Archive for the ‘clean energy’ Category

millions of good things

October 22, 2008

Bette Midler, the founder of the New York Restoration Project, planting a Carolina Silverbell tree.
(Image: Suzanne DeChillo/The New York Times)

If we are going to beat global warming, we are going to have to weatherize millions of buildings, install millions of solar panels, manufacture millions of wind-turbine parts, plant and care for millions of trees, build millions of plug-in hybrid vehicles, and construct thousands of solar farms, wind farms, and wave farms. That will require thousands of contracts and millions of jobs — producing billions of dollars of economic stimulus.

~Van Jones
The Green Collar Economy

It’s only the beginning…

Million Solar Roofs [Cali.]
The plan will provide 3,000 megawatts of additional clean energy and reduce the output of greenhouse gasses by 3 million tons which is like taking one million cars off the road.
~Arnold Schwarzenegger

Million Trees [NYC]
Trees help clean our air, and reduce the pollutants that trigger asthma attacks and exacerbate other respiratory diseases. They cool our streets, sidewalks, and homes on hot summer days. Trees increase property value, and encourage neighborhood revitalization. And trees make our City an even more beautiful and comfortable place to live, work, and visit.

Million Building Retrofits [S. Bronx… coming soon]
Drafty buildings create broke, chilly people — and an overheated planet.
~Van Jones

can nyc be an exemplary eco city?

October 21, 2008

That was the question posed last night at the Open Center, in a lecture of the same name. The panelists approached sustainability from both an individual and governmental perspective.

Rohit Aggarwala
Director of the Office of Long-term Planning and Sustainability in NYC

According to Rohit, PlaNYC started out as an economic plan. But with population projected to reach 9.1 million residents by 2030 (it’s currently over 8 million), it became clear that the focus needed to be on sustainability.

One consideration led to another: if you think about land use patterns, especially with regard to housing, you can’t ignore transportation infrastructure; when you consider transportation, air quality becomes a factor; a contributor to poor air quality is the city’s current energy resources — yet another layer; and those energy resources also pollute our waterways, so there’s water quality to think about.

Its population growth makes New York City unique among old American cities. There was no model to follow. So the mayor’s office turned to other cities around the world. For example, London was the model for congestion pricing, which is up for reconsideration. Or as one NYTimes reporter put it, Governor Paterson is “rescuing the controversial program from the brink of death.”

Read the full PlaNYC report.

Starre Vartan
One of the original green bloggers (eco chick), author of The Eco Chick Guide to Life: How to Be Fabulously Green, and managing editor for the Greenopia guide

Starre offered up 7 of her top 10 ways to live sustainably in NYC (her time was cut short).

In general, she says to consider what you do most in your daily life, and then figure out how you can make changes to reduce your impact.

[NB. I’ve paraphrased a bit]

1. Food. Support farmer’s markets and local food, as our food miles add a considerable heft to our carbon footprint.

2. Goods. Buy local. There are many great designers of furniture, clothing, and other goods right here in NYC. When you consider a simple article of clothing like a t-shirt, think about all that went into it. The cotton, grown with chemical fertilizers and treated with pesticides is grown in one country. Then it’s shipped to another place to be dyed. Then the fabric is sent somewhere else to be sewn together. The tags may be sewn on in an entirely different place. The carbon footprint of a t-shirt is astronomical! (Read about the perfect t-shirt ever made [!])

3. Transport. Keep using public transportation. Bike if you’ve got one. There are bike advocate groups you can join or support (like Recycle a Bicycle). Limit cab rides or share with a friend (or try a service like Ride Amigos).

4. Toxins. Get them out of your life. One of the simplest, easiest, and least expensive ways to do this is to swap your cleaning supplies. Toxic chemicals from cleaning products pollute our waterways and our bodies. Waste treatment facilities only filter out bio-organisms, so those cleaning biproducts are mixing together in our water. Another way to eliminate toxins is changing your beauty products.

5. Energy. Switch to clean energy through services like ConEdison Solutions, which offer wind and hydroelectric power that feeds into the grid (which unless you’re off the grid, and you’d know if you were, you’re hooked up to). It may cost a little more per month, but what you’re paying for is clean air and health. It’s really the one place you should spend a little more to help save our health and the planet.

6. Junk mail. Sign up for services that stop junk mail, like GreenDimes or DMAChoice (I know it works, ’cause I’ve used it!).

