April 4 News: Saving Great Barrier Reef requires cutting CO2 quickly; World Bank to favour green investments over coal; Passive housing advances

10-year window to save reef: expert

The Great Barrier Reef will be lost unless there is dramatic action to cut greenhouse gasses over the next 10 years, a climate change scientist warns.

Professor Ove Hoegh Guldberg issued the warning ahead of an address to a major climate change conference starting in Cairns today.

The director of the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland says coral bleaching events are becoming more frequent due to rising sea temperatures and levels.
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He says the Great Barrier Reef could be gone within four decades unless carbon emissions are cut.

“If we actually act today we can save the Great Barrier Reef and reefs around the world,” he told the ABC.

But he said it would take a concerted, global effort, with climate modelling showing sea temperatures and ocean acidification would soon rise to levels that could not sustain coral reefs.

World Bank to favour green investments over coal

The World Bank is planning to cut funding for fossil fuel plants to all but the poorest countries, and will instead emphasise the benefits of renewables as part of a major new energy strategy.

The news suggests a major shift in the Bank’s approach to green investments, and comes just days after the organisation said it would lift its 18-month moratorium on palm oil investments only if stringent environmental and social conditions are met.

The Bank has been criticised by green campaigners for seemingly favouring fossil fuel projects over low carbon alternatives, but a draft of the energy strategy seen by The Guardian says that grants and loans to middle-income countries for coal-fired power stations will now cease.

Meanwhile, poor countries will be able to access funds for coal projects only if they can prove that the new plants are necessary and there are no practical renewable energy alternatives.

Passive housing followers laud efficiency of heating, cooling

Passive housing demands active people, Pine resident Sherwood Johnson says as a kind of mantra for a lifestyle.

But having a home that is passive and one that is accepted for what is known as passive construction are two different accomplishments.

Welcome to the next shade of green: the world of passive housing.

Johnson’s home has many features that create heating and cooling in a passive way, such as triple-paned windows and even its east-west placement. But it was not built necessarily to meet international standards for efficiency and heat-exchange that earn a building “passive” status.

While the definition of a passive home can get complicated in its measurement of heating loss and energy exchange, the homes can be thought of as being almost air-tight buildings that use the heat of everything inside it to create a liveable atmosphere.

Only partly joking, Lance Schmidt, a passive home certifier, says those buildings could “be heated with a couple hair dryers.” Schmidt works for home builder F.G. Ayers Inc. of Akron.

But that efficiency requires techniques and equipment that, at this point, increase costs and make some energy-efficiency advocates question their worth.

Despite those issues, Steve Lee, head of the School of Architecture at Carnegie Mellon University, believes an emphasis on passive housing could set the bar for good construction in the way the U.S. Green Building Council did when it established its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design ratings in 1998.

Just as a LEED rating now is understood as bespeaking energy efficiency, thinking in a passive sense could create a better way of dealing with our lives, he says.

“At the end of the day, do you want to put your money into countertops or into home systems that will help clean up our air?” he says. “Concentration of passive housing will move the industry forward.”

Carnegie Mellon was the site of a nine-day passive home consultant workshop in mid-March even though there are no passive projects under way in this area.

Schmidt, however, believes it is more realistic to concentrate on what he calls “the path to passive.” The Ayers company is involved in an ambitious project in that city to build a neighborhood of efficient homes.

These houses would not be passive but could be heated for about $35 a month and Schmidt believes, “If I don’t get to passive this will be close enough.”

A higher form of efficiency

In a very basic description, a passive home it made from greatly insulated walls and ceilings made of what are known as structural insulated panels. Windows are triple-paned and designed to hold out cold and hold in heat, or vice-versa in warm months.

The home is heated and cooled using an energy recovery ventilator, which exchanges warmth to cold and chills warmer air in hotter months. So little needs to be done using a heat pump or any cooling device, climate adjustments are done in that “passive” manner, says Ryan Abendroth, a lead certifier at the Illinois-headquartered Passive House Institute U.S. That group certifies homes as passive by measuring the efficiency of the heating-cooling process against passive housing standards set in Germany in 1990.

There are thousands of passive homes around the world, the experts say, but only 12 to 17 in the United States.

Tim Shipley, builder of the Johnson home, contends highly efficient homes such as that one can reach energy exchange in a more cost-effective way than a certified-passive home. He is one of the owners of SureGreen Construction, which built that home at a custom development called Lake MacLeod.

He says homes such as Johnson’s can reach the level of using 80 percent less energy for a more reasonable cost than hitting the 90 percent passive certification requires. That last 10 percent pushes a project beyond the reach of many, he says.

Johnson declined to reveal the cost of his home. But Bob Rosania from Montgomery County says efforts to meet passive certification in his new home is adding 10 percent to 15 percent of its $450,000 cost. He says the investment will pay for itself in perhaps 10 years.

