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.