Climate talks mean life or death for island states
December 9, 2011 06:46 AM - Agnieszka Flak, Reuters, DURBAN
So while climate change delegates haggle over deadlines, binding targets and finance, some of the world's poorest states are warning that rising sea levels and storms will sweep them away unless the world agrees to tackle global warning. "We will be one of the first countries to go under water," said Foua Toloa, a senior politician on Tokelau, an island half-way between Hawaii and New Zealand that is no more than five meters above sea-level. "We are a small and fragile nation very susceptible to environment and climate developments." Grenada's Foreign Minister Karl Hood, chairman of the 43-nation Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), whose members are in the frontline of climate change, was even more blunt: "If we don't act now, some of us will die." Many low lying nations can already calculate the cost of rising greenhouse gas emissions in lives lost, economies shattered and landscapes transformed. "By 2025, rising sea levels could lead to the displacement of at least 10 percent of the population", Comores Vice President Fouad Mohadji told delegates at climate change talks in the South African port city of Durban.
NJ Governor Christie's Energy Master Plan
December 8, 2011 10:12 AM - David A Gabel, ENN
The 138 page document has been released by the New Jersey Governor's Office that is a master plan on energy for the state. This final version is largely the same as the draft document released last summer, save for a few changes. It lays out the direction for how the state will meet its energy demands over the next decade. The point that stands out is the goal for renewable energy, which has been lowered to 22.5 percent by 2021 as compared to the goal of 30 percent by the previous administration. The plan sets an overall goal of obtaining 70 percent of electricity from clean energy sources by 2050, which would include nuclear, natural gas, and hydroelectric.
Chevrolet Carbon Story 4 Rockingham County Landfill
December 7, 2011 02:12 PM - Roger Greenway, ENN
Americans create over 200 million tons of trash each year. As garbage in landfills decomposes, it creates a gas that is half methane (the primary component of natural gas), which has 21 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide. Instead of letting the gas escape into the air, landfill gas projects collect the gas and destroy it through either flaring, or using the gas to power electric generators or boilers. Thus garbage is turned into energy. As part of its Carbon Initiative Program, Chevrolet is supporting the Rockingham County (Virginia) Landfill’s methane capture and use program. Rockingham County Landfill collects the methane from the landfill and pipes it to Rockingham (Virginia) Memorial Hospital (RMH) where it will fuel boilers that produce steam, heat and electricity for the Hospital’s use. RMH is a LEED certified facility and one of the first hospitals to utilize landfill gas for the vast majority of their fuel needs. Destroying landfill gasses helps to reduce odors and other hazards associated with Landfill Gas emissions, and it helps prevent methane from migrating into the atmosphere and contributing to local smog and global climate change. Over the next few years, Chevrolet will be investing in projects that will help reduce up to 8 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Every carbon-reducing project Chevrolet invests in will be based in the United States, and each will be focused in one of three areas: renewable energy, energy efficiency programs, and forestry (including conservation). Chevrolet has chosen projects they believe will make a lasting difference in communities across the country. Progress is already underway, and Chevrolet estimates it will take up to five years to achieve the initial goal. There's still a lot of work to be done, but every project is a step in the right direction.
Amazon forest loss lowest in more than 20 years
December 7, 2011 07:19 AM - Reuters, Brasilia
Deforestation in Brazil's Amazon region fell to its lowest in 23 years in the year through July, the government said Monday, attributing the drop to its tougher stance against illegal logging. Destruction of the Brazilian portion of the world's largest rain forest dropped 11 percent to 6,238 square km (2,400 square miles) over the 12-month period, satellite data from Brazil's National Institute for Space Research showed. That is less than a quarter of the forest area that was destroyed in 2004, when clear-cutting by farmers expanding their cattle and soy operations reached a recent peak. Brazil has stepped up its monitoring and enforcement policies in the Amazon in recent years but the improvement has partly been driven by slower global economic growth that has reduced demand and prices for the country's farm produce.
A Green Military: Saving More than Energy
December 6, 2011 09:04 AM - Debra Atlas, Sierra Club Green Home
The Pentagon says that it aims to "develop more energy-efficient weapons, embrace non-oil energy sources, and demand more energy-conscious behavior from the troops." This move towards energy efficiency in all the branches of the military was mandated by congressional directives and presidential orders, many dating to former President George W. Bush and expanded on by President Barack Obama.
Pipeline deal could open up Alaskan oil
December 6, 2011 07:09 AM - Reuters
Two U.S. agencies have reached an agreement with ConocoPhillips on a plan in Alaska that could let the company be the first to drill for crude and gas in a national oil reserve in the state, the Interior Department said on Monday. The agreement, which was with the company, the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, confirms that construction of a pipeline and bridge over the Colville River to the Alpine development known as CD-5 is acceptable, as long as environmental mitigations and other changes are outlined in the permit application. The development is in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, which is managed by the Interior Department. The Army Corps of Engineers is expected to carry out the remaining steps associated with the permit review in coming weeks. Lisa Murkowski, a U.S. senator from Alaska, said the agreement could begin to open up the NPR-A to crude and national gas production. The reserve is estimated to contain more than 1 billion barrels of technically recoverable oil.
Heavy Beijing smog causes flight delays, cancellations
December 5, 2011 06:39 AM - Reuters, BEIJING
A heavy fog blanketed parts of northern China on Monday, delaying flights and causing hundreds of cancellations, while smog hung in a dark haze over Beijing. As of 2 p.m. (0600 GMT), 126 flights had been delayed by an hour or longer and 207 were cancelled at Beijing, the world's second-busiest airport, Xinhua news agency said. The Beijing sky was so dark that many drivers kept their headlights on throughout the day, giving the city an eery, netherworld feeling. "Such super foggy weather looks like the end of the world," commented one microblogger using the name David Jiaoxiaomao. China's national weather forecaster said the fog was likely to persist across parts of China to Wednesday, causing more transport disruptions. By then, a cold front would begin dispersing the fog, said the forecaster, according to Xinhua. Highways across the northern provinces of Shandong and Hebei were also closed.
EPA proposes less costly pollution rule on boilers
December 3, 2011 08:47 AM - Timothy Gardner, Reuters, Washington, DC
The U.S. environmental regulator said on Friday it slashed the cost of proposed pollution rules on industrial boilers by $1.5 billion year by allowing some plants to fine tune existing equipment or burn cleaner fuels. The Environmental Protection Agency, under pressure from Republicans and industrial groups who accuse it of pushing for clean air rules that will cost companies with billions of dollars, has been looking for ways to ease costs and increase flexibility. The EPA on Friday proposed rules it says are more flexible than ones the agency introduced in 2010. The rules allow some plants to do maintenance on equipment, avoiding costs from adding new controls or replacing boilers. More than 99 percent of the country's boilers, from heavy industry to small businesses and universities, are either clean enough and not subject to the new rules, or will only need to do tune ups and maintenance to comply. The agency said health benefits from reduced pollution would be maintained. "Gathering the latest and best technical information and real-world data has helped us find ... the sweet spot that's affordable, practical regulations that provide the vital and long overdue health benefits Americans demand and deserve," Gina McCarthy, the EPA assistant administrator for air, told reporters in a teleconference.
The Durban Climate Talks
December 1, 2011 09:59 AM - David A Gabel, ENN
Global climate discussions have moved from Cancun to Copenhagen, and now to Durban, South Africa. They began last Monday in the hopes of finding a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, the global mandate that set targets for cutting carbon emissions. Kyoto was never ratified by the United States, the world's leading carbon emitter, and did not apply to the large growing Asian economies of China and India. Durban began amid downplayed expectations that a worldwide agreement would take place, especially following the disappointing climate talks in Copenhagen. This may be a blessing in disguise in that it will force climate activists to pursue a different strategy. Rather than a top-down approach, some are now calling for local policies that would create incremental change.
US considering using toxic fungi in war on drugs
December 1, 2011 06:28 AM - Anna Yukhananov, Reuters, WASHINGTON
Using fungi to kill coca and other illegal drug crops would be a risky tactic, as there is not enough data about how to control these killer molds and what effect they could have on people and the environment, according to a U.S. study released Wednesday. The U.S. Congress asked scientists to look into whether some types of fungi, called mycoherbicides, could stem the flow of illicit drugs into the United States by killing the plants used to make cocaine, marijuana and opium. But scientists from the National Research Council, one of the national academies of science that advises U.S. policymakers, said evidence about the fungi was sketchy and incomplete. "There are too many unresolved questions regarding efficacy -- whether they'll really perform in real-time conditions, and whether they'll be safe to non-target plants," said Raghavan Charudattan, chairman of the committee that prepared the report and professor emeritus in the University of Florida's department of plant pathology. "We did not see any data where a high level of control could be achieved," he said.