Catholic Church Becomes Vocal on Climate Change

The United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP21) is still 200 days away but organizations are not waiting until the event gets closer to encourage countries to step up their climate change actions and policies. One such organization is the Catholic Church, representing 1.1 billion globally practicing the faith. Recently Pope Francis endorsed a Catholic petition calling for bold climate action after meeting with the newly created Global Catholic Climate Movement (GCCM). The Pope’s move was a visual sign that the he intends to lead Catholics into an active response to climate change. He is planning on publishing his encyclical on ecology this June.

Pope Francis is informed about the Catholic Climate Petition by GCCM representatives (Tomás Insua from Argentina and Allen Ottaro from Kenya). Credit: Fotografia Felici

Pope Francis is informed about the Catholic Climate Petition by GCCM representatives (Tomás Insua from Argentina and Allen Ottaro from Kenya). Credit: Fotografia Felici

“Pope Francis was very supportive of the work we are doing to engage Catholics around the world in a coordinated response to climate change,” said Tomás Insua, co-founder of the GCCM from Argentina. “The Pope even joked that we were competing against his encyclical. His endorsement of our work is extremely important to raise awareness within Catholic circles globally, and to collect more signatures.”

The idea for the petition came as a response to Pope Francis’ call last December: “On climate change there is a clear, definitive and ineluctable ethical imperative to act.” The signatures will be presented to world leaders in December 2015, when they meet at COP21 in Paris. The Pope has presented GCCM with the book “The Sun’s Energy in the Vatican” as a gift to emphasize the Holy See’s commitment to renewable energy as a means to address the climate change crisis.

“The support of Pope Francis to the petition is very important as climate change is a great and urgent moral issue,” said Allen Ottaro, director of CYNESA based in Kenya and co-founder of GCCM. “Climate change hits the poorest first and hardest, and will leave an unnecessarily dire legacy for future generations. We Catholics need to step up against climate change and raise a strong voice asking political leaders to take action urgently. I encourage all to sign the petition on our website: www.CatholicClimateMovement.global.”

The Catholic Church is becoming increasingly vocal on climate change. Two weeks ago, the Vatican hosted a high-level summit about climate change and released a declaration that stated: “Human-induced climate change is a scientific reality, and its decisive mitigation is a moral and religious imperative for humanity.”

Sen Udall & Friends Unveil National RES Bill

U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-NM) and friends, Edward Markey (D-MA), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii) has introduced a national Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) they say will pump nearly $300 billion into the economy while combating climate change. The bill would require utilities to generate 30 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2030.

New Mexico Senator Tom Udall“A national Renewable Electricity Standard will help slow utility rate increases and boost private investment in states like New Mexico – all while combating climate change,” said Udall, who helped pass RES legislation through the U.S. House of Representatives and has continued to champion the issue as senator. “Investing in homegrown clean energy jobs just makes sense, and that’s why I’m continuing my fight for a national RES. More than half the states – including New Mexico – have widely successful RES policies, and it’s time to go all in. I’ve long pushed for a ‘do it all, do it right’ energy policy, and a RES will help us get there.”

If passed, the federal legislation would create the first national threshold for utilities to provide a certain percentage of their electricity from renewable resources, including wind, solar, biomass and others. It would set an 8 percent requirement by 2016, followed by gradual increases to meet the 30 percent by 2030 goal. More than half of the states already have renewable generation standards with specific timelines and target standards, and the legislation would not preempt stronger standards already implemented by states.

“Our record droughts, burning forests, dying fish, and melting icecaps all point to the urgency of taking on climate change,” said Merkley. “The only answer is burning less fossil fuel and moving toward renewable energy. Senator Udall’s bill would accelerate that transition and is a key to saving both our economy and our environment from the ravages of climate change.” Continue reading

What’s the GHG Performance of Polluters?

