Energy and Global Warming News for September 18th: UN Secretary General calls for immediate action

U.N Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon Calls for Immediate Action on Climate Change

Two weeks ago, I visited the Arctic. I saw the remains of a glacier that just a few years ago was a majestic mass of ice. It had collapsed. Not slowly melted “” collapsed. I traveled nine hours by ship from the world’s northernmost settlement to reach the polar ice rim. In just a few years, the same ship may be able to sail unimpeded all the way to the North Pole. The Arctic could be virtually ice-free by 2030.

Scientists told me their sobering findings. The Arctic is our canary in the coal mine for climate impacts that will affect us all.

I was alarmed by the rapid pace of change there. Worse still, changes in the Arctic are now accelerating global warming. Thawing permafrost is releasing methane, a greenhouse gas 20 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. Melting ice in Greenland threatens to raise sea levels.

Meanwhile, global greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise.

I am therefore all the more convinced we must act “” now.

To that end, on Sept. 22 I am convening a special summit on climate change at the United Nations for some 100 world leaders “” history’s largest-ever such gathering of heads of state and government. Their collective challenge: transform the climate crisis into an opportunity for safer, cleaner, sustainable green growth for all.

The key is Copenhagen, where governments will gather to negotiate a new global climate agreement in December.

I will have a simple message to convey to leaders: The world needs you to actively push for a fair, effective and ambitious deal in Copenhagen. Fail to act, and we will count the cost for generations to come.

Climate change is the preeminent geopolitical issue of our time. It rewrites the global equation for development, peace and prosperity. It threatens markets, economies and development gains. It can deplete food and water supplies, provoke conflict and migration, destabilize fragile societies and even topple governments.

What is needed is political will at the highest levels “” presidents and prime ministers “” that translates into rapid progress in the negotiating room. It requires more trust among nations, more imagination, ambition and cooperation.

I expect leaders to roll up their sleeves and speak with “” not past “” each other. I expect them to intensify efforts to resolve the key political issues that have so far slowed global negotiations to a glacial pace. Ironically, that expression “” until recently “” connoted slowness. But the glaciers I saw a few weeks ago in the Arctic are melting faster than human progress to preserve them.

EU Worried US Senate Dragging Its Feet on Climate Change

The EU ambassador to the United States said on Thursday that any delay by the U.S. Senate that pushes action on climate into next year could subject the country to the charge that domestic politics will always trump its international commitments.

Such a move would postpone the formation of an overall U.S. climate plan until after a U.N. climate meeting in Copenhagen in December, when 190 countries hope to craft a new treaty to fight greenhouse gas emissions.

“If this were to happen it would open the United States to the charge that it does not take its international commitments seriously, and that these commitments will always take second place to domestic politics,” John Bruton, the EU’s ambassador to the United States, said in a press release.

He said asking an international conference “to sit around looking out the window for months, while one chamber of the legislature of one country deals with its other business, is simply not a realistic political position.”

Iowans Show Support for Clean Energy and Climate Bill

At a public hearing before the Iowa Utilities Board this morning, a broad coalition of Iowa citizens will call for the Iowa Utilities Board to stand up to utility pressure on climate change. Through previously submitted written comments and personal testimony at a workshop on Friday, these citizens will make the scientific, economic and personal case for why Congress should pass the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES).

Several of the groups submitted analyses that showed how Iowa will benefit from clean energy legislation through job growth and income in manufacturing, renewable energy and energy efficiency. Others showed that the moderate costs of the bill are miniscule compared to the threat of global climate change.

These analyses get past the scare tactics that have been prevalent in the debate over climate change legislation,” said David Osterberg, executive director of the nonpartisan Iowa Policy Project. “Under one respected analysis, the additional cost to the average Iowa household is estimated at $4 a month, about the cost of a Big Mac and fries. That is a small cost to assure energy security for the future.”

Wally Taylor, attorney for the Sierra Club, Iowa Chapter added, “In fact, when the energy efficiency and renewable energy measures in the federal climate bill are included, the analysis projects a monthly savings of over $5 on electric bills by 2020.”

“There is so much more at stake here than minor changes in electric rates,” said Rob Kelter, Senior Attorney for the Environmental Law & Policy Center “Clean energy can be a major driver of economic growth in Iowa, but we have to stand up to the utilities to make it happen.”

“Iowa is well-positioned to move to a clean-energy economy under this legislation. Our state is a leader in energy efficiency and wind-energy production and has vast untapped potential for clean energy development,” Nathaniel Baer, energy program director for the Iowa Environmental Council said.

National Parks Soon to be Empty of Glaciers

If you want to see glaciers in Glacier National Park, you had better hurry. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that within 20 years, the park will be empty of glaciers. As temperatures rise and politicians debate how to respond to climate change, the national parks already seem to be feeling the effects.

