Saturday, October 10, 2009
- GM agrees to sell Hummer to Tengzhong, but will Chinese regulators kill the deal? Meanwhile, Saturn dies.
- Natural Fusion at Work in the Solar Decathalon
- PG&E CEO: We left Chamber Of Commerce because they lied to us about climate policy; Chu says "it's wonderful" companies are fleeing the Chamber
- Energy and Global Warming News for October 9: Granhom brings 160,000 clean energy jobs to hard-hit Michigan
Posted: 10 Oct 2009 07:55 AM PDT
When we last left GM, they were pursuing buyers for Hummer and Saturn (see "GM in talks to seel Hummer to China — the second mistake by those clueless new owners?"). So of course, the smaller-car brand dies, but the 7,000-pound gas guzzlers live. WashPost reports:
Seriously, $150 million? As I wrote back in June:
But WashPost buried the lede:
The Hummer sale story isn't really news — but if Chinese regulators actually stopped the acquisition, that would be quite a story, though perhaps not an utter shocker (see "China begins transition to a clean-energy economy").
I wrote back in June:
This sale is unjustifiable at $150 million. Let's hope the Chinese government is smarter than ours.
Posted: 10 Oct 2009 05:28 AM PDT
Part 1 was an intro to the Solar Decathalon, a contest for innovative, high-tech, high-efficiency, solar-powered homes, which is open to the public in DC from October 9-13 and 15-18. In this reposting, guest blogger A. Siegel focuses on one finalist. For in-depth discussion of all the others, go to his website Get Energy Smart! NOW!!!
No, we're not speaking about Cold Fusion, but Penn State's entry into the DOE Solar Decathlon, which opens Friday on the Mall in Washington, DC. Let's take a look at some of Natural Fusion's features from its website, which is dynamic, enabling rapid connection of concepts and approaches with the home's physical layout.
Landscaping This a good spot to pick up the dynamic nature of the website and the value of that 'mapping' of features. Penn State has a rather vibrant-looking landscaping, well-described and considered. They describe it as follows:
The landscaping has these separate components:
It is an impressive line-up in what might be thought of as very limited space, not even counting the herb garden on the wall in the kitchen, but let's call attention to two:
Sadly, it will be difficult to get the full feeling of calm provided by the planting amid thousands visiting the house, but Natural Fusion's landscaping seems to be a top notch contender based on web descriptions. (By the way, re web, this is a good example of the difficulties of the site's design: moving the mouse just a little leads to lost / changed descriptions and, while it might exist, a combined (full) listing of all the landscapting wasn't apparent to this reader.)
Some Energy COOL Technologies / Approaches
Every one of the Solar Decathlon entrants incorporates some mix Energy COOL technologies and approaches. Let's take a look at a few of Penn State's.
Now, what will this one-of-a-kind (first of a kind?) Natural Fusion home going to cost you? Well, the budget without a penny for labor (or inspections or …) was $190,460 for a small living space … But, hold it, that isn't the estimated price for production models. This provides a "build your own" option. Going top-of-the-line, across the board, turned the base-line $41,000, 675 square foot house, into a $166,750 leading edge renewable energy home. Hmmm …
If interested, Natural Fusion is running a live monitoring system. At the time that I looked, 4:09 pm, Tuesday, 6 Oct, it was generating .1 kw …
Posted: 09 Oct 2009 01:15 PM PDT
You just can't keep up with all the news about the nano-Chamber of Commerce. But here are the key points:
Posted: 09 Oct 2009 11:36 AM PDT
The WashPost of course didn't use my headline, since for them, every silver lining has a cloud. Obviously Michigan has had massive job losses in the auto industry, but how exactly does that translate into a "yellow light" for green jobs, except as a too-cute play on words at the expense of the real story: Granholm has done her best to embrace the fastest growing source of new jobs in the nation and the world — clean energy jobs. It's hard to hold her responsible for the incompetence and shortsightedness of the US auto industry, whose collapse has been decades in the making, but she clearly deserves a lot of the credit for making Michigan hospitable to clean energy industries.
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"We have great bones as a state," she says. "We know how to build stuff. We will build on that strength and diversify this economy. We will lead the nation in creating jobs in renewable energy. We're not going to be viewed as Luddites."
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Friday, October 9, 2009
- Obama wins Nobel Peace Prize in part because "the USA is now playing a more constructive role in meeting the great climatic challenges the world is confronting." Looks like he'll be going to Copenhagen after all!
- Solar Decathalon 2009 Innovations, Part 1: Integrated Site Design
- Is it just too damn late? Part 1, the Science
- Twitter petition to thank Apple for quitting Chamber over climate change
- The Invention of Lying about Climate Change
- Wall Street Journal puzzled by a climate, clean energy and security bill that achieves multiple benefits
Obama wins Nobel Peace Prize in part because "the USA is now playing a more constructive role in meeting the great climatic challenges the world is confronting." Looks like he'll be going to Copenhagen after all!
Posted: 09 Oct 2009 06:06 AM PDT
In a stunning announcement (full text below), "The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009 is to be awarded to President Barack Obama for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples."
Obama won, in part, for reversing the immoral efforts of the Cheney-Bush administration to block and subvert international climate negotiations:
We already knew that "Obama was willing to attend Copenhagen climate talks," if he were invited. In an exclusive interview, Andrew Light, Center for American Progress Senior Fellow and an expert on international climate talks, explained to CP that now, effectively, he has been:
Light coordinates CAP's participation in the Global Climate Network, focusing on international climate change policy and the future of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. He is also director of the Center for Global Ethics at George Mason University. He adds some historical perspective:
While some may argue that this award is premature, I disagree. This is a clear statement by the Nobel Committee not merely of the importance of US multilateralism to genuine progress toward global peace, but also of their understanding that climate change has become a critical international issue.
Unrestricted emissions of GHGs represent perhaps the gravest, preventable threat to future world peace — a growing source of future strife, refugees, conflict, and wars (see "Memorial Day, 2029"). Al Gore and the IPCC won in 2007 "for their work to alert the world to the threat of global warming." Alerting the world was and is vital. Taking action is even more crucial.
Obama and his international negotiating team led by Secretary of State Clinton have helped create the first genuine chance that the entire world will come together and agree to sharply diverge from the catastrophic business-as-usual greenhouse gas emissions path. This award simultaneously acknowledges what they have achieved and pushes them and the world toward delivering on Obama's promise. It is well deserved.
Here is the Nobel committee's full statement:
Kudos to President Obama for inspiring the world and for starting to deliver on his unprecedented agenda of change. Kudos to the American public for rejecting the narrow, unilateralist, climate-destroying policies of his predecessor.
