Saturday, October 24, 2009
- Energy and Global Warming News for October 23: New poll finds climate action support; Chamber accelerates lobbying
- Watch Obama's big clean energy speech live at 12:25 ET today
- Hunters and anglers rally for climate bill — they see first-hand the impact of human-caused global warming
- Inhofe's climate change-denying Copenhagen 'truth squad' expands to a 'truth squad of three.'
- That Wolf Will Come Back to Bite You
- No wonder polling shows more people don't know the scientific evidence that humans are warming the Earth has grown stronger. Revkin stunner on NPR: "I've made missteps. I've made probably more mistakes this year in my print stories than I had before."
- Confusion in Senate regarding allowance allocation
- NRC: Burning fossil fuels costs the U.S. $120 billion a year — not counting mercury or climate impacts!
Posted: 23 Oct 2009 10:30 AM PDT
The first-ever deliberative global survey of citizen opinion, World Wide Views on Global Warming (WWViews) has found that people from diverse backgrounds in the US and worldwide overwhelmingly want faster action, deeper GHG emissions cuts and stronger enforcement than either US climate legislation proposals or Copenhagen treaty conference preparations are currently contemplating. Among the survey's findings:
These views were echoed across 37 other countries on six continents. Global results showed participants wanted more aggressive action than their delegates to Copenhagen envision, including:
By contrast, in current policy negotiations these goals are either much less ambitious or absent altogether. Preparations for Copenhagen and Congressional debate on climate change legislation are both following a similar pattern of lowering ambitions and expectations, focusing on limited areas of current agreement and incremental steps, and deferring more contentious issues of targets, timetables, funding and enforcement until later.
"We are hearing from climate policymakers that it will take more time to do things right, that we have to meet people where they are instead of imposing radical reforms from above," said Dr. Richard Sclove, the US advisor to WWViews. "But these results show the people are way ahead of the policymakers. If Congress and Copenhagen delegates want to act in accordance with citizen views, they have to do far more and go far faster, not scale back and slow down."
While a number of its members left because of its stance on climate change, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce was pouring record amounts into lobbying efforts.
The chamber spent more than $34 million on lobbying in the third quarter, with a portion of that money paying for advocacy on energy and climate legislation.
"This represents an increase of 260 percent above what it spent on lobbying during the second quarter, and an increase of 12 percent above what it spent during the first three quarters of 2008," wrote Michael Beckel on a blog of the Center for Responsive Politics.
The release of the lobbying data came during a crazed week for the chamber, which witnessed an environmentalist activist group called the "Yes Men" holding a fake press conference on climate policy in its name (Greenwire, Oct. 19). That followed departures of companies like Apple Inc. and Exelon from the chamber in recent months because of their disagreements with the group's stance on global warming.
In a statement earlier this week, Thomas Collamore, the chamber's senior vice president for communications and strategy, said, "The U.S. Chamber believes that strong climate legislation is not incompatible with the goals of improving our economy and creating jobs."
Here is the good news on the climate front: The Europeans have ratcheted down their emissions targets, the Chinese are getting serious about solar power and energy efficiency, and Washington is lumbering toward a carbon cap.
These are steps toward the long-held goal: cutting global warming pollution 80 percent by 2050. Such cuts would stabilize the thickness of the heat-trapping carbon dioxide blanket surrounding the planet at 450 parts per million (ppm) and, we've been told, ensure that the global average temperature increase would not exceed 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) from 1990 levels.
The bad news? Turns out that 450 ppm is so 2005.
In the past four years, climate scientists, led by NASA's James Hansen, have dramatically altered the goal. To avoid the collapse of the continental ice-sheets and a dangerous rise in sea levels, many scientists are now saying we have to get down to 350 ppm, and quickly.
This means what was already a heroic (and to many, impossible) target has become mind-boggling. Reaching 350 ppm would require a 97 percent reduction in emissions, entailing a complete conversion to renewable energy systems by mid-century, with the world economy virtually free of carbon emissions. Such a goal is far more demanding than any of the leading policy proposals under discussion.
No. It's just time to rethink what is possible.
A climate change bill will get top billing Friday with a critical meeting among Democratic leaders to set a timeline for debate, a major speech by President Barack Obama and release of a crucial impact study by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Massachusetts Democratic Sen. John Kerry, the lead sponsor of a Senate climate bill, plans to meet with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Monday to set a timeline for committees to finish work on the legislation – possibly as soon as Thanksgiving. And Environment and Public Works Chairwomen Sen. Barbara Boxer said she plans to release new sections of the climate bill that she co-authored with Kerry on Friday. The release of her bill comes as the EPA is set to release a study of the economic impact of the Senate version of the global warming legislation.
While Democratic senators make their push in Washington, Obama will deliver a speech on clean energy and climate change at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The flurry of activity around a bill that has suffered on the back burner during the health care debate gives environmentalists hope that the Senate could make substantial progress on a bill before international climate talks scheduled for December in Copenhagen.
