Global environmental challenges
Dozens of the world’s top movie, television and music stars showed off their green cred on Saturday night at a Hollywood-style fundraiser honoring the Natural Resource Defense Council‘s 20 years in Southern California.
The event at Beverly Hills’ Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel was a who’s who of Hollywood environmentalists, including actors Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert Redford, and Laurie David, a global warming activist and producer of the Al Gore movie “An Inconvenient Truth.” All three are trustees of the NRDC’s Southern California office. In 2003, the group even dedicated its new building to Redford.
It’s no secret that the environment and climate change is a hot cause in Hollywood, and it’s hard to imagine another social issue drawing as much star power to one event. The party also raised a hefty $2 million.
“Mad Men” star Jon Hamm and designer Tom Ford also attended the party, which was hosted by “Seinfeld” star Julia Louis-Dreyfus and included a musical performance by Grammy-winning rockers Maroon 5. Actress Rosanna Arquette deejayed the after party.
Norway’s finance minister wants to ban sales of new gasoline-powered cars from 2015.From then, Kristin Halvorsen (pictured left, in red jacket) says that new cars should be powered by alternative fuels such as electricity, biofuels or hydrogen or at least be hybrids, for instance able to use both gasoline and electricity.I went and spoke to her at the weekend about her proposal (for a story click here) — she reckons that it’s realistic even though it has little chance of becoming law even in a Nordic country that says it is a leader in fighting global warming. She says she’s the only finance minister in the world arguing for such a ban.She says people have grown too fond of cars powered by fossil fuels - treating them “like a member of the family” – and need tougher action to slow climate change.But her Socialist Left Party is only a junior partner in the three-party cabinet and Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg does not support her party’s proposal. And some opposition parties accuse her of “climate populism” – latching onto public concern about global warming ahead of elections due in September.So is the ban a good idea?
Last year scientists at Cornell and elsewhere announced that they may have found a new weapon against climate change — in the soils of the Amazon Basin.
Amazon peoples thousands of years ago ploughed charred plants into the ground, perhaps to improve soil fertility or just as an ancient means of waste disposal.
Among U.S. religious groups, white evangelical Protestants are the least likely to believe that human activities are contributing to climate change, according to a new survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. You can see the numbers, based on a broader 2008 poll, here.
Overall the Pew Forum found that a plurality, or 47 percent, of the adult U.S. population accepts that there is solid evidence that the earth is warming because of human activities. Most scientists have reached the conclusion that the planet's climate is changing because of human-induced factors, notably the emissions from burning of the fossil fuels that drive the global economy.
In 2004, an economic adviser to former Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the U.N.’s Kyoto Protocol for reining in global warming would kill off the world economy like “an international Auschwitz”.
Jewish groups deplored the remarks by Andrei Illarionov (left side of photo, with Putin) as trivialising the Holocaust. And his fears seem far from justified — in 2007, the Russian economy grew by 8.1 percent and greenhouse gas emissions by just 0.3 percent. (For a story, click here).
Migratory birds have an amazing ability to grow muscles before their flights by eating a lot but without hard training. Imagine being able to copy that — get in shape by lounging on the sofa gorging yourself for weeks and then run a marathon.
But there are signs that birds will be in trouble in future because climate change will shift their breeding grounds further north in Europe, according to a study of European warblers today. (for a story, click here) Wintering grounds in Africa or southern Europe are unlikely to move so much.
The results are in and no surprise — California’s lean snowpack means a third year of drought for the state whose farms supply about half the nation’s fruit and vegetables.
The state’s survey clocks in at 81 percent of normal water content in the snow, with the state fearing early spring heat could melt the white stuff, leaving fewer reserves later in the summer when they are most needed. Plus a National Marine Fisheries Service report, called a biological opinion, may trigger more conservation measures to protect salmon and steelhead, cutting water left for farms and homes.
The current issue of the American magazine Foreign Affairs has a thought-provoking piece that asks if the geoengineering option shouldn’t be used as a last resort in the battle against climate change. You can see the introduction to the article here (but will need to be a registered user to read all of it online).
Climate geoengineering is a thinly explored branch of science which to date has seen little in the way of peer-reviewed research. Some of its advocates envision global systems which would launch reflective particles into the atmosphere or position sunshades to cool the earth.
A curious thing is happening at a U.N. meeting in Bonn this week on a new climate pact – countries least interested in a deal such as OPEC members are doing more and more of the talking.
Organisers of the talks have set up a new ”Countdown to Copenhagen” clock in the main hall (above left) to try to spur the sluggish negotiations. It shows 248 days left until the talks in the Danish capital in December.
from Tales from the Trail:
Republicans in the U.S. Congress say they know how much it is going to cost to save the world from the predicted ravages of climate change. But others say their math is way off.
"It would cost every family as much as $3,100 a year in additional energy costs and will drive millions of good-paying American jobs overseas," warned House of Representatives Republican leader John Boehner in response to House Democrats unveiling their climate-change bill on Tuesday.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell offered the same figure. "According to some estimates, this tax could cost every American household up to $3,100 a year just for doing the same things people have always done, like turning on the lights and doing laundry."
There's a problem, though.
The Republicans cite a Massachusetts Institute of Technology study as the basis for their cost estimate. But a lead author of that study complained in a letter to Boehner on Wednesday that the calculation is way off.
John Reilly, an economist at MIT's Sloan School of Management, said the average annual cost to U.S. families for controlling emissions of carbon and other harmful greenhouse gases is actually $340.
In a telephone interview with Reuters, Reilly said updates to his 2007 study that take into account some higher costs could nudge the figure up to around $440 per household per year.
Republicans say they simply took a $366 billion revenue estimate from a climate change bill that sputtered in Congress last year and divided by the number of U.S. households to come up with $3,100. The thinking is that the revenues would be collected in pollution permits to industries, a cost that likely could be passed on to consumers.
"Taking that number and saying that is the cost is just wrong," Reilly said, adding that many other calculations, including government rebates to consumers, have to be factored in.
Don Stewart, a spokesman for McConnell, said there are no assurances yet that consumers would get rebates, which the MIT study assumed, and thus the $3,100 figure is accurate and possibly even higher.
"If they (Democrats) change their bill to give money back to consumers, the numbers on cost would change (downward)," Stewart said.
Eben Burnham-Snyder, a spokesman for Representative Edward Markey, one of Congress' leading advocates of climate control legislation, saw other possibilities.
If a range of energy initiatives in coming legislation is factored in -- electric vehicles, improved transmission and other alternative energy steps -- he said that would "significantly cut down the costs and some say would save people money on energy bills."
For more Reuters political news, click here
Photo credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque (Demonstrators for clean energy hold a rally on Capitol Hill in Washington on March 2)