Climate & Energy

Nearly all of world’s oceans tainted by human activity, says study

Human activity has tainted all but 3.7 percent of the world’s oceans, and 41 percent of the world’s waters have been heavily impacted, says a new study in Science. A graphic map illustrates in all-too-clear terms that the briny deep has taken a terrible toll from 17 human threats, including climate change, overfishing, fertilizer runoff, coastal development, and shipping pollution. Only a few small areas near both poles remain relatively pristine — though, according to one coauthor, “they are not untouched.” In addition, a separate study in Science found that low-oxygen dead zones off the U.S. West Coast were unprecedented …

Aussie musician Xavier Rudd chats about coming to America and greening his tour

Xavier Rudd. Photo: James Looker When Australian musician Xavier Rudd was 10 years old, he realized that he could reuse an old vacuum-cleaner hose as a didgeridoo. Talk about a career rooted in green values. Since then, Rudd has moved on from vacuum-cleaner hoses to guitars, harmonicas, banjos, lapsteels, and even real didgeridoos — but his environmental ethics remain the same. The singer/songwriter/one-man-band is an avid supporter of several environmental organizations and often incorporates socially conscious lyrics into his bluesy roots music: His White Moth single “Better People” — which opens “People saving whales/And giving your thanks to our seas/My …

The subsidy tease, part III

A solar grand plan

This post is by ClimateProgress guest blogger Bill Becker, executive director of the Presidential Climate Action Project. ----- A recent issue of Scientific American featured a "Solar Grand Plan." Its authors described a way for the United States to obtain nearly 100 percent of its electricity and 90 percent of its total energy, including transportation, from solar, wind, biomass, and geothermal resources by end-of-century. Electricity would cost a comfortable 5 cents per kilowatt hour. U.S. carbon emissions would be reduced 62 percent from their 2005 levels. Some 600 coal and gas-fired power plants would be displaced. The federal investment would be $400 billion over the next 40 years ($10 billion a year) to deploy renewable technologies and suitable transmission infrastructure. If that future seems too good to be true, then look at two other studies during the past 13 months that have reached similar conclusions: one sponsored by the American Solar Energy Society (PDF), the other by the Nuclear Policy Research Institute and the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research. All three concur that energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies can satisfy the nation's demand for power without additional nuclear or fossil-fueled power plants. If $400 billion seems unaffordable, consider: It's less money than the federal government already has spent on the Iraq war, only a third of the $1.2 trillion that some experts now predict the war will cost, and only a sixth of the federal government's current annual subsidies for fossil and nuclear energy. And if a Solar Grand Plan seems politically implausible, read the newspaper. Last November, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said we have until 2020 to make major changes in greenhouse-gas emissions. Two weeks ago, the chief executive of Royal Dutch Shell told his staff that world oil demand will outpace supply within seven years. That means rapidly rising oil prices, more recession (the last five recessions in the U.S. were preceded by high oil prices), more power for oil-producing nations like Iran and Russia, and more likelihood of international conflicts. The more practical -- and certainly the more survivable -- of these two futures is the Solar Grand Plan, an aggressive national effort to rebuild the economy on a foundation of efficiency and sustainable energy supplies. To get to that future, national energy and climate policy must have a few key ingredients.

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 …

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