Energy and Global Warming News for October 27: Climate change endangers human health

Ailing planet seen as bad for human health

Climate change will make Americans more vulnerable to diseases, disasters and heat waves, but governments have done little to plan for the added burden on the health system, according to a new study by a nonprofit group.

The study, released Monday by the Trust for America’s Health, an advocacy group focused on disease prevention, examines the public-health implications of climate change. In addition to pushing up sea levels and shrinking Arctic ice, the report says, a warming planet is likely to leave more people sick, short of breath or underfed.

Experts involved with the study said that these threats might be reduced if the federal government adopts a cap on greenhouse-gas emissions. But no legislation could stop them altogether, they said. Emissions already in the atmosphere are expected to increase warming — and the problems that come with it — for years to come.

“That [a cap on greenhouse gases] really is not enough,” said Phyllis Cuttino of the Pew Environment Group, which funded the study. “We can see all these problems coming, but as a country, we haven’t done enough to prepare for them.”

The idea that climate change will be bad for people as well as polar bears is not new: It was explained in detail by a United Nations panel that won the Nobel Peace Prize for its work on climate in 2007.

For more on the health impacts of climate change, see

Fleeing drought in the Horn of Africa

For centuries, Adam Abdi Ibrahim’s ancestors herded cattle and goats across an unforgiving landscape in southern Somalia where few others were hardy enough to survive.

This year, Ibrahim became the first in his clan to throw in the towel, abandoning his land and walking for a week to bring his family to this overcrowded refugee camp in Kenya.

He’s not fleeing warlords, Islamist insurgents or Somalia’s 18-year civil war. He’s fleeing the weather.

“I give up,” said the father of five as he stood in line recently to register at the camp. After enduring four years of drought and the death of his last 20 animals, Ibrahim, 28, said he has no plans to return.

Asked how he proposed to live, Ibrahim shrugged. “I want to be a refugee.”

Africa is already home to one-third of the 42 million people worldwide uprooted by ethnic slaughter, despots and war. But experts say climate change is quietly driving Africa’s displacement crisis to new heights. Ibrahim is one of an estimated 10 million people worldwide who have been driven out of their homes by rising seas, failing rain, desertification or other climate-driven factors.

Norman Myers, an Oxford University professor and one of the first scholars to draw attention to the unfolding problem, estimated that by 2050 there will be more than 25 million refugees attributable to climate change, which will replace war and persecution as the leading cause of global displacement.

Micro loans bring light to rural poor

When night falls in remote parts of Africa and the Indian subcontinent, hundreds of millions of people without access to electricity turn to candles or flammable and polluting kerosene lamps for illumination.

Slowly through small loans for solar powered devices, microfinance is bringing light to these rural regions where a lack of electricity has stymied economic development, literacy rates and health.

“Earlier, they could not do much once the sun set. Now, the sun is used differently. They have increased their productivity, improved their health and socio-economic status,” said Pinal Shah from Sewa bank, a micro-lending institution.

Vegetable seller Ramiben Waghri took out a loan to buy a solar lantern which she uses to light up her stall at night. The lantern costs between $66-$112, about a week’s income for Waghri.

“The vegetables look better by this light, and it’s cheaper than kerosene and doesn’t smell,” said Waghri, who estimates she makes about 300 rupees ($6) more each evening with her lantern.

“If we can use the sun to save some money, why not?”

In India, solar power projects, often funded by microcredit institutions, are helping the country reduce carbon emissions and achieve its goal to double the contribution of renewable energy to 6 percent, or 25,000 megawatts, within the next four years.

Off-grid applications such as solar cookers and lanterns, which can provide several hours of light at night after being charged by the sun during the day, will help cut dependence on fossil fuels and reduce the fourth biggest emitter’s carbon footprint, said Pradeep Dadhich, a senior fellow at energy research institute TERI.

Obama to detail stimulus spending on ‘smart grid’

President Obama and administration officials today will announce $3.4 billion in spending projects to modernize the nation’s electric power system.

