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Climate Expert James Hansen: The Planet May Become Ungovernable

The repercussions of climate disruption are still not being acknowledged fully, warned climatologist Dr. James Hansen, addressing an audience of Baby Boomer and Greatest Generation climate activists on September 9.

Dr. Jim Hansen

“We’ve now got an emergency,” he told about 150 “elder activists” at Calvary Baptist Church in Washington, DC, who were participating in Grandparents Climate Action Day.

Hansen — formerly NASA’s head climate scientist, now adjunct professor at Columbia University — is probably best known for bringing definitive evidence of global warming to Congress in testimony in 1988. In July of this year, he released a report with sixteen co-authors studying glacier melt in Greenland and Antarctica. Unlike previous models, the new report takes into account some feedback loops which may be hastening the loss of ice sheet mass far faster than anticipated.

Time is running out to transition to renewable energy, Hansen said, yet the most “relevant” people in power aren’t aware of the situation’s gravity. “Even people who go around saying, ‘We have a planet in peril,’ don’t get it. Until we’re aware of our future, we can’t deal with it.”

Mass species extinction, extreme weather events, dry spells and fires are climate change impacts which are happening now. A warmer atmosphere and warmer oceans can lead to stronger storms, he explained. Superstorm Sandy, for example, remained a hurricane all the way up the Eastern seaboard to New York because Atlantic waters were abnormally warm.

“Amplifying impacts” and feedback loops will accelerate the changes, according to Hansen. “It will happen faster than you think,” he said. If major coastal cities become “dysfunctional” because of sea level rise, as he believes is possible, the global economy could be in peril of collapse.

It is therefore imperative to stop using coal, oil and gas as energy sources now. “We’ve already burned as much as we can afford,” he said. Fossil fuels already burned will continue to have impacts, because the climate system “has inertia.” “We’ve only felt the warming for half of the gases that are up there,” he said.

The use of fossil fuels is still on the rise in spite of the dangers, he said, because governments subsidize them and don’t make companies bear the real costs to society. The only viable way to make the price of fossil fuels “honest,” in his opinion, is to implement a “fee and dividend” system.

While Hansen denounced “unfettered capitalism”and “scary” trade agreements in the works, he believes government regulation can steer captains of industry onto the right path. “We’ve got to make the system work for us,” he said. “If you properly harness the market, it will work for you.”

He gave an example of incentives and tax breaks for solar panels, which he has on his own home, and how he contributes electricity to the grid. Yet one audience member took issue with a corruption-free scenario. “Come to Virginia, I dare you!” he said. (In Virginia, where Dominion Virginia Power has a stranglehold on state politics, “standby” fees and other barriers stifle solar panel installation by individuals.)

Hansen, a grandparent himself, was the keynote speaker at Grandparents Climate Action Day, an event to mobilize elder activists and promote a policy agenda aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Hansen believes elders possess resources and wisdom which, combined with the zeal of youth, can help find solutions to climate change. “Older people have a lot of clout, a lot of votes, and time,” he said. With more older people getting involved, there will be more pressure to make needed changes.

Fellow speaker John Sorensen, co-founder of the Conscious Elders Network, echoed this point. The 80 million elders in the U.S. — 25 percent of the population — are living longer and healthier lives with more time and resources to devote to activism.

Hansen is supporting a lawsuit in which 21 young people are suing the U.S. government. (One of the plaintiffs is his granddaughter Sophie.) The lawsuit alleges that the federal government knew decades ago that burning fossil fuels and climate were linked, but continued on the same course anyway.

In his testimony for Youth v. Obama, Hansen said, “In my opinion, this lawsuit is made necessary by the at-best schizophrenic, if not suicidal, nature of U.S. climate and energy policy.”

The judiciary, he believes, is the only viable recourse left for the younger generation, “because the courts will be less under the thumb of the fossil fuel industry.”

“Young people have all these rights that are guaranteed by the constitution, and that’s what we’re asking the courts to look at, and I think this may be our best chance to force the government to do its job,” he said.

Most of the elders participating in Grandparents Climate Action Day probably won’t live to see the worst effects of climate change, yet they were eager to learn about the earth future generations will inherit. One participant explained her reason for being there. After working with children for her whole career, she realized that “all of it mean[s] nothing if we don’t have a livable planet.”

