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A walk through the week's climate news

The Climate Post: Tension over Middle East oil

Will Gaddafi sabotage Libya's oil pipelines to spite protesters?Photo: Crethi PlethiOver the past week, the unrest in the Middle East deepened, with growing protests in Bahrain and Libya, and more draconian measures by the countries' leaders to quash the opposition. Libya is a significant oil exporter, and the first member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to experience significant protests in recent months. The developments have roiled the oil markets, driving the price above $110 a barrel -- the highest since the bubble-inflated peak burst in July 2008, after spiking to nearly $150 a barrel. It could …

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Reef(er) Madness

Scientist: 75 percent of coral reefs are threatened — but there’s hope!

Bleached coral in waters off Phuket, Thailand.Photo: AeyseaCross-posted from Cool Green Science As anyone who's ever snorkeled off of a Caribbean island knows, coral reefs are strange, beautiful structures housing a dizzying diversity of sea life. Coral reefs occupy less than 1 percent of the ocean floor, but provide habitat for as much as a quarter of the world's sea species. But just like their terrestrial rival in biodiversity, rainforests, coral reefs have been under siege from human activity for some time. Back in 1998,  a report called Reefs at Risk jolted scientists and policymakers alike with its gloomy findings …

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humans with antlers

Maybe no one cares about climate change because we’re wired for extinction

Will we follow the Irish elk's strange evolutionary path toward extinction?This piece was written by George Black. In my unending (and thus far, I have to confess, largely fruitless) attempts to figure out why Americans aren't more alarmed about climate change, one of the more intriguing ideas I've heard recently was put to me by a psychologist named Andrew Shatté. Shatté, a professor at the University of Arizona, is best known for his work on resilience -- the ability of humans to deal with adversity. His thesis on climate change, in a nutshell, is that we are hardwired for extinction. …

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Spotlight: Wenhong Li, Duke University

Linking ‘big weather’ to global warming

Most people are understandably confused about the relationship between global warming and natural variability in the weather. After the huge snowfalls in the northeastern United States over the past few months, for instance, many people can't help but wonder: With a winter of such magnitude, how can scientists say the planet is warming? Day-to-day and seasonal weather fluctuations present challenges not only for the public but also for climate scientists trying to tease apart the relationship between long-term climate change and weather variability. Wenhong Li, an atmospheric scientist at Duke University, studies precisely this link. Her latest research on precipitation …

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Chart attack

Charts explain our current situation and how to improve it

The hundreds of data sets that accompany Lester Brown’s latest book, World on the Edge: How to Prevent Environmental and Economic Collapse, illustrate the world’s current predicament and give a sense of where we might go from here. Here are some highlights from the collection. Veering toward the edge: As the world economy has expanded nearly 10-fold since 1950, consumption has begun to outstrip natural assets on a global scale. The same values that have allowed ecological deficits to grow are contributing to ballooning fiscal deficits around the world, threatening to undermine economic progress. Some of the planet’s natural capital, …

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Utah’s auction hero

Climate activist Tim DeChristopher goes to trial

An individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for the law. -- Martin Luther King, Jr. Jennifer PredigerTim DeChristopher talks about his upcoming trial with filmmaker Jon Cooksey. Dearest readers, I want to share a story of an ordinary citizen using peaceful direct action to take a stand. When Tim DeChristopher woke up one morning in December of 2008, what he was intending to do that day was disrupt …

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Money Pollution

The Chamber of Commerce is darkening our skies

It's always darkest before it goes pitch black.Photo: Twig is the FutureThis essay was originally published on TomDispatch and is republished here with Tom's kind permission. In Beijing, they celebrate when they have a "blue sky day," when, that is, the haze clears long enough so that you can actually see the sun.  Many days, you can't even make out the next block. Washington, by contrast, looks pretty clean: white marble monuments; broad, tree-lined avenues; the beautiful, green spread of the Mall. But its inhabitants -- at least those who vote in Congress -- can't see any more clearly than …

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Revolution greens

The energy [r]evolution has begun

Access to energy is vital for our economies, but energy is one of the main sources of the greenhouse gas emissions putting our climate at risk. It follows that we need to transition to a low-carbon, renewable energy mix. That aspiration is frequently debated -- at times encouraged, often mocked -- but it bears emphasizing: the energy revolution is already underway. Greenpeace, the German Space Agency (DLR), and the European Renewable Energy Council -- representing over 400,000 renewable energy workers -- joined forces back in 2007 and have since published more than 40 global, regional, and national Energy [R]evolution scenarios. …

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It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood

Futurist Ray Kurzweil isn’t worried about climate change

Ray Kurzweil.Photo: JD LasicaBy Lauren Feeney Author, inventor, and futurist Ray Kurzweil famously and accurately predicted that a computer would beat a man at chess by 1998, that technologies that help spread information would accelerate the collapse of the Soviet Union, and that a worldwide communications network would emerge in the mid 1990s (i.e. the internet). Most of Kurzweil's prognostications are derived from his law of accelerating returns -- the idea that information technologies progress exponentially, in part because each iteration is used to help build the next, better, faster, cheaper one. In the case of computers, this is not …

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Can you hear me now?

The American people really, really support clean energy

This is from a USA Today/Gallup poll from last month: The same month, House Speaker John Boehner said to the new Congress, "The people voted to end business as usual and today we begin to carry out their instructions." I'll be looking for those solar incentives then.