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2010 Ties 2005 as Warmest Year, But Congress Remains Cold to Action

It's unlikely the new climate data will have an impact on Congress, which failed to pass climate legislation in 2010 and is now looking to derail EPA

By Maria Gallucci

Jan 13, 2011

The (NOAA) announced that 2010 tied 2005 as the warmest year in the temperature record, adding to the body of scientific evidence that the federal agency has characterized as “clear and unmistakable signs of a warming world.”

Combined global land and ocean annual surface temperatures in 2010 reached 1.12 F (0.62 C) above the 20th century average, the same as surface temperatures in 2005.

But the new data released yesterday is unlikely to have an impact on business as usual in Congress, which has failed to pass federal climate legislation and is now weighing a measure to temporarily prohibit EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions.

'Arctic Oscillation' Spilling Cold into North America and Europe

But residents of Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic are asking what happened to the sea ice cover this year, since little has formed there yet

by Andrew Freedman,

Jan 12, 2011

Arctic sea ice extent fell to the lowest level observed during the month of December since the beginning of satellite monitoring in 1979, the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) announced today.

While sea ice has been declining for the past few decades as Arctic air and water temperatures have warmed, NSIDC scientists say an additional contributor is an unusual weather pattern that has kept parts of the Arctic unusually warm, while simultaneously driving cold air and snowstorms into parts of the U.S. and Europe.

According to an NSIDC , sea ice extent averaged 4.63 million square miles during the month of December, which was 104,000 square miles below the previous record low of 4.74 million square miles set in 2006 — a difference equal to about the size of the state of Colorado.

Military v. Climate Security: U.S. and China Worlds Apart

The Chinese are spending 1/6th as much as the U.S. on their military and investing twice as much on clean energy technology

By Elizabeth McGowan

Jan 11, 2011

WASHINGTON—While China is already boasting “All aboard!” on a network of sleek passenger trains that zip 200 mph and beyond between major urban centers, the United States is still fussing about where to install a single high-speed rail line for a proposed California project.

That’s just a snapshot of how this country continues to lag behind its Asian competitor on the clean technology front.

Can America ever catch up? Yes, says Washington research fellow Miriam Pemberton. But it means taking a $100 billion-dollar bite out of the defense budget annually.

TransCanada Takes Oil Sands Heat In Stride

TransCanada's first big advertising program drums up support for planned Keystone XL oil sands pipeline

By Stacy Feldman

Jan 11, 2011
an oil pipeline in Alaska

Sailing smoothly toward approval just last spring, major new pipeline that would carry Alberta oil sands crude into the U.S. encountered unexpected delays. Storms of controversy generated by two oil industry disasters suddenly created heavy going.

One was BP's catastrophic Gulf oil well blowout. The other hit closer to home. , another Alberta-based energy firm, suffered a breach in an oil sands pipeline that gushed more than 800,000 gallons of crude into Michigan's Kalamazoo River system.

Environmental groups and legislators pointed to the high-profile accidents to question the wisdom of TransCanada's 1,959-mile planned Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport as many as 510,000 barrels of bitumen per day across six U.S. states and over a vital underground aquifer to the Gulf of Mexico.

Nitrous Oxide, a Greenhouse Gas, Three Times Higher in Rivers than IPCC Estimates

A new report points to growing concern over nitrous oxide, a lesser-known but potent greenhouse gas

By Lisa Song

Jan 10, 2011
Runoff in a cropfield

Say the words “greenhouse gas” and most people think of carbon dioxide, but a new study released January 4 points a finger of growing concern at nitrous oxide, a lesser-known but more powerful agent of warming whose presence in the atmosphere is on the rise.

Much of the nitrous oxide comes from the degradation of synthetic nitrogen fertilizers on which modern industrial agriculture relies – in 2005 the world produced 220 billion pounds of it. As it washes into rivers and streams, the fertilizer run-off undergoes chemical change and some of it eventually ends up in the air as nitrous oxide (N2O), a gas most commonly known as the laughing gas that dentists use for anesthesia.

But there is nothing funny about the colorless substance. Each molecule of N2O has 300 times the warming potential of a CO2 molecule, and from Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences places nitrous oxide levels in the world’s waterways at three times the amount estimated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

New Young Leaders of Green Movement Look to Strengthen Grassroots (Part II)

For the first time in decades, the leaders of some major environmental groups are under 40

by Jason Mark,

Jan 10, 2011
May Boeve of

(This is the second of two parts. Click here for Part 1)

Fortunately for them, the young leaders committed to broadening the green base enjoy the privilege of having inherited a billion-dollar movement infrastructure: offices, websites, and, most important, membership lists. Everyone I spoke with was appreciative of this fact, and had nothing but kind things to say about the people who came before them.

