Paul Burman

Paul Burman

Tuesday, 06 October 2009 11:00

iQuit: Apple Leaves Chamber of Commerce

Apple announced that it is leaving the U.S. Chamber of Commerce over its stance on global warming. The Chamber has been a source of global warming denial and has seen great backlash recently from members who consider its views to be 'extreme.' Apple is the fourth member of the Chamber to leave in recent months. Others include energy companies PG&E, PNM of New Mexico, and Chicago-based Exelon - not your typical tree hugging companies. The exit comes a month after Apple initially disclosed its corporate carbon footprint. The Chamber will likely see more members quit in the near future if their regressive views on climate change continue. Most studies, including ones performed by the Congressional Budget Office, indicate that the climate bill will help the economy over the long run. Moreover, an obstinate view that global warming isn't occurring and/or isn't man-made simply will not fly with most 21st century businesses. Businesses today deal with modern realities, which include relating to consumers that are acutely aware of the dangers of global warming and the potential adaptation of their business model to the risks of a warming world. Did you know that over 1,200 businesses have taken responsibility for their carbon footprint with Carbonfund.org? You can too! Click here for more info.
Since April 20th, the BP Deepwater Horizon oil well in the Gulf of Mexico has been spewing tens of thousands of barrels of oil into fragile ecosystems every day. For more than a month BP has tried and failed to stop or slow the gushing well without success (calling a project 'top kill' doesn't exactly inspire confidence). Current attempts to stem the flow of oil may actually increase overall oil flow into the Gulf if the strategies fail, and permanent relief will not be available until August at the earliest--but BP may not have that long. Hurricane season officially starts on June 1st, further complicating BP's efforts to end this environmental disaster. Making matters worse, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is predicting that this year will feature above-average storms; potentially with 14 to 23 named storms between now and the end of the season. If a hurricane threatens the Gulf Coast, all oil spill abatement procedures will have to cease immediately. With so many hurdles in place, it is hard to see an end to this devastating environmental disaster. The real mystery is in the unknown: how long will it take to end the oil spill? What will happen to all the fish and wildlife on the coasts of Florida, Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana? What about tourism and the industries that rely on these resources? Stopping the spill will be the first step, but we may have already done too much damage. Moments like these remind me why I support clean, renewable energy. While renewable energies are by no means problem free, you are never going to hear about a never-ending wind turbine disaster or an unstoppable solar panel toxic mess. Every day we continue our reliance on fossil fuels like oil and coal, we are perpetuating an energy system that must take risks like BP took with their Deepwater Horizon rig to continue to be profitable. We must fight for clean energy every day, for change does not come over night, it comes when you add up all those small steps that we have taken after we say "no more dirty energy!" Take a small step today: support clean energy now.
Tuesday, 23 February 2010 19:05

