Omar Ahmad is an American activist and politician. In this short talk he describes his method for getting politician's attention
Politicians are strange creatures, says politician Omar Ahmad. And the best way to engage them on your pet issue is a monthly handwritten letter. Ahmad shows why old-fashioned correspondence is more effective than email, phone or even writing a check -- and shares the four simple steps to writing a letter that works.
Will 2011 see the start of a massive, worldwide food crisis brought about by soaring demand, increasing fuel prices and climate change? Lester Brown, writing in Foreign Policy magazine thinks so -
As the new year begins, the price of wheat is setting an all-time high in the United Kingdom. Food riots are spreading across Algeria. Russia is importing grain to sustain its cattle herds until spring grazing begins. India is wrestling with an 18-percent annual food inflation rate, sparking protests. China is looking abroad for potentially massive quantities of wheat and corn. The Mexican government is buying corn futures to avoid unmanageable tortilla price rises. And on January 5, the U.N. Food and Agricultural organization announced that its food price index for December hit an all-time high.
But whereas in years past, it's been weather that has caused a spike in commodities prices, now it's trends on both sides of the food supply/demand equation that are driving up prices. On the demand side, the culprits are population growth, rising affluence, and the use of grain to fuel cars. On the supply side: soil erosion, aquifer depletion, the loss of cropland to nonfarm uses, the diversion of irrigation water to cities, the plateauing of crop yields in agriculturally advanced countries, and -- due to climate change -- crop-withering heat waves and melting mountain glaciers and ice sheets. These climate-related trends seem destined to take a far greater toll in the future.
Full article available here - http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/01/10/the_great_food_crisis_o...
The announcement of a carbon price by the Gillard government is encoraging news but, as this article from Inside Story explains - a lot depends on the price. And there, the signals are no so encouraging -
Sparking an Australian clean technology revolution will require sustained and sophisticated investment in innovation, infrastructure and technology, along with a smoothly rising — and eventually very high — carbon price, free of the loopholes and carve-outs that would undermine its transformative potential.
If recent signals are anything to go by, the Gillard government looks intent on pushing for the complete opposite. In February, Gillard referred to the industry compensation arrangements crafted for the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, which would have seen more than $20 billion of taxpayers’ money doled out to Australia’s biggest polluting industries, as “good work” that should inform the design of the new scheme. Simultaneously, Labor tried to scrap funding for large-scale solar power plants – the sort of strategic investment in breakthrough energy technologies that will be necessary if we are to have any hope of sparking a “sweeping technological revolution” – on the spurious basis that such policies will be redundant when we have a carbon price.
Read the full article here - http://inside.org.au/will-the-price-be-right/
A couple of posts on the subject of energy, specifically on how to produce enough of it in the future. This first post from the Climate Spectator blog says that the best way to ensure we have enough is to use less -
The biggest challenge is how to manage the growth in peak demand, which is growing at a phenomenally faster rate than baseload power. It will come as something of a shock to most consumers that their soaring power bills are not the fault of green energy subsidies, but mostly because of the neighbour’s newly installed air conditioning unit. Or their own.
Not much has been heard from the Australian government since, but that could be because it has embarked on a series of “on road consultations” to find out what the “stakeholders” have got to say about it. There are some fears that Canberra’s sudden aversion to “complementary measures”, now to be found in the same storage bin as budget deficits – break glass and use only in an emergency – may undermine the push.
But at least the government does not have to worry about accusations that it is acting “ahead of the world.” The task force report found that energy efficiency in Australia was so bad that even a concerted effort would not enable it to catch up with its competitors. And now China and India are also putting us to shame.
Interesting stuff. Full article here - http://www.climatespectator.com.au/commentary/easy-way-cut-power-bills?u...
And a very encouraging report out a few weeks ago from the folks at the WWF shows how we could switch to 100% renewables by 2050. And it won't cost the earth -
this study has a broad portfolio of existing renewable energy sources with geothermal and tidal providing a base load and solar and wind supplementing when available. The study also discounts nuclear power as a dirty and expensive form of energy in the long run and eliminates it from the energy mix. The report supports carbon capture but does not believe that the technology will be mature enough to be economically feasible by the time renewables are in place.
The Energy Report goes further in detailing transportation solutions, social energy equity, and broad conservation as pivotal to the success of the proposal. This means biofuels, vast grid networks and distributed energy generation, and zero energy building and retrofits similar to the Passivhaus standard. The study places great emphasis on reducing energy demand which also lowers costs. Another positive aspect is that while the study notes that the implementation of renewables at such scales is costly, the ongoing energy generation is less expensive than our current system so in the bigger picture, it will not necessarily cost more.
Full report avaiulable for download here - http://assets.panda.org/downloads/101223_energy_report_final_print_2.pdf (be warned.. its long and not exactly light reading)
Could New York be powered by its own sewage? Its department of Environmental Protection certainly thinks so -
New York is one of the greatest cities in the world and home to almost 20 million people — however as a result of its size, the city produces an enormous amount of sewage, which is often blamed for contaminating waterways. However New York’s Department of Environmental Protection believes the city’s waste could become its saviour, and it has unveiled a plan to utilise the vast amounts of sludge, methane gas and other byproducts of sewage as potential sources of renewable energy
Full story on Inhabitat - http://inhabitat.com/could-new-york-city-be-powered-by-its-own-sewage/
In another questionable decision, the state government is now promising to shield consumers from electricity price rises. Naturally, the money to pay for this is being stripped from climate change initiatives. So its a double whammy - less money for climate change and energy stays cheap so everyone can use more and more of it. But it will win them votes so it must be OK. -
Keneally has also flagged that she will announce an electricity rebate for households earning less than $150,000 a year.
To pay for the policy changes, the government will strip money from its Climate Change Fund's green projects until 2020, including scrapping its long-running rainwater tank rebate, reports the Daily Telegraph.
Full (depressing) article on the Climate Spectator here - http://www.climatespectator.com.au/news/nsw-government-pay-cost-solar-bo...
And a good article, also from Climate Spectator on the federal government's proposal to scale back climate change programs to pay for the Queensland flood reconstruction -
Of particular concern was the prime minister’s proposal to abolish, defer and cap eight carbon abatement programs to help pay for flood damage. The messaging was counter-intuitive: Cutting climate change solutions to fix the consequences of climate change.
It’s risky to claim any single climate event has been caused solely by anthropogenic climate change. Floods and droughts are part of the landscape. But most climate scientists continue to warn of the risk of greater climate volatility as the result of more energy in global weather systems as global average temperatures continue to rise.