Energy and Global Warming News for April 13

Top Stories

A Revived EPA Takes on Climate Change and More

Over the past 10 weeks, the Environmental Protection Agency has been pumping out proposals and directives on everything from climate change to pollution from ships. In one high-profile move last month, the EPA said it will launch detailed reviews of permits for mountaintop coal mining operations, which can have profound effects on nearby waterways.

By moving so quickly, President Obama’s EPA has in effect reproached the Bush administration for dawdling on climate change. In calling for tougher regulations, it has also criticized Bush officials for catering to businesses and industry.

The White House is expected to sign off this week on the most important finding the EPA will make in his administration (see “EPA makes landmark finding: Global warming threatens public health and welfare“).

Rich-Poor Divide Still Stalls Climate Accord

Elisabeth Rosenthal writes at DotEarth:

Little concrete progress was achieved at the climate talks that ended here this week, but the fault lines that will divide the world as its attempts to negotiate a new climate treaty by the end of this year became vividly clear in the corridors of the Maritim Hotel Conference Center.

A host of developing countries, from China to Bolivia to the Philippines, took to the podium to insist that developed countries cut their emissions very rapidly by far more than they had planned. Most said the appropriate figure would be at least a 40 to 50 percent reductions compared to 1990 levels by 2020.

Note to Rosenthal, NYTIt is time to start writing about China differently. It is I think absurd to continue to lump China in the same sentence or the same “developing country” category as the likes of Bolivia or Philippines, given that China can pretty much single-handedly finish off the climate and that China is a hyper developing, exporting giant that is a leader in many clean technologies (see one example below).

For a different, albeit more fanciful take, see Andrew Jones’ “Developed World Strikes a Climate Deal with Developing World (in a sim at least).”

Legislation and Policy

E&E Daily (Subs. Req’d)

Showdown looms over Md. electricity re-regulation

A battle is taking place in Maryland over federal and state energy regulation. The federal regulators have been blamed for high energy prices, and delaying additional generation projects.

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) and the state’s energy providers are in the final round of a battle over legislation that would reverse a decade of electricity deregulation and put the state back into the power business.

Maryland’s electricity prices, among the highest in the nation, have angered the public and politicians, and the recession has left about 200,000 of the state’s residential customers behind on their electric bills. Officials are fearful that Maryland — which must import about 30 percent of its power — may run short by 2012 if new generation is not added or if several major transmission projects are delayed.

Of Maryland’s total summertime power generation capacity, 7 percent was built within the past 10 years.

New York Times

Obama, Who Vowed Rapid Action on Climate Change, Turns More Cautious

President Obama came to office promising swift and comprehensive action to combat global climate change, and the topic remains a surefire applause line in his speeches here and abroad.

Yet the administration has taken a cautious and rather passive role on the issue, proclaiming broad goals while remaining aloof from details of climate legislation now in Congress.

I think this is a typically misleading article from the NYT.  Climate legislation was never going to be easy, but in any case nothing that has happened recently suggests any increased caution by team Obama (see George Stephanopoulos, Nate Silver, and Marc Ambinder all seem confused about global warming and budget politics and Obama says his energy plan and cap-and-trade “will be authorized” even if it’s not in the budget “and I will sign it” “” Washington Post confused.)

Green Technology

New York Times

China Outlines Plans for Making Electric Cars

Senior Chinese officials outlined on Friday how they aimed to turn their country into the world’s largest producer of electric cars, including a focus on consumer choice rather than corporate subsidies.

Speaking at a conference at the government’s prestigious Diaoyutai guesthouse here, the officials acknowledged that their efforts faced challenges in terms of the cost and safety of electric cars. They promised a nationwide effort by manufacturers, universities, research institutes and government agencies to overcome these obstacles.

Climate Change

Science Daily

Climate Change Effects In California

A biennial report released April 1 by a team of experts that advises California’s governor suggests that climate changes are poised to affect virtually every sector of the state’s economy and most of its ecosystems. Significant impacts will likely occur under even moderate scenarios of global greenhouse emissions and associated climate change, but without action, severe and costly climate change impacts are possible across the state.