The White House is encouraged by progress on a climate change bill in the Senate and is working to advance it even if a December deadline passes, an aide to President Barack Obama said on Thursday.
Carol Browner, Obama's top adviser on climate and energy issues, told Reuters that White House officials were reaching out to Democratic and Republican senators in an aggressive push to move the bill forward.
"There have been some bipartisan conversations that we find very encouraging," Browner said in an interview. "We are going to continue to do everything in our power to keep this moving."
If a law is not passed by the time U.N. talks on a global warming pact begin in December in Copenhagen, the United States would still have a strong position on the issue in the negotiations, she said.
"Wherever we are in the process, we will be able to manage in Copenhagen."
Browner, who has expressed doubts that a bill would become law by December, said U.S. negotiators would stress Obama's domestic initiatives on climate change and renewable energy since coming into office.
"We'll have been in office by the time we get there, what, 10 months? And yet if you look at what we've accomplished, its quite significant," she said.
European countries and environmentalists want Washington to do more to encourage the Copenhagen talks.
Obama's presence at the talks would help. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has said he would go and called on other world leaders to attend, too.
But Browner said the time was not right to make that call. "As the president himself has said, it's just too early to make that decision," she said.
The Foreign Secretary accused the public yesterday of lacking a sense of urgency in the face of the potentially devastating consequences of climate change.
David Miliband said that people had grown apathetic about the issue when they needed to be galvanised into action before the Copenhagen climate change summit in December.
"For a lot of people the penny hasn't dropped that this climate change challenge is real and is happening now," he said. "There isn't yet that feeling of urgency and drive and animation about the Copenhagen conference."
Mr Miliband and his brother, Ed Miliband, the Climate Change Secretary, were opening an exhibition at the Science Museum in South Kensington designed to illustrate the potential impact of world temperatures increasing by 4C. Current models predict that this could happen by 2060 if no action is taken.
He stood by the Government's hard-hitting public information broadcast to promote the Government's Act on CO2 initiative.
China and India agreed Oct. 22 to coordinate their efforts on climate change. The two countries are at one in holding developed countries responsible for taking the lead in cutting emissions. As the largest carbon emitter, China is being watched particularly closely in the approach to the December Copenhagen summit on climate change to see what position it will adopt.
China's carbon emissions are said to have surpassed those of the U.S. in 2007, making it the world's largest contributing country and a key participant at the U.N. Climate Summit in Copenhagen this December:
–On Sept. 22, President Hu Jintao said China would cut carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions per unit of GDP by a "notable margin" by 2020. This has raised expectations that China might make a commitment to mandatory emissions cuts.
–On Oct. 14, Vice Premier Li Keqiang stressed the principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities," which replicated the standard position on climate change from the mid-1990s.
Entering into a five-year agreement yesterday, China and India are making common cause on climate change, which will add to the weight developing countries will have at Copenhagen. The two sides maintain that:
–developed countries carry primary responsibility for cutting emissions;
–caps should not be imposed, because development is their priority; and
–developed countries should provide financial and technological resources to industrializing countries to help them control emissions.
Posted: 23 Oct 2009 08:52 AM PDT
Posted: 23 Oct 2009 07:35 AM PDT
People who spend a lot of their time outdoors are more likely to see the obvious — the climate is changing and invasive species like the bark beetle are ravaging the West. That's a key point of this piece in the NYT blog, Green Inc:
It's great to see a broader group of the population starting to engage in what will be the central issue of our time. But then, for outdoorsmen and -women, the changes driven by human emissions are all-but-impossible to miss:
If we don't act fast enough, human-caused climate change will wipe out the majority of species on land and sea, and turn a livable climate into "Hell and High Water."
Posted: 23 Oct 2009 06:47 AM PDT
From Think Progress
Last month, Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) announced that he would travel to Copenhagen in December to act as a climate skeptic "truth squad" during international climate change treaty negotiations. "I think somebody has to be there — a one-man truth squad," Inhofe said on CSPAN. Today, on Bill Bennett's radio show, Inhofe revealed that his delegation has expanded to "a truth squad of three":
When Inhofe first announced his plans for a "truth squad," TPM's Eric Kleefeld remarked, "It's nice to see how seriously foreign policy is taken these days — when a member of the political minority will send his own delegation to an international conference, in order to undermine the government and tell other countries that they can't work with the United States." Now it's at least two members of the political minority.
Posted: 23 Oct 2009 06:30 AM PDT
No wonder polling shows more people don't know the scientific evidence that humans are warming the Earth has grown stronger. Revkin stunner on NPR: "I've made missteps. I've made probably more mistakes this year in my print stories than I had before."
