Monday, May 25, 2009

World Business meets on Climate Change

Six months prior to the UN Climate Change Conference (COP15) in Copenhagen, the World Business Summit on Climate Change brings together CEOs, government representatives, scientists and thought leaders to put forward recommendations for the next global treaty on climate change.

At the Summit, global leaders, through workshops and debates, will learn about and develop the latest low-carbon solutions as well as present the most advanced and innovative business strategies to combat climate change.

The goal of the Summit is to demonstrate how policy, coupled with innovative business models, can drive a sustainable transformation of the economy and stimulate job creation and low-carbon solutions.

World Business Summit on Climate Change is going on now in Copenhagen.
The Website link is here. A link to videos, including a fine keynote speech by Al Gore, is here.

UPDATE, May 26:
Gore, Ban urge business leaders to help reduce greenhouse gases.
Despite the global financial crisis, both Ban and Gore said there was no time for delay in hashing out the specifics of how to cut greenhouse gases that contribute to warming the planet.
“We have to do it this year. Not next year. This year,” Gore said. “The clock is ticking, because Mother Nature does not do bailouts.” The full AP report is here.

UPDATE, May 27:
The Copenhagen Call
Global business leaders at the World Business Summit on Climate Change call on political leaders to agree an ambitious and effective global climate treaty at COP15 in Copenhagen. Sustainable economic progress requires stabilizing and then reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Success at COP15 will remove uncertainty, unleash additional investment, and bolster current efforts to revive growth in a sustainable way. The full document is here.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Energy & Climate Bill passes Committee

Energy and Commerce Committee Passes Clean Energy Legislation
The House Energy and Commerce Committee approved "The American Clean Energy and Security Act" (ACES Act, H.R. 2454) by a vote of 33 to 25 on May 21, 2009. According to co-sponsors Henry Waxman and Ed Markey, the bill charts a new course towards a clean energy economy. It imposes the first nationwide limits to greenhouse gas emissions. The bill was called 'historic' by President Obama.

The ACES Act proposes to create millions of new clean energy jobs, save consumers hundreds of billions of dollars in energy costs, enhance America's energy independence, and cut global warming pollution. Passage of such legislation this year is said to be crucial to demonstrate U.S. leadership on limiting greenhouse gas emissions prior to the international meeting in Copenhagen in December. Read more about the bill here.

Landmark Climate Bill Supported By Industry Giants and Enviros
According to the Energy Committee, supporters of the bill include BP America, Caterpillar, Conoco, Dow Chemical, GE, Johnson & Johnson, Shell and Siemens. Among community and environmental groups, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Nature Conservancy, Sierra Club, World Wildlife Fund, American Lung Association and Center for American Progress have given their support, as reported here.

Has anyone actually read the entire ACES bill?
Don't have time to read the nearly 1000 page ACES bill? No problem. has read it and has provided a preliminary analysis. The analysis is condensed in tabular form for easy reading, and can be obtained here. Contact Jason Kowalski at with any questions or comments.

Greens take sides on the ACES bill
Longtime climate crusader Al Gore says we should do all we can to get the legislation passed, while top climate scientist James Hansen says we should demand a different, better bill, according to Lisa Hymas, Grist's senior editor.

Gore says the bill is a good starting point, and that efforts to reach compromise on it have boosted its chances of passing both the House and the Senate. He believes that he key role of the legislation is to begin that shift to lower emissions.

According to James Hansen, “The revised Waxman-Markey climate bill is too watered down to qualify as a positive step for avoiding catastrophic climate disruption.

Activists and environmental groups are picking sides or staking out positions in the middle, is viewed to be in the middle, along with goups such as NRDC, Sierra Club, Apollo Alliance, Earthjustice, League of Conservation Voters, and many others.

Jesse Jenkins, of the Breakthrough Institute, believes that to drive the transition and jump-start a new energy economy we must, “make clean energy the profitable kind of energy,” as President Obama has said. The gap in price between our traditional sources of energy and new, clean energy sources, like wind, solar power and biofuels, must be closed, and this can be done in two ways. We can make conventional, dirtier energy sources more expensive. Or we can make new, clean energy sources more affordable. Jesse Jenkins worries that as currently drafted, the ACES bill will fail to effectively utilize either option, and therefore prove unable to reduce emissions or truly build a new clean energy economy.

But it ain't over, 'till it's over
The ACES bill still has quite a ways to go before passage by the full House. According to Grist's political reporter, Kate Sheppard, at least six other House committees have jurisdiction over some portion of this bill, including the Ways and Means Committee, which oversees legislation pertaining to taxes and other revenue sources. In that committee, John Larson (D-Conn.) has offered a carbon-tax bill and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) has proposed a cap-and-dividend bill. Kate Sheppard writes that they will want to play a role in shaping the final legislation.

Follow the ACES Bill Debate and Updates on Twitter at Grist

Sunday, May 3, 2009

350: A Number to Hang a Carbon Cap On

A team of scientists, led by NASA climatologist Dr. James Hansen, has determined that 350 parts per million (ppm) is the safe level of heat-trapping carbon dioxide (CO2) which we must get below in order to preserve climates similar to which life on Earth is adapted. The level now is 387 ppm, and is increasing at least by 2 ppm per year. We need to start now and reduce the level of CO2 below 350 ppm.

Scientists studying Antarctic ice cores that include more than 650,000 years of past climate history have never found CO2 levels even close to those of the present ones. Pre-Industrial Revolution levels, i.e., before the extensive burning of fossil fuels, were at 275 ppm, far below the current level of 387 ppm.

The CO2 level recorded prior to industrial fossil-fuel burning is that which trapped enough heat to maintain global temperatures to which life on Earth adapted. At the current elevated level of heat-trapping CO2, the Earth is showing signs of a planetary "fever".

Arctic sea is melting, sea levels are rising, and climate patterns around the globe are changing. Glaciers, the source of drinking water for hundreds of millions of people, are melting and disappearing. Disease-carrying mosquitoes that thrive in a warmer world are spreading to new places including south Texas. Drought is becoming more common, making food crops harder to grow in many regions.

Environmentalist and author, Bill McKibben, thinks that 350 is the most important number on Earth. In fact, he founded an international movement called simply 350, aiming to inform people around the world that 350 ppm is the level scientists have identified as the safe upper limit for CO2 in our atmosphere. Hopefully, this will help move international climate negotiations closer to science than they’ve been in the past.

McKibben aims to create a world-wide grassroots movement connected by the internet and to hold decision-makers accountable to producing a climate treaty that is strong, equitable, and grounded in the latest science, the science of 350. On October 24, is holding a Global Day of Climate Action to do just this. “We hope it represents a climactic moment in the climate movement to show that people around the world are watching the outcome in Copenhagen,” says May Boeve, an international 350 coordinator. “We need a strong treaty to get us to a safe level. We are ultimately building toward that point.”

So how do we reduce the CO2 level below 350?
  • No more new coal plants, because although the world still has immense amounts of coal, it's immensely dirty.
  • A cap on the amount of carbon the country can produce, with permits paid for by the upstream producer who mines, imports, or sells the fossil fuel .
  • An international agreement, including China and India, to do the same thing around the world.
If the global 350 movement succeeds, McKibben has hope that we can get the world back to climate safety. It won't be easy, because the planet is already developing a fever, and prompt action is necessary. Visit to learn more about how you can help.

This weekend there were two conferences focused on that single number, 350. "Getting to 350" was held at Middlebury College in Vermont, and "The 350 Climate Conference" was held at Columbia University in New York. James Hansen spoke at Columbia and via video conference at Middlebury. Bill McKibben spoke at Middlebury via video conference from the other side of the planet in New Zealand, where he is spreading the word about the most important number on Earth.