At hearings in April, Jonathan Jarvis, the Obama administration’s nominee as director of the National Park Service, called the national parks “the proverbial canary in the coal mine.” He noted that the parks are both largely undisturbed and closely monitored, so the effects of the hanging ecosystem can be more easily documented.

Recent changes at the parks are hardly encouraging. Rocky Mountain National Park is battling an unprecedented infestation of bark beetles that threatens large swaths of trees; Joshua Tree National Park is counting fewer and fewer of its namesake trees; and in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, ranger Adrianne Freeman notes that staffers have seen fewer days of snow as well as plant and animal migration to higher altitudes, where temperatures remain cool.

EU Urges G20 to Give Billions to Poor Nations in Climate Fight

EU leaders on Thursday put pressure on the United States and other rich nations to provide at least five billion euros of “fast-start” money next year to help poor nations tackle climate change.

The call came as European heads of state and government held a summit in Brussels aimed at forging a joint position ahead of the G20 summit of major and developing economies in Pittsburgh next week.

The G20 should recognise the need to fast-start international public support for addressing urgent climate financing needs in developing countries,” the EU leaders agreed in a statement.

The European Commission estimates that five to seven billion euros annually will be needed in the 2010-2012 period until a more long-term “financial architecture” is put in place, hopefully, at a UN climate conference in Copenhagen later this year.

The commission says that the annual figure needed to help developing nations combat and deal with climate change will hit 100 billion euros (147 billion dollars) per year by 2020.

It’s time for a wake-up call to world leaders on climate,” said Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, who presided over the Brussels summit.

The United States and the rest of the world are not doing enough to tackle climate change at a time when “the world has a fever,” he said.

We really need to step up, stop the acting and start delivering action.”

Senate Moderates Ask for Help Navigating Clean Energy Bill (subs. req’d)

Five key Senate Democrats have asked for White House help as they try to write a piece of the global warming bill that keeps energy-intensive domestic industries from moving to developing countries that do not have their own strict environmental laws.

Sens. Evan Bayh of Indiana, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Sherrod Brown of Ohio sent a letter last Friday to President Obama’s top climate adviser requesting more information on a key section of the House-passed climate bill that deals with the most trade-sensitive industries.

In their letter, the senators requested an analysis of the House-passed provision in H.R. 2454 that gives U.S. EPA the authority to determine which trade-exposed industries are eligible for the pot of free allowances starting in 2014 that could potentially be worth tens of billions of dollars.

The senators asked the White House adviser to pull together economic modeling and international trade data from U.S. EPA, the Energy, Commerce and Treasury departments, the U.S. International Trade Commission and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. They also requested a briefing for industry groups “so they can gain a fuller understanding of all the likely provisions of a cap-and-trade bill that may help their industries.”

Climate Scientists Call for Sharper Emissions Cuts (subs. req’d)

Top climate scientists, including a former chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said yesterday that world leaders must agree to ambitious short-term cuts in greenhouse gas emissions to avoid “dangerous” climate change.

Holding rising global temperatures to an average of just 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels will require developed countries to cut their emissions of heat-trapping gases at least 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, the researchers said in an open letter organized by the World Wildlife Fund.

That’s well above the 10 to 16 percent cuts that developed countries have committed to in advance of U.N. climate negotiations later this year in Copenhagen. But much steeper cuts are required, the scientists said.

“More than 120 countries, including members of the G8, the EU, and key emerging economies such as China, South Africa and Mexico, agree that the rise in global temperature must stay well below 2° Celsius,” they wrote. “Beyond this point, climate impacts will be more severe, with the risk of crossing ‘tipping points’ with dangerous and irreversible effects.”

Forty climate scientists signed the letter, including Sir John Houghton, a former IPCC chairman and a former chairman of the U.K. Meteorological Office.

BP Expands Wind Power in U.S.

BP is expanding its wind power electricity generation capacity in the United States but is shedding an Indian unit, which has been sold to Green Infra Limited of India.

BP said Green Infra Limited purchased its subsidiary, BP Energy India Private Limited, for a total cash-free, debt-free enterprise value of about $95 million. Green Infra Limited is an independent power producer owned by funds managed by India’s leading infrastructure-focused private equity company, IDFC Private Equity.

BPEIPL owns and operates three wind farms in India with a total generating capacity of about 100 megawatts. The transaction was completed Wednesday.

BP’s decision to sell BPEIPL stemmed from a strategic review in 2008 that shifted focus on developing key wind power markets, especially the United States, as part of its future business strategy.

“We estimate that if 10 percent of the world’s power came from wind, it would cut CO2 emissions by one billion tons per year,” BP said.

The challenge, however, is to expand wind operations to form a material business that can own and operate gigawatts of installed power.

