Friday, July 25, 2008

325? What global new deal?

McKibben says 350 Hansen says 325. Where do we stand?

We stand on the edge driven by the winds of climate change, resource depletion/peak everything, and the particular- at present beneficial- forces of one peaking resource- oil. Climate Change really doesn’t capture the problem- acidification of the oceans destroying marine life, rising sea levels, the instability of climate systems that disrupt the food supply and our ability to feed our cars while starving our people and soil.

Tom Athanasiou said a crash program was necessary and that today's defining silence about this overarching challenge is inconsistent with any true crash program.

He followed up by pointing to the groundswell from people like McKibben and Gore and saying that: The situation is in rapid flux. Peering forward into the fog, the question is how to prepare for the political and institutional transition that's so clearly necessary, and to do so while at the same time winning the ground war. So please, the fight in Bali -- a fight to lay down a negotiating timeline that will lead to a meaningful successor agreement to Kyoto -- is not a "surreal waste of time," as I heard it called just this morning. Keep your eye, instead, on the ball -- the successor agreement.

Politically the stalemate remains one of virtue versus action. Non profits and individual home owners are motivated to purchasing panels or bike, driven by sense of responsibility for the environment. Government, business, and the more general public however are used to consuming cheap dirty power, free of pollution cost, and will have questions related the costs of producing from PV or the time lost on a bike commute or with bike infrastructure gumming up the driving systems. Belmont may wish for a 20 mph town but getting there with irate drivers toasting the planet is a depressing goal. Or is it? We may not have been having this conversation two years ago. Until a price is established for pollution local governments have the option of solving exiting needs around pollution and safety in their communities.

At the state level there is considerable prodding. CARB announced a carbon credit trading system in June and CA proposed joining a large market with other western states and British Columbia, which is weak on transportation and home energy use. This is an area where most of the new business' are being established such as Terra Pass in Menlo Park. Twenty years ago these guys would have been non profits. PG&E has its own system which has been criticized for having very little oversight. The USP in this area will be on transparency. Kyoto and Europe are in the process of revamping their market and I can't see India and China being left out again. At a minimum a price on carbon in imports would change things overnight there. In a related area note how California adapted to the court order on diesel engines with Low Sulphur Fuel For Ships. The Sierra Club teams up with Cool It to offer offsets that go into wind power installations.

Last year the Governor vetoed an attempt by PG&E to take over the carbon credits from home PV installations. He said they were essential to growing the market. In response Carbon Retirement was formed to try and preserve the atmosphere by retiring the credits in effect creating a higher price for carbon.

The way to offset transportation costs is to enable a walkable city with low speeds and then selectively allow electric cars filled up by solar PV. The market for cars that can go 300 miles on a fillup at 100 mph is not there and may never get there in our lifetime. Tesla is pushing the technology but not the cost and there are pollution issues with their batteries. What does exist are what are called NEVs- Neighborhood Electric Vehicles (fancy name for a golf cart) that go 30 miles on a fillup at a max speed of 25 mph. Cities should be talking about setting a speed cap in the urban area of 20 mph (faster speed would only be permitted on large connecting arterials,) and there is not much change here from existing policy except for the big changes needed in parking policies similar to the '70s to advantage smaller vehicles, and developing denser more walkable transit oriented neighborhoods. The Urban Land Institute, has weighed in with an influential document called Growing Cooler which articulates policy changes to make the proposals a reality.

As Tom said the situation is fluid, and for now, either goal post works.

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