Enerdata Site

Instructors looking for contemporaneous energy and greenhouse emission data, including some excellent charts and downloadable data, should check out the Enerdata site, especially its Global Energy Statistical Yearbook 2011.  Enerdata is a consulting company, so a lot of what is on the site is only accessible to paying subscribers, however, some of the free data includes:

  • Figures on aggregate and regional energy production in 2011;
  • Analysis of energy intensity, including why it rose in 2010 for the first time in 20  years;
  • Renewable energy statistics, including percentages of both electricity and primary consumption;
  • Rankings of major countries on an array of indicia, including energy production, deployment of renewable energy, and exports and imports of power.


Environmental Data Center

I recently stumbled across an excellent source for spreadsheets and graphics on energy and climate issues, the Environmental Data Center.  Unlike many sites of this nature, the resource seems to be regularly updated, providing access to some really good materials for Power Point presentations.

Visual Guide to Energy and Carbon Emissions in the Middle East

Carboun, an intiative to promote conservation and sustainable development in the Middle East, has published an excellent new visual guide to energy use and carbon emissions in the region. The guide includes the Arab world’s share of carbon emissions, and those of individual States in the region, as well as trends in emissions. Moreover, it examines the divide between “Resource Rich” countries in the region, many of which have extremely high per capita greenhouse gas emissions (including the 1st, 3rd, 4th, and 5th highest levels of per capita emissions), with Resource Poor countries, most of whom have extremely low emissions. The graphic also seeks to isolate the reasons for the substantial divide between countries in the region in this context.

The infographic is a striking reminder to students that it’s overly simplistic to portray the world as one in which only Northern States  are profligate producers of emissions. It could stimulate some  interesting discussion about whether Southern countries with egregiously high per capita emissions should be required to take on emissions reduction commitments. It would also be a good opportunity to discuss the equity of UNFCCC’ Art. 4(8)(h), which mandates special concern for “countries whose economies are highly dependent on income generated from the production, processing and export, and/or on consumption of fossil fuels and associated energy-intensive products.”


CEDD Materials on Climate Change

The  Climate Change Education Initiative team of the National Council of Science Education, funded by NASA, has developed 8 self-contained modules for undergraduate general education on climate change.  The modules,  using NASA data and web materials,   is presently available on the Encyclopedia of Earth.  They include:

NASA Time Machine –

Climate Change Impacts on Colorado River water supply –

Seasonality –

Introduction to Remote Sensing Metrics –

Advanced Topics in Remote Sensing

Ice Core Data  –

Recent Climate Change -

Climate Change and Wine –

Educators will have access to a parallel web portal to assist in course development.  An additional web portal permits communication among students at participating institutions.  Online pre- and post-course assessments are available to determine student knowledge and attitudes about climate change. There are also online post-module assessments for each unit.  Instructors will obtain data from their institution and aggregate summaries.  Each unit has been tested at the author’s institution and we now are recruiting additional faculty members to utilize the materials in their classes.  This development was funded by a NASA Global Climate Change Education grant “Creation and Dissemination of an Interdisciplinary Undergraduate General Education Course on Climate Change NNX09AL64G.



The following link will allow you to access the webinar on using the NASA material.


For assistance, contact:

Andy Jorgensen, Department of Chemistry, University of Toledo,



Climate Change, Energy Policy and Party Affiliation in the United States

A new study from George Mason University’s Center for Climate Change Communication, Politics & Global Warming: Democrats, Republicans, Independents, and the Tea Party (2011) provides some interesting insights into the perceptions of the different political factions in the United States and their respective attitudes toward climate change and energy policy making.  The study involved a nationally representative survey of 1010 adults in April and May of this year, with each respondent asked whether they identified as a Republican, Democrat, Independent, Other, or No Party, or a member of the Tea Party.

Among the key findings of the study:

  1. While majorities of Democrats (78%), Independents (71%) and Republicans (53%) believe that global warming is occurring, only 34% of Tea Party members believe that warming is happening;
  2. 62% of Democrats attribute most of global warming to anthropogenic activities, while only 43% of Independents, 36% of Republicans, and a mere 19% of Tea Party members concur; overall, only 46% of those polled concur with this statement
  3. While a majority of Democrats say that the heat waves of the summer of 2010 bolstered their belief in global warming, solid majorities of Republicans and Tea Party members somewhat or strongly disagreed. On the other hand, a majority of both Republicans and Tea Party members said that record snowstorms last winter somewhat or strongly reduced their belief that global warming was occurring;
  4. While a majority of Democrats (55%) say that most scientists thing that global warming is happening, majorities of Republicans (56%) and Team Party members (69%) say there is substantial disagreement among scientists;
  5. Tea Party members are much more likely to say they are “very well informed” about global warming than other groups, and that they do not need “any more information” on the topic;
  6. While majorities of Democrats, Independents, and Republicans support an international treaty to cut carbon dioxide emissions, a large majority of Tea Party members oppose a treaty, with a whopping 55% strongly opposed;
  7. While majorities of Independents, Republicans, and Tea Party members support building more nuclear power plants, only a majority of Tea party members would support building nuclear plants in their own neighborhoods;
  8. Majorities of all four political parties support funding more research into renewable energy sources and providing tax rebates to people who purchase energy efficient vehicles or solar panels. However, while majorities of Democrats, Independents, and Republicans support renewable portfolio standards of 20%, even if it costs households $100 a year, a majority of Tea Party members oppose these policies;
  9. Majorities of all four groups support local regulations requiring new homes to be more energy efficient, and increasing the availability of mass transportation;
  10. Majorities of all four groups say that protecting the environment either improves economic growth and generates jobs or has no effects in either context.

This would be a good reading in any course that focuses on climate change policy. It might be interesting to break students up into groups to draft messages that would resonate with the various political factions and/or would seek to find common ground.


History of Climate Change, Part 1

For instructors who like to include a discussion of the roots of contemporary climate theory, I’d recommend a blog entry entitled “History of Climate Change: Part 1 – Learning the Greenhouse Effect.” The author, Chris Colose, a graduate student at University of Albany, presents a nice overview of this topic, very suitable for undergraduate students. The entry indicates that Part 2 will look at the history of efforts to measure surface temperatures.

State Emissions Profiles and International Trade

There’s a very interesting potential reading in a recent issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, focusing on the implications of international trade for attribution of greenhouse gas emissions between developing and developing countries, Glen P. Peters, et al., Growth in Emissions Transfers via International Grade from 1990 to 2008, 108(21) PNAS 8903-8908 (2011) (Open Access). The study, which employed a trade-linked global database for the carbon dioxide emissions of 113 countries and 57 economic sectors from 1990 to 2008  yields some striking results with large implications for questions of equity and the role of trade measures  in climate change policy.

Among the take-aways of the study:

  1. Carbon dioxide emissions worldwide have risen 39% from 1990 to 2008, with growth accelerating in the past decade;
  2. Global carbon dioxide emissions from the production of exported products have increased from 20% of global CO2 emissions in 1990 to 26%, similar in magnitude to land-use change-related emissions
    1. Trade-linked emissions grew 4.3% per year, far father than growth of global population, at 1.4% annually:
  3. Estimated Annex B emissions were reduced by 2% from 1990-2008; however, international trade  “relocated” 16 Gt CO2 from Annex B to non-Annex B States during this period, a net emission transfer 520% higher in 2008 from 1990
    1. Net emission transfers could rise to approximately 16% of Annex B emissions in 2020, comparable to the most optimistic projection for emissions reductions by Annex B States under the Copenhagen Accord
  4. In terms of consumption-based inventories, 11% of the growth of global carbon dioxide emissions is attributable to Annex B consumption; thus, a significant portion of the growth of consumption in Annex B States is masked in the emissions statistics of developing countries
    1. Even in the case of the European Union, which reduced its territorial emissions by 6% from 1990-2008, the increase in consumption emissions from non-Annex B countries are larger than these reductions
  5. Chinese emissions accounted for 55% of carbon dioxide emissions growth from 1990-2008, with Chinese exports accounting for 18% of growth in global carbon dioxide emissions;
  6. Increases in consumption in Annex B countries has thus caused an increase I global emissions that is masked by statistics only of terrestrial reductions;
  7. The limited analysis of emissions and trade data conducted to date indicates that bulk of emissions transfers from Annex B to developing countries don’t reflect carbon leakage associated with climate policies, but rather othe economic and policy factors.

This article could generate some good class discussion on a number of issues, including the following:

  1. Should the emissions of developing countries associated with exports to developed countries somehow be accounted for in the greenhouse gas inventories of Annex B countries under Kyoto Protocol and any successor?
  2. Does the evidence that a substantial portion of developing countries’ greenhouse gas emissions are associated with exports to developed countries argue against efforts to enact tariff or other barriers against products of developing countries that fail to enter into binding commitments to reduce their emissions?
  3. How might we determine if purported shifts in greenhouse gas emissions to developing countries are associated with efforts to reduce emissions in developed countries?

Conference on Climate Change and Migration

FYI. Note: even if you can’t attend, a podcast will be available for this conference. The conference’s organizer, Jane McAdam, has done some very interesting work on the legal implications of actors being rendered stateless by climate change.


Climate Change and Migration in the Asia-Pacific: Legal and Policy Responses
NSW Parliament House, Sydney, 10-11 November 2011


This two-day conference will bring together leading international experts, policymakers, and government officials from affected countries to discuss:


  •  Conceptualizing climate change-related movement
  •  The nature of movement: what does the evidence tell us?
  •  International legal frameworks
  •  International governance
  •  Adaptation and ‘migration with dignity’
  •  Relocation and land tenure
  •  Climate change migration and (human) security
  •  Institutional responses: where to from here?


Places are limited, so register now!  A draft program is attached and also available on the website below.


Register online: http://www.gtcentre.unsw.edu.au/events/climate-change-and-migration-asia-pacific-legal-and-policy-responses

Cost: $150 for both days (including lunch, morning tea & afternoon tea).  Single day registration is not possible.



A podcast of the proceedings will be made available online.



Professor Jane McAdam • Director of Research • School of Law • Faculty of Law • The University of New South Wales • UNSW Sydney NSW 2052, Australia • Phone: +61 (2) 9385 2210 • Fax: +61 (2) 9385 1175 • Website: http://www.law.unsw.edu.au/staff/McAdamJ/ Publications: http://ssrn.com/author=579709

The Crisis in Clean Energy?

David Victor & Kassia Tanosek recently published an article in Foreign Affairs on the future of renewable energy that would be an excellent student reading.

Among the take-aways from the piece:

  1. The clean energy industry in Western countries is “heading for a crisis” as a consequence of substantial cuts in public subsidies by cash-strapped government. Early manifestations of this crisis include a drop in the number of new wind turbine installations in 2010, the first time that has happened in 20 years, and substantial drops in the value of clean energy companies;;
  2. The fundamental cause of these foreboding trends is a policy focus on projects that are quick and easy, usually deploying off the shelf technologies, rather than investments in innovative technologies that might be competitive without the help of government subsidies;
  3. Development of clean energy businesses face two primary obstacles, a technology gap, and a commercialization gap, or the failure to obtain the massive investments in commercial-scale testing that is required prior to full funding of such enterprises by the private sector. The latter problem is more imposing since it requires a “delicate balancing act” in which government must work with the private sector without undermining market competition.
  4. The federal government in the United States often support the least risky projects, which are often the least innovative, including biofuels and windfarms. These projects are often unable to scale up without government investments and subsidies. Clean energy subsidies often are subject to a boom and bust cycle; as a consequence, private investors often focus on low-risk conventional technologies that can be deployed quickly before the next bust cycle in government investments;
  5. State often also provide subsidies to clean energy producers and impose mandates to purchase clean energy, e.g. renewable energy portfolio standards. This patchwork of of standards also creates uncertainty and volatility that favors investments in conventional renewable energy sources;
  6. A similar crisis in European clean energy markets is occurring, with the need for fiscal austerity leading to substantial cutbacks in subsidies. While government support has been much steadier in China, it lacks the infrastructure to utilize a substantial portion of the clean energy being produced;
  7. If the U.S. government wishes to make substantial advances in clean energy deployment in the future, it needs to to change its orientation in three ways: 1. Adopting more policies that are more “pull” oriented, i.e. pull technologies into the market rather than push technologies, e.g. subsidies. Cap and trade is one example of this approach; a federal clean energy standard would be another potential approach, with the latter including other clean sources beyond those traditionally supported, including nuclear power and low-pollution coal plants. A federal standard should also shift away from mature renewable energy technologies toward more innovative technologies that compete on performance standards; 2. The U.S. government should focus subsidies in a smarter fashion. This includes closing the technology gap by backing more fundamental research in universities and government laboratories and early stage technologies that industry will not adequately fund. The federal government should also seek to close the commercialization gap by by lowering financial risks associated with new energy technologies, e.g. by improving and expanding loan guarantee programs; 3. The U.S. government should do more to engage with emerging markets, including more partnerships and encouragement of corporate joint projects.

Among the class discussion questions suggested by the piece:

  1. Would increased government funding of potential “breakthrough” technologies pose the risk of the government picking “the wrong horse.” While the authors suggest that the government could obviate this risk by funding a variety of technologies and letting the private sector pick winners, would this prove easier said than done?,  That is, would the government influence private sector decisions by aiming more subsidies at the technologies it deemed most desirable, including from a political perspective?;
  2. While more emphasis on “pull” oriented technologies might be desirable, what is likelihood that such approaches are viable in this political environment in the United States. How should such proposals be framed to engender the requisite bi-partisan support to implement such approaches?;
  3. What are the incentives that drive government decision makers to back the least risky technologies? How do we change these incentives?