The San Diego area will soon be the home of the largest seawater desalination plant in the Western Hemisphere. But with a steep $1 billion price tag, the question is whether the Carlsbad Desalination Project will be worth it from a financial and environmental perspective.
Drought-plagued farmers probably think so, because after three years of drought they can’t irrigate: California’s reservoirs are filled with more mud than water. When operational in 2016, the plant will provide up to 50 million gallons of water daily to San Diego county’s 3 million residents. Still, that’s only 7 percent of the region’s water needs.
It’s increasingly obvious that the global economic system, and particularly the current brand of U.S. capitalism, are not really compatible with the actions needed to combat climate change.
Naomi Klein makes this point clear in “This Changes Everything,” which is both a passionate and controversial polemic and a reasoned discussion of the issues and forces stalling, and indeed preventing, a comprehensive response to climate change.
The problem is not the political and ideological divisions or scientific “debate,” which are hard enough to deal with — it’s mainly about money, according to Klein. The book’s subtitle is compelling: Capitalism vs. The Climate. Simply put: “Our economic system and our planetary system are now at war.”
If there’s one number that says all you need to know about the influence of the energy industry on the nation’s political discourse and direction, it’s $721 million.
A ThinkProgress report last week on the 2014 midterm election cycle found that after adding up direct contributions to individuals and political groups, including spending on TV ads and lobbying, the energy industry spent more than $721 million, citing an analysis from the Center for American Progress.
Not to put too fine a point on it: That huge amount of campaign spending buys a huge amount of influence in Congress. It helped elect fossil fuel-friendly candidates who will set the anti-environment agenda of the next Congress, which will be controlled by Republican majorities in the House and Senate.
As global climate change increasingly affects everything from public health and species extinction to infrastructure and property destruction to migration patterns, well, who do you sue?
No one apparently. If you think the international response on what to do about climate change is pretty much a fragmented, inadequate mess, then international law on the subject is even messier. And weaker.
A recent article in the Guardian notes that international law “stays silent on the responsibility for climate change.” This might be important because if there were serious legal ramifications regarding climate change, faster action to mitigate its effects might occur. Or not.
“The global economy is underpinned by law, but you would think it had nothing to do with climate change,” the article by Stephen Humphreys says. “Climate-related cases have been absent from international courts – even from disputes involving human rights, investment or the environment. While there have been cases heard in some national courts, particularly in the U.S., they do not progress far.”
It’s generally acknowledged that technology has had a major impact on the increase of income inequality for more than three decades, but can technology help reverse that trend?
That’s a big maybe at best, but George Mason University professor of economics Tyler Cowen, in a recent Economic View article in the New York Times, sketched out “some significant ways in which technology could reduce” income inequality.
Cowen said it’s worth exploring whether “market forces themselves might limit or reverse the trend.” For example, he continued, while computers have improved our lives in many ways, “they haven’t yet done much to make health care and education cheaper.”
Mondelez International, the multinational snack foods giant, has developed an outcome-based sustainability framework that will use an external party to measure the impact of its $200 million Coffee Made Happy program.
Mondelez, the world’s second largest coffee company, says the arrangement with the independent third-party organization, the Committee on Sustainability Assessment (COSA), will “provide unprecedented transparency on large scale” along the coffee supply chain.
Mondelez coffee brands include Jacobs, Carte Noire, Kenco and Tassimo. COSA will evaluate the “real impact experienced by farmers on the ground” of the Coffee Made Happy program. Program objectives aim to measure how Coffee Made Happy is achieving its objectives to improve farmers’ business and agricultural skills, increase farm yields, and “engage young people and women in coffee farming so as to empower 1 million coffee entrepreneurs by 2020.”
Two environmental groups are taking the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to court for failing to consider the harmful climate effects of the federal government’s coal leasing program.
The lawsuit was filed late last month in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia by Friends of the Earth and the Western Organization of Resource Councils. Interestingly, Bloomberg reported that the suit is being funded by Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Paul Allen.
In addition to the Allen connection, this is a big deal because the two groups are seeking the first comprehensive review of the federal coal-leasing program since 1979. “Since that time, scientific evidence has established that greenhouse gases produced by coal mining and combustion endanger the public health and welfare,” the groups said in a statement. “The BLM, however, has never analyzed the coal leasing program’s impact on climate change.”
Here’s a new renewable energy twist on the old bumper sticker — circa the 1970s oil crisis — “Eat More Beans, We Need the Gas!” Take the “Poop Bus!”
Today, that’s not so silly or outlandish, because public transport powered by human waste and sewage could be coming to a bus stop near you before too long. In fact there’s one operating now in the U.K. on a trial run basis.
Billed as the “next big trend in sustainable energy,” according to The Guardian, the U.K.’s ‘Bio-Bus’ runs entirely on biomethane gas generated through the treatment of sewage, as well as food waste that’s unfit for human consumption. The waste and sewage is treated at a plant run by the recycling and renewable energy company GENeco. The 40-seat Bio-Bus can travel up to 186 miles on one tank of gas, which takes the annual waste of around five people to produce.
With Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) at the controls of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee over the next two years, climate change will enter into an even more annoying, frightening and bizarrely hilarious era.
