25 April 2007

Global Climate Change: Kempe, Former Skeptic, Convinced by Military Report

Bloomberg columnist Frederick Kempe, a self-described former global-warming skeptic, published an opinion piece yesterday about "a seismic shift" in America the growing consensus that climate change is a mainstream issue:

You know climate change has become a top priority in Washington when it starts penetrating the thinking of leaders in the U.S. military and intelligence community.

Eleven retired generals and admirals have sent out a warning shot about national-security threats from climate change, calling it a ``threat-multiplier'' that will make unstable regions shakier through increased drought, extreme weather, migrations and rising extremism.

No less than President George W. Bush has issued a clarion call, citing the ``serious challenge of global climate change'' in his last State of the Union address. His administration's intelligence community had begun work looking at how global warming could pressurize unstable regions even before the Senate introduced legislation calling for a National Intelligence Estimate on it.

``Moving climate change into the national security realm is a watershed event,'' says Sherri Goodman, a former Pentagon official who directed the Military Advisory Board at the CNA Corp., a national-security research organization in Alexandria, Virginia.

That's all further evidence of a seismic shift in America on climate change as a mainstream issue, which may soon have the world's biggest energy user leapfrogging Europe and elsewhere on the science of reducing emissions and on studies of the political consequences if those efforts fall short.

Read the full article: Kempe on Climate Change

22 April 2007

A Poem for Earth Day

What a glorious day, weather was absolutely gorgeous. I got to work in the garden with my kids and help a Temple University complete her project in broadcast journalism (more on that later). Then a wonderful walk in our neighborhood and more family time, before dinner with my wife in an intimate restaurant. (Not to mention the 4-in-a-row homers by my Red Sox against Yanks.) And tomorrow, I'm off to Boulder, Colorado.

Consequently, I won't have an opportunity to do my usual 10 thoughts for Earth Day. Instead, I'll leave you with a poem of mine, "Healing," which recently appeared in The Elegant Thorn Review:


"Healing, not saving." ~ Gary Snyder

"Healing, not saving," for healing
indicates corrective, reclaiming

restoring the earth to its bounty,
to right placement and meaning--

Forward thinking, making things new
or better or, at least, bringing back

from the edge. The way
bulbs are nestled in earth,

starting to heal again--
the way a wound heals.

Keep warm. Sun following
rain; rain following drought.

Perhaps we have come far enough
along in this world to start

healing, protecting from harm,
from our disjunctive lives.

The way the skin repairs with a scab,
injury mediated by mindfulness.

The bark of the "tree of blood"
heals wounds we cannot see.

Deliver us from the time of trial
and save us from ourselves.

--Scott Edward Anderson

Another of my poems was posted today on poet Deborah Fries' new Good at Last blog: "Dead Red Wing."

Alternative Energy: FutureGen Partnership between Japan, US

from Yomiuri Shimbun
Date: April 22, 2007

The Japanese and U.S. governments will likely agree at a bilateral summit meeting scheduled for Friday on Japan's participation in a U.S. project to develop a coal-fueled, near-zero emission power plant, it was learned Saturday.

Japan will cooperate with the United States in terms of funds and technologies for the FutureGen project, which the U.S. government has been promoting since 2003. South Korea and India have also participated in the project.

The project will spend more than 1 billion dollars on developing technologies to store carbon dioxide from the plant in the ground, making it the world's first thermal power plant not to emit pollutants and CO2 into the air.

CO2 from the plant will be liquefied by applying massive pressure, before being injected into the earth at a depth of more than 1,000 meters. The new technologies currently being studied are also aimed at preventing the liquefied carbon dioxide from leaking from the rock stratum.

In Japan, the Research Institute of Innovative Technology for the Earth has been conducting verification tests on a CO2 geological sequestration system at a natural gas field in Nagaoka, Niigata Prefecture. It is hoped the results of the research will be applicable to the U.S. project, government sources said.

Although the United States is a major emitter of CO2 and other greenhouse gases, it did not ratify the Kyoto Protocol that set country-specific targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions for the period from 2008 to 2012, aimed at preventing global warming.

Through its cooperation with the FutureGen project, Tokyo will try to persuade the U.S. government to join global efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions, while at the same time promoting U.S. participation in post-Kyoto Protocol negotiations.

