Climate & Energy

New <em>Nation</em> post

Will the media give McCain a free ride on climate?

My latest post on The Nation is up, asking: Will the media give McCain a free ride on climate? I know there’s a sense out there that because McCain is relatively sane on climate, this race might pose the opportunity to have a serious discussion of the issue. But my fear is the opposite: that because the candidates (seem to) agree on the issue, the media will ignore it, focusing instead on areas where there’s controversy. That’s basically what happened in 2000, as my post points out. Will it happen again? If there’s a difference, it’s that this year, unlike …

'You should shudder a little bit ...'

According to Bush adviser, Bush actually serious about mandatory climate controls

This ($ub req'd) just in from Captain Environmental Compassion, Bush adviser James Connaughton: Bush is serious about climate change. Seriously! Surprised? Read on, for excerpts from this newsflash ...

Next market bubble: farmland!

Thanks to the ethanol boom, big investors are plowing cash into corn country

Big investors seem to have forgotten how to exist without some sort of speculative bubble. In the last decade, they’ve whipped cash from tech stocks to bonds to emerging markets to real estate to junk mortgages. With the latter bubble now deflating rapidly, they’ve turned to … Midwestern farmland? Yes, big cornfields. Here’s a Chicago asset manager talking about who’s buying up farmland, quoted in USA Today: It’s everybody from the person concerned about the stock market to large government and corporate pension funds, insurance companies, hedge funds. [!] Investors do like a sure bet. With the 2007 Energy Act …


Sobering dispatches from Alaska

The melting and erosion of permafrost is probably the most visible manifestation of climate change in Alaska. Photo: Seth Kantner, Author and photographer Seth Kantner has a new blog that shares his observations of a changing Arctic in words and images. From trees invading the tundra and freakish weather to the hair-raising loss of the permafrost, it's a must-read. His phenomenal book Ordinary Wolves (one of my favorites of the last 10 years) takes place in the town of Kotzebue on the northwest coast of Alaska (where he's from), where the tundra is literally melting away from underfoot and into the sea.

Clean-energy-boosting economic stimulus bill falls one vote short in Senate

The Senate version of the economic stimulus bill, which included clean-energy incentives, was shot down in the chamber this evening. The loss was predicted, though the closeness of the vote perhaps wasn’t — had one more senator voted “aye,” the package would have passed. Green group Friends of the Earth blames the loss on Sen. John McCain, who failed to show up to the voting. Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton both voted in favor of the bill.

Hurricanes and global warming

Revisiting the climate-science funding question

In the public climate change debate, one often hears the argument that scientists are making hysterical claims about climate change in order to get funding. I already blogged about how the argument fails the "common sense" test, but I think this issue deserves another post. Kerry Emanual and Chris Landsea, two of the major players in the debate over the connection between climate change and hurricanes, have visited A&M in the last three weeks and both gave seminars in my department. It is clear from their two talks that there is a vigorous scientific debate going on about the connection. After seeing both of them present their case, it is clear that this is an incredibly difficult problem and that no firm conclusions can be drawn at the present time. I certainly expect future research will shed more light on this question. So let's evaluate the hypothesis that the scientific community is fabricating hysterical and frightening results to bump up funding. If that were so, why is there an active debate about the climate change-hurricane connection? Shouldn't the hurricane community fabricate the result that hurricanes and climate change are related? According to the skeptics, this would result in increased funding. Here is what I conclude about this:

Climate Code Red

The case for a sustainability emergency

The pressure to soft-pedal is very, very high. I know because I feel it. I'm tempted. I do not wish to be dismissed as an apocalyptic. So when I read, in this fine and even astonishing report, that "politics as usual" must be cast aside, and quickly, there's something in me that balks. After all, the mainline debate at Bali was about a "25-40% cut by 2020" for the developed countries. Isn't this enough? Doesn't it tell us that we're already moving as quickly as we can? Must we call for emergency mobilization? Must we seek to put all "available and necessary resources" at the service of a global crash program to stabilize the climate?

Dead industries walking

Nuclear power and fossil fuels face water crises and other problems

This post is by ClimateProgress guest blogger Bill Becker, executive director of the Presidential Climate Action Project. ----- It has not been a good year so far for King Coal, Big Oil, and whatever nickname we give to the nuclear energy industry. Two weeks ago, TIME reported that nuclear plants in the southeastern U.S. may be forced to cut power production or temporarily shut down later this year because the year-long drought has left too little water to cool the reactors. There already has been one drought-related shutdown in Alabama. And while officials aren't yet predicting brownouts, utilities will be forced to buy expensive replacement power from other places, leading to "shockingly high electric bills for millions of southerners." Unfortunately, the Southeast is precisely where the nuclear energy industry has been looking as the best location for new power plants, in part because they believe there is less public resistance there. We'll see how the public feels when those "shockingly high electric bills" arrive in the mail. The South's problems are not unique. The Associated Press reports that 24 of the nation's 104 nukes are in areas experiencing the most severe drought. Then came an email from the chief executive of Royal Dutch Shell to his staff, predicting that the production of conventional oil supplies won't be able to keep pace with world demand after 2015 -- a mere seven years from now. That's very bad news for oil-dependent economies, including ours. Five of the last seven recessions in the U.S. economy have been preceded by big increases in the price of oil (PDF), and today's oil prices are one of the factors being blamed for the economic slowdown and possible recession we're experiencing now. The email from Shell's Jeroen van der Veer suggests that unless we figure out how to replace conventional oil or how to stop economic development and population growth around the world, high oil prices are here to stay. It's the old law of supply and demand.

Realism, not rhetoric

Details on Bush’s anti-efficiency budget

Bush's phony rhetoric from the State of the Union: The United States is committed to strengthening our energy security and confronting global climate change, and the best way to meet these goals is for America to continue leading the way toward the development of cleaner and more energy-efficient technology. His actual energy-efficiency budget, summarized by the Environmental and Energy Study Institute executive director, Carol Werner (my previous post on the budget is here):

Got 2.7 seconds?

We've devised the world's shortest survey to find out what kind of actions our readers are taking. You know you want to.