January 29, 2013

Texas Wind and Solar highly competitive with natural gas

Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) has found that if you use updated wind and solar power characteristics like cost and actual output to reflect real world conditions, rather than the previously used 2006 assumed characteristics, wind and solar are more competitive than natural gas over the next 20 years.  

Every two years ERCOT uses a series of complex energy system models to model and estimate future conditions on the Texas electric grid.  This serves a critical function for legislators, utilities and regulators who need to prepare for changes as our electric use continues to expand and evolve.  This year ERCOT dug a little deeper into their historical assumptions and developed a version of the model that used current, real-world cost and performance data for wind and solar power.

What they found was astounding: without these real-world data points, ERCOT determined that 20,000 MW of natural gas will be built over the next 20 years, along with a little bit of demand response and nothing else.  Once they updated their assumptions to reflect a real-world scenario (which they call "BAU with Updated Wind Shapes") ERCOT found that about 17,000 MWs of wind units, along with 10,000 MW of solar power, will be built in future years.

These results show two drastically different futures: one in which we rely overwhelmingly on natural gas for our electricity, and one in which we have a diverse portfolio of comparable amounts of renewable energy (which does not use water) and natural gas. [Climate Progress[Long Term System Assessment for the ERCOT Region - December 2012]

Motorola qualifies for WindMade label

Smartphone manufacturer Motorola Mobility has become the latest high-profile brand to obtain the WindMade certification label, confirming that its operations in the US source two-thirds of their electricity from wind farms.
The Google-owned company announced today that it has qualified for the international label, which requires organizations to source at least a quarter of their power from wind energy.
"Our reliance on wind power underscores our company-wide commitment to obtaining energy from clean and renewable sources and supports our energy and greenhouse gas reduction goals," said Bill Olson, sustainability director for Motorola Mobility.
The label will also help further cement parent company Google's reputation as one of the leading green energy investors in the US, which has seen the IT giant spend just shy of $1bn on renewable energy projects in recent years. [Business Green]

Scotland pledges to decarbonize power sector by 2030

Ed Miliband and the shadow Scottish secretary, Margaret Curran, 
with chief executive of Scottish Power Renewables, Keith Anderson. 
Photograph: Danny Lawson/PA
The Scottish Government has unveiled plans to decarbonise its energy sector by 2030 and boost the offshore wind energy supply chain, as it also prepares to update its climate change strategy.
First Minister Alex Salmond confirmed that Scotland would aim to cut emissions from the electricity sector from 347 grams of CO2 per kWh in 2010, to 50g CO2/kWh by 2030, as recommended by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC).
Recent figures showed Scotland has the best emissions reductions in Western Europe, ahead of Germany, Denmark and England, and is more than halfway to meeting a 2020 goal of reducing emissions 42 per cent against a 1990 base line.
The Scottish Government has backed calls for a UK-wide power sector decarbonisation target for 2030. [Business Green]

Beijing shuts down factories to combat smog

Severe smog and air pollution in Beijing
Photograph: HAP/Quirky China News / Rex Feat
Beijing was again shrouded in smog today, prompting a second wave of emergency measures from the city government designed to tackle the capital's crippling air pollution.
State news agency Xinhua confirmed that 103 polluting factories have been ordered to close until Thursday at the earliest.
The latest steps came as Beijing's pollution spiked for the second time in as many weeks, with the US embassy reporting that its air pollution index score had reached 517 - a level described as "beyond index". Residents reported that visibility was down to 100 metres in some areas and Air China confirmed that 14 flights had been cancelled at the city's airport.
Today's wave of factory shutdowns and travel restrictions follow similar moves last week, which also saw Mayor Wang Ashun vow to take 180,000 older cars off the roads and take measures to tackle "excessive" growth in car ownership. [Business Green]
Hospitals reported increases of up to 30% in the number of patients reporting breathing problems as officials warned that the conditions were likely to last until Wednesday – a day longer than previously predicted – when winds should help to disperse the pollution.
"How can we get out of this suffocating siege of pollution?" the People's Daily, the official Communist party newspaper, asked in a front-page editorial.
"Let us clearly view managing environmental pollution with a sense of urgency."
It said around half of more than 70 Chinese cities monitored for air quality showed severe pollution over the weekend. [Guardian]

January 28, 2013

Largest cargo company hits emissions reduction targets early

The world's largest shipping container company, Maersk Line, has hit its target of cutting emissions by a quarter against 2007 levels eight years ahead of schedule and has now upped its 2020 target to a 40 per cent reduction by the end of the decade.

