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Thu, 2014-11-13 14:17Mike Gaworecki
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China-U.S. Climate Deal Is Historic, But On Its Own Is Not Enough

Despite the fact that they've been using the “climate action is useless because China won't act” canard as one of their favorite arguments for years now, Republicans' outraged response to the historic climate deal between China and the U.S. probably took noone by surprise.

Because that's the thing: it is historic. For the first time ever, China has agreed to put a cap on the emissions produced by its rapid, voracious economic expansion. While it's certainly not true that the U.S. taking responsibility for its share of global warming pollution wouldn't have had a meaningful impact anyway, it also can't be ignored that averting runaway climate change would be nearly impossible if China's emissions keep growing unabated.

But to say it's historic that two of the world's biggest economic superpowers—and the world's two largest carbon polluters, together responsible for nearly half of global emissions—have agreed to begin to lower their respective contributions to global warming is not the same thing as saying that the deal President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping struck is enough to get the job done.

The most important issue, of course, is the emissions targets themselves, which come nowhere near what climate scientists say are needed to prevent catastrophic warming. We must lower global warming pollution 80% below 1990 levels by mid-century, yet the US is still using 2005 as its baseline, and has only committed to lowering emissions 26-28% by 2025. China, meanwhile, needs to see its emissions peak by 2020, climate scientists say, but has only committed to doing so by 2030.

Tue, 2014-11-11 10:00Mike Gaworecki
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Peabody Energy Goes On Offense With New PR Campaign Designed To Sell Same Old Dirty Coal

Despite what you may have heard about the death of the coal industry, Peabody Energy is ramping up mining activities and going on the offensive, pushing “clean coal” on the world’s poor with a disingenuous but aggressive PR campaign. And for good reason: Peabody has got to sell the coal from the world's largest coal mine to someone.

Speculation is rife that the new GOP-led Senate will join with its similarly fossil fuel-beholden House colleagues to usher in a new era of coal. Peabody, the world’s largest privately held coal company, isn’t waiting around to find out.

The company has teamed with public relations firm Burson-Marsteller—the notorious PR giant that helped Big Tobacco attack and distort scientific evidence of the dangers of smoking tobacco—to launch Advanced Energy for Life, a desperate attempt to shift the discussion around coal away from its deleterious effects on health and massive contributions to climate change and instead posit the fossil fuel as a solution to global poverty.

The aim of this PR offensive, according to a piece by freelance journalist Dan Zegart and former DeSmog managing editor Kevin Grandia (one of Rolling Stone’s “Green Heroes,” and deservedly so), the reason for Peabody’s charm offensive is simple: there’s money to be made selling coal in Asian markets, and Peabody aims to make it—as long as initiatives to combat global warming emissions don’t intervene. Which makes Burson-Marsteller the perfect ally:

Burson-Marsteller, which has a long history of creating front groups to rehabilitate the images of corporate wrongdoers, helped Philip Morris, maker of Marlboro, tackle the Asian market, where Burson fought anti-smoking regulations and developed crisis drills for Philip Morris personnel in Hong Kong on how to handle adverse scientific reports.
 

As the US produces a glut of cheap natural gas, the EPA’s Clean Power Plan seeks to set emissions standards that would make building new coal-fired power plants all but impossible impossible, and the domestic demand for coal drops, Peabody’s value as a company has dropped as well, from $20 billion to just $3.7 billion in the space of three years. The company is in desperate need of new business if it’s to even stay afloat.

Wed, 2014-11-05 15:26Chris Rose
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The EU’s New Climate Commitments Make Canada and the U.S. Look Ridiculous

connie hedegaard, climate change, EU

The European Union has reached a new legally-binding climate change agreement that would see greenhouse gas emissions drop by at least 40 per cent of 1990 levels by 2030.

The agreement, signed off in Brussels two weeks ago by the EU’s 28 member nations, is designed to ensure Europe meets its objective of cutting emissions by at least 80 per cent by mid-century.

It also puts Europe in the lead position to help persuade other nations trailing far behind the EU’s emissions-reduction goals to reach a long-sought global climate change accord next year in Paris.

The 2030 climate and energy plan also calls for the share of renewable energy to increase to 27 per cent of 1990 levels while seeing a 27 per cent increase in energy efficiency.

