficiency!

The Nature Conservancy's tireless efforts to support energy efficiency, build awareness of climate change, and bring climate policy to the table deserve both thanks and respect. But the concept of "energy sprawl," now that it has been associated with such a distorted picture of the impacts of wind, solar, coal and nuclear technologies, adds nothing but confusion and false impressions to the debate over climate.

The study also does a lot of harm to those working to reduce the impacts of mining and to promote green jobs in their communities. "Nature Conservancy says wind and solar are more harmful than coal" is a talking point that will be repeated in mine permit hearings, utilities commission proceedings, letters to the editor and at coal rallies across the country for years into the future.

There is no way to repair the concept of "energy sprawl" at this point. Environmental and climate advocates would do well to strike that buzzword from their lexicons and literature entirely.

Burn this blog post after reading.

cross-posted with

Exclusive interview with Dr. Mojib Latif, the man who confused the NY Times and New Scientist, the man who moved George Will and math-challenged Morano to extreme disinformation

Posted: 01 Oct 2009 05:19 PM PDT

Memo to media and deniers: If your "global cooling" piece revolves around Dr. Latif, you probably have the entire story backwards. But, at least for deniers, that is the goal.

In an interview today, Dr. Latif told me "we don't trust our forecast beyond 2015″ and "it is just as likely you'll see accelerated warming" after then. Indeed, in his published research, rapid warming is all-but-inevitable over the next two decades. He told me, "you can't miss the long-term warming trend" in the temperature record, which is "driven by the evolution of greenhouse gases."  Finally, he pointed out "Our work does not allow one to make any inferences about global warming."

Latif's work can be baffling, but I mostly deciphered it on this blog in 2008 (see "Nature article on 'cooling' confuses media, deniers: Next decade may see rapid warming").   Latif's Nature study is consistent with the following statements:

  • The "coming decade" (2010 to 2020) is poised to be the warmest on record, globally..
  • The coming decade is poised to see faster temperature rise than any decade since the authors' calculations began in 1960.

Here is his Nature "forecast" in green ("Each point represents a ten-year centred mean" — more discussion at the end):


Now, with the caveat that Latif claims no "skill" in any forecast after 2015 — a caveat the media and deniers never print — as you can see, their model suggests we'll see pretty damn rapid warming in the coming decade, just as the Hadley Center did in a 2007 Science piece and just as the US Naval Research Lab and NASA recently predicted (see "Another major study predicts rapid warming over next few years — nearly 0.3°F by 2014").

How badly have the media [and deniers] botched this reporting unintentionally [and intentionally]?  Let's see:

World will 'cool for the next decade'

Three mistakes in one New Scientist headline from last month — a record, I suspect.  The headline would have been more accurate if it said, "World poised to see accelerated warming in the coming decade."

Then we have these multiply-misleading statements:

… global temperatures have been relatively stable for a decade and may even drop in the next few years….

Dr. Mojib Latif, a prize-winning climate and ocean scientist from the Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences at the University of Kiel, wrote a paper last year positing that cyclical shifts in the oceans were aligning in a way that could keep the next decade or so relatively cool, even as the heat-trapping gases linked to global warming continue to increase.

Those quotes from Revkin's recent piece are not what Latif's paper posited.  Revkin's entire thesis is wrong, as I showed here.  Global temperatures have been rising measurably for decades.  My extended interview with Latif makes clear just how inappropriate it is to use his work to make the case we are headed into a decade or more of being "relatively cool."  At the very least, we are going to stay relatively hot.  But you could just as easily — and more accurately — use his work to make the case that we are headed into a decade or more of rapid warming.  He models only "internal fluctuations" around the overall anthropogenic warming trend, so if warming seems to stall for a few years, it must catch up to the long-term trend, sometimes quite rapidly.

[And I just noticed Revkin's use of the word "linked."  C'mon, status quo media!  That would be like saying South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford was "linked" to an Argentinian woman.  They had a torrid affair, and heat-trapping gases cause global warming.  That's why they're called "heat trapping gases"!  But I digress.]

