Friday, September 29, 2006

SCOTUS to review Commerce Clause challenge to solid waste flow control ordinance

United Haulers Ass'n, Inc. v. Oneida-Herkimer Solid Waste Management Authority, September 26, 2006: Solid Waste - Commerce Clause challenge to requiring delivery of all solid waste to publicly owned local facility--Certiorari Granted.

The United States Supreme Court has granted certiorari in a case in which the Second Circuit held that a municipal scheme requiring that garbage generated by local households and businesses be delivered to facilities that were owned and operated by a public corporation, thereby preventing the trash from being processed at non-local facilities, did not violate the Commerce Clause. The Court of Appeals noted that the non-discriminatory municipal flow control regulation at issue did not place non-local firms at a competitive disadvantage, regulate extraterritorially, or conflict with the regulatory requirements of any other jurisdiction.

The New York counties of Oneida and Herkimer enacted the challenged ordinances in 1990. The flow control regulations collectively required all solid wastes and recyclables generated within those adjoining counties to be delivered to one of several waste processing facilities owned by the Oneida- Herkimer Solid Waste Management Authority, a municipal corporation.

The Court of Appeals held that, even if the non-discriminatory provisions of the Counties' flow control ordinances burdened interstate commerce by preventing the Counties' waste from being processed by out-of-state facilities, any burden would be substantially outweighed by the ordinances' benefits, and thus the Commerce Clause was not violated. The ordinances regulated only one aspect of waste management within the Counties. The ordinances did not interfere with business competition, and they enabled the Counties to generate income and distribute costs. The ordinances substantially facilitated the Counties' goal of establishing a comprehensive waste management system that encouraged waste volume reduction, recycling, and reuse, and they ensured the Counties' interest in the proper disposal of hazardous waste.

The Court of Appeals further held that the ordinance provisions requiring all waste generated within the Counties to be delivered to publicly-owned facilities for processing did not discriminate against out-of-state interests in violation of the Commerce Clause. No private entity, whether in-state or out-of-state, was disadvantaged by the creation of the counties' processing monopoly.

The petition for certiorari, filed by an association representing the interests of solid waste management companies, stated that the Supreme Court held in C & A Carbone, Inc. v. Town of Clarkstown, N.Y., 511 U.S. 383, 114 S.Ct. 1677, 128 L.Ed.2d 399 (1994), that a flow control ordinance requiring all solid waste to be processed at a designated transfer station before leaving a municipality was invalid under the Commerce Clause because it deprived competitors, including out-of-state firms, of access to a local market. The petition posed two questions. The first, which, according to the petition, was the subject of an acknowledged circuit conflict, was whether the virtually per se prohibition against hoarding solid waste recognized in Carbone was inapplicable when the preferred processing facility was owned by a public entity. The second was whether a flow-control ordinance that requires delivery of all solid waste to a publicly owned local facility and thus prohibits its exportation imposes so insubstantial a burden on interstate commerce that the provision satisfies the Commerce Clause if it serves even a minimal local benefit. (Case below: United Haulers Ass'n, Inc. v. Oneida-Herkimer Solid Waste Management Authority, 438 F.3d 150 (C.A.2-N.Y. 2006).)

September 29, 2006 in Cases, Constitutional Law, Law, US | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

The Economics of Global Warming

The world would have to give up only one year's economic growth over the next four decades to reduce carbon emissions sufficiently to  stave off the threat of global warming. Consultants at PricewaterhouseCoopers offer a "green growth plus" strategy, combining energy efficiency, greater use of renewables and carbon capture to cut emissions by 60% by 2050 from the level reached by doing nothing. Nuclear energy, it says, can play a role, but it is not crucial.

This scenario, which involves little real sacrifice in terms of economic growth, could be achieved only if embarked upon without delay.  "If countries adopt a 'business as usual' approach, the result could be a more than doubling of global carbon emissions by 2050," said John Hawksworth, head of macroeconomics at PwC.  "Our analysis suggests that there are technologically feasible and relatively low cost options for controlling carbon emissions to the atmosphere. Estimates suggest that the level of GDP might be reduced by no more than 2-3% in 2050 if this strategy is followed."

PwC envisages the Group of Seven leading economies taking the initiative, cutting their emissions by about half by 2050, while the fast-growing E7 countries - China, India, Brazil, Russia, Mexico, Indonesia and Turkey - could still increase their emissions by 30% over the period.   The PwC projections see China overtaking the United States as the world's biggest emitter of CO2 by 2010 while total E7 emissions would be more than double G7 emissions by 2050, with the "big three" - China, the US and India - accounting for just over half, up from 45% today.  The European Union could cut its share of global emissions to under 9% by 2050 from 15% now, while Britain's should fall to 1% from 2%.

A shift to a much less carbon-intensive fuel mix would more than double the current non-fossil fuel primary energy share to about 30% by 2050. That alone would be sufficient to reduce carbon emissions by 25%. PwC's view that renewables could do the job without having to use nuclear technology could undermine Tony Blair's argument that atomic power is crucial.  Increasing energy efficiency gains to 2.6% a year from today's 1.6% would reduce emissions by a third, while carbon capture and storage - pumping power station emissions into disused gas fields underground - could achieve a further 20%.  The report says a combination of all these measures will be necessary to stabilise global CO2 levels at 450 parts per million, the figure scientific opinion judges to be broadly acceptable.

September 29, 2006 in Africa, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Climate Change, Economics, Energy, EU, Governance/Management, International, North America, South America, Sustainability, US | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Nature Reports that NOAA Suppressed Hurricane Statement

This may be another example of the Bush Administration's concerted effort to "spin" environmental science, especially climate science, in favor of the Administration's policies.  I suspect that those involved have little sense of the damage that has been done to appropriate use of science in the policy process by such efforts.

Link: Planet Ark - US Blocked Hurricane Statement - Nature Magazine.

US Blocked Hurricane Statement - Nature Magazine

WASHINGTON - US officials blocked the release of a statement by government climate scientists that explored possible links between global warming and stronger hurricanes, the journal Nature reported on Wednesday.

But a spokesman for the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, dismissed the Nature report as "an interesting piece of fiction" and said the statement was not sent out because it was not ready by the start of hurricane season on June 1.

At the heart of the dispute is an exhaustively vetted two-page "fact sheet" meant to explain how climate changes are related to hurricanes. It has not been officially released and a copy obtained by Reuters includes the words "Draft -- Not for Distribution".

Illustrated with charts, the document notes questions about the cause of stronger Atlantic hurricanes, most of which were asked urgently after the catastrophic 2005 hurricane season.

NOAA spokesman Jordan St. John said some 50 scientists worked to craft a document acceptable to all, ranging from those who maintain human-caused global warming can intensify hurricanes to those who contend any changes in hurricane intensity are due to natural cycles.


While noting "a role for global warming" in the increased sea surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico -- prime hurricane-spawning territory, where growing storms feed on warm water -- the statement also stressed previous periods when the tropical Atlantic was significantly warmer than the global average.

Nature, a British journal, said work on the fact sheet started in February after NOAA researchers accused political appointees at NOAA of "ignoring ... the possibility that global warming could cause hurricanes to be more intense or frequent."

