cap and trade

Biochar 101: Climate Savior or False Hope?

If someone told you a charred black substance could help save the planet from the worst ravages of climate change, it'd be hard to believe, yet foolhardy to ignore.

Biochar, a form of carbon sequestration, has been sold by its promoters as an almost magical way to reverse climate change. Yet not only was the marketing protocol that would help scale up biochar production in the U.S. rejected by science peer reviewers in March 2015, but big oil companies like ConocoPhillips and ExxonMobil — among the biggest climate change culprits — also have made a big bet that they can use biochar to “offset” their carbon pollution footprint.

Is Deploying Biochar as a Climate Geoengineering Tool Scientifically Premature?

Some of biochar's proponents say the substance will save us from climate change destruction, as we covered in Part 1.

At the very least, its proponents say it has great potential to simultaneously improve agricultural yields, produce clean energy, and mitigate climate change by sequestering carbon. Its most enthusiastic supporters have hailed it as “black gold.” 

But scientists call biochar a false climate change solution, leaving them with more questions than answers.

How the Biochar Lobby Pushed for Offsets, Tar Sands, and Fracking Reclamation Using Unsettled Science

For the past several years, a well-organized, well-funded campaign has worked to include biochar in prospective carbon markets as an approved offset for greenhouse gas emissions.

The ardent push has occurred even though the non-partisan Government Accountability Office gave biochar a Technology Readiness Level of two out of nine in a July 2011 report and a 2015 National Research Council study on geoengineering came to similar conclusions about biochar. It also unfolded even though the climate change mitigation potential of sequestering biochar into the ground is far from a settled fact and long-term field trials are sorely lacking.

Landmark Climate Bill Passed By California Legislature

After an intense lobbying spree and threats from Governor Jerry Brown to take the measure directly to voters via ballot initiative should it fail to pass, Senate Bill 32 (SB 32) was approved by the California legislature yesterday.

When it is signed into law by Brown, SB 32 will extend the climate targets adopted by the state under Assembly Bill 32 (AB 32), the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, which required California to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.

The state is well on pace to meet the emissions targets set by AB 32, which is credited with having spurred developments that contributed $48 billion to California’s economy over the past 10 years while creating a half million jobs.

Will Cap-And-Trade Slow Climate Change?

This is a guest post by David Suzuki

The principle that polluters should pay for the waste they create has led many experts to urge governments to put a price on carbon emissions. One method is the sometimes controversial cap-and-trade. Quebec, California and the European Union have already adopted cap-and-trade, and Ontario will join Quebec and California’s system in January 2017. But is it a good way to address climate change?

Water Pollution Trading Programs Under Fire as Report Finds Lax Oversight, "Shell Games" Put Waterways at Risk

A little-noticed federally-backed program is chipping away at the foundation of the Clean Water Act, one of the nation's core environmental laws, allowing major polluters to evade responsibility for contaminating rivers, streams and other waterways, an environmental group said in a report released Thursday.

So called “water quality trading” programs have quietly spread into more than 20 states, the report said, with a goal of establishing a water pollution credit trading market — essentially a cap-and-trade system, like those controversially proposed for climate change, but covering the dumping of pollutants like nitrogen and phosphorus into America's waterways.

Those nutrients are behind algae blooms that suck oxygen out of water supplies, killing fish and other wildlife and sometimes making people sick. The EPA calls nutrient pollution “one of America's most widespread, costly and challenging environmental problems” and warns that the hazards are likely to grow worse as the climate warms.

Programs to trade credits for nutrient pollution are still relatively small scale, but have gained the backing of the Environmental Protection Agency and the United States Department of Agriculture. They are based on the idea that a free market can help identify the cheapest ways to cut pollution in a watershed.

Marco Rubio Wants To Let The Planet Burn

Republican Senator Marco Rubio isn’t convinced that human beings are responsible for climate change.  But don’t get him wrong. Marco Rubio firmly believes that climate change is happening.  In fact, as he said in two separate interviews this past week, the climate “is always changing.” 

Rubio, who represents the climate change-imperiled state of Florida in the U.S. Senate, has taken a lot of heat for denying the role that humans are playing in climate change, but at the same time, he has received partial credit for acknowledging that the climate is changing.  Rubio’s semantic trickery is not an admission that he believes in climate change.  It is simply a tool that allows him to play both sides.  He can construe his statement to “prove” that he accepts the reality of climate change, or he can downplay its meaning and say that he was referring to something as simple as weather patterns. 

In either scenario, Rubio comes out the winner.  His denial of the role of human beings will be forgotten quickly, and all that will remain on the record is his statement that the climate is always changing. 

