Is Monsanto Unstoppable?

Is Monsanto Unstoppable?

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Is Monsanto Unstoppable?

Is Monsanto Unstoppable?

Posted using ShareThis

Is Monsanto Unstoppable?

Is Monsanto Unstoppable?

Posted using ShareThis

Is Monsanto Unstoppable?

Is Monsanto Unstoppable?

Posted using ShareThis

Is Monsanto Unstoppable?

Is Monsanto Unstoppable?

Posted using ShareThis

Biofuel Powered Rocket Reaches Speed of Sound

Biofuels for airplanes are desperately needed. Every time an airplane flies carbon dioxide is emitted. According to Greenpeace UK, flying is ten times worse than traveling by train in terms of impact to the environment. A "significant proportion" of a plane's carbon dioxide emissions is at altitude, according to the International Civil Aviation Organization's Air Transport Bureau.

A biofueled rocket launched this summer in the Mohave Desert reached 20,000 feet and Mach 1, the speed of sound. The biofuel that powered the rocket is Jet Propellant-8 (JP-8), developed and produced by a team of scientists from the University of North Dakota’s Energy and Environmental Research Center (EERC). The fuel was made from canola and soybean oils. The rocket was built by Flometrics, Inc. of San Diego, California.

"This is a unique opportunity for the EERC's renewable fuel," said EERC director Gerald Groenwold.

Carsten Heide, associate director of the EERC said, "We demonstrated that this fuel is a flying fuel, and is 100% renewable and burns clean. It would open up the possibility to run 100% renewable, clean planes."

"The demonstration worked very well, and were are pleased with the fuel. In fact, it performed better than expected," said Steve Harrington, President of Flometrics.

Polish Health Clinic Becomes Energy Efficient

A health clinic in Poland enacts energy efficiency measures.

Small Island Nations Want Deeper Emissions Reductions

The Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) criticized reductions set by G8 and Major Economies Forum (developing countries) in Italy as too weak to protect small island nations from effects of climate change.

G8 nations and Major Economies Forum agreed to a 16 percent reduction by 2020, and to cap temperatures at 3.6 degrees Fahreinheit (two degrees Celsius) above 18th century levels.

AOSIS nations want a 45 reduction by 2020, an 85 percent reduction by 2050, and temperatures capped at 2.7 degrees Fahreinheit (1.5 degrees Celsius).

“Two degrees of temperature rise is still unacceptable, because it exceeds safe thresholds necessary for the protection and survival of small islands,” according to Dessima Williams, Grenada’s U.N. ambassador and head of AOSIS.

“Given the decades-long time lags between accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and changes in average temperatures, a mere temperature goal is insufficient,” Williams said. “Targets need to be specific, measurable, quantifiable and defined by reference to the 1990 baseline emissions agreed to under the Kyoto Protocol.”

“It is a cruel irony that without adequate global commitments, the countries contributing least to global warming will be the ones most affected by its consequences,” Williams added.

Last September the representatives of four Pacific island nations (Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, and Palau) called on developed countries to take specific action on climate change. Kiribati’s President Anote Tong said his country had to create a “long-term merit-based relocation strategy,” because there is the real the possibility that all 100,000 people in Kiribati might have to be relocated.

“This strategy involves the upskilling of our people to make them competitive and marketable at international labour markets,” Tong said.

President Litokwa Tomeing of the Marshall Islands, said, “ If wars have been waged to protect the rights of people to live in freedom, and to safeguard their security, why will they not be waged to protect our right to survive from the onslaught of climate change?”

President Emanuel Mori of Micronesia said, “Already, many islands have experienced inundations of their taro patches and other food crops by saltwater, resulting in decreasing production and crop destruction.”

Vice President Elias Camsek Chin of Palau characterized climate change as a security issue “which has gone unaddressed.” “In the meantime, we cannot wait,” Chin said.

UN Secretary General Ban ki-moon criticized the two-degree target as “not sufficient.” “Much more needs to be done if governments are to seal the deal on a new climate agreement in December in Copenhagen.”

“The countries represented at L'Aquila are responsible for more than 80 per cent of global emissions, and that is why they bear special responsibility for finding a solution to the political impasse,” Ban said. “If they fail to act this year, they will have squandered a unique historical opportunity that may not come again.”

Related posts:

U.S. Expects Less From China

The Wasted Opportunity

Developed Countries Need To Do More

World Leaders Meet For Talks In Bonn

Sulfur Dioxide Emissions Decreased Last Year

When it comes to the environment, any good news is welcomed. Thankfully, there is a bit of good news these days when it comes to sulfur dioxide emissions (SOx). During the first half of 2008, SOx emissions from U.S. power plants dropped c24 percent, according to Genscape, who attributes the reduction to the electricity industry preparing for stricter regulations next year. Nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions decreased five percent in May and eleven percent in June, mainly because of the recession.

"The industry is clearly going through a dress rehearsal for the implementation of the Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR) in 2010, and judging by allowance prices as well as the fundamental data, it is a stellar performance," Genscape said. “Most of the decline in sulfur emissions is not due to the recession or even to the switch from high-sulfur coal to lower sulfur grades and to gas. It makes sense to start cutting emissions early if the equipment is in place… The challenge for producers is to maintain discipline even as the economy recovers.”

Industrial emissions elevate levels of sulfur dioxide, which are then absorbed into plants and soils, captured below and within clouds, and then cause acid rain. According to Greg Lawrence, a water scientist at the U.S. Geological Survey, acid rain and climate change are “closely associated.” Lawrence believes acid rain need to be studied with climate change.

Even low concentrations of sulfur dioxide can harm plants and trees and reduce crop productivity. Higher levels, and especially the acidic deposits from acid rain, will adversely affect both land and water ecosystems,” according to Australia’s National Pollutant Inventory.

Senate Democrats Push for a Climate Change Bill

On June 25, the House passed the American Climate and Energy Security (ACES) Act by a 219 to 212 vote. ACES calls for a 17 percent cut in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2020 from 2005 levels, and an 83 percent reduction by 2050. Yesterday, Senate Democrats in Senate began to push a Senate the climate change bill.

The House bill (ACES) calls for a 17 percent reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2020 from 2005 levels, and an 83 percent reduction by 2050. It would create a cap-and-trade program which would require U.S. industries to purchase emissions permits.

Some environmental groups criticized ACES. Greenpeace called it a piece of legislation “already in need of improvement when first released as a discussion draft in March and has become severely worse.” Phil Radford, Greenpeace USA Executive Director, issued the following statement about the House bill:

“Despite the best efforts of Chairman Waxman, this bill has been seriously undermined by the lobbying of industries more concerned with profits than the plight of our planet. While science clearly tells us that only dramatic action can prevent global warming and its catastrophic impacts, this bill has fallen prey to political infighting and industry pressure. We cannot support this bill in its current state. We call on President Obama and leaders in Congress to get back to work and produce a bill, based on science, which presents a clear road map for significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions, transforms our economy with clean, renewable energy technology, generates new green jobs and shows real leadership internationally.”

Friends of the Earth (FOE) criticized ACES because it would eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency’s current authority to reduce GHG emissions under the Clean Air Act. FOE called the cap-and-trade system ACES would create “flawed,” and stated that it would “undermine investment in technology development.”

FOE also criticized ACES for lacking “significant penalties for corporations that violate it,” unlike the Clean Air Act. If the cap-and-trade system experiences problems, “the EPA will not be allowed to step into the breach.”

David Hamilton of the Sierra Club questioned the effectiveness of ACES cap-and-trade system, but hoped that environmental groups would be successful in pushing for a better Senate bill. "Do, at some point, we try to bank what the politics allows?" Hamilton said. "Our judgment in this case is that we're going to keep trying with the bill" in the Senate.

Frank O’Donnell of the Clean Air Watch said “We’re saying it sure as heck ought to get better in the Senate, or it’s going to be a sorry day.”

Democratic House members who voted for the bill expressed their objections to it. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (OH) said, in a statement, ACES “might make the problem worse.” He listed aspects of the bill he thinks are problematic:

  1. Overall targets are too weak.
  2. The offsets undercut the emission reductions.
  3. It delays significant emissions reductions.
  4. EPA’s authority to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the short- to medium-term is rescinded.
  5. Nuclear power is given a lifeline instead of phasing it out.
  6. Dirty Coal is given a lifeline instead of phasing it out.
  7. The $60 billion allocated for Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS) is triple the amount of money for basic research and development in the bill.
  8. Carbon markets can and will be manipulated using the same Wall Street sleights of hand that brought us the financial crisis.
  9. It is regressive. Free allocations doled out with the intent of blunting the effects on those of modest means will pale in comparison to the allocations that go to polluters and special interests.
  10. The Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) is not an improvement. The 15% RES standard would be achieved even if we failed to act.
  11. Dirty energy options qualify as “renewable.”
  12. It undermines our bargaining position in international negotiations in Copenhagen and beyond.
  13. International assistance is much less than demanded by developing countries.

Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Tex.) issued a statement saying he couldn't support the bill as written because “it is too weak to greatly spur new technologies and green jobs.”

What is a Lifestyle Media Company?

A new approach to consumers is needed, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) where consumers are helped to “maximize their limited time and attention to create a rich, personalized, and social media environment.” PWC calls the approach lifestyle media.

PWC published a report about lifestyle media in 2006. The report listed two components which a company needs to achieve the goal of lifestyle media: new content distribution models that put consumers in control, and scalable data about what consumers are watching, doing, and creating. Companies that take the lifestyle media approach “will become viable consumer gateways,” according to the report.

Examples of lifestyle media companies

A few months ago I searched for aluminum reusable water bottles, and discovered the company, Gaiam. Calling itself a “lifestyle media company,” Gaiam sells more than just aluminum water bottle, but fitness wear and equipment, DVDs, books, bedding, and home décor. Its media titles are sold in Target, Whole Foods Market and Best Buy

Founded in 1988, the Boulder, Colorado based company took its name from a fusion of the word Gaia (which means mother earth) and I am. Seven years ago it coined the term Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability (LOHAS). The acronym, LOHAS is now commonly used by everything from Business Week to environmental websites.

Gaiam’s business model has three “concentric circles” which include content (information), offerings (products), and channels (communicate with customers). Its code of ethics is the following:

  • Say what we mean and stand for what is right.
  • Be honest and trustworthy in all of our activities, relationships and communications.
  • Foster an atmosphere in which fair employment practices extend to every member of the Gaiam community.
  • To ensure that we treat one another with dignity and respect, appreciating the diversity and uniqueness of all of our members.
  • Strive to create a safe and supportive workplace, promote healthy lifestyles, foster and encourage personal development, and protect the environment and all living things.
  • Through leadership at all levels, sustain a culture where ethical conduct is recognized, valued and exemplified by all employees.
  • Understand and obey the applicable laws and regulations governing our business conduct in all of the jurisdictions in which we operate.

Gaiam also maintains a blog on its website, called Stream of Consciousness. The blog contains articles about mind-body fitness, health and wellness, green living, and personal growth.

Scripps Networks launched HGTV in 1994, and currently has other televisions networks, including Food, DIY, Fine Living, and Great American Country (GAC). The company also publishes books and magazines, and maintains websites.

Scripps Networks has the following core values:

  1. Diversity
  2. Clarity in communication
  3. Integrity
  4. Compassion/support
  5. Work/life balance
  6. Openness
  7. Humor

Obama Gives Thumbs Up to Clean Energy

Yesterday, President Obama talked about creating a "clean energy economy," and touted the American Climate and Energy Security (ACES) Act, passed lastFriday by the House. ACES will create a cap-and-trade system to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by auctioning offsets.

Watch the following video of Obama's press conference:

What Can Renters and Homeowners Do to be More Energy Efficient?

A senior consultant, Kendra Tupper, with the Rocky Mountain Institute conducted an online chat at today. When asked about energy efficiency, Tupper, an expert on the subject, listed simple things both renters and homeowners can do. Here are Tupper’s recommendations:

For renters

  1. Tenant Fit Out: When you are first fitting out a space, the renter or tenant can choose materials and finishes which are environmentally friendly and have low embodied energy.
  2. Lighting: One of the biggest electricity consumers in office spaces is lighting - this is something the tenants can often retrofit themselves. Look for third generation T8, efficient electronic ballasts, and occupancy sensors and daylight controls (where applicable).
  3. Submetering: Request that your space be submetered (this is most successful if negotiated during the fit out). Even if the tenant has to pay for this, you can often recoup the cost if your able to negotiate utlity billing based on submetering, rather than building wide metering. With this scenario, you realize the cost paybacks of your retrofits.
  4. Cooperate with landlord: Offer to share the up front cost (and utility savings) with your landlord. Lease renogiations are a good time to address collaborative projects, and you can structure the lease to align incentives to make efficiency upgrades.

For homeowners

  1. Programmable thermostats
  2. Energy efficient window shades - thermal or insulated window coverings can add up to R6 to your windows
  3. Seal ductwork with mastic tape to prevent leakage
  4. Weatherstripping, window caulking, and foam barriers behind electric outlet plates to prevent infiltration
  5. Clean refrigerator coils - these should be cleaned twice a year as dust build up prevents the condenser from operating
  6. Shade the condensing unit of your AC unit - this maintains a low temp for the condensing unit and it will run more efficiently
  7. Insulate hot water tank and pipes
  8. Lower the temperature on your DHW tank to reduce heat loss - it shouldn't be set higher than 110F
  9. Plant deciduous trees on the west and south side of the house to block solar heat gain
  10. Turn off power strips when plug loads are not being used

U.S. Expects Less from China

Last week a U.S. delegation meet in Beijing with Chinese officials to talk about the next climate change treaty. Dr. Jonathan Pershing, head of the U.S. delegation, said that developed countries “would take additional action in line with their historical responsibility and capacity,” than developing countries.

“Our intention is to get an agreement we can bring home and have ratified, and we’re pretty optimistic about that,” Pershing said. “US engagement has changed the dynamic of the conversation here. That’s the kind of shift the world community has been waiting for.”

Todd Stern said that China is not expected to “take a national cap at this stage.” The U.S is instead expecting China to continue its efforts to increase energy efficiency and develop renewable energy, “so that China’s emissions can grow slower and start to come down eventually.”

“We understand China's paramount need to grow and develop for its people,” Stern said. “Our demand is that the development, with the available technologies, is based on low-carbon growth.”

Daniel Dudek, chief economist with the Environmental Defense Fund, said, “People, I think, are really trying to understand the negotiating territory and what is in the art of the possible between the two nations," Dudek told China Daily. He added that the U.S. may eventually expect more from China.

The Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqianq told Stern during their meeting, “China has noticed the change of the U.S. government on climate change as well as the positive measures it has taken.”

Stern spoke on June 3 at the Center for American Progress. During the speech he made it clear that reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions will not be possible “if we don’t find a way forward with China.”

Stern made it clear that developing countries, including China, will “do not need to take the same actions that developed countries are taking, but they do need to take significant national actions that… are ambitious enough to be broadly consistent with the lessons of science.”

Watch the video of Stern's speech:

Watch This Video and Pass It On

The environmental group, is asking everyone to take part in actions on October 24 to raise awareness about climate change. Watch the short video by, and then pass it on:

The Wasted Opportunity

In 1977 a physicist named Amory Lovins published an essay in Foreign Affairs titled, Energy Strategy: The Rood Not Taken. According to Lovins, there were two paths the U.S. could take in regards to energy. The first path would be a continuance of burning fossil fuels. Lovins wrote, "The commitment to a long-term coal economy many times the scale of today's makes the doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration early in the next century virtually unavoidable, with the prospect then or soon thereafter of substantial and perhaps irreversible changes in global climate."

It is now 2009 and last year carbon dioxide concentrations were 386 parts per minute (ppm). Both NASA scientist, James Hansen and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) use 450 ppm as the "no return point," when it will be impossible to reverse climate change. The U.S. wasted three decades when it could have been developing renewable energy, and implementing energy efficiency measures. During those decades, fossil fuels continued to be the only source of energy and vehicle fuel.

Now we are at a crucial point where reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is a necessity if we want to avoid "irreversible changes to the global climate." In December, world leaders will meet in Copenhagen, Denamark to hammer out a new climate change protocol. Let's hope the world will not waste the opportunity to truly combat climate change.

Introducing Hybrid American Chestnut Trees Could Reduce Carbon

Introducing a hybrid of the American chestnut tree would accomplish two things: bring back the almost extinct species, and reduce carbon emissions, according to a Purdue University study. American chestnuts grow faster and larger than other hardwood trees, allowing them to capture more carbon.

Douglass Jacobs, author of the study and a associate professor of forestry and natural resources, said, “The American chestnut is an incredibly fast-growing tree. Generally the faster a tree grows, the more carbon it is able to sequester. And when these trees are harvested and processed, the carbon can be stored in the hardwood products for decades, maybe longer.”

Chestnuts almost disappeared 50 years ago because of a fungus. The new hybrid is 94 percent American chestnut combined with a more blight-resistant Chinese chestnut. “We're really quite close to having a blight-resistant hybrid that can be reintroduced into eastern forests,” Jacobs said. “But because American chestnut has been absent from our forests for so long now, we really don't know much about the species at all.

Why the World Needs Less Deforestation

During the climate talks in Bonn, Germany on June 9, activists issued a consensus statement about halting deforestation and industrial logging. The statement called for the "“effective adoption and implementation...of the Rights to Free Prior and Informed Consent of Indigenous Peoples and local forest dependent communities.

The statement also called for the following:

  • Monoculture tree plantations should not be established and managed, “including genetically modified tree plantations, and the practice of industrial logging from these policies.”
  • The Copenhagen protocol should include “measures to reduce consumption of forest products, especially in the Industrialized North.”
  • Developed countries must make “immediate and drastic cuts in their domestic greenhouse gas emissions.” The statement called for a 45 percent reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2020, and a 95 percent reduction by 2050.
  • Developed countries must provide “sufficient financial and technological support to enable developing countries to halt the destruction of forests and other ecosystems.”
  • The Copenhagen protocol should exclude “any form of carbon offsetting, including CDM afforestation/reforestation and REDD offset projects.

”The Nature Conservancy released a report titled Don’t Forget the Second ‘D’ about the impact of forest degredation. According to the report, GHG emissions from forest degredation are at least 30 percent of all emissions from the forest sector.

The report listed strategies for reducing GHG emissions from forest degredation:

  • Reduced impact logging—Techniques such as directional felling and cutting of vines from trees…studies indicate that RIL methods may reduce carbon emissions per unit of wood extracted by 30 to 50 percent
  • Forest certification—Certification from groups like Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) help reduce carbon emissions
  • Integrated Fire Management (IFM)—Evaluates and balances the risks of fire with the “beneficial or necessary ecological”

A report by Global Witness looked at the impact of deforestation on the environment. Old growth primary forests continue to "grow and sequester carbon from the atmosphere," the report stated, and are not carbon neutral. It can takes centuries for replanted forests to regain their previous carbon levels.

"My major concern is that until we talk about these demand issues in a meaningful way, we aren't talking about a real solution," Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) Forest Campaigns Director Andrea Johnson said.

See other articles about deforestations:

UNEP Calls for Ecosystems Management

Environmental Legislators Call for a Green Fund

Environmental legislators meeting in Rome Friday and Saturday for the Global Legislators Organization for a Balanced Environment (GLOBE) meeting called for the creation of an international green fund in the Copenhagen protocol. The fund would provide developing countries with financial and technical help to reduce GHG emissions. Thirteen countries are represented at the GLOBE meeting, including the G8 (the U.S., Canada, Britain, German, France, Italy, Japan, and Russia), and the five developing countries with the largest greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (China, India, Brazil, Mexico, and South Africa).

Stephen Byers, president of GLOBE and member of British parliament, said the fund is needed given the “substantial financial resources to be used” in developing countries to reduce emissions. Byers said developed countries need to acknowledge “the large scale of financial transfers required (by) developing countries” to reduce emissions. “We're talking of important amounts of money here.”

Stefania Prestigiacomo, Italian minister for the environment, said that there is an “urgent need to share technology with low carbon content with developing countries, to satisfy these countries' legitimate demand for energy and economic growth without aggravating the environmental equilibrium of the planet.”

José Luis Espinoza Piña, member of the Mexican senate and chair of the commission for the environment and natural resources at his country's congress, said the green fund must be “a bold financial scheme supported by multilateralism, efficiency, and equity. (Its) performance (should) be regulated by contributions from all countries...and constructed around the idea of shared but differentiated responsibilities.”

See previous post Developed Countries Need to Do More

Developed Countries Needs To Do More

"The Copenhagen package must be comprehensive and balanced, where mitigation and adaptation is supported by finance and technology transfer to developing countries," said Shyam Saran, India's chief negotiator at the climate change talks in Bonn. "So anything that strays from this is of concern to us." 

Saran said that reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions needs to be "accompanied by clear detailing of equitable burden sharing." He added, "You cannot just do the arithmetic and say developing countries must play their part. Science cannot trump equity."

Must developed countries are "nowhere near meeting their targets." India chief negotiator accused developed countries of "trying to muddy the waters." He cited Japan's effort to shift the baseline for GHG emissions reductions from 1990 to the current date. "All these are efforts to get away from the legal document and to gloss over the fact that they are not meeting their legal targets."

According to a February article in the Guardian, developing countries have received less than 10 percent of the funds developed countries promised them to help them mitigate climate change. The past seven years, developed countries promised almost $18 billion, but actually gave less than $0.9 billion.

"It's a scandal. The amount the developed countries have provided is peanuts. It is poisoning the UN negotiations. What [the rich countries] offer to the poorest is derisory, the equivalent of one banker's bonus. It's an insult to people who are already experiencing increasingextreme events," said Bernarditas Muller of the Phillippines, the chief negotiator for the G77 and China group of developing countries.

UNEP Report Calls for Ecosystems Management

In order to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, ecosystems such as forests need to be managed better, according to a report released Friday by the U.N. Environment Program. Restoring peatlands and better agricultural practices can also help reduce carbon emissions. As the report puts it, "Managing ecosystems for carbon can not only reduce carbon emissions; it can also actively remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere."

Investing in ecosystem management is more cost effective than investing in carbon capture and sequestration. In addition to being more cost effective, ecosystem management also improves water supplies. 

"We need to move toward a comprehensive policy framework for addressing ecosystems," said co-author Barney Dickson.

"Tens of billions of dollars are being earmarked for carbon capture and storage at power stations with the CO2 to be buried underground or under the sea," said Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director. "But perhaps the international community is overlooking a tried and tested method that has been working for millennia, the biosphere. By some estimates the Earth's living systems might be capable of sequestering more than 50 gigatones (Gt) of carbon over the coming decades with the right market signals."

Obama Believes U.S. Can Be Enviornmental Leader

During the press conference in Dresden on Friday, President Obama expressed optimism about the U.S. becoming a leader on climate change. "I’m actually more optimistic than I was about America being able to take leadership on this issue, joining Europe, which over the last several years has been ahead of us on this issue." 

Obama mentioned the climate change legislation in Congress. “We are seeing progress in Congress around energy legislation that would set up for the first time in the United States a cap and trade system. That process is moving forward in ways that I think if you had asked political experts two or three months ago would have seemed impossible.”

In six months world leaders will meet in Copenhagen with the goal of creating a new climate change treaty. Obama pointed out that "the world is going to need targets that it can meet." He added, "It can’t be general, vague approaches. We’re going to have to make some tough decisions and take concrete actions if we are going to deal with a potentially cataclysmic disaster."

