Thursday, February 26, 2009

Global Conferences on the Environment and Climate Change

Slow road to green reformRichard Black 26 Feb 09, 10:20 GMT
It's been nine years since a gathering of environment ministers in the Swedish city of Malmo declared that the world urgently needed to reform the way it governed itself environmentally.

Change was needed, they said, including a "greatly strengthened institutional structure for international environmental governance... that has the capacity to effectively address wide-ranging environmental threats in a globalising world".
The ensuing years have seen various initiatives that would either reform the system or tear it up and start again. But even though many governments cite global environmental decline as a present and future disaster, there's been little progress on reforming the international bodies intended to lead the global response.

So you might think that as the issue raised its head again last week at UNEP's governing council meeting in Nairobi, the overwhelming emotion would be frustration.

And clearly there was frustration that despite nine years of talks and some constructive ideas, virtually nothing has changed.

But there was optimism too. And having spoken to some of the people at last week's meeting, much of it appears to have stemmed from just one word: Obama.

The single biggest event of the meeting was the agreement to regulate global emissions of mercury, a heavy metal pollutant with toxicities that include damaging people's nervous systems.
So what happens now? Well, the UNEP meeting set up a consultation process intended to produce some kind of reform package by 2012.
If the UN climate talks do produce a treaty as complex as many envisage, encompassing emission targets, clean technology transfer, funds for forest preservation with the rights of indigenous peoples assured, money to help poor countries adapt to climate impacts, and so on, it could make decisions on issues that logically ought to feature heavily in the overall environmental governance discussions.
Can it work? If it can, will the outcome be tinkering, or wholesale reform? If it is reform, will a new body include rules and sanctions, as does the World Trade Organization? How will it link environmental issues to human development?

These are all key questions, and much wrangling lies ahead before any answers emerge; but the mercury deal is being seen in some quarters as an indication that the glacial progress in many environmental issues is about to accelerate."

It's good that governments are working cooperatively on this problem. There is a solution: totally clean energy, with no emissions, and less expense than existing energies, and no need for biofuels that take up land that could be used for food. Everyone would benefit and governments could concentrate on other issues. For more information, please see

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Response to the National Clean Energy Project: Building the New Economy

Response to the National Clean Energy Project: Building the New Economy
The members of the panel at the National Clean Energy Project: Building the New Economy, discussed energy and environmentalism, economics, geopolitics, and engineering. Something has to be done about global warming, climate change, pollution, and health. In the process of doing something, the economy will create jobs and that will help everyone. We also need to be freed from the problems inherent in depending on other countries for fuel. There also has to be a way to get the electricity produced by alternative fuel to everyone, no matter where they live.

There is a solution. This solution is emissions free—our environment and our health won’t be plagued by pollution. This solution is also economically efficient: jobs will be created and energy will be less expensive. This solution is also domestic: we will not be dependent on any country for our energy source. Everyone will benefit, no matter where they live.
For more information, please see

Monday, February 23, 2009

Water Conservation and Energy

We use up water in clothes, food, and energy production, and have a water footprint just like a carbon footprint (Alter, Alexandra, Yet Another 'Footprint' to Worry About: Water Taking a Cue From Carbon Tracking, Companies and Conservationists Tally Hidden Sources of Consumption” FEBRUARY 17, 2009 The Wall Street Journal, page A11). This is just as important as carbon consumption concerns because of the danger of water shortages from depletion and pollution of groundwater reserves, shrinking of glaciers that provide fresh water, and growing energy and food demand all over the world (Alter, page A11). There are also droughts; Argentina has been suffering under a drought that has dried up rivers and hurt agriculture, particularly the cattle industry so much that for the past two years, ranchers are being forced to sell cattle that are too thin to reproduce and thus replenish the herds (Piette, Candace, “Drought sucks life from Argentina's farms, BBC News, Buenos Aires, Published: 2009/02/23 12:47:33 GMT, © BBC MMIX).

If water wasn't necessary for manufacturing or energy production in general, there would be more water to help people who live in drought-plagued areas. And that's just one way to help when people need water--we could use clean energy to pipe water to people who need it all the time, not just when there's a drought. For more information, please see

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Global Warming: The Stats

Environmental Defense Fund
Global Warming by the Numbers

Friday the 13th just got a little scarier. Here are 13 facts about the realities of global warming. Even Jason would be scared.

The numbers speak for themselves -- we must make 2009 the showdown year for global warming action. There is no time to lose.

You can help by spreading the word any way you can -- through email, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, whatever works for you.

Take ActionTell a Friend35%
Increase in the global carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels since the Kyoto Protocol was signed in 1992.

388.57 ppm
Average concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in May 2008, a record high.

541 – 970 ppm
The projected concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by 2100 under a business as usual scenario where we don't dramatically reduce global warming emissions.

260 – 280 ppm
Average concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere before industrial emissions.

