Monday, August 30, 2010

Small Changes Away From Oil

I hope I have bought my last plastic pan scrubber and I am switching to the bamboo wok scrubber. That cycle of oil to plastic is so available to be undermined with diversification and ingenuity, it is calling out for actors.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Deep Changes: do wind farms help us change our way of living or do they help us fuel it with an alternative energy source?


I hope we are all thinking about the oil rig blowout in the Gulf of Mexico and the nightmare confronting the nearby Wild Things. The above graphic showing the original well and the progress of the BP relief wells sent my mind on an alternative alternative energy path.

Basically, I found the graphic horrifying; an industrialized consumption of the earth!?! It made me think that cycling must become a compulsory means of transport for those that can, interspersed with electric trains and buses equipped for carrying bikes. I am now even conflicted about alternative energy sources.  I think the objective must be to minimize my/your consumption footprint. Consider, do wind farms help us change our way of living or do they help us fuel it with an "alternative" energy source?  We need a different way of living. Pop goes the allure of the electric car. Recycling those batteries and more mining of cobalt, etc in the Congo, just a wee bit too problematic. OK, the electric trains and buses are a necessity(?). I am definitely on a journey, what about you?


Notes.
The original BP relief well diagram is available at http://www.deepwaterhorizonresponse.com/posted/2931/ReliefWellDiagram05192010.556131.tif

Monday, February 1, 2010

Greening the US Government, Executive Orders, Dodgy Case Law, Going It Alone, Greening You.


If US President Obama wants to build a globally inspiring vibrant climate protection programme through the US Senate it will be the political battle of his life, amongst all those other political battles of his life. So why not lead from the front and see who will follow? A Whitehouse information release of the 29th January, announced Executive Order 13514 on Federal Sustainability. See http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/president-obama-sets-greenhouse-gas-emissions-reduction-target-federal-operations. The Order set reductions of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for the federal government; this embraces everything from the Whitehouse itself to your local post office. The targets for 2020 are a 28 percent reduction of the estimated 2008 baseline GHG emissions.  Keep in mind when the President trekked off to Copenhagen in December of 2009, he only had a 17 percent reduction from 2005 levels by 2020 in hand. This 17 percent reduction corresponded to targets that had passed in the US Congress and stalled in the US Senate. The version stalled in the Senate calls for a 20 percent reduction. The President could not promise more from the US than what US legislation may offer but he can commit the federal government to a different target.  Executive Order 13514 is definitely leading from the front and particularly when considered next to the possible fallout of a US Supreme Court decision in a case called Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, decided January 21, 2010. See www.supremecourtus.gov/opinions/09pdf/08-205.pdf or maybe you do not want to since it is in the range of 183 pages. 

The decision in Citizens United offers the opportunity for corporations to spend unlimited funds on political advertising in any political election.  In the unlikely scenario, that Big Oil did not already have seats in the US Senate it certainly does now.

Some key points from the decision in Citizens United are:

* The Supreme Court held in a five–four decision that restrictions on independent corporate spending on political broadcasts/advertising in political campaigns are unconstitutional, and such considerations counseled overturning prior precedents in Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce and parts of McConnell v. FEC


* The Supreme Court's majority opinion was penned by the Justice Kennedy camp and explained that the Court was overruling the named prior decisions because it was not possible to rule in favour of the plaintiffs/petitioners on narrower grounds without chilling protected political speech. The opinion elaborated that the Court is resurrecting the principle that the corporate identity of a speaker does not provide sufficient basis for suppressing the political speech of the corporate speaker, as held in pre–Austin cases. This holding appears to apply equally to a union speaker. 

My extremely subjective opinion is that this take on a "corporation" is stunningly dodgy. A corporation is not a person, a citizen, it is a legal fiction, but this Court’s decision says that under the US First Amendment a corporation is to be treated as a “person” thereby affording a corporation a protected political voice.


Moving along with the "key points", really the phrase "key points" is not too bad, it sits quite well in a holistic participatory environment; it is no where near as pompous, nor tacky, as the "executive summary".


