The world needs to ramp up the ambition of its greenhouse gas reduction goals — and do so quickly — if it is to avoid the worst effects of global warming, a U.N. panel of experts warned yesterday. A draft summary of the mitigation section of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s fifth assessment report, released yesterday in Berlin, showed that the world’s current greenhouse gas emissions reduction pledges are likely to hold warming to 3 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels — if countries stick to them. But scientists have warned that if human emissions push warming above 2 degrees Celsius compared with that base line, that will open the door to dangerous and costly shifts in the world’s climate.
Faced with uncertain domestic markets and mounting regulatory pressures over pollution at home, the U.S. coal industry is shifting its focus to some of the poorest nations of the world, where it argues coal should be a primary antidote to global energy poverty. In a sophisticated public relations campaign launched in late February, Peabody Energy Corp., the world’s largest private coal company, argues that policymakers, along with anti-poverty nongovernmental organizations and global investment banks, have overlooked the positive role that coal can play in meeting economic development and even environmental goals throughout the developing world.
International Monetary Fund Director Christine Lagarde told finance ministers today that solving climate change can improve their countries’ bottom lines. Joined by World Bank President Jim Yong Kim and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as they prepared to speak to a gathering of 46 finance ministers on the economics of fighting global warming, Lagarde advocated both a tax on carbon and the elimination of fossil fuel subsidies. “The protection of ecology is an imperative,” she said. “Everybody says it’s mostly physical … [but] dealing with the protection of ecology can be mostly fiscal.” By getting prices right and spurring investment in low-carbon technology, she said, “you can do well for the economy.”
A senior White House security official yesterday downplayed conclusions of a confidential study last year by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission warning that attacks on a handful of high-voltage substations could cause cascading power outages across the United States.
Rand Beers, deputy assistant to the president for homeland security, said at a conference on cybersecurity that a headline finding in the FERC analysis — which was obtained and published by The Wall Street Journal in March — was built on “extraordinarily narrow” assumptions. The likelihood of such an event happening was “of such a low probability as to be next to impossible,” Beers said.
While federal regulatory uncertainty took a predictable toll on the U.S. wind industry in 2013, the American Wind Energy Association’s (AWEA) annual report takes a rosy view of the year ahead, pointing out the record number of new wind farms in the pipeline at the close of 2013, rather than facility closures and job losses. According to the report, released yesterday, more than 12,000 megawatts of new wind capacity was under construction by last December with an additional 5,200 MW on the way thanks to a record 60 power purchase agreements signed last year.
The countries of the world have dragged their feet so long on global warming that the situation is now critical, experts appointed by the United Nations reported Sunday, and only an intensive worldwide push over the next 15 years can stave off potentially disastrous climatic changes later in the century. It remains technically possible to keep planetary warming to a tolerable level, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found, according to areport unveiled here. But even in parts of the world like Europe that have tried hardest, governments are still a long way from taking the steps that are sufficient to do the job, the experts found.
Also on tap for the next work period, which goes until Memorial Day weekend, is the “tax extenders” bill that was voted out of the Finance Committee last week. The bill includes a two-year extension of the production tax credit, which primarily supports wind electricity; a suite of biofuels tax credits; and several incentives designed to make homes and commercial buildings more energy efficient (Greenwire, April 3). Reid said he had discussed the bill with Finance Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) this week and was optimistic the Senate would be able to get it done.
Ranch land has been leased. Roads are being laid under the shadows of seabirds. And the $4 million wind turbines are on order. Wind developers from around the globe have rushed into the Texas Panhandle and Gulf Coast at a pace not seen since the industry’s early days in the mid-2000s. More than 7,000 megawatts of new wind turbines are scheduled to be built by the end of next year, potentially increasing Texas’ wind power capacity by almost 60 percent. Whether developers will be able to carry through as advertised remains to be seen. But the volume of projects underway represents a dramatic acceleration for a Texas wind industry that has seen relatively modest growth since 2010.
t the Environment Virginia Symposium on Tuesday, Virginia’s governor said climate change is real and man-made and that the state’s coastal communities are at risk. “If we want to help the environment tomorrow, we have to make smart, common-sense decisions today. The first big decision is to accept climate change is real,” Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) said. “I believe humans contribute to climate change. I think it’s pretty much settled. I think the impacts are felt today.
One of Congress’ most vocal climate advocates today appealed to like-minded corporations to balance the influence and capital that anti-regulatory companies have spent fanning the flames of climate skepticism. Speaking at a Capitol Hill briefing with pro-climate action companies co-hosted by the umbrella organization Ceres, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) reiterated that he believes legislation to price carbon dioxide emissions is “tantalizingly close” — and perhaps possible as soon as next year. But well-heeled industry groups that have opposed action — he mentioned the fossil fuels industry and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce — have created the illusion that corporate America is a behemoth opposed to any climate change regulation, he said.