30 July 2006

Climate Change: US Power Group Funds Global Warming Skeptic

NEW YORK - A Colorado electricity cooperative is urging other power groups to support global warming skeptics and has donated US$100,000 to a climatologist who has labeled some of his colleagues "alarmists," according to Reuters/Planet Ark.
The Intermountain Rural Electric Association's general manager wrote in a letter to other energy cooperatives that it also helped raise contributions from others for Dr. Patrick Michaels, a climatologist at the University of Virginia and a fellow at the CATO Institute in Washington D.C.
Many scientists believe that global warming will lead to catastrophic consequences such as the flooding of low-lying nations and stronger hurricanes.

Power plants emit 40 percent of the world's carbon dioxide, the main gas that most scientists believe causes global warming. Coal emits more CO2 than another other fuel.

Many power companies are watching the federal government's every step on global warming. Any future national plan in the United States, the world's top emitter of greenhouse gases, to regulate such gases could force many companies to shut coal-fired generation or add expensive carbon-capturing devises to their equipment.

IREA General Manager Stanley Lewandowski, in a letter obtained by Reuters, wrote to electric groups through the United States trumpeting Michaels, author of the book "The Satanic Gases: Clearing the Air about Global Warming."

Read the full story here: US Power

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28 July 2006

Globalization: Poor Losers...

Yale Global Online features an article by trade analyst Edward Gresser in which he argues that the poor are the real losers in the collapse of the DOha round of trade talks:

"Leaders of developing nations anticipated that negotiations of the Doha Round could lead to even-handed trade practices, particularly in agriculture. With the talks collapsed, the wealthiest nations will not suffer nearly as much as the developing nations, according to trade analyst Edward Gresser. The real losers, he says, will be cotton farmers in West Africa, textile workers in low-income Asian and Muslim states, and low-income shoppers in the poorest quarters of America and Europe. Previous international trade agreements on manufacturing and services provided substantial economic wealth for the developed nations. Policies on agricultural or textile trade are far more controversial, largely because they often reflect national identity and political clout of groups involved in those sectors. Yet crops and low-cost manufacturing are the best products that poorest countries can offer to the global market."

Read the complete article: All Fall Down

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25 July 2006

Climate Change: Global Warming Puts 12 US Parks at Risk

WASHINGTON - Global warming puts 12 of the most famous US national parks at risk, environmentalists said on Tuesday, conjuring up visions of Glacier National Park without glaciers and Yellowstone Park without grizzly bears, according to Reuters/Planet Ark.

All 12 parks are located in the American West, where temperatures have risen twice as fast as in the rest of the United States over the last 50 years, said Theo Spencer of the Natural Resources Defense Council.
"Rising temperatures, drought, wildfires and diminished snowfalls endanger wildlife and threaten hiking, fishing and other recreational activities" in the parks, Spencer said in a telephone news conference. "Imagine Glacier Park without glaciers or Yellowstone without any grizzly bears."

Most climate scientists believe Earth's surface temperature has risen over the last century or more, spurred by human activities that produce greenhouse gases, which trap heat like the glass walls of a greenhouse. Some skeptics doubt that people affect global climate change and say temperature fluctuations have occurred throughout history.

The report released by the council and the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization stressed the connection between global warming and environmental damage at the parks, including the loss of specific wildlife, and called on the US government to cut greenhouse gas emissions significantly in 10 years.

Read the full story: Global Warming & National Parks

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22 July 2006

Art: Maya Lin's "Systematic Landscapes"

Maya Lin has a new show -- her first in years -- at the Henry Gallery on the University of Washington campus in Seattle. I went to check it out yesterday while in that town for a meeting. Lin is one of the most enigmatic artists working today and one whose work continually inspires me.

Her work, whether the iconic Vietnam Vets Memorial in DC or her landscape "Wave Field" in front of the aerospace engineering school at the University of Michigan, evokes complex emotional and intellectual responses.

Her new show, "Systematic Landscapes," juxtaposes land- and waterscape forms with out-of-context materials often distorting size and dislocating connections. The forms are familiar, yet strange at the same time. The landscapes appear more fragile in this context.

An architectural-scale wire sculpture, Water Line, is suspended or rather draped over a gallery room. You walk over, under, around, and within what is really a topographic rendering of the underwater landscape that forms an island off the coast of Antarctica.

In Blue Lake Pass, a mountain pass is rendered in giant, multi-layered particle board cut in such a way to reveal topographic relief contours. What in nature would be a solid mass is further dissected: the mountain has been cut into cubes, separated enough to allow viewers to pass through as in a maze. It is as if the fissures and crevasses of the mountain broke apart dramatically and landed on the gallery floor.

Finally, Lin builds an imagined landscape out of 2x4s filling one room with what at first glance appears to be an oversized pile of construction debris or a tremendous spill of child's blocks. On closer inspection, it becomes clear that Lin is asking us to again rethink what is natural in form.

