Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Green light: Green electioneering, climate emails inquiry and electric scooters

This is a weekly email briefing from, bringing you the best news, analysis and debate
Environment editor, Wednesday 14 April 2010 12.13 BST
the race to 6 May in full swing, we're hosting a climate change election debate between the three main parties
Green election
Labour election manifesto: weak, not tough, on causes of climate changeEnvironment policies the parties should adopt in election 2010Tories plan controversial reform to UK renewable energy incentivesAsk Leo: How big will the carbon footprint of party leaders be during the election?For the election we've also rounded up civil society's environment demands, put Labour's manifesto under our green microscope and Leo Hickman wants your help calculating the carbon footprint of the party leaders.
Ever wondered what a clean green electric scooter's like to ride? Find out with Bibi van der Zee. For more sedate thrills, take a look at our gallery of the Royal Mail's new range of conservation-themed stamps.

Japanese whalers blame Sea Shepherd for smallest catch in yearsClouded leopard caught on cameraBritish campaigner urges UN to accept 'ecocide' as international crimeEcologists unveil plan for 'barometer of natural life'This week Japan's fleet of ships returned home with 507 whales, short of 935 target - and it blamed conservation group Sea Shepherd for the fall. Elsewhere, British lawyer-turned-activist Polly Higgins launched her This is Ecocide campaign and a rare photograph emerged of a clouded leopard.
Climate change
Lord Oxburgh inquiry clears UEA scientists of malpracticePeruvian glacier split triggers deadly tsunamiHollywood stars join politicians at Bolivia's 'cool' global warming summitCopenhagen destroyed by Danish draft leak, says India's environment ministerConfidential document reveals Obama's hardline US climate talk strategyThe latest inquiry into the hacked climate science emails today cleared the scientists involved of any wrongdoing, saying the science was conducted "fairly and properly". John Vidal also reported on Bolivia's contribution to international climate talks and revealed a vital US climate document left on a hotel PC in Europe.
Green living
Is Mooncup's mass marketing strategy a model for green campaigns?Paul Priestman's innovation: The WaterpebbleCan I do my hair and be green?Innocent smoothie denies sell-out after Coca-Cola gets majority stakeArcelorMittal's emissions make a monumental joke of Olympic park towerThis week in green living it's all about vaginas, hair-dos and phallic symbols. Ed Gillespie took a look at ethical firm Mooncup, Lucy Siegle offered up some eco hair-care tips, and Felicity Carus asked if the ArcelorMittal Orbit is really a good monument for a green Olympics.
Best of the web
From BusinessGreen: White House hints that it is gearing up for climate bill fightFrom SolveClimate: California pours a foundation for cities to build onFrom BusinessGreen: China says low carbon sources to supply quarter of electricity by end of 2010For more of the best environment comment and news from around the web, visit the Guardian Environment Network.
...And finally
Doctor Who does nothing for tweed that cyclists haven't planned for monthsHead to the bike blog to return to an era when lady and gentlemen riders ruled the road

The pedal-powered hotel

A green hotel in Copenhagen is claiming a world first by using guests on exercise bikes to generate electricity
Tom Robbins, Wednesday 14 April 2010 13.36 BST

