Foreign Policy Blogs

Bits and Bobs – April 1, 2009 Edition (No Foolin')

Black Carbon in Waxman-Markey – As we’ve seen here, particulates from uncombusted materials – coal, diesel, and biomass – have a much bigger impact on the climate than previously recognized, not to mention the devastating direct health impacts.  (See under Soot here and at Black Carbon and Solar Cookers.)  It is entirely worth noting that the draft under discussion in the House (see last post below), addresses this.  The summary of Waxman-Markey says that black carbon “…is a major contributor to warming in the Arctic. EPA is directed in the draft to use its existing authority under the Clean Air Act to reduce emissions of black carbon domestically and study opportunities for reductions internationally.”

EPA was obviously on the same page.  They announced a program on Monday that will lead to significantly reduced emissions of particulates, and other pollutants, from marine shipping.  The EPA release on this says “These standards will cut sulfur in fuel by 98 percent, particulate matter emissions by 85 percent, and nitrogen oxide emissions by 80 percent from the current global requirements.”

I referenced the health burden here in July (see Shipping), and also talked about some ways of radically reducing the problem.  Here is a report from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on some new work that further indicates the health and environmental impacts.  (You can also listen to the story in Real Audio and Windows Media and MP3 formats.)

Players – There is a series in this week’s “US News & World Report” that profiles some of the “…most influential energy and environmental policymakers in the Obama era.”  I’ve written about most of them here, but this is a concise further look at folks from Lisa Jackson and Steven Chu to Henry Waxman and Al Gore.  I haven’t written about Lisa Murkowski or Joe Romm, so let USN&WR bring you up to speed on these two.  (Romm and his blog, Climate Progress, are very influential indeed.)

Feel-Good Stories that Pack a Punch – First, DOE to Award $3.2 Billion in Energy Efficiency Block Grants is from the excellent “EERE Network News.”  This stimulus spending will get you more money back in the end than you put in, according to nearly every economic analysis you can find.  This is what we call investment.

The other story:  Billion tree campaign grows past 3 billion mark, says UN agency from the UN News Service.  They set out to plant a billion trees worldwide, have hit three, and are now aiming for seven by the end of this year.  Trees, by the way, are a pretty effective device for sequestering carbon.  Remember how that works?  Will the foresters and environmentalists win with this low-tech argument over the engineers and industrialists who are gaga over CCS, not to mention industrialized atmospheric carbon scrubbing?  We’ll just have wait to see.

Columbia Climate Center – I had the pleasure of guest blogging today at Nature’s fine blog, Climate Feedback, on the launch of an ambitious initiative of the Earth Institute.  It was an interesting event, highlighted by a conversation between Jeffrey Sachs and Ted Turner.



Bill Hewitt

Bill Hewitt has been an environmental activist and professional for nearly 25 years. He was deeply involved in the battle to curtail acid rain, and was also a Sierra Club leader in New York City. He spent 11 years in public affairs for the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation, and worked on environmental issues for two NYC mayoral campaigns and a presidential campaign. He is a writer and editor and is the principal of Hewitt Communications. He has an M.S. in international affairs, has taught political science at Pace University, and has graduate and continuing education classes on climate change, sustainability, and energy and the environment at The Center for Global Affairs at NYU. His book, "A Newer World - Politics, Money, Technology, and What’s Really Being Done to Solve the Climate Crisis," will be out from the University Press of New England in December.

Areas of Focus:
the policy, politics, science and economics of environmental protection, sustainability, energy and climate change