Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Sustainability Illustrated: City of Canning sustainability video

Here's a great new video laying out the basics of strategic sustainable development.  It was created by two MSLS graduates -- Alex Magnin and Jayne Bryant -- for the City of Canning in Australia... hence the kangaroos.

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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

You're already paying for carbon pollution

Below is a great video from The Climate Reality Project about the price of carbon -- explaining why we need a price on carbon.  The consensus is finally building among the economists, politicians, and the public that putting a price on carbon is the most effective and efficient way to minimize the damage of climate disruption. 

The EPA's recently announced rules limiting carbon from existing power plants (The Clean Power Plan) is an important step, and one that will help pave the way for a price on carbon.  It's design of allowing states to determine how to meet the rules is the right way to go, and I expect it will result in more states instituting a price on carbon -- either by joining RGGI, or connecting with California or the Western Climate Initiative, or instituting their own pricing schemes, like cap & trade or cap & dividend, or a simple carbon tax like British Columbia.

These state-level precedents are what we need in order to get more comprehensive federal legislation, and from there a meaningful international climate agreement, with the US leading the way.  Given the recent results of the National Climate Assessment (and many other reports and studies) this needs to happen fast enough for an agreement in Paris in 2015 that goes into effect by 2020. 

Check out the video and share.  To get this done we need as many people as possible on board and letting their elected officials know they support a more effective and efficient way of paying for carbon pollution -- through a price on carbon.  Obama made it clear in this recent interview with Tom Friedman -- we need a price on carbon, we're not going to burn all of the carbon in the ground, and to enable a smooth ramp to clean energy, we need broad public support. Quoting Lincoln, he said: ‘With public opinion there’s nothing I cannot do, and without public opinion there’s nothing I can get done.’ As this piece in the NYT today shows, leadership on climate is finally becoming a political winner, and we need to keep it that way.

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Sunday, May 18, 2014

F*&k It

It's hard not to feel how Stephen does sometimes... good to see all elements of the media covering the National Climate Assessment report, however.

While we are very late in taking meaningful action on climate in the US, it feels as though we might be getting to a place where it will be possible.  The NCA (despite false balance in media coverage) and the recent study about West Antarctica melting being inevitable has caught people's attention.  The EPA rules on power plant emissions coming this summer (reportedly with Obama making it a personal priority) is a real start to controlling carbon pollution.  And maybe most importantly, people are starting to experience a taste of what climate change will bring between Sandy, droughts, San Diego wildfires, the polar vortex, and so much more weird weather... it's not just normal plus a degree or two.

We have so much of the technology we need to dramatically reduce demand for fossil fuels and rapidly phase in alternatives.  Those alternatives are coming down in price and getting more competitive.  There is a groundswell among the youth (and many others!) drawing a line in the sand about the moral injustice climate inaction represents.  All in, the stage is very close to set for real change. 

It's been very tempting to say "F*&k It" for years, but we may now finally be getting close to a real tipping point.

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Friday, May 16, 2014

Solutions Fridays: Passive House

Image source: http://www.passivhaustagung.de
Passive House design encompasses for me a lot of what sustainability is all about -- smart design, reducing demand for energy and resources, saving money, improving quality of life.

The basic premise is through smart design, and effective use of passive heating, cooling, and day-lighting techniques, buildings can be comfortable year-round in any climate without large, expensive. energy-intensive heating and cooling systems.  They can reduce heating energy demand by 90%.

Learn more about passive house design from the Passive House Institute US.

It's sometimes hard for people to imagine how we could meet global energy demand only with renewable energy -- a big part of what makes that possible is dramatically reducing the amount of energy we use (without reducing quality of life -- and indeed increasing it for a great many people).  Passive House design is an exciting way to make that happen.
Unity College Passive House (photo: Jonah Gula)

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Solutions Fridays

Taking a strategic approach to sustainability requires a strong and compelling vision of a sustainable future -- if you don't know where you're trying to go, you can't be strategic about getting there.

The system "global society in the biosphere" is too complex to predict what exactly a sustainable future will look like, so we need to rely on principles of sustainability to guide us.  Still, specific images and ideas for solutions can be compelling in keeping us going on this enormous journey towards sustainability. 

There are a tremendous amount of really exciting solutions already in practice today that can help us start to build a more complete picture of what a sustainable future might look like.

To that end, I'm starting a "Solutions Fridays" series, where I will post some basic info or a picture of a different solution on Fridays.

Please leave your suggestions for great solutions to include in this series in the comments. 

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Tuesday, May 13, 2014