Monday, February 7, 2011

Climate Progress

CLIMATE PROGRESS

Renewable energy standards: The health, security, and competitiveness benefits

March 6, 2011

By CAP’s Jorge Madrid, Bracken Hendricks, and Kate Gordon.

It has become quite the trend lately for conservatives and their media cronies to come out with attacks on “clean energy” and “green jobs.” These attacks run the gamut from debates about exactly how many jobs have been created to broad jabs at the very notion that America needs to move to a cleaner, more efficient clean energy economy. While the attacks range widely in their scope and focus, they all miss a critical point: greening our economy is an environmental and energy security imperative, and one that also happens to provide the opportunity for the U.S. to compete in the huge emerging global clean tech marketplace.

A recent New York Post article by Shikha Dalmia, “Green Boondoggles” (3/1/2011), is a great example of just how misguided these attacks can be.

While attacking the President’s clean energy investment in general, Ms. Dalmia also focuses in on – and utterly mischaracterizes — a national renewable energy standard (RES).

First, a quick explanation: a national RES, or a similar policy called a Clean Energy Standard or CES, would require U.S. utilities to produce a percent of their electricity from renewable energy or low-carbon energy sources. Twenty-nine states already have such policies in place, as do China, the E.U. nations, and a host of other countries.

Contrary to Ms. Dalmia’s article, which asserts that a national RES is simply a smoke screen for an “anti-warming” agenda, there are a number of strong reasons beyond greenhouse gas reduction (which, by the way, should be enough of a reason on its own) why the U.S. should embrace this type of policy.

Energy Security

The only way the U.S. can end our current energy insecurity is to diversify our use of energy away from our dependence on fossil fuels – and in fact away from dependence on any one technology or magic bullet energy solution. That means investing now in home grown American renewable energy and energy efficiency. Growing global energy demand, particularly from rapidly industrializing countries like China and India, will increase competition for the earth’s finite resources; this is already increasing scarcity and driving up prices. Unrest in places like Egypt, Libya, and the Middle East only serve to further drives price volatility, sending shockwaves throughout our economy and down to consumers. A renewable energy standard represents an insurance policy for the economy against these gyrations in global energy markets. Indeed, failing to free our economy from volatile fossil fuels is one of the greatest risks to our energy security – not to mention the risks to our public health and national security.

Competitiveness

Throughout Europe and Asia, countries are not only setting renewable standards but they are surpassing their original goals in favor of stricter pollution controls and stronger economies. As other countries continue to invest in renewable energy, supported by a strong energy policy, not only is the United States falling farther behind, but investments will continue to leave this country in search of stronger, more reliable markets overseas. In the last few years, China has invested a large percentage of total GDP into clean energy R&D and deployment and it outpaced the world in manufacturing, being the world’s leading supplier of solar PV panels and solar hot water heaters. China’s huge success has not been because of their historical strengths of efficiency and cost cutting in its manufacturing sector but because of its development of stringent renewable energy policies.

Energy Costs

The Center for American Progress recently came out with a Clean Energy Standard that includes a specific goal of reaching 35 percent renewable energy use by 2025. Ms. Dalmia attacks this standard, calling it a “guarantee for higher prices”. But her basis for this absurd claim is a thoroughly debunked “study” by the hard-right (and oil-funded) Heritage Foundation.

For starters, CAP calls for ten percent of the “35” to be achieved with energy efficiency measures, a low cost way to reduce electricity use in homes and businesses, thus leading to lower electricity bills. Efficiency investments beyond 10 percent will only further reduce costs, and both President Obama’s and CAP’s plan support this.

The even greater weakness in Ms. Dalmia’s argument, however, is that renewable energy standards in individual states, and abroad, have successfully demonstrated that an aggressive RES will not drive up prices. Moreover, we know that as we move these technologies to scale, renewable energy will be cheaper to deploy than traditional fossil fuels.

In the State of Michigan, for example, utility contracts for renewable electricity under their 2008 renewable energy standard have come in at prices below the cost of power generated from new coal plants, and consumers continue to pay below the national average for their electricity. In fact, a report from the Michigan government clearly states that there is “no indication” that their clean energy standards “have had any impact on electricity prices in Michigan.” While a report done by Bernstein Research found that wind generation in Texas (complimented with an aggressive RES of 5880 MW of installed renewable capacity by 2015) actually lowered the cost of power for utilities by $2 and $4 per megawatt-hour in 2008.[1] This experience is borne out by other countries as well, with wind prices reaching cost competitiveness with coal in a number of regional electricity markets in countries as diverse as Mexico, Sweden, and Brazil.

The truth is that in addition to cutting pollution and reducing our dependence on oil imports, renewable energy has a major advantage over fossil fuels: sharply declining prices over time. The price of solar energy production, for example, has fallen dramatically as the industry has gained new economies of scale. A recent request for proposals by Southern California Edison (one of the largest investor-owned utilities in the country) found that solar power is already among the cheapest ways for them to generate new electricity. And to understand where this technology is headed as the industry scales to meet new markets, you need look only to the experience of semi-conductors and computing power which followed “Moore’s Law” of a continuous declining cost curve every time the market grew.

Colorado is another state that has successfully pursued an aggressive a renewable energy standard. In November of 2004, Colorado passed a renewable energy standard for the first time. The original standard required that the state’s three largest utilities acquire 3 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2007 and 10 percent by 2015. Colorado’s program has been extremely successful with the first 1,000 megawatts of wind power generating enough electricity to power almost 250,000 homes, creating 1,700 full-time jobs during construction and 300 permanent jobs thereafter plus multiple other benefits. In April of last year, the Colorado State Senate passed a bill to increase the renewable energy standard to 30 percent by 2020. Currently, a study of the Xcel system, a utility in Colorado, found that the wind already on their system would save Colorado ratepayers over $251 million.

Colorado is one of 29 states plus Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico (7 more have goals to implement), that have an established a renewable energy standard. Each states goal varies, from 8% by 2020 in Pennsylvania to 33% by 2030 in California. Nevertheless, these laws will encourage utilities and businesses to invest in clean energy resources by creating certainty through guaranteed markets.

Likewise, benefits from established renewable energy standards are being felt abroad as well. Recent data released by the Irish Wind Energy Association states, “11.5% reduction in wholesale electricity prices will be achieved through delivering 45% of the overall generation mix from wind by 2020.”

Clearly Dalmia fails to realize that renewable energy stabilizes energy costs because, unlike fossil fuels, renewable fuels (wind, sun, etc) are 100% free. Administrators of the University of Minnesota understand this; their newly installed wind turbines will allow campus officials to “predict what energy costs will be for the next 15 years.” That is a level of economic security you can’t get from OPEC.

Low Income Families

Ms. Dalmia next pivots her argument to say that low-income families will suffer the most from a renewable energy standard. What Ms. Dalmia fails to recognize is that price spikes in energy are significantly caused by volatility in the unstable fossil fuels market, and that diversifying our energy portfolio would actually even out prices and give consumers more options. Not to mention the fact that low-income families bear the worst of the health impacts caused by burning fossil fuels. An aggressive clean energy standard coupled with strong targets for renewable energy and energy efficiency would help stabilize and reduce prices for working families. The real enemy of the poor is our current “do nothing” energy plan.

Exhibit A can be found in our recent experience. Throughout the G.W. Bush administration (and without a RES), energy prices were high and unstable. In the years leading up to the recession beginning in December of 2007, American households began spending significantly more on energy. During this time, the typical annual American household expenditure on electricity increased more than $170, and the typical annual American expenditure on gasoline increased more than $960 (in 2007 dollars). This kind of increase is certainly felt most by low-income families. In contrast, a renewable energy standard would lower American household energy bills.

With no coherent energy policy in place, America continues to remain vulnerable to price spikes for imported energy, while we allow ourselves to be exposed to unnecessary costs from inefficiency and the real impacts of pollution. Instead, America will be stronger, healthier, and more prosperous with a Clean Energy Standard guaranteeing that America meets 80 percent of its energy needs from advanced low carbon energy, as the President has proposed, if coupled with a strong target of 35 percent renewable energy and efficiency by 2035, as the Center for American Progress has suggested. This is a policy prescription to stabilize and reduce consumer energy bills, even as we create U.S. jobs, enhance our competitive position, cut energy imports, and reduce pollution. That is a smart investment in the future.

By Jorge Madrid, Bracken Hendricks, and Kate Gordon.


[1] Platts Gas Daily, August 14, 2009.

Responses to “Renewable energy standards: The health, security, and competitiveness benefits

Dr.A.Jagadeesh says:

March 7, 2011 at 12:05 pm

All actions initiated in harnessing green technologies for clean environment are meant for future generations to live in harmony with nature.

Here are famous quotations on Environment:

Quotations about the Environment (Source: Welcome to The Quote Garden!
celebrating 13 years online 1998-2011
)

Thank God men cannot fly, and lay waste the sky as well as the earth. ~Henry David Thoreau

The sun, the moon and the stars would have disappeared long ago... had they happened to be within the reach of predatory human hands. ~Havelock Ellis, The Dance of Life, 1923

There is a sufficiency in the world for man's need but not for man's greed. ~Mohandas K. Gandhi

There's so much pollution in the air now that if it weren't for our lungs there'd be no place to put it all. ~Robert Orben

It wasn't the Exxon Valdez captain's driving that caused the Alaskan oil spill. It was yours. ~Greenpeace advertisement, New York Times, 25 February 1990

Modern technology Owes ecology An apology.
~Alan M. Eddison

In America today you can murder land for private profit. You can leave the corpse for all to see, and nobody calls the cops. ~Paul Brooks, The Pursuit of Wilderness, 1971

Don't blow it - good planets are hard to find. ~Quoted in Time

Nature provides a free lunch, but only if we control our appetites. ~William Ruckelshaus, Business Week, 18 June 1990

When a man throws an empty cigarette package from an automobile, he is liable to a fine of $50. When a man throws a billboard across a view, he is richly rewarded. ~Pat Brown, quoted in David Ogilvy, Ogilvy on Advertising, 1985

Because we don't think about future generations, they will never forget us. ~Henrik Tikkanen

I'm not an environmentalist. I'm an Earth warrior. ~Darryl Cherney, quoted in Smithsonian, April 1990

I think the environment should be put in the category of our national security. Defense of our resources is just as important as defense abroad. Otherwise what is there to defend? ~Robert Redford, Yosemite National Park dedication, 1985

Let us a little permit Nature to take her own way; she better understands her own affairs than we. ~Michel de Montaigne, translated

We never know the worth of water till the well is dry. ~Thomas Fuller, Gnomologia, 1732

Your grandchildren will likely find it incredible - or even sinful - that you burned up a gallon of gasoline to fetch a pack of cigarettes! ~Paul MacCready, Jr.

We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children. ~Native American Proverb

There are no passengers on Spaceship Earth. We are all crew. ~Marshall McLuhan, 1964

Newspapers: dead trees with information smeared on them. ~Horizon, "Electronic Frontier"

They kill good trees to put out bad newspapers. ~James G. Watt, quoted in Newsweek, 8 March 1982

I have no doubt that we will be successful in harnessing the sun's energy.... If sunbeams were weapons of war, we would have had solar energy centuries ago. ~Sir George Porter, quoted in The Observer, 26 August 1973

The use of solar energy has not been opened up because the oil industry does not own the sun. ~Ralph Nader, quoted in Linda Botts, ed., Loose Talk, 1980

We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect. ~Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac

Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India

Time to act on food insecurity

March 7, 2011

Jake Caldwell, CAP’s Director of Policy for Agriculture, Trade & Energy, looks at strategies to address rising food prices, in this cross-post. For more, see the CP series on food insecurity

Global food prices increased for the eighth consecutive month in a row, according to a report released today by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, soaring to record levels last month—with devastating consequences for the world’s poor. Food prices are on the rise due to growing populations and rising incomes across much of the developing world alongside tight supplies, high oil prices, and stockpiling of imports as the main factors, although profound uncertainty regarding future harvests due to global warming is also a clear catalyst.

The FAO report is the latest troubling analysis to land at the feet of U.S. policymakers as they consider the possibility of deep and misguided cuts to U.S. food assistance by Congress in the coming weeks. The World Bank estimates that the spike in food prices since June has placed 44 million people into extreme poverty. And the U.S. Department of Agriculture is forecasting U.S. food prices will increase 4 percent this year, squeezing already tight family budgets.

Yet as food prices continue to climb, conservatives in the U.S. House of Representatives are responding by slashing the budgets of the very U.S. government assistance programs that hold the most promise to end the misery and despair that global hunger brings. The House-passed budget proposal, H.R. 1, sends our overseas food aid commitments backwards to 2001 levels, slashing $800 million from the food aid budget at the precise moment when it is needed most and when it will have the greatest impact.

These drastic and shortsighted cuts will inevitably lead to more people going hungry around the world, lost opportunities to sell U.S. products and services in healthy overseas markets, and increased levels of global poverty and instability that threaten our national security. The funding for agricultural investment and emergency food aid needs to be restored immediately.

In particular, Congress needs to embrace the Obama administration’s $1.64 billion budget request to bolster the U.S. investment in global food security through the Feed the Future initiative, which is included in his budget proposal for fiscal year 2012, which begins in October this year. U.S. overseas agriculture assistance today stands at only 3.5 percent of overall U.S. development aid, down from 18 percent in 1979.

These funds are urgently needed. Agricultural productivity growth in developing countries is now less than 1 percent annually. The Feed the Future initiative puts us back on the right course by prioritizing investment in agricultural development in developing countries and establishing partnerships with key countries to leverage local and technical expertise in sub-Saharan Africa and other regions. As the global population surges to 9 billion by 2050, the Feed the Future program represents a forward-leaning investment in the world’s capacity to produce and make accessible more food for all.

