April 5 News: China buries U.S. ‘Sputnik’ clean energy goals; Trees more sensitive to climate change than expected

China Buries Obama’s ‘Sputnik’ Goal for Clean-Energy Use

China is beating the U.S. in the race to supply clean-energy technologies to the world, helped by a government bank whose advisers include Henry Kissinger.

China Development Bank Corp., which listed the former U.S. secretary of state as an advisory board member in a 2010 bond prospectus, agreed last year to lend 232 billion yuan ($35.4 billion) to Chinese wind and solar power companies. The U.S. gave about $4 billion to their American competitors in grants and offered about $16 billion of loan guarantees. Adding in private investment, China also led.

CDB, which has almost twice the assets of the World Bank, is matching U.S. expertise with Chinese financing and manufacturing prowess to dominate a market both nations say is critical to their future. Chinese solar-panel makers such as LDK Solar Co. Ltd. were the biggest loan recipients and for the first time last year supplied more than half the global market, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, which begins its annual conference today in New York.

“What China’s doing is really smart,” said Jon Anda, vice chairman of UBS AG’s securities unit in Stamford, Connecticut, who runs the Swiss bank’s environmental markets business. “Without a clear policy path, we’ll get crushed.”

President Barack Obama said in January his country needs another “Sputnik moment” to wean itself of foreign oil. The U.S. had just slipped to third place behind China and Germany in a ranking of nations funding renewable power in 2010 as Republicans in Congress blocked the White House’s energy spending plans, according to a ranking by New Energy Finance.

Study sees climate change impact on trees

Tree growth and fecundity — the ability to produce viable seeds — are more sensitive to climate change than previously thought, an 18-year U.S. study found.

The study of 27,000 individual trees by National Science Foundation-funded scientists identified earlier spring warming as one of several factors that affect tree reproduction and growth. It also found summer drought was an important risk factor for tree survival, and species in four types of trees — pine, elm, beech, and magnolia — are especially vulnerable to climate change, an NSF release said Monday.

The study will help scientists and policy makers understand which species are vulnerable to climate change and why, the researchers said.

“In a sense, what we’ve done is an epidemiological study on trees to better understand how and why certain species, or demographics, are sensitive to variation and in what ways,” lead study author James Clark of Duke University said.

U.K. Says Nuclear Plants Will Move Ahead During Study on Safety

The U.K. government will allow work on building new nuclear power plants to progress as it conducts a study of the disaster at an atomic facility in Japan, the minister in charge of climate change said.

There will be no “material delay” in the U.K.’s plan to allow new nuclear generators at eight sites, Climate Change Minister Greg Barker said in an interview in New York. The report, he said, is due to be handed to ministers next month.

Barker’s remarks were aimed at assuaging concerns that Britain’s reactor-building program would be held up while the nuclear regulator studies the accident in Japan, caused when an earthquake and tsunami interrupted power to cooling pumps at a Tokyo Electric Power Co. facility. The U.K. estimates it needs investment of 200 billion pounds ($320 billion) to replace aging generators including nuclear plants by 2010.

“We’re not proposing to build in an earthquake zone, and we’re not proposing to build somewhere prone to tsunamis, but we will be looking to see what can be taken from that terrible crisis,” Barker, a Conservative member of Parliament in the coalition government, said.

E.ON AG (EOAN)EDF SA (EDF) and RWE AG (RWE) are among the companies bidding for work replacing Britain’s aging atomic power stations. Germany halted nuclear stations and said it would review whether it should continue with building more, and China and India also are studying what they should change as a result of the accident in Japan.

World Bank to limit funding for coal-fired power stations

The World Bank is planning to restrict the money it gives to coal-fired power stations, bowing to pressure from green campaigners to radically revise its funding rules.

The new proposals would not mean an end to funding for fossil fuels, but would represent a departure from previous regulations. Under these rules, the bank has provided sizeable financial support for coal-fired power stations in the developing world in spite of protests from governments and green groups.

