Friday, February 29, 2008
Friday, February 22, 2008
Interfaith Power and Light is a religious response to global warming with chapters in 25 states and Greater Washington, D.C.
Find a link to your local chapter at http://www.theregenerationproject.org/State.
Find discounts on energy saving products at http://www.shopipl.org/
Thursday, February 21, 2008
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Perhaps not since the days of “dishpan hands” has the household been so all-consuming. But instead of gleaming floors and sparkling dishes, the obsession is on installing compact fluorescent light bulbs, buying in bulk and using “smart” power strips that shut off electricity to the espresso machine, microwave, X-Box, VCR, coffee grinder, television and laptop when not in use.
“It’s like eating too many brownies one day and then jogging extra the next,” said Kimberly Danek Pinkson, 38, the founder of the EcoMom Alliance, speaking to the group of efforts to curb eco-guilt through carbon offsets for air travel.
Part “Hints from Heloise” and part political self-help group, the alliance, which Ms. Pinkson says has 9,000 members across the country, joins a growing subculture dedicated to the “green mom,” with blogs and Web sites like greenandcleanmom.blogspot.com and eco-chick.com. Web-based organizations like the Center for a New American Dream in Takoma Park, Md., advocate reducing consumption and offer a registry that helps brides “celebrate the less-material wedding of your dreams.”
The idea is simple. Air would be blown over a liquid solution of potassium carbonate, which would absorb the carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide would then be extracted and subjected to chemical reactions that would turn it into fuel: methanol, gasoline or jet fuel.
This process could transform carbon dioxide from an unwanted, climate-changing pollutant into a vast resource for renewable fuels. The closed cycle — equal amounts of carbon dioxide emitted and removed — would mean that cars, trucks and airplanes using the synthetic fuels would no longer be contributing to global warming.
Although they have not yet built a synthetic fuel factory, or even a small prototype, the scientists say it is all based on existing technology.
“Everything in the concept has been built, is operating or has a close cousin that is operating,” Dr. Martin said.
Thursday, February 14, 2008
They may not stay that way much longer. A new report by French scientists in the Proceedings of the Natural Academy of Sciences finds that king penguins could be wiped out over the coming decades due to global warming. Led by Yvon Le Maho, a physiologist at French National Center for Scientific Research, the team of researchers followed 456 adult birds with radio transponders implanted beneath their skin. Over an eight-year period, the researchers correlated survival rate to changes in sea surface temperatures, and found that in warm years, penguin chicks were less likely to survive the lean months of winter, because there wasn't sufficient fish to feed them. (Warmer temperatures seem to lower fish populations in the Southern Ocean, off Antarctica.) Adult survival rates dropped as well in warmer years. Ultimately, the scientists report that a 0.47 degree F increase in the temperature of the Southern Ocean — considerably below current forecasts for the next several decades — would reduce penguin numbers by 9%, enough to touch off a population collapse. "Our findings suggest that king penguin populations are at heavy extinction risk under the current global warming predictions," the study's authors wrote.
That's bad news for the penguins, and worse news for the rest of Antarctic wildlife. Sitting near the top of the food chain, the king penguins are useful markers for the health of the rest of the Antarctic ecosystem. If global warming means they're not getting enough food, the conditions below the penguins could be even worse. Temperature rise due to climate change is occurring quicker at the poles than the rest of the planet — on the Antarctic Peninsula, temperatures have risen five times faster than the global average over the past 50 years. Even if we can manage to slow the growth in carbon emissions, the poles will likely continue to warm. Though the species that have evolved to survive in harsh Antarctic conditions are necessarily tough, they're also delicate. They're built for the snow and ice — change those conditions, and you take away their habitat and their food supply. Extinction comes next, and nothing can stop it.
The situation is no better in the Arctic north, where studies predict that polar bear populations will rapidly shrink over the coming decades, thanks again to warming. Environmentalists are pressing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to declare the polar bear threatened, which would make it the first species to be recognized as endangered specifically because of climate change. The government recently failed to meet a self-imposed deadline to make the decision by Feb. 9, and the fate of the polar bear remains unclear. But if we fail to slow down the rate of warming, the polar regions as we know them will no longer exist — and possibly, neither will many of the species who live there now.
