Up to 30 million people are facing “a humanitarian disaster” as one of Africa’s biggest lakes shrinks, a United Nations agency warned Thursday.
Lake Chad was about the size of Maryland — bigger than Israel or Kuwait — in 1963, satellite images show. By 2001, it covered less than one-fifth of that area — making it smaller than Delaware or Mauritius. The drying-up of the shallow lake is fueling conflict and migration, the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization said.
Once one of the biggest bodies of water in the world, it could disappear entirely in about 20 years, the FAO said, citing forecasts from the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
“If that happens it’s going to be a disaster,” Parviz Koohafkan, director of the Land and Water Division of the FAO, told CNN by phone from Rome. The Lake Chad basin is “one of the most important agriculture heritage sites in the world — the biodiversity, the migratory birds, not to mention more than 20 million people living out of Lake Chad — fisherpeople, farmers.”
“It would be a human disaster, a tragedy,” he said. “In this case we have people who are the poorest of the poor.”
“In addition to an approximately 60 percent decline in fish production, there has been degradation of pasturelands, leading to a shortage of animal feed estimated at 45 percent in certain places in 2006, reduction in livestock and biodiversity,” the agency said. The disappearance of the lake is being caused by climate change, population pressure and natural variations in climate, the FAO said.
Two rivers which feed the lake, the Chari and Logone, have been significantly reduced in the past 40 years, the agency said. The organization will unveil the results of a study into the diversion of the Oubangui river in an effort to help Lake Chad at a conference, “Saving Lake Chad,” in Rome, Italy, on Friday.
There`s good news for supporters of the Waxman-Markey climate bill from Stanford Graduate School of Business Professor Stefan Reichelstein. Although passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in June 2009, the bill is expected to spur a contentious debate in the Senate starting this fall. Opponents argue that the bill`s proposed “cap-and-trade” system will take a high financial toll on energy consumers and companies alike, and devastate the economy at a time the country can least afford it.
According to research reported in today`s StanfordKnowledgebase Reichelstein and doctoral student Ozge Islegen believe they have evidence to the contrary. Reichelstein and Islegen have examined the financial impact of regulating coal-fired power plants that produce carbon dioxide emissions under a cap-and-trade system and found the financial burden to be much less than previously projected.
“We were very pleasantly surprised with the results, especially in light of previous cost estimates,” said Reichelstein, Stanford Business School`s William R. Timken Professor of Accounting, who said that everyone agrees there will be a price associated with regulating carbon emissions. “But after several dire scenarios reported in the popular press, we became interested in measuring and quantifying exactly what that cost would be.”
They focused on three key questions. First, at what price for emission permits would fossil fuel power plants, in particular coal-based plants, invest in the new clean carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies rather than buy such permits on the open market? “If the world wants sizable reductions – say cutting carbon dioxide emissions by 50% over the next 40 years – how high would the price of the emissions permits need to go before electric power producers and distributors would have a financial incentive to implement the new clean CCS technologies?” asked Reichelstein.
Second, will CCS technologies actually keep the market price of such emission permits reasonable? “In terms of carbon dioxide emissions, several sectors in the economy – for instance the whole transportation sector – could achieve sizeable reductions. How big a role CCS could play in keeping the market price of emission permits say under $60 per metric ton of carbon dioxide, was something we very much wanted to investigate,” said Reichelstein.
And finally, how far are electricity prices likely to rise in the case where two scenarios are both fulfilled: (1) if power generators are required to obtain emission permits; and (2) if CCS technology is available on the terms currently projected by engineering cost studies?
India’s environment minister has urged the prime minister to take on carbon emission reductions under a new global deal without insisting on finance and technology from rich nations, a report said on Monday.
he Times of India said Jairam Ramesh wrote to Manmohan Singh last week outlining a shift in India’s traditional position in global climate negotiations. India has said developing countries should not be asked to commit to emissions reductions without finance and technology from rich nations since they are largely to blame for most of mankind’s greenhouse gas pollution to date.
The letter said India needed to break away from championing the Group of 77 developing nations at negotiations and be “embedded” with the richer G20 camp for a greater global role. If accepted, this could break the unity among the developing countries and bring on board the world’s fourth largest emitter in a global deal to fight climate change.
The United Nations has set a December deadline for a deal to be agreed during a major climate meeting in the Danish capital Copenhagen.