The hill is manufactured as much as is the material from which it is built. In other words, it is constructed in the true nature of its materials. You want to reach out and touch it, interact with the pile, build your own. (I was a day late for the opportunity to walk on the installation; the next one is 10 August from 5-7 PM, I'm sorry to have missed that!)

As impressive and stimulating as the large pieces are, the smaller works are more dislocating. Atlases with precise, reverse topographic cuts down into their pages create a new sort of geography, contour lines drilling down through pages. One such cut resembles a pool, perhaps a volcanic lake; another appears to be the outline of Antarctica (I'm trying to recall what was the base map on the top page...); still another conjures a meteor crater.

Lin is exploring how form indicates geography, how topology sends indicators to us everyday. And, as if to remind us how precarious our world is, the replicas of inland saltwater seas -- Caspian, Black, and Red -- made of sculptured layers of beech plywood, teeter on their lowest points.

The flow of the Columbia River from its headwaters to the Pacific is reproduced in large scale upon one wall. From a distance, it resembles flowing mercury. Up close, however, you realize the sculpture is made entirely of 15,000 metal straight pins pushed into the wall with unnerving precision.

The Columbia River has been much on Maya Lin's mind of late. Included in the show are her plans, models, and sketches for the Confluence Project, a series of designed stations at the points where its infamous tributaries meet up with the River.

In Lin's view of the world, form and landscape not only inspire replication or reproduction, but challenge us to see the fragile in the familiar. Ultimately, Lin's message is one of hope: hope that we'll change the way we live in the world by looking at our Earth in new ways.

For more on the show at the Henry, which runs through 3 September 2006: henry

A review of the show from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:
p-i review

and from the vroom journal blog: vroom

and the short video Steven Michael Vroom made at the press opening: video clip

and the Seattle Times review: seattle times

and from the electric goddess blog: electric goddess

For more on Maya Lin's Confluence Project: confluence

The Maya Lin art:21 pages from PBS: art:21

Maya Lin's "Earth Day Message of Hope" from The Nature Conservancy's web site: maya's message of hope

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21 July 2006

Globalization: Last chance on trade deal?

GENEVA (Reuters) -- Trade powers make what could be a final bid to rescue floundering global free trade negotiations at the weekend, but with few signs yet that they will be bringing the needed life-lines, diplomats say.

World Trade Organization (WTO) chief Pascal Lamy, who has warned the trade round is sunk deep in crisis, will chair ministerial-level talks between the so-called G6 -- the United States, the European Union, Australia, Brazil, India and Japan -- which has taken the lead in the search for a deal.

After similarly-billed "last ditch" attempts by the G6 in recent weeks, diplomats said that the sessions set for Sunday and Monday really were the last hope for the WTO's Doha round, which aims to boost global growth and reduce poverty.

Another failure would not only mean the WTO had probably run out of time for a free trade treaty by the end of the year, it would lay bare the fact that the G6, whose agreement is seen as vital for a pact within the wider membership, was unable to agree on the core issues of farm and industrial goods, diplomats said.

Read the full story: Trade

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20 July 2006

Biodiversity: Scientists Call for Global Body to Conserve Biodiversity

LONDON - Scientists warned on Wednesday that the world is on the brink of a major biodiversity crisis and called for the creation of an international body to advise governments on how to protect the planet's ecosystems, according to Reuters/Planet Ark.

"All the scientific evidence points to the fact that whatever measure of vulnerability you take, whether it is local populations, species or ecosystem, we know that the rate at which we are altering them now is faster than it has been in the past," Georgina Mace said in an interview.
Mace, director of science at the Institute of Zoology in London, is one of 19 scientists from 13 countries who signed a declaration published in the journal Nature explaining why an intergovernmental body is needed.

They said that although all aspects of biodiversity are in decline and many species are likely to become extinct this century, the crisis is not given the weight and importance it merits in public and private decision making.

The new panel would address policy-related issues and get the best consensus on what the scientific opinion really is.

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17 July 2006

Investing: U.N. Launches Principles for Responsible Investment

"With only rare exceptions, the financial community has not sufficiently recognized or rewarded corporate efforts to respond to environmental, labor or human rights challenges, even though such factors can be directly material to corporate performance," U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said when he announced the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment, according to GreenBiz.com.

The heads of leading institutions from 16 countries, representing more than $4 trillion in assets owned, have signed the Principles.

The Principles recognize that environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues can affect business profits and portfolio performance. Six overarching principles, underpinned by 35 possible actions, guide institutional investors and asset managers in practicing responsible investment. The Principles are designed to encourage the integration of ESG issues into investment analysis, stimulate active ownership and proxy voting, and improve ESG disclosure by companies.

The Principles were developed during a nearly year-long process convened by the U.N. Secretary-General and coordinated by the U.N. Environment Program Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) and the U.N. Global Compact.