Technologies to store CO2 in the ground and sea have recently been attracting attention, being viewed as one of the most promising measures among others aimed at cutting CO2 emissions.

18 April 2007

Climate Change: BBC Asks, "Is Spring the New Summer?"

The BBC reports that two "events in nature that usually herald the beginning of summer have started already, say researchers looking into reports from the public.

"The blossoming of hawthorn and return of migrating swifts - usually in May - have prompted the Woodland Trust to declare 'spring is the new summer'.

"The trust has been analysing reports from members of the public taking part in the BBC Springwatch survey."
It said it showed how climate change was affecting wildlife and seasons.

The return of the swift from warmer countries, usually expected in mid May, could mean summer has come early, said environment correspondent Sarah Mukherjee.

Sightings of swifts have been reported across south-east England and Gloucestershire over the last few days.

Swifts usually return from migration around 10 May when temperatures are slightly milder.

'Exceptionally mild'

The flowering of hawthorn, normally around the middle of next month, is considered to signify the start of summer.

This year, the earliest flowering hawthorn was recorded on 9 April.

Dr Kate Lewthwaite of the Woodland Trust said: "Thanks to the exceptionally mild start to the year we are experiencing, this summer signal is arriving three weeks earlier than the 11 May average."

Dr Lewthwaite added the timing of the seasons was changing, with the mild winter and warm spring contributing to warmer than average temperatures.

"It is an example of how climate change is affecting our wildlife and seasons."

Springwatch - a survey into the arrival of spring - asks members of the public to record the first sightings of the year of six species - frog spawn, seven-spot ladybird, red-tailed bumblebee, peacock butterfly, flowering hawthorn and swifts.

Experts at the Woodland Trust said the sightings of hawthorn flowering were accurate and had been verified.

Global Climate Change: Global Warming, Security Risks, and "Children of Men"

What a vacation I had. We didn't go to Florida, which is our usual spring break activity, and regretted it almost immediately as temperatures dropped and the weather was more like early March than late April. My vacation started in Washington, DC, on the eve of the release of the IPCC report, and ended with a nor'easter hitting Philadelphia and surrounding areas with record rainfall, as a report was released about the potential security risks of global warming.

Somewhere in between, we rented "Children of Men," Alfonso CuarĂ³n's stunning film about a chaotic world in which human beings are sterile and a former activist (brilliantly played by Clive Owen) helps transport a suddenly and miraculously pregnant woman -- the first in 18 years -- to meet a ship called "Tomorrow" at sea. Once there, it is implied, her child's birth may help scientists from "The Human Project," save the future of the species.

Watching the film and especially after, I couldn't help reflecting on the images of global collapse, chaos and ruin. It's a remarkable piece, not to mention a tour-de-force for Owen. The art direction stays with you and is neither as stylized as "Mad Max" nor as computer-generated as "The Day After Tomorrow." It's a world we see on CNN, beamed from Iraq; only it is London 2027, and that western familiarity makes it all the more frightening. It could be your home or mine.

In the film, marginal societies have totally collapsed and their dwindling populations emigrate to (or invade) England and other wealthy nations. The illegals --- "fugees," as they are called in the film -- are rounded up, imprisoned in cages, and transported to a refugee camp. (There's not a few images reminiscent of Abu Ghraib in there too, as a reminder of how non-extreme the film's world is.)

The report published Monday "explores ways projected climate change is a 'threat multiplier' in already fragile regions, exacerbating conditions that lead to failed states — the breeding grounds for extremism and terrorism."

The report, commissioned by the Center for Naval Analyses, a government-financed research group, and written by a group called the Military Advisory Board, recommends climate change be considered in the country's security plans. According to the report, the U.S. "should commit to a stronger national and international role to help stabilize climate changes at levels that will avoid significant disruption to global security and stability."

Comparisons to Somalia in the early 1990s were drawn by Peter Schwartz, a scenario-planning consultant, in an article about the report in Sunday's New York Times, “'You had disruption driven by drought, leading to the collapse of a society, humanitarian relief efforts, and then disastrous U.S. military intervention. That event is prototypical of the future.'

“'Picture that in Central America or the Caribbean, which are just as likely,' he said. 'This is not distant, this is now. And we need to be preparing.'”

Watch "Children of Men," if you want to see what one potential scenario of global warming looks like. And then pledge to yourself, your kids, and your community that you won't allow it to happen.

