Aug
21

Are you puzzled by American attitudes on climate change? Within the international climate change community, U.S. policy has been met with a mix of hope and frustration. Following the release of the U.S. national assessment report on the heels of the IPCC fifth assessment, the characterization of climate change appears to be shifting in American public discourse. What was previously “a series of impacts that will only be felt in the distant future,” is increasingly described as something that is already happening. Even politicians that in the past eagerly denied global warming, have begun to moderate their challenges of climate science, with some now avoiding comment altogether on grounds they are “not qualified to talk about it.”
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Jul
7
Jun
9

“Can USEPA’s new power plant ‘rule’ break our climate logjam?”
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May
7
Mar
12
Mar
12
Feb
21
Jan
28
Sep
23
Jul
15
May
10
Mar
28

There is a small but growing literature that considers the challenge of climate change through the ethicist’s lens. So-called “climate ethics” addresses the ethical imperative for action on climate change. (See this short interview for a good introduction to the flavor of the discourse.) This discussion is important, but while the broad issue of climate change is analyzed at a macro-level, there is a separate litany of ethical questions relevant to those working on the ground to design and implement climate programs and policies.

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Feb
26

Electrons flowing down a wire. How many times have you heard this description in discussions on how electric power grids functions? Our greenhouse gas (GHG) accounting framework for indirect emissions from purchased electricity (i.e., Scope 2) is built around this mental model — the idea that electrons in the electric grid are analogous to water or natural gas in a pipe where we just replace molecules with electrons. Indeed, it is hard to find a reference in our field on the topic of indirect emissions that does not lean on or allude to this description of the physics of electricity.

Well, in the spirit of earlier semantic alerts I’ve posted on misused terminology in GHG accounting (see previous entries on “real” and “counterfactual”), in this blog post I’m going to come after another esoteric GHG-related linguistic bubble with a pointy stick.

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Jan
15

One of the more frustrating issues I deal with as an educator is the focus by many governments, NGOs, foundations, and much of the scientific community on “climate literacy” as a strategy for shifting the climate change policy debate.

Climate literacy is the label given by organizations, such as the U.S. National Science Foundation, to the work of teaching the lay public about climate science and global warming. Let’s be clear, I soundly believe that the world would be better if more people had a deeper understanding of science (perhaps starting with the reality of biological evolution through natural selection).

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Oct
25

Much of the world right now appears largely unconcerned with climate change. And, this state of affairs is just what social psychology tells us we should expect. People will avoid thinking about and accepting as real problems like climate change that feel remote and have complex long-term causes and solutions. Combine the enormous distractions of ongoing economic upheaval in many parts of the world and the quadrennial naval gazing in the United States that is the Presidential election season and it is unsurprising that the outcome is indifference to the specter of the climate problem.

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Aug
24

Continuing on the theme of widely held fundamental misconceptions in the carbon management community (see previous blog posts here and here), today I am going to write on a matter of terminology I find particularly irksome: the use of the term “counterfactual” in additionality discussions.

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Aug
3

I am about to commit an act of minor heresy by telling you that something everyone repeats as gospel is flat bunk. The qualities of a good emission offset project are one of the most common refrains you hear in the carbon offsets community. You can probably repeat most of them by memory: real, additional, permanent, verifiable, etc. Different programs or protocols might add other points about leakage or accuracy, or conservativeness or some other offset quality principle. But common to almost all programs and standards and protocols is the criterion that offset projects or credits must be “real.”

Here is a question for you: What does it mean for an offset project to be real? What would an unreal offset project be? How could we tell if it was unreal, and is this something we should be concerned about?

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Jun
25

Since the June 2011 global launch of the EP(GHG) and EPt(GHG) designations under our Professional Certification Program, in partnership with ECO Canada, we have seen an outpouring of enthusiasm from individuals and organizations alike. More than 350 individuals from all regions in the world have started the application process for the EP(GHG) and EPt(GHG) titles; a response that we have found both validating and humbling. Now that this groundbreaking GHG certification program has been launched, we would like to reaffirm our motivations and look forward to the important role professionalization will play for the future of carbon management. Admittedly, relative to the fast-changing fads in climate change policy, GHGMI’s activities in this area probably seem to you like a tortoise rather than a hare. We see just the opposite.

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May
29

You have probably experienced this situation before. You have an idea for a project that you believe is important and innovative. But you don’t have funding for it, and are not exactly sure how to accomplish it. Yet, convinced of its potential, you charge ahead anyway, expecting to plan as you go. You struggle, make progress, get frustrated, get distracted by other projects, recommit to it, and cycle through the same progression again and again. Years go by…

In our case, it has been four years. And this particular story, fortunately, has a happy ending. Today, I am pleased (and relieved) to announce the launch of our new course on GHG Accounting for Energy Efficiency Projects.

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Jan
25

If you have worked in the climate change space for very long, you have likely faced this question in one form or another. Try explaining carbon offsets to your sister-in-law and you have two choices. Either you give her a superficial response in an attempt to change the subject or you dive in and try and explain offsets. If you chose the latter, you will find it near impossible to avoid the concepts of a baseline and additionality.

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