Energy and Global Warming News for October 22: Southeast most exposed to climate change impacts; Thinking solar power? It’s never been cheaper

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"Energy and Global Warming News for October 22: Southeast most exposed to climate change impacts; Thinking solar power? It’s never been cheaper"

Oxfam

Southeast U.S. exposed to climate change impact: Oxfam

Poverty and climate hazards make the southeast United States the country’s most vulnerable area to climate change impact, Oxfam America said on Wednesday.

A report released by the relief organization identified high-risk “hotspots” across 13 southeast states from Arkansas to Virginia where poverty factors combined with high risk of drought, flooding, hurricanes and sea-level rise.

“Social factors like income and race do not determine who will be hit by a natural disaster, but they do determine a population’s ability to prepare, respond, and recover when disaster does strike,” Oxfam America President Raymond Offenheiser said in a statement accompanying the report.

“As climate change increases and intensifies floods, storms, and heat waves, many of the world’s poorest communities, from Biloxi (Mississippi) to Bangladesh, will experience unprecedented stress,” Offenheiser added.

Oxfam said the study, using a method developed by experts from the University of South Carolina’s Hazards and Vulnerability Research Institute, for the first time overlaid risk of climate hazards with social variables….

The Oxfam report, available at www.oxfamamerica.org/adapt, includes layered maps that depict different levels of social and climate change-related hazard vulnerability in the U.S. southeast, which accounts for roughly 80 percent of all U.S. counties that experience persistent poverty….

For example, one identified high-risk area was Iberia Parish in Louisiana, which had some of the highest hazard exposures — 76.8 percent of land in a flood zone, 78.9 percent in the extreme drought zone, 56 percent in a sea-level rise zone, and all within a hurricane wind zone.

It also had some of the highest social vulnerability scores, due to its growing Latino population with young children, racial inequalities, and employment dependencies on industries like fishing, oil, and gas….

Poor families were among the worst affected when Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in Louisiana in 2005.

Miami-Dade County in Florida — a state viewed by many as a playground for the rich — was also qualified by the report as a high-risk area,

Thinking solar power? It’s never been cheaper

Jillian Lung says she’s no environmentalist. Still, she couldn’t pass up a chance to install a carpet of solar panels atop her co-op in Queens.

“At these prices, why not?” Lung said.

The government has plowed so much cash into the solar industry that it’s effectively pulled the luxury tag off of home solar systems. Combined with local incentives, buyers can save up to 90 percent on a system, whether it’s for a single-family home or a 75-unit condo in the city.

Thousands of homeowners are finding they can pay off a rooftop solar system in just a few years and then start pocketing the energy savings.

Lung, the co-op president, stumbled into solar subsidy programs last year as she priced out roof repairs. City, state and federal incentives covered nearly three-quarters of the tab for a $394,514 solar system.

The building flipped the switch on in July and already cut last month’s electric bill in half.

“This was just icing on the cake,” Lung said. “We had to change the roof anyway.”

Solar power has been getting cheaper for years. Panel prices declined 31 percent from 1998 to 2008 because of lower manufacturing and installation costs and state and local subsidies, according to a study released Wednesday by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. But it still took a ramp up in federal incentives this year to bring the cost within many people’s reach.

More than half the states in the U.S. and Washington D.C. offer enough incentives to cut the costs by 40 percent or more, according to Amy Heinemann, a policy analyst at the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency.

NYC sees economic gold in green jobs

Recession-stricken New York City plans to double its current green work force by creating over 13,000 new jobs in the next decade, partly by competing with London to become the new center for carbon trading, a city official said on Wednesday.

London, whose prominence as a financial capital rivals New York City and Tokyo, got an early lock in trading pollution credits by training lawyers, accountants and other experts “before the market even existed,” Seth Pinsky, president of the Economic Development Corporation, told Reuters.

New York City’s new boot camp in green finance will be run by the State University of New York’s Levin Institute. It will be open to laid-off workers or future entrepreneurs, much like an already “booming” incubator for financial start-ups, Pinsky said.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who made his first fortune as a Wall Street bond trader before getting into politics, is expected to announce on Thursday this green job branch to his two-year-old PlaNYC program, which set ambitious goals for reducing greenhouse gases, planting 1 million trees and crowning skyscrapers with wind turbines.

The mayor’s $7.5 million green jobs plan will call on Columbia University to help offer public school pupils “hands-on” learning in energy efficiency, according to Bloomberg, who is running as an independent candidate for a third term. His plan also will create an Urban Technology Innovation Center to tap academic research. Existing city and state funds and federal stimulus dollars will pay for it.

