7 Responses to Energy and Global Warming News for October 22: Southeast most exposed to climate change impacts; Thinking solar power? It’s never been cheaper
Poverty and climate hazards make the southeast United States the country’s most vulnerable area to climate change impact, Oxfam America said on Wednesday.
A report released by the relief organization identified high-risk “hotspots” across 13 southeast states from Arkansas to Virginia where poverty factors combined with high risk of drought, flooding, hurricanes and sea-level rise.
“Social factors like income and race do not determine who will be hit by a natural disaster, but they do determine a population’s ability to prepare, respond, and recover when disaster does strike,” Oxfam America President Raymond Offenheiser said in a statement accompanying the report.
“As climate change increases and intensifies floods, storms, and heat waves, many of the world’s poorest communities, from Biloxi (Mississippi) to Bangladesh, will experience unprecedented stress,” Offenheiser added.
Oxfam said the study, using a method developed by experts from the University of South Carolina’s Hazards and Vulnerability Research Institute, for the first time overlaid risk of climate hazards with social variables….
The Oxfam report, available at www.oxfamamerica.org/adapt, includes layered maps that depict different levels of social and climate change-related hazard vulnerability in the U.S. southeast, which accounts for roughly 80 percent of all U.S. counties that experience persistent poverty….
For example, one identified high-risk area was Iberia Parish in Louisiana, which had some of the highest hazard exposures — 76.8 percent of land in a flood zone, 78.9 percent in the extreme drought zone, 56 percent in a sea-level rise zone, and all within a hurricane wind zone.
It also had some of the highest social vulnerability scores, due to its growing Latino population with young children, racial inequalities, and employment dependencies on industries like fishing, oil, and gas….
Poor families were among the worst affected when Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in Louisiana in 2005.
Miami-Dade County in Florida — a state viewed by many as a playground for the rich — was also qualified by the report as a high-risk area,
Jillian Lung says she’s no environmentalist. Still, she couldn’t pass up a chance to install a carpet of solar panels atop her co-op in Queens.
“At these prices, why not?” Lung said.
The government has plowed so much cash into the solar industry that it’s effectively pulled the luxury tag off of home solar systems. Combined with local incentives, buyers can save up to 90 percent on a system, whether it’s for a single-family home or a 75-unit condo in the city.
Thousands of homeowners are finding they can pay off a rooftop solar system in just a few years and then start pocketing the energy savings.
Lung, the co-op president, stumbled into solar subsidy programs last year as she priced out roof repairs. City, state and federal incentives covered nearly three-quarters of the tab for a $394,514 solar system.
The building flipped the switch on in July and already cut last month’s electric bill in half.
“This was just icing on the cake,” Lung said. “We had to change the roof anyway.”
Solar power has been getting cheaper for years. Panel prices declined 31 percent from 1998 to 2008 because of lower manufacturing and installation costs and state and local subsidies, according to a study released Wednesday by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. But it still took a ramp up in federal incentives this year to bring the cost within many people’s reach.
More than half the states in the U.S. and Washington D.C. offer enough incentives to cut the costs by 40 percent or more, according to Amy Heinemann, a policy analyst at the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency.
Recession-stricken New York City plans to double its current green work force by creating over 13,000 new jobs in the next decade, partly by competing with London to become the new center for carbon trading, a city official said on Wednesday.
London, whose prominence as a financial capital rivals New York City and Tokyo, got an early lock in trading pollution credits by training lawyers, accountants and other experts “before the market even existed,” Seth Pinsky, president of the Economic Development Corporation, told Reuters.
New York City’s new boot camp in green finance will be run by the State University of New York’s Levin Institute. It will be open to laid-off workers or future entrepreneurs, much like an already “booming” incubator for financial start-ups, Pinsky said.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who made his first fortune as a Wall Street bond trader before getting into politics, is expected to announce on Thursday this green job branch to his two-year-old PlaNYC program, which set ambitious goals for reducing greenhouse gases, planting 1 million trees and crowning skyscrapers with wind turbines.
The mayor’s $7.5 million green jobs plan will call on Columbia University to help offer public school pupils “hands-on” learning in energy efficiency, according to Bloomberg, who is running as an independent candidate for a third term. His plan also will create an Urban Technology Innovation Center to tap academic research. Existing city and state funds and federal stimulus dollars will pay for it.
Two British Cabinet ministers showed off a doomsday vision of disappearing cities and rising seas on Thursday, part of an effort to push nations to strike a new pact on curbing emissions of global warming gasses.
Foreign Secretary David Miliband and his brother, Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband, published an online map detailing the predicted impact of a 4 degrees Celsius (7 degrees Fahrenheit) rise in global temperatures.
