Business & Technology

Doubt on a limb

From tobacco to climate change, ‘merchants of doubt’ undermined the science

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful people can change the world.”– Margaret Mead Because Americans are optimists we tend to see Mead’s observation as upbeat and life-affirming (as it was probably intended). Blinkered by optimism, however, we miss the dark flip side of her observation — that a few fanatics can do immense harm. In their sweeping and comprehensive new book Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming, historians Naomi Oreskes and Erick M. Conway document how a handful of right-wing ideologues — all scientists — …

Who gets rich in a geoengineered world?

So yesterday was the official publication day for my new book How to Cool the Planet, an event that I’d like to mark by … taking a long nap. I’m only a few days into the book tour, but I’m already exhausted. Not that I’m complaining. Being worn out by your book tour is a nice problem for a writer to have. Part of my fatigue is the result of  a bumpy redeye from LA to NYC the other night; part of it can be blamed on a flood of questions from chemtrails conspiracy cultists who believe that Dark Forces …

A ray of sunshine

Creative financing fuels California solar boom

Dropping my son off at school on Wednesday, I ran into Danny Kennedy, a fellow parent and veteran Australian Greenpeace activist turned solar entrepreneur. How’s business? I asked. Pretty bloody good, as it turns out. Kennedy’s startup, Sungevity, took in more orders for rooftop solar systems in March than in all of 2009. That solar flare is being fueled in large part, according to Kennedy, by a new lease option Sungevity recently began offering its customers. The option is financed through a $24 million deal with U.S. Bank. Rather than purchasing a solar array, customers can lease the system through …

Google climate change chief wants price on carbon

Dan Reicher, Google’s director of climate changePhoto: Steve Rhodes via FlickrGoogle wants a price on carbon and wants it now — both for lofty reasons like combating global warming, but also because it could be good for business.  As the Senate inches closer to climate legislation that could give the Internet giant what it wants, I checked in with Dan Reicher, the director of climate change and energy initiatives at Google to see what surfing the web had to do with reining in greenhouse gases.  Turns out, the answer is technology. Reicher — a former Department of Energy assistant secretary …

Abercrombie & Fitch + Weight Watchers Make the CRO Black List (VIDEO)

CRO Magazine proves that at Abercrombie & Fitch only the models are revealing. What is corporate responsibility and why should we care? Richard Crespin of the Corporate Responsibility Officers Association (CRO) answers this question and goes on to name names: the top companies on the CRO Black List, or companies for whom zero points of relevant data can be found to rate its corporate citizenship. And it may surprise you who made it. Major companies have been pushing their way into the corporate responsibility space for years. And according to Crespin, being good pays. The companies who have made it …

The Perils of ‘Green Watching’

Earth Day is coming, and with it, hours and hours of “green” television programming and print media coverage. People who hardly give the environment a thought all year will be “Green Watching” programs – and advertisements – about how to be more environmentally responsible. In the past, I always thought of this heightened awareness as a good thing. The added programming draws broader attention to serious environmental problems like the climate crisis, and I firmly believe an educated public is critical to generating strong climate action throughout society. However, this Earth Day, I think it’s important to ask: At what …

I have a green job

A bee wrangler shows you how to mind your own beeswax

From activists to politicians, everybody loves to talk about the promise of green jobs. But in reality, who the heck actually has a green job, and how do you get one? In our new column, “I Have a Green Job,” Grist will be regularly profiling one of the lucky employed who has landed a job in the new green economy, or a green job in the old economy. Know someone with a green job and a good story? Tell us about them! Michael Thompson has the sticky — but deeply satisfying — job of wrangling bees on Chicago’s west side.Rachel …

uncle scam

Taxpayer dollars subsidizing destruction

One way to correct market failures is tax shifting — raising taxes on activities that harm the environment so that their prices begin to reflect their true cost and offsetting this with a reduction in income taxes. A complementary way to achieve this goal is subsidy shifting. Each year the world’s taxpayers provide at least $700 billion in subsidies for environmentally destructive activities, such as fossil fuel burning, overpumping aquifers, clearcutting forests, and overfishing. As the Earth Council study Subsidizing Unsustainable Development observes, “There’s something unbelievable about the world spending hundreds of billions of dollars annually to subsidize its own …

Blow say can you see

Wind industry growing in blue and red states alike

Photo: NREL/Iberdrola RenewablesAs Paul Krugman’s New York Times Magazine cover story on environmental economics, “Building the Green Economy,” was ricocheting around the enviro blogosphere last week, the American Wind Energy Association released its annual report [PDF] on the state of the wind industry. It was an interesting juxtaposition — Krugman’s deep dive into the macroeconomics of an aggressive cap-and-trade or carbon-tax policy to limit greenhouse-gas emissions alongside a report from the frontlines where the green economy is actually under construction. What’s striking is that the wind farm–building boom continued through the depths of the Great Recession in 2009, with a …

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