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Earth Policy Institute;
For years now, many members of Congress have insisted that cutting carbon emissions was difficult, if not impossible. It is not. During the two years since 2007, carbon emissions have dropped 9 percent. While part of this drop is from the recession, part of it is also from efficiency gains and from replacing coal with natural gas, wind, solar, and geothermal energy.
The United States has ended a century of rising carbon emissions and has now entered a new energy era, one of declining emissions. Peak carbon is now history. What had appeared to be hopelessly difficult is happening at amazing speed.
For a country where oil and coal use have been growing for more than a century, the fall since 2007 is startling. In 2008, oil use dropped 5 percent, coal 1 percent, and carbon emissions by 3 percent. Estimates for 2009, based on U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) data for the first nine months, show oil use down by another 5 percent. Coal is set to fall by 10 percent. Carbon emissions from burning all fossil fuels dropped 9 percent over the two years.
Beyond the cuts already made, there are further massive reductions in the policy pipeline. Prominent among them are stronger automobile fuel-economy standards, higher appliance efficiency standards, and financial incentives supporting the large-scale development of wind, solar, and geothermal energy. (See data at www.earthpolicy.org.)
Efforts to reduce fossil fuel use are under way at every level of government -- national, state, and city -- as well as in corporations, utilities, and universities. And millions of climate-conscious, cost-cutting Americans are altering their lifestyles to reduce energy use.
For its part, the federal government -- the largest U.S. energy consumer, with some 500,000 buildings and 600,000 vehicles -- announced in early October 2009 that it is setting its own carbon-cutting goals. These include reducing vehicle fleet fuel use 30 percent by 2020, recycling at least 50 percent of waste by 2015, and buying environmentally responsible products.
Electricity use is falling partly because of gains in efficiency. The potential for further cuts is evident in the wide variation in energy efficiency among states. The Rocky Mountain Institute calculates that if the 40 least-efficient states were to reach the electrical efficiency of the 10 most-efficient ones, national electricity use would be reduced by one third. This would allow the equivalent of 62 percent of the country's 617 coal-fired power plants to be closed.
Actions are being taken to realize this potential. For several years DOE failed to write the regulations needed to implement appliance efficiency legislation that Congress had already passed. Within days of taking office, President Obama instructed the agency to write the regulations needed to realize these potentially vast efficiency gains as soon as possible.
The energy efficiency revolution that is now under way will transform everything from lighting to transportation. With lighting, for example, shifting from incandescent bulbs to the newer light-emitting diodes (LEDs), combined with motion sensors to turn lights off in unoccupied spaces, can cut electricity use by more than 90 percent. Los Angeles, for example, is replacing its 140,000 street lights with LEDs -- and cutting electricity and maintenance costs by $10 million per year.
The carbon-cutting movement is gaining momentum on many fronts. In July, the Sierra Club -- coordinator of the national anti-coal campaign -- announced the hundredth cancellation of a proposed plant since 2001. This battle is leading to a de facto moratorium on new coal plants. Despite the coal industry's $45-million annual budget to promote "clean coal," utilities are giving up on coal and starting to close plants. The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), with 11 coal plants (average age 47 years) and a court order to install over $1 billion worth of pollution controls, is considering closing its plant near Rogersville, Tennessee, along with the six oldest units out of eight in its Stevenson, Alabama, plant.
TVA is not alone. Altogether, some 22 coal-fired power plants in 12 states are being replaced by wind farms, natural gas plants, wood chip plants, or efficiency gains. Many more are likely to close as public pressure to clean up the air and to cut carbon emissions intensifies. Shifting from coal to natural gas cuts carbon emissions by roughly half. Shifting to wind, solar, and geothermal energy drops them to zero.
State governments are getting behind renewables big time. Thirty-four states have adopted renewable portfolio standards to produce a larger share of their electricity from renewable sources over the next decade or so. Among the more populous states, the renewable standard is 24 percent in New York, 25 percent in Illinois, and 33 percent in California.
While coal plants are closing, wind farms are multiplying. In 2008, a total of 102 wind farms came online, providing more than 8,400 megawatts of generating capacity. Forty-nine wind farms were completed in the first half of 2009 and 57 more are under construction. More important, some 300,000 megawatts of wind projects (think 300 coal plants) are awaiting access to the grid.
U.S. solar cell installations are growing at 40 percent a year. With new incentives, this rapid growth in rooftop installations on homes, shopping malls, and factories should continue. In addition, some 15 large solar thermal power plants that use mirrors to concentrate sunlight and generate electricity are planned in California, Arizona, and Nevada. A new heat-storage technology that enables the plants to continue generating power for up to six hours past sundown helps explain this boom.
For many years, U.S. geothermal energy was confined largely to the huge Geysers project north of San Francisco, with 850 megawatts of generating capacity. Now the United States, with 132 geothermal power plants under development, is experiencing a geothermal renaissance.
After their century-long love-affair with the car, Americans are turning to mass transit. There is hardly a U.S. city that is not either building new light rail, subways, or express bus lines or upgrading and expanding existing ones.
As motorists turn to public transit, and also to bicycles, the U.S. car fleet is shrinking. The estimated scrappage of 14 million cars in 2009 will exceed new sales of 10 million by 4 million, shrinking the fleet 2 percent in one year. This shrinkage will likely continue for a few years.
Oil use and imports are both declining. This will continue as the new fuel economy standards raise the fuel efficiency of new cars 42 percent and light trucks 25 percent by 2016. And since 42 percent of the diesel fuel burned in the rail freight sector is used to haul coal, falling coal use means falling diesel fuel use.
But the big gains in fuel efficiency will come with the shift to plug-in hybrids and all-electric cars. Not only are electric motors three times more efficient than gasoline engines, but they also enable cars to run on wind power at a gasoline-equivalent cost of 75-cents a gallon. Almost every major car maker will soon be selling plug-in hybrids, electric cars, or both.
In this new energy era carbon emissions are declining and they will likely continue to do so because of policies already on the books. We are headed in the right direction. We do not yet know how much we can cut carbon emissions because we are just beginning to make a serious effort. Whether we can move fast enough to avoid catastrophic climate change remains to be seen.
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Lester R. Brown is President of the Earth Policy Institute and author of Plan B 4.0:
Mobilizing to Save Civilization
Data and additional resources at www.earthpolicy.org
Reah Janise Kauffman
Tel: (202) 496-9290 x12
E-mail: rji (at) earthpolicy.org
Tel: (202) 496-9290 x14
E-mail: jlarsen (at) earthpolicy.org
Earth Policy Institute
1350 Connecticut Ave. NW, Suite 403
Washington, DC 20036
Earth Policy Institute;
In a report compiled in early 2007, the U.S. Department of Energy listed 151 coal-fired power plants in the planning stages and talked about a resurgence in coal-fired electricity. But during 2007, 59 proposed U.S. coal-fired power plants were either refused licenses by state governments or quietly abandoned. In addition to the 59 plants that were dropped, close to 50 more coal plants are being contested in the courts, and the remaining plants will likely be challenged as they reach the permitting stage.
Earth Policy Institute;
The 107 million tons of grain that went to U.S. ethanol distilleries in 2009 was enough to feed 330 million people for one year at average world consumption levels. More than a quarter of the total U.S. grain crop was turned into ethanol to fuel cars last year. With 200 ethanol distilleries in the country set up to transform food into fuel, the amount of grain processed has tripled since 2004.
California cities have the least affordable housing and the most congested traffic in the nation. California's housing crisis results directly from several little-known state institutions, including local agency formation commissions (LAFCos), which regulate annexations and the formation of new cities and service districts; the California Environmental Quality Act, which imposes high costs on new developments; and a 1971 state planning law that effectively entitles any resident in the state to a say in how property owners in the state use their land. Cities such as San Jose have manipulated these institutions and laws with the goal of maximizing their tax revenues.
Meanwhile, California's transportation planning has allowed transit agencies, such as San Jose's Valley Transportation Authority and Los Angeles' Metropolitan Transportation Authority, to hijack tax revenues that were originally dedicated to highways so they can build rail empires that will do little or nothing to relieve congestion. New highway construction in the 1990s cut San Jose congestion in half, but congestion is again worsening as funds once spent on highways are now diverted to expensive and little-used rail transit projects.
California should change its planning laws to forbid cities and counties from conspiring to drive up housing prices in order to maximize tax revenues. California and its urban areas should also fund transportation out of user fees instead of taxes, thus making transportation more responsive to the needs of users instead of politically powerful special interest groups. Other states should avoid passing laws that create similar conditions. These recommendations and eight others in this report will greatly improve the livability of San Jose and other California urban areas.
Earth Policy Institute;
Plan B is shaped by what is needed to save civilization, not by what may currently be considered politically feasible. Plan B does not fit within a particular discipline, sector, or set of assumptions.
Implementing Plan B means undertaking several actions simultaneously, including eradicating poverty, stabilizing population, and restoring the earth's natural systems. It also involves cutting carbon dioxide emissions 80 percent by 2020, largely through a mobilization to raise energy efficiency and harness renewable sources of energy.
Not only is the scale of this save-our-civilization plan ambitious, so is the speed with which it must be implemented. We must move at wartime speed, restructuring the world energy economy at a pace reminiscent of the restructuring of the U.S. industrial economy in 1942 following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The shift from producing cars to planes, tanks, and guns was accomplished within a matter of months. One of the keys to this extraordinarily rapid restructuring was a ban on the sale of cars, a ban that lasted nearly three years.
We face an extraordinary challenge, but there is much to be upbeat about. All the problems we face can be dealt with using existing technologies. And almost everything we need to do to move the world economy back onto an environmentally sustainable path has already been done in one or more countries.
Center for Economic and Policy Research;
European employees work fewer hours per year -- and use less energy per person -- than their American counterparts. This report compares the European and U.S. models of labor productivity and energy consumption. It finds that if all countries worked as many hours per week as U.S. workers do, the world would consume 15 to 30 percent more energy by 2050 than it would by following Europe's model.
Population Action International;
U.S. international family planning assistance is one of the great success stories in the history of U.S. development assistance. In 2007, 56.5 million women in the developing world were using modern contraception as a direct result of U.S. support. Many millions more have benefited indirectly from service improvements resulting from the guidance and technical expertise of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Unfortunately a large and growing need for family planning remains in many developing nations. While the world population continues to grow by 79 million people annually, 215 million women in developing countries seek to postpone childbearing, space births, or stop having children, but are not using a modern method of contraception. The United States can lead international efforts to meet the unmet need for family planning by appropriating $1 billion annually. The $1 billion figure is the U.S. fair share of developed country contributions necessary to address unmet need in the developing world and would also fulfill our historic commitments to the U.N. Millennium Development Goals.
World Resources Institute (WRI);
This document describes the specific characteristics of the indicator data and calculations for the Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas Global Maps. Complete guidelines and processes for data collection, calculations, and mapping techniques are described fully in the Aqueduct Water Risk Framework. The Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas makes use of a Water Risk Framework, that includes 12 global indicators grouped into three categories of risk and one overall score.
Johnson Foundation at Wingspread, The;
After more than six years of intensive, solution oriented work on U.S. freshwater issues, The Johnson Foundation at Wingspread is concluding its Charting New Waters initiative. Through convening hundreds of experts representing different sectors and perspectives, we have amplified important ideas and innovations that can make a difference. This executive summary of our final report synthesizes insights from the full arc of Charting New Waters and is meant to provide a platform for our many partners and other leaders as they continue to address water resource and infrastructure challenges.
Without significant changes, existing water systems will soon no longer be able to provide the services that citizens have come to expect. Recent water crises have illustrated that the economic and social consequences of inaction are far too great for this nation and its communities. It is time to accelerate the adoption and implementation of the transformative solutions we know are possible.
Our full report leads with a vision that illustrates what The Johnson Foundation believes is both possible and necessary to achieve if our nation is to successfully navigate our water challenges. It then presents a set of principles, summarized below, to help guide the efforts of leaders in various sectors as they act upon the recommendations we offer. The recommendations themselves, which are also summarized in brief below, fall under the following five key ideas:
Optimize the use of available water suppliesTransition to next-generation wastewater systemsIntegrate the management of water, energy and food productionInstitutionalize the value of waterCreate integrated utilitiesThe Johnson Foundation selected the recommendations presented in the report because of their timeliness and promise for leveraging existing momentum. We hope the recommendations shed light on what is needed to catalyze transformative change and the benefits we can reap as a result. We also hope they will inspire additional action to seize the future for sustainable and resilient U.S. freshwater resources.
International investment to mitigate climate change is far below levels needed to reach the two-degree target. The International Energy Agency estimates that an average of an additional $1 trillion in incremental financing for clean energy is needed to meet the temperature target. In September 2014, over 350 investors representing $24 trillion in assets issued the Global Investor Statement on Climate Change, calling on governments to create an ambitious global agreement that includes a meaningful price on carbon -- the "Clean Trillion."
This paper connects the Clean Trillion goal to the current United States climate and clean energy policy framework, which is a mixture of federal, state, and local initiatives. The paper outlines the 2015 U.S. policy priorities of the Policy Working Group of the Investor Network on Climate Risk (INCR), a network of more than 110 institutional investors primarily based in the U.S., focused on investment risks and opportunities associated with climate change.
U.S. corn farmers are among the most productive in the world, generating a record harvest of nearly 14 billion bushels in 2013 -- enough corn to fill a freight train long enough to circle the Earth. This production supports a mammoth agricultural sector comprised not just of farmers, but also major food, meat and energy companies that have an enormous stake in the long-term productivity and resilience of American agriculture. However, in the face of this bounty, three major threats to U.S. corn production loom: climate change, unsustainable water use and inefficient and damaging fertilizer practices.
Ceres' new report analyzes the risks facing U.S. corn production. The report provides recommendations for how corn-buying companies and their investors can catalyze more sustainable agricultural practices, while helping farmers preserve and enhance yields, and protect precious water resources. The research is accompanied by new data and interactive maps that highlight irrigation risks and fertilizer pollution hotspots.
The cases in this report include a wide variety of types of Payment for Ecosystem Services, or "PES" programs. The cases vary by payment type, ecosystem services involved, and the end goal of the purchase. The locales span the United States, from New York to California, and from Georgia to Washington, so they represent a sample of what the United States has tried and offer lessons applicable to future PES programs.
Each case offers unique insights into specific situations, but there are some aspects that are largely seen across the board. PES schemes seem to all benefit greatly from a strong and broad coalition of groups supporting them from the early planning stages through implementation. PES schemes are still relatively new and people can be resistant to new and different things. Having these coalitions helps to gain trust and respect from communities and partners, which increases the chances of program success. Allowing adequate time is another theme that seems to greatly enhance the chance of success. Creating these partnerships and navigating the new terrain of PES schemes takes time and patience. Many of these cases were only successful because the parties involved were willing to put in up to years of time in order to make it happen. As the cases demonstrate, the benefits of these PES schemes make the time and work put in to make them happen more than completely worth it.