Climate Change Opportunity to Boost Economies – European Vision

[This re-post of an article showing countries moving to renewable energy to create jobs and reduce dependence on expensive, polluting and climate destroying fossil fuels. — Stephen]

By Stephen Leahy

BONN, Jun 20, 2011 (IPS)

If we’re lucky, by the time a tough but fair international treaty to meet the climate change challenge is finalised, it will be largely unnecessary. The snail’s pace of negotiations certainly gives countries plenty of time to understand the financial, social and environmental advantages of kicking their dangerous addiction to fossil fuels.

That may be a cynical optimist’s hope, but the European Union is already moving in that direction.

Climate change is now seen as an opportunity to deal with the economic downturn in Europe,” said Jürgen Lefevere, a European Commission negotiator at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiating session that ended late Friday in Bonn.

“It is no longer just an environmental issue for us,” Lefevere said at a final press conference.

China also understands the opportunity.

Renewable energy sources like wind and solar now account for 11.4 percent of China’s electricity, and that figure will be 20 percent by 2020, says Liu Qiang, a researcher at the Energy Research Institute of the National Development Reform Commission, China.

“China takes this very seriously,” Qiang said, noting that there are significant investments and research in smarter electrical grids and energy storage in China.

Looking to 2050, the era of fossil fuels will be over in a world of vibrant economies and societies powered entirely by clean, cheap and renewable energy, says Niklas Hoehne, director of Energy and Climate Policy at Ecofys, an energy consulting company based in the Netherlands.

“The cost is about two to three percent of global GDP (gross domestic product) from now until 2035, and then the costs decline,” said Hoehne, a co-author of the Ecofys technical study called “The Energy Report“, which demonstrates how the world could reach 100 percent renewable energy by 2050.

That investment is far less than the costs of climate change will be without major reductions in emissions, he told IPS. Continue reading

Wild and Weird Weather Getting Worse

New York City flooding
New York City flooding
It doesn’t have to be this way – typical family could reduce their energy use 60 to 75 percent

By Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Jan 29 2013 (IPS)

Weird is the only way to describe January temperatures whipsawing between record warm and arctic cold over a span of a few days. Experts say that is what climate change looks like: weird, record-shattering weather.

Here’s a fact that goes beyond weird to astonishing. Anyone who is 27 years old or younger has never lived through a month that was colder than the global 20th century average. In other words, we’ve had 334 consecutive months with above average temperatures, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Arctic sea ice extent. Area of ocean with at least 15 percent sea ice as of Sept 12, 2012. Credit: National Snow and Ice Data Center.
Arctic sea ice extent. Area of ocean with at least 15 percent sea ice as of Sept 12, 2012. Credit: National Snow and Ice Data Center.

Last summer, the Arctic sea ice shrunk to half of what it used to be during summers only three decades ago. Our planet’s weather is driven largely by the two cold polar regions and the warm tropics. With the Arctic defrosting, it should be no surprise our weather is getting weird. And that it’s not going to get better.

Our planet is heating up because we each year put thousands of millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere by burning coal, oil, and natural gas. CO2 acts as heating blanket keeping the planet warm by trapping some of the sun’s heat.

The amount of extra heat-energy being trapped is like exploding 400,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs per day 365 days per year, calculates James Hansen, a climate scientist who heads the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

Cautious scientists like Hansen are terrified of what’s coming. Conservative institutions like the World Bank and accounting giant Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC) have warned we’re on a path to heating the entire surface of the planet by an average of four or five degrees C before 2100. That translates into eight to 12 degrees C hotter in places like Canada.

Continue reading

America Bears Risks of Keystone XL – Canada Gets Dirty Oil Profits

Canada’s Alberta Tar Sands Mining Pits

“The only way Keystone XL could be considered in the national interest is if you equate that with profits for the oil industry”

By Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Sep 2, 2011 (IPS)

With four times as many oil rigs pumping domestic oil today than eight years ago and declining domestic demand, the United States is awash in oil.

The country’s oil industry is primarily interested in who will pay the most on the global marketplace. They call that “energy security” when it suits, but in reality it is “oil company security” through maximising profits, say energy experts like Steve Kretzman of Oil Change International, an NGO that researches the links between oil, gas and coal companies and governments.

The only reason U.S. citizens may be forced to endure a risky, Canadian-owned oil pipeline called Keystone XL is so oil companies with billion-dollar profits can get the dirty oil from Canada’s tar sands down to the Gulf of Mexico to export to Europe, Latin America or Asia, according to a new report by Oil Change International released Wednesday.

“Keystone XL will not lessen U.S. dependence on foreign oil, but rather transport Canadian oil to American refineries for export to overseas markets,” concludes the report, titled “Exporting Energy Security“.

Little of the 700,000 to 800,000 barrels of tar sands oil pumped through the 2,400-kilometre, seven-billion-dollar Keystone XL will end up in U.S. gas tanks because the refineries on the Gulf Coast are all about expanding export markets. One huge refinery operator called Valero has been touting the potential export revenues of tar sands oil to investors, the report found.

Because Keystone XL crosses national borders, President Barack Obama has to issue a permit declaring the pipeline serves the “national interest” in order to be approved.

“The only way Keystone XL could be considered in the national interest is if you equate that with profits for the oil industry,” said Kretzman, who wrote the report.

Canada’s huge tar sands deposits, located mainly in the far north of the province of Alberta, are the world’s second largest oil reserves, but they are landlocked. It’s the industry’s biggest worry and also Alberta Energy Minister Ron Lieper’s biggest concern.

Lieper recently said that without new pipelines “our greatest risk in Alberta is that by 2020 we will be landlocked in bitumen”. Bitumen is thick tarry oil from the tar sands that needs lots of high-energy and chemical processing to be useable – one reason it’s widely considered the world’s dirtiest oil.

The shortest route to the big Asian markets is through the Rocky Mountains to Canada’s west coast via the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline. However, Canadian native people live on some of the land and are staunchly opposed, so the industry thought it would be easier to put an export pipeline right through the U.S. heartland, said Kretzman.

“The oil industry would have done the Northern Gateway first but gambled that resistance to the pipeline would be far weaker in the mid-west,” he told IPS.

They were wrong.

Thousands of people, including landowners and religious leaders, have gone to Washington DC in the past two weeks to tell President Obama to reject Keystone. Nearly 850 people have been arrested for standing on the sidewalk in front of the White House in what protesters call the largest civil disobedience in the history of the U.S. climate movement.

“It’s remarkable, a very dignified and moving protest much like the civil rights demonstrations in the 1960s,” said Maude Barlow, chairperson of the Council of Canadians, a large environmental NGO.

“This is about the rights of the environment and future generations. It is the blossoming of a new movement,” Barlow told IPS from Washington.

Other massive pipelines are being planned, including ones bringing tar sands crude to New England and the Great Lakes, she said. “Keystone is just the beginning. Once these are built they will have to put something in them.”

Infrastructure dictates policy, she stressed. Once pipelines, refineries or power plants are built, it is nearly impossible for governments to shut them down.

Last year, scientists writing in the journal Science concluded there is already enough fossil fuel burning capacity to raise global temperatures by 1.5 degrees C by 2060. Any additional power plants, vehicles, or other fossil fuel burning equipment built from 2011 onward puts humanity at ever greater risk of catastrophic climate change.

Carbon overload - have to stop expanding
Carbon overload – have to stop expanding

“We conclude that sources of the most threatening emissions have yet to built,” the scientists wrote.

The Obama administration knows this but the powerful oil lobby can use its unlimited funds to attack Democratic officials during the next election cycle if they don’t approve the pipeline, says Kretzman.

Changes to U.S. law in 2010 allow corporations to spend as much as they want on elections, and there is no sector with more money than the oil industry.

“That scares the hell out of the Obama administration,” he said.

It’s never been clearer that corporations wield the real power in the United States and Canada, activists say.

“This is the beginning of a very big fight for the future,” Barlow told IPS.

Originally published as U.S. Awash in Oil and Lies, Report Charges – IPS ipsnews.net.

The costs of car ownership and travel are far higher than anyone realizes: $8,000 to $12,000 a year. A 100 km total trip costs between 65 and 80 dollars when parking, fuel, wear and tear, insurance, depreciation, repairs are included. A car is usually parked and unused 22 hours a day but still incurs costs.

Stephen Leahy, International Environmental Journalist

Cars are parked 22 hours a day on average yet world will have 2.5 billion cars in 2050

The costs of car ownership and travel are far higher than anyone realizes: a 100 km total trip costs between 65 and 80 dollars when parking, fuel, wear and tear, insurance, depreciation, repairs are included. A car is usually parked and unused 22 hours a day but still incurs costs. Why not let someone use the car when you’re not and make some money at the same time Robin Chase told me for this article. She’s launched Buzzcar in France as part of a strategy for reducing carbon emissions and congestion in cities.   — Stephen

Why do car owners get so much more public space than bus riders, bicyclists or walkers?

By Stephen Leahy

BERLIN, Jun 2, 2011 (IPS)

The world’s more than 850 million cars and small trucks are parked…

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