Climate & Energy

Big bad boom

Radioactive deja vu in the American West

This is a guest essay from Chip Ward, author and board member of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. It was originally published on TomDispatch and is republished here with Tom’s kind permission. —– In the …

NOAA: Global warming has damaged our weather

Worse heat waves, floods, droughts, hurricanes, and storms to come

Originally posted at the Wonk Room. The traditional media rarely discusses extreme weather events in the context of global warming. However, as the Wonk Room Global Boiling series has documented, scientists have been warning us for years that climate change will increase catastrophic weather events like the California wildfires, the East Coast heatwave, and the Midwest floods that have been taking lives and causing billions in damage in recent days. Yesterday, the federal government released a report that assembles this knowledge in stark and unequivocal terms. "Weather and Climate Extremes in a Changing Climate," by the multi-agency U.S. Climate Change Science Program with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the lead, warns that changes in extreme weather are "among the most serious challenges to society" (PDF) in dealing with global warming. After reporting that heat waves, severe rainfall, and intense hurricanes have been on the rise -- all linked to man-made global warming -- the authors deliver this warning about the future:

D.C.'s newest baseball team: The Washington Exxons

Protestors object to a green baseball stadium sponsored by the world’s dirtiest corporation

Imagine a Major League Baseball stadium constructed to actually fight lung disease. Imagine engineers eschewing asbestos in every form, using only materials approved by the American Lung Association. Imagine emergency inhalers at every seat, with team officials aggressively marketing the "healthy-lung" park to conscientious fans. Then imagine your surprise, in visiting the park, to see a huge Marlboro cigarettes ad plastered across the left field fence. Imagine another Marlboro ad behind home plate so TV viewers can't look away. Imagine, finally, being asked to stand and sing Take Me Out To the Ball Game during the "Marlboro Cigarettes 7th Inning Stretch." Sounds absurd, right? Well, welcome to Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., for an inconceivable variation on this theme. With public alarm over global warming at an all-time high, team owners of the Nationals baseball team spent millions for a "healthy Earth" park, with environmental features like low-flow plumbing and energy-efficient lighting. The new park has been officially declared a "green facility" by the National Green Building Council, the first of its kind in American sports. But visiting fans know the rest: Strike Marlboro cigarettes and substitute "ExxonMobil" and you have the astonishing reality at Nationals Park. Oil giant ExxonMobil, the biggest contributor to global warming of any company in the world, has its name splashed across the left field fence and, intermittently, behind home plate. ExxonMobil, which invests almost nothing in clean energy while gasoline goes to $4 per gallon, is the feel-good sponsor of the 7th-inning stretch, so your child can happily sing about peanuts and Cracker Jacks while the company logo sparkles on the biggest scoreboard in baseball. No wonder a coalition of concerned groups -- ranging from faith leaders to college students to environmentalists -- announced Friday it would protest outside all Nationals home games until Exxon stops its ads.

Some clarity on the Clarity

Honda fuel-cell vehicle: Not marketable, practical, or environmental

Technology Review asked me to comment about the hype over the new Honda fuel-cell car, which the company optimistically calls "the world's first hydrogen-powered fuel-cell vehicle intended for mass production." The key word here is "intended." Here it is: ----- Would you buy a car that costs 10 times as much as a hybrid gasoline-electric, like the Prius? What if I told you it had half the range of the hybrid? What if I told you most cities didn't have a single hydrogen fueling station? Not interested yet? This should be the deal closer: what if I told you it wouldn't have lower greenhouse-gas emissions than the hybrid? Other than the traditional media, which is as distracted by shiny new objects as my 16-month-old daughter, nobody should get terribly excited when a car company rolls out its wildly impractical next-generation hydrogen car. Too many miracles are required for it to be a marketplace winner.

U.S. federal report details climate change’s impact on weather extremes

North America will continue to experience more heat waves, intense rains, increased drought, and stronger hurricanes due to the worsening effects of climate change, says a new report from the U.S. federal government. The report …

A climate hero: An outspoken truth

A look back at James Hansen’s seminal testimony on climate, part three

Worldwatch Institute is partnering with Grist to bring you this three-part series commemorating the 20-year anniversary of NASA scientist James Hansen's groundbreaking testimony on global climate change next week. Part three of three follows. Part one is here; part two is here. ----- In May 1989, a few months after NASA scientist James Hansen declared that global warming had arrived, he would provide another testimony to clarify the risks of future climate change. But before Hansen could make his presentation to Sen. Al Gore's subcommittee, the White House's Office of Management and Budget intercepted the testimony and rewrote its conclusion. According to the revised copy, the cause of climate change was still unknown. NASA headquarters said Hansen could accept the changes or not testify, he later recalled. It was not the first OMB revision of a Hansen testimony. This time, he decided, would be different. Hansen notified Gore that his testimony did not reflect his actual opinion, which led Gore to frame the hearing's questions to reveal the OMB edits. It was the lead story on all major television networks that night.

Stormy waters

Offshore drilling likely to raise some voter ire in Florida

John McCain’s call this week for an end to the moratorium on offshore drilling isn’t faring well with environmentalists across the country. In one key state, however, it might really come back to bite him …

Back to Nature

Nature publishes my climate analysis and solution

Here is perhaps my most succinct and citable explanation of why "Both national and global climate policy (PDF) must redirect its focus from setting a price on carbon to promoting the rapid deployment of clean technologies" (online here). True, I didn't think I would appear in Nature again. But Nature online asked me for my critique of the Boxer-Lieberman-Warner Bill bill, and they were open to a big-picture commentary based on the latest climate science. They even ran with a modified version of my proposed wedges solution (see below, longer version here). The central conclusion of the paper is the major theme of my work: The latest science suggests that national and global climate policy is seriously misdirected. We must aim at achieving average annual carbon dioxide emissions of less than 5 GtC [5 billion metric tons of carbon] this century or risk the catastrophe of reaching atmospheric concentrations of 1,000 p.p.m. A carbon price set by a cap-and-trade system is a useful component of a longer-term climate strategy. Implementing such a system, however, is secondary to adopting a national and global strategy to stop building new traditional coal-fired plants while starting to deploy existing and near-term low-carbon technologies as fast as is humanly possible. What are the "series of aggressive strategies for technology deployment" we need? ... tax credits, loan guarantees or other incentives for low-carbon technology, demonstration projects of technologies such as carbon capture and storage, a standard for electricity generation involving renewable or low-carbon options, a low-carbon fuel standard, tougher standards for fuel economy and appliances, and utility regulations that create a profit for investments in efficiency. These are all features of the climate plan of the Democratic presidential nominee, Barack Obama (PDF), but are not part of the announced climate strategy of Republican presidential nominee John McCain, whose plan starts by allowing unlimited offsets. I am especially delighted that they created a figure for me of the wedges (click for larger version):

Why more drilling is not the answer

Conservative arguments to the contrary are intellectually bankrupt

Originally posted at the NDN blog. Of the various false solutions being proposed to the current oil shock perhaps none is more disingenous than the idea that it can be solved by drilling in the Alaskan wilderness and along the Outer Continental Shelf. This is the idea that the right wing media, recently John McCain, and now President Bush have been pushing as a cure-all for soaring oil prices. Since many Democrats oppose this drilling, the next false logical step is to say Democrats are to blame. This was the thrust of President Bush's energy proposal yesterday, one that only highlights the intellectual dishonesty and partisanship of this failed administration. Is more drilling the answer? No, for three reasons.

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