Volkswagen builds solar array to power assembly line

Volkswagen can stake a claim to the single largest solar installation of any automotive manufacturing facility in the U.S. at the company's compound in Chattanooga. And it's also VW's largest photovoltaic array anywhere in the world.
During a dedication ceremony at the site this week, VW executives, the designer and builder of the sprawling solar power complex and local dignitaries flipped a ceremonial giant light switch to mark the official opening of the Volkswagen Chattanooga Solar Park. It occupies 33 acres, or half of a 66-acre parcel adjacent to VW's massive Tennessee manufacturing plant that covers 1.9 million square feet, employs more than 3,000 people and produces the Passat sedan.
The solar park includes 33,600 solar modules designed to produce 13.1 gigawatt hours of electricity per year. [Wired]

Huge Crowd Protests Tar Sands Pipeline in Portland

More than 1,400 people marched from Monument Square to the Maine State Pier to protest the possible use of the Portland-to-Montreal oil pipeline to transport tar sands crude oil to Casco Bay.

Exxon-Mobil wants to pump tar sands oil across New England through a 62 year old pipeline that wasn't designed for the corrosive nature of tar sands. 

Click through to read the rest of the story and to see a short video and photos from the event. 

[Portland Press Herald]

Bad news on Keystone XL

Gov. Dave Heineman of Nebraska approved a revised route for the Keystone XL pipeline through Nebraska, brushing aside vocal opposition from some citizen groups and putting final approval of the pipeline project squarely in the hands of the Obama administration. 

January 22, 2013

Obama speaks about climate change

We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity.  We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.  Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms.
The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult.  But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it.  We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries – we must claim its promise.  That is how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure – our forests and waterways; our croplands and snowcapped peaks.  That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God.  That's what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.

President Obama made addressing climate change the most prominent policy vow of his second Inaugural Address, setting in motion what Democrats say will be a deliberately paced but aggressive campaign built around the use of his executive powers to sidestep Congressional opposition.
The centerpiece will be action by the Environmental Protection Agency to clamp down further on emissions from coal-burning power plants under regulations still being drafted — and likely to draw legal challenges.
The administration plans to supplement that step by adopting new energy efficiency standards for home appliances and buildings, a seemingly small advance that can have a substantial impact by reducing demand for electricity. Those standards would echo the sharp increase in fuel economy that the administration required from automakers in the first term.
The Pentagon, one of the country's largest energy users, is also taking strides toward cutting use and converting to renewable fuels.
Mr. Obama's aides are planning those steps in conjunction with a campaign to build public support and head off political opposition in a way the administration did not the last time around. But the White House has cautioned activists not to expect full-scale engagement while Congress remains occupied by guns, immigration and the budget.  [NY Times]

Energy used in US Food System growing rapidly

Food as a share of the national energy budget grew from 12% in 1997 to 14% in 2002 to 16% in 2007 according to a new report prepared by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). 

The report states that the increase in food-related energy use was over 80% of the total energy increase nationwide between 1997 and 2002. Food related energy use is the fastest growing sector of energy use in the US economy. 

During 1997-2002, per capita food-related energy use in the United States increased by 16.4 percent. The population of the United States grew by more than 14 million over the period, pushing total energy use up by 3.3 percent and effecting an increase in total food-related energy use of 22.4 percent.

Food processing showed the largest growth in energy use over this period, as both households and foodservice establishments increasingly outsourced manual food preparation and cleanup activities to the manufacturing sector, which relied on energy using technologies to carry out these processes.

