Saturday, November 14, 2009

India defends its climate-change strategy while calling for room to develop Los Angeles Times

Climate Progress

Climate Progress

Ban Ki-moon climate deputy says Copenhagen deal may take two stage approach; Outline of bipartisan Kerry, Lieberman, Graham proposal likely beforehand

Posted: 13 Nov 2009 08:07 AM PST

The top climate lieutenant to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Thursday that a major — though perhaps preliminary — international agreement to curb global warming is still possible in Copenhagen. One leading option is to set low targets for emissions reductions initially and to boost them if global warming gets worse.

Janos Pasztor, director of the climate change support team under Ban, told reporters that the Copenhagen global warming conference could yield a breakthrough on greenhouse gas reduction targets and financial aid to poor countries. A binding agreement would be written in 2010, he said….

Ban visited Washington last week to meet with Obama officials and with senators, and said he was optimistic about the chances for a bill to pass the Senate sometime next year. Two of the three senators working to build a bipartisan coalition for the legislation — John Kerry, D-Mass. and Joe Lieberman, I-Conn. — said after the meeting they would try to release an outline of their proposal before the Copenhagen conference.

That's the news today from The Washington Times Washington Insight/Energy (sub. req'd).

It is no surprise to CP readers that "administration officials have stressed that it will not agree to a global treaty that cannot win approval in the Senate."  For a related story, see the WashPost's "U.S. weighs backing interim international climate agreement."  And this is similar to the "Statement by Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen at the GLOBE Copenhagen Legislators Forum on 24 October 2009," which I'll excerpt below.

First, more from the Insight story:

A potential agreement could set modest requirements in the early years, he said, but mandate more aggressive actions if the planet gets warmer faster than expected. "It's extremely important to get this system going, in all countries, even if the immediate numbers, the mitigation targets are not as high as you'd like them to be," Pasztor said. "We just have to find a way to ratchet those numbers up later, to respond to what science tells us."

"The fact that we cannot come to a conclusion on the legally binding treaty at Copenhagen doesn't mean we are lowering the bar, that we're lowering our ambition. It's actually the opposite," he added. "It's actually the time to increase the level of ambition as much as possible, to get the best deal we can possibly get."

He said countries can still agree on emissions targets, mitigation aid to poor nations and reporting requirements, while leaving leaving the details for later. "It is possible and we expect that it will be done," Pasztor said.

Pasztor's comments were more optimistic than the consensus of many observers. Despite extensive negotiations over the last two years, disagreements have persisted among nations over the level and pace of greenhouse gas reductions needed to halt global warming at an additional 2 degrees Celsius, a level that environmental scientist say will head off massive climate changes.

Here are excerpts from the recent speech by the Danish Prime Minister:

I suggest that we lock in the determination to act already by Copenhagen and seek political commitments for immediate implementation.
I believe that all the key components of the deal can be achieved in Copenhagen.

In order to achieve this, the Copenhagen Agreement should be ambitious; it should binding and it should be concrete.

It should build on the principles established by the existing legal framework, most notably the principle of a common but differentiated responsibility.

It should capture and encourage the contributions individual countries are willing to undertake within all areas of the Bali Road Map, including specific and binding commitments on mitigation and finance. In the context of immediate action, significant up front finance for both early mitigation and adaptation efforts of the poorest and most vulnerable countries will be of particular importance.

In order to ensure transparency and that the individual countries are standing behind their commitments and deliver on their promises, we shall also need a system of measurement, reporting and verification.

This is the agreement we must reach. It will both provide guidance for our lawyers to finalize the details of the internationally legal binding agreement and for world leaders to commit to specific immediate action, starting January 2010.

In this way, Copenhagen could provide for immediate action based on a comprehensive set of binding, political commitments from world leaders.

The Copenhagen Agreement would thus serve two purposes:

  1. to direct further negotiations towards concluding outstanding details in a new legal climate regime;
  2. to capture and encourage political commitment in order to provide for immediate action to combat global warming.

Political commitment to immediate action will also serve to focus and strengthen the negotiations on the legal agreement. It is important that these two purposes will merge in one decision at COP15.

The devil, as always, will be in those "outstanding details."  Stay tuned.

Climate bill would be a boon to farmers

Posted: 13 Nov 2009 07:12 AM PST

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has argued that for American agriculture, the income benefits from climate and clean energy legislation will outweigh the costs (see "USDA: Economic benefits of climate bill for farmers 'easily trump' the costs").  Unrestricted greenhouse gases emissions would certainly be a disaster for farmers (see "A Stormy Forecast for U.S. Agriculture").  In this CAP repost, guest blogger Tom Kenworthy, looks at some recent studies on the direct economic benefits a climate and clean energy bill would have for farmers.

When it comes to legislation cutting carbon pollution, two Iowans steeped in agriculture policy take very different views of the likely impact on rural America.

"The agriculture industry and rural communities will be some of the hardest-hit areas," says Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA).

"For American agriculture, the income benefits will outweigh costs, particularly over the long term," says Tom Vilsack, Iowa's former governor and now secretary of agriculture in the Obama administration. "For rural Americans, it will help create new economic opportunities and green-energy jobs."

Secretary Vilsack has it right. While no one can precisely predict what the economic impacts will be of either the American Clean Energy and Security Act, H.R. 2454, which passed the House in June, or the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act, S. 1733, now under consideration in the Senate, most thoughtful analysis contradicts the doomsday scenarios seen by some farm state lawmakers and representatives of big agriculture.

For American farmers and the rural areas where they live, clean-energy and carbon-pollution-cutting legislation will mean significant economic benefits. A clean energy economy built on wind, solar, and biofuels including gas derived from anaerobic digestion of manure will bring vitally needed economic development to the rural areas that are home to most of those resources. And taking action now will help prevent the often catastrophic impacts of doing nothing, including droughts, heavy downpours, and floods, all of which will reduce crop yields and cut farm income.

One of the key upsides to legislation curbing carbon pollution is it will give farmers the ability to profit from conservation measures that capture or store carbon and cut emissions of other harmful gases such as methane from livestock waste and nitrous oxide used in fertilizer. Those practices include no-till and reduced-till farming, using less fertilizer, planting trees or cover crops, and capturing methane from livestock operations. Farmers, who are not subject to the pollution caps in the legislation, will be able to sell those offsets to industrial polluters whose emissions are capped and can't meet their targets on their own or find they can do it more cheaply by buying offsets from farmers.

Both the Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency see a huge market opportunity for farmers in offsets that will boost their incomes and help strengthen rural economies. EPA's estimate of the House bill is a $20 billion offset market by midcentury.

As Vilsack wrote in a recent commentary in the Wichita Eagle: "Over the long term, the benefits will far outweigh costs, growing to almost $15 billion to $20 billion in 2040-50. At that rate, agricultural offsets could be worth more than 5 percent of today's total agricultural sales."