Ed Milband said the map, which was prepared by scientists at the British Meteorological Office, shows that the “stakes couldn’t be higher” as nations prepare for a December summit in Denmark. The Copenhagen meeting aims to strike agreement on new action to limit temperature rises as a result of climate change to 2 degrees Celsius.
Britain has pledged to cut carbon dioxide emissions by at least 80 percent of 1990 levels by 2050.
“With less than 50 days left before agreement must be reached, the U.K.’s going all out to persuade the world of the need to raise its ambitions so we get a deal that protects us from a 4 degree world,” Ed Miliband said.
Former Vice President Al Gore said today that he was “optimistic” the U.S. Senate’s climate bill will pass, citing support from Republicans including Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.
Gore, whose remarks in Beijing focused on solar, wind and geothermal power, expressed skepticism that natural gas, nuclear power or biofuels were realistic energy sources to harness in order to achieve large reductions in carbon emissions.
Gore, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 for his work to publicize the dangers of global warming, said nuclear power was too expensive and could be used to make weapons, biofuels might spark food price rises and natural gas, which emits two-thirds the carbon of oil, was only a “promising transition fuel.”
Before Gore spoke, he met with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, who said the U.S. and China should cooperate to promote clean energy and combat climate change, Xinhua News Agency reported. Earlier today, Chinese President Hu Jintao talked to President Barack Obama on the phone and said China wanted a successful outcome to the Copenhagen climate talks, Xinhua also reported.
“Although problems remain in talks for a final deal, there are hopes for a positive result at the Copenhagen conference as long as the convening parties work together closely,” Xinhua reported Hu as saying.
Losing key members and facing political headwinds, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce spent a record $34.7 million in the third quarter lobbying against the Obama administration’s proposals to overhaul energy policy, financial regulation and health care.
The Chamber’s money paid for more than a dozen lobbyists to visit Congress, the White House and agencies from Agriculture to Treasury. Most of the Chamber’s positions — free trade, unfettered credit card lending, Cash for Clunkers rebates — enjoy broad support among the Chamber’s diverse corporate members.
The Chamber’s lobbying agenda encompasses virtually any issue that affects business — so the group has a stance on virtually every issue. Debates on far-reaching effects, like health care, often occupy the most attention. But the Chamber disclosure also shows the group devoted serious resources to issues important to a smaller number of members — Internet taxation, immigration enforcement and forcing children to speak English.
However, on one broad issue considered critical to the Obama administration’s success the Chamber’s anti-regulatory postures created a rift. On the question of how to address climate change, the Chamber has seen a growing number of companies defect. They say the self-proclaimed ”voice of business” doesn’t speak for them when it denies global warming and lobbies against climate change legislation.
Europe attempted to reassert its international leadership in the fight against global warming today, offering to slash its greenhouse gas emissions by up to 95% by 2050 and by 30% by 2020 if a climate change pact is sealed in Copenhagen in six weeks’ time.
“This should be seen as a clear message to the world,” said Andreas Carlgren, the Swedish environment minister who chaired the Luxembourg meeting. “We expect to reach an agreement in Copenhagen,” he added, after environment ministers from 27 countries finalised a common EU negotiating position.
But his optimism contrasted with the increasing doubts around the world enough time remains to deliver a binding agreement in Copenhagen. The EU also still has to settle disputes over the EU’s carbon trading scheme and how the developing world will be paid to cope with the impacts of global warming.
Yesterday, European finance ministers failed to agree on a funding package for developing countries, with Poland and other poorer eastern European countries unhappy at being asked to subsidise action in countries such as China and India whose economies are growing strongly. Poland is also leading the dissent on the EU emissions trading scheme (ETS).
The EU negotiating position offers to slash greenhouse gas emissions by between 80-95% by 2050 and to deepen cuts from 20 to 30% by 2020 if other world powers sign up for similar action. The ministers said they also reached accord on tough action on deforestation and agreed that aviation would have to cut its emissions by 10% by 2020 compared with 2005 levels and shipping by 20%.
However, reluctance from the big players – the US, China, and India – to unveil targets or specific figures for a climate change pact, the EU was divided over tactics ahead of the UN conference in Copenhagen in December.
Germany and Italy were reluctant to name a figure publicly so early, believing this could weaken the European bargaining position.
“I’ve heard arguments about tactics,” said Stavros Dimas, the European commissioner for the environment. “But by telling the decision now, we encourage other countries to come with their proposals. We don’t gain anything by not reaching a decision.”
Britain, Denmark, Sweden, and the Netherlands supported this view, believing that Europe had more to gain from playing pioneer and seizing the leadership in the run-up to Copenhagen.