Tar Sands: Worse then we thought

New research confirms what we have heard time and again from the industry itself: the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline will be a direct cause of an increase in tar sands oil development. More tar sands oil taken out of the ground means more dangerous pollution that hurts our climate and health. And, this new research also shows that tar sands will cause even more climate pollution than we previously thought due to the impacts of the high carbon byproduct petroleum coke.

The Pembina Institute's analysis, "The climate implications of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline", shows that pipelines are a key determinant of tar sands expansion, and argues that the increase in greenhouse gas emissions associated with supplying the Keystone XL pipeline with tar sands bitumen represents a significant barrier to Canada meeting its domestic and international climate commitments.

Oil Change International's new report "Petroleum Coke: The Coal Hiding in the Tar Sandsreveals that current analyses of the impacts of tar sands fail to account for a high-carbon byproduct of the refining process: petroleum coke. Because it is considered a refinery byproduct, petcoke emissions are not included in most assessments of the climate impact of tar sands. Thus, the climate impact of oil production is being consistently undercounted.

Keystone XL Pipeline = Tar Sands Expansion = Accelerated Climate Change

Wildflowers blooming 20 days earlier - shattering records

You could call them early bloomers: In 2010 and 2012, plants in the eastern U.S. produced flowers earlier than at any point in recorded history, a new study says.
The study finds that wildflowers are blooming 20 days earlier than they were in the 1850s. In addition, 14 out of 32 wildflower species had their earliest blooming date ever in 2012. 
This result, according to the research team, has a bit of a literary twist: It comes from data collected by U.S. environmental writers Henry David Thoreau and Aldo Leopold. Thoreau began observing bloom times in Massachusetts in 1852, and Leopold began in Wisconsin in 1935.
Scientists compared this historical data with modern, record-shattering high spring temperatures in Massachusetts and Wisconsin during 2010 and 2012. (See "Heat Waves 'Almost Certainly' Due to Global Warming?")
They discovered that those two recent warm spells triggered many spring-flowering plants to blossom up to 4.1 days earlier for every 1 degree Celsius rise in average spring temperatures, which translates to 2.3 days for every 1 degree Fahrenheit.

Pollution in China - Off the Charts

Beijing obscured by air pollution haze on January 13, 2013. 
On a scale of 0 to 500, Beijing air quality hits 755! [NY Times]

On January 12, Beijing's air pollution reached unprecedented levels, even beyond the upper limits of the Air Quality Index, which reports daily air quality around the world, and it's taking a serious toll on Beijing's residents. [ThinkProgress]
According to one hospital official, the number of emergency room patients with heart attacks roughly doubled over the weekend. Hospitals are struggling to handle an influx of people suffering from respiratory and cardiac trouble…. 
China's pollution disaster should serve as a warning for American lawmakers who want to defund the Environmental Protection Agency.

Climate Scientists Letter to Obama - Reject Keystone XL pipeline

Eighteen of the nation's top climate scientists released a letter to President Obama today urging him to say no to the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

"Eighteen months ago some of us wrote you about the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, explaining why in our opinion its construction ran counter to both national and planetary interests,"  wrote the scientists. "Nothing that has happened since has changed that evaluation; indeed, the year of review that you asked for on the project made it clear exactly how pressing the climate issue really is."
Indeed the past year has shown that climate change is here. A few months after Superstorm Sandy flooded parts of the Northeast, NOAA announced last week that the average temperature for 2012 was 55.3 degrees Fahrenheit, 3.2 degrees above normal and a full degree higher than the previous warmest year recorded — 1998.  [350.org]

Bulletin of Atomic Scientists call for action on climate change

In a powerful open letter to President Obama the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists Science and Security Board warned about the dangers of climate change and encouraged the president to take strong action to confront that threat. 