George Will quoted Revkin's error-riddled piece and then compounded the mistakes with a few outright falsehoods:

In the fifth paragraph, a "few years" became "the next decade or so," according to Mojib Latif, a German "prize-winning climate and ocean scientist" who campaigns constantly to promote policies combating global warming. Actually, Latif has said he anticipates "maybe even two" decades in which temperatures cool.

No, Latif does not "anticipate" maybe even two decades of cooling.  He doesn't even predict it.  Again, as Latif will happily tell anyone who asks, "my only forecast is to 2015."

The non-existent fact-checkers of the Washington Post could not even be bothered to click on the link they inserted, which doesn't even contain the phrase "maybe even two"!  Will just made up the quote.  And the link is to an editorial of Investors Business Daily [IBD] which is roughly equivalent to an editorial in the Wall Street Journal as a source for climate facts.

And then we have the outright lies of the Swift boat smearer.  In his never ending quest to destroy both a livable climate and the English language, the uber-disinformer and self-acknoweldged performance artist Marc Morano actually wrote:

Why does Eilperin fail to note that a top UN IPCC scientist, Mojib Latif of Kiel University in Germany told a UN conference earlier this month that he is now predicting global cooling for several decades and he admitted he was unsure how much the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) had impacted global temperatures in the past three decades.

So now Latif is "predicting global cooling for several decades" although the link to that assertion goes to Morano's own screamingly inaccurate headline:

UN Fears (More) Global Cooling Commeth! IPCC Scientist Warns UN: We are about to enter 'one or even 2 decades during which temps cool'

For Marc not-a-mathlete Morano, "one or even 2″ is the equivalent of "several."  For Morano, even basic math and simple word choice is twisted beyond the bounds of reason.  No doubt in the next version of the children's game of Telephone that Morano plays with himself, he'll claim that Latif is predicting a century of cooling.

But Morano's false headline — and Will's false statement — all derive from the link Morano provides to … yes, another New Scientist story — the origin of a lot of this confused Latif nonsense, which begins:

Forecasts of climate change are about to go seriously out of kilter.

One of the world's top climate modellers said Thursday we could be about to enter one or even two decades during which temperatures cool.

How is it possible that a scientist who says that he doesn't have faith in the skill or accuracy of his projections after 2015 can constantly be quoted as predicting the future over the next one or even two decades?  Two reasons.

First, as "The Way Things Break" explained at length, "This was not an explicit prediction by Latif — it was a hypothetical scenario that is a real, if not necessarily likely, possibility."

Hypothetically, it could happen — hypothetically, monkeys could fly out of my butt — but Latif was most certainly not predicting it.

How do I know?  I asked him, something that has gone out of fashion.

Again, Latif simply doesn't make predictions beyond 2015.  As he told me, his model has "no skill" after that, which is to say it has no accuracy, and so "my only forecast is to 2015."  Indeed, he told me "I can't really predict two decades in the future."

Their model has nothing whatsoever to do with anthropogenic global warming, and so it has no bearing whatsoever on the long-term temperature trend.  They do model internal ocean-driven fluctuations around that trend, but if the temperature rise stalls for any length of time, the major impact is that subsequently, the temperature rise accelerates.

Second, there is another source of confusion.  Let's look in more detail at the paper's key figure, the one that looks at past and (forecast) future global temperatures, "Hindcast/forecast decadal variations in global mean temperature, as compared with observations and standard climate model projections" (click to enlarge)


Let me once again try to explain this complicated figure.

The first thing to know about the figure — indeed, one major source of confusion — is that "each point represents a ten-year centred mean." That is, each point represents the average temperature of the decade starting 5 years before that point and ending 5 years after that point.

Second, the red line is the actual global temperature data from the UK's Hadley Center for Climate Prediction and Research. Why does the red line stop in 1998 and not 2007? Again, it is a running 10-year mean, and the authors use data from a Hadley paper that ends around 2003 (I believe), so they can't do a ten-year centered mean after 1998.

Third, the black line is one of the IPCC scenarios, A1B. It is a relatively high-CO2-growth model — but actual carbon emissions since 2000 have wildly outpaced it (see here).