The program deserves the nation’s full support, especially due to uncertainty about future harvests and overstretched capacity in the global food system in the face of climate change. In the past year, a series of extreme weather events have increased the level of uncertainty and unpredictability surrounding the success or failure of upcoming harvests. The status of future food stocks are affected by flooding in Australia, Pakistan, and Brazil, and unprecedented heat waves and drought in Russia, Ukraine, and now China. Heavy rains in Iowa and Illinois and dry conditions in key U.S. wheat growing regions such as Kansas and Colorado are also sending prices higher and playing havoc with harvest forecasts.

Leading global companies such as reinsurer Munich Re, whose business it is to know and understand natural disasters, recently noted “It would seem that the only plausible explanation for the rise in weather-related catastrophes is climate change.” And the American Association for the Advancement of Science reports that extreme weather events such as drought and heavy rains exacerbated by climate change are already having an effect on the safety of the world’s food supplies as crops are wiped out and health threats to humans from such toxic organisms as mycotoxins flourish in scarce food supply conditions.

Indeed, the consequences of climate change on agriculture could well be even more severe in the coming decades. Agriculture in the United States and the world is at risk from the negative effects of rising temperatures, prolonged drought, and increased evaporation and water consumption. And a rising sea level will lead to more intense flooding and the potential loss of limited arable land. As resources become more scarce, mass migrations of millions of people will intensify.

Given the magnitude of the coming crisis, it is in the national security interests of the United States to provide financing to allow the most vulnerable developing countries to prepare for and adapt to the effects of climate change in agriculture and development. Congress must act to restore funding for climate change adaptation, drought resistance, and tropical forest conservation, consistent with the commitments the United States has made to the world.

The Group of Twenty industrial and industrializing nations have pledged $20 billion for agricultural development in developing countries, and $6 billion for a World Bank fund for food security. To date, however, only $925 million has been delivered. At its June 2011 summit, the G-20 plan to make global food security a centerpiece of their annual summit. In order for the world to make progress on ensuring reliable and affordable access to food, all nations must fulfill their financial commitments.

Of course, rising oil prices also are driving food prices higher. Oil and fossil fuels are a significant agricultural input cost, from fertilizer and crop production, to fuel to drive machinery for farmers and producers. The price of oil also has an impact on the cost of storage and transportation of food around the world. As oil prices rise, inflationary pressures send food prices soaring in both developing countries and the United States.

This is why the United States also must reduce its dependence on foreign oil. The United States must maintain and increase efforts to improve fuel efficiency, invest in non-fossil fuel based research and transportation infrastructure, and bring advanced biofuels to commercial scale. And in light of current ethanol policy and the growing competition for grain, there is a need in the United States to transition beyond corn as a biofuels feedstock and strive to produce advanced biofuels that deliver measurable life cycle greenhouse gas reductions, utilize non-food based feedstocks grown in closed tanks or on semi-arable land that does not compete with food or feed.

Finally, the United States needs to take the lead in combatting shortsighted government and private-sector actions such as government food-export bans and the hoarding of tight supplies. Prohibiting the export of essential staples and the secretive stockpiling of grain supplies are government practices that must end. In addition, subsidies and tariffs in developed countries, and barriers to trade between developing countries must be eliminated.

Eight consecutive months of rising food prices are a threat to global health and poverty reduction. We have moved well beyond a wake-up call. The increases in food and fuel prices are hurting families all over the world, roiling markets, and threatening to stall the global economic recovery. The world needs to work cooperatively toward investing in agriculture, combating climate change, and promoting open and transparent government actions. Congress needs to fully fund the U.S. commitment to agricultural development and food security.

Ultimately, the global food system is resting on a knife’s edge with little margin for error. The condition of new crops due in a few months is now paramount. In order to prevent a full-fledged food crisis, the world will require good harvests in the major food producing nations in the coming months, and the strong political will to make the long-term investments in global food security immediately.

Jake Caldwell is Director of Policy for Agriculture, Trade and Energy at the Center for American Progress.

Responses to “Time to act on food insecurity”

Dr.A.Jagadeesh says:

March 7, 2011 at 11:48 am

Good article.

Millions of people worldwide suffer from hunger and under nutrition . A major factor contributing to this international problem is food insecurity. This condition exists when people lack sustainable physical or economic access to enough safe, nutritious, and socially acceptable food for a healthy and productive life. Food insecurity may be chronic , seasonal, or temporary, and it may occur at the household, regional, or national level.
The United Nations estimates there are 840 million undernourished people in the world. The majority of undernourished people (799 million) reside in developing disasters.countries, most of which are on the continents of Africa and Asia. This figure also includes 11 million people located in developed countries and 30 million people located in countries in transition (e.g., the former Soviet Union).
In developing countries, the root causes of food insecurity include: poverty, war and civil conflict, corruption, national policies that do not promote equal access to food for all, environmental degradation, barriers to trade, insufficient agricultural development, population growth, low levels of education, social and gender inequality, poor health status, cultural insensitivity, and natural

Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India

Renewable energy standards: The health, security, and competitiveness benefits

March 6, 2011

By CAP’s Jorge Madrid, Bracken Hendricks, and Kate Gordon.

It has become quite the trend lately for conservatives and their media cronies to come out with attacks on “clean energy” and “green jobs.” These attacks run the gamut from debates about exactly how many jobs have been created to broad jabs at the very notion that America needs to move to a cleaner, more efficient clean energy economy. While the attacks range widely in their scope and focus, they all miss a critical point: greening our economy is an environmental and energy security imperative, and one that also happens to provide the opportunity for the U.S. to compete in the huge emerging global clean tech marketplace.

A recent New York Post article by Shikha Dalmia, “Green Boondoggles” (3/1/2011), is a great example of just how misguided these attacks can be.

While attacking the President’s clean energy investment in general, Ms. Dalmia also focuses in on – and utterly mischaracterizes — a national renewable energy standard (RES).

First, a quick explanation: a national RES, or a similar policy called a Clean Energy Standard or CES, would require U.S. utilities to produce a percent of their electricity from renewable energy or low-carbon energy sources. Twenty-nine states already have such policies in place, as do China, the E.U. nations, and a host of other countries.

Contrary to Ms. Dalmia’s article, which asserts that a national RES is simply a smoke screen for an “anti-warming” agenda, there are a number of strong reasons beyond greenhouse gas reduction (which, by the way, should be enough of a reason on its own) why the U.S. should embrace this type of policy.

Energy Security

The only way the U.S. can end our current energy insecurity is to diversify our use of energy away from our dependence on fossil fuels – and in fact away from dependence on any one technology or magic bullet energy solution. That means investing now in home grown American renewable energy and energy efficiency. Growing global energy demand, particularly from rapidly industrializing countries like China and India, will increase competition for the earth’s finite resources; this is already increasing scarcity and driving up prices. Unrest in places like Egypt, Libya, and the Middle East only serve to further drives price volatility, sending shockwaves throughout our economy and down to consumers. A renewable energy standard represents an insurance policy for the economy against these gyrations in global energy markets. Indeed, failing to free our economy from volatile fossil fuels is one of the greatest risks to our energy security – not to mention the risks to our public health and national security.

Competitiveness

Throughout Europe and Asia, countries are not only setting renewable standards but they are surpassing their original goals in favor of stricter pollution controls and stronger economies. As other countries continue to invest in renewable energy, supported by a strong energy policy, not only is the United States falling farther behind, but investments will continue to leave this country in search of stronger, more reliable markets overseas. In the last few years, China has invested a large percentage of total GDP into clean energy R&D and deployment and it outpaced the world in manufacturing, being the world’s leading supplier of solar PV panels and solar hot water heaters. China’s huge success has not been because of their historical strengths of efficiency and cost cutting in its manufacturing sector but because of its development of stringent renewable energy policies.

Energy Costs

The Center for American Progress recently came out with a Clean Energy Standard that includes a specific goal of reaching 35 percent renewable energy use by 2025. Ms. Dalmia attacks this standard, calling it a “guarantee for higher prices”. But her basis for this absurd claim is a thoroughly debunked “study” by the hard-right (and oil-funded) Heritage Foundation.

For starters, CAP calls for ten percent of the “35” to be achieved with energy efficiency measures, a low cost way to reduce electricity use in homes and businesses, thus leading to lower electricity bills. Efficiency investments beyond 10 percent will only further reduce costs, and both President Obama’s and CAP’s plan support this.

The even greater weakness in Ms. Dalmia’s argument, however, is that renewable energy standards in individual states, and abroad, have successfully demonstrated that an aggressive RES will not drive up prices. Moreover, we know that as we move these technologies to scale, renewable energy will be cheaper to deploy than traditional fossil fuels.

In the State of Michigan, for example, utility contracts for renewable electricity under their 2008 renewable energy standard have come in at prices below the cost of power generated from new coal plants, and consumers continue to pay below the national average for their electricity. In fact, a report from the Michigan government clearly states that there is “no indication” that their clean energy standards “have had any impact on electricity prices in Michigan.” While a report done by Bernstein Research found that wind generation in Texas (complimented with an aggressive RES of 5880 MW of installed renewable capacity by 2015) actually lowered the cost of power for utilities by $2 and $4 per megawatt-hour in 2008.[1] This experience is borne out by other countries as well, with wind prices reaching cost competitiveness with coal in a number of regional electricity markets in countries as diverse as Mexico, Sweden, and Brazil.

The truth is that in addition to cutting pollution and reducing our dependence on oil imports, renewable energy has a major advantage over fossil fuels: sharply declining prices over time. The price of solar energy production, for example, has fallen dramatically as the industry has gained new economies of scale. A recent request for proposals by Southern California Edison (one of the largest investor-owned utilities in the country) found that solar power is already among the cheapest ways for them to generate new electricity. And to understand where this technology is headed as the industry scales to meet new markets, you need look only to the experience of semi-conductors and computing power which followed “Moore’s Law” of a continuous declining cost curve every time the market grew.

Colorado is another state that has successfully pursued an aggressive a renewable energy standard. In November of 2004, Colorado passed a renewable energy standard for the first time. The original standard required that the state’s three largest utilities acquire 3 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2007 and 10 percent by 2015. Colorado’s program has been extremely successful with the first 1,000 megawatts of wind power generating enough electricity to power almost 250,000 homes, creating 1,700 full-time jobs during construction and 300 permanent jobs thereafter plus multiple other benefits. In April of last year, the Colorado State Senate passed a bill to increase the renewable energy standard to 30 percent by 2020. Currently, a study of the Xcel system, a utility in Colorado, found that the wind already on their system would save Colorado ratepayers over $251 million.

Colorado is one of 29 states plus Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico (7 more have goals to implement), that have an established a renewable energy standard. Each states goal varies, from 8% by 2020 in Pennsylvania to 33% by 2030 in California. Nevertheless, these laws will encourage utilities and businesses to invest in clean energy resources by creating certainty through guaranteed markets.

Likewise, benefits from established renewable energy standards are being felt abroad as well. Recent data released by the Irish Wind Energy Association states, “11.5% reduction in wholesale electricity prices will be achieved through delivering 45% of the overall generation mix from wind by 2020.”

Clearly Dalmia fails to realize that renewable energy stabilizes energy costs because, unlike fossil fuels, renewable fuels (wind, sun, etc) are 100% free. Administrators of the University of Minnesota understand this; their newly installed wind turbines will allow campus officials to “predict what energy costs will be for the next 15 years.” That is a level of economic security you can’t get from OPEC.

Low Income Families

Ms. Dalmia next pivots her argument to say that low-income families will suffer the most from a renewable energy standard. What Ms. Dalmia fails to recognize is that price spikes in energy are significantly caused by volatility in the unstable fossil fuels market, and that diversifying our energy portfolio would actually even out prices and give consumers more options. Not to mention the fact that low-income families bear the worst of the health impacts caused by burning fossil fuels. An aggressive clean energy standard coupled with strong targets for renewable energy and energy efficiency would help stabilize and reduce prices for working families. The real enemy of the poor is our current “do nothing” energy plan.

Exhibit A can be found in our recent experience. Throughout the G.W. Bush administration (and without a RES), energy prices were high and unstable. In the years leading up to the recession beginning in December of 2007, American households began spending significantly more on energy. During this time, the typical annual American household expenditure on electricity increased more than $170, and the typical annual American expenditure on gasoline increased more than $960 (in 2007 dollars). This kind of increase is certainly felt most by low-income families. In contrast, a renewable energy standard would lower American household energy bills.

With no coherent energy policy in place, America continues to remain vulnerable to price spikes for imported energy, while we allow ourselves to be exposed to unnecessary costs from inefficiency and the real impacts of pollution. Instead, America will be stronger, healthier, and more prosperous with a Clean Energy Standard guaranteeing that America meets 80 percent of its energy needs from advanced low carbon energy, as the President has proposed, if coupled with a strong target of 35 percent renewable energy and efficiency by 2035, as the Center for American Progress has suggested. This is a policy prescription to stabilize and reduce consumer energy bills, even as we create U.S. jobs, enhance our competitive position, cut energy imports, and reduce pollution. That is a smart investment in the future.

By Jorge Madrid, Bracken Hendricks, and Kate Gordon.


[1] Platts Gas Daily, August 14, 2009.

Responses to “Renewable energy standards: The health, security, and competitiveness benefits

Dr.A.Jagadeesh says:

March 7, 2011 at 12:05 pm

All actions initiated in harnessing green technologies for clean environment are meant for future generations to live in harmony with nature.