Dear President Obama,
2012 was a year in which the problems of the world pressed forward, but too many of its citizens stood back. In the US elections the focus was "the economy, stupid," with barely a word about the severe long-term trends that threaten the population's well-being to a far greater extent: climate change, the continuing menace of nuclear oblivion, and the vulnerabilities of the world's energy sources. 2012 was the hottest year on record in the contiguous United States, marked by devastating drought and brutal storms. These extreme events are exactly what climate models predict for an atmosphere overburdened with greenhouse gases…. We call on you to...
  • Prioritize climate change at a level that recognizes the gravity of the climate threat. You have the ability to educate and inspire the United States to launch an ambitious response, confront entrenched interests that have forestalled action, and, if Congressional dysfunction prevents legislative action, you are able to use your executive powers to achieve progress on a rational energy and climate strategy for the nation.
  • Partner with other world leaders to forge the comprehensive global response that the climate threat demands, based on equity and cooperation across countries. A global solution will only be within reach if the United States commits to doing its fair share by investing at home and globally to curb greenhouse gas emissions, while building resilience in the face of the climate disruption that is now unavoidable.
  • Reform the patchwork of federal subsidies, taxes, and other incentives and disincentives so as to encourage large reductions in US greenhouse gas emissions.

Climate change. Human activities are now the dominant cause of global climate change. Emissions of heat-trapping gases continued to climb in 2012, with atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide — the most important greenhouse gas affected by human activities — reaching levels higher than at any time in the past 800,000 years. 2012 was the hottest year on record for the contiguous United States. Arctic sea ice continued to rapidly diminish in extent, reaching a record low this past year that fell under the previous low by an area the size of Texas. Glaciers are retreating, and the massive Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are losing mass. Extreme weather events, such as last year's Superstorm Sandy and Typhoon Bopha, now strike in an environment altered by climate change, with higher sea surface temperatures and more water vapor in the atmosphere to fuel and sustain their destructive power.

But 2012 also provided further evidence of the viability of renewable sources of energy and more efficient ways of powering the global economy, pointing toward an alternative to the high-carbon development model. Wind and solar power, for example, expanded at rates greatly exceeding what energy agencies forecasted earlier this decade. Owing to supportive policies, power generation from these sources expanded nearly fourfold over the past five years in the United States, and even more so in other countries, including Germany and China, where there they enjoyed stronger support. The new US automobile fuel economy standard was another welcome development, promising nearly a doubling of vehicle efficiency by 2025.

This trend, while encouraging, is by no means evidence that the climate challenge has been met. In fact, the growth in low-carbon energy sources is dwarfed by the continued expansion of fossil fuels like coal — as was exemplified last year by the explosive development of unconventional fossil resources, such as tar sands, oil shale, and shale gas. With life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions that are even worse than their conventional counterparts, these unconventional fossil resources threaten to crowd out investment in renewables and to entrench a long-term dependency on carbon-intensive energy supplies.

Avoiding this scenario will require your administration to considerably speed the process of reforming the patchwork of federal subsidies, taxes, and other incentives and disincentives that distort energy markets. We look forward to substantial progress toward rational energy markets in 2013, including the pricing of greenhouse gas emissions throughout the economy.

2012 saw the arrival of an apparently abundant domestic natural gas resource, which could be an important contributor to a more environmentally sound energy future. We call on your administration to see that commercialization of this resource is pursued in ways that mitigate its environmental impacts, including its climate change impacts. Specifically, we urge you to create strong regulations for gas developers to minimize methane leakage and safeguard water resources, and for power-plant developers to incorporate carbon dioxide capture and storage.

Mr. President, you have taken some steps to help nudge the country along a more rational energy path. You kept alive the incentives for wind and other renewable power, and you strengthened vehicle fuel-efficiency standards. These are important steps, but without a concerted effort to launch a comprehensive and ambitious response to the climate challenge in 2013, we face diminishing prospects for averting the worst and most costly effects of a disrupted climate.

