Sunday, December 17, 2006

Weekly angst:

Wind power holds promise, but can’t meet demand

I first saw tall, silver wind turbines in 2002 in the Baltic Sea, in the water off Scandanavia. There were an oddity and looked futuristic. Little did I realize that they were part of the solution to the growing problem of Global Warming.

Wind power in Europe grew from 1,700 megawatts in 1994 to 40,000 mgw in 2005, according the Catalyst, the magazine of the Union of Concerned Scientists. Germany has more than 18,000 mgw and one of its states, Schleswig-Holstein, produces half its electricity from wind during some months of the year. Denmark gets 20% of its power from wind.

After rapid growth in recent years (up by 40% in 2005), the United States reached a milestone this year of 10,000 mgw, enough to power 2.5 million homes. This country has enough wind to potentially produce 11 trillion kilowatt-hours, nearly three times the total energy from all sources last year, according to Scientific American. The American Wind Energy Association, U.S. Department of Energy and National Renewable Energy Lab committed last summer to a goal of 20%. But wind now generates only one half of one percent of U.S. electricity. Why so little?

Uncertainty stops production here
Uncertainty about government incentives has kept manufacturers from building assembly plants here. The federal production tax credit, which provides a 1.8 cents/kilowatt-hour incentive for the first 10 years of a wind turbine’s life, making wind competitive, was extended recently by Congress through 2008, but after that its future is uncertain.

And with worldwide generating capacity increasing more than 25 percent a year, global demand is so great that turbine manufacturers are running two years behind – they are sold out through 2008.

So even if a state, city or power company is looking to increase its reliance on wind, and can find a place to put the wind turbines where people don’t object, it can take a long time to get delivery of the equipment.

If we’re ever going to use wind to produce a substantially amount of our energy, there will need to be reliable federal incentives to encourage production here to meet the growing demand.

New technologies
Meanwhile, new technologies are being developed to increase productivity of the turbines.
• Larger blades (77 meters in diameter) are replacing those that in the ‘80s were only 15 meters wide, greatly increasing capacity. And today’s blades are mostly made of fiberglass, with carbon fibers to make them stronger. Even lighter, stronger blades could be carbon-based or carbon-glass hybrids.
• While old turbines operated at a fixed speed, variable-speed turbines allow blades to take advantage of stronger wind conditions.
• Tubular towers are better than the earlier lattice-style ones, but at 200 feet are difficult to put up and repair. “Self-erecting” poles are on the drawing board.
• Turbines that can be put in deep offshore waters to take advantage of strong winds will need advances in floating platform foundations, anchoring and transmission.

News briefs

1. Americans produce nearly half the world’s auto emissions
Americans own 30% of the vehicles but emit nearly 50% the world’s automotive C02 emissions, according to a study from Environmental Defense. General Motors vehicles on the road produce twice the carbon dioxide emissions of the nation’s largest power company, American Electric Power. Ford and Daimler Chrysler come in second and third, with AEP forth, followed by Southern Company, Toyota and the Tennessee Valley Authority. The number of workers who commute more than one hour grew by nearly 50% between 1990 and 2000, according to the Transportation Research Board. (Source: Environmental Defense’s Solutions)

2. 40 big companies plan to double renewable energy purchases
Forty Fortune 500 companies have agreed to collectively double their renewable energy purchases next year. Hewlett Packard plans to buy 25 million kwh of energy credits for wind, solar and geothermal. Staples said it will more than double its renewable energy purchases to more than 121,000 kwh to cut emissions by 7% of 2001 levels through building improvements, alternative fuels and renewable energy purchases. Cisco committed to buy 100 kwh of renewable energy credits. Starbucks will buy 180 kwh. Initially the companies are primarily buying clean energy credits, a form of investment in renewable energy elsewhere. But Staples said it hopes to eventually produce green energy for its stores. Together, in this EPA-sponsored program, the companies plan to save the equivalent of the emissions of 680,000 cars. (Source: E&E News PM)

3. New York City gets polluting garbage trucks off street
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has announced a plan to use barges and trains to help move garbage by 2009. A 2004 study by Environmental Defense, showed garbage trucks traveled 7 million miles a year carrying trash to collection stations outside Manhattan. The plan calls for new waterfront transfer stations throughout the city, which will cut travel by 3 million miles. The city also plans to introduce “green” trucks and barges that will emit 90% less pollution. (Source: Environmental Defense’s Solutions)

4. Global Warming now top environmental concern, poll says
Climate change beat out water pollution, overpopulation, endangered species, toxic waste and urban sprawl as the top environmental concern facing the nation, in a Massachusetts Institute of Technology Internet poll this year. Nearly half the respondents named Global Warming as the biggest problem. In a similar poll in 2003, only 20% said that. Those in this year’s poll also were willing to pay more to combat Global Warming. The average respondent this fall was willing to pay $21 more per month for electricity, compared with $14 a month in 2003. And 28% said immediate action is needed, versus 17% last time. MIT is involved in carbon capture and sequestration, burying emissions deep underground. But they found fewer than 5% of those polled knew what carbon sequestration was. That compared with more than 80% who knew about hybrid cars and 60% who had heard about solar energy. (Source: E&E News PM)

Do something
I’m not going to suggest any action this week, as I know you’re all busy getting ready for the holidays and probably wouldn’t do it anyway. I’m planning to take a couple weeks off and will be back after the first of the year with new information and new ways to get involved. Cheers.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Weekly Angst:

Global Warming will cost plenty, either now or later

Most Americans (65%) believe global warming will hurt the economy over the next decade, according to a recent poll by the Earth Day Network. And they are right.

Global Warming is going to have a huge economic cost, one way or the other. But the cost of doing nothing will be much higher than the cost of making the massive changes necessary to drastically cut CO2 emissions. Hurricane Katrina gave us some idea of the costly damage we’ll incur if we doing nothing.

One world estimate, from the German Institute for Economic Research, puts damages at $20 trillion a year – or 6-8% of global economic output – by 2100 if nothing is done to reduce GHG emissions. That number could be reduced to $8 trillion annually if $3 trillion a year were spent on climate protection.

Another estimate, from the University of Cambridge, says that in the absence of new policies, the average annual damages through 2200 will be $26 trillion. This model also finds that about half the damages can be avoided by immediate action.

And the Stern report in England estimated it will cost 1% of global GDP to curtail the warming, but at least 5% of global GDP if we do nothing, and maybe even as high as 20%.

Money managers convene
Recognizing the impending economic danger, a group of about 80 money managers and corporate types from around the country met at the University of Chicago Thursday for the Investor Forum on Climate Risk, to talk about the economic risks and opportunities of Global Warming. Needless to say, they are among those in the business community who are leading the way to recognize the problem and find solutions.

