LICSN News August 2008

from Long Island Climate Solutions Network

New York State Approves CO2 Caps.By Heather Senison, Poughkeepsie Journal, August 12, 2008. ” New York Monday became the latest state to take steps to regulate [CO2] emissions to combat global warming. The state Environmental Board unanimously approved regulations to cap the amount of carbon dioxide that can be discharged into the atmosphere, joining nine other states in the Northeast that have taken similar steps in the absence of any action by the federal government. Starting in December, the state intends to set up a ‘cap and trade’ system that will sell permits to power plants and other CO2 producers. The permits will hold emissions of the greenhouse gas steady through 2014 and then reduce the total. Under the initiative, power plants will have to buy allowances at state auctions for every ton of carbon dioxide they emit… ‘Today’s action is the culmination of extensive work by the Department of Environmental Conservation and our state partners [RGGI] to respond to the challenges posed by climate change,’ said Pete Grannis, DEC commissioner and the Environmental Board chairman.”

How to Put Your Power-Hungry Household PC on a Diet. By Steve Lohr, NYTimes, August 6, 2008. “Microsoft, the nonprofit Climate Savers Computing Initiative and a start-up called Verdiem are combining to put a spotlight on the energy-saving opportunity in PCs, and distributing a free software tool [called Edison] to consumers to help them do it. The potential savings in both dollars and pollution is huge, analysts say… The research firm Gartner estimates that 40% of all CO2 emissions resulting from information technology and telecommunications are attributable to PCs… There are other free tools for calculating and managing PC power consumption, including the EPA’s EZ Wizard [and] CO2 Saver… But Edison allows the user more flexibility, especially in making the settings as stringent as [he or she wants].” [Editor’s note: You can download Edison free here.]

Dramatic Acceleration of Meltdown in Artic This Week. By Robin McKie, London Observer, August 10, 2008. “Ice at the North Pole melted at an unprecedented rate last week, with leading scientists warning that the Arctic could be ice-free in summer by 2013. Satellite images show that ice caps started to disintegrate dramatically several days ago as storms over Alaska ‘s Beaufort Sea began sucking streams of warm air into the Arctic . As a result, scientists say that the disappearance of sea ice at the North Pole could exceed last year’s record loss. More than a million square kilometres melted over the summer of 2007 as global warming tightened its grip on the Arctic . But such destruction could now be matched, or even topped, this year… Dr. Wieslaw Maslowski [Navy Polar Ice Prediction System, Naval Postgraduate School , Monterey CA ] said. ‘The crucial point is that ice is clearly not building up enough over winter to restore cover and that when you combine current estimates of ice thickness with the extent of the ice cap, you get a very clear indication that the Arctic is going to be ice-free in summer in five years. And when that happens, there will be consequences.'”

Global Warming Brings More Rainfall: Study. By Evan S. Benn, Miami Herald, August 7, 2008. ” Florida and the rest of the tropics will face wetter and more powerful rainstorms because of global warming, according to a new [ University of Miami ] study… released Thursday. ‘We expect heavy rain events to increase,’ said Brian Soden… [of] the university’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. ‘As the climate gets warmer, there is more moisture in the atmosphere. So, when thunderstorms develop, they produce more rainfall.’ Soden’s study is the first to use observational evidence from the past 20 years to determine a link between warmer temperatures and an increase in tropical rainfall. A preview of his findings is posted online at, and the full version will be published in an upcoming issue of Science. The study… found that previous estimates of rainfall increases may have been low… Soden emphasized that his research does not link human-caused global warming with more hurricanes, but it does suggest future hurricanes may produce more rain.”


Compressed Air Cars Planned for 2010. By A. Pawlowski, CNN, August 8, 2008. “The compressed air car, which backers say could achieve a fuel economy of 106 miles per gallon… has been the focus of MDI, a European company founded in 1991 by a French inventor and former race car engineer. New York-based Zero Pollution Motors is the first firm to obtain a license from MDI to produce the cars in the United States , pledging to deliver the first models in 2010 at a price tag of less than $18,000. The concept is similar to how a locomotive works, except compressed air — not steam — moves the engine’s pistons, said Shiva Vencat, vice president of MDI and CEO of Zero Pollution Motors. The six-seater planned for the U.S. market would be able to reach speeds of more than 90 mph and have a range of more than 800 miles thanks to a dual energy engine, Vencat said. Since the car could only go a short distance when using just air, fuel is needed to get the full range, he explained. ‘Above 35 mph, there is an external combustion system, which is basically a heater that uses a little bit of gasoline or biofuel or ethanol or vegetable oil that will heat the air,’ Vencat said. ‘Heating the air increases its volume, and by increasing its volume, it increases [the car’s] range. That’s why with one gallon of gasoline or its equivalent we are able to make over 100 mpg.’ Vencat said an on-board compressor would refill the air tank while the car is running, or owners could refill it by plugging it into a power outlet for four hours.”