Hope for Climate Legislation in the Senate

The US Senate is expected to reengage with proposed climate legislation this week in an attempt to create domestic solutions that reduce our carbon emissions. While the hope for progress is great, the growing feeling is that the final bill that comes out of the Senate will be less ambitious than the one the House passed last year. According to Reuters news service, Senators John Kerry, Joesph Lieberman and Lindsey Graham are weighing options that will allow the Senate to move forward with legislation. But the issue that is facing this group is only partially related to policy; politics will play a big role in if, when and how a bill may be passed in the Senate. Options in Broad Strokes There are many options for potential Senate climate legislation. This may include a comprehensive cap on carbon emissions that covers nearly the entire economy, or a bill that only covers part of the economy such as power plants and/or other areas of the economy. The latter seems more viable in the short run to some, in order to build a broad base of support. One very distinct piecemeal approach may be to cap the electricity sector of energy, representing about 40% of US emissions. This could make a significant dent in carbon emissions now without necessarily affecting other carbon intensive industries like cement and steel, and may also be administratively easier to monitor. However-- critics view the piecemeal approach as inherently lacking, in that climate change should involve a comprehensive approach to emissions cuts. The Politics With elections coming up in November, it would be foolish to think that there will not be a fair amount of political jockeying between now and then. So trying to pass a bill in the middle of campaign season like this may be difficult, but not impossible. If the Senate is to pass a global warming bill, it will likely need to happen in the next couple months, before members of Congress focus on their districts and states and other issues that Congress is trying to clear this session.
A major hurdle for potential climate change legislation has been cleared: comprehensive health care legislation has passed the House and will soon become law. While the battle to ensure that more Americans will have access to affordable health care has no direct impact on climate change, the battle over the details of the bill has consumed the attention of Congress and America for more than a year now. With the health care debate essentially over for this session, Congress may be free to take on other reforms - specifically that of climate change. Recognizing this opportunity to act, Democratic Senators sent a letter to Majority Leader Harry Reid asking for climate change legislation in 2010. The letter was signed by 22 Democrats, including important swing votes like Sens. Mark Begich of Alaska, Michael Bennet of Colorado, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Roland Burris of Illinois, Maria Cantwell of Washington, Robert Casey of Pennsylvania, Al Franken of Minnesota, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, Jon Tester of Montana, and Mark Warner of Virginia. Climate change legislation passed in the House last year, but legislation in the Senate has been stalled ever since. Currently, the best hope for legislation may come from Sens. Kerry, Graham, and Lieberman, who are drafting legislation that may achieve bipartisan support. It is widely believed that in order to pass a bill of this nature through the Senate, a super-majority of 60 will be necessary. The advantages of comprehensive climate change legislation are many. Well constructed legislation would:
  • Reduce carbon emissions according to science-based targets;
  • Provide clarity for US businesses and promote investment in clean technologies;
  • Create new 'green jobs' and help the US maintain competitiveness in an increasingly green global economy;
  • Remove the need for the EPA to regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant - a particularly contentious issue for some;
  • Establish the US as a leader in the clean energy future;
  • Reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and foreign oil.
Hope remains high that Congress will pass climate change legislation, and the future looks a little brighter now that health care legislation has passed. It will be interesting to see how these next few weeks pan out, because if Democrats are serious about passing a bill in 2010 then they are going to have to refocus their efforts very soon. If the fight to save our climate is anything like the fight to reform our health care, then we are in store for another interesting battle in Washington.
Federal legislation to cap US carbon emissions is imminent (or at least we hope so). Virtually all of the largest states have enacted either comprehensive caps on carbon emissions or at least set enforceable goals to get more energy from clean sources like wind and solar. Soon, new cars are going to have to get more miles on a gallon of gas, dramatically reducing emissions from the transportation sector of our economy. And new energy efficient technologies are coming out every day, helping us do more with less. So is it safe to say that US carbon emissions have peaked? US carbon emissions are down and they will drop further if we fight global warming, create green jobs. In 2008, US carbon emissions dropped by 2.8 percent, the steepest decline since 1982 according to the Washington Post. Now there is no doubt that this drop is strong correlated to the economic down turn (historically, carbon emissions have always risen with economic increased output and fallen during recessions), but other factors are in play here. But what is more telling is that the ties that bind the economy to carbon seem to be getting weaker - "the amount of carbon dioxide produced for every dollar of economic output also declined by 3.8 percent." What does that 3.8 percent mean? It means is that we are even less reliant on carbon dioxide to fuel our economic recovery than we thought and that we are able to generate capital with less and less carbon. With the recession continuing in 2009, it seems likely that we will see overall US emissions drop even more, even if we were doing nothing to consciously de-carbonize our economy... But we are actively fighting global warming, and the steps that we take today will ensure that our tomorrow will be cleaner and greener, throughout the bears and the bull. Fighting global warming and breaking the ties that bind our economic output to carbon and protect us for surging commodity prices for oil and coal. Though the recession is costing us jobs and so much more, it has given us the opportunity to build a recovery plan that respects people and the planet. By continuing to fight global warming through legislation, everyday action, and carbon offsets, we are actively stimulating the economy. Green jobs have surged in recent years, thanks in no small part to private initiatives. The economic downturn will cost us jobs in some sectors, but through the continued support of carbon offsets and clean energy policies, we can create jobs that match our values, while continuing the critical work of stopping global warming. Resources: The Clean Energy Economy, Pew Charitable Trusts

CarbonFree® Partner A2 Hosting has recently announced they will be donating to Carbonfund.org to plant trees for each web hosting package they sell during the month of June in support of our Million Tree Challenge. Each tree A2 Hosting plants will be matched 2-to-1 by Carbonfund.org, for a total of three trees planted.

