Monthly Archives: February 2008

Diesels: Still Not Very Green

This post is by Sheryl Canter, an Online Writer and Editorial Manager at Environmental Defense.

John DeCicco

John DeCicco, Ph.D. is Senior Fellow, Automotive Strategies at Environmental Defense.

The American Council for Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) just announced its eleventh annual ratings for the greenest and "meanest" vehicles. Natural gas and hybrid vehicles do best – no surprise there. But the meanest (dirtiest) list is dominated by diesels, despite their higher fuel efficiency, because they spew out high levels of nitrogen oxide and particulate matter.

I spoke about this with our resident car expert John DeCicco, who was the original creator of ACEEE’s Green Book when he worked for that organization. "I do have my morbid moments", John said, "but no need to give up hope yet!"

More from John below…

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Posted in Cars and Pollution / Read 8 Responses

Global Warming Crib Sheet

Lisa MooreThis post is by Lisa Moore, Ph.D., a scientist in the Climate and Air program at Environmental Defense.

The science behind global warming is, well, science, and it can get pretty technical. By how many degrees has the globe already warmed? How much more can it warm before we’re in trouble? How much carbon dioxide is in the air now, and how much more can we afford to emit before risking climate catastrophe? Which are the most important greenhouse gases? And what do all those funny abbreviations mean?

Below you will find a handy crib sheet that gives you all these numbers and more.

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Posted in News / Read 9 Responses

EPA’s Mercury Rule: Bad Use of Cap-and-Trade

John BalbusThis post is by John Balbus, M.D., M.P.H., Chief Health Scientist at Environmental Defense.

A federal appeals court decided last week that a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule exempting coal- and oil-fired power plants from cutting toxic mercury pollution violates the Clean Air Act and is unlawful. The court rebuked EPA for attempting to create an illegal loophole for the power generating industry rather than applying the toughest emission standards of the Clean Air Act (see full text of decision [PDF]).

The ruling invalidates the agency’s so-called "Clean Air Mercury Rule," which allowed power plants that fail to meet emission targets to buy credits from plants that exceeded targets, rather than installing mercury emissions controls of their own. In other words, the EPA wanted to use a cap-and-trade system with mercury – a highly toxic substance.

Fourteen states, dozens of Native American tribes, public health and environmental groups (including Environmental Defense), and organizations representing registered nurses and physicians challenged the EPA’s mercury rules. Are you surprised that Environmental Defense opposed a cap-and-trade system? It’s because mercury is a toxin, and cap-and-trade doesn’t work with toxins.

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Posted in News / Comments are closed

Why a Bill in 2008: Price of Waiting

Tony KreindlerThis post is by Tony Kreindler, Media Director for the National Climate Campaign at Environmental Defense. It’s the third in a series on Why a Bill in 2008:


1. Same Politics in 2009
2. Good versus Perfect
3. The Price of Waiting
4. The World is Waiting
5. Best Answer to High Gas Prices

In previous posts, I’ve covered two reasons why Environmental Defense is pushing for climate legislation in 2008 – the politics will be very much the same in 2009, and we don’t want to gamble away a good bill on the chance of a perfect one someday.

Today I’ll look at a third reason: The price of waiting, even a year or two, is simply too high. Carbon dioxide concentrations are higher today than they’ve been in 650,000 years, and our emissions rate is increasing. It’s crucial that we start aggressively cutting emissions as soon as possible.

Here’s the math.

Cost of Two-Year Wait
Source: the national allowance account for the years 2012 – 2020 from the S.2191 as reported out of the EPW Committee. The emissions growth from 2005 to 2013 is assumed to be 1.1 percent (an average of the 2004 and 2005 rate reported by the EPA [PDF]).

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Posted in Climate Change Legislation / Read 12 Responses

9 Dangerous "Tipping Elements"

Lisa MooreThis post is by Lisa Moore, Ph.D., a scientist in the Climate and Air program at Environmental Defense.

The term "tipping point" refers to a critical threshold at which a small change can qualitatively alter the state of a system. For example, when temperature reaches 32°F, ice changes into water. There also are "tipping points" in global warming. The best known is the Greenland Ice Sheet, which could begin a slow, irreversible meltdown if global temperature passes a certain threshold.

Last week, climate researchers published a paper that examines Earth systems in danger of passing tipping points due to human activity. They call these "tipping elements", and highlight nine such systems from around the world. They say the greatest threat is to the Arctic, followed by the Greenland Ice Sheet. Here’s the list.

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Posted in News / Read 4 Responses

Why No Election Commentary?

Sheryl CanterThis post is by Sheryl Canter, an Online Writer and Editorial Manager at Environmental Defense.

It’s not just an election year, it’s an historic election year. Every news outlet is filled with speculation and commentary. So why is it so quiet here, at Climate 411? How come we don’t talk about the election and the candidates?

It’s because of our tax status. Environmental Defense is incorporated as a 501c3 charitable organization. This means that donations to us are tax deductible, and we are allowed only limited lobbying and no electioneering whatsoever. Even commenting on candidates’ climate change plans could imply that we prefer one over the other and jeopardize our tax status. That’s why we talk about policies and not about candidates.

Posted in News / Comments are closed