The question of global warming has been a contentious one for the Bush administration, and scientists have complained in the last year of being restricted in talking about it with the media.

President George W. Bush has acknowledged that global warming is a serious problem that is caused in part by human activity, but his administration pulled the United States out of the Kyoto Protocol meant to limit the greenhouse gas emissions that are a prime cause.

Nature also said scientists at NOAA were concerned that climate scientists who published articles on the connection between climate change and increased hurricane intensity were kept away from the media, while those whose research supported the idea of natural cycles were put forward.

They cited e-mails obtained by the environmental group Greenpeace USA that showed "several NOAA scientists told their seniors that the agency was not properly representing hurricane science."

NOAA's St. John denied this in a telephone interview.

St. John said he was considering posting the fact sheet online in response to questions about it and the Nature article. The agency's Web site is

Story by Deborah Zabarenko

Story Date: 28/9/2006

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September 29, 2006 in Climate Change | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Hansen Suggests Earth is at Warmest Point in 1 Million Years

The good news is -- we won't need much energy to heat us in the winter.
Hansen indicates that global warming is warming up El Nino too.  Download hansen_global_temperature_sept_2006.pdf

Link: Planet Ark - Earth May Be at Warmest Point in 1 Million Years.

Earth may be close to the warmest it has been in the last million years, especially in the part of the Pacific Ocean where potentially violent El Nino weather patterns are born, climate scientists reported on Monday.

This doesn't necessarily mean there will be more frequent El Ninos -- which can disrupt normal weather around the world -- but could well mean that these wild patterns will be stronger when they occur, said James Hansen of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City.

The El Nino phenomenon is an important factor in monitoring global warming, according to a paper by Hansen and colleagues published in the current Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

El Ninos can push temperatures higher than they might ordinarily be. This happened in 1998 when a so-called "super El Nino" helped heat the Earth to a record high.

What is significant, the scientists wrote, is that 2005 was in the same temperature range as 1998, and probably was the warmest year ever, with no sign of the warm surface water in the eastern equatorial Pacific typical of an El Nino.

The waters of the western equatorial Pacific are warmer than in the eastern equatorial Pacific, and the difference in temperature between these two areas could produce greater temperature swings between the normal weather pattern and El Nino, they wrote.

They blamed this phenomenon on global warming that is affecting the surface of the western Pacific before it affects the deeper water.


Overall, Earth is within 1.8 degrees F (1 degree C) of its highest temperature levels in the past million years, Hansen and the others wrote. They noted a recent steep rise in average temperatures, with global surface temperatures increasing about 0.4 degrees F (0.2 degrees C) for each of the last three decades.

Scientists attribute this rise to human activities, notably the release into the atmosphere of greenhouse gases -- notably carbon dioxide -- which let in sunlight and trap its heat like the glass walls of a greenhouse.

Human-caused global warming influences El Ninos much as it sways tropical storms, the scientists wrote.

"The effect on frequency of either phenomenon is unclear, depending on many factors, but the intensity of the most powerful events is likely to increase as greenhouse gases increase," they wrote. "Slowing the growth rate of greenhouse gases should diminish the probability of both super El Ninos and the most intense tropical storms."

Weak El Nino conditions were present this month in the tropical Pacific, and could strengthen to a moderate event by winter, according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which monitors the phenomenon.

In the United States, private forecaster WSI Corp. predicted warmer-than-normal weather over the Northeast and Midwest for the rest of this year, spelling sluggish energy demand for the start of the heating season.

The warm outlook, after the mildest winter on record last year, is due to uncertainty over the El Nino -- a warming of Pacific waters around the equator that can drive weather patterns around the globe, WSI Corp. said.

September 26, 2006 in Climate Change | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, September 21, 2006

California sues automakers

Yesterday California's Attorney General sued American and Japanese automakers, alleging that their vehicles’ emissions contributed significantly to global warming, harmed the resources, infrastructure and environmental health of California, and cost the state millions of dollars to address current and future effects. Complaint

September 21, 2006 in Air Quality, Cases, Climate Change, Economics, Energy, Governance/Management, International, Law, North America, Sustainability, US | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Judge restores Clinton roadless rule

Earthjustice released this information about the court's ruling:
Earthjustice press release

A federal district court today ordered reinstatement of the Clinton era roadless rule to protect almost 50 million acres of wild national forests and grasslands from road building, logging, and development. The court order is a stunning victory for all Americans who value America's great natural areas and reverses the Bush administration's efforts to open these last great natural areas to development interests.

According to the Court, "Defendants are enjoined from taking any further action contrary to the Roadless Rule without undertaking environmental analysis consistent with this opinion." The Court noted that in adopting the Rule which the Court reinstated today, the Forest Service itself found that the Rule was "necessary to protect the social and ecological values and characteristics of . . . roadless areas from road construction . . . and timber harvesting activities. . . . Adoption of [the Roadless Rule] ensures that inventoried roadless areas will be managed in a manner that sustains their values now and for future generations."

The Court found that in repealing the roadless rule, the Bush administration failed to comply with basic legal requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act: "this Court concludes that the Forest Service failed adequately to consider the environmental and species impacts when it [repealed the Roadless Rule] in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act."

The Court continued: "to conclude that a regulation that effects a major change in the way roadless areas in national forests are regulated nationwide from the prior regulation that it replaces does not constitute a repeal with potentially significant environmental effects would ignore reality."

"Americans love the great natural areas our country has been blessed with," said Earthjustice attorney Kristen Boyles. "From hunters, hikers, fishermen, and bird watchers, to cities and towns that rely on clean, mountain-fed drinking water, the last great roadless natural areas in our national forests deserve preservation. As America grows, so does the need to preserve these natural areas – because they're not making these kind of natural areas anymore."

Conservation groups, represented by a team of Earthjustice attorneys, brought the legal challenge to the Bush administration policies, joining parallel efforts by four states which brought a separate but similar challenge to the Bush administration plan.

"The sad fact is that the Bush administration gave a timber industry lobbyist a high White House appointment and put him in charge of reversing the government's policy to protect our last great roadless natural areas," said Boyles of Earthjustice. "They made these changes in a flatly illegal way and the Court caught them."

The 2005 Bush administration roadless repeal, adopted with no environmental analysis and limited public input, replaced a Clinton era rule adopted in January 2001 after a three-year process that included 600 public hearings and 1.6 million public comments. In addition to repealing the roadless rule, the Bush rule invited governors to submit petitions recommending management schemes for the national forests in their states. Five states (Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, New Mexico, California) have lodged such petitions, and all have called for protection for all roadless areas in their states. Other states, including Oregon and Colorado, are facing Bush administration plans to log or develop oil and gas in roadless areas.

Today's ruling doesn't address the roadless areas in the Tongass National Forest in Alaska. In 2003, the Bush administration exempted the Tongass from the roadless rule in a separate procedure. The exemption made little sense then and even less now. About five million acres in the Chugach National Forest in Alaska are once again protected by today's ruling.

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September 20, 2006 in Cases | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Al Gore's speech

Al Gore, NYU Law, 9/18/06

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Thank you Paul and Jim for those kind introductions. I would especially like to thank our host, New York University and the President of the College John Sexton and the Dean of the Law School Richard Revesz. I am also grateful to our co-sponsors, the World Resources Institute and Set America Free.