He had lived in a home that was LEED-certified, but says he and his wife decided the increase in energy savings would be worth it.

Bird-lover Olivia Bouler, 11, raises over $200,000 for oil spill relief

Before April 20, 2010, Olivia Bouler was like most other 10-year olds “” going to school, playing with friends, drawing pictures. The Islip, N.Y., 5th grader had summer travel to anticipate, too, a visit to her grandparents on the Alabama coast.

After the Deepwater Horizon oil well blew, though, Bouler “” now the 11-year old author of a new book, “Olivia’s Birds Saving the Gulf” “” was changed.

“I sat at the table and sobbed,” she said.

She was especially worried about the birds, that they might “preen themselves and digest too much and die.

Solar energy firms take advantage of NJ’s pro-renewable energy climate

Solar opportunities are shining down on NJ homeowners as the state continues to be one of the best places in the country for homeowners to invest in clean and efficient solar power.

At the end of the year, two key federal initiatives are due to expire “” a federal grant that covers 30 percent of the installation cost of a solar-energy system and a 100-percent depreciation tax credit. While these programs may be extended by Congress, there is an urgency for solar projects to begin as systems need to have been started or installed by December 2011 for customers to benefit from both.

But while the future of some federal solar incentives may be uncertain, state rebates in New Jersey are still strong as more and more homes and businesses convert to solar, said Thomas Ferraro, president of Solar & More, a renewable energy company and new store in Pompton Plains. New Jersey is currently the number-one state for renewable energy incentives and is second only to California in the total installations of renewable energy in the entire country. The Garden State is also a national leader with its Solar Renewable Energy Certificate (SREC) program, which allows home and business owners to sell clean energy credits back to utility companies.

The Empire State Building: Brighter & Greener

Yes, as of 2011, The Empire State Building, one of the world’s largest buildings has achieved the distinction of becoming the largest buyer of green renewable wind power. The Empire State Building will be using more than 100 million kWh of wind energy in the coming couple of years approximately. It will be totally – 100% – wind-powered from now on! This is not the only feather in the lofty Empire State Building’s green cap. Already the tall building has executed the refurbishment of fitting of all its – some 6500 or so – windows with a unique type of insulating glass for power savings. Some $13.2 million very well spent in boosting the green credentials.

Reduction in deadly footprint
By purchasing 100 million kWh of wind energy from Green Mountain Energy Company‘s wind farms, The Empire State Building has beat by far any other commercial customer in purchasing renewable energy. Think of how much less carbon emission there will be because of this. It has been calculated to be equivalent to the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by whole of New York State houses in one full week – some 100 million pounds of carbon!

Getting a better edge
The Empire State Building’s supervisor, Malkin Holdings, is upbeat about another offshoot of getting the wind-energy to power the building. Clean renewable wind energy from the wind farms and power savings from the insulated window glasses have given them an extra edge in getting tenants with better credit and credentials, he claims.

Bill would tie EPA rules to effect on jobs

Lawmakers battling the Environmental Protection Agency’s new greenhouse gas rules on refineries and power plants have focused so far on stripping the EPA’s power to regulate.

But Rep. Pete Olson, R-Sugar Land, is pitching a new, narrower strategy with legislation that would force the agency to examine the economic consequences of its proposed rules.

Unlike more sweeping EPA bills that have polarized Capitol Hill, Olson’s – set to be introduced today – could find a bipartisan middle ground

In just two pages, it lays out a new economic analysis requirement for the EPA. Under the bill, any proposed rulemaking by the agency would have to include a statement identifying any net gain or loss in domestic jobs – direct and indirect – that would result from the regulation.

Despite Gulf oil spill, rig owner executives get big bonuses

Declaring 2010 “the best year in safety performance in our company’s history,” Transocean Ltd., owner of the Gulf of Mexico oil rig that exploded, killing 11 workers, has awarded its top executives hefty bonuses and raises, according to a recent filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

That includes a $200,000 salary increase for Transocean president and chief executive officer Steven L. Newman, whose base salary will increase from $900,000 to $1.1 million, according to the SEC report. Newman’s bonus was $374,062, the report states.

Newman also has a $5.4 million long-term compensation package the company awarded him upon his appointment as CEO in March 2010, according to the SEC filing.

The latest cash awards are based in part on the company’s “performance under safety,” the Transocean filing states.

17 Responses to April 4 News: Saving Great Barrier Reef requires cutting CO2 quickly; World Bank to favour green investments over coal; Passive housing advances

  1. Lore says:

    It’s ironic that every warning is in the context of a 10-year window. Just 5 years ago the public had been presented AIT. Where warnings from the scientific community only gave us 10 years to act on climate change. So, is the reality that we only really have 5 years left to save the Great Barrier Reef?

