Climate Compass Blog

The Question of Binding

The immediate fate of the Kyoto Protocol may be the headline issue at the U.N. climate talks now underway in Durban, South Africa.  But the real linchpin to any deal is not Kyoto – it’s whether or not parties can agree to any path beyond it.

What that may boil down to is whether governments are prepared to say that their goal, ultimately, is binding climate commitments.  We believe they should.

Landmark New Vehicle Standards Set a Strong Path to the Future

This post is the first of a two-part series on the new joint EPA-NHTSA vehicle standards. It will give an overview of the new standards. The second part dives deeper into details on how the new standards will be met.

As the Pew Center for Global Climate Change has transformed into the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES), the transportation sector is undergoing some major transformations itself.

The eagerly anticipated model years 2017-2025 vehicle standards for greenhouse gases and fuel economy have been officially proposed and inked into the best of formal Federal prose – an extensively detailed 893-page behemoth of a report to be exact. The new vehicle standards would nearly double the efficiency of the nation’s passenger vehicle fleet. And based on its contents, these proposed standards appear to be a tremendous victory for most, creating benefits for the economy, national security, public health, vehicle buyers, and the global climate.

It’s been a long time coming. Together with last year’s rulemakings on 2012-2016 light duty standards and 2014-2018 heavy duty standards, vehicle standards haven’t seen an overhaul of this magnitude since, well, the creation of such standards in the 1970s.

The Business Behind Low-Carbon Solutions

Business leaders from across the country convened in Atlanta last month to share critical lessons from developing and deploying low-carbon solutions.  At our Business of Innovating conference, dozens of company leaders—from Coca-Cola and Mars to Dow and Bayer—discussed new products and solutions that are beginning to drive business growth in clean energy while limiting greenhouse gas emissions.  Their efforts reflect a deepening understanding of changes in market preferences and demand for low-carbon solutions. 

NPR Not Plugged In to All the Facts on Electric Vehicles

A recent story on NPR’s Morning Edition about plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) misses the mark. At C2ES, we don’t believe PEVs are the single answer to our transportation energy security and environmental problems, but we think they could make a contribution if they’re given a fair shot. That’s why we started an initiative on PEVs almost a year ago to take a practical look at the challenges and opportunities of PEV technology.

First, the story mentions plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) like the Chevrolet Volt at the outset, but then ignores how that vehicle type overcomes the problem at the heart of the story – range anxiety. The fear of being stranded due to inadequate driving range and deficient charging infrastructure is a legitimate critique of battery electric vehicles (BEVs). BEvs are battery-only vehicles, i.e. they cannot run on gasoline. But, the Volt and soon-to-be-released Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid can run on gasoline or electricity and have the same range as a conventional car. You can travel 25 to 50 miles in a Volt or up to 15 miles in a plug-in Prius without using gasoline and then rely on gasoline to fuel the rest of your trip. It’s difficult to estimate how many trips these electric-only ranges will accommodate, but a plug-in hybrid overcomes the need for a consumer to make that determination. In case you’re wondering, the average car trip length is 9.34 miles according to the National Household Transportation Survey.

That’s One Small Step for the IPCC; One Giant Leap for Understanding Our Climate Risk

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a “special report” (that’s what they call topical reports they publish in between their better known comprehensive assessments) today that is worth a close look for anyone who wants to start getting ready for a future with weirder and often harsher weather.

About a year ago I published an opinion editorial taking the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to task for neglecting risk-based information to help decision makers cope with inevitable uncertainties about the future impacts of climate change:

Since uncertainty is endemic to the future, when the second IPCC assessment concluded in 1995 that ‘The balance of evidence suggests a discernable human influence on the global climate’, the IPCC should have reconvened around the risk implications of this probable human influence. Instead, it redoubled its effort to reduce physical science uncertainties [which will not be resolved before action is required].