Saturday, April 28, 2007

News brief extra

1. NYC plan would levy charges on cars, electricity use
As he prepares to host a Large Cities Climate Summit May 14-17, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg (R) has unveiled a massive plan to cut GHG emissions 30% by 2030. Everything from power plants, to motor vehicles, to mass transit are included in PlaNYC, released on Earth Day. Plans – for a population likely to grow by 1 million – include:
• A $2.50/month surcharge on electricity use, to finance retrofitting building for greater energy efficiency.
• An $8/day charge on automobiles and $21 for trucks coming into Manhattan below 86th Street. Those already in Manhattan (except cabs) would pay $4 a day. The money would finance mass transit improvements.
• A million new trees in the next decade.
• Replacement or modernization of diesel-powered school buses.
• An increase in bike paths.
• Better energy efficiency in buildings.
• Improved mass transit, especially in neighborhoods without subway access.
• Elimination of the sales tax on hybrid vehicles.
• Replacement of energy-guzzling power plants.
The surcharge on cars has stirred controversy. But London and Shanghai have found it eased congestion and improved air quality. Much of the NYC plan will need financial help from the state and federal government. (Sources:, New York Times, Environment News Service.)

2. NYT/CBS poll: environment outweighs economy
If a trade-off has to be made, people think protecting the environment (58%) is more important than stimulating the economy (32%), a New York Times/CBS News poll showed last week. And they are willing to make sacrifices – up to a point. 75% would pay more for electricity from wind or solar. And 64% would pay higher fuel taxes if the money were used for research on renewables. But they are more likely to favor that tax if its purpose is to reduce dependence on foreign oil than if it is to reduce Global Warming. A $2/gallon tax would be too much, though, 76% said. They were evenly split on nuclear power. In an energy pinch, most favor conservation (68%) over producing more power from fossil fuels (21%). Democrats are more likely to protect the environment, say 57%, with 14% favoring Republicans and 14% saying neither party. (Source: New York Times)

3. Ethanol may cause more asthma, respiratory deaths
A new study out of Stanford says ethanol generates toxic ozone gas that could pose a health hazard. Widespread use could aggravate asthma and other respiratory problems in urban areas, said Professor Mark Jacobson, especially in Los Angeles with its reliance on cars and concentration of smog. LA could end up with 9% more deaths from respiratory ailments in 2020 than would be caused by gasoline, the study said. Jacobson’s model, which he’s been working on for 18 years, assumes use of E85 (85% ethanol). Another Stanford professor, Chris Summerville, said ethanol might turn out be a transitional fuel, until new technologies are discovered. Summerville heads the executive committee of the BP-funded Energy Biosciences Institute, charged with developing a new generation of carbon-neutral biofuels. (Source: San Francisco Chronicle)

4. Silicon Valley’s next new thing seems to be alt energy
While an explosion like the high tech boom of the ‘90s may be years away, Silicon Valley is nonetheless hard at work developing technologies to combat Global Warming, as venture capitalists invest in research on alternative energies like solar, wind and biofuels. "The best brains in the country are no longer working on the next pharmaceutical drug or the next Silicon Revolution. They want to work on energy," Vinod Khosla, a top venture capitalist in Silicon Valley, told Greenwire. Nationwide, $300 million in VC went into alternative energies the first quarter of this year, compared with just $60 million last year, says a report by Dow Jones VentureOne and Ernst & Young. (Source: Greenwire)

5. S.C. lawmakers ask candidates to address climate change
A majority of state legislators have signed a letter asking candidates running in the early South Carolina presidential primary to address Global Warming and the need for a comprehensive energy policy. A recent poll showed that climate change and energy independence are top priorities for voters in the state. About 80% in each party said action is needed to reduce fossil fuels. (Source: Greenwire)