For the uninitiated, here are some quotations from the most aggressive climate change denier in the Senate:
- “Climate change isn’t real because the Bible says it ain’t.”
- “My point is, God’s still up there. The arrogance of people to think that we, human beings, would be able to change what He is doing in the climate is to me outrageous.”
- He claimed that global warming might help humanity. “It’s also important to question whether global warming is even a problem for human existence. Thus far no one has seriously demonstrated any scientific proof that increased global temperatures would lead to the catastrophes predicted by alarmists. In fact, it appears that just the opposite is true: that increases in global temperatures may have a beneficial effect on how we live our lives.”
- On the International Panel on Climate Change‘s Synthesis Report released last week, he said:
“The idea that our advanced industrialized economy would ever have zero carbon emissions is beyond extreme and further proof that the IPCC is nothing more than a front for the environmental left. It comes as no surprise that the IPCC is again advocating for the implementation of extreme climate change regulations that will cripple the global economy and send energy prices skyrocketing. The United States is in the midst of an energy renaissance that has the potential to bring about American energy independence, which would strengthen our national security and energy reliability for generations into the future. At a time of economic instability and increased threats to American interests, the IPCC’s report is little more than high hopes from the environmental left.”
Maybe some visual evidence of the effects of tidal flooding and the rise of sea levels due to climate change will help transform debate and talk into action.
It’s not that complicated: Water expands when heated. Sea levels are rising, and sea levels are rising faster as global warming heats up the planet.
UCS makes the point that, “Today scores of coastal communities are seeing more frequent flooding during high tides. As sea level rises higher over the next 15 to 30 years, tidal flooding is expected to occur more often, cause more disruption, and even render some areas unusable — all within the time frame of a typical home mortgage.”
Under the agreement:
- The $25 million will support “faculty and research efforts”
- ExxonMobil will collaborate with MIT on a “wide range” of projects, including research to improve and expand renewable energy sources and find more efficient ways to produce and use conventional hydrocarbon resources
- MIT will establish 10 ExxonMobil Energy Fellows each year for graduate students
Earlier this year, Shell sent a letter to the Department of the Interior and its Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), requesting that its Arctic leases — which expire in 2017 — be paused for five years while the company regroups and attempts to restart drilling operations. The letter was made public late last month by the environmental group Oceana, after obtaining it through a Freedom of Information Act request. Oceana and other groups have sued to block the Arctic exploration.
A large part of the response to climate change amounts to holding actions to mitigate the impact of fossil fuel emissions and to better prepare for unprecedented storms, hurricanes and floods.
Is enough being done on the latter point — preparedness for extreme weather? The answer is no, according to a 76-page report released this month by the National Wildlife Federation, Allied World Assurance Company Holdings and Earth Economics. In fact, the organizations say, there’s a major “preparedness deficit.”
The study, Natural Defenses from Hurricanes and Floods: Protecting America’s Communities and Ecosystems in an Era of Extreme Weather, examines the growing risks from potentially-catastrophic natural hazards; the policy solutions that can safeguard people, property and wildlife habitats; and local case studies that can point the way forward.
“Our preparedness deficit is the result of years of inaction and under-investment at the federal, state and local levels,” says Collin O’Mara, NWF president and CEO. “It’s time for our elected officials to reinvest in our natural defenses and this report offers a blueprint for bipartisan, market-based solutions.”
Just in time for Halloween comes one of the scariest and thought-provoking reads ever, and it’s not about zombies, vampires, Ebola or ISIS—it’s about climate change.
John Berger, author of Climate Peril: The Intelligent Reader’s Guide to Understanding the Climate Crisis takes the reader on a tour of all of the dangers facing the planet if nothing—or not enough—is done to address the impacts of climate change. This is a stark, necessary, heartbreaking and in the end, cautionary and hopeful book.
In succinct and accessible language, this short but powerful book pulls no punches: Climate change is the most critical threat to the planet today, and also the most complicated global issue. And, “like any critical threat it requires an emergency response.”
The standard argument from opponents in the continuing debate over carbon taxes is the grudging admission that while they might reduce carbon emissions, the taxes ultimately fail because they kill jobs.
A recent Bloomberg editorial goes a long way to dispelling the latter part of that argument. Where they are implemented, carbon taxes—also known as environmental tax reforms (ETR)—succeed in reducing greenhouse-gas emissions. “The next question is whether that success is bought at the expense of jobs and incomes,” Bloomberg says. “The answer is no. As long as the tax is well-designed, it can cut emissions at little or no economic cost. And that is a conservative assessment: In practice, a carbon tax has been shown to provide an economic boost. The reason is that the revenue raised by a carbon tax can be used to cut other, more damaging, taxes.”
That’s because, generally speaking, taxes make economies less efficient. But there are degrees of damage, as the editorial explains: “Taxing ‘bads,’ such as pollution, actually improves the allocation of resources, whereas taxing ‘goods,’ such as labor, reduces the economy’s capacity to produce. In principle, therefore, using the revenue from a carbon tax to cut other taxes can yield a double benefit: reducing pollution and expanding the economy.”