50 – 200 years
Length of time carbon dioxide stays in the earth's atmosphere before it is absorbed into carbon sinks.

1000 years
Length of time changes in the earth's surface temperature, rainfall, and sea level will remain even after carbon dioxide emissions are completely stopped.

Percentage that 2008's Arctic seasonal sea ice melt outpaced normal levels.

Increase in the rate of Greenland's ice melt over the last five years.

1.7 days
Number of days earlier seasons are coming than 50 years ago.

1.5 million
Number of acres of forests in Colorado destroyed by the pine beetle, which is better able to survive warmer winters and is wrecking havoc in America's western forests.

$427 million
Amount spent by the oil and coal industries in the first six months of 2008 in political contributions, lobbying expenditures and advertising to oppose climate action.

Number of global warming bills passed by the Senate.

Number of global warming bills passed by the House.


NOAA CO2 Trends
IPCC Third Assessment Report
Carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere
Atmosphere, Climate & Environment Information Programme
ESRL News: New Study Shows Climate Change Largely Irreversible
Arctic Sea Ice News & Analysis
An Accurate Picture Of Ice Loss In Greenland
Pine Beetles: Worse Than You Thought
Early seasons : article : Nature Reports Climate Change
Hill Heat : Oil and Coal Industries Spending Two Million Dollars a Day to Shape Political Debate"

I know it's five days since Friday, but still . . . we need to do something about all that, do something to reduce the numbers. And we can. For more information, see

Monday, February 16, 2009

Water and Energy

According to Thomas J. Feeley's 2004 report "Responding to Emerging Power Plant-Water Issues," about 25 gallons of water are needed for each kilowatt-hour of electricity ( Nuclear power plants use about 9% less than coal-fired power plants (ibid), but still . . . all that water just to turn on lights, the computer, the heater/ac . . . !
As per other types of energy production . . . wind turbine generation "uses less than 1/600 as much water per unit of electricity produced as does nuclear, and approximately 1/500 as much as coal" (
Still . . . still there is an alternative that does not depend on water or fossil fuels, thus freeing up water for other uses and keeping the air free of carbon emissions. For more information, please see

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Alternative Energies: A Response to Information
Nova: The Big Energy Gamble

12 February 2009 Blog: More on Global Warming and Alternative Energies

This blog is a response to information in Nova’s episode “The Big Energy Gamble” which discusses California’s efforts to halt global warming by investing in alternative energies. For convenience’s sake, I am going to use complete internal documentation once, then stick to using ibid).
Extreme weather—including drought, fires, and mudslides—can be linked to the global warming that happens from producing greenhouse gases, themselves produced from the use of fossil fuels (Nova: The Big Energy Gamble,
But what if there was an alternative energy that produced no carbon emissions?
The Governor’s goal for California as per carbon reduction is 30% by 2020 and 80% by 2050; this includes 15% from homes, 15% from power generation, 33% from cars, and the rest from carbon emissions caps (ibid.).
A totally clean energy could reach those goals much sooner—as soon as 2011 or even 2010.
There are things that can be done now at home: seal leaks in ducts, windows, and doors, and use energy-efficient light bulbs (ibid). But some people can’t afford any of that (ibid).
What if there was an energy alternative that was so efficient that those measures would not necessarily have to be taken . . . and everyone could afford it?
So . . . what sort of fuels are used and what are the advantages and disadvantages?
Coal . . . advantages . . . well, it is there in the ground, and there are coal-fired plants already in use . . . But the disadvantages . . .Coal is a hydrocarbon; when it’s burned it combines with oxygen to produce carbon dioxide, and, of all the fossil fuels, coal produces the most (ibid).
There are energy alternatives which produce no or less carbon emissions (ibid). And those include solar and wind power (ibid).
Solar power . . . The sun is certainly a renewable; that’s an advantage. And you can harness its power yourself (ibid). You can buy solar panels for your home, but those are expensive: one person interviewed on Nova: The Big Energy Gamble paid $32,000 for solar panels for his house, even with a tax credit (ibid). And his house isn’t all that big . . . it’s not one of those McMansions.
Solar thermal energy is also used: huge panels use oil to move energy and it is converted to steam (ibid).
That’s all very well, but there is the expense for the individual, and as per solar thermal energy . . . oil is still needed, and steam can be produced other ways. And what if it’s not sunny??? (ibid). What do you do on cloudy days? (ibid).
There’s also wind energy, another renewable. Wind turbines, each with their own generator, produce electricity, and the bigger the turbines the more energy produced (ibid).
But there are disadvantages: what do you do when the wind doesn’t blow? And if the wind turbines are out in the desert, how do you get the power to the city through the grid that is miles away (ibid)? And what do you do about the environmental concerns about building transmission lines to the grid (ibid)?
It is possible to not depend on the sun and wind . . . and to not have to worry about being miles away from power generation.
Natural gas is another alternative, and California gets 45% of its energy from it (ibid). Carbon emissions from natural gas are 50% less than from coal (ibid). That’s the advantage. But natural gas is still a fossil fuel and there are still emissions to deal with, even if more plants were built instead of coal-fired plants (ibid).
There is an alternative to natural gas.
Nuclear power fuels many buildings (ibid). But there are disadvantages: the expense, the dangers of radioactivity, and the waste that can’t be put just anywhere (ibid).
There is an alternative to nuclear energy.
Some people are afraid that energy from alternative sources will cost more in money and job loss (ibid). Wind turbines are built here, though, because it’s cheaper (ibid).
There is something that is cheaper, without using huge wind turbines, and without costing jobs.
For more information, please see

