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News Nuggets: Carbon, Pebble Mine & the Encyclopedia of Life

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Author: the Inkslinger

Here in the Northern Vermont Hinterlands, I’m preparing for a brief escape. A long weekend in the big city. Going on blind faith to see a little music. Catch a flick. Peruse the shops for weird Moroccan light fixtures. Eat some foods I can’t pronounce. Enjoy a few adult beverages. Should be just the thing to forestall cabin fever a bit longer. Cause it be getting crazy. 15 inches of new snow on the way to push us into the snowiest February ever and one of the top ten snowiest winters, which up here is really saying something. Gotta get out from under it for a bit. But before I go, here are a few interesting items of note from the news desk…

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This Moment On Earth

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Author: the Inkslinger

The day’s dawned bright and sharp here in the hinterlands of Vermont. In cloudless skies, winter’s own thin brand of blue telegraphs all we need to know. That the cold just beyond window etched in swirls of frost is deep and unmovable. And indeed the thermometer reads just 6° at morning’s first glance. It’s shiver-inducing fragment of briefest knowledge magnified by hard-edged north country sunlight rising frigid and unforgiving over the gleaming snowpack. A fine morning day to stoke the fire, uncork the informational bottle, and see what news of this moment on Earth pours out.

Let’s begin on the open seas where a coming U.N. report finds the world’s fast-growing shipping fleet is responsible for about 4.5% of global CO2 emissions, a figure that could rise 30% by 2030 because of zooming rates of international trade. It appears that when transportation-related environmental costs are factored in, goods from overseas aren’t so cheap after all. In fact, container ship ports have been identified as one of the biggest sources of pollution in the U.S. The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the nation’s two largest, have recognized the problem and are taking steps like requiring all ships to shut-down their on-board power systems when docked and banning vessels built before 1989, the year pollution-controls became standard gear on freighters. This is the sort of stuff regular folk like us never think too much about, but it’s good to know someone is. For our part, the lesson here is that the farther away something was made, the more CO2 its shipping generated. As always, sourcing whatever we can as locally as possible is hugely important where the climate crisis is concerned. Buy local!

News like that is why I like this:

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Coal Gets Burned

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Author: the Inkslinger

In Tuesday’s post about Staples terminating a relationship with an environmentally suspect paper supplier, Jeffrey noted that “the potential cost (to business) of failing to be responsible or transparent… can be high indeed.”

Apparently some of the biggest financial firms agree. A couple of days ago, Citi, JPMorgan Chase and Morgan Stanley announced that they’ve developed a new set of standards by which investors can assess the regulatory and financial risks of coal-related projects. The firms hope that these so-called Carbon Principles will become a framework that the entire investment community can use to encourage “responsible” coal development, which is probably one of the larger oxymorons you’ll encounter today. As GreenBiz notes, the new standards don’t forbid investment in coal-burning schemes, but they do place them under additional scrutiny. They’re also voluntary, which means any bank is quite free to ignore them as Bank of America, perhaps the largest financer of coal plants, seems so to be doing judging by its conspicuous absence from the proceedings so far.

So while this is not exactly another nail in coal’s coffin, it’s certainly another hammer blow or two on those nails already there. It sends the clearest message yet to the investment community that there’s a growing risk in projects that generate carbon dioxide and that, as Jeffrey says, the potential costs of failing to be responsible can be high. Clearly the landscape is changing and clearly climate crisis concerns are (finally) penetrating the halls of financial power.

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Bye-Bye Biofuels?

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Author: the Inkslinger

Biofuels took a big hit yesterday with the release of two studies that clearly show they release more CO2 than conventional fuels once their entire life-cycle is taken into account.

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‘Round and ‘Round We Spin

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Author: the Inkslinger

If news falls in the forest and no one is there to report it on the Inspired Protagonist, does it make a sound? Oh my, yes, my green philosopher children. It’s been roaring for weeks while I’ve been elsewhere. In fact, so much worth mentioning has been piling up in my digital in-box that I briefly considered tossing the whole thing into my virtual trashcan and starting over. Seemed easy than trying to wade through it all. But that’s a bit of a cheat and the losers would be you, dear reader. So I’m biting the informational bullet, sifting through it, and aiming to play catch-up over the next few days. Here goes…

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Sharp Focus

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Author: the Inkslinger

Eban Goodstein at Focus the Nation checked in with us yesterday to report on the progress they’ve made in reversing the climate crisis, and it’s pretty impressive. Eban says they got a million students at 1,800 schools involved in the effort and that they discussed the issue with 75 congresspeople and governors. They also got a ton of great media exposure for the cause and Eban feels like they’re really getting somewhere.

But where we go next is always more important that where we’ve been. As I noted to a close associate this very morning, it’s onward and upward. So Focus the Nation are urging us all to dialogue with our government representatives and share the solutions that exist. They’re also asking us to share the film the 2% Solution ,which talks about how we can achieve an 80% cut in annual CO2 emissions by 2050.

There’s a lot more going on and the easiest way to connect to it is to just head over to their website and join the fray.

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Technorama-lama-ding-dong

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Author: the Inkslinger

At this point, I think you really have to bet on technology. By which I mean how we’re going to deal with the climate crisis. It’s not at all clear to me that we (by which I mean humanity) are going to summon the will and the courage and the passion to engage in the kind of behavioral constraints needed to cut carbon emissions 80% by 2050, which is pretty much what the science guys tell us we have to do to in order to avert what I’ll politely refer to as a bit of planetary unpleasantness.

Certainly personal behavior is going to be a key part of the equation and certainly even simple changes in the decisions we make and the way we live can and will have an important impact, but at the end of the day, it’s not going to be enough. The way the world is set up now, for example, I’m fairly sure I can’t drive my car 80% less than I do now, which is already relatively rarely. And I don’t see the kind of cultural and infrastructure changes coming anytime soon that would allow me to do it. So I’m figuring I’ve got to count on technology, on clever humans with opposable thumbs and big brains to imagine, invent, create, and use tricks of the material world to give me the equivalent of driving 80% less without my actually having to do it.

Which brings us to today’s edition of what’s going down around town (and by town I mean this big village called Earth). Because while I’ve been sitting here not driving, clever humans have been busy working on encouraging things…

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What Wisdom & Leadership Look Like

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Author: the Inkslinger

Just in case you’ve forgotten during the last seven years of intellectual, moral, and spriritual darkness…

Watch it and hope. Share it and rally.

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Just Say Know to Energy

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Author: the Inkslinger

A new survey
out from an environmental marketing firm called EcoAlign has found that a large percentage of Americans lack a basic understanding of the fundamental energy efficiency terms we’ll need to know in order to get smart about energy use.

The survey of 1,000 people asked them to match a handful of key energy terms (Energy Conservation, Energy Efficiency, Demand Response, Smart Energy, Clean Energy) to provided definitions. Then interviewers asked the same respondents to simply define these terms themselves without any help. The results could be seen as slightly alarming. For example, according to EcoAlign’s analysts:

  • Only 13% of respondents think energy efficiency has to do with saving money or cutting down on fuel costs.
  • Just a third of respondents could correctly define “energy conservation” and energy efficiency.”
  • Only about one third, 30%, of Americans understand the term “smart energy” and about the same amount, 32%, say they are not doing enough in terms of “smart energy.”
  • 14% couldn’t match clean energy with its definition.

It’s tempting to look at numbers like these and be slightly if not completely dismayed. But should we be? I don’t think so.

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