A global tragedy

If you are anything like me, you hear about events in the news while in the middle of doing something else and therefore catch only half the story. You might catch the other half on subsequent airings or you might be left with only a vague impression. If you are interested in a concise summary of how the United States government is reversing climate protection laws, designed to meet obligations under a SIGNED International Agreement, please read on.

Iowa Environmental Focus

total_emission_reductions Planned emission reductions per state by 2030 under the Clean Power Plan (EPA)

Jake Slobe | March 29, 2017

President Trump has signed an executive order that will look to roll back many climate-change policies put in place by the Obama administration.

The order’s main target is former President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which required states to slash carbon emissions from power plants – a key factor in the United States’ ability to meet its commitments under a climate change accord reached by nearly 200 countries in Paris in 2015.

Beyond rolling back Obama’s Clean Power Plan, the order takes aim at a several other significant Obama-era climate and environmental policies, including lifting a short-term ban on new coal mining on public lands. This means that older coal plants that had been marked for closing would probably stay open for a few years longer, extending the demand for coal.


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Apple pie dreams

Road train (Public domain on Pixabay.com)

Generations born

rise from dust, return to dust

dreaming apple pie.

While life goals of survival, love, and accomplishment continue from generation to generation, the world is changing rapidly. In this century global manufacturing, industrial agriculture, shipping, and trucking of goods have increased steadily. Despite our need to cut back on burning fossil fuels,  global free trade markets keep expanding.  Rapid unregulated growth is not necessarily a good thing–nor is too much apple pie.

Naomi Klein’s 2014 book, This Changes Everythingnames trends that impede our efforts to reduce carbon emissions:

The twin signatures of this era [this century] have been the mass export of products across vast distances (relentlessly burning carbon all the way), and the import of a uniquely wasteful model of production, consumption, and agriculture to every corner of the world… (p 77 eBook)

∼ ∼ ∼

The errors of this period cannot be undone, but it is not too late…Encouraging the frenetic and indiscriminate consumption of essentially disposable products can no longer be the system’s goal.  Goods must once again be made to last, and the use of energy-intensive long-haul transport will need to be rationed—reserved for those cases where goods cannot be produced locally or where local production is more carbon-intensive. (p278-279 eBook)

For many people economic growth is like a favorite pie. It calls forth an immediate ‘Yes please’.  On the surface, ‘growth’ sounds right, a sound course, a sound goal. However there is always a saturation point when we have too much of a good thing–whether it’s apple pie or growth.  We need to slow down and find ways to live happy lives more sustainably.  We need to maintain a ‘good enough’ prosperity shared by everyone while cutting back on pollution.  Much easier said than done, but worth the effort during our lifetimes and for those to follow.

My haiku uses the prompt words ‘pie’ and ‘dust’ for Ronovan Writes Haiku Challenge.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Idling–Unsettling or Creepy?

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Creepy.”

This is my second submission for this week’s “Creepy” challenge. My photo subject is not really “creepy”, but I find it unsettling– it shows one of my pet peeves. What irks me is seeing line-ups of cars idling with engines running when it is avoidable. Yesterday morning, around 6:30 AM, I stopped at a coffee shop and there they were–3 or 4 cars waiting in line.


I quickly took a photo through my car window and walked into the shop– I was served right away as no one else had walked in.  When I came out there were more cars lined up–at least six–and I took a second photo:


Sometimes I wish for the total banning of drive throughs but then I realize–in a moment of generosity–that maybe there is a place for them.  For example, if I have my dogs with me, I can’t leave them in a hot car, nor can I take them into a restaurant.  Similarly, a person with young children on board might benefit from the convenience of not having to unbuckle, carry, and supervise children.