The Million Tree Challenge lets organizations and individuals donate to plant trees to help reduce climate change, improve air quality and help preserve the Earth's delicate ecosystem. Moreover, we are directing current Million Tree Challenge donations to tree planting in Haiti to help reduce floods and landslides in the earthquake-ravaged country. To learn more or donate to the Million Tree Challenge visit: www.carbonfund.org/trees. A2 Hosting, Inc. is an award winning Linux-based web hosting company providing their customers with 24/7 real support. Their range of services include affordable, developer friendly website hosting for personal homepages up to full service solutions for businesses of all sizes. FutureServe Green Hosting is A2 Hosting's initiative to protect the environment. Some of A2 Hosting's green friendly practices, in addition to their partnership with us, include employee telecommuting practices, recycling older equipment for customers with lower resource needs, using low-voltage Xeon processors and using reusable office supplies.  To learn more visit, please visit www.a2hosting.com.
Today Carbonfund.org President and Co-founder Eric Carlson was on WAMU-FM's Kojo Nnamdi Show today to discuss green travel for the holidays. Eric was a featured guest in the first half hour along with Nancy Young, Vice President of Environmental Affairs for the Air Transport Association. It is no secret that your carbon footprint is affected by how and where you travel. For many of us this holiday season, we will be taking planes, trains and/or automobiles to be with our family and friends. But will the planet be worse off because of our travels? It's why we encourage everyone to take responsibility for our travel-related emissions. By supporting quality, third-party validated carbon reducing projects, you can mitigate your carbon footprint from traveling. You can learn more about your carbon footprint and carbon offsets, calculate your carbon footprint from travel, and offset your footprint by visiting www.carbonfund.org. For those of you who don't live in the DC area, the Kojo show is a beloved radio talk show on our local NPR station, WAMU. To listen to a recording of the show, click here and be connected with the show's page.
World leaders are preparing for December's big climate conference in Copenhagen; the real question is: who is going to lead? Conventional wisdom indicates that global warming by definition is a global problem and will require a global response. If global emissions must be cut by over 80% by 2050, then everyone is simply going to have to tighten their belts, embrace new technologies, and innovate so we can do more with less. But many developing countries, whose emissions are rising, are not in a position to easily reduce their emissions and have other pressing issues as well having to do with poverty, education, human rights, and clean water. copenhagenSo what is the solution? Let developing countries continue to pollute, focus on their people and hope that one day they will be able to finally reduce their emissions? Or do developed nations feel an obligation to help the nations that don't want to choose between economic and social development and reducing emissions? The nuance to this argument comes from the fact that historically countries with the highest carbon dioxide emissions grew the fastest and were able to offer the best quality of life to their citizens.  Click here to see emissions trends for countries from all over the world and you will see that the prosperous ones, the ones with some of the highest quality of life now, have been spewing thousands if not millions of metric tons of CO2 into the air for a long time. Since CO2 sticks around in the atmosphere for a long time, the increased emissions associated with producing those arguably sweet US cars in the past are probably still in the atmosphere. Because of these historical emissions from developed nations, groups all over the world, including the World Bank, are asking for the countries that have been most responsible for global warming to take charge of the fight to stop it.
Developing countries are disproportionately affected by climate change -- a crisis that is not of their making and for which they are the least prepared. For that reason, an equitable deal in Copenhagen is vitally important, said World Bank president Robert Zoellick.
The solution that is fleshed out in Copenhagen will hopefully strike a balance between development and the clean energy revolution. But regardless of where the rest of the world stands, those with the means must commit to reducing emissions in a real and enforceable way. We didn't get to the moon by asking the rest of the world to take an equal stake in the action. We got to the moon through stubborn determination - now our world is richer with a better understanding of the universe and life in general (with a whole slew of useful inventions to boot)! It is time to fight global warming with the same passion that we used to get a man on the moon. Want something that you can do today to fight global warming and support communities in developing countries? Check out Live Climate, where you can do both with one donation.
I was looking through the news today and I noticed an interesting story about how a group of people in New Orleans are suing oil and gas companies because of the role global warming played in Hurricane Katrina. The WSJ summed it all up pretty well (read the whole article for more, obviously):
The suit was brought by landowners in Mississippi, who claim that oil and coal companies emitted greenhouse gasses that contributed to global warming that, in turn, caused a rise in sea levels, adding to Hurricane Katrina’s ferocity.
The premise behind the suit is basic - since oil and coal companies willfully caused the emissions of billions of tons of CO2, they are at least in part responsible for the damage of the ferocious hurricanes of 2006. While people will certainly argue with the science, there are many models and predictions out there that state that warmer ocean temperatures caused by global warming create fiercer hurricanes (see the IPCC). So it is not like the plaintiffs are grabbing for straws. In my non-legal opinion, it seems unlikely that this suit will actually be something that will in and of itself shake the foundation of our nation. But the implications could be great due to the precedent that this is setting. Is it right to sue a company (or group of companies) for their greenhouse gas emissions? What grounds does anyone have to sue an American company over a Chinese one? A start-up polluter vs. a company that emitted millions of tons but went out of business 30 years ago? Thoughts? Comment below. Pls. remember to offset your carbon footprint, such as through our program, Live Climate, here.
Tuesday, 06 April 2010 15:24

Gas Prices Continue to Climb

The price of oil and gas continues to creep up all over America - causing a variety of ripple effects on American wallets and emissions. The cost of oil is up to over $86 a barrel, the highest levels since 2008, and pundits are predicting that we will reach the untenable $100 a barrel price point before too long. This is causing gas prices to shoot up nationwide. The Pacific Northwest and parts of the East Coast, for example, are seeing gas prices over $3; Michigan and Missouri are not far behind that price for a gallon. It seems like ages ago that we were dealing with $4 gas - but in reality that was only in 2008. As gas prices shot up, Americans started driving less, purchasing more fuel efficient cars, and tried to maximize the efficiency of their necessary car trips. The unfortunate reality is that we are likely going to have to deal with high fuel prices in the future, potentially the very near future, so the steps we take today to reduce our dependence on gas will have enormous effects moving forward. The good news is that we can change. In April 2008, in response to higher gas prices, Americans drove 20 billion fewer miles than they did the previous April. That is a substantial reduction in greenhouse gas emissions; for tips on how to get better gas milage or reduce your emissions, click here.
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