Vilsack also explored the impact of carbon pollution reduction legislation in testimony before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on October 27, 2009:

"While farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners have a lot at stake if we fail to act, they also have much to gain if we address climate change quickly and wisely," he said. "Rural America has an unprecedented potential for economic development and job growth through new energy technologies…A robust carbon offsets market will provide farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners with the potential for new sources of income."

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's analyses of both the House and Senate bills, said Vilsack, show "that economic opportunities for farmers and ranchers can outpace—perhaps significantly—the costs from climate legislation."

American agriculture is well positioned to take advantage of these opportunities, according to a report from the Center for Rural Affairs: "[A]griculture can play an important role in mitigating these damaging emissions, both by reducing its own emissions and by sequestering carbon. Given U.S. agriculture's current climate, the quality and volume of its soils, the competence of its farmers, the maturity of its science and technology, and the sophistication of its policy institutions, there is no national agricultural complex better suited to carbon sequestration than U.S. agriculture."

Though farmers will face some higher costs for fuel, fertilizer, and electricity under carbon-pollution-reduction legislation, analysts say the potential extra income from selling offsets will easily outpace those costs.

"Depending on the carbon pricing scheme, farmers could increase their net profits by up to 24 percent," notes the Agricultural Carbon Market Working Group, with additional income coming "from a number of sources including revenue from the production of low-carbon biofuels and an increase in commodity prices caused by changes in management practices."

A University of Tennessee study released on November 11 also predicts that farm revenue will grow by $13 billion a year with a well-designed trading system in carbon offsets.

Iowa State University economist Bruce Babcock analyzed the impacts on Iowa corn and soybean farmers from climate legislation and predicts higher production costs of about $4.52 per acre (1 percent to 2 percent), but additional income of about $8 an acre by shifting to no-fill farming.

Further, a study prepared for the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University concluded "that the agricultural sector would be placed in a favorable position" by policies that cut carbon pollution and establish a market for offsets.

"While agricultural producers will feel the input price ramifications of restrictions on fossil fuel-intensive input suppliers (energy, fuels and fertilizers in particular), they can benefit in several ways. First, a portion of production cost increases can be passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices. Second, new revenue opportunities may exist for bioenergy feedstocks. Third, by being outside the [carbon pollution] cap, agriculture and forestry are a considerable potential source of offsets for sale."

Progressive voices in American agriculture understand that farmers and rural America have a great deal to lose from climate change and much to gain from a robust policy to cut carbon pollution.

As National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson told the House Agriculture Committee in June: "Failure to reduce [carbon pollution] emissions poses significant economic impacts on agriculture and populations whose welfare is of special interest to the agricultural community. Models of climate change scenarios demonstrate increased frequency of heat stress, droughts, and flooding events that will reduce crop yield and livestock productivity."

Carbon offset projects, he added, "could be valuable revenue streams for producers who will experience increased agricultural input costs."

JR:  I would add that all offsets need to be subjected to the kind of scientific analysis and additionality criteria established in the House and Senate climate bills.

More from CAP on farmers and global warming:

Europe to easily beat Kyoto target — looks like the European Trading System has worked after all

Posted: 12 Nov 2009 04:47 PM PST

Europe made a major commitment under the Kyoto Protocol that U.S. conservatives have been telling us for years it would never achieve.  In fact, the Europeans are poised to surpass their targets under the terms of the Protocol. It is no longer plausible for those who don't want a U.S. cap-and-trade system to point to the European Trading System (ETS) as a failure.  Quite the reverse.

A report by the European Environment Agency released today shows that the European Union and all Member States but one [Austria] are on track to meet their Kyoto Protocol commitments to limit and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Whereas the Protocol requires that the EU-15 reduce average emissions during 2008–2012 to 8% below 1990 levels, the latest projections indicate that the EU-15 will go further, reaching a total reduction of more than 13 % below the base year.

Looking further ahead, almost three quarters of the EU's unilateral target to cut emissions to 20 % below 1990 levels by 2020 could be achieved domestically (i.e. without purchase of credits outside the EU).

The report highlights the importance of the EU ETS in helping Member States meet their targets.

That is today's news release from the European Environment Agency.  The full report is here.  The report notes:

Five EU‑15 Member States (France, Germany, Greece, Sweden and the United Kingdom) have already achieved average GHG emission levels below their Kyoto target….

The EU ETS is expected to result in important reductions of domestic EU emissions.

The EEA analysis concludes the EU-15 will not need to rely on offsets to meet their Kyoto target and "foresees a variety of factors contributing to the EU-15's total reduction of more than 13%":

  • Existing policies and measures for the period 2008–2012 could account for 6.9 percentage points of the total reduction.
  • If Member States implement additional measures as planned, the total reduction could reach 8.5%, although this will largely depend on combined efforts in four main emitting countries (France, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom).
  • The use of Kyoto's flexible mechanisms by governments could contribute an additional 2.2 percentage points reduction.
  • Absorbing carbon dioxide through enhanced carbon sinks (e.g.improved forest management) will contribute with an additional 1 percentage point reduction.
  • Purchase of emission allowances and credits by EU ETS operators is expected to deliver a further 1.4 percentage point reduction.

No doubt some will try to ascribe this success to the global economic collapse, but as E&E News PM (subs. req'd) reported:

The emissions projections should be a sign to the rest of the world, said Andreas Carlgren, the environment minister of Sweden, which holds the bloc's rotating presidency.

"E.U. emissions reductions far exceed our commitments," Carlgren said in a statement. "This is taking place without the full impact of the economic crisis yet being evident in the figures. This shows that considered policies and concrete measures are effective in the fight against climate change."

In fact, the Kyoto budget period covers 2008 to 2012, so it will extend over a period of significant economic growth, and much higher GDP than in the 1990 base period.  The United States, by comparison, has also been hit by the same global economic downturn, and our emissions remain significantly above 1990 levels.

The EEA also reports the reductions of the broader EU-27:

The EU‑27 is making good progress towards its 2020 emission reduction target of – 20% and the implementation of planned additional measures is expected to bring domestic emissions down to 14 % below 1990 levels.

EEA 11-09 small

The European Trading System, which "covers large carbon-emitting industries, which represent about 40 % of EU greenhouse gas emissions," is far from perfect.  That's why Climate Progress previously discussed a major August report detailing lessons for U.S. climate bill.

But the bottom is clear:  Conservatives and other opponents of the climate bill have been insisting for years the Europeans won't meet their Kyoto targets and that the ETS was a failure, proof that the U.S. shouldn't adopt a similar approach.  They were wrong on every count.  The EU-15 will exceed their Kyoto target, and the ETS is helping them do it. An even better designed trading system in this country, such as is found in both the House and Senate climate bills, can help the U.S. reduce its emissions in a timely and cost-effective manner.

CEOs of Aspen Skiing Company and The North Face: "Climate change threatens our livelihoods–and yours"

Posted: 12 Nov 2009 02:38 PM PST

This piece by Steve Rendle, CEO of The North Face, and Mike Kaplan, CEO of Aspen Skiing Company, was first published in "High Country News."  For more, see "Aspen SkiCo and global warming" and "The AP gets the bark beetle story right."

In the summer of 2003, one of the most legendary and fearsome mountaineering routes in the world –– the North Face of the Eiger –– fell victim to climate change. An unusually warm summer melted much of the ice that makes this route in Switzerland passable. As temperatures continue to warm, this iconic passage may only exist in winter.

Meanwhile, in Colorado, aspen trees have begun dying off in huge numbers. Aspens can fall victim to many diseases, but science suggests that a warmer climate will lead to increasing tree mortality as a result of sickness, insect infestations and other pests.

As CEOs of two of the most widely known consumer brands in the outdoor recreation market — Aspen Skiing Company and The North Face — it gets our attention when our companies' namesakes start to vanish before our eyes. Although we operate different businesses, we share concern about the impact of climate change on our companies, the economy, the environment and our customers. We also agree that now is the time for dramatic action by Congress to curb greenhouse gas emissions, stimulate investment in renewable energy sources and clean technology, and encourage energy efficiency.

The effects of warming global temperatures are not theoretical.

At Aspen, where our business depends on the climate, we already see a gradual increase in frost-free days and warmer nights. Milder winters mean a shorter ski season and greater reliance on artificial snowmaking, a costly and carbon-intensive practice. In short, climate change impacts Aspen's bottom line.  For the $6 billion ski industry, and the hundreds of thousands of people who make their living directly or indirectly from it, the stakes are huge.

The North Face is part of the $9 billion outdoor market, and our business depends upon predictable and consistent four-season weather patterns for our customers and athletes to get outdoors and ski, camp, climb, run and hike. Climate change disrupts this predictability, creating a tenuous business climate for ourselves, our supply chain and our dealers. Most importantly, it reduces the outdoor activities of our customers.

As our athletes and customers travel the globe, they tell us they see firsthand the changes taking place, from the recession of glaciers to the effects of severe drought. These impacts are having dramatic effects on the people and places many of us have come to love.

But we are doing more than just fretting about climate change. Both our companies have taken extraordinary steps to increase our energy efficiency and reliance on renewable energy, and to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. Many of these efforts save us money as well. By installing extensive solar energy systems at Aspen, and by offsetting our energy consumption with wind energy and installing solar panels at The North Face, we are working every day to reduce our impact.

We serve passionate outdoor customers who are eager to learn about solutions and take action towards a clean energy economy. These customers tell us in ever-growing numbers that our reputations and actions for environmental responsibility are why they buy our product and/or ski at our resort.

We also know that these efforts are a drop in the bucket compared to what needs to be done. And that is why a strong global and national climate and energy policy is so important. America is at a critical crossroads on climate change: We can lead the world and jumpstart our economy by spearheading the transition to a low-carbon global economy, or we can delay and fall further behind China and other nations that already have cleaner, more efficient cars, and more established wind and solar power industries.

We pick the first choice, not because we are idealists, but because we are businessmen, and because solving climate change and creating a clean energy economy is a business imperative.  We believe that far from being a drag on economic growth as some fear, comprehensive climate and energy legislation will prove an economic stimulus for the long haul, creating millions of new jobs, spurring technological innovation and stabilizing business. This issue is not an abstraction to people like us. Aggressive action on climate change will preserve and protect the source of our profit and our passion: the stable climate, and the beautiful earth.

That is why we urge the Senate to take action now on a new and comprehensive climate change policy. This is the time for us to be the world leaders that we know we can be, and should be.

USGBC jobs finds "Green building to support nearly 8 million U.S. jobs over next 4 years"

Posted: 12 Nov 2009 10:18 AM PST

USGBC/Booz Allen Hamilton Report Shows Green Construction to Contribute $554 Billion to U.S. GDP Between 2009 and 2013.


The U.S. Green Building Council is having its huge annual conference now — you can watch live streams and archived videos of the leading experts on clean energy and energy efficiency here.  And they just released a major new "Green Jobs Study" done by Booz Allen, which concluded:

The results of this study show that the economic impact from green building construction is significant and will continue to grow as the demand for green buildings rises. Green construction spending currently supports over 2 million jobs and generates over 100 billion dollars in gross domestic product and wages.  By the year 2013, this study estimates that green buildings will support nearly 8 million jobs across occupations ranging from construction managers and carpenters to truck drivers and cost estimators.

The study is well worth reading — or grab some PowerPoint slides.  Here's more from the press release:

"Our goal is for the phrase 'green building' to become obsolete, by making all building and retrofits green – and transforming every job in our industry into a green job," said Rick Fedrizzi, president, CEO and founding chairman of USGBC. "This study validates the work that the 25,000 people gathered here at Greenbuild, and every member of our movement, do every day."

The study considered the total value of green buildings and the results include workers from the architects who design them to the construction laborers who pour their foundations to the truck drivers who deliver the materials, in recognition of the how extensive the impact of green building is.

"The study demonstrates that investing in green buildings contributes significantly to our nation's wealth while creating jobs in a range of occupations, from carpenters to cost estimators," said Gary Rahl, Officer, Global Government Market, Booz Allen Hamilton. "In many ways, green construction is becoming the standard for development. As a result, it is expected to support nearly 8 million jobs over the next five years, a number four times higher than the previous five years."

Kudos to USGBC and Booz Allen.  H/t

Related Posts:

Energy and Global Warming News for 11/12/09: Germany to help develop Moroccan solar-thermal energy projects; Clinton calls Copenhagen "steppingstone"; Military's growing thirst for oil is costing lives — report

Posted: 12 Nov 2009 10:11 AM PST

Germany to Help Develop Moroccan Solar-Thermal Energy Projects

Germany plans to help Morocco develop a water-desalination plant and electricity generators using solar power as part of a larger program to expand the use of renewable energy in the North African nation.

Funding and specifics of the solar accord will be discussed at talks next week in Rabat between the two governments, Sabine Brickenkamp, a spokeswoman for the German economic cooperation and development ministry, said in an interview.

Morocco, the only country in the region with a power cable to Europe, imports 97 percent of its energy. The nation is vying with Algeria, Tunisia and Libya for 400 billion euros ($596 billion) of investments in solar-energy systems over the coming decades as the EU seeks to trim emissions from coal and natural gas power plants by importing clean power from the Sahara.

The nation of 36 million people this week announced a plan to invest $9 billion to install 2,000 megawatts of solar power through 2020, the equivalent of about two nuclear power plants and about 20 percent of Morocco's electricity consumption.

German companies including Munich Re, Siemens AG and RWE AG in July announced a plan called Desertec to probe the potential to generate electricity in North Africa using solar-thermal systems to pipe power in cables under the Mediterranean Sea to provide 15 percent of Europe's electrical needs by mid-century.

Solar-thermal systems heat a fluid by concentrating the sun's rays on a tube. The liquid produces steam that turns turbines. The world's largest solar-thermal system is in California's Mojave Desert, operated by a group of U.S. companies.

Details of the desalination plant, which will use energy from the sun to extract salt from sea water, will be worked out next week, Brickenkamp said.

Clinton calls Copenhagen 'steppingstone,' outlines U.S. priorities

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton today called U.N. climate talks in Copenhagen a "steppingstone" toward a global, legally binding climate agreement, and spelled out U.S. priorities for the talks.

Her comments at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Singapore are an acknowledgement from the nation's top diplomat that next month's talks will not result in a final international deal to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

But Clinton also said the meeting would be pivotal and declared that the United States — the world's second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases behind China — is "prepared to assume our share of responsibility" to address climate change.

"If we all exert maximum effort and embrace the right blend of pragmatism and principle, I believe we can secure a strong outcome at Copenhagen, and that would be a steppingstone toward full legal agreement," she said.

Clinton warned against allowing the "pursuit of perfection" to block progress, but added that there are nonetheless metrics the United States will use to judge the outcome of the talks, which run Dec. 7-18.

The first, she said, is that all countries do their fair share. The next, she said, is that a deal should cover all major issues, which she said include adaptation, financing, technology cooperation, dissemination of technology and forest preservation.

Clinton also said the talks should address funding mechanisms to help developing nations.

"We are prepared to support a global climate fund that will support adaptation and mitigation efforts and a matching entity to help developing countries match needs with available resources," Clinton said.

"Funding through the new global climate fund and a technology mechanism will help developing countries identify what they need, where to get it, and how to finance, operate and maintain it," she said.

Clinton's view that Copenhagen won't result in a final deal reflects the views of other key negotiators.

"I don't think we can get a legally binding agreement by Copenhagen," U.N. climate chief Yvo de Boer said earlier this month in Barcelona, Spain (Greenwire, Nov. 6).

"I think that we can get that within a year after Copenhagen," he said.

Military's growing thirst for oil is costing lives — report

A significant portion of war casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan was taken by convoys providing oil to the military, according to a report released by a consulting firm yesterday.

Deloitte LLP's study found a tenfold increase in the Defense Department's oil consumption since the start of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. That is a 175 percent increase in oil use per day, per soldier, since the Vietnam War.

The number of trucks traveling rough roads in remote areas, whose primary cargo is fuel, has "skyrocketed" in Iraq and Afghanistan, along with the rate of exposure of military personnel to "improvised explosive devices (IEDs)," the report says. IEDs accounted for about 43 percent of U.S. casualties in Iraq between July 2003 and May 2009, the study found.

IEDs also accounted for 38 percent of fatalities in Afghanistan between 2005 and 2008 and will likely account for more than half of military personnel deaths in fiscal 2009, Deloitte reported.

"Energy security is essential to reduce war time casualties," the report concludes. "With the significant numbers of U.S. soldiers supporting the transport, logistics, and deployment of fossil fuel to the front lines, there is a call to action to reduce dependence on oil in war."

Along with military lives lost, DOD's heavy reliance on oil incurs a significant financial cost, the study notes.

In 2008, the Pentagon spent $16 billion to purchase 120 million barrels of petroleum, 20 percent of which supplied vehicles, planes and other equipment in Iraq and Afghanistan, Deloitte said.

But in June of 2008 alone, the military lost 44 trucks and 220,000 gallons of fuel as long fuel convoys were waylaid by IEDs, weather, traffic and stealing, the study says. While the military purchases fuel at about $2 to $3 per gallon, the additional expense of air and ground protection and transportation pushes the price of each gallon to $45, Deloitte said.

"This study demonstrates that the development and use of alternative energy can be a direct cause for reductions in wartime casualties and may rank on par with the business cases for development of ever more effective offensive weapons, sophisticated fuel transport tankers, mine resistant armored vehicles and net-centric sensing technologies," the report says.

While the Pentagon and Congress have made progress in including energy-related planning into military bureaucracy, "significant progress is still required in consolidating its energy-related bureaucracy and formulating an all inclusive energy policy," the study says.

Major Asian cities face climate disaster: WWF

Low-lying and impoverished Asian coastal cities such as Dhaka, Manila and Jakarta are vulnerable to "brutal" damage from climate change without global action, environmental group WWF warned Thursday.

Energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions must be curtailed in "mega-cities" where global warming will affect everything from national security to health and water availability, the influential campaign group said.

"Climate change is already shattering cities across developing Asia and will be even more brutal in the future," said Kim Carstensen, head of the WWF Global Climate Initiative.

Including their suburbs, Dhaka, Manila and Jakarta now have a combined population of about 49 million, according to WWF.

It said better-off cities such as Shanghai, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore also faced varying degrees of risk from climate change, such as rising sea levels, excessive rain, flooding and heatwaves.

Hong Kong could see dramatically fewer cold days per year while dengue fever appears to be spreading to previously unaffected parts of Singapore, it noted.

"Asia is the most populous and arguably the most vulnerable continent in the world because of the high risk of climate impacts and relatively low adaptive capacity," the report said.

"Unfortunately, the full extent of climate change has likely not been fully realised," it said, noting that temperatures in Asia have risen by one to three degrees Centigrade (two to five degrees Fahrenheit) in the last 100 years.

WWF issued its report to coincide with a weekend summit here to be attended by US President Barack Obama, Chinese President Hu Jintao and other Asia-Pacific leaders.

The summit takes place three weeks before crucial talks on a new world climate pact open in Copenhagen on December 7.

WWF said that on a "vulnerability" scale going up to 10, Dhaka rated nine points, and Manila and Jakarta eight each.

Calcutta and Phnom Penh received scores of seven each on the WWF danger scale, Ho Chi Minh City and Shanghai six each, Bangkok five, and Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong and Singapore four each.

Poorer Asian nations urgently need financial, technological and training support from industrialised countries to save lives, protect national assets and preserve the cities' economic contributions, it said.

Mark Dia, the Manila-based deputy campaign director for Greenpeace in Southeast Asia, told AFP that the report showed "disaster management should be top of the agenda for the government."

Tropical storm Ketsana dumped record amounts of rainfall over the Philippine capital in September, leaving more than 400 people dead and vast swathes of the city flooded for weeks.

WWF urged the leaders of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum to use their summit to promote strategies to reduce carbon emissions across the 21-member organisation.

In a communique to be issued at the end of their annual meeting Sunday, the APEC leaders are expected to call for sweeping emissions cuts and declare their support for a global deal at next month's Copenhagen climate gathering.

In the short term, APEC will seek to open up trade in environmental goods and services, known as green technology, as part of efforts to fight climate change and achieve sustainable economic growth.

The December 7-18 Copenhagen talks are aimed at achieving a global deal to slash greenhouse gas emissions and ease the impact of climate change before the 2012 expiry of the Kyoto Protocol, which excludes the United States.

China's Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said Thursday that it would seek a "fair and reasonable" result at Copenhagen but reiterated that rich nations must bear most of the burden for redressing global warming.

Are U.S. solar jobs here to stay? Senators fight for a yes.