Impact on insurance
The insurance industry already has faced severe financial consequences from climate change, and will be impacted more if weather catastrophes increase as predicted.

“The insurance industry will be taxed to its limits,” said panelist Tim Wagner, insurance director for the state of Nebraska.

“Insurance availability will be an issue,” he said. “It will be much more expensive in coastal areas and that will affect property values. There is a $2 trillion risk in coastal Florida alone. Another panelist said he no longer buys municipal bonds in coastal areas.

Insurance is based on probabilities, which are now clouded with uncertainty, Wagner said. There were $57 billion in losses in 2005, and $27 billion the year before, he said, and the insurance industry has a limited amount of capital. “Insurance is a building block of our economy,” he said. “It’s 10% of the economy. We need to maintain its stability.”

Risks to many businesses
The risks that industries, and specific companies, face from climate change are substantial and should be considered in recommending investments, several panelists said. A representative from Goldman Sachs said they already include climate-change risks in their research and analysis of stocks.

While energy companies and utilities clearly face risk, many other businesses would be hurt by catastrophes like Hurricane Katrina, with its $120 billion in losses (not all insured). Such catastrophes not only destroy homes and businesses, but also interrupt transportation, supply chains, telecom and fresh water needed for production. Melting permafrost will affect oil and gas, lack of snowpack will hurt the tourist industry, as well as cause water shortages, and timber can be decimated by wildfires. Companies also face risks from regulation and possible fines for polluting.

A new report by Friends of the Earth finds that companies are disclosing climate-change risks in reports to the SEC, at nearly twice the rate they did last year. The study focused on industries likely to be impacted by climate change and GHG regulation:
*100% of the electric utilities surveyed reported, as did
*78% of oil & gas companies,
*28% of petrochemical companies,
*26% of auto manufacturers, and
*15% of insurers.
Among the 100 companies studied, about half forecast that climate risks would adversely affect their firms, while 15 said change would have both positive and negative effects.

Opportunities abound
The other side of the coin is that when there is change there are new opportunities – in this case in renewable technologies, which are growing at about 30-40% a year.

“Look at capital flows to see what’s happening,” said Richard Sandor, chairman and CEO of the Chicago Climate Exchange, which trades greenhouse gas credits. Carbon trading represents enormous financial opportunities, Sandor said, as do “green tech” and water rights. “The major opportunities are in the billions of dollars and where the smart money is going,” he said. This year, there is $63 billion in clean energy, he said, and about $7 billion in the carbon markets.

Success story
A recent column by Tom Friedman in the New York Times told the story of a Chinese billionaire who has made his money in renewables.
Shi Zhengrong is China’s leading maker of silicon photovoltaic solar cells, which convert sunlight into electricity. He is the seventh-richest man in China and expects continuing success, since China passed a law requiring 10% of its energy be from renewables by 2020. His company, Suntech, is listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

Do something

Those who want to put some of their money in new technologies can buy the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI), which surpassed the S&P Index over the past three years, according to keynote speaker Win Neuger, executive VP and CIO of AIG Investment Group. Also, most brokerage firms have an SRI (Socially Responsible Investing) fund.

News briefs

1. Fossil fuels will still rule in the year 2030, DOE says
Greenhouse gas-emitting fossil fuels are expected to provide 86% of the nation’s energy in 2030, according to the Energy Department’s latest forecast. That’s about what it is now. As natural gas production declines, the U.S. will burn more coal to meet increasing needs for power, the DOE said last week. The forecast is based on current public policies and fuel technologies. The agency predicted a growth in nuclear power but a decline in its portion of the whole. Coal’s share will jump to 57% from 50%, because it’s cheap. All of this assumes the status quo in climate policies. Under the current policy of voluntary caps, CO2 emissions are expected to grow an average of 1.2% a year. Fuel efficiency in autos is expected to rise to 29 mpg from the current 25 mpg. Sales of flex-fuel, hybrid and turbo-diesel vehicles will increase to 28% of new cars from the current 8%. Petroleum will remain the main fuel in the automotive sector, but biofuels will gain market share because of high oil prices. Corn-based ethanol will dominate the ethanol market, with 15 billion gallons in 2030, compared with 4 billion now. Any significant changes in technology or policy could change this outlook, DOE said. (Source: E&E Daily)

2. Alps heat up – less skiing and more hiking in future?
The Alps are experiencing their warmest temperatures in 1,300 years, reports Reinhard Boehm, at Austria’s Central Institute for Meteorology and Geodynamics. The current warming period in the region began in the 1980s, he said. Because of an unusually warm fall this year, many Austrian ski resorts do not yet have snow. One resort, St. Anton am Arlberg, has the capacity to make artificial snow, but cannot do it now because the ground is too warm. Instead they are urging visitors to go hiking and enjoy the wildflowers that are blooming. This year the temperature in Europe, from Norway to the Mediterranean, is 5 degrees above normal. Average snow levels are half what they were 40 years ago. Central England had the warmest autumn since records began in 1659. Swiss and German national meteorologists say November and early December were 10 degrees warmer than usual. (Sources: AP, AOL and CBS News Interactive)

3. No bull! Livestock generates more GHG than automobiles
The livestock industry emits more GHG than the transportation sector, according to a new U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization report. Livestock generates 65% of the world’s nitrous oxide (a greenhouse gas) that comes from human activities. Most of the nitrous oxide comes from manure. The problem will grow as the world needs twice as much meat by 2050 and nearly twice as much milk. The study’s recommendations include improving animal diets to reduce fermentation and methane emissions. (Source: E&E News PM)

4. U.S. officials to discuss climate change with Chinese
Five cabinet members, lead by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, will meet this week with Chinese officials in Beijing to talk about a range of economic issues, including technologies that could help reduce China’s GHG emissions. The meeting comes a month after the International Energy Agency reported China is on track to surpass the U.S. in GHG emissions by 2009, a decade ahead of schedule. Paulson has long shown interest in energy and the environment. As CEO of Goldman Sachs, he supported limits on emissions and he was on the board of the Nature Conservancy. The delegation includes the secretaries of Labor, Energy, and Health and Human Services, as well as the Federal Reserve chairman, EPA administrator and U.S. Trade Representative. The meeting is scheduled for Dec. 14-15. (Source: E&E News PM)

5. Active hurricane season predicted for next yearThe 2007 hurricane season should see 14 named storms, with 3 major hurricanes and 4 other hurricanes, a Colorado researcher predicts. William Gray, at Colorado State University, said a late-developing El Nino helped cause a calm 2006 season, when no hurricanes hit the Atlantic coast, but those conditions are not likely to be replicated. He sees an active hurricane cycle continuing for another decade or more.
Another prediction comes from Tropical Storm Risk in London, forecasting 16 storms, with 9 hurricanes, 4 of them intense.
(Source: The Coloradoan)

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Weekly angst:

Greenland warming faster than rest of the world

The other day I was in the doctor’s office and picked up an issue of NG (National Geographic) Adventure to read a story called “Global Warming: Greenland When It’s Hot.” I’m fascinated by what’s happening to Greenland, the Arctic and Antarctic, because they are heating up quicker than the rest of the Earth and their melting could eventually obliterate coastal areas all over the world.

