“Vatican Announces Major Summit On Climate Change” – ThinkProgress, 16 April 2015

Pope Francis has made climate change one of the cornerstones of his papacy, recently hosting a climate change summit at the Vatican, which he hopes will bridge the gap between climate change and religion.

The conference, called “Protect the Earth, Dignify Humanity. The Moral Dimensions of Climate Change and Sustainable Development,” was held on April 28 and featured prominent leaders, like the Director of the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network, Jeffrey Sachs, and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who gave the opening speech.

Pope Francis hopes that his followers — and followers of other religions — will see the connection between their faith, environmental conservation, and the future of people. The pope’s upcoming encyclical, to be published in either June or July, will focus on the environment.

During Francis’ inauguration in 2013, he gave a moving speech that fixated on climate change, even calling abuse of the environment a sin. The following year, in 2014, he hosted a five-day conference that targeted sustainability, which brought microbiologists, economists, legal scholars, and various scientific experts to the Vatican to discuss our worsening climate.

April’s summit at the Vatican also hit close to home for Americans. As we all know, many conservatives and members of the GOP have rejected the concept of climate change and have found fault with Francis for being pro-green. Francis is slated to talk to Congress this coming September, and it’s certainly likely that he’ll bring up environmental conservation.

According to the Center for American Progress Action Fund, 56 percent, or 169 members, of our current Congress are skeptical of the science backing climate change. Moreover, thirty-five of those 169 members recognize themselves as Catholic. It will be compelling to see if these Congress members’ faith — and the pope’s influence — can sway any of the Congressmen and women.

However, in the final analysis, it is not religion but economic — supply, demand, availability, and prices — environmental, and societal pressures, and technology issues, such as cost and effectiveness, that will determine the final outcome. Having said that, Vatican’s proactive approach will sway public opinion, which could be very significant.

(From ThinkProgress)

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

April 17, 2015

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“The Global Warming Statistical Meltdown” – Wall Street Journal, 9 October 2014

For months, climate reports have been warning us that we must prevent the world from warming by 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) in order to avoid the most disastrous effects of climate change. However, what policy makers and world leaders have failed to mention is that the world is less delicate than we think: CO2 emissions might not be so damaging to our climate.

As stated in the international treaty, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the earth’s surface temperatures have increased by almost 0.8 degrees Celsius since 1850-1900, which means we only have a margin of 1.2 degrees Celsius before we reach the 2 degree cap.

Estimations by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)‘s latest 2013 report were calculated using positive and negative models. If there is a massive drop in emissions, then the Earth might not reach the 2 degree mark; however, if coal-use and population growth both skyrocket, then we might meet the mark by 2040.

However, these estimates aren’t based on real-world models, and don’t take into account the sensitivity of our climate. According to the Wall Street Journal, “Climate sensitivity is defined as the global surface warming that occurs when the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere doubles.” If the climate is overly sensitive, then rising emissions will indeed push the world to the UN’s “dangerous” warming levels; if the climate isn’t overly sensitive, then emissions won’t have such a devastating impact on our environment, and it will take us longer to reach those ‘dangerous’ levels.

Climate reports using an observation-based energy-balance approach and global climate models have had different findings — even the IPCC’s report admitted the distinctions in the two models. With observation-based models, climate sensitivity projections are substantially less than global climate models’ projections. Observation-based energy balance models also take climate change’s 1998 hiatus into account, where we didn’t see a drastic rise in the Earth’s temperature.

The warming hiatus wasn’t considered in the IPCC’s 2007 report, which predicated that the world would warm by 0.2 degrees Celsius every 10 years in the beginning of the 21st century. With that in mind, can we trust climate reports that employ global climate models, rather than observation-based models? Why, then, are we on the fast track to implement policy that slashes emissions when we have room to explore economical ways to gradually lower our emissions? What’s the rush?

Climate sensitivity is something the public doesn’t often hear about, but is a fundamental aspect of the climate policy debate. Reports that take an observation-based approach show that human’s impact on our climate won’t cause the Earth to warm by 2 degrees, even by the end of the 21st century. Perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate our climate policies.

