Climate & Energy

Manhattan congestion-pricing plan kicks the bucket

Hopes had run high that New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s ambitious congestion-pricing plan for the Big Apple would move forward, but the measure has died a quiet death. Democratic members of the State Assembly, determining that the measure was overwhelmingly opposed, neglected to even bring it to the Assembly floor, instead shooting it down with a secret vote. The now-dead plan would have charged drivers $8 to enter midtown Manhattan during peak hours. Supporters called it an effective way to address congestion and pollution, while opponents called it elitist and unfair to lower-income commuters.

Worse than coal

Industrial agrofuels: enemy of the entire planet

Apologies for the terrible photo, but it was pouring (and snowing) when I took it. That's Duff Badgley again, the dirty hippie, protesting at a Safeway store. You can see the marquee advertising the price of B-5 (5 percent) biodiesel at $4.20 a gallon. Biofuel proponents are not going to like having their fuel compared to coal, but think about it. Most of the CO2 in the United States comes from liquid fossil fuels. Replace them with today's biofuels, and you would have an unmitigated ecological disaster of planet-killing proportions. In other words, the more we use, the worse it gets. Removing mountaintops and dumping the tailings in mountain streams is beyond bad, but biofuels have already razed more ecosystems than all the coal mines in history, and coal has never contributed to food shortages. So, which sign is more appropriate? The icing on the cake, of course, is the new science pointing out that biofuels are also worse for global warming.

350 ppm or bust

Hansen paper released; WaPo fails to link to Grist

Several posts on this site have mentioned a recent paper from James Hansen et al. — Target CO2: Where Should Humanity Aim? (PDF) — which argues that the official E.U. target of 550 ppm global atmospheric CO2 is far too high, and that anything over 350 ppm risks putting human beings in a world radically different than anything they’ve ever known. The final version of the paper is now up, and there’s been some good news coverage. For a good overview, see Ed Pilkington in The Guardian. Juliet Eilperin at the Washington Post picks out the crucial part of Hansen’s …

World Health Organization says climate change bad for world health

Officials at the World Health Organization used the occasion of World Health Day today to stress climate change’s negative impacts on human health, warning that warming temperatures are already affecting the spread of disease. Increased temperatures have slowly expanded the range of malaria-carrying mosquitoes into new areas, including South Korea and the highlands of Papua New Guinea and Rwanda, and increased flooding of communities with poor sanitation has increased cases of cholera by mixing drinking water with sewage, among other effects. “The core concern is succinctly stated: climate change endangers human health,” said WHO Director-General Margaret Chan. “The warming of …

The 2030 Blueprint

Solving climate change can save billions, boost the economy, and create jobs

A new report from Architecture2030 shows that solving the climate change crisis can save billions of dollars, stimulate a deteriorating U.S. economy, and create high quality jobs (full report here). Complex problems sometimes require the simplest of solutions. One of the most important questions facing those attempting to solve the climate crisis is, "How do we reduce CO2 emissions dramatically and immediately?" The simplest answer is, "Turn off the coal plants." Although coal produces about half of the energy supplied by the electric power sector, it is responsible for 81% of the sector's CO2 emissions. According to recent paper by Dr. James Hansen et al., titled "Target CO2: Where Should Humanity Aim?" (PDF), if we are to have any chance of averting a climatic catastrophe, we must implement an immediate moratorium on the construction of any new conventional coal-fired power plants and complete a phasing out of all existing conventional coal plants by the year 2030. Anything short of this will fail (call Congress on Earth Day, April 22nd, supporting the Markey Waxman bill and a moratorium on coal). To turn off the coal plants, one must replace them with another energy source and/or eliminate the demand for the energy produced by these plants. And the economic feasibility of any proposed actions regarding climate change is a particularly important consideration in this time of looming recession. Today, of the approximately 38.5 QBtu of primary energy consumed by residential and commercial building operations in the U.S. each year, 27.3 QBtu is consumed in the form of electricity. About 14.2 QBtu of this electricity is produced by conventional coal-fired power plants. According to a recent McKinsey Global Institute report, the implementation of straightforward, off-the-shelf residential and commercial building efficiency measures would reduce energy consumption by 11.1 QBtu for an investment of $21.6 billion per QBtu.

Notable quotable

“We’ll be eight degrees hotter in ten, not ten but 30 or 40 years and basically none of the crops will grow. Most of the people will have died and the rest of us will be cannibals.” – CNN founder Ted Turner, on what will happen if global warming is not quickly addressed (video under the fold)

Your used fry grease or your life

And so it's come to this -- Mad Max is after used fry grease.

Sorry, deniers

Research finds (once again) that climate change is not caused by cosmic rays

One more denier talking point has been debunked by scientists using actual observations. You can read the Science News article here, which explains, "New research has dealt a blow to the skeptics who argue that climate change is all due to cosmic rays rather than to man-made greenhouse gases." You can read the original article, just published by the Institute of Physics' Environmental Research Letters, "Testing the proposed causal link between cosmic rays and cloud cover," online here. The major finding: [N]o evidence could be found of changes in the cloud cover from known changes in the cosmic ray ionization rate. Here is the full abstract:

Up, up, and away: corn edition

Corn hits a new record — $6 a bushel

At the end of February, I blogged on a Fortune article that had the subhead "The ethanol boom is running out of gas as corn prices spike." That article noted: Spurred by an ethanol plant construction binge, corn prices have gone stratospheric, soaring from below $2 a bushel in 2006 to over $5.25 a bushel today. As a result, it's become difficult for ethanol plants to make a healthy profit, even with oil at $100 a barrel. Just six weeks later, we have an AP article with the subhead "Corn Prices Jump to Record $6 a Bushel, Driving Up Costs for Food, Alternative Energy." And it gets better worse:

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