6. China’s prime minister is new point man on environment
Chinese Prime Minister Jiabao Wen said last week his country must increase its efforts to stop pollution and GHG emissions. He called for energy savings this year of 50 million tons of coal equivalent in power plants and 20 million in state-owned industrial companies. A 5-year plan (2006-10), putting the environment at the heart of government policy, had sought to cut energy use 20% per unit of GNP by 2010. But GNP is growing at more than 10% a year, which means a substantial increase in emissions even if China meets the goal, which so far it isn’t. Wen said he will lead a new task force on the environment, needed because local officials, more concerned about boosting economic growth, were blocking efforts to cut energy use. An internal study showed that by 2020 climate change would cause more flooding in the east of China and droughts in the north and west, with a significant impact on agriculture. (Sources: London Telegraph, Greenwire)

7. Enhanced geothermal could provide 10% of power in 2050
The U.S. could generate as much power by 2050 from heat far underground as it does from nuclear energy today – about 10% of American power. A study commissioned by the Energy Department said that by drilling holes in rock and shooting water 2-3 miles down to be warmed by the 400-degree temperatures, then up again, we could get steam to power electricity. Europe, Australia and Japan are using this method successfully. Estimated cost would be $1 billion over 15 years. The study has 18 authors, from government, academia and industry. (Source: New York Times)

8. Virgin buys 23 more efficient planes, will test ethanol mix
Environmental advocate Richard Branson has ordered nearly 2 dozen of Boeing’s new, more energy-efficient Dreamliner, and formed a partnership to test biofuels in his Virgin Airlines planes. The Dreamliner cuts gasoline use 20% through lighter materials and more aerodynamic design, according to Boeing. Branson hopes to run part or all of his fleet on E85. Meanwhile, competitor Airbus has pledged to cut its fuel use in half by 2020, through lighter materials, more energy-efficent engines and design, and improved air traffic control. (Sources: E&E News PM, Greenwire)

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Two-thirds of world will find it hard to get water by 2025
For those of us who have endless access to clean tap water and bottled water from Fiji or France (eight glasses a day, the doctor says), it’s hard to even imagine what a severe water shortage would be like.

My friend from Australia told me her family had to share bath water because of scarcity there, and I remember times when we could only water the lawn on even days. But that’s nothing, compared with what much of the world tolerates now and what is in store for us, as population grows and the impact of Global Warming increases.

More than 1 billion people worldwide lack access to clean water now, according to Science magazine’s State of the Planet 2006-2007, and well over 2 million, mainly children, die of water-related diseases each year. In much of the world, water must be boiled before it can be used. Now rapid development, population growth and Global Warming are making the situation much worse. China is strangling in pollution, in both their air and water, with about 10% of the Yangtze River, water source for 35% of the population, in critical condition. Recognizing this is a huge problem, that country and many others are paying billions to private contractors to improve their water quality and accessibility.

Future shock
Two-thirds of the world population will have trouble getting water by 2025, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. A change in rain patterns and the loss of glaciers and snowpack – combined with population growth – will significantly reduce water availability.

Here in the U.S., there will be a clash over control of rivers. The San Joaquin and Colorado rivers will struggle to meet needs by 2020. More than 40 percent of the water supply to southern California will be vulnerable, due to lost snowpack. The Southwest and some other regions will need new sources of water, and may look to the Great Lakes, with 20% of the world’s fresh surface water, questioning the diversion of that water to cities like Chicago. At the same time, the Great Lakes will shrink, and toxins will be more concentrated.

Meanwhile, rising seas will increase the salinity of fresh water, which could cause critical shortages in New York City and other coastal areas.

The rest of the world
Hundreds of millions of Africans and tens of millions in Latin America, who now have water, will be short of it in less than 20 years, IPCC says. In the Amazon region, tropical forests will turn into savannah. Those who depend on the dwindling Andean glaciers for drinking, hydroelectric power and irrigation also will be up a creek, so to speak. Poor countries like Bolivia and Peru have few other sources for water and power.

Southern, central and eastern Europe won’t be spared. And parts of Greece will turn to desert, which could cause a mass exodus from the Mediterranean, according to a study there. The average rainfall in Greece is down 30% since the mid-1970s. Spain also will suffer.

