Thursday, September 16, 2010

Montreal Protocol Celebrated for Ozone Success

Washington, DC – Today marks the 23rd anniversary of the Montreal Protocol, the international treaty that was created in 1987 to protect and restore the ozone layer. The treaty has not only achieved each of its goals over the last several decades, including this year’s major milestone which marks the complete phase-out of CFCs, it has also become the world’s best climate treaty, to date.

Aggressively phasing out CFCs translated not only to major ozone protection, but also to significant climate protection: 222 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide-equivalent (CO2-eq.) in mitigation which has delayed climate change by 7 to 12 years.

The Montreal Protocol Parties began actively protecting the climate system in 2007 with an agreement to accelerate HCFCs, the chemicals that replaced CFCs. This agreement will avoid up to 15 billion tonnes of CO2-eq. by 2040, another potential big win for climate, albeit with a caveat:

“The Montreal Protocol Parties took unprecedented action in 2007 to protect the climate system, in addition to the ozone layer, but their well-meaning actions will be quickly undone if we don’t pay attention to the alternatives that will replace HCFCs,” warned Durwood Zaelke. “The HFC substitutes for HCFCs are big, bad greenhouse gases that need to be taken out of circulation now.”

HFCs – many with hundreds to thousands the global warming potential of CO2 – are currently the main coolants used in refrigeration and air conditioning systems, as well as blowing agents for insulating foams. However, now that new ozone- and climate-friendly alternatives are available and more are emerging, HFCs are an unnecessary climate burden. Should the HFC problem go ignored, there is a price. The growth of HFCs is skyrocketing and if they are not controlled, their climate impact could equal that of CFCs at their peak, according to the new Executive Summary of the 2010 Ozone Assessment by the Montreal Protocol’s Scientific Assessment Panel, which was released today. Over 300 scientists were involved in the preparation on the assessment.

“Air conditioning and refrigeration are huge industries, and HFC emissions are expected to grow dramatically over the next few decades without serious regulation – this would essentially wipe out progress achieved so far under the Kyoto Protocol,” added Zaelke.

The solution? Getting rid of HFCs – gases that are very similar to CFCs and other ozone-depleting substances – by phasing them down under the Montreal Protocol. Taking this action has a big reward: up to 100 billion tonnes of CO2-eq. in climate mitigation by 2050.

The Federated States of Micronesia, with backing from other island Parties, is determined to make this happen at this November’s Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol in Kampala, Uganda. The small island nation, increasingly vulnerable to sea level rise and other climate impacts, submitted a proposal on HFCs in April, for the second year in a row, in the hopes of making a major dent in greenhouse gas emission that will help delay near-term consequences from climate change.  Mexico, the US, and Canada, followed suit, with their own joint proposal, but more leadership is needed.

“There’s a general feeling of ‘yes, this is a good idea’, but it’s not being backed up with the kind of high-level political support that we need,” said Zaelke. “The Montreal Protocol strategy is fast, cost-effective, can achieve major mitigation, and has the backing of 196 Parties, a strong financial mechanism and 23 years of experience and expertise. In comparison with other available options right now, this is a damn good deal.”

In his remarks for International Ozone Day, United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon recognized the Montreal Protocol’s key role to play in achieving climate success, encouraging the treaty to continue its important efforts, ". . .Because ozone-depleting chemicals are also greenhouse gases, the Protocol is instrumental in the fight against climate change. . .and will continue to play an important role. . .I encourage Parties to the Montreal Protocol to continue to build on this model and to explore synergies that could help address other environmental challenges, especially climate change."

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Blessing of the Waves in Surf City USA

ORANGE, CA – Southern California is home to many world-class surf breaks and the majority of these are in Orange County. Many people spend much of their time surfing and enjoying the natural beauty of the coast line and recognize the spiritual importance of this natural asset. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange will, in solidarity with other faith traditions, host the third annual Blessing of the Waves at the iconic Huntington Beach Pier (400 Pacific Coast Highway) October 3, 2010, 9:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.

The goal of the event is to bring together surfers and ocean-minded people, regardless of their faith tradition, to show spiritual appreciation for the ocean and all that it gives the planet and its population. This gathering demonstrates concern for a cherished environment already compromised by the effects of climate change, toxic emissions, and other pollution.

“In Orange County our beaches are more than simple geography; they are a cultural and spiritual center of our community. It is important that we recognize this common element in all our lives, regardless of faith tradition,” said Most Rev. Tod D. Brown, Bishop of Orange.

The Diocese of Orange organized this first of its kind inter-religious event in 2008 drawing more than 400 participants to the Huntington Beach pier to take part in this community activity. The second annual event held in 2009 drew more than 1,000 participants to the iconic pier for this spiritual observance. Participants called attention to the immeasurable importance of our oceans and beaches, and took a deeper look at their spiritual significance. The third annual interfaith event will feature a pledge to protect our oceans and beaches, acknowledgment of marine safety representatives, and close with surfing priests and other religious leaders. Tongan and Samoan choirs will perform traditional ocean songs, giving thanks to God for our ocean environment.

“It is fitting that this blessing will be held on the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of ecology. Our coast line and its diverse ecosystem are under constant strain and increased environmental pressures,” said Rev. Christian Mondor, OFM, PhD, Vicar Emeritus Sts. Simon and Jude. “I am excited to join with members of our diverse faith community here in Huntington Beach to bless waves, those who ride on them, and the lifeguards who protect ocean goers.”

California’s coastal region is under significant threat due to pollution and global climate change. California will lose an estimated 41 square miles of coastline due to erosion by 2100, according to the California Climate Change Center. Wave height and wave shape – requisites for surfing are adversely affected by sea floor conditions influenced by silt and other detritus entering the ocean. Our beach water quality is already dangerous to the health of swimmers and others – between April 2009 and March 2010, more than 100 beaches in California were closed because of the presence of toxic waste and other hazards.

(An unedited version of this release including video can be found by clicking here.)

Monday, August 30, 2010

Penn State to receive up to $122 million for "Energy Innovation Hub"

Washington, D.C. - A team led by The Pennsylvania State University will receive up to $122 million over the next five years from the Department of Energy to establish an Energy Innovation Hub focused on developing technologies to make buildings more energy efficient.  The Energy Innovation Hub will be located at the Philadelphia Navy Yard Clean Energy campus, and will bring together leading researchers from academia, two U.S. National Laboratories and the private sector in an ambitious effort to develop energy-efficient building designs that will save energy, cut pollution, and position the United States as a leader in this industry.
Buildings account for nearly 40 percent of U.S. energy consumption and carbon emissions.  Developing systems to improve building efficiency will provide significant benefits - reducing energy use and bills, cutting pollution, and creating jobs in the building efficiency industry.

"The Energy Innovation Hubs are a key part of our effort to harness the power of American ingenuity to achieve transformative energy breakthroughs," said Secretary Chu.  "By bringing together some of our brightest minds, we can develop cutting-edge building energy efficiency technologies that will reduce energy bills, cut carbon pollution, and create jobs.  This important investment will help Philadelphia become a leader in the global clean energy economy."

"This significant federal funding to establish the Energy Innovation Hub will build on Pennsylvania's growing reputation as a clean energy leader," said Pennsylvania Governor Edward G. Rendell. "In addition to helping to protect our environment, investments in clean energy create good-paying jobs. And the great ideas that will come from this groundbreaking energy lab will help to reduce our nation's reliance on foreign energy sources - representing a win-win for taxpayers."

"This funding is great news for the Commonwealth and is a crucial step towards creating a more sustainable and environmentally friendly America," said U.S. Senator Bob Casey.  "With this support, the consortium can focus on energy efficiency and innovation and assist communities in reducing their energy use and creating good jobs for Pennsylvanians."

"Reducing energy consumption by buildings is an indispensable part of a clean energy, energy-efficient, low-emission American economy," said U.S. Senator Arlen Specter.  "This funding presents a major opportunity to create new jobs and industries, save energy, reduce energy prices, and reduce emissions. I am pleased that Penn State and Philadelphia are leading the nation through technical innovation."

The mission of this Energy Innovation Hub is to research, develop and demonstrate highly efficient building components, systems, and models which are applicable to both retrofit and new construction. The Hub team will pursue a research, development and demonstration (RD&D) program targeting technologies for single buildings and district-wide systems. 

These technologies include computer simulation and design tools to enable integrated project teams of architects, engineers, contractors and building operators to work collaboratively on retrofit, renovation and new building design projects; advanced combined heat and power (CHP) systems; building-integrated photovoltaic systems for energy generation; advanced HVAC systems with integrated indoor air quality management; and  sensor and control networks to monitor building conditions and optimize energy use.  The RD&D program will also incorporate a systematic analysis of the role of policy, markets and behavior in driving the adoption and use of energy technologies in buildings.

The Energy-Efficient Building Systems Design Hub is one of three Hubs that will receive funding in FY10. In May, the Department announced that a team led by Oak Ridge National Laboratory will establish a Hub on modeling and simulation for nuclear reactors. In July, the Department announced that a team led by the California Institute of Technology will establish a Hub focused on developing Fuels from Sunlight. The Energy Innovation Hubs are large, multidisciplinary, highly collaborative teams of scientists and engineers working over a longer time frame to achieve a specific high-priority technical goal. They will be managed by top teams of scientists and engineers with enough resources and authority to move quickly in response to new developments.

The team, led by Dr. Henry C. Foley, will use the Navy Yard campus, which has over 200 buildings and operates an independent electric microgrid as a "virtual municipality" to test and validate the technologies developed by the RD&D program in real buildings.
The Energy Innovation Hub will be funded by the Department of Energy at up to $22 million this fiscal year. The Hub will then be funded at an estimated $25 million per year for the next four years, subject to Congressional appropriations.

Additionally, the Energy-Efficient Building Systems Design Hub will serve as an anchor for a multi-agency initiative to support a Regional Innovation Cluster.  Further details of the Regional Innovation Cluster will be announced soon.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Save the Planet - Sustain A School

LOS ANGELES - The Ultimate Green Store has set up a division of its affiliate program for schools to be able to fundraise online. "The process is simple," says Laura Meyer, CEO of the company in announcing the launch of their Save the Planet - Sustain A School program.. "Schools can join the affiliate program through our website and download banners for their school website or e-newsletters, thereby providing parents with a resource for hundreds of eco-friendly products including a large selection of back-to-school supplies and school gear. The store will soon be launching a Teens & Dorm section that will tie into the application of the program to universities and college students."

A percentage of every sale that results from a click from the school website or e-newsletter will go back to the school. The program is open to any school - public or private - at any level from elementary schools to universities.

With so many schools communicating with parents and students online and supporting or initiating green practices, The Ultimate Green believes this is a great opportunity for schools to fundraise and support green products. Announcements about scheduled webinars about the program for parents and school administrators will follow.

In addition to the affiliate component of the program, The Ultimate Green will be donating a percentage of sales to provide schools in need with eco-friendly school supplies. "Crippled by budget cuts, a growing number of schools across the country are facing a serious shortage of school supplies," says Meyer, a mother of three school-age boys. Educators whose classrooms lack basic items such as paper and pencils must often pay for them out of their own pockets. Supply shortages present a serious challenge for teachers and can lower the quality of education children receive.

The Ultimate Green will do its job of giving back by donating things like tree-free paper, recycled newspaper pencils, biodegradable rulers and recycled crayons. Meyer says schools will be encouraged to share with their students literature provided by The Ultimate Green about how the donated items help the planet. Says Meyer, "educating students about going green is empowering to all kids - it gives them something to care about and a greater purpose."

Friday, August 20, 2010

Mexican diplomacy in the rescue of Cancun climate change summit

LONDON - Leading figures in the Mexican negotiating team are trying to save the upcoming UN climate change summit in Cancun from collapse in a bout of frantic diplomacy and bring developing countries back on board. They have spent the past few weeks attempting to restore confidence in the negotiating process after the most recent round of talks in Bonn ended in a standoff between industrialized and developing countries.

Fernando Tudela, Mexico's chief negotiator, said the host nation accepted the Cancun summit would not deliver an international climate change treaty, but insisted a "spectacular breakthrough" was still possible. Tudela said the Cancun summit would aim to deliver "a set of meaningful decisions" on issues such as climate financing and adaptation, while also engineering an end to the "regime standoff" that has marred past negotiations.

Tudela's colleagues have been attempting to lay the foundation for an advance over the past few weeks by reaching out to those countries that have repeatedly blocked climate change negotiations. Also, Mexican officials are actively courting those developing countries that have "felt excluded" from the negotiations. The nations that admitted being frustrated by their exclusion from the Copenhagen climate change summit include Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, South Korea, Pakistan, the Gulf states, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Bolivia, Chile, Peru and Colombia.

Mexico's climate ambassador Luis Alfonso de Alba said, "We have a very clear understanding that this is a process that needs to have everybody involved, not only the major [greenhouse gas] emitters." He also revealed that Mexico was attempting to broker a deal with African countries to ensure they are better prepared for the next round of climate change talks. The talks, formally known as the 16th Conference of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (COP 6) will be held at the seaside resort from November 29 through to December 10, 2010.

Meanwhile, Patricia Espinosa, Mexico's minister for foreign affairs, who will chair the COP15 meeting in the Cancun summit, this week travelled to India to meet with the country's influential environment minister Jairam Ramesh. According to reports in the Hindustan Times, Espinosa told Ramesh that "an ambitious outcome at the global meet requires India's sustained political guidance and support." The two countries' negotiating teams also discussed their respective positions ahead of the Cancun climate change summit, particularly with regards to carbon emission targets and technology transfer arrangements.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Cutting Black Carbon Soot Could Save Arctic

arctic winter

Washington, DC – Reducing emissions of black carbon, the dark component of soot, could be the best – and perhaps only – way to save the Arctic from warmer temperatures that are melting its snow and ice, according to a study published today in the Journal of Geophysical Research. Dr. Mark Jacobson of Stanford University studied the short-term effects of reducing black carbon and other greenhouse gases, including CO2 and methane, over a 15-year period of time, with black carbon reductions appearing to be the fastest way to avoid further Arctic ice loss and warming.

Jacobson’s study found that aggressive reductions in black carbon emissions produced from both the burning of fossil fuels and burning of biomass, could lower temperatures in the Arctic by 1.7˚C within the next 15 years. The Arctic has warmed at least 2.5˚C over the past century – a reduction of this magnitude could help slow ice loss and potentially save it from reaching a tipping point where it would be impossible to recover its snow and ice cover.

“The Arctic is a critical defense shield for the Earth’s climate system. Its vast expanse of ice and snow is reflecting significant incoming heat back into space. We cannot afford to lose the Arctic,” said Durwood Zaelke, President of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development. “Targeting black carbon with aggressive, fast action today is the most important strategy for saving the Arctic.”

Black carbon has a particularly negative impact on the Arctic and other regions with snow and ice, such as the Tibetan Plateau in Asia. After a few days or weeks, the black carbon particles are washed out of the atmosphere and deposited on the ground below, darkening the reflective white surface and leading to greater absorption of solar radiation. This leads to more melting and larger pools of dark water, which then absorb more heat, continuing a dangerous feedback cycle.

Besides its damaging impact on the Arctic, black carbon emissions have a significant effect on the overall warming of the earth. After studying the different climate forcers’ impacts on Arctic temperatures, as well as clouds and precipitation, Jacobson was able to conclude that black carbon may be the second largest contributor to warming after CO2, echoing the conclusion by several other scientists.

“On top of all this, black carbon is a killer,” added Zaelke. “Nearly a million and a half people die every year from breathing air polluted by black carbon and contracting deadly respiratory diseases. Black carbon is bad news for development, which depends on a healthy population, and we need to get rid of it now.”

Fortunately, as Jacobson notes in his paper, fairly simple technologies such as diesel particulate filters for vehicles and more efficient cookstoves, are available now and can effectively reduce black carbon emissions.

“We have the technology to solve this problem, and now we need to make it a priority,” said Zaelke.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Solar power to supply 80 percent of General Mills energy needs

General Mills yogurt facility in Methuen, MA has completed a solar retrofit that is expected to produce 80 percent of the warehouse's warm weather power needs. The Methuen plant is the company's first U.S. facility to produce its own electricity via solar energy.

"The enthusiasm of the work force and the partnership with state and local government led the way for us to install the solar panels," said Jon Russett, energy manager in General Mills' Supply Chain operations. "General Mills is committed to continuously improving its environmental performance."

The company's investment in renewable energy extends globally. A facility in Spain now receives all of its electricity and more than 30 percent of its overall energy needs from renewable energy sources - including wind power. Closer to home, General Mills is constructing a biomass burner at an oat-milling facility in Minnesota. Using leftover oat hulls from the milling process the burner is expected to generate 90 percent of the steam needed to heat the plant and make oat flour.

"As we continue to work on sustainability across our supply chain, we remain confident that the groundwork we've laid will continue to show even more progress in the future," said Russet.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Innovative Art Contest Explores Climate Change.

Barca by Sharon McBride.

LOS ANGELES - The Gulf oil disaster is but one example of the ways in which our fossil fuel economy is impacting the planet we call home. But as bad as this catastrophe is, the specter of global climate change looms even larger as a threat to sustaining life on Earth. Despite overwhelming evidence - species extinction and dwindling water supplies to mass migrations and mega-storms - the public is still unclear what climate really means for them.

That is why the Creative Visions Foundation is calling on artists worldwide to participate in the CoolClimate Art Contest – the first online art contest exploring climate change in its many forms – how it is impacting our lives and what can be done to ensure a sustainable future for all of Earth’s inhabitants.

How Does it Work?
Submit a work of art that explores our relationship with the climate – from clean energy jobs to pollution-free oceans – the subject choice is yours. You can submit a piece you’ve already made, or pass this email along and get an artist friend involved. Post your art on and you will be eligible to win prizes, be featured on the Planet Green Planet100 show and be displayed at key leader events nationwide on 10/10/10.

A panel of esteemed judges, including: Philippe Cousteau (ecologist); Van Jones (environmental activist) and; Jackson Browne (musician)will select 20 finalists from all submissions.

Submissions are now open and will close on August 23, 2010. You can read the Official Contest Rules on the CoolClimate Group Page.

Historically the creative community has always helped to create new and expanded visions of possibility during difficult times and we look forward to the artist’s vision for a cool and sustainable future.