November 2008


In a report from Barcelona, Spain, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) released the results of it’s study of Penguin colonies in the Antarctic. According to the study, 1/2 to 3/4 of major colonies could be damaged or wiped out if global temperatures are allowed to climb by more than 2C (3.6F). This hike in temperature would also threaten as much as 50% of breeding grounds of Emperor Penguins and as much as 75% of Adelie Penguin colonies. These results from their study were released at the World Conservation Congress, held this year in Spain.

Since the UN’s panel of climate change Scientists has already warned that the average temperature on Earth could increase even more than 2C by the end of the century, this threat to the Penguin population is serious and real. The UN claims this change will occur regardless of major efforts that may be made to curb greenhouse gases and would occur even faster if no changes were made. In other words, it’s way to late for the Penguins.

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Talks have led to some agreements among industry sectors aimed at reducing greenhouse gases. Although this seems to be generally accepted among civilized countries, many developing countries do not trust it. So, as talks between the 160 nations who are party to the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change came to a halt in October, many heavy industries are keeping a close watch on what emission reduction schemes and agreements will emerge from the discussion.

Cooperation from steel and aluminum producers is always touch and go. Ditto for the cement sector. These industries are energy and emissions intensive and fear too zealous regulations that could put them out of business. In Europe these industries have called for exemptions to the EU’s strict emissions trading schemes. They wish to get that done before the new schemes are launched in 2013. Any large rise in the cost of emissions permits will drive factories and the jobs that go with them right out of Europe and force them to head off to areas with less stringent rules.

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From ABC News online:

I hate to be the bearer of bad news but I have already brought you an awful lot of it from the Arctic already. So here it. More grim news on the sea ice levels and what it means to us. Experts at the National Show and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado believe the overall volume of Arctic sea ice has reached the lowest level since satellite measurements began in 1979. Although the numbers are still coming in, the data was collected by measuring the area covered and the thickness of the ice there.

“We’re pretty confident this is a record low,” said Walt Meier, a research scientist at the center.

Scientists at the center monitor the health of the ice by looking at many factors, including how much of it can be seen from space, the thickness of ice hidden underwater and the overall volume of existing ice. Their study has revealed that sea ice at the top of this planet has apparently reached the lowest volume ever recorded. This is scary enough but conditions are declining towards a point where the Arctic Ocean may soon be completely without ice in the summer.

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Ethiopia has signed a 220-million-euro (=300 million dollar) deal with a French company for the construction of Africa’s largest wind farm. This contract was signed by representatives of the Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation (EEPC) in agreement with the French wind turbine manufacturer Vergnet.

This ambitious farm is expected to produce 120 megawatts within two and half years, making it the largest project of it’s kind on the continent. This is a forward thinking project for the country as it faces great troubles from energy dependency and the effects of global warming. Ethiopia has been hit time and again by droughts, devastating the peoples of their country as well as crippling its electricity production, which is currently heavily reliant on hydroelectric dams.

“This is a very strategic project for us. The first (largest) in Africa for wind energy production with 120 megawatts, that is to say 15 percent of our present capacity,” EEPC chairman Meheret Debebe said. “This project will help us to fill the gap of hydrological risks we are facing in Ethiopia with the droughts.”

Ethiopia is a landlocked country in the horn of Africa with no access to the ocean. It is also Africa’s second most populous country and has been experiencing severe drought coupled with frequent power cuts in recent months. Already a dry, demanding and harsh landscape, Ethiopia is early in the field of geographical areas suffering as a result of the effects of global warming. Drought is considered to be a side effect of the overall warming of the planet just as the melting of the Arctic is.

“This contract is a very important one because with a budget in excess of 200 million euros it will be the largest wind farm in Africa,” French Minister of State for Foreign Trade Anne-Marie Idrac said at the signing ceremony. “It is also very symbolic of France’s commitment to developing renewable energies,” she added. Bravo, France! And God bless the people of Africa.

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Mayor Richard M. Daley has announced a plan which aims to dramatically reduce emissions of heat-trapping gases. This aggressive move is part of an effort to fight global warming and become one of the greenest cities in the nation. This he has set out as his goal.