Next 10 has released, “Green Innovation Index, International Edition,” a report that analyzes and ranks the economic and energy performance of the world’s 50 largest greenhouse gas (GHG) emitting countries. The reports reviews country gross domestic product (GDP), emissions, energy productivity, renewable energy generation, clean tech investments and other key metrics. The report find the European Union collectively, and its individual nations, leads the world on several critical indicators.

Green Innovation Index“Some of the world’s largest economies are now decoupling economic growth and energy use, actually growing their GDPs while shrinking their carbon footprints. Last year marked the first time we’ve been able to say conclusively that a drop in global carbon emissions was caused by something other than an economic downtown,” said F. Noel Perry, businessman and founder of the nonpartisan nonprofit group Next 10.

Perry will be presenting the results as part of the events leading up to the Business & Climate Summit taking place at the UNESCO headquarters. The event is also part of Climate Week Paris.

The report finds the European Union ranks as the: #1 producer of renewable energy; #2 in global electric vehicle sales (2014), accounting for 30 percent of sales worldwide; #1 in clean tech IPOs (2014); #2 in clean tech venture capital, attracting just over $1 billion in 2014; #1 in wind energy patents; and #2 in clean tech patents, with 11,000 registered in 2014.

The Green Innovation Index also found that among these nations, plus California:

  • Spain, Germany, Italy, California, Philippines, the EU, Belgium, Netherlands, U.K. andGreece have the greatest share of electricity from renewable sources among top emitters (in order).
  • France leads the world in lowest carbon intensity; Uzbekistan is highest (GHG per GDP).
  • U.S. (with California), the EU, Japan, South Korea, Germany, California, China, Taiwan,France and U.K. (in order) are top ten in clean technology patents (2014).
  • Clean tech venture capital investment declined in the EU (-10 percent), France (-43 percent), Canada (-19 percent), India (-4 percent) and Israel (-11 percent) from 2013-14.
  • U.S. clean tech venture capital investment grew 74 percent (2013-14), California 153 percent.

“This year’s Green Innovation Index, International Edition tracks a clear shift to clean energy around the world. Although fossil fuels still represent a significant portion of our overall energy use, many analysts believe we have reached an important tipping point—globally, we are now adding more capacity for renewable power annually than fossil fuels,” added Doug Henton, chairman and CEO of Collaborative Economics, which developed the Index for Next 10.

Book Review: The Power Surge

As I write about energy each day, I often wonder what the trade-offs or consequences will be if a technology takes off, or even if it fails. How will it, if at all, alter America’s energy landscape? From my point of view, we are a country in fear of change and in fear of taking The Power Surgeaction. We are a country that spends more time worrying about what celebrities wore to an award show and when the next iPhone will be hit the streets, then worrying about the underlying causes of recessions (many economists blame oil prices) and what the consequences are of the decisions made, or more often than not, not made, by our elected officials.

So I was very excited when I read, “The Power Surge: Energy, Opportunity, and the Battle for America’s Future,” by Michael Levi who is the Senior Fellow for Energy and Environment and Director, Center for Geoeconomic Studies and Council on Foreign Relations. I have never read a book that does a better job of presenting various energy scenarios and the intended and unintended consequences of them and written and presented in a way based on research, economics and trends and not based on emotions.

There is no argument that there is a battle afoot over America’s, and quite frankly, the world’s energy future.

Our entire life is dependent on energy. We as a society can not function in our current “lifestyle” without energy. Period.

And despite what you personally believe, there are economic, security and environmental consequences and/or benefits to all decisions made and not made as eloquently demonstrated by Levi (and this includes those who believe climate change is a hoax). Levi begins the book with a three very probative and questions and one that he uses against all scenarios he presents in the book. In other words, how does the technology, legislation, or action fare against these three pillars?

  1. Does each energy source that has recently thrived offer important opportunities to improve the U.S. economy, strengthen national security or mitigate climate change while not causing intolerable damages on any of those fronts?
  2. Is is possible to seize those opportunities simultaneously- or would pursuing some of them severely undermine others?
  3. And can the United States take advantage of these opportunities without fundamentally altering the role of government in America?