If there is a line up, I avoid the drive through or turn off my engine in line (at a car wash, for example).  As food for thought, here are six facts about engine idling:

  1. Running an engine releases CO2 into the atmosphere, promoting global warming.
  2. A running car engine releases pollutants into the air.
  3. A running car engine burns expensive fuel.
  4. “Letting your engine idle for more than 10 seconds consumes more fuel and generates more greenhouse gas emissions than turning it off and starting it up again”.Government of Quebec Ecomobile Guidelines
  5. When idling exceeds 60 seconds, the cost of fuel is greater than  potential wear and tear on the starter and battery from stopping and starting — National Resources Canada.
  6.  “In Europe, the recommended guidelines for turning engines off are 10 seconds in Italy and France, 20 seconds in Austria, 40 seconds in Germany and 60 seconds in the Netherlands. In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency’s Smartway and Drive Wise programs both recommend turning the engine off if you’re stopped for more than 30 seconds.” National Resources Canada, 2013.

At the Daily Post you will find more Responses to the “Creepy” challenge.

Resources used for this post:

National Resources Canada Report, November 2013

Government of Quebec Ecomobile website

Road to Paris 2015: Sizing Up America’s Clean Power Plan

I am a climate change traveller–an explorer. Welcome to my excursion through the sometimes confusing terrain of climate change initiatives and  international negotiations–a landscape littered with acronyms, numbers, science, law, and politics–yet of utmost importance, affecting global welfare today and for generations to come.

Nobody cleared a path for themselves by giving up.

Palacia Bessette, Simply from Scratch, 2010; Courtesy of Quotationspage.com

Under the Clean Power Plan announced by the President of the United States almost two weeks ago,  power plant emissions will be reduced by 1/3 of 2005 levels by 2030.  Power plants are responsible for a major chunk of U.S. carbon emissions. The diagram below shows that electricity generates almost 40% of  U.S. carbon and that transportation is the runner up generating 34% :


Courtesy of U.S. Energy Information Administration published in How much U.S. electricity is generated by renewable energy?, June 12, 2015.

Some states have already started to promote clean energy and others will have catching up to do. The end result will be a change in the types of energy used to generate electricity. The image below shows the energy mix for power generation on a national level in 2014. Did you know that after hydro, wind is currently the leading source of renewable energy? Carbon emitting fossil fuels–coal and natural gas– make up almost 70% of the national mix.


Courtesy of U.S. Energy Information Administration, published in How much US electricity is generated by renewable energy?, June 12, 2015.

Few cases of eyestrain have been developed by looking on the bright side of things.

Author unknown. Courtesy of Quotationspage.com.

Under the Clean Power Plan, less coal will be burned–to be replaced by natural gas and clean renewable energy sources (wind,sun, geothermal, biomass and hydro). Recognizing that energy mix profiles vary from state to state, power plan strategies will be designed by each state to address their unique situations.

The graphs below show how the national electricity energy mix will change under the Clean Power Plan.  The starting point is on the left, projections for a no Power Plan scenario in the middle, and expected changes with a Clean Power Plan on the right. The colours are intuitive, with green for renewable energy, blue for natural gas, black for coal, and red for nuclear. Notice how on the far right there is more green renewable energy and less black coal.  By 2040, fossil fuels–coal and natural gas–will drop from 70% of the national mix to 55%.  

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration (May 27, 2015)

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration (May 27, 2015)

Looking at the Big Picture

A considerable amount of fossil fuels will continue to be part of the power mix.  The Clean Power Plan contributes only a fraction of  Total U.S. emission reductions planned for post-2020 under the United States INDC (Intended Nationally Determined Contribution), submitted for the UN climate treaty negotiations in Paris later this year, which in its simplest form is:

26 to 28% reduction from total 2005 carbon emissions (not just from power plants) by 2025 and at least 80% reduction by 2050

Nevertheless, I choose to be optimistic.  If allowed to unfold, the Clean Power Plan will reinforce current momentum and inspire new initiatives, unleashing a snowball effect.

Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.

