Friday, February 27, 2009

Well, there's some good news and some bad news this week. The bad news is that Chris Fields, one of the heads of the Nobel-awarded Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, says that greenhouse gas emissions have been growing even faster than climate models projected. This makes the good news that President Obama asked Congress to send him cap-and-trade legislation to reduce global warming especially timely.

What's cap-and-trade? It's a market-based system to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that was shown to be quite effective in reducing the sufur dioxide pollution that caused acid rain. It puts a strict limit on emissions, and the sources of these emissions then receive a permit to pollute, basically, up to a given limit. These permits are such that total emissions don't exceed the strict emissions limit. The system allows the emitters to stay within their limit any way they see fit. Those that emit less than their limit can sell allowances to those who emit more. Before you become horrified, realize that a) the limit is reduced every year and b) this system actually worked more quickly than expected to reduce acid rain emissions, and more cheaply than critics predicted. When's the last time you heard of anything working more quickly than expected in government? Let's get behind this effort, which has been in effect in Europe since 2005.

Read The Hot Topic, by Gabrielle Walker and Sir David King, for a good description of cap and trade, p. 156, and a wealth of good information on global warming solutions. And send me your tips and global warming info!


Friday, February 20, 2009

I heard a cool idea this week (seriously, I didn't intend to pun) on Living On Earth, the weekly environmental public radio show. California's energy commissioner, Arthur Rosenfeld, is a big advocate of white or light-reflecting roofs, which are now required for new roofs and re-roofs in California. He'll soon travel to China and India to urge those nations to require white roofs, too.

"If white roofs took over the world or the urban world over a twenty year program, we would save twenty five billion tons of CO2, which is the same as turning off the whole world's emissions of CO2 for one year," said Rosenfeld.

You can reduce the energy you consume to cool your house by 10 to 20 percent if your roof is white instead of dark. In addition, the white roof, because it reflects heat back into space, cools your neighborhood and the world directly. A thousand square feet of white roof cools the world enough to offset the heating effects of ten tons of carbon dioxide. That's about two and a half years of emissions from your family car or one year's emissions from your house, according to Rosenfeld.

What happens in winter? The amount you save on cooling is a lot more than you lose on heat, at least in most places. In Boston, you lose 15% of the summer savings on increased winter energy use, but in Birmingham, Alabama, you only lose 5%. The winter loss is low because of our tilted planet: In winter, the sun is low and shines mostly on the south wall of your house, and in summer, it's high and shines mostly on the roof. So we should paint our roofs white and our southern walls dark. Read Bruce Gellerman's interview of Rosenfeld here. And send me your tips! Have a cool week.


Friday, February 13, 2009

I can't say it any better than the Environmental Defense Action Fund does today: Friday the 13th just got a little scarier. The EDF Action Fund has put together 13 facts about the realities of global warming. Here's a few of them:

34% -- Percentage that 2008's Arctic seasonal sea ice melt outpaced normal levels.

1.5 million --Number of acres of forests in Colorado destroyed by the pine beetle, which is better able to survive warmer winters and is wreaking havoc in America's western forests. In Santa Fe, NM, we see thousands of trees killed by the pine beetle.

$427 million -- Amount spent by the oil and coal industries in the first six months of 2008 in political contributions, lobbying expenditures and advertising to oppose climate action.

A strong economy-wide cap on global warming pollution is the best way to get a handle on global warming, one that European countries have been implementing for years. But it will take a movement of millions of people like us to get our Congress to finally act.

So please, read the facts and click here to send your Congressional reps the message that you want action on global warming. Spread the word to your friends and family face-to-face, through email, Facebook, whatever. Send them a link to this blog! And help make future Friday the 13ths less scary!

Thanks, Patty, for sharing what you do to reduce global warming. If enough of us take actions like this, and I know there are a lot of you out there who do, it can make a big difference. Let us know what you're doing!

Friday, February 6, 2009

I'd love to hear your ideas for reducing your carbon footprint. Here's an idea from Washington State: get your state senator or rep to introduce legislation that allows car insurance companies to charge people based on how many miles they drive. That would provide an incentive to people to reduce their carbon impact by charging less for insurance for those who drive fewer miles. Read more about it here: (BTW, the article features my sister Polly. Read it for inspiration!) It does raise some privacy concerns. Would you be willing to have the number of miles you drive monitored in order to save money on insurance and provide extra motivation for driving less? I would.