Other stories below: Cedar trees are victims of climate change; Poor minorities face greatest health risks from climate change
European Union Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard said countries meeting at a conference in June should pledge to double the share of renewable energy they use by 2030 and give all citizens access to sustainable power.
The nations also need to double the world’s energy efficiency, Hedegaard told reporters today in New Delhi.
World leaders will gather in Rio de Janeiro in June for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, known as Rio+20 in policy circles. The first conference in Rio in 1992, known as the Earth Summit, drew 108 heads of state and set up the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change to stabilize increasing greenhouse gas emissions.
“If we could have these targets accepted by the whole world in Rio, then we could make a substantial step forward,” Hedegaard said, declining to say whether promises made at the conference should be legally binding.
Yellow cedars, a culturally and economically valuable tree in Alaska and British Columbia, have been dying off because of shifting climate, researchers say.
The die-offs have affected about 60 percent to 70 percent of trees in forests covering 600,000 acres in the region, researchers say, and it’s all down to snow — or more accurately the lack of it.
“The cause of tree death, called yellow-cedar decline, is now known to be a form of root freezing that occurs during cold weather in late winter and early spring, but only when snow is not present on the ground,” U.S. Department of Agriculture scientist Paul Hennon said.
Poor, urban and minority residents are most at risk for health problems linked to climate change, according to a new California Department of Public Health analysis of Los Angeles and Fresno counties.
The department examined social and environmental factors ranging from the rising sea level to public transportation access and found that African Americans and Latinos living in these counties are more likely to be exposed to health and safety risks related to poor air quality, heat waves, flooding and wildfires stemming from climate change.
“Clearly, climate change risks are not equal across the state or within individual counties,” according to the report [PDF]. “Identifying communities at greatest risk is a necessary step in efficiently employing limited resources to protect public health.”
In Los Angeles County, neighborhoods near Santa Monica and Long Beach were among those deemed most vulnerable, “largely from risks due to sea level rise, but also partially attributable to poor public transit, wildfire risk, and a large proportion of elderly living alone,” the report said.
China’s mining and oil exploration firms saw sharp increases in profits last year, but refiners, processors and utilities fared much worse with government controls over retail fuel and power prices making it difficult to pass on higher raw material costs.
Total industrial profits rose 25.4 percent in 2011 from a year earlier to 5.45 trillion yuan ($864.8 billion), the National Bureau of Statistics said on Friday on its website. www.stats.gov.cn.
Profits at oil and natural gas exploration companies rose 45 percent, while profits of ferrous metal mining companies surged 53 percent, driven by surging iron ore prices over large parts of last year.
Profits of companies in the oil refining, coking and nuclear fuel processing industry tumbled 93 percent in 2011, while those of power generation and heating firms dropped 11 percent.
Environmental groups on Thursday sued an oil company over the pace of its cleanup of a Gulf of Mexico spill that continues seven years after it was triggered by Hurricane Ivan in 2004.
“The plaintiffs filed suit to stop the spill and lift the veil of secrecy surrounding Taylor oil’s seven-year-long response and recovery operation,” Marc Yaggi, executive director of Waterkeeper Alliance, said in a statement announcing the lawsuit, which was filed in federal court in New Orleans. “Neither the government nor Taylor will answer basic questions related to the spill response, citing privacy concerns.”
Justin Bloom, a Waterkeeper Alliance director, told msnbc.com that the group had made Freedom of Information Act requests for documentation “and ultimately the Coast Guard has refused to provide us documents citing the Privacy Act.”
The low price of natural gas is hurting domestic job growth, and exporting a small amount of the fuel will boost the economy, U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu told a Houston audience Thursday.
Speaking at a town hall at Houston Community College, Chu said a modest increase in the price of natural gas wouldn’t significantly raise its cost to U.S. consumers who use it to heat their homes and manufacturers who need it to make products.
Natural gas futures closed at $2.55, up 17 cents, in trading Thursday on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It brings much higher prices in other countries.
“Exporting natural gas means wealth comes into the United States,” Chu said.