A trio of U.S. senators this week introduced a bill to spur solar manufacturing jobs in the United States.

Through additional tax credits, the legislation aims to encourage more U.S. companies to make solar equipment, creating jobs and building up the country's clean energy economy.

Many — from politicians and environmentalists to investors – have pinned great hopes on green jobs. Clean energy could create 850,000 manufacturing jobs in the United States, according to recent research Reuters reported this week.

The latest proposal could create 315,000 U.S. jobs along, according to Solar Energy Industries Association, which is pushing for the bill.

But would the extra tax incentives be enough to keep solar power companies producing in the United States?

A decade ago, the United States produced more than 40 percent of the world's solar photovoltaic cells that convert sunlight into electricity. In 2008, the United States made only 5 percent of the world's solar cells, according to the solar group.

Those numbers seem bleak. But the solar jobs landscape is not so black and white.

Chinese companies Suntech and Yingli have plans to start manufacturing in the United States. At the same time, the largest U.S. solar company First Solar has announced plans to open a massive plant in China and U.S.-based Evergreen Solar is speeding up its strategy to outsource to China.

Last week Evergreen Solar's executives had to answer questions from analysts about their plans to move panel assembly to China from Massachusetts.

"There is a lot of capacity going in the ground in Asia. But I think as companies do their own homework and do cost comparison it is compelling that the costs in China or low — low capital costs, low labor costs, low overhead costs," said Evergreen Solar's chief executive Richard Feldt on a conference call with analysts.

"And so I think it will be difficult to be a worldwide supplier of scale and not have some operations in
China." Feldt added.

China should reduce carbon intensity: report

China should cut its carbon intensity every year by 4 or 5 percent if it wants to achieve a goal of low-carbon development by 2050, state media on Thursday cited a thinktank report as saying.

In September, Chinese President Hu Jintao promised to put a "notable" brake on the country's rapidly rising carbon emissions, but dashed hopes he would unveil a hard target to kickstart stalled climate talks.

Hu, the leader of the world's biggest emitter, told a U.N. summit China would pledge to cut "carbon intensity," or the amount of carbon dioxide produced for each dollar of economic output, over the decade to 2020.

The official China Daily said the China Council of International Cooperation on Environment and Development would submit a report to the central government on cutting carbon intensity.

"If China is to meet the target of year-on-year emissions cuts of between 4 and 5 percent, it will need to reduce energy intensity by between 75 and 85 percent by 2050," the newspaper wrote, paraphrasing the report.

"In addition, the proportion of manufacturing industry within the national economic structure would need to be cut from the current 50 percent to around 30 percent by the middle of the century," it added.

Shell Gets Into the Other South American Offshore Oil Race

Ever since oil was discovered offshore Ghana in 2007, the world's oil explorers have been eyeing Guyana. Non-geologists might find that a bit of a leap.

But for Big Oil, there's a big connection. Africa and South America were once joined, but were separated tens of millions of years ago by continental shift. So many believe the oil-bearing structures in Ghana's huge Jubilee field could be replicated on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, in places like Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana.

One company that has bet big on the theory is Tullow Oil PLC, a plucky UK-based explorer that is one of the partners in Jubilee.

Tullow says it has identiified "numerous" Jubilee-type leads offshore French Guiana. It began seismic testing over 3,000 square kilometers of its permit area in September and hopes to drill its first exploration well there by the end of next year. It also has interests in Suriname and Guyana.

Now the big guys are taking the trail blazed by Tullow. Royal Dutch Shell plc announced Wednesday it had acquired a 33% interest in Tullow's Maritime permit in French Guiana and has an option to buy 12% more later. The purchase, Shell said, "adds quality acreage to our deep water portfolio in the Americas."

Shell is not the first supermajor to dip its toes in the waters of northern South America. Exxon Mobil Corp. has exploration rights in the huge Stabroek block offshore Guyana, though it's tight-lipped about what it's found there. Smaller companies like Canadian independent CGX Energy are also present there.

But the area remains one of the most under-explored in the world. There's some data from the 1970s, when Elf Aquitaine and Exxon drilled two dry wells. But from then on it was virtually ignored by the majors. That's changed with the discovery of Jubilee.

The idea that areas on either side of oceans could have the same oil-bearing structures is now well-established. After billions of barrels of oil were found in the "pre-salt" areas offshore Brazil, many began to wonder whether the ultra-deep waters off the coast of Angola, directly across the Atlantic, might bring forth similar treasures.

Meanwhile, for Shell, the Tullow deal makes perfect sense. Like all the majors, it's struggled to add reserves and increase production as it's shut out from the more traditional oil-producing areas.

French Guiana might be a leap in the dark– but one that could yield rich returns for a company eager to beef up its exploration portfolio.

Study Shows Need for Climate Change Rules that Recognize Agricultural Contributions

A principle role undertaken by the 25x'25 Alliance is to explore opportunities for the agricultural and forestry sectors to participate in the new energy future that is emerging. With national attention focusing on initiatives that can stem climate change, the Alliance is facilitating a discussion on the role of the agricultural and forestry sectors in a reduced carbon economy, in which the use of fossil fuels is decreased and greenhouse gas emissions are reduced.

To further that discussion, 25x'25 today released a study conducted by the University of Tennessee's Bio-Based Energy Analysis Group that projects how meeting several proposed energy/climate change policy scenarios might impact the U.S. agricultural sector. The policy scenarios that have been analyzed include a cap-and-trade regulatory system and varying treatments of agricultural offsets. The study's results show impacts on economic returns, climate benefits, feedstock prices and land use impacts.

The study, entitled Analysis of the Implications of Climate Change and Energy Legislation to the Agricultural Sector, shows that net returns for U.S. agriculture are positive under a properly constructed cap-and-trade program. However, the study goes on to show that if carbon emissions are regulated by EPA as prescribed under a 2007 Supreme Court ruling, net farm income is projected to fall below USDA baseline projections.

The long-awaited and comprehensive assessment indicates that income from offsets and from market revenues under a properly constructed cap-and-trade program is higher than any potential increase in input costs, including energy and fertilizer.

A cap-and-trade system that allows multiple offsets, including those for bioenergy crop production, while restricting the removal of crop residues to acceptable, environmentally beneficial levels, would generate some $209 billion over baseline in net returns accumulated from 2010 to 2025. The number jumps to $364 billion over baseline if carbon regulation is left to EPA without legislative guidance.

Input costs will increase under any scenario, the study says. But EPA regulation subjects U.S. agriculture to higher input costs with no opportunity to be compensated for the greenhouse gas reduction services that farmers, ranchers and forestland owners can provide.

The study indicates that no major shifts in commodity cropland use are expected under a properly constructed cap-and-trade system. Furthermore, at a meaningful but moderate carbon price of up to $27 per metric ton of carbon equivalent (a price level projected by EPA), no cropland is expected to be converted to forests and grassland. However, under EPA regulation, carbon prices could go up to $160 per ton and lead to the conversion of as much as 60 million acres of cropland.