Obama made it clear that industrialized countries will have to take the lead in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. “Unless the United States and Europe, with our large carbon footprints, per capita carbon footprints, are willing to take some decisive steps, it’s going to be very difficult for us to persuade countries that on a per capita basis at least are still much less wealthy, like China or India, to take the steps that they’re going to need to take.”

“So we are very committed to working together and hopeful that we can arrive in Copenhagen having displayed that commitment in concrete ways."

World Environment Day

Today is World Environment Day. Watch the following video to remind yourself why fighting climate change is so important.

World Leaders Meet for Talks in Bonn

A 12-day conference for the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) began on Monday in Bonn, Germany.  In December world leaders will meet in Copenhagen, Denmark to negotiate a new climate change treaty.

Yvo De Boer, the U.N.'s leading climate change official, spoke optimistically about a new climate change treaty.  "The political moment is right to reach an agreement. There is no doubt in my mind that the Copenhagen climate conference in December is going to lead to a result."

Success in Copenhagen depends on four "political essentials," according to De Boer. The four essentials are: 
  • Clarity on how much industrialised countries would reduce their emissions up to 2020
  • Clarity on what developing countries would do to limit the growth of their emissions
  • Stable finance from industrialised nations for the developing world to mitigate climate change and adapt
  • A governance regime
June marks the deadlines for developed countries to propose greenhouse gas (GHG) emission targets. China and Russia are the only two developed countries that have not yet submitted a proposal. However, a new document was posted on the website of China's National Development and Reform Commission. The document stated that developed countries should reduce GHG emissions 40 percent by 2020 from 1990 levels, and contribute 0.5 to one percent of their GDP to help developing countries cope with climate change.

Experts believe that a successful climate change treaty depends on the U.S. and China cooperating with each other. "This trip is one piece of what is going to be an extended interaction with the Chinese at all levels," Todd Stern, top climate negotiator for the U.S., said. "So yes, the vision that we have is of a clean energy and climate partnership bilaterally with the Chinese."

Watch the following Video from the Bonn climate change talks:

Calling All Californians: Reduce Your City's Plastic Bags

Watch this short, quirky video about plastic bag use in California.

How Safe is Tattoo Ink?

Since the early 1990s, tattoos have been very popular. By 2003, 36 percent of Americans aged 25 to 29 had at least one tattoo. 

A few years ago the environmental news site The Daily Green published an article about the safety of tattoo ink. The article characterized what I call the 'tattoo craze' as an "inked up world." How many people who are part of the "inked up world" think about the safety of tattoo ink, let alone do research on it?

The first thing someone should know who is considering getting "inked up" is that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate tattoo ink for two reasons: 1. tattoo inks are considered trade secrets, and 2. the inks are not sold directly to consumers. The official stance of the FDA concerned regulating tattoo ink is:
Because of other public health priorities and a previous lack of evidence of safety concerns, FDA has not traditionally regulated tattoo inks or the pigments used in them.
According to article by Treehugger, heavy metals are used in the pigments that make up tattoo ink to give it permanent color. Tattoo ink may include lead, arsenic, antimony, beryllium, chromium, cobalt, and nickel. The article stated that the amounts of the metals in tatto ink "may be substantial."

The European Commission (EC) issued a report concerning the health risks of tattooing which noted that almost 40 percent of the organic colorants used in tattoos in Europe are not approved for use on the skin. Almost 20 percent of the colorants looked at in the report contained a carcinogenic aromatic amine. The study also found that many of the chemicals in tattoo ink are also used in pen and printer inks, and automobile paints.

A 2005 report by researchers at Northern Arizona University said that heavy metals such as copper and nickel are found in tattoo ink. The researchers studied 17 tattoo inks from five manufacturers. The researchers believe that tattoo ink needs to be studied.

Although the FDA does not regulate tattoo ink, it does provide the following tips on its website:

FDA has not approved any tattoo inks for injection into the skin, and many ink pigments used are industrial strength colors suitable for printers’ ink or automobile paint.