A few days ago, scientists announced alarming new evidence of the rapid melting of the perennial ice of the north polar cap, continuing a trend of the past several years that now confronts us with the prospect that human activities, if unchecked in the next decade, could destroy one of the earth’s principle mechanisms for cooling itself. Another group of scientists presented evidence that human activities are responsible for the dramatic warming of sea surface temperatures in the areas of the ocean where hurricanes form. A few weeks earlier, new information from yet another team showed dramatic increases in the burning of forests throughout the American West, a trend that has increased decade by decade, as warmer temperatures have dried out soils and vegetation. All these findings come at the end of a summer with record breaking temperatures and the hottest twelve month period ever measured in the U.S., with persistent drought in vast areas of our country. Scientific American introduces the lead article in its special issue this month with the following sentence: “The debate on global warming is over.”

Many scientists are now warning that we are moving closer to several “tipping points” that could — within as little as 10 years — make it impossible for us to avoid irretrievable damage to the planet’s habitability for human civilization. In this regard, just a few weeks ago, another group of scientists reported on the unexpectedly rapid increases in the release of carbon and methane emissions from frozen tundra in Siberia, now beginning to thaw because of human caused increases in global temperature. The scientists tell us that the tundra in danger of thawing contains an amount of additional global warming pollution that is equal to the total amount that is already in the earth’s atmosphere. Similarly, earlier this year, yet another team of scientists reported that the previous twelve months saw 32 glacial earthquakes on Greenland between 4.6 and 5.1 on the Richter scale — a disturbing sign that a massive destabilization may now be underway deep within the second largest accumulation of ice on the planet, enough ice to raise sea level 20 feet worldwide if it broke up and slipped into the sea. Each passing day brings yet more evidence that we are now facing a planetary emergency — a climate crisis that demands immediate action to sharply reduce carbon dioxide emissions worldwide in order to turn down the earth’s thermostat and avert catastrophe.

The serious debate over the climate crisis has now moved on to the question of how we can craft emergency solutions in order to avoid this catastrophic damage.

This debate over solutions has been slow to start in earnest not only because some of our leaders still find it more convenient to deny the reality of the crisis, but also because the hard truth for the rest of us is that the maximum that seems politically feasible still falls far short of the minimum that would be effective in solving the crisis. This no-man’s land — or no politician zone –falling between the farthest reaches of political feasibility and the first beginnings of truly effective change is the area that I would like to explore in my speech today.

T. S. Eliot once wrote: Between the idea and the reality, Between the motion and the act Falls the Shadow. … Between the conception and the creation, Between the emotion and the response Falls the Shadow.

My purpose is not to present a comprehensive and detailed blueprint — for that is a task for our democracy as a whole — but rather to try to shine some light on a pathway through this terra incognita that lies between where we are and where we need to go. Because, if we acknowledge candidly that what we need to do is beyond the limits of our current political capacities, that really is just another way of saying that we have to urgently expand the limits of what is politically possible.

I have no doubt that we can do precisely that, because having served almost three decades in elected office, I believe I know one thing about America’s political system that some of the pessimists do not: it shares something in common with the climate system; it can appear to move only at a slow pace, but it can also cross a tipping point beyond which it can move with lightning speed. Just as a single tumbling rock can trigger a massive landslide, America has sometimes experienced sudden avalanches of political change that had their beginnings with what first seemed like small changes.

Two weeks ago, Democrats and Republicans joined together in our largest state, California, to pass legally binding sharp reductions in CO2 emissions. 295 American cities have now independently “ratified” and embraced CO2 reductions called for in the Kyoto Treaty. 85 conservative evangelical ministers publicly broke with the Bush-Cheney administration to call for bold action to solve the climate crisis. Business leaders in both political parties have taken significant steps to position their companies as leaders in this struggle and have adopted a policy that not only reduces CO2 but makes their companies zero carbon companies. Many of them have discovered a way to increase profits and productivity by eliminating their contributions to global warming pollution.

Many Americans are now seeing a bright light shining from the far side of this no-man’s land that illuminates not sacrifice and danger, but instead a vision of a bright future that is better for our country in every way — a future with better jobs, a cleaner environment, a more secure nation, and a safer world.

After all, many Americans are tired of borrowing huge amounts of money from China to buy huge amounts of oil from the Persian Gulf to make huge amounts of pollution that destroys the planet’s climate. Increasingly, Americans believe that we have to change every part of that pattern.

When I visit port cities like Seattle, New Orleans, or Baltimore, I find massive ships, running low in the water, heavily burdened with foreign cargo or foreign oil arriving by the thousands. These same cargo ships and tankers depart riding high with only ballast water to keep them from rolling over.

One-way trade is destructive to our economic future. We send money, electronically, in the opposite direction. But, we can change this by inventing and manufacturing new solutions to stop global warming right here in America. I still believe in good old-fashioned American ingenuity. We need to fill those ships with new products and technologies that we create to turn down the global thermostat. Working together, we can create jobs and stop global warming. But we must begin by winning the first key battle — against inertia and the fear of change.

In order to conquer our fear and walk boldly forward on the path that lies before us, we have to insist on a higher level of honesty in America’s political dialogue. When we make big mistakes in America, it is usually because the people have not been given an honest accounting of the choices before us. It also is often because too many members of both parties who knew better did not have the courage to do better.

Our children have a right to hold us to a higher standard when their future — indeed the future of all human civilization — is hanging in the balance. They deserve better than the spectacle of censorship of the best scientific evidence about the truth of our situation and harassment of honest scientists who are trying to warn us about the looming catastrophe. They deserve better than politicians who sit on their hands and do nothing to confront the greatest challenge that humankind has ever faced — even as the danger bears down on us.

We in the United States of America have a particularly important responsibility, after all, because the world still regards us — in spite of our recent moral lapses — as the natural leader of the community of nations. Simply put, in order for the world to respond urgently to the climate crisis, the United States must lead the way. No other nation can.

Developing countries like China and India have gained their own understanding of how threatening the climate crisis is to them, but they will never find the political will to make the necessary changes in their growing economies unless and until the United States leads the way. Our natural role is to be the pace car in the race to stop global warming.

So, what would a responsible approach to the climate crisis look like if we had one in America?

Well, first of all, we should start by immediately freezing CO2 emissions and then beginning sharp reductions. Merely engaging in high-minded debates about theoretical future reductions while continuing to steadily increase emissions represents a self-delusional and reckless approach. In some ways, that approach is worse than doing nothing at all, because it lulls the gullible into thinking that something is actually being done when in fact it is not.

An immediate freeze has the virtue of being clear, simple, and easy to understand. It can attract support across partisan lines as a logical starting point for the more difficult work that lies ahead. I remember a quarter century ago when I was the author of a complex nuclear arms control plan to deal with the then rampant arms race between our country and the former Soviet Union. At the time, I was strongly opposed to the nuclear freeze movement, which I saw as simplistic and naive. But, ¾ of the American people supported it — and as I look back on those years I see more clearly now that the outpouring of public support for that very simple and clear mandate changed the political landscape and made it possible for more detailed and sophisticated proposals to eventually be adopted.

When the politicians are paralyzed in the face of a great threat, our nation needs a popular movement, a rallying cry, a standard, a mandate that is broadly supported on a bipartisan basis.

