October 5 News: UN Climate Envoy Brundtland Urges Action to Avert Floods, Drought, Hunger–the ‘Threat is Real and Urgent’

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

Droughts and floods linked to global warming threaten humans on every continent and only international cooperation can keep the people and their communities safe, according to Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland….

UN climate change envoy urges action to avert floods, drought, hunger

U.N. special envoy on climate change Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland and her 22-person international commission started warning countries to avert global warming in 1987. Twenty-five years later, the former Norwegian prime minister said the ongoing lack of international cooperation to curb carbon emissions and invest in clean energy threatens us all.

Already, drought, hunger and disease connected to rising temperatures jeopardize “our common future,” she told a large audience at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

International investment in clean energy is crucial for putting people and the planet on track for a viable future, according to Brundtland, a world leader on global warming and human health. But sluggish national and global talks on climate change strategies means scenarios for severe consequences of fossil fuel-driven temperature rise etch a hazardous path for the world’s growing population.

“In the U.S. the debate has been much more divisive,” than in Europe, Brundtland said. “Based on the scientific evidence, questioning the human link to climate change ought to be history by now, but it’s not.”

Changing the politically divisive climate isn’t up to the politicians alone, Brundtland added, and people need to use their voting power to convince leaders to take action on an international scale.

“Many challenges of sustainable development can be solved within sectors, within countries – but not climate change,” Brundtland said. “We are all victimized, nobody can hide from it. ”

… About 70 percent of people in the developing world depend on agriculture, but the droughts and floods projected to increase with warming could threaten their livelihoods. At the same time, as countries industrialize, their energy demands climb. If fossil fuel-burning plants remain the cheapest, easiest option, the carbon emissions from these countries will soar.

Increasing both energy efficiency and use of renewable resources such as wind and solar power lie at the heart of a strategy to reduce emissions that could spur economic development where it is most needed, Brundtland said.


Oil sands environmental impact unknown: Canada audit

Key gaps in information mean Canada has been unable to assess the impact of exploiting Alberta’s oil sands, the nation’s environment commissioner said Tuesday.

Lack of information due to “insufficient or inadequate environmental monitoring systems” mean the federal environmental and water agencies cannot build a clear picture of how regional ecosystems have been affected by oil sands projects, the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development said in a report to parliament.

And despite repeated warnings by both departments since 1999, “little was done for almost a decade to close many of those key information gaps,” said Commissioner Scott Vaughan.

“As a consequence, decisions about oil sands projects have been based on incomplete, poor, or non-existent environmental information that has, in turn, led to poorly informed decisions,” he concluded.

In July, Ottawa set out an environmental monitoring plan — which Vaughan praised — but no date has been announced yet for its start.

Vaughan noted some environmental trends in the region are well understood. He pointed to the fact that the oil sands are among the “largest and fastest-growing sources of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada.”

White House: Republican Claim That America Cannot Compete With China Is ‘Defeatism’

The Obama administration is seizing on remarks by a top Republican who argued that the United States cannot compete with China in the solar energy business, saying it shows “defeatism” about America’s future and workers.

Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), the chairman of the Energy and Commerce subcommittee leading probes of the government’s botched investment in solar firm Solyndra, made the comments Monday.

He was arguing that the government never should have guaranteed a $535 million loan to the solar manufacturer that declared bankruptcy last month because China will do better with that and other new energy technologies.

“We can’t compete with China to make solar panels and wind turbines,” Stearns said in an NPR story.

Tuesday afternoon, the White House is taking issue with that sentiment.

“This comment reflects exactly the sort of counterproductive defeatism that Energy Secretary Steven Chu warned against this weekend when he spoke to a group of America’s most promising young solar innovators,” wrote White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer in a blog post, referring to a speech delivered Saturday.

Planet ‘far away’ on climate goals: study

The world remains far away from meeting UN-backed goals on holding back climate change, setting the stage for major damage without more ambitious efforts to cut emissions, a study said Tuesday.