Rubio’s assertion that human beings don’t play a role in climate change has already been thoroughly debunked.  But what’s even more alarming is the fact that Rubio’s denial is putting his constituents at risk.

Reports show that Florida, the state Rubio represents in the Senate, is going to experience the impacts of climate change, possibly more so than any other state in the country.  As the NRDC points out, everything from real estate, health, and tourism will be destroyed as climate change becomes worse:

Stink Tanks: State Policy Network Internal Budget Documents Revealed by The Guardian

It's been a rough week for the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). The “corporate bill mill” group's annual States & Nation meeting was overshadowed by damaging evidence of misconduct revealed by The Guardian. 

And it just got a whole lot rougher with yet another investigative installment in The Guardian series.

This time, instead of focusing on ALEC alone, Guardian reporters Suzanne Goldenberg and Ed Pilkington took a big swing at what Center for Media and Democracy and Progress Now have called the “stink tanks” network run by the right-wing State Policy Network (SPN). Leaked a copy of SPN's tax and budget proposal published in July 2013, the documents offer a rare glimpse inside the SPN machine.

One of the biggest revelations in the energy and environment sphere: SPN Associate Member, the Beacon Hill Institute “requested $38,825…to weaken or roll back a five-year effort by states in the region to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” explained The Guardian. “The institute said it would carry out research into the economic impact of the cap-and-trade system operating in nine states known as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.”

BHI appeared to have already arrived at its conclusions in advance, admitting from the outset that the aim of the research was to arm opponents of cap-and-trade with data for their arguments, and to weaken or destroy the initiative.”

Another huge related development came in a piece published concurrently by The Guardian. That piece pointed out that Beacon Hill Institute is in trouble with its host institution Suffolk University for pushing research explicitly funded by SPN to oppose the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, with research results already determined before the inquiry began. 

At the Limits of the Market Part 2: Why Capitalism Hasn't Solved Climate Change

climate change, capitalism, environmental issues in Canada

Read At the Limits of the Market: Why Capitalism Won't Solve Climate Change, Part 1.

One answer to the question of why free market capitalism has failed to generate technological solutions to the crisis of climate change is that green innovation simply isn’t as profitable as speculation. In an era when financial markets generate record profits and investment banks are too big to fail, the long work of investment, research and construction of new energy infrastructure simply isn’t attractive to profit-seeking corporations.

Faced with the clear failure of the free market to respond to the approaching dangers of climate change, politicians have reacted by attempting to coax corporations into serving the needs of people as well as the bottom line. This is typically referred to as finding “market-based solutions.” It sounds good at first: we’ll harness the best minds in the private sector to develop new technology, create new jobs and solve climate change in the process.

But all too often the phrase “market-based solutions” works as a kind of coded communication. In effect, it signals to corporations that the government will not take any measures that could interfere with their business model. Rather than impose meaningful restrictions on emissions or the extraction of fossil fuels, market-based solutions focus on changing behavior by creating the right set of incentives.  

Controversial State Department Keystone XL Climate Study the Basis of David Petraeus' CUNY Seminar

Former CIA-head David Petraeus' City University of New York (CUNY) Macaulay Honors College seminar readings include several prominent Big Oil-funded “frackademia” studies, a recent DeSmogBlog investigation revealed.

Further digging into records obtained via New York's Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) also reveals “a survey of the global economy to set the stage for the course” - as stated in an email from Petraeus to an unknown source due to redaction - utilizes the U.S. State Department's Keystone XL environmental review written by Environmental Resources Management (ERM Group) to argue that Transcanada's tar sands export pipeline deserves approval.

“[Redacted], atttached is a document that my Harvard researchers and I put together for the seminar I'll lead at Macaulay Honors College of CUNY,” wrote Petraeus in the email. “It is intended to be a survey of the global economy to set the stage for the course…[It] will have considerable value, I think, for the undergrads in the course.”

The “Global Economy” survey was penned on behalf of Petraeus by Vivek Chilukuri, one of Petraeus' researchers at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Public Policy, where Petraeus sits as a Non-Resident Fellow. Chilukuri serves as Editor-in-Chief for the Harvard Journal of Middle Eastern Politics & Policy, and worked for Obama for America before the 2008 election. 

It was at the Harvard Kennedy School where all of Petraeus' troubles began. His biographer, Paula Broadwell, whom he had an affair with, met Petraeus while a Harvard graduate student, a scandal that ultimately drove him out of the CIA.

His CIA departure landed Petraeus his current gigs on Wall Street at Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR) and as an adjunct professor at CUNY Honors College and University of Southern California - and coming full circle - back at Harvard, where the spool began to unravel. 

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