“Young people have all these rights that are guaranteed by the constitution, and that’s what we’re asking the courts to look at, and I think this may be our best chance to force the government to do its job,” he said.

Most of the elders participating in Grandparents Climate Action Day probably won’t live to see the worst effects of climate change, yet they were eager to learn about the earth future generations will inherit. One participant explained her reason for being there. After working with children for her whole career, she realized that “all of it mean[s] nothing if we don’t have a livable planet.” More

 

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Caribbean States ‘lighting path’ towards sustainable future, says UN chief in Barbados

“I want to salute Caribbean countries for taking on ambitious renewable energy targets. By 2020, for example, Barbados will be one of the world’s top five leading users of solar energy on a per capita basis. You are lighting the path to the future,


Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon My main message to you is to remain fully engaged and keep working with us to strengthen our partnership during this vital year for humanity. Together, we can build a better, more sustainable world, for all.said during a high-level symposium focused on sustainable development in the Caribbean.

This meeting was among the UN chief’s first stops in Barbados, where later on Thursdayhe is expected to make opening remarks to the 2015 Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Summit, and where tomorrow, he will, among others, hold an interactive dialogue at the University of the West Indies.


“Twenty years ago, this very building was the site of the First Global Conference on Small Island Developing States that adopted the Barbados Programme of Action – the first compact between this group and the international community,” he noticed


For small island developing States, Ban added, this space is “hallowed ground.”

Encouraged by the presence of so many leaders of governments, regional and international organizations, the private sector, academia, and civil society, the Secretary-General highlighted the “continuing Caribbean commitment to put our world on a safer, more sustainable and equitable pathway,” a few days from theThird International Conference on Financing for Development in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

“As leaders of some of the most vulnerable countries in the world, you don’t need to be told that our planet is at grave risk. You are on the climate frontlines. You see it every day,” he continued.

Convinced that sustainable development and climate change are “two sides of the same coin,” the UN top official went on to say that this generation could be the first to end global poverty, and the last to prevent the worst impacts of global warming “before it is too late.”


To get there, he underlined, the international community must make sure that the proposed sustainable development goals (SDGs) are “focused, financed and followed up – with real targets, real money and a real determination to achieve them.”


Considering these goals as a sort of a “to-do list for people and the planet”, Ban emphasized that it will take partnerships to make that happen. In that regard, he said, the Third International Conference on Small Islands Developing States in Samoa last year laid a pathway for collective action and success within the post-2015 development agenda.


But, as the world prepares for a new sustainability framework and the sustainable development goals, a number of critical partnership areas must be strengthened, in particular the need for capacity building; financing; access to technology; and improved data collection and statistics.

Member States also must continue working together to link the global agenda to regional agendas and to deepen regional integration and to address the “unique needs and vulnerabilities” of small island developing states and middle-income countries, such as the debt challenge.

“And we need to keep forging the way forward towards a low-carbon, climate-resilient development pathway that will benefit both people and the planet,” the Secretary-General underlined.

He gave the assurance that, through the Green Climate Fund, and in working with world leaders, he will continue to insist that small islands and least developed countries are top funding priorities.


“My main message to you is to remain fully engaged and keep working with us to strengthen our partnership during this vital year for humanity. Together, we can build a better, more sustainable world, for all.”

Later, in an address to an event on ending violence against women, the Secretary-General said the Caribbean has among the highest rates of sexual assault in the world. Three Caribbean countries are in the global top ten for recorded rapes. Moreover, he noted that in the eastern Caribbean, UNICEF estimates that child sexual abuse rates are between 20 and 45 per cent – meaning at least one in five precious children are affected. Most are girls who have no choice but to live close to their attacker.

“They desperately need our help. Too many women are afraid to seek help. One study showed that up to two thirds of all victims suffer without ever reporting the crime. I am outraged by this. Shame belongs to the perpetrators – not the victiWe have to change mindsets – especially among men,” declared the UN chief.

In that light, he said he was proud to be the first man to sign onto the UN’s HeForShecampaign, and he invited more men to take the HeForShe pledge.

“I encourage you to join UNICEF’s End Violence global campaign. And every day, I count on all of you to work for true equality.”


In the margins of the 36th meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community in Barbados, the Secretary-General met with Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Maxine McClean, of Barbados, a country he congratulated for its upcoming leadership of CARICOM. More

 

 

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High-level Event Discusses Renewable Energy in SIDS


News: High-level Event Discusses Renewable Energy in SIDS

1 September 2014: Participants recognized sustainable energy for all as a tool for eradicating poverty, combating climate change, creating economic opportunities and achieving sustainable development for all small island developing States (SIDS), at a high-level side event, titled ‘Linking SIDS and Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL): From Barbados to Samoa, and Beyond.' The event took place on the sidelines of the Third International Conference on SIDS, in Apia, Samoa, on 1 September 2014.


The SE4ALL side event aimed to build on commitments from the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or Rio+20+) and the Barbados SIDS High-Level Conference on SE4ALL, to take stock of progress since these events and chart the way forward to ensure sustainable energy for all SIDS.


Speaking at the event, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said achieving the three targets of the SE4ALL initiative is an important part of putting the world on a pathway for keeping temperature rise below two degrees Celsius. He outlined the need for a new energy paradigm, particularly for SIDS, who he said are particularly vulnerable to climate change and faced inflated energy costs due to their remoteness, and he welcomed the proposal of a dedicated Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) on sustainable energy for all with a focus on access, efficiency and renewables. Ban encouraged all leaders to “bring bold actions and ideas and strong political vision and political will” to the UN Climate Summit.


“SIDS are creating opportunities and examples that, if replicated worldwide, could lead the transition from fossil fuel energy to renewable and sustainable energy,” said UN General Assembly President John Ashe in his remarks.


The panel was moderated by Helen Clark, UN Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator, and featured: Adnan Amin, Director-General, International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA); Camillo Gonsalves, Foreign Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines; Salvatore Bernabei, General Manager, Enel Green Power Chile and Andean Countries; Naoko Ishii, CEO and Chairperson of the Global Environment Facility (GEF); and Reginald Burke, Caribbean Policy Development Centre. Key messages included the importance of reducing risk to catalyze private investment, the leadership being taken by SIDS, and various SIDS initiatives on sustainable energy, such as SIDS Dock and IRENA's SIDS Lighthouse project.


Participants highlighted: energy costs and energy security; climate change; and challenges and vulnerabilities faced by SIDS, including their small size and the high costs of importing fossil fuels. They stressed SIDS' renewable energy potential and the importance of addressing energy access and efficiency, highlighting the role of partnerships to address these issues. [UN Press Release] [UN Secretary-General Statement] [UNDP Administrator Remarks] [IISD RS Meeting Coverage, 1 September] [IISD RS Sources]



read more: http://energy-l.iisd.org/news/high-level-event-discusses-renewable-energy-in-sids/


 

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Can This Transform the Caribbean?

In the immortal words of Montserratian singer/songwriter, Arrow, the Caribbean is “…feelin’ hot, hot, hot!” And, that’s a good thing.

With a little help from Mother Nature, the islands of the Caribbean are learning to harness the power of high temperature geothermal energy beneath the earth’s surface.

In an effort to move away from reliance on expensive, fossil-fueled, diesel-powered generators toward a dependable, eco-friendly source of renewable energy, a number of forward-thinking Caribbean islands are aggressively searching for and identifying alternative sources of power beneath the surface.

Energy self-sufficiency, long sought-after by local governments may soon become a reality for some islands in the Caribbean.

While the road to sustainable geothermal power generation has no short cuts and faces a number of financial, administrative and physical challenges, the rewards can be substantial in the long-run.

Geothermal power produces an environmentally-friendly, long-lasting energy source that can provide electricity at significantly lower cost and, in some cases, may produce enough excess power, exported via submarine cables, to create a revenue stream between islands.

The Caribbean island of Montserrat is among the leaders in geothermal exploration.

It is also on a mission of rebirth from the devastation caused by the eruption of the Soufrière Volcano in the mid-1990s which destroyed the capital town of Plymouth, left more than half of the island’s residents homeless and covered more than 30 percent of the island with lava and ash.

