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Climate update - Nov 10

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City residents vote to tax selves for carbon use
Boulder surcharge on coal aims to reduce emissions tied to global warming

MSNBC
Voters in a Colorado university town nestled in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains have passed the country’s first municipal carbon tax to fight global warming.

Boulder, Colo., will charge residents and businesses the carbon tax based on how much electricity they use. Most electricity in Boulder is generated at plants that use coal, which produces more of the main greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, than natural gas or oil.

Carbon taxes have been a subject of debate in the United States, the world’s leading consumer of fossil fuels, as some communities try to reduce the output of gases scientists link to global warming.

...The Boulder tax will raise average home bills $1.33 per month and businesses will pay an extra $3.80 per month, according to the town. The tax will generate about $1 million for the city annually. Utility Xcel Energy will collect the tax.

The money will fund energy audits for homes and businesses and visits by energy experts to advise homeowners how to save energy through means such as energy efficient lighting and insulation.

...Van Pelt said electricity customers, many of whom live in older, drafty homes, would eventually save money through the efficiency adjustments. “We really didn’t think of the tax as a stick approach,” she said.

The city figures energy cost savings of $63 million over the long term.
(10 Nov 2006)
Again, citizens at the local level prove themselves to be far ahead of the national politicians. -BA


Kenya's Maasai plead for help against global warming

Agence France Presse via Yahoo!News
Members of Kenya's Maasai tribe have appealed for "urgent action" to fight climate change, saying global warming for which they are not responsible is destroying their traditional way of life.

On the sidelines of crucial UN climate change meeting in the Kenyan capital, they said their time-honored, cattle-based society is unjustly threatened by greenhouse gas emissions from developed countries far from their homes.

"The Maasai are feeling the first and worst of climate change," said Sharon Looremetta, a Maasai tribeswoman.

"This is a massive injustice and we are calling for urgent action by governments, by individuals and by the international community," she told reporters at the Nairobi conference on Friday.

"My people do not drive four-by-fours, we don't go on weekends, on holidays by flight but we are feeling the effects of climate change," she said, noting that the Maasai, who mainly inhabit Kenya and Tanzania, rarely use vehicles.
(10 Nov 2006)


The Moral Climate

Clark Williams-Derry, Sightline
Am I the only one who senses a remarkable shift -- or, really, 3 shifts -- in how the press is covering climate change?

First, a year or so ago I started seeing much less coverage of climate change as a scientific controversy, and much more coverage that accepts the actual state of affairs -- namely, that the scientific underpinnings of climate change are remarkably uncontroversial, and that the vast majority of atmostpheric scientists think that it's real.

More recently, I've seen much more coverage of the economic costs of climate change -- take for example, the British report suggesting that unchecked climate change could lead to a global recession. Previously, the larger part of the coverage talked only about the costs of fighting climate change -- as if those were the only costs worth thinking about. As I've said before, one-sided coverage of the costs of climate change enables "magical thinking" -- namely, that if we just bury our heads under our pillows, the costs will go away. Balanced coverage -- making it clear that "business as usual" carries huge costs and risks -- makes that sort of magical thinking harder to sustain.

And now, I've started seeing mention of the ethical dilemmas associated with climate change. See, most recently, this, from the Christian Science Monitor. The following quote nails it:

Climate change not only raises ethical questions, but the most profound ones - literally matters of life and death, who's going to survive, the fate of nation states, obligations of one nation to another, of the rich and the poor.

In some ways, this third trend in media coverage is the most heartening to me. It's not that economic arguments don't matter. Far from it. Still, they only go so far -- especially for genuinely long-term problems, where costs accrue right now, but the benefits go to people who don't even exist yet. On purely pragmatic and self-interested grounds, it's a hard sell to convince me to pay $10 now to avoid $100 in potential costs a century from now. After all, I won't be around to reap the fruits of my labor.

That's where ethical arguments can have some sway. I, for one, would rather pay $10 now to prevent climate change, than face the thought that other people -- especially my grandkids -- might view me as a moral midget.
(10 Nov 2006)


Climate change special: State of denial

Fred Pearce, New Scientist
KEVIN TRENBERTH reckons he is a marked man. He has argued that last year's devastating Atlantic hurricane season, which spawned hurricane Katrina, was linked to global warming. For the many politicians and minority of scientists who insist there is no evidence for any such link, Trenberth's views are unacceptable and some have called for him step down from an international panel studying climate change. "The attacks on me are clearly designed to get me fired or to resign," says Trenberth.

The attacks fit a familiar pattern. Sceptics have also set their sights on scientists who have spoken out about the accelerating meltdown of the ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica and the thawing of the planet's permafrost. These concerns will be addressed in the next report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the global organisation created by the UN in 1988 to assess the risks of human-induced climate change. Every time one of these assessments is released, about once every five years, some of the American scientists who have played a part in producing it become the targets of concerted attacks apparently designed to bring down their reputations and careers. At stake is the credibility of scientists who fear our planet is hurtling towards disaster and want to warn the public in the US and beyond.

So when the next IPCC report is released in February 2007, who will be the targets and why? When New Scientist spoke to researchers on both sides of the climate divide it became clear that they are ready for a showdown. If the acrimony were to become so intense that American scientists were forced to stop helping in the preparation of IPCC reports, it could seriously dent the organisation and rob the world of some significant voices in the climate change debate.
(4 Nov 2006)
Hopefully, yesterday's U.S. election were a blow to the climate change denial industry. At any rate, Senator James Inhofe is no longer heading the Senate's environmental Committee. Inhofe has called global warming "the greatest hoax perpetrated on the American people." -BA


Canadians' reliance on cars, trucks driving up greenhouse gases: StatsCan

The Canadian Press via CBC
The environment is paying a price for big trucks and sport utility vehicles, says a new federal government report that blames transportation for generating more than a quarter of Canada's greenhouse gas emissions in 2004.

The Statistics Canada report, coming on the heels of the federal government's proposed clean air act, says emissions of some smog-forming pollutants have been on the decline, but it contends highly polluting transportation trends have slowed or inhibited the decrease and contributed to poor air quality in and around urban areas.

...The Statistics Canada report points to the growing use of heavy-duty trucks to move goods and a shift toward greater use of light trucks - vans, sports utility vehicles and pickups - for transporting people, noting these trends have boosted greenhouse gas emissions and limited the decline of smog-forming pollutants.

It says a contributing factor to increasing truck traffic is the concept of "just-in-time" delivery of freight, whereby companies require delivery that is tightly synchronized with manufacturing processes.

...The report says greenhouse gas emissions emitted by transportation - including carbon dioxide, methane and acid-rain-causing nitrogen oxides - increased 30 per cent, or almost 45 million tonnes, between 1990 and 2004.

"The main contributor to this increase was Canada's growing dependence on road vehicles to move people and goods," said the report.
(9 Nov 2006)

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