By 2080, more than a billion people in Asia could be short of water. And the Australian Outback could see temperatures rise as much as 6.7 degrees F, bringing less rain and more evaporation.

Serious problems now
The rivers of the American West are at lower-than-average levels this spring. The flow on the Rio Grande, which goes from southern Colorado through New Mexico and Texas, is 38% below normal. Lake Powell, one of the Colorado River’s most important storage facilities, is down 80 feet.

States like Arizona and California already fight over the Colorado River. Most years, the Colorado is dry by the time it reaches its delta at the Sea of Cortez, because 7 states and Mexico all draw from it.

In Florida this spring, water likely will be pumped from the Everglades into dry water wells if the severe drought continues. Otherwise salt-water intrusion could ruin the water supply for a decade. Normally, Lake Okeechobee is used for backup, but that is down to its lowest level ever.

Las Vegas, growing by 100,000 people a year, realizes Lake Mead will soon be unable to meet its needs. Nevada is part of a Colorado Basin study that is looking at such measures as building a desalinization plant in Mexico or bringing water from Alaska in ships.

And Australia is in the throes of an unprecedented drought that is costing an estimated 1% of GDP. It’s in such dire straits this spring that the government will cut off water to agriculture unless there are widespread heavy rains in the next couple of week, Prime Minister John Howard announced. Wine grape production is down 30% and the rice crop has collapsed.

The importance of conservation
We’ve been very wasteful of water. In many cities of the world, half the volume has been lost to leaks. In Mexico City, 40% of the water leaked out of the system until they fixed it in the 1990s.

In addition to plugging leaks, there’s a growing focus on matching water to users’ needs, and pricing it to drive down demand. Numerous countries, including China, are contracting out their water management to private companies, such as Veoila in France, which among other things raises the price to consumers.

New technologies
The amount of water used in toilets in the U.S. has dropped 75% since new efficiency standards were imposed. But water-based sanitation, which the industrialized world has become used to, is not essential. Home toilets contaminate huge amounts of potable water. If necessary, the world could treat human waste without water, says State of the Planet.

There also are changes in agriculture that hold promise. New irrigation technology and crop characteristics can produce more with less water. Changes include drip irrigation and micro-sprinklers, which are more efficient than flood irrigation. And the most efficient dairies now use just 1 liter of water per liter of milk, where they required 3-6 liters in 1997.

We can look to dry countries like Australia, which has just started up a desalinization plant that turns out 30 million liters of fresh water a day. Several more such plants are likely.

Conservation, new technology and pricing are all part of the solution to saving water. But adaptation is only part of the answer. We also need to stop Global Warming in its tracks by drastically cutting and then reversing greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere.

(Sources: Science magazine’s State of the Planet 2006-2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change April report, Greenwire, PlanetArk, Land Letter, New York Times, Vanity Fair’s Green Issue, Environmental Defense and Friends of the Earth.)

News briefs

1. Military panel warns of prolonged terrorism, more Darfurs
Global Warming will foster instability and more situations like Darfur, a panel of 11 retired generals reported last week. There will be natural and human disasters far beyond what we see today, said one of them, Gen. Anthony Zinni. Marginal living standards in the Middle East, Asia and Africa will become worse, the report said, aggravating the conditions that lead to terrorism. And there likely will be multiple problems simultaneously at different points on the globe, as governments fail and refugee numbers mount. The U.S. will have to pay now for GHG mitigation now or pay later in military and human terms, the panel said. They pointed to the Darfur calamity, where 300,000 lives have been lost, as partly caused by climate change. Rainfall has dropped 40% in the last quarter-century and populations are fighting over the same land. The panel urged a more aggressive U.S. response to stopping Global Warming. (Sources: Financial Times, Ottowa Citizen)

2. Alaska warming will cause grief for pilots, fisheries
Pilots face new risks flying over Alaska, the National Weather Service environmental chief told a state legislative commission last week. And fish are being forced further north by warming temperatures, a National Marine Fisheries rep said. The danger to airplanes is that clouds are increasingly full of cold water, not ice crystals, which could freeze on a plane and cause failure. The fisheries, which supply half the seafood in the U.S., are seeing cod, flounder and pollock forced northward and crab habitats reduced. Other testimony said floods and melting permafrost will cause billions of dollars of damage to roads and bridges over the next three decades. Alaska is warming faster than the rest of the country. (Source: Greenwire)