As Congress debates legislation that addresses climate change, lawmakers must establish a viable and equitable regulatory system that recognizes the contributions of farmers, ranchers and forestland owners. The University of Tennessee study shows that solutions from the land not only make good tools in the fight against climate change; they also benefit agriculture and forestry.

Five Greatest US Green Scams Of All Time Treehugger

'We will have a treaty at Copenhagen,' says un's climate czar NRC International

US weighs backing interim international climate agreement Washington Post

Bolivia: Lake Titicaca at dangerously low levels The Associated Press

Engineering the Planet to Dodge Global Warming Scientific American

Climate Progress

Climate Progress

Should electric cars be intentionally made noisier?

Posted: 12 Nov 2009 09:17 AM PST

This is a guest post by Chelsea Sexton, my friend and costar of the 2006 documentary film "Who Killed the Electric Car?"  At a young age, Chelsea began working for GM marketing their ill-fated electric car, the EV1.  She even married an EV1 service technician!  Now she serves as the Executive Director of Plug In America (full bio here).  Her first guest post was, "So what is it like to actually drive the Chevy Volt plug in hybrid electric car?").  This post was first published on her blog.  The picture is of Fisker Karma's artificial sound-emitting bumper speakers.

Fisker Karma's artificial sound-emitting bumper speakers

For the most part, the electric vehicle world is palpably buzzing with excitement of cars to come — and after some seriously dark years, there is much to look forward to. The collective conversation has finally shifted from "if" to "how", but even on easier "how" points, we can't seem to get out of our own way — which really doesn't bode well for the hard stuff.

Case in point is a newly-emerging issue over the silence of hybrids and electric cars. In the EV generation of the 1990's, their comparative lack of noise was a selling point. Now, according to some, it's a threat to life itself.

Advocacy organizations and hyper news reports are forming a chorus with a fairly shrill tune: "Electric cars are going to kill blind people!" Policymakers are now considering a minimum noise requirement for vehicles; worse, automakers are doing it voluntarily. In due time, plug-ins stand to be a favorite domain of the SEMA crowd, so I'm not referring to the folks who want to trick out their EV as Kitt to their David Hasselhoff. It's in the proposed custom to add constant noise to all hybrids and plug-in vehicles that we've collectively lost the plot.

Pedestrian safety is obviously not an unfair consideration, though the amount of spontaneous momentum it's received lately raises eyebrows.  Realistically, the blind community would likely be the least affected group, compared to the number of sighted pedestrians who run around with iPods connected to noise-blocking earphones or on cell phones (often all but screaming into them to be heard over traffic noise, adding to the communal din), or who simply aren't paying as much attention as we should. And, there is experience to draw upon … in addition to the EVs deployed to date, we have a decade of experience with hybrids, also electrically driven at low speeds. Are Prii littering crosswalks and parking lots with fallen bi-peds and I'm just out of touch?

Either way, we've taken a question that was asked and answered years ago and are turning it into an industry imperative. Except when at a dead stop — when pedestrians of all sorts are reasonably safe, plug-in vehicles are not silent. Many are quiet (though, with today's insulation and sound-deadening measures, so are many gas cars) but they still have some amount of motor whine, electronic humming, fans, coolant pumps, tire noise, etc. Plug-in hybrids may also have gasoline engines running. Yet even with these "features", GM engineers thought of and addressed the issue years ago:  Every EV1 came equipped with a wonkily-named "pedestrian alert alarm". At low speeds, drivers could engage an electronic chirp/headlight flash to warn pedestrians, as needed, that the car was approaching- loud enough to get attention, but not nearly as startling as the regular horn. Drivers loved it- the car made extra noise only in the moments it mattered. Those on foot were protected- the proverbial "win-win". So why are we trying to make what was so simply solved a dozen years ago so complicated today?

Electric vehicles were once pervertedly argued to be a social justice issue based on the idea that only wealthier folks were able to afford the early ones, so their communities would have the air-quality benefits. In response, S. David Freeman has incredulously noted that "air doesn't know a boundary between Brentwood and South LA". However, plug-ins could in fact be a tool in the social justice box for their lower noise profile in addition to lack of tailpipe. The goal shouldn't be to make them louder but to aim at sucking decibels from all vehicles. Yes, I know that performance vehicle enthusiasts would have me strung up (I do grok that many think thrust is as much an aural experience as a visceral one), but who would argue that mom's minivan is deficient without a throaty internal combustion growl? Cleaner, quieter transport means higher property values in often economically depressed neighborhoods adjacent to freeways and high-traffic roadways, to say nothing of the health of the families living there and public dollars saved from not building sound walls and other noise abatement measures. Electric drive technology has attendant benefits beyond the obvious environmental and energy concerns that we haven't begun to analyze- but should, before we go adulterating it.

But (and it's a big one), none of this takes away from the most important- and most overlooked point:


More simply said, if you can't avoid hitting people you shouldn't be driving a vehicle of any kind. In all of the angst over this issue, it bears repeating. Now can we please — pretty please — get back to the actual (and not insignificant) work of putting cars on the road?

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Boreal Forests: The Carbon the World Forgot

Posted: 12 Nov 2009 05:09 AM PST

This is a guest post from David Childs with The International Boreal Conservation Campaign. For terrific graphics and images, click here.

When we think about forests and climate change, we tend to think about tropical forests. This is not without undue reason – some of the highest rates of deforestation are happening in Central and South America, Africa, and Asia Pacific. But one source of carbon, which happens to be the world's largest terrestrial storehouse of carbon, has been mostly overlooked in international climate discussions to date. I'm talking, of course, about the boreal forest.

The global boreal forest circles the northern portion of our globe, carefully edging along the southern arctic through Russia, Scandinavia, Canada, and Alaska. A report out today by the Canadian Boreal Initiative and Boreal Songbird Initiative states that the boreal forest stores as much as 703 billion tons of carbon in its trees, peatlands, and soils – this amounts to nearly twice the storage capacity per unit area as tropical forests.

So what makes these numbers so high? The main difference with boreal forests is that a significant portion of its carbon is stored below vegetation level whereas tropical forests tend to store the majority of their carbon in the trees and plants themselves. Because boreal forests reside in much colder climates, much of the carbon stored in its vegetation never fully decomposes and is gradually pushed into thick layers of peat and permafrost to be stored for thousands of years.


The report also argues that the intactness of the boreal forest will be vital in coming years for species adapting to the effects of global warming.  A report earlier this year by the Audubon Society found that many North American birds have shifted their wintering ranges further north over the past century as a result of climate change. Species like the Woodland Caribou have seen drastic declines in numbers in recent years due to a combination of climate change and habitat destruction. Maintaining healthy, intact ecosystems for these species battling with changing environments will be crucial for their long-term viability.

