This is a trial series.


Members tell Facebook to ditch coal power for clean renewable energy.

© Greenpeace

Facebook's decision to base its new data center in the Oregon town of Princeville - powered by coal from PacifiCorp, has drawn criticism from more than 8,000 facebook members who joined the facebook group started by Greenpeace, The Oregonian reported. (Actually the number was more than 9,900 at the time of writing.)

The 6-year old Silicon Valley company was originally applauded for bringing new jobs to Princeville, but has been called on by both Greenpeace and to use clean renewable energy, not environmentally damaging coal. Facebook chose Princeville in part because of property tax exemptions that Oregon offers to industrial projects in rural areas, the article reported. Daniel Kessler of Greenpeace was quoted saying "Facebook, by opening this center, is sending a signal: We're not quite done with coal yet." Facebook isn't ready to rule out utilities that burn coal, according to the company's spokeswoman, but she said the company is definitely paying attention to what it's hearing from the environmental community. "This has really jump-started the conversation internally as to what, going forward, we're going to do," she said. Kessler added "we understand that the data center is being built. They already have a power service agreement. This is really about where Facebook and the industry are going." (Tell Facebook to use 100 percent renewable energy by joining the group here.)

UK Conservatives may block cleaner energy bill

In the UK, The Guardian reported, a number of Conservative MPs are expected to abstain from a vote to cut emissions from coal-fired power stations like Kingsnorth. The proposed amendment to the government's energy bill would require energy companies to meet an "emissions performance standard". This would restrict greenhouse gas emissions from coal and gas plants, for example by forcing them to be more efficient or reducing how many hours they could operate. Minister of the Environment Ed Miliband banned construction of new coal plants, setting a target to fully fit all coal plants with the carbon capture storage (CCS) technology by 2025, provided it was technically and financially viable. But it still remains undecided what the government will do if the technology is not viable by that point. Environmental groups, including Greenpeace have warned that without any restrictions, dirty coal plants may be allowed to keep operating. John Sauven of Greenpeace UK said if passed the amendment would "close a major loophole which currently risks allowing big energy companies to pollute far into the future from new coal-fired power stations like Kingsnorth. A clear limit on emissions should be compulsory from day one as they have in some US states like California. It would provide both long-term certainty for investors and ensure that new power plants can't pollute indefinitely."

Also in the UK, on the campaign to stop a highly controversial expansion of Heathrow airport, The Independent reported, a coalition-led court action has called the government's approval "conspicuously unfair" saying it ignored its own targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions. John Sauven said it had been "clear from the start" that opposition to the runway would be overwhelming.

Fresh warning over GE in China

The Peoples' Daily Online in China reported that campaign groups and agricultural experts have issued fresh warnings Tuesday about GE foods, following government plans to commercialize some of them. The central committee of the Communist Party of China released a document, 31 January, urging rural sectors to promote GE commercialization; in November the Ministry of Agriculture issued the first safety certificates for two types of GE rice and one type of GE corn. It is expected the first GE crops being planted in Hubei and Shandong Provinces will be harvested within five years. However, a survey conducted by the official People's Daily website last month polled 50,000 Web users, 84.3 percent of whom said they wouldn't risk their health by buying GE foods. Only 14.2 percent said they would try such foods. "Rice is the staple food for Chinese people. The government should take a prudent approach toward GE food. We are extremely worried about the risk of GE food to people's health," said Fang Lifeng of GP China.

Belgian and German news, as well as AFP in Switzerland and France reported that according to Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, figures show cultivation of GE in the EU has declined by 11 percent down from 2008. There is now only one GE crop grown in the EU, Monsanto's MON810 maize (mainly in Spain, with some cultivation in Portugal, Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia and Romania).

Emissions targets not enough, says UN

Reuters reported the UN has said again, in a report released Tuesday, that emissions targets are not enough to avoid a rise in world temperature of 2 degrees. UNEP's executive director Achim Steiner said the bleak prediction should motivate countries to make more ambitious cuts. "A deal has become more difficult than in Copenhagen. Let's be very frank. The world has moved away, rather than closer, to a deal," he told reporters. "The politics of international negotiation and the economics, the momentum that built up toward Copenhagen will not be there for Mexico."

Climate threat severe, yet skepticism continues

Also on Tuesday, China's highest leadership began considering proposals from the country's senior researchers in an attempt to help achieve the country's goal of cutting carbon intensity by 40 to 45 percent by 2020, The China Daily reported. President Hu Jintao said China is committed to fighting climate change, and the leadership will be working hard to mobilize efforts to realize the goal, which China came up with shortly before the Copenhagen summit. "We must fully recognize the importance, urgency and difficulty of dealing with climate change," Hu said in an address to high-ranking leaders. "We must make it an important strategy for our socio-economic development."

Reuters also reported that "climate-change skepticism is high" in the US, making it harder to get a bill passed through Congress. 'It's a very different debate in Europe, where there is no discussion about whether climate change is occurring. But in the United States it is about whether it exists,' said John Wright of pollster Ipsos. US skepticism has been linked to the influence of US talk radio, the 'oil lobby', an enduring love affair with cars, and "a history founded on limiting the role of government." The article also adds "science can be controversial in a country where evangelical Christians make up a quarter of the adult population."

An article on this was also in The Guardian about climate skepticism in the UK, with quotes from John Sauven saying the strategy of informing people with "bad news" about what climate change can be less effective for winning them over than showing the positive side to solutions.

Meanwhile, fifteen people have died in a deadly landslide in Indonesia on the island of Java, AFP reported throughout Asia. Thousands of people have been forced out of their homes by flooding in and around Bandung with some areas reporting the worst flooding seen in several years. Many of the disasters are blamed on rampant illegal logging and unchecked development in water catchment areas. In October 2008 25 miners were killed in a landslide on Sulawesi island and more than 130 people died in floods and landslides on the same island in July, 2007.