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Umbra on biodegradable products

Dearest Umbra, With biodegradable corn-plastic products like clothes hangers, credit cards, and trash bags, we are led to believe there are good alternatives to plastic that can be thrown out guilt-free. But doesn't all trash get put in landfills that are then hermetically sealed to prevent the bad contaminants from leaching out, but hold in the things that would have been composting otherwise? I thought that was the reason to compost organic matter: to reduce anaerobic digestion in a landfill that causes methane production. So what's the deal with alternative plastics? Is it a scam? Should it be put out …

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An observation on the offset debate

Many offset critics appear to be shadowboxing

I've been watching the public debate over carbon offsets out of the corner of my eye for some time, and have formed a general impression, which I would like at long last to get off my chest. Offset critics often strike a moralistic tone, comparing offsets to medieval "indulgences." Let's be clear: That rhetorical gimmick makes no damn sense whatsoever. If there really were such a thing as sin, and there was a finite amount of it in the world, and it was the aggregate amount of sin that mattered rather than any individual's contribution, and indulgences really did reduce …

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A few random climate thoughts

Climate skeptics lose even more credibility

The first half of 2007 is the warmest Jan-June period on record, +0.79°C above the long-term average (from NASA GISS data, via QuarkSoup.net). For those who question the consensus on climate change, see the collection of proconsensus statements at Logical Science (hat tip: Michael Tobis). Just recently, my department (the Dept. of Atmospheric Sciences at Texas A&M University) unanimously adopted a statement endorsing the primary conclusions of the IPCC reports. See the statement here. In the scientific community, virtually no one believes that solar variations are the dominant driver of climate over the last few decades. However, among skeptics, this …

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It’s Not the Sun

Sun is not causing current global warming, researchers confirm Attention all ye who think the sun might be a primary cause of climate change, and all ye who know someone who thinks that: No. It's not the sun. Researchers have published a study of the last century of solar activity, finding that the sun's output has actually declined over the last 20 years. (And yes, they did brainy adjustments to account for variations and cycles and such.) "The sun did a U-turn around 1985, but the temperatures kept on rising," says English solar physicist Mike Lockwood. "Everything on the sun …

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Frankly, Madeira, We Don’t Want a Dam

Brazil gives go-ahead to controversial dams in Amazon Brazil has given the preliminary OK for two hydroelectric dams to be built on a major Amazon River tributary. Business leaders, who say the dams will provide much-needed energy, are impressed; greens, who see the project as a disaster waiting to happen, are depressed. Proponents say the Santo Antonio and Jirau dams could produce up to 10 percent of Brazil's current electricity demand when completed. Opponents point out that damming the Madeira River, home to one of the most diverse fish stocks in the world, will flood hundreds of square miles of …

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Crist Almighty

Florida governor to enact big energy and emission plans What's the greenest state in the U.S.? By Friday, it could be Florida. Republican Gov. Charlie Crist is hosting a two-day climate summit in Miami, and will wrap up the event by signing three sweeping eco-executive orders. His plans include adopting California's strict vehicle-emissions law, making Florida the first Southeast state to go that route; calling for a 40 percent reduction in statewide greenhouse-gas emissions by 2025; and requiring state agencies to prioritize fuel efficiency when buying or renting vehicles and to hold events in facilities certified as green by the …

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Cameron Diaz wants you to make an 'ecospot'

Make a short eco-video about climate change and you could win a Toyota hybrid

Are you a creative type with a hankering for 15 minutes of fame? Would you settle for 15 seconds? Enter this new eco-video contest and you could win public acclaim -- and a Toyota hybrid. Cameron tells you how: (Having trouble viewing the video? Download the latest version of Flash.) Current TV and the Alliance for Climate Protection (both Gore-driven projects) have teamed up to promote :60 Seconds to Save the Earth, a contest soliciting video public service announcements about climate change. They're looking for 15-, 30-, or 60-second video spots that will showcase green action and spur public change. …

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Cheap biofuels, or dear pasta?

Globalization of the fuel vs. fuel debate

Last Thursday, Canada's Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, announced substantial subsidies to boost Canada's production of biofuels. Under its "ecoENERGY for Biofuels" program, the government will provide up to C$ 1.5 billion (US$ 1.4 billion) in the form of incentives over nine years to producers of renewable alternatives to gasoline and diesel fuel. "With leading-edge technology and abundant supplies of grains, oilseeds, and other feedstocks, Canada is uniquely positioned to become a global leader in the production of biofuels," said the prime minister. Today, the BBC ran a story explaining that, in part thanks to the increasing diversion of Canadian durum …

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Sustainability gets a warmer embrace from U.S. companies

Mindy S. Lubber of CERES looks at how far we’ve come and what the future might hold

To celebrate its 15th anniversary, the GreenMoney Journal asked leaders in the realms of green business and socially responsible investing to forecast 15 years into the future. How green will our economy be in 2022? GreenMoney's anniversary issue features responses from Amy Domini of Domini Social Investments, Gary Hirshberg of Stonyfield Farm, futurist Hazel Henderson, and others. Mindy Lubber. Here, reprinted with permission, is a view from Mindy S. Lubber, president of Ceres, a leading coalition of investors, environmental groups, and other public-interest organizations working with companies to address sustainability challenges such as global climate change. Ceres also directs the …

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What should I ask Amory Lovins?

Send me your questions before tomorrow

Tomorrow, I'm interviewing Amory Lovins, Cofounder, Chairman, and Chief Scientist of the Rocky Mountain Institute. I suppose Lovins needs no introduction here, but if you want a compact summary of his contributions, Wikipedia's got a decent entry. If you'd like to read some of his stuff, check out Winning the Oil Endgame, which promises a roadmap for getting the U.S. "completely, attractively, and profitably off oil" by 2025. This year, he won the highly prestigious Blue Planet Prize for major contributions to solving environmental problems. In short, Lovins represents the most articulate proponent of what's come to be known as …

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