Climate & Energy

The world at 350

A last chance for civilization

This essay was originally published at TomDispatch, and is reprinted here with Tom’s kind permission. —– Even for Americans, constitutionally convinced that there will always be a second act, and a third, and a do-over after that, and, if necessary, a little public repentance and forgiveness and a Brand New Start — even for us, the world looks a little Terminal right now. It’s not just the economy. We’ve gone through swoons before. It’s that gas at $4 a gallon means we’re running out, at least of the cheap stuff that built our sprawling society. It’s that when we try …

More Kentucky coal pandering

Obama airs new coal-themed TV ad; Clinton talks up coal too

The Obama campaign is running TV ads in Kentucky touting the candidate’s commitment to the coal industry, along the same lines as a flyer the campaign is sending out in the state: “He came to southern Illinois and seen the devastation and the loss of the jobs in this coal industry,” says miner Randy Henry in the ads, which are appearing in the Lexington and Bowling Green television markets. “Washington, D.C., is not listening to us. Barack understands it.” The commercial goes on to highlight Obama’s role in pushing through a budget provision in 2007 that directed $200 million toward …

The transit surge is working

Despite increased ridership, we need more funding as well as support for our trains

Paul Krugman ponders the reason that conservatives are so enamored of the idea that speculators are driving up the price of oil: The odds are that we're looking at a future in which energy conservation becomes increasingly important, in which many people may even -- gasp -- take public transit to work. I don't find that vision particularly abhorrent, but a lot of people, especially on the right, do. And indeed -- gasp -- according to an article in The New York Times, "Gas Prices Send Surge of Riders to Mass Transit":

Blustery irony

Anti-wind McCain delivers climate remarks at foreign wind company

Conservative presidential candidate Sen. John McCain chose a clever but ultimately hypocritical location for his big climate speech. I hope the media aren't fooled by his ironic choice of wind turbine company Vestas as the backdrop, but I have little doubt they will run enticing photos and videos of wind turbines. McCain, however, does not deserve to be linked to such images. I would title the speech "Not the man for the job" (see "No climate for old men"). Let's be clear: Conservatives like John McCain, or more accurately, conservatives including John McCain, are the main reason McCain has to go to a Danish wind turbine manufacturer to give a climate speech. With the major government investments in wind in the 1970s, the United States was poised to be a dominant player in what was clearly going to be one of the biggest job-creating industries of the next hundred years. But conservatives repeatedly gutted the wind budget, then opposed efforts by progressives to increase it, and repeatedly blocked efforts to extend the wind power tax credit. The sad result can be seen here:

Fuzzy math

How much will it really cost to address climate change?

One of the consistent claims made by those opposed to policies to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions is that the cost will be prohibitive. I have always been somewhat suspicious of this claim, however. When I started graduate school in 1988, the Montreal Protocol had just been signed. It required industrialized countries to significantly reduce the production of chlorofluorocarbons within a decade or so (the exact schedule of production reduction depended on the particular molecule). At the time, there were all sorts of apocalyptic claims being made about the costs and impacts of the Montreal Protocol: It will bankrupt us, it will force us to give up our refrigerators, millions of people in Africa will starve because of lack of access to refrigeration, etc. In the end, none of this was true. The cost of compliance was so low, in fact, that I'll bet most of you didn't even realize it when our society switched over from chlorofluorocarbons to the replacement molecule, hydrochlorofluorocarbons, in the mid-'90s. A few days ago, I came across a nice article from 2002 in The American Prospect by Eban Goodstein on this question of cost estimates:

Fast facts about cities, climate change, and sustainability

Less than 1: Percent of the earth’s surface covered by cities (1) 75: Percent of global energy consumed by cities (2) 80: Percent of global greenhouse-gas emissions contributed by cities (1) 6.7 billion: World population in 2007 (3) 50: Percent of world population expected to live in urban areas by the end of 2008 (3) 70: Percent of world population expected to live in urban areas by 2050 (3) 840: Mayors who have signed the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement (4) 50: States from which those signatories hail (4) 80 million: Citizens those signatories represent (4) 3: Actions those signatories …

The carbon lobby is big enough already

Carbon trading creates perverse incentives

I've said before that one problem with greenhouse-gas emissions trading (as opposed to a carbon price) is that it creates a whole new lobby with incentives to build the emissions market at the expense of actual emissions reductions. Speaking at the Carbon Expo trade fair in Cologne, Germany, Ken Newcombe, a pioneering carbon trader who currently works for Goldman Sachs provided an example:

McCain speech reactions

Enviros respond to McCain’s new climate plan

John McCain unveiled his plans to address global warming in a speech Monday afternoon in Portland, Ore. The candidate called climate change a “test of foresight, of political courage, and of the unselfish concern that one generation owes to the next,” and called for a cap-and-trade system to drastically reduce the country’s greenhouse-gas emissions. John McCain. Photo: Matthew Chastain Wright “Whether we call it ‘climate change’ or ‘global warming,’ in the end we’re all left with the same set of facts,” McCain told an audience gathered at a Vestas wind-energy training facility. “The facts of global warming demand our urgent …

Speech, speech

Text of McCain climate speech

Here's text of the climate speech GOP presidential candidate John McCain gave today in Portland, Ore., his most major address on the issue to date. ----- Thank you all very much. I appreciate the hospitality of Vestas Wind Technology. Today is a kind of test run for the company. They've got wind technicians here, wind studies, and all these wind turbines, but there's no wind. So now I know why they asked me to come give a speech. Every day, when there are no reporters and cameras around to draw attention to it, this company and others like it are doing important work. And what we see here is just a glimpse of much bigger things to come. Wind power is one of many alternative energy sources that are changing our economy for the better. And one day they will change our economy forever. Wind is a clean and predictable source of energy, and about as renewable as anything on earth. Along with solar power, fuel-cell technology, cleaner burning fuels and other new energy sources, wind power will bring America closer to energy independence. Our economy depends upon clean and affordable alternatives to fossil fuels, and so, in many ways, does our security. A large share of the world's oil reserves is controlled by foreign powers that do not have our interests at heart. And as our reliance on oil passes away, their power will vanish with it.

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