* The Court upheld, eight–one (Justice Thomas dissenting), requirements to disclose the identity of the political speaker spending the money.  The Court analysis held that disclosure requirements will likely burden political speech, but such requirements may be justified by the Government’s interest in ensuring that the electorate has information about political campaign spending.


The who that is behind the money bit and the who that is the beneficiary of the money could be potentially embarrassing with the result that the money expenditure is curtailed.

US President Obama spoke to this dodgy political decision by the Court in his State of the Union address, 27 January 2010. "Last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests—including foreign corporations—to spend without limit in our elections." Why do I think it is a political decision by the Court, because corporate spending will favour either the candidate or the party aligning themselves with the interests of the corporation(s) spending the money. It is hard to believe that the Court did not envisage this.


Executive Order 13514 on Federal Sustainability looks terribly like a US President not waiting for the legislative process in the US Congress and definitely not waiting to see what encumbrances will be thrown at the legislative process in the presence of decisions like that in Citizens United. Executive Order 13514 might indicate that President Obama may use an executive order to ensure that federal courts abide by the provisions of an international treaty, e.g., a successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol, even though the US has remained a non-party to the Kyoto Protocol for political reasons. Clearly, I am getting a little bit ahead of myself here, since a successor to the Kyoto Protocol seems far far away after Copenhagen.


Anyway, I was actually planning to pitch the Climate Protection Fund and of course, a partial description of the US landscape for climate protection action got in the way. For me this landscape reinforces the philosophy that climate protection starts with a behavioural change by us all, our governments may not be traveling this road. The Climate Protection Fund has a role in contributing to the information in play such that choices are made to achieve climate protection.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Reflections on a prior post: “A Small Window On The Big Picture: Global Warming,” 1 December 2009



Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the IPCC, may have to review his previously reported position on the retreat of the Himalaya glaciers.

The story of the Himalaya glaciers being in retreat has been readjusted with the disclosure that the IPCC assertion that "Glaciers in the Himalaya are receding faster than in any other part of the world," (See http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg2/en/ch10s10-6-2.html, published in 2007) is not well founded.  It now appears that a claim that appeared in a 1999 issue of New Scientist (See http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg16221893.000-flooded-out.html) is the source for the IPCC assertion. The claim in the New Scientist is by Indian glacier scholar Syed Hasnain, who said in an email interview with the New Scientist that all the glaciers in the central and eastern Himalayas could disappear by 2035. This claim never appeared in a peer-reviewed journal but it appears that the IPCC assertion is sourced to this claim.  Hasnain is currently identifying his claim as speculative. (See http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn18363-debate-heats-up-over-ipcc-melting-glaciers-claim.html?DCMP=OTC-rss&nsref=online-news) The IPCC is now reviewing its position (See http://www.ipcc.ch/news_and_events/news_and_events.htm) and has identified that "[] the clear and well-established standards of evidence, required by the IPCC procedures, were not applied properly" in this instance.

Unfortunately, shoddy science is part of the mix but it provides a teachable moment, in that it can be identified and can be used to illustrate the need for rigorous assessment of the presented science.  Still, this is an unfortunate incident; lives are directly impacted by climate change.  Confusion only raises general skepticism such that the next message can be rejected without analysis.
*All links were accessed on the 25 Jan. 2010.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Reloading The Climate Protection Fund


A belated Season's Greetings to all. Let's dive in and get started. The political agreement issuing from the Copenhagen negoitations is behind us.  In summary, the “Copenhagen Accord” includes recognition of the scientific case for keeping the temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius but with no identification of the commitments to emission reductions to achieve this goal ... no binding commitments.  Instead, we have identification of emission reductions that appear to be primarily sensitive to the economy of the party identifying the reduction. We also have the financing of adaptation to climate change that is probably focused on the unspoken objective of reducing the pressure on potential climate migrants moving from developing countries to developed countries.  The deal was brokered between Brazil, China, India, South Africa and the United States, but denounced in the closing plenary session.  Climate vulnerable developing countries, had sought a commitment to limiting the temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius this century. Along with the disappearance of the 1.5 degrees Celsius limit from the final draft of the Accord, an earlier 2050 goal of reducing global emissions of CO2 by 80% was also dropped.

