Americans and Climate Change: Setting goals I

"Americans and Climate Change: Closing the Gap Between Science and Action" (PDF) is a report synthesizing the insights of 110 leading thinkers on how to educate and motivate the American public on the subject of global warming. Background on the report here. I'll be posting a series of excerpts (citations have been removed; see original report). If you'd like to be involved in implementing the report's recommendations, or learn more, visit the Yale Project on Climate Change website. Today we get into one of the biggest and meatiest chapters, about the process and substance of setting concrete goals for fighting global warming. A variety of strategic concerns, and psychological and institutional impediments, are discussed. There are great insights aplenty. I'll start today with the brief intro.

Immigration scuffles threaten wildlands along the U.S.-Mexico border

In the three-way struggle between the U.S. Border Patrol, illegal border crossers, and the natural environment, it’s never clear who’s winning. A U.S. Border Patrol …

Got sustainable design skillz?

Register now for Global Green’s New Orleans Sustainable Design Competition

Go register for Global Green's New Orleans Sustainable Design Competition. Seriously. Go now! Would you register if Brad Pitt asked you? Well, I can pull some strings and make that happen. Ha ha. No, not really. Seems Pitt has joined up with Global Green of his own accord. (Apparently he's very much into architecture these days. Is sustainable design the new Black? Man, I'm good.) Perhaps what's holding you back is that you don't know anything about the competition besides the fact that Brad Pitt is involved? (Hello, what more do you need to know?) Well, read on, my friend.


Apologies for the strictly local story, but this is deeply depressing.

The Great Pall of China

Despite cleanup efforts, China’s environment just keeps getting worse China’s efforts toward environmental protection in the last five years have … how do we say …

Can you strip-mine in scuba gear?

There's a problem with reading too much science fiction while trying to be an environmentalist, and it's this: I know the idea of mining the ocean floor for precious metals is likely to be environmentally destructive. All the same, I can't help but get a bit of wide-eyed nerd-glee at the idea of underwater mines. It's right up there with flying cars and rocket packs, in a way. Or maybe that's just me.

More rightie attacks on Gore

It was to be expected that An Inconvenient Truth would face attacks from the right. I expected those attacks to mirror the ones that swarmed around Fahrenheit 911: tiny kernels of fact, or at least alleged, debatable fact, surrounded by clouds of bilious harumphing and chest-beating. The principal goal of such attacks is not to discredit the facts in the movie; it is to create the impression that the facts have been discredited. The goal is to create a piece of conventional wisdom: the movie is full of lies and exaggerations. As we all know, conventional wisdom requires very little anchor in reality. It just requires repetition. All that's needed for these kinds of slime campaigns is one critique that holds up, or at least one that can't be immediately and decisively shot down. Once that one critique is in place, all the other bloviators in the right media world can simply take it as accepted fact that the movie's been discredited, dispense with factual arguments altogether, and get straight to the bilious harumphing. But this strategy depends on that one critique. Gregg Easterbrook's attack on the AIT was an attempt to serve that role, but it got demolished by Media Matters within days. Jason Steort's attack on the movie -- the National Review cover story -- was another, but it got demolished by ThinkProgress, several times over. As a consequence, the latest attacks don't yet have conventional wisdom to draw on. They are, as a consequence, woefully confused and vapid. They wander through a fog of stale stereotypes about environmentalists, and about Gore, and scarcely brush up against the movie itself. Two quick examples:

Under the Covers: An Inconvenient Truth

Gore’s new book is full of truths, pretty pictures

I hold in my hand a copy of Al Gore's new book An Inconvenient Truth. Though subtitled "The planetary emergency of global warming and what we can do about it," this is not the photo-less, textbookish, only-a-few-graphs-and-charts-to-save-you from the sea-of-endless-sentences-and-paragraphs-of-boring-text that you might have (and I definitely) expected. This is a coffee-table book, people! There are pretty, pretty pictures! And fonts large enough for crotchety Aunt Edna to read! Seriously, though, this book is like the paper-incarnation of Gore's slideshow presentation -- which, I realize, does not sound like a rousing endorsement ... but if you've seen the movie you know it is. Like the slideshow (and movie), this book is extremely well done, with information easy to understand and graphic data impossible to ignore. The book has a high photo-to-text ratio -- often featuring two-page photo spreads with a sentence or two of explanatory text. Throughout the 320-some page book are fold-out pages that create wider space for graphs and photos or reveal some "surprising" fact. Even the cover folds out, revealing Gore (in all his smart-and-dreamyness) standing against a black background and dwarfed by the iconic photo of the earth from space. Just below the earth, this text:

Putting Moore’s Law to work for environmentalism

Jeremy Faludi has an interesting essay over on Worldchanging. It's a bit tricky to distill, but the basic point is that policies that require incremental, year-by-year improvement are preferable to the usual "20% by 2020" goals, which are more mediagenic but frequently promote procrastination and last-minute gaming. Here's the nut: