Climate & Energy

Australia’s ratification of the Kyoto Protocol comes into force

Australia’s ratification of the Kyoto Protocol came into force on Tuesday. While the Aussies have the second-highest greenhouse-gas emissions per capita in the developed world, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd waxed optimistic, saying the country is on track to meet its Kyoto-suggested emissions-reduction targets. “From today, Australia officially becomes part of the global solution on climate change, not just part of the global problem,” Rudd announced. Still part of the global problem: the United States, the last industrialized country to hold out on Kyoto.

Media enable denier spin, part three

Please stop calling them ‘skeptics’

What name can we possibly use for the people who are working feverishly to convince the public to ignore the broad scientific understanding of global warming and delay taking serious action, action needed to avert a very grim fate for our children, their children, and so on? I suspect future generations will call them "climate destroyers" or worse, since if we actually (continue to) listen to them, that pretty much ensures carbon-dioxide concentrations will hit catastrophic levels -- 700 to 1000 -- this century, as explained in part two. But what should we call these people in the meantime, while we still have time to ignore them and save the climate? In this post I will explain why "skeptics" is certainly the wrong term, discuss why the current favorite among advocates (including me) -- "deniers" -- doesn't work (except maybe in headlines), and offer a new alternative. (Tomorrow I'll give you the reaction of a genuine skeptic to the new alternative.) For now let's call them "delayers," since that is their primary, unifying goal -- delaying action. As the NYT's Revkin explained about the recent skeptic denier-delayer conference in New York, "The one thing all the attendees seem to share is a deep dislike for mandatory restrictions on greenhouse gases." What unites these people is their desire to delay or stop action to cut GHGs, not any one particular view on the climate.

Coal: getting expensiver

More details on the new, really-really-expensive AEP coal plant in West Virginia. It seems like just yesterday that I wrote that the 17 percent rate increase announced by AEP would not be the last one, given the cost of this plant. Two days later, here they come. Specifically, "Customers could start paying as early as next year with rate hikes starting at $1 per month in 2009 and eventually climbing to $7.70 per month. AEP customers could pay nearly $160 million during construction and $116.23 million per year after that to fund the new plant." And why do we need those rates? Because this plant will be "the single most expensive utility project in the state's history." And why do we need the coal plant? Because ... [drum roll] ... coal is cheap! Full story from Greenwire ($ub. req'd) below the fold.

Waxman and Markey introduce bill to ban new dirty coal plants

House Representatives Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) have introduced the “Moratorium on Uncontrolled Power Plants Act of 2008,” which would do pretty much what it sounds like: prevent new coal plants in the U.S. unless they’re built with advanced pollution controls. Says Waxman, “The altemative is senseless — locking in decades of additional global warming emissions and requiring greater emissions reductions across the U.S. economy to compensate.” Somehow we imagine the coal lobby won’t see it the same way.

What price the future?

No sensible warming response can exclude carbon pricing

Jim Manzi, with whom I have debated warming policy responses before, has a problem with The Washington Post‘s coverage of new studies on climate change. He writes: The premise of the story by Juliet Eilperin is well-expressed by its headline: “Carbon Output Must Near Zero To Avert Danger, New Studies Say”. Eilperin prominently quotes Carnegie Institution senior scientist Ken Caldeira, co-author of one of the studies promoted by the article, who says: “The question is, what if we don’t want the Earth to warm anymore?” Well, that’s a question, but it’s certainly not the question, and is not even a …

Bear poops in woods, some observers say

Check out the "story highlights" on top of this CNN piece: • World’s poor are disproportionately affected by climate change, analysts say • Low-income groups have comparatively little influence on public policy • Burden of climate change rests with wealthy individuals, some observers say Interesting that "some observers" are the only support for that third bullet. What if you added a first premise: "Wealthy individuals are responsible for a disproportionate amount of total greenhouse gas emissions." (Princeton’s Stephen Pacala says the world’s richest 7% are responsible for 50% of GHGs.) Then doesn’t the last bullet follow from simple deductive reasoning? …

Stickin' it to the <del>man</del> car

California vehicles to get global warming stickers

The following post is by Earl Killian, guest blogger at Climate Progress. ----- Go shopping in 2009 in California for a new car and you'll notice some new information on the smog index window sticker. Next to the smog score will be a global warming score. The California Air Resources Board is putting the finishing touches on the program. You can see some of the details in the presentation (PDF) from their last meeting. According to CARB, approximately 13 states have thus far adopted the California's Low Emission Vehicle regulations, which requires the smog labels. At least 11 of those states -- including New York, Connecticut, Oregon, and Washington -- are likely to adopt the new global warming labels. Vehicles are assigned a score of 1 to 10 based upon their emissions, with 1 for the worst and 10 for the lowest greenhouse-gas emissions. However, calling it a "Global Warming Score" and having 10 be the best is likely to cause some confusion. Perhaps "Planet-saver Score" would be better? This post was created for ClimateProgress.org, a project of the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

The enemy of my enemy

Natural gas utilities are no friends of Big Coal

In the fight against coal, crucial support may come from another fossil fuel: natural gas. A price on carbon emissions, bane to the big coal utilities, will advantage gas utilities, at least in the short-term. As coal gets more expensive, nat gas is the cheapest alternative ready at hand. Will their contrary incentives lead them to open warfare? To some extent it already has. Remember those xenophobic ads Sunflower ran in against Gov. Sebelius in Kansas? They were premised on the notion that opting for natural gas means cuddling with Hugo Chavez. Recently another contretemps spilled over into public. The …

Solar-panel manufacturers dumping toxic waste in China

Solar panels may look bright and shiny, but they have a dark underbelly: production of polysilicon for panels gives off a highly toxic byproduct called silicon tetrachloride. In China, where factories are rushing to alleviate a polysilicon shortage that’s cramping the global solar-panel industry, the bubbly white liquid is often just dumped in nearby villages. “The land where you dump or bury [silicon tetrachloride] will be infertile. No grass or trees will grow in the place,” says a material-sciences expert at Hebei Industrial University. “It is poisonous, it is polluting. Human beings can never touch it.” While silicon tetrachloride can …

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