“Our predecessors did an amazing job with what they had,” Jennifer Krill, the 38-year-old head of the mining and natural gas watchdog group said. At the same time, there’s a feeling that the legal and regulatory tactics that have become the bread and butter for so many environmental groups may have reached the limits of their effectiveness.

“At some point in the late seventies, early eighties, we got really aggressive and successful at lobbying Capitol Hill and the White House, and that was a transition from being more of a grassroots environmental community,” Pica said. “And I think that the successes that we had … I think we took some of the wrong lessons away. That transformed the movement into this lawyerly, regulatory, DC Beltway-focused community. And we’ve kind of forgotten, neglected the power base that got us to that point.”

New Young Leaders of Green Movement Look to Strengthen Grassroots (Part I)

For the first time in decades, the leaders of some major environmental groups are under 40

by Jason Mark,

Jan 9, 2011
Rebecca Tarbotton, the new executive director of Rainforest Action Network

The global headquarters of the international climate justice campaign is located on the fourteenth floor of a random building in downtown Oakland, California. Though “global headquarters” might be over-stating things: The offices consist of three rooms with worn carpeting and a collection of reclaimed desks arranged in a Tetris-like pattern.

When I visited on a sunny afternoon in mid-September, the place was strangely silent given that the campaigners were just weeks from another worldwide demonstration demanding sharp greenhouse gas reductions. The organizers had already registered 2,700 events in 100 countries scheduled for 10-10-10; by the time the date arrived, they would clock in about 7,300 actions across the globe. Yet the office had none of the war-room frenzy one associates with a political operation in the lead-up to election day.

The young and stylish – if rumpled – campaigners were at their desks quietly sending out emails, zipping instant messages, updating blogs, and posting Twitter updates. To my disappointment, there was no map on the wall full of pins marking confirmed actions. No one was on the phone shouting something like, “Get me Bogota!” The only sound was the click of keyboards.

2011 Forecast: Wind and Natural Gas to Outshine Coal; Policy Vacuum to Continue

The WRI president offered a string of predictions during his 8th annual crystal ball session at the National Press Club

By Elizabeth McGowan

Jan 7, 2011

WASHINGTON—When chief executives at electric utilities brief Wall Street investors this winter about the upcoming energy outlook, natural gas and wind will shade out coal by hogging the limelight.

That’s one in a string of predictions for the new year that think tank insider Jonathan Lash offered Thursday during his eighth annual crystal ball session at the National Press Club.

Accompanied by his trusty PowerPoint, the president of the influential highlighted which energy and environment stories could—or should—dominate global headlines during 2011.

Gulf Oil Spill: BP Set to Avoid Gross Negligence Charge

Commission criticizes BP but concludes Gulf spill was "a system-wide problem"

Tim Webb,

Jan 7, 2011
Oil burning by Isle Grande Terre

is more likely to escape the potentially ruinous charge of gross negligence, according to City analysts, after a powerful .

Barack Obama's national commission released part of its final report into the disaster last night on Wednesday night. The report, to be published next week, could influence several other parallel investigations into the spill that are yet to finish.

The commission was scathing in its criticism of BP, as well as its contractors Halliburton and Transocean, which it blamed for a collective "failure of management". But it added that it had found no evidence that the blowout which led to last April's disaster was the result of "aberrational decisions made by rogue industry or government officials".

Commission co-chair William K Reilly said: "So a key question posed from the outset by this tragedy is, do we have a single company, BP, that blundered with fatal consequences, or a more pervasive problem of a complacent industry? Given the documented failings of both Transocean and Halliburton, both of which serve the offshore industry in virtually every ocean, I reluctantly conclude we have a system-wide problem."

Big Bank Adopts Groundbreaking Oil Sands Lending Policy, but Will It Have Teeth?

A leading oil sands lender adopts policy language considered the gold standard for protecting rights of indigenous peoples, but is it just rhetoric?

By Stacy Feldman

Jan 6, 2011
mining equipment

The (RBC) — one of the world's biggest financiers of Canadian oil sands — has expanded its environmental policy to give more say to indigenous peoples when considering underwriting mining projects and pipelines blamed for polluting their lands.

The decision to consult First Nations on "high-impact" investments, such as Alberta's oil sands, was hailed by environmental and indigenous groups as a sign of how far financial institutions have come in acknowledging the risks of fossil fuel development to Native Americans — and to their own bottom lines.

"This is certainly one of the strongest commitments we have seen from a bank of RBC's size in terms of indigenous rights," said Brant Olson, campaign director for advocacy group (RAN). "The bank has made real progress."

The decision was disclosed by RBC on its website on December 22, in a from President and CEO Gordon M. Nixon.