The president will offer details on funding for the “smart grid” during an appearance at a solar plant in Arcadia, Fla. White House officials said the projects would create tens of thousands of jobs in the near term and lay the groundwork for changing how Americans use and pay for energy.

The spending is aimed at improving the efficiency and reliability of the U.S. power supply, and helping to create markets for wind and solar power, officials said. They also said it would create “smart meters” to help consumers use electricity when demand is low and when rates are cheaper — for example, by running dishwashers and other energy-thirsty appliances in the middle of the night.

The money will be released in the form of grants to applicants and must be matched dollar for dollar by private funding.

The clean-energy push comes as the administration is working to respond to a national unemployment rate hovering near double digits. Vice President Joe Biden today will announce the reopening of a former General Motors plant in Delaware to produce more efficient cars. And several Cabinet secretaries are scheduled to testify before a Senate panel in support of sweeping legislation to curb emissions that contribute to global warming and to encourage renewable energy development.

The president’s announcement comes after comments last week by a key Obama economic advisor, Christina Romer, who said the economic gains from the administration’s signature $787-billion stimulus plan had probably peaked.

China’s Water Needs Create Opportunities

The staggering economic growth in China has come at a heavy cost, paid in severe contamination of the country’s air, soil and water. But now the Chinese government is aggressively pursuing more stringent environmental regulation, with a particular focus on water distribution and wastewater treatment.

Recent stimulus spending has opened up the Chinese market to green initiatives. And Canadian companies are responding to the call for advanced water treatment and reuse technology.

“It’s not well known that China has set aside more money for the adoption of clean technologies than any other country on the planet,” said Dallas Kachan, managing director of Cleantech Group in San Francisco, which tracks global investment in clean technologies.

The Chinese economic stimulus package of 4 trillion yuan, or $585 billion, announced a year ago, focused nearly 40 percent of its spending on environmental and energy-efficient projects.

The climate change meeting in Copenhagen in December is likely to prompt policy shifts that further drive the market for clean technologies in China, Mr. Kachan said. “This is possibly the best time to be doing business in China as a clean-tech company,” he said. “It’s important to get in now and form relationships.”

Since 2006, the clean-technology market in China has “gone from niche to mainstream,” and it is growing at an annual rate of more than 20 percent, according to Tsing Capital, one of the country’s first clean-technology venture capital firms.

Canada has a strong track record for innovation and investment in clean water technology and already has a foot in the Chinese market. “Canadian companies like Zenon Environmental that are world leaders in ultraviolet technology have benefited a lot of the emerging companies looking to enter China,” said David Henderson, managing director of XPV Capital, a Toronto-based investor in emerging water industry companies.

Alan McMillan is managing director of Omazo Ventures, a technology incubator firm also based in Toronto, and chairman of BX Jishu, a Chinese clean-technology distributor. Omazo, through BX Jishu, distributes in China equipment manufactured by UV Pure Technologies, also of Toronto, that purifies water using ultraviolet light.

This summer, Omazo struck a deal with a Shanghai-based hotel chain to supply 1,000 Chinese hotels with UV Pure’s purification units. Omazo declined to name the buyer but said that on average, each unit would cost $2,000 and hotels would typically need 2 to 10 units, depending on their size.

Omazo is focused on the commercial property market “” and specifically, on bringing clean water to China’s burgeoning hospitality industry. “That’s our penetration strategy,” Mr. McMillan said. “We see the hotel industry as being one of the first to demand clean water. Hotels have extreme water needs for their pools, restaurants, showers. And the people who stay in them have high expectations.”

Asia, Africa Are ‘More Vulnerable’ to Climate Change

Developing nations in South Asia and Africa including India may face greater threats from heat- trapping pollution if nations fail to reach a new climate agreement at Copenhagen, a United Nations official said.

