Pick 100 Americans at random and line them up. Ask those who think the country shouldn't do a damned thing to rein its greenhouse emissions to please step forward.
Guess how many would do so?
Just six out of every 100 Americans believe there is absolutely no need for the U.S. to take action to reduce its emissions to help combat climate change.
That's according to the latest survey result from an ongoing project that tracks public attitudes towards climate change. The project is run by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication.
Momentous change doesn't always leave visual cues. A 2008 Obama looks much the same as a 2012 Obama (minus a few gray hairs and Benghazi wrinkles). In some ways, climate change is similar; we can't exactly see villainous clouds of CO2 strangling the sky. But when it comes to glaciers, climate change leaves marks that can be seen from space.
Our friends at GlacierWorks hope to document those scars. Respected mountaineer and GlacierWorks Executive Director David Breashears retraced the steps of past photographers from the Royal Geographical Society to reshoot photos of famous Himalayan glaciers affected by climate change. Thanks to their hard work and internet magic, we can now compare the severity of ice recession by combining the historic and modern images.
On the left is a photo taken by Major E. O. Wheeler in 1921 on the North slope of 26,906-foot Cho Oyu; on the right is a photo taken by Breashears from a similar perspective in 2009. Drag the slider to check out the changes China's Kyetrak Glacier experienced.
Now compare the Main Rongbuk Glacier (near Mt. Everest) in a 1921 photo by George Mallory to Breashears' 2007 image:
Yesterday, we brought you our remarkably unscientific (seriously, it was written by this guy) list of the 10 cities most likely to get hammered by climate change. Today, we thought we’d give you the bright side, such as it is: the 10 towns to which we’ll all be flocking as the rest of the world goes to hell. You’re welcome. (Hey, we don’t call Grist “a beacon in the smog” for nothing.)
Electric utilities! They are to me what sideboobs are to Huffington Post -- I just can't stop writing about them.
A couple of days ago I posted a brief introduction to utilities and the way they currently work. The take-home lesson is that current regulations give utilities every incentive to build more infrastructure and sell more power, but very little incentive to cut costs or innovate.
The situation is no longer working for us. We need rapid, large-scale innovation in low-carbon electricity systems, and we need it now. It's time to fundamentally rethink the utility business model.
I hope you'll indulge me just one more scene-setting post before I finally get to the long-awaited post on solutions. Today we're going to take a look at the way electricity has typically gotten from generator to customer, the electricity "value chain," so we can better understand which parts need to change. This is a complicated topic, to say the least, but I'll do my best to break it down in the simplest terms I can, with the proviso that I'm glossing over lots and lots of important details.
The electricity value chain
OK. Think of the electricity value chain as having three basic links:
Secretary Moniz spoke to a crowd at the Energy Efficiency Global Forum about his upcoming agenda as secretary.
"Efficiency is going to be a big focus going forward," he said. "I just don't see the solutions to our biggest energy and environmental challenges without a very big demand-side response. That's why it's important to move this way, way up in our priorities." The audience applauded.
Here at Grist, climate change is our bread and melting butter. But this month, we’re feeling especially hot and bothered. As part of our in-depth look at the warming planet, we’ve compiled a list of the U.S. cities that we think will be in the hottest water as the mercury rises -- in some cases, up to their foreheads.
A quick note about New Orleans: It’s hard not to include a city that’s already lost so much, but the Big Easy’s new $14.5 billion, state-of-the-art levee system is finally up-and-running just eight short years after Katrina. Some warn that the new system, designed to stop a once-in-a-century storm -- the kind that seem to be coming about every other Thursday these days -- is already out of date. But it’s better than nothing, especially when compared to the rest of the country, so we're giving New Orleanians credit as most-improved. That said, here we go!
Those rambunctious fossil-fuel flunkies in the U.S. House of Representatives were at it again Wednesday. They passed a bill that would allow Keystone XL to bypass environmental laws and be built without approval from President Obama.
But the vote tally showed that support for construction of the pipeline is waning among House Democrats, following years of campaigning by environmentalists.
The House voted 241-175 to do away with an ongoing environmental review for the northern leg of the tar-sands pipeline project and make it more difficult for opponents to file appeals. (The southern leg is already more than halfway built.) The vote was mostly along partisan lines: All but one Republican voted in favor, and all but 19 Democrats voted against. Reuters reports that the number of Democrats in favor of the bill was down from the 69 that voted to approve similar legislation in April 2012.
I was optimistic when I began reading the Washington Post op-ed on climate change by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), current chairman of the House Science Committee. He began with a plea for a thoughtful and objective discussion of climate science. But like Lucy snatching the football away from Charlie Brown, he quickly dashed my hopes as he proceeded to provide a one-sided view of the state of climate science.
The extreme weather events of the past few years go unmentioned in Rep. Smith’s piece. Americans have watched homes engulfed by wildfires, crops decimated by drought, and infrastructure twisted like a pretzel during Superstorm Sandy. Last week, an analysis estimated that U.S. taxpayers paid a $96 billion bill for cleanup after climate-related disasters in 2012 alone. I recently launched a new House Natural Resources Democrats app that shows the costs of extreme weather, both in terms of dollars spent and lives lost.
Curiously, Rep. Smith’s climate piece ignores the global temperature records of NOAA and NASA that show 2010 as the hottest year on record since 1880, and the decade ending in 2009 as the hottest decade on record. He also ignores the results of the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Study conducted by independent -- and formerly skeptical -- scientists who also found that global land temperatures have been increasing and that heat-trapping gases are driving that rise. Instead, he relies on a temperature record produced by U.K. scientists that he [PDF] and other Republicans have previously -- falsely, it turns out -- accused of conspiring to alter temperature data. Choosing the temperature record that best fits your argument, especially when it is from a group you questioned just a few years ago, hardly seems objective.
I would welcome, as Rep. Smith writes, a “legitimate evaluation of policy options” by Congress for dealing with climate change and its impacts. Indeed, it was my honor to lead then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, where we held more than 80 hearings and a rigorous bipartisan discussion on both climate science and climate solutions. Sadly, when Tea Party Republicans took control of the House in 2010, one of the very first things they did was eliminate the Select Committee.
Like sparring siblings, China and the United States -- the world’s two biggest carbon dioxide emitters -- keep passing the climate-action buck back and forth: “Why should I cut emissions if they don’t have to?” Well, China is either the more mature of the pair, or just majorly sucking up to Mama Earth. The country is reportedly gearing up to set firm limits on greenhouse-gas emissions, seriously weakening one of the U.S.’s go-to excuses for climate inaction.
China's powerful National Development and Reform Commission has proposed an absolute cap on emissions starting in 2016. The proposal still needs to be accepted by the Chinese cabinet, but experts say the commission’s influence makes it likely to pass. China today also announced the details of trial carbon-trading programs that will roll out in seven regions by 2014. In February, the country had said it would implement a carbon tax, but backed off a few weeks later, saying it will wait until early next year to get started on that.
The commission’s carbon-cap proposal calls for Chinese emissions to peak in 2025, five years earlier than previously planned. RenewEconomy explains:
China has already pledged to cut its emissions intensity – the amount of Co2 it emits per economic unit – by up to 45 per cent by 2020. The significance of an absolute cap is that it promises to rein in emissions even if the economy grows faster than expected.
350.org and CREDO Action, the political arm of the company CREDO Mobile, are leading the charge. OFA is bracing for it. From BuzzFeed:
OFA circulated a set of talking points to its members for use in dealing with unruly activists. The document, obtained by BuzzFeed, includes information on the science behind climate change and the president’s environmental positions, and ends with a section titled “Keystone Talking Points.” …