Posted: 22 Oct 2009 04:30 PM PDT
UPDATE: Yes, bad coverage by big media, including the NYT's Revkin, is one reason there has been a modest decline since April 2008 in the number of Americans who know that there is solid (in fact, overwhelming) evidence the Earth is warming and humans are the primary cause (see here). Big media "did" the global warming story in 2006 and 2007 when Gore's movie came out and then throughout 2007 when the IPCC released its four major summary reports. Looking for a new angle, the NY Times and others played up the global cooling myth. Now couple that with a ramped up disinformation campaign from the deniers who keep repeating the global cooling myth and continued lame messaging from the scientific community (see "Why scientists aren't more persuasive, Part 1") and a progressive community filled with people who have been persuaded by bad analysis that they shouldn't even talk about "global warming" (see Messaging 101b: EcoAmerica's phrase 'our deteriorating atmosphere' isn't going to replace 'global warming' — and that's a good thing). That's a recipe for an underinformed public.
I have serious doubts whether major journalists should be blogging very much. It conflates different roles, which can be confusing to the reader, and I've always thought that the media's blogging was inherently lower quality journalism but still imprinted with the credibility of the journalist and his or her media organization (see "What exactly is the difference between journalism and blogging?").
Today's remarkble NPR interview of top NY Times climate reporter Andrew Revkin underscores my doubts and introduces yet another major problem I hadn't considered — sagging quality of the print reporting as a result of too much time spent blogging. Or, in Andy's case, he's apparently doing the same amount of blogging but more print reporting.
Revkin says "I've been in print more, but I haven't slowed down on the blog." The impact:
You aren't the only one who is frustrated, Andy!
The published articles reach a vastly larger audience. I'd gladly do without every one of Andy's posts at his blog, many of which are quite informative — in return for his not repeatedly screwing up the facts and the framing of those facts in just one recent story, see "NYT's Revkin pushes global cooling myth (again!) and repeats outright misinformation."
I suspect (or, at least, hope) that if he had had more time to get the facts right, he might not have written that story at all or it would have completely reframed it. And yes, if you check the sentences I said were wrong or misleading, he went back and changed every single one of them — although the change to the key opening sentence was just adding one word, "relatively," which is quite inadequate:
That is still very misleading, with the phrase "relatively stable for a decade" not actually based on scientific data and the phrase "may even drop" not supported by the recent scientific literature, including the work of the one person Andy cites, Mojib Latif (see "Exclusive interview with Dr. Mojib Latif, the man who confused the NY Times and New Scientist").
[I still haven't seen the print edition of that story -- if someone can find it and send me the PDF, I'd love to see it. I think my blog post was too late to correct the print story.]
Let me end with a general statement I made after the terrific journalist James Fallows made some errant statements on climate (see "James Fallows, Physics for Future Presidents, Al Gore, blogging journalists, and what will become of hockey sticks on an ice-free planet?"):
FINAL NOTE TO MEDIA: Time for you to go back to the basics of reporting the science. You might stop the blogging and start with this story — 18 leading scientific organizations send letter to Senators affirming the climate is changing, "human activities are the primary driver," impacts are projected to worsen "substantially" and "If we are to avoid the most severe impacts of climate change, emissions of greenhouse gases must be dramatically reduced."
Posted: 22 Oct 2009 04:15 PM PDT
The above quote is from a May analysis of the Waxman-Markey clean energy and climate bill by Harvard University's Robert Stavins — who is certainly not anyone's idea of a progressive economist (see here and here), although he is obviously one of the country's leading economic experts on cap-and-trade.
Some commenters here and elsewhere have described the allocation distribution in the climate bill as a big giveaway to polluters. The most credible progressive experts I know on energy economics dispute that description (see "Preventing windfalls for polluters but preserving prices — Waxman-Markey gets it right").
Today, Stavins posted "Confusion in the Senate Regarding Allowance Allocation," which notes:
Unlike Stavins, I think it's worth excerpting most of (rather than just linking to) what he wrote back then:
Posted: 22 Oct 2009 01:01 PM PDT
As the Senate gears up to discuss clean energy legislation this fall, the Senate may have—despite its awareness—another healthcare debate on its hands. If we cannot direct our use of energy towards those forms that do not carry hidden burdens, we better hope that Americans have good health insurance.
The National Research Council, an arm of the National Academy of Sciences, recently found that our current level of energy use is costing us a lot more than our environment—it is also costing us our health. In the newly released "The Hidden Costs of Energy: Unpriced Consequences of Energy Production and Use," the NRC explores the external costs of energy, costs that are certainly not factored into its market price. Requested by Congress in the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the report reveals that there are substantial "hidden" costs to our energy production and use, primarily reflected in damages to human health. The report monetizes these unseen energy costs at $120 billion annually by tracing the full cycle of our energy use—extraction, development, deployment, and waste. These costs result in the death of 20,000 people each year—10,000 due to coal alone.
The NRC reports that most of the "hidden" costs of energy are attributed to coal-fired electricity generation and motor vehicle transportation—they extract an annual toll of $62 billion and $56 billion, respectively. In reporting its cost figures, the NRC only included the estimates for the non-climatic costs imposed by our energy use, specifically those costs related to health, agriculture, and built infrastructure. Although other pernicious side-effects of our energy use—such as ecosystem disruption, other pollutants (like mercury), and national security risks—impose costs to Americans, these environmental costs were examined in the report but were excluded from the final cost figures. (Note: this actually made the reported costs much clearer due to the panoply of possible monetary values the NRC calculated for these other damages). The conclusion is resoundingly clear: our current energy use has implications for much more than debates about the climate.
