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Saturday, 22 December 2012 09:42

What is on the Planet’s Climate Wishlist?

The Earth cannot use words to speak for itself, but if it could what would be on its climate wishlist this holiday season?

Environmental activists and climate scientists have done a good job of communicating the risks of climate change.  Part of the issue is that it’s a delicate balance between scaring people so thoroughly that they don’t think there is anything they can do about global warming and encouraging people to make any changes that positively impact the environment, even small ones to start.  Perhaps we’ve also underestimated the importance of personal experience. 

The facts on climate change alone are not enough.  We’ve had solid, scientific evidence for many years that global warming is man-made and happening right now.  However, many people need to experience the effects for themselves in order for the light bulb to go off in their heads.  Hurricane Sandy and other extreme weather events are helping people to connect the dots, but now that process has begun the question then becomes, “What next?”

We have a responsibility to be good stewards of the planet.  That is what the climate needs and wants this holiday season.  There are two main changes that we can undertake to fulfill the planet’s climate wishlist.  The first is to lower our carbon footprints.  Ask yourself, do I really need to leave my lights on all day at home when I am not there?  Can I combine trips in the car to drive less or take public transportation instead?  What simple steps can I take to save energy and myself some money as well?

The second change is to offset the rest of your carbon footprint.  There are many affordable options to make this holiday season a reality, not just for the planet, but for future generations also.  Any positive steps you take are welcome and really do make a difference.  Although the planet cannot use words to thank you, reducing what you can and offsetting the rest is a beautiful gift and a wonderful place to start this holiday season.

Published in carbonfree blog

In a telling and ironic move, coal industry giant BHP-Billiton, is replacing one of its coal export facilities in Queensland, Australia because of its vulnerability to increasingly frequent hurricanes from global warming.  BHP-Billiton is an Australian coal company that produces one-fifth of globally traded coal for steel making and is the largest mining company on Earth.  The upgrade represents a major investment in planning for climate change.  In fact, the company’s coal operations are led by Marcus Randolph, who confirmed they are planning, “to rebuild the facility to be more durable to climate change.”

Readers of this blog already know that increasingly extreme weather events are the result of climate change in addition to the fact that many businesses are planning now for climate change’s effects.  Why not a coal company too?  The announcement makes it obvious that BHP-Billiton understands that climate change is real and the time is now to begin making changes even if the manufacture of their product contributes to the issue.

Randolph has even warned investors about the implications of remaining dependent on the non-renewable resources of fossil fuels by saying, “In a carbon constrained world where energy coal is the biggest contributor to a carbon problem, how do you think this is going to evolve over a 30- to 40-year time horizon? You'd have to look at that and say on balance, I suspect, the usage of thermal coal is going to decline. And frankly it should.”

When a company that mines and exports coal starts planning for climate change it means the writing is on the wall.  Businesses and individuals alike should all be working to decrease carbon footprints and offset the remaining carbon emissions.  Let’s give the planet a holiday present and start doing all we can this season to embrace a cleaner energy future.

Published in carbonfree blog

The issue of climate change has re-entered the public’s conscious in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.  In fact, there were accusations of a “climate silence” on the part of the presidential candidates until the megastorm hit the Northeast a week before this month’s election.  Now both parties are talking about a potential carbon tax.

Last week  a carbon tax was once again the topic of discussion at the American Enterprise Institute (a conservative think-tank) and the Brookings Institution (a more liberal think-tank) released a paper on it.  The Congressional Budget Office also published a report on potential ways to make a carbon tax less of a burden on lower income people.

A carbon tax works by making those that use fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas pay more.  When they are burned, fossil fuels contribute to global warming by producing carbon dioxide, which traps heat.  Some experts estimate the price tag of a tax of $20 per ton of carbon dioxide emissions to add 1 or 2 percent to the price of gasoline and electric power.  Other pundits view a carbon tax as a tax on economic growth.

Whether or not a carbon tax will have the political backing to make it through a divided Congress is questionable.  However, environmental advocates are always interested when climate change is a hot topic.  Extreme weather has been linked to climate change.  So it’s important to warn people that if we continue on this unsustainable path of dumping 90 million tons of pollution into the atmosphere on a daily basis that the future will include more superstorms with increasingly devastating consequences.

Published in carbonfree blog

Climate change is causing sea levels to rise, and this week’s super storm Sandy gave us a preview of the devastation that this kind of flooding can cause.  In fact, five years ago, a study named, “Nation Under Siege” constructed a series of 3-D maps using federal science agency and the United Nations' climate panel data that demonstrated what areas of the Atlantic coastline will look like as sea levels continue to rise.  The maps from 2007 are eerily similar to the destruction we saw from super storm Sandy.  The main difference being that the flooding from Sandy is beginning to recede and the rising waters from global warming are permanent.