Posted: 09 Oct 2009 05:12 AM PDT
This guest post on the Solar Decathalon is excerpted from The Dirt, the blog of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA). The Solar Decathalon homes are open to the public from October 9-13 and 15-18. Future posts will feature other finalists.
Solar Decathalon 2009 kicked off on the National Mall Wednesday. After receiving more than 40 student-generated proposals from universities in the U.S. and worldwide, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) narrowed the field down to 20 finalists that offered the most innovative, high-tech, high-efficiency, solar-powered homes. More than 800 students are competing this year. This is the fourth time the DOE has sponsored the biennial competition.
Each of the 20 student teams received $100,000 from the DOE but still had to raise some $400,000-500,000 to pay for the 800-square feet homes. The DOE spokesman said that by teaming up with a range of companies, the students were learning "real world experience" that will make them the "energy leaders of tomorrow." Now in its fourth-generation, the Solar Decathalon is "pushing innovation and systems engineering." Some homes include microgrids that can be run through an iPhone.
The homes will be judged by a team of architects, engineers, systems engineers, lighting specialists, and communications specialists on the overall architecture, engineering, comfort, marketability, appliances, lighting, and other aspects. The DOE said that not only must the homes be aesthetically appealing, but "they must also work." Using only solar power, the homes must heat 15 gallons of water to 150 degrees twice a day; run all appliances; heat and cool the homes; and maintain temperatures of 72-76 degrees with 40-60 percent relative humidity. The judges have also added a home entertainment component. TVs, powered by solar energy, must be able to run for six hours per day.. Additionally, six team members must live, eat, work within the homes from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM every day during the competition.
The homes are being wired by local D.C. energy provider, Pepco, which has connected the homes to the central energy grid. Zero net homes will get 100 points at the end of 10 days but will receive an extra 50 bonus points if they return surplus to the grid, creating an additional incentive for energy-efficiency. The DOE says, "Solar is here to stay, and these homes prove that it works." What the contest will prove is what technologies work best.
A number of student homes included integrated systems with landscape elements at their core:
Virginia Tech's Lumenhaus
Ben Johnson, ASLA, professor of Landscape Architecture, Virgina Tech, said Lumenhaus' site and landscape features were designed to contribute to the home enterprise and assist the solar-powered functions. Lumenhaus is "low-energy and high green," said Johnson. Instead of a green roof on top of the home (which Johnson said the team decided not to use because of height restrictions), there are two types of green roofs that form terraces around the site. The green roof terraces are used for water treatment and lowering the home's carbon footprint.
Johnson said recent research his department is conducting points to a fascinating number: 400-square feet of dense groundcover with a density of 32 leaves per square inch can sequester the C02 output of one person. Using these calculations, the Lumenhaus team determined the amount of plants needed for the site. For one terrace, the landscape architecture students involved in the project used sedum, which "sequesters carbon and doesn't give it up, unlike other seasonal plants that dump their carbon during their lifecycle." Additionally, the green roof terraces assist in solar absorption.
To assist with greywater mitigation, water output from the home's sinks, dishwasher, washing machine, and other appliances, are infiltrated through the terraces and ponds in an integrated manner. Grey water is also used to water the green-roof terraces. "Theoretically, you can drink it," Johnson added. Unfortunately, Johnson noted, it's not allowed. The hydroponics help create the site dynamic but also solve the greywater problems.
Virginia Tech started on this project more than two years ago. "Landscape architecture students were involved from the early concept phase." Virginia Tech won the competition in 2005 so wanted to "up the ante." To do this, Johnson said, they needed an interdisciplinary design team that included electrical, computer, and structural engineers, architects, and landscape architects. Johnson noted that the landscape architect was the "lead on site," while the architect was the lead during development. Johnson added that the site development / landscape component of the Solar Decathalon had improved dramatically from four years ago. The team thought siting the home in a landscape would also help them win marketability points.
Cornell University's Silo House
Cornell University's team wanted to create an agricultural and industrial aesthetic with Silo House. The home is coated in steel that oxidizes on the outer most layer. Landscape architecture students worked with Assistant Professor of Horticulture Neil Mattson to develop a "nutrient film technique" for the landscape that filters greywater. The students tested a range of plants all summer and found that horsetails, irises, and ferns, organized into zones, worked best at removing greywater particles. Using three zones, the greywater takes 24 hours to cycle through. At the end, it is "nearly potable water," said Bobby Harvey, a landscape architecture student at Cornell. Harvey mentioned that they had a "create your own greywater day," which yielded a mixture of water, shampoo, and dog food that was used to test the plants' filtering functions. Silo House's landscape also features a drip irrigation system that feeds captured rainwater and cleansed greywater to the plants. One-thousand gallon sisterns buried within the 1,000 plants store the water.
Additionally, Cornell's team was interested in the C02 sequestration capacity of the plants, as well as their ability to frame the site. "It's important to immerse the landscape so it doesn't stand alone. Without the plants, the building would be naked." Cornell students grew more than 1,000 plants to surround their home themselves.
The Solar Decathalon homes are open to the public from October 9-13 and 15-18. The awards ceremony will be held Friday, October 16.
More photos are available at Solar Decathalon multimedia resources.
Image credit: National Mall photo by Annie Coghill/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon. Lumenhaus, Silo House photos by Krista Sharp. Natural Fusion landscape by Penn State University.
Posted: 08 Oct 2009 02:28 PM PDT
It's not too late to avert the worst impacts of human-caused global warming. In fact, it's not too late to stabilize total warming from preindustrial levels at 1.5°C — or possibly less. But the U.S. must pass a comprehensive climate and clean energy bill, leading to a major global deal, to give us a plausible chance of getting on the necessary emissions pathway.
From a scientific perspective, a major new study (subs. req'd, discussed below) is cause for some genuine non-pessimism, concluding "Near-zero CH4 growth in the Arctic during 2008 suggests we have not yet activated strong climate feedbacks from permafrost and CH4 hydrates."
The media and others want to move quickly from denial to despair, because both perspectives justify inaction, justify maintaining our grotesquely unsustainable behavior, justify sticking with the global Ponzi scheme in the immoral delusion we can maintain our own personal wealth and well-being for a few more decades before the day of reckoning.
I have, however, received a number of queries from progressives about the meaning of this somewhat misleading Washington Post article, "New Analysis Brings Dire Forecast Of 6.3-Degree Temperature Increase," which begins:
I don't think the basic story should be a surprise to regular readers of this blog. We're in big, big trouble, and we're not yet politically prepared to do what is necessary to avert catastrophe — as I've said many times. But that is quite different from concluding it's too late and we're doomed.