Since your re-election, you have noted with concern that the Earth is warming and the Arctic ice cap is melting even faster than scientists had predicted, while extraordinary weather events — from storms to droughts — are taking their toll in the United States and around the world. You also stressed that we have an obligation to future generations to do something about climate change, and you promised that this would be a priority of your administration.

In September 2013, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will publish its fifth assessment of climate science, which will authoritatively document the changing climate. We call on you to commit your administration to firmly accept the panel's scientific findings, urgently integrate these findings into national policy, and confidently face those who irresponsibly argue that climate change science is not relevant….

Backtracking on Energy Efficiency

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has just retreated on important new energy efficiency standards for natural gas furnaces that were scheduled to go into effect in May and would have saved Americans an estimated $10.7 billion in lower heating bills over the next three decades.

By undoing these standards that were supported by manufacturers, consumers and efficiency advocates, states, and many utilities, American households are destined to waste more natural gas and money. In terms of energy, these standards would have saved 31 billion therms of natural gas over the next 30 years – enough to heat 62 million typical U.S. homes for a year. And the standards would have avoided the emission of somewhere between 81 to 130 million metric tons of global warming carbon pollution over the next three decades – that's equivalent to the pollution generated by thirty or so coal-fired power plants.

DOE couldn't have chosen a worse moment to turn the clock back on natural gas efficiency. Just last week, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration affirmed that 2012 was the hottest year ever in the continental United States, and the destructive impacts of global warming on communities and public health keep adding up, especially in light of Superstorm Sandy. Moreover, concerns over the environmental and public health risks of under-regulated fracking continue to multiply. [Climate Progress]

Dear President Obama,

I am disappointed that the DOE has withdrawn support for increased energy efficiency standards for natural gas heating systems. I would ask you to increase the efficiency standards for our natural gas heating systems.

Here in New England, the single largest energy expenditure homeowners have is heating their homes. Here in Lexington, MA we have set a goal of reducing the energy used in our buildings 20% by the year 2020. You have set similar targets for energy efficiency in your own Better Building Initiative. 

Lowering energy efficiency standards undercuts these efforts. Higher efficiency standards will save homeowners money, lower greenhouse gas emissions and reduce pollution of our air and water. 

Improved energy efficiency is a win-win-win as you have stated so many times regarding automobile efficiency - it is time to improve the energy efficiency of one of the largest users of energy in our country - our heating systems. 

Mark Sandeen

Surprise: Boston in top 5 most bikeable cities in US

Walk Score, a site that calculates the walkability of any location in the U.S., has now rated the bikeability of U.S. cities. The site ranks cities out of a score of 100, where 90 to 100 means "biker's paradise" while 50 to 69 means "bikeable" but not fantastic. The score is calculated by taking in various factors, including the number of bike lanes, hills, road connectivity, and the number of bike commuters.

The top five most bikeable cities in the U.S. include Minneapolis (79), Portland (70), San Francisco (70), Boston (68), and Madison (67). At the bottom are Pittsburgh (39), Fort Worth (38), and Cincinnati (37), while New York ranks somewhere closer to the top with a score of 62.

Our climate is like loaded dice

"One often hears the misleading claim that no single event, regardless of how extreme or unprecedented, can be blamed on climate change," Dr. Mann, director of Penn State's Earth System Science Center and a leading contributor to the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said. "That is like saying that no single roll of a 'six' with loaded dice can be blamed on the loading of the dice.
"Just as the unusual number of 'sixes' rolled is due to the loading of the dice, so are the more frequent and extreme weather events we are seeing due collectively to the 'loading' of weather dice by increased heat-trapping greenhouse gases produced by our continued burning of fossil fuels," he told reporters. [NY Times]

Religious Leaders: God Calls Us to Heal the Earth

Science and religion went hand-in-hand as leaders from both worlds gathered in front of the White House to protest what they cast as government inaction on climate change. 

"This gathering today is to affirm that God has gifted us in many ways, one of which is a good mind to figure out how things are going," said Bob Coleman, the chief programming minister of the Riverside Church in New York City.

