Climate & Energy

How will we feed ourselves?

What a fossil-fuel free agriculture might look like

At some point in the future, humanity will have to produce its food without the help of fossil fuels and without destroying the soil. In a well-researched and succinct new essay, "What will we eat as the oil runs out?", Richard Heinberg analyzes the main problems with the global agricultural system, and proposes a solution: a global organic food system. Heinberg lays out four major dilemmas of the current system: The direct impacts on agriculture of higher oil prices: increased costs for tractor fuel, agricultural chemicals, and the transport of farm inputs and outputs ... the increased demand for biofuels ... the impacts of climate change and extreme weather events caused by fuel-based greenhouse gas emissions...[and] the degradation or loss of basic natural resources (principally, topsoil and fresh water supplies) as a result of high rates, and unsustainable methods, of production stimulated by decades of cheap energy. He then goes into more detail concerning these four horsemen of the agricultural apocalypse, and shows how, even now, these crises are leading to a decrease in global food production. Later in this post I will propose a thought experiment solution, based on Heinberg's solution of a fossil fuel-free agriculture:

The youth are back and badder than ever

The real story at Bali

In 2005, at the U.N.'s Montreal Climate Negotiations, a ragtag but sizable delegation showed up at the conference, desperate to make sure that the world heard their call for climate action. The event proved to be a formative time for people involved in the youth climate movement, and many date its launch to that time. In a conference notable for acronyms and obscure policy jargon, the youth activism was like a breath of fresh air. While delegates bemoaned the lack of action in the United States, there was an outpouring of activism and creative organizing -- like the launch of It's Getting Hot in Here -- that made many of them think if the young people care so much in the U.S., maybe there is still hope to get them engaged. Well, the youth are back and badder than ever.

Belief vs. knowledge

WSJ launches Luddite attack on climate scientists and Al Gore

The bar for Wall Street Journal editorials, in the journalistic equivalent of limbo dancing, keeps dropping. In a piece titled "The Science of Gore's Nobel" (subs. req'd), Holman W. Jenkins Jr. of the WSJ editorial board manages to slander the media, Al Gore, the Nobel Committee, and all climate scientists -- without offering any facts to back up the attacks: The media will be tempted to blur the fact that his medal, which Mr. Gore will collect on Monday in Oslo, isn't for "science" ... Yet now one has been awarded for promoting belief in manmade global warming as a crisis. Why would the media blur the Nobel Peace Prize with a science prize when Gore isn't a scientist? They wouldn't, of course, but this imagined media blunder allows Jenkins -- a journalist -- to make climate change the subject of his piece.

House passes landmark energy bill; Senate up next

Today, by a 235-181 vote mostly along party lines, the U.S. House of Representatives passed an energy bill that represents a decisive break with decades of energy policy focused on fossil fuels. The bill, shepherded through the House via the tenacious arm-twisting and ass-kicking of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), would: raise auto fuel-economy standards for the first time in over 30 years, to 35 miles per gallon by 2020; establish a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) mandating that utilities produce 15 percent of their energy from renewables by 2020; establish a Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) that would call for 36 billion …

The 15 minute House vote on the Energy Bill …

… just started. Update shortly. UPDATE: It passed! The bill now goes to the Senate. Reid says he’ll hold a cloture vote on Saturday. The big question is whether Reid can get the bill through with the RPS and the tax provisions intact. It would be quite a feat if he did. UPDATE 2: Here is the final roll call: FINAL VOTE RESULTS FOR ROLL CALL 1140 H R 6 YEA-AND-NAY 6-Dec-2007 3:31 PM QUESTION: On Agreeing to the Senate Amendments with Amendments BILL TITLE: Creating Long-Term Energy Alternatives for the Nation Act Yeas Nays PRES NV Democratic 221 7 …

San Francisco mayor proposes city carbon tax

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom has announced that in November 2008 he will submit a carbon tax to voters for their approval. If it passes, it would be only the second such carbon tax in a U.S. city, the first was Boulder, Colo., last year. The draft plan would raise utility taxes for businesses but would be roughly balanced out by a small decrease in payroll taxes. The plan also aims to reward businesses that get their employees to take public transportation or otherwise eschew personal cars.