If the Copenhagen negotiations are viewed as economic rather than climate negotiations, then the ditching of a goal of reducing CO2 emissions by 80% and limiting temperature rises to 1.5 degrees Celsius should not be surprising, disappointing but not surprising.  What we have is an effort to protect the economies constructing the Accord. And if protection of the economy cannot be reached through protecting the climate then there are not going to be the incentives to change the ways of doing business on a national and global level.  China’s investments and advancements in alternative energies actually are beginning to suggest that economies can be stimulated and protected through actions to protect the climate. Life style changes can be undergone by nations, but Copenhagen made it appear that this was unlikely to happen. But Copenhagen did not take away from the possibility of lifestyle changes occurring on the individual level in spite of the absence of a national commitment to climate protection. So, why not make a commitment to and a start on changing our lives.  What are we eating tonight? How are we traveling in the morning?  How are we disposing of our rubbish? It is worth pausing and reflecting on the very asking of these questions. How successful can the effort be to make people care about something different from what they are caring about now? Is there a climate responsible way to reach what you care about now? Jobs, the economy, your future, the future of your children. Climate protection has to be linked to these incentives. The question for me, is can the Climate Protection Fund contribute to the information in play such that different choices are made to achieve what people care about now. In the meantime put the cheeseburger down and consider the linkage between climate protection and jobs, the economy, your future.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Barack Obama Brokered The Deal On The Copenhagen Accord


An US Whitehouse story on the meetings of Pres. Obama at Copenhagen (COP15) really looks like the deal is being made, see http://www.whitehouse.gov/photos-and-video/photogallery/a-breakthrough-copenhagen(Accessed 21st Dec. 2009) and is an interesting photo storyboard on the meetings of President Obama at the Copenhagen Conference. It really does look like he came for his 15 or so hours and brokered the deal. Consider that without his intervention and very likely others, e.g., UK Premier Gordon Brown, there would have been no deal at all. So, here are the first steps towards something more.
The something more may be foretold in a Whitehouse press release (25 Nov. 2009) that I referenced in an earlier post with respect to the US offering a non too exciting GHG emissions reduction of 17% below 2005 levels by 2020. (See http://www.climateprotectionfund.org/2009/12/2009-united-nations-climate-change_16.html)


"The White House also announced that, in the context of an overall deal in Copenhagen that includes robust mitigation contributions from China and the other emerging economies, the President is prepared to put on the table a U.S. emissions reduction target in the range of 17% below 2005 levels in 2020 and ultimately in line with final U.S. energy and climate legislation.  In light of the President’s goal to reduce emissions 83% by 2050, the expected pathway set forth in this pending legislation would entail a 30% reduction below 2005 levels in 2025 and a 42% reduction below 2005 in 2030.  This provisional target is in line with current legislation in both chambers of Congress and demonstrates a significant contribution to a problem that the U.S. has neglected for too long."
When I reference the US 17% emissions reduction target, I will also reference the goal. "Yes we can," is still around somewhere.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Final Day+ Of The 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference-Copenhagen - Updates 19th Dec 2009, 11:57pm


Conferences have so many different endings and I am sure COP15 is no different; maybe in the background there is a spectrum of new non-publicized alliances and broken alliances. The formal outcome called the “Copenhagen Accord” (Accord) (For the text see: http://unfccc.int/files/meetings/cop_15/application/pdf/cop15_cph_auv.pdf(Accessed 19 Dec. 2009)) seems a far cry from the expectations, see my last post for a listing of what at one point in time appeared to be items moving into the final draft that would emerge from COP15. The Accord acknowledges/recognizes the research that points towards an averting of non manageable climate change by keeping the temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius but does not contain commitments to reduce GHG emissions to achieve this goal. I constructed the term ‘manageable climate change’ because I suspect that a risk benefit analysis of climate change is part of the considerations for wealthier developed nations.
Back to the reality of the Accord, the final crafting was by Brazil, China, India, South Africa and the US, after days of hearing many other voices at the table. I am unsure why these five nations were the crafters and others were not. Some of those others did express various levels of disappointment with the Accord. African and other nations facing changing environments had been pushing for greater reductions in GHG emissions to prevent a global temperature rise greater than 1.5 degrees Celsius this century. Any reference to 1.5 degrees Celsius that may have been in previous drafts has been deleted from the Accord. In prior drafts there had been a reference to a 2050 target of an 80% reduction of CO2. The Accord makes no mention of 2050 targets, which apparently dropped out of the draft text over the course of the last day.
In the previous post, the negotiations at Copenhagen were divided into four hurdles: GREENHOUSE GASES (GHGs), CLIMATE AID, PROTECT THE FORESTS, MRV – Measurable, Reportable and Verifiable and KYOTO AND ANOTHER AGREEMENT I’ll continue with the same structure here.


