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The Gap Between Climate Awareness and Action
Mindy Lubber, 22 Jul 07

It seems like the world is getting downright giddy about stopping global warming. Congress has held more than 75 hearings on the topic this year, climate-friendly technologies are making it into venture capitalists’ dreams and millions tuned into Live Earth, a seven-continent global warming anthem.

But it turns out there’s a big gap between awareness and action. Last month, three top power company execs gave investors the inside scoop on what they expect on climate change. I couldn’t help but be curious if their projections and time frames for reducing greenhouse gases lined up with NASA scientist James Hansen’s oft-repeated warning that we have less than 10 years to take strong action on global warming to avoid its worst consequences.

But in listening to the first two execs speak, it was clear for many companies, the distance between what power companies expect and what Hansen says is needed is as wide as the Grand Canyon.

Bruce Braine of American Electric Power, whose coal-fired power plants make AEP the biggest carbon dioxide emitter in the country, started out on the right page. He talked about the need for strong federal legislation and the company’s plans for doubling wind power production and retrofitting existing coal plants with carbon capture and storage technology. Yet when the topic turned to when federal carbon limits will be enacted, Braine’s predictions were tough to hear: He expects it will be 2015 before we see any carbon limits in the US and that more substantial carbon reductions will not happen before 2020.

Exelon CFO John Young did not make me feel any better. Young says the technologies we’ll need to capture and store greenhouse gases from power plants are substantially more expensive than what Congress may be willing to support. New Mexico Senator Jeff Bingaman’s new climate legislation, for example, would set a mandatory cap on carbon emissions, but it includes a $12 per ton limit on what companies would have to pay for their carbon emissions. That’s substantially less than what most experts believe will be needed to spur significant change in the marketplace, which is why many enviros are pushing for a $25 a ton cost on carbon emissions.

One company, PG&E, is bridging the distance between words and deeds. More than half of the California utility’s power is carbon free and aggressive energy efficiency efforts have helped PG&E avoid having to build dozens of new fossil fuel-fired power plants. And that’s just the beginning: Another $1 billion will be spent on energy savings programs by 2008, including a cutting-edge plan to install 10 million new smart meters that will enable customers to further reduce their energy use, especially during peak demand times. “Every time we think we’ve moved past the low hanging fruit (on energy efficiency), a new technology evolves that becomes another form of low-hanging fruit,” VP Steven Kline told investors.

Now, that’s giddiness in action.

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The gap between ideology and action is still huge because the needs of the economy is more important than the needs of the natural world, which is exactly backwards and cannot last. Live Earth was a sham.

Posted by: kyle Boggs on 24 Jul 07

The gap between ideology and action is still huge because the needs of the economy is more important than the needs of the natural world, which is exactly backwards and cannot last. Live Earth was a sham.

Posted by: kyle on 24 Jul 07

Most of the climate activists aren't serious about stopping global warming. They only want to slow it down a little bit. Here's why:

If we stop fossil fuel emissions at dawn tomorrow, we won't stop global warming. To do that, we'd have to also reclaim much of the excess out of the air. This does not mean coal-powered carbon capture, most of which is Harry Potter science designed to sway people into thinking it's OK to keep burning coal.

Tree planting or plankton fertilization are pretty much unproven. Trees store some carbon, but only for a little while. Soil, even in its presently depleted state, contains more carbon than the atmosphere and all the world's biomass combined, and much of this can be very stable. Soil loses its organic matter from exposure to the elements, tillage, and many ag chemicals. Much of the atmospheric carbon load comes from the soil.

That the soil has the potential to hold the surplus, as needed organic matter, is invisible to most. Scientists studying soil carbon usually look only at industrial agriculture, and with modification of some practices it is possible to store some carbon, enough to offset a few drives to the mall.

The large and rapid increases in soil organic matter achieved by various forms of regenerative agriculture aren't well known. Also, special interests such as ExxonMobil, media and governments and most universities aren't fond of cheap low-tech solutions. They benefit in money and power from things staying more or less the same.

Industry, governments, universities, media won't lead on this. There's little incentive to. If your prescription for solving global warming is to reduce energy use, that's needed for sure, but it won't be enough. With a message like that, it's no wonder there's so much resistance, backlash, and skepticism. No wonder lots of people still regard global warming as a Trojan horse for an elitist left-liberal environmental agenda.

It's up to us. Literally a grass-roots movement. For a full description of the opportunity we have to really stop global warming, see PRIORITY ONE: TOGETHER WE CAN BEAT GLOBAL WARMING by Allan Yeomans.

Posted by: Peter Donovan on 24 Jul 07

I agree something is needed in order to make the change. From my life's experience it's challenging for many to contribute or to change there lives around, because it feels like going on a diet. Ask people who have been on a diet, and many will say at the end, all the weight came back, plus some more was added. How many people are in the wrong relationship and know they would be better off without this other person in there lives? Even friends can tell them to break up and move on, but very often drama has to happen in order to get to that point. It's a small mirror of the bigger picture.

If it's true, that we act out our personal belief system in our lives, at work and in relationships, we look at the core of the problem. The reason why not enough action is taking: The lack of self love.

There is a big difference in results, when people communicate from love, or from a rational point of view.

I've been studying the unlimited human potential for many years now, and concluded that a lasting change comes from an internal place, an inner shift in peoples lives. When people feel they have enough, which is a reflection of self love and trust, unconditional giving and change becomes much easier.

In my field of work and years of experience in personal development, I witnessed love being the key each and every time to transform. When we communicate from love, others will be able to feel safe, transform and eventually become the change we like to see in the world. I like to emphasize the importance of creating awareness towards personal growth and invite people to learn to love themselves more.

There are many training institutes around the world who are specialized in personal development and I noticed over the last years, that many people want to love more, they just don't know how or where to do this. Hopefully my writing is of some help.

Posted by: Ursula Aerts on 29 Jul 07

The last comment was perhaps the best suggestion of all. If we are indeed to make lasting changes, we would need to find a way to convince more people to do it. If mass hypnotism was possible, then maybe that would work. But since it's not, sadly, I believe something tragic has to happen before people get a move on. Then maybe by that time, it will be too late.

They are not scared of what will happen in the future. I am, very.

Posted by: Ian on 30 Jul 07

One of my favorite quotes is by Mahatma Gandhi, "You must be the change you want to see in the world." Like the post that discusses self-love, the way to stop Global Warming is to start with yourself. And one of the MOST POWERFUL things an individual can do is THINK about where you spend your money. There are many examples of this in action: canned tuna companies completely changed the way that tuna is caught because consumers didn't want to contribute to Dolphins getting caught and dying in the nets. The development and finally market availability of hybrid cars was driven by consumer demand.

We are a society of consumers, and our culture is being adopted by the rest of the world. So, if we are consumers how can we use that to drive positive change?
Do the research and only buy from companies who have an active "green" policy. Only buy what you need. Use your purchasing power to drive change. It's possible and it can happen very fast if we all use our collective purchasing power together.

Posted by: Dana Leipold on 30 Jul 07

As I do admire the surge in 'eco-friendly' products.

I have a feeling that it has just become another hollow market.

However, perhaps the crux of the problem is what Dana L. has said what we are, we are a society of consumers. That is a choice, we are all conditioned to live a life, where we've created needs for things, that in essence are not truly necessary.

Rather than buying all the latest green products, perhaps America can lead an example on diminishing the voracious appetite of the Consumer. China, for example, for the most part, sees the US as an example of prosperity, because of our material wealth + bounty. Our planet simply cannot sustain another America.

I recommend the documentary 'Manufactured Landscapes'

Posted by: Deborah on 6 Aug 07



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