A round-up of climate and energy news. Please post other stories below.
Fast action on certain pollutants such as black carbon, ground-level ozone and methane may help limit near term global temperature rise and significantly increase the chances of keeping temperature rise below 3.6 degrees F. Protecting the near-term climate is central to significantly cutting the risk of amplified global climate change linked with rapid and extensive loss of Arctic ice on both the land and at sea, said assessment authors including Veerabhadran Ramanathan, a climate and atmospheric scientist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego.
The findings, released on June 15 in Bonn, Germany, during a meeting of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) have been compiled by an international team of more than 50 researchers chaired by Drew Shindell of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
Ramanathan is organizing a related briefing today in Washington, D.C., for several federal agencies on how to reduce emissions of global warming pollutants such as carbon dioxide, black carbon and ozone and prevent human deaths from traditional biomass burning cook stoves in developing nations.
Big cuts in emissions of black carbon will improve respiratory health. Close to 2.5 million premature deaths from outdoor air pollution could on average be avoided annually worldwide by 2030 with many of those lives saved being in Asia, it is estimated.
Big cuts in ground level ozone could also contribute to reduced crop damage equal to between 1 to 4 percent of the annual global maize, rice, soybean and wheat production.
Negotiators made scant progress toward salvaging the United Nations’ Kyoto Protocol for fighting climate change beyond 2012 at two weeks of talks ending on Friday, delegates said.
“When you look at the progress …it is very uneven,” said Adrian Macey of New Zealand, chairing a session of talks among 180 nations in Bonn about the Kyoto Protocol, which risks dying beyond 2012 due to lack of support.
Developing nations accused rich nations of reneging on promises to extend Kyoto, which now binds almost 40 nations to cut emissions until 2012. Kyoto’s future has become the main focus after a U.N. summit in 2009 failed to agree a new treaty.
“Progress in Bonn has been hampered by parties with the biggest historical responsibility for emissions,” the Alliance of Small Island States said of rich nations that have burned carbon-emitting fossil fuels since the 18th century Industrial Revolution.
The alliance says its members are on the front line of climate change, including more powerful storms, droughts, floods and rising sea levels. Developing nations say that the rich must take the lead and extend Kyoto to unlock action by the poor.
A row over the future of the European Union‘s pioneering greenhouse gas trading system is threatening to upset Europe’s bid to win the global clean technology race.
Two powerful European commissioners are at loggerheads over whether to strengthen the emissions trading system, in order to maintain Europe’s leadership on climate change. The row surfaced on Thursday at a conference in Brussels where the president of the European commission, José Manuel Barroso, lauded the EU’s efforts on cutting emissions and called for stronger action in the future.
Next week, the EU’s energy chief, Guenther Oettinger, will unveil an ambitious new energy efficiency directive, aimed at forcing businesses to cut the amount of energy they waste. But, while backing the push for efficiency, clean technology experts warn that if the directive goes ahead in its current form, it could destroy the emissions trading market. Under the trading scheme, businesses are awarded a quota of permits to produce carbon, and cleaner companies can sell their spares to big emitters.
The problem is that if companies meet the new energy efficiency targets – which will apply to heavy industry as well as the building and construction sector – they will find themselves with large quantities of unused carbon permits. That in turn will drive down the price of carbon and render the emissions trading system useless.
Work by a team of researchers has suggested that increasing levels of urban agriculture are having a beneficial effect on the environment by reducing vehicle emissions and reducing landfill waste.
The team behind the Worldwatch Institute’s Nourishing the Planet project say that as people move from rural to urban settings in search of work, particularly in Asia and Africa, urban agriculture is becoming an important provider of food and employment.
Danielle Nierenberg, co-director of the Nourishing the Planet project, said: “Urban agriculture is providing food, jobs, and hope in Nairobi, Kampala, Dakar, and other cities across sub-Saharan Africa.”
“In some cases, urban farmers are providing important inputs, such as seed, to rural farmers, dispelling the myth that urban agriculture helps feed the poor and hungry only in cities.”
According to the United Nations, 65 per cent of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050, up from 50 percent today, a movement particularly pronounced in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
Worldwatch says that 800 million people worldwide are engaged in urban agriculture, producing 15-20 per cent of the world’s food.
A new report published yesterday by the Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA) and GTM Research, U.S. Solar Market Insight: Q1 2011, indicates that the U.S. solar energy industry is continuing its record-setting growth. It is one of the fastest-growing sectors in the U.S. economy and is making noteworthy strides in both installed solar power capacity and solar manufacturing
Some of the key findings:
252 megawatts (MW) of grid-connected photovoltaics (PV) were added in the 1st quarter of 2011. That is a 66% growth over 1st quarter 2010 installations. Cumulative grid-connected solar electric installations grew to 2.85 gigawatts (GW) in the 1st quarter of 2011. To put that into useful perspective for most of us, that is enough power for ~600,000 U.S. homes. The 3 PV market sectors (residential, commercial, and utility) all grew, but commercial installations grew the most. Continually dropping solar equipment costs and a rush to take advantage of Section 1603 Treasury program incentives (previously anticipated to expire at the end of 2010 but now extended through the end of 2011) were the major factors spurring on rapid growth across the solar energy market. 7 of the 21 states analyzed accounted for 88% of solar energy growth (compared to 82% of growth in the 1st quarter of 2010), indicating the clear importance and superiority of certain state policies and programs. (See more on that in the chart above and the charts below.) 11 of the 21 states saw solar energy growth of over 50%. (See more on that in the chart above and the charts below.) PV module production in the U.S. grew to 348 MW, 31% more than for the same period of time last year. Manufacturing growth is seen to be due to the projection that the U.S. will become the world’s largest solar market sometime within the next few years. While no concentrating solar power (CSP) projects have come online in 2011 yet, 1.1 GW of CSP and concentrating photovoltaic (CPV) projects are currently under construction, expected to make a big splash in installed solar power growth soon. As we’ve covered here on CleanTechnica, several of these utility-scale projects have received important government loan guarantees and other investments this yea