“The unfortunate coincidence is that developing countries are located in the tropical belt and are more vulnerable to the impact of climate change,” said Marcel Alers, a climate change mitigation adviser to the United Nations Development Program.

South Asia and Africa may be “hit first and hit harder” because they have fewer resources than developed nations to meet the consequences of greenhouse gas emissions such as floods, droughts and water shortages, Alers said in an interview at the Carbon Asia Forum in Singapore yesterday.

India requires $5 billion a year between 2012 and 2017, in addition to its current investment plans, to support a transition to low-carbon energy generation, the United Nations Development Program said in its Human Development Report, citing research by the Energy and Resources Institute.

Asia’s third-biggest economy is the world’s fourth-largest emitter of carbon dioxide while China is the world’s biggest emitter, according to the UN agency. Between 1990 and 2004, emissions climbed 97 percent, one of the fastest pace of gains in the world, it said.

Ads call for Metcalfe’s resignation

Just a few days after he caused an uproar by calling some Iraq and Afghanistan veterans “traitors” for warning about climate change, radio ads are being run on Pittsburgh stations, urging listeners to call his office and demand that he resign from the Legislature.

But the Republican flame-thrower said he won’t quit and blamed the harsh radio attacks on groups such as Operation Free, and liberal billionaire George Soros, all of whom, Mr. Metcalfe claimed, have a “radical leftist” political agenda.

Mr. Metcalfe, a military veteran himself, contended that any veteran who lends their name “to promote the leftist propaganda of global warming and climate change, in an effort to control more of the wealth created in our economy … is a traitor to the oath he or she took to defend the Constitution of our great nation!”

The new radio ad, running on KDKA and other stations, opens with a narrator saying sternly, “Traitors — that’s what state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe called decorated Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.”

The announcer then says that Mr. Metcalfe had attacked “members of Operation Free, veterans whose goal is to make America more secure with clean energy and cut the flow of oil dollars to those who would do us harm.”

The ad also has Pittsburgh veteran Chuck Tyler saying, “Rep. Metcalfe, a lot of my friends never made it home from Iraq. Dishonoring us dishonors their memory. We deserve better and so does Pennsylvania.”

Climate chief Lord Stern: give up meat to save the planet

People will need to turn vegetarian if the world is to conquer climate change, according to a leading authority on global warming.

In an interview with The Times, Lord Stern of Brentford said: “Meat is a wasteful use of water and creates a lot of greenhouse gases. It puts enormous pressure on the world’s resources. A vegetarian diet is better.”

Direct emissions of methane from cows and pigs is a significant source of greenhouse gases. Methane is 23 times more powerful than carbon dioxide as a global warming gas.

Lord Stern, the author of the influential 2006 Stern Review on the cost of tackling global warming, said that a successful deal at the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December would lead to soaring costs for meat and other foods that generate large quantities of greenhouse gases.

He predicted that people’s attitudes would evolve until meat eating became unacceptable. “I think it’s important that people think about what they are doing and that includes what they are eating,” he said. “I am 61 now and attitudes towards drinking and driving have changed radically since I was a student. People change their notion of what is responsible. They will increasingly ask about the carbon content of their food.”

Lord Stern, a former chief economist of the World Bank and now I. G. Patel Professor of Economics at the London School of Economics, warned that British taxpayers would need to contribute about £3 billion a year by 2015 to help poor countries to cope with the inevitable impact of climate change.

12 Responses to Energy and Global Warming News for October 27: Climate change endangers human health

  1. Climate chief Lord Stern: give up meat to save the planet

    I think we would attract more people if we didn’t set the bar so high. A pound of chicken generates less than one-tenth the emissions of a pound of beef. Many people who would not give up meat entirely would be much more responsive to a call to shift from beef to chicken.

  2. ecostew says:

    October 27, 2009

    Statement of Lisa P. Jackson
    Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

    Legislative Hearing on the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act

    Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works

    October 27, 2009

    Chairman Boxer, Ranking Minority Member Inhofe, and members of the Committee, thank you for inviting me to testify about the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act.

