A new bill proposed by Michigan senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) would give the timber industry carbon credit for cutting down old growth forests and turning them into toothpicks, chopsticks, desks, plywood, sofas, pencils, and other wood products – and throw in billions of dollars on top of that to incentivize spraying of pesticides, oil production, and coal mining.
Despite these drawbacks, the bill, entitled The Clean Energy Partnerships Act (S. 2729), does contain some strong environmental provisions – like incentives for organic agriculture and assurances that farmers, foresters and conservationists who’ve taken early action to reduce climate pollution don’t get their funding cut off.
But these gains could easily be undermined by the bill’s kitchen-sink approach to offering offset credits, as well as its total exclusion of the rigorous scientific, environmental, and social standards for crediting that are contained in the Kerry-Boxer and Waxman-Markey legislation. These key standards include protections for biodiversity and use of native, non-invasive species in forestry activities. Unless the authors of the overall climate bill take a critical look at Stabenow’s provisions, instead of just swallowing them whole, they risk significantly undermining the integrirty and aims of the overall legislation.
The bulk of the problems in Stabenow’s bill comes from the list of activities that would be eligible for lucrative offset credit. Many of these activities are already included in the Kerry-Boxer legislation, but with a critical difference: Kerry-Boxer recommends them for consideration by an Advisory Board and the president, whereas as the Stabenow bill requires their initial inclusion.
Particularly worrying is the mandate for crediting:
forest management resulting in an increase in forest carbon stores, including harvested wood products.
The theory here, long pushed by the timber industry, is that sofas, desks, baseball bats, yachts and other “harvested wood products” store the carbon that was once in trees – and they should get paid for transfering carbon from storage in a tree to storage in a 2 X 4.
Unfortunately, they neglect to mention that creating wood products requires an extraordinary amount of energy – everything from driving trucks into a forest, running chainsaws, trucking the logs back out of the forest, cutting and processing them (the biggest energy expenditure), dousing them with veneer and other energy-intensive chemicals, shipping them to a store and then getting them to a customer’s house – or into your Chinese food delivery bag. They also don’t usually highlight how much wood is lost in the shipping and manufacture process, or the degree of decay that occurs in landfills. The Wilderness Society’s Ann Ingerson did a comprehensive analysis of carbon storage in wood, “Wood Products and Carbon Storage: Can Increased Production Help Solve the Climate Crisis?” and found that in many cases, the emissions required to produce a piece of finished wood far exceeds the carbon stored in it – though that’s just one of the ways in which logging and manufacture of wood products produces emissions.
The industry also neglects to remind Members of Congress that they already get paid for selling wood products, and don’t exactly need subsidies to cut down trees. Read more
China promised to slow its carbon emissions, saying it would nearly halve the ratio of pollution to GDP over the next decade “” a major move by the world’s largest emitter, whose cooperation is crucial to any deal as a global climate summit approaches.Beijing’s voluntary pledge Thursday came a day after President Barack Obama promised the U.S. would lay out plans at the summit to substantially cut its own greenhouse gas emissions. Together, the announcements are building momentum for next month’s meeting in Copenhagen.
“Governments from all over the world are delivering before the climate conference,” Denmark’s Climate Minister Connie Hedegaard said. “U.S. and China have come forward. All across the globe, things are moving. This is good news.”
If China did nothing and its economy doubles in size as expected in coming years, its emissions would likely double as well. Thursday’s pledge means emissions would only increase by 50 percent in such a scenario.
Environmental groups and leaders largely welcomed China’s move.
“Before Copenhagen, we desperately need this good news,” said Yu Jie, head of policy and research programs for The Climate Group China, a non-governmental group. She described China’s 45 percent target as “quite aggressive.”
… Yvo de Boer, the United Nations climate chief, said the pledges by China and the U.S. pave the way for a deal.”The U.S. commitment to specific, midterm emission cut targets and China’s commitment to specific action on energy efficiency can unlock two of the last doors to a comprehensive agreement,” he said.
That’s from the conservative Washington Times (subs. req’d) story “China vows to dramatically slow emissions growth.”
Is this a big deal? Is this a game-changer, is this a “possible breakthrough in Denmark next month in the long-stalled climate negotiations” as the Washington Post put it Friday? Yes and no. This isn’t really a game changer because it has been so long in the making — see my May post, “Exclusive: Have China and the U.S. been holding secret talks aimed at a climate deal this fall?“ The game changing on the Chinese side came two months ago (see “Are Chinese emissions pledges a game changer for Senate action?“):
Inhofe trashes generals who advocate for bipartisan clean energy legislation: They crave “the limelight.”
The national security threat posed by unrestricted greenhouse gas emissions is great (see “NYT: Climate Change Seen as Threat to U.S. Security” and “Veterans Day, 2029“). The threat is so clearcut that even the Bush Administration’s top intelligence experts were raising the alarm (see “The moving Fingar writes“). Yet, Senator James “the last flat-earther” Inhofe (R-OIL) is now attacking the generals pointing out the national security threat, as Think Progress reports in this repost.
In testimony before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, retired Vice Admiral Dennis McGinn articulated a national security argument for passing clean energy legislation. “Continued over reliance on fossil fuels, or small, incremental steps, simply will not create the kind of future security and prosperity that the American people and our great Nation deserve,” McGinn warned.
In an interview with the New York Times Magazine, Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), the ranking member of the Senate environment committee, argued that McGinn and other generals who are advocating for clean energy reform (like Wesley Clark, Stephen Cheney, Brent Scowcroft, etc) are simply doing so because they crave “the limelight”:
Science historian Weart: “We’ve never before seen a set of people accuse an entire community of scientists of deliberate deception and other professional malfeasance. Even the tobacco companies never tried to slander legitimate cancer researchers.”
Spencer Weart: My most interesting conversations were with historians who have been studying the history of the tobacco companies that did their best, and quite successfully for many years, to cover up the fact that smoking kills people by the million. Some interesting parallels, but…
So begins a fascinating interview of Weart on the illegally hacked emails by Capital Weather Gang’s Andrew Freedman. Dr. Weart is a physicist and science historian with the American Institute of Physics.
Weart’s website, “The Discovery of Global Warming,” is one of the places to start if you’re interested in getting the basics of climate science. Based on the comments posted on CP, RealClimate, WUWT, DotEarth, etc., I think it’s safe to say that the overwhelming majority of the self-proclaimed “skeptics” (aka those who’ve been duped by the professional disinformers) haven’t even bothered to look at the most basic scientific evidence on human-caused global warming.
And the majority of the professional disinformers simply have no regard whatsoever for basic science or an evidence-based search for the truth — which is why they keep pushing talking points that have long been debunked in the scientific literature (see, for instance, Scientists advising fossil fuel funded anti-climate group concluded in 1995: “The scientific basis for the Greenhouse Effect and the potential impact of human emissions of GHGs such as CO2 on climate is well established and cannot be denied”).
But as science historian Weart tells Freedman — spreading disinformation about science is nothing new. What is new is the slander of both individual scientists and the entire scientific community:
We’ve seen that the “New U.S.-India Green Partnership improves prospects for global climate deal.” But Treehugger has more on the world’s most populous democracy (and the photo is B Balaji via flickr). First,”It’s Finally Official – India’s National Solar Mission Aims for 20 Gigawatts Solar Power by 2022“:
Rumors and draft reports have been circulating about India’s National Solar Mission plan since early summer, but the program has finally been officially announced. Approved just in time for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit with President Obama, the plan aims for 20 gigawatts on solar power capacity by 2022:
Greenpeace has already done some quick calculations (probably had them done months ago, truth be told) and estimates that the NSM, part of National Action Plan on Climate Change, could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 12-18%, with annual reductions of 434 million tons of CO2 avoided annually through 2050, provided that the solar power actually displaced fossil fuel-generated electricity.
Siddharth Pathak, Climate and Energy Policy officer for Greenpeace India praised the announcement,
“With the release of the NSM, the Indian Government has categorically shown that is is acting on climate change and moving away from a carbon-intensive, business-as-usual scenario. This puts pressure on the developed countries to commit and put their GHG emission reduction targets at Copenhagen.”
I’d note that the U.S. may end up doing 20 GW of solar by 2020 — but we’ll need to pass the bipartisan climate and clean energy bill and probably need two terms of Obama, and it’d be mostly concentrated solar power (see World’s largest solar plant with thermal storage to be built in Arizona “” total of 8500 MW of this core climate solution planned for 2014 in U.S. alone).
Treehugger’s second post on India is more intriguing, albeit more speculative, “Is India Set To Announce Emissions Targets?”