Energy and Global Warming News for November 22nd: Man-made CO2 emissions set to be highest in history; Marcellus Shale gas fracking poses risks; Latinos, Asians more worried about environment

Carbon emissions set to be highest in history

Emissions of man-made carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are roaring ahead again after a smaller-than-expected dip due to the worldwide recession. Scientists are forecasting that CO2 emissions from burning coal, oil and gas will reach their highest in history this year.

Levels of the man-made greenhouse gas being dumped into the atmosphere have never been higher and are once again accelerating. Scientists have revised their figures on global CO2 emissions, showing that levels fell by just 1.3 per cent in 2009 — less than half of what was expected. This year they are likely to increase by more than 3 per cent, greater than the average annual increase for the last decade.

The figures come after more than 20 years of dire warnings from scientists that governments need to begin curbing emissions drastically if the world is to avoid potentially dangerous climate change later this century.

In the 1990s, annual average emissions of carbon dioxide rose by 1 per cent, and in the past decade they increased at an average annual rate of 2.5 per cent. This year they are on target to accelerate even faster in the coming decade if governments fail to reach an agreement on CO2 targets at the UN meeting on climate change in Cancun, Mexico, which begins this month.

The latest analysis, by Professor Pierre Friedlingstein of Exeter University and Professor Corinne Le Qu©r© of the University of East Anglia, show that national attempts to stabilise carbon dioxide have been too feeble to have any noticeable impact on global emissions.

Profs: Wells pose threat

PITTSBURGH — With the potential to release uranium and other hazardous materials, the process of Marcellus Shale drilling and hydraulic fracturing must be tightly regulated, university professors said Friday.

During the “Health Effects of Shale Gas Extraction” conference at the University of Pittsburgh — located in the city whose council this week unanimously voted to outlaw Marcellus drilling within its boundaries — professors from numerous institutions spoke of the dangers associated with the process.

Jane Clougherty, Pitt professor of environmental and occupational health, also noted some of the rural areas — such as those in Ohio, Marshall, Wetzel and Tyler counties that are seeing increasingly more drilling activity — may be used for the purpose of benefiting big cities.

Many of the instructors, students and concerned residents in attendance heard professors speak on the dangers of both drilling the deep and horizontal wells required for Marcellus extraction, as well as the fracturing, or “fracking,” method used to break the shale to release the gas. Tracy Bank, assistant professor of geology at the University of Buffalo in New York, told the group, “Uranium is being mobilized by the fracking process.”

“Concentrations are fairly low,” she said of uranium’s presence in the water used to frack a well. “But they are high enough that it should not be treated like your drinking water.”

Though Bank said she does not consider uranium to be radioactive in terms of her research, she noted the element’s toxicity can lead to liver and kidney damage in humans.

Latinos, Asians more worried about environment than whites, poll finds

California’s Latino and Asian voters are significantly more concerned about core environmental issues, including global warming, air pollution and contamination of soil and water, than white voters, according to the latest Los Angeles Times/USC poll.

For example, 50% of Latinos and 46% of Asians who responded to the poll said they personally worry a great deal about global warming, compared with 27% of whites. Two-thirds of Latinos and 51% of Asians polled said they worry a great deal about air pollution, compared with 31% of whites.

Similarly, 85% of Latinos and 79% of Asians said they worry a great or a fair amount about contamination of soil and water by toxic waste, compared with 71% of whites.

The poll surveyed 1,689 adults by telephone. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.4 percentage points.

“Latinos and Asians are far more likely to be registered as Democrats than whites, and Democrats hold these views more closely,” said Peyton Craighill, who supervised the poll.

Electric car charging stations coming to heart of oil country in Texas

A U.S. utility is planning to build a network of electric vehicle charging stations in Houston that would be available to subscribers for a flat fee, the first such network of its kind in the nation. NRG Energy Inc., a New Jersey-based power company, plans to install private and public charging stations across the city, at a cost of $10 million. For $49 per month, customers would receive their own private charging station; for $79 per month, they would have access to a network of 50 stations located across the city at retail locations, such as Best Buy and Walgreens.

With more electric vehicles rolling onto U.S. roads, the company said it sees an opportunity to be part of the growing market to power vehicles. If the Houston model works, the company said it will build similar networks in other major U.S. cities, including New York and Dallas. Initially, NRG will focus on states where the retail electricity industry is deregulated, including Texas. “That’s a very attractive market for the electricity industry,” said David Crane, NRG’s president and CEO.

Aid money to build solar panels and wind turbines in Africa

The British tax payer is to invest millions of pounds into solar panels and wind turbines in Africa and Asia as part of a new drive to help poor countries by developing green business.

Andrew Mitchell, the International Development Secretary, said aid money will be used in a new way to tackle climate change, as well as funding health and education.

In a controversial move, the Coalition Government will be using tax-payer’s money to encourage private investors to put further funds towards ‘green’ development projects. However aid agencies and charities argue it is dangerous to involve big business in aid because they will only help people while there is the potential for profit.

Mr Mitchell announced two public-private partnership projects in Africa and Asia to stimulate investment in renewable energy schemes.

The UK Government has already put aside £2.9 billion of the aid budget to tackle climate change over the next four years.

Next Green Car launches “Approved” vehicle list

Let’s say you’re looking to buy a new vehicle and have decided that it’s time to get behind the wheel of a “greener” ride. Aside from spending hours online researching autos, how can you determine which vehicle is the right one for you? Well, a quick and easy way is to head over to Next Green Car’s site and skim its newly launched “Next Green Car Approved 2010” model list.

Broken down by vehicle class (city car, supermini, small/large family, multi-purpose, sports utility, executive and sports/cabrio), the list provides simple visuals to help car buyers quickly identify green vehicles. Next Green Car’s “Approved” list rates each vehicle in several categories, including GC Rating (overall), combined miles per gallon, CO2 emissions, tax band (applicable for buyers in the UK) and fuel type.

The list, updated monthly, will include any new vehicle available in the UK that meets the stringent guidelines laid out by Next Green Car. Hit up the site and see if the ride that you dream of owning meets Next Green Car’s approval.

‘Forgotten’ forests store carbon

WASHINGTON, Nov. 19 (UPI) — While the deforestation of tropical rainforests is seen as a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, the impact of cool-weather rainforests tends to be overlooked when addressing climate change, a panel of scientists said.

These “forgotten” rainforests store more carbon per acre than tropical rainforests, the scientists said in Washington Wednesday while introducing “Temperate and Boreal Rainforests of the World: Ecology and Conservation,” a book to be released next month.Temperate and boreal rainforests are found in 10 regions of the world, including the coastal rainforests that stretch from the California Redwoods to British Columbia and Alaska, to the lesser-known rainforests in South Africa, Japan, Europe and the Russian Far East.

In the United States, the Top 10 national forests with the highest carbon storage are in western Oregon, Washington and Alaska. These rainforests store nearly 9.8 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents or roughly twice the amount of the nation’s emissions from burning fossil fuels annually, the book says.

Greening the Blue Helmets: the UN Goes Green

The United Nations might be the body long responsible for hosting the forum for international agreement on climate change, so it’s about time it gets its own climate house in order.

Imogen Martineau of Martineau & Co. is responsible for this task and she’s using web 2.0 tools to do it. Though when I asked her how she was using social media to catalyze behavioural change, she wanted to be clear, “a website can’t turn down the heating or turn down the air conditioning or shut the window, you need people to do that. The way we use it is what’s important- it’s the messaging and how you present information.”

Greening the Blue Helmets: the UN Goes GreenThe United Nations might be the body long responsible for hosting the forum for international agreement on climate change, so it’s about time it gets its own climate house in order.

Imogen Martineau of Martineau & Co. is responsible for this task and she’s using web 2.0 tools to do it. Though when I asked her how she was using social media to catalyze behavioural change, she wanted to be clear, “a website can’t turn down the heating or turn down the air conditioning or shut the window, you need people to do that. The way we use it is what’s important- it’s the messaging and how you present information.”

Greening the Blue website presents information about how the UN can green itself in several different formats, “All the evidence shows that the doomsday scenario stuff doesn’t work,” says Martineau, “People like aspirational engaging positive messages. It’s what advertisers have been using for decades but the green movement has been slow to pick up on.”People divide into three groups, explains Martineau (citing research by WWF and Cultural Dynamics): about 2%, will be swayed with a moral and intellectual argument. “Most greenies,” she says, “fall into this group.”