Saturday, November 21, 2009

Coal KILLS: At Least 421 Die in Chinese Mine Explosion NYT

Why Is Saudi Aramco Building Supercomputers? ClimateProgress

Greenpeace says Europe smart power grid affordable ClimateProg

Industrialized Nations Unveil Plans to Rein in Emissions ClimateProg

FACTBOX-Climate negotiating positions of top emitters

CRU’s emails were hacked

“where the heck is global warming?”

Cham Of Com demands defeat health reform to “stop” energy bill

For blue skies, first clear the air on human rights Washington Post

Senate duo forms pact on climate The Hill

EPA taking closer look at Coal River Mountain mining Charleston Gaz

COAL KILLS: China mine explosion kills 42, traps 66 Reuters

Friday, November 20, 2009

Nuclear power won't solve global warming Chicago Tribune

Browner backs cap-and-trade bill

Stark proof of melting glaciers

U.S.-China create a path to Copenhagen success

CHANGE: EPA Proposes First Toughening SO2 Stds Treehugger

Can you teach an old society new tricks?

ACTION: Groups protest Texas coal plants Houston Chronicle

McKibben: The Road to Copenhagen The Nation

If this happens, score one for Obama Atlanta Journal Constitution

Principled Determination in a Time of Crisis It's Getting Hot In Here

U.N. climate chief - deal hinges on rich nations Reuters

UK small wind blows strong despite recession Reuters

UK small wind blows strong despite recession Reuters

Protest greets US Chamber of Commerce group San Francisco Chronicle

Cities bid to start national grid for electric cars

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Companies ranked on efforts to cut emissions San Francisco Chronicle

A Power Plant-Only Climate Bill -- Emerges in Senate NYT

Companies Call Government Incentives the Key to Green New York Times

Seeking Wind Energy, Some Consider the Sea New York Times

Made in America by China SolveClimate

Nukes battling a green headwind? Baltimore Sun

Winners for Hottest Green Tech Start-Ups Treehugger

New Greenpeace Chief Calls for Nuc-Free Power Supply NYT

Democracy PRACTICED: Perpetual NonViolent War. Blood's the alternative.

Democracy PRACTICED:  Perpetual NonViolent War.  Blood's the alternative.

Criminally IGNORANT US: Poll Obama's support below majority Boston Globe

California restricts energy-guzzling TV sets San Francisco Chronicle

Australian heatwave in carbon trade battle Reuters

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

HUGE: Why solar energy trumps coal power

Boreal Forests: The Carbon the World Forgot

Major Asian cities face climate disaster: WWF AFP

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

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

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

Climate bill would be a boon to farmers

Record high temperatures far outpace record lows across U.S.

NASA reports hottest June to October on record*

Shell calls for global expansion of cap-and-trade system Bloomberg

Is solar power expensive, or competitive? NYT

Russia's Medvedev warns of climate catastrophe Reuters

Rogue Palin: "I always remind people from outside our state that there is plenty of room for all Alaska's animals — right next to the mashed potatoes."

Electric Avenue: Or, How to Rev Up the Electric-Car Revolution WSJ

Concentrated solar thermal goes dry (cooling) Time magazine: "The science of climate change grows more dire." U.S. and China announce "positive, cooperative and comprehensive" plan for collaboration on clean energy and climate change

Reid: climate bill plans floor debate on bipartisan bill "sometime in the spring

Video: Californian firefighter warns of increased wildfires due to climate change

Tom Friedman on "What They Really Believe"

Earning a profit by ending energy waster NYT

Blown away: Wind power keeps growing in Texas WSJ Promise in a "Cash for Caulkers" home weatherization program NYT

Climate Progress

Climate Progress

Energy and Global Warming News for November 18: Promise in 'Cash for Caulkers' program; Obama says Copenhagen to 'rally world' for climate action; Wind at times provides 18% or more of Texas power demand

Posted: 18 Nov 2009 08:41 AM PST

"Earl Haynes, of CGE Solutions, installed a blower door, left, in the front door of the columnist David Leonhardt's home while conducting an energy audit. A blower door depressurizes a home, allowing a rater to measure air flow through a pressure ring in the fan and determine the amount of air leak."

Promise in a "Cash for Caulkers" home weatherization program

The one highly visible success of the stimulus program has been the cash-for-clunkers program. It induced a boom in vehicle sales this summer that clearly would not have happened otherwise.

The rest of the stimulus has created a lot of jobs — 700,000 to 1.5 million, according to economists' estimates. But it has done so in thousands of little ways: scattered construction projects, plugged-up school budgets and the like. Politically, these measures are not popular enough to create a groundswell for more of them.

And the economy still needs help. So White House officials are looking at creating a new version of cash for clunkers — this time for home weatherization.

John Doerr, the Silicon Valley venture capitalist, and former President Bill Clinton have separately suggested versions of the idea to the White House. Mr. Doerr calls his proposal, which would give households money to pay for weatherization projects, "cash for caulkers." Rahm Emanuel, President Obama's chief of staff, told me, "It's one of the top things he's looking at."

The idea has a lot to recommend it. The housing bust has idled contractors and construction workers, who could be put to work insulating homes and caulking air leaks. Many households, meanwhile, would save substantial money — not to mention help the climate — by weatherizing their homes, research by McKinsey & Company has shown. All in all, a cash-for-caulkers program seems like a promising part of the jobs program for 2010 that Mr. Obama has suggested he is planning.

But I would also mention one point of caution: the details of any caulkers plan will matter enormously. Weatherizing a home, as I recently discovered, turns out to be a lot more complicated than buying a car.