There’s no denying that sea levels are rising.  Since 1900, the world’s oceans rose an average of seven inches, according to data from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).  Those of us that live on the East Coast are seeing higher than average sea level rise.  According to a report by the New York State Sea Level Rise Task Force, sea levels along New York's coast range between 9 and 11 inches over the last 100 years.

Super storm Sandy painfully demonstrated that coastal cities are woefully unprepared for flooding and other dangers from extreme weather, which is increasing due to climate change.  According to Katharine Hayhoe, an associate professor of atmospheric sciences at Texas Tech University, there are three reasons why climate change made Sandy that much worse.  The first is already higher sea levels made the storm surge more severe.  The second is higher sea surface temperatures from global warming provided more energy for the super storm.  The third is Sandy may turned towards the coast because of a record loss of sea ice in the Arctic this year.

Preparing at-risk communities for coming floods and coastal erosion includes determining the best way to heighten sea walls or whether to construct surge barriers to protect flood-prone areas.  These preparations require study and then construction costs in the billions.  However, the latest estimates from IHS Global Insight, a forecasting firm, calculate that super storm Sandy will end up causing about $20 billion in property damages and $10 billion to $30 billion more in lost business.  It sounds like the time is now to make those investments before further extreme weather from global warming costs more in the long run.  We can couple those investments with our own efforts to lower our carbon footprints, which contributes to slowing down climate change.

Published in carbonfree blog

More than a couple of our past blog posts have covered how increasingly extreme weather is the product of climate change.  However, have you stopped to ask yourself what that really means?  How will climate change affect us and future generations?  What things that we currently enjoy will be unavailable to our children?

A recent article covers some things that global warming is likely to ruin for our kids; things such as coffee, chocolate, strawberries.  And the list isn’t limited to agricultural food items.  Say goodbye to blazing fast Wi-Fi.  Also your favorite vacation spot or even your home may be underwater in a few, short decades time.  The country you live in may disappear.  The article has some shocking images of Greenland melting away.

So what’s it going to take to help preserve the Earth as we know it?  Global carbon emissions need to be reduced 80% by 2050.  The U.S. has already pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels by approximately 17%.  Eventually legislation will be enacted increasing the goal to a 30% reduction in 2025 and a 42% reduction in 2030, with the ultimate goal of reducing emissions 83% by 2050.

Do your part in reducing carbon emissions and getting us closer to meeting the goals outlined above.  Start by switching your Internet browser to www.envirosearch.org.  Your regular, daily Internet search activities will begin contributing to renewable energy, reforestation, and energy efficiency projects.  Then go to www.carbonfund.org for ideas on how to reduce your carbon footprint and offset carbon emissions.  By working together, and each doing our part, we can change the fate of the planet.

Published in carbonfree blog

The Earth is 70% covered by oceans, and stores about 90% of the planet’s heat.  This means that ocean warming translates into global warming.  Climate change deniers contend that global warming is not caused by greenhouse gas emissions, but rather by natural processes and variations.  However, a study released this week proves with 99% certainty that no more than 10% of the observed increase in ocean temperatures over the past 50 years could be accounted for by natural variation.

The Human-Induced Global Ocean Warming on Multidecadal Timescales study is the most comprehensive study ever performed on rising ocean temperatures, and authored by a team of American, Indian, Japanese, and Australian scientists.  According to the study, the planet’s oceans are warming at a rate of 0.20°F per decade, which affects global weather patterns leading to increasing weather extremes such as more heat waves, storms, and intense storms.  Furthermore, ocean warming affects the ocean ecology itself.  A few of the effects we’ve already begun to see are plankton reduction, melting sea ice, and coral die-off. 

The study unequivocally points to global warming as man-made.  Of course, this has been known, shown and settled for nearly twenty years by the IPCC and climate scientists around the world.  But the shift to ocean warming is significant due to its proportion of the Earth and its surface as well as because the vast majority of the people on Earth live very close to rising oceans.

Four or five years ago we shifted from the question of ‘is it happening’ to ‘what to do about it’.  Political and business interests have worked hard to shift this debate back again, but the real focus must remain on the numerous solutions to climate change and the dwindling timeline we have to reduce our global emissions 50-80% by mid century.

Download the full study at this link: http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/v2/n7/full/nclimate1553.html

 

Published in carbonfree blog

New information is coming to light about the massive collapse of one of the world’s oldest and earliest urban civilizations.  The Harappan, or Indus, civilization came into being over 4,000 years ago and existed for about 600 years before it slowly disappeared.  Scientists and scholars have hypothesized about its demise.  Theories range from regional conflicts to a foreign attack, but some suggest environmental issues may have been the cause. 

