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A meter of sea level rise by 2100?

Sea levels may rise much faster and higher than predicted

Popular Science has published a terrific article, "Konrad Steffen: The Global Warming Prophet," about one of the world's leading climatologists. Steffen has spent "18 consecutive springs on the Greenland ice cap, personally building and installing the weather stations that help the world's scientists understand what's happening up there." The article notes: Water from the melting ice sheet is gushing into the North Atlantic much faster than scientists had previously thought possible. The upshot of the news out of Swiss Camp is that sea levels may rise much higher and much sooner than even the most pessimistic climate forecasts predicted. What …

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Big Ethanol

Economists say that only the largest ethanol producers will survive

Of all the arguments in favor of government backing for corn-based ethanol, only one seems even remotely reasonable to me: that it could lead to real economic development in depressed areas of the Midwest. The theory goes like this: When farmers pool resources and build their own ethanol plants, they'll capture much higher profits than by merely selling corn to big buyers like ADM and Cargill. According to an article in today's Wisconsin State Journal, that rationale for corn-based ethanol may be about to unravel. For about two generations, the Midwest's farmers have seen the price for corn and other …

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Cool Runnings

Effluent would be used to cool power plants in an innovative Maryland project Charles County, Md., is poised to be the first area in the U.S. to use treated sewage to cool down power-plant towers. A proverbial "win-win" scheme, the proposal would conserve groundwater, which is usually used for power-plant cooling, and would cut down on the amount of sewage being dumped into the Potomac River, which feeds into the beleaguered Chesapeake Bay. Power companies also like the concept because they can diffuse opposition to power plants if those plants will use less water. "This is a process that is …

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Brit's Eye View: Are we too obsessed with climate change?

Other enviro issues are getting less attention

Peter Madden, chief executive of Forum for the Future, writes a monthly column for Gristmill on sustainability in the U.K. and Europe. Are we too obsessed by climate change? Over here, climate change is coming to completely dominate the sustainability agenda. This is true in politics, business, the media, and civil society. I was talking to our new secretary of state for the environment, Hilary Benn, the other day, about his department's strategy. He argued that all the other issues -- such as air quality, waste, water, and so on -- could all be dealt with under the climate change …

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APEC's weak brew on climate

Pacific Rim countries vow to do … very little

Throughout the year, members of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation group (APEC) -- including the U.S., Japan, and Australia, among others -- have had a series of meetings. In early September, they will announce their grand plans, which, according to a leaked draft (PDF) obtained by the Sydney Morning Herald, contain "aspirational" greenhouse-gas emission targets. Here's what APEC will shoot for: • Setting up a Network for Energy Technology to promote collaboration on research on clean coal, nuclear power and renewable energy such as solar and wind power; • A non-binding, unenforceable 25 per cent reduction in energy intensity (energy consumption …

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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.