For background, see "Energy Secretary Steven Chu on home weatherization: Saving money by saving energy."  The story continues:

This year, my wife and I had an energy audit done on our home. We were interested in finding out if we could save money and, given the attention that weatherizing was starting to get, I figured it could also make for good column fodder. For $400, an auditor spent hours scouring our house, with the help of a big fan he set up in our front door and an infrared camera. He produced a full-color, 13-page detailed report, informing us of the leaks in our house, and he was also willing to tell us which changes were usually a waste of money (new windows).

Even so, we are still trying to figure out which weatherization projects we should do. The whole package would probably cost $4,500 and save us something like $400 a year. We may not stay in the house nearly long enough to justify the investment.

Such concerns are typical. How do you find an auditor? How do you know whether you should seal a few ducts or pay $2,000 for new insulation? Which of the existing subsidies — state and federal — might you qualify for?

Mr. Doerr and Mr. Clinton are well aware of these problems. Mr. Clinton has sent the White House a memorandum written by his foundation staff that lays out the reasons people don't weatherize their homes. Mr. Doerr, who sits on a board of outside economic advisers to Mr. Obama that is working on a formal cash-for-caulkers proposal, told me that his goal was to "keep it really simple so we can do it really fast."

The Doerr plan would cost $23 billion over two years. Most of the money would go for incentive payments, generally $2,000 to $4,000, for weatherization projects. The homeowner would always have to pay at least 50 percent of the project's total cost. About $3 billion would be set aside for retailers and contractors in the hope that they would promote the program, much as car dealerships promoted cash for clunkers. (Mr. Doerr says he owns no stake in any weatherization companies.)

The Clinton plan depends on the reallocation of clean energy money from the stimulus bill that has not yet been spent. It covers not just houses and apartments but also commercial and industrial buildings.

Perhaps most intriguing is its proposal to help homeowners and building owners who are nervous they will end up selling their property before a weatherization project has paid for itself. Under the Clinton plan, they could add the project's cost to their long-term property tax bill, effectively splitting the cost with the next owner. The New York State Legislature approved such a program on Monday.

All these efforts would lead to more weatherization. But I would be surprised if they were enough to create a program as successful as cash for clunkers. Remember: Many homeowners could already save money by weatherizing their homes. And they are not doing so.

Obama: Copenhagen will "rally world" for climate change push

President Barack Obama touted the importance of next month's climate change summit in Copenhagen, Denmark, in spite of the event's downgraded objectives.

Obama over the weekend acknowledged the meeting won't produce a legally binding deal to cut emissions, but on Tuesday he insisted a political agreement in Copenhagen, the new goal of the summit, will have an "immediate" effect.

"Our aim there, in support of what Prime Minister [Lars Lokke] Rasmussen of Denmark is trying to achieve, is not a partial accord or a political declaration, but rather an accord that covers all of the issues in the negotiations, and one that has immediate operational effect," Obama said in Beijing following a meeting with China's president.

"This kind of comprehensive agreement would be an important step forward in the effort to rally the world around a solution to our climate challenge," he added.

In Singapore over the weekend, Obama and other heads of state said the objective for Copenhagen would be a political agreement on climate change. Lower-level administration officials had already been downgrading expectations for a final binding agreement on cutting emissions.

Obama made the remarks after he and Chinese President Hu Jintao announced a series of joint "clean energy" agreements that Obama cast as a sign of progress on climate change. China and the U.S. are the world's two largest emitters of greenhouse gas emissions.

The two nations have reached several specific agreements on low-emissions power and vehicles, the White House said. This includes establishment of a joint clean energy research center, building on an agreement Energy Secretary Steven Chu reached with Chinese officials in July. Other joint measures are aimed at spurring use of electric vehicles, renewable power, low-emissions coal and other technologies.

Deputy National Security Adviser Mike Froman stressed that the U.S.-China deal would add momentum to international efforts in Copenhagen despite the absence from the agreement of specifics on emissions-curbing measures.

"I think the agreement today reflected in the joint statement does give momentum to the Copenhagen process," Froman told reporters. He acknowledged that "further specifics" must be fleshed out by negotiators.

China is believed to back a reduction in its emissions intensity — which means emissions relative to economic activity — rather than an outright reduction target.

Blown away: Wing power keeps growing in Texas

Can the U.S. produce 20% of its electricity from wind? The U.S. Department of Energy thinks it can get there by 2030.

That doesn't sound so far fetched anymore. A couple weeks ago – October 28th to be exact – wind turbines provided about 25% of Texas' power consumption.

Of course, that could have been in the middle of the night when the good people of Flatonia, Amarillo and Gun Barrel City – not to mention Houston and Dallas – were asleep. (Update: It was in the middle of the night. Three a.m. to be exact.) Spain topped out at 53% of grid electricity from the wind earlier this month, but that occurred at about 5 a.m. while most Spaniards were asleep.

But back in Texas, a little before 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday October 28th, the Lone Star State got about 6,223 megawatts from the wind. That's a record. At the time, the total load was about 35,000 megawatts. That's 17.8% of its power from the wind. (That's not sleepy-time power usage. Texas power consumption peaked in October at 49,100 megawatts.)

What does this mean for Texans electric bills? They could be headed down. A recent report finds that wind power is replacing more expensive forms of power generation.

Going green in China, case by case

This region of Inner Mongolia, home to one of the biggest deserts in China, is being transformed into the site of a pine forest that will stretch across its low hills as far as the eye can see.

The local government's tree-planting program is part of a plan to "assume our green responsibilities and build a civilized way of life," Du Zi, the local Communist Party secretary, told energy executives at a conference last month in Beijing.