David Nicholas, a BP spokesman, told United Press International the company currently operates six wind power units in the United States and has begun construction of two more this year.

18 Responses to Energy and Global Warming News for September 18th: UN Secretary General calls for immediate action

  1. paulm says:

    You can feel the hysteria of Global Warming rising from the posts above. Ban Ki-Moon’s plea demonstrates this vividly, as does the increased bold highlights above.

    The desperation is there in Hansen’s latest article…

    As fossil fuels’ day in the sun approaches dusk, the main sources driving continued greenhouse gas emissions are growing hungrier.

    Witness the rise of Canada’s Tar Sands oil developments. The Tar Sands represent the end of easy oil. This is the hard stuff: oil mixed deep into a sandy soil. The process of extracting it, refining it, and shipping it adds up to an oil dirtier, more polluting, and more harmful to our climate than all the oil that has gotten us into this mess. Global-warming emissions from Tar Sands oil production are three to five times greater than from conventional crude production.

    To squeeze just one barrel of oily sludge from four tons of Albertan soil in Canada, industry must destroy Boreal forests, drain wetlands, and consume natural gas that could otherwise generate electricity or heat homes. Then, because the sludge is permeated by toxic heavy metals, more natural gas must be used to give the sludge a hot bath. The result: three barrels of drinking water destroyed for every barrel of sludge washed, and lakes of toxic waste so large they can be seen from outer space.

    In short, the Tar Sands represent the swapping of nature for Tolkein’s Mordor.

    The US government hasn’t yet grasped the magnitude of the impending disaster.

    Recently, a permit to construct a pipeline carrying Tar Sands oil into the United States was granted by the State Department in order to satisfy the local appeal of 3,000 temporary jobs in Minnesota.

    By an older standard of “national interest,’’ this makes perfect sense: jobs are to be encouraged. But in light of climate change’s clear and present danger, and the potent opportunities afforded by clean energy and employment-intensive infrastructure upgrades, this Tar Sands pipeline decision feels more like a decision to reinvest in typewriters at the dawn of the computer age.

  2. Jeff Huggins says:

    Bravo To The Secretary General (and several supporting quotes)

    “Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.”
    (Aldous Huxley)

    “The wise man does at once what the fool does finally.”
    (Machiavelli; an oft-quoted paraphrase but true to his point)

    “The significant problems we have cannot be solved at the same level of thinking with which we created them.”
    (Albert Einstein)

    “We won’t find anywhere as nice as Earth unless we go to another star system.”
    (Stephen Hawking)

    “What good am I if I know and don’t do . . . ?”
    (Bob Dylan, “What Good Am I?”)

    Now, let’s see if The New York Times covers this, well, on the front page.

  3. Michael says:

    Actually, the cost of the national debt and unfunded entitlement liabilities to the tune of 100 trillion dollars are much more of a threat to future generations than climate change is.

  4. ecostew says:

    Sept. 18, 2009

    Recycling and Land Reuse Practices Can Help Fight Climate Change

    WASHINGTON – There is much potential to reduce the nation’s greenhouse gases through recycling, waste reduction, smart growth, and by reusing formerly contaminated sites including brownfields.

    EPA’s report “Opportunities to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions through Materials and Land Management Practices” finds that 42 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions are influenced by materials management policies. This includes the impacts from extracting raw materials, food processing, and manufacturing, transporting, and disposing of products. Another 16 to 20 percent of emissions are associated with land management policies. That includes emissions from passenger transportation, construction, and from lost vegetation when greenfields are cleared for development. In addition, the equivalent of 13 percent of U.S. emissions is absorbed by soil and vegetation and can also be protected or enhanced through land management policies.

    Some of the materials and land management activities that have the potential to decrease emissions include:

    reducing the use of non-packaging paper products
    increasing municipal recycling, and recycling of construction and demolition debris
    reusing land, including redevelopment of formerly contaminated lands
    reusing formerly contaminated lands for renewable energy development
    encouraging smart growth

    The report suggests that land management and materials management approaches should be part of the nation’s toolbox to meet the target of an 83 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

    More information on the report:

  5. ecostew says:

    For more than two years, Canadian writer Alanna Mitchell travelled the world’s oceans, meeting scientists whose research was uncovering a crisis in the planet’s large bodies of water.

    Overfishing, coastal dead zones and rising water temperatures are just some of the problems plaguing the world’s oceans. Mitchell found the most serious challenge the oceans face is climate change.

  6. ecostew says:

    India wrong-footed the United States and other rich nations yesterday by agreeing for the first time to set numerical targets for curbing its greenhouse gas emissions.

  7. paulm says:

    You can listen to Alanna Mitchell via podcast on CBC talking through her book her book, Sea Sick: The Global Ocean in Crisis,..

    Mitchell identifies the five biggest problems the oceans face: coastal dead zones, ocean acidification, coral reef decline, overfishing and marine debris.