In an official statement, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso said the 2030 package is very good news for the fight against climate change.

Wed, 2014-11-05 05:00Mike Gaworecki
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Climate Deniers In Congress Take 3.5 Times As Much Money From Dirty Energy Interests

As the US Environmental Protection Agency attempts to draw down emissions from power plants via its Clean Power Plan, fossil fuel interests are, of course, fighting back. A new special report from Earthjustice exposes the “unparalleled political spending by dirty energy industries” intent on defeating the EPA's climate initiative.

Power plants, especially those that burn coal and natural gas, are responsible for nearly one-third of all global warming emissions in the US, making electricity production the single biggest source of climate change pollution. There are currently no limits on how much carbon dioxide power plants can dump into the atmosphere.

Burning coal for electricity in particular has also been found to have dire impacts on human health at every stage of its life cycle. But those who live nearby coal-fired power plants suffer some of the worst of it: children are more likely to have asthma if they live by a plant burning coal, and mercury pollution from coal has been linked to higher incidence of autism and other developmental issues.

There's a social justice angle to consider too: coal-fired power plants are much more likely to be situated near a low-income community or community of color, forcing people who have done the least to contribute to the problem to deal with a disproportionate share of the impacts. According to Earthjustice, 40% of the US's Latino population lives within 30 miles of a power plant.

The EPA's Clean Power Plan aims to reduce emissions from US power plants some 30% below 2005 levels by 2030, but it will have a host of other economic and health benefits as well. Earthjustice says that imposing emissions limits on power plants could prevent as many as 100,000 asthma attacks in children every year, and by cutting their climate pollution Americans could save $13 billion a year on their energy bills.

Which begs the question Earthjustice set out to answer: “When acting on climate change has the added benefits of cleaner air that’s easier to breathe, healthier communities, safer people and homes, economic protection and even growth, why would elected officials oppose it?”

As the saying goes, just follow the money.

Thu, 2014-10-23 10:00Chris Rose
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Wind Power Could Supply 25% of Global Electricity By 2050 — If Fossil Fuel Industry Doesn't Get in the Way

wind power, clean energy

Wind power has become so successful that it could provide 25 to 30 per cent of global electricity supply by mid-century if vested interests don’t get in the way, according to a new report published Tuesday.

The report — Global Wind Energy Outlook 2014 — said that commercial wind power installations in more than 90 countries had a total installed capacity of 318 gigawatts (GW) at the end of 2013, providing about three per cent of global electricity supply.

By 2030, the report said, wind power could reach 2,000 GW, supply up to 17 to 19 per cent of global electricity, create over two million new jobs and reduce CO2 emissions by more than three billion tonnes per year.

The report published by the Global Wind Energy Council and Greenpeace International noted that while emissions-free wind power continues to play a growing role in international electricity supply, political, economic and institutional inertia is hampering attempts to deal with the consequences of climate change.

Fri, 2014-10-17 11:52Mike Gaworecki
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NASA Confirms A 2,500-Square-Mile Cloud Of Methane Floating Over US Southwest

When NASA researchers first saw data indicating a massive cloud of methane floating over the American Southwest, they found it so incredible that they dismissed it as an instrument error.

But as they continued analyzing data from the European Space Agency’s Scanning Imaging Absorption Spectrometer for Atmospheric Chartography instrument from 2002 to 2012, the “atmospheric hot spot” kept appearing.

The team at NASA was finally able to take a closer look, and have now concluded that there is in fact a 2,500-square-mile cloud of methane—roughly the size of Delaware—floating over the Four Corners region, where the borders of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah all intersect.

A report published by the NASA researchers in the journal Geophysical Research Letters concludes that “the source is likely from established gas, coal, and coalbed methane mining and processing.” Indeed, the hot spot happens to be above New Mexico's San Juan Basin, the most productive coalbed methane basin in North America.

Mon, 2014-10-13 08:00Chris Rose
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New Report: Who Will Pay for the Costs and Damages of Climate Change?

people's climate march, zack embree

Canadian oil and gas companies could be liable for billions of dollars of damages per year for their contribution to climate change caused by toxic greenhouse gas emissions, according to a study published Thursday.

The study looked at five oil and gas companies currently trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange — Encana, Suncor, Canadian Natural Resources, Talisman, and Husky — and found they could presently be incurring a global liability as high as $2.4 billion annually.

