Scientists Agree Mountaintop Removal Mining is Destroying Appalachia
Obama administration should take note and follow science on pending permits -
Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Keynote Speaker Solar Power International 2009
Green Gold Rush:
First Step to Grasping the Critical Issues of the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen -
by Carol McClelland, Phd Founder Green Career Central
From December 7th through December 18th the United Nations Climate Change Conference will be taking place in Copenhagen. Approximately 10,000 people will gather from countries around the world to discuss, negotiate, and create an agreement about what the world is going to do about climate change. Some of the attendees are government officials, while others work for governmental agencies, or non-governmental organizations. The third contingent at the event will be the media.
Although people have been referring to the conference in Copenhagen in broad brush terms for some time, it’s important for you to understand the purpose of the meeting and the key issues being addressed. I’ve developed this quick overview to give you a head start in tracking developments during the meeting.
United Nations Climate Change Conference
Although this group meets on an annual basis, with the last two meetings being held in Bali and Poland, this meeting in Copenhagen is demanding the world’s attention for several reasons.
Recent scientific findings tell us that rising temperatures are due to our industrialized ways, and that we must find ways to reduce greenhouse gases to ensure that average temperatures do not continue to rise.
The Kyoto Protocol, the first carbon emissions agreement signed by a collection of countries from around the world, is expiring in 2012. A new framework must be developed now so that when the Kyoto Protocol ends there’s a structure in place to guide countries toward a more sustainable future.
Countries, especially developing countries, are already seeing the effects of climate change. To avoid wide scale disasters in these countries, efforts must be made now to help them adapt to climate change in ways that are sustainable.
Although this meeting is not expected to result in a detailed solution, the leadership group stresses that the group must come to agreement on four key issues:
“Ambitious emission reduction targets for developed countries” – For industrialized countries the focus will be on defining their targets for greenhouse gas emissions. Scientists recommend “a goal of 25% to 40% below 1990 levels by 2020.”
Late last month President Obama indicated a target “in the range of 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020.” Notice the year defining the amount of reduction shifted from 1990 to 2005, which means this target is less stringent that the goal recommended by the science. Other developed countries have established targets of 20% for the EU, to 40% for Norway, based on 1990 emissions levels. China, a key player in these deliberations, recently stated that it will “reduce its ‘carbon intensity’ by 40-45 percent by the year 2020, compared with 2005 levels.” Beware, carbon intensity (the amount of carbon dioxide emitted for each unit of GDP) is not the same as cutting carbon emissions overall.
***As you can see, at the moment understanding these goals is a bit like comparing apples to oranges. Throughout the negotiation process you can expect various countries to nudge their numbers this way and that until, hopefully, an agreement is reached.
“Nationally appropriate mitigation actions of developing countries” – For developing countries the focus shifts. Developing countries are striving to grow economically to help their citizens move out of poverty and into a sustainable living situation. Although their contribution to the current climate situation is negligible, forecasts based on projected economic growth and population growth in these developing countries indicate their impact global warming is likely to increase significantly. This trend is especially true for countries that depend on coal and carbon-based fuels.
Countries in this situation are struggling to develop and concerned that making efforts to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions will have detrimental effects on their overall growth. Developing countries are willing to make an effort to reduce emissions, but they want support (financial and technological) from developed countries.
***This push-pull between developing and developed countries will likely show up in the debates regarding this point.
“Scaling up financial and technological support for both adaptation and mitigation” – To address the needs of developing countries, reliable funding sources and cooperative sharing of technological advancements must be built into the framework developed during the Copenhagen meetings.
In addition immediate funds must be provided to help developing countries adapt to changes that are occurring right now. Waiting until 2012 for the funding framework to kick in may be too late. The longer developing countries are left alone to struggle to adapt to the effects of climate change, the more expensive the relief effort will be in the long run. According to the United Nations, “it is estimated that one US dollar invested in anticipatory measures can save up to 7 US dollars in future relief costs.” See this fact sheet on adaptation for more information about this topic.
Think of it this way, for the most part developing countries are bearing the brunt of current climate changes in their region. In addition, they are likely to continue to experience extreme weather, water shortages, shifts in seasons, and rising waters as a result of increasing temperatures well into the future. The residents of these countries didn’t contribute to, or cause, this situation, industrialized countries did.
***Finding an equitable way to work cooperatively toward a sustainable lifestyle for all global residents is what’s at stake in this agreement.
“An effective institutional framework with governance structures that address the needs of developing countries” – To implement these changes, provide funding, and create organizations to help developing countries make the necessary changes, new structures will need to be created. It is critical that these new structures be effective, trackable, and verifiable.
***All parties must work together as partners in this cooperative, collaborative effort.
For more details on these four issues, read this fact sheet on Copenhagen deal published by the United Nations Climate Change Conference.
What to Expect
In a broad sense, the purpose of the Copenhagen meetings is to come up with goals and structures that allow all countries to grow in ways that are environmentally and socially sustainable. Given that we are starting with an extremely uneven playing field, it’s critical that all parties find ways to participate in the inevitable give and take of the negotiations. As residents of the planet we cannot afford to have key parties walk away from the table. It’s critical that solid, well thought out decisions be made during the coming weeks. What happens in Copenhagen has the power to influence the state of the Earth for a long time to come.
At this point there is no way to predict what agreements will come out of these meetings or how these decisions will impact the green economy locally or globally. The best thing you can do at this juncture is to be aware of the issues. Pay attention to the news. Listen for indications of how various decisions are likely to impact your target industry. Invest some time in understanding the issues at hand. You never know when you’ll be asked to make comments about these topics. The more you understand the more prepared you will be to provide credible, cogent answers to your networking contacts, potential employers, and future colleagues and coworkers.
