Header graphic for print
Science, Law & the Environment Emerging Topics in Environmental Law

What We Are Reading November 13, 2014: U.S./China Carbon Emissions Agreement Edition

Posted in Clean Energy, Climate Change, Emerging Policy, Energy Conservation, Energy Policy, Geeky Science Stuff

There is so much that caught my eye this week that I couldn’t make it to Friday before putting this list up.

First, on the energy policy front, I’d be remiss in not highlighting President Obama’s agreement with China with respect to carbon emissions. The internet and social media are awash in analysis and commentary on this, including ClimateWire’s analysis of what the United States must do to meet the goals, NPR’s piece on the devil being in the details, Tim McDonnell’s analysis over at Mother Jones, and, of course, you can find raging debate over on Twitter.

My initial thoughts are that the projections of new, carbon-free energy China needs to bring online to meet its goal of peak carbon by 2030 are staggering, something like the equivalent of one nuclear facility a week. In a roundabout way, this could be a win for efforts to export coal to China from the United States because of the commitment by the two countries to focus on carbon capture and storage. That focus could change the potential analysis of greenhouse gas emissions that the Washington Department of Ecology is including in its State Environmental Policy Act review of the proposed coal export terminals here in Washington.

On a related note, we now have data on how Japan responded to the Fukushima disaster two years ago. Perhaps not surprisingly, coal consumption is up in Japan as nuclear generation capacity remains offline. But, Japan also looks to be jumping into the coal technology mix–note the comments in the Bloomberg article by Toshimitsu Motegi, Japan’s trade minister, regarding the potential of Japan’s advanced coal technology to reduce U.S., China, and Japan carbon emissions by a combined 1.5 billion tons per year.

And, really switching gears, I leave you with one geeky science piece, this study using carbon and nitrogen isotopes to analyze switches in seagull diet habits in the Pacific Northwest over the past 150 years. Not surprisingly, gull diets have switched from high-protein source like herring and eulachon to human food waste and trash–resulting in lower reproductive success. Back in my science days, I shared a lab with researchers who were using these types of techniques to look at diet changes and have always found this type of research fascinating.