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Climate & Energy

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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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Wen, the Time Is Right

China agrees to participate in post-Kyoto negotiations China has agreed to participate in talks about a framework to fight global warming after the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012. Enviros danced a joyful jig, as the decision puts pressure on other, non-communicative nations (we're not naming names). China is a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol as a developing country, so its emissions aren't regulated under the current agreement, but by 2013 it may well be the world's top emitter of greenhouse gases. Premier Wen Jiabao made the announcement Wednesday along with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe; the two countries, which are …

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When insurers get serious about climate change, EVERYBODY gets serious about climate change

United Services Automobile Association (USAA), a "most-admired" company in many different rankings, has decided not to insure multiple homes in FL for one policyholder -- the first step in what will eventually be the revolt of the insurance companies against climate denialists (and against Florida legislators who want policyholders in other states to share the costs of insuring the damages from more intense and frequent hurricane strikes). This is great news (unless you own multiple Florida homes). The insurance industry has long been the sleeping giant of climate policy response. A lot of very red states have a lot to …

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Because shopping shouldn’t require matrix algebra

A lot of people ask why carbon permits or taxes should be levied as far upstream as possible. Why tax or auction permits for pumping or importing oil, rather than burning it? One obvious answer is: red tape. Regardless of where a tax is levied, you will pay. But if it is collected at the wellhead, you don't have to have a separate line on every gas receipt under the sales tax. Your local supermarket does not have to buy a major upgrade to it's software, slowing the line you are in as their system crashes, and the checkers switch …

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Al Gore slideshow tidbit

From Al's Journal: The trainees thus far have already given my slideshow more times collectively in the last six months -- 3,000 -- than I have been able to give it in 20 years.

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The public doesn’t really need all that much science

While I was on vacation, science journalist Chris Mooney and social scientist Matthew Nisbet came out with a short commentary in Science. Their thesis was that scientists should pay attention to how they frame their public communication, so as to most effectively reach their target audience. To me this is obvious to the point of banality. Nonetheless, it sparked a enormous blog storm. Nisbet rounds most of the reactions up here. The paper got lots of support, but also lots of the predictable harumphing from scientists who insist that framing amounts to spin and theater -- which is, of course, …