WASHINGTON—If Sen. Jim Inhofe was even remotely thinking about adding Mark Hertsgaard's newest book to his reading list, he likely shelved that idea around noon Tuesday.
That's when the independent California journalist and the Republican Oklahoma senator wrapped up a pointed but cordial — and somewhat convoluted — five-minute exchange about global warming.
Hertsgaard is the author of the mid-January release "Hot: Living Through the Next Fifty Years." He near a bank of members-only elevators at the Dirksen Senate Office Building to ask how he could remain the Senate's most adamant climate change denier when every noted scientific organization agrees the planet and its inhabitants are destined for a world of hurt unless heat-trapping gases are tamed.
The term "reskinning" may sound like a word straight out of a science fiction novel, but in actuality it means retrofitting the exteriors of aging buildings with energy-saving facelifts, and the practice is taking off — especially in Canada and Europe.
Ron Dembo, a former computer science professor at Yale University who founded the Toronto-based carbon software company , coined the term in 2009. His inspiration came in part from being steeped in data on carbon pollution management.
Dembo said that the role of buildings in global warming is too big to ignore, especially in major cities, where they account for 60 to 80 percent of greenhouse gases. "Buildings were built inadequately and they leak heat or cold," he told SolveClimate News. "They have insufficient skins or exteriors."
Three years ago, Mariana Gerzanych, founder of the eco-friendly sedan service , began looking to add plug-in electric vehicles to her Washington, D.C. fleet, but the plan quickly hit a snag: drivers had nowhere to charge the cars.
It was the hitch that became the impetus for , the startup Gerzanych launched with business partner Tim Mason in 2008. The company aims to offer "garage-less" drivers — about 40 percent of Americans — the means to "fill up" their empty electric vehicles (EVs) in parking lots of grocery stores or coffee shops in less than 30 minutes, about 16 times faster than home chargers.
"We are seeing the biggest adoption of EVs in larger cities... [where] there is no space for home garages. How do you provide solutions to those people?" Gerzanych, CEO of 350Green, asked. "It's fast charging in places where people go on a regular basis."
Mapping the earth from the sky has been an activity that only governments and corporations could afford to do. It's not anyone who can put a satellite into orbit, maintain it and harvest the high tech imagery.
It turns out, though, that with $100 and a helium balloon, just about anyone can map the earth at better resolution than standard satellite imagery, and Jeff Warren can show you how.
He's the founder of , a group that promotes citizen mapping through the use of DIY kits that include kites, helium balloons and cheap digital cameras.
"The assumption that you could gather your own aerial imagery changes the assumption of what maps could be used for," Warren said in an interview with SolveClimate News.
As climate change worsens, some leading U.S. corporations are working to find ways to adapt to higher sea levels and other unavoidable effects fueled by warming that they say will deal a big blow to their bottom lines.
Most firms have kept their plans under wraps. But publicly known efforts reveal how adaptation is taking center stage for businesses with vulnerable supply chains, amid mostly feeble attempts by the world's largest carbon polluters to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
"It creepingly has become apparent that even if mitigation were highly successful — which so far it's not — we'd still have lots of climate impacts," said Armando Carbonell, senior fellow and chair of the Department of Planning and Urban Form at the Cambridge, Mass.-based .
"We have to adapt," he told SolveClimate News.
Energy giant would seem to agree. On Tuesday, the utility will announce an adaptation project with New Orleans-based nonprofit and government officials from Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. The collaboration seeks to help a dozen communities along the U.S. Gulf Coast gauge their vulnerabilities to climate change, and establish plans to deal with the impacts.
The Department of Energy's new to make solar energy as cheap as coal has given fresh hope to industry enthusiasts. And it may even give life to a nearly dead effort in Congress to put solar panels and water heaters on 10 million of America's roofs by 2020.
The 2010 legislation by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) hasn't had much momentum since the approved it in July, and November's Republican gains in Congress has not helped the measure along. But experts say Energy Secretary Steven Chu's SunShot Initiative may give the new political legs.
Shayle Kann, managing director of solar research at , said that the DOE plan could make the Sanders' bill more politically palatable, because it would drive down the cost of solar installations. The legislation aims to finance the installation of up to 40,000 megawatts of new solar energy.
"These are two parallel but distinct programs. They could play together very well because — to the extent that the SunShot initiative is successful — it will lower the [financial] incentives that are required per project for the Ten Million Solar Roof Act," he told SolveClimate News.
China has announced a billion dollars in emergency water aid to ease its most severe drought in 60 years, as the United Nations warned of a threat to the harvest of the world's biggest wheat producer.
Beijing has also promised to use its grain reserves to reduce the pressure on global food prices, which have surged in the past year to record highs due to the floods in Australia and a protracted dry spell in Russia.
The desperate measures were evident at Baita reservoir in Shandong — one of several key agricultural provinces afflicted by four months without rain. With nearby crops turning yellow, a mechanical digger cut a crude, open-cast well into the dried-up bed of the reservoir. Muddy water from the 16-foot-deep pit was pumped up to the surface via a hose that snaked past a fishing boat stranded on the cracked earth.
WASHINGTON—Gargantuan hammers seemed to be the tool of choice for House Republicans at a congressional hearing about the reach of the Clean Air Act. So it's little wonder that the looked like an enormous nail.
Ostensibly, members of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power gathered Wednesday to discuss the merits of a draft bill designed to stifle the EPA's efforts to curtail heat-trapping gases.
However, it didn't take long until the back-and-forth exchanges in the first Republican-led, EPA-related hearing of the 112th Congress began resembling an act from the theater of the absurd.
KANSAS CITY, KAN.—Roderick Bremby said on Thursday he has an inkling why he was dismissed as Kansas' top environmental official last fall, but he wasn't ready to publicly link it to his rejection of a controversial coal plant permit.
Bremby made his first public appearance yesterday since losing his job as secretary of the (KDHE) in early November. He said he had been forced out by then-Gov. Mark Parkinson while a second permit application was pending for a controversial coal-fired power plant in western Kansas that had gained national notoriety.
After a 90-minute presentation to about 75 people on issues of sustainability and the coal plant project, Bremby said in an interview that he was shocked and dismayed to lose his job. He said he wasn't told why he was let go.
"I have a sense internally what the issue may have been, but I don't want to suggest anything in particular because I don't want to impugn anyone's character," Bremby told SolveClimate News.
The world's second biggest palm oil company has agreed to halt deforestation in valuable areas of Indonesian forest, bowing to pressure from western food processors and conservationists.
(GAR) has to protecting forests and peatlands with a high level of biodiversity, or which provide major carbon sinks, as part of an agreement with conservation group the .
However, the agreement announced on Wednesday will still leave GAR free to exploit other areas of forest, and land that is judged to be of lower conservation value.
, which has strongly criticized GAR in the past for its alleged destructive activities, is expected to keep a close watch on the company to ensure it lives up to its promises. Bustar Maitar, head of Greenpeace's campaign to protect Indonesian forests, said: "This could be good news for the forests, endangered species like the orangutan and for the Indonesian economy.
"On paper, the new commitments from Golden Agri are a major step towards ending their involvement in deforestation. And if they do make these changes, large areas of forests will be saved. But now they've actually got to implement these plans, and we're watching closely to make sure this happens."