Fourth, the solid green line is the "hindcast" of the authors — how well their model compares to actual data (and the A1B scenario). It is then extended (in dashes) through 2010 and finally to 2025, where it meets up with A1B, since their model only imposes decadal variability on the inexorable climb of human-caused global warming.

[Fifth, the short purple line is with radiative forcing (i.e greenhouse gas concentrations) frozen at 2000 levels, which, of course, didn't happen.]

So you can clearly see that the green line rises and then plateaus, repeatedly, until it really starts to take off in the decade of the 2010s. Perhaps the source of much of the media's confusion is that the authors describe their results in the final line of the abstract this way:

Our results suggest that global surface temperature may not increase over the next decade, as natural climate variations in the North Atlantic and tropical Pacific temporarily offset the projected anthropogenic warming.

But what they mean by that statement is not what a simple reading of that sentence would suggest: They do not mean that "the global surface temperature may not increase over the next ten years starting now." What they mean is what the lead author, Dr. Noel Keenlyside, wrote me [in 2008] when I asked for a clarification:

Thus, based on our results we don't expect an increase in the mean temperature of the next decade (2005-2015).

They are predicting no increase in average temperature of the "next decade" (2005 to 2015) over the previous decade, which, for them, is 2000 to 2010! And that's in fact precisely what the figure shows — that the 10-year mean global temperature centered around 2010 is the roughly the same as the mean global temperature centered around 2005.

The authors have not predicted the next 10 years won't see any warming. They have, however, offered an explanation for why temperatures have not risen very much in recent years, and, perhaps, why ocean temperatures have also not risen very much in the past few years (see here). Dr. Keenlyside continues:

However, as you correctly point out, our results show a pick up in global mean temperature for the following decade (2010-2020). Assuming a smooth transition in temperature, our results would indicate the warming picks up earlier than 2015.

Again, at that point, Dr. Keenlyside reiterates the disclaimer that this analysis can't be used for year-by year predictions. Indeed, he notes that his main conclusion is not really quantitative, but qualitative:

Given the uncertainties that exist in such kinds of preliminary studies, I believe it is more useful to point out that climate on decadal timescales may be quite different from that expected only considering external radiative forcing (as in the IPCC). This is actually an obvious, but I believe mostly overlooked fact. Our results highlight this.

I would add two points. First, as you can clearly see in the figure — the actual observed runnning average temperatures from the Hadley Center since 1995 have been between the IPCC scenario projection and Dr. Keenlyside's forecast, which does suggest that his model may be underestimating warming. Indeed, the lack of agreement between the model's "hindcast" and actual temperatures since 1995 should remind us again to view this only as a very preliminary analysis with predictive ability that is much more qualitative than quantitative.

Second, this general prediction — internal variability leading to slower than expected warming in recent years through 2010, followed by accelerated warming — is almost exactly the same prediction that the Hadley Center made last summer in Science (see here). They concluded:

… at least half of the years after 2009 predicted to exceed the warmest year currently on record.

… [2014 will] "be 0.30° ± 0.2°C warmer than the observed value for 2004."

Similarly, the US Naval Research Lab and NASA just predicted in a new Geophysical Research Letters study (see "here"):

From 2009 to 2014, projected rises in anthropogenic influences and solar irradiance will increase global surface temperature 0.15 ±0.03 °C, at a rate 50% greater than predicted by IPCC.

So I take all three of these admittedly preliminary short-term forecasts to suggest that warming is going to be a roller coaster ride, with much short-term variation, but we are probably going to get quite hot quite fast early in the 2010s.

One final caveat: After reading my first draft of the 2008 post (which I subsequently revised), Dr. Keenlyside wrote me, "All our figures are decadal means, and it is hard to say (due to high frequency internal variability) at which point [after 2010] a rapid increase will occur." That is, his study does not necessarily predict the rapid warming will actually start, in say, 2011, though his results are not inconsistent with that possibility. He reiterates that his paper is not designed to make such detailed year-by-year predictions. Indeed, the paper was designed to show that any such predictions are complicated by decadal-scale climate factors.