  2. paulm says:

    Lore, the reality is bad. We are going to hit 2C unless there is a miracle. This will result in global civilization collapse.

    The cut off for runaway Climate Broiling seems to be 2015 at the outmost.

  3. Steve says:

    Another great column by Paul Krugman in today’s New York Times – “The Truth About Climate Change- Still Inconvenient”.

  4. Colorado Bob says:

    glaciers of Patagonia –

    Glaciers melting at fastest rate in 350 years, study finds

    “The glaciers have lost a lot less ice up until 30 years ago than had been thought. The real killer is that the rate of loss has gone up 100 times above the long-term average. It’s scary,” said Professor Glasser, who carried out the study with the University of Exeter and Stockholm University.

  5. Lou Grinzo says:

    When I read stories like the one above about the 11-year-old girl raising $200K, I want to hop over to Cafe Press and make T-shits that say, “Olivia raised $200,000 to help birds harmed by big oil in the Gulf of Mexico. And she’s 11. What the hell have you done to fight for a better world???”

  6. Colorado Bob says:

    Re : Those neutron beams reported a few days back, Arnie points out that Chlorine 38 isn’t found in nature, but it can be found when a chain reaction splits Chlorine 37 found in sea water.

    Arnie Gundersen Talks of chain reaction still occuring ……..

    Arnie thinks that reactor #1 is still going critical every now and then.

  7. paulm says:

    “The risks, however remote, are so expensive that investors don’t want to take them on, no matter what the return.”

    Is this a) nukes b) climate broiling c) both ?

    The incalculable cost of …. power

  8. paulm says:

    Great series on the Guardian…

    Comment is free interviews: Australian scientist Tim Flannery argues that humankind is evolving into a ‘super-organism’ where interdependence has profound consequences for the individual

  9. Colorado Bob says:

    New Solar Panel System to Power Bell Labs Campus

    Ironically, it was Bell Labs that pioneered the development of solar power technology in 1954 by creating the first solar panels to power phone lines for rural American farmers.

  10. Colorado Bob says:

    What Japan’s disaster tells us about peak oil

    OurWorld 2.0: Life for survivors after the Japanese earthquake and tsunami gives a clue to what a peak oil world would look like

    The earthquake and tsunami affected six of the 28 oil refineries in Japan and immediately petrol rationing was introduced with a maximum of 20 litres per car (in some instances as low as 5 litres).

  11. David B. Benson says:

    A utility bill of only $35/month sounds great. However, utility prices will substntially increase, doubling in 20 years in some locations.

  12. Sasparilla says:

    Fallout from the defeat of climate action at the federal level presumably…

    Wind Power Hits a Trough – Wall Street Journal:

    Mentions that Horizon Wind Energy LLC (one of the US’s biggest wind farm developers) is retrenching at the moment (cutting by 50% the number of turbines it had planned to install in 2011).

  13. Colorado Bob says:

    ScienceDaily (Apr. 4, 2011) — An 18-year study of 27,000 individual trees by National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded scientists finds that tree growth and fecundity–the ability to produce viable seeds–are more sensitive to climate change than previously thought.

  14. Michael T. says:

    Following Record Warmth, Tornadoes Hit Southeast U.S.

    Two batches of wild weather occurred as the start of April’s tornado season is in full swing. First, record warm temperatures were set from Texas to Maryland in advance of a cold front. Then, as the front approached, there were high winds and storms from Texas up into Illinois.

    A tornado touched down near Hopkinsville, Ky., as it struck a manufacturing plant. Seven employees were injured in the TGASK plant, which makes automotive parts. No deaths were reported, according to CNN.

    The Nashville, Tenn., area also had its share of severe weather. Two tornadoes were spotted in populated areas as residents took cover from the storms. Almost 60,000 people are without power but there have been no deaths reported as of yet. Before hitting Nashville, Fox News reports these same storms knocked out power to more than 50,000 residents of Memphis.

  15. Prokaryotes says:

    Debate on nuclear strategy
    Nuclear power plant company Siemens is questioning nuclear power

    Insider speculate about a possible complete withdrawal from nuclear power,1518,755057,00.html&usg=ALkJrhjPZXeFZluifz3ggozs3sUdVid78w

  16. Vic says:

    To anyone in the vicinty of Brisbane this coming Saturday, here’s an opportunity to stand up for what you believe in. 

    A pro carbon tax rally will take place at King George Square in the CBD on Saturday from 11am.

    The Great Barrier Reef requires our attendance.  

  17. Chris Winter says:

    A 2-hour lecture from Lawrence Berkeley Lab scientists on “Putting carbon in its place: what you can do”: