Sustainability Blog - The Grid
InsideClimateNews.org (Bonn, Germany) — On the afternoon of April 29, 1986, West Germany's Interior Minister Friedrich Zimmermann walked out of a meeting with the Commission on Radiological Protection and spoke to a TV reporter.
"There is no danger," Zimmermann assured millions of anxious viewers. "Chernobyl is 2,000 kilometers away."
In the halting, measured language we’ve come to expect from his impromptu public remarks, President Obama posed a core dilemma of climate change yesterday at his first post-election press conference. Explaining the possible repercussions of failing to act now, he said, climate change “is going to have an impact and a cost down the road, if we don't do something about it."
Whether to pay for an energy transformation now, or take our chances with climate impacts and costs "down the road," is a key, polarizing economic question within climate change policy. Another way of framing it is this: What's the future worth to you?
When companies pollute the environment, support corrupt governments, or allow executives to make drastic decisions with little oversight, they put their business at risk. That’s why institutional investors are now employing sustainable investing strategies in more than $3.7 trillion of investments -- a 22 percent increase in two years, a study found.
Hospitals, retirees, pensions, banks and religious institutions used sustainable and responsible investing (SRI) strategies for $1 out of every $9 invested in the U.S. at the end of 2011, according to the report, released yesterday by US SIF, a Washington-based nonprofit that tracks SRI investing on behalf of member investors. Total investments guided by such strategies increased six-fold since 1995.
NASA scientists produced this image to study the behavior of aerosols -- tiny airborne particles -- in the Earth's climate system. Dust, in red, is lifted from the surface. Sea salt, in blue, swirls inside cyclones. Smoke, in green, rises from fires. Sulfate particles, in white, stream from volcanoes and fossil fuel emissions, NASA writes.
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InsideClimateNews (Berlin) -- The view from the Reichstag roof on a sun-drenched spring afternoon is spectacular. Looking out over Berlin from the seat of the German government, you can see the full sweep of the nation's history: from Humboldt University, where Albert Einstein taught physics for two decades, to the site of the former Gestapo headquarters.
I'm not here to see this country's freighted past, however. I've come to learn about what a majority of Germans believe is their future—and perhaps our own. There is no better place to begin this adventure than the Reichstag, rebuilt from near ruins in 1999 and now both a symbol and an example of the revolutionary movement known as the Energiewende. The word translates simply as, "energy change." But there's nothing simple about the Energiewende. It calls for an end to the use of fossil fuels and nuclear power and embraces clean, renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and biomass. The government has set a target of 80 percent renewable power by 2050, but many Germans I spoke with in three weeks traveling across this country believe 100 percent renewable power is achievable by then.
InsideClimateNews.org (Zingst, Germany) —"What an eyesore, huh?" the man standing next to me on the beach said, nodding in the direction of a little girl flying a kite. The man, in his mid-40s, seemed to enjoy my confusion. He waited a beat before pointing beyond the girl, far out into the Baltic Sea. "There," he said, smiling to make sure I understood his sarcasm. "The 'ugly' wind farm."
Staring hard, it was barely possible to make out the turbines on the horizon. Ten miles from shore, the Baltic 1 Wind Farm seemed as small and insubstantial as the scruffy grass along the coast. But, in fact, each of the nearly two dozen turbines is as tall as a 27-story building and has fiberglass epoxy blades nearly 150 feet long. Work has already begun on wind farms with even larger turbines that will generate twice the power of those at Baltic 1, enough to supply 250,000 households with electricity.
Harvard Business Review -- President Obama has some unfinished business to attend to, and taking care of it will require help and support from corporate leaders across the country.
When he ran for president in 2008, Obama made three big promises: end the Iraq War, extend health care coverage to all Americans, and take federal action to reduce the threat of global climate change. He delivered on the first two. And though his Administration made some progress on emissions reduction by doubling federal fuel economy standards for passenger vehicles, the president chose not to move comprehensive climate legislation through a recalcitrant Senate in the wake of the Great Recession. After 2010, climate all but disappeared from the national conversation.
World Resources Institute -- With President Obama’s re-election, he has the opportunity to extend his legacy and take on big challenges. Climate change stands high on the list of issues that need to be addressed. As the President said in his acceptance speech:
“We want our children to live in an America that isn’t burdened by debt, that isn’t weakened by inequality, that isn’t threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet.”
In the final days of the campaign, Hurricane Sandy provided a wake-up call about the impacts of climate change. Recent extreme weather and climate events make clear that ignoring climate change will be costly in human, environmental, and economic terms for the United States and the world. How President Obama addresses climate and energy issues will help define his legacy.
Agriculture and industry produce huge amounts of leftover carbon -- hiding in the tips and branches of trees, stalks, husks and other plant material. If only there was a way to put it to good use.
Kior Inc. announced today the opening of its first commercial-scale plant designed to do just that. The facility, located in Columbus, Mississippi, at full capacity will take in 500 tons of biomass a day and transform it into what sounds like a contradiction in terms -- 40,000 gallons a day of gasoline and diesel that could help companies meet their renewable energy goals or mandates. Kior's next plants may be at least three times as large. The company’s technology uses catalysts to vaporize biomass, removing the oxygen and condensing the remainder to oil that can be refined into cellulosic gasoline, diesel and jet fuel. Silicon Valley powerhouse Khosla Ventures owns more than half of the five-year-old company, which is based in Pasadena, Texas.
Eleven years, one month, three weeks and five days ago I stood on West Street in southern Manhattan and watched many hundreds of people murdered, as a gray avalanche of concrete, glass and steel poured forth from a disintegrating tower to the street below. The 9/11 attacks changed everything, for all time, and we all felt it instantaneously.
Superstorm Sandy delivers a message first heard on Sept. 11, 2001: New York, as a proxy for the United States, is unprepared for anticipated 21st century threats.