Solar Car Tours the World. By Matt Terrell, Vail Daily, August 10, 2008. “Louis Palmer has driven thousands of miles through Europe, the Middle East, India , China , Australia , New Zealand and now Minturn , Colorado . He hasn’t spent a dime on gasoline. His car is the Solar Taxi. It’s a sleek blue machine that sits low to the road, doesn’t make a sound while running and pulls a trailer covered in solar panels… The solar taxi will be the first solar-powered vehicle to circumnavigate the globe.  The next stop is Denver , then they’ll be driving through the Midwest, Washington D.C. , New York and ending the North American jaunt in Montreal . So far, the solar car is performing quite well.


A City Wonders How Green Is Too Green. By Nicholas Kulish, IHTribune, August 7, 2008. “[The] fairy tale town [of Marburg , Germany ] is stuck in the middle of a utopian struggle… The town council took the significant step in June of moving from merely encouraging citizens to install solar panels to [requiring] them… The ordinance, [set to take effect Oct. 1 and] the first of its kind in Germany, will require solar panels not only on new buildings… but also on existing homes that undergo renovations or get new heating systems or roof repairs. …A fine of 1,000 euros, about $1,500, awaits those who do not comply. Critics howled… [about] the rights of property owners. The regional government in Giessen … warned it would overturn the rule. City officials in Marburg said, in turn, that they would take their case either to administrative court or all the way to the Hessian state capital, where they would try to get the state building code changed to protect their ordinance… ‘We have a serious energy problem with the older homes,’ Marburg ‘s deputy mayor, Franz Kahle, said… To make a real leap forward, he said, a dramatic step was necessary.'”

San Francisco’s Mayor Signs Nation’s Most Stringent Green Building Codes. By Wyatt Buchanan, SFChron, August 6, 2008. ” San Francisco took a major step Monday to cement its reputation as the most environmentally progressive city in the United States , as Mayor Gavin Newsom signed into law stringent green building codes for new construction and renovations of existing structures in the city. The new codes focus on water and energy conservation, recycling and reduction of carbon emissions. They apply to most buildings in the city, including residential projects of all sizes, new commercial buildings over a certain size, and renovations of large commercial spaces… The city’s Office of Economic Analysis estimated that the new codes would cost the city between $30 million and $700 million a year in economic output, as it could lead to higher rents and businesses choosing to locate elsewhere. Newsom called that report inaccurate and predicted the new regulations would actually attract businesses to the city.”

New England

Environmentalists Celebrate Big Wins in Massachusetts. By Steve LeBlanc, AP, August 3, 2008. “Tally up the crush of bills passed during the Legislature’s 19-month formal session and it’s hard to find a politician or interest group with bigger bragging rights than environmentalists… Some of the biggest [victories] include: The Oceans Act of 2008. The new law, signed by [Gov. Deval] Patrick in May, ensures Massachusetts lives up to its Bay State nickname by becoming the first state in the nation to create a single document to cover a myriad of ocean activities, from wind farms and ocean fishing to whale watching and environmental conservation… Green Jobs Bill. The bill, now on Gov. Patrick’s desk, would spur the growth of jobs in the green economy in part by funneling $13 million a year over the next five years into a new Massachusetts Clean Energy Technology Center to develop the renewable energy sector… Green Communities Bill. The initiative is intended to help Massachusetts wean itself off fossil fuels and other polluting forms of energy while cutting down on emissions that lead to global warming in part by requiring utilities and other electricity suppliers to procure an increasing percentage of their energy from renewable sources… Global Warming Bill. The bill requires the state over the next dozen years to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 20 percent below 1990 levels. By 2050, the goal is to have emissions drop 80 percent below 1990 levels… Biofuels Law. The measure, signed by Patrick last week, gives preferential tax treatment to non-corn-based alternatives to ethanol. It also requires biofuel content in all the diesel and home heating fuel sold in the state… ‘The public has demanded action to protect our environment and our health and clearly the Legislature has listened,’ said Lora Wondolowski, executive director of the Massachusetts League of Environmental Voters.”

