New York takes leadership role in climate resilience

Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s $20 billion plan to safeguard New York City against a future Hurricane Sandy and other climate risks is the most ambitious effort yet by any U.S. city to prepare for the expected impacts of climate change.

The mayor last week announced “A Stronger, More Resilient New York,” a comprehensive plan to protect communities and critical infrastructure, and proposed significant changes to New York’s building codes for new construction and major renovations that will help buildings withstand severe weather and flooding. Its 250 recommendations include building new infrastructure (like installing armor stone shoreline protection in Coney Island), changing how services are  provided (like encouraging redundant internet infrastructure), and establishing standardized citywide communication protocols for use during disruptions.

Redrawing the energy-climate map

I had the privilege of providing input to the new International Energy Agency (IEA) report, Redrawing the Energy-Climate Map.  I am grateful that the IEA produced this special report, which endeavors to keep open the option of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius by keeping the concentration of greenhouse gases below 450 parts per million (CO2-equivalent).

To many, the traditional 450 scenario published each year in IEA’s World Energy Outlook (WEO) appeared aspirational rather than practical, leaving influencers and policymakers with few realistic options. The modified 450 scenario, “4-for-2 ?C,” addresses this concern by recommending specific, actionable policies.

China and U.S. agree to cooperate to reduce powerful greenhouse gas

The informal summit between the presidents of China and the United States last week yielded one very one important climate-related agreement.  After years of opposing international efforts to restrict hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs - a potent family of greenhouse gases), China has now agreed to cooperate with the United States and most other nations in moving forward to phase down the use of these chemicals under the Montreal Protocol. 

The Montreal Protocol is the international treaty agreed to in 1987 that restricts the production and use of ozone-depleting substances with the goal of restoring the earth’s protective ozone layer. Widely hailed as the most successful international environmental treaty, it has been ratified by all 197 states. While not its primary objective, the treaty has also played an important role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and now appears on track to play an even larger role.

Leveraging the natural gas boom to cut carbon

While global greenhouse gas emissions continue to soar, U.S. emissions are back down to where they were in the mid-1990s. This decline is partly due to the economic downturn, but a key contributor has been electricity generators’ shift from coal to natural gas.

Get outside the beltway to change the climate debate

The National Journal Energy Experts blog asked this week whether we need to rethink the global warming debate, given the gridlock in Congress. My response is, by all means, we need to change the debate about climate change. But that starts well beyond the Beltway, where farmers, coastal residents, small-town mayors and others are feeling its impact – and are seeing the opportunities in a clean energy future.