A responsible approach to solving this crisis would also involve joining the rest of the global economy in playing by the rules of the world treaty that reduces global warming pollution by authorizing the trading of emissions within a global cap.

At present, the global system for carbon emissions trading is embodied in the Kyoto Treaty. It drives reductions in CO2 and helps many countries that are a part of the treaty to find the most efficient ways to meet their targets for reductions. It is true that not all countries are yet on track to meet their targets, but the first targets don’t have to be met until 2008 and the largest and most important reductions typically take longer than the near term in any case.

The absence of the United States from the treaty means that 25% of the world economy is now missing. It is like filling a bucket with a large hole in the bottom. When the United States eventually joins the rest of the world community in making this system operate well, the global market for carbon emissions will become a highly efficient closed system and every corporate board of directors on earth will have a fiduciary duty to manage and reduce CO2 emissions in order to protect shareholder value.

Many American businesses that operate in other countries already have to abide by the Kyoto Treaty anyway, and unsurprisingly, they are the companies that have been most eager to adopt these new principles here at home as well. The United States and Australia are the only two countries in the developed world that have not yet ratified the Kyoto Treaty. Since the Treaty has been so demonized in America’s internal debate, it is difficult to imagine the current Senate finding a way to ratify it. But the United States should immediately join the discussion that is now underway on the new tougher treaty that will soon be completed. We should plan to accelerate its adoption and phase it in more quickly than is presently planned.

Third, a responsible approach to solutions would avoid the mistake of trying to find a single magic “silver bullet” and recognize that the answer will involve what Bill McKibben has called “silver-buckshot” — numerous important solutions, all of which are hard, but no one of which is by itself the full answer for our problem.

One of the most productive approaches to the “multiple solutions” needed is a road-map designed by two Princeton professors, Rob Socolow and Steven Pacala, which breaks down the overall problem into more manageable parts. Socolow and Pacala have identified 15 or 20 building blocks (or “wedges”) that can be used to solve our problem effectively — even if we only use 7 or 8 of them. I am among the many who have found this approach useful as a way to structure a discussion of the choices before us.

Over the next year, I intend to convene an ongoing broad-based discussion of solutions that will involve leaders from government, science, business, labor, agriculture, grass-roots activists, faith communities and others.

I am convinced that it is possible to build an effective consensus in the United States and in the world at large on the most effective approaches to solve the climate crisis. Many of those solutions will be found in the building blocks that currently structure so many discussions. But I am also certain that some of the most powerful solutions will lie beyond our current categories of building blocks and “wedges.” Our secret strength in America has always been our capacity for vision. “Make no little plans,” one of our most famous architects said over a century ago, “they have no magic to stir men’s blood.”

I look forward to the deep discussion and debate that lies ahead. But there are already some solutions that seem to stand out as particularly promising:

First, dramatic improvements in the efficiency with which we generate, transport and use energy will almost certainly prove to be the single biggest source of sharp reductions in global warming pollution. Because pollution has been systematically ignored in the old rules of America’s marketplace, there are lots of relatively easy ways to use new and more efficient options to cheaply eliminate it. Since pollution is, after all, waste, business and industry usually become more productive and efficient when they systematically go about reducing pollution. After all, many of the technologies on which we depend are actually so old that they are inherently far less efficient than newer technologies that we haven’t started using. One of the best examples is the internal combustion engine. When scientists calculate the energy content in BTUs of each gallon of gasoline used in a typical car, and then measure the amounts wasted in the car’s routine operation, they find that an incredible 90% of that energy is completely wasted. One engineer, Amory Lovins, has gone farther and calculated the amount of energy that is actually used to move the passenger (excluding the amount of energy used to move the several tons of metal surrounding the passenger) and has found that only 1% of the energy is actually used to move the person. This is more than an arcane calculation, or a parlor trick with arithmetic. These numbers actually illuminate the single biggest opportunity to make our economy more efficient and competitive while sharply reducing global warming pollution.

To take another example, many older factories use obsolete processes that generate prodigious amounts of waste heat that actually has tremendous economic value. By redesigning their processes and capturing all of that waste, they can eliminate huge amounts of global warming pollution while saving billions of dollars at the same time.

When we introduce the right incentives for eliminating pollution and becoming more efficient, many businesses will begin to make greater use of computers and advanced monitoring systems to identify even more opportunities for savings. This is what happened in the computer chip industry when more powerful chips led to better computers, which in turn made it possible to design even more powerful chips, in a virtuous cycle of steady improvement that became known as “Moore’s Law.” We may well see the emergence of a new version of “Moore’s Law” producing steadily higher levels of energy efficiency at steadily lower cost.

There is yet another lesson we can learn from America’s success in the information revolution. When the Internet was invented — and I assure you I intend to choose my words carefully here — it was because defense planners in the Pentagon forty years ago were searching for a way to protect America’s command and communication infrastructure from being disrupted in a nuclear attack. The network they created — known as ARPANET — was based on “distributed communication” that allowed it to continue functioning even if part of it was destroyed.

Today, our nation faces threats very different from those we countered during the Cold War. We worry today that terrorists might try to inflict great damage on America’s energy infrastructure by attacking a single vulnerable part of the oil distribution or electricity distribution network. So, taking a page from the early pioneers of ARPANET, we should develop a distributed electricity and liquid fuels distribution network that is less dependent on large coal-fired generating plants and vulnerable oil ports and refineries.

Small windmills and photovoltaic solar cells distributed widely throughout the electricity grid would sharply reduce CO2 emissions and at the same time increase our energy security. Likewise, widely dispersed ethanol and biodiesel production facilities would shift our transportation fuel stocks to renewable forms of energy while making us less dependent on and vulnerable to disruptions in the supply of expensive crude oil from the Persian Gulf, Venezuela and Nigeria, all of which are extremely unreliable sources upon which to base our future economic vitality. It would also make us less vulnerable to the impact of a category 5 hurricane hitting coastal refineries or to a terrorist attack on ports or key parts of our current energy infrastructure.

Just as a robust information economy was triggered by the introduction of the Internet, a dynamic new renewable energy economy can be stimulated by the development of an “electranet,” or smart grid, that allows individual homeowners and business-owners anywhere in America to use their own renewable sources of energy to sell electricity into the grid when they have a surplus and purchase it from the grid when they don’t. The same electranet could give homeowners and business-owners accurate and powerful tools with which to precisely measure how much energy they are using where and when, and identify opportunities for eliminating unnecessary costs and wasteful usage patterns.

A second group of building blocks to solve the climate crisis involves America’s transportation infrastructure. We could further increase the value and efficiency of a distributed energy network by retooling our failing auto giants — GM and Ford — to require and assist them in switching to the manufacture of flex-fuel, plug-in, hybrid vehicles. The owners of such vehicles would have the ability to use electricity as a principle source of power and to supplement it by switching from gasoline to ethanol or biodiesel. This flexibility would give them incredible power in the marketplace for energy to push the entire system to much higher levels of efficiency and in the process sharply reduce global warming pollution.

This shift would also offer the hope of saving tens of thousands of good jobs in American companies that are presently fighting a losing battle selling cars and trucks that are less efficient than the ones made by their competitors in countries where they were forced to reduce their pollution and thus become more efficient.

