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The meaning of global warming, part two

Stabilizing climate means embracing technology, public investment, and global economic development

The following is a guest essay by Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger, the latest in the ongoing conversation about their new book Break Through: From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility. ----- This week saw a watershed moment for those of us committed to moving environmentalism from a politics of limits to a politics of possibility. Senator Barack Obama proposed a $150 billion investment to develop and deploy clean energy technology on a scale approaching the challenge we face. In doing so, he has become the most recent of several national political leaders to go beyond the …

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Grading on a curve

The Republican candidates acknowledge climate change, but they don’t much care about it

All the action and excitement around climate change policy seems to have lulled Chris Mooney into a false sense of security about the current crop of Republican presidential candidates. This, however, is no time to go soft, and no time to give points for showing up. Bare acknowledgement of the reality of climate change is an absurdly low bar to clear at this stage of the game. If you want to see the heart of the Republican stance on climate change, have a look at the interview with Sam Brownback we just published. I single it out not because Brownback …

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Notable quotable

"People use fossil fuels because the good Lord put them on earth for us to use." -- Fred Palmer, senior VP of PR for coal giant Peabody Energy

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A slew of new reports on biofuel subsidies

Evaluating U.S. and EU policies

The last couple of months I've been busy preparing two major reports on government support for biofuels, both for the Global Subsidies Initiative (GSI) of the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD). These reports follow on from our October 2006 report on support for biofuels in the United States, which we commissioned from Doug Koplow of Earth Track, and which has been cited numerous times on these pages. Last month, we issued what we call our "Synthesis Report," our overview of government support for biofuels in selected OECD countries. Coming out right on the heels of the so-called "OECD Paper" …

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Boosting crops for fuel will hurt water supplies, says report

Increased production of corn and other crops to fulfill America's biofuel gluttony could threaten both availability and quality of water supplies, according to a report released today by the National Research Council. Fulfilling President Bush's stated goal of producing 35 billion gallons of renewable fuels by 2017 "would mean a lot more fertilizers and pesticides" running into rivers and oceans, says researcher Jerald Schnoor. In addition, he says, corn requires "a high amount of water" -- about 2,000 gallons per bushel, to be precise -- not counting the H2O used in ethanol factories. The National Research Council is an arm …

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Lomborg and Shellenberger & Nordhaus redux

Yet more musing on Lomborg and S&N

Looks like I'm not the only one who sees a scary similarity between the messages in their respective books, Cool It and Break Through. The San Francisco Chronicle just ran a double review by Robert Collier, a visiting scholar at the Center for Environmental Public Policy at UC Berkeley's Goldman School of Public Policy. The review ends pointedly: [T]he arguments of Nordhaus and Shellenberger attain an intellectual pretense that could almost pass for brilliant if their urgings weren't so patently empty. The closing chapter calls for "greatness," but, like the rest of the book, it offers little in the way …

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Climate change will bring more humidity and heat-related deaths

Climate change is increasing global humidity, according to a new study in Nature. If the globe heats as projected, air stickiness could increase globally by up to 24 percent by 2100. Says study coauthor Katharine Willett, "Although it might not be a lethal kind of thing, it's going to increase human discomfort." For a lethal kind of thing, we turn to a study in the American Journal of Public Health, which predicts that the number of heat-related deaths in and around New York City will nearly double by 2050. And just to top things off, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric …

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Fascinating, but for the wrong reasons

Shellenberger & Nordhaus echo flawed economic assumptions

I just finished reading Shellenberger & Nordhaus' latest, and while I realize I am a bit late to the party, I think they say some fascinating things -- perhaps not for the reasons they intended. S&N manage to succinctly distill an awful lot of the ideas that are core not only to policy debates on carbon, but to policy discussions of any major change to the economy. Understanding these biases is critical to understanding why S&N write what they write, but also why they are so deeply wrong. I recently joked to an economist friend that economics is the only …

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French conservatives go green, too!

Sarkozy pushes proposals on energy and the environment

We have already seen that British Conservatives "get" global warming -- both the danger of inaction and the economic opportunity of a "green revolution." Now the right wing cheese-eating surrender monkeys are also putting their American political counterparts to shame. As Nature reports about the new conservative French president: Sarkozy made the greening of France a major plank of his election campaign this year. He has since created a superministry for ecology, biodiversity and sustainable development, with responsibility for the powerful sectors of transport, energy and construction -- a first in France, where ecology was previously off the political radar. …

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Are we there yet?

Nuclear still on the verge of its comeback

If the nuclear industry "primes" for its long-rumored comeback much longer, the country's going to get a collective case of blue balls. Meanwhile, this short excerpt pretty much contains the entire history of the nuclear debate in a nutshell: [Nuke company] NRG Energy chief executive David W. Crane proclaimed "a new day for energy in America." But there is still a lot of worry about the economics of nuclear power. Nuclear plants are hugely expensive to build; they have long lead times and a history of cost overruns. Bottlenecks loom for key components if more than a few plants are …

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