Here are famous quotations on Environment:

Quotations about the Environment (Source: Welcome to The Quote Garden!
celebrating 13 years online 1998-2011
)

Thank God men cannot fly, and lay waste the sky as well as the earth. ~Henry David Thoreau

The sun, the moon and the stars would have disappeared long ago... had they happened to be within the reach of predatory human hands. ~Havelock Ellis, The Dance of Life, 1923

There is a sufficiency in the world for man's need but not for man's greed. ~Mohandas K. Gandhi

There's so much pollution in the air now that if it weren't for our lungs there'd be no place to put it all. ~Robert Orben

It wasn't the Exxon Valdez captain's driving that caused the Alaskan oil spill. It was yours. ~Greenpeace advertisement, New York Times, 25 February 1990

Modern technology Owes ecology An apology.
~Alan M. Eddison

In America today you can murder land for private profit. You can leave the corpse for all to see, and nobody calls the cops. ~Paul Brooks, The Pursuit of Wilderness, 1971

Don't blow it - good planets are hard to find. ~Quoted in Time

Nature provides a free lunch, but only if we control our appetites. ~William Ruckelshaus, Business Week, 18 June 1990

When a man throws an empty cigarette package from an automobile, he is liable to a fine of $50. When a man throws a billboard across a view, he is richly rewarded. ~Pat Brown, quoted in David Ogilvy, Ogilvy on Advertising, 1985

Because we don't think about future generations, they will never forget us. ~Henrik Tikkanen

I'm not an environmentalist. I'm an Earth warrior. ~Darryl Cherney, quoted in Smithsonian, April 1990

I think the environment should be put in the category of our national security. Defense of our resources is just as important as defense abroad. Otherwise what is there to defend? ~Robert Redford, Yosemite National Park dedication, 1985

Let us a little permit Nature to take her own way; she better understands her own affairs than we. ~Michel de Montaigne, translated

We never know the worth of water till the well is dry. ~Thomas Fuller, Gnomologia, 1732

Your grandchildren will likely find it incredible - or even sinful - that you burned up a gallon of gasoline to fetch a pack of cigarettes! ~Paul MacCready, Jr.

We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children. ~Native American Proverb

There are no passengers on Spaceship Earth. We are all crew. ~Marshall McLuhan, 1964

Newspapers: dead trees with information smeared on them. ~Horizon, "Electronic Frontier"

They kill good trees to put out bad newspapers. ~James G. Watt, quoted in Newsweek, 8 March 1982

I have no doubt that we will be successful in harnessing the sun's energy.... If sunbeams were weapons of war, we would have had solar energy centuries ago. ~Sir George Porter, quoted in The Observer, 26 August 1973

The use of solar energy has not been opened up because the oil industry does not own the sun. ~Ralph Nader, quoted in Linda Botts, ed., Loose Talk, 1980

We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect. ~Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac

Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India

Half of world’s population could face climate-driven food crisis in second half of the century

Science study warns: “Ignoring climate projections at this stage will only result in the worst form of triage.”

February 24, 2011

[I'm on travel, so I'm updating this timely 2009 post on food insecurity.]

The quote above is the powerful final sentence from a 2009 study in Science, “Historical Warnings of Future Food Insecurity with Unprecedented Seasonal Heat.” The University of Washington news release release explained:

Rapidly warming climate is likely to seriously alter crop yields in the tropics and subtropics by the end of this century and, without adaptation, will leave half the world’s population facing serious food shortages, new research shows….

“The stresses on global food production from temperature alone are going to be huge, and that doesn’t take into account water supplies stressed by the higher temperatures,” said David Battisti, a University of Washington atmospheric sciences professor.

Yes, this 2009 study is a serious underestimate of the speed and scale of likely impacts for two reasons.

First, the conclusions are solely based upon projected temperature rise. They don’t even consider the potentially more devastating impact from more extreme drought and Dust-Bowlification (See NCAR analysis warns we risk multiple, devastating global droughts by mid-century even on moderate emissions path) — let alone the combination of heat stress and water stress together.

Second, as is common in such analyses, the authors based their simulations on “the ‘middle of the road’ emission scenario, A1B.” In 2100, A1B hits about 700 ppm with average global temperatures “only” about 3°C (5 F) warmer than today. In fact, on our current emissions path, a 3C temperature rise will happen much sooner (see Hadley Center: “Catastrophic” 5-7°C warming by 2100 on current emissions path and M.I.T. doubles its 2095 warming projection to 10°F — with 866 ppm and Arctic warming of 20°F). And remember, the worst-case scenario is that this happens by mid-century (se Royal Society special issue details ‘hellish vision’ of 7°F (4°C) world — which we may face in the 2060s!)

Figure. “Histogram of summer (June, July, and August) averaged temperatures (blue) observed from 1900 to 2006 and (red) projected for 2090 for (A) France, (B) Ukraine, and (C) the Sahel. Temperature is plotted as the departure from the long-term (1900–2006) climatological mean (21). The data are normalized to represent 100 seasons in each histogram. In (A), for example, the hottest summer on record in France (2003) is 3.6°C above the long-term climatology. The average summer temperature in 2090 [assuming A1B] is projected to be 3.7°C greater than the long-term climatological average.”

The results are still alarming:

We used observational data and output from 23 global climate models to show a high probability (>90%) that growing season temperatures in the tropics and subtropics by the end of the 21st century will exceed the most extreme seasonal temperatures recorded from 1900 to 2006. In temperate regions, the hottest seasons on record will represent the future norm in many locations.

If the authors had modeled the Hadley or M.I.T. or other current business-as-usual scenarios, then I suspect even in the temperate regions, growing season temperatures in 2100 would exceed the most extreme temperatures recorded in the past century — while the tropics and subtropics will be utterly brutalized.

In the tropics, the higher temperatures can be expected to cut yields of the primary food crops, maize and rice, by 20 to 40 percent, the researchers said. But rising temperatures also are likely to play havoc with soil moisture, cutting yields even further.

Indeed, along with the temperature rise, we face desertification of one third the habited planet and moderate drought over half the land mass. Soil moisture drops over large parts of the planet will exceed that of the 1930s Dust Bowl! And lasting a long, long time (see NOAA: Climate change “largely irreversible for 1000 years,” with permanent Dust Bowls in Southwest and around the globe).

“We have to be rethinking agriculture systems as a whole, not only thinking about new varieties but also recognizing that many people will just move out of agriculture, and even move from the lands where they live now,” Naylor said.

Currently 3 billion people live in the tropics and subtropics, and their number is expected to nearly double by the end of the century. The area stretches from the southern United States to northern Argentina and southern Brazil, from northern India and southern China to southern Australia and all of Africa….

“When all the signs point in the same direction, and in this case it’s a bad direction, you pretty much know what’s going to happen,” Battisti said. “You are talking about hundreds of millions of additional people looking for food because they won’t be able to find it where they find it now.”

The study warns that the rich countries will also suffer:

Severe heat in the summer of 2003 affected food production as well as human lives in Europe. Record high daytime and nighttime temperatures over most of the summer growing season reduced leaf and grain-filling development of key crops such as maize, fruit trees, and vineyards; accelerated crop ripening and maturity by 10 to 20 days; caused livestock to be stressed; and resulted in reduced soil moisture and increased water consumption in agriculture. Italy experienced a record drop in maize yields of 36% from a year earlier, whereas in France maize and fodder production fell by 30%, fruit harvests declined by 25%, and wheat harvests (which had nearly reached maturity by the time the heat set in) declined by 21%.

Yet, by century’s end, the European summer of 2003 will be considered relatively cool. What do the authors recommend?

It will be extremely difficult to balance food deficits in one part of the world with food surpluses in another, unless major adaptation investments are made soon to develop crop varieties that are tolerant to heat and heat-induced water stress and irrigation systems suitable for diverse agroecosystems. The genetics, genomics, breeding, management, and engineering capacity for such adaptation can be developed globally but will be costly and will require political prioritization. National and international agricultural investments have been waning in recent decades and remain insufficient to meet near-term food needs in the world’s poorest countries, to say nothing of longer-term needs in the face of climate change.

Rather lamely, the study never mentions the possibility of mitigation, of keeping total global warming to far less than 3°C, as a strategy. Why? The final paragraph of the release states:

“You can let it happen and painfully adapt, or you can plan for it,” he said. “You also could mitigate it and not let it happen in the first place, but we’re not doing a very good job of that.”

Okay. Fine. Another understatement of the year.

But since the authors clearly assert in the study that we’re also not doing a very good job of adaptation or investment in agriculture, I’m not sure why it makes more sense for them to push adaptation as a solution than mitigation. In fact, we’ll need to do both, but absent serious mitigation, “climate adaptation” may be little more than cruel doubletalk for most of the world [see Real adaptation is as politically tough as real mitigation, but much more expensive and not as effective in reducing future misery; Rhetorical adaptation, however, is a political winner. Too bad it means preventable suffering for billions].

[Note to authors -- if you ignore mitigation, than you need to model an emissions scenarios that does not have much if any mitigation. Try A1F1 next time.]

If we end up with 5.5°C warming or more by century’s end, and if you throw in the desertification and sharps drops in soil moisture — plus the loss of the inland glaciers that act as reservoirs for so many major river systems around the globe — then simply developing crops “that are tolerant to heat and heat-induced water stress” along with better irrigation is likely to prove utterly inadequate and irrelevant for billions of people.

And let’s not forget where we’re ultimately heading — Science stunner: On our current emissions path, CO2 levels in 2100 will hit levels last seen when the Earth was 29°F (16°C) hotter

The only genuine hope for avoiding “the worst form of triage” is aggressive and immediate greenhouse gas mitigation.

27 Responses to “Half of world’s population could face climate-driven food crisis in second half of the century”

1. Dr.A.Jagadeesh says:

February 25, 2011 at 12:10 am

Excellent analysis on future food supplies if action is not initiated to avert impending climate change.

Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore (AP), India

The Clean Air Act and carbon hotspot deaths

February 20, 2011

This 2010 post from Brad Johnson is even more timely today given the efforts by conservatives to stop the EPA from fulfilling their mandate to regulate harmful emissions of carbon dioxide. I have comments from the study’s author at the end.

The Clean Air Act requires the Environmental Protection Agency to set standards for plants, cars, and factories that emit greenhouse gas pollution. Because global warming is by definition a global problem, there is support for scrapping individual source standards for a national cap-and-trade system that limits the collective pollution, instead of local emissions. However, scientific research by Mark Z. Jacobson, finds that carbon dioxide pollution is a two-fold killer — causing not just global warming but also forming “domes” that trap other pollutants in urban areas:

Jacobson found that domes of increased carbon dioxide concentrations – discovered to form above cities more than a decade ago – cause local temperature increases that in turn increase the amounts of local air pollutants, raising concentrations of health-damaging ground-level ozone as well as particles in urban air.

Jacobson’s study, “Enhancement of Local Air Pollution by Urban CO2 Domes,” published in Environmental Science & Technology, estimates that “reducing local CO2 may reduce 300-1000 premature air pollution mortalities/yr in the U.S. and 50-100/yr in California, even if CO2 in adjacent regions is not controlled.” The deaths represent a small fraction of the population who are suffering increased respiratory problems from carbon domes.

Right-wing polluters have launched a multi-pronged assault on Clean Air Act regulation of global warming pollution, including petitions by state legislatures, lawsuits from governors and industry trade groups, resolutions in Congress, and propaganda campaigns by Astroturf groups….

– Brad Johnson in a WonkRoom repost

JR: And now the House has “voted to block the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gases that scientists say cause global warming.” Here are some comments from Jacobson in an email interview:

Global warming increases air pollution where the air pollution is already high but has less effect on air pollution where the air pollution is low.
(in more detail) Warming increases water vapor, and both water vapor and higher temperatures increase ozone where the ozone is already high but have less effect where the ozone is low.
Carbon dioxide domes over cities increase temperatures over the cities above and beyond the heat island effect, and these higher temperatures increase water vapor, and both higher water vapor and higher temperatures increase the rates of chemical air pollution production over cities relative to rural areas.
The results suggest a causal nature of increased air pollution mortality due to increased carbon dioxide where the air pollution is already high. Thus, controlling CO2 emissions at the local level will reduce air pollution and the resulting air pollution mortality.

12 Responses to “The Clean Air Act and carbon hotspot deaths”

12.Dr.A.Jagadeesh says:

February 25, 2011 at 11:17 am

Good article.

Yes. Air pollution is a very serious health hazard.

Here is an authoritative analysis on the evil effects of global warming and subsequent heat waves during which Air pollution concentrations may rise((Source: Health Implications of Global Warming: Vector-borne and Water-borne Diseases, Physicians for Social Responsibility United States Affiliate of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War).

Health Implications of Global Warming:

Heat’s Deadly Effects

.

Global warming is likely to increase the frequency of “extreme heat events” or heat waves.

• For the twenty-first century, the IPCC projects with “high confidence” that extreme heat events will intensify in magnitude and duration over portions of the U.S. where they already occur.

• We cannot attribute a specific heat wave to global warming; however, the effect of global warming on the probability of occurrence of a heat wave can be determined. In the case of the European heat wave of 2003, a group of scientists publishing in the journal Nature estimated with a greater than 90% confidence level that human influence on climate more than doubled the probability of its occurrence.

Heat-related illnesses are serious and can lead to death.

• The most common heat-related illness is heat exhaustion, whose symptoms include intense thirst, heavy sweating, anxiety, dizziness, fainting, nausea or vomiting, and headache.

• Heat exhaustion may progress to heat stroke, which is a severe illness. Its clinical definition includes a core body temperature of 105°F or more, accompanied by hot, dry skin and central nervous system abnormalities such as delirium, convulsions, or coma.

• Mortality from heat waves is often related to cardiovascular, cerebrovascular, and respiratory causes, especially preexisting illnesses.

• Air pollution concentrations may rise during heat waves, especially as people turn on air conditioning, thus increasing their use of electricity (which if generated by burning coal is a major source of pollution). This pollution may exacerbate preexisting conditions such as angina and asthma and may lead to increased death rates.

Extreme heat events are already a significant public health problem in the U.S.

• In fact, extreme heat events are responsible for more deaths annually than hurricanes, lightning, tornadoes, floods, and earthquakes combined.

• The health impact of extreme heat events will likely be exacerbated by the synergistic effects of a warming climate, urbanization, and an aging population.