    I last appeared before this Committee on July 7. Since then, this Administration has, under President Obama’s leadership, taken unprecedented steps to decrease America’s dependence on oil, put our nation in the lead of the 21st Century energy economy, and reduce the greenhouse-gas pollution that threatens our children and grandchildren.

    On September 15, for example, Secretary LaHood and I jointly announced coordinated Department of Transportation and Environmental Protection Agency rulemakings to increase the fuel efficiency and reduce the greenhouse-gas emissions of cars and light-duty trucks of model years 2012 through 2016. The rules will reduce the lifetime oil consumption of those vehicles by 1.8 billion barrels. That will mean eliminating more than a billion barrels of imported oil, assuming the current ratio of domestic production to imports does not improve. At today’s oil prices, we are talking about saving 78 billion dollars on buying oil from other countries. In the process, the rules will eliminate nearly a billion metric tons of greenhouse-gas pollution.

    Each of my colleagues here can describe other steps that this Administration has already taken to make America’s economy stronger by getting it running on clean energy.

    Even as the President and the members of his Cabinet move forward under existing authority, we continue urging Congress to pass a new clean-energy law. Only new legislation can bring about the comprehensive and integrated changes that are needed to restore America’s economic health and keep the nation secure over the long term.

    This Committee held its July 7 hearing shortly after the House of Representatives passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act. So I took the opportunity to echo President Obama’s request that the Senate demonstrate the same commitment that we had seen in the House to building a clean-energy foundation for a strong American economy.

    The introduction of the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act on September 30 shows that the Senate is responding to the President’s call to action. I commend you, Madame Chairman, and Senators Kerry and Kirk, for introducing that bill. I applaud the many other Senators, including members of this committee, who contributed meaningfully to the introduced legislation. And I thank Senator Graham for joining with Senator Kerry in a recent statement that reminds us all that giving America control over its own energy destiny can and should be a bi-partisan mission.

    Earlier this year, EPA ran the major provisions of the House clean-energy legislation through several economic computer models. When it comes to the specifications that the models can detect, the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act is very similar to the House legislation. Nevertheless, EPA has examined the ways in which the Senate bill is different and determined which of the conclusions reached about the House-passed bill can confidently be said to apply to the Senate bill as well.

    EPA delivered the result of that inquiry to the Committee last Friday, and the members can review the report in detail. But let me just state three of the projections about the House bill that EPA feels confident also apply to the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act.

    First, the legislation would transform the American economy from one that is relatively energy inefficient and dependent on highly-polluting energy production to one that is highly energy efficient and powered by advanced, cleaner, and more domestically-sourced energy.

    Second, the legislation would bring about that transformation at a cost of less than 50 cents per day per American household in 2020.

    Third, the finding that regional cost differences would be small applies to the Senate bill just as it did to the House legislation.

    The American people have waited decades while our nation has become increasingly dependent on foreign energy sources; while our global competitors create the clean energy jobs of tomorrow; and while we fail to safeguard the wellbeing our children and grandchildren.

    I think Americans want reform that harnesses the country’s can-do spirit. I think they want to fuel long-term economic recovery with a wise investment that sparks a clean-energy transformation in our economy and that protects our children and grandchildren.

    The Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act is a significant milestone on the road to that reform. There of course remains road ahead, and there are many Senators on and off this Committee who have tremendous value to add. Thank you for your continuing work, and for inviting me to testify today.

  3. Anna Marie says:

    It seems that climate change not only has important effects for human health, it can also lead to unsettled populations and serious security challenges for the global community.

    Check out the following op-ed in The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists by Admiral Lee Gunn, President of the American Security Project – Gunn argues that climate change will become one of the most pressing national security challenges in the years to come:


    “Climate-intensified conflict between mobile populations seeking fresh water amid wanton state instability may prompt future policy makers to deploy U.S. forces not only to combat extremism in the region, but also to provide aid to the hungry and displaced.”