Corridor congregations get serious about going green
By Molly Rossiter
Within most faiths is a call to members to be good stewards of the Earth. So calling on congregations to "go green" makes sense, say area coordinators of a movement encouraging faith groups to become more environmentally aware."Every faith tradition has an ethic that calls us to care for creation," said Sarah Webb, who, with two other "church moms," started two years ago Cool Congregations, a project aimed at teaching church communities how to be better caretakers of the Earth. "It's something we've neglected over the last millennium, so we're looking to our own Scripture for inspiration."Congregations across the country have noted global warming, climate change and Earth stewardship for decades, but in just the past few years have concerted efforts to make a difference started to occur. When Webb and her home congregation at St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Cedar Falls started turning into a "green congregation'' less than two years ago, the church became a leader in Iowa. Now Webb, 49, and other Cool Congregations coordinators hold workshops across the state, teaching participants how to determine their carbon footprint — the total amount of greenhouse gases produced, usually measured in tons of carbon dioxide — and how to improve it. At a workshop in Iowa City last week, Webb said, 54 people representing 15 congregations planned to make a difference. "They have decided to form a network among themselves to keep it going," she said.Jamie McCoy, 47, has taken an active role in getting his congregation at Zion Lutheran Church, 310 N. Johnson St. in Iowa City, more involved. Zion sponsored the Cool Congregations workshop on Jan. 26."The only way we're going to have any action taken on climate change is from a grass-roots effort," McCoy said. "Our government just really isn't that interested."As Christians we are called to love our neighbors as ourselves," he said. "Future generations and climate-vulnerable people around the world are also our neighbors. The Earth itself is also a sacred place entrusted to us by God."Webb said many successful efforts toward social change — for example, the abolition of slavery, women's suffrage and, more recently, the saving of the Endangered Species Act — were strongly supported by faith communities. What many workshop participants find especially interesting, she said, is how little it takes to make a big difference."My friend Kate changed over 75 percent of the light bulbs in her home to compact fluorescent bulbs and was able to reduce her carbon emissions by 10 percent," Webb said. "Her initial investment was about $200 for the light bulbs, but she's saved that and more every year."Washing two loads of laundry in cold water rather than warm or hot each week can reduce carbon emissions by 500 pounds per year, Webb said, and adjusting the thermostat down 2 degrees in winter and up 2 degrees in summer can save another 500 pounds."There are a lot of inexpensive things you can do that make a big difference," she said.Mark Kresowik, 23, of Des Moines, is interim director of Iowa Interfaith Power and Light, which helps coordinate green efforts in churches across the state. He said the movement for congregations to become more ecologically minded is not new, nor is it focused in Iowa or the Midwest. There are Interfaith Power and Light groups in 25 states, he said, "and we're not the only group out there.""I think part of it is that churches truly recognize the challenge that we are facing in terms of our moral obligations to take care of God's creation, the Earth," Kresowik said. "Certainly with issues like global warming in particular, we are not doing our part." Steve Mitchell might disagree, at least from his church's perspective. Mitchell, 58, is a congregational financial officer at Community of Christ Church, 1500 Blairs Ferry Rd. in Hiawatha, and also serves as an ex officio member on the building and grounds committee. He said church leaders there started going green in 1992, when they started switching incandescent light bulbs over to compact fluorescent.In addition, windows in the church's two largest rooms, the sanctuary and family life center, have been replaced with thermal insulated windows. Because the windows face south, they have a mirror finish to reflect the sun in summer. "We also do a lot of recycling. We don't use Styrofoam, and we use supplies that are environmentally friendly," he said. The church's old lawn mower and snow blower have been replaced with energy-efficient four-cylinder models, and the grounds of the church have been landscaped to include trees and shrubs "to replace as much green as we can.""It's not a new concept, and it's nothing we've just started," he said. Contact the writer: (319) 398-8288 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Obama's investment would be over 10 years as part of two programs. The larger is $150 billion to create 5 million so-called "green collar" jobs to develop more environmentally friendly energy sources.
Sixty-billion dollars would go to a National Infrastructure Reinvestment Bank to rebuild highways, bridges, airports and other public projects. Obama estimated that could generate nearly 2 million jobs, many of them in the construction industry that's been hit by the housing crisis.
Obama explained that the money for his proposals will come from ending the Iraq war, cutting tax breaks for corporations, taxing carbon pollution and raising taxes on high-income earners.
Neera Tanden, Hillary Rodham Clinton's policy director, said Obama was offering ideas Clinton proposed months ago. "Voters may ask themselves that if Senator Obama cannot produce his own ideas on the campaign trail, how will he solve new problems as president?" Tanden said in a memo e-mailed to reporters.