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Climate Change, Health, Technology

From the 10 February 2009 BBC Online News Site--

"UN chief in India climate warning

Mr Ban said that all countries are threatened by climate change
UN chief Ban Ki-moon has warned a climate change conference in India that failure to tackle the issue will lead to global economic upheaval.
He appealed to nations to reach agreement on carbon emission cuts.
Mr Ban is attending the Delhi Sustainable Development Summit which, organisers say will press for cuts in carbon emissions.
He is also expected to discuss with India the attacks in Mumbai (Bombay) last year which killed 170 people.
'Destabilise economies'
"Deserts are spreading. Water scarcity is increasing. Tropical forests are shrinking. Our once prolific fisheries are in danger of collapse," said Mr Ban at the start of the conference in Delhi.
Mr Ban is attending a climate change conference in Delhi
"Failure to combat climate change will increase poverty and hardship. It will destabilise economies, breed insecurity in many countries and undermine our goals for sustainable development."
He said that all countries must work towards a "conclusive carbon emissions reduction" deal at an international climate change conference in Copenhagen in December which will debate initiatives when the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012.
"Copenhagen must clarify commitments of developed countries to reduce their emissions," said Mr Ban.
"We must also achieve clarity on what mitigation actions developing countries will be prepared to make. In Copenhagen we must now bring all this all together in an ambitious, comprehensive and ratifiable agreement."
India faces the "challenges of poverty eradication, sustaining the rapid economic growth and dealing with the global threat of climate change", Rajendra Pachauri, head of the UN's 2008 Nobel prize-winning climate panel and one of summit organisers, told the AFP news agency. "

The rest of the article goes on to discuss political and social unrest on one country. What I want to emphasize from this article is the need for technological changes that will restrict climate change and how that can help us economically. The fuels we use hurt the climate. Climate damage affects food production and costs lives. Making technological changes that result in zero carbon emissions will improve food production and health. These changes can be made. These changes must be made. For more information, please see

Friday, February 6, 2009

From the BBC News online site
"Acid oceans 'need urgent action'
The world's marine ecosystems risk being severely damaged by ocean acidification unless there are dramatic cuts in CO2 emissions, warn scientists.
More than 150 top marine researchers have voiced their concerns through the "Monaco Declaration", which warns that changes in acidity are accelerating.
The declaration, supported by Prince Albert II of Monaco, builds on findings from an earlier international summit.
It says pH levels are changing 100 times faster than natural variability.
Based on the research priorities identified at The Ocean in a High CO2 World symposium, held in October 2008, the declaration states:
"We scientists who met in Monaco to review what is known about ocean acidification declare that we are deeply concerned by recent, rapid changes in ocean chemistry and their potential, within decades, to severely affect marine organisms, food webs, biodiversity and fisheries."
'The other CO2 problem'
It calls on policymakers to stabilise CO2 emissions "at a safe level to avoid not only dangerous climate change but also dangerous ocean acidification".
The researchers warn that ocean acidification, which they refer to as "the other CO2 problem", could make most regions of the ocean inhospitable to coral reefs by 2050, if atmospheric CO2 levels continue to increase.
They also say that it could lead to substantial changes in commercial fish stocks, threatening food security for millions of people.
"The chemistry is so fundamental and changes so rapid and severe that impacts on organisms appear unavoidable," said Dr James Orr, chairman of the symposium.
"The questions are now how bad will it be and how soon will it happen."
Another signatory, Patricio Bernal, executive secretary of the UN Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, outlined how the marine research community intended to respond to the challenge.
"We need to bring together the best scientists to share their latest research results and to set priorities for research to improve our knowledge of the processes and of the impacts of acidification on marine ecosystems."
Prince Albert II used the declaration to voice his concerns, adding that he hoped the world's leaders would take the "necessary action" at a key UN climate summit later this year.
"I strongly support this declaration. I hope that it will be heard by all the political leaders meeting in Copenhagen in December 2009."
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2009/01/30 15:42:37 GMT

Land ecosystems aren't the only ones that need preservation. And we can do that by cutting carbon emissions completely. For more information, please see