The WashPost story is about the Climate Rapid Overview and Decision-support Simulator — the C-ROADS model. It "translates complex climate modeling into readily digestible predictions" and "is being adopted by negotiators to assess their national greenhouse-gas commitments ahead of December's climate summit in Copenhagen," as explained in a recent Nature article (subs. req'd, excerpted here).
As one of the leading C-ROADS modelers — my friend Drew Jones — explained in his blog, the Post headline could have easily been:
The first thing to remember is that the major developed countries, including China or India, haven't agreed to cap their emissions, let alone to ultimately reduce them. Until that happens, no model of global commitments is going to keep us anywhere near 2°C (3.6F).
Second, people forget that the 1987 Montréal protocol would not have stopped the atmospheric concentration of ozone-destroying chemicals from rising forever. And yet we appear to have acted in time to save the ozone layer.
Third, people also seem to forget that the United States government led by President Bush's father, and including the entire Senate, agreed that we would tackle global warming the same way — with the rich countries going first.
I have no doubt that China will ultimately agree to a cap (see "Peaking Duck: Beijing's Growing Appetite for Climate Action"). Indeed, if a shrinking economy-wide cap on GHGs similar to the House bill or draft Senate bill ends up on Obama's desk in the next few months, then the international community will almost certainly agree on a global deal, which will include China sharply reducing its business-as-usual growth path. Then in the next deal in a few years, China will, I expect, agree to a cap no later than 2025.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. This is an important issue that I will treat in a multipart series. People seem to view this question of "Is it too late?" as if it were primarily a scientific issue, but that is because they have internalized their preconceptions about what is politically possible in terms of clean energy deployment in this country and around the world.
There is no evidence scientifically that it is too late to stabilize at 350 ppm atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, at 1.5°C total planetary warming from preindustrial levels. Nor is there any scientific evidence that we can't afford to overshoot 350 ppm — as we already have — for a period of many decades.
True, I don't view it as likely that we will stabilize at 1.5°C warming. But that overlays my view of the science with my view of the solutions and the politics. I do think it is entirely possible that we will stabilize under 450 ppm, near 2°C. That's a key reason why I blog. It would, however, probably require a heroic WWII-style and WWII-scale effort by the nation and the world starting sometime in the next decade.
This post will briefly touch on the science. Future posts will consider climate solutions and the needed domestic and international action to employ them at the necessary scale and speed.
The catastrophe we are trying to avert is multimeter sea level rise, the loss of the inland glaciers that provide water to a billion people, rapid expansion of the subtropical deserts (i.e. Dust-Bowlification of one third the habited land mass), killing off more than half of all species and turning the oceans into hot, acidic dead zones — each of which is all-but inevitable on our current path of unrestrained greenhouse gas emissions (see "An introduction to global warming impacts: Hell and High Water").
No one knows for certain what level of emissions is needed to avert that series of catastrophes. Indeed, some of these catastrophes occur at much lower levels of emissions than others. And some may play out over very long periods of time, but still become all but unstoppable at much lower levels of emissions.
The literature makes clear that as you go above 450 ppm and 2°C, these impacts become more likely, more intense, and more imminent. In fact, no one knows for certain whether one can, in fact, stabilize at, say 550 ppm and roughly 3°C warming — in any meaningful definition of the word "stabilize" (which does not include desperately devoting all of humanity's resources to sucking every last drop of CO2 and CH4 from the energy system and atmosphere).
Whatever the threshold is, staying above it for any length of time risks a rapid acceleration of emissions that will make it all but impossible to get back below that point of no return. Hansen and his leading scientific coauthors have made a case we must ultimately return atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide to 350 parts per million to avoid catastrophic climate impacts (see "Stabilize at 350 ppm or risk ice-free planet, warn NASA, Yale, Sheffield, Versailles, Boston et al"). But they don't know — and on one knows — how long we can safely stay above 350.
If I have read Hansen et al. correctly, then I think they may be mostly right for a different reason than he thinks, which is to say, I think the carbon-cycle feedbacks act as the equivalent of the amplifiers that he models: "Additional warming, due to slow climate feedbacks including loss of ice and spread of flora over the vast high-latitude land area in the Northern Hemisphere, approximately doubles equilibrium climate sensitivity."
It is increasingly clear that the virtually all of the major carbon cycle feedbacks are positive — see Science stunner: "Clouds Appear to Be Big, Bad Player in Global Warming" — an amplifying feedback (sorry Lindzen and fellow deniers) and Study: Water-vapor feedback is "strong and positive," so we face "warming of several degrees Celsius"). These include
In short, if you get near 450 ppm and stay there for any length of time, you will shoot up to 800 to 1000 ppm, which certainly gets you an ice-free planet and other unimaginably catastrophic impacts.
But we aren't there yet, and we can stay below 450 and get back to 350 (or lower) this century if we choose to.
The best piece of scientific news I have read in a while comes from a NOAA-led study, "Observational constraints on recent increases in the atmospheric CH4 burden" (subs. req'd, NOAA online news story here), which found:
Yes, early this year I reported that NOAA found "Methane levels rose in 2008 for the second consecutive year after a 10-year lull," but so far that most dangerous of all feedbacks — Arctic and tundra methane releases — does not appear to have been fatally triggered.
Now it should be said that even if it did start, it doesn't mean we couldn't drop total emissions faster than the feedbacks overwhelmed them — it just means it would be much, much, much harder to do so.
Those who suggest it is too late are combining a scientific judgment that I believe is not yet possible to make with judgments about climate solutions and our political will to employ them fast enough that may prove true, but which are subjective judgments nonetheless — and that's quite different from saying "it's too late."
In Part 2, I'll look at the scale of the energy challenge, which simultaneously makes clear how difficult the political challenge is and how very far we can go using existing and near-term strategies (including behavior change, which is at one level much harder, and at another level, potentially the fastest change of all).
Posted: 08 Oct 2009 01:21 PM PDT
UPDATE: Link is fixed!
The petition is here.
Please tweet it out!
Posted: 08 Oct 2009 12:37 PM PDT
I don't review many books because:
But I have a dozen books on my table right now — and another dozen will be coming in the next couple of months. Some are very good, including Gore's new book on solutions due early November. Right now, I am happy to unhesitatingly recommend Climate Cover-Up: The Crusade to Deny Global Warming by James Hoggan editor of with Richard Littlemore, key figures behind the terrific Desmog.blog.