Under the proposed new rules, only the very poorest countries would be eligible to receive grants or loans for building new coal-fired power stations, and then only if they could prove they were necessary and that alternatives – such as renewable energy – were not feasible.

An entirely new energy strategy is being written by the development bank, in part because of concerns that its current funding practices favour fossil fuel power. The new draft proposals, seen by the Guardian, emphasise the potential of renewable sources of energy.

But the proposals were criticised by campaigners as inadequate. “The draft strategy is disappointing. It looks as though the World Bank is trying to greenwash its activities while by and large continuing with dirty business as usual,” said Alison Doig, senior adviser on climate change at the charity Christian Aid. “While it proposes a ban on coal lending to middle-income countries, the bank will continue its fossil fuel investments in the poorest countries, condemning them to a high-carbon future. In real terms, this means that the bank could still end up spending more than ever on fossil fuels, because it intends to keep backing such dirty projects in the poorest countries.”

She added: “The draft strategy eloquently describes the plight of the more than 2 billion people who live in energy poverty, cooking on smoky open fires and with no electric lighting and no power for their small businesses. But it is worryingly vague about how it will tackle this and the target is woefully short on ambition – it would reach less than 2% of people who currently do not have electricity in their homes.”

The World Bank’s record on funding fossil fuels has long been a target of green campaigners. Last year, for instance, the World Bank was attacked for its controversial decision to grant nearly $4bn (£2.5bn) to the South African company Eskom to build what would be one of the world’s largest coal-fired power stations.

Newsweek Falsely Blames Wind Turbines For Whale Beachings

The latest issue of Newsweek claims that “a new study suggests” offshore wind farms cause whales to beach themselves. In fact, the authors of the study said their research did not establish such a link, and the UK newspaper that reported the claim pulled the story from its website and issued a correction.

23 Responses to April 5 News: China buries U.S. ‘Sputnik’ clean energy goals; Trees more sensitive to climate change than expected

  1. Rockfish says:

    The problem is that Sputnik was a MOMENT. What we have here is a prolonged crisis that is largely invisible to the Slurpee-and-reality-TV sedated masses of this country. If China does something that is the TV-ready equivalent of launching a rocket over our heads, the US might wake up. I don’t know what that moment could possibly be.

  2. dbmetzger says:

    and what about the great barrier reefs. news not good.
    Research: Great Barrier Reef May Struggle to Regrow
    Two years of research have shown carbon dioxide may have a severe impact on ocean ecosystems such as the Great Barrier Reef.

  3. malcreado says:

    Understanding a Sputnik moment and its significance would probably require a simple grasp of science. Go figure the message is failing

  4. Sasparilla says:

    #1 Rockfish – very good point, I totally agree with what you said. If the Chinese actively collapsed our currency (destroying our economy) then we might have that moment, but there isn’t anything plausible that could cause a Sputnik moment in relation to green energy production.

    We’ll just ignore this, let the Chinese become the supplier who builds wind and solar at massive capacity levels for the lowest costs and send more money to them when we finally decide we need to be doing more wind and solar (and most of our players aren’t around or have moved there).

    Something our politicians and citizens, who use the term “Sputnik moment”, often don’t realize that the Sputnik moment for the US was a very irrational time and response – the politicians and press were thinking the US’s very existence was at stake, (read the book The Right Stuff for a great take on this).

    If our collective political groups (both parties) and the Press and the citizenry feel that our future existence is directly / immediately at stake then you can have a sputnik moment – otherwise its not close to a realistic expectation. This just isn’t the case for Green Energy (although it should be the case) or anything else for the US – not even the 2008 financial crisis warranted this reaction here in the US.

  5. Gord says:

    #1 Rockfish, the MOMENT then (I was in high school) was very similar to your description of today. Kids were crazy about the new popular music and all kinds of kid’s stuff. But what we were learning in HS science was unchanged from a decade previous. PSSC Physics and Biology were the first new curricula to hit HS in the mid 60s.