Read the full story: Principles

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14 July 2006

Biofuels: Concern Over Ethanol Production's Impact on Poor

NEW YORK - The race to boost ethanol production could one day hurt food supply for many of the world's poor, an environmental expert said on Thursday, according to a report in Reuters/Planet Ark.

"This is shaping up as competition between the 800 million people in the world that own automobiles and the 2 billion low- income people in the world, many of whom are already spending over half their income on food," Lester Brown, president of Washington D.C.-based environmental research group Earth Policy Institute, told reporters on a teleconference.
Ethanol production is booming in Brazil and the United States amid record oil prices, a shortage in refinery capacity for production of conventional motor fuels, and increasing fuel demand.

Brazil, the world's leading ethanol producer, uses sugarcane to make the fuel. Prices for sugar futures in February hit a 25-year high of nearly 20 cents per pound, on ethanol demand and as big money funds came into the market.

In the United States, the world's largest corn exporter, high subsidies for making ethanol are also encouraging a rush to corn, as everyone from Bill Gates to investment banks invest in ethanol plants.

Read the full story: Ethanol Boom

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12 July 2006

New! Green Skeptic "Personal Best" Squidoo Lens Created

Searching for that article I wrote about Iqbal Quadir? (It's now required reading for an Internet & Society course at Harvard, by the way.)

Ever wonder what I consider my top 5 posts?

Looking for all the posts I've written on Climate Change or Social Entrepreneurs, but don't want to slog through Bloggers' Archives system? (Fix it guys and get categories already!)

Well, now you can find what you want, thanks to Squidoo. I've just launched The Green Skeptic's Personal Best lens on Squidoo. Check it out and don't forget to rank it -- all proceeds go to the Acumen Fund.

And while you're there, check out my Social Entrepreneurs' lens, called Changemakers. It crossed into the top 500 Squidoo lenses this week!

Oh and if you decide to create your own lens, tell 'em I sent you...

Thanks for reading...and my apologies for getting sidetracked with all this building of other sites. I'll be back to my regular stream of articles shortly.

Be well. Do Good Work.


09 July 2006

Climate Change: Hedge Funds Turn Greed to Green

NEW YORK - Clean energy projects may not only reduce global warming, but could also help patient hedge funds make money, according to an author of a book on funds, according to Reuters/Planet Ark.

Some funds are investing in projects that cut emissions of greenhouse gases in order to earn cheap emissions credits that could be worth much more in the future, said Peter Fusaro, co-author of "Energy & Environmental Hedge Funds."

Such projects range from turning crop waste into fuel or capturing potent greenhouse gas leaking from landfills.

"This is a pure trading mentality, not an altruistic value of saving the world," said Fusaro, co-principal of New York-based consultancy Energy Hedge Fund Center LLC.

With environment investments, the trick is hedge funds must often have the patience to wait a few years between sinking money in projects and profiting from them.

He said before the Kyoto Protocol on global warming was launched in 2005, Dutch investors picked up emissions credits for about five euros a tonne and then profited when carbon prices shot higher.

Read the full story here: Green Hedge

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06 July 2006

Climate Change: Energy Bumps Issue from the G8 Agenda

ROME - At the last G8 summit, political leaders vowed to "act with resolve and urgency" on climate change. A year on, global warming has been sidelined by concerns on how the world can satisfy its growing appetite for energy, according to Reuters/Planet Ark.

While analysts were not entirely convinced by Prime Minister Tony Blair's bid to highlight climate change -- a fashionable issue in Britain -- during his G8 presidency, they believe Russia has all but dropped the issue.
"I don't think this year there's going to be any particular emphasis on climate, I would be very positively surprised if there were," said Benito Mueller, Senior Research Fellow at Britain's Oxford Institute for Energy Studies.

Russia, chairing the Group of Eight for the first time and hosting a summit starting July 15, has been ambivalent about global warming which leaders at last year's G8 summit called "a serious and long-term challenge that has the potential to affect every part of the planet".

Moscow's decision in 2004 to ratify the Kyoto Protocol saved the greenhouse gas-limiting treaty from collapse, which looked likely when the United States pulled out three years earlier.

Read the full story: G8

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05 July 2006

Biofuels: Need More Investments as Demands Rise

BRUSSELS - Very few countries have enough raw material available at present to produce biofuels that could compete on price with fossil fuels without government subsidies, a major agricultural study said on Tuesday, acording to Reuters/Planet Ark.

"In only very few countries is the required feedstock available at prices that would presently allow ethanol and biodiesel production to be competitive with transport fuels from crude oil without government support," it said.
"But such support can also create market distortions, the nature and level of which need to be well understood before policies are put in place," said the study, authored jointly by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). And although it forecast an acceleration in world biofuel usage over the next 10 years that would raise demand for maize, wheat, oilseeds and sugar, the trade-offs between food/feed and non-food uses for specific crop sectors were still unclear.

This included changes in the preferred farm-based feedstock used to make biofuels to non-agricultural products such as cellulosic fibres and waste materials, the OECD-FAO study said.

Read the full story: Biofuels

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