Climate & Energy

Belief in free lunches, tooth fairy still strong

Once in a while a pundit will say something quite revealing without intending to do so. You'd think a newspaper in a state that was recently looking down the barrel of a 72 percent electric rate hike might have beamed onto the fact that power doesn't come from wishes, and often requires difficult choices:

Tampering with the science

Henry Waxman weighs in on Bush admin. efforts to suppress climate science

The House Oversight committee has released its official report (PDF) on White House efforts to interfere with climate change science, and its conclusions are ... well, totally predictable. To wit: The Committee's 16-month investigation reveals a systematic White House effort to censor climate scientists by controlling their access to the press and editing testimony to Congress. The White House was particularly active in stifling discussions of the link between increased hurricane intensity and global warming. The White House also sought to minimize the significance and certainty of climate change by extensively editing government climate change reports. Other actions taken by the White House involved editing EPA legal opinions and op-eds on climate change. The sheer volume and magnitude of chicanery, when laid out in nearly 30 pages of detail, betrays a remarkably fastidious program of misinformation. I suppose it's in the nature of things that many of the sub rosa efforts to tamper with the findings of real scientists would leak to the press and the Congress. After all, it's only Bush appointees who take an oath -- explicit or otherwise -- to uphold the president. The scientists who work in those appointees' agencies, on the other hand, were apparently pretty upset about all of this.

What are the most important elements in a climate bill?

On Lieberman-Warner, long-term emissions targets, and picking a trajectory

I’ve heard quite a bit of protest about the fact that the Lieberman-Warner climate bill’s long-term target — 70 percent emissions reductions by 2050 — is too weak. In particular, there was much outcry that Sanders’ amendment No. 4, which would have raised it from 70 percent to 80 percent, was rejected (and cries that Sanders was a sellout for voting the bill through anyway). This comes in the context of a larger debate about which of the four elements of climate policy are most important. They are: Short-term emissions targets Long-term emissions targets Allocation of pollution permits, which is, …

Should economics rule?

The only way to a soft landing is down

The only way to a soft landing is down. In a brief article on DeSmog by Emily Murgatroyd, a Cato Institute type, Jerry Taylor, is quoted as saying Scientists are in no position to intelligently guide public policy on climate change. Scientists can lay out scenarios, but it is up to economists to weigh the costs and benefits and many of them say the costs of cutting emissions are higher than the benefits. Can we consider this claim, or is it somehow protected by a taboo? Is one a Marxist or even a Stalinist for pointing out that economists are not, themselves, necessarily right about everything? Economists, meanwhile, claim to have the key to rationality. Their claim is based in their own definition of their field, which is about "how people collectively make decisions", but they proceed very quickly from there to the marketplace via a number of dubious assumptions. The marketplace is real enough, and the fact that it affects the decisions we make is inescapable, but that doesn't prove a claim that economics is uniquely placed to resolve our differences. A claim in more desperate need of challenging I cannot imagine -- yet on it goes, essentially unchallenged in circles of power.

'For this purpose, we will rise, and we will act'

Al Gore’s Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech

SPEECH BY AL GORE ON THE ACCEPTANCE OF THE NOBEL PEACE PRIZE DECEMBER 10, 2007 OSLO, NORWAY Your Majesties, Your Royal Highnesses, Honorable members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen. I have a purpose here today. It is a purpose I have tried to serve for many years. I have prayed that God would show me a way to accomplish it. Sometimes, without warning, the future knocks on our door with a precious and painful vision of what might be. One hundred and nineteen years ago, a wealthy inventor read his own obituary, mistakenly published years before his death. Wrongly believing the inventor had just died, a newspaper printed a harsh judgment of his life's work, unfairly labeling him "The Merchant of Death" because of his invention -- dynamite. Shaken by this condemnation, the inventor made a fateful choice to serve the cause of peace. Seven years later, Alfred Nobel created this prize and the others that bear his name. Seven years ago tomorrow, I read my own political obituary in a judgment that seemed to me harsh and mistaken -- if not premature. But that unwelcome verdict also brought a precious if painful gift: an opportunity to search for fresh new ways to serve my purpose. Unexpectedly, that quest has brought me here. Even though I fear my words cannot match this moment, I pray what I am feeling in my heart will be communicated clearly enough that those who hear me will say, "We must act." The distinguished scientists with whom it is the greatest honor of my life to share this award have laid before us a choice between two different futures -- a choice that to my ears echoes the words of an ancient prophet: "Life or death, blessings or curses. Therefore, choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live." We, the human species, are confronting a planetary emergency -- a threat to the survival of our civilization that is gathering ominous and destructive potential even as we gather here. But there is hopeful news as well: we have the ability to solve this crisis and avoid the worst -- though not all -- of its consequences, if we act boldly, decisively and quickly. However, despite a growing number of honorable exceptions, too many of the world's leaders are still best described in the words Winston Churchill applied to those who ignored Adolf Hitler's threat: "They go on in strange paradox, decided only to be undecided, resolved to be irresolute, adamant for drift, solid for fluidity, all powerful to be impotent."

What gets measured gets fixed

The first thing you have to do if you decide to reduce emissions to 1990 levels by a certain date is … figure out 1990 levels. That is not an easy or uncontroversial undertaking, and as usual, California is showing the rest of us how to do it.

Al Gore and IPCC awarded Nobel Peace Prize

Al Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change received their Nobel Peace Prizes this morning in Oslo, Norway. In his acceptance speech, Gore emphasized humanity’s role in the climate crisis, saying, “We are what is wrong, and we must make it right … We never intended to cause all this destruction, just as Alfred Nobel never intended that dynamite be used for waging war. He had hoped his invention would promote human progress. We shared that same worthy goal when we began burning massive quantities of coal, then oil and methane.” Gore called for a moratorium on coal-burning power …

Thousands of protesters in over 50 cities call for climate action, now

This weekend, thousands of people around the world protested for climate action in at least 50 cities, urging the governments meeting at the United Nations climate conference in Bali, Indonesia, to get serious about curbing climate change. An estimated 10,000 people protested in London, marching through the streets to rally outside the U.S. embassy, emphasizing their particular disdain for obstructionist U.S. climate policy. Others marched and rallied in Auckland, New Zealand; Athens, Greece; Berlin, Germany; Fairbanks, Alaska; Helsinki, Finland; Manila, Philippines; and more. Cyclists, skiers, and swimmers made appearances at various rallies, as did activists in the requisite polar-bear costume. …

Dear Prime Minister, Dear Chancellor

A letter from James Hansen pleads for action on coal-fired power plants

The following is a draft letter to UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, on the subject of proposed new coal-fired power plants. (A similar letter is in the works to German Chancellor Angela Merkel.) The author would appreciate feedback. ----- Dear Prime Minister Brown, Your leadership is needed on a matter concerning coal-fired power plants in your country, a matter with global ramifications, as I will clarify. For the sake of identification, I am a United States citizen, director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Adjunct Professor at the Columbia University Earth Institute. I write, however, as a private citizen, a resident of Kintnersville, Pennsylvania, on behalf of the planet and life on Earth, including all species. I recognize that you strongly support policies aimed at reducing the danger of global warming. Also Great Britain has been a leader in pressing for appropriate international actions. Yet there are plans for construction of new coal-fired power plants in Great Britain. Consummation of those plans would contribute to foreseeable adverse consequences of global warming. Conversely, a choice not to build could be a tipping point that seeds a transition that is needed to solve the global warming problem. Basic Fossil Fuel Facts The role of coal in global warming is clarified by a small number of well-documented facts. Figure 1 shows the fraction of fossil fuel carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions that remains in the air over time. One-third of the CO2 is still in the air after 100 years, and one-fifth is still in the air after 1000 years.