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Today's Climate

September 23, 2014

The internet giant Google has announced it is to sever its ties with an influential rightwing lobbying network, the American Legislative Exchange Council, accusing it of "lying" about climate change. The move, ahead of a United Nations summit on climate change, delivered a victory to campaigners and the UN's newly minted initiative to persuade companies to shun climate-denying business lobbies.
(National Journal)
A parade of more than 120 heads of state—including President Obama—will pledge their commitment to tackling rising greenhouse emissions at Tuesday's United Nations climate-change summit. But the impact of the giant meeting will be tough to measure—and it might take awhile.
(The Hill)
The Department of Transportation (DOT) announced $3.6 billion in disaster relief funding for communities affected by Hurricane Sandy to help build public transit systems that are resilient to the impacts of climate change.Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, joined by White House adviser John Podesta, unveiled the funding for projects in Staten Island, N.Y. on Monday.
The government has unveiled its strategy to make Australia into an "energy superpower," including goals to increase energy productivity, ramp up gas production and stabilize electricity prices. The energy green paper states that the repeal of the carbon and mining taxes have improved Australia as an investment destination but more needed to be done, such as improving worker productivity and speeding up the extraction and export of gas and uranium supplies.
Hong Kong is seeking to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions at least 50 percent by 2020 from 2005 levels, the city's secretary for the environment said. Businesses in the city, which consume about 40 percent of Hong Kong's power, have been offered incentives to construct energy-efficient buildings or to reduce power use in existing structures, Wong Kam-sing said today in an interview in New York. Hong Kong also is promoting rooftop solar systems and turning food waste into energy.
There is no such thing as an average Chinese person or lifestyle. In a country where poor farmers still struggle to eke out a living from parched soils, the sons of the political elite cruise Beijing's streets in red Ferraris and spend lavishly on every whim. Still, it's an arresting fact that, statistically, the average Chinese person now accounts for more carbon emissions annually than the average European.
Despite its critical role in protecting the Amazon rainforest, Brazil will not endorse a global anti-deforestation initiative being announced at the U.N. climate summit, complaining it was left out of the consultation process. A U.N. official disputed that claim. Brazilian Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira said Brazil was "not invited to be engaged in the preparation process" of the declaration. Instead, she said Brazil was given a copy of the text and asked to endorse it without being allowed to suggest any changes.
(Business Green)
Shale gas can help tackle climate change and should not be restricted by "green tape," David Cameron is expected to tell the UN Climate Summit in New York today. The Prime Minister is among 100 leaders attending the one day event hosted by UN chief Ban Ki-Moon, each of which is expected to deliver a four minute speech outlining how the world can take steps towards agreeing a binding emissions reduction deal at climate talks in Paris next year.
(Al Jazeera America)
Police arrested more than 100 protesters who refused orders to disperse Monday, as at least 1,000 demonstrators gathered in New York City to demand that Wall Street start pitching in cash to stop climate change and that polluting companies clean up their act. The arrests came a day after tens of thousands of people marched peacefully through the city to call for governments to act on global warming, ahead of this week's U.N. summit on the issue.
(New York Times)
A new and most likely controversial analysis of Pacific Ocean weather patterns concludes that a century-long trend of rising temperatures in the American Northwest is largely explained by natural shifts in ocean winds, not by human activity. The analysis, published on Monday in the prestigious peer-reviewed journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, effectively suggests that the region has warmed because ocean winds, on average, have weakened and shifted direction.

