Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Dr Hansen Explains It All For You

Linked here is a presentation given by Dr. Hansen at NASA on May 21 (a week ago). It's a 45 minute presentation with question and answer. His presentation gives an overview of his approach, and how he got involved in climate change and what his motivation is now for speaking out to the public on a very complex science issue. He's now taking a very public stance on climate change after retiring from his position at NASA in order to speak out with the necessary urgency and clarity. In his presentation he covers Methane Hydrate at 20:10, Greenland melt at 24:10, and proposes global solutions of fee and dividend at 40:30. One of his slides is below:

 What this is showing is that coal and unconventional recovery of oil and gas are not acceptable as future sources of energy, and along with that, methane hydrate processes which add to the forcing of climate change.

There will need to be a very drastic and immediate change in the way that the global economy operates and procures the necessary energy to keep our systems of commerce and trade in place without the destruction of the ecosphere.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Pretty Simple

Sometimes the clarity of very simple strategies for reducing the carbon footprint of the built environment deserve a heads up. An example here is from the new 2030 Palette blog. As you can see from the photo, the roof of this structure is kind of a unique approach to sunshade principles as well as the strategic use of solar insolation for heating purposes.

While this model is not appropriate for high wind areas or those susceptible to hurricane forces, the design of this residence adapts key passive strategies to conserve energy. The roof itself is separate from the much more massive concrete structure, which is oriented facing north. At the same time it shades the heavy concrete structure from the sun (heat of mass), it collects rainwater that runs off into storage barrels on the south side that are exposed to direct sun which heats the water in the barrels. The shade overhang provides outdoor living spaces as well as keeping the direct solar gain from being absorbed by the concrete structure, while providing necessary ventilation space. It's a very elegant and simple solution that integrates the structure into the site and minimizes its energy consumption.

The 2030 Challenge is one that has been adopted by the building industry independently of global agreements and carbon reduction goals, primarily because of the recognition that these agreements are lacking, and are apt to be too little too late.

We can't wait any longer for the endless global negotiations to resolve the many small actions that must take place sooner rather than later, and establish an ethic of living within the natural means and boundaries of the energy in the ecosphere. This energy balance does not include carbon that is extracted from long-buried fossil fuels, which should have stayed entombed in the earth's mantle.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Reinventing Fire in China

The video above is from Chief Scientist Amory Lovins and Manager of the Office of the Chief Scientist Clay Stranger who discuss their project that involves an international energy development project between the Rocky Mountain Institute, located in California's Bay Area, and China. As they put it, any solutions for climate and the global energy economy must flow through China. RMI's international partnership "Reinventing Fire: China" will investigate the economic, environmental, and social implications of rapidly deploying renewables and energy efficiency technologies in China. The project's analysis and recommendations will offer an opportunity to influence—at a national level—arguably the most important energy economy in the world alongside that of the U.S.

This is possible because of the China Trade Agreement established between Sacramento and Beijing, following on the heels of the international agreement with China signed by US Secretary of State John Kerry on April 14 of this year:

The agreement could impact Canada and the growth of the oilsands where companies predict their expansion will triple their greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. This expansion is largely dependent on the building of pipelines such as the Keystone XL to Texas, which remains a hotly contested issue in the U.S. where it has become the symbol of the struggle for strong action on climate change. Public hearings on the pipeline open in Nebraska Thursday.

If the U.S. and China significantly ratchet up the level of climate action, “that would give the lie to the Harper government’s claims that its policies are in line with those of other developed countries,” Meyer said. “We’ll have to see how this plays out, of course.  Talk is cheap, but the US-China statement, in particular, heightens expectations for something significant later this year.”

This is happening because, as a Scientific American article points out:

Speaking at a clean energy seminar in Beijing, Kerry warned that climate change is happening at a faster rate than scientists predicted 20 years ago and said the United States and China have a particular responsibility to rein in greenhouse gases.

"China and the United States represent the world's two biggest economies, we represent the world's two largest consumers of energy, and we represent the two largest emitters of global greenhouse gases. So if any two nations come to this table with an imperative for action, it is us," Kerry said.

Update: China's legal and cultural systems may prove to be problematic in these agreements. The culture is above the law.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Climate Negotiations in Bonn

UNFCCC International negotiations on climate change strategies concluded last week in Bonn. Writing ahead of the conference, the WRI.org reported on the main issues of concern for the structure of a future international climate agreement in 2015.

The final decision by all countries at COP 17 in Durban recognized that current GHG-reduction pledges are not adequate to keep global average temperature below 2 degrees C (the limit science says is necessary to prevent climate change’s most disastrous impacts). In Bonn, experts will put forth new ideas on how to ratchet up ambition in the short-term. Country representatives will also highlight best practices and success stories, in particular, the role that land use could play for enhanced mitigation and adaptation policies.

The April Bonn session is scheduled to discuss more specifically the core elements for establishing an international climate action agreement by 2015. We’ll be looking for clarity and answers across five key elements:

“Spectrum of commitments”
Ratchet mechanism
Architecture of the Agreement

Legal form

This negotiation session did not provide big breakthroughs, but fleshed out possible approaches to the final agreement structure. Fairness and equity are prime concerns. The Daily Kos reported that "the rare focus on a single track of negotiations (as opposed to multiple tracks going on at once) seems to have allowed countries to hold more productive conversations about the issues at hand without getting stymied by how various pieces will fit together." The UNFCCC's May 3 press briefing is here.

Business Green has reported that one concrete development from Bonn was the launch of a new prototype registry, managed by the UNFCCC, which will provide a central database for recording all the "Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions" taken by governments:

The searchable database is intended to make it easier for countries to track each others' progress towards cutting emissions and share policy best practices. "I am proud that the UNFCCC Secretariat has delivered this registry tool for Parties, which is designed specifically to empower developing countries and providers of support to identify greater partnership opportunities for mitigation," said Figueres. "They can then implement greater action together." The database could also prove a useful resource for businesses, providing them with a snapshot of how different countries are promoting climate action and clean technologies through policies and investment.

A Global Call for Climate Action is being undertaken by TckTckTck on their website, and their project with respect to the Bonn conference is the "Adopt a Negotiator" project, which represents the voice of the younger generation left out of the negotiations:

So why do we leave the most important decisions in the world to a few hundred people? Why doesn’t everyone know about it? Why aren’t we all having our say? And what can we do about it? These are the questions we asked ourselves. And we came up with an answer: Adopt a Negotiator. We thought it was time to let our leaders know we are here and we are watching them and we are going to take our future into our own hands.

It's an excellent place to track the issues and the dialog around the Climate Change negotiations. They're linked to another great site, RTCC, which banners the consensus that the world is on track to break the 2 degree Celsius temperature change barrier, which leads us all into irreversible climate change if carbon emissions are not drastically reduced.