Heat waves are already increasing.

• A roughly 20% overall increase in the number of heat waves – a “significant” upward trend -- has been observed for the eastern and western U.S. for the period 1949 to 1995.

• In the European heat wave of 2003, an estimated 22,000 people died across Britain, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain. vii Other mortality estimates run as high as 35,000.

• In Paris, sustained extreme high temperatures (including high night-time minimum temperatures), unique in the recorded history of Paris, together with housing designed for cooler summers, caused a major public health crisis. Deaths increased by 140%.

The elderly are at particularly high risk.

• Advanced age represents one of the most significant risk factors for heat-related death in the U.S.

• Elderly people have diminished ability to regulate body temperature and to adapt physiologically to heat. In addition, they generally experience poor health. The elderly are also more likely to live alone and have reduced social contacts, which further increases their vulnerability.

• This vulnerable population will grow as the elderly become an increasingly large proportion of the U.S. population”. Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore (AP), India

Inaction on climate change is risky business

February 16, 2011

By William Becker

Like a family that has no homeowner’s insurance, no fire detectors, a gas leak in the basement and a bad case of denial, the global community remains unprepared for irreversible and potentially catastrophic changes to the Earth’ climate.

What’s needed – quickly – is an international risk management effort, a process that’s more familiar in military and national security circles than it is in environmental and scientific circles.

That process is described in “Degrees of Risk: Defining a Risk Management Framework for Climate Security” — a report just released by the London-based think tank Third Generation Environmentalism (E3G). The report’s recommendations are the result of consultations E3G held over the past two years with military and intelligence leaders in Europe, the United States and several developing countries. The bottom line:

Climate change is not currently well managed. Agreements at the most recent UN climate negotiations in Cancun in 2010 included a goal of limiting climate change to, at most, a 2oC average global temperature rise. However, the emissions reductions pledged by countries at the same conference would actually result in a 50 percent chance of global temperatures rising by 3-4oC.

The implications of current security analysis are clear: unless climate change is limited to levels where its impacts can be managed effectively, and unless successful adaptation programs are implemented, there will be major threats to national and international security.

Even in the most powerful countries, high levels of climate change would make open trade, travel, investments and progress against poverty “highly unlikely”, the report warns.

Other security and intelligence organizations in the United States, from the Center for Naval Analysis to the National Intelligence Council, have reached similar conclusions. So have security analyses published by NATO, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Germany and Australia. But E3G takes the discussion to a new level, asking:

If the security threat from climate change was analyzed as rigorously as nuclear proliferation, what would an appropriate risk management strategy to deliver climate security look like?

An early step is to deal with several barriers to effective risk management. The report’s authors – Nick Mabey, Jay Gulledge, Bernard Finel and Katherine Silverthorne – cite several:

  • Current security analyses usually are based on mid-range scenarios developed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. They don’t reflect the most recent research and don’t cover the full range of future climate risks.
  • When policymakers and the public focus on global average temperatures, they fail to consider that climate impacts will vary widely across regions and latitudes.
  • Policy makers tend to consider worst-case scenarios for climate disruption to be low-probability events. That’s not necessary true, particularly if we push the climate to tipping points.
  • Climate models have underestimated the rate of several impacts – for example, the loss from the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets. One reason may be that some factors are not well understood and are not included in climate modeling.
  • There remains a widespread perception that climate change will happen gradually over a long period of time. In the recent geological past, however, climate change occurred abruptly at large scale.
  • There is a common perception that wealthy nations such as the United States are not as vulnerable to climate risks, so other problems have higher priority. But developed countries are just as susceptible as poor countries to stronger hurricanes, sea level rise, drought, heat waves, flash floods, blizzards and wildfires. Hurricane Katrina illustrated that even wealthy countries are vulnerable to disasters, particularly when they aren’t prepared.
  • Several countries that pledged to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions have given emission ranges rather than specific goals. Without a comprehensive global climate agreement, those countries will most likely fall back to the low end of their pledges – a result that could push the global temperature increase nearer to 4oC.
  • We are still at an early stage in our analysis of our vulnerabilities due to climate change, in part because we lack sufficient data. However, we should assume that “all critical systems will be vulnerable without adaptive measures.”
  • Policy maker are “systematically underestimating” not only worse case climate change scenarios, but even likely scenarios.

The authors point out that uncertainty about climate science is often used as an excuse for inaction, but inaction does not reduce risk:

Indeed, it is hard to imagine an American politician trying to argue that counter-terrorism measures were unnecessary because the threat of attack from al Qaeda was uncertain. But precisely this argument is often used by opponents of action on climate change to argue against even small measures to mitigate the threat…We do not have the luxury of waiting for certainty, even it were scientifically possible. Every day we fail to act the risk becomes incrementally and irreversibly higher. Like the hands of a clock, the risks of climate change can only move forward.

The E3G report recommends that policy makers employ a “responsible risk management strategy” that reflects the current international consensus on warming, but remains flexible to keep pace with the latest science. It calls the strategy the “ABC Framework”:

  • Aim to mitigate to stay below 2oC
  • Build and budget for resilience to 3-4oC
  • Contingency plan for the capability to respond to 5-7oC

The authors say that now is the time to help fragile nations increase their stability, to plan for international responses to crises, and to develop the institutions and agreements necessary to manage climate risks. Among those risks is competition between nations for critical resources:

Climate change and growing resource scarcity will put great strain on international agreements to manage water, food trade, borders and other climate sensitive resources. These international agreements underpin the open global economy our prosperity depends on but there are clear trends showing major countries are hedging against the collapse of this order by securing bilateral access to vital strategic resources.

Nations must also work now on “crash mitigation programs” to reduce the danger and impact of catastrophic climate disruption, the report says. The lowest-risk strategy would be “rapid diffusion of non-nuclear clean energy technologies” facilitated by changes in government policy and new financing mechanisms:

Deployment of those technologies at a pace and scale needed to meet the emergency of extreme climate risks would require significant and costly immediate retirement of existing high carbon infrastructure at the same time. This will require direct government involvement in commissioning and constructing new low carbon energy capacity…

In its 179 pages, the E3G report offers scores of additional suggestions for assessing, mitigating and responding to climate risks. It also offers a specific methodology for risk management, too detailed to describe here. But its bottom line is simple:

Current responses to climate change are failing to effectively manage climate security risks. There is a mismatch between analysis of the severity of climate security threats and the political, diplomatic, policy and financial effort being expended to avoid these risks.

So, what’s the risk if we don’t regard climate change as seriously as we regard, say, nuclear weapons proliferation? As the authors put it:

In the face of existential threats, countries do not wait for the political conditions to change in favour of an agreement to materially reduce risks, but construct pro-active strategies to change the range of the politically possible in order to advance their national interests.

Which is a very polite way of saying that unless all nations act together now, it will be every nation for itself.

– William Becker is executive director of the Presidential Climate Action Project (PCAP) at Natural Capitalism Solutions in Boulder, Colorado.

E3G’s report here. Nick Mabey, the chief executive of E3G, is a former senior advisor in the UK Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit. Dr. Jay Gulledge is the Senior Scientist and Director for Science and Impacts at the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. Bernard Finel is a Senior Fellow at the American Security Project. Katherine Silverthorne leads E3G’s Climate Security Program and is a long-time participant in international climate negotiations.

12 Responses to “Inaction on climate change is risky business”

1. Dr.A.Jagadeesh says:

February 21, 2011 at 4:34 am

Good article.

Another approach to tackle climate change is” Low carbon Economies”.

A Low-Carbon Economy (LCE) or Low-Fossil-Fuel Economy (LFFE) is an economy which has a minimal output of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions into the biosphere, but specifically refers to the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. Recently, most of scientific and public opinion has come to the conclusion there is such an accumulation of GHGs (especially CO2) in the atmosphere due to anthropogenic causes, that the climate is changing. The over-concentrations of these gases is producing global warming that affects long-term climate, with negative impacts on humanity in the foreseeable future. Globally implemented LCE’s therefore, are proposed as a means to avoid catastrophic climate change, and as a precursor to the more advanced, zero-carbon society and renewable-energy economy.
Nations seek to become low-carbon economies as a part of a national global warming mitigation strategy. A comprehensive strategy to manage global warming is carbon neutrality, geoengineering and adaptation to global warming.
The aim of a LCE is to integrate all aspects of itself from its manufacturing, agriculture, transportation and power-generation etc. around technologies that produce energy and materials with little GHG emission; and thus, around populations, buildings, machines and devices which use those energies and materials efficiently, and, dispose of or recycle its wastes so as to have a minimal output of GHGs. Furthermore, it has been proposed that to make the transition to an LCE economically viable we would have to attribute a cost(per unit output) to GHGs through means such as emissions trading and/or a carbon tax.
Some nations are presently low carbon: societies which are not heavily industrialised or populated. In order to avoid climate change on a global level, all nations considered carbon intensive societies and societies which are heavily populated might have to become zero-carbon societies and economies. Several of these countries have pledged to cut their emissions by 100% via offsetting emissions rather than ceasing all emissions (carbon neutrality); in other words, emitting will not cease but will continue and will be offset to a different geographical area(Source: Wikipedia).
Dutch Transitions Approach

The Dutch approach combines local community based experimentation with a top-down view of the transition(1). The vision is long-term, with strategic intermediate goals en
route and learning from numerous small experiments.The Ministry of Economic Affairs, which is responsible for energy and innovation policy, manages the Energy Transition
Programme. The plan has been praised for encouraging long-term thinking in energy policy and the energy sector and for placing local experiments within a larger process. It
has been criticised for being dominated by the incumbent energy providers who have narrowed the innovation focus to their interests; for example, there are no experiments in low energy lifestyles(2)

1. 4th Dutch Environmental Policy Plan, 2001
2. Kern et al., Restructuring energy systems for sustainability?, Energy Policy, vol 36 (2008), p4093

Options to meet emission reduction targets Both technological and behavioural options are considered. In each sector, currently used technologies are listed first.

Electricity sector
in the UK. Options for the future include:
• nuclear power
• fossil fuels with carbon capture and storage (CCS)
• renewables, including wind, solar and marine
technologies, perhaps in conjunction with electricity storage systems;
• biofuels, including domestic and agricultural waste;
• electrical appliance energy efficiency improvements;
• reducing peoples energy use where economic; smart meters would facilitate this strategy.Buildings – space and water heating Improving the energy efficiency of buildings is likely to be the most effective short term measure to reduce heat use. Only 8% of English housing is rated in bands A–C for energy efficiency, while 62% is rated in bands E–G (there are 7 bands, A–G, where A is most efficient).

Other options for the future include:
• providing heating through district heating schemes;
• widespread use of electric or biomass boilers;
• microscale renewable heating using heat pumps.

Road Transport

Experts consider emissions from transport to be the most difficult to reduce. Road vehicles are responsible for 92% of domestic transport emissions; Options include:
• improving the energy efficiency of vehicles;
• using hybrids, battery power, biofuels or hydrogen;
• persuading people to adapt their lifestyles and habits to travel more efficiently and reduce emissions.

Air Transport

Demand for air travel is projected to grow from 228 million in 2005 to 490 million passengers passing through UK airports each year by 2030, limited only by airport capacity.8 Aviation is the most difficult sector to decarbonise. Demand reduction measures may be necessary to control CO2 emissions, for example by changing working patterns to encourage people to take fewer but longer foreign holidays. Aviation will be included in the EU Emission Trading Scheme from 2012.(Source: THE TRANSITION TO A LOW CARBON ECONOMY,POSTNOTE, Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, December 2008 Number 318).

Dr.A.Jagadeesh,Nellore(AP),India

S. Korean President: “There is an increasing likelihood of a food crisis globally due to climate change.”

UN's Figueres explains: "If the community of nations is unable to fully stabilize climate change, it will threaten where we can live, where and how we grow food and where we can find water.”

February 15, 2011

According to a statement on the China Meteorological Administration’s Web site, cabinet members were told that there was no end in sight to the drought.

As I’ve written in my series on food insecurity, the expert consensus has been growing on the contribution of record high food prices to Middle East unrest. So too has our understanding that as the Washington Post and Lester Brown explained, extreme weather and climate change have helped drive record food prices.

Into the discussion comes three important pieces. First, the NY Times‘ John Broder blogs:

The United Nations’ top climate change official said on Tuesday that food shortages and rising prices caused by climate disruptions were among the chief contributors to the civil unrest coursing through North Africa and the Middle East.

In a speech to Spanish lawmakers and military leaders, Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the United Nations climate office, said that climate change-driven drought, falling crop yields and competition for water were fueling conflict throughout Africa and elsewhere in the developing world. She warned that unless nations took aggressive action to reduce emissions causing global warming such conflicts would spread, toppling governments and driving up military spending around the world.

Second, Bloomberg has an equally remarkable piece, “Climate Change May Cause ‘Massive’ Food Disruptions,” which begins:

Global food supplies will face “massive disruptions” from climate change, Olam International Ltd. predicted, as Agrocorp International Pte. said corn will gain to a record, stoking food inflation and increasing hunger.

“The fact is that climate around the world is changing and that will cause massive disruptions,” Sunny Verghese, chief executive officer at Olam, among the world’s three biggest suppliers of rice and cotton, said in a Bloomberg Television interview today. “We’re friendly to wheat, corn and soybeans and bearish on rice.”

Here’s more:

Shrinking global food supplies helped push the United Nations Food & Agriculture Organization’s World Food Price Index to a record for a second month in January. As food becomes less available and more expensive, “hoarding becomes widespread,” Abdolreza Abbassian, a senior economist at FAO, said Feb. 9, predicting prices of wheat and other grains are more likely to rise than decline in the next six months.

Corn futures surged 90 percent in the past year, while wheat jumped 80 percent and soybeans advanced 49 percent as the worst drought in at least half a century in Russia, flooding in Australia, excessive rainfall in Canada, and drier conditions in parts of Europe slashed harvests.

