Military Report: Fighting Climate Change Top Priority

A new report from the U.S. Center for Naval Analyses and the London-based Royal United Services Institute, two of the NATO alliance’s front-line strategy centers, recommends putting more effort into fighting global warming than securing reliable supplies of fossil fuels.

The authors call the habitual American fixation on winning energy independence through expanded North American production of oil and natural gas “misguided.” They say the “only sustainable solution” to the problem of energy insecurity is not through more drilling, but through energy efficiency and renewable fuels, like biofuels to replace oil.

Despite the steady supplies provided by the current U.S. drilling boom, “the increased domestic production of oil and natural gas is not a panacea for the country’s energy security dilemma,” they say.

And in blunt language, they criticize American policymakers and legislators for refusing to accept the “robust” scientific evidence that emissions of carbon dioxide are already causing harmful global warming, and for refusing to take actions that, if taken swiftly, could ward off its worst effects.

“Political leaders, including many in the United States, refuse to accept short-term costs to address long-term dangers even though the future costs of responding to disasters after they occur will be far greater,” said their report, published this month.

The report, in the works for a year, was released as President Obama prepared to ramp up the administration’s efforts on climate change, and while the State Department was immersed in its review of whether to approve the Keystone XL pipeline to carry tar sands oil from Canada to refineries in the United States.

In a major policy speech on Tuesday, Obama is expected to renew his commitment to regulating emissions from coal-fired power plants, as well as other measures involving renewable energy and green technologies, but not to tip his hand on the Keystone decision. Many in Washington believe that he wants to offer strict controls on power plants, the nation’s leading source of greenhouse gases, as a quid pro quo for approving the controversial pipeline, which is seen by opponents as a contributor to the global warming problem.

Keystone’s proponents have described the project as important for energy security.

The military embraces solar and other forms of alternative energy.

For several years, the view that global warming caused by burning fossil fuels is an overwhelming national security threat has been taking firmer hold in national security circles. In 2007, a report from CNA’s military advisory board called climate change a “threat multiplier.” In 2008, a formal National Intelligence Assessment found that climate change poses a serious threat to national security and long-term global stability. The Department of Defense’s 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review, a major planning document, warned that climate change may fuel conflict, put new strains on military forces operating in the field, and cause damage to military bases, especially ports exposed to rising seas and intense storms.

In an article published in Foreign Affairs online in June, Tom Donilon, the former National Security Adviser to President Obama, wrote: “The Obama administration’s National Security Strategy recognizes the ‘real, urgent, and severe’ threat posed by climate change in no uncertain terms, stating, ‘change wrought by a warming planet will lead to new conflicts over refugees and resources; new suffering from drought and famine; catastrophic natural disasters; and the degradation of land across the globe.'”

But the focus of Donilon’s piece was on energy, not on climate change, and it spoke expansively of the importance of increased energy production to America’s strength in the world. For example, it claimed that by helping to provide plentiful oil to satisfy world demand, the United States could more effectively squeeze Iran with an embargo, a strategy that otherwise would harm oil-deficient allies.

The new American-British report looks mostly at the other side of the coin, the risks presented by the burning of fossil fuels no matter where they come from.

It acknowledges the problems caused by Western reliance on imported oil, especially from unstable parts of the world. But the new report says that even more important is the compelling need to stop using fossil fuels in the first place, since the steady addition of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere is now posing imminent dangers to national security.

Even though the United States gets just 20 percent of its oil imports from the Middle East, the lowest share in four decades—and it could be headed toward being an oil exporter two decades from now—”the U.S. economy is highly sensitive to supply shocks and price fluctuations, regardless of the source of the oil,” it says. “Even new, domestic sources of oil and gas do not free the United States from the risks of over-reliance, because the prices of these commodities will be determined by global markets,” the report says.

The bigger problem, says the report, is global warming, which will cause upheaval, and military challenges, across the globe in the coming decades.

“Our consumption of oil and other fossil fuels contributes to climate change, which poses growing risks to our infrastructure, livelihoods, and national security,” it says in its primary conclusion. “Using more natural gas and oil, even if domestically produced, neither frees our economies from global oil prices nor checks the greenhouse gas emissions that threaten future generations. The only sustainable solution to this dual challenge is to improve our energy efficiency and diversify our energy sources to include cleaner and renewable power.”

