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Sarah Laskow's Posts


Why is Canada withdrawing from Kyoto? Two words: Tar sands

Canada is pulling out of the Kyoto Protocol, ostensibly because it's so far from meeting its goals it'll have to pay high penalties. Also it’s all Bill Clinton’s fault. In reality, though, this is all about tar-sands oil. For starters, it’s not exactly true that fines would be inevitable if Canada can’t meet its goals — the country has some options, like filing formal notice and renegotiating its goals, that would allow it to dodge the penalties. But why is the country so far off-target to begin with? Canada blames the United States for keeping out of Kyoto, saying that …


Awesome vintage bike map shows cycling’s golden age

Big Map Blog has turned up a fantastically detailed map of California's bike routes in the 1890s. It was published by George W. Blum and endorsed by H.F. Wynne, the president of the California Cycling Club in 1895. Mr. Blum was based, it seems, in San Francisco, and that's where the map is centered. It shows that more than a century ago, cyclists could follow bike roads from the Bay Area, up to Sacramento, down to Los Angeles, or out to Yosemite, on trails rated "good, fair, poor, or very poor" and "level, rolling, hilly, or mountainous." The map advises …

Read more: Biking, Cities


Critical List: Canada out of Kyoto; the Napsack should be on your Christmas list

Canada is officially out of Kyoto, because it has no chance of meeting its targets and doesn't want to pay the fines. A Russian research team has found plumes of methane bubbling out of the Arctic Ocean. But maybe we should chill out about it, because methane's not as horrible as carbon dioxide? The EPA is almost, almost ready to crack down on mercury and other pollutants exuded by coal- and oil-fired power plants. The House is supposed to vote today on a bill to force Obama's hand on Keystone XL. The Napsack: Use it to keep your thermostat low …


Brits make disused landfill into wildlife sanctuary

There are a few options of what to do with an old landfill: cover it over and leave it alone; turn it into a field for solar panels; convince people to play soccer on top of it. One town in England is going a step further and returning a decommissioned landfill to nature. The 16-acre spot in Stourpaine (how do British place names always sound so British?) was taken out of active use in 1993. Now, the town is planting trees and shrubs over the area in the hopes of attracting woodland animals and birds. The new forest will also …

Read more: Animals


What exactly happened at Durban?

Ok, kids, Durban is over, and it's time for the world to return to its regularly scheduled programming of carbon-induced DOOM. What exactly did the world's long-suffering climate negotiators accomplish? They agreed on a "platform" outlining how they’ll keep trying to create a new climate treaty. Well, it’s … progress towards progress? Here are the most important things to remember about what came out of the conference: Everyone's going to start working next year on a new treaty on climate emissions. The idea is to finish that agreement by 2015 (at the latest) and for it to take effect by …


Critical List: Durban is over; Rick Perry is an idiot

The Durban round of COP talks ended over the weekend with a "platform" that outlines how work towards a new climate treaty will progress over the next few years. But that's really not good enough. Rick Perry thinks the company called Solyndra is a country called Solynda. That's in Africa, right? It's easier to find an EV charger than a station that stocks 85 percent ethanol blend. The West does have an air quality problem, it's just not FARM DUST.


Fun with energy efficiency! (No, really. I promise.)

The problem with trying to make your home more energy-efficient is that energy efficiency is deadly boring. Start talking about heating systems and insulation and smart windows and even the niftiest thermostat ever, and eyes start to glaze over. The Energy Bills, though, are funny. Ish. At least, they're funnier than any other conceivable idea that would educate people about energy efficiency. They're played by two Second City actors, and they're basically toned-down versions of Andy and Chris from Parks and Rec. Big Bill is lovable but dense, and doesn't have a clue how to keep energy use low. Little …


Critical List: EPA releases draft fracking report; Gingrich’s new climate change book

The EPA released a draft of its fracking report and found chemical contamination in a gas field well. The draft summary says that "EPA is concerned about the movement of contaminants within the aquifer and the safety of drinking water wells over time." The U.S. got a little warm and fuzzy about a climate roadmap proposed by the E.U. So at least we support suggesting the idea that we come up with some ways of doing something about the climate. Exxon Mobil believes in the hybrid revolution: the company predicts that half of cars will be alternative-fuel vehicles within three …


Coming soon: Street View-style maps of the country’s endangered rivers

Internet time-wasters, start your engines. A nonprofit called Below the Surface is gearing up to map 27 of the country's most endangered rivers using the same technology that gave the world Google Street View. That means 360-degree shots of beautiful, polluted, shrinking, over-tapped waterways for the world to click on (and, hopefully, get fired up about). This endeavor, called the Riverview Project, earned Below the Surface's two founders, a couple of smart surfers, the distinction of being Outside's 2012 "readers of the year." They'll be updating readers about the project's progress on the magazine's website. And since we can't resist …

Read more: Pollution


Critical List: Same old U.S. and China at COP talks; Warren Buffett’s solar farm

At the COP talks, the United States is driving all the other countries crazy. The U.S. response: "What, us?" China's conditions for a climate deal include the demand that it and other growing economies would have to meet different standards than rich countries. So, essentially, nothing has changed. Warren Buffett's buying Topaz Solar Farm, a California project worth $2 billion. Is Silicon Valley taking over the auto industry from Detroit? Gainesville, Fla., ranks between Japan and Spain on per capita solar power.