Washington Post

India Rejects Calls For Emission Cuts

Days after the Obama administration unveiled a push to combat climate change, Indian officials said it was unlikely to prompt them to agree to binding emission cuts, a position among emerging economies that many say derails effective action.

‘If the question is whether India will take on binding emission reduction commitments, the answer is no. It is morally wrong for us to agree to reduce when 40 percent of Indians do not have access to electricity,’ said a member of the Indian delegation to the recently concluded U.N. conference in Bonn, Germany, which is a prelude to a Copenhagen summit in December on climate change. ‘Of course, everybody wants to go solar, but costs are very, very high.’

For India, I don’t an emissions cut is required any time soon, so this is a bit of a red herring.


Don’t Expect Much From The Next Kyoto

The Copenhagen Climate Convention is months away, but likely DOA already. Here’s why.

The Copenhagen Climate Convention is still eight months off, but it already looks likely that the follow-up to the Kyoto Climate Protocol will end without agreement on dramatic new action to curb global greenhouse gas emissions. The reason? American politics.

Good to see the MSM finally catch up to CP (see “Obama can’t get a global climate treaty ratified, so what should he do instead? Part 1“).


‘In the Great Ship Titanic’

In an interview with Fareed Zakaria, Secretary Chu likens the earth to the “Great Ship Titanic,” which will take 50 years to turn around.

“Nobel physicist Steven Chu is out to revitalize U.S. industry and save the world””if he can.”

Getting Rid of ‘Green’

In this interview with Sharon Begley, NYT columnist Thomas Friedman says, “You’ll know the green revolution has been won when the word ‘green’ disappears.”

Financial Times

Ice loss sparks new climate change fears

“Evidence of ice loss from both poles this week has sparked fresh fears that global warming is progressing faster than scientists had predicted.

Arctic ice has thinned dramatically, as well as shrinking in area, according to US research. Thin seasonal ice, which melts and refreezes each year, now makes up about 70 per cent of the Arctic winter ice, up from about 40 to 50 per cent in the 1980s and 1990s, leaving far less of the older, thicker ice that is harder to melt.

In the Antarctic, an ice bridge connecting an island to the Wilkins ice shelf – a sheet of ice about the size of Northern Ireland – shattered as scientists monitored it through satellite observations.”

The Sydney Morning Herald

Poor prognosis for our planet

“Every patient with an incurable illness will ask how long they have to live. The answer goes something like this: ‘No one can say how long you may live, because every individual is different, but focus on the changes you observe and be guided by those. When things start changing for the worse, expect these changes to accelerate. So the changes that have occurred over a year may advance by the same degree in a few months, then in weeks. And that is how you can judge when the end is coming.'”

Compiled by Max Luken and Carlin Rosengarten and Joe Romm

8 Responses to Energy and Global Warming News for April 13

  1. David Freeman says:

    Thanks, the daily top stories segment is a very valuable addition to your blog.

    Do you have any suggestions on where or how to propose/express/solicit ideas on tactics in the effort to win the public debate (we’ve already won the scientific debate)?

    For example: Some of my posts have really been more about style in dealing with media versus communicating with allies versus trying to change minds of skeptics (as opposed to the hopeless deniers).

    Another example: We’ve all been frustrated by the whack-a-mole nature of addressing individual denier claims that popup across the media and web. I believe that, aside from being wrong, the achilles heel of most deniers is their embrace of the wacky theory of a world-wide conspiracy of scientists and science organizations and journals to use the peer review process to hide the “truth”. Most Americans are not scientists but except for extreme elements, science is still highly regarded. Most discussions of Climate Change on blogs and in the media do not address the fundamental fact that the deniers rely on an assumption of bad faith on the part of the overall scientific community. If we could bring this issue to the forefront in our discussions with media journalists then maybe they would confront the deniers on this corruption in the foundation of their beliefs. The public hears argument, they need to understand that the foundation for our postions are scientific whereas the foundation for the deniers is ideological and requires a paranoid worldview.

