The EU Takes Their Emissions Seriously

“The report is clear: there really is no plan B for climate change. There is only plan A: collective action to reduce emissions now.”
—Connie Hedegaard

China and the U.S. are the two largest emitters of greenhouse gases on the planet. But what will make them decide to try to cut back those emissions? Maybe the challenge offered by European Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard will make a difference.

Hedegaard put the challenge this way:

… since we need first movers to set a plan into motion, we in Europe will adopt an ambitious 2030 target later this year. Now the question is: when will YOU, the big emitters, do the same? The more you wait, the more it will cost. The more you wait, the more difficult it will become.

The basis for the challenge comes from the recent IPCC report, and the UN’s goal of preventing global warming from passing two degrees Celsius which the authors of the report consider completely attainable if we as a civilization can manage to change the ways we generate and use our energy. Continue reading

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Northern Gateway: Rejected by the People

“The people have spoken. That’s what we wanted—it’s a democratic process”
—Joanne Monaghan, Mayor of Kitimat, British Columbia

Keystone XL isn’t the only pipeline we stress about in Canada, but it gets most of the press because of its course through the U.S., leading to the requirement that President Obama and the State Department need to approve it. But there are other proposed pipelines we shouldn’t forget about, and one in British Columbia (B.C.) is getting some attention as well: Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline is a 731-mile twin pipeline project intended to carry tar sands oil from Alberta to the west coast.

This past weekend, citizens living in Kitimat, B.C.—the last stop of the pipeline’s planned route—voted no to its construction. Armed with that information, Kitimat’s city councillors will weigh in on the project at their next council meeting.

Fifty eight percent of Kitimat’s residents voted no to the pipeline, despite that fact that a federal review panel gave it conditional approval last December—as long as Enbridge meets 209 conditions. (A tall order: I wrote about the Northern Gateway project last month, pointing out many experts believe it can never be as safe as Enbridge claims it will be.) Although many of the conditions pertain to the environment, none of them consider climate change or carbon pollution. Continue reading

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IPCC AR5 Working Group III Report: Time is Ticking….

This past week in Berlin, the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was released. Working Group III was assigned the task of looking into the mitigation of global warming and climate change, and has provided their summary of where our world is heading on its current path. It’s all part of the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report (AR5). Working Group I reported late last year, and Working Group II released its report just last month.

According to the findings, our world is not making enough progress despite increasing its efforts to reduce emissions. The concentration of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases continues to climb in the atmosphere, reaching unprecedented levels that haven’t existed in at least 800,000 years. The report indicates that only major institutional and technological change will keep us below the level of two degrees Celsius warming, widely accepted as a reasonably safe threshold to avoid a true climate crisis.

That level equates to keeping our carbon dioxide concentration below 450 parts per million. To do that we’ll have to increase our use of low-carbon sources of energy (such as renewables and nuclear power) by three to four times what we’re already doing. Other strategies can help as well including improved energy efficiency and carbon capture and storage, but renewable sources of energy are our best bet. Continue reading

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“Years of Living Dangerously” Starts Sunday

“I’ve seen a hundreds shows on climate change and I’ve seen all the graphs and charts…. But really in my experience, this is the first time it is about people.”
Carol Browner, former EPA Administrator

The television network Showtime is beginning a nine-part series called “Years of Living Dangerously.” It starts this Sunday, April 13th at 10 p.m. (ET and PT). However, the first episode is already available online and you can watch it below in its entirety. The series is produced by James Cameron, part-time actor but full-time Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jerry Weintraub, and some former producers from “60 Minutes” which should help ensure the integrity of quality of the programs.

In a time when we’re having difficulty convincing some people that this issue is important and needs to be tackled now rather than left for future generations to contend with, hopefully this series will help make a difference.

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Carbon Dioxide Concentration Reaches Record Levels

“The underlying significance of all this is that the rate of carbon dioxide increase is higher than ever at the moment.”
—Pieter Tans

Earlier this week a record was broken as our atmosphere’s concentration of carbon dioxide surpassed 402 parts per million (ppm), reaching 402.20 on April 7. That’s higher than it’s ever been as far back as we have records for, including ice core samples dating back 800,000 years.

Last May, carbon dioxide levels reached 400 ppm for the first time. Sadly, we can’t be surprised that we’ve passed that point even further, given that we continue to add about 35 billion tons of carbon dioxide in emissions annually as a species. Since we’ve reached this point and it’s only April, don’t be surprised if it climbs even further next month.

When Roger Revelle and Charles Keeling began to measure carbon dioxide levels back in 1958 on Mauna Loa in Hawaii, concentrations were a mere 313 ppm. Steadily climbing ever since at a rate of almost two ppm per year, this famous graph is now known as the “Keeling Curve.”

The Scripps Institution of Oceanography which maintains the Mauna Loa measurements recorded 402.20 ppm on Monday, while the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) measured slightly lower at 402.11 ppm. Regardless of such a minor difference, both groups have confirmed that levels have been 400 ppm or higher, and we know that won’t be dropping until vegetation in North America kicks photosynthesis into high gear, so likely well into May. Continue reading

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