Climate & Energy

Climate skeptics hold conference in New York City

A conference of climate-change skeptics gathered in New York City this week to congratulate each other for daring to challenge the accepted science of global warming. A range of high-profile deniers painted themselves as put-upon …

<em>Nobelity</em>

Nine Nobelists on the big problems

Saw a good DVD this evening, after what seemed like several weeks where all the worst things were unfolding faster and faster and I was looking for something not quite so grim as the current headlines. Nobelity is worth a look. Two ideas of special note for Gristies. The film starts off with a discussion with physicist Steven Weinberg of the University of Texas, whose Nobel was for figuring out the electroweak force that unified two of the four fundamental forces in nature. He talks about (among other things) climate change. In a very matter of fact way, he makes a hugely important point that pertains to all the so-called skeptics (paraphrase):

The natural resource curse is such a bitch

Oil and the status of women in the Middle East

I'm not sure this falls under my "campus news" beat for Grist, but I heard it at a seminar at a college campus, and it's compelling enough that I'm going to say that because it falls within academia, it counts. Michael Ross is a political scientist at UCLA who was published in the February 2008 American Political Science Review with the assertion (PDF) that much of the gender inequality in the Middle East relative to the rest of the world can be explained not by traditional Islam, but by the presence of oil. Photo: iStockphoto The quick version is that Ross makes a strong case that women are hurt by a previously unappreciated effect of the infamous "resource curse" that imperils democracy in countries with abundant fossil fuels.

Falling elephants

View the winners of the ’60 Seconds to Save the Earth’ ecospot contest

The Alliance for Climate Protection and Current TV had a contest for provocative ecospots: short video messages to motivate friends, community, and government to get involved in solving the climate crisis. The winner created a great visual metaphor:

Blackout Sabbath

Rufus Wainwright’s energy campaign

Popera sweetheart Rufus Wainwright has done Judy! Judy! Judy! and now he’s doing Blackout Sabbath — emphasis on the out. This newest venture isn’t a tribute album; it’s an energy conservation campaign. Inspired by the …

Vicious life cycles

Can we trust carbon labeling?

About a year ago, I was cautiously bullish on British supermarket giant Tesco's pledge to start putting carbon labels on its food. But I think that their progress so far -- which I'll get to in a minute -- suggests an important lesson about the policy risks of treating a fuzzy exercise as if it were completely reliable. Tesco's idea was that the chain and its suppliers would pay for objective, comprehensive reviews of the greenhouse-gas emissions from the foods on the store's shelves. The analyses would cover all major steps in bringing food from farms to the checkout line -- everything from running farm machinery, to food processing, to transportation, to refrigeration. Then, each item in the store would be labeled with the climate-warming emissions that could be traced to that particular product. This sort of exercise is called "life cycle analysis," and it's been used for decades to great effect, to shed light on all sorts of questions: paper vs. plastic (for bags), cloth vs. disposable (for diapers), hybrids vs. hydrogen (for cars), and a host of others. Last week, a nifty article by Michael Specter in The New Yorker reported on Tesco's progress so far. The results? There's still only one product on the shelves with a carbon label -- a single brand of potato chips, or "crisps" in British parlance. You see, as it turns out, life cycle analysis can be really, really difficult. And to make matters worse, it may be that the whole enterprise is chock full of uncertainty. Where carbon is concerned, it can be hard to trust the label.

Cellulosic ethanol: not likely to be viable

New study from mainstream ag economists at Iowa State

Cellulosic ethanol represents a beacon on the horizon — the justification cited by wiseguys like Vinod Khosla for dropping billions per year in public cash to prop up corn ethanol production. Corn ethanol, you see, …

Americans using less gasoline

Well, it’s finally happened: Americans are starting to use less gasoline. It took a weakened economy and record oil prices — crude hit an all-time high of $103.95 a barrel Monday — but in the …

AEC chooses renewables and efficiency over coal

New across the transom, from Sierra Club (no link yet): Today, Associated Electric Cooperative, one of the nation’s largest and most respected rural electric cooperatives announced they are “postponing indefinitely” their plans to build a …

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