Global environmental challenges
Environmental Protection Agency chief-to-be Lisa Jackson said science would be her guide on policy – and that may mean California is in the driver’s seat on setting new global-warming-style regulations on cars. (Not to mention the nearly 20 other states ready to follow in its footsteps.)
Jackson said she would reconsider whether California should get a waiver from the EPA that would allow it to regulate carbon pollution from cars, the San Francisco Chronicle said. The Bush administration has said no to such a waiver – but Jackson said she would focus on the science.
“She said today ‘I’m going to do it’. I mean, she didn’t say that — but I don’t think the auto industry has any doubt,” Sierra Club chief Carl Pope said shortly after a Senate confirmation hearing for Jackson. “She didn’t have to signal that strongly.”
Environmentalists see the waiver as one of the biggest issues facing incoming President Barack Obama.
Many people hope to come back from a wildlife safari with close-up pictures of lions or elephants – this picture below is my best attempt from a search for the largest land animals in Antarctica.
If you look hard you can see a reddish blob at the tip of the thumb — it’s Antarctica’s most aggressive land predator, an eight-legged mite known as Rhagidia.
Either way, it took a big step toward cutting greenhouse gases on Thursday, when its top air quality regulator, the California Air Resources Board, passed a scoping plan. That sounds deadly dull, we know, but it has excited a lot of people because it means specific targets are being set by the largest U.S. state in the midst of the worst economy almost anyone living has seen.
This week the U.N. leads a new round of global climate talks, in its 14th meeting since the world signed up to the convention on climate change in 1992.
It’s all about replacing the Kyoto Protocol with a more ambitious climate deal from 2013. Kyoto is widely regarded as toothless, but so could be its successor. (For a story, click here)
It’s not often that greenhouse gases spewed out by human activities get praise as potential saviours of the planet in a leading scientific journal — they’re normally viewed as villains for causing global warming.
But a study in Nature today shows that heat-trapping gases such as carbon dioxide can help avert an even worse problem in thousands of years’ time — a shift to a freeze worse than an Ice Age that could blanket much of the northern hemisphere with ice (see picture on the left and story here).
New research shows that both Antarctica and the Arctic are getting less icy – and the best explanation is mankind’s emissions of greenhouse gases.
But will that convert anyone who doubts that global warming is caused by human activities, led by burning fossil fuels?
With worries about recession in many countries, does it make sense to try out some more radical ideas for fighting global warming, like placing mirrors in the sky to block the sun or fertilising the oceans to soak up greenhouse gases?
They sound like great proposals at first sight: simple, probably cheaper and in some cases reversible. See a story about the technologies here. But there’s a lot of scepticism among scientists in the U.N. Climate Panel – there could be nasty side effects.
But there may be a silver lining even to the worst storm clouds; hurricanes and typhoons may help — at least a bit – to slow global warming by washing huge amounts of leaves, branches, tree trunks, roots and soil into the ocean, according to research in the journal Nature Geoscience. Read a story about the findings here.
Ice getting bigger hardly sounds like a sign of global warming but that’s apparently what is happening in the seas around Antarctica.
Leading climate scientists say that a tiny trend towards bigger ice in winter floating on the oceans around the frozen continent since the late 1970s — the maximum extent is around now, in September — is consistent with models of climate change that predict harsher winds and less warmer water at the surface.
Is this the silver bullet everyone’s been waiting for? Or just pie in the sky? Is capturing and storing carbon dioxide the technology breakthrough to cut greenhouse gas emissions without getting in the way of economic growth and industry’s “addiction” to fossil fuels? Or is it just a “greenwash” — a token gesture by some of the utilities responsible for so much of the world’s CO2 to try to persuade an increasingly green public that the great emitters are doing something to fight climate change?
Those are the questions that were hurled at Vattenfall executives on Tuesday when the Swedish-based utility opened the world’s first CCS plant in a small town south of Berlin called Schwarze Pumpe. The company believes it will be economically feasible before long to capture carbon, liquify it, and store it permanently on a large scale underground. This is only a small pilot plant producing enough power for a town of 20,000. But if it works, Vattenfall plans to build two conventional power plants 10 times larger in Germany and Denmark by 2015 and from 2020 they hope CCS will be a viable option for large-scale industrial use.