Climate & Energy

On the Ball: Ready for the Olympics?

It’s almost 2008, and Beijing’s air is still polluted

The city of Beijing has been striving to clear its air for the sake of the Olympic athletes who will descend upon the city this coming summer — but whether it will be able to pull off blue skies remains to be seen. Beijingers were warned to stay inside today, as pollution hit “as bad as it can get,” according to a spokesperson from the city’s Environmental Protection Bureau, who adds, “This is as bad as it has been all year.” The International Olympic Committee has warned organizers that it will reschedule athletic events if air quality is a threat …

The 'Inhofe 400': Busting the 'consensus busters'

Today: Thomas Ring

Recently, Senator James Inhofe published a list of 400 "prominent scientists" who have recently voiced significant objections mainstream climate science. In response to this list, I recently blogged that many of those listed lacked qualifications (see also here). I'm betting that Sen. Inhofe doesn't want you to actually read the list of skeptics, but just read the headline and accept their conclusion. Here at Grist, however, we don't do what the good senator wants us to do very often. So in the spirit of non-compliance, I'm going to institute a semi-regular series where I examine the qualifications of some of the "experts" on the Inhofe 400 list.

Italian village first host to outbreak of spreading tropical disease

Congratulations to Castiglione di Cervia, Italy, the first place in modern Europe to feel one dismal effect of a warming world: a tropical disease out of its natural habitat. This summer, more than 100 people in the village of 2,000 came down with fever, exhaustion, and terrible bone pain later found to be caused by chikungunya, a disease spread by warm-climate-lovin’ tiger mosquitoes. “Climate change creates conditions that make it easier for this mosquito to survive and it opens the door to diseases that didn’t exist here previously,” says Dr. Roberto Bertollini of the World Health Organization. “This is a …

European biodiesel: riding on empty?

Unlike the U.S., European governments are cutting back on agrofuel goodies

European biodiesel makers have entered a rough patch. The price for their main feedstock, rapeseed, has risen more than 50 percent since the beginning of the year. But the price of the final product, biodiesel, has plunged, because producers are churning out far more biodiesel than the market can absorb. Similar conditions hold sway among U.S. ethanol makers: heightened corn prices combined with an ethanol glut. But U.S. producers are celebrating while their European counterparts exude gloom. Why the difference? That’s an easy one. In the U.S., the government is playing Santa Claus, while in Europe, governments are responding to …

Green energy is the bottomless well

The poverty of fossil fuels becomes apparent

Martin Wolf makes what I think is a really bad argument in the Financial Times: We live in a positive-sum world economy and have done so for about two centuries. This, I believe, is why democracy has become a political norm, empires have largely vanished, legal slavery and serfdom have disappeared and measures of well-being have risen almost everywhere. What then do I mean by a positive-sum economy? It is one in which everybody can become better off. It is one in which real incomes per head are able to rise indefinitely ... This is why climate change and energy security are such geopolitically significant issues. For if there are limits to emissions, there may also be limits to growth. But if there are indeed limits to growth, the political underpinnings of our world fall apart. Intense distributional conflicts must then re-emerge -- indeed, they are already emerging -- within and among countries.

China releases energy white paper, plans to boost renewables R&D

China has released its first-ever white paper on energy policy, stating that the country “attaches great importance to environmental protections and prevention of global climate change” and plans to give “top priority to developing renewable energy” as a long-term pollution solution. That includes wind, solar, natural gas, and nuclear, as well as a continuation of the country’s controversial current emphasis on hydroelectric dams. That said, the report noted that China won’t be able to wean itself off of its massive coal consumption overnight, and reiterated that the country has no interest in putting strict limits on greenhouse-gas emissions. The report …

What I want for 2008

A plead for utility leadership on climate change

What I want most for 2008 is serious action on climate change -- not just in terms of policy, but in terms of action. Mathematically, this mandates serious and constructive engagement from the electric sector, which has thus far been not only absent, but hostile to any serious discussion of GHG reduction. Given their relevance (42% of US GHG emissions) and tremendous inefficiency, they are a source of much of my personal quixotic quest. But ultimately, they must engage -- and so far, they have not even come close. So in case we have any utility executives in the Gristiverse, here is the speech I'd like to hear from one of you in 2008:

Solar cheaper than coal and falling

New developments in solar power make ‘clean coal’ look even dumber

Let me be the last in the greenosphere to note that Nanosolar has shipped its first panels, and it’s no exaggeration to say that this moment will likely be seen as a historical turning point. For a taste of the breathless anticipation around Nanosolar, read "innovation of the year" over on PopSci (or this recent piece in the NYT). Unlike so many other hyped green tech dreamers, the company is not just talking and researching prototypes. They’re building factories. Once the factory they built in San Jose is up to full production capacity, it will be cranking out more solar …

Christmas Eve link dump

Plenty of reading to occupy you over the holidays

It’s been a hectic few months in the climate/energy world, so I’ve got a lot of leftover bits and pieces waiting for attention. As in … about 35 open tabs in my browser. The last thing I want when I get back from the holidays is a browser full of guilt, so I’m dumping ‘em. Also, I found a draft of a link post from several weeks ago that I forgot to put up. So what you get today is a Double Ultra Mega Link Dump. Posting will be light for a while, so I hope this tides you over. …

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