Climate & Energy

Online shopping better for the earth than going to the mall, says study

Online shopping is better for the planet than multiple trips to the mall, says a somewhat ill-timed study. (Start your online shopping today, spend $3,000,000 for shipping.) “Using several assumptions and data from several authoritative sources, we can reasonably estimate that nearly [500,000 metric tons] of carbon dioxide are kept out of the atmosphere by shopping online” during the holidays, says Jesse Miller of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. We would venture to say that patronizing walking-accessible local merchants might be the big winner here — by why do that when malls at holiday time are so much fun?

Inhofe's latest windmill

More bogus climate skepticism

Imagine my surprise upon reading a shocking entry on Sen. Inhofe's EPW blog: the scientific consensus on climate change is cracking! That blog provides a long list of names of people who disagree with the consensus, and I have no doubt that many on this list are indeed skeptics. The question is: does their opinion matter? Should you revise your views about climate change accordingly? Considering the source, I think we all know the answer to that. To understand why Inhofe's claims are fundamentally bogus, consider the following scenario: imagine a child is diagnosed with cancer. Who are his parents going to take him to in order to determine the best course of treatment? Most people would take the child to a specialist. Not just someone with a PhD in a technical subject, but an actual medical doctor. And not just any medical doctor, but someone who was a specialist in cancer. And not just any specialist in cancer, but someone who was a specialist in pediatric cancer. And, if possible, not just any pediatric oncologist, but someone who specialized in that particular type of cancer. Expertise matters. Not everyone's opinion is equally valid.

Who's the greenest of them all?

Vote for the most heroic eco-hero of 2007

Check out our nominations for the most ass-kicking hero of 2007, then vote at the bottom of this post. (And tell us who we missed.) Barbara Boxer. Sen. Boxer (D-Calif.) has been pushing for tough climate and energy legislation as chair of the Senate Environment Committee, and going head-to-head with James Inhofe (R-Okla.) on global warming. She's also trying to make Capitol Hill more energy efficient. Leonardo DiCaprio. This green-leaning actor shined a spotlight on the world's top environmental leaders in his eco-documentary The 11th Hour, plotted a reality TV series about green building, and topped Grist's list of green celebs. John Edwards. Edwards pushed other Democratic presidential contenders to go greener by coming out first with an aggressive climate plan and environmental platform. Al Gore. This climate crusader won a Nobel Peace Prize, starred in an Oscar-winning film, and, uh, was named first runner-up for Time magazine's Person of the Year. James Hansen. Hansen, the top climate scientist at NASA, has been outspoken and aggressive about the need to fight global warming. He's taken his share of hits, and punched right back. Van Jones. Jones has been everywhere this year fighting for environmental justice and promoting a green economy. Plus, he's a hottie. Angela Merkel. German Chancellor Merkel has made fighting climate change a top priority this year. She had hoped to advance her cause at the G8 summit this past summer; unfortunately, the U.S. got in the way. Nancy Pelosi. The House speaker doggedly pushed through an aggressive energy bill -- though the Senate neutered it before it got to Bush's desk. Pelosi has also kept up demands for action against climate change, called for green-collar jobs, and worked to green the Capitol -- even if she doesn't "carry a big stick." Kevin Rudd. Elected as Australia's prime minister in November 2007, Rudd followed through on his campaign promise to ratify the Kyoto Protocol on his first day in office, leaving the U.S. all by its lonesome. Arnold Schwarzenegger. The Governator continues to be California's most pumped-up environmental defender and ambassador. Watch out, Bush, cause he's pissed about the EPA's auto-emissions decision.

Disentangling the confusion of Bali

Tom Friedman is very confused about exactly what happened at Bali and why. So are M.I.T. science journalist fellows. So what are your chances of figuring it out? Well, they are a lot better if you read this excellent Bali debriefing by my friend Holmes Hummel (PDF), a Stanford Ph.D. and Congressional Science Fellow. One interesting point she makes: Some media coverage left the misimpression that the Bush team opposed language that would have committed Annex I (i.e., rich) countries to cutting greenhouse-gas emissions 25-40% below 1990 levels by 2020. But that isn't correct. The language they vehemently rejected merely said this:

Person of the Year

Bush beats Gore, again!

Until last week, this long-beloved annual tradition seemed to be a lock for one person -- Nobel laureate, itinerant educator, and media superstar Al Gore. Sadly, he only makes first runner-up this year. Like Time magazine, our Person of the Year is awarded to the person or group who "for better or for worse ... has done the most to influence the events of the year" in the climate arena. By single-handedly stopping any international action on climate at Bali, by stopping California from regulating tailpipe greenhouse gas emissions, by forcing Congress to drop almost all non-oil-related provisions to cut GHGs from the energy bill -- all in one week! -- one man proved his unchallenged high-impact misleadership on the issue of the century: Dick Cheney George Bush.

If fuel prices keep rising, liposuction will pay for itself

Boat aims to set speed record … powered by human fat

Here's a nice PR gimmick (and by nice, I mean totally disgusting): power your monster "eco-boat" with biodiesel made from human fat: You can also make biodiesel from tallow (animal fats), fish oil, seaweed and algae. In fact, in an extraordinary show of dedication to the project, the skipper, Pete Bethune, underwent liposuction, and the fat (all 100ml) was used to make a small amount of Biodiesel for Earthrace! I think this mostly shows an extraordinary dedication to clever marketing. Unfortunately for the earth, Bethune isn't all that chubby, so he enlisted a few "big, fat people" (his words) to squeeze out four gallons of biodiesel. All in, this represents about 0.06 percent of the fuel Bethune will need to set the "Round the World Speed Record by a Powerboat."