3. Salamanders and frogs may be ‘canaries in the coal mine’
A precipitous drop in reptile and amphibian populations in a Costa Rica preserve is most likely caused by climate change, researchers concluded. Habitat loss and fungus disease, the cause of many such population collapses, were ruled out here. The number of frogs, toads, snakes, salamanders and geckos plummeted 75% in 35 years in La Selva refuge, during a time when rainfall doubled and the temperature rose 1 degree Celsius. Researchers, led by Maureen Donelly of Florida International University, think the problem is the loss of leaf litter on the forest floor, needed for shelter and to provide bugs for food. Amphibians are considered sentinels of climate change. (Source: The Guardian UK)

4. New Hampshire towns make climate change part of primary
Three quarters of the towns in New Hampshire have agreed to go on record letting presidential candidates know they need to address Global Warming in the 2008 campaign, according to the Carbon Coalition, which coordinated the effort. New Hampshire holds the first presidential primary. The towns will include an article in their Town Meeting warrant requiring a reduction in greenhouses gases while protecting the economy, and seeking a national research initiative to develop renewable energy and create jobs. The state’s ski industry has been hurt by warming winters. (Sources: Greenwire and Portsmouth Herald’s Seacoastonline.)

5. Gore can use solar panels, as long as they’re out of sight
Al Gore can now install solar panels on his roof, after swish Belle Meade, Tenn., amended its zoning laws at his request. But the 33 panels must be out of view of neighbors. The former veep is also upgrading his furnace, windows and lights switches to be more efficient and putting new floor radiant heat and solar vents in his 70-year-old home, a spokesman said. He had been criticized for the size of his electric bill. (Sources: E&E News PM and MSNBC)

Congressional round-up

* Dem Senate strategy: 'bold' action, but not yet
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said after meeting with five key senators last week that they were committed to a “bold and progressive” climate change program by the end of the 110th Congress. For now, a series of bills will be put to a vote in coming months. Environment Chair Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) explained they want some quick action and, in the end, broad action. Others in the meeting were Energy Chair Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), and Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Don’t hold your breath for a mandatory cap on emissions anytime soon. (Source: E&E News PM)

* House told how to be carbon neutral by end of this Congress
The House of Representative should become carbon neutral by the end of the 110th Congress, a report requested by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) says. This can be accomplished by getting electricity from renewable sources, becoming more energy efficient, and buying offset credits, said Daniel Beard, House Chief Administrative Officer, in a preview for House leaders last week. The House emits 91,000 tons of greenhouse gases a year. Efficiency steps would include putting condensed fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) in 12,000 desk lamps, buying Energy Star products and installing an Ethanol-85 fuel pump. It is likely the House will have to buy credits to offset a third of its emissions or pay into a “green revolving fund,” Beard said. (Source: Greenwire)

*Bingaman-Domenici biofuels bill may see coal-to-liquid added
A new bill that calls for a five-fold increase in biofuels, to 36 billion gallons by 2022, does not include the coal-to-liquid, natural gas or other carbon-emitting gases that are part of a similar White House proposal. But co-sponsor Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) thinks the votes are there to add coal-to-liquid as an alternative fuel in committee, despite Energy Chair Jeff Bingaman’s (D-N.M.) concerns about GHG emissions. Energy Chair Bingaman also introduced a bill to cut gasoline use 45% by 2030, a Bush White House goal. (Sources: E&E News PM, Greenwire)

