Climate & Energy

Cause and effect

Human-caused warming is resulting in a broad range of impacts across the globe

Nature has published the first article to "formally link observed global changes in physical and biological systems to human-induced climate change, predominantly from increasing greenhouse gases." See news story here and the article, "Attributing physical and biological impacts to anthropogenic climate change" (subs. req'd, abstract below). NASA's discussion of the piece here explains, "human-caused climate change has made an impact on a wide range of Earth's natural systems, including permafrost thawing, plants blooming earlier across Europe, and lakes declining in productivity in Africa." The image at right: "Impacts from warming are evident in satellite images showing that lakes in Siberia disappearing as the permafrost thaws and lake water drains deeper into the ground." The lead author explained:

Subsidize my love

Grist asks McCain about contradictory messages on nuclear subsidies

John McCain hosted a call-in with bloggers today following his address in Columbus, Ohio, in which he outlined his priorities for a first term in office. Grist got in a couple of questions: You mentioned climate and energy in your speech today, that they would be among your top priorities, and that has also been the focus of several speeches this week. You say in general that you’re against subsidies, even for renewable energy, but you said today that you’d like to see support for nuclear energy, which would cost taxpayers a lot of money, and you also mentioned coal. …

Stop me if you've heard this one

The eternal cycle of liquid coal reincarnation

Ali Velshi on CNN, Wednesday morning: "What if you could take a lump of coal and turn that in to your gasoline?" What if, indeed? A brief (very brief) stroll through the archives...

Our tails get in the way

The problems and principles of energy descent

"How did you get there, Roo?" asked Piglet. "On Tigger's back!  And Tiggers can't climb downwards, because their tails get in the way, only upwards, and Tigger forgot about that when we started, and he's only just remembered.  So we've got to stay here for ever and ever -- unless we go higher.  What did you say, Tigger?  Oh, Tigger says if we go higher we shan't be able to see Piglet's house so well, so we're going to stop here." -- A.A. Milne, "The House At Pooh Corner" My kids were out climbing trees yesterday, supervised by Eric and our visiting friend and my honorary brother, "Uncle" Jesse.  Isaiah really wanted to climb up to a particular spot, but couldn't get there on little four-year-old legs.  Jesse helped him up part of the way, and then told him he had to do it himself or be content with where he could get to.  Jesse observed, "I wanted to give him a boost, but only up to a place he could get back down from himself." I was struck by what a useful metaphor and perhaps even principle was embodied in that casual statement.  I was also reminded, perhaps because I've now read Winnie the Pooh to my children approximately 1,000 times, of the classic representation of what happens when you climb up and can't climb down. If you can forgive the cuteness, it does seem apt. Let us imagine ourselves climbing up a rather steep and precarious tree, boosted up by fossil energies into a place we simply could never get to without them. The problems we are facing right now all originate in our fundamental inability to voluntarily set limits -- that is, at no point did most of us even recognize the basic necessity of stopping at a point at which we could get down on our own, without our petrocarbon helpers. So right now we look like Tiggers high in the trees -- we can climb up, but we can't climb down. Is the problem our fear or that our tails (our structural addictions to energy) get in the way? It can be hard to tell. But what is not terribly hard to tell is that one way or another, we have to come down -- and probably quite rapidly. The goal is to avoid a painful "thud" upon descent.


McCain outlines priorities for first term; climate and energy make the cut

John McCain is in Ohio today, where he gave a speech this morning about what he plans to accomplish by 2013. Progress on climate and energy is part of his vision for a better world at the end of his first term: The United States is well on the way to independence from foreign sources of oil — progress that has not only begun to alleviate the environmental threat posed from climate change, but has greatly improved our security as well. A cap-and-trade system has been implemented, spurring great innovation in the development of green technologies and alternative energy sources. …

Climate change messing with ecology worldwide, study says

Climate change is messing with ecology worldwide right now, according to a comprehensive new study in the journal Nature. Researchers examined data on shifts in over 28,000 plant and animal systems and over 800 environmental changes across all the world’s continents for the past 30 years. In 90 percent of the cases of change in wildlife behavior or populations, the shifts could only be explained by climate change, the study concluded. Also, 95 percent of the documented environmental changes, such as retreating glaciers and melting permafrost, were found to be consistent with warming temperatures. “When we look at all these …

Bearly legal

Bush admin to list polar bears as threatened; advocates pledge to continue the fight

Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne was flanked by two large television screens rolling video of polar bears as he discussed his department’s decision Wednesday to declare the bears “threatened.” The video bears — and the bears in the many photos on display at the press conference — were fat and happy, wrestling on solid ice floes and devouring the flesh of prey. But environmentalists fear that Interior’s decision not to give the bears the stronger “endangered” designation will put them in continued peril — meaning fewer healthy bears, and eventually, none at all. “Secretary Kempthorne threw a bone to the polar …

The jewel of denial

The delayers’ paradox

The primary goal of the global warming deniers and their disciples is to waste time and delay action, which is why I prefer to call them delayers. (This post is inspired by the surprising finding that only 27 percent of conservatives say the earth is warming because of human activity, such as burning fossil fuels.) The delayers' paradox The deniers and delayers are those who argue that failing to embrace strict reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions will not lead to serious or catastrophic impacts. The delayers' paradox is this: If we all actually were persuaded by the deniers and delayers, it would lead to levels of atmospheric GHG concentrations that ensure the most catastrophic impacts imaginable, proving them (fatally) wrong.

Me, on McCain, on climate, on the radio

Talking about where the candidates stand on climate and environmental policy

Shameless self-promotion alert: I was on the program “The Conversation,” which airs on the Seattle NPR affiliate KUOW, last night talking about McCain’s climate plan and where the presidential contenders stand on environmental policy. I’m about 10 minutes in, and as you can tell by the smattering of “uhs” and “ums,” there’s a reason why I’m a writer not a talker.

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