31 August 2006

Climate Change: World Bank Brokers Greenhouse Gas Deal

NEW YORK - The World Bank put together on Tuesday the largest greenhouse gas deal ever, where European and Asian companies and others will pay two Chinese chemical companies US$1.02 billion to reduce output of gases believed to cause global warming, as reported by Timothy Gardner in Reuters/Planet Ark.

In the deal, European and Asian companies bound by the UN's Kyoto Protocol to tackle climate change, will pay the Chinese chemical companies to reduce and destroy emissions of HFC23, a heat-trapping gas 11,700 times stronger than carbon dioxide.
The deal will reduce emissions by about 19 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent annually, according to the World Bank.

About 75 percent of the money to purchase the reductions came from private capital, it said.

Additional participants included entities in World Bank managed funds including the Danish Carbon Fund, the Italian Carbon Fund, Deutsche Bank, Mitsui & Co and two entities of Natsource LLC, which calls itself the world's largest greenhouse gas asset manager.

As a developing country, China, the world's No. 2 producer of greenhouse gases, is not required to reduce emissions of heat trapping gases in the first phase of the international global warming pact the Kyoto Protocol, which runs from 2008 to 2012.

Tuesday's deal was done under Kyoto's Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), which allows allows rich countries to meet some of their greenhouse gas reduction obligations under the Kyoto Protocol by investing in reductions in developing countries.

"The resources came together from lots of different directions. There was pooling and deployment of capital in a large scale which was good to see that the CDM could do that," Jack Cogen, president of New York-based Natsource, said in a telephone interview.

The Chinese government will recoup 65 percent of the money from the deal though taxes on the two chemical companies and use it cut greenhouse gases and expand the use of renewable energy.

Read more: World Bank

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30 August 2006

Katrina Anniversary: Rebuild Wetlands

NEW ORLEANS - New Orleans should embrace its watery environment and restore wetlands as it rebuilds, suggests a prize-winning architect hired to design a modernistic central park in the city's downtown, according to an article in Reuters/Planet Ark. Coastal wetlands, barrier islands, and other coastal ecosystems are the first line of defense against catastrophic storms.

Thom Mayne, known for maverick designs, urged New Orleans to treat the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina last year as a chance to re-imagine the city, adding both technology and a dollop of the nature that has been erased over the years.
"If you build it again, would you do it the same way?" Mayne asked. "The answer is absolutely no."

New Orleans is known for the wrought iron and stone of its narrow French Quarter streets and wooden mansions on oak-shaded Garden District avenues, both in higher areas of town.

But most of New Orleans is below sea level, and many of the areas hit hardest by Katrina were developed from land reclaimed from wetlands -- or swamps. State officials and activists are also focused on restoring coastal wetlands to help soften the blow of future storms.

Katrina hit on Aug. 29, 2005 and killed about 1,500 people in four states, flooding 80 percent of New Orleans, where entire neighbourhoods are still nearly empty.

Putting up fewer buildings, more densely packed with much more open space could help prevent a recurrence, Mayne said.

"What would the open space be? You could even leave huge tracts of property that would return to its original state, a swampland or the estuary, wetlands and they would become sort of future preserves, that actually would draw tourists, by the way," he mused in a phone interview from his office in Santa Monica, California.

"You are literally starting over," he said.

Read the full article here: Katrina

23 August 2006

No, dear reader, I haven't abandoned you...

...I've just been on vacation and too distraught over the Boston Massacre redux this past weekend to write.

But I promise a follow up on my "Rock 'n' Roll" post from last year. Some things have changed and some haven't. I want to take some credit and take stock: Rock Star

See you soon.


16 August 2006

Climate Change: US Study Says Global Warming Affects Hurricane Intensity

MIAMI - Global warming is affecting the intensity of Atlantic hurricanes, according to a new study by a university professor in Florida who says his research provides the first direct link between climate change and storm strength, Reuters/Planet Ark reports today.

James Elsner of Florida State University said he set out to perform a statistical analysis of the two theories in a raging debate within the scientific community: Whether recent intense hurricanes are the result of climate change or natural ocean warming and cooling cycles.

"Is the atmosphere forcing the ocean or the ocean forcing the atmosphere?" Elsner asked.

The issue has a wide-ranging impact on insurance companies, municipal planners, some 50 million residents of hurricane-prone US coastal communities and millions of others in Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean islands.

The 2005 hurricane season produced 28 tropical storms and hurricanes, shattering the old record of 21 set in 1933.

Four of the hurricanes were Category 5, the strongest on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale. One of those, Wilma, was the most intense Atlantic hurricane ever recorded.

