Climate & Energy

Theo Jansen's creatures

Wind-powered autonomous artificial life

A friend of mine showed me this video last weekend, and I just wanted to show you all how freaking cool it is. It's a ongoing work of Dutch artist Theo Jansen, who's literally creating artificial creatures that can move on their own and survive autonomously on a beach. Wind-powered and updated using simulated genetic evolution ... well, just look!

Greenland study

Sea-level rise could be double IPCC projections

Last year, Nature Geoscience and Science (PDF) published major articles suggesting that the consensus projection for sea-level rise this century was far too low -- and could be as high as five feet. Now the Journal of Glaciology joins in with a remarkable analysis, "Intermittent thinning of Jakobshavn Isbræ, West Greenland, since the Little Ice Age" (PDF). The lead author, Beata Csatho from the University of Buffalo, explains implications of this work for the traditionally very simplified ice sheet models, such as those used by United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to make projections of sea-level rise:

Midwest refineries source more crude from tar sands; emissions will rise

Emissions from Midwest oil refineries are expected to jump by up to 40 percent in the next 10 years, thanks in large part to an industry-wide trend of sourcing crude oil from Canada’s tar sands. The sands produce petroleum of such poor quality that it requires more energy — and thus more pollution — to process it into usable fuel. The trend flies in the face of national and regional efforts to curb greenhouse gases, not to mention oil companies’ lip service to renewable energy and climate-change mitigation. “We take climate change very, very seriously,” says Bill Gerwing of oil …

London mayor triples fee for most-polluting cars entering city center

London Mayor Ken Livingstone tripled the fee drivers of the most-polluting vehicles will have to pay to enter the city center beginning in October, from about $16 to $49. The so-called congestion charge was introduced in 2003 in an effort to decrease traffic and greenhouse-gas emissions, encouraging Londoners and visitors to use public transportation instead of cars. Today’s changes to the congestion-fee program include exempting drivers of the most-efficient vehicles, including the Toyota Prius, from the charge. Another change would erase the exemption that had been in place for residents who live within the congestion zone, subjecting drivers of the …

Obama says will move immediately on international climate pact

Prior to his weekend wins in Louisiana, Nebraska, Washington, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, Barack Obama promised to begin developing the U.S. position on an international pact to halt global warming now, instead of waiting until 2009. “I’ve been in conversations with former Vice President [Al] Gore repeatedly, and his recommendation, which I think is sound, is that you can’t wait until you are sworn into office to get started,” Obama proclaimed. “I think we need to start reaching out to other countries ahead of time, not because I’m presumptuous, but because there’s such a sense of urgency about this.” …

Welcoming our new efficiency overlords

Have you been naughty with your light bulbs? You need some good old command and control.

The so-called incandescent light bulb ban (not actually a ban) included as part of the recent energy bill has prompted a low-level but consistent set of complaints that deserve further consideration, because they betray a fair amount of confusion about which policy tools to break out for which issues. On the right, the reaction to the new lighting efficiency standard has ranged from hysterical whining to hysterical snark. But even on the left, it's fairly common to run across the high-minded opinion that finicky legislation like the lighting efficiency standard only wastes time and stirs up needless recrimination. Instead we should set a price on carbon, and let the market sort out the rest. It's an excellent theory, one that I subscribe to under most circumstances, but sometimes command and control really is just the thing. The math on light bulbs is pretty easy to run. Follow along if you're interested, or just skip the next two paragraphs.

G7 countries call for clean-technology fund for developing nations

The Group of Seven richest nations — Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the U.S. — have called for investment in a multibillion-dollar fund to provide climate-change-fightin’ clean technology to developing countries.

A climate for old men

Spearheading transit for livable cities at 93

I recently ended 100 days without Grist. And wouldn't you know, the title of the first post I saw, "No climate for old men," spoke directly to the reason I was away. No, I wasn't with the McCain campaign. Rather, I was immersed in a project, spearheaded by a really old man, that could become a terrific tool for beating back the climate crisis. That man is 93-year-old Ted Kheel, legendary New York labor-lawyer-turned-environmentalist. His project is a study of the feasibility of financing free mass transit in New York City through congestion pricing and other charges on driving. I directed the study (PDF), which has just been released, and I think its implications could be huge, not just for New York but for every city in the U.S. and around the world.

Monday link dump

A little of this, a little of that

This week I am, officially anyway, on vacation, spending a week in a condo at the bottom of Mt. Hood, snowboarding by day, soaking in the hot tub by night. Yes: sweet. I will nonetheless be posting occasionally, because, well, I just don’t know how to quit you. Before I go I want to clear out all the stuff that’s been building up in my browser for, oh, months now. So a link dump it is, and away we go! This post on Dot Earth about sustainable cities reminded me that I forgot to link to Alex Steffen’s long and …

Welcome to the new Grist. Tell us what you think, or if it's your first time learn about us. Grist is celebrating 15 years. ×