The book begins with an in-depth discussion of all things oil and touches upon renewable energy sources such as biofuels. He also covers electricity and the role of natural gas in our current and energy future as well as technologies like wind and solar. He also points out that all sides of the issue overstate some of their claims and it was refreshing to see someone who doesn’t only call out claims on the side he/she is against. He writes, Continue reading

MIT Climate CoLab Seeks World Changing Ideas

Earth Day is April 22, 2015 but climate change is on many minds year round. This week Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Climate CoLab announced twenty-two contests that seek high-impact ideas on how to tackle climate change. A project of the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence, the Climate CoLab is attempting to harness the knowledge and expertise of thousands of experts and non-experts across the world to help solve this issue. The Climate CoLab has a rapidly growing community of over 30,000 members from across the world. Anyone is welcome to join the platform to submit their own ideas, or comment on and show support for other proposals on the site.

Climate CoLab“As systems like Linux and Wikipedia have shown, people from around the world—connected by the Internet—can work together to solve complex problems in very new ways,” said MIT Sloan Professor Thomas Malone, director of the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence and principal investigator for the Climate CoLab project. “In the Climate CoLab, we’re applying this approach to one of the world’s most difficult problems—climate change.”

The contests cover a broad set of sub-problems that lie at the heart of the climate change challenge including: decarbonizing energy supply, shifting public attitudes and behavior, adapting to climate change, geoengineering, transportation, waste management, reducing consumption, and others.

The popular U.S. Carbon Price contest is returning this year, which seeks innovative policy and political mobilization strategies on how to implement a carbon price in the United States. Serving as Advisors for this contest are Former U.S. Secretary of State, George P. Shultz; former U.S. Representative (R-SC) and current Director of the Energy and Enterprise Initiative, Bob Inglis; and, former U.S. Representative (D-IN) and current President of Resources for the Future, Phil Sharp. Continue reading

Wind Power Will Help Meet Clean Power Plan

According to a new report released today by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), adding more wind power to the U.S. electric grid can help the country meet the goals set out in the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan. Carbon emissions will be reduced and the lights will stay on, said AWEA, as wind power is already providing clean and reliable power for millions of Americans.

“Americans want energy security, clean air, and a more reliable energy system,” said AWEA CEO Tom Kiernan. “Diversifying our energy mix with wind helps us achieve all of these goals at once.”

During a press webinar this morning, AWEA Senior Director of Research Michael Goggin walked through the several of the most common questions about wind power and readability that are answered in the report. The report focuses on the 15 most common questions and provides answers drawing on the expertise of grid operators along with other research.

AWEA Wind Energy Reliability Report CoverGoggin explained that as wind energy has grown to provide a larger share of our electricity mix, wind turbine technology has matured so that modern wind plants are able to provide the same grid reliability services as conventional generators. Changes in wind output are not a major issue for grid operators because all power plants are already backed up by all other power plants, and grid operators already deal with large fluctuations in electricity supply and demand. In fact, the gradual and predictable changes in wind power are also much easier for grid operators to address than the large-scale outages that can occur at conventional power plants.

“Based on grid operators’ experience with reliably and cost-effectively integrating very large amounts of wind energy, wind can play can play a key role in meeting EPA’s Clean Power Plan,” said AWEA Senior Director of Research Michael Goggin.

Real-world examples presented in the report help illustrate the significant role wind energy is already playing including in Texas when fossil-fired power plants failed in the cold in February 2011, and more recently did so again across much of the U.S. during the “Polar Vortex” in early 2014.

According to Wind Vision, a new Department of Energy report due for release in early 2015, will show that wind could double from today’s amount to reliably supply 10 percent of the nation’s electricity demand by 2020, 20 percent by 2030 and 35 percent by 2050. However, as stressed by Kiernan during the presser, a long-term commitment to support wind energy by the federal government through programs such as Production Tax Credit will be critical to meeting the goals set forth in the Clean Power Plan as well as the President Obama’s climate change objectives.

