Tag Archives: climate change

Obama vs Romney – on climate change, renewable energy, and the EPA

In every election the presidential candidates are forced to make a bold statement, one way or the other, on the environment. And since this blog is focused on sustainability their positions are an important topic. Here are three of them – climate change, renewable energy, and the EPA – from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

I apologize for the strong Democratic Party bias in this piece, but the Republican Party has yet to embrace sustainability. There are glimpses of it from Mitt Romney, but he is backing away from many of those. And honestly, we need the Republican Party to adopt sustainable ideas to make real progress in this country.

 

Climate Change

Barack Obama

  • Supports international efforts to forge a climate change agreement.
  • Enacted regulations to double the fuel efficiency of vehicles by 2025.
  • Directed the federal government to reduce emissions from its buildings and vehicles by 28 percent by 2020.

Mitt Romney

  • Wary of international climate negotiations.
  • Opposes Obama’s new fuel efficiency standards as extreme.
  • Believes climate change is happening but not due to human efforts.

 

Renewable Energy

Barack Obama

  • Invested billions in energy efficiency and renewable energy.
  • Set ambitious clean energy goals, vowing that 80 percent will come from renewable sources by 2035.
  • Supported legislation, now set to expire, that extends production tax credits to the wind industry.

Mitt Romney

  • Opposes extending the tax credit for the wind industry and has vowed to end federal subsidies for renewable energy projects.
  • Supports nuclear, coal, oil, and gas in equal amounts to solar and wind.
  • As governor of Massachusetts, supported renewable energy authorizing the investment of $24 million.

 

EPA

Barack Obama

  • Empowered the EPA to draft stricter CO2 emissions standards for power plants.
  • Supports proposed EPA regulations limiting emissions of mercury and other toxics from power plants.
  • Supports continued federal regulation of oil and gas drilling on federal lands.

Mitt Romney

  • Opposes EPA regulating carbon dioxide emissions.
  • Says the states, not the federal government, should exercise control over oil and gas drilling on onshore federal lands.
  • Has called for fewer regulations on the nuclear power industry to help revive it.

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Climate change is now an acceptable conversation topic

From a Calgary Herald report:

“The Holy Grail is figuring out how to get the public engaged on this issue. The problem is that the typical output of climate studies is statistical information that’s impenetrable to most people,” said Karen Akerlof. “If you can help people feel they’ve actually experienced what’s happening, they may be able to better acknowledge the risks.”

Researchers found 27 per cent of people felt they had personally experienced global warming…(this feeling) was so meaningful, it positively predicted concern for local risks related to climate change: think forest fires, drought, changes to animal and plant species, and public health.

This is obvious but still worth reporting because I’m finding people more open to the question, do you think this is global warming?

Mostly I receive warm responses and pleasant discussions. Which is so different from years ago when it would spark political arguments or a heated debate on the merits of being environmental.

I want to urge you to ask the question and discuss it with people. You may find yourself engaged in a charming conversation. And maybe pass along a green tip or receive one in return.

 

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3rd warmest summer for United States and the planet – nearly 2 degrees warmer worldwide

If you thought this summer was warm, so did everybody else, from USA Today:

While the USA sweated through one of its warmest summers on record, so, too, did the rest of the globe.

“Considering global land surfaces only, June – Aug. 2012 was record warm, at 1.85 degrees above average.”

Only the summers of 1998 and 2010 were warmer. Records go back to 1880.

 

The report also states the United States is in a drought, as is eastern Russia and India. There is a possibility the record heat is due to the transition from the cold water of La Niña to the warm water of El Niño, but we are in our 330th month of higher than average temperatures.

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Video: North Pole shrinks to record levels, could be gone in 4 years

 

This animation shows the 2012 time-series of ice extent. The black area represents the daily average (median) sea ice from 1979-2000. Layered over are the daily satellite measurements from January 1 — September 14, 2012. A rapid melt begins in July, whereby the 2012 ice extents fall far below the historical average.

 

This melting has caused many to reconsider their predictions. A Cambridge scientist in the Arctic believes we could be only 4 years from a North Pole without ice.

From Yale’s Environment 360:

Peter Wadhams, who heads the Polar Ocean Physics Group at the University of Cambridge and who has measured Arctic Ocean ice thickness from British Navy submarines, says that earlier calculations about Arctic sea ice loss have grossly underestimated how rapidly the ice is disappearing. He believes that the Arctic is likely to become ice-free before 2020 and possibly as early as 2015 or 2016 — decades ahead of projections made just a few years ago.

 

 

// Thx – DB

The EPA is screwing up the discussion on global warming

The EPA is reporting the wrong information on global warming and I want them to get it right. The information they publish becomes the gold standard and is reported in the media, covered on TV, and published all across the web. It reaches the eyes and ears of a majority of Americans, and so why are they screwing it up?

The first problem is in using economic terms over plain language. The average person has a hard time understanding the meaning of ‘by economic sector’ or ‘end user emissions’. And nowhere in their mission statement does it say they should be communicating like college professors:

The mission of EPA is to protect human health and the environment.

Neither does it say they should communicate clearly, but that’s covered in the Plain Writing Act of 2010.

Another problem they face is choosing what data to report. Again, they seem to be focusing on macroeconomic data sets instead of what will help the average person. Here is the data set spread out across 20 pages on the EPA website and reported many thousand times over in the press:

 

Emissions by Economic Sector

  • Electricity generation – 34%
  • Transportation – 27%
  • Industry – 21%
  • Agriculture – 7%
  • Commercial & Residential – 11%

 

Very helpful for the big picture and if you’re writing policy, but worthy of ignoring by the common person. What are they supposed to do about electricity, buy a wind turbine? For transportation, go out and buy a new car? What does industry even mean?

For those steeped in the economics of global warming this makes total sense. Our energy is slowly moving towards renewables, cars are becoming electric, homes and business can similarly electrify, and that would make 61-90% of our emissions from electricity. Yes, it is vital we pick up renewables.

But that stymies any discussion about what individuals can do. Here is another data set left to gather dust, buried 200 pages deep in the EPA’s most important report:

 

Emissions by End User

  • Manufacturing – 30%
  • Homes – 18%
  • Business – 17%
  • Personal Cars – 17%
  • Farming – 8%
  • Freight Trucks – 6%
  • Airplanes – 2%

 

End user is an economic term for you bought it you own it. Meaning the person who drives the car is responsible for the emissions, not General Motors. From this perspective the story changes entirely. Transportation moves down into a tie for third most important. The three ahead of it – manufacturing, homes, business – all represent places where the average person has a significant impact.

Individuals could buy less or switch to recycled products, in simple ways, like buying recycled toilet paper. At home they could lower the thermostat or send less to the landfill. At work they could accept normal temperatures for the A/C and support any green company policies.

It is strange that this data, which places the responsibility on individuals and can easily encourage a change in behavior, is buried in favor of the economic report. It would seem like the EPA is purposely avoiding the issue of responsibility, or letting the economists control the marketing. Either way it’s unacceptable and screwing up the discussion on global warming.

Come on EPA get your head in the game!

 

 

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Good news – United States greenhouse gas emissions are declining (graph)

I hate the doom-and-gloom focus of global warming. For an issue that asks people to make big changes, there couldn’t be a worse message. And so I’m proud to present another piece good news:

  • As our economy grows we are lowering our emissions (blue lines)
  • As our population our emissions are remaining steady or decreasing (orange lines)

 

source: EPA

 

This makes it look like we are cleaning up our economy and our habits, and we are. Good news.

And, one piece of bad news. The declines aren’t strong enough to stop climate change. For that we need a much steeper decline. So keep up the great work and double your efforts!

