Jetson Green writes on an Austin, Texas city initiative that will ramp up energy efficiency standards through 2015. The big surprise? It may actually save money in the long run:
The City of Austin, after a year of serious research by the Zero Energy Capable Homes Task Force, announced a huge initiative towards requiring all new single-family homes to be zero-energy capably by 2015. Here’s how it works. Today, the city adopted the first in a series of code amendments and a road map of code amendments that will be implemented through 2015. Due to this first series of changes, roughly 6500 new homes built in Austin will be about 20% more efficient. Through 2015, as the code changes ratchet up the efficiency baseline, homes will end up using about 65% less energy than those built today. Then, owners will have the option of adding solar or some other clean tech to get the home to zero energy status.
Speaking of the Zero Energy Homes Initiative, Mayor Will Wynn said, “We’re taking action today that will lower the cost of utility bills, make housing more affordable, help improve air quality and take critical steps in the fight against global warming.“
I’m always a bit startled by the phrase “fight against global warming.” I suppose it is more politically neutral than the “fight against industrial excess.”
From the BBC News:
The amount of carbon dioxide being absorbed by the world’s oceans has reduced, scientists have said.
University of East Anglia researchers gauged CO2 absorption through more than 90,000 measurements from merchant ships equipped with automatic instruments.
Results of their 10-year study in the North Atlantic show CO2 uptake halved between the mid-90s and 2000 to 2005.
Scientists believe global warming might get worse if the oceans soak up less of the greenhouse gas.
Researchers said the findings, published in a paper for the Journal of Geophysical Research, were surprising and worrying because there were grounds for believing that, in time, the ocean might become saturated with our emissions.
The world’s oceans, like the terrestrial biomes taken as a whole, provide an important carbon ‘sink’ through which atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are regulated. Algal blooms that feed on carbon dioxide are one of the main mechanisms through which the ocean participates in the carbon cycle, but, as far as we know, there is only so much that they can handle before saturation begins to occur.
Mounting evidence has suggested to many scientists that the ocean’s regulation of CO2 is a finely-tuned process capable of maintaining an equilibrium in all but the most extreme circumstances. The very real concern of these scientists is that, after over a century of virtually unfettered human industrial emissions, such an extreme circumstance may be here or presently on its way.
To illustrate the width of the fault which separates political attitudes toward the issue of climate change, I collected several articles from various news sources demonstrating different receptions of the decision to award the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and to former U.S. Vice-President Al Gore, Jr.
From National Geographic, a glowing commendation:
Gore has been a leading voice among environmental campaigners who warn that Earth is under severe threat from climate change caused by rising levels of greenhouse gases produced by the burning of fossil fuels and other human activity.
Since leaving office in 2001, the former vice president has lectured around the world about the perils of global warming. Last year he also presented an Oscar-winning documentary on the subject, An Inconvenient Truth.
Gore “is probably the single individual who has done the most to create greater worldwide understanding of the measures that need to be adopted” to tackle global warming, the Norwegian Nobel Committee said.
The IPCC, based in Geneva, Switzerland, pools the research of 2,500 scientists in more than 130 countries who study the causes and impacts of climate change.
Earlier this year, the IPCC concluded that global warming is “unequivocal” and that human activity is almost certainly the cause.
The U.N. panel also warned that global warming could claim hundreds of millions of human lives due to increased risk of disease, starvation, and conflict triggered by drought, floods, storms, and other severe climate effects.
Al-Jazeera, while noting the accomplishments of Gore and the UN’s top panel of climate scientists, called into question the Nobel committee’s decision to award the Peace Prize in response to an issue that might seem to have little to do with human conflict and suffering:
However, Dr Alan Hunter, a lecturer in peace studies in the UK, said he felt “the link between climate change and peace is really very tenuously made”.
“I don’t think anyone has carefully demonstrated the link between climate change and war,” he said.
“There are long term predictions that it will lead to resource scarcity and resource scarcity could lead to conflict, such as fighting over water in parts of Africa, but I think that’s accepted as being a few decades away.”
He told Al Jazeera awarding Gore the peace prize was a “surprising decision”.
Jan Oberg, a former secretary-general of the Danish Peace Foundation, also questioned Gore’s suitability for receiving the award.
Oberg described giving the prize to the former vice president as “a great misjudgment”.
In an article on the Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research website, Oberg pointed to Gore’s roles as vice-president to Bill Clinton, the US leader between 1993 and 2001.
In that role, Gore was part of an administration that bombed Kosovo, in what was then Yugoslavia.
Later the same administration bombed Afghanistan and Sudan, in response to an attack on its embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in August 1998.
This line of questioning seems to me to be fairly reasonable, although I doubt that the association of Gore with the bombings in Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Sudan holds much water in the context of his work to educate the public about climate change. Moreover, there was no space in this article allotted for an answer by a representative of the Nobel committee.
An article from the New York Times gives a bit of insight into the committee’s decision-making:
The Nobel prizes are meant to be apolitical, and are awarded independently of one another. (The peace prize is awarded in Oslo, while the others are awarded by various academies in Sweden.) But a number of recent winners have expressed their opposition to Bush administration policies. . .
. . . In its citation on Friday, the Norwegian Nobel Committee said the United Nations panel and Mr. Gore had focused “on the processes and decisions that appear to be necessary to protect the world’s future climate, and thereby reduce the future threat to the security of mankind.”
It concluded, “Action is necessary now, before climate change moves beyond man’s control.”
According to the committee citation, then, there are real threats to human security other than guerrilla warfare, nuclear weapons, and the international arms trade. In recent years, it has broadened its interpretation of Alfred Nobel’s original criteria to include socioeconomic and environmental issues.
Constructive criticism aside, the most fiery debate comes from within the U.S. press. MSNBC’s coverage of the award was fairly circumspect. Note the sharp differences between perspectives from the right and left:
“He’s like the proverbial nut that grew into a giant oak by standing his ground,” Patrick Michaels, a scholar with the free market Cato Institute, said in a statement. “We can only hope that he can parlay his prize into a run for the U. S. presidency, where he will be unable to hide from debate on his extreme and one-sided view of global warming.” . . .
. . .FoxNews.com columnist Steve Milloy alleged that Gore “plays fast and loose with the facts to advance his personal agenda.”
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown called Gore ” inspirational in focusing attention across the globe on this key issue.”
Julia Marton-Lefèvre, head of the World Conservation Union, said that, “as Mr. Gore and the IPCC have clearly demonstrated, we can solve the grave dangers posed by climate change if we have the will. Let the Nobel Peace Prize become the embodiment of that will.” . . .
. . .
Jan Egeland, a Norwegian peace mediator and former U.N. undersecretary for humanitarian affairs, called climate change more than an environmental issue.
“It is a question of war and peace,” said Egeland, now director of the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs in Oslo. “We’re already seeing the first climate wars, in the Sahel belt of Africa.” He said nomads and herders are in conflict with farmers because the changing climate has brought drought and a shortage of fertile lands.
Far-right polemic HumanEvents.com‘s Dennis Byrne seemed intent on putting his eggs in one basket:
Clearly, the prize falls outside the standards set in the 1895 will of the engineer Dr. Alfred Bernhard Nobel, which ordered that his “remaining realizable estate” shall be awarded in five equal parts to people who have “conferred the greatest benefit to mankind.” The standard for the Peace Prize portion requires that the recipient “shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.”
Oh, yeah? Gore’s nominating papers supposedly should do the impossible: show how he campaigned against standing armies, global fraternalism or peace congresses. But those details are closed to public inspection for 50 years, according to Nobel rules.
Such fudging didn’t bother Bryan Walsh, Time Magazine’s chief global warming propagandist, who linked global warming to all sorts of global conflicts by making a global-sized stretch in logic:
Gore’s win was widely expected, but there may still be those who wonder how an environmentalist could be, as the Peace Prize’s description goes, the person who has “done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations.” They shouldn’t. Climate change is already a key instigator of conflict in areas like Darfur, where drought likely worsened by global warming helped trigger a civil war that has claimed over 200,000 lives.
As the IPCC’s [U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] own reports this year show, unabated global warming will likely lead to competition for increasingly scarce resources and create waves of climate refugees in the hottest and poorest nations. A warmer world will almost certainly be a more violent one, so it’s fitting that those who’ve done the most on climate change should be celebrated as warriors for peace.
How appropriate that such “progressive” (i.e., flexible) reasoning is used to justify a clear violation of the rules. Rules are meant to be broken; the end justifies the means. The end here, of course, is to shove a sharp stick in the eye of America and President George W. Bush.
To get its licks in at America, the committee reportedly bypassed real peace activists and nominees such as Irene Sendler of Poland, who saved 2,500 Jewish children from the Holocaust.
There’s also Thich Quang Do. In case you never heard of him, here’s a glimpse:
Thich Quang Do is an intellectual leader and a unifying force in his home country [Vietnam]. A monk, researcher and author, he has devoted his life to the advancement of justice and the Buddhist tradition of non-violence, tolerance and compassion. Through political petitions Thich Quang Do has challenged the authorities to engage in dialogue on democratic reforms, pluralism, freedom of religion, human rights and national reconciliation. This has provided force and direction to the democracy movement. But he has paid a high price for his activism. Thich Quang Do has spent a total of 25 years in prison and today, at 77, he is still under house arrest. From here, he continues the struggle. As deputy leader of the banned Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam, Thich Quang Do is strongly supported by Vietnam’s numerous Buddhists. He also receives broad support from other religious communities as well as from veterans of the Communist Party. Thich Quang Do plays a key role in the work of reconciling dissidents from North and South Vietnam.
In comparison, Gore is a merely a huckster with a Power Point presentation. When you see who the politically inspired Nobel committee by-passed, it makes you want to cry. It’s just a shame that an internationally respected honor has been dirtied by the parochial and small minds in Norway for such ugly political reasons.
Regardless of his disjointed rhetorical examples, one distinctly gets the feeling the “parochial and small minds in Norway” could only have truly gained Mr. Byrne’s favor by awarding the Peace Prize to a back-to-the-Bible Republican. Any other decision would have meant the Nobel Committee was aiming to “get its licks in at America.”
Greg Gutfield of Fox News also felt the need to resort to ad hominem criticism and witticism:
The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded Friday morning and I’d like to congratulate Irena Sendler.
Sendler was a former history teacher who rescued 2,500 children during the Holocaust and was a top contender for the wondrous prize. It was in the early 1940s that Sendler, a Catholic social worker, had gone into the Warsaw ghetto to rescue Jewish kids destined either to starve there or die in death camps.
She would sneak the kids past Nazi guards, sometimes hiding them in body bags or would provide them with false documents. She’d get them to Polish families for adoption or hide them in convents or orphanages. She made a list of the children’s real names, put them in a jar and buried them, so that some day she could dig them up, then find the kids to tell them their true names.
The Nazis captured her and beat the crap out of her, but she later escaped. She’s now in her late 90s, living in a nursing home in Poland.
I want to congratulate her, because she didn’t win the Nobel Peace Prize. Instead it went to Al Gore, the guy who invented the Internet.
And, from CNSNews.com, an organization dedicated to combating “liberal bias” in the media, comes this veritable elegy for all that is integrity and accountability in the Nobel name:
While supporters of Al Gore and his stance on global warming celebrated the former vice president’s win of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize on Friday, skeptics of man-made climate change dismissed the award as another example of the Nobel committee naming someone “Liberal of the Year.”
“Al Gore should probably get a prize for most travel in a private jet, but not the Peace Prize,” said Myron Ebell, director of global warming policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI). He also called the award, which was shared with the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), “a sad day for the Nobel legacy.”
Giving Gore the annual prize was “an unfortunate and misguided move by the Nobel committee,” Ebell said, because “the energy-rationing policies he espouses would perpetuate the poverty and human misery associated with political instability and conflict.”
Timothy Ball, a retired climatologist who leads the National Resources Stewardship Project, told Cybercast News Service that Friday’s award “just makes a travesty of the whole concept of Nobel Prizes.”
“This tells me everything I need to know about Nobel Prize winners,” he said. “I notice they just gave one to the guy who discovered holes in the ozone layer – but there are no holes in the ozone.”
The titular quotation, you might have noticed, is from a representative of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a thinktank notorious for its support of big business and its categorical opposition to environmental causes.
The recent controversy over the UK government’s decision to provide copies of Gore’s documentary film, An Inconvenient Truth, to English and Welsh public schools has figured prominently in the U.S. media discussion of the Nobel Prize. Most conservative news sources focus on the ‘nine errors’ found by the London judge of the High Court, mentioning only in passing (or not at all) his ruling that the film is “broadly accurate” and mostly reflective of scientific consensus. The end result of the case was a green light for the government’s plan, with the addition of measures to ensure that students are aware that the issue of climate change is subject to political debate.
That the issue of climate change is broken more-or-less cleanly along political lines in the U.S. press is easy to understand when one realizes that presentation of the issue here is, almost without exception, entirely political. Exacerbating this problem is the fact that, for many right wing-friendly Americans, the association of Al Gore with the issue of climate change means automatically that progressive environmental policy can have no place in their political realities, whatever it might mean to the rest of the world.
But most of the polarity lies in the tenets of competing political ideologies themselves. Conservatism is very much an appeal to the status quo or the status quo ante, based upon the premise that reason should be subordinate to tradition in determining matters of policy. At least in the United States, conservatives tend to favor the legislation of morality to reflect “time-honored tradition,” but oppose the regulation of economy to make it more responsive to change; they cling to the perennially discredited notion of “trickle-down economics,” favoring business-friendly policy at the expense of common welfare. Because the problem of climate change demands real concessions from businesses and from consumers, conservatives and many libertarians vilify it as a violation of liberty in much the same way that many liberals have attacked the Patriot Act.
Likewise, because American liberalism is oriented towards a certain degree of socialization to the ends of empowering the working class, and because it holds in one fashion or the other that economic regulation is key to economic equality, it finds affinity with environmental issues both as causes in themselves and as means to achieving other political and economic ends.
Polling usually indicates that, with regards to many specific issues, the American public is seldom as cleanly divided as one might guess from channel surfing across the major news programs. Most Americans are political moderates when the going gets tough. But the extreme politicization of the climate change issue seems to force a schoolyard-style choosing of sides, eliminating the possibilities for more subtle and meaningful debate.
So it is that we should not forget that Mr. Gore shares this prize with more than two thousand UN-sponsored researchers—hardly the “small cabal of politically motivated quacks” it is made out to be throughout much of the conservative press. Nor should we dismiss the fact that Gore is a politician with an image to sell, as is evident in some of the more sentimental scenes of his otherwise compelling film.
Beneath all the marketing there is an issue which will test the ability of common people to sort fact from fiction and hype from hypothesis. Unfortunately, one unpleasant effect of the convenience of mass-media culture has been to dull just this type of skill, since a great many media consumers appear to blindly trust that such determinations are made at the supply end.
In my personal experience, self-education on environmental issues and the history of economics and industry has shown me that there is ample cause to be proactively concerned about the human tendency towards self-destruction through thoughtless consumption as a measure of economic vitality, especially given a scientific foundation for assessing the long-term consequences of such behavior. My education has taught me that people are ecologically-bound organisms first and economic entities second. This is a lesson that numerous civilizations failed to learn. Will ours be added to the list?
Several members of the Nobel Peace Prize Committee have come forward to make it clear that the decision to award Gore and the IPCC with the 2007 prize was not politically motivated, was not some sort of mean-spirited stab at the current occupants of the White House. What the decision does represent, according to some of these officials, is the hope that it will inspire more reasonable discourse on the issue of climate change, and the need for the arena of debate to move from a haphazard assault on science to a discussion of real solutions. Until this happens, many citizens in the developed world are likely to keep their claws drawn.
From the Christian Science Monitor:
The Nobel Peace Prize is often bestowed for a job well done but unfinished. It heartens the winner against the odds. Al Gore is such a recipient. His holy war against global warming needs help, especially to nudge a US Congress still immune to the Nobel Committee’s big hint.
Mr. Gore’s well-rewarded insight is in knowing that leaders will not force costly changes in lifestyle unless people are first convinced of the need to curb carbon use. Even he, in a well-organized crusade, has been low-key about the exact level of taxes and other burdens to impose on industry and consumers. It’s easier to sound the alarm about a disaster than to show how to prevent it . . .
. . .People want dollar signs assigned to the causes they’re asked to support. To set both the goal of carbon reduction and the price for it, Gore needs to provide even more leadership by joining the battle in Congress. Should Detroit automakers, for instance, be required to produce cars, pickups, and sport utility vehicles with an average 35 miles per gallon by 2020? Or by 2030?
This peace prize comes with a price. The winner must help make peace between competing interests in a nation that’s the world’s biggest carbon polluter in history.