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Climate & Energy

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Emissions trading: A mixed record, with plenty of failures

In arguments over carbon trading, both sides often assume that past emission trading schemes have been notably successful. But in practice, trading schemes have lowered emissions more slowly than rule-based methods, and have discouraged rather than encouraged innovation. Even in the area where emissions trading shows some success -- lowering gross compliance costs to industry -- net costs are probably higher than rule-based alternatives. Compare the success of the often-touted sulfur dioxide trading system the U.S., instituted in 1990, with the speed and quantity of reductions under rule-based systems during the same period. U.S. SO2 emissions dropped by 31% between …

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It’s seductive — and wrong

A new piece of conventional wisdom is rapidly congealing among mainstream pundits: global warming is happening, but there's nothing we can do about it. Might as well just batten down the hatches and hope for the best. You'll hear the same basic message from Fareed Zakaria, Washington Post columnist Robert Samuelson, Newsweek columnist George Will, and a number of other mandarins of center-right establishment opinion. Let's be clear: This proto-conventional wisdom is wrong. There's plenty we can do about global warming. What would it mean to do something serious about climate change? Scientists tell us that to stabilize atmospheric greenhouse …

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Does the Polar Bear Club Know About This?

Vast lakes discovered underneath Antarctic ice sheet Thrilling hairy men in Speedos everywhere, satellite-wielding scientists have mapped new lakes deep below Antarctica's legendary ice. The finds, they say, could help predict how the area will respond to climate change. According to research published online in the journal Science, the lakes, some of which span hundreds of square miles, cause parts of the massive ice sheet to change elevation as they fill and drain. Geologically speaking, the ice above the lakes is "really ripping along" as fast as 2.5 feet per day, said coauthor Robert Bindschadler of NASA's Goddard Space Flight …

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If It Weren’t for Those Meddling Kids

Legislators around the globe demand climate-change action This week, Canada's House of Commons voted 161 to 113 to force the Conservative government to stick to its Kyoto Protocol greenhouse-gas emissions targets and punish over-polluting industries. Since taking power in 2006, the Conservatives have continually claimed that Kyoto targets would be simply impossible to reach, dahling, so why even try? The new measure, likely to easily pass the Liberal-dominated Senate, is binding and gives the big guns 60 days to follow through. If the Conservatives do nothing, a Canuck catfight could ensue; opposition parties could take the feds to court or …

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More fun with analogies!

I commend everyone to this article by Ben Adler on American Prospect, which addresses a perpetually overlooked strategy to reduce oil use and combat global warming: With all the focus on ... "alternate energy programs," too many [politicians] are ignoring a long-existing technology that, unlike, say, ethanol, already has the power to radically reduce our oil consumption. I'm speaking, of course, of mass transit. This is a real problem. There are organized national constituencies for most environmental issues, but when it comes to public transit, there's nothing.

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Gore launches massive effort to combat climate change

Breaking news: Al Gore (along with Pharrell Williams, Cameron Diaz, and others) today officially launched Save Our Selves (SOS) - The Campaign for a Climate in Crisis. (Watch the live news conference here.) The campaign begins with concerts on seven continents -- including one broadcast from Antarctica (not sure how that will work or how, exactly, it's environmental). Live Earth will then continue as a multi-year effort led by Gore to fight global warming by raising awareness on a mass scale. SOS is designed to trigger a global movement to combat our climate crisis. It will reach people in every …

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I’m Rich, Beach

Oil lobbyist, former U.S. officials combat rumors of unethical real-estate deal We would never engage in idle speculation about the allegedly unethical relationship between a ConocoPhillips oil lobbyist, a former U.S. Interior top dog, and the Justice Department's freshly resigned lead eco-prosecutor. But the big boys would, and we consider it our duty to share. The big boys are wondering why these three bought a $980,000 beach house together, just a few months before the prosecutor signed decrees giving the oil company more time to pay clean-up fees and to meet pollution requirements at some of its refineries. "What exactly …

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Tune in Tomorrow

Leaders around the world leap into the climate-promise arena Today we bring you another edition of Leaders Making Big Climate Promises! In New Zealand, Prime Minister Helen Clark announced a goal to make her country the world's first carbon-neutral nation. Zowie! British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell says he'll set up a climate team to cut vehicle and coal-plant emissions and push B.C.ers to conserve. Zoinks! In the U.S., New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine (D) signed an executive order calling for an 80 percent cut in greenhouse-gas emissions by 2050, noting the "absence of leadership on the federal level." Ahem! And …

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Bed Bath & Behind

Ceres publishes list of top 10 industry laggards on climate change Which companies will be caught with their pants down when greenhouse-gas regulations hit? Environmental investment group Ceres has released a list of 10 U.S. corporations that shareholders say have failed to adequately plan for the climate-changed future. The list includes Wells Fargo, urged to reduce emissions from financial clients, and big-box retailer Bed Bath & Beyond, for being "unresponsive" to requests that it publicize its green goals. Listed for not investing in alternative-energy technologies were, unsurprisingly, ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, Massey Energy, and TXU Corp. The Ceres report coincided with investors …

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How a conservative think tank’s foray into climate policy stirred up a media hornet’s nest

A conservative think tank attempted to engage the debate over climate policy recently, only to see that attempt explode in its face. The tangled episode, with its combustible mix of sensationalist journalism, public outrage, and the threatened intervention of the federal government, is rich with lessons about the current state of climate politics -- lessons none of the participants seem inclined to learn. The brouhaha began on Feb. 2, when the U.K. newspaper The Guardian published an article by Ian Sample claiming that the Washington-based American Enterprise Institute was paying scientists $10,000 a piece to "undermine" the just-released report from …