Also on tap: the world's biggest plant to convert sunlight to electricity, built by First Solar of Tempe, Arizona, part of a 12-gigawatt wind, solar and biomass power-generating zone. And General Electric is helping the land of Genghis Khan cut wastewater emissions into the Yellow River, which borders the region.

"This shows what local leadership can do in China these days," said Kenneth Lieberthal, head of the Brookings Institution's China Center in Washington, which played host to Mr. Du and other provincial officials at the Oct. 21-23 conference. "They've gone flat-out."

Regions are vying to outdo one another in a race to develop alternative-energy sources and reduce pollution. Gansu Province in western China is building a wind farm equivalent to about 20 nuclear power facilities. In the east, Zhejiang Province is installing solar panels on roofs. Beijing bans motorcycles from the city center in favor of electric bikes.

Their efforts demonstrate that China, the world's largest producer of the emissions blamed for global warming, will continue to accelerate development of energy from renewable sources, even as it resists binding targets for reducing carbon emissions ahead of a U.N. summit meeting in Copenhagen next month aimed at forging a new treaty to curb greenhouse gases.

Some regional officials now see environmental projects as a way to bolster their economies after decades when companies were allowed to poison the air and water without penalties while expanding output.

Earning a profit by ending energy waster

The Community Preservation Corporation, a 35-year-old nonprofit lender that specializes in issuing mortgages to landlords of small buildings and properties receiving public subsidies, is offering $1 billion in credit to New York State apartment building owners.

The group's new "green financing initiative" offers mortgages or refinancing to landlords who fix wasteful energy and water systems in their buildings.

The initiative presumes that savings from such retrofitting will be large enough for an owner to cover a loan with profit to spare, said Sadie McKeown, a senior vice president with the organization. As Ms. McKeown told an online seminar of 70 potential borrowers on Nov. 10, "we want to empirically show upside after a retrofit."

The backers of the initiative include the government-controlled mortgage agency Freddie Mac, New York City and State public employee pension funds and a consortium of banks. These investors have worked with the corporation over the decades to assemble financing for buildings with low-income tenants, and now some of these buildings need retrofits to become profitable or saleable.

Michael D. Lappin, the Community Preservation Corporation's chief executive, said the new fund was an effort to induce owners and lenders — including his organization — to reap value from fixing buildings as they age. Mr. Lappin said the idea for the initiative came to him last summer, when he commissioned a study of the energy costs in the corporation's portfolio and found extreme variations. Some buildings were spending seven times as much for heat and hot water as other comparable buildings, he said.

Andrew Padian, an energy expert who joined the Community Preservation Corporation's senior staff in March, said common building flaws wasted many thousands of dollars a year. These problems are as simple as boilers that send constant heat to apartments, stairwells with lights on when nobody needs them and landlords who refuse to install dishwashers, letting water costs run wild.

Proposed regulations in New York City would require landlords of older buildings to conduct annual energy audits and meet benchmarks for energy efficiency, or pay fines. The corporation's initiative could give owners of buildings with low-income tenants a head start in finding fuel savings. The organization's loans carry an interest rate of about 6 percent.

Since the program began last month, owners of 10 buildings have received $18 million in financing to fix up 725 apartments. The buildings include a 375-unit complex on West 110th Street, a 17-unit walk-up co-op on East First Street and a low-income garden apartment complex in Bedford Hills in Westchester County.

Some owners are refinancing existing mortgages with the corporation, while others are creating new ones. Mr. Lappin said he expected the fund to commit the full $1 billion, across the state's cities and inner suburbs, by 2013.

Will Houston become an electric car capital?

Gas-guzzling Houston, bete noire of environmentalists worldwide, is planting the seeds of an electric future.

On Tuesday, Mayor Bill White and local electricity retailer Reliant Energy launched a plug-in hybrid program that includes 10 vehicle-charging stations around the city. Seven of the stations will be available to the public, and electricity will be free the first year, Mayor White said.

The move comes amid a marketing and lobbying push by several electric providers and car maker Nissan–which has an all-electric vehicle due in late 2010–to quicken the pace of car electrification and the same day that General Motors said its electric Volt is on track for commercial production a year from now. At The Wall Street Journal CEO Council on Tuesday, Nissan Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn said that by 2020, 10% of all cars sold will be zero-emission vehicles.

The "Electrification Coalition" called for "electricity ecosystems," or select cities where the electric-car revolution can take root. But who knew that would include Houston?

Last week, Reliant (a subsidiary of NRG Energy Inc. and a member of the carmaker's "Electrification Coalition") and Nissan announced that they'd make the Texas city a "launch city" for the all-electric LEAF, due in late 2010. Reliant promised to install public charging stations and provide equipment to charge cars at home. Talk about taunting the devil in its own lair.

At first blush, it's hard to imagine a city less amenable to electrification of the transportation fleet than this sprawling metropolis, criss-crossed by tentacular highways. Many of Houston's more than 5 million inhabitants appear to think nothing of driving 30 miles to work on tricked-out pick up trucks getting 12 miles a gallon.

And many owe their livelihoods to the same oil-derived fuels electric car makers hope to displace. Houston is not only a big refining center, but home to ConocoPhillips and significant operations for the likes of Chevron, Exxon Mobil, Shell and BP.

There are plenty of challenges. Houston's public charging stations, 4-foot long cyliners, can take 8 to 10 hours to fully charge a car, for example. Leave the hazard lights on. And the SUV-loving market here may still find electric cars unpalatable—at least until all-electric Ford pickups hit dealer lots.

