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Concrete images of a greener society

Global warming activists have often advocated policies based on numerical goals or painted scary scenarios of the future. But there is a third way to advocate for long-term policies: propose solutions that contain a positive vision of a fossil fuel-free society. The importance of this approach was underlined to me when I heard Betsy Rosenberg of the radio show Ecotalk interview Chip Heath, an author of the business-oriented book, Made to Stick. She asked Heath what he thought of the phrase "20% by 2020," that is, reducing carbon emissions by 20% by 2020. She thought it had a nice ring …

Read more: Cities, Climate & Energy

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Dog bites man

West Virginia's two U.S. senators say it's possible to promote coal and clean air initiatives at the same time. Uh ... WTF else are they going to say?

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They send letters

Recently, 15 House committee chairs sent a letter to the president to tell him to stop trying to water down the G8 statement on climate change. Meanwhile, chair Brad Miller from the House Science Committee sent a letter to Exxon to tell it to stop funding climate denialists. You can read both letters here. As both the president and Exxon have proven themselves open to rational persuasion, the problems should be cleared up now. Next!

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The two don’t mix well

This story deserves singling out because it is on an important but too-neglected subject -- the connection between energy and water. "Climate change puts nuclear energy into hot water," from the International Herald Tribune. Key point: Nuclear power "requires great amounts of cool water to keep reactors operating at safe temperatures. That is worrying if the rivers and reservoirs which many power plants rely on for water are hot or depleted because of steadily rising air temperatures." Factoid of the day: "During the extreme heat of 2003 in France, 17 nuclear reactors operated at reduced capacity or were turned off." …

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On a new McKibben editorial

If this were the daily sunset you had gotten used to growing up, you would understand the hesitancy of even Bill McKibben, a renowned environmentalist, to okay wind turbines on the horizon, interfering with bird migration in order to generate electricity. However, in an opinion article in which McKibben confesses his sentiment, entitled "One world, one problem," he ultimately resolves: In this world, the threat to that landscape, and to those birds, comes far more from rapid shifts in temperature than from a few dozen towers. McKibben goes on to write a testament to the gravity of climate change and …

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All green eyes turn to the West Coast

Popularized by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the term "Californication" actually refers to the surge of Californians migrating up the West Coast following the opening of a major highway. In this context, we're hoping we can Californicate the state's climate change and energy policies to the rest of the Union. Since the 1970s, California has kept its per capita energy use at a level rate, using primarily energy efficiency programs. Over time and with minimal spending, the cost of electricity under the programs is 1.4 cents per kilowatt-hour. That's an outstanding rate compared to traditional or even carbon-free energy sources. …

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Plus, He Made That Boat Sink

Leonardo DiCaprio brings climate-change film to Cannes A year ago, Al Gore spread the climate-change message at the Cannes Film Festival. Now it's Leonardo DiCaprio's turn. The former boy wonder produced, co-wrote, and narrated The 11th Hour, a documentary that explores how industrial society screwed itself and how it can fix the problem. Relying on interviews with the likes of Stephen Hawking and David Suzuki, the 90-minute film "[gives] the scientists and experts a format where they can speak freely and openly without having to argue the points anymore," says Leo. Like Gore, his eco-mentor, DiCaprio is battling accusations of …

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Coal Is the Enemy of the Human Race

New BP, Rio Tinto venture plans three "clean coal" plants Last week, oil giant BP announced a new "clean coal" partnership, and it's already spewing big plans. With Rio Tinto, the world's third-largest mining company, BP created Hydrogen Energy, a cleaner-energy venture. Just one hitch: they're gonna make hydrogen by burning fossil fuels, which produces carbon dioxide, which ends the world. So the companies will plunge huge amounts of money into "clean coal" operations that separate out the carbon, then bury it under the sea. (Note to future generations: We know it sounds crazy. So, uh, did it work?) BP …

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Green weddings are no better than white ones

It's not exactly news -- Umbra made the point in her column on green weddings a couple of months ago, and others have no doubt said it -- but a piece in Salon today on the wedding industry points out that green weddings are not so magical as they seem: Then, there's the recent development of green weddings and carbon-neutral weddings. It's very small, but you'll get people talking about how they want to have a carbon-neutral wedding, so they'll be making donations to this or that company that will offset their emissions ... You know, you could just not …

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We haven’t quite figured it out yet

JMG and I were both too optimistic. We both thought charcoal agriculture was ready to play a limited but real role in controlling global warming. Burn some high carbon biomass, turning it into charcoal that will stay stable for thousands of years; add it to soil, which builds tilth and structure; you have just sequestered some carbon and improved agriculture at the same time. We know it can be done. Pre-Columbian Indians covered much of Brazil with terra preta (black earth) built up through "slash-and-char" agriculture over thousands of years. Terra preta is not just dead, well-structured soil. It hosts …

Read more: Climate & Energy, Food