Climate change is increasingly discussed not as some far-off threat but in terms of current realities,” said the 62-page study — Payback Time? What the internationalization of climate litigation could mean for Canadian oil and gas companies.

Published by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and West Coast Environmental Law (WCEL), the study found data showing the global financial cost of private and public property and other damage associated with climate change in 2010 has been estimated at $591 billion, rising to $4.2 trillion in 2030.

Fri, 2014-10-10 06:00Mike Gaworecki
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Reining In Global Warming Emissions Will Be Good For The Economy: Report

Not only will it lead to more costly and catastrophic events like wildfires, droughts, and floods, but delaying action on climate change will in and of itself consitute a missed opportunity to bolster the US economy, according to a new report.

Entitled “Seeing Is Believing: Creating A New Climate Economy In The United States,” the report notes that failing to rein in greenhouse gas emissions will result in a 20% reduction in per capita consumption worldwide over the long term, but stresses that addressing climate change will most certainly be good for the global economy.

Published by the World Resources Institute, the report looks at needed changes in five sectors of the US economy that, altogether, comprised 55% of greenhouse gas emissions in 2012: reducing the carbon intensity of electricity generation; improving efficiency in residential and commercial electricity consumption; building more fuel-efficient passenger vehicles; stopping methane leaks from natural gas systems; and lowering consumption of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), a potent greenhouse gas commonly used as a refrigerant.

By surveying peer-reviewed reports from academics, industry associations, think tanks, government labs, and others, the report concludes that: “The ability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while benefitting the economy has already been demonstrated through numerous policies and programs implemented in the United States.”

Here are key findings from the report in each of those five areas:

Thu, 2014-09-25 05:00Mike Gaworecki
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China To Create National Cap-And-Trade Program As Obama Admin Must Bypass U.S. Senate On Climate

The Obama Administration is pursuing an international climate agreement that would be “politically binding” but would not be a treaty requiring ratification by two-thirds of the U.S. Senate.

Meanwhile, China has announced it will create a national cap-and-trade program.

These two facts amount to a stunning juxtaposition. China, currently the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gas pollution, is taking decisive action to lower its emissions, while the leader of the United States, historically the world’s largest climate polluter, must circumvent his own government to take even modest first steps towards dealing with climate change.

According to the latest Global Carbon Budget report, CO2 emissions rose 2.3% in 2013, with China responsible for 28% and the United States contributing 14%.

Emissions are projected to increase by another 2.5% in 2014, according to the report, which also notes that the world is on track for a temperature rise somewhere between 3.2 and 5.4 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels by 2100—well above the 2-degree mark scientists say we must limit warming to in order to avert the worst effects of climate change.

The New York Times reports that negotiators for the Obama Adminstration are calling an international agreement that bypasses the treaty ratification process in the Senate the only viable path forward:

Lawmakers in both parties on Capitol Hill say there is no chance that the currently gridlocked Senate will ratify a climate change treaty in the near future, especially in a political environment where many Republican lawmakers remain skeptical of the established science of human-caused global warming.


This is not the first time Obama has gone around Congress to take action on the climate. The centerpiece of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan uses authorities granted to the EPA under the Clean Air Act to limit carbon emissions on a state-by-state basis and requires states to come up with plans to achieve those cuts.

But even the Obama Administration admits that this type of measure is not, in and of itself, a solution to the climate crisis we’re facing.

“The point is, that this is a start,” White House science and technology advisor John Holdren recently told the House Science Committee. “The carbon-action plan is a start, and if we do not make a start, we will never get there.”

Fri, 2014-09-05 11:23Chris Rose
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What Does Climate Adaptation Actually Look Like? Check Out This Awesome New Infographic Series from Cambridge

climate change adaptation, CISL

A new series looking at the likely impacts of climate change could help companies, politicians, financial planners, entrepreneurs, defence analysts and leaders of various industrial sectors learn how to adapt to the increasing pressures of global warming.

Based on work already done by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL) announced Thursday it had released a briefing series so that people, organizations and governments would be better prepared for a challenging and volatile future.

Working with the Judge Business School and the European Climate Foundation, the CISL series summarizes the likely impacts of climate change on agriculture, buildings, cities, defence, employment, energy, investment, fisheries, primary industries, tourism, and transportation.

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