The punch line? Coal-fired power plants and motor vehicle transportation account for roughly $118 billion of non-climatic damage to the U.S. each year. Natural gas, which accounts for 20% of our nation's electricity generation and the "vast majority" of heating demands, only costs us a little over $2 billion dollars annually in unseen costs (also note that the Energy Information Administration projects that the market price of natural gas will be 14.6 times lower than that of oil through 2030). Comparatively, the report shows, renewable energy (wind, solar, geothermal, etc.) costs us very little in external damages. With a tremendous renewable energy potential and an abundant untapped supply of natural gas, the U.S needs to—and can!—reduce these hidden energy costs by generating clean energy that does not obscure the real costs of its production and use.
Jonathan Aronchick, an intern for the Energy Opportunity team at the Center for American Progress.
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- Energy and Global Warming News for October 22: Southeast most exposed to climate change impacts; Thinking solar power? It's never been cheaper
- India brings new hope to global climate negotiations
- GOP proposes to cut solar technology funding and the clean energy jobs it would bring
- Something's Coming: 350 ppm in South Bay L.A.
- 18 leading scientific organizations send letter to Senators affirming the climate is changing, "human activities are the primary driver," impacts are projected to worsen "substantially" and "If we are to avoid the most severe impacts of climate change, emissions of greenhouse gases must be dramatically reduced."
- Oops: Some comments accidentally went into spam folder
- Northwest states project efficiency measures could meet 85% of new electricity demand through 2030
- E&E News: "At least 67 senators are in play" on climate bill; Murkowski open to voting for "cap and trade"
- Energy and Global Warming News for October 21: Developing nations join West in deforestation fight
- Coauthor of SuperFreakonomics apologizes to me
Posted: 22 Oct 2009 09:41 AM PDT
Posted: 22 Oct 2009 08:04 AM PDT
This guest repost is by CAP's Andrew Light, Julian L. Wong, and Sabina Dewan. Above, Secretary of State Clinton and India's Junior Minister for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh discuss climate change during Clinton's visit to India in July.
Most of the attention in the lead up to the December United Nations climate change summit in Copenhagen has been focused on the United States and China—the two biggest annual emitters of greenhouse gases. But India may be the country that provides the necessary breakthrough in international negotiations to help developed and developing countries reach an agreement. Indian Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh is urging the Indian government to commit to action without the promise of financial and technological assistance, and subject its domestic efforts to international scrutiny. And this change of position could not come at a more critical time.
U.N. climate talks in trouble
The last preliminary round of the U.N. climate negotiations in Bangkok two weeks ago did not go well. Developed and developing countries were once again in opposition, lobbying charges and countercharges at each other through the media about who is trying to derail progress more. Sudan, the new incoming chair of the G-77 group of 130 developing countries, accused the United States in particular of attempting to sabotage the talks, renege on efforts to extend the Kyoto Protocol beyond 2012, and introduce their own new treaty proposal.
Sudanese chair of the G-77 Lumumba Di-Aping, put it this way: "Feelings are running high in the G-77. It is clear now that the rich countries want a deal outside the Kyoto agreement. … This is an alarming development. The intention of developed countries is clearly to kill the protocol." Yet such charges are completely misleading.
The reality is that all members of the Framework Convention on Climate Change at the U.N. climate summit in Bali in 2007 authorized a parallel track within the U.N. framework for negotiations to create a potential alternative to the protocol. This second track is dubbed the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-Term Cooperative Action, or LCA track. Countries submitted language to the LCA for a new treaty option to replace the Kyoto Protocol last spring. The current negotiating text is approximately 200 pages and consists of language submitted by a variety of countries including Australia, Costa Rica, and Norway—not just the United States.
What really happened at the Bangkok round was that the European Union began to signal that it is willing to discuss alternative structures for a new climate treaty rather than extending the Kyoto Protocol, in more or less its current form, beyond 2012. Some developing countries struck back and started falsely claiming that they had been blind-sided by discussion of a new treaty.
U.S. negotiators have been pushing the LCA track over continuing with the Kyoto Protocol because the Kyoto agreement does not reflect modern day carbon realities. Kyoto divided the world between developed and developing countries—"Annex 1" and "non-Annex 1" countries in Kyoto parlance. It sets binding cuts in emissions for developed countries and does not require similar measures for developing countries. Yet the world's best scientists argue that we must cut global emissions by half by 2050. Developed countries cannot do this alone.
Scientific consensus contends that the goal of having developed countries cut their emissions by 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050 will not be enough to reach the target of halving all emissions given current levels of carbon pollution in the "major developing emitters," principally China, India, Brazil, Indonesia, South Africa, and Mexico. Only a new architecture for the climate treaty can create a regime that will move these developing countries to binding emissions cuts of their own so that we can meet the global 2050 goal.
