Politicians, lobbyists, and tourists alike can ride bicycles along a specially marked lane between the White House and the U.S. Capitol, part of the 115 miles of bicycle lanes and paths that now crisscross Washington, DC. In Copenhagen, commuters can ride to work following a “green wave” of signal lights timed for bikers. Residents in China’s “happiest city,” Hangzhou, can move easily from public transit onto physically separated bike tracks that have been carved out of the vast majority of roadways. And on any given Sunday in Mexico City, some 15,000 cyclists join together on a circuit of major thoroughfares closed to motorized traffic. What is even more exciting is that in each of these locations, people can jump right into cycling without even owning a bicycle. Welcome to the era of the Bike Share.
April 1 was no joke in Lansing, Michigan, when equipment at a power plant malfunctioned and caused 300 gallons of oil to leak into the Grand River. Two days later in Chalmette, Louisiana, a pipeline connected to a drum full of chemicals broke, releasing the toxic liquid into the surrounding area, along with airborne cancer-causing agents. These two incidents followed even worse disasters in Mayflower, Arkansas and West Columbia, Texas. This means that the U.S. endured four spills over the course of two weeks. And still, oil companies have not been brought to justice.
The Michigan spill occurred at the Lansing Board of Water and Light’s Eckert Power Plant, and for once, the spill came from somewhere other than an oil corporation, small comfort though it may be. Lansing Board of Water and Light is a publicly owned municipal utility that provides water and electricity to Lansing and East Lansing. An equipment failure at their plant caused turbine oil to escape, and soon make its way into the adjacent Grand River.
Even amid policy uncertainty in major wind power markets, wind developers still managed to set a new record for installations in 2012, with 44,000 megawatts of new wind capacity worldwide. With total capacity exceeding 280,000 megawatts, wind farms generate carbon-free electricity in more than 80 countries, 24 of which have at least 1,000 megawatts. At the European level of consumption, the world’s operating wind turbines could satisfy the residential electricity needs of 450 million people.
China installed some 13,000 megawatts of wind in 2012, according to the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC). This was a marked slowdown from the previous two years, when new installations averaged 18,000 megawatts annually. Reasons for the drop-off include concerns about project quality and inadequate electricity transmission and grid infrastructure, which prompted the government to approve fewer projects and to restrict lending. Still, all told, China leads the world with 75,000 megawatts of wind capacity: more than a quarter of the world total.
In 2011, President Obama challenged the U.S. Department of Energy, and the rest of the nation to put one million electric cars on the road by 2015. The Department of Energy has since eased off the deadline, according to Mercury News, but says it’s still committed to the President’s goal.
And they’re not the only ones. Now more than ever, the country is dedicated to the idea of hybrid and electric vehicles on U.S. roads across the country. Forbes estimates that roughly 56,000 electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles were sold in the U.S. in 2012. That’s only a small portion contributing to Obama’s one million goal, but it does lend to the evidence that America is buying into the idea of going green on the road. The reasons go beyond the simple numbers of supply and variety. Here are some of the reasons we might just reach that goal set by the President in 2013:
Across large portions of North America and Europe, the beginning of spring has been anything but warm so far. Scientists have now attributed that to the intense loss of Arctic sea ice caused by climate change. Last autumn, that ice fell to a record-breaking low, and experts say it’s only going to get worse.
Jennifer Francis, research professor with the Rutgers Institute of Coastal and Marine Science, noted, “The sea ice is going rapidly. It’s 80 percent less than it was just 30 years ago. There has been a dramatic loss. This is a symptom of global warming, and it contributes to enhanced warming of the Arctic. This is what is affecting the jet stream and leading to the extreme weather we are seeing in mid-latitudes. It allows the cold air from the Arctic to plunge much further south. The pattern can be slow to change because the [southern] wave of the jet stream is getting bigger.”
Vladimir Petoukhov, professor of earth system analysis at Germany’s Potsdam Institute, conducted research on the matter that led to the same conclusion. “The ice was at a record low last year,” he agreed, “and is now exceptionally low in some parts of the Arctic like the Labrador and Greenland seas.”
And as scientists have warned time and again, climate change is also triggering increasingly aggressive and unstable weather.
President Hugo Chavez has lost his two year long battle against cancer. But “those who die for life, can’t be called dead,” Vice-president Nicolas Maduro said when he made his heartfelt announcement of the death of Chavez on Venezuelan public television.
While hundreds of thousands of people have gathered on the streets of Caracas to bid a final farewell to their late president, only a month before elections to pick his successor, it can be worth remembering Chavez stance on climate change. Personally I’ll never forget his speech at the COP15 climate conference in Copenhagen in which he linked capitalism to global warming.
The full text of Hugo Chavez’s speech at the December 2009 Copenhagen climate conference can be found below. In the speech Chavez linked climate change and capitalism, saying that “if the climate were a bank, they [the rich governments] would already have saved it”. The translation has been done by Kiraz Janicke.