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

October 15, 2014

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“Coal Growing Its Share Of Global Energy Mix Despite World’s Greening Efforts” – IBTimes, 20 June 2014

Although natural gas has become the US’s go-to energy source, and both Europe and the US are bringing the proverbial hammer down on greenhouse gas emissions, coal is still in wide-use worldwide. China and India are the main culprits; since both countries are continuing to grow, they continue to use coal, since it’s one of the cheapest and most plentiful sources of energy. Together, the two countries are the reason coal consumption saw a three percent increase in 2013. Use of natural gas only rose in North America, while it fell everywhere else.

via IBTimes

via IBTimes

Though developed nations will continue to replace coal with renewable and cleaner energy sources, developing countries will continue to rely on coal, as coal will likely remain inexpensive and abundant.

While coal fulfilled 30.1 percent of the world’s energy needs in 2013, oil met 32.9 percent. The US invested a lot of time and money in fracking shale formations, which led to one of the biggest bouts of oil generation that we’ve seen.

But coal could still win the energy battle. In 2012, the International Energy Agency predicted that yearly worldwide consumption of coal would increase by 1.2 billion tons, making it the number one energy source in the world.

New climate policies by the US and Europe are bound to take a toll on the future of coal. Coal will become reliant on China, and even China is making an effort to decrease pollution and smog and use natural gas instead of coal.

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

June 30, 2014

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“5 things you can do about climate change” – CNN, 6 May 2014

We here at Phinix are huge proponents of doing what you can at home to prevent any further impacts of climate change. The disastrous effects of global warming are stacking up, leading to higher temperatures and rising sea levels. More flooding, wildfires, and droughts are to be expected. Here are five things you can do to lend a helping hand to the environment.

Become Informed

Staying informed about what policy makers are doing and saying is paramount. If you stay educated on climate change, then you can make knowledgeable decisions when voting and electing politicians into office. It also wouldn’t hurt to know what the policy makers are discussing:

  • Lowering carbon dioxide levels—for example, establishing carbon taxes and carbon caps;
  • Changing the Earth’s response to the effects of climate change—for example, building seawalls to combat the rising sea levels; and
  • Adapting the Earth to counteract climate change—for example, changing our oceans to absorb more CO2.

Make Changes at Home

The EPA suggests you do the following to curb your greenhouse gas emissions, which will also save you money:

  • Change your five most-used light bulbs to products that have the EPA’s Energy Star label;
  • Heat and cool more efficiently, such as by using a programmable thermostat, changing air filters, and replacing old equipment with Energy Star products;
  • Seal and insulate your home;
  • Make use of recycling programs, and compost food and yard waste;
  • Reduce water waste;
  • Use green power, such as solar panels; and
  • Estimate how much greenhouse gas you emit with the EPA’s calculator.

Be Greener at the Office

You can also help out at the office. Here’s how:

  • Set computers and other office equipment to power down during periods when you’re not using them;
  • Use Energy Star equipment; and
  • Recycle and reuse whenever possible.

Reduce Emissions in Transit

You can reduce your emissions both in your daily and cross-country commutes:

  • Rely on public transportation, biking, walking, carpooling, or telecommuting instead of driving;
  • Use the EPA’s Green Vehicle Guide to help you make an informed choice about buying a car;
  • While driving, try to avoid hard accelerations, don’t spend more than 30 seconds idling, and go easy on the gas pedal and brakes; and
  • Make sure to regularly check your tire pressure.

When you’re traveling by plane, try these tricks:

  • Consider packing lighter because less fuel is consumed with less weight on the plane;
  • Fly during the day because night flights have a bigger impact on the climate; and
  • Buy carbon credits to compensate for the emissions on your flight.

Get Involved and Educate Others About the Bigger Picture

Though one person’s efforts might only have a small influence, involving and educating others will allow our impact to grow. Together, we can help to prevent any further damaging effects of climate change.

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

May 13, 2014

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