A Climate Call to Action for New England. Press Release, Conservation Law Foundation, July 28, 2008. “Systematic and immediate changes to New England’s energy programs and transportation infrastructure are needed to meet the climate… crisis, according to a call to action released on July 28 by the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF), New England’s leading environmental group… ‘Our region, like the rest of the nation and the world, is facing the greatest environmental threat of our era, demanding transformations at all levels… said CLF President Philip Warburg… [The CFL blueprint, New England Down Payment on the Future, PDF, 24 pp]lays out five… [recommended steps:] 1) Expand public transit opportunities and give people the opportunity to drive less by spending at least 75% of [regional] transportation funds… on public transit and compact, transit-oriented development. 2) Invest at least $1 billion in new [residential and commercial]… conservation measures. 3) Build 2,000 megawatts of new wind power. 4) Shut down at least two of the region’s coal-fired power plants or convert them to cleaner, low-carbon fuels. 5) Enact legislation in every New England state that mandates reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and requires review of climate impacts in state permitting and infrastructure decisions.”


Book Review: ‘Stop Global Warming – Change the World’. Reviewed by Roy Wilkes,, July 29, 2008. Jonathan Neale’s new book starts… by explaining the science of climate change and by showing that the technology already exists to prevent it or at least to prevent catastrophic abrupt climate change. Climate change as such is already with us, and hitting the world’s poor first and hardest… Ordinary people should not be forced to make sacrifices, an approach which tries to tackle the problem ‘at the wrong end of the pipe.’ Instead we must build a global mass movement to force through the changes that are needed, particularly in energy production, transport, housing and industry… Among the most illuminating chapters are those dealing with the history of climate politics. The scientists and environmental NGOs performed an invaluable service to the world by warning us about global warming — now everyone knows. But their political strategy, based entirely on trying to persuade the rich and powerful to act, was fatally flawed. What is needed now is for the social movements, and in particular the unions, to pick up the baton and run with it… Overall this is a wonderful book, a positive and optimistic addition to the arsenal of socialists and climate activists alike. It is written with genuine warmth and humour, and filled with boundless faith in the humanity and decency of ordinary people. Everyone should read this book and read it soon… Change the World … [is not] available yet outside Britain . But it can be ordered online through the Bookmarks Bookshop in London , or through Amazon UK.” [Editor’s note: Jonathan Neale, secretary of the UK-based Campaign Against Climate Change, is CCC’s major international contact, for the fourth year running, in promoting the International Day of Climate Action, scheduled this year for December 6th.]

Climate Code Red: the case for emergency action by David Spratt & Philip Sutton.  Climate policy is characterised by the habituation of low expectations and a culture of failure. There is an urgent need to understand global warming and the tipping points for dangerous impacts that we have already crossed as a sustainability emergency, that takes us beyond the politics of failure-inducing compromise. We are now in a race between climate tipping points and political tipping points.

Mark Lynas

The Climate Change Clock is Ticking. The UK is in denial about its real carbon emissions, suggests a report from the Stockholm Environment Institute. The academics conclude that if “outsourced” emissions produced in countries like China on goods which are imported into the UK are included in our total carbon footprint, this country’s total greenhouse gas emissions are 49% higher than currently reported. So we should think twice when blaming the Chinese for emitting the CO2 that is required in the manufacture of our fridges and televisions.  The associated website has an equally dramatic ticking clock counting down until runaway warming begins.

Climate Change Catastrophe by Degrees. Bob Watson rightly warns us to prepare for 4C global warming. To avoid that, we must make drastic CO2 cuts now.  The problem with the “mitigate for two degrees; adapt for four” strategy is that it is doomed to fail. Yes, we should certainly prepare for the worst as far as possible – with flood defences, drought-resistant crops and strategies to ameliorate the loss of wildlife, at the very least – but a look at the likely impact of a four-degrees temperature rise suggests that such a dramatic change would probably stretch society’s capacity for adaptation to the limit, not to mention having a disastrous effect on the natural ecosystems that support humanity as a whole. By the time global temperatures reach four degrees, much of humanity will be short of water for drinking and irrigation: glaciers in the Andes and Himalayas , which feed river systems on which tens of millions depend, will have melted, and their rivers will be seasonally running dry. Whole weather systems like the Asian monsoon (which supports 2 billion people) may alter irrevocably. Deserts will have spread into Mediterranean Europe, across most of southern Africa and the western half of the United States . Higher northern latitudes will be plagued with regular flooding. Heatwaves of unimaginable ferocity will sear continental landscapes: the UK would face the kind of summer temperatures found in northern Morocco today. The planet would be in the throes of a mass extinction of natural life approaching in magnitude that at the end of the Cretaceous period, 65m years ago, when more than half of global biodiversity was wiped out.

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