Greenland has seen a 4-degree increase in temperature in the past decade, making it the fastest-warming place on Earth, according to the author of this article, who spent time with scientists studying the ice at a place called “Swiss Camp.”

“The entire island of Greenland ... is being transformed perceptibly and permanently by warming temperatures,” the author, Paul Bennett, wrote. “Outlet glaciers – where the ice cap spills off the edge of the island – are disgorging more and more icebergs in the bays and fjords of Greenland (20 billion tons a year, at last count). Warming ocean currents and air temperatures have eliminated permanent winter sea ice on the large bays.

“Disappearing sea ice around the edge of the island is causing air temperatures to rise, which means the high-pressure system that forms over Greenland every winter is disappearing, bringing fog, snow and unstable weather. This, in turn, brings more rain in the spring, which causes more melting of the ice cap.”

Ice tunnels speed the melting
At Swiss Camp, NASA scientist Jay Zwally and climatologist Konrad Steffen, of the Cooperative Institute for Research and Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado, believe that ice tunnels, called “moulins,” are forming at a fast pace, speeding the melting of the ice cap. The scientists think meltwater on the surface flows down through the moulins to rock nearly 4,000 feet below and acts as a lubricant causing ice to slide into the sea.

The melting ice has made it necessary for the scientists to move their weather station. But it’s been difficult, because each time they try to drill the 22 feet needed to re-set the station, they find a void at about 10 or 15 feet.

They see many signs of change from the warming, including more halibut arriving as the water warms; mallard ducks, for whom this area used to be too cold; and the gradual disappearance of sled dogs, as locals no longer use them to hunt whales and seals trapped in bay ice and stop feeding them, so they die.

Arctic and Antarctic
Ice is also retreating in both the Arctic and Antarctic. While the Arctic ice cap floats on water, both Greenland and Antarctica are on land so as they melt the water goes into the sea, which eventually could raise sea levels many feet and wipe out coastal communities around the world.

The temperature in the Arctic has climbed 5 degrees in 30 years, with 2 of them in the past 5 years, according to a NOAA study. The melting of the Arctic icecap is self-reinforcing because dark water absorbs heat while ice reflects it. The Arctic has already lost 40% of its ice by volume and 20% on the surface, according to Larry Schweiger, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation.

Using data from satellites, scientists have calculated the Antarctic ice sheet is losing up to 36 cubic miles each year. This comes as a surprise because the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had predicted Antarctica would be the one bright spot and would actually gain ice this century, due to increased snowfall as the climate warmed. But 87% of the 244 glaciers on the Antarctic peninsula have retreated during the past 50 years, Schweiger said in NWF’s magazine, National Wildlife.

Take an online tour
The article on Greenland referred me to a cool animated tour of the earth, which shows the shrinking of the ice caps at both poles and in Greenland. If you have a few minutes I recommend it, at (You may need to turn up the sound.)

News briefs

1. Kennedy likely to be key in Supreme Court GHG case
During oral arguments Wednesday, the Supreme Court justices showed by their questions that they were split on whether Massachusetts and 11 others states, 3 cities and many environmental groups even have legal standing to sue the EPA for its failure to regulate carbon dioxide emissions under the Clean Air Act. Justices John Roberts, Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito express strong doubts. Justices Stephen Beyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, John Paul Stevens and David Souter appeared to think the plaintiffs met the standard. Assuming Justice Clarence Thomas will vote with the first group, the 4-4 tie will be broken by Justice Anthony Kennedy, and he was not clear about his position. Even if the states are found to have standing to bring the suit, the issue then is whether the EPA has authority to regulate tailpipe emissions. The Bush Administration’s position is that even if the EPA could regulate CO2 emissions under the Clean Air Act it would choose not to do so. Linda Greenhouse, who covers the Supreme Court for the New York Times, deemed it “highly unlikely” the court would order the EPA to regulate auto emissions. Asst. Attorney General James Milkey of Massachusetts, who argued for the plaintiffs, told Greenhouse it would be a victory if the justices just told the EPA to reconsider its position. A ruling is expected next summer. (Source: New York Times)

2. Rate of emissions growth is twice 1990s level, study says
Until the year 2000, greenhouse gas emissions increased at a rate of less than 1% per year, but now they are rising 2.5% a year. This according to a study released this week by the Global Carbon Project. Last year 7.9 billion metric tons of CO2 were released into the atmosphere, compared with 6.8 billion tons in 2000. The increase is caused by a rise in coal consumption and lack of gains in energy efficiency, the study said. China has the most rapid GHG growth rate, though its per-person emissions are still lower than the world average. (Source: Greenwire)

3. EPA employee unions ask for federal action on emissions
While the Supreme Court ponders the case against the EPA, for its failure to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, unions representing 10,000 EPA employees sent a letter to Congress saying the administration should do more to reduce GHG and mitigate climate change. They asked that “a prudent environmental policy be put in place to take every reasonable step to abate and control GHG emissions.” An EPA spokesman said the letter represented the views of 22 local union presidents, not the 10,000 employees, and said the EPA’s voluntary partnership programs had prevented more than 85 metric tons of GHS emissions. (Source: E&E News PM)

4. Portland, Oregon, signs deal for large wind farm
Portland General Electric is buying 76 wind turbines from a Dutch company to build Phase I of a 25,000-acre wind farm in north central Oregon. When the project is finished in 5 years it will produce about 450 megawatts of energy. Portland ranks first in the nation for residential renewable energy. Nearly 50,000 residential and business customers are in a program to buy renewable energy through the utility. They already have access to 75 mw from two other wind facilities and when Phase 1 is finished a year from now, a total of 225 mw of wind energy will be available. (E&E News PM)

Do something

Planning to buy an appliance or electronics for the holidays – or during the January sales? Look for the Energy Star label, to save up to 30%
on your utility bill and at the same time protect the environment. In 2005 Energy Star products saved Americans $12 billion on utility bills and CO2 emissions equivalent to those produced by 23 million cars. Energy Star is a joint program of the EPA and DOE that certifies energy-efficient items. Home improvement and office equipment can also carry the Energy Star label. For more information see

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Weekly angst:

Solutions must include China, India … and the U.S.
China will pass up the United States as the top emitter of greenhouse gases in 2009, the International Energy Agency predicted earlier this month.

