Climate & Energy

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:

Britain will push ahead with nuclear power

As expected, Britain has announced that it will push forward with a new generation of nuclear-power plants, to supplement other low-emission energy sources as a means of fighting climate change. Nuclear operators say they can get stations running by 2017. Britain gets about 18 percent of its electricity from nuclear power; radioactive waste is currently stored at an “interim” aboveground facility, and the government has vague plans to build underground caverns as a permanent storage site. The country will not subsidize new nuclear-plant construction, but may streamline the planning process, identify possible sites, or offer tax advantages. The issue of …

Show me the money!

Scientists do not have a financial incentive to settle the climate debate

An argument often heard in the fruitlooposphere* is that the scientific community has financial incentive to push the consensus view that humans are responsible for climate change. The idea is that toeing the consensus line translates into more research funding. There is, of course, never any evidence presented with this argument. Rather, it is presented as "common sense": "Well, of course they're just trying to get more funding ..." So let's apply a little common sense and see how the argument fares. First, consider that the scientific community has been saying for several years that our understanding of the climate system is quite good. Not perfect, mind you, but good enough that many scientists feel we should be taking action now to reduce our greenhouse-gas emissions. Based on the strength of this conclusion, many politicians have started saying "the science is settled." Does that sound like a recipe for getting lots of research funding? Saying that we have a pretty good understanding of the climate system?

Adventures in CFL-land

Brit blames bulb for TV-remote glitch

First CFLs cause migraines. Then they worsen skin conditions. Now they frig with the frequency of TV remotes. O brave new world …

The key ideas behind Sky Trust

A look at the framing behind the last climate policy proposal

Not long ago, a group of important environmental leaders published an essay on Gristmill -- "Creating an Earth Atmospheric Trust" -- about Peter Barnes' Sky Trust proposal. As it happens, Rockridge is about to release an analysis comparing Sky Trust with the Lieberman-Warner bill. We particularly evaluate what we call "cognitive policy," which is the set of ideas and values that underlie a legislative or social policy. The Rockridge Institute endorses the key ideas in the Sky Trust. The reasons for our endorsement are best understood by looking at the cognitive policy behind it. This "cognitive dimension" of their policy is the source of inspiration that makes the Sky Trust strong. The most fundamental principle behind this entire endeavor is this: An effective policy must gain popular acceptance if it is to stand the test of time and it must do so for the right reasons, namely because it promotes the right long-term values in the minds of citizens. The Sky Trust proposal is an exemplary effort to instill this principle firmly in policy. Keeping Our Air Safe and Clean The proposal begins with a cognitive foundation that contextualize the problem. This provides the moral context for addressing the climate crisis and shapes the material policy that emerges from it.

But what about the less attractive countries?

Swedish company to warm buildings using body heat

The legendary hotness of Swedes is now useful for more than getting dates. Calls to the French Embassy about plans for using the famous Gallic "icy superciliousness" for air conditioning were not returned by press time.

Warming climate may lead to spread of dengue fever in U.S., say health officials

Climate change is likely increasing cases of malaria in Kenya, various viral diseases in Australia’s outback, and tropical dengue fever in the U.S. “Widespread appearance of dengue in the continental United States is a real possibility,” write Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. David Morens in a commentary in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Climate change and poor efforts to control mosquito populations are contributors to the potential problem; in addition, write the doctors, “The combined effects of global urbanization and increasing air travel are expected to make dengue a growing international health problem for the foreseeable future.”

Judge rules that natural-gas company can drill on billionaire’s land

When we picture candy billionaire Forrest Mars, we imagine him diving into pools of M&Ms à la the coin-swimming revelry of Scrooge McDuck. That said, Mars’ attempts to keep oil and gas drills off of his Montana land were foiled yesterday, when a state judge ruled that Pinnacle Gas Resources has the right to access gas reserves underneath Mars’ ranch. Drilling is likely to commence by the end of the week.

The high costs of doing nothing, part II

True costs of fossil fuels make renewables seem cheap in comparison

This post is by ClimateProgress guest blogger Bill Becker, executive director of the Presidential Climate Action Project. ----- In November 2006, California voters rejected Proposition 87, a ballot initiative to raise the oil industry's taxes by $4 billion for research into renewable energy. Four months before the ballot, a survey (PDF) by the Public Policy Institute of California found that 61 percent of likely voters favored the idea, including 51 percent of Republicans. What changed between the survey and the vote? The oil industry pumped more than $60 million into a campaign to defeat the measure. Proposition 87 contained a specific provision that would have forbidden oil companies from passing the tax along to consumers. Nevertheless, a central part of the industry's message was that Proposition 87 would raise the price of gasoline. On the Hill and in the voting booth, the specter of higher costs and taxes is the big weapon in the fossil-fuel industry's arsenal against climate action. The question is, what's the defense? It is important to acknowledge and to anticipate that putting a price on carbon will raise energy prices. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities released an estimate (PDF) last November that carbon pricing to achieve a modest 15 percent reduction in emissions would cost the poorest fifth of the population between $750 and $950 a year on average. That's big money to a family living on $13,000 -- and fossil-energy costs presumably would grow as carbon caps get stricter. But we can mitigate those costs: