Environment Forum

The World Bank’s $6 billion man on climate change

BIRDFLU INDONESIAAs the special envoy on climate change for the World Bank, Andrew Steer might be thought of as the $6 billion man of environmental finance. He oversees more than that amount for projects to fight the effects of global warming.

“More funds flow through us to help adaptation and mitigation than anyone else,” Steer said in a conversation at the bank’s Washington headquarters. Named to the newly created position in June, Steer said one of his priorities is to marshall more than $6 billion in the organization’s Climate Investment Funds to move from smaller pilot projects to large-scale efforts.

While the World Bank is not a party to global climate talks set for Cancun, Mexico, later this year, it is deeply engaged in this issue, Steer said. Acknowledging that an international agreement on climate change is a long shot this year, he said there are still opportunities to make changes to cut the greenhouse gas emissions that spur climate change.

PERU/“We do see there are opportunities,” Steer said. “The mistake would be if it’s sort of all or nothing.” The bank is strongly supporting action to limit deforestation, offer quick financing to start climate projects and reform carbon markets to extend them to countries that have been left out so far.

Even though the World Bank won’t be at the negotiating table in Cancun, its members will be there, and 80 percent of them want the bank to focus on climate change, Steer said. It’s all part of a what he sees as a fundamental shift in the international attitude toward dealing with this problem.

Americans are ready for a climate bill

Sugar cane harvester

Rona Fried is the CEO of SustainableBusiness.com, a news, networking, and investment site for green business, including a green jobs service and a green investing newsletter. The following opinions expressed are her own.

We are in a dire situation. One that our president recognized in his oval office address on Tuesday night: America has postponed overcoming our oil addiction for decades. The first call to wean ourselves from oil came more than three decades ago by President Carter in the late 1970s. Had we done it then, the job would have been completed in 1985. It is beyond time to end our dependence on oil. And Americans are finally ready to do it.

Recent polls say Americans want the government to prioritize renewable energy. One conducted by Benenson Strategy Group found that 63% of voters support an energy bill that limits pollution and encourages companies to use and develop clean energy.

Campaign ad equating global warming with weather gets “pants-on-fire” rating

MILKEN/By now, almost everybody — with the possible exception of Republican Senate candidate Carly Fiorina — realizes there’s a difference between climate and weather. Fiorina, running in the California primary and ultimately aiming to unseat Democrat Barbara Boxer, paid for and appeared in a campaign ad slamming the sitting senator for being “worried about the weather” when there are serious concerns like terrorism to deal with.

Take a look here:

A few problems with this ad earned it the not-so-coveted beyond-false “Pants on Fire” rating from Politifact, a Pulitzer-prize winning journalism website that checks on the truthfulness of political advertising. First off, Boxer didn’t say she was worried about the weather. She said that climate change was “one of the very important national security issues” — a position in line with the Pentagon and the CIA. The site also found that it’s not an either/or thing, that focusing on climate change doesn’t necessarily mean neglecting national security. They took a look at Boxer’s record and found she has supported at least six bills against terrorism.

“Fiorina casts climate change as something you need to pack an umbrella for, or that prompts you to curse at the TV weatherman — which strikes us as not only a trivialization of climate change but also a failure to distinguish between two well-established scientific specialties,” Politifact said. “She also ignores Boxer’s lengthy record supporting bills against terrorism. So we have to light up the meter (the site’s Truth-o-Meter): Pants on Fire!”

So long, sardines? Lake Tanganyika hasn’t been this warm in 1,500 years

lake_tanganyika1_hEast Africa’s Lake Tanganyika might be getting too hot for sardines.

The little fish have been an economic and nutritional mainstay for some 10 million people in neighboring Burundi, Tanzania, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo — four of the poorest countries on Earth. They also depend on Lake Tanganyika for drinking water.

But that could change, according to research published in the online version of the journal Nature Geoscience. Using samples of the lakebed that chart a 1,500-year history of the lake’s surface water temperature, the scientists found the current temperature — 78.8 degrees F (26 degrees C) — is the warmest it’s been in a millennium and a half. And that could play havoc with sardines and other fish the local people depend on.

The scientists also found that the lake saw its biggest warm-up in the 20th century.

U.N. climate panel under review: no stranger to controversy

glaciersipccThe U.N. panel of climate scientists came under the microscope on Friday by  experts named by the United Nations to figure out how to restore faith in its work after errors including an exaggeration of the thaw of the Himalayas. 

They’ll have to write clearly, check their findings and avoid overstating their case (sounds like a journalism manual). But how? And are there only isolated slips, or a wider problem? Also, why hasn’t the panel learn more from past controversies?

Rajendra Pachauri (below right), chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, acknowledged at the start of the session in Amsterdam there had been errors in the last major report in 2007 — but said the did not detract from the overall conclusions that warming is under way and that people are very likely to be the cause by burning fossil fuels.