While rates of deforestation in boreal forests tend to be lower than tropical forests, this is no cause for indifference. Around 30% of Canada's Boreal Forest has been designated for logging, and this number becomes much higher when including mining and oil and gas leases.  A recent report by Global Forest Watch Canada (link 3) found that the oil extraction technique of strip-mining large underground deposits of bitumen (often called 'tar sands' due to its thick texture prior to being separated from clays and soils) has devastated a landscape in Alberta of 686 km2, holding up to 21 million tons of carbon. Approved and proposed mining projects account for another 29.6 million tons of biotic carbon, and under a full development scenario of surface and insitu bitumen in the region, it has been estimated that 238 million tons of carbon would be released from tar sands industrial development.

The co-benefits of climate change mitigation and adaptation for species make the boreal forest an ideal place for large-scale conservation. Some success has been achieved at domestic levels, but the international push for boreal conservation has been slow to wake up. Global leaders should not halt their focus on tropical forests in favor of boreal forests, but rather adopt the boreal forest as the next frontier for climate-focused forest conservation.

Related Posts:

Under pressure from Tea Party activists, Charleston GOP censures Lindsey Graham for bipartisanship effort to preserve our national security

Posted: 12 Nov 2009 04:51 AM PST

First Lindsey Graham (R-SC) announced his breakthrough Senate climate partnership with John Kerry (D-MA).  Then Teabaggers tried to "flush" Graham out of GOP, calling him "traitor" and "RINO" and "wussypants, girly-man, half-a-sissy." Graham responded, "We're not going to be the party of angry white guys."  But the Tea Party activists weren't done, as this Think Progress repost makes clear.

On Monday, the Charleston County Republican Party's executive committee "took the unusual step" of officially censuring Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). The local GOP committee admonished Graham for stepping across party lines to work with Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) on a bipartisan clean energy bill and other pieces of legislation. The censure stated that Graham's "bipartisanship continues to weaken the Republican brand and tarnish the ideals of freedom."

Part of the fury from the right against Graham is being spurred by the oil and coal industry. The oil company front group "American Energy Alliance" has blanketed South Carolina with ads smearing Graham for seeking to address climate change.

The pressure against Graham has also stemmed from his criticism of hate radio and Fox News host Glenn Beck. "Only in America can you make that much money crying," said Graham, mocking Beck in early October. Beck has responded with a slime campaign against Graham that he typically reserves for liberals. The leader of the Charleston Republican Party, Lin Bennett, is also a member of Glenn Beck's 9/12 organization in South Carolina. According to its website, the Charleston GOP claims to work closely with tea party groups and Beck's 9/12 activists in selecting its favored candidates.

Will Graham be able to stand up to the angry backlash being cultivated by far right voices and entrenched corporations interests? At a Graham town hall in Greenville last month, activist Harry Kimball of "RINO HUNT" protested by constructing a display that portrayed Graham, as well as other GOP moderates, being flushed down a toilet:

KIMBALL: This is for every RINO who has failed to represent us. [...] [the toilet represents] flushing them, flushing them.

Watch it:

Graham's spokesman defended his boss to reporters yesterday, claiming the senator has a "90 percent conservative voting record." Unfortunately for Graham, that may not prevent him from being "Scozzafavaed."

In Beaufort, South Carolina, a crowd of tea party activists displayed signs which "bore messages such as 'downsize D.C.' and 'Rush and Glenn for president' — an apparent allusion to political talk show hosts Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck."

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Why solar energy trumps coal power: Exclusive new Caldeira analysis explains "the burning of organic carbon warms the Earth about 100,000 times more from climate effects than it does through the release of chemical energy in combustion."

Posted: 11 Nov 2009 03:06 PM PST

100k  small

The color of solar cells — and their short energy payback — are trivial factors when considering the huge climate benefit they provide in avoiding the release of CO2 from the combustion of fossil fuels.

That was a central point I made when I broke the story on the error-riddled book Superfreakonomics.  By failing to retract the many glaring errors I pointed out in my original post weeks ago — and instead blowing an aerosol smokescreen with false claims that Caldeira did not say the book misrepresented his views (see here) — Levitt brought upon himself the detailed and devastating takedown by Geophysicist Raymond T. Pierrehumbert, which focused on the same exact paragraph in the book that I debunked:

"A lot of the things that people say would be good things probably aren't," Myrhvold says.  As an example he points to solar power.  "The problem with solar cells is that they're black, because they are designed to absorb light from the sun. But only about 12% gets turned into electricity, and the rest is reradiated as heat — which contributed to global warming."

In my post, I noted that there were three and a half major howlers in this one tiny paragraph, that California Energy Commissioner Art Rosenfeld called this "patent nonsense" when I read it to him, and that a former lead engineer at Princeton Plasma Physics Lab had emailed me to point out that climatologist Ken Caldeira, of all people, had an analysis showing it was trivial:

As Ken Caldeira so grippingly points out (and I tried to make graphically clear in my Stanford talk last year), each molecule of CO2 released thermal energy when it was formed — that's why we formed it.  In the case of electricity generation, about 1/3 of its thermal energy went out a wire as electric power, the rest was released promptly as waste heat.  But each molecule of CO2, during its subsequent lifetime in the atmosphere, traps 100,000 times more heat than was released during its formation.

A hundred thousand is a big number.  It means that running a handheld electric hairdryer on US grid electricity delivers a planet-warming punch comparable to [the heat given off by] two Boeing 747s operating at full takeoff power for the same time period.  The warming is delivered over time, not promptly, but that don't matter; the planetary heating is accrued, the accountants would say, the moment you hit the switch.

And so we have the graphic above.

Several people asked me for the analysis that derived the factor of 100,000.  Climatologist Ken Caldeira was kind enough to share it with me and give me authority to post it.  It is a previously-unpublished joint analysis by Caldeira and NYU's Martin Hoffert titled, "Warming from fossil fuels," which is now posted here.  The abstract reads:

Caldeira abstract

Put another way, as Caldeira and Hoffert write in their final paragraph:

In other words, when we burn carbon and release CO2 to the atmosphere, only 0.001% of the total warming comes directly from the release of chemical energy during burning. The remaining 99.999% of the warming is associated with the trapping of outgoing longwave radiation by that CO2 in the atmosphere.

Thus the color of the solar cells or the heat they reradiate is utterly trivial.  What matters is that they replace the burning of fossil fuels and prevent the fossil carbon from ever being released.  As an aside, Pierrehumbert notes that coal plants also give off massive amounts of waste heat because they are so inefficient, so "That makes the waste heat of solar cells vs. coal basically a wash," even ignoring this factor of 100,000.

Levitt and Dubner need to retract that entire paragraph, much as they have agreed to correct their claim that Caldeira believes "carbon dioxide is not the right villain" in future editions.

Because they failed to quickly own up to the egregious mistakes in that one paragraph, they left themselves open to Pierrehumbert writing his "An open letter to Steve Levitt," accusing Levitt of "academic malpractice":

So, the bottom line here is that the heat-trapping effect of CO2 is the 800-pound gorilla in climate change. In comparison, waste heat is a trivial contribution to global warming whether the waste heat comes from solar cells or from fossil fuels. Moreover, the incremental waste heat from switching from coal to solar is an even more trivial number, even if you allow for some improvement in the efficiency of coal-fired power plants and ignore any possible improvements in the efficiency of solar cells. So: trivial,trivial trivial. Simple, isn't it?

