Sustainability Blog - The Grid
“This is not a place we should be delivering water on trucks.”
Sean Ono Lennon, the musician and son of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, was holding a mic, but he wasn't singing. He was addressing about 30 passengers from the front of a bus driving through wooded, snow-dusted northeastern Pennsylvania. Josh Fox, director of the 2010 documentary Gasland, sat in the front row, looking up at Lennon from under his signature New York Yankees cap. Ono was four rows back, her gray fedora tilted starboard.
With more than half of the world’s population now urban, cities are natural venues for business, government and community efforts to identify key economic drivers of the early 21st century. Cities have the scale to effect real environmental change and -- in many cases unlike their national governments -- the political will to do so.
Singapore has become an internationally recognized leader among global cities, for its forward-looking policy goals and strong execution. The southeast Asian city-state was found to be literally in a class by itself (pdf) -- “Well Above Average” -- of the 22 Asian cities analyzed by the Economist Intelligence Unit for the Siemens Green City Index. PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP ranked it the world’s leader in transportation and infrastructure in its Cities of Opportunity, 2012 report. Bloomberg editors and reporters took in the Singapore experiment firsthand in December, at the Bloomberg Businessweek Global Green Summit. Bloomberg New Energy Finance just published a conference overview in its Results Book (pdf).
As we enter 2013, there are signs of growth and economic advancement around the world. The global middle class is booming. More people are moving into cities. And the quality of life for millions is improving at an unprecedented pace.
Yet, there are also stark warnings of mounting pressures on natural resources and the climate. Consider: 2012 was the hottest year on record for the continental United States. There have been 36 consecutive years in which global temperatures have been above normal. Carbon dioxide emissions are on the rise – last year the world added about 3 percent more carbon emissions to the atmosphere. All of these pressures are bringing more climate impacts: droughts, wildfires, rising seas, and intense storms.
Wednesday, Bloomberg reported that Chinese solar stocks had soared based on market expectations that demand in China for alternative energy will increase given the Chinese government's increasing solar capacity targets. Earlier this week, China's National Energy Administration announced its intention to add 10 gigawatts of solar power capacity in 2013, more than twice its current level. According to Barron's and others, China has already begun implementing its ambitious plan to increase installations. It previously approved the Golden Sun initiative for the first half of this year and committed prodigious amounts of government cash to the sector.
China has also begun offering subsidies for rooftop solar projects. These aren't controversial production-side subsidies (of the kind that have been challenged as contravening international trade agreements) but rather incentivizing domestic subsidies intended to help Chinese citizens and organizations to purchase solar systems at an affordable price. This week, the share price of Trina Solar Ltd. the nation's third-biggest maker of solar panels, jumped to the highest level in five months even as that of LDK Solar Co. rallied 7.7 percent.
A year-old energy-industry organization released a report today that describes a global clean-energy market of more than $1 trillion and how businesses in the United States can get a bigger piece of it.
Advanced Energy Economy (AEE) has set out with lofty goals and a staff of 20 to help U.S. businesses sort through the expanding opportunities they face today in generating, selling and buying electricity and fuel. The San Francisco-based group has opened chapters in seven states and one in New England, as it tries to rewire professional networks to make it easier for businesses to educate themselves, develop policy and share data. Think of it as a Chamber of Commerce for energy sources cleaner than coal or oil.
Cough, sore throat, body aches, fever. If you've typed these words into Google recently, you're not alone.
This year's flu season is off to a fast and furious start. The chart above shows data from Google's influenza tracker, which analyzes how often people are searching for flu-related terms on Google to estimate how many people have fallen ill. Google's model was developed with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and can show changes in the trajectory of an epidemic before they appear in data collected from doctors and hospitals.
In its mission statement, Harvard University says it “expects that the scholarship and collegiality it fosters in its students will lead them in their later lives to advance knowledge, to promote understanding, and to serve society.” Similar aspirations can be found at Yale, Stanford, the University of Chicago, Emory University, and probably all of their peers. These missions are similar and laudable — for their graduates to contribute to society as a whole.
These five schools share another thing: None of their endowments is a member of the U.N.-backed Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI). The PRI initiative encourages major investors to begin future-proofing their portfolios. They agree to embed analysis of environmental, social and corporate-governance (ESG) risks into their practices and decisions. They seek better risk disclosure from companies they invest in. They promote PRI-backed practices within the investment industry. They also each report every year on their own progress.
To say that 2012 was hot is an understatement. The average temperature in the contiguous U.S. last year was 55.3 degrees Fahrenheit, 3.2 degrees hotter than the 20th century average and 1 degree hotter than the previous record.
One degree may not sound sound like much, but the chart above, by NOAA's National Climatic Data Center, shows just what a big deal it really is. Each line displays year-to-date temperature anomalies, going back to 1895. Significant deviations from the average temperature are rare; a small fraction of a degree separates each year. Just 0.2 degree separates the previous record average temperature holder -- 54.3 degrees in 1998 -- from the one before that, 1934.
InsideClimateNews.org -- A committee that advises the federal government on how to make offshore oil drilling safer could be disbanded next month, even as the recent grounding of a Shell rig in Alaska is drawing new attention to the dangers of deepwater drilling.
The Ocean Energy Safety Advisory Committee (OESC), an advisory panel to the Department of Interior, was created after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill to gather input from a variety of stakeholders about the government's drilling policies. The 15-member panel—composed of government officials, academics, industry representatives and environmentalists—will meet today and Thursday for what could be its last meeting.