September 20 News: Obama’s Climate Envoy Casts Doubt on Kyoto Protocol

A round-up of the top climate and energy news. Please post additional stories below.

Obama’s envoy for climate change casts doubt on Kyoto protocol

President Barack Obama’s chief climate change negotiator has issued a warning over the future of the Kyoto protocol, casting doubt on a key plank of international climate talks this December in South Africa.

Todd Stern, the US president’s envoy for climate change, said the European Union was the only remaining “major player” that would potentially support a continuation of the protocol after its provisions expire in 2012. The lack of support from other countries bodes ill for the forthcoming talks at Durban.

The Kyoto protocol is an international agreement that imposes limits on the greenhouse gas emissions from some signee countries that was negotiated in the Japanese city of Kyoto in 1997.

Kyoto is the only treaty which binds nearly all of the world’s industrialised countries to cut their greenhouse gas emissions but Stern cast doubt on its future.

“Of the major players in the Kyoto protocol, my sense is that the EU is the only one still considering signing up in some fashion to a second commitment period. Japan is clearly not, Russia is not, Canada is not and Australia appears unlikely.”

Nevada’s First Windfarm May Be the Nation’s Largest

A gigantic wind farm with the power output of three or four average-sized coal plants has been been proposed by the US wind development subsidiary of the European renewable energy investor Good Energies, in Nevada, according to ReCharge.

The wind farm would be extraordinary, the largest wind farm in the US at a staggering 990 MW. But it would also be Nevada’s first ever wind farm. Wind power in the US now totals 42,432 MW of capacity. Texas is number two in the world. Iowa gets 20 percent of its energy from wind.

But unlike every state on its borders, all of which have at least 128 MW of turbines churning out wind energy, Nevada till now has had no wind farms at all. The hold-up has been the difficulties in getting a permit.

U.S. Solar Capacity Expands by 69%, Led by Commercial Projects

Developers installed 69 percent more U.S. solar power capacity in the second quarter than a year earlier, led by commercial and government projects.

Developers installed 314.3 megawatts of solar photovoltaic power in the second quarter, compared with 186.5 megawatts in the same period a year earlier, according to the U.S. Solar Market Insight report released today by Solar Energy Industries Association and GTM Research.

Much of the growth was due to government incentives, including a U.S. Treasury Department program that reimburses developers 30 percent of projects’ costs, said Rhone Resch, the Washington-based trade group’s president. That program is set to expire at the end of the year.

“Solar is the fastest growing industry in the U.S.,” Resch said in an interview yesterday. “Our growth has directly benefited from the Treasury grant program. We have to keep those programs in place to keep up the pace and hire more workers.”

Canada, EU Spar Over Climate Rule

Canada and the European Union are embroiled in a dispute over a key piece of EU climate legislation which Ottawa claims discriminates against one of its key exports—crude from the oil sands of Alberta.

At issue is the EU Fuel Quality Directive, which aims to encourage the use of low-carbon transport fuels in Europe . Canada claims it would unfairly penalize oil sands crude, and says it could refer Brussels to the World Trade Organization if the legislation isn’t changed.

“If the EU proceeds with an approach that’s going to discriminate against oil sands, we would look to protect our interests, and that includes through international institutions like the WTO,” said Steve Verheul, Canada’s chief trade negotiator with the EU, in an interview on Monday.

Even in the EU, policy makers are divided. A person familiar with the matter said trade and energy officials oppose a separate reference to oil sands in the fuel quality directive, with climate change officials in favor.

Pennsylvania faith group questions morality of shale gas drilling

A statewide interfaith organization has introduced questions of morality and climate change into the debate about Marcellus Shale gas well development.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette first reported on Sunday the plans by Pennsylvania Interfaith Power and Light. The group issued a four-page “ethical analysis” that declares its opposition to development of the deep and massive shale gas play because it is not part of a strategy to end fossil fuel use, creates too many environmental and health risks, and perpetuates the “boom and bust” cycles of other, earlier extractive industries in the state.

“We believe there could be ethical ways to drill, but we’re not there yet,” said Rabbi Daniel Swartz, of Temple Hesed in Scranton and vice president of the interfaith group.

The organization’s analysis also calls on all Pennsylvania elected officials to stop accepting political contributions from companies involved in the exploration, drilling, production, transportation and sale of Marcellus Shale natural gas. And it urges all congregations and faith-based institutions to reduce their energy use and refrain from entering into leases for Marcellus Shale gas development on their properties.

