Kicking carbon out of homes, before the sea swallows us whole


Greg Harman
San Antonio Current Queblog

world climate map
We don't say 'global warming' anymore?

Home Sweet Homes in Alamo City have until 2030 to get the carbon out for good.

As the first major accomplishment of Mayor Phil Hardberger's Mission Verde, new building codes approved last week require new homes to be 15 percent more energy efficient starting in 2010. Those standards will be ratcheted up regularly until the homes being built include energy-generating measures like solar panels or microturbines so that they use no more energy than they are able to generate on their own.

There is much more to be accomplished - jobs, greenbacks, a carbon-neutral city - before Verde can be definitively classified as a success, and supporters have openly worried about what will happen to it after Hardy leaves office in May.

Former Tesoro Petroleum CEO Michael Burke partially answered that question by introducing the city's environmental policy director at the "clean tech" forum today. After all, the office established by Hardberger and staffed by Laurence Doxey will endure, as far as we know.

So, if all goes well, our new homes will be certifiably Greenhouse Free about the same time Indonesia is watching 2,000 of its islands slip beneath the rising seas.

Other USA Today favored predictions include the loss of 60 percent of the Amazon that same decade.

The suggestion that we may be facing rapid and serious climate chaos tightened over this past weeks as scientists gathered in Copenhagen, the site where the "new" Kyoto agreement on climate policy must be adopted come December, began to speak freely.

General consensus seems to be that the IPCC has underestimated a few things, including the pace of sea-level rise facing the world this century.

There was a vote for 18 inches or more:

Global warming is expected to cause the sea level along the northeastern U.S. coast to rise almost twice as fast as global sea levels during this century, putting New York City at greater risk for damage from hurricanes and winter storm surge, according to a new study led by a Florida State University researcher.

And a nod to a more than a meter:

Research presented today at the International Scientific Congress on Climate Change in Copenhagen shows that the upper range of sea level rise by 2100 could be in the range of about one meter, or possibly more. In the lower end of the spectrum it looks increasingly unlikely that sea level rise will be much less than 50 cm by 2100. This means that if emissions of greenhouse gases is not reduced quickly and substantially, even the best case scenario will hit low lying coastal areas housing one in 10 humans on the planet hard.

The researcher, however, was saying "meters":

According to Dr. John Church of the Center for Australian Weather and Climate Research, Hobart, Tasmania, who spoke at the conference, recent observations have shown that sea level has been continuously rising for the past 15 years at 3mm/year rate. This, he said, is above the average of the 20th century, adding that oceans continuously warming and expanding, and mountain glaciers and ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland continuously melting also contribute to sea level rise.

"Unless we undertake urgent and significant mitigation actions, the climate could cross a threshold during the 21st century committing the world to a sea level rise of meters," Church also said during the conference.

What does a meter look like?

Brownsville climate map
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Corpus climate map
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CorGalvestonpus climate map
Galveston phones for a lifeline

Peter Clark
University of Oregon professor Peter Clark's research for a synthesis report on "abrupt" climate change for the U.S. Climate Change Science Program presented in San Francisco three months ago concurred on sea rise, but added in a dose of "forever" drought for the Southwest United States.


Here's a bit of our conversation for those of you that just can't help yourselves...

Posted by gharman on 3/17/2009

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