So I think it is quite safe to say that:

  1. The work of Dr. Latif and Dr. Keenlyside in Nature "does not allow one to make any inferences about anthropogenic global warming," as Dr. Latif put it to me.
  2. Their work has no forecasting skill after 2015.  Indeed, Latif told me "we don't trust our forecast beyond 2015."
  3. Dr. Latif is not making any predictions about what will happen after 2015 — other than that the long-term temperature warming trend driven by anthropogenic GHGs will continue and that the near-term temperature trend must catch up with the long-term trend, likely during a period of rapid warming.
  4. Reporters are going to keep getting this wrong.
  5. Deniers are going to keep getting pretty much everything wrong.

Latif told me that at the request of the NYT, he submitted an op-ed to clarify his work.  That will clear things up once and for all.  Or not.

As a great sage once said, "Anyone who isn't confused here doesn't really know what's going on."

UPDATE: More from Deep Climate:  anatomy-of-a-lie-how-morano-and-gunter-spun-latif-out-of-control and here.

A climate wish list on China's 60th birthday

Posted: 01 Oct 2009 01:47 PM PDT

Today's guest reposting is by CAP's Julian L. Wong author of "Peaking Duck: Beijing's Growing Appetite for Climate Action."  In the photo, Chinese workers prepare decorations ahead of the 60th National Day celebrations in Beijing, China.

This week marks the 60th anniversary of the People's Republic of China. The first 30-year phase was one of revolution, marked by one bloody internal purge after another, but the next 30-year phase was one of pragmatism, which underpinned economic and social reform leading to unrivaled rates of economic growth.

China now finds itself at a crossroads. As the country struggles to come to terms with its imminent status as a global superpower, it is staring in the face of vast, systemic resource challenges. China faces a triple threat to its energy, water, and food security, and there is one common thread: climate change.

In the case of energy, an overexploitation of coal—and increasingly oil—to fuel its economic expansion is the root cause of rapid growth of greenhouse gas emissions. The resulting change in climate is in turn altering precipitation patterns, leading to flash floods in some areas but exacerbating droughts in large parts of others, an urgent predicament for a many land-locked regions that are already water-scarce. Such water scarcity, together with noxious acid rain caused by fossil fuel combustions, will in turn choke off agricultural productivity, threatening future food supplies.

This food-water-energy "trilemma" will threaten physical security and disrupt economic and social stability, which is the very foundation of the China Communist Party's authority. Beijing fully grasps these implications and has turned its stance from one of climate denier to that of an emerging frontrunner in climate action in just a few years. Few noticed in 2007 when President Hu Jintao espoused the goal of creating an "ecological civilization" that strikes harmony between man and nature. It would be easy to chalk this up as just another example of the central government's colorful slogans. Yet, action has followed rhetoric.

China has embarked on some of the world's most aggressive energy efficiency, renewable energy development and reforestation programs through its landmark National Climate Change Program of 2007. Over the five-year period ending 2010, it plans to reduce its energy consumption per unit of its gross domestic product by 20 percent, obtain 10 percent of its primary energy from non-fossil fuel sources such as wind, solar, and hydropower, and bulk up its carbon sinks by increasing forest cover to 20 percent.

What's more, President Hu has just announced intentions for China to reduce carbon emissions per unit of GDP from 2005 levels by a "notable margin" by 2020. Recognizing the strategic job-creating opportunities of innovating, manufacturing, deploying and disseminating the clean-energy technologies of the future, President Hu also pledged to transform China into a "green economy, low-carbon economy and circular economy."

China's tide of Western-style development will still be difficult to stem. When I visited Beijing earlier this month with a delegation from the Center for American Progress, both State Councilor Dai Bingguo and Vice Chairman Xie Zhenhua of the National Reform and Development Commission assured us that China would not take the traditional energy-intensive development path. Yet even with its lofty green goals, it is difficult to imagine how it has not already.

China is already the world's biggest market for building construction and automobile sales.. This situation is unlikely to change. China is witnessing the largest scale of human migration in the history of civilization, with 350 million rural residents moving to the city by 2030. And this urbanization is coming with a shift in emphasis from exports to domestic consumption as an engine of future economic growth.

China will have to take at least three major steps to truly develop a green, low-carbon and circular economy:

1. Show bold, visionary leadership to set China on a long-term path to reduce absolute emissions, not just emissions per unit of GDP.

China believes that the West needs to take the lead to solve the problem that it created when it comes to climate change and emissions reductions. This position is understandable, but China must acknowledge that in reality it cannot wait for others to look out for what is in its own interests. World leaders continue to work out the complex structures for international climate financing and technology transfer, while the science urgently requires a collective reduction in emissions as soon as possible. If China is serious about its July commitment to limit global temperature rise to 2°C, it has to follow up on recent indications of willingness to act by accordingly fixing a future date and level at which its carbon emissions peak and subsequently decline.

2. Develop tools to help the country achieve this bold new vision.

China needs to continue to strengthen its accountability mechanisms and create channels for increased information flow to ensure that its national plans are implemented locally. The government can meaningfully engage and mobilize civil society groups as partners, rather than treat them as annoyances, to facilitate the measurable, reportable, and verifiable implementation of government actions. Such partnerships might include crafting purposeful campaigns targeted at the business community and citizens to educate them about the comprehensive benefits of creating a clean energy economy. The central government has already demonstrated progress in these areas by, for instance, increasing penalties for false statistical reporting and enacting a law on open government information, but it can do more.

3. Collaborate with the international community in a comprehensive manner.

Cooperation with the international community should not focus merely on joint research, development, and deployment on important carbon abatement technologies. China and the United States, for instance, can enhance trading relationships and unlock vast, lucrative markets for technology commercialization in both countries by coordinating on reducing barriers to market access, such as high tariffs on clean-energy technologies and restrictive foreign investment policies. Jointly building capacity for real-time emissions, monitoring and reporting, and enhancing efforts in energy modeling and simulation can greatly inform energy and climate policymakers. Climate collaboration opportunities exist even on the military-to-military level—coordination in disaster relief activities and in addressing other non-traditional security threats posed by climate change can yield mutually beneficial learning and capacity-building results.

Addressing climate change will be the fundamental challenge for China over its next 60 years. It will give China an opportunity to combine central elements of its historical development—a new low-carbon vision that is revolutionary in its transformation, but also pragmatic in its approach to enable a real and measurable low-carbon reform. The best birthday gift the international community can give to China is to walk with it hand-in-hand down this low-carbon path through the adoption of robust domestic climate measures and by forging ahead to build consensus on a sound global climate deal at the United Nations climate change conference in Copenhagen and beyond.

For more information, see:

This article was originally published in China Dialogue.

Memo to George Will, WashPost: When you quote someone who is wrong, even if it is the NYT's Andy Revkin, then you're wrong, too

Posted: 01 Oct 2009 10:57 AM PDT

The reason why big league journalists have to try much harder than they have been to get the climate story right is that when they get it wrong, it opens the door for the deniers to quote them and glom on to their (supposed) higher credibility, dragging the journalists down to their level in the process. latest media version of the children's game Telephone is uber-denier George Will quoting Andy Revkin.  I and others thoroughly debunked the latest piece of misanalysis from the one-time paper of record — NYT's Revkin pushes global cooling myth (again!) and repeats outright misinformation.  In particular, I showed that Revkin's primary source, the UK's Met Office found "the past 10 years has seen only a 0.07°C increase in global average temperature" — a 0.13°F increase — more than 10 times the rate of warming Revkin asserted in the original version of his piece and around which he based almost his entire argument that temperatures had plateaued.

In fact, NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), which I have argued is a better temperature record, finds a 0.19°C (0.34°F) warming over the past decade (see Deep Climate for details).  Indeed, the GISS data shows that the 2000s, easily the hottest decade in recorded history by far, warmed much faster than the 1990s (which had been the hottest decade in recorded history).

That is not a plateau — and it certainly isn't cooling.  Temperatures are, if anything, accelerating — but not in a monotonic fashion.  The facts, however, have never gotten in the way of George Will and the fact-checkers fib-approvers of the Washington Post (see "Memo to Post: If George Will quotes a lie, it's still a lie" and "The Post, abandoning any journalistic standards, lets George Will publish a third time global warming lies debunked on its own pages"), who published yet another mistake-riddled, disinformation-pushing piece, "Cooling Down the Cassandras," which opens by quoting the erroneous NYT headline and lede:

Plateau in Temperatures
Adds Difficulty to Task
Of Reaching a Solution
– New York Times, Sept. 23

In this headline on a New York Times story about the difficulties confronting people alarmed about global warming, note the word "plateau." It dismisses the unpleasant — to some people — fact that global warming is maddeningly (to the same people) slow to vindicate their apocalyptic warnings about it.