The fight over whether to continue the Kyoto Protocol or construct an alternative may seem like it is destroying any hope of producing a new international climate agreement. But the extreme maneuvering of the Sudanese leadership over the last two months against the LCA track may have cracked the G-77 coalition and set off a wake-up call to major carbon developing emitters. The new leadership of the G-77 has presumed to speak for the major developing emitters, who have all been signaling in different ways their willingness to move to substantial emissions cuts of their own and be counted as part of the solution rather than part of the problem. These major emitters are now concerned that their smaller allies are derailing the prospects of getting a hopeful outcome in Copenhagen.
India offers a new hope
China was until recently toeing the usual G-77 line of refusing to commit to any climate action unless developed countries committed to deep cuts in emissions—25 to 40 percent of 1990 levels by 2020—and agreed to provide enormous sums to developing countries, as well as technological and financial assistance, for mitigation and adaptation activities. Yet this summer China started to take a more conciliatory tone, publicly announcing that it was considering setting a future date in which it would peak its emissions growth, enacting targets to reduce carbon emissions per unit of GDP, and being willing to play a constructive role in the international climate negotiations.
India had seemed even more stubborn than China in the negotiation process, but now seems poised to go a step further. The Indian media is citing leaked correspondence from Indian Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh to the Indian prime minister that calls for India to distance itself from the G-77's latest positions. The correspondence refers to some specific language in the LCA track proposed by Australia, dubbed the "schedules approach." This approach would allow different countries to pledge a variety of actions for cutting emissions such as renewable electricity standards and provisions to avoid deforestation rather than relying on economy-wide caps on emissions as the indication of a country's commitment. Ramesh suggested that such alternatives to the Kyoto Protocol structure were acceptable "as long as it maintains this basic distinction [between developed and developing countries] and nature of differential obligations."
Ramesh also said that India will need to alter its long-held G-77 position that it would only undertake international commitments if developing countries supported them with technology and finance. And it now appears that Ramesh had previously advocated, in a separate letter to the prime minister, that India should willingly subject itself to the international verification of its own domestic climate programs—a move that China and other developing countries have so far resisted.
There is no doubt that Ramesh's positions will be met with some resistance in the Indian government. But if the Indian leaders follow through on Minister Ramesh's proposals it would mark a remarkable turnaround. Ramesh told U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton just three months ago on her visit to New Delhi that, "there is simply no case for the pressure that we, who have among the lowest emissions per capita, face to actually reduce emissions."
Ramesh now appears to be singing a different tune. "We are not going to be a dealbreaker in Copenhagen," he declared at a conference in Washington, D.C. earlier this month, after describing a suite of domestic policies that India would be willing to adopt in renewable energy and energy efficiency—although he stopped short of committing to internationally binding targets.
It will be interesting to see how India's position evolves in the last 50 or so days leading up to the Copenhagen summit. Ramesh appears to be leaning toward a structure that would commit India to binding its domestic actions to an international agreement and subjecting those actions to international scrutiny. This would represent a sea change in India's previous positions on submitting itself to an external verification regime for its emissions cuts. India is often thought of as the most intransigent of the major developing countries when it comes to climate action, but now appears to want to be, as Ramesh puts it, "pragmatic and constrictive, not argumentative and polemical."
Moving forward on a climate change agreement
India stands to lose a great deal if global warming continues. Indeed, Ramesh said in his appeal to the prime minister that a change in stance was necessary "because we need to mitigate in self-interest." The dire implications of global climate change have become hard for India to ignore as low-lying areas such as Kolkata get flooded by rising sea levels, displacing hundreds; rising sea levels cause sea water to flow into the Ganges, threatening ecosystems and turning fertile farmland barren; and melting glaciers in Kashmir cause regional chaos over water shortages.
Yet climate change and energy policies in India are subject to domestic concerns about the additional cost that may come with capping emissions, just as they are in the United States and other counties. Most Indians want to maintain the competitiveness and relatively high levels of economic growth to which they have grown accustomed. And doing so has become necessary to maintain political stability.
The Indian government has established the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, making it the only country in the world with a separate ministry charged with transitioning the country to an economy that runs on more clean and renewable energy sources. Nine percent of its installed power capacity consists of renewable sources excluding hydropower, which accounts for another 25 percent.
India has adopted a comprehensive climate change action plan, which, among other things, creates a market-based scheme for the trading of energy efficiency certificates that is worth an estimated $15 billion, sets energy efficiency standards for home appliances and buildings, puts in place fuel economy standards for automobiles, and aims for the world's largest installed solar photovoltaic capacity at 20 gigawatts by 2020, which is equivalent to the capacity of 20 new nuclear power plants. India is also the world's fifth largest installer of wind energy capacity, and Indian company Suzlon is one of the world's leading wind energy companies. The national government is giving serious consideration to enacting national renewable electricity standards, and at least a dozen progressive Indian states have already set their own requirements, ranging from 0.5 to 10 percent.
