Thursday, May 31, 2007

Save the Whales!

This time the National Resources Defense Council is asking for people to sign a petition to help to protect Alaska's Beluga Whales.
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Nun Vs. Exxon

A Dominican Nun was among those who spoke up for a climate change policy at the Exxon Mobil Shareholders meeting.
About three dozen protesters -- outnumbered by police -- staged a peaceful demonstration outside the meeting against the company's funding of groups they believe deny or distort the science of global warming.
The protesters waved banners with slogans like "People Before Profits" and chanted "No More Junk Science."
"Exxon Mobil is double-crossing the public and policy makers. It's avoiding real changes and continuing to fund groups that purposefully distort the science of global warming," said Shawnee Hoover, the campaign director of Exxpose Exxon, a coalition of green and scientific groups.
They say the company still funds about 40 organizations that the environmental group classified as "global warming deniers," shelling out over $2 million to the groups in 2006.
Exxon disagrees with the claim that the groups, many of which concern themselves with a wide range of issues, are "deniers of climate change."
Exxon has said man-made greenhouse gas emissions could be a source of global warming, while arguing that climate science is still uncertain.
Most scientists believe the use of fossil fuels causes global warming.
Shareholder activists inside the meeting also took advantage of the opportunity to air their grievances about Exxon's environmental record.
"Can you imagine what would happen if the largest company in the world stood up and took a leadership position" on climate change, Sister Patricia Daly, a Dominican nun, asked Tillerson.
"We are challenged by one of the most profound moral concerns and we have the wherewithal to respond," she said.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Adieu, Perrier

Some restaurants are substituting tap water for bottled water in a bid to protect the environment, according to a story in the New York Times.
It’s a big move in the restaurant industry, which, if you extrapolate from the amount of water it buys, takes in at least $200 million to $350 million from bottled water a year, according to the restaurant consultant Clark Wolf.
The “eat local” movement first became popular in California, so it makes sense that “drink local” is catching on there as a way to reduce the environmental costs of manufacturing and transporting bottles of water, as well as the mountains of plastic that end up in landfills.
But soon the owners of Del Posto in New York, the most elegant and expensive of the restaurants in the empire of Joseph Bastianich and Mario Batali, will be joining the nascent movement — once they decide on the proper containers for their filtered still and carbonated tap water. Etched on the glass will be an explanation of why bottled water is no longer available.
“Filling cargo ships with water and sending it hundreds and thousands of miles to get it around the world seems ridiculous,” Mr. Bastianich said. “With all the other things we do for sustainability, it makes sense.”

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Happy Ending for Wayward Whales?

From, an apparently happy ending to a story reported on in an earlier blog entry.
Two lost whales seen just before sunset nearing the ocean after a two-week sojourn through inland California waterways may have slipped back into the Pacific overnight.
Rescuers launched several boats in an effort to find the mother humpback and her calf Wednesday morning but have not spotted the whales, said Bernadette Fees, deputy director of the California Department of Fish and Game.
The pair were last seen Tuesday less than 10 miles from the Golden Gate bridge after they passed under another busy bridge and entered San Francisco Bay. (
Watch whales make steady progress down Sacramento River )
The whales passed under the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge on Tuesday afternoon, the last bridge along the pair's route before reaching the Golden Gate.
If the humpbacks were able navigate south around a Marin County peninsula and a nearby island, few obstacles were left on their route past Alcatraz to the Pacific Ocean.
Ariadne Green, of Vallejo, came to the waterfront to catch a glimpse Tuesday after traveling last week to Rio Vista, where the whales circled for a week before heading toward the ocean. She said seeing the humpbacks was a "profound spiritual experience."
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"We Are Trying to Preserve...God's Creation"

The Oakland Tribune reported on the United State's rejection of the EU's climate plan.
The United States rejected the European Union's all-encompassing target on reduction of carbon emissions, President Bush's environmental adviser said Tuesday.
James Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, said the United States is not against setting goals but prefers to focus them on specific sectors, such as cleaner coal and reducing dependence on gasoline. "The U.S. has different sets of targets," he said.
Germany, which holds the European Union and Group of Eight presidencies, is proposing a so-called "two-degree" target, whereby global temperatures would be allowed to increase no more than 2 degrees Celsius — the equivalent of 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit — before being brought back down. Practically, experts have said that means a global reduction in emissions of 50 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.
Connaughton, on a one-week bipartisan trip to Europe with members of the House of Representatives, said the U.S. favors "setting targets in the context of national circumstances."
In Hamburg, Asian countries, including rising global powerhouses China and India, reluctantly agreed Tuesday to back European calls for a new climate change treaty by 2009 to limit greenhouse gases after the Kyoto Protocol expires.
The deal was a step forward for German Chancellor Angela Merkel's push for a climate deal at next week's G-8 summit.
Despite the disagreements, Connaughton said the G-8 meeting, which brings together the leaders of Germany, the U.S., Russia, Britain, France, Italy, Canada and Japan, could still result in a productive conclusion.
"Let the G-8 process run its course," he said. "Give the leaders a chance."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who opposes Bush on climate policy, urged international cooperation in tackling climate change.
Pelosi, on a separate trip to Berlin, hailed Chancellor Angela Merkel's "extraordinary leadership" in fighting climate change and agreed "that these solutions must be multilateral."
"We are trying to preserve the planet, which many in our country, including I, believe is God's creation, and we have a responsibility to preserve it," Pelosi said, speaking alongside the German leader after a meeting at the chancellery.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Is Climate Change Killing Bees?

Salon has a long, informative article about Colony Collapse Disorder. While it raises more questions than it answers, the questions it raises are important.
The media has done a very good job of telling all sides. But the problem is, how do you motivate people to change the way they are? Where I live, I try to live pretty low on the food chain and avoid the temptation of most of the things that people have. People are just incredible consumers and runners of fuel and buyers of gadgets. How do you change that? It's as if there's an ethical or a moral blank spot there. I don't like to preach, but it's pretty obvious: When you're killing the corn belt by growing fuel to run SUVs, there's a very bad disconnect somewhere along the line.
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Help the Needy and Learn about Green Design

CTGBC Summer Tour
Foodshare LEED-Certified Distribution Center Tour

Donate food and learn about green design…Date: June 6, Wednesday, 3 - 6pm
Board meeting 3pm Tour/speaker 4pm followed by reception
Location: Bloomfield, CT

Join the tour and see first-hand how energy efficiency benefits brought LEED to a non-profit organization with a refrigerated facility. Tour conducted by design team member.

Cost: Free to CTGBC members. All attendees are requested to bring a donation of food or make a donation to Foodshare.

Directions Please register by sending an e-mail to Kim Trella including your name, company, and e-mail contact information to Thanks.

Will Coal Be King?

