Climate & Energy

Paging Nordhaus and Shellenberger

Please, can we lay off the calls for sacrifice in the face of climate change?

This New York Times editorial says a bunch of stuff that I agree with, in a way that doesn't seem helpful at all: The overriding environmental issue of these times is the warming of the planet. The Democratic hopefuls in the 2008 campaign are fully engaged, calling for large -- if still unquantified -- national sacrifices and for a transformation in the way the country produces and uses energy. The term "sacrifice" gets bandied about a lot, mostly as a way to lend moral seriousness to arguments about climate change. Are you merely paying lip service to the issue, or are you willing to lay down the hard truths? Of course, no one really knows how much sacrifice will be required. Economic projections of the cost of dealing with climate change put the value somewhere around "not terribly much." But who knows? It's hard to make predictions, especially about the future. The bigger problem is that the term "sacrifice" misrepresents the process. Decarbonizing involves millions of consumers and businesses making billions of small consumption decisions in response to price signals, just as they do every day.

Automaker lawsuit against Rhode Island can go forward, and more vehicle news

If news of states suing the EPA merely whets your appetite for vehicle-emissions news, here’s more: Firstly, a federal judge has ruled that a lawsuit from automakers seeking to prevent Rhode Island from regulating vehicle emissions can go forward. Rhode Island officials are left wondering how their situation is different from a very similar lawsuit in Vermont, which was rejected by a federal judge in September. Secondly, DaimlerChrysler paid a record $30 million fine last year for failing to meet the U.S. government’s unambitious fuel-efficiency standards. Thirdly, three German cities, including the capital Berlin, have kickstarted a program aimed at …

China, coal, and the U.S. economy

More evidence that we’re exporting massive carbon emissions

Last month, President Bush signed into law an energy bill most remarkable for its timidity with regard to climate change. According to sometime Gristmill contributor Peter Montague of Rachel’s Democracy & Health News, the 2007 Energy Act will reduce U.S. carbon emissions by just 4.7 percent by 2030 — clearly not nearly enough to avoid risking dire climate change. (Montague leans on this study (PDF) for his calculation.) Given that we’re quietly moving our most carbon-intensive industries to China, even that mind-numbingly modest reduction will surely prove a fraud. Consider the chemicals industry. As The Wall Street Journal put it …

Survey says ...

Two thirds of likely caucus voters in Iowa think conservation more important than coal

Iowa Interfaith Power & Light, the Iowa Farmers Union, and Plains Justice have just completed a survey (PDF) in advance of tomorrow's caucuses. Short version: Iowans think that we've squandered chances to do something meaningful about energy, and that it's time we started to do so before building new coal plants. The executive summary is below the fold, but it's worth having a look at the whole presentation.

California, 15 other states, and five nonprofits sue EPA over waiver decision

California has made good on its promise to sue the U.S. EPA over the agency’s refusal to allow the state to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions from vehicles, and 15 other states have made good on their promise to join in on the litigation. The swarm of states, along with five nonprofit groups, filed suit today in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. The presumed shared feeling of the group, as stated by California Attorney General Jerry Brown: “The denial letter was shocking in its incoherence and utter failure to provide legal justification for the administrator’s unprecedented action.”

Landowner hopes to mine mother lode of uranium in Virginia

A 200-acre plot of earth in Virginia is not the unassuming farmland it appears. It harbors what is thought to be the largest deposit of uranium in the U.S. — 110 million pounds of the stuff, worth almost $10 billion and able to supply every U.S. nuclear power plant for two years. Unfortunately for drooling nuclear boosters, Virginia banned uranium mining in 1982. Nonetheless, landowner Walter Coles recently got a state permit to drill 40 holes to examine the material, and is attempting to persuade the General Assembly to approve a $1 million independent study of whether the uranium can …

The 'Inhofe 400' skeptic of the day

Gwyn Prins and Steve Rayner on climate change

Today's members of the "Inhofe 400," Gwyn Prins and Steve Rayner, do appear to have expertise on climate change policy. Prins is the professor and director of the Mackinder Centre for the Study of Long Wave Events at the London School of Economics, while Rayner is professor and director of the James Martin Institute for Science and Civilization at the University of Oxford. As such, they are different from those that I have previously highlighted (here and here), who were true skeptics of human-induced climate change, but didn't have the credentials or credibility in the climate change arena to be considered "experts." So Prins and Rayner have credibility in their area of expertise, but are they actually skeptics? The first sentence of the executive summary of their report, "The Wrong Trousers," (PDF) says: We face a problem of anthropogenic climate change, but the Kyoto Protocol of 1997 has failed to tackle it. I would say that Prins and Rayner do not doubt the reality of human-induced climate change.

Japan leads G8 in 2008, will focus on climate change

A new year means a new country takes over leadership of the Group of Eight rich nations, and in 2008 it’s Japan. Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda has promised to make climate change a top priority, proposing a goal for G8 countries to cut emissions by 50 percent from 1990 levels by 2050. And while that may seem ambitious for a nation that just last month stood with the United States in opposition to specific reduction goals for a post-Kyoto treaty, the safe bet is on continued U.S. interference with specific emissions reduction goals at the G8 (see: last year), so …

The rising tide

Sea levels may rise five feet by 2100

A recent Nature Geoscience study, "High rates of sea-level rise during the last interglacial period," ($ubs. req'd) finds that sea levels could rise twice what the IPCC had project for 2100. This confirms what many scientists have recently warned (also see here), and it matches the conclusion of a study (PDF) earlier this year in Science. [As an aside, in one debate with a denier -- can't remember who, they all kind of merge together -- I was challenged: "Name one peer-reviewed study projecting sea-level rise this century beyond the IPCC." Well, now there are two from this year alone!] For the record, five feet (PDF) of sea level rise would submerge some 22,000 square miles of U.S. land just on the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts (farewell, southern Louisiana and Florida) -- and displace more than 100 million people worldwide. And, of course, sea levels would just keep rising some six inches a decade -- or, more likely, even faster next century than this century.

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