…  A more substantive (though in the end almost equally trivial) issue is the carbon emitted in the course of manufacturing solar cells, but that is not the matter at hand here. The point here is that really simple arithmetic, which you could not be bothered to do, would have been enough to tell you that the claim that the blackness of solar cells makes solar energy pointless is complete and utter nonsense. I don't think you would have accepted such laziness and sloppiness in a term paper from one of your students, so why do you accept it from yourself? What does the failure to do such basic thinking with numbers say about the extent to which anything you write can be trusted? How do you think it reflects on the profession of economics when a member of that profession — somebody who that profession seems to esteem highly — publicly and noisily shows that he cannot be bothered to do simple arithmetic and elementary background reading? Not even for a subject of such paramount importance as global warming.

And it's not as if the "black solar cell" gaffe was the only bit of academic malpractice in your book….

Levitt first tried to respond to my debunking of that paragraph by letting Myhrvold reply.  But that backfired when Myhrvold repudiated the core argument of the chapter!  Myhrvold's "defense" was so lame that Berkeley economist Brad Delong posted on his blog an extensive debunking of it, 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:

… what is happening is I have to conclude that anything Myhrvold says has to be assumed to be false until proven otherwise, and by unquestioningly accepting his assumptions, anything Drubner and Levitt say may need to be taken the same way.

On October 30, Levitt replied directly to Pierrehumbert on RealClimate with another attempted aerosol smokescreen:


I enjoyed your intentional misreading of my chapter on global warming! I think it has really contributed to moving towards a solution to these important problems.

Myrhvold's *main* point was about the energy required to produce the solar cells, not the radiated heat.  He has expanded on it here: 2009/ 10/ 20/ are-solar-panels-really-black-and-what-does-that-have-to-do-with-the-climate-debate/

His view is simply that solar panels are not a *short-run* solution to cooling the planet. I doubt you could disagree with that, given the arguments you make in your own blog post.

So he, and we, thought it made sense to explore some solutions that DO cool the earth in the short-run.

That doesn't mean you don't work on long run solutions as well.

I'm not sure why that is blasphemy.

Steve Levitt

As anyone can see, it is not an "intentional misreading."  Quite the reverse.  Just go to the now-searchable Superfreakonomics on Amazon and put "reradiated" into the search engine.  Pierrehumbert replied directly:

Steve, glad to see you're reading this.

Something I have found rather bizarre about your responses to the criticisms of your climate chapter is the way you continually try to change history about what you actually wrote, which is plainly there for anybody to see. I found it so unbelievable that you included the "black solar cell" meme when I first heard it that I actually went over to Borders and stood there and intentionally read (not misread) the chapter to see if it was true. Anybody reading what you wrote would never, ever guess that the waste heat effect was so trivial unless they already knew the subject from some other source. And as for the "short term vs. long term" issue, here's something to chew on: if you instantaneously built a solar array big enough to meet the entire world electricity demand, you would only have to wait something under a year before the avoided CO2 radiative forcing paid back the waste heat effect.

The payback time for recouping the carbon cost of manufacturing solar cells is somewhat longer, but still substantially less than the lifetime of the solar cells — and coming down as technology improves. So, there is really no sensible construction I can put on your statement.

Yes, lots of people couldn't believe the book was as bad as I had asserted — especially since the publisher made me take down PDF of the chapter I had posted and also asked Amazon to end the searchability, so no one could see the contents until the book was actually out.  But now everyone can see it was as error-riddled as I said, and that every single statement I made in the original post was accurate.

I'll address the energy payback argument further in a later post.

That makes the waste heat of solar cells vs. coal basically a wash,

Berlin '89: When the Impossible Became Real

Posted: 11 Nov 2009 01:10 PM PST

Sometimes change can happen much faster than people expect.  If we pass a domestic climate bill, as Sen. Baucus (D-MT) and other key swing Senators now believe is likely, and that enables an international climate deal, then I do think that will usher in a much more rapid decarbonization than most people expect.  Continuing the Veterans Day theme, I'm going to repost this Huffpost piece from my friend Joe Cirincione, President of Ploughshares Fund, about a signature event in the end of the Cold War.

I was in Berlin 20 years ago this week. I saw the impossible first-hand: the people of Germany taking down the Wall.

I was then working on the professional staff of the House Armed Services Committee. We were on a staff tour of NATO military bases and arrived in Berlin during this critical week by pure coincidence. When our delegation took off from Andrews Air Force base outside of Washington the Warsaw Pact was alive and apparently formidable. By the time we landed in Europe, it was falling apart.

It is amazing how quickly structures, paradigms, and ideologies that experts believe unchangeable can change. Forces can build undetected for decades, then explode in rapid, transformational movement.

I arrived in Berlin a couple of days after November 9. I was one of the last people to walk through the famous Checkpoint Charlie border crossing. When I passed through in the morning, East German guards were still checking passports. When I strolled back down Unter den Linden, after having a scotch with some Cubans in an East Berlin bar, marveling at the Ishtar Gate from Babylon in the Pergamon Museum, examining World War II bullet holes still peppering some buildings, and joining a student protest over required courses in Marxism-Leninism, the guards were gone. The checkpoint was open for free passage in both directions. As far as I know it never re-opened. Today, it is a tourist attraction.

At a German NATO base we got the standard briefing on NATO military strategy. But when the map went up showing how NATO forces would react to an offensive lead by East German tank divisions, we just looked at each other. We asked the general briefing us what the strategy was now, that the Eastern European forces would not be part of a Soviet offensive. He couldn't answer. We didn't know.

It took years for the West to understand that the events of 1989 were not a fraud or a feint. David Hoffman describes in this new book, The Dead Hand, how President George H.W. Bush "lost" the year 1989.

The fall of the wall was a European earthquake, but in Washington and Moscow, miscommunication and suspicion meant the leaders were badly out of sync. While Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev was eager to move on cutting nuclear arsenals, President George H.W. Bush was cautious and uncertain, and a promising moment slipped away.

We cannot let another policy moment slip away. Twenty years after, we are at another historic point, ripe with transformational possibility. Domestically, we see it in issues like health care. Internationally, we see it in potentially profound changes in nuclear forces and policies, and in the very structure of global relations.

The transformation will be resisted. The forces of reaction are strong, as they were in 1989, arguing against change, clinging to the tired policies and weapons of the past. They tell us now, as they did before November 9, that change is impossible, that we are naïve to question the Cold War weapons and strategies, that diplomacy is appeasement, that they are the realists and we, the idealists.

But I have seen the impossible happen. I have a chunk of the wall in my bookcase to prove it. I have seen what the determined action of millions of people can do. I have seen decades of history change in days. These moments are not flukes; they are more the norm than we acknowledge.

We are in such a moment now. We must, like the Berliners of 1989, make the most of it.