I think everyone who follows the climate issue needs to understand the whole gory history of the most immoral and, so far, most successful, disinformation campaign in US history — the effort, largely funded by conservatives and fossil fuel companies, to deny climate science and delay the urgent action needed to preserve the health and well-being of countless future generations:
While I follow the issue very closely, I still learned a lot from this book, especially the fascinating Chapter 11 on "using courts and cash to silence critics of climate confusion." I didn't know the whole story of how uber-denier Fred Singer managed to get Roger Revelle (one of Al Gore's teachers, who famously alerted Gore to the climate threat) to co-author a piece of nonsense. I didn't know the story of the lawsuit that resulted when Revelle's graduate student tried to speak up about "what he saw as Singer's blatant manipulation — his outright bullying of — of Revelle" who "was in his eighty-second and it would turn out last year," who "had already suffered a serious heart attack and was in failing health — unable according to his students and staff to pay attention for more than 15 or 20 minutes." And if you want some more details on that, you can go here and here. But while some of the details are on the web, sometimes you just need to curl up with the whole well-told story.
This is a must-read book.
Posted: 08 Oct 2009 10:49 AM PDT
Someone directed me to this odd post from the normally reliable and politically savvy WSJ "Environmental Capital" blog:
[Answer to WSJ: Both!]
Is there really so little to blog about in the vast energy and environmental arena that the WSJ has to spin up this non-story? Senator Kerry (and many others, including CP) have written and spoken at great length for a long time about the fact that any bill would have multiple benefits.
Unlike the WSJ, however, most of us think that's actually a good thing. I think it kind of silly to attack the bill because, say, avoiding catastrophic global warming and reducing oil consumption, is good for both national security and energy security or because solving those problems will generate millions of new jobs (and, yes, even preserve existing manufacturing jobs) or because more than one technology or strategy will be needed to achieve those goals:
Yes, to be fair, WSJ, your example doesn't actually support your argument!
And, to be fair, natural gas and nuclear power are in fact global warming solutions — more so than they are energy security solutions, since neither of those directly substitute for oil very much these days.
I'm sure the WSJ blog is savvy enough to understand that every major bill that passes Congress represents a compromise among different groups and thus includes provisions of that any individual supporter might not adopt if they were king or queen. But, as I've said, the oil is a drop in the figurative bucket, maybe 0.1% of global production.
I'm also sure the WSJ realize is that we face two major environmental/energy problems — global warming plus our absurd and growing dependence on one fossil fuel in particular that appears to be peaking in supply. Solving both of those problems at the same time is in fact good policy. And there is a lot of evidence it's also good politics (see Lindsay Graham (R-SC): "If you had a bill that would allow for responsible offshore drilling, a robust nuclear power title, I think you could get some Republican votes for a cap-and-trade system.").
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Thursday, October 8, 2009
- Energy and Global Warming News for October 8: Over 90% of Americans support solar power development
- Econ 350: Can we still afford to save the climate?
- Lindsay Graham (R-SC): "If you had a bill that would allow for responsible offshore drilling, a robust nuclear power title, I think you could get some Republican votes for a cap-and-trade system."
- Publicize or perish: The scientific community is failing miserably in communicating the potential catastrophe of climate change.
- Deutsche Bank: Oil to hit $175 a barrel by 2016, which "will drive a final stake into long-term oil demand," spurred by a "disruptive technology" — "the hybrid and electric car, that will very likely have a far greater positive impact on oil efficiency than the market currently expects"
- Climate Progress is the second* ranked science blog
- Energy and Global Warming News for October 7: IEA says "China will be able to slow the growth of its emissions much faster than commonly assumed"; EIA's forecasted CO2 drop "justifies tough carbon caps"
Posted: 08 Oct 2009 09:17 AM PDT
Posted: 08 Oct 2009 07:29 AM PDT
This is a guest post from economist Eban Goodstein, Director of the Bard Center for Environmental Policy. It is partially excerpted from this Grist piece. He and his colleagues at the E3 Network have just released a detailed study on The Economics of 350. The figure compares cumulative emissions for a 350 ppm CO2 trajectory.
Recently, many climate scientists have doubled down on the "safe" level for atmospheric CO2. To avoid global warming catastrophe-collapse of the continental ice-sheets and sea level rise of dozens of feet — prominent voices led by NASA's James Hansen are now telling us we have to get down to 350 ppm, and quickly.
No. Instead, time to adjust our thinking about what is possible.
Several co-authors and I recently completed a report for Economics for Equity and the Environment Network (E3), surveying the economic studies informed by recent science. The report found that quicker action aimed at 350 makes good economic sense.. With likely investments of about 1-3% of global GDP, we could rewire the planet with clean energy, rebuild global forests to trap billions of tons of carbon, create jobs, and stabilize the climate. And depending on the price of oil, these investments might actually save us money.
Is 350 Possible?
Hansen et al. (here, see Figure 1) described a detailed scenario for reducing greenhouse gas emissions with the goal of reaching 350 ppm CO2 by 2100. It included phasing out coal completely (or achieving 100% carbon capture) by 2030, along with a combination of large-scale reforestation, avoided deforestation and carbon capture and storage to withdraw huge quantities of CO2 from the atmosphere. To reach the 350 target by 2100, the world would have to quickly go beyond reductions to achieve net negative emissions-removing more greenhouse gases from the atmosphere than are emitted each year.
Our report contrasts Hansen's scenario with a less demanding but still quite ambitious trajectory which does not require the world to achieve negative net emissions. In this scenario, the world reaches 350 ppm CO2 by 2200. Emissions are reduced to 54 percent of 1990 emissions by 2020 and 3 percent by 2050, and then zero out, but do not go negative.
The bottom-line on the technical side: Decarbonizing by 2050 is possible with, roughly, the suite of technologies now available or on the near-term horizon. Very aggressive policy, however, will still be required very soon to drive down the costs of renewables, to redesign cities, reimagine transport and agricultural systems, and insure that all efficiencies are captured. Doing all this gets the world to 350 by 2200. Taking the additional steps to achieve negative emissions (and 350 by 2100) would require the development of large-scale, cost-effective sequestration technologies that go well beyond reforestation.
Economics, 350 and Politics
At least four research groups have modeled global scenarios that lead to 350 ppm CO2. One finds that in a world with unemployed labor and other resources, the stimulus from new climate investments might accelerate economic growth. The other three groups find net annual costs that are generally between 1 percent and 3 percent of world output.. These studies are consistent with the Stern Review, the reports by McKinsey, and others, suggesting that achieving 450 ppm would cost around 1% or less of global GDP.