It is, in other words, time for a national oil change. That is apparent to anyone who has looked at our national dipstick.

Our current ridiculous dependence on oil endangers not only our national security, but also our economic security. Anyone who believes that the international market for oil is a “free market” is seriously deluded. It has many characteristics of a free market, but it is also subject to periodic manipulation by the small group of nations controlling the largest recoverable reserves, sometimes in concert with companies that have great influence over the global production, refining, and distribution network.

It is extremely important for us to be clear among ourselves that these periodic efforts to manipulate price and supply have not one but two objectives. They naturally seek to maximize profits. But even more significantly, they seek to manipulate our political will. Every time we come close to recognizing the wisdom of developing our own independent sources of renewable fuels, they seek to dissipate our sense of urgency and derail our effort to become less dependent. That is what is happening at this very moment.

Shifting to a greater reliance on ethanol, cellulosic ethanol, butanol, and green diesel fuels will not only reduce global warming pollution and enhance our national and economic security, it will also reverse the steady loss of jobs and income in rural America. Several important building blocks for America’s role in solving the climate crisis can be found in new approaches to agriculture. As pointed out by the “25 by 25″ movement (aimed at securing 25% of America’s power and transportation fuels from agricultural sources by the year 2025) we can revitalize the farm economy by shifting its mission from a focus on food, feed and fiber to a focus on food, feed, fiber, fuel, and ecosystem services. We can restore the health of depleted soils by encouraging and rewarding the growing of fuel source crops like switchgrass and saw-grass, using no till cultivation, and scientific crop rotation. We should also reward farmers for planting more trees and sequestering more carbon, and recognize the economic value of their stewardship of resources that are important to the health of our ecosystems.

Similarly, we should take bold steps to stop deforestation and extend the harvest cycle on timber to optimize the carbon sequestration that is most powerful and most efficient with older trees. On a worldwide basis, 2 and ½ trillion tons of the 10 trillion tons of CO2 emitted each year come from burning forests. So, better management of forests is one of the single most important strategies for solving the climate crisis.

Biomass–whether in the form of trees, switchgrass, or other sources–is one of the most important forms of renewable energy. And renewable sources make up one of the most promising building blocks for reducing carbon pollution.

Wind energy is already fully competitive as a mainstream source of electricity and will continue to grow in prominence and profitability.

Solar photovoltaic energy is–according to researchers–much closer than it has ever been to a cost competitive breakthrough, as new nanotechnologies are being applied to dramatically enhance the efficiency with which solar cells produce electricity from sunlight–and as clever new designs for concentrating solar energy are used with new approaches such as Stirling engines that can bring costs sharply down.

Buildings–both commercial and residential–represent a larger source of global warming pollution than cars and trucks. But new architecture and design techniques are creating dramatic new opportunities for huge savings in energy use and global warming pollution. As an example of their potential, the American Institute of Architecture and the National Conference of Mayors have endorsed the “2030 Challenge,” asking the global architecture and building community to immediately transform building design to require that all new buildings and developments be designed to use one half the fossil fuel energy they would typically consume for each building type, and that all new buildings be carbon neutral by 2030, using zero fossil fuels to operate. A newly constructed building at Oberlin College is producing 30 percent energy than it consumes. Some other countries have actually required a standard calling for zero carbon based energy inputs for new buildings.

The rapid urbanization of the world’s population is leading to the prospective development of more new urban buildings in the next 35 years than have been constructed in all previous human history. This startling trend represents a tremendous opportunity for sharp reductions in global warming pollution through the use of intelligent architecture and design and stringent standards.

Here in the US the extra cost of efficiency improvements such as thicker insulation and more efficient window coatings have traditionally been shunned by builders and homebuyers alike because they add to the initial purchase price–even though these investments typically pay for themselves by reducing heating and cooling costs and then produce additional savings each month for the lifetime of the building. It should be possible to remove the purchase price barrier for such improvements through the use of innovative mortgage finance instruments that eliminate any additional increase in the purchase price by capturing the future income from the expected savings. We should create a Carbon Neutral Mortgage Association to market these new financial instruments and stimulate their use in the private sector by utilities, banks and homebuilders. This new “Connie Mae” (CNMA) could be a valuable instrument for reducing the pollution from new buildings.

Many believe that a responsible approach to sharply reducing global warming pollution would involve a significant increase in the use of nuclear power plants as a substitute for coal-fired generators. While I am not opposed to nuclear power and expect to see some modest increased use of nuclear reactors, I doubt that they will play a significant role in most countries as a new source of electricity. The main reason for my skepticism about nuclear power playing a much larger role in the world’s energy future is not the problem of waste disposal or the danger of reactor operator error, or the vulnerability to terrorist attack. Let’s assume for the moment that all three of these problems can be solved. That still leaves two serious issues that are more difficult constraints. The first is economics; the current generation of reactors is expensive, take a long time to build, and only come in one size — extra large. In a time of great uncertainty over energy prices, utilities must count on great uncertainty in electricity demand — and that uncertainty causes them to strongly prefer smaller incremental additions to their generating capacity that are each less expensive and quicker to build than are large 1000 megawatt light water reactors. Newer, more scalable and affordable reactor designs may eventually become available, but not soon. Secondly, if the world as a whole chose nuclear power as the option of choice to replace coal-fired generating plants, we would face a dramatic increase in the likelihood of nuclear weapons proliferation. During my 8 years in the White House, every nuclear weapons proliferation issue we dealt with was connected to a nuclear reactor program. Today, the dangerous weapons programs in both Iran and North Korea are linked to their civilian reactor programs. Moreover, proposals to separate the ownership of reactors from the ownership of the fuel supply process have met with stiff resistance from developing countries who want reactors. As a result of all these problems, I believe that nuclear reactors will only play a limited role.

The most important set of problems by that must be solved in charting solutions for the climate crisis have to do with coal, one of the dirtiest sources of energy that produces far more CO2 for each unit of energy output than oil or gas. Yet, coal is found in abundance in the United States, China, and many other places . Because the pollution from the burning of coal is currently excluded from the market calculations of what it costs, coal is presently the cheapest source of abundant energy. And its relative role is growing rapidly day by day.

Fortunately, there may be a way to capture the CO2 produced as coal as burned and sequester it safely to prevent it from adding to the climate crisis. It is not easy. This technique, known as carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) is expensive and most users of coal have resisted the investments necessary to use it. However, when the cost of not using it is calculated, it becomes obvious that CCS will play a significant and growing role as one of the major building blocks of a solution to the climate crisis.

Interestingly, the most advanced and environmentally responsible project for capturing and sequestering CO2 is in one of the most forbidding locations for energy production anywhere in the world — in the Norwegian portions of the North Sea. Norway, as it turns out, has hefty CO2 taxes; and, even though there are many exceptions and exemptions, oil production is not one of them. As a result, the oil producers have found it quite economical and profitable to develop and use advanced CCS technologies in order to avoid the tax they would otherwise pay for the CO2 they would otherwise emit. The use of similar techniques could be required for coal-fired generating plants, and can be used in combination with advanced approaches like integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC). Even with the most advanced techniques, however, the economics of carbon capture and sequestration will depend upon the availability of and proximity to safe deep storage reservoirs. Nevertheless, it is time to recognize that the phrase “clean coal technology” is devoid of meaning unless it means “zero carbon emissions” technology.