Researchers recently published an article named, “Fluvial landscapes of the Harappan civilization” in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences outlining evidence that points to environmental factors leading to the end of this ancient civilization.  The scientists studied satellite maps and collected field sediment samples, then cross-referenced them with previous archaeological findings to develop a much clearer picture of what really happened to this long-lost civilization.

The Harappan civilization is named for one of its largest cities, and occupied what is now India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, and part of Afghanistan.  It had a sophisticated indoor plumbing system, gridded streets, a flourishing arts and crafts community, and what appears to be a more democratic society than other large civilizations such as Egypt or Mesopotamia. 

The Harappans were largely dependent upon monsoons that dried up leading to the end of their urban environment.  They used the rivers and seasonal floods that were fed by these monsoons to meet their agricultural needs.  Once the monsoons weakened, people slowly moved eastward away from cities into small villages and towns.  The water in the area they moved to was unable to support the large cities of the past.  

There are lessons to be learned from the extinction of this colossal civilization.  The Harappans were overly dependent on monsoons that eventually disappeared and the U.S. is also largely dependent on somewhat predictable weather, which is now threatened by climate change.  Americans need to prepare for increasingly extreme weather, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and increase energy efficiency, and we need to do it now before we suffer a similar fate to that of the Harappans.

Published in carbonfree blog
Thursday, 24 May 2012 16:13

Killer Climate Change

The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) released a report on Wednesday, May 23, 2012 that estimates 150,000 additional American deaths in the country’s top 40 cities by 2100 due to the excessive heat caused by climate change.

The top three deadliest cities outlined in the analysis of peer-reviewed data include Louisville, Detroit, and Cleveland.  Some other cities projected to have thousands of heat related deaths by the end of the century are Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Columbus, Denver, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, Providence, St. Louis and Washington, D.C.

Why cities?  Because that is where two-thirds of the U.S. population lives, and many municipal services there are not prepared to help people effectively beat the heat.  Urban areas have high concentrations of poor with little to no access to air conditioning.  Although everyone is at risk, children, the elderly, the obese, and those on medication are the most vulnerable. 

We’re already seeing how global warming can kill with hundreds of heat related deaths annually.  Extreme heat causes heat exhaustion and heat stroke and worsens illnesses such as cardiovascular disease and kidney disease.  In 2006, a two-week long heat wave in California caused 655 deaths, 1,620 excess hospitalizations, and more than 16,000 additional emergency room visits, resulting in nearly $5.4 billion in costs.  However, Chicago had an even deadlier record-setting heat wave in 1995 when more than 700 people died due to the excessive heat.

Some cities are learning from their experiences or heeding the warnings, and strengthening their municipal services.  Chicago, Philadelphia, and Seattle have already put measures in place to lessen the risk from excessive heat days.  Measures include improving the city’s heat warning system, emergency services, and establishing cooling centers.

There is hope; we can save lives by reducing emissions and improving emergency services.  Some examples of climate change mitigation are supporting reforestation projects and using more renewable energy such as wind energy.

Read the report and get more information at http://www.nrdc.org/globalwarming/killer-heat/.

Published in carbonfree blog
Friday, 04 May 2012 11:53

May 5th is Climate Impacts Day

If you read our earlier blog post on the connection between extreme weather and climate change http://carbonfund.org/blog/item/4605-un-climate-panel-report-links-global-warming-and-weather-extremes, you’re already aware of this issue and have connected the dots to an extent.  But perhaps you walked away from the blog post asking yourself, what can I do about climate change?  Well here is an event in which you can participate.  This Saturday, May 5, 2012 is Climate Impacts Day. 

Climate Impacts Day is a global day of action that spotlights people around the world who are connecting the dots between extreme weather and climate change.  The focus of individual events varies among assorted communities spanning the globe.  Follow this link to find an event near you.  http://act.climatedots.org/event/impacts_en/search/#

Next steps after connecting the dots between extreme weather and climate change are to connect the dots to solutions.  Clean energy, food-based initiatives, and political organizing for climate action are just a few solutions anyone can put their efforts toward to address climate change and its impacts.

There are also a couple things we can do regarding the impact of climate change.  We must adapt to the impacts that are we are already seeing, and the impacts we know are coming.  Then it’s important to organize to make our governments and businesses take the bold action needed to prevent the truly catastrophic effects of climate change, the effects to which we cannot adapt.  This includes eliminating the use of fossil fuels and moving to renewable power sources as soon as possible.

Extreme weather and climate change may seem like a far-off problem, but it is here and there is something everyone can do.  Attend a Climate Impacts Day event.  Learn more at http://www.climatedots.org/.

Published in carbonfree blog
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