September 22, 2014

(New York Times)
Global emissions of greenhouse gases jumped 2.3 percent in 2013 to record levels, scientists reported Sunday, in the latest indication that the world remains far off track in its efforts to control global warming. The emissions growth last year was a bit slower than the average growth rate of 2.5 percent over the past decade, and much of the dip was caused by an economic slowdown in China, which is the world's single largest source of emissions. It may take an additional year or two to know if China has turned a corner toward slower emissions growth, or if the runaway pace of recent years will resume.
(Washington Post)
For 140 years, the Rockefellers were the oil industry's first family, scions of a business empire that spawned companies called Exxon, Mobil, Amoco and Chevron. So it was no trivial matter when a group of Rockefeller heirs decided recently to begin severing financial ties to fossil fuels. "There is a moral imperative to preserve a healthy planet," said Valerie Rockefeller Wayne, a great-great-granddaughter of oil magnate John D. Rockefeller Sr. and a trustee of the largest charitable foundation in which the family still plays the leading role.
(The Hill)
A number of climate activists who rallied on Sunday in New York City for the largest climate change march to date, said they aren't convinced Hillary Clinton is their candidate if she runs for president. Founder of the prominent activist group 350.org, Bill McKibben, told MSNBC that the former secretary of State has a lot to prove.
(Financial Review)
China will unveil a "strengthened" policy to combat climate change at Tuesday's United Nations Summit in New York, the latest step in Beijing's evolution from denial and obstruction to what many now hope will be a positive contribution to lowering carbon emissions. China's Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli, a member of the all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee, will attend the meeting, along with 125 world leaders.
(The Globe and Mail)
The shift to clean energy is producing huge economic gains, but Canada risks being left behind if the federal government doesn't get on board, a new report warns. That's the message from energy and climate think tank Clean Energy Canada, which paints a picture of a world increasingly embracing and investing in green energy alternatives.
When Germany kicked off its journey toward a system harnessing energy from wind and sun back in 2000, the goal was to protect the environment and build out climate-friendly power generation. More than a decade later, Europe's biggest economy is on course to miss its 2020 climate targets and greenhouse-gas emissions from power plants are virtually unchanged.
The so-called King Fire, one of several sweeping through parts of California has destroyed 10 homes and 22 other buildings, fire officials say.
Hundreds of protesters plan to risk arrest on Monday during an unsanctioned blockade in New York City's financial district to call attention to what organisers say is Wall Street's contribution to climate change. The Flood Wall Street demonstration comes on the heels of Sunday's international day of action that brought some 310,000 people to the streets of New York City in the largest single protest ever held on over climate change. There were no arrests or incidents in Sunday's massive march, police said.
(Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
From state regulators' perspective, all the spills, leaks and fires in the Marcellus Shale well field the past eight years were simply part of the learning curve. "Sometimes you need to learn from your mistakes," said Scott Perry, a deputy secretary with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection who oversees the oil and gas bureau.
(Wall Street Journal (sub. req'd))
In May 2008, a locomotive with a grizzly bear painted on its side pulled into a railroad siding next to an abandoned grain elevator in the ghost town of Dore, N.D. The engine, property of the Yellowstone Valley Railroad, hitched up a couple of tank cars of crude from nearby oil wells and set off on a thousand-mile journey to Oklahoma. Dore would never be the same—and neither would the U.S. energy industry. Until then, most oil pumped in North America moved around the continent in pipelines.
(Houston Chronicle (sub. req'd))
John Hofmeister served as president of Shell Oil Co., the Houston-based U.S. arm of Royal Dutch Shell, from 2005 to 2008. Today he's involved in public policy spheres as founder of Citizens for Affordable Energy and a member of the advisory board of the Fuel Freedom Foundation, which on Friday debuted the documentary "Pump" in New York and Los Angeles.
(Christian Science Monitor)
Three years after the nuclear energy disaster at its Fukushima Daichi plant, Japan finds itself in a quandary: Its government wants to bring many units back on line after rigorous stress testing, but the public is largely opposed. So who wins the nuclear-energy debate—government or the public? Does the dynamic operate differently when it's Japan instead of, say, Germany?

September 19, 2014

(Mother Jones)
Few figures in the climate change debate are as polarizing as former Vice President Al Gore. His fans and his enemies are equally rabid, and his 2006 film An Inconvenient Truth is still probably the most-referenced document on climate change in history. In the last few years, Gore's global warming work has mostly been channeled into a nonprofit he oversees called the Climate Reality Project, which organizes rallies and educational events.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's strategy to forge a global climate agreement by 2015 will enter a new phase next week when more than 120 world leaders meet in New York to discuss greenhouse gas cuts.
Chevron has become the first energy company to meet a new set of voluntary shale gas drilling standards that aim to go beyond existing state laws in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia, the Pittsburgh-based Center for Sustainable Shale announced Thursday. The center is a partnership between major energy companies, environmental groups and charitable foundations. Its certification process consisted of an independent review of Chevron documents and 22 of its production sites in the three states.
(The Globe and Mail)
As proposed regulation looks to wean states off of coal power, officials on both sides are aiming to streamline infrastructure.
(CBC News)
Canada could lag behind the U.S. when it comes to cutting emissions from coal-fired power plants, despite claims by Prime Minister Stephen Harper that Canada is way ahead of its closest neighbour when it comes to cleaning up coal.  A study by the International Institute for Sustainable Development says Canada's new rules to control carbon pollution from coal plants will have a "negligible effect" on greenhouse gas emissions for at least the next 15 years. New regulations in the U.S. could push that country much further along much faster.
China's bid to limit the consumption of low-quality thermal coal in major cities to help curb pollution will not apply to power plants, traders and utility sources said, exempting a sector responsible for half the country's coal use. China said on Monday that from 2015 it would restrict the production, consumption and import of coal with high impurity levels in a bid to fight smog, much of which is caused by using coal for heating and electricity.
(Inside Energy)
The coal pile at the Comanche Generating Station outside of Pueblo, Colorado is normally over ten stories tall, but rail delays have shortened it considerably. The red smokestacks of the Comanche power plant outside of Pueblo, Colorado can be seen from miles away. The plant supplies power to communities along the Front Range, including Denver, and consumes hundreds of tons of coal an hour in the process. That coal arrives in mile-long trains from Wyoming's Powder River Basin and is stockpiled at the plant.
(Huffington Post)
Three conservation groups accused Dominion Virginia Power Wednesday of illegally discharging coal ash waste into the Potomac River. Five coal ash ponds at Dominion's Possum Point power plant, 30 miles south of Washington, "have been illegally leaking toxic pollutants for decades into groundwater and two popular waterways," the Southern Environmental Law Center, representing Potomac Riverkeeper and the Sierra Club, said in a statement.