Lawmakers, under pressure from the goal lobby, are proposing subsidies and guaranteed purchases for diesel fuel extracted from coal, according to this story in the New York Times.
Prodded by intense lobbying from the coal industry, lawmakers from coal states are proposing that taxpayers guarantee billions of dollars in construction loans for coal-to-liquid production plants, guarantee minimum prices for the new fuel, and guarantee big government purchases for the next 25 years.
With both House and Senate Democrats hoping to pass “energy independence” bills by mid-July, coal supporters argue that coal-based fuels are more American than gasoline and potentially greener than ethanol.
“For so many, filthy coal is a dirty four-letter word,” said Representative Nick V. Rahall, Democrat of West Virginia and chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee. “These individuals, I tell you, have their heads buried in the sand.”
Environmental groups are adamantly opposed, warning that coal-based diesel fuels would at best do little to slow global warming and at worst would produce almost twice as much of the greenhouse gases tied to global warming as petroleum.
Coal companies are hardly alone in asking taxpayers to underwrite alternative fuels in the name of energy independence and reduced global warming. But the scale of proposed subsidies for coal could exceed those for any alternative fuel, including corn-based ethanol.
Among the proposed inducements winding through House and Senate committees: loan guarantees for six to 10 major coal-to-liquid plants, each likely to cost at least $3 billion; a tax credit of 51 cents for every gallon of coal-based fuel sold through 2020; automatic subsidies if oil prices drop below $40 a barrel; and permission for the Air Force to sign 25-year contracts for almost a billion gallons a year of coal-based jet fuel.
Coal companies have spent millions of dollars lobbying on the issue, and have marshaled allies in organized labor, the Air Force and fuel-burning industries like the airlines.
Peabody Energy, the world’s biggest coal company, urged in a recent advertising campaign that people “imagine a world where our country runs on energy from Middle America instead of the Middle East.”
Representative Rick Boucher, a Virginia Democrat whose district is dominated by coal mining, is writing key sections of the House energy bill. In the Senate, champions of coal-to-liquid fuels include
Barack Obama, the Illinois Democrat, Jim Bunning of Kentucky and Larry Craig of Wyoming, both Republicans.
President Bush has not weighed in on specific incentives, but he has often stressed the importance of coal as an alternative to foreign oil. In calling for a 20 percent cut in projected gasoline consumption by 2017, he has carefully referred to the need for “alternative” fuels rather than “renewable” fuels. Administration officials say that was specifically to make room for coal.
The political momentum to subsidize coal fuels is in odd juxtaposition to simultaneous efforts by Democrats to draft global-warming bills that would place new restrictions on coal-fired electric power plants.
The move reflects a tension, which many lawmakers gloss over, between slowing global warming and reducing dependence on foreign oil.
Many analysts say the huge coal reserves of the United States could indeed provide a substitute for foreign oil.
The technology to convert coal into liquid fuel is well-established, and the fuel can be used in conventional diesel cars and trucks, as well as jet engines, boats and ships. Industry executives contend that the fuels can compete against gasoline if oil prices are about $50 a barrel or higher.
But coal-to-liquid fuels produce almost twice the volume of greenhouse gases as ordinary diesel. In addition to the carbon dioxide emitted while using the fuel, the production process creates almost a ton of carbon dioxide for every barrel of liquid fuel.
Coal industry executives insist their fuel can actually be cleaner than oil, because they would capture the gas produced as the liquid fuel is being made and store it underground. Some could be injected into oil fields to push oil to the surface.
Several aspiring coal-to-liquid companies say that they would reduce greenhouse emissions even further by using renewable fuels for part of the process. But none of that has been done at commercial volumes, and many analysts say the economic issues are far from settled.
“There are many uncertainties,” said James T. Bartis, a senior policy researcher at the RAND Corporation, who testified last week before the Senate Energy Committee. “We don’t even know what the costs are yet.

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Monday, May 28, 2007

Saving Energy and Money

Energy efficiency is a great way to save money, energy and the environment, but it is an under-utilized strategy, according to an article in the New York Times.

Green Mountain Coffee Roasters makes a lot of money selling individual servings of ground coffee in white cups that are churned out by the millions from a hissing, clanking production line here. But it recently found a way to generate even greater profits from the operation that will require only a modest investment.
Companies seek economies of scale in alternative energy.
Spending $150 to $200 to install a more efficient blower to cool the laser that carves the date and batch number into each passing cup will cut Green Mountain’s annual electricity bill for each laser by about $200, says Paul Comey, its vice president for environmental affairs. That might not seem like much, except that the company has 40 such lasers, which it plans to upgrade this week.
Green Mountain Coffee was persuaded to undertake such improvements in efficiency through an unusual effort by the Vermont Energy Investment Corporation, which is under contract with the state to find thousands of such energy savings.
Opportunities like this abound in the commercial and industrial sectors, requiring no new research or technology. But few places are doing an effective job of finding them, experts say.

“When we started talking about this in 1990s in terms of energy efficiency versus coal energy, we were talking 4 cents a kilowatt-hour for coal, and 4 cents for energy efficiency,” said R. Neal Elliott, the industrial program director at the council. “Today we’re talking optimistically, without carbon taxes, 10 cents for coal. With carbon taxes, we may be talking 20 cents for coal.”
“And energy efficiency,” he said, “is still 4 cents or less.”

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Green Rabbi

Grist is featuring a Q and A with green activist/Rabbi Warren Stone. Below you can find an excerpt of his Grist interview; visit the Grist website for the rest of the interview and also a chance to ask Rabbi Stone your own questions.
Also, check out the "Green Shalom Action Guide" published by Rabbi Stone's congregation for tips on greening your own religious congregation.

Q: What work do you do?
A: I'm a rabbi in the Washington, D.C., area; I've been privileged to serve as the rabbi of
Temple Emanuel for the past 18 years.
I also serve as the national environmental chair for the Central Conference of American Rabbis and am on a variety of boards, including as co-chair of the
Religious Campaign for Forest Conservation and the Religious Coalition on Creation Care. I'm on the board of the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life and the advisory board of A professional highlight was attending the climate-change talks in Kyoto in 1997 as the representative of many Jewish organizations.

Q: How does it relate to the environment?
A: I've come to see my environmental work as a core expression of my religious faith and central to my goals as a spiritual and community leader. Many -- from a variety of faith traditions -- share this view. We work together on climate-change, forest, and wilderness issues. Being in Washington, D.C., we have an unparalleled opportunity to partner our religious perspectives with other environmental activists and scientists and to work for political change. After years of feeling like voices in the wilderness, we are now finding that our views are actively solicited in the halls of power. I've had the privilege of leading interfaith delegations to the House and Senate, White House, and World Bank. Right now, I'm particularly interested in the greening of institutions. I'd love to see our federal government adopt a greening policy for all government offices. How wonderful to hear Speaker Nancy Pelosi
call for the greening of the U.S. Capitol!
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Saturday, May 26, 2007

(Not So Perma)frost

This excerpt from an article in the New York Times exposes the problem of melting permafrost. This is the third in a series of articles looking at how climate change is affecting American life.

The sturdy little Cessnas land whenever the fog lifts, delivering children’s bicycles, boxes of bullets, outboard motors and cans of dried oats. And then, with a rumble down a gravel strip, the planes are gone, the outside world recedes and this subarctic outpost steels itself once again to face the frontier of climate change.