Corn may be the best-performing agricultural commodity, surging to a record in the first half, while wheat will advance as increased government purchases help “inflame” the market, said Vijay Iyengar, managing director of Agrocorp International, who’s traded agricultural commodities since 1986.

Global warming may help lift the prices of corn, wheat and rice by at least two-thirds by 2050, a study by the International Food Policy Research Institute showed in December. “There is an increasing likelihood of a food crisis globally due to climate change,” South Korean President Lee Myung Bak told his secretaries on Feb. 7, according to a statement.

“Corn is where demand is most imbalanced” against supply, Iyengar said in an interview in Singapore yesterday. “Increased purchasing by governments “tends to inflame markets,” he said.

Food prices have become too high for some developing countries to buy the agricultural products they need, raising the risk of food riots, French Agriculture Minister Bruno Le Maire said earlier this month.

“We don’t want too many storms, because that tends to contribute to excited decision-making,” Agrocorp’s Iyengar said, referring to supply problems influencing governments’ import policies and purchasing volumes. “It also puts pressure on the lower strata of people in various countries. You see the poorer people tend to hurt more.”

Governments in the region know that high food prices drive instability, so they have begun hoarding. As I reported on Feb. 4, Scientific American said of the Egyptian situation: “… there is no doubt that rising food prices added fuel to an already combustible mix,” and other MidEast countries “have been snapping up supplies of wheat in the world market to forestall any hint of food price spikes—or regime change.”

Back to Bloomberg:

Intensified Hoarding

Protests, prompted in part by rising food prices, spread across North Africa and the Middle East in the past month, driving Tunisia’s President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali into exile after 23 years in power and ending Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule.

Sales and shipments of wheat by the U.S. to Egypt, the world’s biggest buyer, jumped to 2.9 million tons since June 1, more than six times higher than the same period a year earlier, according to USDA figures dated Feb. 3.

Algeria bought 2.95 million tons of wheat from Dec. 16 to Jan. 26, according to crops office FranceAgriMer. That was “probably” the most the country had ever bought in a five-week period, said Xavier Rousselin, the office’s head of arable crops. Loadings of French soft wheat destined for Morocco more than tripled to 1.16 million tons from 350,000 tons a year earlier, the company said.

Protests, prompted in part by rising food prices, spread across North Africa and the Middle East in the past month, driving Tunisia’s President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali into exile after 23 years in power and ending Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule.

Whether such hoarding as a big impact on food prices or small depends on whether the crops this year are good or bad. Right now the situation is worrisome (see my Feb. 9 post, “UN food agency warns severe drought threatens wheat crop in China, world’s largest producer it is“).

The third big story is that the NYT reported Monday:

China’s drought-control headquarters posted a statement on its Web site on Sunday that described conditions as “grim” across a wide area of the wheat belt in Northern China and called for emergency irrigation efforts.Agricultural experts say it is too early to assess the damage to the wheat harvest.

“We are in the winter months now, when it is typically drier anyway, so the seedlings should still be alive,” said an expert at Shandong Agricultural University who would provide only his family name, Wang. “But if the weather turns warmer and there is still no rain, then we will not be talking about lower agricultural production, but rather zero production, because the seedlings will all be dead.”

The worries go beyond China, which has essentially been self-sufficient in grain for decades. The concern is that China, with 1.3 billion mouths to feed, may need to import wheat in volume, creating shortages elsewhere….

According to a statement on the China Meteorological Administration’s Web site, cabinet members were told that there was no end in sight to the drought.

If the drought lasts a couple more weeks, it will be the worst in 200 years. As Craig Fugate, who heads the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency, put it in December, “The term ‘100-year event’ really lost its meaning this year.”

And that brings us back to Christiana Figueres’ must-read speech:

… if the community of nations is unable to fully stabilize climate change, it will threaten where we can live, where and how we grow food and where we can find water. In other words, it will threaten the basic foundation – the very stability on which humanity has built its existence.

Let us look at some factors:

1. Reduced water supply and growing demand will in some places lead to increasing competition among different sectors of society, different communities and different countries. Already, one-third of all people in Africa live in droughtprone regions. The IPCC estimates that by 2050, up to 600 million Africans will be at risk of water stress.

2. On a global level, increasingly unpredictable weather patterns will lead to falling agricultural production and higher food prices, leading to food insecurity…. Recent experiences around the world clearly show how such situations can cause political instability and undermine the performance of already fragile states.

3. Changes in sea-level, more frequent and more severe natural disasters and water shortages have the potential to cause large-scale, destabilizing population movements. Migration, especially within a country, is not inherently problematic and is quite common in Africa. But what we have seen historically in terms of international migration will be tiny compared to the migration brought about by the magnitude of future pressures on vulnerable populations.

All these factors taken together mean that climate change, especially if left unabated, threatens to increase poverty and overwhelm the capacity of governments to meet the basic needs of their people, which could well contribute to the emergence, spread and longevity of conflict.

As you certainly know better than me, these are the reasons why militaries around the world are planning for climate change, adjusting their budgets, their strategies and their priorities….

What will be better?

o To continue to support a traditional global military budget that has risen 50 percent in real terms from 2000 to 2009 and continues to increase?

o Or to increase a preventive military budget investing into adaptation and low-carbon growth and avoid the climate chaos that would demand a defence response that makes even today’s spending burden look light?

… As mentioned before, no nation can flourish if its citizens are faced with climate change impacts and increasing prospects for conflict.

Hear! Hear!

The time to act was years ago, but acting now is infinitely better than waiting until it is too damn late.

We were warned:

Comments

  • Dr.A.Jagadeesh says:

February 16, 2011 at 9:34 am

Yes, South Korean President. Everybody is concerned about the likely food shortages from climate change. It needs concerted global efforts to abate the climate change as the saying goes, WHILE GLOBAL WARMING IS THE CAUSE, CLIMATE CHANGE IS THE EFFECT. I am glad Leaders of Nations are focusing their attention on this crucial effect.

Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore (AP), India

Two seminal Nature papers join growing body of evidence that human emissions fuel extreme weather, flooding that harm humans and the environment

February 16, 2011

Here we show that human-induced increases in greenhouse gases have contributed to the observed intensification of heavy precipitation events found over approximately two-thirds of data-covered parts of Northern Hemisphere land areas. These results are based on a comparison of observed and multi-model simulated changes in extreme precipitation over the latter half of the twentieth century analysed with an optimal fingerprinting technique.

Changes in extreme precipitation projected by models, and thus the impacts of future changes in extreme precipitation, may be underestimated because models seem to underestimate the observed increase in heavy precipitation with warming

That’s from the first of two seminal studies in Nature, “Human contribution to more-intense precipitation extremes” (subs. req’d). The second looked at “Anthropogenic greenhouse gas contribution to flood risk in England and Wales in autumn 2000” (subs. req’d):

Occurring during the wettest autumn in England and Wales since records began in 1766 these floods damaged nearly 10,000 properties across that region, disrupted services severely, and caused insured losses estimated at £1.3 billion….

Here we present a multi-step, physically based ‘probabilistic event attribution’ framework showing that it is very likely that global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions substantially increased the risk of flood occurrence in England and Wales in autumn 2000.

in nine out of ten cases our model results indicate that twentieth-century anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions increased the risk of floods occurring in England and Wales in autumn 2000 by more than 20%, and in two out of three cases by more than 90%.

Scientists have predicted for decades that human-caused global warming would increased extreme weather events that cause severe harm to humans, property, and the environment. These two studies are but the latest in a growing body of scientific literature demonstrating that these predictions are coming true now.

They should help lay to rest the myth that human-caused global warming will contribute to grievous harm only in some far-off future. They also strongly support the view that the human-induced increases in greenhouse gases have contributed to the devastating extreme events that hit Australia and other parts of the world in the past several months, helping to drive up food prices (see how extreme weather, climate change drive record food prices).

The NYT has a great headline on this story, “Research Links Heavy Rains and Snow to Humans.” It is all heavy precipitation that humans are intensifying.

Of course, many of our top climate scientists have been documenting and explaining these types of conclusions for a while. I’ll list a bunch of the papers below. Kevin Trenberth, head of NCAR’s Climate Analysis Section, has a new paper out, “Changes in precipitation with climate change” that is well worth reading. So I asked him for a comment on these two studies. He told me:

These studies are very reasonable, and the main mechanism is well understood: it relates to the increased moisture in the atmosphere with higher temperatures and warmer oceans. However, the studies may well be conservative as the tools available (the climate models), do not simulate precipitation and all of its characteristics (intensity, frequency etc) as well as we would like to see.

As the first study makes clear, future changes in extreme precipitation are likely to be worse than the models suggest.

In an extended interview last year on the subject, Trenberth explained:

“I find it systematically tends to get underplayed and it often gets underplayed by my fellow scientists. Because one of the opening statements, which I’m sure you’ve probably heard is “Well you can’t attribute a single event to climate change.” But there is a systematic influence on all of these weather events now-a-days because of the fact that there is this extra water vapor lurking around in the atmosphere than there used to be say 30 years ago. It’s about a 4% extra amount, it invigorates the storms, it provides plenty of moisture for these storms and it’s unfortunate that the public is not associating these with the fact that this is one manifestation of climate change. And the prospects are that these kinds of things will only get bigger and worse in the future.”

Let’s hope these new studies helped put an end to the underplaying of the link between human caused emissions and the extreme weather events we are experiencing now.

The Washington Post has a good piece on the two studies, “Greenhouse gases led to increase in deluges, researchers say,” with more quotes:

“Human influence on the climate system has the effect of intensifying precipitation extremes,” said Francis Zwiers, a climate researcher at Environment Canada in Toronto and lead researcher on the first study.

Zwiers and his team gathered 50 years of rainfall statistics, and compared those observations to predictions made by computer simulations of the 20th century climate.

Those simulations included the warming impact of the billions of tons of carbon dioxide human society has pumped into the atmosphere.

The study found that observed increase in deluges “cannot be explained by natural internal fluctuations of the climate system alone,” said Zwiers. In other words, only the addition of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere explains why the United States and Canada have experienced a dramatic increase in heavy downpours.

“Large [rainfall] events are becoming larger,” Zwiers said. His work found that from 1951 to 1999, the probability of heavy downpours becoming even more extreme grew by about 7 percent, a figure he characterized as “really substantial.”

Richard Allan, a climate scientist at the University of Reading in England who was not part of the study, called the method employed by Zwiers “very rigorous.”

He added, “There’s already been quite a bit of evidence showing that there has been an intensification of rainfall” events across the globe.

But until now “there had not been a study that formally identified this human effect on precipitation extremes,” Zwiers said. “This paper provides specific scientific evidence that this is indeed the case.”

Note that these studies do not extend beyond the year 2000, so they miss the hottest decade on record and the wettest year on record.

You can see some of the amazing photos from the 2000 UK floods here.

Here’s some more quotes from leading scientists via Seth Borenstein’s AP story:

Both studies should weaken the argument that climate change is a “victimless crime,” said Myles Allen of the University of Oxford. He co-authored the second study, which connected flooding and climate change in the United Kingdom. “Extreme weather is what actually hurts people.”

Jonathan Overpeck, a University of Arizona climate scientist, who didn’t take part in either study, praised them as sensible and “particularly relevant given the array of extreme weather that we’ve seen this winter and stretching back over the last few years.”

… “Put the two papers together and we start to see an emerging pattern,” said Andrew Weaver of the University of Victoria, who wasn’t part of either study. “We should continue to expect increased flooding associated with increased extreme precipitation because of increasing atmospheric greenhouse gas. And we have no one to blame but ourselves.”

Let’s run through some of the other recent studies that support the conclusion that human-caused global warming is making weather more extreme:

Study: Global warming is driving increased frequency of extreme wet or dry summer weather in southeast, so droughts and deluges are likely to get worse

A new study by a Duke University-led team of climate scientists suggests that global warming is the main cause of a significant intensification in the North Atlantic Subtropical High (NASH) that in recent decades has more than doubled the frequency of abnormally wet or dry summer weather in the southeastern United States….

The models – known as Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 3 (CMIP3) models – predict the NASH will continue to intensify and expand as concentrations of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases increase in Earth’s atmosphere in coming decades.“This intensification will further increase the likelihood of extreme summer precipitation variability – periods of drought or deluge – in southeastern states in coming decades,” Li says.

And one of my commenters posted this list in response to the nonsensical quote by Pielke in the Wall Street Journal, “There’s no data-driven answer yet to the question of how human activity has affected extreme weather….” The first three may be the most relevant.

Some observational, modelling and observational and modelling studies concerning the trends in temperature extremes and precipitation intensity. I have limited myself to material that has been released since 2007 (when the last IPCC report was released); this is by no means a complete list. Not all of them directly challenge the claim about human activities affecting extreme weather, but I included them because they point to a coherent picture.

Zhang et al. (2007): Detection of human influence on twentieth-century precipitation trends. (Nature)
We show that anthropogenic forcing has had a detectable influence on observed changes in average precipitation within latitudinal bands, and that these changes cannot be explained by internal climate variability or natural forcing. We estimate that anthropogenic forcing contributed significantly to observed increases in precipitation in the Northern Hemisphere mid-latitudes, drying in the Northern Hemisphere subtropics and tropics, and moistening in the Southern Hemisphere subtropics and deep tropics. The observed changes, which are larger than estimated from model simulations, may have already had significant effects on ecosystems, agriculture and human health in regions that are sensitive to changes in precipitation, such as the Sahel.”

Christidis et al. (2011): The role of human activity in the recent warming of extremely warm daytime temperatures. (J. Climate).
“Our analysis is the first that attempts to partition the observed change in warm daytime extremes between its anthropogenic and natural components and hence attribute part of the change to possible causes. Changes in the extreme temperatures are represented by the temporal changes in a parameter of an extreme value distribution. Regional distributions of the trend in the parameter are computed with and without human influence using constraints from the global optimal fingerprinting analysis. Anthropogenic forcings alter the regional distributions, indicating that extremely warm days have become hotter.”

Zwiers et al. (2010): Anthropogenic Influence on Long Return Period Daily Temperature Extremes at Regional Scales. (J. Climate).
We therefore conclude that the influence of anthropogenic forcing has had a detectable influence on extreme temperatures that have impacts on human society and natural systems at global and regional scales. External influence is estimated to have resulted in large changes in the likelihood of extreme annual maximum and minimum daily temperatures. Globally, waiting times for extreme annual minimum daily minimum and daily maximum temperatures events that were expected to recur once every 20 years in the 1960s are now estimated to exceed 35 and 30 years respectively. . In contrast, waiting times for circa 1960s 20-year extremes of annual maximum daily minimum and daily maximum temperatures are estimated to have decreased to less than 10 and 15 years respectively.”

Krishnamurthy et al. (2009): Changing Frequency and Intensity of Rainfall Extremes over India from 1951 to 2003. (J. Climate).
“Statistically significant increasing trends in extremes of rainfall are identified over many parts of India, consistent with the indications from climate change models and the hypothesis that the hydrological cycle will intensify as the planet warms. Specifically, for the exceedance of the 99th percentile of daily rainfall, all locations where a significant increasing trend in frequency of exceedance is identified also exhibit a significant trend in rainfall intensity.”

Teixeira and Satyamurty (2011): Trends in the Frequency of Intense Precipitation Events in Southern and Southeastern Brazil during 1960–2004. (J. Climate).
“In both regions, annual heavy and extreme rainfall event frequencies present increasing trends in the 45-year period. However, only in Southern Brazil is the trend statistically significant. Although longer time series are necessary to ensure the existence of long term trends, the positive trends are somewhat alarming since they indicate that climate changes, in terms of rainfall regimes, are possibly under way in Brazil.”

Ding et al. (2009): Changes in hot days and heat waves in China during 1961–2007. (Int. J. Clim.)
“Over most of China except northwestern China, the frequency of HDs was high during the 1960s–1970s, low in the 1980s, and high afterwards, with strong interannual variations. A remarkable increasing trend of HDs occurred after the 1990s in all regions. ”

Rodda et al.(2009): A comparative study of the magnitude, frequency and distribution of intense rainfall in the United Kingdom. (Int. J. Clim).
“Most noticeably, increases up to 20% have occurred in the north-west of the country and in parts of East Anglia. There have also been changes in other areas, including decreases of the same magnitude over central England. The implications of these changes are considered.”

KyselĂ˝ (2009): Recent severe heat waves in central Europe: how to view them in a long-term prospect? (Int. J. Clim).
“Owing to an increase in mean summer temperatures, probabilities of very long heat waves have already risen by an order of magnitude over the recent 25 years, and are likely to increase by another order of magnitude by around 2040 under the summer warming rate assumed by the mid-scenario. Even the lower bound scenario yields a considerable decline of return periods associated with intense heat waves. Nevertheless, the most severe recent heat waves appear to be typical rather of a late 21st century than a mid-21st century climate. ”

Gallant and Karoly (2010): A Combined Climate Extremes Index for the Australian Region (J. Climate)
“Over the whole country, the results show an increase in the extent of hot and wet extremes and a decrease in the extent of cold and dry extremes annually and during all seasons from 1911 to 2008 at a rate of between 1% and 2% decade21. These trends mostly stem from changes in tropical regions during summer and spring. There are relationships between the extent of extreme maximum temperatures, precipitation, and soil moisture on interannual and decadal time scales that are similar to the relationships exhibited by variations of the means. However, the trends from 1911 to 2008 and from 1957 to 2008 are not consistent with these relationships, providing evidence that the processes causing the interannual variations and those causing the longer-term trends are different.”

Romps (2011): Response of Tropical Precipitation to Global Warming. (J. Atmos. Sci.)
“There are many properties of convection that can change as the atmosphere warms, each of which could produce deviations from CC scaling. These properties include the effective water-vapor gradient, cloud pressure depth, and cloud velocity. A simple theory is developed that predicts the changes in these properties consistent with CC scaling. Convection in the cloud-resolving simulations is found to change as predicted by this theory, leading to an ~20% increase in local precipitation fluxes when the CO2 concentration is doubled. Overall, an increase in CO2 leads to more vigorous convection, composed of clouds that are wider, taller, and faster.”

Wentz et al. (2007): How Much More Rain Will Global Warming Bring? (Science).
“Climate models and satellite observations both indicate that the total amount of water in the atmosphere will increase at a rate of 7% per kelvin of surface warming. However, the climate models predict that global precipitation will increase at a much slower rate of 1 to 3% per kelvin. A recent analysis of satellite observations does not support this prediction of a muted response of precipitation to global warming. Rather, the observations suggest that precipitation and total atmospheric water have increased at about the same rate over the past two decades.”

Allan et al. (2010): Current changes in tropical precipitation. (Environmental research letters).
“Analysing changes in extreme precipitation using daily data within the wet regions, an increase in the frequency of the heaviest 6% of events with warming for the SSM/I observations and model ensemble mean is identified. The SSM/I data indicate an increased frequency of the heaviest events with warming, several times larger than the expected Clausius–Clapeyron scaling and at the upper limit of the substantial range in responses in the model simulations.”

Allan and sodden (2008): Atmospheric Warming and the Amplification of Precipitation Extremes. (Science).
“We used satellite observations and model simulations to examine the response of tropical precipitation events to naturally driven changes in surface temperature and atmospheric moisture content. These observations reveal a distinct link between rainfall extremes and temperature, with heavy rain events increasing during warm periods and decreasing during cold periods. Furthermore, the observed amplification of rainfall extremes is found to be larger than that predicted by models, implying that projections of future changes in rainfall extremes in response to anthropogenic global warming may be underestimated.”

Lenderink and Meijgaard (2008) Increase in hourly precipitation extremes beyond expectations from temperature changes. (Nature).
“Indeed, changes in daily precipitation extremes in global climate models seem to be consistent with the 7% increase per degree of warming given by the Clausius–Clapeyron relation3, 4, but it is uncertain how general this scaling behaviour is across timescales. Here, we analyse a 99-year record of hourly precipitation observations from De Bilt, the Netherlands, and find that one-hour precipitation extremes increase twice as fast with rising temperatures as expected from the Clausius–Clapeyron relation when daily mean temperatures exceed 12
°C. In addition, simulations with a high-resolution regional climate model show that one-hour precipitation extremes increase at a rate close to 14% per degree of warming in large parts of Europe. Our results demonstrate that changes in short-duration precipitation extremes may well exceed expectations from the Clausius–Clapeyron relation. “

Of course, don’t miss Table 3.8 in the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment, Working Group I: The Physical Science Basis.

Finally, we have one of my favorites, Record high temperatures far outpace record lows across U.S.:

Spurred by a warming climate, daily record high temperatures occurred twice as often as record lows over the last decade across the continental United States, new research shows. The ratio of record highs to lows is likely to increase dramatically in coming decades if emissions of greenhouse gases continue to climb.

So yes, key weather events are becoming more extreme — especially deluges, heat waves, and droughts — as climate scientists have long predicted they would if atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases kept rising. And now we have solid attribution of that increase in extreme weather to human emissions in multiple independent studies.

So let’s move on from that “debate” and focus on how we best minimize the damage from future warming — aggressive greenhouse gas mitigation plus adaptation.

23 Responses to “Two seminal Nature papers join growing body of evidence that human emissions fuel extreme weather, flooding that harm humans and the environment”

1. Dr.A.Jagadeesh says:

February 16, 2011 at 11:30 pm

Excellent article.

Yes. Human emissions fuel extreme weather, flooding that harm humans and the environment

Human societies over the ages have depleted natural resources and degraded their local environments. Populations have also modified their local climates by cutting down trees or building cities. It is now apparent that human activities are perturbing the climate system at the global scale. Climate change is likely to have wide-ranging and potentially serious health consequences. Some health impacts will result from direct-acting effects (e.g., heat wave-related deaths, weather disasters); others will result from disturbances to complex ecological processes (e.g., changes in patterns of infectious disease, in freshwater supplies, and in food production).

Natural Disasters. Climate change will increase the risk of both floods and droughts. Ninety percent of disaster victims worldwide live in developing countries, where poverty and population pressures force growing numbers of people to live in harm’s way—on flood plains and on unstable hillsides. Unsafe buildings compound the risks. The vulnerability of those living in risk-prone areas is perhaps the single most important cause of disaster casualties and damage.

Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India

CLIMATE PROGRESS

Clean energy development done right

February 12, 2011

This is CAP CEO John Podesta’s Speech at the Department of Interior’s Onshore Renewable Energy Workshop.

Thank you, Steve, for that kind introduction, and for inviting me to speak here this morning. And thanks to all of you for your important work leading the United States into a clean energy future. This is a terrific gathering on an important topic. Yesterday you began by hearing from Secretaries Ken Salazar, Steven Chu, and Tom Vilsack; this morning you start with me. Going from “True Grit” to “Spider Man, the Musical.” Apologizes for the conference organizers. I hope I have something interesting to say. It’s impressive to see so many people here discussing strategies for actually deploying renewable energy, and for doing so in an environmentally and culturally sensitive way.

The work you’re doing on the ground today is more important than ever before. As a country, we are facing an energy challenge unprecedented in its urgency, its stakes, its scope, and its opportunity. For 200 years, we have relied almost exclusively on high-carbon fossil fuels like coal and oil to power economic growth, raise living standards, and increase mobility. Now, maintaining the status quo is no longer a possibility—and how we choose to produce and consume energy today will change our country for either good or ill for many generations to come.

At the Center for American Progress, we’ve long advocated for building a new economy based on clean energy, innovation, and diversification. We believe that this transformation presents us with profound opportunities for economic growth and environmental protection: With clean energy, we not only have an opportunity to avoid a worst-case climate scenario; we have an opportunity to create millions of new jobs, deploy new sources of energy that are clean and domestically produced, and free ourselves from our dangerous dependence on foreign oil.

However, the way we build our clean energy future also matters. We’re looking to clean energy today because we recognize that high-carbon fossil fuels threaten our economy, our security, our health, and our cultural and environmental heritage. This means that going forward, we must be careful to develop clean energy in a way that infers all the protections that fossil fuels do not.

This is especially true when it comes to our public lands and waters—which will be as central to our clean energy future as they were to our fossil fuel past. The Department of Interior manages tens of millions of acres that have significant solar, wind, or geothermal potential. As I know you heard yesterday, our offshore exclusive economic zone, extending 200 miles out from our shores, has wind resources capable of producing more than four times our nation’s current electricity generation capacity, according to data compiled by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in 2010. As we begin to look to large-scale renewable generation, it is nearly impossible to imagine our clean energy future without tapping into the enormous clean energy potential of our public lands and public waters.

But I also think it’s important to remember that done right, clean energy development is central to protecting the lands themselves. Climate change poses an enormous threat to our public lands and resources. It threatens to upset our prairies, our deserts, our coasts, and our waters in ways that are hard to even imagine—and is already causing irreversible damage to some of these fragile ecosystems. Transitioning from carbon-intensive fuels to clean, pollution-free energy offers a way to soften the impact of climate change, and in so doing, presents a new stewardship strategy for protecting our lands and waters in the future.

So even as we look to expand clean energy production on public lands and in public waters, we must keep the day-to-day work of environmental protection in mind. Renewable energy projects can still disrupt the natural environment if put in the wrong places and if proper precautions are not taken—an outcome fundamentally at odds with the reasons we’re developing clean energy in the first place.

And because we’ve never built wind and solar projects of this size and scope before, we have to take special precautions to protect the lands on which they are built. With such large-scale developments, there’s the potential for huge payoff if everything goes right—and the potential for big problems if things goes wrong. It’s also important to recognize that some areas are just not appropriate for utility-scale renewable energy projects at all.

Every president since Teddy Roosevelt has known that there are great places in America that are worth preserving for future generations. Certainly, the president I worked for, Bill Clinton, understood that. He protected more land than any president since Teddy Roosevelt.

That’s why the administration and this department must take a strategic, coordinated, and balanced approach to clean energy development from the very start. These projects are new; and investors, conservationists, and community members all have important opinions on how they should be built. To get buy-in, to create greater certainty for stakeholders, and to start building these projects in earnest, we need to put in the work now to create a good development process that we can follow going forward.

The administration’s experiences with renewable siting so far have demonstrated why this is the case. For instance, this department took a first stab at moving clean energy forward through a “fast-track” permit approval system last year. To jumpstart renewable energy development on public lands, and to help projects qualify for Recovery Act funds before the program expired, Interior put 34 relatively “shovel ready” renewable energy projects on the fast-track for approval last year. Of these, nine solar and two wind projects were approved.

The fast-track process was perhaps driven by necessity; it was certainly a learning experience for everyone, and not necessarily a good experience for some. Several areas selected for development were very significant to the local communities, and to conservationists who were concerned about the projects’ impact on wildlife and water resources. Because groups like Defenders of Wildlife, National Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club, and The Wilderness Society engaged the Bureau of Land Management to reshape and revise the projects, acceptable outcomes were reached in just about all of these cases. But certain stakeholders still felt shorted by the fast-track process. And while permits were issued for nine projects, when and whether several get built is yet to be determined. In the end, it’s steel in the ground, not permits, that matter.

To its credit, this department took the criticisms of the fast-track process to heart and is updating and improving the permitting process substantially. They still have, in my view, some work to do. The new solar energy plan Secretaries Salazar and Chu announced in December encourages projects to be built where they make the most sense—where environmental conflicts are few, access to transmission is best, and supporting infrastructure exists or can be created at lower costs. Yet the preferred alternative in this plan would permit development on 22 million acres despite the fact that many of these acres support critical and fragile habitats and should not be developed.

A better alternative would be to direct utility-scale renewable development to solar zones in the six Western states. Such solar zones, where environmental analysis is done in advance and access to transmission exists or is planned, offer the highest renewable energy potential at the lowest risk. Focusing solar development within these zones could speed up the approval process by directing limited agency resources to places where projects could be built more quickly and improve coordination and collaboration amongst stakeholders. This approach would also sidestep the conflicts and delays that bogged down the last set of BLM-approved solar projects—making the zone system the most efficient and effective way to operate. And the 600,000 acres included in the zones give BLM more than enough room to meet their renewable energy production goals over the next several years.

This department is also fleshing out these smart development plans to give developers and government managers additional strategies for building clean energy responsibly. The guidelines the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Land Management issued on Tuesday demonstrate that this department has reached out to stakeholders and is trying to put the lessons learned to good use. Of course, today’s workshop is further evidence of the department’s interest in reaching out to stakeholders to learn from the past and improve the process going forward. These cooperative meetings are a good business practice, and I commend Secretary Salazar for continuing to take input and working with the stakeholders here today to get the process right.

The practical benefits of continuing to learn and work together to build a better strategy are tremendous. Selecting green light development areas will be a huge boon to developers and investors, who are looking for greater market certainty and a more straightforward regulatory process. Building a better permitting process will also provide much greater certainty to conservationists and community members who are rightly concerned about fragile ecosystems and water resources. And engaging all partners at the beginning can help make sure that utility-scale projects encounter far fewer challenges and obstacles throughout the permitting process.

I’ve talked some about what this department can do better, so I want to take a moment to applaud the Departments of Interior and Energy for something they’re doing right, right now. After years of especially onerous delays, the departments are finally pushing forward on offshore wind energy.

Last spring, Secretary Salazar gave the green light to what will become our nation’s first offshore wind energy facility: the Cape Wind project off the coast of Massachusetts. Cape Wind’s permitting process stretched out for more than a decade, making the project a poster child for our nation’s inability to capitalize on the wealth of clean, renewable energy lying just off our shores. Now, the Departments of Interior and Energy are moving to make sure that the Cape Wind permitting quagmire never happens again. On Monday, Secretaries Salazar and Chu came together again to issue a National Offshore Wind Strategy to accelerate wind development in four strategic zones off the mid-Atlantic coast. These zones had previously been considered for oil and gas development—so looking to wind development in these waters is a clear step in the right direction.

But if Cape Wind taught us anything, it’s that a wide variety of stakeholders also need to be involved in the offshore planning process. The Cape Wind developers certainly failed to look for input from the community and from conservationists at the beginning, and suffered extraordinary delays as a result. I know that as the secretaries begin to update and streamline the offshore permitting process, they are applying the lessons and methodologies of the work they’re doing on land to be sure that when it comes to our oceans only the right projects are built in the right places as well.

Of course, for offshore wind or for desert solar, having a good permitting and development process in place is crucially important, but only a piece of what it will take to build a clean energy future. As investors, community members, government managers, and environmental groups work together to build clean energy projects from the ground up, government needs to step in from the other side to give needed support to innovation and deployment through a variety of policy measures.

Even without comprehensive climate and energy legislation, there is still an enormous amount Congress and the administration can do to support your efforts. They can provide low-cost financing to get your projects up and moving, and to push down the cost of large-scale developments. They can make sure the tax code favors clean renewable energy rather than energy from polluting resources that threaten our public health. They can meet the president’s challenge in the State of the Union of producing 80 percent of our electricity by 2035 from clean resources, and do it the right way by following the lead of states and emphasizing renewable energy in that mix. They can right size regulation, keeping important environmental protections in place while streamlining the regulatory process for projects located in the right areas. They can invest in infrastructure—most importantly, the transmission infrastructure that will link renewable projects to the grid to provide clean, renewable power to homes and businesses across the country. That will take commitment across the government and across the country.

Despite the highly partisan environment in Congress, I believe that the president will make it a priority to move forward with these initiatives over the next two years. But as we look for support to come from the top, we have to continue to work together to put the right processes in place from below. Then, as we take up the 21st century energy transformation in earnest, we will be sure do so in a way that protects our 20th century achievements.

That’s why I’m so glad to be here with you at this workshop today. Again, Interior brought us together to sit at one table and discuss our regulatory, siting, and conservation concerns. This collaborative, cooperative approach is the best way to develop an effective renewable energy strategy going forward, and I look forward to seeing the outcome from these conversations. Together, I am confident that we can make substantial progress in the right direction.

Thank you.

– John Podesta is President and CEO of American Progress.

Comments

  1. Dr.A.Jagadeesh says:

February 12, 2011 at 4:05 pm

Excellent presentation on CLEAN ENERGY. I liked it.

Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India

CLIMATE PROGRESS

Charles Krauthammer: Global warming is a “religion”

Washington Post columnist catches Gore Derangement Syndrome

February 10, 2011

Look, if Godzilla appeared on the Mall this afternoon, Al Gore would say it’s global warming, because the spores in the South Atlantic Ocean, you know, were. Look, everything is, it’s a religion. In a religion, everything is explicable. In science, you can actually deny or falsify a proposition with evidence. You find me a single piece of evidence that Al Gore would ever admit would contradict global warming and I’ll be surprised.

That would be Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer, who like his colleague George Will, is a climate science denier. Of course, it is Krauthammer and Will whose denial can never be falsified because it isn’t actually based on science, but rather ideology (see Krauthammer: The real reason conservatives don’t believe in climate science and below).

The scientific literature is clear that indeed global warming will cause more snow — especially in warm years (see “An amazing, though clearly little-known, scientific fact: We get more snow storms in warm years!“). Indeed, the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) U.S. Climate Impacts Report from 2009 reviewed that literature and concluded:

Cold-season storm tracks are shifting northward and the strongest storms are likely to become stronger and more frequent.

But because Krauthammer doesn’t have the most basic understanding of climate science — more warming means more water vapor in the atmosphere available for more intense storms — he not only labels all of climate science a religion, he falls victim to the full Gore Derangement Syndrome that has infected conservatives like they’re in some sort of zombie apocalypse (see Stop the madness: Mark Kirk, a U.S. Senator, blames his climate flip-flop on … Al Gore’s personal life).

UPDATE: Some commenters seem to think January saw record-breaking cold for the entire nation or glob. Globally, NASA reports that January was tied for 10th warmest January on record (see here). January 2011 was more than 0.1 C warmer than the average January temperature in the 1990s.

And it wasn’t even the coldest U.S. January in 20 years — January 1994 was colder, according to NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center. Since record highs and record lows are set pretty much every day, regular readers know I prefer the statistical aggregation across the country, since it gets us beyond the oft-repeated point that you can’t pin any one daily record temperature in one city on global warming.

As CapitalClimate reported last week “preliminary data for January from the National Climatic Data Center indicate that, for the U.S. as a whole, record high temperatures actually exceeded record low temperatures.” The long-term statistical trend is unmistakeable (see “Record high temperatures far outpace record lows across U.S.“):

As NCAR explained, “Spurred by a warming climate, daily record high temperatures occurred twice as often as record lows over the last decade across the continental United States, new research shows. The ratio of record highs to lows is likely to increase dramatically in coming decades if emissions of greenhouse gases continue to climb.

CapitalClimate notes, “This is now the 10th month out of the last 13 since last January that heat records have exceeded cold ones. The ratio of high temperature records to low temperature records over that period is 2.18 to 1, and the cumulative excess of heat records is almost 7000.”

Back to Krauthammer.

Again, Gore’s statement comes directly from Dr. Kevin Trenberth, head of the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, who explained to Gore what he explained to me:

  • “There is a systematic influence on all of these weather events now-a-days because of the fact that there is this extra water vapor lurking around in the atmosphere than there used to be say 30 years ago. It’s about a 4% extra amount, it invigorates the storms, it provides plenty of moisture for these storms and it’s unfortunate that the public is not associating these with the fact that this is one manifestation of climate change.”
  • “We’ve seen other examples out in Seattle last year, and also of course the flooding in New England and the exceptionally heavy snow storms in Washington DC this year…. The same mechanism actually applies to the heavy snow, all you have to do is have the right weather conditions and for it to be cold enough and this precipitation just turns into snow. The very heavy snowfall amounts are actually related to the fact that the moisture that’s coming into that region is coming off of the tropical or sub tropical Atlantic where there’s abundant moisture and more moisture than there used to be: demonstrably more moisture than there used to be 30 years ago.”

Trenberth has pointed out that “Maximum amounts of snow occur close to freezing: any warmer it is rain and any cooler then the water holding capacity goes down (4% per deg F). Colder conditions mean less snow. In general in continental mid-lat climates one should expect more mid winter snow with warming, but a shorter season and less snow pack by about April.”

Again, let’s look at the results of an actual, detailed study of “the relationships of the storm frequencies to seasonal temperature and precipitation conditions” for the years “1901–2000 using data from 1222 stations across the United States.” The 2006 study, “Temporal and Spatial Characteristics of Snowstorms in the Contiguous United States“ (Changnon, Changnon, and Karl [of National Climatic Data Center], 2006) found we are seeing more northern snow storms and that we get more snow storms in warmer years:

The temporal distribution of snowstorms exhibited wide fluctuations during 1901–2000, with downward 100-yr trends in the lower Midwest, South, and West Coast. Upward trends occurred in the upper Midwest, East, and Northeast, and the national trend for 1901–2000 was upward, corresponding to trends in strong cyclonic activity…..

Results for the November–December period showed that most of the United States had experienced 61%– 80% of the storms in warmer-than-normal years. Assessment of the January–February temperature conditions again showed that most of the United States had 71%–80% of their snowstorms in warmer-than-normal years. In the March–April season 61%–80% of all snowstorms in the central and southern United States had occurred in warmer-than-normal years…. Thus, these comparative results reveal that a future with wetter and warmer winters, which is one outcome expected (National Assessment Synthesis Team 2001), will bring more snowstorms than in 1901–2000. Agee (1991) found that long-term warming trends in the United States were associated with increasing cyclonic activity in North America, further indicating that a warmer future climate will generate more winter storms.

Since conservatives can’t attack the science or the scientists on this, they know it is safer to attack Gore than to .

None of this is terribly surprising. We learned from a 2008 column that Krauthammer doesn’t know the first thing about science or scientists (see Krauthammer’s strange denier talk points, Part 1: Newton’s laws were “overthrown”). As someone who studied physics for 9 years, my favorite denier talking point is his strange version of the old claim that “scientists are flip floppers, constantly changing their theories.” He writes:

If Newton’s laws of motion could, after 200 years of unfailing experimental and experiential confirmation, be overthrown, it requires religious fervor to believe that global warming — infinitely more untested, complex and speculative — is a closed issue.

Now that was a strange, but illuminating, claim. Newton’s Laws of Motion are still taught in every high school, in every introductory physics class in college, and even in graduate physics classes. Indeed, they are widely used everywhere to explain and estimate wide varieties of motion. Heck, even NASA still uses them: “The motion of an aircraft through the air can be explained and described by physical principals discovered over 300 years ago by Sir Isaac Newton.”

But Professor Krauthammer said they were overthrown and that 200 years of experiments and observations were wrong. What gives? Why aren’t all our planes falling out of the sky?

Newton’s laws are “excellent approximations at the scales and speeds of everyday life” that, along with his law of gravitation and calculus techniques, “provided for the first time a unified quantitative explanation for a wide range of physical phenomena.”

They fail in very special cases — speeds close to the speed of light (where you need Einstein’s special theory of relativity), near large gravitational fields (where you need to Einstein’s general theory of relativity) or at a very, very small scales (where you need quantum mechanics). Interestingly, many of the laws of those three theories are written in the same form as Newton’s and they revert to Newton’s equations for everyday life (see an example in my original post).

So Krauthammer’s statement was absurdly misleading, since he was implying that “200 years of unfailing experimental and experiential confirmation” were “overthrown” — when they weren’t. So his implication that all the unfailing experimental and experiential confirmation of climate science would be overthrown was equally absurd. Indeed, anybody seeking to replace climate science will have to come up with a more comprehensive theory that still explains everything we know from existing climate science and observations.

It is Krauthammer whose beliefs can never be falsified because they aren’t actually scientific in nature, but rather ideological. The 2008 column, “Carbon Chastity: The First Commandment of the Church of the Environment,” makes that clear:

Yet on the basis of this speculation, environmental activists, attended by compliant scientists and opportunistic politicians, are advocating radical economic and social regulation. “The largest threat to freedom, democracy, the market economy and prosperity,” warns Czech President Vaclav Klaus, “is no longer socialism. It is, instead, the ambitious, arrogant, unscrupulous ideology of environmentalism.”

Do you know any serious scientists? “Compliant” is the last word one would ever use to describe them. Indeed, the best way to get famous in science is to be a skeptic, to disprove a widely held belief.

This paragraph restates the heart of why conservatives hate climate science. It requires action by government, which, for conservatives, is the same as socialism (again, except when it comes to government action on behalf of the nuclear and fossil fuel industries, which is good ‘ol capitalism). Krauthammer continues:

Environmentalists are Gaia’s priests, instructing us in her proper service and casting out those who refuse to genuflect…. And having proclaimed the ultimate commandment — carbon chastity — they are preparing the supporting canonical legislation that will tell you how much you can travel, what kind of light you will read by, and at what temperature you may set your bedroom thermostat….

There’s no greater social power than the power to ration. And, other than rationing food, there is no greater instrument of social control than rationing energy, the currency of just about everything one does and uses in an advanced society.

Here is where the conservatives have it backwards. The solution to global warming — the strategy needed to avoid 450 ppm — does not require rationing food or energy. It primarily requires a government-led strategy to aggressively deploy clean energy technologies (see The full global warming solution: How the world can stabilize at 350 to 450 ppm). That strategy preserves the energy abundance that has made modern civilization possible.

But if we hold off today on government action that focuses for several decades on preventing catastrophe, we will almost guarantee the need for extreme and intrusive government action in the post-2030 era, perhaps lasting centuries. Only Big Government–which conservatives say they don’t want–can relocate millions of citizens, build massive levees, ration crucial resources like water and arable land, mandate harsh and rapid reductions in certain kinds of energy–all of which will be inevitable if we don’t act now (see “Real adaptation is as politically tough as real mitigation, but much more expensive and not as effective in reducing future misery“).

Ironically, Krauthammer is afraid of climate strategies that are “economically ruinous and socially destructive,” and says the greatest form of rationing is food rationing.

If we continue to follow the talk-much do-little climate strategy of conservatives, then we are all but certain to end up at 800 to 1000 ppm by century’s end, and that would be economically ruinous and socially destructive (see “Royal Society special issue details ‘hellish vision’ of 7°F (4°C) world — which we may face in the 2060s!” and “A stunning year in climate science reveals that human civilization is on the precipice“). And long before then, with peak oil prices that we haven’t prepared for, hundreds of millions more people to feed and increasing desertification, drought, and loss of inland glaciers, we will be rationing food. And water. Heck many parts of the world are getting close to food rationing already!

The scarcity and deprivation of 1000 ppm could last for generation upon generation (see NOAA stunner: Climate change “largely irreversible for 1000 years,” with permanent Dust Bowls in Southwest and around the globe).

Conservatives can’t stop 1000 ppm by their anti-science anti-government rhetoric. But they can prevent progressives and moderates from stopping 1000 ppm by continuing to block aggressive action to reduce CO2 emissions. How ironic — and tragic — it would be if conservates’ short-term quest to avoid a bigger government led to a permamently huge government. Talk about an inconvenient truth

Comments

  1. Dr.A.Jagadeesh says:

February 12, 2011 at 4:18 pm

“Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction”

-Blaise Pascal

Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India

CLIMATE PROGRESS

Zipcar, sharing, and swapping

February 12, 2011

There’s an alternative model of consumption that greatly reduces waste and excess. It’s called “collaborative consumption,” and it takes advantage of sharing, swapping, and bartering to provide people with the items they need—without all the clutter of items people buy and then use only a few times

Rachel Botsman and Roo Rogers thoroughly developed the concept in their book, “What’s Mine Is Yours: How Collaborative Consumption is Changing the Way We Live.” The book documents the increasing popularity of the collaborative consumption model and the ways its growth will fundamentally change the workings of our economy.

Collaborative consumption offers consumers the opportunity to borrow items at a lower cost than purchasing them. This helps prevent the accumulation of unwanted and unnecessary items in the home. But best of all, collaborative consumption is green. Purchasing sustainably produced goods is certainly important, but collaborative consumption provides a model that circumvents the excess production of items.

Borrowing and lending items allow consumers to obtain products for the length of time they need them without necessitating the resource-robbing hyperproduction of goods that has been responsible for environmental degradation around the world. Instead, producers can focus on creating a fewer number of higher-quality, sustainably constructed goods. A decrease in production may lead to an increase in cost, but the price paid by end-users would still be less because they no longer have to foot the entire bill for the product being borrowed.

This model has actually been around for quite some time. Libraries and movie rental stores practice collaborative consumption. But the advent of the internet—and more specifically, social networking sites—has created new and exciting opportunities for people around the world to lend, borrow, trade, or rent a huge variety of items including clothes, media, tools, appliances, and transportation.

Chances are you’ve heard of a number of companies and networks that deal with collaborative consumption. Zipcar and Smartbike offer urban dwellers around the country the mobility of cars and bikes, respectively, for less than the cost of ownership. Websites like Couchsurfing provide a network for travelers to find people willing to host them at a highly reduced cost or even for free. Internet giants Craigslist and Ebay serve as portals for people to redistribute the unwanted products they may have lying around their house. And if you’re looking for something that you can’t find with any of those companies, Botsman and Rogers have compiled a great list of collaborative consumption organizations on their website.

The opportunities are plentiful and new ventures are constantly being created. So the next time you think you need to buy something, consider borrowing first. You’ll save money, you’ll save space, and perhaps best of all, you’ll help save the planet. And who knows? You may make some new friends in the process.

Comments

1. Dr.A.Jagadeesh says:

February 12, 2011 at 4:01 pm

The greatest joy in life is “SHARING”.

Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India

CLIMATE PROGRESS

An insider’s view of climate science, politics, and solutions
Temperatures of North Atlantic “are unprecedented over the past 2000 years and are presumably linked to the Arctic amplification of global warming” — Science
The 3.5°F warming of Fram Strait water over the past century is "not just the latest in a series of natural multidecadal oscillations."
January 27, 2011
Study after study finds recent warming is unprecedented in magnitude and speed and cause. The anti-science crowd keeps trying to debunk one or two old Hockey Sticks, but new ones crop up faster than a speeding puck.
Science just published a new one, “Enhanced Modern Heat Transfer to the Arctic by Warm Atlantic Water” (subs. req’d), news release here, “Warming North Atlantic water tied to heating Arctic, according to new study.”
I have pulled out the key graph — and it is one heck of a Hockey Stick. It is derived from “planktic foraminifers in a sediment core”:
Temperature reconstructions of upper Atlantic Water in the eastern Fram Strait over the past ~2100 years




Thin lines are raw data, bold lines are three-point running means…. (C) Summer temperatures at 50-m water depth (red)…. Gray bars mark averages until 1835 CE and 1890 to 2007 CE. Blue line is the normalized Atlantic Water core temperature (AWCT) record … from the Arctic Ocean (1895 to 2002; 6-year averages)…. (D) Summer temperatures (purple) [calculated with a different method]
This astonishing warming in the past century is clearly not, as the anti-science crowd likes to say, some sort of recovery from the so-called Little Ice Age (see “A detailed look at the Little Ice Age“), which, in any case, is barely noticeable in this data. The lead author, Robert Spielhagen of the Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences said, “Such a warming of the Atlantic water in the Fram Strait is significantly different from all climate variations in the last 2,000 years.” The fact is, over 90% of human-caused warming is going into the oceans — and it is melting ice whereever it goes (see “Deep ocean heat is rapidly melting Antarctic ice“).


Air temperatures in Greenland have risen roughly 7 degrees F in the past several decades, thought to be due primarily to an increase in Earth’s greenhouse gases, according to CU-Boulder scientists.
“We must assume that the accelerated decrease of the Arctic sea ice cover and the warming of the ocean and atmosphere of the Arctic measured in recent decades are in part related to an increased heat transfer from the Atlantic,” said Spielhagen.
Here are the abstract and conclusion:
The Arctic is responding more rapidly to global warming than most other areas on our planet. Northward-flowing Atlantic Water [AW] is the major means of heat advection toward the Arctic and strongly affects the sea ice distribution. Records of its natural variability are critical for the understanding of feedback mechanisms and the future of the Arctic climate system, but continuous historical records reach back only ~150 years. Here, we present a multidecadal-scale record of ocean temperature variations during the past 2000 years, derived from marine sediments off Western Svalbard (79°N). We find that early–21st-century temperatures of Atlantic Water entering the Arctic Ocean are unprecedented over the past 2000 years and are presumably linked to the Arctic amplification of global warming….
Although we cannot quantify from our data the variability of previous AW inflow to the Arctic by volume, our temperature data series and the above observational link suggest that the modern warm AW inflow (averaged over two to three decades) is anomalous and unique in the past 2000 years and not just the latest in a series of natural multidecadal oscillations. Both effects—a temperature rise as well as a volume transport increase—introduce a larger heat input into the Arctic Ocean. Although there is no direct contact of the AAWL [Arctic Atlantic Water Layer] with the ocean surface in the Arctic, such an increased heat input has far-reaching consequences. The strong AW warming event in the Arctic Ocean in the 1990s caused a shoaling of the AW core and an enhanced heat flux to the surface , concurrent with decreasing sea ice. Recent oceanographic data from the Laptev Sea continental margin indicate the impact of warm AW-related water masses on the shallow (<50>80-year time series. The data also provide evidence for a significant heat flux to the overlying shelf waters. Even without any modification of the vertical heat transfer processes, the enhanced temperature contrast between the AW and the surface sea water freezing point (increased from ~5 to 7 K as identified here) leads to an increase in the vertical heat flux of ~40%. Any positive-feedback mechanism will magnify the effect of this flux increase on the ice cover. Complementing the strong feedback between ice and atmospheric temperatures, warming of the AW layer, unprecedented in the past 2000 years, is most likely another key element in the transition toward a future ice-free Arctic Ocean.
In September, a first-of-its-kind analysis by an international team of 18 top scientists found “less ice covers the Arctic today than at any time in recent geologic history” and this ice loss is “unexplainable by any of the known natural variabilities.”
In November, Rear Admiral David Titley, the Oceanographer of the Navy and the Director of Navy’s Task Force Climate Change told Congress, “the volume of ice as of last September has never been lower…in the last several thousand years.”
Arctic sea ice is in the last legs of its death spiral.
Using different data proxies for Arctic temperature itself (rather than the water entering the Arctic), the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), came to a roughly similar conclusion two years ago (see Human-caused Arctic warming overtakes 2,000 years of natural cooling, “seminal” study finds):
Arctic temperatures in the 1990s reached their warmest level of any decade in at least 2,000 years, new research indicates. The study, which incorporates geologic records and computer simulations, provides new evidence that the Arctic would be cooling if not for greenhouse gas emissions that are overpowering natural climate patterns.

As with a pride of lions, and a delusion of disinformers, perhaps the grouping should get its own name, like “a team of hockey sticks” (see “The Curious Case of the Hockey Stick that Didn’t Disappear“).
1. GRL: “We conclude that the 20th century warming of the incoming intermediate North Atlantic water has had no equivalent during the last thousand years.“
2. JGR: “The last decades of the past millennium are characterized again by warm temperatures that seem to be unprecedented in the context of the last 1600 years.”
3. The Geophysical Research Letters paper, “Twentieth century warming in deep waters of the Gulf of St. Lawrence: A unique feature of the last millennium” concludes: “irrespective of the precise mechanisms responsible for the temperature variations reconstructed from core MD99‐2220, it is unquestionable that the last century has been marked there by a warming trend having no equivalent over the last millennium.”
The bottom line is that The rate of human-driven warming in the last century has exceeded the rate of the underlying natural trend by more than a factor of 10, possibly much more. And warming this century on our current path of unrestricted greenhouse gas emissions is projected to cause a rate of warming that is another factor of 5 or more greater than that of the last century. We are punching the climate beast — and she ain’t happy about it!


Responses to “Temperatures of North Atlantic “are unprecedented over the past 2000 years and are presumably linked to the Arctic amplification of global warming” — Science”
1. Dr.A.Jagadeesh says:
February 2, 2011 at 11:11 am
Excellent article.
While global warming is the cause,climate change is the effect.
Adaptation to global warming and climate change is a response to climate change that seeks to reduce the vulnerability of natural and human systems to climate change effects. Even if emissions are stabilized relatively soon, climate change and its effects will last many years, and adaptation will be necessary. Climate change adaptation is especially important in developing countries since those countries are predicted to bear the brunt of the effects of climate change. That is, the capacity and potential for humans to adapt (called adaptive capacity) is unevenly distributed across different regions and populations, and developing countries generally have less capacity to adapt (Schneider et al., 2007). Adaptive capacity is closely linked to social and economic development (IPCC, 2007). The economic costs of adaptation to climate change are likely to cost billions of dollars annually for the next several decades, though the amount of money needed is unknown. Adaptation will be more difficult for larger magnitudes and higher rates of climate change.
Another policy response to climate change, known as climate change mitigation(Verbruggen, 2007). is to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions or enhance the removal of these gases from the atmosphere (enhancing carbon sinks). Even the most effective reductions in emissions, however, would not prevent further climate change impacts, making the need for adaptation unavoidable (Klein et al., 2007). In a literature assessment, Klein et al. (2007) assessed options for adaptation. They concluded, with very high confidence, that in the absence of mitigation efforts, the effects of climate change would reach such a magnitude as to make adaptation impossible for some natural systems, e.g., ecosystems. For human systems, the economic and social costs of unmitigated climate change would be very high.
Because of the current and projected climate disruption precipitated by high levels of greenhouse gas emissions by the industrialized nations, adaptation is a necessary strategy at all scales to complement climate change mitigation efforts because we cannot be sure that all climate change can be mitigated. And indeed the odds are quite high that in the long run more warming is inevitable, given the high level of GHGs in the atmosphere, and the (several decade) delay between emissions and impact.
Adaptation has the potential to reduce adverse impacts of climate change and to enhance beneficial impacts, but will incur costs and will not prevent all damages. Extremes, variability, and rates of change are all key features in addressing vulnerability and adaptation to climate
Human and natural systems will to some degree adapt autonomously to climate change. Planned adaptation can supplement autonomous adaptation, though there are more options and greater possibility for offering incentives in the case of adaptation of human systems than in the case of adaptation to protect natural systems.
Scheraga and Grambsch identify 9 fundamental principles to be considered when designing adaptation policy.
1. The effects of climate change vary by region.
2. The effects of climate change may vary across demographic groups.
3. Climate change poses both risks and opportunities.
4. The effects of climate change must be considered in the context of multiple stressors and factors, which may be as important to the design of adaptive responses as the sensitivity of the change.
5. Adaptation comes at a cost.
6. Adaptive responses vary in effectiveness, as demonstrated by current efforts to cope with climate variability.
7. The systemic nature of climate impacts complicates the development of adaptation policy.
8. Maladaptation can result in negative effects that are as serious as the climate-induced effects that are being avoided.
9. Many opportunities for adaptation make sense whether or not the effects of climate change are realized.(Source: Wikipedia).
Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India

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