GS(3) Thunderbolt 10-11-06: Climate Crisis Update -- How Bad It Is, and What To Do About It
By Richard Power
Concerning the Foley-Hastert scandal, it all boils down to "What did Speaker Hastert, and his live-in aide Scott Palmer, know and when did they know it?" Concerning North Korea, Sen. John McCain's faux resistance to the Bush-Cheney torture program was painful (because it showed that he really has sold his soul and like Faust and Dorian Gray, he will not get what he bargained for) but his attempt to blame Bill Clinton for North Korea's resurgent nuclear weapons program is simply ridiculous. The comments of both former US Defense Secretary William Perry and former national security aide to GHW Bush Donald Gregg (in the Washington Post!!!) underscore the absurdity of McCain's position. Over the last forty-eight hours, there has been some great blogging on both of these still blooming stories of scandal and debacle, notably Firedoglake and Talking Points Memo.
But global warming, aka climate change, trumps both of these stories, and of course, it is being largely ignored both by the US political establishment and the US mainstream news media in final weeks before the crucial mid-term election. So, just to balance out the Wonderland surreality wafted out to you over the air waves, here is a GS(3) Thunderbolt with four news items from recent days, two on how bad it is and two on what to do.
Millions of people could become homeless in the Asia-Pacific region by 2070 due to rising sea levels, with Bangladesh, India, Vietnam, China and Pacific islands most at risk, says Australia's top scientific body. (Reuters, 10-9-06)
Extreme drought, in which agriculture is in effect impossible, will affect about a third of the planet, according to the study from the Met Office's Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research. It is one of the most dire forecasts so far of the potential effects of rising temperatures around the world - yet it may be an underestimation, the scientists involved said...(Independent/UK, 10-4-06)
US ex-vice president Al Gore has said he understands Europe's frustration over his country's reluctance to ratify the Kyoto protocol on climate change - but insisted that both superpowers could still unite over the issue as support for green goals is rising across the US. (EU Observer, 10-9-06)
145 businesses, environmental organizations, and other groups (representing 37 states) released the "Sustainable Energy Blueprint" - a policy paper that outlines a "plausible strategy for achieving a no-nuclear, low-carbon, highly-efficient and sustainable energy future." It provides a timeframe and series of policy recommendations for rapidly expanding the use of energy efficient and renewable energy technologies to enable a dramatic reduction in greenhouse gases while simultaneously phasing out nuclear power and ending most energy imports. (Common Dreams, 10-6-06)
There are some profound issues to be debated and decided upon -- if the human race is going to mitigate the impact of global warming and adapt to its consequences. Unfortunately, in many nations, the political establishments and news media have failed to lead. In both cases, this failure is most egregious in the USA.
Want to participate in the effort to mitigate the impact of global warming? Download "Ten Things You Can Do"
There is a powerful magic in personal commitment.
Here are excerpts with links to the full texts of the four news stories cited:
Millions of people could become homeless in the Asia-Pacific region by 2070 due to rising sea levels, with Bangladesh, India, Vietnam, China and Pacific islands most at risk, says Australia's top scientific body. A climate change report by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) found global warming in the Asia Pacific region could cause sea levels to rise by up to 16 cm (six inches) by 2030 and up to 50 cm (19 inches) by 2070...Rising temperatures will also result in increased rainfall during the summer monsoon season in Asia and could cause more intense tropical storms, inundating low-lying coastal villages. "The coastlines of Asia-Pacific nations are generally highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, particularly sea-level rise caused by rising global temperatures," said the CSIRO report released on Monday. "Vast areas of the Asia-Pacific are low lying, particularly the small-island states, as well as the large river deltas found in India and Bangladesh, Southeast Asia and China." Sea level rise between 30 to 50 cm (11 to 19 inches) would affect more than 100,000 km (62,140 miles) of coast, particularly China's Pearl Delta and Bangladesh's delta, said the report.
"As sea level rise exceeds half a meter, the area affected in the Asia-Pacific region rises to over half a million square kilometres, affecting hundreds of millions of people," it said. "Large areas of Bangladesh, India, Vietnam are inundated and Kiribati, Fiji and the Maldives are reduced to just a small fraction of their current land area."
Michael Perry, Rising Seas Could Leave Millions Homeless in Asia, Reuters, 10-9-06
Extreme drought, in which agriculture is in effect impossible, will affect about a third of the planet, according to the study from the Met Office's Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research. It is one of the most dire forecasts so far of the potential effects of rising temperatures around the world - yet it may be an underestimation, the scientists involved said yesterday. The findings, released at the Climate Clinic at the Conservative Party conference in Bournemouth, drew astonished and dismayed reactions from aid agencies and development specialists, who fear that the poor of developing countries will be worst hit. "This is genuinely terrifying," said Andrew Pendleton of Christian Aid. "It is a death sentence for many millions of people. It will mean migration off the land at levels we have not seen before, and at levels poor countries cannot cope with." One of Britain's leading experts on the effects of climate change on the developing countries, Andrew Simms from the New Economics Foundation, said: "There's almost no aspect of life in the developing countries that these predictions don't undermine - the ability to grow food, the ability to have a safe sanitation system, the availability of water. For hundreds of millions of people for whom getting through the day is already a struggle, this is going to push them over the precipice."
The findings represent the first time that the threat of increased drought from climate change has been quantified with a supercomputer climate model such as the one operated by the Hadley Centre.
Michael McCarthy, The Century of Drought: One third of the planet will be desert by the year 2100, say climate experts in the most dire warning yet of the effects of global warming, Independent/UK, 10-4-06
US ex-vice president Al Gore has said he understands Europe's frustration over his country's reluctance to ratify the Kyoto protocol on climate change - but insisted that both superpowers could still unite over the issue as support for green goals is rising across the US. Speaking in Brussels on Sunday (8 October) and presenting Belgium's premiere of his global-warming documentary "An Inconvenient Truth," Mr Gore pointed out that despite the EU's leadership, the bloc still has a lot to do - in terms of energy saving and reducing CO2 emissions - to face "by far the most serious crisis that we have ever faced." ..."I understand your frustration over the fact that the US had taken the wrong path," on this subject he said, referring to the current Republican administration's opposition to the Kyoto treaty as the country's "moral lapse." ...Mr Gore - who presents himself as someone who "used to be the next US president" in the movie - said there is now a growing support for the commitments of the Kyoto protocol in his country despite White House opposition. This support includes nine states and over 300 cities that have opted to follow its goals sparking hope that a future US administration will join other nations either on Kyoto or its successor global treaty, according to Mr Gore. The EU is responsible for around 14 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions today and its 15 "old" member states have committed to reducing them by 8 percent below 1990 levels until 2012.
Lucia Kubosova, EU and US could unite on post-Kyoto treaty, says Al Gore, EUOBSERVER, 10-9-06
...145 businesses, environmental organizations, and other groups (representing 37 states) released the "Sustainable Energy Blueprint" - a policy paper that outlines a "plausible strategy for achieving a no-nuclear, low-carbon, highly-efficient and sustainable energy future." It provides a timeframe and series of policy recommendations for rapidly expanding the use of energy efficient and renewable energy technologies to enable a dramatic reduction in greenhouse gases while simultaneously phasing out nuclear power and ending most energy imports.
The "Sustainable Energy Blueprint" argues that three primary, longer-term objectives for the nation's energy policy should be:
1.) reducing greenhouse gas emissions to a level consistent with a world-wide goal of global climate stabilization (assumes curbing U.S. CO2 emissions by 60-80% from current levels by mid-century);
2.) eliminating U.S. energy imports (i.e., oil and natural gas - now 58% and 15% respectively), while reducing overall use of oil and natural gas;
3.) phasing out the current generation of nuclear power while substantially curbing the production and consumption of fossil fuels, by increasing the use of energy efficiency and making a transition to sustainable, environmentally safer renewable energy sources....
SUSTAINABLE ENERGY BLUEPRINT
A PLAUSIBLE STRATEGY FOR ACHIEVING A NO-NUCLEAR, LOW-CARBON, HIGHLY-EFFICIENT AND SUSTAINABLE ENERGY FUTURE
The following statement outlines an ambitious but doable strategy for dramatically reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, phasing out nuclear power, and ending energy imports while simultaneously creating new domestic jobs and businesses, improving energy, homeland, and national security and the economy, and enhancing the environment and public health.
The three primary, longer-term objectives for the nation's energy policy should be:
1.) reduce greenhouse gas emissions to a level consistent with a world-wide goal of global climate stabilization (assumes curbing U.S. CO2 emissions by 60-80% from current levels by mid-century);
2.) eliminate U.S. energy imports (i.e., oil and natural gas - now 58% and 15% respectively), while reducing overall use of oil and natural gas;
3.) phase out the current generation of nuclear power while substantially curbing the production and consumption of fossil fuels, by increasing the use of energy efficiency and making a transition to sustainable, environmentally safer renewable energy sources.
The following targets approximate what is technically and economically feasible given the necessary policy support and leadership as well as what would likely be necessary if the above-listed objectives are to be achieved.
1.) reduce total energy consumption by at least one percent/year from 2005 levels, through efficiency improvements in housing, manufacturing, vehicles, airplanes, government facilities, and businesses, so that by 2025, U.S. energy use totals no more than about 80 quads.
2.) increase from 2005 levels, production of renewable energy from biofuels, biomass, geothermal, hydropower (and other water power sources), solar, and wind plus renewably-based hydrogen - in an environmentally responsible manner - by about 0.5 quads/year so that by 2025 renewables provide at least 17 quads.
3.) phase out the current generation of nuclear power plants by not relicensing currently existing reactors and not building new ones.
4.) reduce oil consumption by at least one percent/year below 2005 levels so that by 2025, U.S. oil imports are no more than one-third of total petroleum use.
5.) reduce natural gas consumption by one percent/year below 2005 levels so that by 2025, the U.S. will no longer be importing any natural gas.
6.) reduce coal consumption by at least one percent/year below 2005 levels
7.) reduce carbon dioxide and other GHG emissions by at least one percent/year so that by 2025 they are at least 20% below current levels.
1.) continue to reduce total energy consumption by at least one percent/year below 2005 levels through efficiency improvements so that by 2050, total U.S. energy use is no more than 60 quads.
2.) continue to expand use of renewable energy sources by at least 0.5 quads per year from 2005 levels so that by 2050, renewables contribute at least 30 quads to the nation's energy supply.
3.) continue to reduce oil consumption by at least two percent/year below 2005 levels so that by 2050, oil imports will be eliminated and total oil use is no more than one-fifth of today's levels.
4.) continue to reduce coal consumption by at least one percent/year below 2005 levels and phase out all single-cycle pulverized coal power plants, so that by 2050, coal consumption is no more than one-third of today's levels.
5.) continue to reduce natural gas consumption by about one percent/year below 2005 levels so that by 2050, natural gas consumption is one-third below today's levels.
6.) continue to reduce carbon dioxide emissions so that by 2050, they are no more than one-third of current levels.
The following tables provide estimate of what the nation's energy mix would be if the above-listed targets are realized.
2005 Energy Consumption (quadrillion BTUs) 23.0 - Coal 16.5 - Oil (Domestic) 23.0 - Oil (Imports) 19.0 - Natural Gas (Domestic) 3.5 - Natural Gas (Imports) 8.0 - Nuclear 7.0 - Renewables 100.0 - Total CO2 Emissions - 6,000 million metric tons
2025 Energy Consumption (quadrillion BTUs)
18.0 - Coal 15.5 - Oil (Domestic) 11.5 - Oil (Imports) 18.0 - Natural Gas (Domestic) 0.0 - Natural Gas (Imports) 1.0 - Nuclear 17.0 - Renewables 81.0 - Total
CO2 Emissions - <4,800 million metric tons
2050 Energy Consumption (quadrillion BTUs) 8.0 - Coal 8.0 - Oil (Domestic) 0.0 - Oil (Imports) 14.0 - Natural Gas (Domestic) 0.0 - Natural Gas (Imports) 0.0 - Nuclear 30.0 - Renewables 60.0 - Total CO2 Emissions - 2,000 million metric tons
Proposed Policy Initiatives:
The following policy initiatives are not exhaustive but are illustrative of the type necessary to realize the targets and objectives outlined above.
1.) By 2025, fuel economy standards for cars and trucks should be at least double what they are today, beginning with a 50% increase in fuel economy for new vehicles by the year 2015.
2.) By 2025, total annual person-miles traveled by automobile and truck should be back to levels no higher than today through expansion of mass transit, better land use planning, telecommuting, etc.
3.) By 2025, no less than 25 percent of the nation's liquid transportation fuels should be provided, or displaced, by renewable sources, including renewably-generated hydrogen.
4.) By 2025, no less than 25 percent of the nation's electricity should be mandated to be generated by renewable energy sources and increased by at least one percent/year thereafter.
5.) By 2025, state and/or federal standards should mandate that the energy efficiency of appliances, motors, and lighting should be improved by no less than 20 percent as measured on a total fuel cycle basis.
6.) By 2025, state and/or federal standards should mandate that 20 percent of all new buildings must be zero energy buildings (moving twoards a goal of all new buildings being zero energy by 2050), using a combination of efficient design and clean on-site energy production;
7.) By 2025, energy use in the electricity sector should be reduced by at least 10 percent through the use of clean distributed generation such as combined heat & power, district energy, fuel cells, and improved energy storage and transmission technologies.
8.) Energy efficiency resource standards for electric and gas utilities should be established with a target savings of at least one percent of annual sales each year, on an incremental basis, such that savings build on previous years' impacts.
9.) Expansion of renewable energy, energy efficiency and clean distributed generation technologies should be promoted through national interconnection standards i.e., (net metering and transmission access reforms), production and investment tax incentives, government procurement, updated resource assessment, and state and local planning programs.
10.) Annual federal funding for the research, development, and deployment of energy efficient and renewable energy technologies should be at least doubled over the next five years and expanded to no less than five times current levels by 2025.
11.) Funding to support sustainable energy budget outlays and tax incentives, as well as to alleviate low-income consumer impacts, should be drawn from a mix of gradually increased dedicated taxes on carbon-based fuels, energy imports, and fossil fuel leases on federal lands.
12.) Any new coal-based powerplants should be required to achieve energy efficiency and environmental performance equal to, or better than, the best-available Integrated Combined Cycle Coal Gasification technology, and must include full and permanent carbon capture and sequestration.
13.) Unless all of the following conditions are satisfied, licenses for existing nuclear power plants should not be renewed or extended and federal nuclear funds should be directed towards plant decommissioning and waste clean-up, storage & disposal:
a) greenhouse gas emissions from the nuclear fuel cycle are reduced by 60 percent;
b) designs are developed for passively-safe reactors that cannot melt down, explode, or release radioactivity, under any conditions, including direct hits from bombs, aircraft impacts, earthquakes, floods, or terrorist acts;
c) radiation exposure standards are established that ensure no radiation exposure hazards to workers or the public;
d) waste handling and disposal technologies are developed that preclude the need for long-distance waste transport or long-term storage;
e) fuel cycle and waste handling technologies are developed that preclude any risk of nuclear weapons proliferation or theft of potentially fissionable materials; and
f) private liability per nuclear power plant under the Price-Anderson Act is increased to no less than $50 billion.
145 Organizations Release "Sustainable Energy Blueprint" To Phase Out Nuclear Power, End Energy Imports, And Slash Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Common Dreams, 10-6-06
Hard Rain Journal 10-1-06: Climate Crisis Update -- Xangsane and The Elephant in the Dark
Hard Rain Journal 9-26-06: Climate Crisis Update -- Global Warming & The Nuclear Option, A Convergence of National Security Issues
Hard Rain Journal (9-24-06): Climate Crisis Update -- News on Farmers, Home Builders and Small Business Owners from Costa Rica and the UK
Hard Rain Journal 9-19-06: Climate Crisis Update – Gore Articulates The Profit in Prophecy and The Return on Reality
Hard Rain Journal 9-15-06: Climate Crisis Update – If You Have Children, or Care About the Future for Any Reason, You Should Read These Five News Items
Hard Rain Journal 8-28-06: Six Ways for the US to Fight Global Warming
Hard Rain Journal 8-17-06: Typhoon Season Intensifies, Canada Starts to Slide into Denial, New Study Offers Insight on Global Warming Impact
Hard Rain Journal 8-2-06: North Korean flood toll thought to be 10,000, Agence France Press reports
Hard Rain Journal 7-27-06: Killer Heat Waves, Massive Blackouts -- You Were Warned 3 Years Ago
Hard Rain Journal 7-26-06: NRDC Reports on Global Warming's Direct Threat to 12 National Parks in Western USA
Hard Rain Journal 7-24-06: Five Stories about the Reality of Global Warming, Is Continued Denial Criminally Insane?
Hard Rain Journal 7-21-06: Heat Waves in Europe & US are Direct Consequences of Global Warming
Words of Power #25: Lost Symbols, Part II -- The Rainbow Serpent Hisses, Lessons about Sustainability & Survival from Darfur, Senegal and Ecuador
Hard Rain Journal 6-27-06: Global Warming, Bush's Alleged "Incompetence," and the So-Called "Conservative" Agenda
Words of Power #20: Cusco, Kyoto and The Yellow Sand Storm
Words of Power #7: Global Warming Is A Security Threat To Your Family & Your Business
Words of Power #1: Truths Salvaged from Post-Katrina Debacle
Global Warming, Energy Security, Environmental Security, Alternate Energy, Sustainability, Renewable Resources, Climate Change, Weather, Al Gore, An Inconvenient Truth, Extreme Weather, Crisis Management, Drought, Asia, Vietnam, Bangaldesh, China, India, Maldives, EU, Richard Power, Words of Power, Foley, North Korea