The bottom line concerning tattoos is that they may not be safe. Even having them removed could cause more harm as the laser process used in removing tattoos causes the metal in the ink to leach into the body. My recommendation is to forgo getting a tattoo. The old adage is true: better to be safe than sorry.

EPA to Reconsider Hazardous Waste Ruling

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will hold a public meeting on June 30 about its October 2008 proposed ruling on hazardous waste. The proposed ruling would remove “unnecessary regulatory controls” in order to encourage recycling. The Sierra Club opposed the ruling and filed a judicial petition. The American Petroleum Institute also filed a judicial petition.

The ruling changed the definition of solid waste under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). If adopted, there would be an estimated three million pounds of hazardous waste a year that would not be regulated if it is reused or reclaimed.


Sierra Club believes the following would also happen if the proposed ruling was enacted:

  • Create economic incentives for “midnight dumping”
  • Create a new generation of waste sites
  • Undermine Superfund’s principle of polluter liability, and leave taxpayers with the cleanup bill

Hazardous waste includes common household items such as batteries, electronics, paints and solvents, and pharmaceuticals. 

Reduce Your Energy Use in Honor of Earth Day

The U.S. uses more energy than any other country, and is the second largest producer of greenhouse gas emissions. The average American produces about 40,000 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions a year. In honor of Earth Day, I have listed cheap and easy things you can do to reduce your energy use and carbon emissions.

1.  Install a programmable thermostat. Lowering your thermostat just two degrees in the winter saves 420 pounds of carbon a year. Every degree you lower your thermostat reduces energy use by four percent. 

2.  Insulate your house, including the attic, and HVAC ducts. Seal large air leaks in your house. Seal large air leaks in your home. Insulating your walls and ceilings saves 20-30 percent of home heating bills and reduces carbon emission by 140 to 2,100 pounds a year. Plugging air leaks through caulking and weather stripping saves 1,100 pounds of carbon emissions a year.

3.  Insulate your water heater, which saves 1,100 pounds of carbon a year for an electric water heater, and 220 pounds for a gas heater.

4.  Install efficient waterheads. Low-flow shower heads save 300 pounds of carbon a year.

River of War, River of Life: The Fate of the Nile

Watch the short documentary, River of War, River of Life: The Fate of the Nile below

Why the International World Water Day is Focusing on Transboundary Waters

The International World Water Day occurs every year on March 22 in order to focus attention on the importance of freshwater. In 1992, the UN Conference and Development (UNCED) recommended creating an international day to celebrate freshwater. In 1993 the first International World Water Day was created. The theme this year is Shared Water, Shared Opportunities, with the focus on transboundary waters.

There are 263 transboundary lake and river basins that cover half of the Earth’s land surface, and 60 percent of them supply global freshwater. About 40 percent of the world’s population lives in river and lake basins that extend across two or more countries, and 90 percent lives in countries that share basins. Two million people depend on the groundwater that comes from about 300 transboundary aquifer systems.

Climate change increases the risk of inland flash floods, coastal floods, and droughts. As a result, climate change will put pressure on transboundary water resources. According to the UN whitepaperTransboundary Water: Sharing Benefits, Sharing Responsibilities, “The necessity to adapt to climate change, however, will also offer new opportunities for cooperation in developing adaptation strategies.”

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) believes that climate change will have a “complex set of impacts” on the world’s water resources. A study on transboundary water resources and climate change by the Henry L. Stimson Center points out that melting mountain glaciers will disrupt upstream sources, “upsetting the timing and quantity of downstream flows.” This will cause “chronic pressures” for countries that share river resources because there will be less freshwater available, plus flooding or drought. “Both types of threats can impair food production, endanger public health, stress established settlement patterns, and jeopardize livelihoods and social well-being.”

Joint bodies with enforcement capacity are needed to ensure that countries who share water resources cooperate together in dealing with the impact of climate change. Of the 263 river basins in the world, 158 do not have a cooperative management framework, according to the UN  whitepaper. The whitepaper suggests three things the joint bodies would need to do: coordinate and advise, develop and implement policy, and settle disputes. The joint bodies would need to establish “institutional and administrative structures.”