Key Issues to Watch in News from Copenhagen
The interplay between developed and developing countries.
The mix of focus on mitigation (reducing greenhouse gas emissions in an effort to prevent temperatures from rising) and adaptation (dealing with current and future changes due to climate change).
The battle between paying now versus paying later. Although times are tight, delaying action will only increase the ultimate price of both mitigation and adaptation.
The opportunity for a new era in technology – from Technology Cooperation to Environmentally Sound Technologies (ESTs) that allow countries to grow while simultaneously reducing their emissions. See this fact sheet on Technology for more information about these concepts.
Copyright © 2009 Transition Dynamics Enterprises, Inc.
Business making it easier to be green
“PLASTICS” is the one-word career advice offered to Dustin Hoffman in the1967 movie “The Graduate” before he drives madly across California to rescue Mrs. Robinson’s daughter from a socially arranged “plastic” marriage. No less mission-oriented is the company: Ecospan. The Larkspur-based biomaterial-science company is intent on crossing the “bridge to a greener future.”
Its goal is to save the environment from petroleum-based plastics and replace them with reduced carbon footprint material called bio-plastics.As a product, bio-plastic is indistinguishable from the petroleum-based alternative but is produced from plant-based resins, a 100-percent
renewable, sustainable and fully compostable raw material.
Ecospan founder and chairman, Greg Hoffman of Tiburon, has the background to lead the charge away from oil-based plastics.
He has worked in the “green zone” for nearly a decade on environmentally friendly transportation, as well as investing in early-stage polystyrene
replacements. Hoffman’s concept of using existing plastic manufacturing equipment to produce bio-plastics is now launching in the marketplace – a natural progression stemming from an environmentally concerned mindset.
From his Larkspur offices, Hoffman oversees an international team of dedicated scientists, in partnership with an Asian agro-conglomerate that
produces consumer-product components as wide ranging as electronic parts, credit cards, cups, cosmetic cases, shopping bags and Advertisement packaging.
Questions remain as to whether alternative environmentally conscious product can remain a viable priority in a recessionary market.
Hoffman is betting the United States, in partnership with other countries, can provide leadership in maintaining the environment as a non-negotiable priority in good times and bad.
He is on record as stating: “Saving the environment is not an economically based option, subject to whether or not we’re in recession, it is an
imperative, a necessity if we are to survive in a world whose very existence depends upon a sound environment.”
Ecospan could not be based in a better setting. Marin is one of, if not the most environmentally conscious areas in the nation. From how we view growth issues to sustainability, saving the marshlands, habitat and wildlife concerns, all occupy the local consciousness to a degree unheard of elsewhere.
The bio-material feedstocks used in the production of bio-plastics reduces
the oil-based carbon footprint by three times.
Having a private entity offering the public solutions to common problems
eases the burden on the government and its frayed purse strings.
Going green must be a non-negotiable recession-proof priority There’s no question that as Kermit the Frog says: “It’s not easy being green.”But environmentally, there are few alternatives. Ecospan is providing one.
Why We Need a Green Revolution:Insights and Opinions – Thomas Freiedman
Not long ago my husband and I went to see Thomas Friedman, a best selling author and NY Times columnist speak about his most recent book, Hot, Flat and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution – and How It Can Renew America, which is a follow up to his previous book, The World Is Flat: The World Is Flat 3.0: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century. We enjoyed his presentation which was full of vivid examples, memorable images, and humorous lines.
According to Friedman, America has lost its way over the last decade or so. His entire book is about, as he put it, how America can gets its groove back. His ideal solution is that the U.S. should become a world leader in the green innovation and technology that’s needed to tackle the world’s largest problems, which all stem from the fact that the world has become:
Hot: As you can guess, this part of his book is about the climate crisis due to global warming. Flat: Straight from his last book, The World Is Flat, this term refers to the fact that far more people on the planet have high paying jobs that allow them to achieve the American standard of living.
Crowded: The world’s population is growing exponentially which is going to tax all the resources on the planet. With the world in this three-pronged predicament, five significant global problems have arisen: Ecological and Natural Resources, Supply and Demand. Increasing demand for raw materials such as timber, water, and minerals is putting undue stress on the earth’s ecosystems. Petrodictatorships. As the price of a barrel of oil decreases, the pace of freedom increases, and vice versa, in countries such as Russia, Iran and Nigeria. By continuing to purchase oil from these countries we are contributing to the problem.
Climate Change. As the average temperature of the earth increases, look for the weather to become more extreme. Friedman prefers to think of this as global weirding rather than global warming. In a way he is correct. All weather patterns are going to become more extreme. Hot will become hotter, but cool will become colder. Wet and dry, the same thing. Weather patterns will shift dramatically with as little as one degree of temperature increase.
Energy Poverty. A large portion of the world’s population lives without electricity. No electricity means no access to the world’s knowledge. Ignorance through lack of learning creates large scale problems.
Biodiversity Losses. The world faces a mass extinction larger than when an asteroid wiped out the dinosaurs. Currently we are losing one species every 20 minutes, primarily due to loss of habitat. As the climate changes, animals will have to search for new habitats, but they are unlikely to evolve rapidly enough to survive the abrupt shift in their habitat. (The SF Chronicle just had an article showing how bird populations will be impacted by shifts in their habitat. Read this to get a feel for how this will affect the entire ecosystem. Read the full article: Why We Need A Green Revolution- Insights And Opinions Of Thomas Friedman