Washington math: oil spill + climate bill = new environmental polls

OIL-RIG/LEAKWith BP’s spilled oil shimmering off the U.S. Gulf Coast, and a re-tooled bill to curb climate change expected to be unveiled this week in the U.S. Senate, what could be more appropriate than a bouquet of new environmental polls? Conducted on behalf of groups that want less fossil fuel use, the polls show hefty majorities favoring legislation to limit emissions of climate-warming carbon dioxide.

In the kind of harmonic convergence that sometimes happens inside the Capital Beltway, a new poll released on Monday by the Clean Energy Works campaign showed “overwhelming public support for comprehensive clean energy legislation,” with 61 percent of 2010 voters saying they want to limit pollution, invest in clean energy and make energy companies pay for emitting the carbon that contributes to climate change. A healthy majority — 54 percent — of respondents said they’d be more likely to re-elect a senator who votes for the bill.

Last Friday, the Natural Resources Defense Council, which has been pushing for climate change legislation for years, released its own poll numbers. NRDC’s pollsters found seven in 10 Americans want to see fast-tracked clean energy legislation in the wake of the BP oil spill, and two-thirds say they want to postpone new offshore drilling until the Gulf oil spill is investigated and new safeguards are put in place.

Time to get un-addicted to oil

rona

– Rona Fried, Ph.D., is CEO of SustainableBusiness.com, a news and networking site for green businesses: including a green jobs service and a green investing newsletter.  Any views expressed here are her own. —

Over the past 30 years, four U.S. presidents chose to continue down the fossil fuel path of least resistance instead of investing heavily in energy efficiency and renewable energy – the only long-term solutions that can avoid catastrophic oil spills like the one we are witnessing today.

We have all the technology to transition to a clean economy that gives us the energy we need without destroying biodiversity, ecosystems, human life and the economy.

Paging Hugh Bennett: The dust up over climate legislation

USA DROUGHT

–Asher Miller is executive director of think tank Post Carbon Institute. Any opinion expressed here is his own.–

In the convoluted world of U.S. politics, a debate broke out last weekend over climate change and immigration, but not for the reasons you might think.

No, the debate wasn’t about how much internal migration might occur because of droughts, floods, and rising sea levels (imagine the Hurricane Katrina diaspora multiplied one hundred fold) or how many hundreds of millions of people around the world might attempt to cross borders in the coming decades as a result of the same climatic events.

from James Pethokoukis:

Volcanoes, healthcare reform and global warming

Over at Edge, a variety of scientists give their take on the Iceland volcano eruption and its impact on air travel. Two really stood out to me. The first also highlights the problem of defensive medicine; the second shows the downside to action dealing with global warming:

DANIEL KAHNEMAN

Psychologist, Princeton; Recipient, 2002 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences

Imagine a public official who considers an action that involves a small and ambiguous risk of disaster. Imagine further that the best expert judgment available is that the expected social benefit of the action is large and that the risks are real but tolerably small. Such situations inevitably create a conflict between the interests of society and those of the officials who are charged to decide on its behalf.

Hindsight and personal accountability are the problem. Decision makers can be certain that if the worst happens their decision to act — however justified it was ex ante — will be perceived ex post as a horrendous mistake. They face the possibility of devastating blame and guilt, as well as career-destroying consequences. The risks are asymmetric because the costs of playing it safe are likely to be negligible.

Bolivia global warming summit: a lifeline for “Mother Earth”?

boliviaChanging the world is no doubt a daunting task but that’s what leftist Bolivian president Evo Morales and thousands of environmental activists, representatives of grassroots groups, and the envoys of some 90 governments are striving to do this week in the small village of Tiquipaya, in central Bolivia.

    The World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth started on Monday with a speech by Morales that was radical because it called for a new economic system, but was also peppered with some other surprises.
    Morales, an Aymara Indian who herded llamas as a boy and never finished secondary school, said that eating chicken fed with hormones causes “sexual deviation” in men and that European men lose their hair because they eat GM food.

    Overall, Morales’ speech was meant to stir dissent against capitalism.
    He said that consumerist lifestyle and global warming were cause and effect, and that the only way to stop temperatures from rising is to implement a economic model that he calls “vivir bien” or “to live well” – a political philosophy that draws from ancient indigenous traditions.
    “Humanity is at a crossroads and must choose whether to continue the path of capitalism and death or take the path of harmony with nature,” he said before a crowd of people in a soccer stadium under a blazing sun that left many – including this correspondent – wishing they had put on sun block.
    His message has struck a chord in thousands of people worried about global warming, who have travelled from all corners of the world to discuss a solution to what Morales likes to call “the climate crisis”. Bolivia has been among the most vocal opponents of the Copenhagen Accord, the non-binding deal from a summit in December backed by about 120 government and meant to keep any rise in temperatures below 2.0 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times.morales

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