It remains to be seen whether the Indian prime minister will heed Minister Ramesh's call to action. India needs the space to maneuver through its domestic political constraints, just like the United States. Let us not forget that India's per capita emissions are just 7 percent that of the United States'. And some 400 to 600 million of India's 1.1 billion population is without or only has limited access to electricity, which makes the coutry resistant to capping carbon emissions ahead of the United States.
The United States is the one clear roadblock to this progress. Internal opposition to action on climate change will strengthen in India if the United States does not demonstrate leadership on this issue. The more the United States is willing to do, the easier it will be for the best impulses of some sectors of the Indian government to prevail. Worries about whether the United States will reduce emissions slow progress in countries like India and China just as U.S. concerns about progress in these countries stymies legislation in our country. Progressives on climate change there are fighting battles that mirror the ones we are fighting here.
The path to a deal in Copenhagen lies in highlighting the potential economic opportunity that the transformation to a energy economy brings for all the countries involved, as well as making clear the importance of developed countries doing their share to provide resources that will facilitate clean development in emerging and less developed countries. India's recent initiatives reflect the country's understanding of the potential that the energy transformation brings to their own economy. As hearings begin next week in the U.S. Congress on the Senate companion to the House climate and energy bill, we hope that the United States will do the same.
Andrew Light is a Senior Fellow, Julian L. Wong is a Senior Policy Analyst, and Sabina Dewan is Associate Director of International Economic Policy at the Center for American Progress.
Posted: 22 Oct 2009 07:46 AM PDT
The United States created the solar cell industry and literally launched it into space 50 years ago. And, yes, solar PV is going to be one of the largest job-creating industries of the century, projected to grow "from a $20 billion industry in 2007 to $74 billion by 2017."
Back in the June debate over the climate bill, Broun received applause on the House floor for calling global warming a 'hoax', asserting:
That is, of course, nonsense, as yesterday's letter to Senators by 18 leading scientific organizations makes clear.
But while conservatives work hard to kill the clean air, clean water, clean energy jobs bill that is America's only real hope of remaining globally competitive, the rest of the world eats our lunch, a lunch we were kind enough to cook for them using on our own no-longer-secret recipe (see "China begins transition to a clean-energy economy" and "Why other countries kick our butt on clean energy: A primer").
Sadly, whenever conservatives have the presidency or control of Congress, they have gutted or blocked funding for clean energy:
But don't get all friggin' sentimental on me. Think of the few billion dollars U.S. taxpayers saved!
The fundamental tenets of conservative ideology say that if countries like China and Taiwan and Spain make most of the PV cells, it must be because they have an inherent "comparative" advantage over us. You gotta start reading your Ricardo, people.
Any card-carrying conservative knows that if other countries manage to get millions of their workers' hands dirty actually making stuff, it's only because they are better at it. We're still the brainiacs who invent the technologies first and then wisely save a few pennies of the taxpayer dollars not promoting American technologies into billion-dollar American industries. We've still got all those Internet-related jobs, and it's not like the government had anything to do with that.
So please, all you progressives and enviros out there, stop your whining. The plan is unfolding as it should, indeed as it must. Do not argue with the invisible hand. People will think you're crazy. Or at least conservatives will.
Back to Broun:
Thankfully, the green FDR is President and progressives lead both houses of Congress.
Posted: 22 Oct 2009 06:13 AM PDT
This followup to "a genuinely ballooning effort to achieve 350 ppm" is by guest blogger and long-time commenter Joe Galliani aka Creative Greenius. Galliani is chair of the South Bay 350 Climate Action Group, which has an event "on the beach in Manhattan Beach on October 24, 2009 in support of 350.org's International Day of Climate Action."
I started feeling it on October 10 and I song-Tweeted the feeling via my blip.fm Twitter plug-in. That song from West Side Story, "Something's Coming," kept playing in my head, and I couldn't get it out. So I shared it with my small group of Twitter followers, because even though I reference show tunes from over 50 years ago, I do it via social media to friends all around the worldwide web.
It was on October 10 that we could all sense it. What had started just three months earlier as a meeting at the Community Church with 25 local people to brainstorm ideas for a South Bay 350 climate action event, had now become a Los Angeles County-wide event at the beach. And you could just smell that it was destined to keep getting bigger.
And that's exactly what has happened because there is a hunger to get involved that is palpable with everyone we reach out to. Every individual, every group, every elected official, every city, every school, every church, every professional we asked to donate their special skills and talents. They all just kept saying "Yes." And then they say, "What else can I do? How can I help make this a success? Do you need any money?"
It started with our friends at Greenpeace who brought not only tremendous energy, but also incredible organization, outreach, canvassing and phone banking skills. Jenny Binstock, the Southern California Field Organizer we reached out to, immediately involved all of Greenpeace USA who in turn have given us incredible support. Greenpeace sent an army of highly-trained young volunteers down from the Bay Area last week and they have been working on the ground here in our South Bay-Los Angeles community from the moment they got here. They've trained other volunteers and we'll have over 70 people working well defined roles on the day of our event. Here's some photos from last Sunday's training session.
