As I was cleaning out my feeds this morning, I stumbled across this brilliant article on Black Carbon, part of a series on “stopgap measures that could limit global warming.”
Black Carbon, aka “soot,” produced by primitive cooking stoves in the developing world, accounts for up to 20 percent of global warming according to some scientists and represents “low-hanging fruit” — the most possible bang for the buck (in regard to both cost and effort) in confronting climate change.
Not two minutes later, this report popped up on BBC tv (BBC, why no embed?) about researchers at Nottingham University who have discovered a way to make fuel out of banana peels (abundant in many parts of the developing world) and sawdust using no specialized equiptment. Aside from dramtically reducing the occurrence of comic accidents, burning banana peels could also reduce the use of firewood as fuel, limiting deforestation and, therefore, addressing climate change.
Count me skeptical that, if this is as cheap and easy as the researchers suggest, savvy entrepreneurs in the developing world wouldn’t have already figured it out. Nonetheless, I like this coverage because it focuses on access to cheap, renewable, and environmentally friendly sources of energy in the developing world, an issue that doesn’t get enough air time and dramatically affects both climate change and the MDGs. The real answer? I like solar cookers, but that may just be because I’m loathe to disagree with the Boonstra.
Via UN News Center, I’ve just learned that the small Indian Ocean island nation of the Maldives has pledged to become the first country in the world to go carbon-neutral.
This is significant because Maldives is probably the most vulnerable nation in the world to climate change. Some 400,000 inhabitants live on small islands that rise no more than six feet above sea level. Even the most modest sea-level rise could literally wipe the country off the map. Of course, compared to major economies of the world, Maldives is responsible for a negligible amount of carbon emissions. Still, it is heartening to see that the country with the most at stake in climate change is willing to lead by example.
Photo from flickr user romsrini
Might a parliamentary delay in Australia’s carbon emissions regulation plan presage the American experience?
Lacking the political backing to implement the world’s most sweeping cap-and-trade scheme outside Europe, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said the regime would be delayed until mid-2011, but he still aimed to push laws through parliament this year.
“Starting slower because of the global economic recession and finishing stronger, with the prospect of a bigger outcome for greenhouse gas reductions… we believe gets the balance right,” Rudd told reporters.
Rudd’s assessment makes sense, but it’s nonetheless troubling — tighter emissions standards will never be more popular with industry, recession or not. Kicking the can down the road in hopes of doubling down later seems viable only inasmuch as the plan is actually able to be followed through on.
Potentially even more discouraging for the U.S. case, though, is the fact that Australia’s emissions reduction plan was already far more ambitious than the United States’ at the outset, so a parallel weakening, in a larger emitter, would arguably be more damaging to global efforts. The U.S. Congress, too, might be more hostile to stringent regulations than the Australian parliament. And, of course, there’s no American Green Party pushing hard against opponents of tough legislation.
(image of Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd)
NPR is sure doing its due diligence on the “smart grid.” This week they’re running a 10-part series — every day both on Morning Edition and All Things Considered…now that’s dedication.
This morning, while moving my car to a legal spot, I caught Part 5: Getting Constant Current From Fickle Winds, which explores the chicken and egg problem that potential wind farmers face in South Dakota. They are slow to build wind farms because there are no power lines to take the energy to market, and they won’t build power lines because there is no power generation yet. Seems like a deal could be worked out…
Via 10 Downing Street’s Twitter, UK Chancellor Alistair Darling just released what the British government is calling the “world’s first carbon budget.” It pledges £1.5 billion for low carbon industries and commits the UK to a 34% reduction in carbon emissions by 2020 (compared to 1990 levels). The Financial Times explains:
The effects of the “carbon budget” will not be worked out in detail until later this year, but Alistair Darling said the “landmark step” of setting such a legally binding target would “give industry the certainty” needed to make low-carbon investments.
Mr Darling had good news for offshore wind farm developers, increasing the amount they receive from the Renewable Obligation scheme, which subsidises renewables through charges on electricity bills. His reforms would give offshore wind farms an extra £525m, he said, which would “lead to major projects getting the go-ahead”. The future of several proposed offshore wind farms, including the London Array, the world’s biggest, was in doubt because of cost increases.
Happy Earth Day!
Photo from flikr user firthcycles of Alistair Darling holding the budget in a beaten up briefcase.
Today the EPA has submitted a proposed finding suggesting that greenhouse gases pose a danger to public health and welfare, an action that could trigger regulation under the Clean Air Act. The EPA’s “rigorous, peer-reviewed scientific analysis of six gases — carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulfur hexafluoride” that lead to these proposals followed a 2007 order by the U.S. Supreme Court to do so. The next step before the findings are finalized is a 60-day public comment period.
A separate process is necessary to propose specific steps to regulate GHGs under the Act. Both EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and President Obama have said that they prefer to address the issue through Congressional action.
Interestingly, the review also noted:
disproportionate impact climate change has on the health of certain segments of the population, such as the poor, the very young, the elderly, those already in poor health, the disabled, those living alone and/or indigenous populations dependent on one or a few resources
as well as that…
climate change also has serious national security implications. Consistent with this proposed finding, in 2007, 11 retired U.S. generals and admirals signed a report from the Center for a New American Security stating that climate change “presents significant national security challenges for the United States.” Escalating violence in destabilized regions can be incited and fomented by an increasing scarcity of resources – including water. This lack of resources, driven by climate change patterns, then drives massive migration to more stabilized regions of the world.
But, none of this should come as any surprise. The UN’s IPCC has been saying this for quite a while.
Middle East: During the last 48 hours of the continued ceasefire, humanitarian workers have delivered food to hundreds of thousands of people, repaired water and sanitation infrastructure, re-stocked medical supplies, and some of the 520,000 displaced Palestinians have returned to their homes. However, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator remarked the scale of needs remains “unprecedented in the Gaza Strip.”
Middle East: At today’s informal session of the General Assembly on Gaza the SG remarked that the most recent ceasefire has held since yesterday at 8 a.m. local time. He noted that a durable ceasefire is necessary and UN shelters must continue to remain safe zones. The SG thanked UN staff in Gaza and will fly the UN flag at half-mast tomorrow in memory of those who died in the conflict.
Middle East: The SG commended Israeli and Palestinian parties for committing to a 72-hour ceasefire that took place at 8 a.m. local time today. He urges all parties to abide by the ceasefire and commence peace talks in Cairo to address underlying issues and agree on a durable ceasefire to sustainably stop the violence. The UN lends its full support toward these efforts.
Middle East: The SG condemned yesterday’s shelling outside of an UNRWA school in Rafah that killed at least 10 Palestinian civilians. The SG stated that the attack violated international humanitarian law and UN shelters must continue to be safe zones and not combat zones.
SG: Last night the SG spoke at a joint press conference with the Foreign Minister of Costa Rica where he repeated his call for an unconditional and extendable humanitarian ceasefire. Speaking about yesterday’s shelling of a UN shelter he said: “Nothing – nothing – justifies such horror” and demanded “that all parties immediately respect UN premises”.
SG: The SG met with President Ortega yesterday in Nicaragua where he visited a wind farm and praised the country’s commitment to renewable energy. The SG arrived in Costa Rica today where he is expected to lecture about “Costa Rica and the United Nations: Challenges and Opportunities in the 21st Century”.