The U.S. now emits one-quarter of the world’s heat-trapping gases. But China, India and other developing countries with fast-growing economies are expected to produce most of the increase in emissions over the next 25 years.

So, clearly they need to be a party to any global solution – and so do we. The “leader of the free world” and biggest polluter must be willing to restrict GHG emissions or others will balk at making sacrifices and we will get nowhere.

China has resisted limits on its emissions and calls instead for tighter restrictions on industrial countries, which have created most of the greenhouse gases now in the atmosphere. It sticks in China’s craw that the U.S. is not party to the Kyoto Protocol and has not reduced its emissions. And many European countries that are part of Kyoto don’t seem to be on track to meet their targets.

Kyoto, which only includes industrialized countries, expires in 2012. So the U.N. Framework Conference on Climate Change is trying to bring all countries together to take the next steps to reduce global warming after 2012. It isn’t easy. There’s a sharp divide between the developed and developing countries on how to proceed.

Among the developing countries, “there has been a loss of confidence … since the developed countries, and particularly the largest ones, have not done more,” the Indian chairman of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change told the New York Times. ”They’re going to shift the burden on us – that’s the popular view.”

China forges ahead with coal use
Meanwhile China, which is about 70% reliant on coal for energy, is building a new coal-fired electricity plant every week. Worldwide, coal use is on the rise because it is plentiful and cheap. Coal use has increased as much in the past three years as in the previous 23, according to the Times. China accounts for 90% of the increase. India is responsible for 8%, and the U.S. comes in third.

China has made some efforts at energy conservation, in order to limit its reliance on foreign oil and reduce its dangerous level of air pollution. Its fuel economy restrictions on cars are stricter than those in the U.S. China also has started requiring power companies to build fewer and larger coal-powered plants instead of more small ones, to cut down on the need for coal, according to the Times.

At the recent U.N. Framework Conference in Nairobi, China reported progress with renewable and nuclear energy, biofuels and reforestation. But clearly the emissions from China are becoming a serious, if not overwhelming, problem for the world.

At the U.N. conference, there was little agreement regarding future restrictions, as developing countries asked for credits for stopping deforestation, flexibility in their contributions to the global effort, and the buying out of intellectual property rights in order to share in new technologies.l To the latter, the industrial countries said no.

It’s not going to be easy to bring all these countries together to head off the impending climate catastrophe.

Pew Center offers suggestions
The Pew Center for Global Climate Change has offered suggestions for a successful international climate effort. Based on a dialogue among participants from 15 countries and 7 major companies, Pew says it will be necessary to engage the major economies (25 countries account for 83% of GHG); be flexible about allowing different kinds of commitments from different countries; strive for a common long-term goal; help developing countries with aid, investment and access to clean technologies; and help developing countries adapt to inevitable climate change.

A global agreement on climate change will only be possible if each country perceives it as reasonably fair, the Pew report said, ass it offered suggestions for a future international agreement:
• Emissions targets coupled with international trading of credits should remain a core element of the multinational effort.
• International sectors such as power and transportation could negotiate commitments across the globe.
• Countries could commit to broad goals integrating climate and development, then pledge national measures to achieve them.
• Governments could increase support for research and development, and facilitate the use of clean technologies in developing countries.
As a first step, Pew says, leaders of the major economies should convene an informal dialogue, to seek consensus on the general nature and scope of multilateral efforts post-2012.

News update

1. Nations cooperate to build $12.8 billion fusion reactor
The United State, China, the European Union, India, Russia, Japan and South Korea signed an agreement last week to build an experimental fusion reactor in France. Fusion’s advantages are that its basic fuels are readily available, it produces no greenhouse gas or nuclear waste, it doesn’t require transport of radioactive materials and there’s no chance of a meltdown. Some have expressed concern it might release hazardous tritium, however. France will pay 45% of the construction cost. The United States’ bill will be $1.1 billion. The partners hope the reactor will be operational by 2014 and if it is successful, commercial fusion plants could be ready by mid-century. Cost is a consideration. (Source: Greenwire)

2. China announces large solar energy project
China announced last week it will build what it called the largest solar power station in the world. The 100-megawatt project is planned for the town of Dunhuang, which has over 3,000 hours of sunshine a year and access to electricity transmission. The project is expected to take five years. Last month, Australia announced a 154-megawatt solar power plant, which will be operational in 2013. (Sources: Greenwire, Reuters)

3. Chicago City Hall’s not so green-powered, after all
Five years ago, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley pledged to run city government 20% on renewable energy by 2006. He got a lot of attention for that pledge. But after a deal with a wind company fell through and the city cancelled a program of buying landfill (methane) energy, the city is pretty much back where it was in 2001 – fueled by nuclear and coal power. The city hasn’t bought any green energy since 2004. Daley’s office says it still plans to buy wind energy, but it could take until the end of the decade. The earlier deal fell through when the city wanted the wind company to build a manufacturing plant here. Chicago lost out to Philadelphia on that one. (Source: Chicago Tribune)

4. Three environmental groups sue over climate report
Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and the Center for Biological Diversity have filed a lawsuit against the Bush Administration, saying it has failed to submit to Congress a report on climate change, as required by law. The suit was filed in federal district court in San Francisco. (Source: New York Times)

5. Texas power company seeks 11 giant coal-powered plants
Texas Gov. Rick Perry has ordered fast-tracking for any new power generation that uses Texas natural resources for “energy diversity.” Under that plan, TXU’s application for 11 new coal-fired plants will get special attention. Texas already is the country’s No. 1 C02 polluter. The amount these new plants would release is the equivalent of 10 million Cadillacs, according to the Environmental Defense Fund. In addition to C02, these plants will add tons of sulfer dioxide and nitrous oxide to the atmosphere each year. Several local organizations are opposing the applications. Hearings are to begin Nov. 27 in the expedited process. Laurie David, producer of “An Inconvenient Truth,” calls the proposed plants “global warming factories” and asks people to write TXU at and tell them to drop plans for their dirty plants. Or you can sign a petition at This doesn’t just affect Texas. It affects all of us. (Source:

Do something
Include one or more environmental groups in your end-of-the-year charity giving. Environmental Defense has someone who will match any gift up to Dec. 5. Environmental Defense, National Resources Defense Fund and the Environmental Law and Policy Center all work with governments and businesses to cut emissions, as well as going to court when necessary to protect us from climate change. You can reach these organizations by clicking on the name in the list down the right side of the page. There are plenty of other good organizations, such as the Union of Concerned Scientists, Sierra Club, League of Conservation Voters and Friends of the Earth, doing yeoman work on behalf of the climate, so pick your favorite. Just give. They’re doing our work, so be generous with them this holiday season.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Weekly Angst

A few degrees would change the world, study says

It’s hard to comprehend how a couple of degrees increase in temperature could make such a big difference. Most of us can’t tell, for example, if it’s 52 or 55 degrees out. So why is it so alarming that the Earth’s average temperature has risen 1 degree in the past century. Well part of the problem is the Earth heats unevenly, and much more so at the poles, where ice is melting rapidly. Another concern is that most of the warming occurred in the past three decades, suggesting an acceleration of climate change. Already 1,700 animal and plant species have been observed migrating toward the poles at a speed of 4 miles per decade as the weather changes. They know something’s happening.

A recent study out of Tufts University lays out three scenarios, and shows what we can expect, depending on how quickly and completely we take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Without strong action now
Without immediate and vigorous efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the average global temperature will rise an additional 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100, the study says. That will be an all-time high for the past million years. Such an increase will result in:
• Decreased crop yields and widespread hunger in the developing countries,
• Serious water shortages,
• A total loss of Arctic ice and extinction of Arctic animals,
• A near total loss of coral reefs, and
• Possibly the onset of the complete meltdown of the Greenland ice sheet, slowly and unstoppably raising sea levels nearly 23 feet over the next 3000 years.

With major efforts
If, instead, the temperature jumps 3.6 degrees F, which is “extremely likely” without major efforts to reduce emissions, according to the study, we can expect:
• Decreasing crop yields in the developed world, resulting in widespread hunger,
• The wholesale collapse of the Amazon ecosystem,
• Widespread desertification and species extinctions,
• The complete loss of northern temperate and alpine ecosystems.

If we do nothing
With no efforts at all to reduce emissions, the temperature could well increase 5.4 degrees F by 2100, resulting in:
• Entire regions with no agricultural production,
• The melting of the West Antarctic ice sheet, gradually increasing sea levels an additional 16-20 feet.
To read the entire study, “Climate Change – The Costs of Inaction,” by Frank Ackerman and Elizabeth Stanton, go to
(You will note the temperatures in the study are stated in Celsius for a European audience. Google can point you to a good converter, which I used to switch those numbers into Fahrenheit, which we Americans are more used to.)

News update

1. McCain says he’ll push for caps on GHG emissions
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) told an audience at Duke University Thursday that he would push for a vote on Global Warming legislation in January. He said he and Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) will reintroduce their bill to cap greenhouse gases and set up a market-based trade system to buy and sell credits. The bill got 43 votes in 2003 and 38 in 2005. It includes a provision to encourage more nuclear power, which some – including California Sen. Barbara Boxer, new chair of the Environment Committee – found objectionable. McCain said he sees nuclear power as important to any a short-term solution. He noted 80% of France’s electricity is nuclear. McCain predicted President Bush would sign a bill capping greenhouse gases before his term ends. (Source: Environment & Energy Daily)

2. Senators ask Bush to work with them on climate change
Three Senate leaders wrote President Bush this week, urging him to work with them next year on climate legislation to cap greenhouse gases. Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) said the U.S. must quickly adopt economy-wide restraints and then work with the international community to forge an effective global agreement. They reminded the president the Senate voted 53-44 in 2005 to support mandatory GHG limits in theory, so long as any plan protected the U.S. economy and involved the international community. A White House spokesman said Bush is open to talks but “already has in place an aggressive climate change strategy that is realizing results.” (Source: Environment & Energy Daily)

3. Will the new Congress fund re-opening of EPA libraries?
EPA workers, who no longer have access to many important files and papers, are hopeful the new Congress will get them their libraries back. This summer, the EPA started closing most of its research libraries, both to the public and to staff. The move was explained as a response to a $2 billion cut in the proposed $8 billion budget. Employees wrote Congress in protest, saying, “We believe this is just one of many Bush administration initiatives to reduce the effectiveness of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and to continue to demoralize its employees.” Shortly before the election, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) asked the Senate Appropriations Committee to restore access to the libraries. (Source:

4. Aussie Prime Minister shifts position on Global Warming
Prime Minister John Howard told a business group last week that scientific evidence suggests significant damage from greenhouse gas emissions and the Australian government needs to address the problem. Australia and the U.S. have been the only industrialized nations not to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. Howard is now taking the offensive politically. He will push clean-coal technology and nuclear power and will campaign to limit emissions but not damage his country’s coal and gas industries. He wants a new emissions-trading system for the post-Kyoto period after 2012 and appointed a government-business task force to come up with a model that suits the needs of Australia and the Asia-Pacific world. (Source: The Australian)

5. The top 10 fuel-efficient cars
The U.S. EPA and Dept. of Energy have released their list of the most and least efficient models for 2007. The top ones are:
1) Toyota Prius (hybrid) 60 city/51 highway
2) Honda Civic Hybrid 49/51
3) Toyota Camry Hybrid 40/38
4) Ford Escape Hybrid FWD 36/31
5) Toyota Yaris (manual) 34/40
6) Toyota Yaris (automatic) 34/39
7) Honda Fit (manual) 33/38
8) Toyota Corolla (manual) 32/41
9) Hyundai Accent (manual) and Kia Rio tied at 32/35
10)Ford Escape and Mercury Mariner, both Hybrid 4WD 32/29
For information on the least fuel-efficient cars, as well as the highest and lowest in each class, see

Do something

Having trouble finding a fuel-efficient car?
What we drive significantly affects global warming. In Illinois, for example, 37% of the carbon dioxide emissions come from cars and trucks. There is a place where those looking for a “greener” car can go to get this information. At you can plug in any make and model and learn what the official gas mileage is for both city and highway driving for the new 2007 models. Use it for comparison, but be aware that the tests on which these numbers are based will be adjusted next year to reflect real-life, rather than ideal, driving conditions. In other words, the numbers now are inflated.

The EPA and DOE note on their Web site that aggressive driving (rapid acceleration, speeding and braking) can lower miles per gallon as much as 33% on the highway and 5% in the city (and these are things they will take into account when revising criteria for fuel efficiency next year). Gas mileage drops rapidly over 60 mph. And don’t let your car idle. When you do you’re going zero mpg. Keep tires properly inflated, use air conditioning sparingly and change filters regularly to increase fuel efficiency.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Weekly angst

What do election results mean for climate change?

