To Slow Warming, Tax Carbon

OpinionENVIRONMENT played only a modest role in the recent American presidential election. President Obama lauded his new fuel-efficiency standards and support for renewable energy sources, while Mitt Romney faulted the president for rising gasoline prices and new restrictions on coal mining.

But while environmentalists have lamented America’s slow response to climate change, the United States is actually on a much better path than Europe. It is making the transition from coal to gas, it is investing in new energy technologies, and its carbon emissions are falling faster than Europe’s.

This is not to paint too rosy a portrait. Since world leaders met in Kyoto, Japan, in 1997 and agreed to reduce the carbon dioxide emissions of industrialized countries by about 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2012, virtually nothing has been done to slow the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. In 1990, carbon emissions were rising at less than 2 parts per million per year. Now they are rising at nearly 3 p.p.m. per year.

How could so little have been achieved, despite all the already considerable economic costs of climate change? Europe, in particular, has put great effort into being a ”world leader” on climate change and has spent lots of money on wind farms and rooftop solar panels. Sadly, this has had almost no global effect.

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Protecting the City, Before Next Time

The New York Times

By
Published: November 3, 2012

URBAN WETLANDS A rendering of Lower Manhattan that shows tidal marshes to absorb waves.

Arriving in Venice years ago, Robert Benchley, the New York journalist and wit, is said to have sent a mock-panicked telegram to his editor: ”Streets flooded. Please advise.”

After the enormous storm last week, which genuinely panicked New York with its staggering and often fatal violence, residents here could certainly identify with the first line of Benchley’s note. But what about the second?

If, as climate experts say, sea levels in the region have not only gradually increased, but are also likely to get higher as time goes by, then the question is: What is the way forward? Does the city continue to build ever-sturdier and ever-higher sea walls? Or does it accept the uncomfortable idea that parts of New York will occasionally flood and that the smarter method is to make the local infrastructure more elastic and better able to recover?

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Wednesday gave a sea wall the nod. Because of the recent history of powerful storms hitting the area, he said, elected officials have a responsibility to consider new and innovative plans to prevent similar damage in the future. ”Climate change is a reality,” Mr. Cuomo said. ”Given the frequency of these extreme weather situations we have had, for us to sit here today and say this is once in a generation and it’s not going to happen again, I think would be shortsighted.” Click here to finish reading this article.

Copyright 2012 The New York Times Company

 

 

 

 

Climate Policy Advances in the States, but Slowly

Ken James/BLOOMBERG

Ken James/BLOOMBERG

While Tuesday’s election may not break the national logjam over how to address climate change, a few states will take decisive action on energy policy in the coming week.

On Nov. 14, California will hold the nation’s largest-ever auction of carbon pollution allowances, requiring many of the state’s biggest utilities and manufacturers to either cut their greenhouse-gas output or buy permits to compensate for it. Michigan residents vote Tuesday on whether the state will require that 25 percent of its electricity be produced from renewable energy by 2025. And Washington state voters will choose as governor either Jay Inslee, a Democratic former congressman and outspoken proponent of carbon limits, or his Republican opponent, Rob McKenna, a two-term attorney general.

Four years ago, some policymakers and environmentalists predicted that the United States would lock in major cuts in greenhouse-gas emissions from multi-state initiatives in the West, Midwest and Northeast. That hasn’t exactly happened: The recession and the election of some Republican governors have curbed some of the most ambitious efforts to address climate change.

But the push to expand renewable energy, which would reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by producing electricity without burning fossil fuels, does continue on the state level. And California is pressing ahead — without the six states that initially planned to join it — with a trading system that will allow the state’s major carbon emitters to buy and sell pollution allowances.

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Sweden Wants Your Trash

AFP/AFP/Getty Images

AFP/AFP/Getty Images

Move over Abba, Sweden has found new fame. The small Nordic country is breaking records — in waste. Sweden’s program of generating energy from garbage is wildly successful, but recently its success has also generated a surprising issue: There is simply not enough trash.

Only 4 percent of Swedish garbage ends up in a landfill, according to Swedish Waste Management. Due to its efficiency in converting waste to renewable energy, Sweden has recently begun importing around 800,000 tons of trash annually from other countries.

Norway is now paying Sweden to take its garbage. Swedish sights are also set on Bulgaria, Romania and Italy as future trash exporters, as Catarina Ostlund, a senior advisor for the country’s environmental protection agency, told PRI. Those countries rely heavily on landfills – a highly inefficient and environmentally degrading system.

Sweden is leading the way in waste management, but it is one of few. We live in a world where nearly 70 percent of deep sea Arctic creatures are in contact with human trash like plastic bags and beer bottles. In the United States, where the EPA says 250 million tons of trash was generated in 2010 alone, only about 34 percent was recycled.

Sweden creates energy for around 250,000 homes and powers one-fifth of the district heating system, Swedish Waste Managements says. Its incineration plants offer a look into the future where countries could potentially make money off of their trash — and not just dump it in the ocean or bury it in mass landfills.

“I would say maybe in the future, this waste will be valued even more,” Ostlund said. “So maybe you could sell your waste, because there will be a shortage of resources within the world.”

Leave it to the Scandinavians to make even trash chic.

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After Sandy…

(Gerry Broome/AP)

For most New Yorkers, the recent Hurricane Sandy was a nightmare. Homes were destroyed, neighborhoods were deprived of electricity, heat, and fresh water. Unlike Hurricane Katrina about a year ago, Sandy was bigger, more violent, and caused more damage.

With hurricanes escalating in strength from the past year, we can’t help but go back to think that the climate change might be the cause of it. After the storm, architects, engineers and city planners are coming up with designs to deal with the future. Some suggested to use wetlands, some want to use oysters, and some others recommend bigger dams.

There is no doubt that the city will implement some of those plans, but just like putting a Band-Aid over a wound, would that heal the wound? Or should we use more resources to tackle the fundamental problem of those freaky weather, like “climate change” perhaps.

For the full article on the New York Times about the plans to protect the city from future storms, click here.

For the full article on the New York Times about the climate change, click here.

Please leave a comment and tell us how Sandy affected you.

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