28 Responses to September 20 News: Obama’s Climate Envoy Casts Doubt on Kyoto Protocol

  1. Paul magnus says:

    Climate change: who cares any more?
    By Simon Kuper
    Published: September 17 2011 00:47 | Last updated: September 17 2011 00:47
    When someone offered me a trip to India, I said, “Definitely.” A couple of years ago I’d have fretted about the carbon emissions. But like almost everyone else, I have given up trying to prevent climate change. We in the west have recently made an unspoken bet: we’re going to wing it, run the risk of climatic catastrophe, and hope that it is mostly faraway people in poor countries who will suffer.

  2. dick smith says:

    The follow up to Kyoto needs to start with a bilateral US-China agreement about the framework for settlement. Until that’s achieved, nothing meaningful will happen.

  3. Lollipop says:

    Well, there went this morning’s cheerful mood.

    This is why we must have a mass social movement–one with a disruption of BAU and one that cannot be ignored. As this guy makes clear, unless we the people rise up and make some noise nothing will ever change. We’ll be sitting around in 10 years talking the loss of New Orleans and the abandonment of Texas a reasonable cost to continue pumping carbon as fast as we can.

    Doing something works way better than doing nothing.

  4. Joan Savage says:

    Yesterday, Colorado Bob brought in local Boulder CO report on an NCAR publication. It turns out to be big news on the relationship between the circulation of added heat in the ocean and ENSO oscillation between La Niña and El Niño prevailing weather conditions.

    The primary source is a letter to Nature Climate Change.

    “Model-based evidence of deep-ocean heat uptake during surface-temperature hiatus periods”
    Gerald A. Meehl, Julie M. Arblaster, John T. Fasullo, Aixue Hu &
    Kevin E. Trenberth
    Nature Climate Change (2011) 18 September 2011

  5. Joan Savage says:

    We know La Niña is the cooler phase of ENSO, and we are in a La Niña.
    What kind of Hell could be expected if the ocean heat stratification shifts and we get El Niño, ENSO’s “warmer” phase?

  6. Peter Mizla says:

    The writer of the FT article makes some assumptions & assertions which are not true. He says ‘nobody knows’ if temperatures will rise 2 degrees C this century. Warming is proceeding under most climate models as predicted- arctic ice however is 30-40 years ahead of previous estimates.

    Considering global temperatures have risen almost 1 degree since the start of the Industrial Era, rising another 1 degree with C02 at 450ppm all but guarantees the disaster scenario Hansen and others have suggested.

    It may take till the end of the 2020’s when the reality of climate change is ‘broadly accepted’- with a growing consensus governments must work in earnest to reduce C02 emissions.

    But frankly I hate to admit it- there will be a doubling of C02 from the PI era to 550-600ppm- beyond that 700ppm- the inertia in the climate system is killing us- but in the end it is going to be devastating. We will be hit with a force that will end up being the biggest challenge to our civilization-

  7. Paul Magnus says:

    According to Hansen, well find out 2012-2013.
    This will be the real wake-up call for most people.

    Will we get the required action… states of emergency and war footing efforts?

  8. Paul Magnus says:

    At the heart of this it is a moral issue…. but human nature is a volatile and impure substance.

    What will move people to act to save their beloved Earth?

    Scientific information is not enough.
    What is required is the moral imperative to act. Climate change calls us to action based on values of justice, compassion, and personal integrity.

  9. catman306 says:

    Tamino has a dramatic Walsh and Chapman graph of Artic sea ice extent from 1870 to 2008. The sea ice extent was greatest during WWII. 2008 almost falls off the paper.

  10. Paul Magnus says:

    woa… Thats more than exponential!

  11. More hints of “carbon tax” as the emerging GOP climate-denial exit strategy.

    Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a conservative Republican, adviser to both presidents Bush and presidential candidate John McCain, believes the world’s climate is changing and human activity could be to blame…[He says] Congress should include a tax on carbon emissions as a component of a reform of the nation’s absurdly complex tax code….Holtz-Eakin, an economist and former head of the Congressional Budget Office, was willing to stump the country to build support for a carbon tax. He was, he said, doing so in hopes of providing business with the certainty it needs to grow, invest and create jobs. And he was doing it for the sake of national security…The money the tax raises should be offset by reductions in things like payroll tax, income tax and corporate tax rate….It should be included in any reform of the tax code.

    And the Economist just had an article signing the praises of the carbon tax and wondering if any economists exist that oppose it.