For all that, Houston actually makes a lot of sense. Unlike many places in the country, Texas' electricity grid isn't under stress, for starters. And from an environmental perspective, it's fairly clean, with a lot of juice coming from wind farms and natural-gas fired plants.

Electricity-guzzling cars that up the demand for natural-gas for power generation could even make the region's fossil fuels industry happy, says says Kenneth Medlock, an economist at Rice University. And since most cars would charge at night, Texas' booming wind-energy industry would find new customers, too.

In the end, America's fourth-largest city epitomizes the country's love affair with the car. Unlike in green urbs like San Francisco or Seattle, it's all but impossible to live here without wheels—so they might as well be electric. It will probably be cheaper and easier to electrify urban sprawl than rein it in altogether.

Contest: Respond to this uber-lame NY Times op-ed

Posted: 18 Nov 2009 08:01 AM PST

I could easily spend all my time just responding to every single piece of silliness that appears in the mainstream media on global warming.  But not only would that be unproductive and unhelpful for my readers (i.e. you), but heck I have great readers capable of doing such responses themselves.

The NY Times has just given some of its precious real estate to one of the lamest and most irrelevant op-eds ever published on climate change:  "Ben Franklin on Global Warming."  The gist of it seems to be that since weather changes over small parts of the Earth's land were noticed by people in the 18th century and that Franklin himself apparently noticed part of what is now well understood and modeled by scientists as the heat island effect — "cleared land absorbs more heat and melts snow quicker" — that we should somehow think … well, actually, I can't even figure out what the author is trying to say.

The piece appears to be a novel take on the "teach the controversy" strategy.  The author, Ben Gelber, meteorologist at WCMH-TV in Columbus, Ohio, sort of acknowledges anthropogenic global warming science but mostly makes irrelevant connections between the past and today to imply that what's happening now is nothing really new.  If Gelber thinks we should do anything about global warming, he keeps it to himself.

Well, anthropogenic global warming is new, and it would be catastrophic or worse to do nothing about it — see, for instance, "Humans boosting CO2 14,000 times faster than nature, overwhelming slow negative feedbacks" and "Imagine a World without Fish" and "Intro to global warming impacts" and UK Met Office: Catastrophic climate change, 13-18°F over most of U.S. and 27°F in the Arctic, could happen in 50 years, but "we do have time to stop it if we cut greenhouse gas emissions soon."

But hey, I've written too much already.  You respond, and I'll lift the best comments up into the main post.

Tom Friedman on "What They Really Believe"

Posted: 18 Nov 2009 07:32 AM PST

If you follow the debate around the energy/climate bills working through Congress you will notice that the drill-baby-drill opponents of this legislation are now making two claims. One is that the globe has been cooling lately, not warming, and the other is that America simply can't afford any kind of cap-and-trade/carbon tax.

But here is what they also surely believe, but are not saying….

That is the opening of "What They Really Believe," Tom Friedman's NYT op-ed today.   Here are some excerpts from this

They believe it is much better for America that the world be dependent on oil for energy — a commodity largely controlled by countries that hate us and can only go up in price as demand increases — rather than on clean power technologies that are controlled by us and only go down in price as demand increases. And, finally, they believe that people in the developing world are very happy being poor — just give them a little running water and electricity and they'll be fine. They'll never want to live like us.

Yes, the opponents of any tax on carbon to stimulate alternatives to oil must believe all these things because that is the only way their arguments make any sense. Let me explain why by first explaining how I look at this issue.

I am a clean-energy hawk. Green for me is not just about recycling garbage but about renewing America. That is why I have been saying "green is the new red, white and blue."

Friedman thinks climate change is real, of course but he also offers two trends "you simply can't deny" that demand action on clean energy:

The first is that the world is getting crowded. According to the 2006 U.N. population report, "The world population will likely increase by 2.5 billion … passing from the current 6.7 billion to 9.2 billion in 2050. This increase is equivalent to the total size of the world population in 1950, and it will be absorbed mostly by the less developed regions, whose population is projected to rise from 5.4 billion in 2007 to 7.9 billion in 2050."

The energy, climate, water and pollution implications of adding another 2.5 billion mouths to feed, clothe, house and transport will be staggering. And this is coming, unless, as the deniers apparently believe, a global pandemic or a mass outbreak of abstinence will freeze world population — forever.

Now, add one more thing. The world keeps getting flatter — more and more people can now see how we live, aspire to our lifestyle and even take our jobs so they can live how we live. So not only are we adding 2.5 billion people by 2050, but many more will live like "Americans" — with American-size homes, American-size cars, eating American-size Big Macs.

"What happens when developing nations with soaring vehicle populations get tens of millions of petroleum-powered cars at the same time as the global economy recovers and there's no large global oil supply overhang?" asks Felix Kramer, the electric car expert who advocates electrifying the U.S. auto fleet and increasingly powering it with renewable energy sources. What happens, of course, is that the price of oil goes through the roof — unless we develop alternatives. The petro-dictators in Iran, Venezuela and Russia hope we don't. They would only get richer.

To learn more about Kramer, go to his website  See also his guest blog posts here: "Everything you could want to know about the plug-in hybrid and electric vehicle announcements at the 2009 Detroit auto show" and "Climate and hydrogen car advocate gets almost everything wrong about plug-in cars."

So either the opponents of a serious energy/climate bill with a price on carbon don't care about our being addicted to oil and dependent on petro-dictators forever or they really believe that we will not be adding 2.5 billion more people who want to live like us, so the price of oil won't go up very far and, therefore, we shouldn't raise taxes to stimulate clean, renewable alternatives and energy efficiency.

