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Friday, October 12, 2007

Honoring progressive leadership

Today the "former next President of the United States" joined such great leaders as the 14th Dalai Lama, Elie Wiesel, Desmond Tutu, Mother Teresa, and Martin Luther King, Jr as this year's winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. Albert Arnold (Al) Gore, Jr., along with the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), was awarded the prize for "efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change."

Al Gore is not the first "politician" to win the Peace Prize; far from it, as many of the winners have been U.S. and world politicians. What is notable for me, in light of the direction this country has taken in the past three decades, and most dramatically since Bush's "election", is that only two Republicans have been awarded this most important honor. And of the two, only Henry Kissinger (1973) could be considered a Republican in the modern sense of the GOP. The other, President Theodore Roosevelt, was a progressive reformer who endeavored to move the Republican party into the Progressive movement. This put T.R. into the same company as his cousin F. D. R. and solidly into modern liberal territory. (I purposly say "liberal" and not "Democratic". The U.S. ideology has shifted right since Reagan to the point where very few Democratic politicians, at least in Federal government, represent the traditionally diverse, liberal issues espoused by the Democrats in the past.)

[P]rogressivism made great strides under American presidents Theodore Roosevelt, William H. Taft, Woodrow Wilson, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Progressivism historically advocates the advancement of workers' rights and social justice. The progressives were early proponents of anti-trust laws and the regulation of large corporations and monopolies, as well as government-funded environmentalism and the creation of National Parks and Wildlife Refuges.

"Old-school" Democrats are well represented in the Peace Prize, with Presidents Jimmy Carter and Woodrow Wilson, 2002 and 1919, respectively, and George Marshall, originator of the Marshall Plan winning in 1953. Most striking, however, is the realization that post-Goldwater Republicans, the so-called conservatives of today, consider peace and promoting peace a sign of weakness. (Today's conservatives are better termed "neoconservatives" with all the justly deserved negative connotations associated with the label "neocon".)

As with all dark periods in world history, this too will end. I can't help but feel that Mr. Gore's Nobel Prize is yet another sign that the Reagan legacy is losing strength and that true progressive ideas will soon take root. Republican Senators are retiring en masse, the Democratic party is millions of dollars ahead of the GOP in fundraising, and concepts like global warming, alternative energy, increasing fuel economy, and reducing consumption are being discussed by more and more people.

We may yet survive. . .

(Okay, I derailed my Nobel Peace Prize essay and turned it into a political statement. That happens. To read more about this year's award see the story at the BBC News website.)

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Think globally, generate locally.

We hear more and more in popular culture and the media about generating electricity with photovoltaic (PV) solar panels, but relatively few people have actually seen this technology in action. Two Kennebunk, Maine women received some good news this week that will give local residents something to see, and hopefully talk about, on the subject of solar power.

A group of citizens, teachers, and school district administrators and operations staff in Kennebunk formed an Energy Advisory Committee (EAC) eighteen months ago to address energy, recycling, and other sustainability topics in the Maine School Administrative District 71 facilities in Kennebunk and Kennebunkport. (The idea for our group, SEA, was germinated in that group.)

This group has enjoyed tremendous success, attaining Energy Star certification for the 2.5 year old Kennebunk Elementary School, achieving impressive electricity and heating fuel savings across the school district, and driving a sharp reduction in trash through an innovative composting program implemented at the beginning of the current school year.

As I alluded to earlier, two members of the EAC have achieved yet another notable milestone in the local efforts to slow global warming. Jennifer Neise and Sassy Smallman raised seed money and applied for a Maine Public Utilities Commission grant to install a PV array at the Middle School of the Kennebunks. Neise was notified this week that the EAC was awarded this grant, and that installation of the 5.6 kW photovoltaic array can proceed.

The energy data from the array will most likely be available online, and the panels will tentatively be installed where they are prominently visible to the public. I would suggest that a placard be installed to direct people to sources of information about PV specifically and alternative energy in general to maximize the educational potential of the installation.

When people start to see concrete action taken at the local level, they will begin to realize that individual, incremental progress can be made in combating serious environmental issues.

On the web:
Middle School of the Kennebunks
Pemetic Elementary School, Southwest Harbor, Maine online PV reporting system

This graph is from Pemetic's PV array:

Here's what Pemetic's array looks like:

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

New Weapons From NewScientist To Fight Against Skeptics

If you have questions about some of the "controversy" about climate change or you are having trouble rebutting the assertions of a Global Warming Skeptic, then the NewScientist website has a new tool for you.

They write: "With so much at stake, it is right that climate science is subjected to the most intense scrutiny. What does not help is for the real issues to be muddied by discredited arguments or wild theories... So for those who are not sure what to believe, here is our round-up of the 26 most common climate myths and misconceptions."

My favorites:
Overall, it is a good resource.. Click here to read it from the New Scientist website.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Climate Counts Holds Companies Accountable

Gary Hirshberg of Stoneyfield Farm has teamed up with the folks at Clean Air-Cool Planet "to bring consumers and companies together in the fight against global climate change." With their Climate Counts effort, their goal is "to motivate deeper awareness among consumers-not only that the issue of climate change demands their attention, but also that they have the power to support companies that take climate change seriously - and avoid those that don't."

It sounds so simple... Support companies who prove that they care about the future of humankind by taking concrete efforts to reduce their carbon footprint. But, getting that information is not very easy. That is where Climate Counts comes in.

This partnership has created a scorecard to "see how serious companies are about stopping climate change - and how they compare to their sector competitors." With this type of scorecard, consumers can make informed decisions to "vote with their wallets" to support companies who take a progressive stand about climate change.

The sectors scored are Apparel/Accessories, Beverages-Beer, Electronics, Food Products, Food Services, Household Products, Internet/Software, and Media. To rate companies, a total of 22 questions are asked like: Is a Green House Gas emissions inventory completed?; Has the company achieved emissions reductions?; and Is the company publicly reporting emissions? Click here to see a complete list of report questions.

As an example, here are the scores for the Apparel/Accessories category:

Company Score Company Score
Nike 73 Gap Inc. 39
Liz Claiborne 15 Limited Brands 05
VF Corporation 02 Levi Strauss 01
Jones Apparel Group 00

With all of the bad press that Nike gets about sweatshops making Air Jordan's, it is nice to see that they are leading the way on climate change. Levi Strauss... not so much. Guess what brand I won't be buying the next time I shop for jeans. Click here to see all of the categories - and to print out a handy pocket-sized version to keep in your wallet.

As consumers, we have an amazing amount of power over the corporations who are responsible for so much of the carbon footprint of our society. To be effective, though, we need more information like what has been gathered by the Climate Counts people. Let's hope that this is just the beginning of the public accountability of corporations. In the meantime, use whatever information is available to make informed choices when you buy! Your purchases make a difference.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Use Blackle Instead of Google To Save Energy

NOTE ADDED 6/25 - Apparently the energy savings is only good on old-fashioned CRT screens, not LCDs... There seems to be some controvery here. Interesting idea, though!

I stumbled across a blog posting about a new site that uses Google to search the Internet except that it has a black back ground instead of the familiar white background. The premise is that a black background uses less energy on a monitor than a white background.

This is from the Blackle website:

"In January 2007 a blog post titled Black Google Would Save 750 Megawatt-hours a Year proposed the theory that a black version of the Google search engine would save a fair bit of energy due to the popularity of the search engine. Since then there has been skepticism about the significance of the energy savings that can be achieved and the cost in terms of readability of black web pages."
Using the premise that every little bit helps - give it a try! Save some energy whenever you Google. The search results are from Google, so you really have nothing to lose!

Reconnect To The Food That You Eat

I have blogged before about the important part that food choices make in the fight against climate change. With more and more food being shipped from across the country and around the world, the global warming pollution emitted to provide us with the foods that we eat significantly contributes to our carbon footprint.

The solution to this problem is for us all to eat more locally produced food. And, with summertime here, now is the perfect time to eat as much locally produced food as possible. Attend farmers markets (if you live in Maine, click here to find a local farmers market). Search out local produce and meats at the grocery store. If you cannot find a good selection, ask one of the managers to let them know that you want more local foods. Join a CSA (short for "Community Supported Agriculture - click here to find out more). We just had our first pick-up at our CSA (Wolfpine Farm in Alfred, ME) and enjoyed a wonderful salad with fresh lettuce picked within the last couple of days. The bottom line is that our food choices make a difference.

Also, I found a book excerpt from Wendell Berry who is "a farmer and author of more than thirty books of poetry, essays, and novels" titled The Pleasure of Eating. (Click here to read the excerpt). If we all followed his philosophy of connecting with the food we eat, we would significantly reduce the part of our carbon footprint related to our diet. He suggests:
  1. Participate in food production to the extent that you can.
  2. Prepare your own food.
  3. Learn the origins of the food you buy, and buy the food that is produced closest to your home.
  4. Whenever possible, deal directly with a local farmer, gardener, or orchardist.
  5. Learn, in self-defense, as much as you can of the economy and technology of industrial food production.
  6. Learn what is involved in the best farming and gardening.
  7. Learn as much as you can, by direct observation and experience if possible, of the life histories of plant and animal food species.
Think about the food that you eat. Eat local as much as possible. Enjoy your food. Save the world.

Thanks to Dave Pollard and his How To Save The World blog for pointing me in this direction.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Think Before You Buy That Bottled Water

A recent newsletter from The Union of Concerned Scientists presents an excellent overview of the reasons why bottled water is not necessarily the best choice - for your family nor for the planet.

From an environmental standpoint, there are three reasons why bottled water is not a good choice:

  • "Fossil fuel consumption. Approximately 1.5 million gallons of oil—enough to run 100,000 cars for a whole year—are used to make plastic water bottles, while transporting these bottles burns thousands more gallons of oil. In addition, the burning of oil and other fossil fuels (which are also used to generate the energy that powers the manufacturing process) emits global warming pollution into the atmosphere.
  • Water consumption. The growth in bottled water production has increased water extraction in areas near bottling plants, leading to water shortages that affect nearby consumers and farmers. In addition to the millions of gallons of water used in the plastic-making process, two gallons of water are wasted in the purification process for every gallon that goes into the bottles.
  • Waste. Only about 10 percent of water bottles are recycled, leaving the rest in landfills where it takes thousands of years for the plastic to decompose."
If you are out without a water bottle and deciding between a bottle of Poland Spring water and a can of Coke, go for the water. But, with a little preparedness, you can bring along a water bottle (stainless steel is the best) with cheap water from your tap, help save the earth, and keep a little cash in your pocket.

Click here to read the article.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Climate Change: From The Front Lines

Think climate change is not happening? Think that we still have decades until the effects of global warming are felt? Think again.

One of my favorite shows in the podcast-sphere is NPR's Science Friday. Last week, they went to Alaska to see and hear firsthand the ways that climate change is already effecting their lives. You can listen to the podcast here:

Climate change is already happening. This is why significant action is needed NOW.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

"What's the Worst That Can Happen?"

Click here to watch an excellent homemade video that argues for action against global warming even if there is still uncertainty about whether it is real. I am confident that global warming is real and climate change is happening... but not everyone is, right? The video looks at whether we should take action against global warming or sit on our hands and pray really hard that over 1000 climate scientists are wrong.

After watching the video, I would be interested to know your thoughts. It reminds me of the scene in Gore's An Inconvenient Truth where he pretends to weigh a balance tray full of gold bullion ("Mmmm") with ... well... the Earth. Given the potential catastrophic consequences of inaction if the scientific consensus is right, how can we not act?

The good news is that the tide is turning. But, the pace needs to be picked up. Please do your part by forwarding this video to others that you know, especially if they do not "believe in" global warming.

"What's the worst that can happen?"

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Maine Legislature Approves Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative

The Maine legislature is taking a leadership role in the fight against climate change by passing the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) - a coalition of northeastern and mid-atlantic states controlling greenhouse gases primarily by establishing a cap-and-trade system. To read more about RGGI, click here.

The Natural Resources Council of Maine (click here to go the the NRCM website) has released this press release:


Today, the Maine Senate voted 35-0 for final passage of “An Act To Authorize the State's participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative” (LD 1851, known as RGGI).

Today’s vote makes Maine the third northeast state to pass a law that requires power plants to reduce their emissions of global warming pollutants as part of a region-wide “cap-and-trade” system. Vermont and Connecticut have already passed RGGI legislation -- altogether ten northeast states are in the process of adopting similar policies, and five western states are not far behind.

Together the northeast states add up to the seventh largest source of global warming pollution in the world and more than 30% of this pollution comes from dirty power plants.

This bill, which was introduced by Maine Governor Baldacci, was sponsored by Rep. Theodore Koffman and Sen. Phil Bartlett, and co-sponsored by a bi-partisan group of lawmakers.

“This initiative will reduce global warming pollution from power plants while benefiting every Mainer who pays an energy bill,” said Utilities & Energy Committee co-Chair Sen. Philip Bartlett. “We are helping to make Maine more efficient and grow our economy while protecting our health and environment now and for future generations.”

The bill would reduce global warming pollution from power plants by nearly 20% by the year 2019, and would enable Maine businesses to participate in a regional marketplace for emission reductions. RGGI can save electricity customers 5 to 15% on electricity bills, help protect against rate increases, generate an “energy savings fund” worth up to $25 million per year to help both residential and commercial energy consumers save money and invest in energy efficiency, and create a new “carbon market” in the Northeast, with opportunities for everyone from dairy farmers to high-tech companies.

“Efficiency is the largest untapped energy source in Maine,” said Natural Resources Committee co-Chair Rep. Ted Koffman. “By encouraging Maine businesses to embrace energy efficiency, we make Maine businesses stronger and more competitive, makes jobs more secure and reduce the amount of money leaving Maine to buy fossil fuels,”

A coalition of business and environmental leaders worked with Governor Baldacci, state lawmakers, and the Department of Environmental Protection to craft a strongly supported consensus bill that makes Maine a model for progress in the region and in the nation in fighting global warming.

“Today, Maine has joined with most industrial nations and many states, by doing our part to reduce global warming pollution from power plants,” said Dylan Voorhees, Clean Energy Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine. “The new law is designed to work for Maine, and our unique environmental and energy make up. Today’s vote will also allow Maine to move up from the back of the line of New England states in terms of investments in energy efficiency.”

“Passing this bill is an essential piece of the global warming puzzle for Maine and the other northeast states because it means we finally are giving investors, power generators and customers a price signal that directs them away from dirty, high-carbon supply toward clean energy and energy efficiency,” said Michael Stoddard, deputy director of Environment Northeast. “This can be the template for other U.S. states to follow and will inform how we deal with many other sources of greenhouse gases” added Stoddard.

Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection identified this power plant global warming bill as the most important next step for Maine to cut global warming pollution. In addition to Maine, nine other New England and Mid-Atlantic States have signed onto RGGI, including New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, and Maryland.

“This vote shows that Maine understands the problem and is willing to act; something we can’t yet say for Washington,” said Melissa Carey, Climate Change Policy Specialist at Environmental Defense. “The legislature realizes that climate change policy isn’t just about saving polar bears, it’s about preserving the wealth of natural resources that have driven the Maine economy, and about creating new opportunities for growth.”

RGGI may be known, in future years, as the event that marked the transition from handwringing to serious efforts at solving the problem of global warming,” says Steve Hinchman, staff attorney for the Conservation Law Foundation in Brunswick. “This initiative -- with its focus on energy efficiency as the best means to cut our global warming emissions -- is just the sort of investment in Maine's future that is called for in the Brookings Institute report.”

“Strong action like this is what we will need to avoid the worst consequences of global warming,” said Matthew Davis of Environment Maine. “Now that Maine has successfully tackled power plants, we must set our sights on transportation and other sectors of the economy.”

“After so many months of frankly depressing news about climate change, it is good to have such hopeful news to share,” said Bruce Kidman, Director of Government Relations for The Nature Conservancy in Maine. “This demonstrates our ability to respond to the challenges we face here and abroad in a way that respects everyone’s interests.”

- end -

Judy Berk * Natural Resources Council of Maine * 3 Wade Street * Augusta, Maine 04330 * ph - 207-622-3101 X 203* fax - 207-622-4343 * e - * web -

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Falmouth becomes Maine's ninth "Cool City"

Thanks to the efforts of some local citizens, Falmouth became the ninth town in Maine to sign the US Mayors' Climate Protection Agreement.

A posting by John Richardson at the Portland Press Herald (click here to read the article) says that there are 7 more towns looking at signing.

Congratulations to Claudia King and others in Falmouth who helped the town take a leadership position in the fight against climate change!

The momentum is building!!!

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Companies Starting To Step Up To The Plate

A video from Sea Studios Foundation (no relation to the Sustainable Energy Alliance!) profiles how some large, forward-thinking companies see reducing global warming pollution as a strategic imperative - both due to the effect on climate and because their efforts will yield significant profits now and in the future. Click here to see the video.

It is good to see that some major corporations are starting to "get religious" about climate change. The Sea Studios website lists some organizations that are involved helping companies to make this change - and provides ways to give them positive feedback! If they know that we support what they are doing - and that we be more likely to buy their products - we can prove to business leaders that the market will respond to their efforts!

The site also has a fantastic checklist of everyday things that we all need to do to reduce out carbon footprint. Click here to see the checklist. Many of the standard suggestions, but presented in a clean, easy-to-understand way. One idea that I do not see often is:

"Turn off standby VCRs and other electronics. About 85% of your VCRs energy
consumption happens when it’s not in use. Same with your TVs and other
appliances. Buy a “Smart Power Strip” at to do the work
for you."

I blogged about the Smart Power Strip in December (click here to read the blog) and highly recommend it as a way to reduce the usage of so called "phantom power."

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Union of Concerned Scientists on Nuclear Power to Fight Global Warming

I've written before of my opinion about building nuclear power plants to meet the crisis of climate change. I received the most comments from that post - all against my position. But, I am not against listening to the other side and am always open to changing my mind.

The Union of Concerned Scientists website has some great information about how to stop climate change (though in my mind the goal really should be minimizing the impact of climate change...), including a position paper on the use of nuclear power. They are not against it, but feel we should start with other technologies first.

Their five conclusions are:

"1. Prudence dictates that we develop as many options to reduce global warming emissions as possible, and begin by deploying those that achieve the largest reductions most quickly and with the lowest costs and risk. Nuclear power today does not meet these criteria.

"2. Nuclear power is not the silver bullet for 'solving' the global warming problem. Many other technologies will be needed to address global warming even if a major expansion of nuclear power were to occur.

"3. A major expansion of nuclear power in the United States is not feasible in the near term. Even under an ambitious deployment scenario, new plants could not make a substantial contribution to reducing U.S. global warming emissions for at least two decades.

"4. Until long-standing problems regarding the security of nuclear plants—from accidents and acts of terrorism—are fixed, the potential of nuclear power to play a significant role in addressing global warming will be held hostage to the industry's worst performers.

5. An expansion of nuclear power under effective regulations and an appropriate level of oversight should be considered as a longer-term option if other climate-neutral means for producing electricity prove inadequate. Nuclear energy research and development (R&D) should therefore continue, with a focus on enhancing safety, security, and waste disposal."

(click here to go to the UCS website)

This seems like a reasonable response to the issue of nuclear power. There some concerns that if addressed might make it a better option, but in the meantime there are better options available for us to start with.

I am sure that we will see some sort of reemergence of the nuclear power industry in the near future. I just hope that we can find other ways to address the climate crisis.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Yahoo! Is At It Again

In March, I blogged about Yahoo's program to motivate people to install CFLs (click here to read the post). Now they are trying to get people to go even further.

You can now create your own Green Plan To Save The Planet at the Yahoo! Green website (click here to go to the site)

There are a few things that I like about this site:
  • There are A LOT of different actions that are listed. Just reading through the list gives ideas of what sorts of daily decisions can make a difference - many that I've not seen listed elsewhere.
  • You can have the actions listed by lifestyle, category, effort, and impact.
  • Each action has an short explanation of why it is a good thing to do and where to get more information.
  • The site records your commitments and totals your carbon savings.
  • The site also totals the commitments of all of the people users.
  • There is a map feature to see what areas have the most people participating.

There are a couple of things that I do not see in this program:

  • Any incentives. Wouldn't it be cool to make something like this a contest?
  • Any accountability. There is a huge difference between PLANNING to do something and ACTUALLY DOING it.

But, anything that gives people ideas of how they can change their behavior to reduce their carbon footprint is a good thing. Check it out!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Recycling CFLs at Whole Foods

While shopping at the new Whole Foods store in Portland, ME last weekend, I saw that they accept compact fluorescent light bulbs for recycling. This is a good option for anyone near a Whole Foods store who does not want to wait for a town/city-sponsored hazardous waste day.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Is It Getting Hotter In Here?

Yesterday, I blogged about how the arctic ice is melting faster than models have predicted. Today, another example of models being inaccurate - in the bad direction.

An article last week from CNN (click here to read it) suggests that cities in the eastern US could be getting a whole lot hotter in coming decades. Former NASA scientist Barry Lynn, one of the study authors, stated "the problem is most computer models, especially when compared to their predictions of past observations, underestimate how bad global warming is. That's because they see too many rainy days, which tends to cool temperatures off, he said."

Who knows how accurate these models are versus other climate models. But, I have not yet seen any that suggest that climate change may not be as bad as predicted.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Artic Ice Melting Faster Than Predicted

This weekend, a report from the National Snow and Ice Data Center was featured on NPR's Living on Earth (click here to listen to the segment) reporting that the ice in the Arctic Ocean is melting much faster than climate models have predicted. This indicates that there are significant feedback systems in the Arctic that are not accounted for in even the most worst-cast climate models. Click here to read more about this from the NSIDC website.

The graph below, from the NSICD website, shows how the area covered by sea ice (shown in red) is falling faster than even the standard deviation of the predictions of climate models.

The problem with melting arctic ice is that ice reflects most of the suns energy back to space. When ice is replaced by dark ocean area, the ocean absorbs more heat. This is not good news.

The biggest fear that I have is that this type of deviation from climate predictions will become increasingly apparent as time goes on. If this happens, we may already be too late to stop significant climate change. There is also the chance - as suggested in the audio clip - that we will reach a tipping point where we will suddenly be faced with significant climate changes rather than the gradual change that we all expect. This is why it is so important that we begin the transition away from carbon-based energy.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Use CFLs Despite the Mercury

With the skyrocketing use of compact fluorescent lights comes a concern about mercury. Each CFL contain about 5 milligrams of mercury, the toxic metal that has caused, among other issues, public health officials in north eastern states to recommend that pregnant woman not eat too much fish. Some people are considering not installing CFLs, despite the significant energy savings and beneficial effect on global warming emissions, for fear of exposure to mercury during use and disposal considerations.

A fact sheet at the Energy Star website compares the amount of mercury in CFLs to other household items that we are all familiar with: "older home thermometers contain 500 milligrams of mercury and many manual thermostats contain up to 3000 milligrams. " In other words, you could install CFLs in your entire house and still not have as much mercury as in the thermometers that we used to put in the mouths of our children.

As for disposal, there is one word: recycle. If you live in Kennebunk, Maine, you can bring CFLs to the Kennebunk Light and Power District offices and they can recycle them for you. Or, many towns have an annual hazardous waste collections day where CFLs can be accepted for recycling. If neither of these options are feasible, then go to the Earth911 website ( to find other locations. If a bulb breaks, sweep (do not vacuum) the debris, place into a plastic bag, and recycle. There is no significant risk from exposure to such a small amount of mercury.

If you choose to not recycle (and I really hope that you DO recycle your CFLs), you will still be reducing the amount of mercury emitted to the environment. The reduction in power plant emissions is estimated to be more than twice as much as the 5 milligrams of mercury that are released when a CFL is thrown in the trash.

CFLs are a cheap, easy way to reduce your carbon footprint and help to stop global warming and climate change. Though they contain mercury, their benefits far outweigh the risks that they pose.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Haiku for a Friday Afternoon

A frog in water
Doesn't feel it boil in time.
Dude, we are that frog.


Option 1: Turn off the stove.
Option 2: Jump?

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Time Magazine's "Global Warming Survival Guide"

As many have said - even Fox News! - the debate about the reality of global warming is over. Though there are remaining skeptics, they are getting pushed further and further to the fringe. Most everyone agrees that we have a problem. Most everyone agrees that we need to do something about it.

The cover story of this week's Time Magazine is "The Global Warming Survival Guide: 51 Things That You Can Do To Make A Difference." The online version can be seen by clicking here.

The article starts, "Can one person slow global warming? Actually, yes. You—along with scientists, businesses and governments—can create paths to cut carbon emissions. Here is our guide to some of the planet's best ideas, with an assessment of their impact and feel—good factor."

The standards are on the list - use compact fluorescent lights, take a bus, etc. But, there are others that you might not have considered:

I get overwhelmed when I look at a list like this. After all, making 51 changes at once is a huge task. But, making one small change, then another, then another.... Before you know it, you look back and see that significant progress was made!

This is the idea behind the Community Climate Challenge sponsored by the Sustainable Energy Alliance and Campaign Earth. When you sign up for this program, we will send you a Challenge (via e-mail) to focus on for the month. After a year, you will have made small changes in 12 different areas of your life. One by one, we will all be making a difference. Join the Community! Sign up for the Challenge by clicking here.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Supreme Court Rules Against EPA's Inaction on Climate Change

In November, as I posted in this blog (click here to read the post), the Supreme Court heard a case brought by 12 states, including Maine, and various environmental groups to force EPA to regulate carbon dioxide emissions. EPA claimed that the Clean Air Act did not give the Department the authority to do so.

In a decision handed down today, the Supreme Court rejected the Bush Administration's case. While not saying what the regulations should contain, the 5 - 4 decision supports the claims of the plaintiffs that EPA must regulate global warming pollution.

Reuters reports (click here to read the article) that "the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 'has offered no reasoned explanation' for its refusal to regulate carbon dioxide and other emissions from new cars and trucks that contribute to climate change... Justice John Paul Stevens, writing for the court majority, rejected the administration's argument that it lacked the power to regulate such emissions. He said the EPA's decision was arbitrary, capricious or otherwise not in accordance with law.'"

Hopefully, this decision is another example of the tide turning. With leadership from the federal level through the EPA, along with work being done in Congress, we may see a coordinated attempt by the United States, the world's biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, to address this critical issue while we still have time to minimize the impact of climate change.

Click here if you want to read the Supreme Court's opinion "MASSACHUSETTS, ET AL., PETITIONERS v. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY ET AL. "

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Greening your electronics

If you are looking for ways to reduce the effect that your electronic gadgets have on the environmental and on global warming, then is a resource that you should look at. Their article titled "How to Green Your Electronics" (click here to read it) gives some great ways to go green. The page includes:
  • Top 10 Tips - including "Kill vampire power," "Bright idea: The Solar Charger," and "Look for EPEAT"
  • So You Want To Do More - including "Offset Your Energy" and "USB-It"
  • By The Numbers - "40% of the energy used for electronics in your home is used while these devices are turned off." Ouch!!
  • Going Techie - Information about Li-Ion and NiMH batteries
  • Dig Deeper Into Treehugger - including a list of various products to help reduce energy usage (including some solar chargers that I am dying to get my hands on...)
This is a fantastic article for everyone who is plugged into the Electronics Age (all of us with our iPods, cell phones, laptops, PDAs...)

Also, I am an avid reader of the Lifehacker blog. Their post that discussed this article has some great comments that include other ideas about how to reduce your electricity usage. Check out the Lifehacker blog at "How to go green with your electronics" (click here to read it).

Saturday, March 31, 2007

UNH "Power to the People: A University Dialogue on Energy"

The University of New Hampshire has a group of short discussion papers that look at issues related to global warming and climate change. The papers examine subjects ranging from the problem of US reliance on foreign oil to the basics of solar energy to the ethics of energy consumption.

The following papers are included:

Click here to go to the UNH website to read these excellent articles.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Portland Press Herald reports SEA's Community Climate Challenge

The Portland Press Herald ran an article yesterday about the Community Climate Challenge - a new program from the Sustainable Energy Alliance, in partnership with Campaign Earth (visit their website at

Click here to read the article "Residents challenged to fight warming".

(If it is removed from the Press Herald's site, then you can find it in SEA’s Online Community at,96.msg258.html .)

The Community Climate Challenge is a program that tries to motivate people to make small changes to their daily lives - each of which will help to prevent some of the global warming pollution associated with our daily lives. Click here for more information and to sign up!!

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Sydney, Australia to have power blackout to raise climate change awareness

Here is a fascinating idea: On Saturday, March 31, Sydney will have a 1-hour long blackout to raise awareness about climate change. It is being planned by the World Wildlife Foundation and is being supported by the city as well as thousands of businesses.

I wonder if this sort of event to focus attention on the issue would ever be supported in the United States by a major city...

To read more about this event, click here to go to the website for Cosmos Magazine and click here to go to the website for the event.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Blue Man Group on Global Warming

The Blue Man Group thinks that we need to do something about global warming.


Thursday, March 15, 2007

Fox News Changes Positions - The Debate Really Is Over

In the YouTube clip posted on Calvin Jones' blog "Climate Change Action," you can see something that I, personally, never thought that I'd see - Sheppard Smith of Fox News stating that global warming is real.

"Those who would doubt global warming need to read up," Smith says. "Scientists say that we have to act quickly and go 'carbon neutral.'"

This gives me hope. Now that Fox News has finally stopped trying to debunk the evidence and the predictions of global warming experts, maybe we can all focus on the solutions that will be required to prevent significant climate change.

Click here to go to the "Climate Change Action" blog and see the video.

The time for debate is over. The time to act is now.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Free Showing of "The Global Banquet: Politics of Food"

A movie from Old Dog Documentaries called "The Global Banquet: Politics of Food" will be shown on Friday night (March 16th) at 7:00 PM in Kennebunk. The event is sponsored by the Sierra Club and the Environmental Justice Committee of the Kennebunk Unitarian Universalist Church.

"The Global Banquet exposes globalization’s profoundly damaging effect on our food system in terms that are understandable to the non-specialist. It debunks several underlying myths about global hunger:
  • That hunger results from scarcity;
  • That small countries don’t know how to feed themselves; and
  • That only market-driven, chemically-based, industrial agriculture can feed the world."

More about this movie can be found by clicking here.

For more information about this event, call Bob Weurthner at 207-985-0387.

Monday, March 12, 2007

"I Want To Reduce My Energy Usage, But Where Do I Start?"

This is a question that many people have asked, especially once they see Al Gore's film. But, where do you start? If you have already installed compact fluorescent lights (CFLs), where do you go next?

Posting by Gregg Dinino on the Sustainable Energy Alliance Online Community (click here to view the post) directed readers to the "Home Energy Saver" calculator. This website is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and helps people identify ways to reduce energy usage in their homes and provide assistance to getting the work completed.

The calculator is the primary focus of this website (click here to go to the calculator). After entering your zip code, there is a questionnaire that takes about 3 minutes to complete. Questions range from the size of your house to the type of heating and cooling you use to the number of windows in the house.

The result is an estimate of your current energy bill and the projected reduced bill if recommended upgrades are completed.

The Existing Home bar shows your estimated annual energy spending and the categories (heating, cooling, lighting, etc). The "with Selected Upgrades" bar shows how you can reduce each category and save money.

This calculation is interesting, but the best part of this site is the list of options available, including estimated costs, and the specific comments about how to implement each. The information includes Economic Benefits, Additional Benefits, Upgrade Description, Purchasing Tips, and More Information. Click here to view my report.

This list is long, but doable. The important thing to realize is that that the only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. Make a list, hang it on your refrigerator, and start crossing them on one by one.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

10 Personal Solutions to Global Warming from Union of Concerned Scientists

The Union of Concerned Scientists (click here to visit their website) is a "science-based nonprofit working for a healthy environment and a safer world." Global warming is one of many issues that they focus on.

It seems that there are a million different lists of "10 Things YOU Can Do To Fight Global Warming." The UCS list has some unique items:

"1. The car you drive: the most important personal climate decision.When you buy your next car, look for the one with the best fuel economy in its class. Each gallon of gas you use releases 25 pounds of heat-trapping carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere. Better gas mileage not only reduces global warming, but will also save you thousands of dollars at the pump over the life of the vehicle. Compare the fuel economy of the cars you're considering and look for new technologies like hybrid engines."

I've never seen this listed as "the most important personal climate decision." I have not done the calculation, but these guys are a whole lot smarter than I am - so I will take their word for it.

"2. Choose clean power: More than half the electricity in the United States comes from polluting coal-fired power plants. And power plants are the single largest source of heat-trapping gas. None of us can live without electricity, but in some states, you can switch to electricity companies that provide 50 to 100 percent renewable energy. (For more information go to"

Residents and businesses who are customers of Kennebunk Light and Power can choose to buy some or all of their electricity from green sources through the KLPD Village Green program. For more information, contact

If you do not get your electricity from KLPD, then contact your utility and ask how you can buy green energy. If nothing else, it will let them know that there is a demand for such products. Customer demand - knowing that there are people willing to pay a premium for clean energy - is a key to getting power companies to offer green electricity.

"4. Unplug a freezer: One of the quickest ways to reduce your global warming impact is to unplug the extra refrigerator or freezer you rarely use (except when you need it for holidays and parties). This can reduce the typical family's carbon dioxide emissions by nearly 10 percent."

The amount of electricity consumed by an extra freezer is significant. If you can get away with only one for even a part of the year, you will save money AND carbon dioxide emissions.

"8. Buy good wood: When buying wood products, check for labels that indicate the source of the timber. Supporting forests that are managed in a sustainable fashion makes sense for biodiversity, and it may make sense for the climate too. Forests that are well managed are more likely to store carbon effectively because more trees are left standing and carbon-storing soils are less disturbed."

Another consideration is to buy things made from bamboo, which is a fast-growing type of grass that can be made into everything from kitchen utensils to flooring to clothing.

"10. Let policymakers know you are concerned about global warming: Our elected officials and business leaders need to hear from concerned citizens. Sign up for the Union of Concerned Scientists Action Network to ensure that policymakers get the timely, accurate information they need to make informed decisions about global warming solutions."

This is true for local and state officials as well as federal ones. Let your representatives know that you fully support their efforts to met the challenges of global warming - and that you want action sooner rather than later.

The whole list can be found on the UCS website (click here to see the list) along with other information about global warming.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Another Compact Fluorescent Lightbulb Campaign

Previously, I wrote about the One Billion Bulbs website and it's efforts to get Americans to replace their incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs). There is a significant reduction of global warming pollution when CFLs are used - and homeowners save money, too. Installation of CFLs is often encouraged as the first step to take when trying to reduce energy bills and carbon dioxide emissions.

I found another website trying to motivate the public to install CFLs. Yahoo! has created a website called - claiming that it only takes 18 seconds to install a CFL - and, thus, make a difference against global warming. The website states:

"What kind of difference can one CFL make? Consider this: If every American swapped just ONE bulb for an ENERGY STAR labeled CFL, it would collectively save more than $8 billion in energy costs, prevent burning 30 billion pounds of coal, and remove 2 million cars worth of greenhouse gas emissions from our atmosphere. Just imagine the difference we could make if we replaced all of the lights we use most!"

The site also points out that if you've considered trying CFLs in the past, but were turned off by the high price or the lack of styles, it is time to look again. Prices have come down dramatically over the last few years. In many places, there are also rebates and government subsidies for CFLs. In Maine, an organization called Efficiency Maine (click here for more information) offers an in-store coupon to reduce the cost of CFLs.

As for styles, the days of few options are behind us. In the past, the only CFLs available were the spiral ones that replaced the 40/60/100W incandescent bulbs in what I think of as "normal light fixtures". Today, there is a CFL to fit virtually any lighting situation. Small globes, large globes, dimmable - even ones that look similar to the traditional light bulb with no visible spirals.

If you haven't already, take the 18 seconds necessary to replace an incandescent bulb with a CFL. If you have already replaced one, then do another. This is the easiest and, I think, most cost-effective way to begin to reduce your carbon footprint.

See the Wikipedia entry to learn about CFLs.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Sustainable Energy Alliance - Presentation on Global Warming Solutions

On Wednesday, March 7th at Christ Church in Kennebunk, Sara Lovitz of the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM) will speak on “Global Warming—Science, Policy, and Solutions” at 7 p.m., Wednesday, March 7, at Christ Church on Dane Street in Kennebunk. Sponsored by the Sustainable Energy Alliance, the event is free and open to the public.

Clean Energy Outreach Coordinator for the NRCM, Lovitz recently trained with Al Gore’s Climate Project. She will discuss the science of global warming, including the predicted and current impacts of changing climate with an emphasis on community- and state-level policy solutions.

Lovitz will also talk about the proposed Power Plant Global Warming bill now under review in the state legislature. The bill, Lovitz notes, “is the most important remaining step in Maine’s Climate Action Plan to reduce global warming pollution.” The bill would allow Maine to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), pronounced “Reggie.”

RGGI is a program of national if not international significance. Based on input by state agencies and stakeholders throughout the Northeast, RGGI sets a limit on the amount of global warming pollution from large fossil fuel-burning power plants in nine Northeastern states, including Maine. For more information about RDDI, click here.

The proposed Power Plant Global Warming Bill would reduce global warming pollution from these plants by nearly 20% by the year 2019. Together the nine states add up to the seventh-largest source of global warming pollution in the world with more than 30% of this pollution coming from dirty power plants. Using a flexible, market-based approach that has already worked to reduce acid rain and ozone, the bill would stimulate economic investment and support both energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies.

Lovitz holds a degree in chemistry from Colby College and an M.S. in Natural Resource Planning from the University of Vermont. She also served as a graduate intern at the Communities and Small-Scale Mining group at the World Bank and has done atmospheric chemistry research at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The Sustainable Energy Alliance will hold its monthly meeting after Lovitz’s presentation and all are invited to attend.

For more information about the Natural Resources Council of Maine, click here.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Kennebunk Selectmen Sign Mayors’ Climate Protection Agreement

Kennebunk is now officially the fifth town in Maine to sign onto the U.S. Mayors' Climate Protection Agreement. Thanks to the efforts of members of the Sustainable Energy Alliance, the Board of Selectmen voted unanimously to sign the Agreement and commit Kennebunk to reduce its carbon footprint.

The following press release was written by Sassy Smallman, Public Relations Director of SEA:

The Kennebunk Board of Selectmen signed the Mayors’ Climate Protection Agreement (MCPA) last night in response to a formal request presented by the Sustainable Energy Alliance, a local citizens’ organization.

Kennebunk is the fifth Maine municipality to sign the MCPA.

Belfast, Biddeford, Portland and Saco signed on last year. As of this week, 408 US cities representing over 59 million Americans have signed the agreement. The MCPA is based on the Kyoto Protocol, which took effect in February of 2005 in the 141 countries ratifying it.

As signers of the MCPA, participating communities commit to taking the following three actions:
  • Strive to meet or beat the Kyoto Protocol targets in their own communities;
  • Urge their state governments, and the federal government, to enact policies and programs to meet or beat the greenhouse gas emission reduction target suggested for the United States in the Kyoto Protocol -- 7% reduction from 1990 levels by 2012; and
  • Urge the U.S. Congress to pass the bipartisan greenhouse gas reduction legislation, which would establish a national emission trading system.

The Sustainable Energy Alliance initially approached the Board of Selectmen about signing the agreement last November. Since that time, a municipal energy committee has been working to assess the town’s energy use. The committee determined that the town can reasonably work toward the U.S. MCPA goals. A big savings in electricity bills was achieved with streetlight upgrades in the 1990s. Other changes that will help Kennebunk reduce its greenhouse gas emissions may include lighting and insulation upgrades in town buildings and a biodiesel test project. At last night’s meeting, Bill Hetzel, on Kennebunk’s energy committee and a member of SEA, gave a detailed report to the Selectmen summarizing the town’s energy use in 1990 compared to projected energy use, efficiency and savings in future years.

Formed last summer, SEA is headed by Rob Bartlett of West Kennebunk. SEA is planning to kick off a yearlong community carbon challenge next month, asking households in the area to take specific steps to fight climate change by reducing their use of fossil fuels. The group is also planning a “Walk for a Change” on Saturday, June 16th.

For more information and to become involved, go to the SEA website at or contact Jennifer Niese via email at SEA’s next meeting is at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, March 7, at Christ Church on Dane Street in Kennebunk.

The meeting will include a presentation on the science of global warming and Maine’s proposed signing of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Will Al Gore's Oscar Spur More Action?

In my opinion, "An Inconvenient Truth" has been a significant catalyst for individuals and community action against the challenge of climate change and global warming. An article in the Maine Sunday Telegram titled "Gore's Truth spurs Mainers to action" (click title to read article) gives excellent examples of how seeing this movie has changed lives and motivated people to find ways to help address this growing threat. You can add me to that list as well.

I saw the movie early last year with my wife. As the credits were rolling and Melissa Etheridge was singing "I Need To Wake Up", we sat there knowing that we had to do something. To try to make a difference, with like-minded friends, we decided to start a grass-roots organization to work against global warming at a local level. The Sustainable Energy Alliance was born.

Our first major project was working with the Sierra Club and others to show "An Inconvenient Truth" to local residents for free. Almost 400 people showed up on a Friday evening last October to see the movie. Almost 100 people stayed after the movie to discuss how to start making the changes suggested by Gore.

Since that time, I have talked to many people about global warming and climate change. It astounds me how many of those conversations start with "I saw Al Gore's movie and I really want to do something about it..."

I hope that the Oscar - and the publicity surrounding it - will convince even more people to see the movie. If the experiences that I've heard from others is at all representative, this will likely spur more people to realize that our course is not sustainable and that changes need to be made.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Global Warming And Your Diet

How much global warming pollution is generated by your diet? Believe it or not, your food choices can make quite a difference.According to the calculator at the Conservation International website, carbon dioxide emissions from each type of diet are as follows:
  • vegan - 2 tons per year
  • vegetarian - 2.7
  • mostly vegetarian - 3.0
  • omnivorous - 3.8

If you are an omnivore, odds are that you will not suddenly become a vegan to reduce your carbon footprint. But, if you can move even slightly in the direction of a vegetarian diet, then you can help to slow global warming and climate change.

Another diet consideration is the distance that your food travels to get to your plate. I blogged about this in my December 12, 2006 post. The "Eat Local Foods Coalition of Maine" lists 10 reasons to buy local foods, including:

  • Locally grown food tastes better.
  • Local food supports local farm families.
  • Local food preserves open space.
  • And the one most pertinence to this subject: Local food supports a clean environment and benefits wildlife.

In addition to reducing the amount of global warming emissions required to put food on your table, the site says "[c]over crops also capture carbon emissions and help combat global warming. According to some estimates, farmers who practice conservation tillage could sequester 12-14% of the carbon emitted by vehicles and industry."

If you live in Maine are interested in buying more local food, the Get Real. Get Maine website has a search tool that you can use to find local "Community Sponsored Agriculture" or CSA farms. In my experience, buying a share in the CSA at Wolfpine Farm in Alfred, ME last summer was a fantastic way to eat fresh-from-the-fields, delicious organic vegetables at a reasonable price. It also allowed my family to try vegetables that we'd never even heard of before like bunching leeks and Japanese eggplant!!

So, the next time that you buy groceries or eat at a restaurant, consider the effects of your choices on the environment and on your community.

Bono Talks About Changing The World

I am a fan of Bono. Well, all of U2, really. But one of the things that I admire about Bono is his passion for saving the people of Africa. Some may roll their eyes at this Rock Star/Activist, but I think that Bono is a man who understands that he has a unique ability to talk to the people in power - the ones who can do something about the pain of the African people - people from Strom Thurmond to George Bush to Pope John Paul II.

I recently found a video at the TEDTalks website recorded in 2005 when Bono received a TEDPrize award from the group. He speaks eloquently about the challenges facing Africa and how NOW is the time to solve this crisis. There are two quotes that I find particularly inspiring:

"Idealism detached from action is just a dream, but idealism allied with pragmatism, with rolling up your sleeves and making the world bend a bit, is very exciting, is very real, is very strong and very present in a crowd like you."

"There are moments in history when civilization redefines itself. We believe this is one. We believe this could be the time when the world finally decides that the wanton loss of life in Africa is no longer acceptable. This could be the time when we finally get serious about changing the future for most people who live on planet Earth."

I believe that these two ideas are also important for the fight against global warming. Climate change will most effect the poorest people - the people who do not have the resources to deal with the coming changes. As low lying coastal areas are flooded, as prolonged droughts increase, as famines linger - the poor people in Africa and other parts of the world will be the worst affected.

The tide of public opinion is turning. The political will is growing. Like Bono, I believe that we can make a difference. We can redefine ourselves to meet the challenges of helping the world's poor and combating climate change.

Click here to view the video on the TEDTalks website.

One Billion (CFL) Bulbs

On a recent All Things Considered on National Public Radio, there was an interview with Brian Huyser who, after watching a show about global warming on the Discovery Channel, started the One Billion Bulbs website . His goal is to motivate people in the US to repalce 1,000,000,000 incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs - resulting in significant savings on electric bills as well as a reduction in global warming pollution.

The project is broken into phases and is currently on Phase 2 - meaning that between 50,000 and 100,000 CFLs have been installed. The interactive map on the home page indicates that Maine is already over its Phase 2 goal. I didn't know that we had a goal, but I am glad that we reached it!!

Signing up is easy. It only requires setting up a free account and recording the number of bulbs that you've installed, the wattage of the old incandescent bulbs, and the wattage of the new CFLs. After entering the CFL information, the site will calculate how much money you will save ($107.05 for one set of CFLs that I entered) and the amount of CO2 saved (964.56 lbs).

Take a few minutes to join the effort. It is easy to think "How much difference can I make?" When you consider the cummulative effect of just replacing incandescent bulbs with CFLS on the One Billion Bulbs website, you can see just how big of a difference is possible. It gives me hope that we can successfully reduce our energy usage and combat global warming.

Click here for the transcript from the 2/8 NPR show All Things Considered.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

SEA in the Portland Press Herald

The Portland Press Herald ran a story that described various examples of "a new trend among Maine's local governments to reduce energy use and environmental damage... Many of those driving the trend say it's a response to a lack of action or leadership on the national level, especially the Bush administration's refusal to join the Kyoto Protocol and regulate global warming pollution."

The Sustainable Energy Alliance got significant coverage in the article:

"I think we're motivated by the slow pace of progress on global warming. The science is so clear now and yet the progress is so slow," said Jennifer Niese of Kennebunk.

"Niese, a biology teacher and the mother of a kindergartner, was one of a group of friends and acquaintances in Kennebunk who last summer started the Sustainable Energy Alliance ( The group made a pitch to the town's Board of Selectmen last fall, pointing out the dollars to be saved from reduced energy use.

Niese expects her town to begin by switching to energy-efficient lighting and computer screens and then move through a list of other improvements that should cost little and save a lot. "There's a lot of opportunity to save money on energy bills before you get into things that require a big investment," she said."

Click here to read the whole article: "Bright Ideas" from the 2/7/07 Portland Press Herald

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Stephen Colbert Sides With Climate Change Skeptics?

Here is a great video of Colbert discussing the "need" for a second opinion on Global Warming. I am guessing that this is the approach that the Bush Administration uses to find their "experts."

With all of the bad news about climate change lately, I thought we could all use some humor.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

What do YOU think: Global Warming or Climate Change

We here at the Sustainable Energy Alliance have been debating recently about whether "global warming" or "climate change" is a more effective way to frame the current crisis that we face. Does "climate change" seem more scary than "global warming"? Or vice versa? Is "climate change" being used by the skeptics to make the crisis appear less threatening? Is "global warming" simply a less accurate description of what we are facing - since it is expected that some places may become cooler as others warm during the coming century?

Does it even matter what we call it? Do both phrases paint a bleak enough picture that there is no real difference? Does framing really matter?

I would love to hear your thoughts about this. Please click on the word "Comments" below to let us know what you think. Thanks!

Friday, February 02, 2007

Ideas for Saving Water from Ideal Bite

The good people over at Ideal Bite have a good post about ways to save water while washing dishes. Check out their site for this and many other tips how living more sustainably.

We recently went a few weeks without an aerator in our kitchen sink. I was amazed at how much higher the flow rate was without the aerator providing back pressure.

I recommend their daily e-mail tip as well. Sign up via the section at the top of there page.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

IPCC Report Due Out Friday

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will release the first part of it's latest report on global warming and its effects on Friday. This organization of 154 countries - including the United States (which is officially only now beginning to admit that global warming is real) and oil producing states like Saudi Arabia) - must reach consensus on these issues. Therefore, its reports are seen to be extremely conservative estimates of the potential effects of global warming.

According to the Scientific American, early drafts of the report state that "[c]limate change is real, it is already here and its consequences may be worse than anticipated."

It will be interesting to see how this is reported in the media. How much time and credibility will they give to global warming skeptics given the results of this report? Will this add steam to the momentum that is starting to build in the US Congress toward some action on global warming?

For more information, see the IPCC website at .

There is also a good entry about the IPCC in the Wikipedia at .

I hope this this report will further convince people - both ordinary citizens and political leaders - that the time to act is now. Global warming is real. Climate change is already here. The time for action is now.

Please write or call your representatives in Washington DC and demand that the warnings in this report be taken seriously and that legislation be passed this session to mandate reductions of global warming pollution.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

It's time to revisit nuclear power

The past few years, I've found myself reconsidering nuclear power. Gasp! Yes, I'm a strong environmentalist and I'm coming out in favor of nuclear power at the risk of shocking Rob, my host here, and other environmentalists. But a rift has developed amongst green activists, with the Sierra Club coming out against atomic energy, and Patrick Moore, cofounder of Greenpeace, and Hugh Montefiore, a former Anglican bishop and longtime trustee of Friends of the Earth two of the more prominent proponents of third and fourth generation nuclear power technology.

The need to move to a "hydrogen economy". . .
. . .suggests a role for a clean, efficient, and much neglected energy source: nuclear. Like the fuel cell, the nuclear generator is a technology ripe for exploitation. Unlike the solid-core reactors of the past, pebble-bed modular reactors such as the one at Koeberg, South Africa, don't get hot enough to risk melting down. Koeberg uses small graphite-covered uranium balls rather than plutonium rods, and the reactor's cooled by helium rather than water. This new design is so efficient, it might make nuclear competitive with coal and oil. In any event, the nuclear power industry is in dire need of research for everything, from generation to waste treatment. Thus, $10 billion should be allocated to developing and securing nuclear technology that can power the hydrogen revolution.
(From How Hydrogen Can Save America, Wired magazine, April 2003)

Compared to the very real risk of catastrophic global climate change due to our current reliance on fossil fuels, is nuclear power really that dangerous? New nuclear reactor technology, several generations ahead of the designs we commonly know, are reportedly simpler, safer, and more efficient. With the new generation plants, the likelihood of a Three Mile Island or Chernobyl is ostensibly nil, and the statistically insignificant risk of serious problems is nothing compared to the myriad documented health problems resulting from burning coal, oil, and natural gas to produce our electricity.

Several good articles on nex-gen nuclear power may be found at:

Environmental Science & Technology Online
Living On Earth (audio)
M.I.T. Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering
Wired magazine, February 2005

Granted, there are too many cultural, environmental, and cost hurdles to make nuclear power a global warming panacea, but as one component of the future energy generation picture it certainly warrants consideration.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Al Gore Video - Like You've Never Seen Him?

Here is a fantastic video of Al Gore giving a short version of his global warming talk. Before he starts, Mr. Gore shows that he has come a long way from the presidential candidate that we saw in 2000 who was accused of being as lively as an oak tree.

Take a few minutes to watch this...

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Could Detroit be coming around?

"Cheaper Gas? No Thanks, Says Detroit"

In a recent entry on's Autopia blog
, Mark Durham wonders if the investments domestic automakers have made in eco-friendly vehicles could be at risk as fuel prices descend. If that's what it takes to force the no-longer-appropriately-named "Big Three" to abandon their seedy affair with cash cow, gas guzzling SUVs then I say, "Bravo!"

Even if their interest in greener, more fuel efficient vehicles has less to do with genuine leadership than with capitalizing on increasing consumer awareness of the link between automobiles (and the euphemistically categorized "light trucks") and climate change, it can only be seen as positive. With consumers being offered more and more high mileage vehicles each model year, almost exclusively by European (diesels) and Japanese (hybrids) manufacturers, the increasingly archaic domestics need to act decisively and responsibly, and post-haste, if they hope to survive. Hopefully this will mean more eco-friendly transportation choices at prices that everyone can afford. It's only a part of the necessary effort, but an exceedingly important part. I say to GM, Ford, and DaimlerChrysler, "Let's see some good old fashioned American ingenuity!"

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Think twice before idling

Car and truck drivers who idle their engines for more than 30 seconds are wasting money, needlessly emitting global warming pollution, and putting the health of others - especially children - at risk.

The Union of Concerned Scientists say that "[f]uel-injection vehicles, which have been the norm since the mid-1980s, can be restarted frequently without engine damage and need no more than 30 seconds to warm up even on winter days."

Steps that you can take to minimize your idling time:
  • "When first starting your car, idle for no more than 30 seconds.

  • "Except when sitting in traffic, turn your engine off if you must wait in your car for more than 30 seconds. You can still operate the radio and windows without the engine running.

  • "When the time comes to buy a new car, consider a hybrid. Hybrid gasoline-electric vehicles switch off the engine and use battery power for accessories when the car is not moving, effectively eliminating idling."
It is a weird feeling to pull up to a stop light in a Toyota Prius and suddenly realize the the car has automatically turned off. When I think about all of the fuel wasted each day as people idle their cars - whether stuck in traffic, heating up the car to drive to work on a cold winter morning, or running into the grocery store for a gallon of milk - I realize how changing just this behavior would be a great way to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.

For more information, visit the Union of Concerned Scientists' blog Also, the EPA has a website about Anti-Idling that focuses on school buses, but has good information about the effects of idling.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Exxon Mobil Changes Stance About Global Warming

An article in the Pittsburgh (PA) Post-Gazette entitled "Exxon Mobil softens its climate-change stance" reports that the world's largest oil company is starting to accept that (1) global warming is real and (2) limits on carbon emissions are likely to be coming from the US government in the near future. Rather than argue against the theory that humans are contributing to global warming, they are starting to try to shape the form that regulations might take.

Kenneth Cohen, VP of Public Relations, says, "[W]e know enough now -- or, society knows enough now -- that the risk is serious and action should be taken."

This is a good sign. The tide is turning. The debate is changing from whether human-influenced global warming is fact or fiction to how best to approach the problems of global warming and climate change. As that debate moves forward, there will be heavy lobbying from all sides. We need to communicate with our elected officials to be sure that the actions taken in Washington will represent the types of reform that we need.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

GM shows plug-in hybrid concept car

CNN reports that GM unveiled a plug-in hybrid vehicle that uses a small gasoline engine only when necessary to recharge the batteries. The Chevy Volt can drive for about 40 miles of "suburban driving" and recharges in about 6.5 hours.

Maybe GM is trying to make up for killing the EV-1 (see "Who Killed The Electric Car" for more information about this reference) by being the first US car company to bring this much-needed product to market!

My hope is that GM - and other car companies - will unveil plug-in hybrids like the Chevy Volt as soon as possible. We need to move away from a transportation sector powered by oil and toward one that is powered by electricity. With plug-in hybrids, the stage could be set for cars powered by renewable-based energy.