7. Office. Green your workplace. Some motivated employees may already be volunteering to help reduce the carbon footprint of their office. But many businesses still have along way to go to achieve eco-friendly status. Implement recycling, start a campaign to eliminate paper cup use (bring your own!), encourage printing on both sides. These steps will make the office more sustainable and help the bottom line!

Visit Eco chick for more green living tips.

Janna Olson
Sustainability consultant and NYC market manager & researcher at Greenopia

I was excited to see Janna there, as I’m currently taking a class with her (which I’ll write about soon). She had some technical difficulties (her Mac couldn’t communicate with the overhead projector), but Janna raised some really compelling points — many of them directed at Rohit Aggarwala.

One of the concepts Janna discussed was distributed energy generation, specifically solar empowerment zones — a term coined by City Councilmember and Infrastructure Task Force co-chair Daniel Garodnick [OnEarth]. Essentially, buildings in areas of the city that have been identified as suitable for photovoltaic solar panel installation (“low-density areas that have buildings with large rooftops to create a synergy for an entire neighborhood to become solar-powered,” according to Garodnick) would be given incentive to invest in solar. This method makes solar more cost-effective through sharing of maintenance responsibility, tax incentives, and the potential for a consolidated connection to the grid within the zone.

Janna also talked about the usefulness and importance of the Greenopia guide. While helping consumers living in cities like New York find green businesses, the guide helps green businesses — some of which might have a limited marketing budget — get the attention they deserve. She also stressed that living green should not be a chore, it can and should be a fun endeavor.

Read an interview with Janna [alldaybuffet].

Sign up for an upcoming eco event at the Open Center:

How to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint, and Still Have a Great Life

with Colin Beavan (No Impact Man) and Janna Olson
Friday, January 16 2009, 7:00pm – 10:00pm

the lost 8 years

October 17, 2008

Many in the environmental community consider the past 8 years of Bush Administration Policy as the lost 8 years. Here, Environmental Defense Fund shows us some of the devastation that ensued under the watch of our careless rulers.

Lost Eight Years by the Numbers

Over the last eight years, global warming took its toll on the world.

While climate scientists confirmed that it is undoubtedly a man-made phenomenon and predicted its disastrous future effects, the Bush Administration worked with various members of U.S. industry to bury this evidence and block action.

Check out our 10 Facts About the Lost Eight Years to learn more.

The number of people who died in 2000 due to debilitating diseases caused by climate change in 2000, according to a 2003 study by the World Health Organization.

20 billion
The net tons of water oceans gain each year through melting glaciers and ice caps, according to a 2006 study by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

Square miles in area of the Larsen B ice shelf that collapsed off the Antarctic Peninsula in 2002 – this area is roughly the size of Rhode Island.

Year by which polar bears could be at or near extinction according to the U.S. Geological Survey in conjunction with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

4.5 feet
The amount the seas could rise by the end of the century, according to scientists at the University of Arizona.

Number of peer reviewed papers used in a study that found there were no serious challenges to the global warming consensus that the phenomena was real and largely man made.

385 ppm
The concentration of CO2 in the earth’s atmosphere in 2008 – the highest level in at least the past 800,000 years and 37% higher than CO2 concentrations at the start of the Industrial Revolution.

$200 billion
The amount of economic losses resulting from the intensity of climate change through the year 2005, according to the reinsurance company Munich Re.

Number of global warming bills passed by the Senate.

Number of global warming bills passed by the House.


  • McMichael, Anthony J., ed. Climate Change and Human Health: Risks and Responses. World Health Organization. 2003.
  • “NASA Finds Arctic Replenished Very Little Thick Sea Ice in 2005.” The Earth Observer. Volume 19, Issue 3. May/June 2007.
  • National Snow and Ice Data Center. “Larsen B Ice Shelf Collapses in Antarctica.” March 18, 2002.
  • Roach, John. “Most Polar Bears Gone By 2050, Studies Say.” National Geographic News. September 10, 2007.
  • Borenstein, Seth. “Global warming’s rising seas projected to overtake unique U.S. coastal spots in 100 years.” Associated Press. September 22, 2007.
  • Oreskes, Naomi “Beyond the Ivory Tower: The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change” for Science December 4, 2004.
  • Hansen, James. “Twenty Years Later: Tipping Points Near on Global Warming.” The Huffington Post, June 23, 2008.
  • Faust, Ebhard. “Climate Change impact on the (re-) Insurance Industry and Munich Re’s Response.” Global Roundtable on Climate Change Session II at Columbia University. November 14-15, 2005.

What do you think?

Leave your answer to the following questions posed by Environmental Defense Fund:

With a new administration only months away and a significantly new Congress just around the corner, do you think the United States will finally give environmental concerns the priority they deserve? Or will we end up falling into the pitfalls of the past, with political disagreements hindering progress?

an open letter to the new president

October 17, 2008

[Image source: 7×7]

Michael Pollan challenges the future president to take a serious look at revolutionizing the current state of the food industry in a recent NY Times article. An excerpt:

After cars, the food system uses more fossil fuel than any other sector of the economy — 19 percent. And while the experts disagree about the exact amount, the way we feed ourselves contributes more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere than anything else we do — as much as 37 percent, according to one study. Whenever farmers clear land for crops and till the soil, large quantities of carbon are released into the air. But the 20th-century industrialization of agriculture has increased the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by the food system by an order of magnitude; chemical fertilizers (made from natural gas), pesticides (made from petroleum), farm machinery, modern food processing and packaging and transportation have together transformed a system that in 1940 produced 2.3 calories of food energy for every calorie of fossil-fuel energy it used into one that now takes 10 calories of fossil-fuel energy to produce a single calorie of modern supermarket food. Put another way, when we eat from the industrial-food system, we are eating oil and spewing greenhouse gases. This state of affairs appears all the more absurd when you recall that every calorie we eat is ultimately the product of photosynthesis — a process based on making food energy from sunshine. There is hope and possibility in that simple fact.

Read the rest. [NY Times]

climate change exhibit @ AMNH

October 16, 2008

This past Tuesday, I had the opportunity to get a sneak preview of the new exhibit Climate Change: The Threat to Life and a New Energy Future that opens this Saturday, October 18th, at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH).

The day started in the Hall of Northwest Coast Indians with opening remarks from the primary contributors,* which in hindsight seems apropos, considering the culture of native people in this region is being threatened by climate change.

From there we were led to the 3rd floor for the big show, on the way passing through the Warburg Hall of New York State Environment (I love the retro decor of wood paneling and white script lettering that surrounds the dioramas — I hope they never renovate!), North American Forests, and the Hall of Biodiversity.

The exhibit

I don’t want to give away the full show, because I think you should all see it for yourselves (it’s in NYC until next August, then it moves on to Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Mexico, and South America). To give you a sense of the importance and comprehensiveness of the event, Dr. Michael Oppenheimer, professor of Geosciences at Princeton, basically said that in lieu of his intro to climate change course, his students should just come to the museum to observe the exhibit.

The beginning of the end

The overwhelming theme of the entrance to the exhibit is black, perhaps signifying the dark descent into our addiction with black gold (in this case coal). On the wall, a fiery red LED line overlaid on a black and white collage demonstrates the rise in world population, economic growth, fossil fuel use and correlating atmospheric carbon dioxide.

This image only represents recent history. The line starts well below the knees and during the last century skyrockets to well about your head. ©AMNH/D. Finnin

Back in 1550, the great forest of Europe were vastly diminished, wood being the primary source of energy. Reluctantly, people took to burning coal for energy.

Here’s a comparison between world conditions in 1600 (when coal use was gaining momentum) and 2000 (8 years ago):

In 1600
estimated world population: 545 to 579 million
estimated size of world economy: $77 billion
estimated atmospheric CO2: 274 parts per million

In 2000
estimated world population: 6.07 billion
estimated size of world economy: $41 trillion
estimated atmospheric CO2: 369 parts per million

If my math is correct, in 400 years, the world population increased to about 12 times its size and atmostpheric carbon dioxide increased by 35%! How could anyone refute that humans have greatly contributed to the warming of our planet?

[Click image to read text]

Ellen V. Futter, president, AMNH

Hey kids, coal is not cool!