Hill is the founder of TreeHugger, an online hub for news and information related to environmental sustainability. Hailed as a “green CNN,” TreeHugger hosts a constantly updated blog, newsletters, video and radio segments and a user-generated Graham site, Hugg. In the three years since its inception, TreeHugger has become one of the most high-profile and highly-trafficked sites on the internet.
Recently, Hill his been hard at work developing Planet Green with Discovery Communications. Hill has also worked in a variety of industries prior to starting TreeHugger, including fashion, web-development, and plant-based air filters. He is also a designer, and his New York souvenir coffee mug is sold in over 150 stores. Hill was educated at Carleton University in Ottawa and Emily Carr Institute of Art + Design in Vancouver.
Interfaith Power and Light is a religious response to global warming with chapters in 25 states and Greater Washington, D.C. Find a link to your local chapter at http://www.theregenerationproject.org/State.
Find discounts on energy saving products at http://www.shopipl.org/
Lake Mead, which serves as a reservoir for the Colorado River and sustains fast-growing cities in the Southwest, has a 50 percent chance of becoming unusable by 2021, researchers say.
The lake, located in Nevada and Arizona, has a 50 percent chance of becoming unusable by 2021, the scientists say, if the demand for water remains unchanged and if human-induced climate change follows climate scientists’ moderate forecasts, resulting in a reduction in average river flows.
Demand for Colorado River water already slightly exceeds the average annual supply when high levels of evaporation are taken into account, the researchers, Tim P. Barnett and David W. Pierce, point out. Despite an abundant snowfall in Colorado this year, scientists project that snowpacks and their runoffs will continue to dwindle. If they do, the system for delivering water across the Southwest would become increasingly unstable.
“We were really sort of stunned,” Professor Barnett said in an interview. “We didn’t expect such a big problem basically right on our front doorstep. We thought there’d be more time.” He added, “You think of what the implications are, and it’s pretty scary.”
Sunday, February 10, 2008
Friday, February 8, 2008
As increasingly desperate climate scientists have been telling us, the effects of global warming are occurring faster than anyone had thought possible.
The next president must make reducing GHG emissions a central focus of his or her administration if we want to avoid the worst impacts of global warming: catastrophic sea level rise, widespread drought and desertification, and loss of up to 70 percent of all species.
While McCain may understand the scale of the climate problem, he does not appear to understand the scale of the solution. He understands the country needs to put in place a mandatory cap on GHG emissions and a trading system to energize American innovation. But in a recent Republican debate, he denied that a cap and trade system is a mandate, even though it would arguably be the most far-reaching government mandate ever legislated.
Moreover, like most conservatives, he doesn't understand or accept the critical role government must play to make that system succeed. Besides initiating a cap-and-trade system, the next president must:
1. Appoint judges who won't gut climate-change efforts.
2. Appoint leaders and staff of key federal agencies who take climate change seriously and believe in the necessary solutions.
3. Embrace an aggressive and broad-based technology deployment strategy to keep the cost of the cap-and-trade system as low as possible.
4. Lead a change in utility regulations to encourage, rather than discourage, energy efficiency and clean energy.
5. Offer strong public advocacy to reverse the years of muzzling and misinformation of the Bush administration.
Thursday, February 7, 2008
When Providence officials pushed for new police cars with four cylinders instead of six, to save gasoline, there was pushback — unsuccessful — from police officers who preferred more powerful engines to pursue speeders or criminals. Cleveland’s plans to retrofit a local hot-water plant, produce new electricity and save tons of greenhouse gas emissions, molder in a file. It would cost $200 million, and there is no money — the tax base, left ragged by the loss of population and industry over the last two decades, has been hit hard again by the subprime mortgage crisis.
Nearly 1,200 miles away, in Austin, Tex., — a city that ranks high on any list of green strivers — some residents want to help but do not feel they can afford it. DeVonna Garcia’s family won an award for its beautiful outdoor display of Christmas lights — but she stayed with her old-fashioned incandescent bulbs, hearing that a friend paid $600 for energy-efficient lights.
Ann Hancock, the executive director of the Climate Protection Campaign, a nonprofit based in Sonoma County, a wine-growing area north of San Francisco, said that the county and its nine municipalities signed climate-protection agreements with enthusiasm more than five years ago, committing to bringing down greenhouse-gas emissions. Then they tried to figure out how.
“It’s really hard,” Ms. Hancock said. “It’s like the dark night of the soul.” All the big items in the inventory of emissions — from tailpipes, from the energy needed to supply drinking water and treat waste water, from heating and cooling buildings — are the product of residents’ and businesses’ individual decisions about how and where to live and drive and shop.
Monday, February 4, 2008
“Why George W. Bush Is in Favor of Global Warming,” a two-page spread that the magazine calls an exposé, has been illustrated by 10 Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonists. They try to offer reasons why environmental apocalypse might be a good thing for President Bush, with observations like, “His worries about how future generations will remember his presidency won’t matter if there are no future generations.”
Other potential upsides are that Iraq could literally be melted off the earth, and rising oceans could submerge lefty strongholds like New York, Boston and San Francisco.
The artists include Mike Peters, who won the Pulitzer in 1981 for his work in The Dayton Daily News in Ohio, and Matt Davies, who won in 2004 for The Journal News of White Plains.
John Ficarra, the editor of Mad, and Sam Viviano, the art director, assembled the team. Mr. Ficarra, who had the idea to find 10 Pulitzer winners, described himself as the Captain Kirk of the operation, and Mr. Viviano, who recruited the cartoonists, as Sulu. “You even said, ‘Make it so,’ ” Mr. Viviano said to Mr. Ficarra during a joint telephone interview.
They said that the artists were all happy to participate. “Everybody, for the most part, who works in humor today has some kind of influence from Mad,” Mr. Viviano said.
“And they still managed to be successful,” Mr. Ficarra added.
A writer for the magazine, Jacob Lambert, came up with the reasons why President Bush might like global warming, and the cartoonists took it from there. Some of them followed the editors’ guidance faithfully, others submitted variations.
Mad, of course, has a history of lampooning politicians, particularly embattled Republicans. In recalling favorites, Mr. Ficarra and Mr. Viviano were quick to mention a parody of the movie poster for “The Sting,” which substituted Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew for Paul Newman and Robert Redford; instead of lighting cigars with currency, the politicians lighted subpoenas. A more recent poster was “Pirates of the Constitution,” which depicted President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice over the tag line, “Now subverting a government near you!”
Mad, first published in 1952, says that the average age of its readership is 26, a statistic that Mr. Ficarra explains this way: “Median age is 19. Mental age is 9. Mental age of the editorial staff dips down a little lower, around 3.”
Phthalates (pronounced thowl-ates) are under attack by some environmental advocacy groups, but experts are uncertain what dangers, if any, they might pose. The federal government doesn't limit their use, although California and some countries have restricted their use.
Animal studies have suggested that phthalates can cause reproductive birth defects and some activists believe they may cause reproductive problems in boys and early puberty in girls.
Rigorous scientific evidence in human studies is lacking. The current study offers no direct evidence that products the infants used contained phthalates, and no evidence that the chemicals in the babies' urine caused any harm. Still, the results worried environmental groups that support restrictions on these chemicals.
"There is an obvious need for laws that force the beauty industry to clean up its act," said Stacy Malkan of Health Care Without Harm.
The study's lead author, Dr. Sheela Sathyanarayana, a University of Washington pediatrician, said, "The bottom line is that these chemicals likely do exist in products that we're commonly using on our children and they potentially could cause health effects."
Babies don't usually need special lotions and powders, and water alone or shampoo in very small amounts is generally enough to clean infant hair, Sathyanarayana said.
Concerned parents can seek products labeled "phthalate-free," or check labels for common phthalates, including DEP and DEHP.
But the chemicals often don't appear on product labels. That's because retail products aren't required to list individual ingredients of fragrances, which are a common phthalate source.
The Food and Drug Administration "has no compelling evidence that phthalates pose a safety risk when used in cosmetics," spokeswoman Stephanie Kwisnek said. "Should new data emerge, we will inform the public as well as the industry."
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the health effects in humans are uncertain.
"Although several studies in people have explored possible associations with developmental and reproductive outcomes (semen quality, genital development in boys, shortened pregnancy, and premature breast development in young girls), more research is needed," a 2005 CDC report said.
The new study, which appears in February's issue of the journal Pediatrics, involved 163 babies. Most were white, ages 2 to 28 months and living in California, Minnesota and Missouri.
The researchers measured levels of several phthalates in urine from diapers. They also asked the mothers about use in the previous 24 hours of baby products including lotions, powders, diaper creams and baby wipes.