“I don’t want to live in permafrost no more,” said Frank Tommy, 47, standing beside gutted geese and seal meat drying on a wooden rack outside his mother’s house. “It’s too muddy. Everything is crooked around here.”
The earth beneath much of Alaska is not what it used to be. The permanently frozen subsoil, known as permafrost, upon which Newtok and so many other Native Alaskan villages rest is melting, yielding to warming air temperatures and a warming ocean. Sea ice that would normally protect coastal villages is forming later in the year, allowing fall storms to pound away at the shoreline.
Erosion has made Newtok an island, caught between the ever widening Ninglick River and a slough to the north. The village is below sea level, and sinking. Boardwalks squish into the spring muck. Human waste, collected in “honey buckets” that many residents use for toilets, is often dumped within eyeshot in a village where no point is more than a five-minute walk from any other. The ragged wooden houses have to be adjusted regularly to level them on the shifting soil.
Studies say Newtok could be washed away within a decade. Along with the villages of Shishmaref and Kivalina farther to the north, it has been the hardest hit of about 180 Alaska villages that suffer some degree of erosion.
Some villages plan to hunker down behind sea walls built or planned by the
Army Corps of Engineers, at least for now. Others, like Newtok, have no choice but to abandon their patch of tundra. The corps has estimated that to move Newtok could cost $130 million because of its remoteness, climate and topography. That comes to almost $413,000 for each of the 315 residents.
Not that anyone is offering to pay.
After all, climate change is raising questions about how to deal with drought, wildfires,
hurricanes and other threats that affect so many more people and involve large sums of money.
“We haven’t sat down as a society and said, ‘How are we going to adapt to this?’ ” said Michael Oppenheimer, a climate scientist at
Princeton University and a lead author of a recent report by a United Nations panel on the impacts and vulnerability presented by climate change. “Just like we haven’t sat down and said, ‘How are we going to reduce emissions?’ And both have to be done.”

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Small Cars Make a Comeback

A New York Times article explores the resurgence in popularity of small cars.

With gas prices well over $3 a gallon nationwide, many drivers are lining up to buy small cars.
But hundreds of thousands of consumers aren’t giving up anything to downsize. Instead, they are simply adding pint-size transportation to their driveways, parked alongside their S.U.V. or pickup.
In households that own a small car, the family fleet is close to an average of three vehicles, according to CNW Marketing Research, which tracks industry trends (the national average is just over two cars per household; America was a one-car-per-family nation a generation ago).
These growing fleets suggest an approach to conservation that is more addition than subtraction.
“Small cars are like a fashion statement,” said Art Spinella, president of CNW Marketing.
For three small cars — the
Toyota Prius and Corolla and the Honda Civic — more than 500,000 were sold last year as second or third cars in a household, CNW data shows.
Ken Collinsworth, 53, bought a
Toyota Yaris last month for his daughter to take to college this fall. But with gas close to $4 a gallon near his home in Paso Robles, Calif., Mr. Collinsworth has been driving the Yaris instead of his BMW X5 sport utility and GMC Sierra pickup.
“I steal it from her every chance I get,” said Mr. Collinsworth, who added that he would like to get another Yaris when his daughter leaves for college.
In another era, he might be pitied for parking one of his luxury cars to drive around in an econobox.
But unlike small cars during the disco era, which had few creature comforts, the latest crop of small cars — including the Yaris,
Honda Fit and Nissan Versa — can be purchased with many of the same sought-after options as their bigger kin, like navigation screens or iPod connections.
“It is a fundamental change,” Mr. Spinella said. “People are willing to buy small cars because they are more sophisticated.”
And buyers appear willing to pay a lot for them. In 1990, buyers stuck to the low end of the scale when they bought a small car, CNW’s data shows. More than three-quarters opted for basic no-frills models, sometimes even forgoing a radio to keep the price down.
Now, 90 percent of buyers are buying fully loaded small cars, according to the data.
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Friday, May 25, 2007

Save the Whales

According to the ContraCosta Times, After 11 days of trying to steer two whales back to the ocean, those overseeing the attempted rescue of a female humpback whale and her calf are taking suggestions from the public.
Readers are invited to weigh in with their ideas -- as well as questions and comments -- by emailing
Updates on the operation will be posted on the Web site Click on the link "Wayward Humpback Whales, Sacramento River, CA" to read the latest updates.
Asked why officials don't simply leave the whales alone and let nature take its course, [Frances] Gulland [director of veterinary sciences with the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito] said that wasn't an option given that one aspect of their predicament -- their injuries -- were caused by humans.
"We have some obligation to compensate for what we've done," she said.

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Gas-Saving Strategies

Talk of the Nation's segment on improving gas mileage can help improve the environment and save you money. This article in Backwoods Home magazine covers some of the same ground and offers tips on (non-hybrid) cars that get great gas mileage. (Pictured: a Geo Prizm, one of the "best kept secrets" cars you will read about in the Backwoods Home link.)

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Going Green

MSNBC has a feature on various aspects of going green, including carbon offsets, clean energy, green home remodeling, building a green house, and green business. It includes both video and print stories.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Climate Change Could Harm Crops

According to an AP story that appeared in the New York Times online,
Climate Change could drive many wild relatives of plants such as the potato and the peanut into extinction, threatening a valuable source of genes necessary to help these food crops fight pests and drought, an international research group reported.
During the next 50 years, more than 60 percent of 51 wild peanut species analyzed and 12 percent of 108 wild potato species analyzed could become extinct because of climate change, according to a study released Tuesday by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research.
Surviving species would be confined to much smaller areas, further eroding their capacity to survive, the report said.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Climate Change and Cathedrals

Media Newswire reports that climate change poses a threat to England's historic Cathedrals.
England's historic churches and cathedrals face the same tough choices forced on us all by climate change, Climate Change and Environment Minister Ian Pearson said today. Speaking at the Cathedrals and Climate Change Conference at Lambeth Palace, organised by the Association of English Cathedrals, Mr Pearson welcomed the commitment of churches and cathedrals to join the national effort to cut carbon emissions and start adapting to the inevitable impacts climate change will have on our historic environment. Mr Pearson said: "Cathedrals are important spiritual, historic and cultural buildings. Many of our churches and cathedrals have stood for hundreds of years. They play a vital role as a focus for worship, as the hub of faith communities, as a cultural symbol for the region and as international icons that make an important contribution to the tourism economy. "Be that as it may, they are not immune to the effects of climate change. We need to take care of our cathedrals now, as they need to be prepared for the more extreme weather of the future and must start adapting if they are still to be standing a century from now. "Medieval cathedrals stand today as monuments to the skill, ingenuity and ambition of the engineers and architects of their time: a testament to the potential of mankind to solve problems creatively and with dedication. We need to apply this creativity to finding climate solutions. "While a wind-turbine on St Paul's might raise a few eyebrows, I'd love to see solar panels on church halls, biomass boilers in church schools, and maybe in future we should be thinking about how, by using microgeneneration, cathedrals can help produce energy as well as use it". Mr Pearson said that climate change would affect everyone on an individual level, and could not be a problem for governments or businesses alone. "The Church of England and other faith groups can play a vital part in promoting action against climate change here in the UK and internationally," he said. "Many churches and cathedrals are already doing innovative, practical work to reduce their emissions and adapt to climate change. They can mobilise communities and are spreading the message that doing something about climate change needn't involve a grand gesture - every small step is important." There are many examples of the Church already taking the initiative, such as: * A new booklet, entitled 'How many light bulbs does it take to change a Christian?', which is part of the Church of England's Shrinking the Footprint Campaign, is a practical guide with green tips for individuals, communities and their churches. * Portsmouth Cathedral, who last summer let their youth group do an environmental audit of the cathedral. One of their canons is now an environmental watchdog. At one of their services, they also gave away low energy light bulbs and loo flush reducers to the congregation. * St Paul's Cathedral's Costing the Earth series stimulated debate from the worlds of economics, science, religion and business to address the issues of climate change and how individuals can play a part in working for a sustainable future for our planet.

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Yellow Cabs go Green

Mayor Bloomberg has announced that by 2012 all of New York City's cabs will be hybrid vehicles, according to this AP story that appeared in the New York Times.
NEW YORK (AP) -- The city's yellow taxi fleet will go entirely hybrid within five years, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced Tuesday.
''There's an awful lot of taxicabs on the streets of New York City,'' Bloomberg said. ''These cars just sit there in traffic sometimes, belching fumes.
''This does a lot less. It's a lot better for all of us,'' he said of the hybrid plan.
Nearly 400 fuel-efficient hybrids have been tested in the city's taxi fleet over the past 18 months, with models including the Toyota Prius, the Toyota Highlander Hybrid, the Lexus RX 400h and the Ford Escape.
Under Bloomberg's plan, that number will increase to 1,000 by October 2008, then will grow by about 20 percent each year until 2012, when every yellow cab -- currently numbering 13,000 -- will be a hybrid.
Hybrid vehicles run on a combination of gasoline and electricity, emitting less exhaust and achieving higher gas mileage per gallon.
The standard yellow cab vehicle, the Ford Crown Victoria, gets 14 miles per gallon. In contrast, the Ford Escape taxis get 36 miles per gallon.
In addition to making the yellow cab brigade entirely green within five years, the city will require all new vehicles entering the fleet after October 2008 to achieve a minimum of 25 miles per gallon. A year later, all new vehicles must get 30 miles per gallon and be hybrid. Bloomberg made the announcement on NBC's ''Today'' show.
Hybrid vehicles are typically more expensive, but the city said the increase in fuel efficiency will save taxi operators more than $10,000 per year. Yahoo Inc. said it would donate 10 hybrid Ford Escapes for the city's effort.
Shifting the taxi fleet to hybrids is part of Bloomberg's wider sustainability plan for the city, which includes a goal of a 30 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2030.
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An "Evangelist' for Sustainability

The New York Times has published a profile of green businessman Ray Anderson, excerpted below:
What Ray Anderson calls his “conversion experience” occurred in the summer of 1994, when he was asked to give the sales force at Interface, the carpet tile company he founded, some talking points about the company’s approach to the environment.
At a plant in LaGrange, carpet scraps are collected for reuse.

“That’s simple,” Mr. Anderson recalls thinking. “We comply with the law.”
But as a sales tool, “compliance” lacked inspirational verve. So he started reading about environmental issues, and thinking about them, until pretty soon it hit him: “I was running a company that was plundering the earth,” he realized. “I thought, ‘Damn, some day people like me will be put in jail!’ ”
“It was a spear in the chest.”
So instead of environmental regulation, he devoted his speech to his newfound vision of polluted air, overflowing landfills, depleted aquifers and used-up resources. Only one institution was powerful enough and pervasive enough to turn these problems around, he told his colleagues, and it was the institution that was causing them in the first place: “Business. Industry. People like us. Us!”
He challenged his colleagues to set a deadline for Interface to become a “restorative enterprise,” a sustainable operation that takes nothing out of the earth that cannot be recycled or quickly regenerated, and that does no harm to the biosphere.
The deadline they ultimately set is 2020, and the idea has taken hold throughout the company. In a recent interview in his office here overlooking downtown Atlanta, Mr. Anderson said that through waste reduction, recycling, energy efficiency and other steps, Interface was “about 45 percent from where we were to where we want to be.”
Use of fossil fuels is down 45 percent (and net greenhouse gas production, by weight, is down 60 percent), he said, while sales are up 49 percent. Globally, the company’s carpet-making uses one-third the water it used to. The company’s worldwide contribution to landfills has been cut by 80 percent.
“He bet his entire company,” said Bob Fox, an architect who specializes in “green” buildings and who, like Mr. Anderson, is a member of the advisory board of the Harvard Center for Health and the Global Environment. “It worked out probably better even than he hoped. He has set the mark for every other corporation in this country.”
And in the process, Mr. Anderson has turned into perhaps the leading corporate evangelist for sustainability. He had a head start, he acknowledges, because he ran his company and controlled its voting stock. But he can make the case effectively, he said, because his Interface experience teaches that sustainability “doesn’t cost, it pays” — in customer loyalty, employee spirit and hard cash. He says Interface sustainability efforts have saved the company more than $336 million since 1995.
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Sunday, May 20, 2007

Green Magazine

The New York Times Magazine for Sunday, May 21 has an issue on all aspects of green building design and energy efficiency. It also includes interviews with Al Gore and Ed Begley, Jr. You can only read it for free during the week of May 21-28, unless you have a paid subscription with access to their archives. (The New York Times requires registration, but free registration gives access to the current issue and most features.)
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Saturday, May 19, 2007

Energy Independence for Hawaii?

This is an excerpt from the latest story in New York Times series of articles "The Energy Challenge." (Free registration is required to read the full article.)

LAHAINA, Hawaii — Here on the West Side of Maui, where lush mountainsides and the warm waters of the Alalakeiki Channel juxtapose increasingly crowded roadways and a spate of new luxury hotels, the push for renewable energy has found an unlikely advocate: the chief executive of one of the most aggressive developers on the island.
Construction of a new resort is under way at the site of the old Kapalua Bay Hotel, which is owned by a subsidiary of Maui Land and Pineapple.
The real estate maven, David Cole, has used his position as head of Maui Land and Pineapple, a land holding and operating company, to promote sustainable development. The effort harks back to Hawaii’s past, with plans to return some farmland to production — this time for energy rather than food — after so many years in which the state turned its back on its agricultural history in a headlong rush into tourism and real estate.
Perhaps the most notable effort is Hawaii BioEnergy, an international consortium that includes two other local landowners, Tarpon Investimentos, an investment company in Bermuda, and Brasil Bioenergia, an energy company in São Paulo.
The consortium, which also involves the co-founder of America Online,
Stephen M. Case, and the venture capitalist Vinod Khosla, took form last July with the goal to make Hawaii, which has long had to pay high prices for imported fuel, largely energy-independent.
“As islanders, we’ve had to provide for our own survival for hundreds and hundreds of years,” said Mr. Cole, 55, who was raised on Oahu but spent most of his adult life on the mainland before coming to Maui in 2003.
“Now that the technology exists to turn some of our natural resources into energy, there’s no reason we should be getting energy from anywhere else,” he said.
While companies on the mainland are subsidized to produce ethanol from corn, Hawaiian companies and Hawaii BioEnergy are turning to other materials, particularly sugar cane, which are potentially far more efficient sources of ethanol per input of energy and raw material than corn.
Statistics from the Department of Energy, the Renewable Fuels Association in Washington and evidence from Brazil’s experience indicate that ethanol from sugar cane is considerably cheaper to produce than ethanol from corn, a savings that potentially could trickle down to consumers in the form of lower energy bills.

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Friday, May 18, 2007

Green Parties

The Hartford Courant offers tips and suggestions for eco-friendly entertaining in this article:
Greening your next party doesn't mean giving up electricity or preaching to your guests. "It could be just purchasing locally grown food or using a caterer who uses local food," said Paul McRandle, deputy editor of The Green Guide, a newsletter devoted to environmental lifestyles. "You don't have to make a big deal out of it."Experts offer these tips for greener home entertaining:Invitations: Paper-free invitations like those offered at are greenest. However, there are special occasions for which the cyber card just doesn't cut it. In that case, look for recycled paper. "You can't tell the difference and it's a better choice," said Feldman. "If it's a baby shower, look for flower seeds embedded in the paper. Print at the bottom, 'After you read this, please plant. This sheet of paper will sprout wildflowers."' She recommends printing your own invitations on Plantable Papers by Bloom ( If you are having the invitations printed professionally, ask for vegetable-based ink, advises The Green Guide's McRandle. Many standard inks are petroleum derivatives.Flowers: Shop local at the farmers' market, if possible. Amy Stewart, author of "Flower Confidential: The Good, the Bad and the Beautiful in the Business of Flowers" (Algonquin Books, $23.95) says 78 percent of the flowers sold in the United States are imported and often grown with harmful pesticides or on farms with poor labor practices. She advises looking for flowers with VeriFlora certification, a new eco-label certifying flowers are grown environmentally. Ask for them from your florist or buy them online at Go with soy based or beeswax candles. Feldman says soy, "are nontoxic, clean burning and they don't pollute. They're easy to get and not more expensive. It's a no brainer." Soy candles are widely available in home stores, online and at specialty grocers such as Whole Foods. Aroma Naturals offers a line of soy- and vegetable-oil candles scented with plant oils ( Beeswax candles, such as those from Candle Bee Farms ( may be slightly more expensive than petroleum-based paraffin candles. Danielle Venokur, owner of dvGreen, a sustainable party planning service in New York, recommends battery-operated LED "candles" that flicker for thousands of hours within glass votives.Plates: If you can't use regular plates, look for eco-friendly paper plate replacements such as those made with corn, sugar cane or soy that are biodegradable. Earthshell makes biodegradable, disposable plates and bowls from potatoes, corn and limestone and is available at major retailers such as Target and Wal-Mart ( Simply Biodegradable sells sugar cane-based plates and cornstarch utensils ( Clear Creek Compostables sells 90 percent sugar-cane pulp and 10 percent paper plates that can hold boiling water ( If you can't use fabric napkins, look for recycled napkins. "With recycled materials look for a high percentage use of 'post-consumer materials,"' advises The Green Guide's McRandle. Those are papers that would otherwise be put in a landfill. Most producers that use a high ratio of recycled materials will indicate this on their packaging. Seventh Generation, for example, uses a minimum of 80 percent post-consumer recycled paper, including its napkins that are naturally brown or bleached white without harmful chlorine ( If you have more time and want more impact, scour the thrift shops for vintage dresses and cut and hem them into unique cocktail napkins, says dvGreen's Venokur.Water: Look for bottled water that comes in biodegradable water bottles. BIOTA spring water in bottles made from corn was offered backstage at the Academy Awards ( Serve local wine or, if unavailable, organic or biodynamic wines that don't use harmful chemicals during farming. New York wine expert Michael Green suggests several good and affordable biodynamic wines including Chateau Maris "Minervos" 2003 from France (about $10), Badger Mountain Syrah 2002 from Washington's Columbia Valley (about $13) and Frey Biodynamic Zinfandel from California (about $17).Glasses: "Where possible, use glassware, things that can be washed and reused," advises McRandle. "You can rent them from a catering service if you don't have them." Throwing a bridal shower for 20 champagne sippers? McRandle suggests buying the glass champagne flutes and then giving them to guests as gifts or donating them to charity.When greening your next party, choose one or two areas to go eco and build on the results. "Greening parties is a process," says New Leaf's Feldman. "Don't do it all at once. I'd rather have someone ease into it. Doing a little goes a long way."

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Fox Goes Green

Grist features a Q and A with Rupert Murdoch, owner of the Fox network, about his plan to make that organization carbon neutral in the next three years. Here is an excerpt:
Q: What motivated you to implement your climate plan? Was there a "conversion moment" when you realized this needed to be a priority?
A:I grew up in Australia, which is facing its
worst drought in 100 years -- that has struck a personal chord for me. I've read about the climate issue over the years, but I was probably a bit more skeptical than my son, James, who's a complete convert, and who converted me. I saw what he did at [British Sky Broadcasting] and we said, well, let's make it company-wide.
Q: So this is an example of younger-generation sensibilities trickling up?
A:Well, more twisting my arm, at first. But I've become more enthusiastic day by day. I don't think there's any question of my conviction on this issue -- I've come to feel it very strongly. The more I've looked into it, the more I've been able to see what we can do, not just from an operations standpoint but by subtly introducing [the climate issue] into our content.
Q:What do you intend to achieve with your climate plan, and how will you meet your goals?
A:We want to help solve the climate problem. We'll squeeze our own energy use down as much as we can. We'll become carbon neutral for our own emissions within three years, and be entirely transparent throughout the process, publicly reporting our reductions and offsets. But that's just a start. Our audience's carbon footprint is 10,000 times bigger than ours, so clearly that's where we can have the most influence.

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Senate Defeats Climate Amendment

According to A.M. New York,
The Senate, after one of its first full debates on global warming, on Tuesday defeated a proposal requiring the Army Corps of Engineers to consider the impact of climate change in designing water resources projects.The vote was 51-42 in favor of the amendment to a water projects bill, falling nine short of the 60 votes needed to approve it under the rules set for the debate.

But sponsors of the proposal, led by Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., said it was significant that the Senate was finally facing the issue head-on.It was the first time in this session of Congress that climate change had reached a vote on the Senate floor, Kerry said. "Tonight we got a majority of senators to stand up and demand that climate change be taken seriously," he said. With the vote, he said, the Senate "has gone on record about global warming and sent a statement that its impact must be considered in our public policy debates."The proposal would have directed the Army Corps, in drawing up future projects, to use the best available climate science to account for climate change on storms and floods.Wetlands and floodplains act as buffers between hurricanes and other severe storms and coastal communities, said Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., another sponsor. "When Corps projects destroy these and other types of natural barriers, they may put lives at risk."Kerry said the current guidelines for Corps project planning were written in 1983, long before scientists were focused on whether human activities were contributing to the warming of the planet.The amendment was proposed on a $13.9 billion bill that approves hundreds of flood damage, navigation, ecosystem and water recreation projects along the Mississippi River, the Katrina-damaged coast of Louisiana and in almost every other state in the country.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Green Sixteen

The Houston Chronicle reported that
Sixteen cities around the world will begin cutting carbon emissions by renovating city-owned buildings with green technology under a program spearheaded by former President Clinton's foundation.
Bill Clinton was to announce the partnership Wednesday, joined by mayors of several of the cities, as part of an international climate summit he is hosting this week in New York City.
Clinton's foundation described details to The Associated Press ahead of the announcement. Major global banking institutions have committed $1 billion to finance the upgrades of municipal buildings in participating cities, which include New York, Chicago, Houston, Toronto, Mexico City, London, Berlin and Tokyo.
The makeovers will include replacing heating, cooling and lighting systems with energy-efficient networks; making roofs white or reflective to deflect more of the sun's heat; sealing windows and installing new models that let more light in; and setting up sensors to control more efficient use of lights and air conditioning.
Clinton's foundation said the planned changes have the potential to reduce energy use by 20 percent to 50 percent in those buildings. The reduction could mean a significant decrease in heat-trapping carbon emissions, as well as cost savings on utility bills.
Buildings often represent a city's worst culprits in contributing to emissions. In New York, for example, the consumption of electricity, natural gas, fuel oil and steam needed to operate buildings generates 79 percent of the city's total carbon count.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

New Carbon Footprint Calculator

According to an article in the New York Times Tech section,
A new Internet tool to help individuals and communities curb their role in adding global-warming carbon emissions will be announced today at a conference in New York of mayors from around the world, said a person who built the Web technology.
Many environmental groups offer simple carbon calculators on the Web, which allow people to figure the carbon dioxide production from daily routines like driving a car or lighting a house.
“But this is serious software, serious quantitative methods and social networking technology brought to the green world,” said Ron Dembo, the chief executive of Zerofootprint, a nonprofit group that provides information and services to combat
global warming.
Mr. Dembo, a founder of an analytics software company and a former computer scientist at
Yale University, said details of the Web service would be described today at the C40 Large Cities Climate Summit, by David Miller, the mayor of Toronto.
The Web service, called GoZero Footprint City Calculator, is a collaboration of Zerofootprint and Business Objects, a maker of business intelligence software. Bernard Liautaud, the chairman of Business Objects, said that his company had joined the project as an initial step in using its software to help people on the Web create a “collective intelligence” to address humanitarian issues.
On the interactive climate site, people will be able to enter data, see the carbon effect and how their carbon footprint compares with averages in their city and in cities worldwide. They will also be able to do what-if simulations, to see how changes in their activities affect carbon emissions. The anonymous data will be collected for analysis by climate change scientists and others.
A link to the new site, Mr. Dembo said, will be at the “initiatives” section of
“The idea,” he said, “is something that will address millions of people and is infinitely customizable to any culture or lifestyle.”

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Bush Orders New Greenhouse Gas Limits

According to a story in the Environment News Service,
After resisting the regulation of greenhouse gases since he took office in 2001, President George W. Bush today signed an Executive Order directing four federal agencies to develop regulations limiting greenhouse gas emissions from new mobile sources. Greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide emitted by the combustion of fossil fuels, contribute to global climate change.
The President directed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Energy, and the Department of Agriculture to work together "to protect the environment with respect to greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles, nonroad vehicles, and nonroad engines, in a manner consistent with sound science, analysis of benefits and costs, public safety, and economic growth," the Executive Order states.

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Monday, May 14, 2007

A Billion Climate Refugees

That's billion with a "B." A billion people, as in just under one sixth of the world's population, could be displaced by climate changes, according to a report being released this week. An article about the report in The Age says,
GLOBAL warming will create at least 1 billion refugees by 2050 as water shortages and crop failures force people to leave their homes, sparking local wars over access to resources, a leading aid agency has said.
Published to mark Christian Aid Week, the report said the numbers of displaced people would dwarf the refugee crisis that followed World War II. Released yesterday, the report, Human Tide: The Real Migration Crisis, said that unless urgent action was taken, the added problems brought by environmental changes would spiral out of control.
Christian Aid said that as the developed world was responsible for most of the climate-changing pollution, it should bear the brunt of the cost of helping those worst hit by it — the poor.
"We believe that forced migration is now the most urgent threat facing poor people in the developing world," said lead author John Davison.
Scientists predict that average temperatures will rise by between 1.8 and 3 degrees this century because of greenhouse gas emissions, mainly from burning fossil fuels, causing floods and famines and putting million of lives at risk.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says that by 2080, up to 3.2 billion people — a third of the planet's population — will be short of water. Up to 600 million will be short of food and up to 7 million will face coastal flooding.
"We estimate that, unless strong preventative action is taken, between now and 2050 climate change will push the number of displaced people globally to at least 1 billion," the Christian Aid report said.

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NY Faith Communities Combat Climate Change

A story in the Poughkeepsie (NY) Journal talks about how faith communities in the Hudson River Valley are working on the issue of climate change.
Well before "An Inconvenient Truth" captured the nation's attention on national television, houses of worship all over the Hudson Valley screened it, while forming environmental committees and adopting environmental policy statements.
Some of this work was inspired by the Hudson River Project, the Garrison Institute's ongoing exploration of spiritual and values-based dimensions of Hudson River regional environmentalism, which produced a sign-on statement of environmental shared values and action items for local congregations.
It's part of a broader trend in which congregations and faith-based groups everywhere are becoming aware of a spiritual or ethical imperative to model and teach environmental responsibility as a way of "caring for creation" in the face of looming threats to our ecological future, especially climate change.
Implementation has to start somewhere. Houses of worship can fairly easily change their incandescent light bulbs to compact fluorescents, turn down thermostats, insulate heat ducts, get a Energy Research and Development Agency energy audit, maybe add a solar panel. But scientists say to preserve a habitable climate, we must restrict global average temperature rise to one degree Celsius, which means reducing U.S. carbon emissions 60 percent to 80 percent by mid-century.

...Density is also a key to reducing energy consumption and mitigating climate change. Between driving around and running the household, the average surburban single family house dweller uses 240 million BTUs of energy a year. Change her light bulbs, build her house with green design and materials, and exchange her SUV for a hybrid, and usage can drop to around 164 million BTUs per year. But urban dwellers are down to an average 143 million BTUs per year already, without any greening measures, just by virtue of density. Green their housing, and their usage drops to 89 million BTUs per year - 62 million if the housing is multi-family, or about one quarter of what the typical suburban single family house dweller uses now. So if we in the Hudson Valley are serious about mitigating climate change and making big reductions in energy use, it's clear we will have little choice but to build denser communities, and soon.
What role can congregations and faith-based organizations play in this transition? For one thing, they can prompt the necessary discussion of values and how we express them in what we build.
For ourselves and our children, what do we really want our communities to be? Today, even as our population grows, we have the opportunity to implement planning that makes the most of the most desirable features of villages, our mass transit, and our open space, building highly liveable communities that are environmentally responsible. Saying "yes" to that opportunity and implementing it is an expression of spiritual and moral values, a connection which faith groups can help articulate.
For another, they can become advocates and direct participants in the planning process. One respondent to Rose's talk, a clergyman from Westchester, spoke from first-hand experience when he said, "just volunteer for anything in the local government, and sooner or later, they will ask you to be on the planning board."

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US Seeks to Water Down G8 Doc

According to a Washington Post syndicated story,
Negotiators from the United States are trying to weaken the language of a climate change declaration set to be unveiled at next month's G-8 summit of the world's leading industrial powers, according to documents.
A draft proposal dated April 2007 that is being debated in Bonn by senior officials of the Group of Eight includes a pledge to limit the global temperature rise this century to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, as well as an agreement to reduce worldwide greenhouse gas emissions to 50 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.
The United States is seeking to strike that section, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post.
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Sunday, May 13, 2007

Bloomberg and Clinton Host Climate Summit

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former US President Bill Clinton are hosting a global summit on climate change in New York with leaders from around the world, according to an AP story in the New York Times online edition.
Mayors and governors of more than 30 localities from Colombia to South Korea, along with executives from a number of international companies, will join Clinton and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg for the C40 Large Cities Climate Summit that begins Monday.
It is the second such gathering; the first was held in 2005 in London, drawing representatives of 18 cities.
The theory behind the conference is that cities must play a major role in reversing climate change, since they contribute 80 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions even though they cover less than 1 percent of the Earth's surface.
''Cities must take responsibility for our contribution to global climate change,'' said Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who is one of the participants. A spokeswoman said he will announce his own city's carbon-reduction plan Tuesday in California before attending the conference.
Greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide and methane, essentially trap solar energy from the sun. In a city like New York, buildings contribute an overwhelming majority of emissions as they consume electricity, natural gas and fuel oil.
This week's conference will feature discussions on ways to build greener cities, use renewable energy sources, transform waste into energy and work with the private sector.