Scientists who support climate action said that China, the largest source of carbon blamed for rising temperatures, is on track to surpass its own targets but warned that its overall emissions are growing more quickly than thought.

The controversial UN-led Copenhagen summit in 2009 agreed to limit global warming to 2.0 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels, a goal some environmentalists say is already too timid.

At the latest UN talks underway in Panama City, the Climate Action Tracker, which aims to keep track of countries’ efforts, found a yawning gap between governments’ pledges and their track records when added together.

A study by the group found that the world at current rates would emit 54 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide or its equivalent in 2020, a gap of 10 to 14 billion tonnes with what is needed to meet the goals.

The planet is “very, very far away” from meeting the 2.0-degree goal, said co-author Bill Hare, a lead writer of the major 2007 UN scientific report on climate change and director at Potsdam-based research group Climate Analytics.

China Emissions Rising While Carbon Intensity Falls, Report Says

Greenhouse-gas emissions in China are rising faster than forecast even as the level of pollution relative to its economic growth falls, according to a report from climate researchers.

An economy that’s expanding faster than projected will push China’s overall emissions about 1 gigaton higher in 2020 than previous calculations predicted, according to a report issued today by Utrecht, Netherlands-based Ecofys, a renewable-energy consultant, and Climate Analytics, a group hosted by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany. The world’s largest greenhouse-gas emitter is also keeping a promise to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide needed for increased production, the groups said in the report.

“The warming levels that we’re headed toward” might “easily result in massive damage to ecosystems from one end of the planet to the other,” Bill Hare, a senior scientist with Climate Analytics, said at a press conference in Panama City during UN climate talks. “As for the human dimensions of risk, we would see, particularly in Africa, very dangerous threats to food production and availability.”

EPA to Ease Rule on Power Plants

The Environmental Protection Agency, under pressure from some states, industry and Congress, is expected to ease an air quality rule that would require power plants in 27 states to slash emissions, said people familiar with the matter.

The EPA, which made the rule final in July, plans to propose as early as this week to allow certain states and companies to emit more pollutants than it previously permitted, these people said. The states and companies affected couldn’t be learned.

The move comes amid a backlash over the rule, which the EPA has said will protect public health and prevent up to 34,000 premature deaths. Critics contend it will cost jobs, increase power costs and threaten electric reliability.

The EPA changes are expected to allow for emissions increases ranging from 1% to 4% above the July requirement, depending on the pollutant, said the people familiar with the rule.

The Cross-State Air Pollution Rule is intended to reduce smog-forming chemicals emitted from power plants that often drift into other states. The pollutants can cause heart attacks and respiratory illnesses.

Lawyers for affected companies said they didn’t expect the change to completely satisfy industry concerns. Luminant, a unit of Energy Future Holdings Corp. that is Texas’s largest power generator, has said it would idle two generating units to comply. Ameren Corp. said it would shut two Illinois power plants.

Merkel suggests cutting solar subsidies further

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Tuesday solar energy subsidies should be reduced, and it could make more sense in the future to draw solar energy from places like Greece, where the sun shined longer.

Merkel said that while wind energy seemed on track to becoming commercially viable in Germany, this did not seem the case for solar energy.

Already over the past two years, Germany has sharply reduced so-called feed-in tariffs, through which investors receive a guaranteed return on generated energy output.

“But I am not sure whether we shouldn’t be tackling this even more,” Merkel told a regional conference of her Christian Democrat party in Magdeburg.

18 Responses to October 5 News: UN Climate Envoy Brundtland Urges Action to Avert Floods, Drought, Hunger–the ‘Threat is Real and Urgent’

  1. Leif says:

    The Republican claim that we cannot compete with China in solar PV is not “defeatism” but a deliberate attempt to sweep the road fork for the fossil industry and trash the fork for all renewable energy. Calling it anything else just confuses the issue. GOP = GOBP = PROFITS for them all at the expense of all the rest. Nothing less IMO.

