12 March 2010

Can big houses be green? Rising sea levels and climate change doubts, and other Friday items

Top Stories

As Florida Keys residents confront rising sea levels, what lessons?reliability high.
Feature about impact of sea level rise on Florida Keys' ecology, economy and society. "Across the Keys in a best-case scenario, the study suggested, the sea would rise seven inches by 2100, which could wipe $11 billion from property values. In the worst-case scenario, the sea would rise 55 inches by 2100, with 5,950 acres lost on Big Pine alone. Property values over all the islands could take a hit of more than $35.1 billion." Read more at The Christian Science Monitor. [Sea level rise in inevitable. This article discusses its current impacts in one exposed region.]

Your Taco's Footprint: 19 Ingredients that Logged 64,000 Miles.reliability medium.
"The tacoshed project found some surprising results, and some less surprising. The taco, chosen for being "the absolute most economical option possible," contained some truly local ingredients, including the salt and the cheese. Other ingredients had longer legs, including avocados from Chile and rice from Thailand." Story at GreenBiz blog. Check out the project at their website, and HaraBara's blog. [This was a cheap, fresh taco from a Juan's Taco Truck in the Mission District of San Francisco. The study just tallied the miles. It's not an analysis of environmental impact. "Tell him about the Twinkie taco."]

Green jobs debate.reliability high.
The Economist's on-line debate for 9-20 March has the proposition: "This house believes that creating green jobs is a sensible aspiration for governments." Some will agree and some will disagree. Arguments will be made. What will be the final vote? See The Economist. [Voting started strongly against the motion, but is now running 58% in favor.]

Companies, Industries, Markets and Supply Chains

Increased Number Think Global Warming Is 'Exaggerated'.reliability high.
"Although a majority of Americans believe the seriousness of global warming is either correctly portrayed in the news or underestimated, a record-high 41% now say it is exaggerated. This represents the highest level of public skepticism about mainstream reporting on global warming seen in more than a decade of Gallup polling on the subject. ... Since 1997, Republicans have grown increasingly likely to believe media coverage of global warming is exaggerated, and that trend continues in the 2009 survey; however, this year marks a relatively sharp increase among independents as well. In just the past year, Republican doubters grew from 59% to 66%, and independents from 33% to 44%, while the rate among Democrats remained close to 20%. ... a record-high 16% say the effects will never occur. (Prior to now, Gallup polling found no more than 11% of Americans saying the effects of global warming would never happen.)" More highlights. More at Gallup site. [Deniers 1, scientists 0]

The scientific century.reliability high.
"The Royal Society has published a new report entitled ‘The scientific century: securing our future prosperity’. ... It distils two urgent messages. The first is the need to place science and innovation at the heart of the UK’s long-term strategy for economic growth. The second is the fierce competitive challenge we face from countries which are investing at a scale and speed that we may struggle to match." See The Royal Society site. PDF of the report here. [There is a serious problem of poor quality and quantity of science/math/engineering high-school graduates. "No-one can predict the 21st century counterparts of quantum theory, the double helix and the internet. But there is little doubt that advances in science and technology will continue to transform the way we live, create new industries and jobs, and enable us to tackle seemingly intractable social and environmental problems." Report says UK must support science education if it wants to be in the game.]

Government and Regulation

How Green Is My Mansion?reliability high.
Software mogul Mitch Kapor "wants to build a 10,000-square-foot house, complete with a 10-car garage, in Berkeley, Calif. When the house won planning approval earlier this year, many neighbors were surprised — not so much by the size of the house, or by its sleek design, but by the fact that, under Berkeley regulations, the house will qualify as 'green.' ... Gary Earl Parsons, a Berkeley architect and a member of that city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission, called the designation of the Kapor house as green 'absurd.' 'That the staff, the owners and the architects indulge in this kind of greenwashing only serves to make a joke out of Berkeley’s environmental aspirations,' Mr. Parsons wrote on the Berkeleyside blog. ... the system’s failure to account for size enrages some environmentalists, who note that a 10,000-square-foot house is likely to require four times the resources of the average new American house ... . ... However the Kapor case is decided, it could lead to changes in the checklist approach used in Berkeley and elsewhere. In their appeal to the board, residents proposed a modification to the 'green point' system. Since the house is at least the size of three typical houses, they wrote, 'The 91 green points earned should really be divided by three, yielding a score of 30.' That is far below the number required for a green designation." Story in The New York Times. [Some might say these 'green points' systems are mainly to confer bragging rights, rather than to guide architects and their clients toward truly sustainable housing. Let sustainability be measured by performance--emissions and consumption can be measured. Divide by number of occupants and compare. Look at your footprint, not your green points score. Big consumers can live in huge houses if they want--they have the money and maybe that's how they want to enjoy it. But don't pretend it's sustainable. Sustainable is 2-3 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per person per year.]

£30bn high-speed rail plan signals end of the road for motorways.reliability high.
"The [UK] government signalled the end of intercity motorway building today as it announced plans for a £30bn high-speed rail network, with the first phase between London and Birmingham opening in 2026. Lord Adonis, the transport secretary, said the motorway network had reached its limit and the burden of ferrying millions more people between cities would instead be taken by fleets of trains travelling at up to 250mph. ... Having pledged to eliminate demand for domestic air travel with ultra-fast trains, the transport secretary took on motorways in a 152-page 'command paper'. He said: 'I do not envisage building another generation of intercity motorways.'" See story at The Guardian. [Choosing a lower-carbon path.]

[Crossposted from HaraBara.com courtesy of HaraBara, Inc. Copyright © 2010 HaraBara, Inc.]