Global environmental challenges
Yachts do it. Limousines do it. Even air-conditioned mansions by the sea do it. The trappings of wealth tend to emit lots of climate-warming carbon dioxide. Which is sort of the idea behind a new strategy for sharing the burden of fighting climate change. Take a look at the Reuters story on this here.
Instead of the two-tier world envisioned by the carbon-capping Kyoto Protocol — where developed countries have the lion’s share of responsibility for cutting emissions, while developing countries including China and India have few requirements — environmental strategists from Princeton, Harvard, the Netherlands and Italy say it might be better to track the wealthy, who live in every country.
On the grounds that individual rich people emit more carbon dioxide than most other people, these strategists suggest setting an international individual cap on the emissions that spur global warming. Rich people in rich countries are likely to hit this cap sooner than rich people in poor countries, so rich countries are likely to have to do something about their emissions before poor countries do. But eventually, every country that emits more than its share will have to take action, under this scenario.
At least one conservative blog has taken aim at this plan as a tax on the rich, but that’s not necessarily the idea, according to the study’s authors. They just want policy-makers to have this as an option to help persuade reluctant countries to join a global effort to reduce greenhouse emissions.
There’s no shortage of references these days in corporate and government reports to earnest, new steps to fight climate change. Often they promise to make carbon emissions cuts equivalent to taking millions of cars off the road…
For example, take Europe’s fourth biggest single source of carbon emissions, Britain’s Drax coal plant. It said in March that as a result of efficiency improvements it had cut carbon emissions equivalent to taking 195,000 cars off the road. But of course that was a cut against a theoretical projection of rising emissions — not an absolute cut.
Unfairly or not, any discussion of the Republican party’s environmental record by clean energy advocates often includes a mention of the White House solar panels ditched under Ronald Reagan. Green-minded members of the Grand Old Party, on the other hand, would rather point to the birth of the Environmental Protection Agency under Richard Nixon. Either way, in what’s clearly a sign of the times, renewables featured high on the minds of three former GOP secretaries of state who popped up at various energy conferences in the San Francisco Bay Area this past week (One can only assume the timing was a coincidence).
George Schultz, who served under Reagan, probably surprised at least a few people when he counted himself as among those EV1 owners still regretting GM’s controversial scrapping of the electric car earlier this decade. A Stanford professor and Hoover Institution fellow for the past two decades, Schultz had enjoyed driving it around campus. “I could even drive it up to San Francisco. I couldn’t go too many other places, but it’s a very useful car,” he said. “I was sorry to see that car taken off the market, it worked just fine.” Speaking at a meeting of energy economists last week alongside Chevron’s David O’Reilly, Schultz went on to join the oil company CEO in endorsing a carbon tax as more efficient than the cap-and-trade system favored by Congress.
Google Green Energy Czar (real title) Bill Weihl sat down with Reuters to talk about Renewable Energy Less Than Coal – the company’s plan to make affordable clean energy. Google started off trying to green up its own computer operations and then launched this save-the-world effort, which includes some investment in renewable energy startups and the work by a Google team.
Weihl describes that work in the video below, saying that the chances of successfully creating clean energy at less than coal prices – or about 3 cents per kilowatt — had risen from long shot to roughly even odds in about three years’ time.
If you want to send a message, the old Hollywood saying goes, call Western Union. But environmental activists chose a different medium to get through to climate change negotiators: they put their bodies on the line — in this case, the Alaskan tundra — to spell out “Save The Arctic” and sketch the outline of a caribou.
Members of the Gwich’in Nation gathered last weekend near Arctic Village, Alaska, to send what they called a “Message from the North” to environmental diplomats gathering this week in Bonn, Germany.
The cactus costume with the sign “water me” was my favourite (left).
“Green Cities,” a new report by a thinktank called Living Cities, examines how American cities have taken the lead on environmental issues in the absence of strong federal action.
Based on a survey of 40 of the largest U.S. cities, the report points to progress in mandating more efficient city buildings and promoting recycling but notes that talk of creating “green jobs” has been more talk than action.
One can presume that Chevron Chief Executive David O’Reilly is not a fan of the current deep worldwide recession — which was worsened by a credit-market lockup blamed in part on hard-to-value securities.
Such was evident recently during a panel discussion at the Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills. The panel focused on the effort to limit carbon dioxide emissions by trading carbon credits, commonly called a cap-and-trade scheme, and creating such a system in the United States.