Experts outside the military have also been increasingly alarmed by the possibility that climate change, by spreading famine, drought, disease and poverty, would lead to migration, competition for resources, and war, especially in poor regions of Africa and Asia. Rich countries might easily be drawn into these conflicts.

But the World Bank, in a new report that predicted many dire consequences for a warming planet, was cautious in predictions that climate change would lead to war.

“The potential connection between environmental factors and conflict is a highly contested on, and the literature contains evidence both supporting and denying such a connection,” it said. “However, given that unprecedented climatic conditions are expected to place severe stresses on the availability and distribution of resources, the potential for climate-related human conflict emerges as a risk—and one of uncertain scope and sensitivity to degree of warming.”

Strategists frequently note that dealing with uncertain risk is a central feature of military planning, and that whether the risk is of nuclear proliferation, terrorism, or climate change, it must be addressed long in advance of becoming real.

The new Center for Naval Analysis report quotes the “voice of experience” of General Charles E. Wald, a retired Air Force officer who was deputy commander of the U.S. European Command: “The biggest thing we could do right now to address climate change and its national security effects would be to decrease the amount of carbon we pump into the atmosphere, and the biggest thing we could do about that would be to have a comprehensive energy policy that addresses not only the amount and diversity of our energy, but how clean it is.”

The report hits hard at those in Congress who deny the scientific consensus on climate and use national security arguments to encourage more production of coal, oil and natural gas.

“Many elected leaders in the United States fail to grasp or distrust the scientific evidence for global warming,” it says. “To some, the revelation of newly accessible oil and gas reserves across North America seems to resolve the problem of relying on oil imports—a position we regard as misguided.”


U.S. Cities With The Greenest Buildings


This week, the EPA released its annual list of the 25 American cities with the highest number of Energy Star certified buildings.

According to the EPA, 16,000 Energy Star certified buildings in the U.S. helped save “nearly $2.3 billion in annual utility bills and prevent greenhouse gas emissions equal to emissions from the annual energy use of more than 1.5 million homes” by the end of 2011.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said in a press release, “More and more organizations are discovering the value of Energy Star as they work to cut costs and reduce their energy use. This year marked the twentieth anniversary of the Energy Star program, and today Energy Star certified buildings in cities across America are helping to strengthen local economies and protect the planet for decades to come.”

Jackson blogged for HuffPost in March, “After 20 years, our vast network of partners gives Americans a wide-array of innovative choices for saving energy and cutting costs every day.”

America’s 4.8 million commercial buildings and 350,000 industrial facilities expend $107.9 billion and $94.4 billion a year on energy costs, according to the EPA’s Energy Star program. Yet an estimated 30% of that cost – enormous as it is – is actually wasted due to inefficient technologies. What’s more, according to Energy Star, if the energy efficiency of our commercial and industrial buildings was boosted by an attainable 10% across the board, that would result in reduction of greenhouse gases equivalent to taking 30 million vehicles off our roads (or about as many cars and trucks as are registered in Illinois, New York, Texas and Ohio combined).

How do you make sure a green building is really greener? One convenient way is third party certification. The gold standard has been the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program from the U.S. Green Building Council. Another one increasingly gaining familiarity is the EPA’s Energy Star label program, which was extended from appliances and electronics to whole structures fairly recently.

According to the EPA, the number of Energy Star-qualified buildings across the U.S. has soared by more than 130% from 2007. What does that really mean? Energy Star buildings use 35% less energy than average buildings and emit 35% less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

In January, the U.S. Green Buildings council released its 2011 list of top states that have implemented their LEED certification program. LEED, which stands for “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design,” is a system that “provides building owners and operators with a framework for identifying and implementing practical and measurable green building design, construction, operations and maintenance solutions,” according to the USGBC.

Below, find the EPA’s top 25 cities with the most Energy Star certified buildings and see if your city made the list in 2012.
1. Los Angeles

2. Washington, DC

3. Chicago

4. New York

5. Atlanta

6. San Francisco

7. Houston

8. Dallas-Fort Worth

9. Phoenix

10. Boston

11. Philadelphia

12. Denver

13. Cincinnati

14. Charlotte

14. Minneapolis-St. Paul

15. San Diego

16. San Jose

17. Seattle

18. Miami

19. Detroit

20. Sacramento

21. Indianapolis

22. Albuquerque

23. Kansas City, Mo.

23. Portland, Ore.

24. Riverside, Calif.

25. Virginia Beach

For the full list of cities, click here.



Energy Efficiency and Energy Conservation

Don’t Let Efficient Use Become Opportunity to Use More

Energy efficiency relates to a given amount of energy or effort it takes to accomplish a certain task relative to the least possible amount. It is true that a more efficient system/solution/product will use less energy than a less efficient counterpart, but in order to gauge its place within the topic of sustainability we have to ground the term and its use in realistic conditions. What we end up with is that “efficiency” is a much more incomplete thought than most people treat it.

A Call for Saving Energy

There are many environmental voices that champion opportunities for our culture to use increased efficiency as a way to reduce the amount of energy and resources that we sacrifice. Amory Lovins famously claimed that Americans have the opportunity to cut their energy use by 30% merely through efficiency measures alone. In 2009, the McKinsey & Company issued a report claiming that not only that “the US economy has the potential to reduce annual non-transportation energy consumption by roughly 23 percent by 2020,” but that it was financially in our best interest to do so by “eliminating more than $1.2 trillion in waste—well beyond the $520 billion upfront investment (not including program costs) that would be required.”

This is why the idea of efficiency is so attractive. It is presented as a solution that is not only currently good for the environment, but also is cash flow positive for us in the long run. Even better yet, if efficiency can be baked into things like products, infrastructure or the built environment then perhaps we don’t really have to change much at all. What’s not to like? Onward with efficiency!

But there’s a danger to these kinds of mindsets and the misconceptions that they promote for sustainability. As I have lectured about in the past, the most important aspect of sustainability that I try to impart on others is that sustainability is not a technological fix to supplement a wasteful lifestyle. This is incredibly important. This doesn’t mean that using compact fluorescents, plug-in hybrids, rechargeable battees or EnergyStar appliances is unsustainable, but it means that these things do not embody sustainability. Sustainability is the lifestyle. It is the mindset of using what we need–which for most of us is less than what we use now–in order to help maintain a level of resource balance.

This reality ends up presenting itself in how our culture has responded to cases of increased efficiency in the past. Take some of the large energy-consuming items in the American home for example. The Department of Energy has regulated the efficiency requirements for certain household items since oil embargo in 1973 (perhaps one of the first times that American energy use was called into question on the national level). Since then, things like furnaces, hot water heaters, air conditioning units and heat pumps need to achieve certain levels of energy efficiency in order to be code compliant. The thought would be that it would help make homes more efficient over time, helping us to use less energy as a country… but such is not the case. Despite these efficiency increases, the energy consumption of Americans has remained flat ever since.

Butter’s in the Fridge

Another great example is a look at refrigerators in America. If we start with a fridge from 1947, the data suggests that the size of refrigerators has increased over 250% over half a century. However, after peaking around 1974, the energy used by the appliance has decreased to the point of nearly reaching parity with its ancestry of the late 40′s. Despite an increase in size, the energy load of our fridges can be nearly the same 50 years later due to an 25-fold increase in efficiency. Good stuff, no? Proponents like Lovins would call this a win-win, saying we can use efficiency to lower our energy footprint even as we increase capacity.

But according to New Yorker writer David Owens, not so fast. In his book, The Conundrum (I highly recommend it), Owens outlines some of the indirect repercussions of increased efficiency in refrigeration. I’ve taken some of his assertions into an Intercon diagram below.

The first caveat to this efficiency story is it’s important to remember that while fridges have gotten more efficient it is not uncommon for houses to have increased their cooling load beyond a single fridge. A separate chest freezer, back-up fridge or even wine coolers are all increasingly normal. Also, just because a household replaces their kitchen fridge with a newer model doesn’t mean the old fridge is retired. These older counterparts often find homes as back-up cold storage in basements or garages to keep spare beverages ready for things like football games or beer pong. While perhaps a net increase in enjoyment, it also constitutes a net increase in energy.

