Energy and Global Warming News for November 30th: Deaths from climate-related disasters doubled this year; Poland gets recyclable subway cars in 2012; Nissan Leaf named 2011 European Car of the Year

Deaths from climate-related disasters more than double in 2010 — Oxfam

Climate-related disasters killed 21,000 people in the first nine months of this year, more than double the number in 2009, the humanitarian organization Oxfam reported on Monday.

Timed to coincide with the start of international talks tackling climate change in Cancun, Mexico, the report cited floods in Pakistan, fires and heat waves in Russia and sea level rise in the Pacific island nation of Tuvalu as examples of the deadly consequences of climate change.

The new round of U.N. climate negotiations aims to agree on a narrow range of issues dividing rich and poor economies, specifically on funding, preservation of rainforests and preparations for a warmer world. The talks also will seek to formalize existing targets to curb greenhouse gas emissions.


Last year’s climate negotiations in Copenhagen ended with no binding global agreement, and expectations for this year’s talks are low. U.S. lawmakers are unlikely to consider legislation creating a cap-and-trade system to curb climate-warming emissions.

Still, Oxfam put its report forward as evidence that quick action is needed to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

“Countries should identify new ways to raise the billions of dollars needed, such as putting levies on unregulated international aviation and shipping emissions and agreeing on a Financial Transaction Tax on banks. The sooner the money is delivered, the cheaper it will be to tackle climate change,” Tim Gore, author of the report, said in a statement.

Poland to introduce recyclable subway cars in 2012

Poland has teamed up with Siemens and BMW to create a recyclable subway car for Metro Warszawskie.

The Inspiro design was developed by Siemens in cooperation with the BMW Group DesignworksUSA, which is an independently operating BMW Group subsidiary based in Los Angeles, Singapore and Munich. The Inspiro design offers an enhanced experienced for subway passengers that incorporates sustainable engineering.

The environmentally-sensitive concept incorporates spacious interiors with extra-wide entrances for optimized passenger flow. To increase space for passengers, the electronic and mechanics cabinets have been removed from the interior cabin walls. The floor-to-ceiling handrails emulate simple tree forms, communicating the green intent of the design.

The cars are rated to be 97.5 percent recyclable. The aluminum carriage and weight-optimized chassis make the design significantly lighter than most traditional subway cars. The lighter cars require less energy to run, reducing the overall consumption of this public transit system.

The cars also utilize demand-controlled air conditioning and electrodynamic braking systems which reduce noise and fine particle emissions, and an alternative to conventional drive technology. The Syntergra system reduces energy consumption by as much as 30 percent and lowering maintenance costs by up to 15 percent.

API spent $1.27M in 3Q on lobbyists

The American Petroleum Institute spent $1.27 million in the third quarter to lobby the federal government on climate legislation and other issues, according to a disclosure report.

That’s down from the $2.16 million that the oil industry group spent in the year-ago period and also less than the $2.31 million it spent in the second quarter of this year. API also lobbied the federal government on legislation involving the summertime ban on offshore oil drilling, liabilities related to offshore drilling, tax proposals and bills that promote natural gas vehicles, according to the report filed on Oct. 20.

The institute was deeply critical of House and Senate climate bills that would have limited how much carbon dioxide oil refineries and other companies could release into the air. It called the House climate bill a job killer and lobbied for measures that would promote greater use of cleaner-burning natural gas.

API also complained when the U.S. shut down deepwater oil exploration following the April 20 rig explosion that pumped 172 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. The moratorium, combined with tough new rules for drillers, nearly halted all offshore drilling activity in U.S. waters for several months. The drilling ban has since been lifted.

Nissan Leaf named 2011 European Car of the Year

Well, the Nissan Leaf has done it again. It’s garnered another award.

This time, the Leaf has been named 2011 European Car of the Year. The Leaf beat out 40 contenders including Alfa Romeo, Citroen, Dacia, Ford, Opel/Vauxhall, and Volvo.

In the 47-year history of the annual competition, this is the first time the award has gone to an electric vehicle. This comes on the heels of the Leaf being rated at 99 MPGe by the Environmental Protection Agency.

“This award recognizes the pioneering zero-emission Nissan Leaf as competitive to conventional cars in terms of safety, performance, spaciousness, and handling,” said Nissan Motor President and CEO Carlos Ghosn. “It also reflects Nissan’s standing as an innovative and exciting brand with a clear vision of the future of transportation, which we call sustainable mobility. With three other electric vehicles in the pipeline from Nissan — and with the imminent market introduction of four additional electric vehicles from our Alliance partner Renault — Nissan Leaf represents a significant first step toward a zero-emission future.”

Italy gets largest single-operating PV solar farm in Europe

Italy is not a leading renewable energy country in Europe, lagging behind other southern European nations such as Spain and Portugal. But an announcement made this week may be the sign of a change to come.

The news was released by SunEdison, a global solar energy provider. The company said it has successfully interconnected a 70MW photovoltaic power plant near Rovigo, a town in the northeast of Italy. The project took nine months to complete.

“With construction completion in less than one year, we believe this deployment signifies a new milestone for the industry and will become the standard for future mega projects,” said Carlos Domenech, SunEdison’s president.

The Rovigo solar plant is expected to generate energy to power more than 16,500 homes and prevent the emission of more than 40,000 tons of CO2. That would equal removing 8,000 cars from the road.

Philippines sparks wind energy gold rush

Proposed wind power projects in the Philippines are attracting high-level interest from a number of international energy companies, according to local press reports which claim the Asian country has the potential to develop more than 70GW of wind energy capacity over the coming years.

The Philippine Inquirer this week quoted a local official as saying that Italian firm Brulli Energia is already conducting land foundation and soil studies as part of a planned 200MW wind development in the Oriental Mindoro region of the country.

The official also said the Philippine Hybrid Energy Systems (Phesi) is similarly planning to invest in wind power projects in the province. Phesi is the local subsidiary of the US-based BreezElectric which has been scouting potential wind sites in the country since 2004.

Climate Change Increasing Flooding Risk in Hong Kong, Pearl River Delta

Climate change is increasing the risk of flooding in Hong Kong and China’s Pearl River Delta, according to a report by the Civic Exchange think tank and researchers at the University of Leeds.

Sea levels in the region may rise 20 centimeters (7.9 inches) by 2050, forcing more than a million people to move to higher areas, according to the report.

The Hong Kong Observatory has recorded a higher incidence of heavy rain storms in the past decade, increasing the risk of flooding in lowland areas of the delta, the study showed.

The authorities in Hong Kong and neighboring Guangdong province need to formulate a regional strategy to tackle the problem and more information should be released about which areas are at risk, Christine Loh, Civic Exchange’s chief executive officer, told a media briefing in Hong Kong today.