CCS is only one of many new technological approaches that require a significant increase by governments and business in advanced research and development to speed the availability of more effective technologies that can help us solve the climate crisis more quickly. But it is important to emphasize that even without brand new technologies, we already have everything we need to get started on a solution to this crisis.

In a market economy like ours, however, every one of the solutions that I have discussed will be more effective and much easier to implement if we place a price on the CO2 pollution that is recognized in the marketplace. We need to summon the courage to use the right tools for this job.

For the last fourteen years, I have advocated the elimination of all payroll taxes — including those for social security and unemployment compensation — and the replacement of that revenue in the form of pollution taxes — principally on CO2. The overall level of taxation would remain exactly the same. It would be, in other words, a revenue neutral tax swap. But, instead of discouraging businesses from hiring more employees, it would discourage business from producing more pollution.

Global warming pollution, indeed all pollution, is now described by economists as an “externality.” This absurd label means, in essence: we don’t to keep track of this stuff so let’s pretend it doesn’t exist.

And sure enough, when it’s not recognized in the marketplace, it does make it much easier for government, business, and all the rest of us to pretend that it doesn’t exist. But what we’re pretending doesn’t exist is the stuff that is destroying the habitability of the planet. We put 70 million tons of it into the atmosphere every 24 hours and the amount is increasing day by day. Penalizing pollution instead of penalizing employment will work to reduce that pollution.

When we place a more accurate value on the consequences of the choices we make, our choices get better. At present, when business has to pay more taxes in order to hire more people, it is discouraged from hiring more people. If we change that and discourage them from creating more pollution they will reduce their pollution. Our market economy can help us solve this problem if we send it the right signals and tell ourselves the truth about the economic impact of pollution.

Many of our leading businesses are already making dramatic changes to reduce their global warming pollution. General Electric, Dupont, Cinergy, Caterpillar, and Wal-Mart are among the many who are providing leadership for the business community in helping us devise a solution for this crisis.

Leaders among unions — particularly the steel workers — have also added momentum to this growing movement.

Hunters and fishermen are also now adding their voices to the call for a solution to the crisis. In a recent poll, 86% of licensed hunters and anglers said that we have a moral obligation to stop global warming to protect our children’s future.

And, young people — as they did during the Civil Rights Revolution — are confronting their elders with insistent questions about the morality of not moving swiftly to make these needed changes.

Moreover, the American religious community — including a group of 85 conservative evangelicals and especially the US Conference of Catholic Bishops — has made an extraordinary contribution to this entire enterprise. To the insights of science and technology, it has added the perspectives of faith and values, of prophetic imagination, spiritual motivation, and moral passion without which all our plans, no matter how reasonable, simply will not prevail. Individual faith groups have offered their own distinctive views . And yet — uniquely in religious life at this moment and even historically — they have established common ground and resolve across tenacious differences. In addition to reaching millions of people in the pews, they have demonstrated the real possibility of what we all now need to accomplish: how to be ourselves, together and how to discover, in this process, a sense of vivid, living spirit and purpose that elevates the entire human enterprise.

Individual Americans of all ages are becoming a part of a movement, asking what they can do as individuals and what they can do as consumers and as citizens and voters. Many individuals and businesses have decided to take an approach known as “Zero Carbon.” They are reducing their CO2 as much as possible and then offsetting the rest with reductions elsewhere including by the planting of trees. At least one entire community — Ballard, a city of 18,000 people in Washington State — is embarking on a goal of making the entire community zero carbon.

This is not a political issue. This is a moral issue. It affects the survival of human civilization. It is not a question of left vs. right; it is a question of right vs. wrong. Put simply, it is wrong to destroy the habitability of our planet and ruin the prospects of every generation that follows ours.
What is motivating millions of Americans to think differently about solutions to the climate crisis is the growing realization that this challenge is bringing us unprecedented opportunity. I have spoken before about the way the Chinese express the concept of crisis. They use two symbols, the first of which — by itself — means danger. The second, in isolation, means opportunity. Put them together, and you get “crisis.” Our single word conveys the danger but doesn’t always communicate the presence of opportunity in every crisis. In this case, the opportunity presented by the climate crisis is not only the opportunity for new and better jobs, new technologies, new opportunities for profit, and a higher quality of life. It gives us an opportunity to experience something that few generations ever have the privilege of knowing: a common moral purpose compelling enough to lift us above our limitations and motivate us to set aside some of the bickering to which we as human beings are naturally vulnerable. America’s so-called “greatest generation” found such a purpose when they confronted the crisis of global fascism and won a war in Europe and in the Pacific simultaneously. In the process of achieving their historic victory, they found that they had gained new moral authority and a new capacity for vision. They created the Marshall Plan and lifted their recently defeated adversaries from their knees and assisted them to a future of dignity and self-determination. They created the United Nations and the other global institutions that made possible many decades of prosperity, progress and relative peace. In recent years we have squandered that moral authority and it is high time to renew it by taking on the highest challenge of our generation. In rising to meet this challenge, we too will find self-renewal and transcendence and a new capacity for vision to see other crises in our time that cry out for solutions: 20 million HIV/AIDs orphans in Africa alone, civil wars fought by children, genocides and famines, the rape and pillage of our oceans and forests, an extinction crisis that threatens the web of life, and tens of millions of our fellow humans dying every year from easily preventable diseases. And, by rising to meet the climate crisis, we will find the vision and moral authority to see them not as political problems but as moral imperatives.

This is an opportunity for bipartisanship and transcendence, an opportunity to find our better selves and in rising to meet this challenge, create a better brighter future — a future worthy of the generations who come after us and who have a right to be able to depend on us.

September 20, 2006 in Climate Change | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Friday, September 15, 2006

Hansen says Limit Greenhouse Gases Definitively within 10 Years and Hold Increase to 1 degree C

Link: Planet Ark : World Has 10-Year Window to Act on Climate - Expert.

NASA scientist James Hansen, widely considered the doyen of American climate researchers, said governments must adopt an alternative scenario to keep carbon dioxide emission growth in check and limit the increase in global temperatures to 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit).

"I think we have a very brief window of opportunity to deal with climate change ... no longer than a decade, at the most," Hansen said at the Climate Change Research Conference in California's state capital.

If the world continues with a "business as usual" scenario, Hansen said temperatures will rise by 2 to 3 degrees Celsius (3.6 to 7.2 degrees F) and "we will be producing a different planet."

On that warmer planet, ice sheets would melt quickly, causing a rise in sea levels that would put most of Manhattan under water. The world would see more prolonged droughts and heat waves, powerful hurricanes in new areas and the likely extinction of 50 percent of species.

Hansen, who heads NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, has made waves before by saying that President George W. Bush's administration tried to silence him and heavily edited his and other scientists' findings on a warmer world.

He reiterated that the United States "has passed up the opportunity" to influence the world on global warming.

The United States is the largest emitter of greenhouse gases, most notably carbon dioxide. But Bush pulled the country out of the 160-nation Kyoto Protocol in 2001, arguing that the treaty's mandatory curbs on emissions would harm the economy.

