The Global Wind Energy Council and Greenpeace International released their 2014 Global Wind Energy Outlook in October. The Global Wind Energy Council’s summary states that “The report shows that wind power could reach 2,000 GW by 2030, and supply up to 17 – 19% of global electricity, creating over 2 million new jobs and reducing CO2 emissions by more than 3 billion tonnes per year. By 2050, wind power could provide 25 – 30% of global electricity supply.” In 2013, commercial wind power installations provided about 3% of the world’s electricity supply. Renewed vigor to fight climate change has drawn more attention to wind energy’s ability to help, and the report emphasizes that we are at the point where the technology is ready to deploy, we just have political hurdles to overcome.
The Administration announced that “the average fuel economy of new vehicles sold in the U.S. hit a record high last year, rising 0.5 miles per gallon over 2012 and averaging 24.1 mpg, nearly 5 mpg higher than 2004 levels. The vehicles tracked include new cars and SUVs sold in the U.S.
A small town in Iowa has completed a geothermal system beneath its town square. The project came about after the town started developing plans to revitalize its downtown, and was invited by the Iowa Economic Department Authority to serve as a pilot for a district geothermal system. This system is the first of its kind—while large scale geothermal plants have been built by many universities to service multiple buildings, this is the first of its kind for a municipality. Businesses can join in when it is feasible for them to do so, and already about a dozen are receiving heating and cooling by the system. The system is built to provide service to about 60 businesses within about three blocks of the main square, and can be expanded in the future to reach beyond the business district. With the assistance of federal grants, state funds and some local in-kind donations, the city was able to build the system with no local tax funds. Geothermal heating and cooling typically is from three to five times as efficient as natural-gas furnaces and electrically-powered air conditioners. This town is still waiting to see its cost savings, which will get more efficient when more people get on the system.
The Pentagon has released a report “stating decisively” that climate change is a threat to the national security of the U.S., and asserts that we must act now to adapt to and mitigate climate change. The release of the 2014 Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap illustrates the increasing importance that our Department of Defense is placing on addressing climate change, with our Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel, stating in the forward that “politics or ideology must not get in the way of sound planning”. In the past, the Pentagon has focused on future risks that climate change presents to our national security, but it is now taking on the perspective that climate change poses an “immediate threat,” and is already having an impact on the work of our military, exacerbating challenges “from infectious disease to terrorism.” Read the full report here: http://www.acq.osd.mil/ie/download/CCARprint.pdf
Rick Piltz helped expose the George W. Bush Administration’s work to cast doubt on the impact greenhouse gas emissions have on climate change, blowing the whistle on Philip Cooney, who served as the Chief of Staff for the White House Council on Environmental Quality. Cooney had been a lobbyist for the American Petroleum Institute before heading to the White House, and was the main person responsible for writing doubt into the climate change reports. According to the New York Times, “Piltz went on to found Climate Science Watch, a project associated with the Government Accountability Project.”
Energy and the environment are gaining more attention this election cycle than any other, and have climbed to be the third-most mentioned issue in political advertisements this midterm, behind health care and jobs. And it’s not just groups representing the energy industry or environmental advocacy that are taking ad-buys focused on environmental issues to a new level; it is the candidates and political committees themselves that are investing in the air-time. Implications of this include that we may be gearing up to see energy and the environment as defining issues in the 2016 presidential race. Polls are showing that ads calling out candidates for their climate change denial and other environmental issues are working on voters and as noted by former Governor of Colorado, Bill Ritter (who is speaking at NLCV’s Nebraska Conservation Summit on Dec. 8); “the political intensity is only going to increase around this issue.”
This midterm election will be more expensive than any previous midterm election, with candidates and parties spending about $2.7 billion, and outside groups close to $900 million. The CRP projects that Republicans will outspend Democrats overall, with the largest gap in spending coming from outside groups that hide all their donors, where “secretive liberal groups” will have spent roughly $28 million and comparable conservative groups will have spent about $113.6 million.
The European Union has made a commitment to cut greenhouse gases by at least 40% of 1990 levels by 2030. This commitment must be met by the EU as a whole, not be each individual member state. There is already skepticism of how committed EU leaders really are to reducing emissions, because while this target is ambitious there are loopholes and components of the deal that do not push the EU to the extent that clean energy advocates would like to see. For example, a target of 27% increase in energy efficiency improvement was agreed to, but it is optional and “no better than business as usual”, leading the CEO of a leading insulation firm to state that the target “sends a strong signal to the energy efficiency industry to ‘leave Europe and make your investments elsewhere’”. Individual nations had various demands that needed to be met for a deal to be reached, making negotiations difficult and compromises necessary. At the end of the day, the European Union has made a greater commitment than the United States, and we should be taking cuts to carbon emissions more seriously.