Daley’s plan calls for reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 3/4 the levels recorded in 1990 and to do this by 2020. He wants to accomplish this through more energy-efficient buildings, using clean and renewable energy sources, improving transportation and reducing industrial pollution. This is an ambitious plan but if anybody can get things done, it’s Mayor Daley.

“We can’t solve the world’s climate change problem in Chicago, but we can do our part,” Daley was quoted as saying. “We have a shared responsibility to protect our planet.” I am very happy that he sees it this way; it is important that more people do.

The Kyoto protocols for global warming call for everyone to cut emissions to 1/5 the levels reported in 1990 and do it by 2050, a generous time line that should be doable. This is Mayor Daley’s first step towards achieving that goal for the city of Chicago.

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I saw this on Channel 13, a local news station here in Central Florida. Which is sort of strange considering it is all about Cincinnati, which is in Ohio. It seems, according to the broadcast I saw, that Cincinnati wants to position itself as a leader in the “green roof movement” as they put it. What it boils down to is that Cincinnati wants more “green rooftops” in the city. If you saw my post on “Solar On The Cheap: Go White!” you already know one kind of greening the rooftops but this is something different altogether. Actually, I think it’s sort of cool.

The Ohio city council became the first city with a plan to channel grants and loans to residents and businesses to replace tar and shingles with vegetation. Yes, that’s right. Vegetation. This is a more literal method of “greening” the rooftops and it’s a fantastic method of reducing storm water runoff, filtering pollutants from the city below and as a bonus, it cuts heating and cooling costs in those large city centered buildings and building complexes. This is a movement of sorts that began in Europe.. can’t you just see all those Mediterranean rooftops in cities like Tuscany and Barcelona, overgrown with gorgeous plants? I mean, really, I thought they were all that way already with the lovely vines and window plants just trailing all over the place….

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If you are a homeowner who has considered going over to solar you know the pitfalls and difficulties you have faced in the past. First of all, it is very expensive. Most people just cannot afford this kind of investment up front, even if it does mean big savings down the line. And then there is the overall confusion among all of us about which systems are available and which will work for you. Toss in the various rebates and incentives and you have a recipe for surrender. Most homeowners just flat out give up out of exasperation, even if they still long for this change.

Enter 1BOG (One Block off the Grid). This new organization is trying to take some of the confusion and expense out of trying to buy solar. 1BOG was formed earlier this year in San Fransisco and it’s main goal is to organize all interested parties and having them buy into solar upgrades on a collective level. They ran their first effort his past summer and found that their idea slashed the prices of solar, including materials AND installation by a whopping 43%! This total is pretty accurate, it even includes all the federal, state and local rebates. On the heels of this success, they are now in the process of expanding this effort into 11 other major cities like Los Angeles, San Diego and Denver.

The entire concept, pulling together large groups of consumers, amplifies buying power and enables the group to negotiate discounts from suppliers and installers, often for a substantial amount. This brings down the overall cost of this upgrade for all of the participants. It’s sort of like a carpool idea. Everybody rides in the same car and then everybody saves on gas. Imagine if all of you bought a single car and then shared it. This concept puts solar power with the reach of many consumers for the first time in our history.

This concept was the baby of a husband and wife team, a former advertising executive and a Silicon Valley software executive. They created the organization after going the grueling learning experience of researching, buying and installing solar on their own home in California. Once they were done, they had a real education in the process and realized that the project was way too challenging for many folk. They first created a website, Solar4SF.org, for the purpose of simply sharing what they’d learned. They wanted to save everyone else the headache of doing what they had accomplished after so much work.

Along with the website, they also spread the word through community gatherings like flea markets. By the beginning of this past summer they had the first group of 100 people signed up. 1BOG then sent out requests for proposals from vendors in their area; sort of like bidding on a major contract. Their first winning bidder was Real Goods Solar, a company in California that is known for making the very first solar panel sale in the USA over 30 years ago.

At this time,1BOG is a volunteer organization but they are hoping to be successful enough to turn it into a for profit company and be able to hire paid employees. But first and foremost they wish to spread the use of renewable energies, no matter what time and effort that actually takes.

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