13 April 2007

Global Climate Change: Step It Up Plans Hundreds of Actions

Associated Press reported today that "a group of Middlebury College students looking to draw attention to global warming have sparked a national day of action beyond their wildest expectations: 1,350 actions planned Saturday across all 50 states.

"Participants in Step It Up 2007 will be skiing down a disappearing glacier in Wyoming and diving to a coral reef off the Florida Keys. In Vershire, Vt., they'll be eating pancakes to highlight concerns about how climate change could affect maple syrup production.

"In New York City, blue-clad protesters will line up to mark where rising sea levels could move the coastline. San Franciscans will load up their low-emissions vehicles with stuffed polar bears for a trip to a local Hummer dealership, to illustrate worries that warmer temperatures could wipe out the species' habitat.

"'We see this to be the most pressing issue of our time, and our generation,' said Will Bates, 23, one of six former Middlebury students who helped organize the event with author Bill McKibben, a scholar in residence at the school.

"'We care about the impact it'll have on our lives and on the lives of people all over the world,' Bates said. 'We see it as a moral issue, and we see the need to take urgent action. It's not something that can wait years or decades.'

"Step It Up is aimed at reducing carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050. It is the outgrowth of a Nov. 4 event in which more than 500 people hiked up mountains, handed out leaflets and held other actions in 30 locations around Vermont, each branded with a 'Vote to Stop Global Warming' banner.

"Working from a two-room storefront in Burlington and using word of mouth, blogs, e-mail messages and other appeals, organizers have drawn a huge response to the April day of action, thanks in part to help from organizations such as the National Wildlife Federation and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

"'Since we had no money and no organization, we thought we might organize 100 (events) by April 14,' said McKibben. 'Instead, it's taken off like a shot.'

"McKibben, whose 1989 book 'The End of Nature,' was among the first to highlight the problem of global warming, says the event marks a watershed moment in the push to act.

"'It makes me unbelievably hopeful,' he said Thursday in a telephone interview from New York, where he was promoting the event. 'I've been doing this for a very long time. I wrote the first book on all this in 1989. Most of that time, not much has been happening. I've been telling myself The moment will come, and when it does, we have to take advantage.'"

11 April 2007

Global Climate Change: IPCC Report - No One Will Escape Impacts

The IPCC report last week was indeed grim, which is probably why I've avoided commenting on it thus far. It's too damned depressing to wrap my head around while I'm on vacation. The sobering fact is that billions of the world's poorest citizens are at risk of hardship and disease as a result of climate change.

But that's not all: everyone is at risk; everyone will feel the impact. Those most vulnerable live at or near sea level, many of whom are crowded into coastal cities already in danger. And say goodbye to those luxury coastal properties. You may want to start buying land along the "new coast," the perimeter of sea level rise to come.

Still, you can run, but you can't hide. You may move away from the areas of direct impact, only to be chased by drought, disease and extreme weather. All of this combines, in the IPCC future to threaten the livelihoods and the very lives of maybe millions more.

Depressing? Indeed. Too late to do anything about it? Not if we can finally put the science to rest and get to work reducing the impacts, adapting to the changes, and investing in the technologies and systems that will help us survive, if not thrive, in the world of change ahead.

Global Climate Change: ConocoPhillips Joins Coalition

UPI reported this morning that ConocoPhillips Co. became the first major U.S. oil company to call for a federal global-warming-emissions cap.

The Houston-based oil company said it had joined the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, a group of corporations outlining broad principles they propose for a U.S. emissions cap.

"We recognize that human activity, including the burning of fossil fuels, is contributing to increased concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that can lead to adverse changes in global climate," Chairman and Chief Executive Jim Mulva said.

Britain's BP PLC has also endorsed a U.S. global-warming emissions cap and is in USCAP, along with industrial products and media conglomerate General Electric Co. while supermajors ExxonMobil Corp., Royal Dutch Shell PLC, Total SA and Chevron Corp. are not.

Mulva said ConocoPhillips believed "a mandatory national regulatory framework that links to international programs is most likely to achieve meaningful impact on global greenhouse gas emissions."

ConocoPhillips and other companies are endorsing a single nationwide cap because they believe it will be less onerous than a patchwork of state rules, The Wall Street Journal reported.

