climate change

Tue, 2014-10-28 19:21Graham Readfearn
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How Bill Gates and Peabody Energy Share Vision For Coal Powered Future Through Views of Bjorn Lomborg

No doubt a few eyebrows were raised and possibly some palms smashed against faces earlier this year when the richest person on the planet came out in qualified support of policies to burn massive amounts of coal in the developing world.

In June, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates took to his GatesNotes blog to promote the views of Danish political scientist Dr Bjorn Lomborg.

Gates opined that “as we push to get serious about confronting climate change” it was wrong for rich countries to tell developing countries that they should cut back on burning fossil fuels. He wrote:

For one thing, poor countries represent a small part of the carbon-emissions problem. And they desperately need cheap sources of energy now to fuel the economic growth that lifts families out of poverty. They can’t afford today’s expensive clean energy solutions, and we can’t expect them wait for the technology to get cheaper.

Gates urged people to consider the view of Lomborg and his think tank, the Copenhagen Consensus CenterAlongside the blog post were two “GatesNotes” branded videos where Lomborg presented his arguments. 

In the videos Lomborg said it was “hypocritical” for the developed world to try and deny poor countries access to fossil fuels when so much of the developed world is still fueled on them. Lomborg also linked the issue of reducing the impacts of indoor air pollution to increasing use of fossil fuels. 

In the video, Lomborg said:

The solution to indoor air pollution is very, very simple. It’s getting people access to modern energy and typically that’s electricity and that’s going to mean fossil fuels for those three billion people who don’t have access. We have a very clear moral imperative to make sure that people don’t cook with dirty fuels and make sure those people get out of poverty and have a decent life.

The World Health Organization says indoor air pollution caused by the burning of fuels like wood, dung and coal (Lomborg didn’t mention coal) kills about four million people a year.

While Lomborg argued that the “simple” solution to indoor air pollution is access to coal-powered electricity, the more immediate solution is access to cleaner-burning cooking stoves, according to the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves.

Radha Muthia, the executive director of the alliance, wrote to the New York Times in December last year after the newspaper had published a column where Lomborg had again argued that while more efficient cooking stoves “could help” what the world really needed were “low cost fossil fuels” – chiefly, coal.

Muthia wrote that “fossil fuels are not the only solution” and that the “stakes are too high” to rest on Lomborg’s assumption.

Tue, 2014-10-28 05:00Sharon Kelly
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When the Shale Runs Dry: A Look at the Future of Fracking

If you want to see the future of the shale industry — what today's drilling rush will leave behind — come to Bradford, Pennsylvania.

A small city, it was home to one of America's first energy booms, producing over three quarters of the world's oil in 1877. A wooden oil rig towering over a local museum commemorates those heady days, marking the first “billion dollar oil field” in the world.

But times have changed dramatically in Bradford. Most of the oil has been pumped out, leaving residents atop an aging oil field that requires complicated upkeep and mounting costs. Since its height in the 1940's, Bradford's population has steadily declined, leaving the city now home to only 8,600 people, down from over 17,000. 

The story of Bradford these days is a story of thousands of oil and gas wells: abandoned, uncapped, and often leaking.

To drive through McKean County, home to Bradford and much of the Allegheny National Forest, is to witness an array of creative ways people have found to hide the remnants of this bygone boom. Rusted metal pipes — the old steel casings from long abandoned wells — jut from lawns and roadsides. Mailboxes are strapped to some of the taller pipes. In autumn, abandoned wells are tucked behind Halloween props and hay bales in front yards.

The aging steel pipes aren't just on land. They line creek beds, water flowing around one rusted pipe then another.

Hundreds are even submerged in the Allegheny Reservoir, small bubbles of methane gas the only visible sign of their existence. But in many cases, these rusted top hats from now deceased wells simply protrude from locals' lawns.

They are visual reminders that, for local communities where mining or drilling happens, fossil fuel wealth burns hot and short. Where there's a boom, there's bound to be a bust.

Mon, 2014-10-27 11:33Emma Gilchrist
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B.C. LNG Strategy Won’t Help Solve Global Climate Change: New Pembina Institute Report

Christy Clark at LNG Canada announcement

The B.C. government’s claim that LNG exports offer the “greatest single step British Columbia can take to fight climate change” is inaccurate in the absence of stronger global climate policies according to a new report released today by the Pembina Institute and the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions.

Natural gas does have a role to play in a world that avoids two degrees Celsius in global warming, but only if strong emissions reduction policies are put in place in the jurisdictions that produce and consume the gas, says the report, LNG and Climate Change: The Global Context authored by Matt Horne and Josha MacNab.

Natural gas is often described as a bridge fuel. The question is, how long should that bridge be?” says MacNab, B.C. regional director for the Pembina Institute, a national non-profit focused on transitioning Canada to a clean energy future.

Our research suggests it must be very short if we’re going to be able to get off the bridge in time to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.”

Thu, 2014-10-23 18:39Graham Readfearn
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Climate Science Denialist Patrick Moore Tours Australia After Comparing Students to the Taliban

Canadian climate science denialist Patrick Moore is at the beginning of a tour around Australia speaking to audiences across the country.

But here’s a warning. 

If you do find yourself in the audience and don’t want to be compared to the “Taliban” then don’t even think about walking out in protest.

Less than two weeks before flying to Australia, Moore spoke on the campus of Amherst College in Massachusetts. 

When members of the college’s environmental group decided they had heard enough and walked, Moore said they had a “Taliban mindset”. 

When he was later asked to apologise, a report in the Amherst College student newspaper says Moore instead chose to double-down on his remark.