Hansen praised California for taking the "courageous" step of passing legislation on global warming last month that will make it the first US state to place caps on greenhouse gas emissions.

He said the alternative scenario he advocates involves promoting energy efficiency and reducing dependence on carbon burning fuels.

"We cannot burn off all the fossil fuels that are readily available without causing dramatic climate change," Hansen said. "This is not something that is a theory. We understand the carbon cycle well enough to say that."

September 15, 2006 in Climate Change | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, September 14, 2006

ABA SEER quick conference on Tacoma v. FERC decision

American Bar Association         Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources
                                        Hydro Power Committee

City of Tacoma v. FERC: Did the Hydro Industry Get the Number of that Train?


Friday, September 29, 2006
12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. Eastern / 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Central
  10:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. Mountain / 9:00 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. Pacific


Program Overview:
On August 22, 2006, the U.S. District Court of Appeals issued a decision in the case of City of Tacoma v. FERC. The decision addressed a number of issues that may significantly change that way that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issues licenses for hydropower projects pursuant to the Federal Power Act. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals modified in part and granted in part, Petitions for Review of the FERC Order Issuing New License for the Cushman Hydroelectric project on the Skokomish River in the State of Washington. Some of the issues were: (i) whether a relicensing proceeding or a new license proceeding should be undertaken for a project that previously held a minor part license, (ii) whether the mandatory conditioning authority under Federal Power Act Section 4(e) is limited to those areas where the hydro project is located on a federal reservation, (iii) must the federal agencies who submit “mandatory” conditions pursuant to FPA Section 4(e), and presumably Section 18, comply with FERC’s regulatory deadlines for submittal of the conditions, (iv) the degree to which FERC must evaluate a state water quality agency’s compliance with Clean Water Act Section 401, (v) whether a FERC license that makes a project uneconomic to operate constitutes a de facto decommissioning of the project, and (vi) how FERC should treat the state of Washington’s decision not to object to the project under the state’s Coastal Zone Management Act authority.

      Nino J. Mascolo, Southern California Edison Company, Rosemead, CA

        John Katz, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC
        Mark Quehrn, Perkins Coie, LLP, Bellevue, WA
        Bella Seawall, U.S. Department of the Interior, Washington, DC

Click Here to Register

Link:Tacoma v. FERC program

September 14, 2006 in Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

The Summer of 2006 - It was HOT!!!

Link: National Climatic Data Center - Climate of Summer 2006

Based on preliminary data, globally averaged combined land and sea surface temperature was fourth warmest on record for August and third warmest on record for boreal summer (June - August 2006).     * June - August temperatures were above average in much of North America, Europe and Asia. There were no notable areas of colder than average conditions.     * Precipitation during June - August was above average in the U.S. Northeast, southern Argentina, and east Asia, with drier than average conditions in the U.S. Pacific Northwest, western Australia, and Scandinavia.     * ENSO conditions remained neutral during August.

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September 14, 2006 in Climate Change | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

IPCC Narrows Range of Projected Global Warming

It appears that IPCC projects global mean temperatures will likely rise 2 - 4.5 degree C by 2100.  Temperature_distribution Link: Tiempo Climate Newswatch, Week ending September 17th 2006.  Remember the geographic distribution of global warming: a 3 degree increase on average may translate into an 8 - 10 degree increase in the polar regions.  That sort of increase is not good for ice sheets and other positive feedback mechanisms:

Leaked information from the forthcoming Fourth Assessment of the International Panel on Climate Change suggests that the more extreme forecasts of global warming rates may be revised down. The current draft narrows the range of predictions for the year 2100 from 1.4 to 5.8 degrees Celsius to 2 to 4.5 degrees Celsius, reflecting increasing confidence in the forecasts. Holding greenhouse gas emissions at current levels would limit the rise to two degrees by the end of the century, the draft report concludes. The report will finalized in the first quarter of 2007.

September 13, 2006 in Climate Change | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Recovery Plans Critical to Success

GAO's recent report indicates that recovery plans have been important in improving the status of endangered species.  Link: GAO report

September 13, 2006 in Biodiversity | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Most corals unable to adapt to warming oceans - life - 13 September 2006 - New Scientist

Link: New Scientist.

Three-quarters of the world’s coral reefs may lack the ability to cope with climate change, despite previous optimistic predictions, according to a new review of coral research.

Earlier studies had demonstrated that some corals are able adapt to warmer water temperatures by forming new, additional symbiotic relationships with algae. But a new analysis of more than 400 coral species suggests that only one-quarter of them would be able to adapt in this way.

These latest findings add to already bleak predictions for the world’s coral reefs, which are also threatened by coastal pollution and acidifying oceans. Stressors such as these cause coral to lose the algae that keep it alive by supplying it with nutrients. Even a 1 degree rise in temperature can cause the death of this fragile animal. Some experts have predicted that Australia’s Great Barrier Reef will lose 95% of its living coral by 2050.

However, two studies published in 2004 offered hope that some corals had coped with changing water temperatures by hosting new types of algae. For example, the corals along the Panama coast that were able to switch from one type of Symbiodinium algae, known as clade C, to another one called clade D.

These corals survived the particularly devastating 1997-1998 El Nino event – a recurring climate occurrence that causes elevated sea temperatures of up to 5C on the longitude line that crosses Peru and Ecuador (see Corals adapt to cope with global warming).
One at a time

Tamar Goulet at the University of Mississippi in the US carried out a review of these two research papers and 41 others to try to understand what proportion of all coral species might possess an ability to switch algae.

She found the only corals documented to be able make this swap are those that can host multiple algae. And those that can host only one clade, or type, of algae at a time have no such switching ability.

Only 23% of the 442 coral species included in Goulet's research review were able to host more than one clade of algae. As a result, she suggests that less than one-quarter of coral species may have the ability to adapt to climate change by swapping symbiotic algae. Without adaptation, coral becomes bleached and dies.

However, Goulet says she does not know the division of species among the world’s coral reefs: it is possible that adaptable species of coral are more prevalent. The studies included in Goulet’s review only covered a small fraction of the 93,000 coral species known to exist.

Journal reference: Marine Ecology Progress Series (vol 321, p 1, 2006)

September 13, 2006 in Biodiversity | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Environmental Law Article Hit Parade

Link: SSRN Top Downloads.