03 April 2007

Global Climate Change: Supreme Court Rules EPA Must Regulate Carbon

Reuters reports on the Supreme Court ruling that "a U.S. government agency has the power to regulate greenhouse gas emissions that spur global warming.

"By a 5-4 vote, the nation's highest court said the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 'has offered no reasoned explanation' for its refusal to regulate carbon dioxide and other emissions from new cars and trucks that contribute to climate change.

"The ruling in one of the most important environmental cases to reach the Supreme Court marked the first high court decision in a case involving global warming.

"President George W. Bush has opposed mandatory controls on greenhouse gases as harmful to the U.S. economy, and the administration has called for voluntary programs instead of regulation. The states and environmental groups that brought the lawsuit hailed the ruling.

"'As a result of today's landmark ruling, EPA can no longer hide behind the fiction that it lacks any regulatory authority to address the problem of global warming,' Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley said.

"'Today the nation's highest court has set the White House straight. Carbon dioxide is an air pollutant, and the Clean Air Act gives EPA the power to start cutting the pollution from new vehicles that is wreaking havoc with our climate,' said David Doniger of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

"Greenhouse gases occur naturally and also are emitted by cars, trucks and factories into the atmosphere. They can trap heat close to Earth's surface like the glass walls of a greenhouse."

02 April 2007

Social Entrepreneurs: Skoll World Forum - More Funds Needed by Social Entrepreneurs

In the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Nicole Wallace reports on the Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship, held last week at the Said Business School on Oxford University's 900-year-old campus. The relatively new field of social entrepreneurship, which brings together business acumen and social goals, is struggling to get to scale.

In a word, the growing field is short on funds to finance its growth.

Wallace quotes Martin Fisher, chief executive officer of KickStart, a nonprofit organization in Nairobi that sells water pumps to poor farmers in Africa: "'There's still a shortage of funds, and the funds that are there are still very hard for social entrepreneurs to get. Every social entrepreneur I've met is spending far too much of their time working to raise money.'

"Instead, he argued, they should be working to develop 'the next big thing, the next equivalent to microfinance.'"

"Through the work of social entrepreneurs around the world, he said, microfinance has reached a point where millions of dollars — both philanthropic and for-profit — are pouring into lending projects, enabling loans to more than 110 million of the world's poorest people.

"But, 'we have to remember very clearly that it's taken microfinance 30 years and hundreds of millions of dollars of consistent investment to reach the place where it is today,' said Mr. Fisher. 'So to get to a tipping point, any of the new innovations are going to take a large amount of time and a large amount of money.'"

Growth is essential for this field, which is addressing some of the world's most pressing problems. A new study by the SustainAbility, a company in London that provides consulting and research on corporate responsibility, "Growing Opportunity: Entrepreneurial Solutions to Insoluble Problems", is the first part of a three-year project to increase partnerships between social entrepreneurs and corporations. The Skoll Foundation, in Palo Alto, CA, is supporting the project with a $1-million grant.

Read the full article: Social Entrepreneurs

01 April 2007

Bush Concedes; Hands Over Presidency to "Climate Man" Gore

(WASHINGTON, 1 APRIL) In a surprising announcement from Camp David, President George W. Bush conceded victory to Al Gore nearly seven years after snatching the presidency from him. Referring to the former Vice President as Al "Climate Man" Gore, the president stunned reporters and others who had expected the news conference to focus on talks with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

"I'm announcing my concession on April Fool's Day, because it was all meant to be one big April fool's joke," Mr. Bush said in a written statement released to the press Sunday. "We never thought he would take us seriously. He won. Now he should have the presidency he deserves along with his Oscar and Peace Prize nomination."

Bush Administration sources say that the Mr. Gore would be welcome to "trade places" whenever he likes. The president has moved his office out of the Oval Office, one source claims, and into a skybox at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Texas, home of the team in which Mr. Bush once held an ownership position.

Mr. Gore was unavailable for comment, but sources close the star of "An Inconvenient Truth," say that he has so enjoyed his new-found fame and fortune that he is "not sure he wants to trade places with the president, even if it includes a signing bonus and his own reality TV show."

In a related story, Laurie David, producer of "An Inconvenient Truth," is reportedly shopping a reality pilot with the unlikely title of "Swapping Presidents."

Bush sources suggest the president may have gotten the idea from the pilot, which is apparently being considered by Dan Rather, formerly anchor of CBS News, who would host the program for CBS's sister network "The CW."