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RFF must-read: The Stern Report got it right

Climate change mitigation costs less than doing nothing about the problem

I have argued previously that the landmark Stern Report got the big picture right -- strong action now to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions is economically justified, since the cost of action (i.e., mitigation), perhaps 1 percent of GDP, is far less than the cost of inaction (i.e., climate change impacts), which Stern estimates as at least 5 percent of GDP and possibly as high as 20 percent. In particular, I (and others) argued that Stern's much-criticized choice of a low discount rate, 1.4 percent, was in fact justified -- see here and here for a good discussion. Now perhaps the most …

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Wouldn’t it be ironic …

... if we burned a bunch of oil, heated the atmosphere, melted the Arctic ice, and then had a war over who gets the oil beneath it?

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How bad is peak oil, really?

Would the biosphere care?

Recently we've had a couple of discussions here at Gristmill concerning various aspects of peak oil; that is, the assertion that very soon (if it hasn't happened already) the global supply of oil will peak, and even though demand is going up, supply will start to come down, so prices will skyrocket. It seems to me that some of the contention in these discussions boils down to the question: would it really be so bad if the oil started running out? After all, we would stop mucking up the planet with the pollution, carbon emissions, and infrastructural damage we have …

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Dave's First Law of Sustainability Politics

Sustainability doesn’t just happen

Tom Friedman is fond of the theory that high oil prices will drive investment in renewables and spur reform in corrupt governments. He's not alone -- some peak oil types believe that oil price spikes will force us to do the very things that will save us from global warming. This has always struck me as dangerous folly. Nothing good in politics happens automatically. Regress is the path of least resistance. Progress must be fought for. To wit, I commend you to Drake Bennett's piece in the Boston Globe, "The new dirty energy." Turns out oil prices are having some …

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Everything you need to know about liquid coal

In a nutshell

Business types discuss various subjects at industry confabs: best practices, new marketing strategies, changes in the regulatory environment, etc. They discuss how better to compete. When representatives of the coal-to-liquids industry get together, they talk about something else: One theme dominated discussion last week at an industry-sponsored conference on turning coal into gasoline and diesel fuel: finding political support for government incentives.

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Climb every submerged mountain

Backpacker’s global warming issue

About six months too late to be part of our "oh look, all the glossies are going green" trend piece, Backpacker magazine has put together its own global warming issue. And yes, before y'all ask, it's printed on recycled, chlorine-free paper. The cover features a hiker waist-deep in water with a submerged mountain behind him (familiar, no?), and the bold print advertises stories about "The Future of Wilderness" and "Green Gear That Really Works," as well as tips for cutting your carbon footprint in half (hint: don't fly to far-flung hiking destinations!). The inside of the mag is graphic heavy, …

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Naked photo shoot on melting glacier

A little skin for ice shrinking thin

Saturday in Switzerland, hundreds posed naked for a photo shoot on the shrinking Aletsch glacier. Greenpeace said it hoped to "establish a symbolic relationship between the vulnerability of the melting glacier and the human body."

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Regular oil cleaner than ethanol

Saving and restoring forests better for climate than switching to biofuels

A new study in the journal Science ($ub req'd) validates what many have been saying here in Gristmill: Biofuels, especially those from the tropics, are far worse for the planet than regular old crude oil. The study finds that we could reduce global warming pollution two to nine times more by conserving or restoring forests and grasslands than by razing them and turning them into biofuels plantations -- even if we continue to use fossil fuels as our main source of energy. That's because those forests and grasslands act as the lungs of the planet. Their dense vegetation sucks up …

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A hot time in the old town tonight

And that’s not cool, man

This is a very, very big deal. If nukes have to go offline just when you need them most, that's a huge monkey wrench in plans for a nuclear resurgence. Given that this much-discussed (if less observed) resurgence centers on precisely those states most likely to suffer crippling heat waves, this is a huge problem for investors. The last thing anyone wants after dropping two big ones ($2B) on a nuke plant is to have to buy juice at more than $100/mWh on the spot market during a heat wave. Given the likely temperature trends that we've already unleashed, this …

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Coal myths

They’re still common, but they make no sense

A little while back I praised Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) for opposing new coal plants in his home state. Now he's clarified his position: he opposes new coal plants anywhere in the world. Word. One grumpy note. Look at this: Michael Yackira, president and chief executive officer of Sierra Pacific Resources, said his company "respectfully disagrees" with Reid's position. His company is seeking approval to build one of the plants. "We believe what we'll be building is the cleanest coal-fired plant in the world" because of new technology, Yackira said. "We must also have fossil fuel plants for …