Click here to read the full report.

Book Review: Flight Behavior

I recently read the novel Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver, a book about climate change. When I first began reading the book I had no intentions of doing a review, but as I got deeper into the book, and the characters voiced their opinions, about media in general, my intentions changed.

The premise of the book is that millions of monarch butterflies migrate to a rural area in Tennessee for the winter instead of going to their usual location in Mexico. After they are Flight Behaviordiscovered by Dellarobia on her family’s land, and the media gets involved with a news story, people from around the world begin showing up including a scientist. The next several months the scientist, Dr. Ovid Byron, and his team attempt to ascertain why the monarch butterflies wintered in Tennessee.

There have been discussions in the media and scientific journals about how monarchs are decreasing in population. While some believe the cause is climate change, others believe it is the use of pesticides and some believe it is a combination of both. For example, Andre Leu, IFOAM President and author of The Myths of Safe Pesticides, quotes in his book, “Herbicide-resistant plants….have increased the use of glyphosate, which kills all other plants including milkweed, the only type of plant that monarch butterflies use for laying their eggs.” The author cites that milkweed has declined by 60 percent and monarchs in the U.S. that winter in the forests of Mexico has dropped from 1 billion in 1997 to 33.5 million. The milkweed fact above was mentioned in Flight Behavior.

I”m not going to use this space to debate climate change; rather, I’m going to use this space to discuss the role of media in the conversation. Today, media is quoting “experts” about climate change (and other issues) that are in fact not experts at all. Where are the credible scientists and researchers who are doing the work around climate change in this conversation?

Many scientists do not like how they are portrayed in and by the media. Reporters often spend more time being skeptical about the facts being delivered by a respected scientist then they do when speaking to a person who uses social media to get his/her word out effectively but has no basis in training or education to be discussing the scientific merits of an issue. (In other words, scientists don’t speak sexy talk).

Dellarobia and her husband Cub, give us an example: “Here’s the thing,” she said. “Why would we believe Johnny Midgeon about something scientific, and not the scientists?” Continue reading

Global Investment for Climate Change Falls Again

According to a new report from Climate Policy Initiative, global investment in activities that reduce the threat of climate change fell for the second year in a row from USD $359 billion in 2012 to USD $331 billion in 2013. The report, “Global Landscape of Climate Finance,” found while public sources and intermediaries contributed $137 billion, private investment dropped by $31 billion (all numbers USD).

Global Landscape of Climate Finance 2014The study found that the decrease in private funds was due largely to falling costs of solar PV. Solar development costs were down $40 billion in 2013 as compared to 2012. However, the report states that the situation remains grave: The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that an additional $1.1 trillion in low-carbon investments is needed every year between 2011 and 2050, in the energy sector alone, to keep global temperature rise below two degree Celsius. In other words, the world is falling further and further behind its low-carbon investment goals.

Climate finance spending was split almost equally between developed (OECD) and developing (non-OECD) countries, with $164 billion and $165 billion respectively. Nearly three-quarters of all spending was domestic: It originated in the country in which it was used. Private actors had an especially strong domestic investment focus with $174 billion or 90 percent of their investments remaining in the country of origin. These figures illuminate a bias by private investors toward environments that are more familiar and perceived to be less risky. However, public sector money made up the vast majority of developed to developing country flows, which fell by around $8 billion from the previous year to between $31 and $37 billion in 2013.

“As policymakers prepare a new global climate agreement in 2015, climate finance is a key ingredient to bring the world on a two degree Celsius pathway. Our analysis shows that global investment in a cleaner more resilient economy are decreasing and the gap between finance needed and actually delivered is growing,” said Barbara Buchner, senior director of Climate Policy Initiative and lead author of the study. “Our numbers demonstrate that most investment is happening at the national level with investors favoring familiar environments they perceive to be less risky. This implies that domestic policy frameworks and appropriate risk coverage are critical to encourage investment.”

