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Long-awaited Copenhagen talks yield uncertain results

Posted by collegegreenou on December 20, 2009

By Swati Ramanathan
CG Commentary

The 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference was held Dec 7-18 in Copenhagen, Denmark. The days leading up to the Copenhagen talks had all the usual ingredients for high drama: hacked E-mails that purportedly throw climate change into question, protests from individuals demanding tangible results, and last minute announcements by various world leaders that they would attend. The hopes were high as well as the stakes. Despite the United States and BASIC (Brazil, South Africa, India, China) nations agreeing to the Copenhagen Accord, clichés abound in world press of the talks being “a lot of hot air.” The denouement, many claim, was somewhat of a letdown, as there is nothing binding about the accord, which will only be formalized sometime during the next year.

Background Information

To recap some of the background surrounding this issue, greenhouse gases such as CO2 trap heat and raise surface temperatures. Although there is much debate over what exactly causes climate change, there is consensus that a considerable amount of climate change is a result of human actions, mainly in the form of post-industrial revolution development. Infrastructure, transportation, industry and a high reliance on electrical appliances and electronics are the hallmarks of development. Activities crucial to development also lead to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions, and therefore global temperatures. Rising temperatures bring with them the threat of rising sea levels, which puts the very existence of low lying island nations at risk. Ironically, these nations typically have small economies and low emission rates themselves and charge the biggest polluters (China and the United States) with the responsibility of curbing emissions to prevent further rises in temperature.

Per capita emissions are very high in the developed world and are steadily rising in the developing world, where carbon emissions are still comparatively low but haven’t peaked yet. Economic growth follows industrialization, so the Kyoto Protocol sought to combat climate change while being equitable to all nations in its specific strategy. The Kyoto Protocol is the protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change, which was adopted in 1997 and came into force in 2005. It places binding targets on the reduction of greenhouse gases by 37 industrialized nations (known as Annex 1) and general commitments to reduce emissions by all other signatories. It allows emissions trading between Annex 1 and non-Annex 1 nations in a Cap-and-Trade arrangement. The Kyoto protocol is almost universally accepted, with 187 countries having ratified it with the significant exception of the United States, which at the time wanted binding targets and timetables for emission reductions for the developing world.

Following the Kyoto Protocol, the America’s Climate Security Act of 2007 was proposed to bring the United States in line with Kyoto objectives. It was killed in 2008 over economic concerns.

Northeastern states in the U.S. started Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative with their own local cap and trade program. California is now in line with Kyoto, and several U.S. cities participate in cap and trade programs. This list includes several Ohio cities such as Akron, Canton, Columbus and Zanesville.

The Recent Conference

The objective of the Copenhagen talks was to create a mutually agreed-upon framework to tackle climate change. The European Union had already committed to binding legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions beyond Kyoto requirements. Most countries announced moderate emission cuts, with industrialized nations targeting cuts of around 20 percent below 1990 emission levels. The United States announced a cut of 17 percent below 2005 levels, which translates to a 1.3 percent cut below 1990 emission levels.

With most world leaders in Copenhagen, significantly President Barack Obama, who decided in the last minute to be present during a more meaningful phase of the discussions, it was hoped that a legally binding agreement could be reached. This, however, was thwarted by a leaked document that caused a rift between the rich and poor world, that G77 nations (and China) claimed was not previously negotiated and was imbalanced in favor of developed nations.

The talks, which went on until early Saturday, were not a complete failure. The United States and BASIC countries reached a non-legally binding accord that is yet to be signed. The U.S. and other developed countries have promised $30 billion over the next three years to developing nations and another $100 billion in 2020. It isn’t clear yet where the money will come from.

However, many of the accord’s agreements did not meet earlier expectations. The accord limits temperature rise to 2˚C instead of the 1.5˚C that was hoped for. It also dropped earlier proposals to cut CO2 emissions by 80 percent by the year 2050. It does, however, include a plan to combat deforestation.

Uncertain Results for Southeast Ohio

The effect of the Copenhagen talks on the Southeast Ohio region may not be immediately apparent, or even direct, but just as the Kyoto Protocol encouraged some states and cities to voluntarily adopt it on a local basis, the Copenhagen Accord might spur further action on the issue of climate change. This might include general encouragement of green initiatives, and possibly some form of a cap and trade emissions system. With no binding agreements at this point, it is hard to gauge what the local ramifications will be without being speculative. The local interest (which mirrors global interest) in the Copenhagen talks would at the very least raise awareness on this issue of growing importance.

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Students waste more food during no-tray meal

Posted by collegegreenou on October 30, 2009

By Gabriel Weinstein
CG News Staff
gw711008@ohio.edu

While results from the Oct. 5-8 Nelson Dining Hall food audits showed that student waste habits have slightly improved, the results from the “no-tray” meal at Nelson Dining Hall last night did not reflect this trend.

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Appalachian Regional Commission wraps up conference

Posted by collegegreenou on October 29, 2009

By Lisa Gumerman
CG Lifestyles and People Editor

The Athens-hosted Appalachian Regional Conference wrapped up today with a closing reception and lunch in Walter Hall. Those in charge considered the conference, whose attendees totaled over 450 during its three-day span, a success.

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Representatives from Appalachian colleges and universities meet to discuss the future of green energy

Posted by collegegreenou on October 29, 2009

By Elyse McConnell
For CG News

Representatives from several Appalachian universities discussed the prospects, implications and funding for developing sustainable energy projects in a roundtable discussion Wednesday at Ohio University’s Baker University Center.

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ARC Conference keynote speaker voices Duke Energy’s sustainability objectives

Posted by collegegreenou on October 28, 2009

By Gabriel Weinstein
CG News

Duke Energy Corporation President and CEO James Rogers affirmed his company’s commitment to energy efficiency and addressed Appalachia’s future challenges in switching to clean energy technology in his keynote address Tuesday at the 2009 Appalachian Regional Commission Conference at Ohio University’s Baker University Center.

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OU program, area school chosen for ARC grants

Posted by collegegreenou on October 28, 2009

ARC_Day2_Snyder_04

Ohio Governor Ted Strickland and ARC Co-Chair Anne Pope stand with a check for Appalachian development programs. Of that money the Voinovich School will receive $100,000 and West Elementary will receive $45,000. Photo by Alex Snyder

By Erich Hiner
CG News Editor
eh146106@ohio.edu

Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs and an area elementary school are among the 18 recipients of this year’s grants from the Appalachian Regional Commission.

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Developing, promoting local level renewable resources are the topic of ARC panel

Posted by collegegreenou on October 28, 2009

By Meghan Ventura
CG Web Manager
mv256706@ohio.edu

The sun, wood chips, cooking oil, wind and garbage might seem unrelated, but local leaders across Appalachia are finding ways to turn all of those things into clean, renewable energy.

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Industry executives look at the future of coal in ARC panel

Posted by collegegreenou on October 28, 2009

By Katherine Bercik
For CG News
kb128005@ohio.edu

Representatives from the energy and agriculture industries discussed coal’s future as a source of energy in a panel discussion Tuesday in Baker University Center.

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ARC event brings regional leaders to Athens, OU

Posted by collegegreenou on October 27, 2009

ARC_Day1_Snyder_06

Anne Pope, Federal Co-chair of the Appalachian Regional Commission, spoke at the opening ceremony of ARC's annual conference. Photo by Alex Snyder.

By Lisa Gumerman,
CG Lifestyles and People Editor
lg677106@ohio.edu

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Program energizes Athens area students

Posted by collegegreenou on October 22, 2009

By Gabriel Weinstein
CG News
gw711008@ohio.edu

Athens students learned about energy conservation this week during Energy Days 2009, an annual series of workshops for local schools hosted by the Ohio University Office of Sustainability to educate children about how people make and use energy.

Students grades three through six participated in several hands-on experiments Tuesday and Wednesday at Baker University Center to learn about topics such as energy and sustainability. The lessons were run by Office of Sustainability employees and local environmental leaders.

The workshops brought students and experts together to help students realize they are part of a larger global environmental system, said Energy Days organizer Erin Sykes.

“I really think the kids get a lot out of Energy Days,” said volunteer Matt Peters, who led the Energy Days workshop on biofuels.

Students rotated between stations learning about different energy and environmental issues in Southeast Ohio. To see the effects of acid mine drainage, students mixed acids and bases and tested the acidity of different substances. Students learned about electrical power generation by riding an “energy bike,” a bicycle modified to generate power when pedaled. At the hydroelectric power station, students observed a model stream to see how water can be used to make electricity.

The older the students were, the more advanced their lessons became. Those in higher grades learned about kinetic and potential energy, chemical reactions, circuitry and solar power.

Tom Parsons, director of curriculum and development for Athens City School District, said Energy Days is very educational for students because they can apply what they learn from the program to life outside the classroom.

Heather Skinner, a sixth grade teacher at The Plains Elementary, said she notices that some students use their new knowledge in classroom discussions and in their lives at home.

Joseph, one of Skinner’s students, said he plans to use what he learned from the Energy Days lessons at home.

“I will now try to use power saver plugs and try and turn things off more often,” Joseph said.

This year marks the ninth annual Energy Days series. The program has enjoyed wide support from students and teachers alike. Since its start, the program has been officially incorporated into the Athens City Schools’ curriculum. All students, grades three through six, from Athens’ five elementary schools now attend the program each year.

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