Both of these targets, 350 or 450, become a lot cheaper if oil prices return soon to $150 a barrel. If peak oil drives prices that high in the coming decade, then decarbonizing at a pace to hit 350 could lead to economic gains.
Dropping the global climate target from 450 ppm to 350 ppm of atmospheric CO2 may appear to present an impossible task. In fact, it leaves us with qualitatively the same challenge. Achieving 350 simply requires accelerating a global technology revolution that will yield many benefits- in terms of climate stability, energy security, and economic payback. And estimates of the scale of the investment needed to complete that revolution-and complete it on time-are affordable.
In Europe, the US and China, the politics of 450 ppm are beginning, just beginning, to come into view. Our new study sets the stage for a longer-term discussion. The obstacles to achieving 350 are not technical nor are they economic.
JR: For the science behind 350 ppm, see "Stabilize at 350 ppm or risk ice-free planet, warn NASA, Yale, Sheffield, Versailles, Boston et al." Since the science is preliminary and it is not not yet politically possible to get to 450 ppm, let alone 350, my basic view, as expressed in that post, is Let's start working now toward stabilizing below 450 ppm, while climate scientists figure out if in fact we need to ultimately get below 350. Either way, this is what needs to be done technology-wise: "How the world can (and will) stabilize at 350 to 450 ppm: The full global warming solution." The difference between the two targets is that for 450 ppm, you need to do the 12-14 wedges in four decades. For 350 ppm, you (roughly) need 8 wedges in about two decades plus another 10 wedges over the next three decades (and then have the world go carbon negative as soon as possible after that), which requires a global WWII-style and WWII-scale strategy as discussed here. I would like to get back to 350 ppm by 2100, but I tend to think that 2150 is "more likely." Either way, the cost of doing so is certainly far cheaper than the cost of failing to do so (see "Intro to climate economics: Why even strong climate action has such a low total cost — one tenth of a penny on the dollar").
Posted: 08 Oct 2009 06:38 AM PDT
The good news is the chances of passing a comprehensive climate and clean energy bill are rising, as these quotes from a key swing GOP vote make clear. The other good news is that most of the annoying things that progressives may have to swallow to get that bill smell worse than they taste. E&E News reports:
The notion of a nuclear title is not news — that was always going to happen. While I wouldn't be thrilled with all conceivable provisions such a title might have, the overwhelming majority are unlikely to have a significant impact or even cost the taxpayers much money, as long as nuclear power plants remain so damn expensive (see "Nuclear Bombshell: $26 Billion cost — $10,800 per kilowatt! — killed Ontario nuclear bid").
If the nuclear industry could ever get its act together and come up with one or two standardized, modular, affordable designs, they might become a major climate solution. And that wouldn't be a terrible thing, given just how much clean energy we are going to need to stabilize near 2°C warming. But I'm not expecting any major design improvements or big cost drops for a decade or more in this country.
What exactly do the pro-nuke folk want?
And I'd like to be a judge on American Idol. Seriously, though, my guess is a deal can be had — and will.
The final deal is not going to call nuclear power "renewable" and stick it in the existing too-weak renewable standard, I think, but rather may tack on a low carbon electricity standard that includes nuclear, carbon capture and storage, and maybe combined cycle natural gas.
As for McCain, I just don't know what he means by "a commitment to construction." You can't force people to build nukes — especially at current staggering prices:
So we'll throw money at nukes, just like the bill does for CCS, and a few plants will be built and the overwhelming majority of the emissions reductions will be achieved through the low-cost solutions — efficiency and conservation, natural gas fuel switching, and wind, solar thermal, and biomass.
What about drilling?
Well, this will need to be crafted in a way that does not lose votes, such as Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida, but fundamentally, most of the potential drilling provisions bother me less than the nuclear ones for two fundamental reasons:
We need to keep our eye on the prize — a shrinking economy-wide cap, coupled with major provisions to boost energy efficiency and and other clean technologies. This is what we need to complete the transformation to a clean energy economy begun in the stimulus, generating $100 billion a year in new U.S. investment in clean energy, sufficient to compete with the Europeans and Asians who want to eat our lunch in this most rapidly growing industry of the century. And, of course, it is what we need to achieve an international deal that gives us a fighting chance to stabilize anywhere near 2°C total warming and avert catastrophic impacts.
Posted: 07 Oct 2009 07:20 PM PDT
Physics World asked me to write for a special issue on Energy, Sustainability and Climate Change. The article, "Publicize or perish," is online and reposted below with links.
The fate of the next 50 generations may well be determined in the next few months and years. Will the US Congress agree to a shrinking cap on greenhouse-gas emissions and legislation to achieve the transformation to clean energy? If not, you can forget about a global climate deal. But even if the bill passes and a global deal is achieved, both will need to be continuously strengthened in coming years, as the increasingly worrisome science continues to inform the policy, just as in the case of the Montreal Protocol on ozone-depleting substances.
The International Scientific Congress on climate change held in Copenhagen in March, which was attended by 2000 scientists, concluded that "Recent observations confirm that, given high rates of observed emissions, the worst-case Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) scenario trajectories (or even worse) are being realized." That would mean that by 2100 there would be atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide of more than 1000 ppm, total planetary warming of 5 °C and sea-level rises probably on the high end of recent projections of 1–2 m followed by a rise of as much as 2 cm per year or more for centuries. We would also see one-third of inhabited land reaching dust bowl levels of aridity, half or more of all species becoming extinct, and the oceans increasingly becoming hot, acidic, dead zones. And if we do not change course quickly, the latest science predicts that these impacts may be irreversible for 1000 years. [See "Intro to global warming impacts: Hell and High Water.]
In short, the fate of perhaps the next 100 billion people to walk the Earth rests with scientists (and those who understand the science) trying to communicate the dire nature of the climate problem (and the myriad solutions available now) as well as the ability of the media, the public, opinion-makers and political leaders to understand and deal with that science.
Disinformation and scientific illiteracy
So far, we are failing miserably. Neither the US nor the world as a whole has taken any consequential action to reverse emissions trends. And if the scientific community does not help lead the way in reversing emissions, then we will justifiably bear serious blame from future generations, who will no doubt become increasingly bitter about the havoc our ignorance and myopia has brought them. Nobody will be writing books calling us "the greatest generation."
As one example of how bad scientific messaging has been, let me go through Gallup polling over the past decade as discussed in a 2008 article in Environment magazine entitled "A widening gap: Republican and Democratic views on climate change".
The article reported that in 1997 some 52% of Democrats said that the effects of global warming had already begun and 52% said most scientists believe global warming is occurring. In 2008 some 76% said warming had begun and 75% said most scientists believe warming is occurring. It would appear that Democrats believe most scientists.
Few leading climate scientists or major scientific bodies would disagree that the scientific case that the planet is warming – and that humans are the dominant cause of recent temperature rises – has become stronger in the past 10 years. That is clearly seen in the scientific literature – as summarized in the IPCC reports.
And yet for Republicans, in 1997 some 48% said warming had begun and 42% said most scientists believe warming is occurring – a modest six-point differential. By 2008, the percentage of Republicans saying the effects of global warming had already begun had dropped to a mere 42% (an amazing statistic in its own right given the painfully obvious evidence to the contrary). But the percentage saying most scientists believe global warming is occurring had risen to 54% – a stunning 12-point differential.
In short, a significant and growing number of Republicans – one in eight as of 2008 – simply do not believe what they know most scientists believe. That is quite alarming news, given that it is inconceivable that the US will take the very strong action needed to avert catastrophe unless it comes to believe what most scientists believe, namely that we are in big, big trouble and can delay no further.
Here is the lesson for scientists: in the last decade, we have apparently become less convincing to Republicans than the deniers have been. They have apparently become better at messaging, while we have perhaps become worse.
[For more poll details, see "The Deniers are winning, but only with the GOP".]
In part, this has occurred because there is an organized disinformation campaign promoted by conservative think tanks like the Competitive Enterprise Institute and well funded by fossil-fuel companies like ExxonMobil, with key messages repeated by conservative pundits and politicians like George Will, Rush Limbaugh and Republican Senator James Inhofe. At the same time, the media have treated this more as a political issue than a scientific one, thereby necessitating in their view a "balanced" presentation of both sides, notwithstanding the fact that the overwhelming majority of scientists understand humans are warming the planet and dangerously so. Also, increasingly profit-driven media have been abdicating their role in science education. Science writer Chris Mooney and scientist Sheril Kirshenbaum offer these grim statistics in their recent book Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens our Future (2009, Basic Books):
The lack of scientific messaging
Yet just when the media are abandoning science coverage, many scientists are increasingly reluctant to address politicized issues like global warming.
Scientists who are also great public communicators, like Carl Sagan or Richard Feynman, have grown scarcer as science has become increasingly specialized. Moreover, the media like the glib and the dramatic, which is a style that most scientists deliberately avoid. Scientists like to focus on the things that they do not know, since that is the cutting edge of scientific research. So they do not keep repeating the things that they do know, which is one reason that the public and the media often do not hear from scientists about the strong areas of consensus on global warming. And as the physicist Mark Bowen writes in Thin Ice (2006, Holt), his book about glaciologist Lonnie Thompson, "Scientists have an annoying habit of backing off when they're asked to make a plain statement, and climatologists tend to be worse than most."
As scientist and writer Jared Diamond wrote in a 1997 article in Discover magazine on scientific messaging (or the lack thereof), "Scientists who do communicate effectively with the public often find their colleagues responding with scorn, and even punishing them in ways that affect their careers." After Sagan became famous, he was rejected for membership of the National Academy of Sciences in a special vote. This became widely known, and, as Diamond writes, "Every scientist is capable of recognizing the obvious implications for his or her self-interest."
Scientists who have been outspoken about global warming have been repeatedly attacked as having a "political agenda". As a 2006 article in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society explained (87 1025), "For a scientist whose reputation is largely invested in peer-reviewed publications and the citations thereof, there is little professional pay-off for getting involved in debates that mix science and politics."
The scientific community must figure out how to effectively engage the public on this crucial issue. The physics community in particular must help lead the way. After all, it was effective at warning the public and policymakers about the dangers of that other existential threat to the human race – nuclear weapons. We appear to have walked back from the precipice of global nuclear war only to face an equally grave threat from our unbridled consumption of fossil fuels.
I believe that the major scientific bodies and leading scientists in the US must come together immediately to develop and quickly implement a serious communication strategy. We are again at the precipice. Indeed, it is, as the current Presidential Science Advisor and physicist John Holdren has said many times, too late to avoid dangerous anthropogenic warming of the planet. Now the only question is whether we can avoid unmitigated catastrophe.
One final point. If the scientific community is unable to help persuade the public, opinion-makers and political leaders to take the necessary action now, then the entire relationship of science to the broader world will change forever. When the US and the world do get desperate about global warming in the next decade or two, then the entire focus of society, of scientists and engineers, and of academia will be directed toward a Second-World-War-scale effort to mitigate what we can and adapting to the myriad miseries that our myopic dawdling has made inevitable. I do not think that the scientific community has even begun to think about that.
Deutsche Bank: Oil to hit $175 a barrel by 2016, which "will drive a final stake into long-term oil demand," spurred by a "disruptive technology" — "the hybrid and electric car, that will very likely have a far greater positive impact on oil efficiency than the market currently expects"
Posted: 07 Oct 2009 03:30 PM PDT
Deutsche Bank's important new report, The Peak Oil Market: Price dynamics at the end of the oil age begins with a quote that is one of my pet peeves:
Great quote in a peak oil report except for one tiny point — we still use a lot of stones. In fact, given that we have 6.7 billion people on the planet, I'm quite certain that we use a lot more stones than we did in the Stone Age. I'm almost as certain that, as the DB report says, we will be using a lot less total oil in a few decades. So the quote doesn't work, and the report, while dead on in many parts, is still a tad off.
Hmm. The price spike sounds right. But I don't think the ultimate reason will be inherently chronic underinvestment — there's simply too much money to be made at projected oil prices for producers. And I don't think the reason will be uncertainty surrounding regulation — again, there's simply too much money to be made of projected oil prices and, over at least the next decade, climate regulations will focus more on coal than oil.
The reason for the price jump is that we're running out of the easy supply. That's certainly the view of all the peakers I know. And it's the view of the International Energy Agency (IEA) and its chief economist, Dr. Fatih Birol (see World's top energy economist warns peak oil threatens recovery, urges immediate action: "We have to leave oil before oil leaves us"):
The IEA's work makes clear that for oil to stay significantly below $200 a barrel (and U.S. gasoline to be significantly below $5 a gallon) by 2020 would take a miracle — or rather 6 miracles see "Science/IEA: World oil crunch looming? Not if we can find six Saudi Arabias!" See also "Merrill: Non-OPEC production has likely peaked, oil output could fall by 30 million bpd by 2015," which noted,
I agree with DB report that hybrids and battery-powered cars are the big game changer (see "Climate and hydrogen car advocate gets almost everything wrong about plug-in cars"):
That seems plausible. Certainly, I have been arguing that natural gas supply appears to be much larger than people realized, and quite separate from petroleum supplies (see "Game Changer Part 1: There appears to be a lot more natural gas than previously thought").