EU Leaders Lack Climate & Energy Leadership

According to several organizations, although European Union Heads of State agreed upon a climate and energy framework, it fails to provide industrial leadership for Europe. Both Ocean Energy Europe (OEE) and the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) criticized the plan. OEE said the new greenhouse gas emission targets, renewable energy and energy efficiency will do little to capitalize on the security, employment and export potential of new energy sectors including ocean, wind and offshore wind energy. The groups argue the framework put Europe’s future energy security and the country’s position as a global renewable energy and climate leader at risk.

The European Council agreed to a 40 percent binding greenhouse gas emission reduction target, a 27 percent binding, EU-wide renewable energy target, and a 27 percent non-binding, EU-wide energy efficiency target.

Ocean Energy Photo ENE“If the EU is serious about tackling big issues such as energy security, unemployment and climate change, it needs to provide industrial leadership on climate and energy by setting hard and fast targets and reduce its exposure to highly volatile fossil fuel imports,” said Dr Sian George, CEO of Ocean Energy Europe. “Economies across the world will have to transition to low-carbon. By staying ahead of this curve, Europe can tap into massive export and job creation potential. This is as true for the first generation of renewable energy as it will be for the next generations, such as ocean energy technologies.”

In 2009, Europe agreed to climate and energy targets for 2020 helping to bring first-gen renewable energy industries to market in part due to market certainty. The new targets need to be higher, said George, for renewables to move into second generation renewable energy technologies.

Thomas Becker, chief executive officer of the European Wind Energy Association, said the lower unenforceable targets create market uncertainty and for the wind industry this “clarity” is critical to investors who rely on long-term policies to provide stability.

“The interconnectivity target is bewildering given the current political challenges Europe is facing. We’re in the midst of an energy crisis with Russia holding Member States to ransom over gas supplies,” said Becker. “Yet Heads of State see fit to trot out a meaningless target that will do nothing to improve connection in the Iberian Peninsula or the security of supply in the Baltic States, let alone allow an internal energy market to develop. On GHG reduction, this weakens the position of the EU for the climate talks in Paris next year,” added Becker. “I can’t understand how Member States are going to reach this target and who is guaranteeing that this is not just an empty shell. I can assure you that the other climate negotiators are very good at finding the holes in the cheese.”

Analysis: EU Can Cut Natural Gas Imports By Half

Ecofys natural gas reportAccording to a new report, ramping up cost-effective investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency can help the European Union cut its dependency on natural gas by half. The analysis also found this measure could reduce carbon emissions by 49 percent or more, or drop emissions below the 1990 level by 2030, more than is currently proposed. The report was released just days before the European Council meets to set new climate change targets.

The study, “Increasing the EU’s Energy Independence: A No-Regrets Strategy for Energy Security and Climate Change,” was authored by international consultants Ecofys as part of the Open Climate Network (OCN). The report finds that natural gas consumption can be halved overall by implementing cost-effective measures that accelerate the use of renewable energy and efficiency improvements in industry, buildings and energy supply.

Relative to current projections, these measures can achieve:

    • 58% reduction in gas consumption from buildings (equal to 23% of all natural gas presently consumed by EU);
    • 20% reduction in gas consumption from industry (equal to 5% of all natural gas presently consumed by EU); and
    • 63% reduction in gas consumption from power generation (equal to 19% of all natural gas presently consumed by EU).

Replacing natural gas imports with clean alternatives will enhance Europe’s stability in energy supply, increasing resilience to possible interruption from unstable suppliers.

“Contrary to popular belief, Europe can be energy independent,” said Jennifer Morgan, Director of the Climate and Energy Program at World Resources Institute. “This analysis shows that the EU can cut natural gas imports in half without raising costs for consumers. This is a win-win approach for the EU, increasing its energy security and raising the bar for climate action.”