Theresa Maher, age 9, and Brian Maher, age 11, from Massachusetts, examine a model of one metric ton of coal in the Climate Change exhibition—a dramatic icon of human energy consumption that represents the amount of coal needed to power an average home for two months, emitting about 2.5 metric tons of CO2. ©AMNH/D. Finnin

Goodbye downtown Manhattan

This model of lower Manhattan demonstrates what will happen when sea levels rise. ©AMNH/D. Finnin

Some alarming facts

  • Earth’s average temperature has risen about 1.8°F over the past 100 years and it will rise much more as long as CO2 emissions continue to increase at current rates
  • Even if emissions were to stabilize today, temperature would continue to rise for several decades due to the delayed response of the climate system
  • Sea level has risen about 7 inches over the last 100 years, mostly due to the expansion of water as it warms. Every foot of sea-level rise translates to 100 feet of shoreline loss on the Eastern U.S. coast. Predictions vary, but future sea-level rise could range from 7 inches to more than 40 inches by 2100
  • The primary effects of sea-level rise are increased flooding during storm surges and coastal erosion and submergence. Some of the world’s largest, most densely populated cities are located in these regions; indeed, 634 million people live within 33 vertical feet of sea level

Look on the bright side

The exhibit is only about 88% doom and gloom. Okay, I’m exaggerating — it struck a balance between human contribution to the problem, the science of climate change, the ecosystems affected, and potential solutions to slow down the process.

Cleaner energy options are examined, and each resource (solar, wind, nuclear, geothermal) was allotted a percentage of the full energy pie. Other solutions offered were individual ways we can reduce our carbon footprint. There’s even an interactive pledge wall where you can join others in committing to specific actions to improve your ecological impact.

Visit the exhibit

Timed tickets to the exhibit — which is on view until August 16, 2009 — include museum admission. Prices are $24 for adults, $18 for students and seniors, and $14 for children. Tickets can be reserved in advance by calling 212-769-5200 or visiting (Service charge may apply.)

*Ellen V. Futter, president of AMNH; Michael Novacek, SVP/provost of Science/curator of the Paleontology division; Edmond Mathez, curator of the exhibition; and Michael Oppenheimer, professor of Geosciences and International Affairs (an abbreviated title) at Princeton University

(Thanks again, Andre & Jenni!)

climate change hits the poor hardest

October 15, 2008

FACT: Some 262 million people were affected by climate disasters annually from 2000 to 2004, over 98% of them in the developing world. [UNDP]

Climate change is a moral, ethical, and socio-economic issue.

The wealthiest nations, those who are the most responsible for the increased output of greenhouse gases, will be the least affected by climate change. They will also be the most equipped to deal with the consequences.

In stark contrast, those that are the most impoverished have the smallest carbon footprint and are the most affected by climate change. Alone, they do not have the resources to face the dire consequences of climate change.

The impact of climate change on the developing world was the focus of a recent exhibit and campaign “One Planet, One Chance” created by Zago, based on the Human Development Report 2007/2008 from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The following are excerpts from the exhibit publication, comprehensive on its own, but only a taste of what you’ll find in the full report.

Examples of the contrasts between
the haves and have-nots

In many countries, poverty is intimately related to repeated exposure to climate risks. For people whose livelihoods depend on agriculture, variable and uncertain rainfall is a potent source of vulnerability. Across the world, the lives of the poor are punctuated by the risks and vulnerabilities that come with an uncertain climate. Climate change will gradually ratchet up these risks and vulnerabilities, putting pressure on already over-stretched coping strategies and magnifying inequalities based on gender and other markers for disadvantage.

Who are some of the people affected?


It is hard to overstate the implications for human development. Climate change impacts will be superimposed on a country marked by high levels of vulnerability, including poor nutrition and among the world’s most intense HIV/AIDS crisis: almost one million people are living with the disease. Poverty is endemic. Two in every three Malawians live below the national poverty line. The country ranks 164 out of the 177 countries measured in the HDI. Life expectancy has fallen to about 46 years.

Climate change threatens to reinforce the already powerful cycles of deprivation created by drought and flood. Incremental risks will be superimposed upon a society marked by deep vulnerabilities. In a ‘normal’ year, two-thirds of households are unable to produce enough maize to cover household needs. Declining soil fertility, associated with limited access to fertilizer, credit and other inputs, has reduced maize production from 2.0 tonnes per hectare to 0.8 tonnes over the past two decades. Productivity losses linked to reduced rainfall will make a bad situation far worse.