  2. Sasparilla says:

    Arctic Ozone Level at Record Low

    Missed this the other day. The main issue is that the Stratosphere temperatures are much colder than normal and this dramatically increases the destruction of Ozone in the Arctic which was observed. The temperature decrease in the stratosphere was larger than they had been seeing previously (another unexpectedly large climate impact in the Arctic…).

    While the article didn’t go into the climate change aspect of this, its pretty simple. As the troposphere (the lowest level of the atmosphere that we live in) gathers more CO2, it acts as insulation (a blanket if you will) and keeps more of the infra-red energy (heat) in the troposphere instead of leaking up to warm the stratosphere – this leads to declining temperatures in the stratosphere (globally).

  3. Paul Magnus says:

    Update… it is also affecting around 30% of the fishermen handling these sick fish….

    Dozens of fishermen contract weeping skin lesions after handling sick fish at Gladstone Harbour … (audio), Cathy Bell is joined by President of the Queensland Seafood Industry Association Michael Gardiner (Health, Staph, MRSA, Lesions)

  4. Sasparilla says:

    Melting Arctic ice clears the way for supertanker voyages

  5. Michael Tucker says:

    “China and India will take the global leadership on climate change” Turnbull told the Guardian.

    I would say that China already dominates the leadership on climate change. They contribute more to climate change than any other country. They spew more CO2 into the atmosphere than any other country. They continue to build coal power plants and, as Bill McKibben pointed out in his National Geographic article, they will not be able to even begin to reduce their dependence on coal before 2030. So I would definitely say they have the lead. The US is a close #2 but, with the help of the Koch funded Republican Party, they have a good chance of taking the lead again.

    As for solving climate change do not look to India or China for many years to come.

  6. Paul Magnus says:

    IEA warns of ballooning world fossil fuel subsidies

    Global subsidies for fossil fuel consumption are set to reach $660 billion in 2020

  7. Paul Magnus says:

    an American Spring….
    It is way too early, and perhaps even a bit crazy, to see an American Spring in the growing protests on Wall Street.

  8. Colorado Bob says:

    Scorching summer heat along with record-dry conditions in Texas, Oklahoma and even Kansas have brought on a hay rush, pushing hay prices in central Wyoming as high as $200 a ton.

    That’s nearly twice as much as the commodity commanded last year at this time.

  9. Colorado Bob says:

    Bangkok Post
    More flood mayhem on the way
    Floodwater broke through dykes at Saha Rattana Nakorn Industrial Estate in tambon Bang Phrakhru of Nakhon Luang district late on Tuesday night and inundated 43 medium and large-scale factories, most of which belong to Japanese companies.

    Machines and goods in most of the plants are under water as the water surge was too sudden for factory owners to move them to safe places.

    Nearly three million acres of farmland are under water, threatening the country’s rice crop, and the government is warning that more heavy rain is expected in many parts of the country over the next few days.

  10. Colorado Bob says:

    Climate change eradicating Arctic’s oldest ice

    The Arctic’s oldest, thickest sea ice — much of which used to survive the year’s warmest months — had all but disappeared by the end of this summer’s near-record meltdown, according to new U.S. analyses that vividly show how the circumpolar region is being transformed by warmer temperatures and other features of climate change.

    In reports issued this week by NASA and the associated National Snow and Ice Data Center, the respective teams of U.S. scientists offered end-of-season overviews of the state of the northern cryosphere that emphasized not only the severe shrinkage of the ice cover for the fifth straight year, but also the widespread replacement of the Arctic’s most mature ice masses by much younger, thinner and weaker sheets of ice.

    Read more:

  11. Colorado Bob says:

    The Twin Cities area is classified as “dry.” In September we received only 0.36″ of rainfall (compared to 3.08″ the normal September rainfall). It was our DRIEST September on record, beating the old record of 0.41″ set back in 1940.