    [JR: This is a tough issue, but I’ll blog on one effort in this regard tomorrow.]

  2. hapa says:

    about maryland, hmm, checking the RMI efficiency gap gizmo,

    it looks like someone has a demand problem. hooray! there are affordable and quick ways to improve electricity productivity!

    about extreme green antagonism, let me tell you the story i’m hearing from many many people at the fringes of the population that thinks “climate breakdown” is a money scam.

    1) they have a lot of experience with getting ripped off or left behind or both.
    + they need to be included and paid upfront.

    2) they have very little personal or community capital to retrofit — many never recovered from the 1970s slowdown. their future income streams look worse.
    + they need equipment and knowledge, not debt.
    + everyone in america needs the feds to stop playing hoover and get to the FDR part.

    3) their information grapevines are terrible and a little paranoid (probably because they don’t have a lot of money to risk on shiny new ideas).
    + foxnews is hopeless, but the professional journals and other vocational news sources need to start talking fast about what needs to be done, the opportunities it will create, the costs it will cut, and the ways the rich will bear the burden.
    + green neoliberalism will kill us all. if it’s just more debt, more power to the bankers and their lackeys, who in their right mind would take that deal?

    4) they value leaving people to their own business, and environmentalism is to them the science of busybodyism. (one person i talked to compared requiring recycling to overthrowing foreign governments by force. another mark against “lifestyle green,” in my book.)
    + we need green “bleacher seats” at home, too.
    + we need to put costs on the people who are able to pay.

    5) environmentally-cranky folks already hunkered down and have been for a couple generations. they think they’re ready to weather anything and they have no money to pretend they can “mitigate” much of anything.
    + “fear of god” doesn’t help them, fairness does.

    6) they’re on welfare. maybe their families are getting direct assistance, maybe their businesses are getting subsidies. deep red states are net recipients of federal money.
    + they’re willing to go along with a crazy-big “biblical events” narrative if doesn’t dig them deeper.

    7) lower cost of living. green JOBS. energy security. public health environmentalism. those are what they want. they want community wealth and happiness and safety.
    + they’ll fight “more debt” or “different debt” by fighting “green.”

    that’s pretty much my sense of it.

  3. hapa says:

    add one: they think the federal debt will bankrupt the country (as opposed to trade deficits). now WHO COULD IT HAVE BEEN that told them a national government’s finances work anything like normal business accounting? and why would those same charlatans want people to think taxes on the top bracket are taxes on everyone? hmmmmmm.

  4. David B. Benson says:

    Here is an important, benign form of geo-engineering. I’d just link to the RealClimate comment, but I don’t know how to do that.

    Geoff Beacon Says:
    13 April 2009 at 8:13 AM

    Is this the topic under which to discuss Professor Salter’s proposals?

    A scientist at the University of Edinburgh has devised a new weapon in the fight against global warming: a fleet of 1,500 unmanned sailing ships creating wakes that whiten clouds to reflect the heat of the Sun better.

    I have met Professor Salter, who has a history of being on the right side of the climate argument. He seems thoughtful and rational but when I talk to others who worry about climate change, I am told his proposals are too risky. In the current context should we not take him seriously – we are well past any safe option.

    The entire fleet of 1500 ships could be built for about $6 billion. I suggest building a few prototypes to perform a pilot study.

  5. Harrier says:

    I’m not opposed to geoengineering that doesn’t fundamentally mess with the chemistry of the atmosphere or the oceans. I think it should be pursued.

    Although, if ‘messing with the chemistry’ involves removing the CO2 that we’ve emitted, I supposed I’d be for that as well.

  6. DR SHENOY says:

    it is verry important even the common man to know in detail about global in india >75% doesnt have a least idea.,we just want to beat china in tems of population.everything else is not significant.