With more environment-friendly people in positions of power in the new Congress, we can expect hearings on Global Warming and legislation to shift tax incentives away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy. But will the new leadership be able to pass regulations cutting greenhouse gases? It’s an uphill battle. The votes aren’t there now, the president is firmly opposed, and the oil lobby is out there ready to spend millions to make sure it doesn’t happen.

The oil companies beat down California’s Proposition 87 on Election Day. They spent $95 million to defeat the proposal to tax oil drilling and convert the $4 million collected to renewable energy. The margin was 55-45.

In Boulder, Co., a different approach was successful. That city will tax not the oil companies, but individuals and businesses for excessive energy use. Boulder Issue 202, which passed with 59% of the vote, will raise home energy bills by about $2 a month and those at businesses by up to $35 a month. Boulder already had voted to conform to the Kyoto Protocol by cutting greenhouse gas emissions 7% below 1990 levels by 2012. This will help them get there.

The state of Washington also passed a referendum, by a narrow 51.8%, saying that by 2020, 15% of electricity would come from renewable sources. The measure applies to utilities with 25,000 customers or more.

But let’s get back to Washington, D.C.

New direction in Congress
House Speaker-to-be Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said one of her top three priorities for the first 100 days is ending tax breaks for big oil and directing the money to renewable energy and other means to achieve energy independence. The incoming Majority Leader of the Senate, Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he wants to provide tax incentives for alternative energy production. And No. 2 in the Senate, Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), is sympathetic about Global Warming. He was a co-sponsor of Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) unsuccessful Climate Stewardship Act.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), one of the most outspoken members on the environment, is in line to be chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee. She told the Associated Press, “Time is running out [on Global Warming] and we need to move forward.” She said she would use California’s new law, cutting emissions 25% by 2020, as a model. Boxer replaces James Inhofe (R-Okla.) who doesn’t believe in Global Warming. Boxer earlier this year co-sponsored a measure to cut emissions 80% by 2050.

Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), who favors incentives for renewable energy, will take over Energy and Natural Resources, and there already seems to be some cooperation between his staff and Boxer’s.

On the House side, Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) will be chairman of Energy and Commerce. He said he plans to hold hearings on Global Warming and push legislation on alternative fuels. Dingell, from Michigan, is a strong supporter of Detroit’s auto industry, so there’s some question how far he’ll be willing to go to curb tailpipe emissions.

Friends of the environment
Environmental groups are happy that many of the people they endorsed were elected Tuesday. And that they defeated Rep. Richard Pombo (R-Calif.), who some considered Enemy #1. Pombo, who had been chair of the Natural Resources Committee, was defeated by Jerry McNerny, a wind-power engineer, after Defenders of Wildlife set up an office in his district and allied themselves with the Sierra Club, League of Conservation Voters and Humane Society to get out the vote and donate money. Pombo will be replaced as head of Natural Resources by Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.), who has a 92% score from the League of Conservation Voters.

Other LCV “Environmental Champions” who won Tuesday were Rep. Bob Filner (D-Calif.), Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), Rep. Chris Shays (R-Conn.), Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Minn.), Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.), Rep. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.)

Other victories for environmental groups included John Tester (D), an organic farmer, who defeated Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.), Ron Klein, who beat Rep. Clay Shaw (R-Fla.), Bob Casey (D) who handily beat Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) and two new governors, Bill Ritter (D) in Colorado and Ted Strickland (D) in Ohio.

“The Congress has been in denial about climate change,” Rep. Tom Allen (D-Maine) told Environment & Energy Daily. “The Congress is going to change. At least the House is going to change.”

Legislation that got nowhere before is likely to be brought up again after January. Bills are expected from Boxer, Bingaman, McCain, Lieberman, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). Environmental groups are poised to work with this Congress and we should be ready to give them our support.

Do something

Now is a good time to write your senators and congressman, asking them to put solutions to Global Warming front and center. Most have a Web page where you can make comments.

News update

1. Africa must adapt to world climate change

Reduction of greenhouse gases must be accompanied by aid to developing countries least able to cope with Global Warming, the author of a new study told the U.N. Framework Conference on Climate Change in Nairobi this week. Africans, who produce the least greenhouse gases, could face severe hunger as extreme weather there limits food production. Africans are already finding it difficult to time the planting of crops because of uncertainty about the weather. Countries giving aid will need to take this into consideration. Africans should plant drought-resistant crops and not rely so much on livestock that could die, said Mario Herrero, co-author of “Mapping Climate Vulnerability in Africa.” Water-conservation projects could help ease the problem. (Source: Reuters AlertNet)

2. EU to make tailpipe emissions cuts mandatory
The European Union is going from voluntary to mandatory emissions regulations after learning some automakers aren’t meeting their goals. Volkswagen, Europe’s largest carmaker, has reduced its emissions by less than half its target. Renault, on the other hand, is on track. A study by the European Federation for Transport and Environment showed that 75% of the 20 major brands were not on track to meet their targets. The new targets will be the same as the old ones (140 milligrams per kilometer by 2008 and 120 by 2012). (Source: Greenwire)

3. Did NASA and NOAA stifle scientists on Global Warming?
At the request of 14 U.S. Senators, NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) inspectors general are investigating whether the Bush Administration suppressed scientific research on Global Warming. At issue is whether NOAA officials stopped publication of a report linking the strength of hurricanes to Global Warming and whether NASA kept scientist James Hansen from speaking out after he advocated cuts in emissions of greenhouse gases. (Source: Greenwire)

4. Brazil likely to double consumption of ethanol
Brazil, the world’s main ethanol producer, will likely consume twice as much of the alternative fuel within 10 years, according to JOB Economia, a consultant. Three-quarters of new car sales are for flex-fuel vehicles, which can run on any combination of ethanol and gasoline. In Brazil ethanol is made with sugar cane. Fuel in the country is already 40 percent ethanol. (Sources: Bloomberg and Scientific American)

Friday, November 03, 2006

Weekly angst

We need new technologies to stop Global Warming

The British challenge to the European Union to cut carbon emissions 30% by 2020 and 60% by 2050 is an admirable goal for the industrialized world, but even that won’t be enough.

With a likely 2.5 billion (40%) increase in population worldwide by 2050, mostly in developing countries with fast-growing economies, the technologies available today won’t be sufficient to prevent a doubling of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere – and thus a catastrophic rise in temperature – by the end of the century.