Bright idea ... an iPhone attached to the handlebars shows how much power is being fed into the hotel's system
Forget solar panels and wind turbines, a hotel that bills itself as one of the "greenest" in the world has found a new source of renewable energy – its guests.
From next Monday, those staying at the 366-room Crown Plaza Copenhagen Towers will be encouraged to head down to the gym to spend time on its new fleet of electricity-generating exercise bikes. The bikes have iPhones mounted on the handlebars which monitor how much power is being produced and fed into the mains supply of the hotel. Any guest producing 10 watt hours or more will be rewarded with a free meal.
The scheme is a pilot project that will run for a year, and if successful, could be rolled out to all 21 Crowne Plaza hotels in the UK.
"The electric bikes offer our guests the chance to get fit and help power the hotel at the same time," said Allan Agerholm, the hotel's general manager. "It will be interesting to see how many guests take part and how much electricity we generate."
Getting the free meal is surprisingly easy. The hotel's calculations suggest one guest cycling at 30kmph for an hour will produce around 100 watt hours of electricity, meaning that reaching the threshold for the meal should take only six minutes.
Critics might argue that even those who cycle for a full hour will be making a rather token contribution to the energy use of a huge city hotel – 100 watt hours of energy is only enough to light a single 100 watt bulb for one hour. However the hotel counters that it wanted the target to be "achievable" so as many people as possible take part.
The hotel, which opened in November last year, is attempting to become carbon neutral. It has EU Green Building and Green Key certification and uses a groundwater-based cooling and heating system, low energy lighting and hand dryers, and is covered in solar panels on its south-facing aspects. So will its latest scheme catch on at other hotels around the world?
"Realistically, this isn't a practical way of generating a useful amount of energy, but I certainly wouldn't criticise it," said Alex Randall, a spokesman for the Centre for Alternative Technology. "As a lesson, and a means of public engagement, it's excellent – if you sit someone on a bike, pedalling hard, and show them they are only generating enough to power one lightbulb or TV, is makes them appreciate how difficult energy is to produce, and therefore why we should be careful not to waste it."

Hollywood stars join politicians at Bolivia's 'cool' global warming summit

Evo Morales says talks will give a voice to world's poorest and encourage governments to be ambitious after Copenhagen

John Vidal, environment editor, Tuesday 13 April 2010 17.03 BST
In what is becoming the hippest environment meeting of the year, presidents, politicians, intellectuals, scientists and Hollywood stars will join more than 15,000 indigenous people and thousands of grass roots groups from more than 100 countries to debate climate change in one of the world's poorest nations.
The World People's Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth which opens next week in the small Bolivian town of Cochabamba, will have no direct bearing on the UN climate talks being conducted by 192 governments. But Bolivian President Evo Morales says it will give a voice to the poorest people of the world and encourage governments to be far more ambitious following the failure of the Copenhagen summit.
Morales will use the meeting to announce the world's largest referendum, with up to 2 billion people being asked to vote on ways out of the climate crisis. Bolivia also wants to create a UN charter of rights and to draft an action plan to set up an international climate justice tribunal.
"The only way to get climate negotiations back on track not just for Bolivia or other countries, but for all of life, biodiversity, our Mother Earth is to put civil society back into the process. The only thing that can save mankind from a [climate] tragedy is the exercise of global democracy," said Bolivia's United Nations Ambassador Pablo Solon in Bonn, at the end of the latest UN talks.
"There will be no secret discussions behind closed doors. The debate and the proposals will be led by communities on the frontlines of climate change and by organisations and individuals from civil society dedicated to tackling the climate crisis," he said.
More than 90 governments are sending delegations to Cochabamba, Bolivia's third largest city. Also expected to attend are scientists such as James Hansen, James Cameron, the director of Avatar, the linguist Noam Chomsky, author Naomi Klein of Canada, anti-globalisation activist José Bové of France, and actors Danny Glover, Robert Redford and Susan Sarandon are expected.
The meeting will coincide with celebrations of the Cochabamba "water war" of 2000 when a revolt against the privatisation of water in the city acted as an inspiration for social movements across Latin America and indirectly to the election of Morales as Bolivia's president.
"We hope that this unique format will help shift power back to the people, which is where it needs to be on this critical issue for all humanity. We don't expect agreement on everything, but at least we can start to discuss openly and sincerely in a way that didn't happen in Copenhagen," said Solón.