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Friday, May 11, 2007

Automakers Fight Emission Controls

Automakers are fighting stricter emissions controls designed to combat climate change proposed in 13 states (including Connecticut), according to the Hartford Courant.
Even if the proposed limits on "greenhouse gas" emissions were applied to every new car in the world - and so far only 13 states, including Vermont and Connecticut, have adopted them and they still need approval by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency - the result would be a tiny fraction of a degree drop in temperature, a leading scientist testifying in favor of the rules conceded.To the auto industry, that means the requirement that it cut greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2016 "is purely symbolic," said industry lawyer Andrew B. Clubok. "There is no environmental impact benefit to this regulation."But advocates say the reduction of greenhouse gases that cause global warming has to start somewhere. The proposed regulation, promulgated by California in 2004 and adopted by 12 other states since then, "will not solve global warming by itself," Scot L. Kline of the Vermont attorney general's office acknowledged. "But Vermont it trying to do its fair share."
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East Coast Heats Up

Salon published this AP story about a NASA study that says the Eastern United States is going to get hot. Real hot.
Previous and widely used global warming computer estimates predict too many rainy days, the study says. Because drier weather is hotter, they underestimate how warm it will be east of the Mississippi River, said atmospheric scientists Barry Lynn and Leonard Druyan of Columbia University and NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

"Unless we take some strong action to curtail carbon dioxide emissions, it's going to get a lot hotter," said Lynn, now a scientist at Hebrew University of Jerusalem. "It's going to be a lot more dangerous for people who are not in the best of health."
The study got mixed reviews from other climate scientists, in part because the eastern United States has recently been wetter and cooler than forecast.
And that's just the eastern United States as a whole. For individual cities, the future looks even hotter.
But every now and then a summer will be drier than normal and that means even hotter days, Lynn said. So when Lynn's computer models spit out simulated results for July 2085 the forecasted temperatures sizzled past uncomfortable into painful. The study showed a map where the average high in the southeast neared 115 and pushed 100 in the northeast. Even Canada flirted with the low to mid 90s.
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Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Climate Change Event May 10 at CCSU

Building a Mass Movement to Confront the Climate Crisis

Thursday, May 10th 7:30 PM
Marcus White Living Room, Marcus White Hall
Central Connecticut State University, 1615 Stanley Street
New Britain, CT

From the countless new scientific reports, to radical ecological shifts like the recent cessation of bear hibernation in Spain, to climatic shifts like the near doubling of Katrina-level storms in the last 35 years, and even calls to action by the insurance industry, the threat of global climate change becomes clearer every day.

Study after study points to the same conclusion: If our civilization's carbon emissions do not decrease dramatically in the coming decades the consequences will be catastrophic within the lifetimes of people alive today. Coastal cities all over the world will be submerged in water. Western Europe and Northeast America could experience a new ice age. A new wave of powerful storms will wreak havoc all over the world. Farm land will turn to desert. Millions of people will lose drinkable water. Wars will break out over newly scarce land and resources. A majority of the species on earth will face extinction.
Under current and all recent US governments the situation only worsens. In the last ten years the rate of increase of carbon emissions has only increased, and the US Energy Department plans to continue increasing it.

How can we build a movement to halt global warming in its tracks while maintaining and improving the living standards of working people? What strategies and alliances have successfully furthered environmental movements and how are groups organizing against environmental destruction around the country right now? What roles are labor organizations playing and how could their work in the environmental movement expand?

Come hear labor and environmental activist Christine Frank discuss the need for a mass environmental movement with a working class perspective and describe the efforts currently underway to build it. A discussion will follow.

Frank is the volunteer coordinator of the Climate Crisis Coalition of the Twin Cities, a Co-Convener of the Labor and Sustainability Conference and a member of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 13 in the Guthrie Theater Costume Bargaining Unit.

For more information call 860-547-0122
or e-mail directions see:

A Socialist Action Forum

Wind Power in China

The New York Times has a story about a UN program to put renewable energy in poorer countries. The problem: by far, China is the biggest beneficiary, and China is not as poor as many other nations that could benefit from the fund.
That program, the Clean Development Mechanism, has become a kind of Robin Hood, raising billions of dollars from rich countries and transferring them to poor countries to curb the emission of global warming gases. The biggest beneficiary is no longer so poor: China, with $1.2 trillion in foreign exchange reserves, received three-fifths of the money last year.
Scientists increasingly worry about the emissions from developing countries, which may contribute to global environmental problems even sooner than previously expected. China is expected to pass the United States this year or next to become the world’s largest emitter of global warming gases. And as a result, some of the poorest countries are being left out.
That draws attention to the Clean Development Mechanism, which has grown at an extraordinary pace, to $4.8 billion in transfer payments to developing countries last year from less than $100 million in 2002.
The Clean Development Mechanism raises its money through a complex market in trading pollution credits: businesses and governments in affluent regions like Europe and Japan help pay to reduce pollution in poorer countries, offsetting their own emissions. This helps advanced industrial nations stay within their Kyoto Protocol limits for emitting climate-changing gases like carbon dioxide.
For each ton of global warming gases that a developing country can prove it has eliminated, the secretariat of the Clean Development Mechanism, in Bonn, Germany, awards it a credit. Developing countries sold credits last year to richer nations for an average price of $10.70 each.
Its growth has come almost entirely by focusing on efficient projects in China and other fast-growing countries that spread the administrative costs over many large efforts, while poorer lands have received almost nothing. And that is why the program is becoming a battleground, pitting an unlikely coalition of bankers, traders, industrialists and environmentalists, who defend it, against economic development advocates, who warn of distortions.
According to the
World Bank, China captured $3 billion of the $4.8 billion in subsidies last year for dozens of projects. Yet it accounted for less than two-fifths of the developing world’s fossil fuel consumption, the main source of warming gases.
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Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Tropical Plants Handle Warming

According to an article in,
Tropical plants may become more adaptable due to changing rainfall patterns as a result of global warming, according to a new study by a University of Florida scientist.

The researchers found that plants in Hawaii had the ability to acclimate to big changes in rainfall in at least one important respect - how they derived nutrients. The plants largely relied on one form of the vital nutrient nitrogen in moist areas. But in the still wetter terrain that characterizes some rainforests, they switched to another form of nitrogen that becomes more available in those conditions.Scientists said the findings presented a notable exception to the commonly held idea that tropical plants are highly specialized in their own little environmental niches and thus very sensitive to disturbances of those niches."These plants should be able to do OK in terms of their nitrogen nutrition, even with the climate changing. But of course, we only studied one group of organisms and one mechanism in this study and plants depend on many different mechanisms to coexist, some of which may also change with changing rainfall," said Ted Schuur, UF assistant professor of ecology and one of four authors of the paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).According to the researchers, the plants' ability to acclimatise themselves to changing climate is good as climate change is expected to radically alter rainfall patterns in the tropics. But there are drawbacks as well. Unrelated changes that accompany a warming climate could still affect plant distribution and growth, such as those that hold sway over pollinators, insect predators or invasive plants.
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Monday, May 7, 2007

What's Next for the Kyoto Protocol

According to the BBC World News,
Delegates to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and its Kyoto Protocol are meeting in the German city of Bonn.
The two-week summit of about 2,000 delegates from 190 countries will focus on how to forward the Kyoto Protocol.
Kyoto binds 35 nations to cut carbon emissions in a first phase until 2012.
Officials will look at how to widen the deal to include the world's richest nations and the growing economies, such as the US, China, Brazil and India.
With Germany holding the presidency of the G8, Chancellor Angela Merkel has pledged to put climate change at the top of the agenda when leaders of the world's richest nations gather at the G8 Summit in Heiligendamm next month.
Kyoto follow-up
Experts meeting in Bonn are set to outline guidelines for limiting national greenhouse gas emissions, and reducing emissions from deforestation in developing countries.

