It’s Not Easy Being Green: The Top Five Green Stories for 2012

This has been submitted to the Lake County Record-Bee

 It’s Not Easy Being Green: The Top Five Green Stories for 2012

Tis the season for looking back on the previous year; here are my picks for 2012’s top environmental stories plus a bonus story:

1. California’s Cap and Trade Program Begins.

Global Warming

Global Warming (Photo credit: mirjoran)

As U.S. CO2 emissions hit a 20 year low, the California Air Resources Board began its cap and trade program by auctioning off allowances of one metric ton of CO2 equivalent (greenhouse gas – GHG). The goal of the California Global Warming Solutions Act (AB32), signed by Governor Schwarzenegger in 2006, was to bring statewide emissions down to its 1990 levels by 2020. Depending on who spun the story, the first auction, which raised significantly less revenue, than projected, was a qualified success or a fool’s errand.
There are two more auctions to go, but the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office estimates that the state may expect less than one-third of lawmakers’ budget projections.

 2. California’s Proposition 37 Ballot Initiative to Label Food Developed Using Transgenic (Genetically Modified) Methods Defeated.

While Europe looks longingly at the U.S. for our lack of labels on genetically modified crops, a ballot measure was solidly defeated that would have legislated more stringent requirements than Europe. Still, groups continue to fight to have labels placed on food that the Food and Drug Administration maintains is virtually identical to food that was developed through crossbreeding methods.
In other news, in October, Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad whose regime has slaughtered more than 33,000 people, issued a ban on GM food “to preserve the health of human beings.”

3. Earth Summit – Rio + 20.

Some 50,000 people including world leaders, bureaucrats, non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), and others converged on hedonistic Rio de Janeiro last June to consider how to “reduce poverty, advance social equity and ensure environmental protection on an ever more crowded planet to get to the future we want.”

Since the data show those things happening without them, they cancelled their trips and did things that were more productive. Not.

4. Italian Scientists Sentenced for Failing to Predict Earthquake.

Rubble on a car
The Italian courts sentenced six Italian scientists and a civil servant to six years in prison and $10 million in fines for failing to communicate the magnitude of risk before the 2009 L’Aquila earthquake that ultimately killed 309 people. The prosecution contended that people were ill prepared due to the seven downplaying earthquake risk following several minor tremors in the area.

Expect scientists and civil servants now to err with reports of direr consequences for any and all events. One-tenth inch of light rain predicted? Close all roads and evacuate the county. We cannot be too cautious now can we?

5. Extreme Weather Events.

From the U.S. drought to megastorm Sandy, it was a year of proofs in the media that catastrophic global warming is occurring due to our releasing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. BusinessWeek ran an article, “It’s Global Warming, Stupid.”
Time magazine had an article that said, “In Africa, drought continues for the sixth consecutive year, adding terribly to the toll of famine victims. [Recent] record rains in parts of the U.S., Pakistan and Japan caused some of the worst flooding in centuries.”
The Time article was written in 1974…about a coming Ice Age.
“Extreme events, like the recent U.S. drought, will continue to occur, with or without human causation,” John R. Christy, PhD, Alabama State Climatologist stated in testimony to congress. Roger Pielke Jr., professor of environmental studies, notes, “Flooding has not increased [in the United States] over the past century, nor have landfalling hurricanes.” Pielke adds that, even with this year’s drought, droughts have decreased over the past 100 years.

Because our climate and our earth’s weather have always been in flux, preparedness is our best strategy. Just like earthquakes, extreme weather events happen from time to time. We have seen them in the past; we will see them in the future.

6. Bonus story: December 21, 2012 – The Mayan Apocalypse.

The Mayan calendar ended on the winter solstice in 2012, which, naturally meant the world was ending then. Did you really think that a people who did not predict the conquistadors’ invasion could predict the end of the world?
See you next year.
Sources/Further Reading:

  • Is Weather More Extreme In A Warmer World? The Answer is in the Ice. (
  • The Birth of Carbon Pricing and Delivering California’s First ‘Climate Dividend’  (
  • Today’s Tornado Outlook: High Risk of Global Warming Hype
  • Guest Commentary: Climate spin is rampant – The Denver Post
  • “Another Ice Age?” Time. June 24, 1974,9171,944914,00.html#ixzz2FhLcAdhM
  • “First cap-and-trade auction a bust for California budget.” November 21, 2012.


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The True Cost of Lumber Substitutes

Lumber and building material can be replaced with look-alikes made from non-renewable materials but it may not be wise.

One example, a U.S. National Science Foundation panel analyzed the amount of energy necessary to extract, transport, and convert various raw materials into finished products found that substituting other materials for wood products comes at a higher cost in terms of energy. Koch (1992) estimated that for each 1 cubic meter of wood replaced with manufactured substitutes, energy consumption increases by about 477 liters of oil.

Lippke (1992) noted:

“Logic and maybe even intuition would suggest that using renewable resources rather than nonrenewable resources would better protect the environment.”

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