Peruvian glacier split triggers deadly tsunami

Chunk of ice the size of four football pitches falls from Hualcan glacier into Andean lake, resulting in at least one death

Rory Carroll, Latin America correspondent, Tuesday 13 April 2010 18.01 BST

A massive ice block broke from a glacier and crashed into a lake in the Peruvian Andes, unleashing a 23-metre tsunami and sending muddy torrents through nearby towns, killing at least one person.
The chunk of ice, estimated at the size of four football pitches, detached from the Hualcan glacier near Carhuaz, about 200 miles north of the capital, Lima, on Sunday. It plunged into a lagoon known as lake 513, triggering a tsunami that breached 23 metre (75ft) high levees and damaged Carhuaz and other villages, according to authorities.
The Indeci civil defence institute said 50 homes and a water processing plant serving 60,000 residents were wrecked. Trout fishermen initially presumed dead survived, leaving one confirmed death.
Authorities evacuated mountain valley settlements fearing that the ice block, measuring 500 metres by 200 metres, could be followed by more ruptures as the glacier melts.
César Álvarez, governor of Ancash region, which includes the affected area, blamed climate change. "Because of global warming the glaciers are going to detach and fall on these overflowing lakes. This is what happened," he told Canal N.
Two people were injured when they saw the torrent of water, panicked in their car and crashed. The number of casualties could have been much greater had the lake level been higher when the ice block fell.
"This slide into the lake generated a tsunami wave, which breached the lake's levees, which are 23 metres high – meaning the wave was 23 metres high," said Patricio Vaderrama, an expert on glaciers at Peru's Institute of Mine Engineers.
It was the latest evidence that glaciers are vanishing from Peru, which has 70% of the world's tropical icefields. They have retreated by 22% since 1975, according to a World Bank report, and warmer temperatures are expected to erase them entirely within 20 years.
The same phenomenon is under way in neighbouring Bolivia, where the Chacaltaya glacier, 5,000 metres (17,400ft) up in the Andes, used to be the world's highest ski run. Predictions that it would survive until 2015 seem to be optimistic: according to recent pictures a few lumps of ice near the summit are all that remains.
The World Bank report warned that the disappearance of Andean ice sheets would threaten hydro-electric power and the water supplies of nearly 80 million people.

White House hints that it is gearing up for climate bill fight

Top advisor says it is "imperative" for the US to tackle climate change and address reliance on foreign oil. From BusinessGreen, part of the Guardian Environment Network
Wednesday 14 April 2010 09.22 BST
In a clear signal that the White House is preparing to turn its attention from healthcare reform to climate change legislation, one of president Obama's top advisors launched an impassioned call for the US to embrace low-carbon policies last week.
Speaking at a Washington energy conference, Larry Summers, head of the White House's National Economic Council, warned the long-term economic health of the US would be jeopardised if it failed to pass ambitious climate change legislation.
Describing it as "imperative" for the US to tackle climate change and " address the consequences of excessive dependence on oil for our national security", Summers underlined the importance of the administration's plan to pass climate change legislation.
"If you think about the risks to our ecology, the risks to our security, we minimise those risks with comprehensive energy policy," he said. "And if you think about the opportunity to lead in what is really important, we maximise that opportunity with comprehensive energy legislation. That's why energy is so crucial a part of president Obama's economic strategy."
Capitol Hill insiders said Summers' speech suggested president Obama was gearing up to try to pass the draft climate change bill being prepared by Democrat senator John Kerry, Republican senator Lindsey Graham and independent senator Joe Lieberman ahead of November's mid-term elections.
The Democrat leadership has consistently said it would try to pass the bill this year, but a number of Democrat senators had warned that they would prefer to see a vote delayed until next year after the battle to pass healthcare legislation proved so divisive.
Dan Weiss, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress think-tank, told the New York Times that the president was likely to intervene directly to help secure the 60 votes necessary to pass the legislation.
The president met recently with a group of senators who are expected to hold crucial swing votes and Weiss predicted further meetings could be on the cards as the administration rushes to pass the bill ahead of mid-term elections during which the Democrat's Congressional majority is expected to come under fire.
"There's something about the president or vice president of the United States talking to you about these things that helps get to 'yes,'" he said.
Meanwhile, green businesses are also preparing for what promises to be a brutal fight with Republican senators and climate-sceptic lobby groups over climate change legislation with the launch of a new advertising campaign in support of the proposed climate bill.
The campaign is backed by more than 3,000 businesses, including the American Businesses for Clean Energy and the US Climate Action Partnership, and has secured support from a number of America's leading brands, including Google, Nike and Timberland.
The print ad, titled "A Question of American Leadership", urges Congress to enact bipartisan climate and energy legislation that "increases our security and limits emissions, as it preserves and creates jobs".

Scientists cleared of malpractice in UEA's hacked emails inquiry

Researchers 'dedicated if slightly disorganised', but basic science was fair, finds inquiry commissioned by university

David Adam and James Randerson, Wednesday 14 April 2010 11.11 BST

The scientists at the centre of the row over the hacked climate emails have been cleared of any deliberate malpractice by the second of three inquiries into their conduct.
The inquiry panel, led by the former chair of the House of Lords science and technology select committee Lord Oxburgh, was commissioned by the University of East Anglia with investigating the research produced by the scientists at its Climatic Research Unit (CRU).
The work of the unit has come under intense scrutiny since November when thousands of private emails between the researchers were released onto the internet. At a press conference earlier today Lord Oxburgh said, "Whatever was said in the emails, the basic science seems to have been done fairly and properly," although his panel did criticise the scientists for not using the best statistical techniques at times.
The report concluded: "We saw no evidence of any deliberate scientific malpractice in any of the work of the Climatic Research Unit and had it been there we believe that it is likely that we would have detected it. Rather we found a small group of dedicated if slightly disorganised researchers who were ill-prepared for being the focus of public attention. As with many small research groups their internal procedures were rather informal."
In a formal response to the report the UEA wrote: "It is gratifying to us that the Oxburgh report points out that CRU has done a public service of great value by carrying out meticulous work on temperature records when it was unfashionable and attracted little scientific interest, and that the unit has been among the leaders in international efforts to determine the overall uncertainty in the derived temperature records."
The panel was not tasked specifically with looking at the way CRU handled access to its data and Freedom of Information requests from members of the public but it commented that there were "a host of important unresolved questions" arising from the application of FoI to academic research. "We agree with the CRU view that the authority for releasing unpublished raw data to third parties should stay with those who collected it," the report said.
It did criticise the government's policy of charging for access to data. "This is unfortunate and seems inconsistent with policies of open access to data promoted elsewhere in government."
The panel did raise doubts about the statistical input into scientific papers authored by researchers at CRU. "We cannot help remarking that it is very surprising that research in an area that depends so heavily on statistical methods has not been carried out in close collaboration with professional statisticians," it concluded.
In UEA's formal response it noted: "Specialists in many areas of research acquire and develop the statistical skills pertinent to their own particular data analysis requirements. However, we do see the sense in engaging more fully with the wider statistics community to ensure that the most effective and up-to-date statistical techniques are adopted and will now consider further how best to achieve this."
The University of East Anglia set up and funded the review in March. The appointment of Oxburgh, who is a former industry scientist and academic has been criticised by some who are suspicious of CRU's work. He is currently president of the Carbon Capture and Storage Association and has business interests in wind energy so critics have alleged that he has a vested interested in defending the science of climate change. Oxburgh denies that the review panel had a pre-conceived opinion about the science.
His is the second of three inquiries into the release of private emails from researchers at UEA. The first, by the House of Commons Science and Technology select committee criticised UEA for not tackling a "culture of withholding information" among the scientists. It did not blame CRU or Prof Phil Jones for these failings and concluded that his scientific reputation was untarnished. Third inquiry into the hacked emails, headed by Sir Muir Russel, who was appointed by UEA in December to look at four key allegations arising from the correspondence, is due to report shortly.
The members of Oxburgh's panel were: Prof Huw Davies at ETH Zurich, Prof Kerry Emanual at MIT, Prof Lisa Graumlich of the University of Arizona, Prof David Hand of Imperial College London, and Prof Herbert Huppert and Prof Michael Kelly at the University of Cambridge.
• You can read Fred Pearce's full investigation into the hacked climate emails here.