The City of Manhattan Beach stepped up early and volunteered to become our host city, passed a unanimous resolution in their city council, and has worked as our partners every step of the way. They've strung banners across major streets, created fliers and posters, and have literally involved every city department to help make this 350 Climate Action a huge success. Red tape? Bureaucracy? Delays and multiple layers of management to get decisions made? We don't know anything about those things in working with Manhattan Beach and the incredible Sona Kalapura the City's Environmental Programs Manager.
And when we needed money to help pay for those banners our alliance partners the Surfrider Foundation South Bay Chapter stepped up and made it happen. So did the South Bay Environmental Services Center.
Northop Grumman gave us their parking lot and the County of Los Angeles donated buses for free park and ride shuttles to our event site. The Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition volunteered to do a bicycle valet.
We got our permit fees for using the beach waived thanks to the board of Supervisor for the 4th District, Don Knabe. When we told the the Executive Director of the South Bay Cities Council of Governments that we needed a plane, it took less than 24 hours before we were hearing from the Public Affairs Director of the So Cal Gas Company with details of his plane and proposed flight plan over the beach. And when we needed a great pro videographer and top still photographer to volunteer to take that flight to capture our Amazing Waving Human Tide Line, once again we had volunteer help almost instantly.
None of us have ever seen anything like this here. There's a stronger sense of urgency and momentum then we felt during the Presidential election and that was the most exciting one I had ever been through.
And the more momentum we gain, the more we get. Supporters introduced us to new friends and people, like the renown Miguel Luna and his Urban Semillas, who represent the Spanish speaking communities throughout broader Los Angeles on water issues, joined us and in-turn reached out to their friends. We all share the beach, and we'll all share what's coming to the beach if we don't work together now.
Every day some new group, business, school or elected official reaches out to us and says, "I want to be part of that climate action on the beach this Saturday." From senior citizen groups, to girl scout troops, to college sororities, to volleyball teams to kayaking groups, what we're hearing is "It's about time somebody was doing this. Hell yes we want to be there! If we don't take care of this now we're in real trouble."
All this does is give me and all our volunteers renewed energy and passion and we're all working harder than we've worked on any other project before.
And that song in my head? It just keeps getting louder every day. Something's coming all right, and we've got two full days of great work ahead of us to make sure it arrives. I'm betting it gets here on Saturday.
For more information, click here.
– Joe Galliani
18 leading scientific organizations send letter to Senators affirming the climate is changing, "human activities are the primary driver," impacts are projected to worsen "substantially" and "If we are to avoid the most severe impacts of climate change, emissions of greenhouse gases must be dramatically reduced."
Posted: 21 Oct 2009 03:46 PM PDT
Here is the letter from 18 top U.S. scientific organizations:
Well it's a start (see "Publicize or perish: The scientific community is failing miserably in communicating the potential catastrophe of climate change"). But I still prefer the Bali declaration by more than 200 of the world's leading climate scientists, which embraces the 2°C target and specific emissions reductions targets.
The footnote reads:
You go, statisticians — now if you would only clue in your Danish counterpart (see "The Bjorn Irrelevancy: Duke dean disses Danish delayer").
Here are all the organizations that signed on:
No American Physical Society? They've got some explaining to do.
Kudos to all those scientific organizations who did sign on!
Posted: 21 Oct 2009 03:20 PM PDT
I just realized that a combination of a computer glitch and human error (mine) accidentally tightened the spam filter for about two days. A couple dozen comments were caught. I just went through and released them.
I hope I found them all amidst the staggering amount of real spam (e.g. "buy xanax cheap" — not that such offers wouldn't come in handy somedays).
My apologies to new and old readers alike if you tried to post and failed. Please keep those comments coming!
Posted: 21 Oct 2009 02:52 PM PDT
The Council, with members from Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon, is responsible for developing long-term (20 year) electric power plans and revising those plans every five years. Here's a snippet from their press release for this plan, the sixth in a series:
Sounds pretty good. An economically attractive, environmentally sensitive approach to meeting energy demand through increased efficiency investments. But c'mon, that wouldn't be the first time efficiency has been touted in this blog. So what's newsworthy about the introduction of this plan, especially as it originates from the granola crunching part of the Western U.S.?
First of all the numbers. According to energy experts, efficiency measures could provide at least 85% of new electricity demand over the next two decades. Not mentioned in the EE Daily article is a more impressive fact—that close to 60% of energy needs over the next 5 years could be provided through efficiency investments. Anyone out there want to compare this to how long it takes to get a coal or nuclear plant on-line, or for that matter to stack it up against the short-term (e.g. five years) solar and wind potential for that part of the world?
Second headline—the report actually acknowledges that Congress and the President will do something to put a price on carbon. It goes further—it says that the benefits of the efficiency strategy, one that promises economic and environmental gains, would be greatly enhanced by the passage of pending legislation. As reported by Energy Daily:
Another take away is how rapidly the planning scenarios for major swaths of the national grid are changing. Just five years ago the Council figured that 2900 megawatts of energy efficiency savings would be affordable and doable. The new plan projects that over the next five years approximately 5800 megawatts would be cost effective.