Green hawks believe otherwise. We believe that in a world getting warmer and more crowded with more "Americans," the next great global industry is going to be E.T., or energy technology based on clean power and energy efficiency. It has to be. And we believe that the country that invents and deploys the most E.T. will enjoy the most economic security, energy security, national security, innovative companies and global respect. And we believe that country must be America. If not, our children will never enjoy the standard of living we did….

So, as I said, you don't believe in global warming? You're wrong, but I'll let you enjoy it until your beach house gets washed away. But if you also don't believe the world is getting more crowded with more aspiring Americans — and that ignoring that will play to the strength of our worst enemies, while responding to it with clean energy will play to the strength of our best technologies — then you're willfully blind, and you're hurting America's future to boot.

Video: Californian firefighter warns of increased wildfires due to climate change

Posted: 18 Nov 2009 06:19 AM PST

Thom Porter, staff chief at the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) talks about the changes he has witnessed in the Californian climate and how it is increasing the risk of forest fires:

A bit strange this comes via a story from the UK's Telegraph, but an important, science-based message from someone in the front lines nonetheless:

Thom Porter, staff chief at Cal Fire believes climate change is in a large part responsible for the increase in fires. "As a firefighter I'm a student of the weather and I've noticed that there is a change that has occurred over the last several years."These patterns are not what I've grown up with. They are also not what I've seen in the historical record. We are starting to see more monsoonal style weather which is causing more dry lightening which ignite fires"

For completeness's sake, I'll include some key links and studies for those interested in the underlying science of the connection between human-caused global warming and wildfires that CP readers have seen many times:

Back in 2004, researchers at the U.S. Forest Services Pacific Wildland Fire Lab looked at past fires in the West to create a statistical model of how future climate change may affect wildfires.  Their paper, "Climatic Change, Wildfire, and Conservation," published in Conservation Biology, found that by century's end, states like Montana, New Mexico, Washington, Utah, and Wyoming could see burn areas increase five times.

In 2006 Science magazine published a major article analyzing whether the recent soaring wildfire trend was due to a change in forest management practices or to climate change. The study, led by the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, concluded:

Robust statistical associations between wildfire and hydroclimate in western forests indicate that increased wildfire activity over recent decades reflects sub-regional responses to changes in climate. Historical wildfire observations exhibit an abrupt transition in the mid-1980s from a regime of infrequent large wildfires of short (average of 1 week) duration to one with much more frequent and longer burning (5 weeks) fires. This transition was marked by a shift toward unusually warm springs, longer summer dry seasons, drier vegetation (which provoked more and longer burning large wildfires), and longer fire seasons. Reduced winter precipitation and an early spring snowmelt played a role in this shift.

That 2006 study noted global warming (from human-caused emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide) will further accelerate all of these trends during this century. Worse still, the increased wildfires will themselves release huge amounts of carbon dioxide, which will serve as a vicious circle, accelerating the very global warming that is helping to cause more wildfires.

A July 2009 study, "Impacts of climate change from 2000 to 2050 on wildfire activity and carbonaceous aerosol concentrations in the western United States" finds a staggering increase in "wildfire activity and carbonaceous aerosol concentrations in the western United States" by mid-century under a moderate warming scenario:

We show that increases in temperature cause annual mean area burned in the western United States to increase by 54% by the 2050s relative to the present-day … with the forests of the Pacific Northwest and Rocky Mountains experiencing the greatest increases of 78% and 175% respectively. Increased area burned results in near doubling of wildfire carbonaceous aerosol emissions by mid-century.

The future could look like this:

"This graph shows the percentage increase in area burned by wildfires, from the present-day to the 2050s, as calculated by the model of Spracklen et al. [2009] for the May-October fire season. The model follows a scenario of moderately increasing emissions of greenhouse gas emissions and leads to average global warming of 1.6 degrees Celsius (3 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2050. Warmer temperatures can dry out underbrush, leading to more serious conflagrations in the future climate."

It's most certainly not too late to avoid this hellish future.

Related Posts:

default "McCarthyism" attack

Reid: "I think if we do it right, the energy bill, the climate bill can be very, very job productive" — plans floor debate on bipartisan bill "sometime in the spring"

Posted: 17 Nov 2009 03:43 PM PST

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) today confirmed that floor debate on a sweeping energy and global warming bill that will be sold to the American public in part as an economic stimulus measure will be held early next year.

"We're going to try to do that sometime in the spring," Reid told reporters when asked about the window for moving a climate bill onto the Senate floor.

So E&E News PM (subs. req'd) reports.   Ideally the debate would start by the end of February, so the Senate vote could be finished by early spring, as I recently wrote.   The bipartisan team of Senators crafting a bill with the White House plan on a blueprint by Copenhagen:

Kerry and Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) are taking the lead in writing the climate and energy bill with a goal of releasing a blueprint before U.N. global warming negotiations start Dec. 7 in Copenhagen.

The good news is that Reid sees this bill as part of the economic stimulus and jobs package the administration is putting together, which should increase the motivation to pass it:

"I think if we do it right, the energy bill, the climate bill can be very, very job productive," Reid said.

Environment and Public Works Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) met with Reid and four other Democratic committee leaders yesterday to map out the legislative agenda for the rest of this year and early 2010….

"This is a jobs bill," Kerry said. "This is without question a jobs bill. I'd say this is the biggest jobs bill staring us in the face, without any question, and we'll prove that as we go down the road in the next days. So if you want to do a jobs bill, this is the bill to do. And I'd argue that with the president very, very forcefully."

