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Climate & Energy

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When is it necessary, and what are the alternatives?

Peter Madden, chief executive of Forum for the Future, writes a monthly column for Gristmill on sustainability in the U.K. and Europe. The Bishop of London recently proclaimed that flying on holiday is a sin, a view that seems increasingly to be shared by greens in the U.K. Our environment minister, David Miliband, castigated Prince Charles for flying to America to receive an award, suggesting that he should have collected it via video-link. Mayer Hillman, author of How We Can Save the Planet and one of the more rigorous of our green thinkers, wants us to "drastically reduce or stop …

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AAAS the World Turns

Leading science organization takes a stand on climate change For the first time, the influential American Association for the Advancement of Science has weighed in on climate change. The verdict: it's bad. "The scientific evidence is clear," says a statement issued this weekend by the association, which publishes the journal Science. "Global climate change caused by human activities is occurring now and it is a growing threat to society." Pointing to retreating glaciers, rising sea levels, extreme weather, and unusually high atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, the 159-year-old society -- made up of 262 affiliated groups -- called for stronger …

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Premature Surrenderation

Fighting the new defeatism on climate change In Beltway media circles, among pundits who nod at one another with furrowed brows on cable TV, a new consensus is congealing: global warming is real, but there's not much we can do about it, since efforts to substantially reduce emissions would destroy the world economy. These bed-wetters are waving the white flag in a country that once decided to send a guy to the moon just because it looked difficult. Two reports out recently counter the new defeatism, describing a road to slashed emissions and a growing economy. But will anyone listen? …

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A new essay from the man

Tom Engelhardt of the indispensable Tom's Dispatch received permission from the editors of the New York Review of Books to reprint an essay by Bill McKibben that appears in the current issue. He passed that permission along to me. Thanks to Tom, the editors at NYRB, and of course Bill for his tireless advocacy. ----- Warning on Warming By Bill McKibben [This piece, which appears in the March 15, 2007 issue of The New York Review of Books is posted here with the kind permission of the editors of that magazine.] When the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued …

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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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