With record-breaking global temperatures in 2012severe droughts and several storms and hurricanes on the East Coast, some members of the American clergy are saying that human decisions that contribute to the extreme weather associated with climate change can no longer be left in the hands of politicians.

Promoting an awareness of climate change and the role of humans as stewards of the earth has become a popular theme among progressive religious congregations. Even the climate skeptics in their ranks, some said, are starting to realize that something strange is going on. [NY Times]

Cadillac goes electric with ELR

Cadillac has announced a luxury version of the Chevy Volt at the Detroit Auto Show. 

G.M. is hopeful that its new Cadillac plug-in will attract affluent consumers who want an eco-friendly car but don't want to scrimp on luxury options like a suede interior and a powerassisted cup holder.

Nissan's New Leaf

Nissan has announced some really good news for the 2013 model of the all-electric Nissan Leaf. 

- Base Price is now 20% lower. You can now buy a Nissan Leaf for $21,300 after the federal tax cut. 
- The Leaf and its battery are now made in America in Tennessee. 
- Improved driving range, energy efficiency and aerodynamics
- A new charger that cuts 220V charging time in half
- Leather seats, alloy wheels, Bose sound system
- More cargo space
- Enhanced regenerative braking

James Hansen - Remarks at the White House

Remarks at the White House
15 January 2013
James Hansen

Let us return for a moment to election night 2008. As I sat in our farm house in Pennsylvania, watching Barack Obama's victory speech, I turned my head aside so my wife would not see the tears in my eyes. I suspect that millions cried. It was a great day for America. 

We had great hopes for our new President. It is appropriate, it is right, in a period honoring Martin Luther King, to recall the hopes and dreams of that evening, and the hopes and dreams that we…will… never  -  give up. 

We have a dream – that our President will understand the intergenerational injustice of human-made climate change – that he will recognize our duty to be caretakers of creation, of the land, of the life on our planet – and that he will give 
these matters the priority that our young people deserve. 

We have a dream – that our President will understand the commonality of solutions for energy security, national security and climate stability – and that he will exercise hands-on leadership, taking the matter to the public, avoiding backroom 
crippling deals with special interests. 

We have a dream – that the President will stand as firm as Abraham Lincoln when he faced the great moral issue of slavery – and, like Franklin Roosevelt or Winston Churchill, he will speak with the public, enlisting their support and reassuring them. It is not easy to find an Abraham Lincoln or a Winston Churchill. But we are here today looking to find that in you, Mr. President. And until you summon it within yourself, let me assure you that we will return, and our numbers will grow.

Mr. President, we will be here until the promise of a safe world for our children and grandchildren, and your children and grand children – is not a dream. We will be here until we are assured that the history books will rightfully record – that you were the person we were looking for  - the person who turned these dreams…into reality.

Interfaith Moral Action on Climate, Pray-in at NY Ave. Presbyterian Church and the White House (www.interfaithactiononclimatechange.org) on Martin Luther King's birthday.

Snow in Jerusalem!

Snow blankets Jerusalem as extreme weather becomes more intense and frequent around the globe.
Britons may remember 2012 as the year the weather spun off its rails in a chaotic concoction of drought, deluge and flooding, but the unpredictability of it all turns out to have been all too predictable: Around the world, extreme has become the new commonplace.

Especially lately. China is enduring its coldest winter in nearly 30 years. Brazil is in the grip of a dreadful heat spell. Eastern Russia is so freezing — minus 50 degrees Fahrenheit, and counting — that the traffic lights recently stopped working in the city of Yakutsk.
Bush fires are raging across Australia, fueled by a record-shattering heat wave. Pakistan was inundated by unexpected flooding in September. A vicious storm bringing rain, snow and floods just struck the Middle East. And in the United States, scientists confirmed this week what people could have figured out simply by going outside: last year was the hottest since records began.
"Each year we have extreme weather, but it's unusual to have so many extreme events around the world at once," said Omar Baddour, chief of the data management applications division at the World Meteorological Organization, in Geneva. "The heat wave in Australia; the flooding in the U.K., and most recently the flooding and extensive snowstorm in the Middle East — it's already a big year in terms of extreme weather calamity."
Such events are increasing in intensity as well as frequency, Mr. Baddour said, a sign that climate change is not just about rising temperatures, but also about intense, unpleasant, anomalous weather of all kinds. [NY Times]

NY Times closes Environmental Desk

The New York Times will close its environment desk and assign its seven reporters and two editors to other departments. The positions of environment editor and deputy environment editor are being eliminated. No decision has been made about the fate of the Green Blog, which is edited from the environment desk.

