credit: NASA

Regardless of whether or not you believe that climate change is anthropogenic (that is, caused by humankind) or that it is occurring at all, weather data for 2010 show that it was one of the hottest years in the human scientific record, at least since meteorological records began to be kept in the 19th century.  Two American agencies have it tied as the hottest year on record – tied with 2005 – although the U.K.’s meteorological agency notes it as the second hottest.

Weather agencies record temperature several different ways – from ground and ocean sensors at weather stations to analyzing complicated satellite data – but there appears to be a consensus among government agencies in the U.S. and U.K. that the average global temperature is rising.  NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the U.K.’s Met Office might disagree on which years, specifically, tie for the hottest (is it 2010 and 2005, as the U.S. asserts, or 2005 and 1998, as the U.K. insists?), but the fact that three of the hottest years have occurred in the last two decades is consistent with projections that the atmosphere is continuing to warm.

There’s always a degree of statistical uncertainty whenever a scientific conclusion is made, especially with one on so grand a scale as a measurement of the entire earth’s average temperature.  But it is worthwhile to note that even the World Meterological Organization (WMO), the U.N.’s weather agency, has verified 2010’s average as the hottest on record (virtually tied with 2005 and 1998, whatever the technical differences between the U.S.’s and U.K.’s conclusions).

As the New York Times’ Green blog aptly states, “the bottom line is that the world’s three best measurements of surface temperature are showing no letup in the trend of a warming planet.”

GREEN DEPOT SOLUTIONS

While the planet is warming on average, this does not mean that every place will become warmer.  Subtle changes in the average global temperature mean that weather patterns will change, and some places will get drier and hotter, and some places will get cooler and wetter.  More intense weather events – like heat waves and blizzards, in particular – are projected to occur because of shifting global weather patterns.

People will turn to their conventional home heating and cooling systems to make these extremes more comfortable.  But these machines are energy-intensive, and there are more energy-efficient methods available to make the weather more comfortable.  Insulating a home is the most practical and cost-effective way to keep a house warm in the winter, and cool in the summer, and this in turn will contribute less to anthropogenic climate change than air conditioners and furnaces.  Below are two green products to help out with this.

Bonded Logic Installation

We’ve written extensively in the past about insulating homes and the added benefits of fitting your home so that it retains more heat, instead of losing it.  This is better for reducing heating costs, and thus for reducing our environmental footprint – approximately 4 metric tons of carbon dioxide are emitted each year from residences, most of which is the consequence of home heating.  Conventional fiberglass insulation is a suspected carcinogen, so using a green product like Bonded Logic Ultratouch Recycled Cotton Insulation is a major step towards making a greener home.  For an even more efficient home, National Fiber Cel-Pak Cellulose Insulation is a blow-in material that settles into the tiniest corners and cracks of walls, ceilings, and attics.

Closing up cracks and drafts in homes is an effective – and inexpensive – way to conserve energy and reduce heating and cooling costs.   Using VOC-free caulks is an important way to protect the health of everyone in your home.  VOCs, or volatile organic compounds, are chemicals that are “off-gassed” from conventional caulks and can cause serious neurological problems, kidney failure, and is a suspected carcinogen.  Safecoat is a toxin-free caulk that can be used to plug drafts and lower your winter energy bills.

For these green products and many others, like green building materials, visit http://www.greendepot.com.

Mountaintop removal – a process of coal extraction in which the tops of mountains are literally removed with explosives to reveal seams of coal below – has captured much of the national imagination over the last year.  What was once a relatively unknown mining practice (indeed, MTR mining has been going on in West Virginia since the 1960s) is now widely understood, and environmental groups around the country have called for an end to this practice.

As the New York Times reports, today the Environmental Protection Agency revoked a clean water permit for one of the nation’s most massive mountaintop removal projects.  Environmentalists have hailed the decision, and West Virginian politicians and coal and mining interests have vehemently denounced it.

The new mine, Spruce No. 1 Mine in Lohan County, West Virginia, would have covered an area of 2,278 acres.  In addition to the decimation of mountain ridges during mountaintop removal, the rubble from the mining process is typically dumped into the valleys between mountains – exactly where streams run.  Valley fills, as they are known, usually contaminate these streams with heavy metals, soils, and pollutants from the mining process.  It is on these grounds that the EPA made the decision to revoke Arch Coal’s Clean Water Act permit.

While today’s decision is a victory for environmentalists, mountaintop removal continues on all throughout Appalachia.  Mountaintop removal is only necessary to remove coal, the fossil fuel that powers many of our power plants.  Decreasing our energy consumption – and hence, the demand for coal – is one of the ways those of us in locales distant from Appalachia can make a difference for the better, however small.  Reducing energy consumption not only decreases demand on mountaintop removal mining in Appalachia, but also reduces the amount of greenhouse gases being released into the atmosphere.

And, when it comes to the bottom line, reducing energy consumption means lower energy bills, too.

GREEN DEPOT SOLUTIONS

Water heaters are one of the largest consumers of energy in the average home, and swapping out an older-model water heater for a new, energy-efficient model can substantially reduce energy costs.  The GeoSpring Hybrid Water Heater is an especially energy-efficient model, qualified by ENERGY STAR.  It combines heat pump technology with traditional electric elements to save the homeowner up to 62% on annual water heating expenses  — even up to $320.

We’ve written extensively in the past about insulating homes and the added benefits of fitting your home so that it retains more heat, instead of losing it.  This is better for reducing heating costs, and thus for reducing our environmental footprint – approximately 4 metric tons of carbon dioxide are emitted each year from residences, most of which is the consequence of home heating.  Conventional fiberglass insulation is a suspected carcinogen, so using a green product like Bonded Logic Ultratouch Recycled Cotton Insulation is a major step towards making a greener home.  For an even more efficient home, National Fiber Cel-Pak Cellulose Insulation is a blow-in material that settles into the tiniest corners and cracks of walls, ceilings, and attics.

Other, every day items that you can change around the house can help reduce your electricity bill.  Using an energy monitor or power strip – and ensuring you turn it off when you’re not using appliances – can stop “phantom charges” that slowly drive up energy consumption.  Using compact fluorescent bulbs – and even more efficient LED bulbs – can reduce energy consumption even further.

For these green products and many more, including green constrution materials and eco insulation, visit http://www.greendepot.com.

Last week was a major event in world climate change policy: the 16th Conference of Parties, or COP16.  It was considered a sequel to the disastrous and chaotic COP15, which occurred in Copenhagen at the same time last year.

Now that this round of negotiations have concluded, what can we say policymakers have accomplished?  No one had placed the (perhaps unrealistically) high expectations on Cancun that they had placed upon Copenhagen; and media certainly seemed to downplay this year’s conference relative to last year’s.

What we have now achieved is a somewhat mediocre document: The Cancun Agreement.  It’s not an especially aggressive, or even legally-binding treaty, but it has achieved a few things that many analysts and environmentalists had, up to this point, considered nearly impossible.

The agreement calls upon developed nations to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions according to the targets they had set in the Obama-brokered Copenhagen Accord.  The Cancun Agreement also calls upon developing countries to reduce their emissions to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.  This is an important threshold, indicating that most of the world’s species and ecosystems will survive changing climate patterns; but it is also important to note that an increase of 2 degrees will also mean the complete flooding of several small island nations as oceans rise.  Overall, the agreement locks in an emissions reduction target of 80% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Surprisingly, though, the Agreement was signed by all nations in attendance, except Bolivia whose objections were overruled.  This is significant, since up to this point China and the United States had never signed into an emissions agreement in the past, and this had been considered by many to be an insurmountable challenge.  Indeed, earlier in the year climate talks in Tianjin, China, leading up to Cancun had ended in a major clash between the United States and China.

But perhaps the most significant achievement of the Cancun conference was the establishment of the Green Climate Fund.  Its purpose is to finance poorer countries to develop less pollution-intensive energy sources, and adapt to a changing global climate as natural disasters increase in frequency and intensity, and infrastructures are taxed to cope with more severe natural conditions.  Developed nations are committed to contributing up to $100 billion dollars annually to the fund by 2020, resulting in a massive resource that poorer nations will be able to draw upon.

Two smaller initiatives were also accomplished: the continuation of REDD, the mechanism in place to provide financial incentives to reduce tropical deforestation and clear-cutting; and the creation of the Technology Executive Committee, whose purpose will be to oversee the transfer of renewable energy technologies from developed nations to developing nations.

Ultimately, the Cancun Agreement has been considered both a success and a failure.  It is a success in the sense that climate agreements up to this point had almost always ended in serious tension and animosity; a unified emissions reduction target had not really been agreed upon since the 1990s.  At the same time, the Cancun Agreement is a failure because it does not require the sorts of changes and reductions in emissions that scientists have called for to avoid dangerous climate change.  Indeed, it is telling that the agreement places such a heavy emphasis on adapting to climate change, rather than avoiding – or mitigating – it.

GREEN DEPOT

Some green products can help individuals reduce their carbon emissions – helping us to fill in some of the gaps that world leaders have left in the wake of the Cancun Agreement.

One of the most significant ways in which individuals contribute to greenhouse gas emissions is through their household energy consumption. Heating homes and heating water are two of the most energy-intensive activities that occur in a home.  So, here are some ways to help the homeowner make the most significant reduction of energy consumption:

Bonded Logic Installation

Bonded Logic Ultra Touch Insulation.

We’ve written extensively in the past about insulating homes and the added benefits of fitting your home so that it retains more heat, instead of losing it.  This is better for reducing heating costs, and thus for reducing our environmental footprint – approximately 4 metric tons of carbon dioxide are emitted each year from residences, most of which is the consequence of home heating.  Conventional fiberglass insulation is a suspected carcinogen, so using a green product like Bonded Logic Ultratouch Recycled Cotton Insulation is a major step towards making a greener home.  For an even more efficient home, National Fiber Cel-Pak Cellulose Insulation is a blow-in material that settles into the tiniest corners and cracks of walls, ceilings, and attics.

Water heaters are one of the largest consumers of energy in the average home, and swapping out an older-model water heater for a new, energy-efficient model can substantially reduce energy costs.  The GeoSpring Hybrid Water Heater is an especially energy-efficient model, qualified by ENERGY STAR.  It combines heat pump technology with traditional electric elements to save the homeowner up to 62% on annual water heating expenses  — even up to $320.  In addition to the long term cost-saving effects of this heater, it also qualifies for a federal energy tax credit, and additional state rebates.

For these and other green products, visit GreenDepot.com.