Climate & Energy

At least 215 climate scientists sign declaration urging action on climate change

In a notable first, some 215 of the world’s top climate scientists from over 25 countries have signed a declaration directed at the leaders attending the United Nations climate conference in Bali, Indonesia, urging strong action against climate change. In a relatively toned-down document, the scientists said in their own way that climate change really, truly is an amazingly huge problem, so policymakers of the world, it’s time to do something about it already! “The amount of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere now far exceeds the natural range of the past 650,000 years, and it is rising very quickly due …

Supreme preemption

Medical device case could impact global warming debate

In last week's negotiations over the energy bill, one of the most significant victories for proponents of getting serious about global warming came when Speaker Nancy Pelosi stood up to yet another attempt to short-circuit efforts by over a dozen states to demand cleaner cars. The issue on which Pelosi convinced Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) and other auto industry allies to back down, known in legal circles as "preemption," has emerged as a lightning rod in global warming politics. The focus on preemption has only intensified in the wake of the Supreme Court's ruling this April in Mass v. EPA, recent developments in the states, and the current confused state of Supreme Court preemption law. Things could get better or worse depending how the Court disposes of a case that was argued on Tuesday. On its face, Riegel v. Medtronic, about liability for faulty medical devices, doesn't have anything to do with global warming. It could, however, be a turning point in preemption doctrine, and thus have a significant long-range impact on the global warming/federalism/politics mix. The Legal and Political Landscape My boss, Doug Kendall, noted the dynamic at stake back in May, in a Knight Ridder op-ed assessing the potential impact of Mass v. EPA:

The good and the bad

Why cap-and-trade is preferable to a carbon tax

The Washington Post ran an interesting op-ed in its Think Tank Town section last week, arguing for a carbon tax. The nut graph: The only effective way to begin reducing greenhouse gas emissions and slow global climate change is to make it more expensive to emit carbon dioxide. Unless businesses and consumers pay a price for carbon dioxide, neither will make the investments in technology and changes in energy use needed to dramatically reduce emissions. Rock on, Think Tankers. But that's just the start of the goodness. The authors -- two researchers from RAND Corporation -- also put forth a nifty idea about how to cushion the economic impacts of new taxes:

Obama expecting ‘serious conversation’ about ‘drastic steps’ on climate change

There was — see if this sounds familiar — almost nothing about climate or energy in the recent Democratic primary debate hosted by NPR. There was one intriguing tidbit at the end, however, triggered off this question from a listener: Mr. JAMES IRWIN: What do you think the toughest choice you have left to make is? Is it gay marriage, immigration, the war in Iraq? What haven’t you made up your mind on yet? And why haven’t you? Clinton, Gravel, Dodd, Edwards, and Kucinich gave fairly boring, wishy-washy answers. But Obama’s jumped out at me: SEN. OBAMA: The issue of …

Senate Environment Committee approves Lieberman-Warner climate bill

A climate bill with a mandatory cap on U.S. CO2 emissions cleared a significant hurdle yesterday. America’s Climate Security Act, cosponsored by Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and John Warner (R-Va.), was voted through by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee after an endurance-testing nine and a half hour hearing. It will now go to the floor of the Senate for what is likely to be a contentious debate and vote. The bill was neither considerably strengthened nor weakened during the nigh-endless hearing. Republicans — mainly Jolly Jim Inhofe (Okla.) and Gay Olde Larry Craig (Idaho) — introduced some 150 …

The Syllogism of Doom [dum dum duuum]

Why clean coal is so darn appealing

Andy Revkin has a great op-ed over on NYT, laying out our collective coal dilemma and the difficulty in communicating effectively about it. I’ve been pondering why clean coal — a climate solution that does not yet so much as, um, exist — has taken on such talismanic quality in energy discussions, like a crucifix that gets waved around to ward off ghouls. The root of the problem is what I shall take to calling the Syllogism of Doom (try to imagine ominous music, heavy on timpani). It goes: 1. If we (that is, humanity) increase our use of coal, …