Today, Montserrat has plans for a new capital town, a new port, a vibrant hospitality and tourism industry and the regeneration of private enterprise equipped with a sustainable infrastructure. Geothermal power will play a major role in this transformation.

Ironically, the same geological forces that created the Soufrière Volcano will now be harnessed to power the island’s electricity grid from a geothermal source. Iceland Drilling Company Ltd., a leading high-tech company in the field of high temperature deep geothermal drilling, has successfully tested two geothermal wells on Montserrat and the foundation is now in place for a third well backed by the UK government, part of its continuing support for the British Overseas Territory’s Master Plan for Growth.

It is our hope that Montserrat’s geothermal resources and sustainable, “green” energy infrastructure will attract environmentally-conscious developers and investors as “founding fathers” of our new capital town.

Ultimately, “going green” in Montserrat may help the nation move to the forefront in eco-tourism while driving a self-sufficient economic future.

In Dominica, geothermal exploration supported by the European Union brings with it the hopes of clean energy generation sufficient to supply the entire island and provide electricity for export as well.

Nevis, another volcanic island, is hoping to become a regional supplier of power to nearby St. Kitts, among others, and has said it intends to begin exploratory well-digging at various sites around the island.

Geothermal power has the possibility of transforming the Caribbean.

It will allow for a rise in the standard of living, an increase in job opportunities and a cleaner environment for residents and visitors to enjoy.

If nations can reduce, or eliminate, their reliance on expensive, environmentally harmful fossil fuels, they will not only pave the way for energy independence but also create an attractive environment for investors to support sustainable practices and economic development that will benefit the entire region. More

 

 

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Goodbye gasoline… first green LEAF arrives in the Cayman Islands

GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands — The NCB group in the Cayman Islands has purchased the very first new all-electric Nissan LEAF in the Caribbean, reinforcing its commitment to environmental sustainability.

“NCB Group is proud to be a part of the innovative movement towards electric cars in the Cayman Islands,” said Matthew Wight, managing director.

Considered the premier residential developer in the Cayman Islands, the NCB group is seeking to further reduce its ecological footprint in an effort to protect the Caribbean and the planet from harmful greenhouse gasses.

Wight said that he drives electric vehicles because he knows that he is helping the environment.

“As a company, we strive to employ sustainable and green technologies when we build our residential and commercial projects and we wanted to carry this mission through to the vehicles we drive,” he explained.

Driving a Nissan LEAF – a 100% electric car — has been extremely rewarding “in the sense that the LEAF does not use a single drop of gas. It has no tailpipe, no fumes and produces zero emissions,” he said.

“As we build with Cayman’s future in mind we are also looking to alternative energy sources in everything we do with the goal to be as eco-conscious as possible,” Wight added.

For nearly a decade John Felder, president and CEO of Cayman Automotive Leasing, has been at the forefront of the burgeoning electric vehicle industry in the Caribbean.

His hope is to see electric vehicles being driven in every country in the Caribbean and eventually the world in years to come.

“I applaud Mr Matthew Wight and NCB for investing in the future for a cleaner and healthier environment. The energy generated to power the Nissan LEAF and the energy to move the car is 97% cleaner in terms of noxious pollutants,” Felder said.

The Nissan LEAF boasts one of the quietest and smoothest rides ever experienced. The vehicle does not have a gas tank and drivers will never have to pay at the pumps again. The motor is powered by an advanced lithium-ion battery, which is half the weight and twice the power of the nickel-metal hydride batteries used in hybrids, and can easily be charged at home, or at any solar panel charging station in Grand Cayman.

Felder is certain that electric cars are the cleanest, most efficient, and most cost effective form of transportation around.

“Electric cars are high performance vehicles that will continue to meet new challenges in the future,” he said. More

 

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Energy Efficiency Simply Makes Sense

What simple tool offers the entire world an extended energy supply, increased energy security, lower carbon emissions, cleaner air and extra time to mitigate climate change? Energy efficiency. What’s more, higher efficiency can avoid infrastructure investment, cut energy bills, improve health, increase competitiveness and enhance consumer welfare — all while more than paying for itself.