Colin Powell, U .S. General (1937-); Courtesy of Quotationspage.com.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s plan, is in part a catch-up measure. As the President noted in his August 3 speech,  many power plants are already improving efficiency,  almost 50% of states have efficiency targets, more than 35 states have renewable energy targets, over 1000 city mayors have committed to reducing carbon pollution, and major corporations have set targets for reducing their emissions. The map below shows the number of states having targets for increasing renewable energy in power generation:


Courtesy of U.S. Energy Information Administration Institute How much U.S. electricity is generated by renewable energy?, June 12, 2015

Opposition to the Plan is a reality, especially from the coal industry and those states that rely on coal the most.  The top 10 coal-burning states rely on coal for 67 to 97 % of their energy mix.  Clearly these states will face the stiffest challenges in formulating and complying with Clean Power Plan targets.  Nevertheless, their citizens can look forward to significant improvements in air quality and health as they switch to other energy sources.

The Paris Summit in December will be a major turning point.

The Clean Power Plan will give the United States more credibility at the negotiating table.  If world leaders successfully forge a binding climate agreement, the Clean Power Plan will be  less vulnerable to neglect, postponement, or repeal.

Want to know more  about your nation’s commitments and emissions? Take a look at these resources:

Interactive map showing which countries have submitted their INDC (post-2020 climate action plan) in preparation for the Paris talks. Click a country or area of interest for a pop-up summary of the INDC. Source:  World Resources Institute Climate Data Explorer.

Interactive map showing total CO2 emissions for the period 1990-2012 expressed in million metric tons (Mtco2e). Click  countries of interest to discover total carbon output. Source: World Resources Institute  Historical Greenhouse Gas Emissions Map.

Road to Paris 2015: America’s Clean Power Plan Launch

I am a climate change tourist–an explorer. Welcome to my excursion through the sometimes confusing terrain of climate change initiatives and  international negotiations–a landscape littered with acronyms, numbers, science, international law, and politics.

“No challenge poses a greater threat to our future and future generations than a changing climate.”

“I believe there is such a thing as being too late when it comes to climate change.”

“We are the first generation to feel the impact of climate change and the last generation that can do something about it.”

U.S. President Barack Obama, in Clean Power Plan announcement, Aug. 3, 2015

Will humanity rise to meet the climate change challenge on time?  Do you have hope and if so, what do you pin your hope on?  Listening to the words of the President of the world’s largest economy as he launched the Clean Power Plan last Monday, has given me more hope that  global commitments will be forged when world leaders meet in Paris at COP21 in December.

The Clean Power Plan is the most ambitious American climate action to date. For the first time, the United States government has placed significant limits on carbon emissions from electrical power plants, the source of almost 1/3 of national carbon output.

By the fall of 2016, each state must submit a preliminary plan for reducing power plant emissions by 32% below 2005 levels, by 2030. Carbon output reductions may be achieved a variety of ways including:

  • increasing efficiency of power plants (less pollution for each unit of output);
  • shifting to lower-polluting fossil fuels (use of coal will decrease);
  • increasing use of renewable resources such as wind and solar;
  • promoting energy efficiency for electricity users (reducing emissions by using less power); and
  • market-based programs, such as carbon cap and trade.

In fact, many states, municipalities, and NGOs have already taken some of these steps–now the Clean Power Plan, administered by the Environmental Protection Agency, levels out the playing field, making cleaner electrical production a national goal.

Launched on August 3, 2015, the finalized Clean Power Plan has been two years in the making with extensive public consultations.  President Obama foreshadowed the big announcement on the day before with a video: “Memo to America”  and then made the official address the next day presenting, in his words, ‘the single most important step America has ever taken in the fight against climate change.’  If you haven’t seen these videos yet and have time, I highly recommend them–the first one is very brief with the President’s voice over compelling images, and the second is an address to the Nation.

Will the new standards inspire new initiatives or will progress be mired in resistance and legal manoeuvrings–is the plan sufficiently bold to have an impact?  These are questions of the hour.  I will tackle these questions in an upcoming post.

Road to Paris 2015: What is the Green Climate Fund?

imageParis Road Trip?

Having arrived at the 3rd post in my Road to Paris 2015 Series, I thought I would clarify what I am setting out to do with these posts. If you have been following along, you will know that  Road to Paris 2015 is about the United Nations climate change negotiations–in particular, about the important summit to be held at the end of this year in Paris, France.

So this is  not a travel series–or is it?  In a sense I am writing as a travel blogger.  I am a climate change tourist–an explorer.  I will become more informed and share  tidbits that I gather, with you, my readers.  

Welcome to my excursion through the sometimes confusing terrain of climate change international negotiations–a landscape littered with acronyms, numbers, science, international law, and politics.

Getting Oriented–Why is the Paris Climate Summit Important?

  We (the world) are at a turning point.  Climate scientists have told us that average world temperatures must not increase more than 2 degrees C above pre-industrial averages if we want to avoid catastrophic environmental changes. They have estimated a “Carbon Budget“:–the amount of greenhouse gases that can be emitted into the atmosphere before the 2 degree  ceiling is reached.  Based on current emission trends, our world Carbon Budget will be used up prior to 2050.  At the UN Paris Climate Summit, world leaders hope to arrive at a binding agreement that will set out major  greenhouse gas emission reduction targets to take effect after 2020.  Industrialized countries are being encouraged  to  make drastic cuts, aiming for zero emissions by 2050.

Green Climate Fund is Key to Successful Negotiationsimage

A key issue in climate negotiations is responsibility.  Who is responsible for climate change and who will bear the cost?  To date, the richest, industrialized nations have released the most greenhouse gases through activities such as large scale land clearing and burning fossil fuels for industry,  transportation, electricity,  and heating. Ironically, some of the worst impacts of climate change are  being experienced by less wealthy, developing nations–impacts such as major storms, drought, and rising sea levels.  Adaptation and survival costs are being faced worldwide and a major question is: ‘ Who will pay?’

Also on the table is how  developing  countries will be able to afford the cost of new technologies that will allow them to  grow  in  clean, sustainable ways.

The Green Climate Fund was established in 2010 in response to these financial challenges, by the countries who signed the 1992 treaty to address climate change (the UNFCCC–UN Framework Convention on Climate Change). Representatives of these countries  meet almost yearly  at Conferences of the Parties called “COPs”. The Paris Summit will be the 21st COP:  COP21.

The purpose of the Green Climate Fund is to support developing countries in:

  • limiting or reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and
  • adapting to the adverse effects of climate change.

imageFund headquarters  opened in Korea in December 2013 and  the Fund started soliciting financial pledges in the summer of 2014.

There are two steps for getting  funds in place.  First, nations make a pledge and then, they sign an agreement to make it official.  As of July 23, 2015, thirty-five governments  made pledges for a total of USD$10.2 billion— but  only USD$5.8 billion has been committed to in signed agreements.  The gap between pledging and signing is the gap between the intent of political leadership and the political hurdles that precede signing a deal.  For example, the United States pledged $3 billion over 4 years, but signing has yet to be approved by Congress.

The Green Climate Fund Pledge Status Report lists the 35 pledging nations, the amounts pledged, amounts signed for, and the per capita amount of each nation’s pledge.  It might be interesting to check this status report to see what your country has pledged and signed for.

imageThere are many concerns about the Green Climate Fund:  Will enough money be committed to keep the negotiating process afloat? What financial institutions should manage the funds? Which nations should get support and for what projects? Should support be in the form of loans or grants?and so on.  Politics on a national level can be intricate, but on an international level, the complications are mind boggling.  The next major meeting of the Green Climate Fund is in November and by then it is expected that they will be announcing some pilot projects–possibly to include small island developing nations and African states.

For more information about this topic, including some analysis,  I would recommend a recent article published by Elizabeth Douglass for InsideClimate News: Climate Treaty’s Finances on Shaky Ground.