Britain publishes doomsday climate change vision

Two British Cabinet ministers showed off a doomsday vision of disappearing cities and rising seas on Thursday, part of an effort to push nations to strike a new pact on curbing emissions of global warming gasses.

Foreign Secretary David Miliband and his brother, Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband, published an online map detailing the predicted impact of a 4 degrees Celsius (7 degrees Fahrenheit) rise in global temperatures.

Ed Milband said the map, which was prepared by scientists at the British Meteorological Office, shows that the “stakes couldn’t be higher” as nations prepare for a December summit in Denmark. The Copenhagen meeting aims to strike agreement on new action to limit temperature rises as a result of climate change to 2 degrees Celsius.

Britain has pledged to cut carbon dioxide emissions by at least 80 percent of 1990 levels by 2050.

“With less than 50 days left before agreement must be reached, the U.K.’s going all out to persuade the world of the need to raise its ambitions so we get a deal that protects us from a 4 degree world,” Ed Miliband said.

Gore ‘Optimistic’ About Climate Bill, Skeptical of Biofuels

Former Vice President Al Gore said today that he was “optimistic” the U.S. Senate’s climate bill will pass, citing support from Republicans including Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

Gore, whose remarks in Beijing focused on solar, wind and geothermal power, expressed skepticism that natural gas, nuclear power or biofuels were realistic energy sources to harness in order to achieve large reductions in carbon emissions.

Gore, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 for his work to publicize the dangers of global warming, said nuclear power was too expensive and could be used to make weapons, biofuels might spark food price rises and natural gas, which emits two-thirds the carbon of oil, was only a “promising transition fuel.”

Before Gore spoke, he met with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, who said the U.S. and China should cooperate to promote clean energy and combat climate change, Xinhua News Agency reported. Earlier today, Chinese President Hu Jintao talked to President Barack Obama on the phone and said China wanted a successful outcome to the Copenhagen climate talks, Xinhua also reported.

“Although problems remain in talks for a final deal, there are hopes for a positive result at the Copenhagen conference as long as the convening parties work together closely,” Xinhua reported Hu as saying.

Chamber of Commerce Spends $34.7M on 3Q Lobbying

Losing key members and facing political headwinds, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce spent a record $34.7 million in the third quarter lobbying against the Obama administration’s proposals to overhaul energy policy, financial regulation and health care.

The Chamber’s money paid for more than a dozen lobbyists to visit Congress, the White House and agencies from Agriculture to Treasury. Most of the Chamber’s positions — free trade, unfettered credit card lending, Cash for Clunkers rebates — enjoy broad support among the Chamber’s diverse corporate members.

The Chamber’s lobbying agenda encompasses virtually any issue that affects business — so the group has a stance on virtually every issue. Debates on far-reaching effects, like health care, often occupy the most attention. But the Chamber disclosure also shows the group devoted serious resources to issues important to a smaller number of members — Internet taxation, immigration enforcement and forcing children to speak English.

However, on one broad issue considered critical to the Obama administration’s success the Chamber’s anti-regulatory postures created a rift. On the question of how to address climate change, the Chamber has seen a growing number of companies defect. They say the self-proclaimed ”voice of business” doesn’t speak for them when it denies global warming and lobbies against climate change legislation.

Europe offers to cut emissions 95% by 2050 if deal reached at Copenhagen

Europe attempted to reassert its international leadership in the fight against global warming today, offering to slash its greenhouse gas emissions by up to 95% by 2050 and by 30% by 2020 if a climate change pact is sealed in Copenhagen in six weeks’ time.

“This should be seen as a clear message to the world,” said Andreas Carlgren, the Swedish environment minister who chaired the Luxembourg meeting. “We expect to reach an agreement in Copenhagen,” he added, after environment ministers from 27 countries finalised a common EU negotiating position.

But his optimism contrasted with the increasing doubts around the world enough time remains to deliver a binding agreement in Copenhagen. The EU also still has to settle disputes over the EU’s carbon trading scheme and how the developing world will be paid to cope with the impacts of global warming.

Yesterday, European finance ministers failed to agree on a funding package for developing countries, with Poland and other poorer eastern European countries unhappy at being asked to subsidise action in countries such as China and India whose economies are growing strongly. Poland is also leading the dissent on the EU emissions trading scheme (ETS).

The EU negotiating position offers to slash greenhouse gas emissions by between 80-95% by 2050 and to deepen cuts from 20 to 30% by 2020 if other world powers sign up for similar action. The ministers said they also reached accord on tough action on deforestation and agreed that aviation would have to cut its emissions by 10% by 2020 compared with 2005 levels and shipping by 20%.

However, reluctance from the big players – the US, China, and India – to unveil targets or specific figures for a climate change pact, the EU was divided over tactics ahead of the UN conference in Copenhagen in December.

Germany and Italy were reluctant to name a figure publicly so early, believing this could weaken the European bargaining position.

“I’ve heard arguments about tactics,” said Stavros Dimas, the European commissioner for the environment. “But by telling the decision now, we encourage other countries to come with their proposals. We don’t gain anything by not reaching a decision.”

Britain, Denmark, Sweden, and the Netherlands supported this view, believing that Europe had more to gain from playing pioneer and seizing the leadership in the run-up to Copenhagen.

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7 Responses to Energy and Global Warming News for October 22: Southeast most exposed to climate change impacts; Thinking solar power? It’s never been cheaper

  1. Leif says:

    What an opportunity. By working with the poorest of the poor in our country and experimenting with sustainable living and energy and the obvious but not always intuitive advantages that can be gained, perhaps we can develop a holistic exportable “technology” adaptable to other destitute areas of the world. I believe it was Applied Technologies that was developing a SV plant that could be shipped in total to an area to build SV panals and high paying jobs while suppling solar energy for that area. Once cash flow starts then there is incentive for the local population to be planting organic farms , etc,etc. Thus finally allowing the poor to start lifting themselves by their own boot straps. Cheap energy was the driver of capitalism in the past it just became monopolized by the rich for the rich. That chain must be broken.
    I feel it is morally incumbent for the “developed” world to design an enviable sustainable life style that can be exported. A small price to pay for the havoc we have caused. Besides, if achievable, we would all be the richer.

  2. David B. Benson says:

    Growing salt water algae as a source for biofuels clearly does not compete with growing food (unless you want to eat microalgae, at is). Indeed, using alage to produce biomethane and burning the biomethane as a natgas replacemnt results in a stream of fresh, hot water condensed out of the exhaust gas. The remaining exhaust gas goes back to the algae ponds to promote further growth; closed cycle carbon plus electricity plus that fresh water.

    Fleasable now.

  3. David B. Benson says:

    Steep Decline In Americans’ Belief In Global Warming
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/10/22/steep-decline-in-american_n_330315.html

    Discouraging.

  4. Federal lavish support for solar is a great mistake and waste of money.
    Conservation can cut some 30 times more GHG than solar photovoltaic can dollar per dollar.

    The federal government is increasing the subsidies for solar photovoltaic by a large amount. What a waste of our meager resources. Who is happy, the over powerful solar companies which increased its profit enormously with little benefits to our country.
    More federal support for PV is against our national self interest. We do not have money to waste in our fight against global warming. Some in the federal government still does not grasp that global warming is a very serious threat to our survival and sink money into wasteful avenues instead of reducing our energy demand by conservation.. Every kWh we cut reduce our energy input and its associated GHG by three kWh since two third of the energy is wasted in the process of creating electricity!

    Our first priority is to cut our energy use. Germany put some $70 billons into their much acclaimed PV program with the hope that their PV will cut electricity use. It was only a dream. After more than 12 years of concentrated effort it gets just a third of a percent from solar most of the rest from coal. And some 20 more coal plants are being constructed now.

    If people do not understand the advantage of conservation over solar and are oversold by solar marketing, I can understand. But the Federal government supposed to have professionals who should know better and maximize the benefit to the country. It does not seem so.

    Federal subsidies should go to attic insulation and weatherization of much larger number of people in low income areas across the nation. We will cut 30 times more GHG pollution by conservation, give employment to a considerably larger number of low to medium income, less trained people. These people needs the money more urgently and will also use it and increase our economy faster. All the money remains in the country and the insulation material is 85% recycle newspaper.
    In good locations solar produces only 1300 kWh per year per kW installed. This is a very small amount of electricity. And with time the output goes down by lack of maintenance and aging of panels- according to the manufacturers themselves.

    Just note how uneconomical solar truly is: “Arkansas installer Bob Moore said his customers would pay $35,000 for the system that costs $2,625 in New Jersey. At annual savings of $492.47, it would take more than 71 years for the system to pay off.”

    We should use our money in the most cost-effective way to reduce the maximum amount of GHG as soon as possible TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE. The manufacturing of solar systems creates a large amount of GHG. The first five year of the solar output just goes to produce the energy it took to make and install the system.
    This is not a game with business as usual. It is our most serious fight for saving the global environment.

  5. C. Vink says:

    Study Predicts Future Consequences Of A Global Biofuels Program
    Red Orbit, October 22 – A report examining the impact of a global biofuels program on greenhouse gas emissions (…) has found that carbon loss stemming from the displacement of food crops and pastures for biofuels crops may be twice as much as the CO2 emissions from land dedicated to biofuels production. The study, led by Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) senior scientist Jerry Melillo, also predicts that increased fertilizer use for biofuels production will cause nitrous oxide emissions (N2O) to become more important than carbon losses, in terms of warming potential, by the end of the century.
    “Our analysis, which we think is the most comprehensive to date, shows that direct and indirect land-use changes associated with an aggressive global biofuels program have the potential to release large quantities of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere,” says Melillo.
    Also see here and here and here.

    How Eco-Friendly Is Natural Gas?
    IPS, October 22 – Natural gas, a non-renewable yet plentiful energy source, is being promoted by the gas industry as part of the solution to climate change. But experts say that its contribution to global warming is only slightly less than that of coal and oil.

    36 football fields deforested each minute: WWF
    AFP, October 22 – The equivalent of 36 football fields are being stripped from the world’s forests each minute, the environmental group World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) said in a statement.

    Adopt green tech by 2014 to avert climate calamity
    New Scientist, October 22 – Green technologies can prevent catastrophic climate change, but only if we commit to them by 2014. Miss the deadline and we risk runaway global warming and economic meltdown. That’s the conclusion of a report published this week by the environment group WWF, which says green technologies will have to grow by 22 per cent each year for the next four decades. Such growth would be the “fastest industrial revolution witnessed in our history,” says Kim Carstensen of WWF.

    Major Accounting Flaw In Kyoto Protocol, Other Climate Legislation
    Red Orbit, October 22 – An international team of top climate scientists has found a critical, but fixable, error in the accounting method used to measure compliance with carbon limits. The flaw, which centers on the measurement of CO2 emissions from the use of bioenergy, could undermine greenhouse gas reduction goals if not addressed.

    Treaty To Limit CO2 Should Be Followed By Similar Limits On Other Greenhouse Pollutants
    Red Orbit, October 22 – When world leaders meet in Copenhagen in December to hash out a treaty limiting carbon dioxide emissions, they should begin planning a future summit to address other pollutants – from soot to ozone – that don’t remain in the atmosphere as long as carbon dioxide, but nevertheless are major contributors to global warming. That is the view of University of California, Berkeley, researcher Stacy C. Jackson.

    Impacts of glacier retreat on hydropower
    Reuters, October 22 – Retreating glaciers from the Alps to the Andes are likely to disrupt hydropower generation in coming decades. Following are details of glaciers and the wider impacts of climate change on hydropower, the most widely used form of renewable energy.

    When the ice melts
    Nature News, October 21 – Glaciers in the Himalayas are retreating faster than in any other part of the world and they could disappear completely by 2035 (ref. 1). This puts the mountainous nation of Bhutan at a special risk. In an area smaller than Switzerland, it has 983 glaciers and 2,794 glacial lakes, some of which have burst to produce deadly glacial lake floods.

    The sands are running out
    The Age, October 21 – The days when the words ‘absolute beachfront’ were an enticement to buy real estate are coming to a close – another casualty of global warming and rising sea levels. Plenty of property owners, though, are unaware or choose to ignore the trend. Beach erosion that will be compounded by climate change is yet another problem over which interests clash.

    Impact of climate change on Nenet tribespeople of Siberia (20 pictures)
    One of the world’s last great wildernesses, the Yamal peninsula in Arctic Russia is under heavy strain from global warming. Scientists say there is unmistakable evidence that Yamal’s ancient permafrost is melting, which could catastrophically release billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide and the potent greenhouse gas methane, which were previously trapped in frozen soil. The survival of the indigenous Nenets people is under grave threat.
    Also see here.

    Indians decide to make their own glaciers
    The Christian Science Monitor, October 18 – Himalayan communities like Ladakh rely on glacial runoff to grow food, making them – along with tiny island nations – among the first to feel an existential threat from climate change. Mr. Norphel’s artificial glaciers represent one of the earliest human efforts at adaptation.
    (…) But he feels time running out, since even his idea requires runoff from real glaciers. “Everything is melting very, very quickly because of global warming.”

    The ecocidal moment
    The Guardian, October 13 – The climate and financial crises reveal an amnesia about the human calling. Heed Moses: choose life. In his splendid book, Hell and High Water [sic! CV]: Climate Change, Hope and the Human Condition, Alastair McIntosh speaks of our current “ecocidal” patterns of consumption as addictive and self-destructive. Living like this is living at a less than properly human level – McIntosh suggests we may need therapy, what he describes as a “cultural psychotherapy” to liberate us.
    Also see here.

  6. I would like to thank C. Vink above for the many sources of new material on GW.How do you get all of this information?