China had argued against anything which could affect its growthThe main focus will be on what happens when the current phase of the Kyoto Protocol, which sets out legally binding emission targets, ends in 2012.
European nations hope the US and Australia, which have not ratified the Kyoto Protocol, will agree to cut their emissions of greenhouse gases under a new deal.
UN officials say the challenge is to come up with an international agreement which brings together the world's richest nations and the growing economies of China, India, Brazil and Mexico.
During two weeks of talks, there will also be workshops on energy efficiency, greater use of renewable energy and technologies to develop clean fossil fuels.

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Tick-Tock, Tick-Tock

That's the sound of the time left to act decisively to avert the worst effects of climate change ticking away, according to the latest report of the Intergovermental Panel on Climate Change., a website that bills itself as a "marketplace for CO2 technology, reports these key points from the report:

The world must stabilize the amount of greenhouse gases (GHG) in the atmosphere at 445 parts per million (ppm) by 2015 to keep global temperatures from rising more than 2° C over pre-industrial levels. To achieve the lowest targets would cost less than 3% of the global gross domestic product by 2030, or 0.1% per year. If nothing is done, however, the costs of escalating climate change will be much higher than these projected costs of climate protection. These are major findings from the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report issued on 4 May. It clearly invalidates arguments from policymakers that a full-scale attack on climate change is too costly and would cripple economies worldwide.

More specifically, the report, based on a study by more than 2,000 scientists, demands the use of already existing technologies to make cars, buildings and appliances far more efficient. For the building sector, the UN panel explicitly mentions the use of alternative refrigeration fluids as a key policy to reduce GHG emissions. Discouraging older technologies, setting mandatory fuel economy standards worldwide, and introducing tax penalties for emitting GHG would be vital for policymakers if the worst environmental and related financial consequences are to be avoided.
Results In more details, the IPCC report found the following:
GHG emissions increased 70% from 1970 to 2004, and are projected to increase 25-90% by 2030 if current emissions trends continue and no action is taken.

Even an increase to 2° C – the lowest target to be achieved - could lead to water shortages for 2 billion people by 2050, and threaten extinction for 20-30% of all species.
Both bottom-up and top-down studies indicate that there is substantial economic potential for the mitigation of global GHG emissions over the coming decades. Technology transfer, international cooperation, tax credits and minimum energy efficiency requirements are preferred options.Reactions"We're looking for an energy revolution that's as comprehensive as the one that occurred at the beginning of the 20th century. None of us can predict the future," but "it may not be impossible to make that kind of revolution again," said Dr. Moomaw, a lead author of the report."The time for making excuses is over... We now have the technologies and enough known policy measures that we know work. [...] Now the ball is in the court of governments and politicians," added Adil Najam, another lead author and associate professor at Tufts University's Fletcher School.

Next steps
The results from the IPCC report are expected to play a major role at the next G8 meeting next month, and in shaping the next round of talks seeking new binding emissions restrictions for the post-Kyoto era after 2012.

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Saturday, May 5, 2007

Mirror Power

The BBC reports about how a new power plant in Spain gets it's power from the sun in a novel way:
It is Europe's first commercially operating power station using the Sun's energy this way and at the moment its operator, Solucar, proudly claims that it generates 11 Megawatts (MW) of electricity without emitting a single puff of greenhouse gas. This current figure is enough to power up to 6,000 homes.
But ultimately, the entire plant should generate as much power as is used by the 600,000 people of Seville.
It works by focusing the reflected rays on one location, turning water into steam and then blasting it into turbines to generate power.

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Friday, May 4, 2007

Connecticut Towns Pledge to Use Clean Energy

A detailed article in the Hartford Courant discusses the 20 x 2010 campaign, and quotes or mentions several members of the Interreligious Eco-Justice Network.
Bloomfield and Branford. Canton and Cromwell. Hartford and Harwinton. West Hartford and Westport.One by one, cities and towns across Connecticut are buying into an energy program that its promoters promise will improve public health, free the nation from its addiction to foreign oil and combat global warming all at the same time.
The grand claims are matched by a born-again zeal. Local governments are asked to "take the pledge" or "make the commitment" to the program. It even uses its own numerology.The key numbers are "20 percent by 2010." They give the program its name and its goal. By joining, cities and towns dedicate themselves to getting 20 percent of the electricity used in their public buildings from clean power sources by 2010. Wind, water, landfill gas: yes; coal and oil: no.The next number is 100. If that many households agree to pay a clean energy premium on their monthly electric bills, a town that takes the 2010 pledge wins designation as a clean energy community. It's a kind of merit badge bestowed by the state, and comes with a prize of a solar energy unit worth $10,000.As of last month, 45 towns have joined the SmartPower 20% by 2010 Clean Energy Campaign, and 20 of those have qualified as clean energy communities. In some, new energy task forces have become permanent parts of local government, like inland wetlands commissions or zoning boards.Almost every week now a town council or board of selectmen hears the clean energy pitch from citizen activists, or from agents of the nonprofit groups nurturing the grass-roots movement.The Windsor Town Council in early April was confronted by two fourth-graders who made it their mission to get the town to join.Alex Simon and Tom McAuliffe said they were inspired by "An Inconvenient Truth," the Al Gore global warming documentary, and decided to research green power for a school project.Tom, in a navy blazer, and Alex, the son of a councilman, read from index cards as they gave a PowerPoint presentation to the council.Joining 20-10 "would provide Windsor kids with a safer, healthier future," Alex told the council.In Bloomfield, Marianne Horn, an attorney at the state Department of Public Health, said residents pushed the council to become a green community."I really think that's the way this change is going to happen and it seems to be mushrooming. I think people are afraid and they're concerned," Horn said. "One of the things that I think helps people feel empowered is to do something concrete like sign up for the clean energy option on their energy bills."West Hartford is a leader among towns already working toward the 20-10 goal. It has three solar panels on the roof of town hall and four more on the way. West Hartford has more residents, 700-plus, paying for the household clean energy option than any other town in the state.The town itself is buying about 1,500 megawatt hours of electricity that can be credited to clean sources, putting it halfway toward its 20 percent goal and way ahead of most other towns. Taking the pledge for clean energy is one thing. Budgeting for it is another.In early 2005, when West Hartford passed its 20-10 resolution and created an energy task force, people were most worried about gasoline and heating oil prices, said Mayor Scott Slifka. But that was before a surge in electricity prices, Hurricane Katrina and "An Inconvenient Truth.""We signed up for the program thinking it was the right thing. I know we didn't think it was going to become as big a deal as it has," Slifka said."Ten years ago, people went `Al Gore is a tree hugger.' Now people go, `Oh, I get it,'" Slifka said. "I think we're very much a model both for what the government is doing, but very much for what the residents are doing on their own."Meanwhile, Hartford may soon leap past West Hartford. On April 19, in honor of Earth Day, the city said it would reach its 20 percent goal by the end of this year.