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Archive for February, 2011

Earthgauge news for the week of February 28

February 27, 2011 Leave a comment

Wind-Powered Car Succeeds In Hard Australian Voyage – Reuters
A car powered primarily by wind and kites has made it across a vast swathe of Australia, enduring searing heat and freezing cold along the way — and all for roughly $10 Australian.

Canada escalates appeal on EU seal ban – CBC News
Canada is taking its fight against a European ban on seal products to a new level, the government said Friday. Federal Fisheries Minister Gail Shea said in Ottawa that the government is following through with its promise to take formal action at the World Trade Organization over the European Union’s ban on seal products.

Growing number of farm animals spawn new diseases – msnbc.com
A growing number of livestock, such as cows and pigs, are fueling new animal epidemics worldwide and posing more severe problems in developing countries as it threatens their food security, according to a report released on Friday.

Australia to introduce carbon tax – The Australian
Australia’s Labor-led government plans to introduce a fixed carbon price from July 1, 2012 with a compensation scheme for some industries, the Australian newspaper reported on Saturday, a proposal its key coalition ally had earlier rejected.

Climate Change Keenly Felt In Alaska’s National Parks – Reuters
Thawing permafrost is triggering mudslides onto a key road traveled by busloads of sightseers. Tall bushes newly sprouted on the tundra are blocking panoramic views. And glaciers are receding from convenient viewing areas, while their rapid summer melt poses new flood risks.

How Green School Buildings Help Children Grow – The Tyee
New avenues of research into the effects of school buildings on human health and productivity are producing evidence that greener schools could be producing healthier, more productive and more environmentally aware students.

Obama 2012 budget provides $8 billion for clean energy: Scientific American
President Barack Obama proposed on Monday boosting funds for clean energy research and deployment in his 2012 budget by slashing subsidies for fossil fuels such as oil, gas and coal. Where is Canada’s clean energy budget? Oh yeah, we’ve got the tar sands instead.

Japan suspends annual whale hunt – CNN
Japan has suspended its annual Antarctic whale hunt because an anti-whaling group is tailing its ship, a government official said Wednesday.

The hidden cost of coal – Grist
Our economy gone mad: The United States’ reliance on coal to generate almost half of its electricity, costs the economy about $345 billion a year in hidden expenses not borne by miners or utilities, including health problems in mining communities and pollution around power plants, a study found.

Alberta Backs C$5 Billion Oil Sands Refinery Plan – Reuters
Meanwhile, tar sands expansion continues. The Alberta government is backing construction of a C$5 billion bitumen refinery planned by Canadian Natural Resources Ltd and North West Upgrading Inc as it seeks to develop energy-processing facilities in the province and create jobs.

Climate change and extreme flooding linked by new evidence – guardian.co.uk
A paper, by Seung-Ki Min and others, shows that rising concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have caused an intensification of heavy rainfall events over some two-thirds of the weather stations on land in the northern hemisphere. The climate models appear to have underestimated the contribution of global warming on extreme rainfall: it’s worse than we thought it would be.

Trillions in Global Investments at Risk Due to Climate Change – ICTSD
Investors could risk losing trillions of dollars due to the effects of climate change according to a  new report on long term investments and portfolio risk. The report outlines the many possible factors related to climate change that pose a threat to the global economics.

The California Carbon Rush (Hold the Eureka) – Vancouver Sun
The California Carbon Rush officially gets underway next year. Power plants, factories and other companies will have to obtain an “allowance” permit for every ton of carbon dioxide they produce. Allowances will be sold at state auctions and on an open market.

EU to ban toxic chemicals in household plastics: Scientific American
The European Union will ban six toxic chemicals within three to five years, three of which are commonly used in plastic household items.

Categories: News

The energy [r]evolution has begun

February 22, 2011 Leave a comment

The energy [r]evolution has begun | Grist.

 

“The most recently published version of the global energy [r]evolution shows that saving the climate is still within our reach. But politicians need to stop talking and start leading, so engineers and workers can finally get building.

“If we also get smart about the way we use energy and stop wasting it, we will be half way to ensuring our green supplies cover our needs. Exploitation of all technical potential for electrical efficiency (home insulation, consumer good efficiency standards), structural changes in the way energy is produced (moving away from large centralized power stations towards a decentralized energy system), and energy efficient transport modes (mass update of public transport systems, higher efficiency cars and trucks) are all needed.

“The kind of radical change we need in our energy system to tackle climate change might be a gargantuan challenge, but it’s nothing the renewable energy industry can’t deliver. We can do it. The question is whether our politicians and policymakers will.”

 

Greening our commercial buildings

February 19, 2011 Leave a comment

Soaking Up the Sun to Squeeze Energy Use to Zero – NYTimes.com.

Great article from the Times. Did you know commercial buildings use 18% of total energy consumed in the U.S. each year? This article describes innovation at its best. An affordable solution that will save both money and energy. Here’s an excerpt:

Most office buildings are divorced, in a way, from their surroundings. The energy lab’s Research Support Facility building is more like a mirror, or perhaps a sponge, to its surroundings. From the light-bending window louvers that cast rays up into the interior office spaces, to the giant concrete maze in the sub-basement for holding and storing radiant heat, every day is completely different.

The backdrop to everything here is that office buildings are, to people like Mr. Blocher, the unpicked fruit of energy conservation. Commercial buildings use about 18 percent of the nation’s total energy each year, and many of those buildings, especially in years past, were designed with barely a thought to energy savings, let alone zero net use.

