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The Talmud and global warming

As global warming deniers move from "it's not happening" to "it's not human-caused" to "but it's good for you" to "it's too expensive to fix," I'm reminded of a tale from the Talmud. It seems a family was accused of returning a clay pot they had borrowed cracked beyond repair. The accused family had three defenses: They never borrowed the pot. The pot already had a crack in it when received. They returned the pot completely unharmed. Perhaps it is unfair to assume this story is about global-warming deniers just because it centers on a cracked pot.

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The basic approach of the Bright Lines project

After a decade of brutal political trench warfare, the surreal debate in the U.S. on the reality of climate change is over. A Democratic Congress looking to put climate in play in 2008, serious buy-in for federal regulation from a band of corporate heavyweights, and a rash of climate conversions from the likes of Pat Robertson and Frank Luntz (author of the infamous strategy memo advising Bush administration operatives how to muddle the climate change debate) demonstrate that a significant and probably permanent shift in climate change political gravity has taken place within the last year. U.S. environmentalists have a …

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Maybe the Pentagon can persuade red-staters

The military -- which tends to insist on operating in a reality-based world, as a matter of self-preservation -- thinks global heating is a big threat. A bit from the story: Today, 11 retired senior generals issued a report drawing attention to the ability of climate change to act as a "threat multiplier" in unstable parts of the world. The Army's former chief of staff, Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, who is one of the authors, noted he had been "a little bit of a skeptic" when the study group began meeting in September. But after being briefed by top climate …

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Friedman in the NYT Magazine

What's red white and blue, and green all over? The cover of this week's New York Times Sunday Magazine. In "The Greening of Geopolitics," Thomas Friedman applies his trademark econo-politico-historical analysis to the state of the global environment, and he is nothing if not comprehensive. From China, Schwarzenegger, and Wal-Mart, to Islamic fundamentalism and oil prices, Friedman traces the connections. Enviros won't learn much about global warming they didn't already know; on the other hand, how greening America could ultimately result in democracy in Saudi Arabia and better schools in Qatar is a point not often made in activist circles. …

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In Washington state

Ooh, boy! It looks like the state of Washington is one step closer to having a sane climate policy. The state House of Representatives just passed a climate policy that looks like it's got some teeth: The measure, which passed 84-14 after a brief debate, commits Washington to shrink emissions to 1990's levels by 2020. By 2035, the measure is supposed to lower emissions to 25 percent below 1990's levels, and to 50 percent by 2050.The Senate already has approved a similar bill but is expected to adopt the House version and send it to Gov. Christine Gregoire to be …

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For shame!

This Monday, Newsweek will publish an op-ed by well-known climate-change contrarian Richard Lindzen, which concludes that global warming is nothing to worry about and may even be a good thing. "Why So Gloomy?" he wonders, and adds that "a warmer climate could be more beneficial than the one we have now." Nothing new here: Lindzen's been making the same points for years, despite evidence to the contrary, and despite the fact that he served on a prestigious panel chosen by the National Academy of Sciences that reported to the Bush administration that yes, temperatures are rising due to human activity. …

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Betting the heat

Here's an excerpt from a great article on global warming: In 2005, Annan offered to take Lindzen, the MIT meteorologist, up on his bet that global temperatures in 20 years will be cooler than they are now. However, no wager was ever settled on because Lindzen wanted odds of 50-to-1 in his favor. This meant that for a $10,000 bet, Annan would have to pay Lindzen the entire sum if temperatures dropped, but receive only $200 if they rose. "Richard Lindzen's words say that there is about a 50 percent chance of [global] cooling," Annan wrote about the bet. "His …

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They’ve got it, they shouldn’t be ashamed of using it

In a previous post, I argued that the public doesn't particularly need a sophisticated scientific understanding of climate change (or evolution, or stem cells) in order to make the right basic policy decisions. A rudimentary understanding, deliverable and understandable by a layman, is perfectly sufficient. We're warming the climate? It's gonna hurt us? Let's stop. Bada-bing, bada-boom. Given this, and given the fact that such rudimentary explanations of the science are ubiquitous, the obvious question is: why does the public persist in believe in goofy things, and supporting goofy policy? The assumption of many scientists is: the public needs more …

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Alabama’s Bankhead forest next?

Until today I was ignorant of the spread of this nasty sort of mining. Its impact is well documented in the antelope and sage grouse country of the intermountain West, leaving a trail of ruined land and poisoned wells. But companies are also drilling and fracturing this stuff out of the ground in the East, too. Some communities have succeeded in beating it back, like in northern New Mexico, where the very diverse and effective Coalition for the Valle Vidal recently prevailed, but most other places are not so fortunate. And now it's making advances in places like Maryland, Kentucky, …

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Not as simple as it seems

Before any Grist readers write off this article in the Economist, read it through and get to the conclusions at the bottom. They might surprise you. They also contain another lesson not mentioned in the article: we need to value comprehensive ecosystem services from forests, not just any single dimension.

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