The Pacific Northwest has been no stranger to problems associated with unreliable energy supplies. It is, after all, the home of WHOOPS aka the Washington Public Power Supply System, "which made the record books with the largest municipal bond default in history" after a failed attempt to finance the construction of five nuclear power plants.
And the plan is not without its critics. Here's what some of the enviros had to say, as reported in Energy Daily:
But let's not bury the lede—more and more agencies, responsible for ensuring an adequate supply of electric power for the next two decades, are doubling down on energy efficiency AND want Congress and the President to adopt energy legislation that helps.
This post is by guest blogger Stewart J. Hudson, President of the Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation:
Posted: 21 Oct 2009 12:04 PM PDT
Okay, it may not exactly be a stampede of elephants crossing over, but there is real movement by key swing Senators, as E&E Daily makes clear in an excellent new analysis, "On road to 60, Senate swells with fence sitters," (subs. req'd). They count 31 "yes" votes, 11 "probably yes," and
That should read "expected (and immoral) conservative filibuster" — since it now seems clear, the bill will get a number of GOP votes (see "Murkowski praises Kerry-Graham climate plan. The Washington Times writes, "Her remarks signal the potential for a major turn in the climate change debate in Congress").
I'll list the Senators in each category below, but first it is worth noting continued movement by one key swing Senator, Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). As Reuters and the NY Times reported over the weekend:
"Count me as one of those who will keep my mind open as we move forward," she said in a C-SPAN interview that aired Sunday. In the interview she said she recently talked with Sen. Graham about is bipartisan proposals and "It was a good conversation." She acknowledged the state has been ravaged by climate change:
So I think the final bill has a very realistic chance of getting her vote. For more, see her updated Grist profile.
Here are some specifics from E&E:
Here is that list:
Then we have the 12 probables:
Finally we have the 24 fence sitters:
There are also a lot of fence-sitting Dems:
Beyond Nelson and Landrieu (who are listed correctly as probable no votes), Lincoln and Dorgan will be the hardest to get, I'm told.
We may get only 56 or 57 Democratic votes for cloture — and thus may need at least 4 and preferably 5 or more GOP'ers, which I think is now in sight. The bill is not a sure thing, but it is likely, especially since Obama is ramping up his push. More on that later.
Here is the full list of 24 on the fence:
Those are the ones to focus attention on, especially Dorgan, Gregg, LeMieux, Lincoln, Lugar, McCain, Murkowski, and Voinovich. Getting at least 2 of those and preferably 3 or more would probably give us the bill.
Posted: 21 Oct 2009 11:10 AM PDT
Posted: 21 Oct 2009 10:49 AM PDT
[Note: The error-riddled book is now searchable again on Amazon, so readers can confirm that all of my excerpts were correct and in context. The book has garnered a number of positive comments from (fast) readers, even on the climate chapter whose main conclusion has been rejected by its two primary scientific sources -- see Dubner is baffled that Caldeira "doesn't believe geoengineering can work without cutting emissions" and Myhrvold jumps ship on Levitt and Dubner.]
Deep in his Sunday, October 18 post attacking my accurate debunking of his book, Dubner has buried this apology:
For the record, a "brief time" was from at least October 9, when I first used it to confirm that the PDF of the climate chapter I was sent was genuine, through at least October 14, as noted in my second post on the book -- "Error-riddled 'Superfreakonomics', Part 2."
On the one hand, this does appear to be an unintentional mistake by Dubner. I believe Harper because they also published my book, Hell and High Water, and they sent me a personal note saying it was their mistake, not Dubner's.
On the other hand, this correction has been buried deep in a pretty old post so few if any of their many readers will see it. That's the primary reason I'm writing this post.
Most of Dubner's readers, however, probably read his harsh comments about my now-verified claim:
The larger point is Dubner's whole framing is wrong.
He complained that people were criticizing the book without having read it. But the publisher made me take down the chapter I had posted. And unbeknownst to the authors, the publisher also stopped the searchability, would have again allowed people to confirm everything I wrote. [Yes, it does appear that the searchability was stopped simply because they realized it was premature.] As Berkeley economist Brad DeLong wrote Dubner:
The way Dubner and Levitt decided to defend their error-riddled book was to attack me personally (and falsely, see "Bloomberg interview of Dubner and Caldeira backs up my reporting on error-riddled Superfreakonomics") — rather than the substance of my accurate critique. The problem with that strategy was that the problem with the book wasn't my critique — it was the book's contents. Anybody who actually read the chapter could see that it was error-riddled — for instance, Nobelist Paul Krugman:
And the other strategy of letting Myhrvold "defend" the book on their blog backfired when he repudiated the core argument of the chapter! Delong posts on his blog an extensive debunking of that post, written by Nicholas Weaver, which ends with perhaps the best one-sentence judgment on the book and its key source that I've seen so far:
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