As refrigeration has gotten cheaper and easier, it has spread across our commercial landscape as well. Owens asserts that gas stations of today have the same amount of cold storage that grocery stores had in the 50′s and 60′s.

Let’s not forget the contents of these evolving appliances as well. The potential kicker in this equation is that as food capacity and reliability has grown, so has our assumption that food will last longer inside the fridge. As a result, our culture ends up throwing away more food that ultimately goes bad despite staying cold. Since 1975 our food waste has increased by 50% to the point that we now throw away 40-50% of the food that we grow. How does that factor into energy? Our food is incredibly energy intensive. Wasted food represents resources required for fertilizer and pesticides (both petroleum based), harvesting, packaging, transportation and the cooling in both the stores and in our homes. Not to mention that rotting food is the primary source of methane in landfills, a potent greenhouse gas. So in the end, has our increased efficiency actually saved us energy in the long run? It’s certainly debatable.

Just Using Less

The simple change to the equation that makes it much more environmentally viable is pairing efficiency with a sustainable use of resources of materials–or rather a lack of use. If we each had only one efficient fridge that only stored food that we were actually going to eat then the gains would be more measurable. Efficiency only gives us the gains we choose to preserve and build from, but it also gives us an opportunity to consume more. The same can be said for most of our “green” options today (low-flow fixtures, CFLs, geothermal heating and cooling, hybrid cars). Replacing a product with one that uses half as much energy that one in turn uses three times as much is a step back, not a step forward.

As disappointing as it may be, the solution to our environmental problems will most likely not be a technological fix. It will not be a product that makes it cheaper to consume. The prospect of efficiency should be taken as a supplement, a beginning to a more sustainable lifestyle, not a replacement for sustainability. At this stage in our cultural and technological evolution, lifestyle changes will gain us far more ground than trading one consumption path for another.

Source:Tyler Caine, Cook + Fox Architects

Chicago A Leader In Rooftop Gardens

Chicago’s City Hall is a pioneer in rooftop gardening, which saves energy and reduces storm-water runoff.

Rooftops are vastly underutilized spaces in the urban environment, yet it is possible for any landscape, plaza, or garden to be installed on a building or structure. In Europe, over the past thirty years, rooftops have become the focus of a quiet but steady revolution through the application of green roof technologies. It is significant that properly designed green roofs can emulate natural processes. Even the thinnest green roof can effectively absorb most rainfall events, reverse the urban heat island effect, and provide wildlife habitat. They also insulate buildings, extend the life of the roof membrane, increase property values, and vastly improve urban aesthetics. While Europeans have been enjoying these benefits for years, Americans are just beginning to embrace them. Green roof technology is so new to America, that there is far too little data published to guide landscape architects in the design process.

One way that green roofs differ from other rooftop gardens, per se, is that they are not generally designed as accessible space. Green roofs are appropriate for many applications, including warehouses, commercial and office structures, public institutions, and even residential roofs. Green roofs also differ in that they only add 17 (dry) to 30 (wet) pounds per square foot to a roof’s load, where roof gardens can add 100 pounds per square foot or more. These relatively light loads keep construction costs down while providing significant environmental, aesthetic, and social benefits. Under Mayor Richard M. Daley’s direction, the City of Chicago’s Department of Environment took the initiative to start an aggressive green roof pilot project by hiring a team of landscape architects, architects, structural engineers, and ecologists to design and implement a green roof for Chicago’s City Hall. Centrally located in downtown Chicago, City Hall is one of the most visible and recognized structures in the city. The primary purpose of the City Hall Green Roof Pilot Project is to provide a green roof demonstration that serves to facilitate research and educational outreach within the context of a midwestern climate.