Merchants of Doubt (part 2)

February 19, 2011 Leave a comment

Speech by Prof Naomi Oreskes at McGill University on her book “Merchants of Doubt”

I have written previously about the excellent new book called Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway. I recently had the good fortune of hearing Professor Oreskes speak about her book at McGill University. Hers is a truly compelling, remarkable and shocking story of deliberate scientific malfeasance with many of the same players who provided the scientific cover on behalf of tobacco companies in the 1960s and 70s now plying their trade in the service of oil and gas companies who are fighting regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Why do they do it? Is it simply for the money? As Professor Oreskes explains in her speech, the truth about those scientists who fight to deny the reality of human-caused global warming is about much more than money. They are fighting instead for a deeply-held ideological conviction in the supremacy of free markets and neo-liberalism.

To some, environmentalism and its attendant increase in regulations is the first step on the slippery slope to socialism. Although these scientists may well know that the science of global warming is real and virtually indisputable, a warming planet is no match for the greater evil that is the gradual erosion of economic freedoms that they believe would be bound to accompany any serious attempt to reduce greenhouse gases. Increasing regulations means more market restrictions and, to their logic, the inexorable march toward socialism.

A spurious hypothesis you say? Click the audio player above and listen to her speech. You may be surprised by what you hear. For anyone involved in the struggle to wean ourselves off fossil fuels and confront the gravely serious problem of global warming, this book is a must read.

Read more…

Earthgauge news for the week of Feb 13

February 13, 2011 Leave a comment

Wade Davis’s Crusade to Preserve the Wild Stikine – Tyee
The famous anthropologist speaks about how the Red Chris Mine project is part of a potential transformation of a B.C. natural treasure, the Upper Stikine River watershed.

Researchers warn Arctic fishing under-reported – Scientific American
The amount of fish caught in the Arctic has been dramatically under-reported for decades, making the northern ocean environment appear far more pristine than it really is, according to a new study.

Plans for 150 coal plants scrapped: Sierra Club – Reuters
Purdue University’s decision to cancel plans for a new coal-fired plant at its Indiana campus brings the total number of abandoned plants to 150 since 2001, the environmental group Sierra Club said on Friday.

Growth versus environment? – The Hindu
The universal drive for higher incomes in the face of mounting environmental destruction has heightened the expressed tension between fast growth and environmental protection. The reality, however, is that it will not be possible to sustain high growth in the coming years without environmental care.

Endangered Whooping Cranes to return to Louisiana – NewOrleans.com
Whooping cranes are the most endangered of all of the world’s crane species. Louisiana’s reintroduction is part of a larger ongoing recovery effort led by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and its partners for this highly imperiled species, which was on the verge of extinction in the 1940s and even today has only about 400 individuals in the wild.

Illegal e-waste dumping rife in electronics industry – Montreal Gazette
Two Canadian companies were recently fined tens of thousands of dollars after pleading guilty in court to attempting to transport containers of old electronics and used batteries to Asia without permits. Some recycling industry experts say there are likely many cases of illegal e-waste dumping overseas that go undetected.

Urban sprawl threatens Juan de Fuca – Vancouver Sun
A hidden gem of BC Parks is Juan de Fuca Park, a ribbon of wild coastal lands averaging 225 metres in width, along Vancouver Island’s south coast. Today, seven parcels of these lands totaling almost 600 acres, alongside one third of the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail (the most scenic third), are the subject of a development proposal which would see some 280 residences and a lodge immediately adjacent to the trail. The development would even require some parts of the Marine Trail to be rerouted.

Categories: News

WikiLeaks cables: Saudi Arabia cannot pump enough oil to keep a lid on prices

February 11, 2011 Leave a comment

WikiLeaks cables: Saudi Arabia cannot pump enough oil to keep a lid on prices | The Guardian.

“The US fears that Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest crude oil exporter, may not have enough reserves to prevent oil prices escalating, confidential cables from its embassy in Riyadh show.”

If you ever wonder why tar sands developments in northern Alberta are moving full speed ahead despite the pollution, carbon emissions, health impacts and all the bad publicity, check out this article from The Guardian about Saudi Arabia’s diminishing oil supplies.

The Alberta government and its federal conservative brethren in Ottawa under Stephen Harper know perfectly well that, as traditional oil supplies diminish, the demand for unconventional oil such as the tar sands will only skyrocket in the coming years. There is an absolute fortune to be made from dirty tar sands crude and the U.S. needs it more than ever. If our current political and corporate leaders have their way, nothing and no one will get in the way of the ongoing, rapacious expansion of the tar sands.

Categories: Energy, Oil Tags: , , ,

Droughts, Floods and Food – Paul Krugman

February 7, 2011 Leave a comment

Droughts, Floods and Food – NYTimes.com

From today’s Times, this is worth a read. Difficult to know if Krugman is correct but if he is…oh boy.

“While several factors have contributed to (recent) soaring food prices, what really stands out is the extent to which severe weather events have disrupted agricultural production. The Russian heat wave was only one of many recent extreme weather events, from dry weather in Brazil to biblical-proportion flooding in Australia, that have damaged world food production. And these severe weather events are exactly the kind of thing we’d expect to see as rising concentrations of greenhouse gases change our climate — which means that the current food price surge may be just the beginning.”

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