Environment Forum

Polar bears and a cactus urge climate action in Bonn

 U.N. climate talks started in Bonn on Monday with demonstrators dressed as camels, birds, trees, a cactus and several polar bears urging delegates to do more to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

The cactus costume with the sign “water me” was my favourite (left).

Too many  protesters at U.N. meetings dress up as polar bears — the bears’ icy habitat is coming under threat from receding ice. So to get the polar-bear-weary delegates’ attention, a bit of variety is a good idea, even though it’s probably harder to make people feel sorry for a prickly plant than an iconic Arctic predator.

I am not sure what the creatures (below right) are — any ideas? They look to me like a cross between a polar bear and a penguin with a carrot stolen from a snowman’s nose.

Environmentalists want developed countries to cut greenhouse gas emissions, mainly from burning fossil fuels, by 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020.

Kyoto Protocol not the economic millstone Russia (and others) feared?

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).

Putin went on to defy his advice — Moscow ratified the Kyoto pact and Russia’s “Yes” gave Kyoto enough international backing weight to enter into force in 2005, setting caps on greenhouse gas emissions for industrialised nations until 2012. In the United States, former President George W. Bush’s administration did not sign up, describing Kyoto as an “economic straitjacket”.

Al Gore’s new book: will you read it?

 When I attended a talk by Al Gore about global warming in Oslo in March 2007, I noticed that one of the people clapping loudest — about two rows in front of me — was the head of the committee that awards the Nobel Peace Prize.

Ole Danbolt Mjoes also joined in a minute-long standing ovation for the former U.S. vice president. “A very important message,” was all Mjoes would tell me of Gore’s speech afterwards when I went up and asked him if Gore had a chance of winning.

Gore of course went on to share the prize in December with the U.N. Climate Panel. The photo above shows Mjoes (left), handing the award to Gore in Oslo City Hall.

California wastes no time pressing new EPA

California wasted no time asking incoming U.S. Environmental Protection Agency chief Lisa Jackson to reconsider a request to let the state impose stiff targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from cars.

 The state’s top air quality regulator sent a letter to Jackson on Wednesday, the Obama administration’s first full day at work. Jackson hasn’t even been confirmed as the new EPA administrator yet, but California isn’t beating around the bush.

Stephen Johnson, the EPA administrator under former President Bush, drew the ire of California and more than a dozen other states in 2007 when he denied the state’s request for federal permission to impose tough new standards on auto emissions. 

Obama honeymoon short-lived at U.N. climate talks

After one of the briefest honeymoons in history, developing nations at U.N. climate change talks in Poland are saying that President-elect Barack Obama’s goals for cutting greenhouse gas emissions don’t go far enough.

Delegates from China and India told Reuters at the Dec. 1-12 talks that they welcomed Obama’s plan to cut emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 compared to less ambitious goals set by President George W. Bush. (Emissions are now about 14 percent above 1990 ).

But they say Obama isn’t going far enough. See story here.

Developing nations want all developed nations to cut greenhouse gas emissions by far more. That, they say, is the condition for the poor to start slowing their own rising emissions from factories, power plants and cars.

Green buildings, Planet Walkers and Getting Paid by Eskom

Kenyan blogger Juliana Rotich is the editor of Green Global Voices, which monitors citizen media in the developing world, and is a regular contributor to this page. Thomson Reuters is not responsible for the content – the views are the author’s alone. 

Green buildings, a man walking the planet and a net metering law have been inspiring bloggers in South Africa in recent days.

Picture of Green Roof in the western cape South Africa, by Mark Turner on Flickr.

Vultures circle over U.N. climate talks

vulture.jpgDozens of vultures landed on the grass the other day outside the building where U.N. climate talks are taking place in Ghana – and more were circling overhead.

“They’ve been attracted by all the delegates falling asleep inside,” one official joked.

(I missed those vultures, but when I tried to get a picture of a group on the grass to try to illustrate this blog they flapped off before I was close enough … The picture on the left is of a vulture in Spain).

Jewish groups add voices to green concerns

DALLAS – Following a path blazed by other U.S. religious groups, a diverse coalition of Jewish organizations has outlined its concerns regarding the environment and called for action from Congress and the Administration.

Spearheaded by the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life, it calls among other things for an aggressive 80 percent cut in carbon reductions by 2050.

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It also calls for a cap on emissions, tax credits to encourage the purchase of new technologies and provisions for public transit.

Cow manure to combat global warming?

A cow looks out from the barn at Smith’s Country Cheese in Winchendon, Massachusetts in this June 30, 2008 file photoCould cow manure curb global warming?

A study by scientists in Texas reckons that cows, sheep, pigs, chickens and other farm animals excrete enough waste to generate electricity for millions of homes, helping reduce reliance on coal-fired power plants and so cut greenhouse gas emissions released by burning fossil fuels.

Left to decompose naturally, manure emits the powerful greenhouse gases methane and nitrous oxide. If trapped by a devoted workforce (people with an impaired sense of smell encouraged to apply) the gases could used to drive microturbines to generate electricity. That works by the manure being “anaerobically digested” — a process a bit like making compost — to release energy-rich biogas which would be burnt to drive the microturbines.

The calculations, the scientists say they are the first to outline a procedure for quantifying amounts of energy and greenhouse gases linked to national herds, suggest that farm animals in the United States alone could generate about 2.4 percent of U.S. electricity and avert about 3.9 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.

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