*Bingaman commission backs stricter cuts, moderate steps
The National Commission on Energy Policy, a group Senate Energy Chair Bingaman relies on to inform legislation, backs stabilizing emissions by 2030 and cutting them 15% (from current levels) by 2030. The group of experts from industry, labor, government, consumer groups and others also wants a “safety valve” cap on carbon credit prices. The panel acknowledged its plan does not reach the emission levels needed to maintain a stable climate going forward, but said, "Moving forward with initially moderate targets is more ecologically protective than continued delay in pursuit of more aggressive goals." Bingaman has echoed that sentiment, saying a stronger package does not have the votes now. (Source: E&E Daily)

Do something

Wean yourself off the bottle – water bottles, that is. It takes 1.5 million barrels of oil a year to make bottles for water, says the Earth Policy Institute. That’s enough to fuel 100,000 cars. And only 1 in 5 is recycled, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. Use refillables with tap water. And if on occasions you feel the need to buy bottled water, go for a domestic brand and save the energy spent on shipping. And always recycle.

Hot tickets now on sale: On 7/7/07 seven Live Earth concerts will be held around the world to call attention to Global Warming. Tickets for the U.S. concert, in Giants Stadium, are now available and going fast. If you want to be part of the historic scene, don’t delay. Go to Entertainers will include the Dave Mathews Band, Sheryl Crow, Bon Jovi, Melissa Etheridge, Smashing Pumpkins and Kanye West.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

News brief extra

1. China says it will work toward post-Kyoto agreement
In a visit to Japan last week, Chinese Premier Wen Jianboa announced his country will join in talks about post-Kyoto efforts to attack Global Warming. A joint statement with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said both would “actively participate in setting up an effective framework for after 2013.” During the visit, the two also spoke about energy efficiency, deforestation and waste treatment. China was responsible for 18% of the world’s carbon emissions in 2004 and is expected to pass up the U.S. as the top emitter by 2010, and possibly as soon as next year. (Source: Greenwire)

2. Peek at third IPPC report: Cost to be at least 0.2% of GDP
GHG mitigation will be expensive, says a draft of the third and final IPPC report, due out May 4. How expensive depends on how much we’re willing to let temperatures rise. One scenario shows a cost of 0.2% of global GDP in 2030. In that scenario, atmospheric CO2 would stabilize at 650 ppm, and the temperature would rise 5.8-7.2 degrees F above pre-industrial levels. In a much more stringent scenario, where emissions top out at 445-535 ppm and actually start to drop in 15 years, the cost would be 3% of global GDP. In this case, the temperature increase would likely be kept at between 3.6 to 4.3 degrees F. There would be economic benefits too, including energy savings, better health, less crop damage and greater energy security, the draft says. (Source: Reuters)

3. Big costal cities like New York could be in deep … water
New York, Tokyo and Shanghai are among the cities of more than 5 million people that would be devastated by rising seas. Worldwide, 634 million people live in coastal areas less than 33 feet above sea level, according to a study published recently in the journal Environment and Urbanization. The study recommended stopping or reducing construction in low-lying areas and building protective structures. "Migration away from the zone at risk will be necessary but costly and hard to implement, so coastal settlements will also need to be modified to protect residents," said report co-author Gordon McGranahan of the International Institute for Environment and Development in London. (Source: Greenwire)

4. Forests of the world are still going, going …
Though deforestation has slowed a bit, the world’s forests are disappearing at a rate of 32 million acres a year, a new U.N. report says. And as trees are cut down, mostly for agriculture, they release significant amounts of carbon dioxide into the air. More than half the forest loss from 2000-2005 was in Africa. Areas with more economic development, such as China and India, are beginning to re-forest, which helped create a net gain for Asia-Pacific. In China the new trees were needed for lumber and to protect soil. It Latin America, for the first time, less than half the land is forested. Meanwhile, British economist Nicholas Stern is calling for governments to invest $15 billion in a global fund to cut deforestation in half. (Sources: AP, Reuters, MSNBC, Greenwire)

5. Wait. Stop. Don’t plant those trees there!
Planting trees might actually hurt Global Warming rather than help, as is commonly believed. It depends on where you plant them, says a Department of Energy-funded study. In higher latitudes, dark, dense forests absorb the sun’s heat rather than reflecting it and so could add to Global Warming. It is far more important to preserve and restore tropical forests, says study co-author Ken Caldeira, an atmospheric scientist at Stanford University. Trees at tropical latitudes foil Global Warming in two ways: they absorb CO2 and promote clouds that cool the planet. (Sources: Greenwire, Time)

