30 September 2010

2 degree limit a dream, particulates and diabetes, closing coal plants, Asian green funds slump, and more sustainable business news

Top Stories

"National study finds strong link between diabetes and air pollution"reliability high.
A report in Diabetes Care is among the first large-scale population-based studies to link diabetes prevalence with air pollution. The national epidemiologic study finds a strong, consistent correlation between adult diabetes and particulate air pollution that persists after adjustment for other risk factors like obesity and ethnicity. The relationship was seen even at exposure levels below the current EPA safety limit. "pollution came across as a significant predictor in all our models." "From a policy perspective, the findings suggest that the current EPA limits on exposure may not be adequate to prevent negative public health outcomes from particulate matter exposure." More highlights of study. See EurekAlert. Access the full report here. [The study notes: "Outside the U.S., the risk may be far greater as air pollution limits are often not enforced or are nonexistent, with some countries, notably in Asia and Latin America, showing PM2.5 levels >10 times higher than the U.S. EPA limits."]

"Analysis of the Copenhagen Accord pledges and its global climatic impacts—a snapshot of dissonant ambitions"reliability high.
In the "Copenhagen Accord" reached last year nations have promised various emissions goals. This research looked at the likely future global temperature scenarios associated with the pledges made and finds that the pledges are inconsistent with the goal of keeping global temperature rise below 2 degrees C. "Case 1 with reference growth after 2020 results in a likely global temperature increase of 2.5–4.2 °C above pre-industrial in 2100 and is still increasing afterwards." See Environmental Research Letters. [2-degree limit is impossible on current form.]

Companies, Industries, Markets and Supply Chains

"Ontario to shut 4 power plants in coal phase out"reliability high.
Ontario will shut about 2,000 megawatts of coal-fired power generation, according to this Reuters report. "'A coal-free Ontario will reduce air pollution and these closures Friday bring us that much closer to replacing coal-fired generation by 2014. Ontario will be one of the first jurisdictions in the world to move from a past of dirty coal generation to a future of clean energy,' Ontario Minister of Energy Brad Duguid told Reuters in an email." More on Ontario's process to close all its coal-fired power plants by 2014. From Reuters.

"Sunnyvale startup: compostable diaper service"reliability high.
Sunnyvale, California, startup "EarthBaby has signed up almost 1,000 Bay Area families for its service, which includes weekly drop-offs of diapers made out of substances derived from corn and wood, and pickups of soiled diapers, which decompose into topsoil within a few months." See The San Francisco Chronicle. [Not a new idea. In the 80s the New England Solid Waste Council explored the possibility of composting non-reusable diapers. Here's a concept: a service that picks up soiled reusable cloth diapers, washes them, and brings them back to be used again. Washing on an industrial scale could be quite efficient. Why downcycle them to dirt after one use?]

"Car2go hits 10,000 member milestone in Austin, TX"reliability medium.
Eric Loveday posts "Daimler launched its Car2go program in its first North American city, Austin,TX back in May. Now, slightly more than four months later, the Car2go program has registered more than 10,000 eager carsharing members who have racked up more than 80,000 rentals in the downtown Austin area." Press release says "In 2011, we will continue to expand to other North American cities where there is a demand for innovative and forward-thinking transportation solutions." See Autoblog Green. Car2go site here. [Carsharing is still an urban phenomenon. When will it reach the suburbs?]

"Analysis: Big losses at Asia green funds spark move to safety"reliability high.
"Green equities funds -- a big draw over the past few years on heightened concerns on energy prices and the environment -- have been clobbered as stock market volatility, economic pessimism and falling energy costs have driven investors away from the sector," reports Reuters. Lists a number of funds that have seen investor withdrawals and poor performance, with some funds down in the range of 20% while broader indexes lost less than 10%. Environmental and SRI bond funds seem to be absorbing some of the cash leaving green equity funds. See Reuters story.

Government and Regulation

"Obama on Climate Change Strategy"reliability medium.
John Collins Rudolf posts on President Obama's statements on climate change legislation in a recent article in Rolling Stone. "One of my top priorities next year is to have an energy policy that begins to address all facets of our over-reliance on fossil fuels," Said Obama, and "I am committed to making sure that we get an energy policy that makes sense for the country and that helps us grow at the same time as it deals with climate change in a serious way." But he recognizes that giant omnibus climate bills are politically impossible and suggests new policies will have to be enacted in "chunks". More comments on the potential for such legislation. From New York Times Green blog. Rolling Stone article here.

"Ancient Italian Town Has Wind at Its Back"reliability high.
New York Times story about the small Italian town of Tocco da Casauria that installed four wind turbines and now sells enough power to the grid to pay for some municipal services and improvements, as well as powering the town. "the growth of small renewable projects in towns like Tocco — not only in Italy, but also in other countries — highlights the way that shifting energy economics are often more important than national planning in promoting alternative energy." High electricity prices in Italy and generous feed-in tariffs help. More on Tocco and similar movements. See The New York Times.

Science and Economics

"Royal Society says climate change man made"reliability high.
Britain's Royal Society has published a guide to climate science that says "that there is 'strong evidence' that over the last half century, the earth's warming has been caused largely by human activity." "The guide concludes that, as in many other areas, policy choices will have to be made in the 'absence of perfect knowledge', but the scientific evidence is an essential part of public reasoning in this complex and challenging area." See edie.net. Access the report here. [Not really news, but some don't seem to have gotten the message yet. "The size of future temperature increases and other aspects of climate change, especially at the regional scale, are still subject to uncertainty. Nevertheless, the risks associated with some of these changes are substantial. It is important that decision makers have access to climate science of the highest quality, and can take account of its findings in formulating appropriate responses."]