Fifty people walk out, and I say that’s a pretty Taliban thing to do,” Moore is reported to have said, characterizing the behavior of the young students to that of the fundamentalist regime that massacred thousands and committed brutal repression of women.

Thu, 2014-10-23 12:00Peter Wood
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B.C. Ought to Consider Petronas’ Human Rights Record Before Bowing to Malaysian Company's LNG Demands

Penan people of Sarawak blockade a Petronas pipeline

It should come as no surprise that Petronas expects B.C. to cave in to its demands to expedite the process of approving its Pacific NorthWest LNG terminal and natural gas pipeline, lowering taxes and weakening environmental regulations in the process.

After all, Petronas has a well-established record of getting what it wants in the other countries it operates in, such as Sudan, Myanmar, Chad and Malaysia.

This week, the B.C. government did cave to at least one Petronas’ demands — cutting the peak income tax rate for LNG facilities from seven to 3.5 per cent, thereby slashing in half the amount of revenue it’s expecting to receive from the liquefied natural industry.  The government also introduced a standard for carbon pollution for B.C.’s LNG industry, which was hailed as a step in the right direction, but not enough.

In considering Petronas’ bid to develop B.C.’s natural gas resources, it is vital that we consider the company’s track record.

In 2011, I had the opportunity to witness the destruction caused by a Petronas pipeline, while working with the international NGO Global Witness. While staying with the semi-nomadic Penan people of Sarawak (Malaysian Borneo), I heard testimony of how the company had treated them in the course of constructing the pipeline.

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.

Thu, 2014-10-23 07:30Guest
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Methane Leaks Wipe Out Any Climate Benefit Of Fracking, Satellite Observations Confirm

This is a guest post by Joe Romm, republished with permission from the original on Climate Progress.

Satellite observations of huge oil and gas basins in East Texas and North Dakota confirm staggering 9 and 10 percent leakage rates of heat-trapping methane. “In conclusion,” researchers write, “at the current methane loss rates, a net climate benefit on all time frames owing to tapping unconventional resources in the analyzed tight formations is unlikely.”

In short, fracking speeds up human-caused climate change, thanks to methane leaks alone. Remember, natural gas is mostly methane, (CH4), a super-potent greenhouse gas, which traps 86 times as much heat as CO2 over a 20-year period. So even small leaks in the natural gas production and delivery system can have a large climate impact — enough to gut the entire benefit of switching from coal-fired power to gas.

Back in February, we reported that the climate will likely be ruined already well past most of our lifespans by the time natural gas has a net climate benefit. That was based on a study in Science called “Methane Leaks from North American Natural Gas Systems” reviewing more than 200 earlier studies. It concluded that natural gas leakage rates were about 5.4 percent.

The new study used satellites to look at actual “methane emissions for two of the fastest growing production regions in the United States, the Bakken and Eagle Ford formations,” between the periods 2006–2008 and 2009–2011. They found leakages rates of 10.1 percent and 9.1 percent respectively!

Mon, 2014-10-20 14:57Justin Mikulka
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Natural Gas as 'Bridge Fuel' Is Excellent Political Solution But Fails As Climate Solution

Fracking for natural gas

“We cannot solely rely on abundant gas to solve the climate change problem. The climate change problem requires a climate change solution. Abundant gas could be great for any number of things, but it is not going to solve the climate change problem.”

This statement was made by Haewon McJeon, the lead author on a new study published last week by Nature magazine, which concluded that cheap abundant natural gas will actually delay any efforts to reduce carbon emissions.

This isn’t the first study to reach this conclusion. In the 2013 study “Climate Consequences of Natural Gas as a Bridge Fuel,” author Michael Levi reached a similar conclusion. He noted that for natural gas to be beneficial as a bridge fuel it had to be a short bridge with gas consumption peaking by 2020 or 2030.

The new study, Limited Impact on Decadal-Scale Climate Change from Increased Use of Natural Gas, looks at natural gas consumption increasing through 2050.

Thu, 2014-10-16 17:00Guest
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Commissioner’s Report Shows Canada Must Do More For Environment

David Nanuk

This is a guest post by David Suzuki.

Canadians expect to have our environment protected, and to know how it’s being protected. A report from Canada’s Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development shows we’re being short-changed.

In many key areas that we looked at, it is not clear how the government intends to address the significant environmental challenges that future growth and development will likely bring about,” commissioner Julie Gelfand said of the report, which used government data, or lack thereof, to assess the government’s success or failure to implement its own regulations and policies.

Wed, 2014-10-15 18:28Graham Readfearn
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Australian Treasurer Joe Hockey Latest Minister To Tout Coal Industry "Energy Poverty" Spin

Australia's Treasurer Joe Hockey barely missed a beat when challenged to justify the country's massive fossil fuel export industry and bottom-dwelling record for domestic greenhouse gas emissions.

“We are exporting coal so that nations can lift their people out of poverty,” the Liberal Treasurer told the journalist Stephen Sackur on the BBC's HARDTalk interview program.

Hockey's argument should be recognised for what it is - a line straight out of the coal industry's newest campaign playbook.

As I wrote earlier this week on The Guardian, the coal industry is attempting to hijack the issue of “energy poverty” by claiming the only way that the world's poorest can prosper is by purchasing and then burning more of their product.

The United Nations Environment Programme wouldn't agree. In a summary report of climate change impacts, UNEP says: “In Africa and other developing regions of the world, climate change is a threat to economic growth (due to changes in natural systems and resources), long-term prosperity, as well as the survival of already vulnerable populations.”
 
The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report on the impacts of climate change found climate change would “exacerbate multidimensional poverty” in most developing countries and create “new poverty pockets” in both rich and poor countries.

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