GREENHOUSE GASES (GHGs) (AND TEMPERATURE)
The Accord does not state specific targets for GHGs, which is a little out of sync with identifying a temperature increase limit of 2 degrees Celsius. How is the temperature rise controlled at 2 degrees Celsius without early adoption of emission reductions? Prior to the Conference many heads of state had identified the goal of a legally binding agreement would be six months to a year beyond this Conference, there is no deadline in the Accord. The absence of a set date for emissions to fall will be a disappointment for nations who wanted this outcome but will probably be welcomed by developing nations who want their economy to be their first consideration.
A number of nations have identified their own appointed 2020 targets for emissions reductions. The US comes in with its 17% reduction on 2005 levels; the EU has a goal of 20-30% on 1990 levels, Japan 25% and Russia 15-25% on 1990 levels.


CLIMATE AID
The Accord identifies $30 billion per year in aid for poorer vulnerable nations adapting to climate change from next year to 2012.  This increases to $100 billion per year by 2020. The source of the funding is not identified by the Accord. May be this hole will be filled by George Soros’ suggestion of financing developing nations' efforts to combat climate change from special currency reserves issued by the International Monetary Fund. (See http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE5B91N520091210 (Accessed 19th Dec. 2009)) I have wondered if the actual motive for Climate Aid might be the fear of climate refugees. Earlier this month, Bangladesh Finance Minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith asked both Europe and the US to assume responsibility for millions of people who will be displaced by climate change. “Twenty million people could be displaced [in Bangladesh] by the middle of the century. We are asking all our development partners to honour the natural right of persons to migrate. We can’t accommodate all these people – this is already the densest [populated] country in the world,” The Guardian quoted Abdul Muhith, as saying. (See http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/nov/30/rich-west-climate-change(Accessed 19th Dec. 2009))


PROTECT THE FORESTS (AND CONSIDER TECHNOLOGY AND FINANCE)
Post the Conference negotiators will work on individual agreements such as forests, technology, and finance – but without strong leadership the chances are that it will take years to complete.


MRV – Measurable, Reportable and Verifiable
Focusing on statements at COP15 and not on the text of the Accord, the US and China have been in a transparency tussle, and they both appear to have come forward with transparency on their climate related actions. China’s Premier Wen Jiabao spoke of (A) enhancing domestic surveillance and monitoring, (B) increasing transparency and (C) actively engaging in international dialogue and cooperation.  Combine this with words from He Yafei, the Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs, when he spoke of a “national economic and social development plan” having categories for the reduction of carbon emissions, statistical monitoring and verification that is legally binding in China, and you have transparency but remains under sovereign control. Likewise in the US, President Barack Obama spoke of a mechanism to review whether the US is keeping to its commitments, and the sharing of this information. He went on to identify that without accountability stated commitments are hollow.  President Obama identified three key elements as finance, mitigation and transparency.


KYOTO AND ANOTHER AGREEMENT
The Accord surprisingly preserves the Kyoto Protocol for now. The movement to kill the Protocol resisted by developing nations was center stage at Copenhagen for a couple of days; this debacle may have contributed to the weakness of the Accord.


The Accord was formally recognised at a plenary session of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) after a late Friday night – Saturday morning debate at which disappointment and dismay with the Accord was expressed by a number of developing nations. In the plenary session a Venezuelan delegate cut her palm and asked if she had to bleed to have her points heard or maybe she asked if poor nations had to bleed … there are alternative translations. She also said "You are witnessing a coups d'├ętat against the UN."