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Greenhouse masses

G. Jeffrey MacDonald, Christian Science Monitor
One New England church makes global warming a crusade – but finds sacrifice isn’t always easy.
…Here in the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, one congregation is learning how hard it is to roll back the effects of industrialization – and to alter their lifestyles in pursuit of religious ideals.

Over the past two years, the First Parish Church, Universalist Unitarian in Waltham, Mass., has made the fight to stop global warming a core moral cause. For 21 months, members held monthly, often weekly, public discussions on the subject. Twice in October, they held free screenings of Al Gore’s movie “An Inconvenient Truth.” Over the summer, they led the charge in St. Louis when the Unitarian Universalist Association adopted a landmark statement calling on everyone to make significant lifestyle changes to save the planet.

So far, however, the congregation hasn’t been able to move with the speed it would like. In the church basement, two aging oil-burners convert less than three-fourths of their fuel into heat. Insulation is scarce, according to a March energy audit. Single-pane glass stretches across windows arching toward a leaky roof. Last winter, the congregation spent more than $9,800 to heat its 21,000-square-foot facility.
(20 Nov 2006)

Feel less than green? Buy back your pollution
More people supporting ‘carbon neutrality’ trend

Andrea James, Seattle Post-Intelligencer
It sounds simple. Buy a cross-country flight, and pay extra to “offset” the greenhouse gases generated by the airplane. Or buy a pair of skis — and add 50 cents to your purchase to clean the environment, too. Just like that, you’re carbon-neutral.

A couple of years ago, most people had never even heard of a carbon footprint — the amount of pollution generated through electrical use and travel. Today, it seems everyone from the Dave Matthews Band to Ford Motor Co. is throwing dollars at environmental firms that promise to help Americans go “carbon-neutral.”

The trend is taking off in Seattle and around the country as increasing numbers buy “carbon offsets” — intangible financial transactions that subsidize renewable energy projects, or pay for tree planting or some other eco-friendly activity. The U.S. plays only a small role in the global carbon trading market — which has more than doubled to $22 billion in the first nine months of 2006, according to The World Bank.
(20 Nov 2006)
Amazingly good article to appear in the mainstream press. Balanced, in-depth and intelligent. Good work, Seattle P-I! -BA

China shifts on CO2 energy tax

Scott Murdoch, Herald Sun
CHINA has buckled to global pressure and is now backing a possible carbon tax.

Zhou Xiaochuan, the governor of the People’s Bank of China, revealed at the G20 meeting in Melbourne yesterday that the country’s position on global warming had changed.

Mr Zhou said China now backed a pricing mechanism for carbon dioxide to be included in the global energy pricing regime.

China’s stance was supported by France, which has lobbied for a carbon tax in a bid to address the growing issue of global warming.
(20 Nov 2006)

US pours scorn on international greenhouse tax proposal

Peter Hartcher, Sydney Morning Herald
THE US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, has described as unacceptable a French proposal to tax the imports of countries that refuse to sign the Kyoto Protocol.

In the sharpest divide yet between the two main global approaches to dealing with climate change, Dr Rice said the idea would be “wildly unpopular” and predicted it would never be implemented.

…Dr Rice’s position is the first high-level US response to the French proposal last week. It marks a new level of tension between the European proscriptive approach to global warming and the US and Australian emphasis on voluntary, technology-based solutions.

Portraying the idea as anti-growth, Dr Rice told the Herald: “I don’t think that would be a particularly useful or acceptable proposal in a world economy that is highly dependent on economic growth in the US and, increasingly, on economic growth in China.”

The French Prime Minister, Dominique de Villepin, proposed the tax as a Europe-wide measure to penalise what he called “environmental dumping”.

It would be imposed on countries that did not agree to the carbon emissions limits decided for the Kyoto Protocol’s next phase, from 2012.

“We have decided to reinforce the principle that the polluter pays,” Mr de Villepin said. His proposed tax would hit exports from Australia if Canberra stayed outside the Kyoto Protocol.

Mr de Villepin’s proposal, and Dr Rice’s response, shows the potential for trade wars in the differing policy responses to global warming.
(20 Nov 2006)

Climate change means big business for reinsurers

Reuters via Daily News (Turkey)
Climate change is boosting business for re-insurers, as rising claims from floods and storms mean higher costs but also more scope to raise prices, the world’s biggest re-insurer Swiss Re said.

Claims from natural catastrophes are rising twice as fast as those from other mishaps, and Swiss Re’s risk models show weather will become less predictable and demand for capital to cover risks from floods and hurricanes will stay strong.

“Temperatures on Earth are rising. What is relevant for the industry is that claims expectations are going up because of that. We will have to put that through into pricing,” Swiss Re Chief Economist Thomas Hess said.

In general, claims to re-insurers — companies that insure other insurers — are rising slightly faster than economic growth at around 5 percent per year, Hess said. But claims for natural catastrophes are growing twice as fast.

“Claims for natural catastrophe insurance are rising roughly 10 percent. If you’re a cynic, you could say it’s a growth market,” Hess said in an interview.
(19 Nov 2006)