But natural gas doesn't substitute straightforwardly for oil in most applications, whereas it does substitute directly for coal, so I expect most demand growth to go into the electric sector. Even DB writes (their headline, not mine):
Similarly, electricity doesn't substitute straightforwardly for oil in most applications. It can substitute for oil in one or two relatively specific, albeit large, applications — short and perhaps medium-distance transportation.
So these DB conclusions are a bit puzzling:
While I think this scenario is possible, it just doesn't strike me as likely. The notion "as oil supply peaks, so oil demand will peak" is clever, but I think mostly a tautology. There simply are far too many uses for oil and far too much growth in the developing world for latent demand to crash as fast as supply — in the absence of a steadily rising price. I do expect peaks and valleys, with higher highs and higher lows, and the lows could certainly reach current levels again if we had another major economic crash in a decade. But this forecast seems downright perverse:
I'd be happy to bet with anybody at DB the price trajectory after 2017 doesn't look anything like that.
I agree with DB that technology will change the price point at which efficiency and alternative technologies make sense:
And I agree that the elasticity for demand will change as a result of technology in repeated price shocks:
But hybrids and plug ins still use oil — as do jet planes and lots of other parts of the economy. I'd love to believe, as DB projects, that new light duty vehicle MPG hits 95 (!) in this country, 106 in China, and 88 globally in 2030. But that'll only happen if the whole planet gets very serious about global warming — which DB tends to dismiss, writing "We believe that CO2 limitations will be too economically challenging to fully progress globally" — not because oil peaks just once more in price and then spends the entire 2020s declining back to current levels.
Let me end, where I began, with our tremendous use of stones even though the stone age is long gone. DB offers this flawed analogy early on its report:
The problem with this analogy is that kerosene was a terrific, versatile, abundant and direct substitute for whale oil in pretty much every major application. Neither electricity nor natural gas have that kind of substitutability for oil
Perhaps oil prices won't hit, say, $300 a barrel (in 2008 dollars), for a long, long time. But they are far more likely to spend the 2020s well above $100 a barrel than below it.
Posted: 07 Oct 2009 11:47 AM PDT
*third if you count anti-scientific websites like WattsUpWithThat, as Wikio does.
I had not heard of these Wikio rankings, but I periodically check WattsUpWithThat for the latest in denier talking points — yes, it's a dirty job, but somebody has to do it, and it shouldn't have to be you! What do I see but yet another website recognizing WattsUp as a science blog, when it is the exact opposite, as evidenced by his reprinting and endorsing a broad-based attack on the integrity of the entire scientific community and by his generally pushing disinformation [see "Diagnosing a victim of anti-science syndrome (ASS)" and links below].
Still, notwithstanding Wikio's refusal to draw a distinction between science and antiscience, the ranking is a relatively objective, as described here:
The rankings seem a tad strange. Not sure how I do so much better than Grist, since I'm sure they get two or three times as many readers each day. RealClimate would do a LOT better if they posted MORE — hint, hint, RC folks!
Anyway, I am interested in your thoughts as to whether this is worth sticking on CP's front page near the top. One thing is certain — it doesn't take up much space.
Energy and Global Warming News for October 7: IEA says "China will be able to slow the growth of its emissions much faster than commonly assumed"; EIA's forecasted CO2 drop "justifies tough carbon caps"
Posted: 07 Oct 2009 10:37 AM PDT
The IEA report is here. Photo is of wind turbines in Xinjiang, China.
Little good can be said about the worst economic slump since the 1930s, but it has produced at least one piece of positive news: the downturn will make it a bit easier to slow the rise in emissions responsible for climate change.
The International Energy Agency made that prediction in a report Tuesday on global greenhouse gas emissions. Because of slower economic growth, the agency slashed, by 5 percent, its estimate of how much greenhouse gas emissions will be produced in 2020.
But the energy agency also cautioned against complacency, stressing that reaching a deal in climate talks to be held in Copenhagen at the end of the year is crucial to limiting the rise in global temperatures.
Another reason for cautious optimism, the report said, is that China will be able to slow the growth of its emissions much faster than commonly assumed because of its rising investment in wind and nuclear energy and its newfound emphasis on energy efficiency.
But avoiding some of the worst consequences of climate change will still require significant and rapid investments in clean technology, and more meaningful cuts in carbon emissions, the report said.
"This gives us a chance to make real progress toward a clean-energy future, but only if the right policies are put in place promptly," said the agency's executive director, Nobuo Tanaka.
As a result of the economic slump, global emissions of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, are expected to decline by 3 percent this year, the steepest drop in the 45 years according to figures compiled by the agency. That compares with an average growth of 3 percent a year over the last decade.
The report outlines how governments can achieve additional cuts through energy efficiency and investments in clean technologies. The goal is to keep global temperatures from rising more than 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Meeting that target will require reducing emissions by 23 percent in 2030 compared with what they would otherwise be, the agency said.
"The message is simple and stark: if the world continues on the basis of today's energy and climate policies, the consequences of climate change will be severe," Mr. Tanaka said.
And while it may not be news to CP readers — see EIA stunner: By year's end, we'll be 8.5% below 2005 levels of CO2 — halfway to climate bill's 2020 target – I'm glad to see Bloomberg pick up this story:
A drop in carbon dioxide levels due to the recession and use of cleaner fuels to produce electricity means Democrats should stand firm on a 20 percent cut in U.S. emissions proposed last week, environmental groups said.
The Energy Information Administration today forecast a 5.9 percent drop in energy-related carbon dioxide emissions this year, less than a week after Senate Democrats John Kerry of Massachusetts and Barbara Boxer of California unveiled "cap- and-trade" legislation to cut U.S. emissions 20 percent below 2005 levels by 2020.
The EIA projects carbon dioxide emissions from coal, oil and natural gas use at 5.45 billion metric tons, which would be 8.8 percent below the 2005 level of 5.97 billion tons.
"It reinforces our view that the 20 percent target that's in the Kerry-Boxer bill is certainly achievable," Dan Lashof, director of the climate center at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a telephone interview. "The level of effort required to achieve a 20 percent reduction is much more modest than had been anticipated."
With emissions already below the 2005 levels used as a baseline for the House, Senate and White House cap-and-trade proposals, Kerry and Boxer shouldn't negotiate away their 20 percent reduction target, Courtney Abrams, a global warming associate for Environment America, said in a telephone interview.