“The position we take on international mitigation commitments only if supported by finance and technology needs to be nuanced simply because we need to mitigate in self-interest,” the newspaper quoted Ramesh as writing to Singh. Mitigation is U.N.-speak for actions that lead to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
India, China and other big developing nations fear they will be hit hardest by climate change because of their large populations and say it’s in their national interest to try to limit the impacts of more extreme droughts, floods, rising seas and melting glaciers that feed major river systems.
This city of 20 million rose from the sea and grew into a modern showcase, with skyscrapers piercing the clouds, atop tidal flats fed by the mighty Yangtze River. Now Shanghai’s future depends on finding ways to prevent the same waters from reclaiming it.
Global warming and melting glaciers and polar ice sheets are raising sea levels worldwide, leaving tens of millions of people in coastal areas and on low-lying islands vulnerable to flooding and other weather-related catastrophes.
Shanghai, altitude roughly 3 meters (10 feet) above sea level, is among dozens of great world cities “” including London, Miami, New York, New Orleans, Mumbai, Cairo, Amsterdam and Tokyo “” threatened by sea levels that now are rising twice as fast as projected just a few years ago, expanding from warmth and meltwater. Estimates of the scale and timing vary, but Stefan Rahmstorf, a respected expert at Germany’s Potsdam Institute, expects a 1-meter (3-foot) rise in this century and up to 5 meters (15 feet) over the next 300 years.
Chinese cities are among the largest and most threatened. Their huge populations “” the Yangtze River Delta region alone has about 80 million people “” and their rapid growth into giant industrial, financial and shipping centers could mean massive losses from rising sea levels, experts say. The sea is steadily advancing on Shanghai, tainting its freshwater supplies as it turns coastal land and groundwater salty, slowing drainage of the area’s heavily polluted flood basin and eating away at the precious delta soils that form the city’s foundations.
Planners are slow in addressing the threat, in the apparent belief they have time. Instead, Shanghai has thrown its energies into constructing billions of dollars worth of new infrastructure: new ports, bridges, airports, industrial zones, right on the coast.
“By no means will Shanghai be under the sea 50 years from now. It won’t be like the ‘Day After Tomorrow’ scenario,” says Zheng Hongbo, a geologist who heads the School of Earth Science and Engineering at Nanjing University. “Scientifically, though, this is a problem whether we like it or not,” says Zheng, pointing to areas along Shanghai’s coast thought to be shrinking due to erosion caused by rising water levels.
Of all the companies in the U.S., Duke Energy is the 3rd largest emitter of CO2. Of all the companies in the world, Duke is the 12th biggest emitter. And if North Carolina-based Duke were a country, it would rank No. 41 in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, ahead of entire nations in Europe, Africa and Asia.
And yet”¦Jim Rogers, Duke’s longtime president, CEO and chairman, is pushing as hard as anyone in corporate America to get a climate-change bill passed by Congress. His company helped the U.S. Climate Action Partnership get going, and he was key in getting some (but not all) utility-company CEOs to support carbon regulation. “We’re very focused on legislation getting done in the U.S. this year,” Rogers says.
Indeed, Duke is “operating today as if climate legislation has already passed,” Rogers says. The company is investing in nuclear power, cleaner coal, wind, smart grid technology, efficiency and solar energy. Rogers says: “We’re in the most transformative period in the history of the power industry, Our mission is to decarbonize our entire fleet.”
I sat down with Rogers recently after he spoke at the Society of Environmental Journalists conference in Madison, Wisconsin. He’s a pleasure to interview — he answers questions, he’s direct and he’s charming. (He used to be a newspaper reporter so he knows how to tell a story, too. You can listen to excerpts of our talk in a podcast at The Energy Collective, where I’m a lead blogger. ) By the end of our conversation, I had a better understanding of why Rogers and Duke have become advocates of a cap-and-trade scheme to regulate global warming pollution.
Rogers, who is 62, has been a utility-company CEO since 1988. He’s also been a consumer advocate (as an assistant attorney general in Kentucky) and a federal regulator (at the FERC) so he sees issues from different perspectives. More important, Duke Energy is, for the most part, a regulated utility — meaning that its major investments and electricity rates must be approved by state public utility regulators. So if Rogers can convince those regulators that his investments in low-carbon power generation make sense, he should be able to make a good return.