The "difficulty" — the "intricate challenge," the Times says — is "building momentum" for carbon reduction "when global temperatures have been relatively stable for a decade and may even drop in the next few years." That was in the Times's first paragraph.

As one of my physics professors at MIT used to say of such nonsense, "Precise, but inaccurate."

I am not going to debunk this again, although I am going to return to this cooling nonsense later today.  I wrote above that Revkin "based his entire argument that temperatures had plateaued" around the original misquoting of the Met Office.  Revkin did rely on one other source, Mojib Latif, a scientist that Will also quotes — and misquotes.  I interviewed Dr. Latif today, and he confirmed my interpretation of his work — and made some very strong statements about the misuse of his findings — which is to say that Revkin didn't get it right and Will got it very, very wrong.

For now let me note two other inanities in Will's piece:

Warnings about cataclysmic warming increase in stridency as evidence of warming becomes more elusive. A recent report from the United Nations Environment Program predicts an enormous 6.3 degrees Fahrenheit increase by the end of the century even if nations fulfill their most ambitious pledges concerning reduction of carbon emissions. The U.S. goal is an 80 percent reduction by 2050. But Steven Hayward of the American Enterprise Institute says that would require reducing greenhouse gas emissions to the 1910 level. On a per capita basis, it would mean emissions approximately equal to those in 1875.

That will not happen. So, we are doomed. So, why try?

Yes, the new delayer two-step, dancing straight from denying the problem to saying it can't be solved.

I wonder what the per capita use of slide rules is today — probably well below 1910 levels.  And what is the average U.S. household's horse ownership per capita?  I'm guessing that would be pre-Columbian levels.

In fact, the United States is going to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80% by 2050 levels either proactively starting with the passage of a climate bill in the next several months or desperately starting some time after that.

America needs a national commission appointed to assess the evidence about climate change. Alarmists will fight this because the first casualty would be the carefully cultivated and media-reinforced myth of consensus — the bald assertion that no reputable scientist doubts the gravity of the crisis, doubts being conclusive evidence of disreputable motives or intellectual qualifications.

This is the same as the luddite U.S. Chamber of Commerce seeking "the Scopes monkey trial of the 21st century" on global warming — except Will is smart enough not to ape the Chamber by bringing up Scopes.

In fact, back in 2001, Bush tried this commission trick as a delaying tactic.  He asked for a report by the National Research Council (NRC), which reported:

"Greenhouse gases are accumulating in Earth's atmosphere as a result of human activities, causing surface air temperatures and subsurface ocean temperatures to rise. Temperatures are, in fact, rising. The changes observed over the last several decades are likely mostly due to human activities… "The IPCC's conclusion that most of the observed warming of the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations accurately reflects the current thinking of the scientific community on this issue."

Now it's eight years later, and the evidence is even stronger.  As the Union of Concerned Scientists writes today:

But, oddly, Will ends his column with a suggestion: "America needs a national commission appointed to assess the evidence about climate change."


Will seems not to be reading his own paper. As Union of Concerned Scientists climate scientist Brenda Ekwurzel wrote in a Washington Post letter to the editor, "Mr. Will should take a look at the federal government's recent report 'Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States' to find out the facts."

If Will had read the report, which was produced by a consortium of scientists at 13 federal agencies and several major universities and research institutes, he would have found among its key findings:

Global warming is unequivocal and primarily human-induced. Climate changes are underway in the United States and are projected to grow. Widespread climate-related impacts are occurring now and are expected to increase. The amount and rate of future climate change depend primarily on current and future human-caused emissions of heat-trapping gases and airborne particles.

But Will only reads the New York Times, not actual scientific reports — and that is not much better than playing the children's game of Telephone.

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