A delegation of more than 150 businesses supporting the bill, which is sponsored by Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., arrived in Washington yesterday and will flood senators' offices today to urge movement on the legislation. They range from companies that would directly benefit — such as solar panel makers — to ones that just want consistent federal guidance on carbon emissions.
Some of them, including computer giant Apple, have left the U.S. Chamber of Commerce because of the organization's opposition to the House of Representatives climate bill, which passed in June.
"The fact that [Apple is] saying, 'We have to do this' is something that other industries and people who stand in opposition to this bill in the Senate and the House really need to start paying attention to," Mr. McNeil said.
Representatives from the diverse group of businesses attended a reception last night with Ken Salazar, secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior, and will hold a news conference today. They are part of a group called We Can Lead, sponsored by business coalitions Ceres and Clean Economy Network.
U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke told representatives of Midwest states on Tuesday that the growth of clean energy industries is key to the region's economic recovery and future.
Locke said new federal efforts such as a one-stop office in the Detroit area to make his department's services more accessible to businesses are part of a broader push to jumpstart job creation.
"Our fight to build a new, clean energy economy is just getting started and it is a fight that we simply must win," Locke said. His remarks kicked off a two-day Midwestern Governors Association's Jobs and Energy Forum in Detroit.
Locke said the CommerceConnect pilot program, if it's successful, could be expanded to other areas around the country. A ribbon cutting was held Tuesday at the office in Plymouth, about 20 miles west of Detroit. Staff will act as case workers for individual businesses that seek assistance.
The governors association estimates that the Midwest has lost more than 1.2 million manufacturing jobs alone since 2000. Michigan's unemployment rate in August was more than 15 percent, the highest in the nation, while Ohio's was nearly 11 percent and Indiana and Illinois both had rates of about 10 percent.
Global warming poses more of a threat to U.S. farm incomes than does the climate change bill passed by the U.S. House, which will have a "negligible" impact on American agriculture's bottom line, an environmental group said on Wednesday.
"A more careful examination of the facts shows that climate change itself, not climate legislation, is the real threat to American agriculture, and that climate-induced crop losses will cost US taxpayers and farmers far more than could ever be caused by the (House) bill," the Environmental Working Group (EWG) said in its report.
Legislation introduced last week in the Senate aims for a 20 percent reduction in smokestack emissions by 2020 from 2005 levels. A bill that narrowly passed the House in June calls for a 17 percent cut by 2020 in pollution from utilities, manufacturers and oil refineries — industries blamed for global warming.
The American Farm Bureau Federation has warned that the House and Senate bills will drive up sharply the cost of farm fuel, fertilizer and pesticides.
But the EWG report said cost increases — such as higher expenses to produce crops — resulting from the climate change bill passed "are so small they would be lost in the background noise" of changes to farm income caused by routine fluctuations in yield, crop prices and input costs.
Furthermore, EWG said farmers stand to lose more from weather patterns, such as flooding, drought or higher temperatures, caused by global warming.
A new bipartisan coalition of business, government and environmental leaders is asking the Senate to make deforestation a centerpiece of the climate bill by allocating billions to fund tropical forest preservation programs in developing nations.
In a new report released to POLITICO, the Commission on Climate and Tropical Forests argues that paying developing tropical countries to preserve their forests would provide economic incentives to stop deforestation, a major driver of global warming.
Tropical deforestation accounts for roughly 17 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, a rate that makes Brazil one of the top emitters of greenhouse gases, along with far richer nations like the United States and China.
"It is truly time for America to launch a comprehensive response to this manageable threat," writes former Rhode Island Sen. Lincoln Chafee. "Protecting the planet's climate forests and fighting climate change can be the defining bipartisan issue of our time, but so far that bipartisanship has been largely absent."
But deforestation has long been a thorny issue for domestic and international climate policy.
Previous efforts to curb deforestation have largely failed because of difficulties in verifying and monitoring the programs and reporting on them. Environmental groups have also criticized some of the programs as open to abuse by corrupt politicians in poorer countries and by illegal logging companies.
Now the commission is saying the time is finally right to ink some serious forestry provisions — and action must start at home.
"This will be a big topic of discussion in Copenhagen, and clearly Copenhagen can be more successful to the degree the U.S. has a good program," said Nature Conservancy President and CEO Mark Tercek, referring to the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Denmark this December.
The European Commission is expected to introduce a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that directs the largest slices of €50 billion available for research and development to solar power and capturing and burying emissions from coal plants.
The plan, to be released on Wednesday, is partly intended to show that the European Union is taking the additional steps needed to meet ambitious goals to cut greenhouse gases before a summitmeeting in Copenhagen in December on reaching a new global agreement to curb climate change.
But the plan also signals the need for a reordering of the bloc's industrial priorities by requiring governments to spend significantly greater sums of money on clean energy even as the world emerges from a deep financial crisis.
"Markets and energy companies acting on their own are unlikely to be able to deliver the needed technological breakthroughs within a sufficiently short time span to meet the E.U.'s energy and climate policy goals," the commission said in a draft of the plan obtained by the International Herald Tribune.
Introducing low-carbon technologies also "represents a major challenge in the context of the financial crisis, where risk-aversion is higher and investment in new, riskier technologies is not high in investors' priorities," the draft said.
European Union commissioners are expected to seek agreement on the final sums to be allocated to low-carbon power industries at a meeting on Wednesday. The recommendation is from the European Commission, the E.U.'s executive arm.
Another winner under the draft plan would be a "Smart Cities" initiative focused on enhancing urban efficiency. The draft foresees €11 billion to develop a new generation of buildings and transport systems. The draft plan also would allocate €9 billion for bioenergy industries that produce electricity or fuels from plants or organic waste materials.
The commission said directing €7 billion to developing nuclear fission would aim to improve reactors' safety, produce less radioactive waste, minimize proliferation and extend the range of what nuclear plants do.
Environmental activists sued the Texas environmental agency Tuesday in an effort to force the state to regulate greenhouse gases, asking that coal-fired power plant projects be halted until that happens.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality issues air pollution permits that set limits on toxic releases, but the agency says there is no need to regulate carbon dioxide. Texas emits more greenhouse gases, made up mostly of CO2 emissions, than any other state.
The lawsuit by Public Citizen – which describes itself as a consumer advocacy organization – calls for greenhouse gas limits to be imposed as part of the permitting process, based on a 2007 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that classified carbon dioxide as an air pollutant under the Clean Air Act.
"The time has come for the TCEQ to take its head out of the sand and begin the process to regulate CO2 emission from Texas sources," Tom "Smitty" Smith, director of Public Citizen's Texas office, said in a statement announcing the suit.
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