  8. BBHY says:

    Nature is responding to our CO2 emissions. Nature is relentless. Nature doesn’t care about deniers, Al Gore haters, greed or idiots. Nature is heating up the Earth and making it a less livable place for humans regardless of whether people understand nature or not.

    We must heed nature. We can ignore nature only for a brief time and only at our own grave peril.

  9. Mike#22 says:

    “The objective of the Summit on Climate Change, which I am convening on 22 September, is to mobilize the political will and vision needed to reach an ambitious agreed outcome based on science at the UN climate talks in Copenhagen.”

    UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

  10. Stuart says:

    Michael @ 3

    Dollars are irrelevant without a viable ecosystem. Human civilization has developed in a very narrow and stable climate window – we have already moved above this range.

  11. changefuelsnow says:

    the thinking needs to be changed in order to understand the practicality (put aside practical necessity) of changing over to more sensible, less destructive fuels.

    with respect to at least gettin off of oil, this has the additional, and very real appeal, of ending our unnecessary and national security compromising reliance upon foreign oil. thus approached and framed properly, there should be much more widespread progress.

    a small band of economic and scientific reactionaries, are, in fact, controlling the debate (largely through Fox and elsewhere),and this permeates all the way to the everyday citizen on the street, and our Congress.

  12. changefuelsnow says:

    so now the above comment is taken, when the website url which leads to ideas which from an objective, non partisan perspective, support the very goals that joe romm is here sensibly trying to promote, albeit from perhaps just a slight bit more of a preachin to the choir type of framing?

    i hope this is some sort of wacky administrative or internet snafu, because otherwise, this would be beyond the pale and a classic example of exactly why a small band of economic and scientific reactionaries are in fact conrolling the debate, particularly with respect to the parts of this that are easy.

    I tried five times to post with the above referenced url. at three different geo engineering posts (as well as to this post here), with a link to an article that cogently provided a logical (and again, fairly non partisan and sensible) argument against putting aside practical effort in favor of a “geo engineering” approach.) NONE were taken, but I take out the url, and suddenly the post (that one sees above) magically appears?

  13. ecostew says:

    Scientists in Pennsylvania report that boosting production of crops used to make biofuels could make a difficult task to shrink a vast, oxygen-depleted “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico more difficult. The zone, which reached the size of Massachusetts in 2008, forms in summer and threatens marine life and jobs in the region.

  14. paulm says:

    What, its this sort of comment that really confuses the masses.

    Has it strengthened from 90% certainty to 95%? I thought we were pretty sure about the probability of GW. Very likely is the term right.
    IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri says evidence for global warming has strengthened in the past two years.

  15. Leland Palmer says:

    Well, we appear to be approaching an appropriate level of desperation, finally, for a species staring down the barrel of a really big gun at a methane catastrophe.

    Desperation is good, I think.

    We need to nationalize the coal fired power plants, and convert them to enhanced efficiency carbon negative biomass or biochar power plants, that capture and deep inject their CO2.

    In this way, we could turn them from the biggest climate criminals, into our climate saviors, and start putting billions of tons of carbon back underground, reversing the 300 billion tons of carbon added to our climate system by the industrial revolution in about 50 years.

    I was glad to see that Ban Ki-Moon’s speech mentioned methane, which I think is the real threat.

    Desperation is good, we should be desperate. Let’s hope that desperation brings appropriate change, not just panic.

    We need to do the things we can do to avoid catastrophe while we still have the technology and the economic ability to do them.

  16. Phil Eisner says:

    I am tired of hearing all the bad environmental news about global warming when the real bad news is our politics. Look at this quote from a NY Times article today:
    “John Bruton, the European Commission ambassador to the United States, was less diplomatic in a statement Thursday.

    The United States is just one of the 190 countries coming to this conference,” Mr. Bruton said, referring to the Copenhagen meeting in December. “But the United States emits 25 percent of all the greenhouse gases that the conference is trying to reduce. Is the U.S. Senate really expecting all the other countries to make a serious effort on climate change at the Copenhagen conference in the absence of a clear commitment from the United States?”

    This is the real situation in a nutshell. Arctic melting, polar bear problems, drought and over heating in our southwest make no impact on our politicians who like to play economic word games with their constituents and fellow congressmen and senators. We cannot impose a reasonable gasoline tax and we cannot impose a reasonable carbon tax. If it wasn’t for California we would have accomplished nothing in the way of reducing CO2 emissions.

  17. David B. Benson says:

    “A new study by Xi Lu of Harvrd University calculates that wind power in the U.S. could potentially generate 16 times the nation’s current electricity production. The study limits potential wind farm locations to rural, nonforested sites (both of land and offshore) with high wind speeds.” from the October 2009 issue of Scientific American, page 28.