  12. Sasparilla says:

    Nice to see the article on Nevada’s massive windfarm in planning – every little bit…

    That Simon Kuper article is very disturbing, as the author really “gets” the messaging we’ve been receiving from our government (US) as well as the fossil fuel industries (and their lackeys, News Corp, propaganda) and the media in general.

    Barry Saxifrage – certain Republicans have been saying a carbon tax is the way to go for years – they also know its not even possible such a thing would happen (so they get a political point for promoting something non possible). Maybe they’re being genuine, but the House or Senate GOP would never vote for one (probably not a single vote).

    Seems alot like the oil companies saying they support Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (they do) – they support them, but they also know there isn’t a chance they’ll actually be replacing oil for the foreseeable future with that technology (it did delay electric vehicles though).

  13. Paul Magnus says:

    Tom Strickland, Top Interior Department Official, Joins Firm Representing BP Over Gulf Oil Spill

  14. Paul Magnus says:

    According to the Associated Press, Clinton also discussed at the conference which countries were most likely to suffer next from climate change, saying, “I think it’s quite possible that the Maldives won’t be here in 30 or 40 years.”

  15. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Just reported on ABC radio (Oz), CSIRO has found that wind speeds have been increasing over the last 30 years for greater than 2 metres above ground level.

    Good for winds farms but they did not report that this also means more ‘howlin Westerlies’, a major criterion for fire days as we move into a summer which has already been forecast to have higher than normal temperatures, ME

  16. Solar Jim says:

    Nice placement of “Obama’S Climate Envoy Casts Doubt . .” below the headline about Merchants of Doubt.

    My interpretation:
    Todd Stern, the US president’s envoy for climate change, and yet another sorry excuse of a white-haired white man who is placed in position of authority to defend the status of international financiers, said the European Union was the only remaining “major player” that would potentially support a continuation of the protocol, because the US has become a fossilized, corporate-fascist, militant-dictatorship, plutocratic, national insecurity state based on Fuels Of War and public impoverishment.

  17. Paul Magnus says:

    Nuclear power should never been a starter….

    But whatever the situation of any single U.S. reactor, the disaster in Fukushima has laid bare one truth on which experts and officials from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission agree: A disaster here would result in losses requiring the government to make payouts of epic proportions.
    That’s because Fukushima will cost anywhere from $74 billion to $260 billion, according to Japanese experts, while the U.S. nuclear insurance fund, established by a 1957 law called the Price-Anderson Act, only has around $12.6 billion in reserve.
    “If you have an accident or something like Fukushima, then Price-Anderson can’t handle those kinds of losses,” said Wharton School professor Howard Kunreuther, who specializes in public policy.

  18. Solar Jim says:

    I am not sure what Professor Kunreuther of Wharton is talking about. The name of the federal law is “Nuclear Insurance Indemnification Act.” This means the statement “then Price-Anderson can’t handle those kinds of losses” (such as a US state or two) shows a fundamental misunderstanding of law. Indemnification means the act is designed so responsible parties are removed from liability, not that it “can’t handle” property losses from massive, permanent radiological poisoning.

    Rescind that one federal law (of the military-industrial complex) and all US reactors would proceed toward cold shut-down. If you do not believe this, try it and find out!

  19. Colorado Bob says:

    Joan –
    All of us have been fixated on gases, the heat game is the water. I think we heated the sea faster, and deeper than anyone has ever seen.
    My proof , …. a weak typhoon no American ever heard of, rained 71 inches in one location in Japan two weeks ago.
    Tonight a new typhoon comes, the forecast is 500MM. Over the same ground , this storm is bigger and better shaped.

  20. Colorado Bob says:

    This :
    “Tonight a new typhoon comes, the forecast is 500MM.”

    This is 14 inches , watch this storm beat the 6 feet they got just two weeks ago.

    These are huge events given the last 2 years.

  21. Colorado Bob says:

    Sorry , bad math, ……. 19 inches.

  22. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Repudiating Kyoto guarantees no progress, as the Obama claque well know. The poor world, the BRICS and the other non-Western groups insist on maintaining Kyoto, and this early signal gives away the US position. That is, as at Copenhagen, they are going to attend simply to derail progress. And the Western countries who attempted to railroad the non-Western countries, WTO and GATT ‘negotiations’-style at Copenhagen, with an unjust and unfair fait accompli, are up to their old, indeed their only, tricks.

  23. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    I venture to predict that 260 billion will seem like chump change when the final cost is in after twenty or thirty years. The only problem is that by then all the other cascading calamities of the global system collapse will mean that Japan will not have the money or energy left to finish the job, and Fukushima will bubble away until rising sea-levels inundate it.