Here are some ways to do so:

The United States continues to go green – CO2 emissions near 1990 levels

CO2 emissions in US drop to 20-year low

In a surprising turnaround, the amount of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere in the U.S. has fallen dramatically to its lowest level in 20 years, and government officials say the biggest reason is that cheap and plentiful natural gas has led many power plant operators to switch from dirtier-burning coal.

Isn’t that great news?

I think we need some uplifting climate change news with all the “doom and gloom” stories out there. Let’s keep it going.

The United States has cut its CO2 output more than any other country in recent years, with our output dropping since 2007.  We are now close to 1990 levels and may be able to fit in with the Kyoto Protocols.

Of the fossil fuels, natural gas releases the least amount of air pollution and CO2. It is a homegrown source which improves our energy independence and stability, as well as keeping our money at home.

Coal has gone from producing half our energy to only one-third.

Good news!

 

** Fracking for natural gas – it is unknown how destructive this new, hugely popular process is. 

 

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Our carbon sinks are absorbing twice as much carbon dioxide as they used to

The term ‘carbon sink’ is becoming more common as we all gain the scientific education needed to deal with climate change and global warming.

According to Wikipedia, carbon sinks can be both natural and artificial. Both involve the process of absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, which is called carbon sequestration.

The main natural carbon sinks are the oceans and plants, and with our planet covered in so much water, the oceans are the biggest sinks on Earth. The main artificial ones are landfills and the various carbon capture projects.

In those countries that follow the Kyoto Protocol, the use of artificial carbon sinks can serve as a way to offset other carbon use.

Of course, as we are pumping more carbon into the atmosphere our natural carbon sinks are ingesting more carbon dioxide:

Nature has her own way of dealing with excess carbon dioxide. When human activities spew CO2 into the atmosphere, plants absorb more of it than usual, leading to profuse growth. The ocean, too, swallows more than it otherwise would. Many scientists fret that these so-called carbon sinks risk getting clogged up. Some even suggest that this has already started happening. - The Economist

Some even estimate that the amount of CO2 absorbed by the oceans and plants has doubled. Nobody knows what this means, maybe it can continue and alleviate some of our carbon problems, or there could be a backlash effect.

For more on this, check out The Economist article, That Sinking Feeling.

 

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Southern California ends rainy season in a drought – El Niño possibly coming

The 2011-12 rainy season — which ran from July 1, 2011 to June 30, 2012 — has come to an end with less than impressive numbers, according to figures compiled by the National Weather Service. None of the six key sights where the weather service records long term precipitation reported above average rainfall.

  • San Diego – 8.03″ (avg. – 10.34″)
  • Orange County – 6.32″ (avg. – 13.33″)
  • Riverside – 5.53″ (avg. – 12.04″)
  • Los Angeles – 8.69″ (avg. – 14.93″)

The season that starts today could be different. The U.S. Climate Prediction Center says that an El Nino appears to be developing in the eastern equatorial Pacific. If the periodic climate change system continues to strengthen, it could lead to above average rainfall this winter in Southern California.

SourceGary Robbins, U-T San Diego

 

 

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This is what Global Warming looks like

“This is what global warming looks like at the regional or personal level,” said Jonathan Overpeck, professor of geosciences and atmospheric sciences at the University of Arizona. “The extra heat increases the odds of worse heat waves, droughts, storms and wildfire. This is certainly what I and many other climate scientists have been warning about.”

Horrendous wildfires. Oppressive heat waves. Devastating droughts. Flooding from giant deluges. And a powerful freak wind storm called a derecho.

These are the kinds of extremes experts have predicted will come with climate change, although it’s far too early to say that is the cause. Nor will they say global warming is the reason 3,215 daily high temperature records were set in the month of June.

Scientifically linking individual weather events to climate change takes intensive study, complicated mathematics, computer models and lots of time. Sometimes it isn’t caused by global warming. Weather is always variable; freak things happen.

 

Keep readingThis Summer Is ‘What Global Warming Looks Like’

 

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