State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

Climate News Roundup — Week of 7/26

Modern Cargo Ships Slow to the Speed of ClippersThe Guardian

In an effort to save fuel, money, and reduce carbon emissions, modern cargo ships are reducing their speeds from near 25 knots to as low as 12 or 13 knots, or about 14 mph.  Super-slow steaming, as the practice is known, reduces the speed of cargo boats to less than that of 19th-century clipper ships.  Sailing at these speeds can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and lower fuel consumption, by up to 30%.  This is significant, as cargo ships typically burn immense volumes of low-grade diesel fuel. As the Guardian notes, the Emma Maersk, one of the world’s largest shipping vessels, burned roughly as much carbon as the 30 lowest-emitting countries in the world.  Environmentalist groups have called to make this practice standard regulation, arguing that when the economy rebounds from the recession there is no guarantee super-slow steaming won’t be disbanded.

Turbines Too Loud?  Here, Take $5,000The New York Times

In rural Oregon, locals complaining about the noise produced by wind turbines – the very existence of which has proven controversial – have been offered $5000 per person by the energy company Caithness Energy to waive their rights to complain about noise.   While some locals  accept the $5,000, some argue that there is little or no noise, and others assert that opponents of the turbines are merely seeking retribution for being barred from leasing their land to the wind companies.   Other opponents to wind development counter that the turbines aren’t only a noise nuisance, but that the movement of the blades causes air vibrations leading to nausea and dizziness.  Complicating matters is the fact that the agency that would be regulating turbine noise and vibrations – housed under the state Department of Environmental Quality – was disbanded in 1991.

U.N. Body Probes Cases of Paying Greenhouse Gas Emitters, Which Then Produce MoreScientific American

The executive board of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), a U.N. affiliate, has begun examining what might be the most controversial abuse of the Kyoto protocol since it went into force in 2005.   At stake are several companies charged with creating excess hydrofluorocarbon-23 (HFC-23), a regulated greenhouse gas that is a byproduct of refrigerant and propellant production.  By producing excess HFC-23, and then destroying it, environmental groups claim, certain companies seek to obtain more CDM offset credits — and more profit.  As ClimateWire and Scientific American note, billions of dollars in offset credits have already been given to 19 plants producing and destroying HFC-23, mainly in China, India, South Korea, Argentina, and Mexico.  Still, the point may be moot.  Without another protocol to fill the place of the Kyoto protocol when it expires, CDM credits might cease to exist entirely in the coming years.

Black Carbon Pollution From Fossil Fuels Causes Twice the Warming As Burning Biomass,Treehugger

Black carbon soot, it has been found, plays an increasingly important role in global warming.  The aerosol, produced when fossil fuels or biomass – like wood – are burned is an effective absorber of incoming solar radiation.  A new study published in Nature Geoscience last week has reached two significant findings: that the amount of solar radiation absorbed increases as the ratio of black carbon to sulphate rises, and that black carbon produced from the burning of fossil fuels is twice as effective at absorbing solar radiation than the burning of wood biomass.  The silver lining to the study, however, is that once emissions of fossil fuel black carbon is halted, it almost immediately dissipates in the atmosphere.  This could potentially reduce global warming.  As treehugger notes, this study traces black carbon emissions back to their sources and determines what are the most potent black carbon sources – enabling politicians and policy-makers to more effectively target greenhouse gases for reduction.

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Joe Burgess
Joe Burgess
13 years ago

The commentaries in the latest issue (Aug. 5) of The Green-Dog Democrat e-mail e-zine review how hot it is globally and why and the reasonable notion that the Senate Republicans who just put the kibosh on the Kerry-Lieberman climate-change/energy bill don’t have grandchildren. The issue is posted on at