06 August 2010

Impacts on agriculture, impacted talks, indifferent consumers, other news, and Geek Corner

Top Stories

Wheat near 2-year high on Russia export ban.reliability high.
"Wheat prices held just below a two-year high while shares in European brewers and food producers fell on Friday as markets reacted to the sudden imposition of a ban on grain exports from drought-hit Russia. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin moved on Thursday to halt grain and flour exports to head off inflation following Russia's worst drought in 130 years". Reuters story. [Drought in Russia and Australia and floods in Canada and Ukraine will drive agricultural commodity prices higher. Adequate global reserves should prevent price spikes as high as were seen in 2008. Weather is not climate, but these types of effects on agriculture have been predicted by climate change researchers. Wheat above $7 per bushel will encourage U.S. farmers to plant more of it, reducing corn acreage. That, together with more corn use for ethanol production, will boost corn prices, and thus meat prices in the U.S. Everything is connected, and everything is connected to climate change.]

And: Medvedev connects Russia's problems with climate change.reliability high.
"Everyone is talking about climate change now. Unfortunately, what is happening now in our central regions is evidence of this global climate change, because we have never in our history faced such weather conditions in the past. This means that we need to change the way we work, change the methods that we used in the past." From President of Russia website. [The Russian government is glad to shift the blame, but is unlikely to do much to reduce emissions. Anything that reduces burning of fossil fuels hurts the Russian economy in the short run.]

Global Climate Talks Stall As Countries Back Down From Prior Commitments To Reduce Emissions.reliability high.
"Global climate talks appear to have slipped backward after five days of negotiations in Bonn, the chief U.S. delegate said Friday, adding that some countries were reneging on promises they made last year to cut greenhouse gas emissions. ... 'At this point, I am very concerned,' Pershing said. 'Unfortunately, what we have seen over and over this week is that some countries are walking back from progress made in Copenhagen, and what was agreed there.' ... Another point of contention, Pershing said, was an agreement in Copenhagen for wealthy countries to raise $100 billion a year by 2020 to help poor countries adapt to climate change. Now poor nations say that is not enough." See Huffington Post from AP. [First the Doha Round and now this. On a somewhat-related note, will more countries look to China for leadership on how to deal with climate change? See Doc's recent post, "Learning from China".]

Companies, Industries, Markets and Supply Chains

Australia firm signs forest CO2 deal with Malaysia tribes.reliability high.
"An Australian carbon services company has signed a deal with nine Malaysian tribal leaders to certify carbon offsets from a project aimed at preserving more than 100,000 hectares of tropical forest. The deal allows the tribes in Sarawak state on the island of Borneo to earn a share of the proceeds from the sale of carbon offsets to help them manage and protect the forest over a period of 20 years, payments potentially worth millions of dollars. ... The United Nations hopes REDD [reduced emissions from deforestation and degradation] will lead to a multi-billion dollar trade in forest carbon credits and the Malaysian project is one of several pioneering investments aimed at building up the REDD sector." From Reuters.

Government and Regulation

California's Bay Area ponies up for electric-car charging stations.reliability high.
"the Bay Area Air Quality Management District  moved to fill out that map, voting to allocate $5 million to subsidize the installation of 3,000 home charging stations, 2,000 public charging stations, and 50 fast-chargers near highways." From Grist. PDF of press release here.

Brazil: Energy superpower.reliability medium.
Marc Gunther posts about energy development in Brazil, including highlights of interview with Marcio Zimmerman, Brazil's energy minister. "If nothing else, Brazil's energy story is a reminder (not that we need one) that the rest of the world isn't standing still while the U.S. struggles to come up with smart energy and climate policy." See The Energy Collective.

Science and Economics

Google searches for 'global warming' go down when unemployment rises.reliability medium.
Digest of a recent research paper that finds an inverse relation between people's interest in environmental issues and the unemployment rate on a state-by-state or even county-by-county basis. "Polls that ask people to rank their biggest concerns tend to find that when people worry more about finances, they say they worry less about the environment." From Grist. [Blinding glimpse of the obvious. However it does suggest that once people are back to work and feeling more financially secure they may increase support for climate change policies and programs. (You can access the paper free here if you are in a developing or transition country or have a .gov address. Otherwise, National Research Council says pay up.)]

Poll shows increased, stubborn skepticism on climate change.reliability high.
"Asked whether they agreed with the statement, “Global warming or climate change is occurring and it is primarily caused by human activity,” 52% of green consumers agreed, compared to 49% of U.S. consumers overall. That’s down significantly from a year ago when 58% of all U.S. consumers agreed." A quarter of respondents said they wouldn't change their opinion even if confronted with various "nightmare scenarios". From Shelton Group blog. [Still showing effect of last year's "climategate", Copenhagen fiasco, big snows, and related news coverage. Eventually more recent weather and information will penetrate, but there is a long lag. Upcoming Congressional elections will call forth more confusing debate, political vitrol, and obtuse news coverage, and the economic situation still weighs on many minds. So don't expect rapid change in public opinion. Behavior may change faster than opinions as stated to pollsters.]

The Next Frontier for States and Cities: Building Clean Energy Industries and Green Jobs.reliability high.
"a first-of-its kind national study has found that only a few states and cities have policies in place to create green jobs. ... According to the study, California, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, and Ohio are among the states that have a strong set of policies that support green-business creation. The findings also feature the cities that have sought to create a full range of green jobs, including jobs in manufacturing and technology. ... 'Many cities and states are claiming to become the "capital" of green technology, but only a few really have strong, proactive policies in place to make that claim stick in order to create the highly paid green jobs,' Hess said." See Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute site. Access the research results here.

Geek Corner

Skeptical Science iPhone app.reliability high.
"Skeptical Science is now available as a free app for the iPhone or iPod. You can now use an iPhone or iPad to view the entire list of skeptic arguments  as well as (more importantly) readily access what the science says on each argument. The app connects to the website regularly so when new skeptic arguments, recent research or the latest data is added, the app automatically updates also." See Skeptical Science site. [Also available now for the Android.]