December 19, 2009

More Coal?!

Copenhagen Summary

In an article written by Andrew Light, Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress, Andrew argues that the results from Copenhagen are good news. 

He writes - "When you add up everything that the 17 largest economies have on the table, not for a treaty mind you, but awaiting domestic action that could happen regardless of a treaty such as the US legislation, then we are 5 gigatons away from commitments that should get us on a 450ppm stabilization path by 2020, essentially 65% of the way there. " 

I posted the following question in response to his article and received an answer from Bill McKibben. 

  1. Mark Sandeen says:
    I'm not sure how it is possible to spin being 5 Gigatons away from a path that would get us moving towards 450ppm can be viewed as good news. If we are 5 Gigatons away from 450ppm, then we are on a path to something higher than 450ppm.
    What is that number? 500ppm? 550ppm? 600ppm?
    Success means reducing the carbon in the atmosphere, not telling folks it is ok to be heading higher than 450ppm.

  2. the number at the moment, from Climate Interactive, which has the very cool C-Roads software running, is 770 ppm. That's a…large number.

End of a long day, Start of a long road

There will be time for full post-mortems on the "deal" that the US, China, India and South Africa struck tonight. The initial impression of most journalists is that it was a failure--indeed, that's the word the Guardian uses in its headline. It has no real targets, no real timetables, not really much of anything very useful. And it was reached without the participation of most of the countries that will suffer most and have contributed least to the problem.
And yet there was a strangely hopeful gathering outside the Bella Center in the freezing cold after midnight. Mostly young people, chanting slogans--especially 3-5-0--long into the night. They were upset, but they were also optimistic--because they know that the one undeniable thing about this conference is that it reflected the growing power of a people's movement around the world. You were heard. We're not strong enough yet to dominate the talks--that's still the fossil fuel industry. But we're strong enough to make it harder for the great powers simply to impose their will behind the scenes. This time the power grab was out in the open. People have learned a lot about both climate science and international relations in the last few weeks--it will pay off in the months ahead. Stay tuned--and stay hopeful. We haven't won...yet.

James Hansen on the Temperature Record

NASA announces that November 2009 was the hottest November on record

From James Hansen's article "The Temperature of Science".

Frequently heard fallacies are that "global warming stopped in 1998" or "the world has been getting cooler over the past decade". These statements appear to be wishful thinking – it would be nice if true, but that is not what the data show. True, the 1998 global temperature jumped far above the previous warmest year in the instrumental record, largely because 1998 was affected by the strongest El Nino of the century. Thus for the following several years the global temperature was lower than in 1998, as expected.
However, the 5-year and 11-year running mean global temperatures (Figure 3b) have continued to increase at nearly the same rate as in the past three decades. There is a slight downward tick at the end of the record, but even that may disappear if 2010 is a warm year. Indeed, given the continued growth of greenhouse gases and the underlying global warming trend (Figure 3b) there is a high likelihood, I would say greater than 50 percent, that 2010 will be the warmest year in the period of instrumental data. This prediction depends in part upon the continuation of the present moderate El Nino for at least several months, but that is likely.

Furthermore, the assertion that 1998 was the warmest year is based on the East Anglia – British Met Office temperature analysis. As shown in Figure 1, the GISS analysis has 2005 as the warmest year. As discussed by Hansen et al. (2006) the main difference between these analyses is probably due to the fact that British analysis excludes large areas in the Arctic and Antarctic where observations are sparse. The GISS analysis, which extrapolates temperature anomalies as far as 1200 km, has more complete coverage of the polar areas. The extrapolation introduces uncertainty, but there is independent information, including satellite infrared measurements and reduced Arctic sea ice cover, which supports the existence of substantial positive temperature anomalies in those regions.

The important point is that nothing was found in the East Anglia e-mails altering the reality and magnitude of global warming in the instrumental record. The input data for global temperature analyses are widely available, on our web site and elsewhere. If those input data could be made to yield a significantly different global temperature change, contrarians would certainly have done that – but they have not.

December 18, 2009

Reason and Faith in Copenhagen by Bill McKibben

This morning, I sobbed through Sunday services. Then I got back to work.  - Bill McKibben

I've spent the last few years working more than full time to organize the first big global grassroots climate change campaign. That's meant shutting off my emotions most of the time—this crisis is so terrifying that when you let yourself feel too deeply it can be paralyzing. Hence, much gallows humor, irony, and sheer work.

This afternoon I sobbed for an hour, and I'm still choking a little. I got to Copenhagen's main Lutheran Cathedral just before the start of a special service designed to mark the conference underway for the next week. It was jammed, but I squeezed into a chair near the corner. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, gave the sermon; Desmond Tutu read the Psalm. Both were wonderful.
But my tears started before anyone said a word. As the service started, dozens choristers from around the world carried three things down the aisle and to the altar: pieces of dead coral bleached by hot ocean temperatures; stones uncovered by retreating glaciers; and small, shriveled ears of corn from drought-stricken parts of Africa. As I watched them go by, all I could think of was the people I've met in the last couple of years traveling the world: the people living in the valleys where those glaciers are disappearing, and the people downstream who have no backup plan for where their water is going to come from. The people who live on the islands surrounded by that coral, who depend on the reefs for the fish they eat, and to protect their homes from the waves. And the people, on every corner of the world, dealing with drought and flood, already unable to earn their daily bread in the places where their ancestors farmed for generations.

Those damned shriveled ears of corn. I've done everything I can think of, and millions of people around the world have joined us at in the most international campaign there ever was. But I just sat there thinking: It's not enough. We didn't do enough. I should have started earlier. People are dying already; people are sitting tonight in their small homes trying to figure out how they're going to make the maize meal they have stretch far enough to fill the tummies of the kids sitting there waiting for dinner. And that's with 390 parts per million CO2 in the atmosphere. The latest numbers from the computer jockeys at Climate Interactive—a collaboration of Sustainability Institute, Sloan School of Management at MIT, and Ventana Systems, is that if all the national plans now on the table were adopted the planet in 2100 would have an atmosphere with 770 parts per million CO2. What then for coral, for glaciers, for corn. I didn't do enough.

I cried all the harder a few minutes later when the great cathedral bell began slowly tolling 350 times. At the same moment, thousands of churches across Europe began ringing their bells the same 350 times. And in other parts of the world—from the bottom of New Zealand to the top of Greenland, Christendom sounded the alarm. And not just Christendom. In New York rabbis were blowing the shofar 350 times. We had pictures rolling in from the weekend's vigil, from places like Dhahran in Saudi Arabia, where girls in burkas were forming human 350s, and from Bahrain, and from Amman.

And these tears were now sweet as well as bitter—at the thought that all over the world (not metaphorically all over the world, but literally all over the world) people had proven themselves this year. Proven their ability to understand the science and the stakes. Proven their ability to come together on their own—in October, when we organized what CNN called "the most widespread day of political action in the planet's history," there wasn't a movie star or rock idol in sight—just people rallying around a scientific data point. Now the world's religious leaders were adding their voice.

On one side: scientists. And archbishops, Nobelists, and most of all ordinary people in ordinary places. Reason and faith. On the other side, power—the kind of power that will be assembling in the Bella Center all week to hammer out some kind of agreement. The kind of power, exemplified by the American delegation, that so far has decided it's not worth making the kind of leap that the science demands. The kind of power that's willing to do what's politically pretty easy, but not what's necessary. The kind that would condemn the planet to 770 ppm rather than take the hard steps we need.

So no more tears. Not now, not while there's work to be done. Pass the Diet Coke, fire up the laptop, grab the cellphone. To work. We may not have done enough, but we're going to do all we can.

December 8, 2009

Ban Ki-moon links food security to climate

"There can be no food security without climate security," said Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations Secretary-General to the delegates gathered in Rome. "That is why next month in Copenhagen we need a comprehensive agreement that will provide a firm foundation for a legally binding treaty on climate change."

"Weather is becoming more extreme and unpredictable. In many parts of the world, water supplies are declining, agricultural land is drying out. Food security and climate change are deeply interconnected.
If the glaciers of the HImalaya melt, it would affect the livelihood and survival of 300 million people in India and China and up to one billion people throughout Asia. Africa's small farmers, who produce most of the continent's food and depend mostly on rain, could see harvests drop by 50 percent by 2020."

Weight Loss - Good for You, Good for the Planet

A recent Wired article suggested a couple of interesting and easy ideas for achieving a long-term permanent weight loss of 10 pounds. 

Good for You!

For starters, they suggested doing the math behind weight loss. One pound of body fat equates to approximately 3,500 calories.
Second, they suggest thinking of weight loss as a long, pleasant stroll, rather than a sprint to the finish. 

Combining those two thoughts, if you set yourself a goal of weighing 10 pounds less by next Thanksgiving, then you would need to reduce the amount you eat each day by less than 100 calories a day! 

Multiply the number of pounds you want to lose by the number of calories in a pound of body fat.
10 pounds x 3,500 calories per pound = 35,000 calories. 

Divide by the number of days you've set for your weight loss target. 
35,000 calories divided by 365 days = 96 calories per day. 

What are some easy ways to eliminate 100 calories a day?  
Most people grossly overestimate the amount of food they need to feel full, says Dr. David Kessler, author of The End of Overeating. He suggests recalibrating your sensors. Try this: One night, eat only half the amount of food on your plate. Wait 30 minutes, assess your feelings of satiation, and then wait 90. If you're still not hungry, you've probably been overeating. 

100 calories a day is less than the number of calories in one can of soda. Try substituting a glass of water for a can of soda each day and you are on your way to a permanent weight loss of 10 pounds. 

Good for the Planet!

According to recent studies, it now takes 10 calories of fossil fuel energy to produce one calorie of food delivered to your grocery store. That means that if you reduce what you eat by 100 calories a day, you can reduce your fossil fuel usage by 1000 calories a day, or 365,000 calories a year. 

That is approximately 1,500,000 Btus of energy, which works out to eliminating about 230 pounds of CO2 emissions per year. 

Every pound you lose works out to 23 pounds of carbon reduction. 

You'll be healthier and our environment will be healthier! 

EPA Announces Greenhouse Gases Imperil Health

After a thorough examination of the scientific evidence and careful consideration of public comments, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today that greenhouse gases (GHGs) threaten the public health and welfare of the American people. EPA also finds that GHG emissions from on-road vehicles contribute to that threat. 

GHGs are the primary driver of climate change, which can lead to hotter, longer heat waves that threaten the health of the sick, poor or elderly; increases in ground-level ozone pollution linked to asthma and other respiratory illnesses; as well as other threats to the health and welfare of Americans.

EPA's final findings respond to the 2007 U.S. Supreme Court decision that GHGs fit within the Clean Air Act definition of air pollutants. The findings do not in and of themselves impose any emission reduction requirements but rather allow EPA to finalize the GHG standards proposed earlier this year for new light-duty vehicles as part of the joint rulemaking with the Department of Transportation. 

On-road vehicles contribute more than 23 percent of total U.S. GHG emissions. EPA's proposed GHG standards for light-duty vehicles, a subset of on-road vehicles, would reduce GHG emissions by nearly 950 million metric tons and conserve 1.8 billion barrels of oil over the lifetime of model year 2012-2016 vehicles. 

EPA's endangerment finding covers emissions of six key greenhouse gases – carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulfur hexafluoride – that have been the subject of scrutiny and intense analysis for decades by scientists in the United States and around the world. 

2000 to 2009 Hottest Decade on Record

Here is some background information for conversations with your friends who think the climate is cooling.

The World Meterological Organization released a statement today that says that there is no slowdown in global warming.

Here are some of the key points.

"The decade of the 2000s (2000–2009) was warmer than the decade spanning the 1990s (1990–1999), which in turn was warmer than the 1980s (1980–1989).

The year 2009 is likely to rank in the top 10 warmest on record since the beginning of instrumental climate records in 1850. The current nominal ranking of 2009, which does not account for uncertainties in the annual averages, places it as the fifth-warmest year. 

This year above-normal temperatures were recorded in most parts of the continents. Only North America (United States and Canada) experienced conditions that were cooler than average. Given the current figures, large parts of southern Asia and central Africa are likely to have the warmest year on record."

December 4, 2009

Copenhagen Scoreboard

The Climate Scoreboard is an online tool that allows the public, journalists and other interested parties to track progress in the ongoing negotiations to produce an international climate treaty. The Scoreboard automatically reports, on a daily basis, whether proposals in the treaty process commit countries to enough greenhouse gas emissions reductions to achieve widely expressed goals, such as limiting future warming to 1.5 to 2.0°C (2.7 to 3.6°F) above pre-industrial temperatures.

The Climate Scoreboard team will follow the negotiations in Copenhagen from day to day, and continue tracking progress in the months following the conference, addressing the question: if current proposals for emissions reductions were implemented how much future warming would be avoided?

December 1, 2009

Hotel reduces carbon 75% - makes money doing it

Tom Rand outlines his Green Hotel project at TEDxToronto and explains how it is possible to lower global carbon emissions by 75% and make money doing it. The hotel is due to open in December 2009.

November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving Celebration

As we prepare our thanksgiving meal for tomorrow, I wonder how it has come to seem normal that we celebrate the miracle of what we have been given through the bounty of the earth, by consuming 2 to 3 times what we really need.

Perhaps it is time to rethink our Thanksgiving traditions.  We should be able to find ways to have a joyous celebration of thanksgiving without the focus being on loading the table with more than anyone could ever eat. 

November 19, 2009

Acid Test: The Global Challenge of Ocean Acidification

This groundbreaking NRDC documentary explores the startling phenomenon of ocean acidification, which may soon challenge marine life on a scale not seen for tens of millions of years. The film, featuring Sigourney Weaver, originally aired on Discovery Planet Green.

November 16, 2009

Interfaith Power and Light

"The faith community must be heard, now is the time for people of faith to take a moral stand to save our planet." –Reverend Canon Sally G. Bingham, president and founder of The Regeneration Project and Interfaith Power & Light. 

I attended a talk given by Rev. Bingham on October 24th in Framingham at the Massachusetts Council of Churches annual meeting. 

She said that evening, "The common ground we all share is the earth itself. War, terrorism, and poverty all pale in comparison to the threat from climate change." 

She asked us to think of the person we love the most in the world. 

She gave us a moment to envision ourselves with that person.  

Then she asked us to imagine that we'd just been told that person was severely ill, but that the doctor recommended waiting 3 years before starting treatment. 

What would be your response?  She asked... 

IP&L defines itself as "a national religious response to global warming, promoting renewable energy, energy efficiency and conservation." Its enrolled 10,000 congregations cover 30 states. Its five year goal is to have 30,000 congregations in all fifty states.
IP&L's efforts combine the power of the pulpit and practical support. From the pulpit rabbis, ministers, priest and imams are delivering a call to action for people of faith to defend God's green earth. IP&L provides guest ministers, priests, rabbis or imams to address a congregation on issues of faith and individual environmental responsibility. 
I highly recommend her book, Love God, Heal Earth

It consists of 21 short and inspiring essays from rabbis to evangelicals to Catholics, Muslims and Buddhists each contributing an original essay-chapter, with personal stories of awakening to the urgent need for environmental awareness and action.
IP&L is fighting the inclusion of public policy supportive of coal-fired power plants in the emerging climate change bill. On its website  you can download their legislative factsheets and priorities.
The IP&L's practical actions are focused upon helping the church, synagogue, mosque or temple and its members use energy more efficiently. It has a website called ShopIPL that offers information and price discounts on Energy Star appliances, higher efficiency lighting and water conservation technology. It provides case study examples and suggestions–ranging from installing roof top solar power to car pooling to church–on how congregations and their members are adopting sustainable practices.
Rev. Bingham summarizes, "Its time we start using the energy from heaven like solar, wind and the human spirit for doing right to save God's green earth."

Graphic Depiction of Climate Change

This graphic from NOAA showing where the world is getting hotter and cooler may provide a bit of an explanation why Americans are less likely to believe in climate change than the rest of the world. 

November 13, 2009

Busa Farms Meeting

I attended the informational meeting regarding Busa Farms that was organized by the Lexington Farm Coalition or

The Town of Lexington recently purchased the Busa Farms land at 52 Lowell Street in Lexington. You can read about the history of Busa Farms here

The Town of Lexington will be leasing the land back to the Busa family for the next two years while plans are made for how the land will be used. A number of proposals have been made to convert the land into a parking lot, soccer fields and affordable housing. No decisions have been made yet. 

This meeting was an informational meeting to provide information on ways that the land could be used as a community farm. Representatives from local community farms gave brief presentations on how their community farms were started and how their farms operate today.

Peter Barrer,
Angino Farm, Newton
Samuel Robinson,
Waltham Fields Community Farm, Waltham
Jim Whitehead,
Wright-Locke Farm, Winchester
Verena Wieloch,
Gaining Ground, Concord

We also heard from :

Ben Bowell, 
American Farmland Trust an organization dedicated to preserving farmland. They handed out bumper stickers that said. No Farms, No Food. 

The message from all the speakers is that we need local farms. There is tremendous demand for locally grown food. Business is booming and growing rapidly at all the farms. What other business can make that claim in this economic environment. Here are a couple facts and figures from the presentations. 

A Cornell University study found that it takes 0.44 acres of land per person to provide a low-fat, vegetarian diet. We have only 518,000 acres of farmland in Massachusetts and 6.5 million residents. That's 0.08 acres per person. 

Everyone of the speakers offered their support and assistance in helping Lexington start a community garden. 

Waltham Fields sells 350 summer shares of their produce and sold all of their shares in January.  Angino Farms said that they sold out all of their shares in two days. In addition, Angino Farm, Waltham Fields, and Gaining Ground all said that they were swamped with volunteer labor. Each of these organizations makes education of the local community a key part of their mission. Wright-Locke Farm has just been purchased by Winchester in the last year and is still getting organized as a community farm. 

Angino Farms donates 10% of their produce to local food pantries. Waltham Fields donates 20% of their produce or about 20,000 lbs. to local charities. Gaining Ground donates all of their organic produce to local charities. This is about 30,000 lbs. of produce. 

Angino Farms is about 5 years old. They have hired a farmer (with a family) who lives on the land as well as another hired hand. The financial model is working well. They have enough money to be investing in improving the buildings and equipment. He said that a key to convincing the town of Newton to proceed with the project was that they secured pledges in advance from community members that they would buy the CSA shares if the town approved the farm. This convinced the town members that the farm would be financially viable. 

Waltham Fields leases the land and buildings. They also generate revenue from about 25 grants, most of which are in the $1K - $2K range provided from local family foundations. The average age of a farmer in the US is 55. They conduct farmer training programs in addition to operating the farm in order to train a new generation of farmer who knows how to grow organic food locally and sustainably. They are certified organic. . 

Verena from Gaining Ground said that the new face of farming is young, educated and female. She said that she is swamped with volunteers and attributes it to their commitment to inclusiveness and the idea that real work is real fun. They don't turn anyone away who wants to volunteer and all volunteers do real work that needs to be done to produce the food they grow. If you have back problems, we can have you sort seeds, if you have a child with ADHD, we have lots of shovels and plenty of earth that needs to be moved. No one gets left behind. Gaining Ground has 7 acres in Lincoln. She said that finding farmland is the hardest part of her job. Once a farm has been converted to another use, it is incredibly difficult to bring that land back as a farm. 

She concluded her talk with some advice from her 80 year old grandmother. She said that farms are a lot like teeth. Take care of them now, because you'll miss them when they are gone. 

If you are interested in helping or in following the progress made by the Lexington Farm Coalition, stop by the website where you can find links that will allow you to connect using Facebook, Twitter, Google groups, or RSS feeds. 

Recycling goes from less waste to zero waste

The New York Times reports, that across the nation, an antigarbage strategy known as zero waste is moving from the fringes to the mainstream, taking hold in school cafeterias, national parks, restaurants, stadiums and corporations. 

... at eight of its North American plants, Honda is recycling so diligently that the factories have gotten rid of their trash Dumpsters altogether.

But places like the island resort community of Nantucket offer a glimpse of the future. Running out of landfill space and worried about the cost of shipping trash 30 miles to the mainland, it moved to a strict trash policy more than a decade ago, said Jeffrey Willett, director of public works on the island.

The town, with the blessing of residents concerned about tax increases, mandates the recycling of not only commonly reprocessed items like aluminum, glass and paper but also tires, batteries and household appliances.

Mr. Willett said that while the amount of trash that island residents carted to the dump had remained steady, the proportion going into the landfill had plummeted to 8 percent. By contrast, Massachusetts residents as a whole send an average of 66 percent of their trash to a landfill or incinerator.
When apple cores, stale bread and last week's leftovers go to landfills, they do not return the nutrients they pulled from the soil while growing. What is more, when sealed in landfills without oxygen, organic materials release methane, a potent heat-trapping gas, as they decompose. If composted, however, the food can be broken down and returned to the earth as a nonchemical fertilizer with no methane by-product.

Powerful speech by Entergy CEO

Participants in a Clean Energy Economy Forum at the White House included J. Wayne Leonard, the Chairman and CEO of Entergy Corporation, the utility giant based in New Orleans, Louisiana. Speaking at the White House event, Leonard called for action on climate change and clean energy not just for economic reasons but starkly moral ones:

We are virtually certain that climate change is occurring, and occurring because of man's activities. We're virtually certain the probability distribution curve is all bad. There's no good things that's going to come of this. But what's uncertain is exactly which one of those things are going to occur and in what time frame. In the probability distribution curve is about a 50% probability that about half of all species will become extinct or be subject to extinction over this period of time.What we will never know on an ex ante basis is whether or not man be one of those casualties or not.
We condemn Wall Street for taking risks with our economy — risks that all of you are trying very hard to reverse — but at the same time we're taking exactly the same kind of risks, with no upside whatsoever, with regard to our climate, failing to practice even the basic risk management techniques in terms of climate change reduction.
In a powerful speech, Leonard called a national system to cap carbon pollution "an investment that by all facts, figures and analysis pays back many times over," and warned that "history will judge us if we don't pass comprehensive climate and energy reform now" for "cheating [our children] out of their future."
Entergy serves "two-and-a-half million customers in the mid-South and the Gulf South portion of the country, some of the poorest people in the country," Leonard noted. These customers already suffered the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, which global warming likely fueled.

Air Force Advocates Environmental Stewardship

A solar-energy array at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, is saving money for the Air Force and decreasing the service's reliance on fossil fuels. "The military, perhaps better than anyone, is bound and determined to be good stewards of the incredible natural resources we have in this country," said Air Force Col. Dave Belote, commander of the 99th Air Base Wing at Nellis, in an October 8th interview on the Pentagon Channel podcast "Armed with Science: Research and Applications for the Modern Military."

The solar array, which debuted as North America's largest renewable venture in December 2007, is composed of more than 72,000 solar panels containing 6 million solar cells, and represents an enormous step toward energy efficiency, Belote said. It supplies 28 percent of the base's power, saving about $83,000 a month and 24,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions a year, the colonel said. "It's really an exciting thing to be a part of," he added.

Non CO2 Solutions to Climate Change

Reducing non-CO2 climate change agents such as black carbon soot, tropospheric ozone, and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), as well as expanding bio-sequestration, can forestall fast approaching abrupt climate changes, according to Nobel Laureate Mario Molina, a researcher at UC San Diego, and co-authors of a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). 

The paper's authors said that pursuing these solutions could change the character of a United Nations conference on climate change taking place in December in Copenhagen.

"Cutting HFCs, black carbon, tropospheric ozone, and methane can buy us about 40 years before we approach the dangerous threshold of 2°C (3.6°F) warming," said co-author Veerabhadran Ramanathan, a distinguished professor of climate and atmospheric sciences at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego. 

100 Places to Remember

It is the connection to the Earth we each share, for better or worse, that inspired Søren Rud to organize  100 Places to Remember Before They Disappeara photo exhibition recently opened in Copenhagen. Meant as an inspiration for "the common person," 100 Places is also a call to action for world leaders as they soon converge on the city to negotiate a climate treaty at the COP15 Climate Conference this December (and what inspires this post on Blog Action Day).

The idea is to "do the opposite that the IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] does," says Rud. "They put all the facts and scientific information in a big report that is very difficult to read, we explain for ordinary people what is at stake. By communicating directly to people on the street, we want to touch their emotions and sharpen their awareness on the impacts of climate change. Only if people know what's at risk, are they willing to act."

Food for Thought

In a report titled The Cheeseburger Footprint, Jamais Cascio estimates that the average cheeseburger generates between 6.3 to 6.8 pounds of CO2 emissions.  He references Fast Food Nation, among other sources, to approximate the number of cheeseburgers consumed per American annually- roughly 150.  Multiply that by a population 300,000,000, and the resulting collective carbon footprint of the American appetite for cheeseburgers is (conservatively) 195,750,000 metric tons of CO2 equivalent (remember cows create methane which is a far more potent greenhouse gas than CO2).
Cascio goes on to calculate the global warming impact of driving SUVs in comparison to eating cheeseburgers.  He concludes, "the greenhouse gas emissions arising every year from the production and consumption of cheeseburgers is roughly the amount emitted by 6.5 million to 19.6 million SUVs. There are now approximately 16 million SUVs currently on the road in the US."
Here's some food for thought: all things considered, our food choices may be as important, if not more, than our transportation choices when it comes to climate change. 

CO2 Levels highest in 15 million years

"A slightly shocking finding," Tripati added, "is that the only time in the last 20 million years that we find evidence for carbon dioxide levels similar to the modern level of 387 parts per million was 15 to 20 million years ago, when the planet was dramatically different."
Levels of carbon dioxide have varied only between 180 and 300 parts per million over the last 800,000 years — until recent decades, said Tripati, who is also a member of UCLA's Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics. It has been known that modern-day levels of carbon dioxide are unprecedented over the last 800,000 years, but the finding that modern levels have not been reached in the last 15 million years is new.
"During the Middle Miocene (the time period approximately 14 to 20 million years ago), carbon dioxide levels were sustained at about 400 parts per million, which is about where we are today," Tripati said. "Globally, temperatures were 5 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit warmer, a huge amount." "...the sea level was approximately 75 to 120 feet higher than today, there was no permanent sea ice cap in the Arctic and very little ice on Antarctica and Greenland," said the paper's lead author, Aradhna Tripati, a UCLA assistant professor in the department of Earth and space sciences and the department of atmospheric and oceanic sciences."
Tripati's new chemical technique has an average uncertainty rate of only 14 parts per million.
"We can now have confidence in making statements about how carbon dioxide has varied throughout history," she said.

Duke Energy and FPL to switch to electric vehicles

The US electric vehicle market received a major boost late last week, when two of the country's largest energy firms announced that they were to switch their entire vehicle fleet over to electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles over the next 10 years.
FPL Group and Duke Energy said that by 2020 they would transition their entire fleets - totalling over 10,000 vehicles - over to low carbon models, cutting greenhouse gas emissions by more than 125,000 metric tons in the process.
The companies said they were currently looking for suppliers to come forward with proposals on which vehicles they should purchase. "The more organisations that join this initiative, the more we can develop a sustainable transportation future," said Lew Hay, chief executive of FPL.
The two firms said plans to purchase electric or plug in hybrid passenger vehicles and smaller trucks were already underway, adding that they now intend to work closely with manufacturers to test and measure the effectiveness of prototype electric trucks from 2011.
Jim Rogers, chief executive of Duke Energy, said that the high profile commitment would provide auto firms with the guaranteed demand they need to step up investments in electric vehicles.
"Currently, the only near-term options for available PEV (plug in electric vehicle) supply are sedans, minivans, vans and a few bucket trucks. Over a 10-year horizon, it is expected that options will be available for most utility service categories," he said. "This commitment will provide the transportation industry the evidence that a robust market for PEVs exists."
Research from FPL suggests that electric vehicles, even if powered from a current grid mix, offer emissions reduction of up to 70 per cent over conventional vehicles.

September 27, 2009

Simulating and Stimulating Climate Hope

Andrew Jones from the Sustainability Institute delivered a truly inspiring speech at the Ted Conference in Asheville.

If you want the background behind this talk, he has written a detailed post explaining how we can succeed at cutting our carbon footprint enough to sustain life on our planet.

September 25, 2009

Shipping Industry - Cap & Trade is the right answer

Not to be outdone by this week's commitment from the aviation industry to halve emissions by 2050, several leading shipping industry bodies have confirmed they too would support efforts to cut emissions through a global cap-and-trade scheme.

The seaborne sector accounts for nearly three percent of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and pressure has grown for cuts ahead of December's climate change summit in Copenhagen.

The national ship industry associations of Australia, Belgium, Norway, Sweden and the UK on Wednesday jointly launched a discussion paper arguing that a cap and trade scheme was best for the whole industry.

"We firmly believe that a trading solution is the right answer," Jan Kopernicki, vice president of the UK Chamber of Shipping, told a news conference.

Human impact crosses three boundaries

Humanity has dangerously overstepped three of the planet's nine key natural thresholds, and are on track to cross the remaining six in coming decades, according to a new warning from an international team of scientists.

The three areas in which people have passed the limits of safe operating space are climate change, biodiversity loss and the nitrogen portion of the nitrogen/phosphorus inputs to the biosphere and ocean. The world is also approaching the safety limits for land system change, ocean acidification, global freshwater use and the phosphorus portion of the nitrogen/phosphorus inputs to the biosphere and ocean.

This report is the subject of Nature Magazine's feature article for this month.

According to the conclusion of Nature's editorial on this report:

"...this is a creditable attempt to quantify the limitations of our existence on Earth, and provides a good basis for discussion and future refinement. To facilitate that discussion, Nature is simultaneously publishing seven commentaries from leading experts that can be freely accessed at Nature Reports Climate Change (see"

September 24, 2009

Sydney turns red in huge dust storm

The Opera House and Sydney Harbor Bridge all tinted red by one of the worst dust storms in years.

"It was amazing. I've never seen it. I'm 72 years old and I've never seen that in my life before, its the first time ever. "

It is yet another reminder that this country is battling one of its worst ever droughts. Many say it is the effects of climate change making themselves felt.

Updated: Here is a picture from space of the same storm!

G20 Warning

Google Earth Climate Change Tools

In December of this year, representatives from nations around the globe will gather in Copenhagen to discuss a global agreement on climate change. The objective is to reduce global warming emissions sufficiently in order to avoid the most severe impacts of climate change and to support the global community in adapting to the unavoidable changes ahead. Denmark will act as host for this fifteenth Conference of the Parties under the United Nations' Climate Change Convention, known as COP15.

In collaboration with the Danish government and others, we are launching a series of Google Earth layers and tours to allow you to explore the potential impacts of climate change on our planet and the solutions for managing it. Working with data from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), we show on Google Earth the range of expected temperature and precipitation changes under different global emissions scenarios that could occur throughout the century. Today we are unveiling our first climate tour on Google Earth: "Confronting Climate Change," with narration by Al Gore. Stay tuned for more tours in the coming weeks!

September 22, 2009

Barack Obama's Speech on Climate

Excerpts from Barack's speech at the UN Climate Change Conference today.

Our generation's response to this challenge will be judged by history, for if we fail to meet it – boldly, swiftly, and together – we risk consigning future generations to an irreversible catastrophe.

The security and stability of each nation and all peoples – our prosperity, our health, our safety – are in jeopardy.

...the United States has done more to promote clean energy and reduce carbon pollution in the last eight months than at any other time in our history.

I will work with my colleagues at the G20 to phase out fossil fuel subsidies so that we can better address our climate challenge.

We know what needs to be done. We know that our planet's future depends on a global commitment to permanently reduce greenhouse gas pollution.

So let us begin. For if we are flexible and pragmatic; if we can resolve to work tirelessly in common effort, then we will achieve our common purpose: a world that is safer, cleaner, and healthier than the one we found; and a future that is worthy of our children. Thank you.