Maria van der Hoeven - IEA

The challenge is getting governments, industry and citizens to take the first steps towards making these savings in energy and money.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has long spearheaded a global move toward improved energy efficiency policy and technology in buildings, appliances, transport and industry, as well as end-use applications such as lighting. That’s because the core of our mandate is energy security — the uninterrupted availability of energy at an affordable price. Greater efficiency is a principal way to strengthen that security: it reduces reliance on energy supply, especially imports, for economic growth; mitigates threats to energy security from climate change; and lessens the global economy’s exposure to disruptions in fossil fuel supply.

In short, energy efficiency makes sense.

In 2006, the IEA presented to the Group of Eight leading industrialized nations its 25 energy efficiency recommendations, which identify best practice and policy approaches to realize the full potential of energy efficiency for our member countries. Every two years, the Agency reports on the gains made by member countries, and today we are working with a growing number of international organizations, including the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the Asian Development Bank and the German sustainable development cooperation services provider GIZ.

The opportunities of this “invisible fuel” are many and rich. More than half of the potential savings in industry and a whopping 80 percent of opportunities in the buildings sector worldwide remain untouched. The 25 recommendations, if adopted fully by all 28 IEA members, would save $1 trillion in annual energy costs as well as deliver incalculable security benefits in terms of energy supply and environmental protection.

Achieving even a small fraction of those gains does not require new technological breakthroughs or ruinous capital outlays: the know-how exists, and the investments generate positive returns in fuel savings and increased economic growth. What is required is foresight, patience, changed habits and the removal of the barriers to implementation of measures that are economically viable. For instance, as the World Energy Outlook 2012 demonstrates, investing less than $12 trillion in more energy-efficient technologies would not only quickly pay for itself through reduced energy costs, it would also increase cumulative economic output to 2035 by $18 trillion worldwide.

While current efforts come nowhere close to realizing the full benefits that efficiency offers, some countries are taking big steps forward. Members of the European Union have pledged to cut energy demand by 20 percent by 2020, while Japan plans to trim its electricity consumption 10 percent by 2030. China is committed to reducing the amount of energy needed for each unit of gross domestic product by 16 percent in the next two years. The United States has leaped to the forefront in transportation efficiency standards with new fuel economy rules that could more than double vehicle fuel consumption.

Such transitions entail challenges for policy, and experience shows that government and the private sector must work together to achieve the sustainability goals that societies demand, learning what works and what does not, and following the right path to optimal deployment of technology. Looking forward, energy efficiency will play a vital role in the transition to the secure and sustainable energy future that we all seek. The most secure energy is the barrel or megawatt we never have to use.

Maria van der Hoeven is the Executive Director of the International Energy Agency, an autonomous organization which works to ensure reliable, affordable and clean energy for its 28 member countries and beyond. This commentary appeared first this month in IEA Energy, the Agency’s journal.

 

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World first: Australian solar plant has generated “supercritical” steam that rivals fossil fuels’

A solar thermal test plant in Newcastle, Australia, has generated “supercritical” steam at a pressure of 23.5 mpa (3400 psi) and 570°C (1,058°F).

CSIRO is claiming it as a world record, and it’s a HUGE step for solar thermal energy.

“It's like breaking the sound barrier; this step change proves solar has the potential to compete with the peak performance capabilities of fossil fuel sources,” Dr Alex Wonhas, CSIRO’s Energy Director, told Colin Jeffrey for Gizmag.

The Energy Centre uses a field of more than 600 mirrors (known as heliostats) which are all directed at two towers housing solar receivers and turbines, Gizmag reports.

This supercritical steam is used to drive the world’s most advanced power plant turbines, but previously it’s only been possible to produce it by burning fossil fuels such as coal or gas.

“Instead of relying on burning fossil fuels to produce supercritical steam, this breakthrough demonstrates that the power plants of the future could instead be using the free, zero emission energy of the sun to achieve the same result,” Dr Wonhas explained.

Currently, commercial solar thermal or concentrating solar power power plants only operate a “subcritical” levels, using less pressurised steam. This means that they’ve never been able to match the output or efficiency of the world’s best fossil fuel power plants – until now.

The commercial development of this technology is still a fair way off, but this is an important first step towards a more sustainable future. More

Watch the video to see the plant in action.


 

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