The bill certainly can drive early investment in clean energy through pollution reduction incentives, tax breaks, efficiency standards — and even through the carbon caps, as Nobelist Paul Krugman explained back in May:

Right now, the biggest problem facing our economy is plunging business investment. Businesses see no reason to invest, since they're awash in excess capacity, thanks to the housing bust and weak consumer demand.

But suppose that Congress were to mandate gradually tightening emission limits, starting two or three years from now. This would have no immediate effect on prices. It would, however, create major incentives for new investment — investment in low-emission power plants, in energy-efficient factories and more.

To put it another way, a commitment to greenhouse gas reduction would, in the short-to-medium run, have the same economic effects as a major technological innovation: It would give businesses a reason to invest in new equipment and facilities even in the face of excess capacity. And given the current state of the economy, that's just what the doctor ordered.

This short-run economic boost isn't the main reason to move on climate-change policy. The important thing is that the planet is in danger, and the longer we wait the worse it gets. But it is an extra reason to move quickly.

So can we afford to save the planet? Yes, we can. And now would be a very good time to get started.


The bill should be written so that the cap-and-trade doesn't start until 2013, well after the recession is over, but ideally with funding to accelerate clean technology into the marketplace frontloaded to start immediately, funding that can be deficit-neutral because it is offset by allowances that will be auctioned later.

Note:  I am proposing the cap start one year later than the current bills.  That's because the bill is going to become law later than people thought, giving less time to set up all the rules for 2012 trading, and because of the recession, which has knocked CO2 levels down sharply (see "EIA stunner: By year's end, we'll be 8.5% below 2005 levels of CO2 — halfway to climate bill's 2020 target").  That means 2012 was probably going to have an over-allocation of allowances anyway.  Putting the start of the cap off one year therefore won't actually reduce the amount of emissions reductions the bill achieves — quite the reverse, it'll probably reduce the early surplus of allowances distributed.

U.S. and China announce "positive, cooperative and comprehensive" plan for collaboration on clean energy and climate change

Posted: 17 Nov 2009 12:01 PM PST

"Very exciting day here in Beijing.  There's enormous interest in both governments in working together to fight climate change.  The package announced today is far-reaching and can make a real difference in cutting emissions."

That's an exclusive quote from David Sandalow, DOE's Assistant Secretary of Energy for Policy and International Affairs, who just emailed me from China about the newly announced U.S.-China cooperation plan.  Sandalow is going to be in Copenhagen, so I hope to have a real interview with him then.  For details on this plan (with links) and what it means, here is analysis by Andrew Light and Julian L. Wong of the Center for American Progress.  Note that the deal goes beyond "obvious" areas like efficiency and renewables to include things like shale gas, which appears to exist in abundance in China and could allow repowering of existing Chinese coal plants and more rapid medium-term reductions than people have thought possible.

This morning, a comprehensive plan for U.S.-China cooperation on clean energy and climate change was announced in Beijing by President Barack Obama and President Hu Jintao. The overall plan is much more ambitious in scope and depth than we had anticipated and contains directives to create various institutions and programs addressing a wide array of cooperation on clean-energy technologies and capacity building, including very important efforts on helping China build a robust, transparent and accurate inventory of their greenhouse gas emissions.

These efforts include cooperation in the following areas:

1.  Greenhouse Gas Inventory.  A memorandum of cooperation between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and China's National Development and Reform Commission sets out avenues for collaboration on capacity building in climate change, with an initial focus on helping China to develop a robust, transparent and accurate greenhouse gas emissions inventory.

2. Joint Clean Energy Research Center. Originally announced this July, more details were provided on the joint center that will "facilitate joint research and development of clean energy technologies by teams of scientists and engineers from the United States and China, as well as serve as a clearinghouse to help researchers in each country."  Financial support from public and private sources of at least $150 million over five years, split evenly between the two countries, will be provided.  The Center's research will initially focus on building energy efficiency, clean coal including carbon capture and storage, and clean vehicles. (Factsheet)

3.  Electric Vehicles. Those initiative will "include joint standards development, demonstration projects in more than a dozen cities, technical roadmapping and public education projects."  (Factsheet)

4. Energy Efficiency. Building on the Ten Year Framework on Energy and Environment Cooperation, government officials of both countries will "work together and with the private sector to develop energy efficient building codes and rating systems, benchmark industrial energy efficiency, train building inspectors and energy efficiency auditors for industrial facilities, harmonize test procedures and performance metrics for energy efficient consumer products, [and] exchange best practices in energy efficient labeling systems." (Factsheet)

5.  Renewable Energy.   The two countries will develop roadmaps for wide-spread renewable energy deployment in both countries.  The Partnership will also provide technical and analytical resources to states and regions in both countries to support renewable energy deployment and will facilitate state-to-state and region-to-region partnerships to share experience and best practices.  (Factsheet)

6.  21st Century Coal. The two countries will "launch a program of technical cooperation to bring teams of U.S. and Chinese scientists and engineers together in developing clean coal and carbon capture and storage technologies."  The Presidents also welcomed a package of announcements on public-private partnerships in advanced coal technologies. (Factsheet)

7.  Shale Gas. Under a new Shale Gas Initiative, the U.S. and China will "use experience gained in the United States to assess China's shale gas potential, promote environmentally-sustainable development of shale gas resources, conduct joint technical studies to accelerate development of shale gas resources in China, and promote shale gas investment in China through the U.S.-China Oil and Gas Industry Forum, study tours, and workshops." (Factsheet)

8.  Nuclear.  The two countries reaffirmed the goals of the recently-concluded Third Executive Committee Meeting of the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership to promote the peaceful use of civilian nuclear energy, and " agreed to consult with one another in order to explore such approaches—including assurance of fuel supply and cradle-to-grave nuclear fuel management so that countries can access peaceful nuclear power while minimizing the risks of proliferation."