Hurricane Katrina victims
The hurricane impacted the lives of some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world’s richest nation. Pre-Katrina child poverty rates in New Orleans were among the highest in the United States, with one in three living below the poverty line. Health provision was limited, with some 750,000 people lacking insurance coverage. Hurricane Katrina selected its victims overwhelmingly from the most disadvantaged areas of the city. Poorer districts dominated by black communities bore the brunt. Flood damage interacted with deep racial inequalities (poverty rates among blacks three times higher than for whites). An estimated 75 percent of the population living in flooded neighbourhoods was black. The Lower Ninth Ward and the Desire/Florida communities, two of the poorest and most vulnerable in the city, were both totally devastated by Katrina.

Future generations will pass harsh judgement on a generation that looked at the evidence on climate change, understood the consequences and then continued on a path that consigned millions of the world’s most vulnerable people to poverty and exposed future generations to the risk of ecological disaster. If we value the well-being of our children and grandchildren, even small risks of catastrophic events merit a precautionary approach.

What can be done?

Climate change mitigation is about transforming the way that we produce and use energy. It is about living within the bounds of ecological sustainability. The starting point: putting a price on carbon emissions. Changed incentive structures are a vital condition for an accelerated transition to low carbon growth. In an optimal scenario, the carbon price would be global. This is politically unrealistic in the short-run because the world lacks the required governance system. The more realistic option is for rich countries to develop carbon pricing structures. As these structures evolve, developing countries could be integrated over time as institutional conditions allow.

If we are to succeed in tackling climate change we have to start by setting out the ground rules. Any international strategy has to be built on the foundations of fairness, social justice and equity. These are not abstract ideas. They are guides to action.

The importance of early and concerted action. The carbon budget is best understood as the global maximum amount of CO2 emissions that can be produced, and therefore absorbed by the Earth’s atmosphere and ecosystems, in order to avoid dangerous climate change. Briefly summarized, the 21st Century budget amounts to 1,456 Gt CO2, or around 14.5 Gt CO2 on a simple annual average basis. Current emissions are running at twice this level.

We only have one planet — and we need a one-planet solution for climate change. That solution cannot come at the expense of the world’s poorest countries and poorest people. Developed countries have to demonstrate that they are serious by cutting their emissions. After all, they have the financial and the technological resources needed to act.

Read the rest of the exhibit brochure.

Read the summary or the full report.

carl pope and t. boone

October 7, 2008

Sierra Club Executive Director, Carl Pope, is urging you to join him tonight after the debate for an energy independence e-rally in support of the Pickens Plan. While we all might not agree with Mr. Pickens’ politics and past tactics, his progressive energy plan does deserve some attention.

Join the rally here.

On January 20th, 2009, a new President will take office. We’re organizing behind the Pickens Plan now to ensure our voices will be heard by the next administration. Together we can raise a call for change and set a new course for America’s energy future in the first hundred days of the new presidency — breaking the hammerlock of foreign oil and building a new domestic energy future for America with a focus on sustainability.

You can start changing America’s future today by supporting the Pickens Plan. Join now.

3 books i want to read now

October 3, 2008

Two topics are on everyone’s mind right now: the economy and energy. These 3 books offer insights into their critical link, offering solutions on how America can rise above while simultaneously saving the planet.

Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution–and How It Can Renew America by Thomas L. Friedman

The Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems
by Van Jones

Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution
by Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins, and L. Hunter Lovins

please read: the future of energy

October 3, 2008

We Can’t Drill Our Way Out of This Mess.

It’s true. There are sustainable, sensible solutions to the energy (and economic) crisis. Please read this common sense article from Robert Redford (via NRDC’s newsletter Nature’s Voice) about the future of energy in this country.

Seldom do politics get this cynical. Seldom is the real pain of real people so cravenly exploited. Many of our fellow Americans now choose between buying gas to get to work and buying food to feed their families. Meanwhile, President Bush is trading on that desperation to peddle a lie: that sacrificing our coastlines and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to Big Oil will solve our problems at the pump. He’s already lifted the executive ban on drilling off our coasts and challenged Congress to do the same. The president knows very well that we cannot drill our way to lower gas prices. We cannot for the simple reason that America has only 3 percent of the world’s oil reserves. The rate at which we extract that small share is all but meaningless to the vast world oil market where we buy and sell the stuff like everyone else.

Read the rest.

Read even more about why drilling is not the solution.
Oh, and here, too.

5 actions you can take right now

September 17, 2008


You can also pledge to help stop mountaintop removal by clicking and signing on my iLoveMountains link to the right!