    Sputnik was a huge ‘kick in the butt’ for NA education, teachers, boards and curriculum developers. It was a wake up call for education. If we wanted to compete we needed to move the kid’s minds into a modern scientific view of the world. In biology the senior year topics changed from frog anatomy and wintering habitats to the Glycolytic Pathway and the Krebs cycle. This all happened so fast that I remember we only had the first half of the text book in the first term. We got the second after Christmas break.

    However, today with half the grad students coming from foreign countries and our best and brightest going into finance … why earn $80k a year when you can get that amount as a bonus … any idea that we can compete is dubious as best.

    The ideas we have about ‘growing’ or ‘innovating’ our way out of the long list of our current messes (from economic growth to global warming) are ‘feel good’ ideas, harking back to the days of yore when science and engineering were exciting subjects to study in school and to practise as a profession.

    Scientists and engineers are seen as squares, nerds or whatever the latest expression is for those who like the challenges. Hipsters want to get their MBA and go out and change the world through brilliant management. Indeed! But they are not creating value. And that, of course, is THE problem.

  6. Colorado Bob says:

    1954 –
    ” Nuclear Power Too Cheap To Meter ”

    2011 –
    ” Nuclear Power Too Expensive To Pay For “

  7. Michael Tucker says:

    Sputnik Moment – I really think that is special! Equating global climate disruption with global nuclear war…
    Well when global warming is seen to be as big a threat to the US as the Soviet Union was in 1957 then we may see some action even by Republicans. So far it doesn’t measure up in the minds of most.

    I wonder if limiting GHG emissions will be as hard as getting the SALT agreements. Maybe harder?

  8. Michael T. says:

    Ice extent low at start of melt season; ice age increases over last year

    Arctic sea ice extent for the month of March 2011 was the second lowest in the satellite record. Sea ice reached its maximum extent on March 7; extent on this date tied for the lowest winter maximum extent in the satellite record. Air temperatures over most of the Arctic Ocean were above normal. New data on ice age shows that the amount of older, thicker ice has increased slightly over last year.

  9. Tom Gray says:

    Thanks for the tip on the whale beaching fable–I wrote a short blog piece about it just now:

    Regards, Tom Gray, Wind Energy Communications Consultant

  10. Colorado Bob says:

    The terapods in the southern oceans are 30% lighter than pre-industrial levels, thanks to increasing CO2 in sea water This is as the woman says in the clip , “the very corner stone of the food chain” we are tampering with.

  11. Jay Alt says:

    Re: 9. Tom Gray
    There are many good sites that have organized topic lists to rebutt climate science myths.

    Does anything central & similiar exist for renewable energy?

  12. Richard L says:

    Huge Arctic ‘pool’ could flush into Atlantic, alter weather
    ‘Unpredictable impact on an ocean current system important to both European weather and marine food chain,’ experts warn

    A swirling pool of icy Arctic meltwater has the potential to flush quickly into the Atlantic Ocean and alter weather in Northern Europe, climate scientists reported Tuesday.

    Located just north of Alaska and Canada, the vast pool’s percentage of freshwater from rivers has grown by about 20 percent since the 1990s and that change in salinity level could impact ocean circulation and cause temperatures in Northern Europe to cool, the experts said.

    NBCUNIVERSAL’S 2011 EARTH WEEK Win a trip to Universal Studios Orlando!
    Ahead of NBC’s Earth Week programming April 17-24, “Green is Universal” is co-hosting an “Art of ReUSE” contest. Enter to win prizes like the all-expenses paid, family trip to Universal Studios.
    ..That level of increase in Arctic freshwater has never before been observed by scientists, Laura de Steur, an oceanographer with the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research, told

    “The volume of water discharged into the Arctic Ocean, largely from Canadian and Siberian rivers, is higher than usual due to warmer temperatures in the north causing ice to melt,” she added in a statement released by European science institutes working together on climate projects

  13. paulm says:

    Arctic Ocean freshwater will cause ‘unpredictable changes on climate’
    Ice cap meltwater and river run-off could have significant impact on the climates of Europe and North America, say scientists

  14. Robert In New Orleans says:

    Does the reported reduction of Arctic Ozone qualify as one of Hansens unknown unknowns?

  15. paulm says:

    Eaarth… these seem to be happening more and more, possibly linked to more intense rainfall.

    Two US workers missing after sewage tank bursts | World news |

    The cause of the failure has not yet been determined, state officials said.

    The Mountain Press newspaper inSevierville reported there had been a mudslide or rockslide in the area after heavy rains.

    It said the breach was accompanied by what sounded like an explosion and that water began rushing out.

  16. Steve Metzler says:

    Hmm. I wonder if the rising CO2 and temps could be what made the high latitude bristle-cone pines lose their previous good correlation with temps since the 60’s and thus necessitated the “hide the decline” ‘trick’. Especially if they are very sensitive to drought, and perhaps global dimming, as is the prevailing theory. The article linked to above seems to make a plausible case for this.

    And Skeptical Science has a good page on it too:

  17. Vic says:

    I’m outraged by TEPCO’s continued bumbling and corrupt behaviour in the face of the Fukushima crisis. 
    They are now making hush-money payments to affected communities.

    How can the international community just stand back and watch as TEPCO intentionally pumps eleven and a half thousand tonnes of radioactive water into the Pacific, while a single large oil tanker can hold half a million tonnes ?

    TEPCO claim it is “low level” contamination. If it is low level, why is seawater being measured at 7.5 million times higher than legal limits ?

    Is this not a crime against humanity ?
    Are the United Nations too preoccupied siezing oil assets to even notice ?

    Stop the world. I wanna get off. 

  18. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Sasparilla #4, there is no way that the Chinese would ‘crash’ the US economy. They have too much at stake in US Treasuries and a gigantic market for their production. And why would the Chinese commit such an act? They are not, after all, Westerners whose ideology sees them as the highest expression of human civilization with a ‘Manifest Destiny’ to rule over the entire planet, forever. No Chinese ever invented a theorem like ‘The Clash of Civilizations’ that foresaw a world endlessly riven by war between innately hostile cultures. The Chinese, of course, might act differently if pushed into a corner, as is plainly the objective of the powers that be in the West. Every day now you can open the pages of the media or listen to radio reports, and the coverage of Chinese events. always negative, has become, as these things always do in our media (the Murdoch apparat is currently running a hate campaign against Moslems in this country that is, in my opinion, utterly unprecedented in sheer viciousness)quite hysterical. To add geopolitical discord to resource depletion and ecological collapse might seem insane and suicidal, but, somehow, it makes sense to the Right.

  19. Tom says:

    Vic be careful stating the obvious to many now. That Japan’s response to these disaster has became a travesty. The moderator of Climate Progress did not appreciate the truth and had me moderated (deleted). Now over a week later many in the international community are pointing out the many mistakes that Japan has made. Nice to see that I was right and he (the moderator) was unwarranted.

    Are you also aware that Japan let two major oil refineries burn. it’s hard to confirm because after the first day they stooped filming the burning refineries. The last shot they showed was a major fire taking place without any fire responders present, then media black out. Imperialism is still a major party in Japan it would seam.

  20. Vic says:

    Hi Tom,

    My beef is more with TEPCO than with the Japanese government. Although I have to admit I’m finding it increasingly difficult to tell the two apart. 
    I was just glad to see the oil refinery fires extinguished. I expected them to burn much longer given the triage conditions at the time.            

  21. Prokaryotes says:

    Huge Arctic ‘pool’ could flush into Atlantic, alter weather
    ‘Unpredictable impact on an ocean current system important to both European weather and marine food chain,’ experts warn

  22. Prokaryotes says:

    The MSNBC link has a really good movie

  23. Dr.A.Jagadeesh says:

    Excellent post. Trees (Aforesttion) do stabilise climate to some exten.China is leader in afforestation.

    Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India