Baquet said the decision to dismantle the environment desk wasn't linked to budgetary concerns and that no one is expected to lose his or her job.

It is a sad day when the NY Times makes a decision like this... especially after an event like Hurricane Sandy. 

Divestment Movement spreads to religious communities

A fast-spreading movement to persuade universities to rid their endowments of fossil fuel assets is now taking root in America's churches and faith communities. "With the civil rights movement, the youth led and the churches followed," said Fred Small, minister of the Unitarian Universalist First Parish Church in Cambridge, Mass. The church is one of dozens of congregations across the country exploring how to divest their portfolios of coal, oil and gas companies. "If young people see divestment as a key issue in the climate fight, then it is important for us to get involved," Small said.

The furthest along is the 1.2 million-member United Church of Christ, which will hold a national vote in June to adopt a fossil fuel divestment measure. Since November, divestment campaigns have spread to 210 universities in the United States and Canada, and to the city of Seattle, the first municipality seeking to divest its $1.9 billion pension fund.

The campaign is organized by 350.org, a grassroots climate organization founded by author turned activist Bill McKibben. It is part of a larger effort to boost the moral case for action by drawing attention to what McKibben calls global warming's "terrifying new math." Based on peer-reviewed science, the numbers say energy firms must keep 80 percent of their carbon reserves in the ground to limit the global temperature rise to the crucial 2-degrees Celsius mark.
In an interview, McKibben said involvement of faith communities is crucial for climate action to become a great American movement. [Inside Climate News]

Republican and Democratic Scientists Agree

Lexington's own Dr. Kerry Emanuel speaks in this video about finding common ground on climate change.

Please watch this video and pass it along. It is time to find common ground.

A Viable Alternative to Bottled Water

San Francisco has proposed requiring new water fountains to include a special bottle-filling tap. Proponents believe that this is the first step in weaning people off of the habit of grabbing a new bottle of water every time they get thirsty.

This new tap aims to solve problems associated with traditional water fountains, like not being so friendly to reusable water bottles because of their low arc. Also, the fears of germs from the spout (which experts believe are unfounded) have deterred some from using them as well.

How hot is it getting in Australia? - Time for new temperature maps

It is getting really hot in Australia. How hot? So hot that Australia's Bureau of Meteorology had to add new colors to its weather map. Now, those unfortunate parts of Australia that achieve temperatures above 122ºF (50ºC) — temperatures that were, until recently, literally off the scale — will be marked in deep purple and terrifying hot pink. It is an interesting moment in data visualization history when climate scientists find themselves in the position of revising the upper bounds of temperatures they ever expected to depict. [Wired]

Sydney hit an all-time record temperature of 114ºF (45.7ºC) on January 17th. 

January 8, 2013

Seeing the sky

What a fun story about one woman's experience during a challenge to take a look at the sky everyday. [Boston Globe]

Feds think electric cars too quiet

WASHINGTON — Electric cars, which have soundless engines, would need to make noise to let pedestrians know they are near under a proposed federal rule released Monday.
Sounds would need to be audible when vehicles are traveling slower than 18 miles per hour so that electric and hybrid-electric cars could be heard by bicyclists and pedestrians, particularly the visually impaired. [Boston Globe]

2012 Hottest Year on Record

Bill Moyers on climate change

Bill Moyers dedicated an excellent show to climate change communication. You can watch it here

Bringing climate change back into our national conversation is as much a communications challenge as it is a scientific one. Scientist Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, joins Bill Moyers to describe his efforts to do what even Hurricane Sandy couldn't – galvanize communities over what's arguably the greatest single threat facing humanity. Leiserowitz, who specializes in the psychology of risk perception, knows better than anyone if people are willing to change their behavior to make a difference.