The season also produced Katrina, which killed more than 1,300 people and caused about US$80 billion in damage when it swamped New Orleans and other parts of the US Gulf coast.

Elsner looked at 135 years of records to examine the statistical connection between Atlantic sea surface temperatures and air temperatures near the sea surface, and then compared them to records of hurricane intensities.

Atlantic hurricanes draw their energy from the warm waters of the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea.

He found that average air temperatures during hurricane season between June and November were useful in predicting sea surface temperatures, but not the other way around.

Read the full story here: Hurricanes

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14 August 2006

Energy: World Bank Fine Tunes Clean Energy Funding Proposal

WASHINGTON - A World Bank proposal to its steering committee to create two new funds to help developing countries generate cleaner, more efficient power is misguided because it backs fossil fuel projects, experts said on Monday, as reported in Reuters/Planet Ark.

A copy of the report obtained by Reuters argued that current financing from multilateral lenders like the World Bank as well as governments and the private sector "cannot lead to a meaningful transition to a low-carbon economy."
A World Bank official declined to say whether the proposed Clean Energy Financing Vehicle low-interest loans and the Clean Energy Support Fund grants correspond to British finance minister Gordon Brown's call in April for a seed fund of US$20 billion for clean energy to invest in alternative energy.

The proposed Clean Energy Financing Vehicle calls for an initial capitalization of US$10 billion, the report said.

The two funding ideas endorse low-carbon technologies and carbon emission reductions and were drafted after an original April report. They go to World Bank directors for review on Aug. 29 ahead of next month's annual meeting in Singapore.

Read the complete, exclusive story here: World Bank

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Innovation: GM, BMW, Daimler Plan to Leapfrog Toyota Hybrid Technology

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. - A research alliance consisting of General Motors Corp., BMW AG and DaimlerChrysler AG plans to invest over US$1 billion in the development of a new hybrid transmission and related systems that backers say will leapfrog the market-leading technology now offered by Toyota Motor Corp, Reuters/Planet Ark reports this morning.

The three automakers have about 500 engineers who have been working for the past 18 months on the joint development of the next-generation hybrid engine technology, which combines a battery-powered electric motor with a conventional gasoline combustion engine, company representatives said on Friday on the sidelines of an industry trade meeting.

The so-called dual-mode hybrid technology that has been under development by the consortium includes an onboard fuel-optimization computer that determines when and at what speeds the two motors will be used for power and how the on-board battery will be recharged.

Development of the transmission -- the core of the project -- is expected to cost about US$300 million for the partners, said Andreas Truckenbrodt, executive director of DaimlerChrysler's hybrid programs. The remainder of the investment represents the cost of integrating the new hybrid system with other vehicle components, he said.

"What's often forgotten about the hybrid technology is that you have to put it into the car," Truckenbrodt told reporters.

Read the full article here: Hybrid

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09 August 2006

Technology: Our Disposable Legacy Unmasked

Knowledge@Wharton is an online business journal published by the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. It is a great resource for a variety of topics from management and leadership to current trends in business and research. This week, K@W published its summer reading list, complete with reviews of the books they featured. One title that caught my eye was Made to Break: Technology and Obsolescence in America by Giles Slade.

Here is a teaser from the review:
Canadian writer Giles Slade was checking out a touring exhibit called "Eternal Egypt" with his 10-year-old son a few years ago when he had an epiphany. The Egyptians, he realized, designed great monuments to endure for countless generations, while here in North America, nearly everything produced is made to break.

And that's no accident. Slade's Made to Break: Technology and Obsolescence in America (Harvard University Press), is a painstakingly researched story of 20th century technology through the lens of disposability, a concept born, bred and nurtured in America. Made to Break is the history of an industrial strategy that has come to define this country -- a strategy that has taught us to buy, throw away and buy again, and that now must change because we have run out of room to safely dump all our unwanted, used-up or obsolete possessions.

Read the full review: K@W Review

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05 August 2006

Blair Calls for Focus on Poverty, Global Warming, Trade

"This war can't be won in a conventional way. It can only be won by showing that our values are stronger and more just than the alternative," Prime Minister Tony Blair told the World Affairs Council in Los Angeles this week. An extract, was published yesterday in the Sydney Morning Herald, "Doing this requires us to change dramatically the focus of our policy...Unless we revitalise the broader global agenda on poverty, climate change, trade, and in respect of the Middle East, bend every sinew of our will to making peace between Israel and Palestine, we will not win. And this is a battle we must win."

Read the full article here: Blair

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