6. Oil company and insurer jump on bandwagon
Conoco Phillips and AIG have joined the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, a group of large companies that is calling for Congress to approve mandatory cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. Conoco is the first U.S. oil company to join, following Britain’s BP, and AIG is the first insurance company. The Partnership told Congress in January to cut emissions 15-30% in the next 15 years and 80% by 2050. Insurance companies took a huge hit in the 2005 hurricane season, but only AIG, the largest, has come forward to press for GHG cuts. AIG said it hopes to help shape cap-and-trade legislation. Other partners include GE, DuPont, Caterpillar and Alcoa. (Source: Reuters PlanetArk)

7. Global Warming hot topic for Left Coast lawmakers
More than 60 bills on climate change await action in the California legislature. Various bills would make diesel-powered school buses run on biodiesel; make it easier to install solar power on homes; require TVs and computers to be more energy efficient; and add incentives for gas station owners to install pumps for alternative fuels. Polls show wide public support in California for tackling Global Warming, with 70% of likely voters saying state government should do more. Meanwhile, the governor of Washington is expected to sign a bill lowering emissions 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2035 and 50 percent by 2050. And the Oregon senate passed a bill to have 25% of power from renewables by 2025. The two largest electric power companies in Oregon support the bill, which now goes to the house. (Sources: San Francisco Chronicle, Greenwire)

8. Arnold tells enviros: ‘Don’t scold, make topic sexy’
California Gov. Arnold Schwartzenegger told an environmental forum at Georgetown University Wednesday that they should make the fight against Global Warming “sexy” and appealing to get people to participate. He also told politicians who aren’t willing to act to curb GHG emissions that they will see their support melt away like the polar ice cap. “You will become a political penguin on a smaller and smaller ice floe that is drifting out to sea,” he warned. The Terminator was in D.C. to press the EPA to let California enforce it’s tough tailpipe emissions law. (Source: Reuters PlanetArk)

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Do something

Step up and be counted in fight against Warming

This Saturday, April 14, you have something to do – join the National Day of Climate Action. StepItUp2007 will hold more than 1,300 (and counting) locally generated rallies or activities around the country, to tell Congress to cut greenhouse gas emissions 80% by 2050.

Actions will be as diverse as coloring Canal Street in New York City with blue chalk to show the reach of rising seas; skiing on melting glaciers in Wyoming; taking waterproof banners down to endangered coral reefs off Maui and Key West; and driving hybrid cars across the Golden Gate Bridge.

"It's clearly going to be the biggest grass-roots environmental protest since Earth Day 1970," said Bill McKibben, a lead organizer and scholar-in-residence at Middlebury College.

There are traditional rallies too. In Chicago, where many EarthlingAngst readers live, those concerned about Global Warming will gather from noon to 2 at Daley Plaza, 100 N. Dearborn, for speeches, entertainment and activities for both adults and children. I’ve volunteered to help at the sign-in booth and hope to see you there. Come join like-minded people. It’ll be fun.

Those living elsewhere can find local activities at

We must be strong
It’s critical that these demonstrations show strength, in order to have an impact on Congress, which despite its interest in climate issues, is under severe pressure from fossil fuel industries. And we know what corporate lobbies can do. Without strong public pressure, our representatives are likely to settle for weak compromise legislation. It’s unlikely they will do what scientists agree is needed – 80% by 2050.

Last week House Energy Committee Chairman John Dingell (D-Mich.) said environmentalists should not expect “to dictate the result” of Global Warming legislation. Dingell and others in the government need to know that “environmentalists” are not a fringe group; they are the mainstream.

Survey results
In a recent Yale University poll, 83% of adults nationwide said Global Warming is a “serious problem.” And 63% put environmental dangers on a par with terrorism.

