Sustainability Blog - The Grid
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.
Sure, it would be rash to describe Hurricane Sandy as climate change incarnate. But it does make one wonder just how much longer we can ignore the bigger picture.
The bigger picture is that of a storm eating the northeastern United States from the Carolinas in the South to Lake Michigan in the West. More than 60 million Americans have been affected, many of them in areas where hurricane damages have not historically been a concern. Initial estimates by Eqecat put insured losses at $10 billion to $20 billion, with up to another $50 billion in economic damages. Once economists tally the total losses from property damage to homes, stores, cars, and utilities, as well as the opportunity costs of foregone wages and other productivity losses, the figure is likely to be even higher.
Hurricane Sandy was a massive and deadly storm, extending more than 1,000 miles, bringing huge waves and more than 13 feet of water to parts of New York City. In Manhattan, floods swept away cars and overflowed subway stations. Along the Jersey shore, homes, property, and businesses were washed away in just a few hours. More than 8 million people in the northeastern United States lost power. Tens of millions more have been affected. And, tragically at least 160 people lost their lives in total. Outside of the United States, six Caribbean countries were battered by the storm, taking lives and destroying property as it struck. Some early estimates say the storm will cost $50 billion; others say it will be more.
Sadly, science tells us that this type of event will become much more common as our climate continues to change.
Research has shown for several years that Manhattan faces serious flood risk.
A 2008 study concluded that New York was vulnerable to storm-surge flooding from even a moderate storm and recommended that local authorities build protections as other cities have. The Fox Point Hurricane Barrier, which spans the Providence River in Rhode Island, was built in the middle of the last century after major storms. London's Thames Barrier has protected London since 1982.
As Hurricane Sandy approaches the New York, the New York Stock Exchange has closed, shut down by weather for the first time since a Hurricane Gloria, 27 years ago (a decision perhaps helped along by the fact that New York has shut down the subways and evacuated parts of downtown).
Already responsible as of yesterday for 65 deaths in the Caribbean, the hurricane is now threatening much of the East Coasr. In addition to considering the human toll, it's worth thinking about the more general question of how the market handles the "fat tail" risk of a major hurricane. The National Weather Service's excellent hurricane map shows a 30% to 40% risk (that's the yellow band in the map above) of 50-knot (58-mph/93-kmh) winds in New York.