Completed in 2001, the rooftop garden was designed to test different types of green roof systems, heating and cooling benefits, success rates of native and non-native vegetation, and reductions in rainwater runoff. The three systems integrated into the design include lightweight soils at 4, 6 and 18 inches in depth. These varying green roof systems are recognized respectively as Extensive, semi-intensive, and Intensive green roofs. Soils were fabricated using lightweight soil mixture guidelines developed in Germany over the past 20 years.

Although the rooftop is not normally accessible to the public, it is visually accessible from 33 taller buildings in the area. The design form is intended to be read from these various vantage points. The plantings are organized in a sunburst pattern, which respects the symmetry of the historic City Hall and provides a format for arranging groups of plants over the three different roof systems. Though green roofs are typically planted with only sedums and low grasses, the planting palette has been expanded significantly to accommodate research related to the viability of over 100 species of plants. The variety of plants include native prairie and woodland grasses and forbs, hardy ornamental perennials and grasses, several species of native and ornamental shrubs, and two varieties of trees. Plants are organized by bloom color. As the season progresses from spring through fall, plants bloom across the sunburst pattern. The radiating bands of floral color are segregated by similar bands of grasses. The long bands provide opportunities for the same plant material to be applied over various depths of soil, ranges of slope, and drainage patterns.

Since City Hall’s flat roof is over 100 years old, previous layers of waterproofing were left in place and a new liner water proofing system was installed. The relatively flat roof surface had gently sloping drainage lines that were left in place. Rectangular skylights (that are no longer used) had been covered and reinforced to increase weight support up to 60 pounds per square foot. The unified undulating ground surface was achieved by installing layers of lightweight insulation boards to elevate the soil layer 12″-24″ inches above the waterproofing layer.

Early results are very encouraging with respect to summer air temperatures above the green roof surface. Studies indicated that the ambient air temperature was as much as 78 degrees cooler than the air temperature measured on the traditional black tar roof membrane which still exists on the Cook County half of the building.

The City of Chicago Department of Environment (DOE) initiated the City Hall Rooftop Garden Pilot Project as part of the Urban Heat Island Initiative with the United States Environmental Protection Agency. The rooftop garden was designed to test its cooling effects and its ability to sustain a variety of plants in three different depths of growing media. Monitoring of the plants, birds and insects is underway. Results from monitoring the cooling effects during the garden’s first summer showed a roof surface temperature reduction of 70 degrees and an air temperature reduction of 15 degrees.

Energy Efficiency Forum Promotes Best Practices

Collaborative Presentation On Energy Efficiency

“In this period of expanding domestic energy supply, the forum will highlight efficiency’s role as a cost effective resource to meet increasing energy demand,” says USEA Executive Director Barry Worthington. “Efficiency can also help make our communities more secure, resilient and sustainable.”

alternative energy
PGE’s landmark solar project in Arizona.

“Improving energy efficiency – whether in the transportation or the built environment – is truly the fastest, cheapest, and easiest way to decrease dependence on oil, reduce pollution, and save families and businesses money on energy bills,” Heather Zichal, deputy assistant to President Obama for energy and climate change said.


The United States Energy Association (USEA) is the U.S. Member Committee of the World Energy Council. USEA is an association of public and private energy-related organizations, corporations, and government agencies. USEA represents the broad interests of the U.S. energy sector by increasing the understanding of energy issues, both domestically and internationally. In conjunction with the U.S. Agency for International Development and the U.S. Department of Energy, USEA sponsors our nation’s Energy Partnership Program. USEA sponsors policy reports and conferences that address global and domestic energy issues, and organizes trade and educational exchange visits with other countries. Membership in USEA is open to all organizations having an interest in the energy sector of the United States.

Johnson Controls is a global diversified technology and industrial leader serving customers in over 150 countries. Our 162,000 employees create quality products, services and solutions to optimize energy and operational efficiencies of buildings; lead-acid automotive batteries and advanced batteries for hybrid and electric vehicles; and interior systems for automobiles. Our commitment to sustainability dates back to our roots in 1885, with the invention of the first electric room thermostat. Through our growth strategies and by increasing market share we are committed to delivering value to shareholders and making our customers successful. In 2011, Corporate Responsibility Magazine recognized Johnson Controls as the #1 company in its annual “100 Best Corporate Citizens” list. For additional information, please visit