    He believes that the U.S. government must plan – as soon as possible – for the new contingencies associated with climate change, including increased humanitarian crises and mass migrations, conflict over increasingly scarce resources, extremism, and government weakness and failure. Admiral Gunn cites the situation at Diego Garcia as just one example of how military logistics and strategies will be effected by climate change:

    “ The British Indian Ocean Territory of Diego Garcia, for example, is home to a critical staging facility for U.S. and British naval and air forces operating in the Middle East and Central Asia. But this atoll sits just a few feet above sea level. If sea levels rise as projected, the facility could be lost, forcing the U.S. and British militaries to adapt and adjust their logistics and operations throughout the region.”

    He recommends the following actions:
    • “Prepare military officers and troops to address the security and humanitarian needs of resource-stressed populations and climate refugees;
    • “Expand global public health programs (e.g., malarial eradication);
    • “Negotiate an agreement with Canada and Mexico to govern the use of fresh water in North America;
    • “Lead the world in developing conflict-resolution mechanisms to mediate between climate change’s winners and losers.”

  4. Gail says:

    I wish I could find more studies like this one:

    And speaking of eating meat, I also read an article the other day that said the average pet dog has more than double the annual carbon footprint as a Land Cruiser driven 10,000 kilometers.


  5. Ric Merritt says:

    I can’t think of a better way to scare off the average citizen than getting on ones high horse and protraying vegetarianism as having a unique place in efforts to fix global warming. Sure, there’s a connection, but it is NOT unique. A greenhouse gas molecule does not care how it got into the atmosphere.

    If some want to eat less meat, or none, I’ve no objection: I eat far less than I grew up with. How would I weigh skipping some meat consumption against skipping several thousand miles of plane travel, or keeping a (meat-eating!) pet, or choosing what size house to live in?

    Answer: by putting a price on carbon and heeding the market signal. Getting your knickers in a twist about other issues dear to your heart is the worst way to beat global warming. Other arguments for vegetarianism should be articulated away from this discussion, without unwarranted emphasis on linkage, lest we increase the chance of failure in an area more important by many orders of magnitude.

  6. GFW says:

    Good comment Ric.

  7. David B. Benson says:

    Eating lass red meat has a greater climate impact than all those other things, exceept maybe not having pet dogs. :-)

    Even pork creates less global arming gases than beef; chicken lots less.

    Might help your pocketbook as well.

  8. Robert says:

    A price on carbon would be welcome, however agriculture seems to have been downplayed in most discussions. The image is that reducing animal foods from the diet is one of those things that extreme people do. That is probably why Stern and Pachauri have been speaking out.
    And as for chicken, it takes about 3kg of feed to make 1kg chicken flesh, and that flesh only has 1/4 the protein that the feed had. Because of this equation livestock agriculture has played a significant role in deforestation.
    This worldwatch article suggests that the role of livestock agriculture in climate change has been vastly underestimated:

  9. lgcarey says:

    Given the overwhelming strength of the industrial ag lobby in the U.S., their general animosity toward any CO2 restrictions, and their position that just being carved out of cap and trade is not enough to make them happy (they want some more big fat incentives for biofuels, etc.), the whole “CO2-restrictions-will-drive-up-the-cost-of-meat” argument is guaranteed to raise their hackles, and hence is not a discussion that is helpful to actually getting climate legislation enacted in the U.S.

  10. David B. Benson says:

    “Already, agriculture accounts for 1/3 of total greenhouse gas emissions, largely from deforestation, livestock, carbon-intensive transportation, and rice paddies.” from

  11. paulm says:

    Peak oil is going to take care of the food issue soon enough (and extreme weather).

    Its just going to be too expensive for the average westerner to maintain the current level of meat consumption. This could happen within 5yrs easily.

  12. paulm says:

    nice vid worth watching…

    America’s Energy Future