There was overwhelming support for alternative energy such as wind or solar: 70% were willing to consider buying solar energy and 67% said they would buy a hybrid car.

Frustrated with government inaction, 70% said President Bush should do more. 81% felt they had a responsibility to help reduce greenhouse gases, and 43% said it was their religious obligation.

In another, Gallup, poll, 79% favored stricter emissions for autos and industry and mandatory controls on greenhouse gases.

So the numbers are with us. But too many people are complacent and so far there hasn’t been the kind of public involvement there was, say, in the Civil Rights Movement or for Vietnam.

“It’s time to unleash as much passion and energy as we can,” McKibben wrote in the latest On Earth magazine. “It’s movement time. We need nothing less than a social transformation … a commitment to wean America from fossil fuels in our lifetime and to lead the rest of the world, especially India and China in the same direction.”

Let’s do it for our kids – and grandkids. See you out there Saturday, wherever you are.

Congressional round-up

*Inhofe to block Live Earth concert on Capitol lawn
Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), who has called Global Warming a hoax, has vowed to block permission for a July 7 Live Earth concert on the Capitol’s west lawn, calling it “partisan and political” because former V.P. Al Gore is one of the organizers. An Earth Day celebration was held in the same place. Organizers are now looking for another U.S. city to host the concert. Other Live Earth concerts on July 7 will be in Shanghai, Sydney, Johannesburg, London and cites to be named in Brazil, Japan and Antarctica.

*Feinstein calls for national tailpipe emissions standards
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) unveiled a bill to adopt California’s auto emissions standards nationally. It requires the auto industry to cut emission 30% (from 2002) by 2016; directs the EPA to set up an emissions trading program; and suggests green gas caps for cars running on low-carbon fuel.

*Domenici says no-go unless developing nations are onboard
Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) said he will block Global Warming legislation unless China, India and other developing economies make similar commitments. China could surpass the U.S. in CO2 emissions as early as this year. Domenici said he’s afraid U.S. action would do little to help the planet but would hurt our economy, a position held by the White House.

*Waxman “Safe Climate Act” calls for 80% cut by 2050
Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) re-introduced a bill setting a mandatory reduction of 80% by mid-century. It calls on the EPA to set up a cap-and-trade system for industry and calls for tailpipe restrictions as tough as California’s. The bill, with 127 co-sponsors, also requires use of renewable energy to increase 2% a year, till it reaches 20% in 2020.

*Foreign Relations pushes for international accord
A non-binding resolution passed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee calls for the U.S. to work toward a binding international climate change agreement. Democratic Committee Chr. Joe Biden (Del.) and ranking Republican Richard Lugar (Ind.) said they hope the resolution will push the U.S. into U.N.-sponsored talks about the next step after Kyoto expires in 2012.
(Congressional round-up sources: The Hill, Reuters PlanetArk, Greenwire, E&E News Daily, E&E PM)

News briefs

1. Panel warns of devastating effects of warming temperatures
If greenhouse gases are not curtailed, the impact on human society will be profound, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said last week. The panel’s report predicted that if temperatures continue to rise, increased water shortages, droughts, flooding and wildfires, as well as expanding deserts and more acidic oceans, will be the result. Many millions will be flooded every year due to sea-level rise by 2080, the report said. Costs will be considerable. Some highlights, by continent:
* In Africa, as soon as 2020, 75 million to 250 million will face water shortages. Agricultural production will be severely compromised and sea-level rise will damage low-lying coastal areas with large populations.
* In Asia, melting Himalayan glaciers will cause flooding and rock avalanches within 2-3 decades. More than 1 billion will be adversely affected by water shortages by 2050. Cholera and diarrhea will increase. Risk of hunger is very high in some developing countries.
*In Australia/New Zealand, water shortages will intensify by 2030 in parts of both countries. Ongoing coastal development and population growth will exacerbate risks from sea-level rise and storm intensity, with coastal flooding by 2050. Significant loss of biodiversity along the Great Barrier Reef will occur by 2020.
*In Europe, nearly all regions will be negatively impacted, posing challenges to many economic sectors. Inland flash floods, more frequent coastal flooding and erosion, retreat of glaciers and snow cover will occur.
* Latin America, by mid-century, will see gradual replacement of tropical forest by savanna in eastern Amazonia. In dryer areas, crops will decrease. Sea rise will increase flooding in low-lying areas. Changes in precipitation and disappearing glaciers will affect water availability.
* In North America, western mountains will have decreased snowpack, more winter flooding and competition for water. Pests, diseases and fire will hurt forests. Cities already experiencing heat waves can expect them to intensify. Coastal communities will be increasingly stressed.
*Small islands will face inundation, storms surges and erosion from sea level rise, threatening vital infrastructure and settlements. By 2050, water on many islands in the Caribbean and Pacific may be insufficient in low-rain periods. To read the 21-page summary of the report, go to and download the summary for policymakers (top right, on picture) (Source: IPCC)

