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Jonathan Hiskes' Posts

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NASA scheduled to launch carbon observatory early Tuesday

  Editor's Note: The rocket carrying NASA's Carbon Observatory into orbit failed early Tuesday morning, destroying the satellite. Updates to follow. NASA hopes to start solving one of climate science's most vexing mysteries Tuesday morning when it launches the Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO), its first spacecraft dedicated to measuring atmospheric carbon dioxide. The satellite is designed to measure the CO2 content of vertical "columns" stretching from the Earth's surface up to the top of the atmosphere, providing vastly more information than land-based measurements currently supply. Ultimately, mission scientists hope, the satellite will lead them to the "missing" carbon sinks -- …

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Heading to Denmark in December? Book a room now

The average December in Copenhagen has 17 days of rain and a temperature of 2 to 4 degrees Celsius. So, those readers planning to travel there for the U.N. Climate Change Conference at the end of this year will want to book a warm, dry bed for recovering from all the talking, negotiating, talking about negotiating, reporting about talking and negotiating, and all the other crazy stuff sure to go down in the Danish capital. So, reserve a room now. As in, soon. Possibly yesterday. Conference organizers say they're already flooded with lodging requests, and while rooms are still available, …

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Survey finds Americans still want earth-friendly products during recession

A survey released Wednesday confirms that Americans remain interested in buying environmentally responsible products even during the recession. Conducted by Boston communications firm Cone Inc., the finding is the latest in a string of surveys drawing cheery conclusions about green spending. According to Cone, about 34 percent of 1,087 adult consumers said they are more likely to buy green-leaning products in the current economic climate, while 44 percent said their environmental shopping habits have not changed because of the economy. Only eight percent said they were less likely to buy earth-friendly products due to the downturn. The survey -- whose …

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L.A. ballot initiative on solar energy faces questions about cost and feasibility

An ambitious solar energy plan for the smoggiest city in America might sound like a hands-down winner, but the Green Energy and Good Jobs for Los Angeles ballot initiative has stumbled over some unsettled questions about its likely costs, transparency, and timing. Angelenos will vote on the plan March 3. If passed, it would add solar panels on rooftops and parking lots across the city and require the city's energy utility to produce a sizeable 400 megawatts of solar power by 2014. Supporters say it will it would remove 400,000 tons of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere annually and help …

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Computer maker expands recycling efforts

PC giant Dell today continues its campaign to be the world's greenest technology company by rolling out a pair of new recycling programs. The company is adding six states to its partnership with Goodwill Industries that lets customers drop off unwanted electronic devices for recycling at Goodwill retail stories. The network of 1,100-some collection points in 18 states accepts gear of any brand, as long as it's an item Dell manufactures (computers and printers, for example, but not TVs). Reconnectpartnership.com has a list of dropoff locations. "Today we're making it even easier for environmentally-conscious customers to do the right thing," …

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Hopes for new U.N. climate meeting hinge on Obama’s attendance

On Monday Reuters broke the story that U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is organizing a summit in New York next month, where he hopes to get heads of state from major greenhouse-gas emitters (the U.S., China, and India) to talk about climate action plans. (Grist reported on the first hints of such a conference a few weeks back.) Ban seems to think the timing is right for two reasons: First, he wants to meet before the April G20 meeting of wealthy countries and key developing nations so that the global financial crisis doesn't completely overshadow the climate crisis. Second, he wants …

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New site to teach students about green vehicle technology

When you've got a spare moment for some mechanical learning, or know a student who does, take a look at the nifty new FuelOurFutureNow.com. The interactive knowledge center is designed to help K-12 students learn about vehicle technology, energy efficiency, climate change, alternative fuels, and the science, technology, engineering, and math that underlie fuel-efficient vehicle development. Discovery Education (Discovery Channel's sister division) and the X PRIZE foundation launched the site last week with the help of a $3.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. It's part of a larger push to encourage young people to consider careers in …

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MacArthur Foundation to fund climate change adaptation network

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation is providing $2 million to help ecosystems and human communities adapt to the effects of climate change, it announced last week. The gift is part of a pledge the foundation made last October to invest $50 million toward preserving biodiversity in the face of changing climates. Biodiversity protection has long stood among the top priorities of MacArthur, one of the largest foundations in the nation. But its climate change research over the last two years has led it to see the issues as connected, foundation President Jonathan Fanton said. "We take climate …

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Fresh off fishery win, Oceana’s Jim Ayers talks with Grist about climate fight

Jim Ayers, the onetime top aide to former Alaska Gov. Tony Knowles (D) and now the Pacific region leader for conservation group Oceana, draws on a deep well of both political and environmental experience. That's a combo we like at Grist, especially in folks willing to talk shop with us. Ayers did that today, stopping by for lunch at our Seattle office and serving up knowledge on the terrifying, fascinating intersection of climate and ocean woes. He was in town for a meeting of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, which voted yesterday to close Alaska's northern coast to commercial …

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Obama taps marine scientist to lead key climate agency

Jane Lubchenco. Photo: oregonstate.edu If and when marine biologist Jane Lubchenco is confirmed as the next administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), she'll find herself leading an organization with a huge jurisdiction -- the oceans and atmosphere -- but with limited power to take action. NOAA's influence has always been limited by its role as a measurement and monitoring agency, a sort of geeky scientist holed up in a lab while the real decision-making happens elsewhere. Of the six agencies that make up NOAA, five are decidedly research-focused (the National Marine Fisheries Service also has an enforcement …

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