Fukushima cleanup crews dump waste in rivers

According to Japan's Asahi Shimbun, cleanup crews working near the ruined Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, "dumped soil and leaves contaminated with radioactive fallout into rivers."

The allegation, supported by photographs, was made in the three-part report "Crooked Cleanup," published on Friday on the Japanese newspaper's English-language site, Asia and Japan Watch.
A team of journalists who observed the decontamination work in the region last month added: "Water sprayed on contaminated buildings has been allowed to drain back into the environment. And supervisors have instructed workers to ignore rules on proper collection and disposal of the radioactive waste."
Workers were apparently aware that they were breaking rules, the paper reported:
From Dec. 11 to 18, four Asahi reporters spent 130 hours observing work at various locations in Fukushima Prefecture. At 13 locations in Naraha, Iitate and Tamura, workers were seen simply dumping collected soil and leaves as well as water used for cleaning rather than securing them for proper disposal. Photographs were taken at 11 of those locations.
The reporters also talked to about 20 workers who said they were following the instructions of employees of the contracted companies or their subcontractors in dumping the materials. A common response of the workers was that the decontamination work could never be completed if they adhered to the strict rules.

How to recycle your old gadgets

It's 2013. You just got a new tablet, smartphone or smart TV for the holidays. With just a little bit of effort, you can get rid of last year's gear (or even gadgets from a bygone decade) in an eco-friendly way.

Whatever you do, don't throw your old electronics in the trash. Simply tossing them in the trash is hell on the environment, because e-waste can leak harmful chemicals into the soil or water supply. You have three main choices for properly getting rid of your old electronics gear: trading it in, donating it or recycling it.

Read about your options here - [Wired Magazine]

NY State buildings must improve efficiency by 20%

New York state agencies have been ordered to increase the energy efficiency of their buildings by 20 per cent over the next seven years. Governor Andrew Cuomo issued a state order in the last week of 2012, accompanied by a new implementation program called "Build Smart NY", which he branded "a financial and environmental win-win for New Yorkers".

It should see the largest, least efficient buildings upgraded first, with comprehensive whole building retrofits expected to see the installation of new energy efficient LED lighting, HVAC systems, and automated energy management technologies.

The New York Power Authority (NYPA) has committed $450m in low-cost financing to support the initiative, and the governor's office said most of the projects covered by the program would not result in any upfront cost to government agencies as they will be able to repay the loans through the resulting energy savings.


Green Cars - Fastest Growing Market

Analyst firm Mintel estimated that sales of hybrid, plug-in hybrid and electric cars in the US will exceed 535,000 units in 2013, a sizable increase on the 440,000 sold last year. Sales of hybrids and electric cars rose 73 per cent in 2012, making it the fastest growing segment in the US auto market.

There are currently 11 plug-in hybrid and electric models available to US consumers, compared to just three in 2011, and further new models such as BMW's i3 and the Ford Focus Electric will be introduced in the coming months.

Driverless Electric Vehicles

There's been no shortage of media coverage of Google's driverless car  , but meanwhile a French firm has developed something similar. Rather than a personal vehicle, however, Induct's Navia   is a driverless electric shuttle designed for use in pedestrian-heavy areas such as airport parking lots, shopping malls, business parks and universities.
Capable of carrying up to eight passengers at a maximum speed of 12.5 mph, Navia features laser range finders, cameras and GPS technology as well as accelerometers and gyroscopes that allow it to instantly calculate its position, route and distance traveled. Combined with a software package developed by Induct, that combination of technologies enable the vehicle to move autonomously and safely in any environment, Induct says. Navia's propulsion system uses Lithium-Polymer batteries, with instant induction recharging at each stop.