Climate & Energy

Researchers develop energy-generating clothing

We like the idea of harvesting energy from our own movement, but wearing a knee brace just sounds too clunky. But now U.S. researchers publishing in Nature have developed a way to generate electricity from nanofibers woven into fabric. If the technology goes mainstream, we’ll be able to generate energy just by getting dressed — which, of course, we do every day. Except on Nude Friday.

John McCain and climate change

How strong is McCain’s commitment to fighting global warming?

The following post was first published on Passing Through, The Nation‘s guest blog, where I will be posting all month. Though recession and war are probably higher on the public’s immediate priority list, there is no challenge of greater historical consequence facing the next U.S. president than the climate crisis. It is vitally important that the next chief executive enter the Oval Office committed to decisive and sustained action. He or she will need a firm grasp of the developing science, the political obstacles, the economic trade-offs, and the technological opportunities. John McCain. Photo: Jim Greenhill Does John McCain have …

Happy birthday

The fourth IPCC report is still going strong a year later

I was at a meeting earlier this week and was talking to one of the coordinating lead authors of the recent IPCC working group 1 report on the physical science of climate change. He remarked that he was quite surprised that how little substantive criticism the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report had received since its release just about one year ago. The reason, he thought, was that the skeptics were "in the room" with the writing team. What he meant was that the scientists writing the report knew that the denial machine would go over the report with a fine tooth comb looking for any "gotcha" mistakes to use to discredit the IPCC. Because of that, the IPCC report was extremely carefully worded so as to make virtually every statement in the report bulletproof. In fact, it is quite amazing to me that essentially none of the IPCC documents produced over the last 18 years has been found to contain any substantive errors. The trolls, of course, will come out with their litany of "errors" that the IPCC contains (I suspect a few will appear in the comments to this post), but when you look closely, the trolls are almost always misrepresenting the IPCC's statements. In fact, that's the most common attack on the IPCC: make the claim that the IPCC said something ridiculous (which it didn't actually say), then disprove that ridiculous statement, and then use that as evidence that the IPCC's reports cannot be trusted. "The IPCC says that 2 + 2 = 5, but that's just hogwash. We know that 2 + 2 = 4. Thus, climate change is a hoax." Yeah, right.

California bill would require climate change to be taught in schools

Science textbooks approved for California public schools would have to cover climate change, and science teachers would be required to put warming in their curricula, under a bill approved by the state Senate and heading to the Assembly. Says state Sen. Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto), who introduced the bill, “This is a phenomenon of global importance and our kids ought to understand the science behind that phenomenon.” Critics of the bill had the usual concerns: children shouldn’t be indoctrinated with environmental propaganda, climate science is uncertain, the skeptic voice wouldn’t get fair time, blah blah blah.

Investors meet at U.N. to discuss how to stay wealthy amid climate change

Nearly 500 corporate leaders and institutional investors representing $20 trillion in capital met at the United Nations Thursday to discuss the risks and opportunities presented by climate change. The gathering called itself the largest ever meeting of investment types specifically convened to discuss climate change. Attendees mused about how they could continue to make money in a climate-changed future, set a price for carbon that wouldn’t hurt them financially, pressure the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to endorse disclosing climate-related risks, and prompt the United States to adopt legislation slashing its greenhouse-gas emissions by up to 90 percent from 1990 …

Prince Charles, Richard Branson compare climate crisis to war

Prince Charles warned in a speech on Thursday that if a “courageous and revolutionary” approach to tackling climate change is not undertaken, “the result will be catastrophe for all of us but with the poorest in our world hit hardest of all. In this sense it is surely comparable to war.” Also this week, Virgin Group big gun Richard Branson suggested at a United Nations conference that an “environmental war room” be set up to combine “entrepreneurial muscle, the best possible data, and the power to mobilize resources and influence policy.” OK, so we’re at war with the climate; the …

A compulsive ... nontruth-teller

John McCain avoids using the word ‘mandatory’ when discussing cap-and-trade

When will the media stop calling McCain a straight-talker and realize he is a pathological doubletalker? I realize the "L" word is frowned upon in politics, so instead of using that word, which, in any case, doesn't do justice to the full range of doubletalk in the political arena -- let's just imagine there is an agreed-upon objective scale from 1 to 10 of veracity (with 5 being half-true) that goes something like this: (10) Fred Thompson, December 2007: "I'm not particularly interested in running for president." (9) Bush, May 2000: "I think we agree, the past is over." (8) Bush, January 2000: "When I was coming up, it was a dangerous world, and you knew exactly who they were. It was us vs. them, and it was clear who them was. Today, we are not so sure who the they are, but we know they're there." (5) Bush, June 1999: "I am a compassionate conservative." (3) Bush, September 2002: "There's an old saying in Tennessee -- I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee -- that says, fool me once, shame on -- shame on you. Fool me -- you can't get fooled again." (2) Nixon, November 1973: "I'm not a crook." (1) McCain, January 2008 (in reply to Tim Russert's statement, "Senator McCain, you are in favor of mandatory caps" [which would be a 10 on this scale]): "No, I'm in favor of cap-and-trade."

Plan to combat warming by seeding ocean with iron runs out of funds

Planktos, the company that proposed fending off global warming by seeding the ocean with iron dust, has failed to get enough funding to go forward with planned tests. Under the Planktos business plan, iron fertilization would encourage phytoplankton blooms, which would suck up extra CO2, allowing the company to sell carbon offsets. But it was not to be: According to the Planktos website, “A highly effective disinformation campaign waged by anti-offset crusaders has provoked widespread opposition to plankton restoration in the environmental world.” We can just see ‘em, shaking their iron fists at us.

Smog struggle

A view behind the scenes at the EPA and the White House

It is now less than four weeks until the EPA announces its decision on whether to change current national standards for ozone or smog. And things are getting very interesting behind the scenes. Officially, according to the White House Office of Management and Budget website, the EPA has not yet transmitted its plan to the White House for review. The truth is, the EPA is obviously being picked at by the OMB already. The Bush administration is just trying to keep the details of this matter as secret as possible. (Some business lobbyists have heard that the EPA is pushing a tougher new standard, though weaker than that recommended by their science advisers.) Despite the efforts at secrecy, some information is creeping out as EPA puts information in its official regulatory docket. (You can see this for yourself here by searching for docket number EPA-HQ-OAR-2005-0172. )

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