May 26 news: Calif. can cut CO2 60% below 1990 levels by 2050 with existing technologies — study

Switzerland decides on nuclear phase-out by 2034

Calif. can meet 75% of its clean energy goals with existing technologies — study

California regulators are jumping hurdles to meet their target of 1990 emissions levels by 2020, but they still have the long view in their sights.

A report released this week by the California Council on Science and Technology, a state-founded think tank, theorizes on how to reach 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050, as mandated by an executive order signed by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) in 2005.

Reaching 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050, while planning for a near-doubling of the population, would require emissions to fall from 13 tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent per person in 2005 to 1.6 tons in 2050, or from 470 million tons to 85 million statewide.

Getting to the 60 percent mark, or 75 percent of the way to the goal, is doable with existing technologies, the report finds. Energy efficiency measures for buildings, industry and transportation, as well as electrification of transportation and heating systems, wider adoption of low-carbon fuels, nuclear power and carbon capture and storage will all be needed.

Switzerland Decides on Nuclear Phase-Out

The Swiss government decided Wednesday to abandon plans to build new nuclear reactors, while European Union regulators agreed on a framework for stress-testing theirs, as repercussions from the disaster in Japan continue to ripple across Europe.

The Swiss Energy Minister Doris Leuthard had suspended the approvals process for three new reactors, pending a safety review, after the accident that struck the reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan after the earthquake and tsunami of March 11.

On Wednesday “” days after an anti-nuclear rally in Switzerland drew a large crowd of 20,000 people “” the Cabinet said it had decided to make the ban permanent.

The country’s five existing reactors “” which supply about 40 percent of the country’s power “” would be allowed to continue operating, but would not be replaced at the end of their life span, it said. The last would go offline in 2034.

Iran’s largest lake turning to salt

From a hillside, Kamal Saadat looked forlornly at hundreds of potential customers, knowing he could not take them for trips in his boat to enjoy a spring weekend on picturesque Oroumieh Lake, the third largest saltwater lake on earth.

“Look, the boat is stuck… It cannot move anymore,” said Saadat, gesturing to where it lay encased by solidifying salt and lamenting that he could not understand why the lake was fading away.

The long popular lake, home to migrating flamingos, pelicans and gulls, has shrunken by 60 percent and could disappear entirely in just a few years, experts say “” drained by drought, misguided irrigation policies, development and the damming of rivers that feed it.

Republican sees electric car bill as a climate ‘step’

A member of the Senate Republican leadership believes a major expansion of electric cars is one way to address climate change, illustrating the party’s fractured views on climate science. As some lawmakers search for a bipartisan agreement on clean energy, others see no reason for it.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican, expressed confidence yesterday that the promise of increasing America’s energy independence at a time of high gas prices could drive the bickering Congress to cooperate on an electric car bill he introduced with Sen. Jeff Merkley, an Oregon Democrat.

But Alexander also embraced climate change as a man-made problem that the government has a responsibility to correct. That counters a host of statements by Republicans who expressed skepticism, or denial, about the impacts of society’s emissions while campaigning last year.

First-ever agricultural carbon credit program releases rules

Australia released rules on Wednesday that would allow farmers and indigenous land owners to earn carbon credits for changing the way they burn-off grasslands, a regular practice in the fire-prone north.

The rules are the first to be released for public consultation for the government’s Carbon Farming Initiative (CFI), which aims to reward farmers and investors for steps that cut greenhouse gas emissions on the land.

Legislation for the scheme, the first of its type globally, is being debated before parliament and the government is hoping lawmakers will approve it in the next few months.

African land grab could lead to future water conflicts

IS THIS the face of future water conflicts? China, India and Saudi Arabia have lately leased vast tracts of land in sub-Saharan Africa at knockdown prices. Their primary aim is to grow food abroad using the water that African countries don’t have the infrastructure to exploit. Doing so is cheaper and easier than using water resources back home. But it is a plan that could well backfire.

“There is no doubt that this is not just about land, this is about water,” says Philip Woodhouse of the University of Manchester, UK.

Take Saudi Arabia, for instance. Between 2004 and 2009, it leased 376,000 hectares of land in Sudan to grow wheat and rice. At the same time the country cut back on wheat production on home soil, which is irrigated with water from aquifers that are no longer replenished – a finite resource.

Meanwhile, firms from China and India have leased hundreds of thousands of hectares of farmland in Ethiopia. Both China and India have well-developed irrigation systems, but Woodhouse says their further development – moving water from the water-rich south to northern China, for instance – is likely to be more costly than leasing land in Africa, making the land-grab a tempting option.

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