Rank Downloads Paper Title
1     104     Montreal vs. Kyoto: A Tale of Two Protocols
                Cass R. Sunstein, University of Chicago Law School
2     74     Administrative Law in the U.S. Supreme Court, 2004-2006:                     Trends, Cases, and Unexploded Bombshells
                Robin Kundis Craig, Florida State University
3     65     Citizen Participation in Rulemaking: Past, Present, and                       Future
                Cary Coglianese, Harvard University - John F. Kennedy                     School of Government, University of Pennsylvania Law                     School
4     60     Waters of the United States: Legal Theory, Legal Practice                 and Cross Purposes at the Supreme Court
                Jamison E. Colburn, Western New England College
5     58     Regulation of Health, Safety, and Environmental Risks
                W. Kip Viscusi, Vanderbilt University
6     54     The White House and the Kyoto Protocol: Double                             Standards on Uncertainties and their Consequences                         Philippe Tulkens, Henry Tulkens, TERI School of Advanced                 Studies, Catholic University of Louvain - Center for                         Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE)
7     50     Sustainability Reporting Frameworks
                Nigel Finch, Macquarie UniversityGraduate School of                         Management
8     49     The Transatlantic GMO Dispute Against the European
                 Communities: Some Preliminary Thoughts
                David A. Wirth, Boston College Law School
9     37     CO2 Prices, Energy and Weather
                Maria Mansanet Bataller, �ngel Pardo Tornero,
                Enric Valor, University of Valencia - Faculty of Economics,
10    37     Constructing the License to Operate: Internal Factors and                 Their Influence on Corporate Environmental Decisions                     Jennifer Howard-Grenville, Jennifer Nash, Cary                                 Coglianese       
                Boston University School of Management, Harvard                             University - John F. Kennedy School of Government,                         University of Pennsylvania Law School

September 13, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Jurist Blogger

      This widget is from Jurist Bloggers -- which is attempting to combine all law blogs into a single community feed.  You might consider adding it to your blog.  This is an adaptation of the original widget which had ads and feeds included.  I just eliminated the java script.

More Posts from Blawgers
  Find Blawgs @
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September 13, 2006 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Monday, September 11, 2006

The Science of Global Warming: Surface Sea Temperatures -- global warming or natural cycles

Real Climate just posted an assessment of the contribution of the previously posted Santer study to the scientific debate over the link between global warming and hurricane activity.  Real Climate link
The conclusion:

At least four studies, two based entirely on analyses of observations, and the other two based on climate model simulations, independently come to the conclusion that warming tropical Atlantic and Pacific SSTs cannot be purely attributed to any natural oscillation. These studies do not conclusively show a hurricane/global warming link, let alone determine what it's magnitude might be, but they do strengthen one pillar of that linkage.

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September 11, 2006 in Climate Change | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Bird Flu Blues: Another View of Air Travel Bans

Link: Aches on a Plane -- Enserink 2006 (911): 1 -- ScienceNOW.

By scouring mortality data from 121 cities across the United States, Harvard researchers have found footprints of 9/11 that they say should guide policy during an influenza pandemic. The decline in air travel in the months after the terrorist attacks delayed the annual flu season in the United States by almost 2 weeks, they conclude--a finding that suggests that a flu pandemic, too, could be slowed down, perhaps by months. But researchers who have studied the same question using computer models--and found closing down airports to be less useful--are skeptical.

The 2003 outbreak of SARS drove home the widely held belief that global mobility helps spread infections; indeed, it's almost a clich� among researchers to say that the most important disease vector today is the Boeing 747. But air-travel restriction won't help slow a flu pandemic much, three model studies concluded earlier this year--especially when compared to the judicious use of vaccines, antiviral drugs, isolation, and quarantine (ScienceNOW, 2 May).

But in the real world, the 27% reduction in air-travel volume after 9/11 appears to have caused a 13-day delay in the 2001-02 influenza season--considerably more than the models would predict, say John Brownstein and Kenneth Mandl of Children's Hospital Boston and Harvard Medical School in a paper released on 11 September by PLoS Medicine. And analyzing data from 1996 to 2005, the team found a consistent correlation between higher air-travel volumes in the fall and a slightly earlier flu season. Extrapolations suggest that a full-blown travel ban, as opposed to the post-9/11 slump, might delay a flu pandemic by as much as 2 months, says Brownstein--precious time to activate countermeasures and work on a vaccine.

World Health Organization (WHO) spokesperson Gregory Hartl says the new study is "very interesting" and "opens up the debate again." The modelers aren't convinced, however. One--Neil Ferguson of Imperial College London--says there is no proof that the relation between travel and timing of the flu season is causal. In addition, he questions the team's use of a complex statistical measure to determine the timing of the peak. Although the study is "very nice," the 9/11 effect "is an n of 1; it's intriguing, but you can't draw any conclusions," says Ira Longini of the University of Washington, Seattle, who co-authored a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in April that also concluded that travel bans had little value.

September 11, 2006 in Governance/Management | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

The Science of Global Warming: Hurricanes

Science reported on Santer's study published in PNAS this week linking hurricane activity to global warming.  Santer's team concluded that there is a very high probability (84%) that two-thirds of the observed temperature changes were caused by human activities. "There is no way of explaining the observed increases without positing a large human impact on these ocean temperatures." ScienceNOW linkPicture of oceansThe 3-day average sea surface temperatures as Hurricane Katrina approached the Louisiana coast. Areas in yellow, orange, or red represent SSTs of 82 degrees Fahrenheit or more.

PNAS Abstract : Previous research has identified links between changes in sea surface temperature (SST) and hurricane intensity. We use climate models to study the possible causes of SST changes in Atlantic and Pacific tropical cyclogenesis regions. The observed SST increases in these regions range from 0.32°C to 0.67°C over the 20th century. The 22 climate models examined here suggest that century-timescale SST changes of this magnitude cannot be explained solely by unforced variability of the climate system. We employ model simulations of natural internal variability to make probabilistic estimates of the contribution of external forcing to observed SST changes. For the period 1906-2005, we find an 84% chance that external forcing explains at least 67% of observed SST increases in the two tropical cyclogenesis regions. Model "20th-century" simulations, with external forcing by combined anthropogenic and natural factors, are generally capable of replicating observed SST increases. In experiments in which forcing factors are varied individually rather than jointly, human-caused changes in greenhouse gases are the main driver of the 20th-century SST increases in both tropical cyclogenesis regions.

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September 11, 2006 in Climate Change, Governance/Management, Physical Science | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, September 8, 2006

Dynamite Quick Reference for Students

Tomorrow the Economist will publish its survey on climate change  "The Heat is On." Economist link  I heartily recommend it for anyone who wants to bring their students or themselves quickly up to speed regarding the science, technology, economics, and law of climate change  -- about 15 pages, incorporating much of the climate research I have blogged this year.   As of yesterday, you can buy a PDF for $5 (or read/print each article in the online version if you have an Economist online subscription). 

September 8, 2006 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Economics, Energy, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Law, Legislation, North America, Physical Science, Sustainability, US, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

October 2: Contribute to the Environmental Law Canon!

Link: PrawfsBlawg: Announcing: The "Research Canons" Project.

Prawfsblawg is pleased to announce the "Research Canons" project.  The purpose of this project is to get input from you, our readers, about the most important works of scholarship in the various areas of legal inquiry.

Unlike other disciplines, most law academics do not have an advanced degree in "law."  For students pursuing a Ph.D in areas such as economics, history, or social psychology, they must pass comprehensive exams showing that they have a broad knowledge of the most important works in the field.  It is only after comps that students go on to complete their specialized dissertation research.

Legal academia assumes that entry-level candidates and new scholars have done the background research necessary for their area of expertise.  But it is left to the individual to get this knowledge.  Certainly, the J.D. provides a baseline, and mentors are helpful in providing further direction.  But there is nothing akin to comps that sets forth a comprehensive listing for new folks to follow.  Many of us have heard the question, in the AALS interview, in the job talk, or as a new scholar presenting a paper: "Well, of course, you have read the work of Prof. X in this area, right?"  Failure to respond appropriately to this question may raise eyebrows and cast doubt on the scholar's research.

The Research Canons project is intended to fill this gap.

September 8, 2006 in Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)