9.  Public-private partnerships on clean energy. A new U.S.-China Energy Cooperation Program (ECP) will "leverage private sector resources for project development work in China across a broad array of clean energy projects, to the benefit of both nations."  The ECP, consisting of at least 22 founding member companies, will work on collaborative projects in renewable energy, smart grid, clean transportation, green building, clean coal, combined heat and power, and energy efficiency.

In a joint statement, President Barack Obama and President Hu Jintao agreed on a common approach to achieve a successful outcome in international climate negotiations (emphasis added in bold):

Regarding the upcoming Copenhagen Conference, both sides agree on the importance of actively furthering the full, effective and sustained implementation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in accordance with the Bali Action Plan. The United States and China, consistent with their national circumstances, resolve to take significant mitigation actions and recognize the important role that their countries play in promoting a sustainable outcome that will strengthen the world's ability to combat climate change. The two sides resolve to stand behind these commitments.

In this context both sides believe that, while striving for final legal agreement, an agreed outcome at Copenhagen should, based on the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, include emission reduction targets of developed countries and nationally appropriate mitigation actions of developing countries. The outcome should also substantially scale up financial assistance to developing countries, promote technology development, dissemination and transfer, pay particular attention to the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable to adapt to climate change, promote steps to preserve and enhance forests, and provide for full transparency with respect to the implementation of mitigation measures and provision of financial, technology and capacity building support.

Taken together, these commitments and statements represent an important step forward towards agreeing on a protocol for accurate accounting and verification of China's policies for achieving the necessary emissions reductions that science requires. They will also hopefully start to satisfy those skeptical that China will agree to a protocol for accurate accounting and verification of its impressive array of policies for achieving emissions reductions.

The announcements also suggest that the United States and China are on the same page when it comes to both the necessity of aggressively moving forward on an affirmative agenda to reduce carbon pollution and create millions of new clean energy jobs. The agreement contains concrete measures for sustained and meaningful collaboration and demonstrates that the two largest emitters of greenhouse gases are prepared to move beyond the tired narrative of developed versus developing country responsibilities on climate action toward a more "positive, cooperative, and comprehensive" relationship on clean energy and climate change.

We hope that the upcoming United Nations climate change summit in Copenhagen will follow this example and focus as much on bottom-up technological strategies for achieving real reductions in emissions as it will on top-down targets for carbon caps.

JR:  For more on shale gas and its implications for U.S. emissions reductions, see There appears to be a lot more natural gas than previously thought (Part 1) and therefore unconventional gas makes the 2020 Waxman-Markey target so damn easy and cheap to meet (Part 2).

Time magazine: "The science of climate change grows more dire."

Posted: 17 Nov 2009 11:24 AM PST

"World leaders say Copenhagen to be a steppingstone to final climate deal," as I wrote on Sunday.   Here is an excerpt from  Time magazine's take on the matter, "World Leaders Put Off a Climate Change Treaty," by Bryan Walsh:

If there is a bright side, however, the deliberate downshift in expectations for Copenhagen could make it easier for world leaders, including Obama, to attend the summit and draft a stronger political agreement. In addition, diplomats could build out the framework of a future agreement, with the hope that, should the Senate pass carbon legislation early next year, a deal with real numbers could be finalized relatively quickly.

But there's no getting around the fact that as the science of climate change grows more dire, the global political system seems increasingly unable to deal with that reality. "We don't want a global suicide pact," said Mohamed Nasheed, the president of the Maldives, a low-lying Indian Ocean nation that could be swamped by global warming – caused flooding. "We want a global survival pact." But the world's most influential leaders still aren't ready for that.

Energy and Global Warming News for November 17: South Korea adopts its most strict CO2 cuts for 2020; Concentrated solar thermal goes dry (cooling)

Posted: 17 Nov 2009 10:56 AM PST

South Korea to Cut Greenhouse Emissions 30% from expected 2020 levels

South Korea, Asia's fourth-largest polluter, said it plans a 30 percent cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 even as a binding global accord on climate change appears unlikely at next month's summit in Copenhagen.

"South Korea's voluntary target will stimulate efforts by the global community despite the pessimistic outlook for the Copenhagen meeting," President Lee Myung Bak said in a statement today. The goal is set at the highest level recommended for emerging economies by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change under the United Nations, according to the statement….

South Korea had outlined in August three proposals: cutting emissions by as much as 4 percent by the end the next decade from 2005 levels; capping them at the 2005 output; or allowing an 8 percent increase by 2020….

The target "basically corresponds to 4 percent cut from 2005," Choi Seung Kook, secretary general of Green Korea United, non-profit environmental group, said by telephone. "Still, a forecast based on business as usual levels in 2020 is changeable and the target itself falls short of goals of other countries."

South Korea's annual emissions may rise to 813 million metric tons by 2020 in the absence of measures to curb carbon output, a committee under the presidential office said Aug. 4. That would be an increase of 37 percent from the 594.4 million tons produced in 2005.

This target will be a true "challenge for South Korean industries, where carbon emissions doubled in the period from 1990 to 2005, the fastest rate in the OECD," as the WSJ noted.  "The steepest cuts will occur in construction and transportation, the government said. In construction, which accounts for 25% of carbon emissions, South Korea is targeting a 31% reduction by what they would have been in 2020. In the transportation sector, which accounts for 17% of emissions, it plans to trim emissions by 33% to 37%."

