Climate & Energy

Canada oil sands not good for the environment, says study

To absolutely no one’s surprise, Canada’s oil-sands operations have been given poor environmental marks in a study by green groups Pembina Institute and the World Wildlife Fund. Ten oil-sands ventures in the province of Alberta, including seven that have not yet started producing, were rated on their pollution of (or potential to pollute) the land, air, and water, as well as their greenhouse-gas emissions and overall environmental management. The top-ranked oil-sands project, Royal Dutch Shell’s Muskeg River mine, garnered a score of merely 56 percent; the average score was 33 percent. If each company adopted the best practices of its …

Mayoral climate-protecting agreement hasn’t necessarily translated into action

Mayors across the country have signed onto the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, a nonbinding initiative encouraging city leaders to meet or beat the greenhouse-gas reductions outlined in the U.S.-shunned Kyoto Protocol. So about that nonbinding part: While some city officials have taken concrete steps to reduce emissions, others haven’t followed through at all. “I remember at the time I thought it was a good idea,” says Vista, Calif., Mayor Morris Vance, who asked city staff to “come back with some recommendations” that have not yet emerged. Jim Janney, mayor of nearby Imperial Beach, says “It’s not like we’ve ignored …

More scientist/activists

Here’s hoping newly politically active scientists don’t step on rakes

A few days ago I said of James Hansen’s increasing activism: Hansen has decided that it would be perverse to hoard the social capital that comes with being a prominent scientist in the U.S., standing by nervously guarding his credibility while the climate goes to shit. So he’s taking a big risk and spending some of that capital. I wish more people would make the same decision. Speaking of that, check out this Dot Earth post on Rich Somerville, one climate scientist that has come out of the ivory tower and started advocating for policy. (Somerville’s got a good column …

The elusive green-collar job

With all the upbeat talk about an environmental labor boom, is rhetoric running away from reality?

Someone help me puzzle this out: Proposition 1: A shift to renewable energy and energy efficiency will result in a boom in green-collar jobs -- good service-industry work that can't be outsourced. This proposition is attractive because it holds forth the promise of a grand alliance between greens and the labor movement. See, e.g., Tom Friedman and everyone who posts on Grist. Proposition 2: The optimism over green-collar jobs is a classic example of the make-work bias, a widespread economic fallacy that mistakes amount of work for wealth creation. The actual effect of greenhouse-gas reductions on labor markets is unclear, so environmentalists should stick to environmental policy. See, e.g., various environmental economists. I don't have a clever opinion here, although I will say that the case for a positive labor impact from energy efficiency measures seems decently solid. Efficiency is, after all, an unambiguously good thing for the economy as a whole. If it costs us less to get the same amount of stuff, we're all richer. Certainly this is a nice thing for consumers, and because energy industries tend not to be labor-intensive, we can expect that wealth creation at the expense of energy producers will be a net benefit for employment as well. I think. The impact of renewable energy, on the other hand, is more difficult to suss out. More to the point, it's not clear that anyone has sussed it out. Discuss.

Tennessee Senate passes resolution honoring Al Gore

The Tennessee state Senate has passed a resolution honoring Al Gore for his efforts to curb climate change. And the crowd goes wild! “Let’s be honest about it. What is a resolution but a piece of paper with flowery words on it,” says House Republican Leader Jason Mumpower, adding that the resolution “has no real meaning other than whatever meaning it has to him when he hangs it on his wall.” Feel the enthusiasm!

Huckabee on Colbert

Bit of a dodge on global warming, no?

Investors see opportunity in efficiency and wind

Energy stocks are looking attractive

The following essay is a guest post by Kari Manlove, fellows assistant at the Center for American Progress. ----- CNNmoney.com just released a summary outlook on the solar, wind, biofuel (mainly ethanol), and efficiency industry financial sectors. The two looking most optimistic are wind and efficiency, and thus both sectors are overflowing with opportunity. According to one investment portfolio manager, efficiency investments are reliable and essentially fundamental. In his words, investing in efficiency is like putting your money on the arms dealer in a war or conflict -- no matter which side wins (or which sector), the arms dealer simply can't lose.

Iditarod sled dog race forced to change starting point

The famous Iditarod sled dog race is undergoing permanent changes as organizers cope with urban sprawl and a warming climate. For the ceremonial start to the competition on Mar. 1, racers will travel 11 miles instead of the traditional 18 miles. The race itself will kick off Mar. 2 from Willow, Alaska, 30 miles north of the traditional starting town of Wasilla. Says Stan Hooley of the Iditarod Trail Committee, “A lot of development in the area makes [Wasilla] less desirable, and there have been less-than-winter conditions.” And that’s no way to race a sled, dawg.

Focus the Nation, save the planet -- now!

Eban Goodstein invites you to join in the largest climate teach-in ever

"If there's no action before 2012, that's too late. What we will do in the next two to three years will determine our future. This is the defining moment."-- Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change If these words don't get you off your butt, you better check and make sure you have a pulse. Yet what can we (everyday Americans, readers of Grist) do now, today, that will be strong enough to change the course of our future? Strong enough to overcome the powerlessness and denial gripping our country? It is clear that we are standing at a critical moment in human history. Unless we begin to cut global-warming pollution within a few short years, a window for our children and the creatures of this earth will close. Forever. Instead of stabilizing at 3 to 4 degrees F more warming, the best our kids will be looking at will be more than 5 degrees F. And every 10th of a degree matters, because it raises the possibility that we might trigger some catastrophic outcome -- massive sea-level rise, loss of forests globally driven by intensified fire, or large-scale methane releases from the tundra, pushing temperatures even higher. Today, cutting emissions on the scale required in the United States seems barely possible. Our nation is, truly, paralyzed. Yet this is a peculiarly American kind of paralysis, one we all understand from high school civics. Our system of government, with its checks and balances, was designed for gridlock, allowing an organized minority to block movement toward change. And yet we all also learned how we overcome this gridlock. When our government fails, Americans set aside their everyday business and drive the country in a new direction. From abolition to women's suffrage, labor rights to civil rights to anti-war causes, again and again, social movements reclaim the moral vision at the heart of America and set a new course for the country. Over the next year, a powerful, nonpartisan movement demanding global-warming solutions will sweep across this country and change the future, change our future. Or it won't. Each of us now has to decide: Will I be a leader in that movement? The science is clear. Our future will be determined, literally, by the readers of this post, who have heard the truth and have said yes -- or will say yes -- to this challenge. And unlike our forbearers, we are not threatened by dogs, fire hoses, blacklisting, firing, beating, torture, imprisonment, or lynchings. We are free (if we choose) to create the future. Here is how today, this week, you can lead:

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