2. U.S. blocks G8-plus-5 agreement on carbon trading
The United States blocked consensus on carbon-trading last month at a meeting of environment ministers from the G8 industrial nations plus China, India, Mexico, Brazil and South Africa. All participants agreed on the need for industrial nations to go beyond the 5% emissions cut required by Kyoto, and the need for industrialized nations to help developing countries cut their emissions. But U.S. EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson balked at joining the others to agree about setting up a carbon-trading market. He said the group needs more input from economists and financial experts. (Sources: Greenwire, AP,

3. EU blames U.S., Australia for lack of international progress
The European Union last week accused the U.S. and Australia of hampering international efforts to mitigate Global Warming. "We expect ... the United States to cooperate closer and not to continue having a negative attitude in international negotiations," EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas told delegates at a United Nations-sponsored meeting. "It is absolutely necessary that they move because otherwise other countries, especially the developing countries, do not have any reason to move," he said. (Source: Reuters)

4. California to link to Europe’s carbon-trading market
In the face of the Bush Administration’s reluctance to join a carbon-trading market, California sent a delegation to Europe and now expects to join a trans-Atlantic market with the EU in 2012. California’s environmental secretary, Linda Adams, said perhaps other states would follow suit. California plans to cut its emissions 25% by 2020. Both California and the EU hope to spur Congress to set up a carbon-trading system for all 50 states. (Source: Greenwire)

5. Britain to push Security Council on Global Warming
Britain will use its month-long presidency of the Security Council to push discussion of Global Warming’s implications for peace and security. Foreign Secretary Margaret Baker will emphasize potential changes in political and maritime borders due to sea-level rise, as well as the 200 million people expected to become refugees. And she’ll point to the likelihood that scarce resources will lead to instability and conflict. (Source: Greenwire)

6. Pressure’s on EPA following Supreme Court ruling
The EPA will be called before Congress later this month to explain what it plans to do in the wake of last Monday’s Supreme Court ruling that recognized greenhouse gases as pollutants. And California and 10 other states now await EPA’s OK and the resolution of lawsuits so they can begin restricting tailpipe emissions. EPA has told California it would move forward with public comment and a hearing on the state’s request. The court ruled 5-4 that the EPA has authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. In Massachusetts vs. EPA, 11 states and 13 environmental groups had sued EPA over its refusal to regulate GHG emissions from new cars and trucks. The federal government had insisted that was up to the Dept. of Transportation. Friends of the Earth is rallying the public to pressure the EPA to begin to regulate tailpipe emissions. You can join that effort at (Sources: AP, Reuters, E&E PM)

7. Easygoing European work style saves energy, helps planet
Europeans work shorter hours and take long stress-free vacations. Now we learn this lifestyle is good for the environment. A new study from the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a Washington, D.C., think tank, has discovered that carbon emissions and working hours are linked. If Europeans adopted America’s longer working hours, their energy use would increase by 30%, the study found. And the idea that the European work style is bad for the economy seems to be false. The French work 22 percent fewer hours than Americans, but each hour is 9 percent more productive, the study said. (Source: Natural Resources Defense Council’s OnEarth magazine)