Much more funding needed for R & D
So one of the most important points in the British Global Warming report last week was it’s call for a worldwide doubling of funds for research and development of non-carbon energy sources. U.S. government funding for energy has been cut by more than half in the past 25 years, to $3 billion from an inflation-adjusted $7.7 billion. At the same time, federal funding for drug research went up four times, from $7B to $28B, and money for military research grew 260% to $75B, according to the New York Times. The Bush administration is asking for $4.2 billion in 2007, but many scientists agree that’s nowhere near enough.

Both the President’s Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology (1997) and the bipartisan National Commission on Energy Policy (2004) called for a doubling of R&D spending for energy. Author Daniel Kammen, in Scientific American’s special September issue on Global Warming, calculated a need for $15B to $30B a year – something on the scale of the Manhattan Project or Apollo space program.

Others, including Science magazine’s State of the Planet (2006-07) report, agree on the need for innovation. Major climate change can only be avoided by reducing carbon emissions to a tiny fraction of current levels, the report said. But efforts so far have focused on affordable technologies such as wind, biomass fuels and improved efficiency, which cannot cut emissions enough, the report said.

Many alternatives to explore
“There are many promising candidates – solar thermal, hydrogen, carbon sequestration and nuclear fusion among them. Which will become most cost-effective is hard to predict, so research needs to proceed on many fronts,” the State of the Planet report said.

Other energy sources to be explored include waves and tides, high-altitude wind, space-based solar, nanotech solar cells, designer microbes and a global supergrid, according to Scientific American.

We must make carbon expensive
Now, how do we get industry to increase its funding for research on renewable sources? A tax or a cap on CO2 emissions will likely be required.

“Perhaps the most important step toward creating a sustainable energy economy is to institute market-based schemes to make the prices of carbon fuels reflect their societal cost,” said author Kammen in Scientific American. “A fee on carbon emissions would provide a simple, logical and transparent method to reward renewable clean energy sources over those that harm the economy and the environment.”

The president, many congressmen and much of industry oppose a carbon cap or tax. But when you realize that the world is adding a new carbon-emitting coal-fired power plant each week (mostly in China), it’s clear there needs to be a strong incentive to wean the world away from its 90% dependence on fossil fuels for energy. And America, the biggest polluter, needs to show some leadership.

News update

1. Californians vote Tuesday on oil drilling tax

On the California ballot Nov. 7 is a measure to tax oil drilling to fund alternative energy sources. Proposition 87, known as the Clean Alternative Energy Act, would raise up to $4 billion for alternative energy investments. If the measure passes, a tax on oil drilled in California, the fourth largest oil-producing state, would fund a state agency that would sponsor research and projects in solar, wind, ethanol and other alternative energy sources. (Source:

2. U.S. West to be hit by droughts, heavy rain, long heat waves
The Western United States, Brazil and the Mediterranean countries will be hot spots for extreme weather over the next century, according to a new study by the National Center for Atmospheric Research. Because of Global Warming, these areas in particular will suffer extreme droughts, heavy rainfalls and long heat waves with high nighttime temperatures. These spots will be hardest hit because of a predicted change in airflow caused by an increase in rain in the tropical Pacific. The Pacific Northwest will see longer dry spells as well as heavier rainfalls, the study says. (Source: Associated Press)

3. Two senators challenge Exxon to stop funding denial
U.S. Sens. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) have sent a letter to Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson, asking that the company stop funding groups spreading word that Global Warming is a myth and trying to influence policymakers. The huge oil company has spent more than $19 million in support of such groups since 1990. (Source: ABC News)

4. Bush names former Exxon chief to chart energy future
President Bush has asked Lee Raymond, the retired chief of Exxon Mobil, to head up a study to help the U.S. chart a cleaner course for its future energy needs. Raymond heads the National Petroleum Council (NPC), a powerful lobby. The study will look at the supply and demand of oil and "assess the potential contribution of conservation, efficiency, alternative energy sources and technology advances," said Samuel Bodman, U.S. Energy Secretary. Under Secretary David Garman said the NPC is "well qualified to provide a balanced and informed perspective on strategies and action affecting the energy future for both the U.S. and for every country on Earth." (Source: BushGreenWatch)

5. Industrial countries cut GHG emissions 3%, says U.N.
Industrialized nations cut greenhouse gas emissions 3.3% between 1990 and 2004, according to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change. But much of the decrease was due to a nearly 37% drop in the Eastern Bloc countries following the collapse of the Soviet economy. The other industrialized countries actually increased emissions 11%, though countries that signed the Kyoto Protocol managed to reduce theirs by 15%. Germany was down 17% and Britain 14%. The U.S., on the other hand, increased its emissions nearly 17% in the 14-year period. Turkey was up the most, at 79%, followed by Spain, 49%, and Portugal, 41%. Canada saw an increase of nearly 27%. (Sources: Greenwire and Reuters Planet Ark)

6. Next “Kyoto” phase is topic in Nairobi this week
The U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change will meet in Nairobi, Kenya, Nov. 6-17 to discuss the next phase of climate control after the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012. Some backers suggest extending talks until 2010, to allow for a new, more sympathetic, U.S. administration to participate. President Bush pulled the U.S. out of the Kyoto agreement, which calls for industrialized countries to cut their greenhouse gas emissions 5%-7% by 2012. Only the U.S. and Australia failed to sign on. Australia said this week it would push for a “new Kyoto” that would include the U.S., Australia, China, India, South Korea and Japan, six of the largest polluters. China, not a party to the first Kyoto Protocol, is asking for agreement on a second phase by 2008 so there will be plenty of time for comment before ratification. (Sources: Greenwire and others)

Do something

Join the Virtual March against Global Warming

Add your name to half a million others protesting Global Warming by going to and signing up. And while you’re there buy one or more Stop Global Warming wristbands by clicking on “take action” at the top of the home page. They’re only $5 and the money goes to, the organization started by Laurie David, producer of Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth,” and wife of Larry David of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “Seinfeld.” The wristband can be a conversation-starter and give you an opportunity to tell others about the climate crisis facing our planet.

Canadian film on warming playing in some theaters here
“The Great Warming,” an acclaimed film from Canada, just opened in Regal Cinemas in the United States. To find out if it’s at a theater near you, go to
The film was shown on Discovery channel in Canada but not in the United States. This is the first opportunity to see it here.

Did you miss “An Inconvenient Truth”? Buy the DVD
The DVD of Al Gore’s landmark movie is coming out Nov. 21. Go to and advance-order a copy at a reduced price. There is also a paperback book version on sale in most bookstores. This a world changer. If you haven’t seen it or read it, here’s your chance.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

October 30, 2006

One-minute primer on global warming

In this first week of EarthlingAngst, I want to run through a few basic facts about what causes global warming, what the consequences are, and what can be done about it. Some of you already know all this. But for those who don’t, or who need a review, here goes:

The cause
Global warming is caused by greenhouse gases that escape into the atmosphere and trap heat on the Earth. There’s strong scientific consensus that these gases are mainly the result of human activity. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is 80% of the problem, and comes from fossil fuels -- coal, oil and natural gas. The United States has just 5% of the world’s population but emits 25% of greenhouse gases (GHG). A lot of the damage comes from electricity plants and motor vehicles. And these gases take 100 years to diminish, so the problem is cumulative.

The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has increased from 280 parts per million in pre-industrial times to 380 ppm in 2005, with half the increase since 1965. In 2050, at the current rate, it is likely to be as much as 600 ppm, which could raise temperatures 3 to 10 degrees F, which is considered dangerous and beyond the tipping point for drastic climate change. The earth’s temperature has closely paralleled the ups and downs of CO2 in the atmosphere for centuries.

The consequences
We can already see some of the consequences of global warming:
• More powerful hurricanes, cyclones and typhoons
• More flooding
• More droughts
• More and larger wildfires
• Severely damaged coral reefs
• Eroded beaches (sea levels have risen 10-12 inches in a century)
• Rapid retreat of the Arctic polar icecap
• Melting ice in Antarctica and Greenland
• Endangered wildlife (such as polar bears).

Future threats include a shortage of drinking water, seas inundating coastal areas, and more and deadlier heat waves.

The solutions
Two Princeton scientists, Robert Socolow and Stephen Pacala, say we have the technology to solve the problem for the next 50 years and bring emissions below the 1970s level if we do the following:
• Make more efficient use of electricity
• Design buildings and houses to use less energy
• Increase fuel efficiency in vehicles, with hybrids, fuel cells and cars that get better gas mileage
• Use more mass transit and fuel-efficient trucks
• Use more renewable energy like wind and biofuels
• Capture and store carbon from coal-fired power plants and industry.

News update

1. Climate change inevitable for Northeast, report says
The climate of the U.S. Northeast will change substantially, according to a new report from scientists collaborating with the Union of Concerned Scientists. Already, in the region, temperatures are rising, especially in winter, and the number of extremely hot days in summer has gone up. Snow cover has decreased and spring arrives earlier. Without strong action to cut the greenhouse gases that cause global warming, by the end of the century:
• Winters could be 8-12 degrees warmer, and summers 6-14 degrees hotter.
• Sea levels could rise between 8 inches and 3 feet.
• Many cities could expect about 25 days over 100 degrees annually.
• The winter snow season could be cut in half.
Even with a changeover to substantially lower greenhouse gas emissions, the next few decades will see some changes, according to the report, “Climate Change in the U.S. Northeast.” Just based on past emissions, temperatures are likely to rise 5-7.5 degrees in winter and 3-7 degrees in summer by the end of the century. And sea levels will rise between a few inches and almost 2 feet. The extent of change will depend on the emissions choices the Northeast and the world make today, the report said. (Source: The Union of Concerned Scientists,

2. Supreme Court to weigh EPA’s role in global warming
In Massachusetts vs. EPA (05-1120), 12 states including California and Illinois have sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, saying it should regulate global warming pollution under the Clean Air Act. The EPA’s position is that carbon dioxide is not a pollutant and that the agency prefers voluntary action to government regulation. The Supreme Court expects to hear oral arguments in late November or early December, with a ruling likely by next June. (Sources: San Francisco Chronicle and Illinois Environmental Law and Policy Center.)

3. California sues automakers over greenhouse gases
California sued six of the world’s biggest automakers, charging that greenhouse gases from their vehicles have caused billions of dollars in damages. The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Northern California, is the first to hold manufactures liable for damage caused by their vehicles’ emissions. Seeking damages for past and ongoing contributions to global warming, the suit said California is spending millions to deal with reduced snowpack, beach erosion, and endangered animals and fish. The lawsuit is the latest chapter in the fight between the state and auto industry over greenhouse gases. The state adopted rules to force automakers to cut tailpipe emissions, but those regulations have been blocked by lawsuits from the auto industry. (Source: Reuters)

4. Germany to lead G8 and EU in fight against global warming
Germany will take over leadership of both the G8 and European Union next year and Chancellor Angela Merkel has made climate change her top priority. She said her goal is to “convert the big emitters” (of carbon dioxide), which likely means the U.S., the only G8 nation not to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. Merkel is a former environmental minister and holds a doctorate in physics. She told a meeting of conservationists in September that efforts to stop global warming without cooperation of “our American partners” were doomed to failure. “We urgently need agreements for the period after 2012 when the Kyoto Protocol expires,” she said. (Source: Deutsche Welle,

5. Illinois pledges to reduce state emissions
Gov. Rod Blagojevich has committed to reduce the state’s global warming pollution 6% by the year 2010. Illinois was the second state (after New Mexico) to join the Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX), in which the 100 members make commitments to reduce emissions from their facilities and motor vehicle fleets or buy credits from members who exceeded their targets. CCX members include industrial companies, utilities, universities, cities and NGOs. Illinois also increased its appropriation for Amtrak. Starting Oct. 30, Amtrak’s schedule in Illinois will nearly double. Trains emit significantly less carbon dioxide per passenger than either cars or airplanes. (Sources: The Environmental Law and Policy Center and the State of Illinois.)

Do something

Sierra Club endorses candidates for Congress
The Sierra Club is endorsing environment-friendly candidates for the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. To check out your state and district, go to

League of Conservation Voters releases 2006 scorecard
If you want to see how your representatives in Congress voted on environmental issues, you can go to and plug in your Zip code. Twenty senators and 80 reps scored a dismal 0%, including Sens. George Allen (VA), James Inhofe (OK) and Mitch McConnell (KY). In four states, California, Illinois, Maryland, and Vermont, both senators scored 100%.

Buy compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs)
This is the simplest, most effective action you can take at home and it will save money in the long run. These bulbs, available at many hardware and home-improvement stores, use one-third the energy of regular incandescent light bulbs and last up to 10 times longer, an average of 7 years. If every household in the U.S. changed just one bulb, it would eliminate emissions equivalent to those given off by 800,000 cars. In the Chicago area, ComEd is discounting these energy-efficient bulbs to just 99 cents till the end of the year. To learn more about that, go to The bulbs should be used in lamps, but not in enclosed light fixtures. CFLs can also be ordered online, from numerous sources, including and Once you’ve taken the trouble to change your bulbs, you may think more about turning lights off when you leave a room and opening blinds or curtains to let in natural light.