“Moving to a low carbon world is an earnings opportunity for me,” Rogers said. “If I have to retrofit my fleet, that’s earnings growth.” That’s assuming, of course, that state regulators will permit him to raise rates for customers to cover the costs of renewable power, cleaner coal or new nuclear plants.
Sunlight is free. But installing solar panels to heat your home is beyond the means of many Americans. If you live in California, Oregon or Arizona though – and other states starting next year – a bright idea can save you a bundle, as CBS News correspondent Bill Whitaker explains.
With rooftop solar systems costing $25,000-$50,000, even ardent environmentalists run for cover. And Kathy Nalty is not the greenest person on the planet. She says she drives a gas-guzzler and doesn’t buy much organic food.
But look on her roof. She’s gone solar. In her typical suburban house, which she shares with kids and grandma, five TVs and four computers, her electric bill went from $200-$300 a month to just $59 a month.
That’s thanks to a hot idea sweeping the solar industry: leasing. Nalty gets solar panels free. The solar company charges her $100 a month for the 15-year lease, and state and federal rebates for new solar systems – worth a couple of thousand dollars – go to the company.
“My usage is down,” Nalty says, and she saves so much on electric bills that she actually comes out ahead about $100 each month. “I kept thinking it was too good to be true,” she said.
“Our biggest problem with customers was they didn’t want to pay the upfront cost of solar,” said Jim Cahill of SolarCity. SolarCity, one of the first companies to start leasing to residential customers, says it’s a win for the company, the environment, the consumer. “It’s allowed people who didn’t have the option of getting the system, to get a system,” Cahill said.
“Some of the deals out there right now allow you to essentially go solar right away and do so with a lower average utility bill than you had before, even though solar energy is still more expensive than conventional power,” said Daniel Kammen, a professor at U.C. Berkeley.
With leasing, incentives for businesses, and rebates for homeowners who buy systems, solar panel use doubled in California last year – a big step toward the ambitious goal of generating one-third of the state’s energy from renewable sources by 2020 and proof of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s assertion that “you can be good to both the economy and the environment.”
The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee next week will review how the distribution of permits to cover carbon emissions could affect energy prices under a controversial climate bill that remains on a slow-walk in the Senate.
The issue of allowances is particularly important to the ultimate success of climate legislation, since lawmakers want to do all they can to keep energy costs from rising, particularly in their neck of the woods, even as they try to move away from fossil fuels that release carbon dioxide but are often cheaper than renewable and nuclear alternatives.
The likely bill produced by Congress would force companies to hold permits, or allowances, to cover their emissions. Initially the bulk of these credits would be distributed for free to help moderate costs. Companies can buy and sell the allowances on an open market as needed to cover their emissions. Each year, the government would give away fewer and fewer allowances, requiring companies to buy them instead in an auction.
A bill that would actually reduce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions is the purview of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. The Senate Finance Committee also has jurisdiction over the allocation of permits.
Although it lacks jurisdiction, the Senate energy panel includes a number of key players in the debate, including several Democrats who have raised concerns to varying degrees about the effect a climate change bill will have on energy prices and by extension jobs. These include Sens. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, Evan Bayh of Indiana, Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana. The committee will review the allocation of allowances at a hearing on Wednesday.
“One of the critical components will be to understand the economic impacts of policies on consumers and the sector in general,” committee spokesman David Marks said in an email. “Because of the relationship between energy and climate policy, many members have expressed a great deal of interest in getting educated on these issues.”
At a hearing this week on the costs of the climate change bill, Landrieu worried that it would force refiners in her state out of business. She doesn’t believe they receive enough free emissions allowances in the House bill to offset the higher compliance costs. Foreign companies that sell gas in the United States will have to account for the emissions of their products just like domestic refiners would. But critics of the House climate bill say it gives importers an advantage because they won’t have to account for emissions at their manufacturing facilities too, unlike U.S. refiners.
Against the backdrop of the East Coast’s largest trade complex, New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg and Newark Mayor Cory Booker on Sunday jointly announced their support of the Port of Los Angeles’ Clean Truck Program, the nation’s most successful program ever for reducing toxic truck emissions.Their endorsement before dozens of local port drivers, community residents, environmental advocates and labor leaders included a call for Congress to ensure an obsolete law cannot be used to roll back LA’s clean-air progress or deter other ports from following suit.
“For too long we’ve been offered a false choice between economic growth and environmental sustainability,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “From our Million Trees program to our Greener, Greater Buildings Plan, we have proven in New York City that we can provide economic opportunities while advancing our environmental goals. Today, I am calling on Congress to support legislation that will empower ports to implement the LA Clean Truck Program, an innovative initiative that will create good, green jobs and improve the quality of the air that New Yorkers breathe.”
Big-city mayors on both coasts have now pushed for changes to federal law to remove any doubt that local officials have the legal authority to address the market failures that have spiked public health and poverty statistics to crisis proportions and have earned America’s seaports the notorious reputation as the place “where old trucks go to die.”
Earlier this week Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums also expressed his willingness to educate Congress on the need to amend the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act, the arcane 20th century statute that the Beltway-based American Trucking Association has argued in court preempts critical components of the green-growth model developed under the leadership of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
A Japanese shipmaker said Thursday it planned to launch the world’s first large electric ferry — the latest innovation aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. A subsidiary of heavy machinery giant IHI Corp. has completed a basic design for a 30-metre (99-foot) long ferry that could carry 800 passengers, powered by rechargeable batteries, a company spokesman said.
While smaller battery-powered boats are already in use, IHI’s ferry would be “the world’s first large plug-in vessel,” he said. “It would emit no carbon dioxide or nitrogen oxide. We also aim to slash fuel costs,” said the spokesman, who declined to be named. The ferry would be able to cruise some 120 kilometres (74 miles) on a charge of six to eight hours, he said.
The group’s shipbuilding subsidiary IHI Marine United Inc. plans to launch the ferry in around 2015, when it expects high-performance rechargeable batteries to be available at a lower cost. The total battery capacity would be around 5,000 kilowatt hours — more than 300 times greater than that of a small electric vehicle currently in use, the spokesman said. The price is likely to be some 60 percent higher than that of a conventional ferry, he added.
Japanese car makers are already world leaders in fuel-efficient vehicles and Nissan plans to start selling what it describes as the world’s first affordable electric car in late 2010.
A Charlotte developer hopes to build a 50- to 100-megawatt biomass power plant as part of a proposed 667-acre clean-energy park northwest of the city. Tom McKittrick of Forsite Development Inc. outlined the plan Thursday afternoon at the Third Annual Green Conference sponsored by the Charlotte and Gaston chambers of commerce at Pine Island Country Club.
The project, called ReVenture Park, would straddle the line between Mecklenburg and Gaston counties. McKittrick predicts the clean-energy park could create 1,000 jobs and attract more than $1 billion in investment. The proposed site includes the current home of CoaLogix, a company that specializes in technology to remove pollutants from coal-plant emissions. McKittrick says the plan would be for CoaLogix to remain in the clean-energy park.
He said plans are in very early stages and are speculative. But McKittrick hopes to start construction of the plant, or a possible wastewater treatment facility, on the site in 2010. That would qualify either of the projects for federal stimulus funds.
He said the projects can be built without the stimulus funds but would be much more difficult to accomplish. McKittrick estimates the biomass plant, which would burn landfill waste from Mecklenburg, Gaston and other area counties, will cost around $500 million to build. He says a key to the project will be getting Duke Energy Carolinas or another utility as a partner to buy the power plant’s output. He says Duke is generally aware of the proposed park, but he is only now preparing to have initial talks with Duke representatives.
Australians living beside some of the country’s finest beaches will be allowed to fortify their beachfront homes against rising seas and storms, as climate change increasingly threatens the heavily-populated east coast.
Many Australians live within a short car-ride of the coast and are feeling the impact of more frequent storms blamed in part on global warming, prompting national soul-searching over whether to adopt a “retreat or defend” approach to beach living. Environmentalists fear widespread coastal defenses could scar beaches and cause massive erosion, as the movement of sand is blocked by concrete and stone barriers.
But the government in New South Wales (NSW) state, home to a third of the country’s 22 million population, said it would override local planning and allow coastal fortification, with appropriate environmental safeguards.
“It’s not just, ‘I’ll build a wall’, it’ll protect me and I’ll be right mate,” Simon Smith, the Deputy Director of the NSW Department of Environment and Climate Change, told the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper.
Scientists say Australia is experiencing “accelerated climate change” because of its dry climate, resulting in more frequent storms, droughts and estimated average temperature rises of between 1.4 to 5.8 degrees Celsius by 2100.