All urine samples had detectable levels of at least one phthalate, and most had levels of several more. The highest levels were linked with shampoos, lotions and powders, and were most prevalent in babies younger than 8 months.
John Bailey, chief scientist at the Personal Care Products Council, questioned the methods and said the phthalates could have come from diapers, lab materials or other sources.
"Unfortunately, the researchers of this study did not test baby care products for the presence of phthalates or control for other possible routes of exposure," Bailey said.
Saturday, February 2, 2008
Within weeks, plastic bag use dropped 94 percent. Within a year, nearly everyone had bought reusable cloth bags, keeping them in offices and in the backs of cars. Plastic bags were not outlawed, but carrying them became socially unacceptable — on a par with wearing a fur coat or not cleaning up after one’s dog.
“When my roommate brings one in the flat it annoys the hell out of me,” said Edel Egan, a photographer, carrying groceries last week in a red backpack.
Drowning in a sea of plastic bags, countries from China to Australia, cities from San Francisco to New York have in the past year adopted a flurry of laws and regulations to address the problem, so far with mixed success. The New York City Council, for example, in the face of stiff resistance from business interests, passed a measure requiring only that stores that hand out plastic bags take them back for recycling.
But in the parking lot of a Superquinn Market, Ireland’s largest grocery chain, it is clear that the country is well into the post-plastic-bag era. “I used to get half a dozen with every shop. Now I’d never ever buy one,” said Cathal McKeown, 40, a civil servant carrying two large black cloth bags bearing the bright green Superquinn motto. “If I forgot these, I’d just take the cart of groceries and put them loose in the boot of the car, rather than buy a bag.”
Friday, February 1, 2008
That's when I had to face up to the truth — something I already knew deep in my heart when I paid the $500 gas bill every month — that the Arts and Crafts house of my dreams was a sieve.He based the grade on a "blower door" test that measures leakage (or drafts) into a house by the number of air changes per hour that occur inside. The test showed that the heat inside our house was being "swapped" for cold air 1 1/2 times every hour. The target level (reached by very few houses) is 0.35 air swaps per hour. My house was losing four times that much.That made it one of the draftiest Torres had seen in his two years with the Energy Solutions program, which is funded by the Connecticut Energy Efficiency Fund and administered by Connecticut Light & Power.Even this chilling information didn't sway my love for the house, with its dark oak fireplace mantel, built-in leaded-glass bookcases and French doors that open to a huge sun porch.Torres tried to console me. He said he had seen worse.Eager to find out how to button my house up, I followed Torres and his co-worker Chris Graham for the next five hours as they weatherstripped doors and plugged the crannies, holes and gaps where New England's raw winter air flowed in.They replaced incandescent light bulbs with energy-efficient compact fluorescent bulbs. They put a low-flow shower head in our bathroom and an aerator on the kitchen faucet to save water.When the two were done, the test showed their work had reduced the cold air "swap" in the house to 1 time every hour — an improvement, but still three times the target level.The cost of the audit and work: free. It's available to customers of Connecticut Light & Power, Connecticut Natural Gas, Yankee Gas or United Illuminating who heat with natural gas or electricity. (The cost is $300 for homes heated with oil.) Customers actually pay for the Home Energy Solutions program through a 0.211 cents-per-kilowatt-hour surcharge on their electricity bill, said program manager Craig Clark, of CL&P.Clark said the 2-year-old program has grown popular as energy costs have soared. Last year, 17 two-person crews visited 4,400 homes — "from trailers to mansions." Clark advertises the program in gas and electric bill inserts, but only sporadically, to keep the waiting list down. (The wait is about one month at this point.)I signed up after seeing a flier that said the program could help lower energy costs in just one visit.Clark said each crew visits two houses a day. Besides working on houses like mine that use gas- or oil-generated radiant heat, the crews seal leaks in houses with duct systems. For the energy companies, each dollar spent on saving energy is more cost-effective than buying fuel to make electricity, Clark said, and burning less fuel causes less pollution.He said efficient lighting and weatherization are the primary improvements needed by most homes the program audits.This surprised me. I had always figured the reason my family wore coats around the house in the winter and issued wool blankets to visitors was because the house didn't have enough insulation.When we moved into the house seven years ago, we replaced 21 windows on the second and third floors to save on energy costs. Clark told me our money would have been better spent on insulation — windows account for only a small percentage of energy loss in a house.