Concentrated solar thermal goes dry (cooling)

Yesterday, after months of pressure from environmental groups and some concerned residents, one solar project developer backed out of controversial plans to buy rights to a billion gallons a year of local farmers' water.

The water was needed to supply two proposed solar thermal plants in Nevada's parched Amargosa Valley, 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas. Over the plants' lifetime, climate change promises to only worsen water shortages in the region.

The decision to switch to more expensive "dry cooling" technology will cut the project's water demand by 90 percent, the developer, Solar Millennium LLC, said yesterday. The German-backed company is a subsidiary of Solar Millennium AG.

The recent move highlights the tensions surrounding the water consumption of large-scale solar thermal power projects proposed largely on federal and state lands in the West. At about 12 cents a kilowatt-hour of lifetime energy costs, solar thermal power produces cheaper electricity than solar photovoltaic technologies do today.

The problem comes because conventional solar thermal is a water-guzzler.

Like coal or nuclear plants, solar thermal plants yield electricity by generating steam to spin a turbine. In the typical wet-cooling process, water is mainly needed to replace the steam lost to evaporation during the process. Per unit of power, solar thermal can demand the same water as a coal-fired unit, or more, according to a Department of Energy study.

More problematic is where and when the water is needed: high noon in the middle of the most water-stressed region of the country. So concerns about water are bubbling to the surface as federal and state regulators push a glut of solar thermal applications through the review process….

There are alternatives for solar developers, as the Solar Millennium decision indicates. Increasingly, projects are proposing so-called "dry cooling" technologies, which stem water losses by closing the system and using air to cool the steam.

Recently, for example, BLM and the California Energy Commission completed a joint environmental review of BrightSource Energy's Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, a proposed 440-megawatt project in the Mojave Desert. It is one of nine solar projects now being fast-tracked by BLM, including three other Solar Millennium projects in California.

Though it faces other environmental controversies, water is not one of them. The Ivanpah project, which uses dry cooling, needs 30 times less water than traditional wet-cooling technologies, said company spokesman Keely Wachs. The water it does draw is mostly to wash the mirrors….

For more on dry cooling, see "The secret to low-water-use, high-efficiency concentrating solar power."  The story continues:

Solar Millenium spokesman Keegan said the company's three proposed California projects, unlike the Amargosa Valley project in Nevada, were all proposed with dry cooling in large part because that's what California utilities, which have signed power purchase agreements, demanded.

But in other places, it may not be a pressing concern.

"Utilities are still in the mindset that they have more pressing needs today, like dealing with CO2," said Cara Libby, a project manager at the utility-funded Electric Power Research Institute. "They all know water is going to be important, but it hasn't really hit their business yet."

Ban Links Food Security, Climate Change

A comprehensive plan to combat threats to global food security was presented Monday during a U.N.-sponsored food security summit in Rome.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said global food shortages were aggravated by climate change and population growth that will see 2 billion more mouths to feed in 2050 — 9.1 billion in all, the United Nations said in a release.

The World Summit on Food Security is being conducted at the Rome headquarters of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. More than 60 heads of state, including Pope Benedict XVI, are attending the summit, but some of the larger countries, including the United States, are absent, Italian news agency ANSA reported.

Ban outlined steps ranging from immediate needs such as food aid, safety nets and social protection, to long-term goals achieved through more investments in agricultural development, better market access and fairer trade for smaller farm operations, the United Nations said.

Looking for a Solution to Cow's Climate Problem

With the approach of the U.N. Climate Conference in Copenhagen next month, the livestock industry is coming under renewed scrutiny for its contribution to greenhouse gases.

Methane, which is a byproduct of digestion by cud-chewing animals, is a gas 23 times more warming to the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. A 2006 report by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization attributed 18 percent of the greenhouse gases produced each year to livestock.

But a more recent report for the World Watch Institute, by Robert Goodland, former environmental adviser to the World Bank, and Jeff Anhang, environmental specialist at the World Bank Group's International Finance Corp., estimates this figure to be much higher: 51 percent, when the entire life cycle and supply chain of the livestock industry is taken into consideration.

Their report — "Livestock and Climate Change: What if the key actors in climate change are … cows, pigs and chickens?" — factors in emissions from the tens of billions of animals exhaling CO2 annually, as well as deforestation for feed production and grazing, which prevents the reduction in greenhouse gases that would normally result from photosynthesis.

In the World Watch report released last month, Dr. Goodland and Mr. Anhang wrote that "livestock (like automobiles) are a human invention and convenience, not part of pre-human times, and a molecule of CO2 exhaled by livestock is no more natural than one from an auto tailpipe."

Electric Avenue: Or, How to Rev Up the Electric-Car Revolution

A broad group of corporations got together in Washington today to prod policymakers to make the electric-car revolution a reality. The goal? By 2040, 75% of light-vehicle miles should be driven with electric cars, rather than today's gasoline engines. That, the group says, would essentially end U.S. imports of oil, improving the environment, America's energy security, and its coffers. (There's more here and here.)

The Electrification Coaltion groups all sorts of companies that stand to gain, one way or another, from an electric-car revolution. There are utilities (NRG and PG&E); battery types (A123 and Rockwood); Automakers (Nissan); venture capitalists (Kleiner Perkins); and others, such as FedEx.

Whether electric cars remain a plaything of the rich or do to today's cars what cars did to horses is still a very open question. For some, the combination of better performance and pricey oil makes it a no-brainer. For others, the prospect of expensive batteries and scattered charging stations makes it a chimera.

All that is spelled out in a very, very detailed roadmap of how to get there, put together by the Electrification Coalition and PRTM, the consulting firm.