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Navajo protest third coal-fired plant on reservation land

Members of the Navajo Nation and their supporters have been blockading the site of a proposed coal-fired power plant in northwestern New Mexico for more than a week now, hoping to halt construction of what they believe will be a social and ecological disaster. If completed, the Desert Rock Power Plant will cover 600 acres in the largest American Indian reservation in the nation, and it will be the third coal-fired plant on Navajo land. The protesters have been camped at the site since Dec. 12, and are demanding that officials show them the permits required to begin survey work …

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Let’s not fetishize size

Many environmentalists are reverse size queens -- "small is beautiful." When Schumacher wrote the book of that title, he was responding to a real tendency to ignore diseconomies of scale -- a tendency that still exists. Up to a certain point, both organizations and physical plants produce more output for each unit of input as they grown in size. Past that point, costs of gigantism kick in, and efficiency begins to fall instead of rising. But Schumacher assumed that this point always occurs at small or medium sizes. In fact, there are many cases in which you get economies of …

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Discuss

People talk about the "politicization" of science all the time, usually in the form of an accusation designed to paint an opponent as biased or corrupt. Let's take a moment to think about the term and what it means. Science is a multi-layered, collective, and impersonal process consisting of three parts: individual scientists working under the scientific method, the results of the individual scientists undergo peer-review and are published for the community to evaluate, and important claims are then re-tested in the "crucible of science" -- they are either reproduced by independent scientific groups or have their implications tested to …

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‘Natural emissions dwarf human emissions’–But emissions are only one side of the equation

(Part of the How to Talk to a Global Warming Skeptic guide) Objection: According to the IPCC, 150 billion tonnes of carbon go into the atmosphere from natural processes every year. This is almost 30 times the amount of carbon humans emit. What difference can we make? Answer: It's true that natural fluxes in the carbon cycle are much larger than anthropogenic emissions. But for roughly the last 10,000 years, until the industrial revolution, every gigatonne of carbon going into the atmosphere was balanced by one coming out. What humans have done is alter one side of this cycle. We …

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‘Climate is always changing’–That doesn’t mean it isn’t different today

(Part of the How to Talk to a Global Warming Skeptic guide) Objection: Climate has always changed. Why are we worried now, and why does it have to be humans' fault? Answer: Yes, climate has varied in the past, for many different reasons, some better understood than others. Present-day climate change is well understood, and different. Noting that something happened before without humans does not demonstrate that humans are not causing it today. For example, we see in ice core records from Antarctica and Greenland that the world cycled in and out of glacial periods over 120Kyr cycles. That climate …

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‘The null hypothesis says warming is natural’–An inappropriate test, and one that would fail anyway

(Part of the How to Talk to a Global Warming Skeptic guide) Objection: Natural variability is the null hypothesis; there must be compelling evidence of an anthropogenic CO2 warming effect before we take it seriously. Answer: The null hypothesis is a statistical test, and might be a reasonable approach if we were looking only for statistical correlation between increasing CO2 and increasing temperature. But we're not -- there are known mechanisms involved whose effects can be predicted and measured. These effects are the result of simple laws of physics, even if their interactions are quite complex. But putting aside inappropriate …

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John Dingell talks to Grist about climate change, fuel economy, and the 110th Congress

Meet the man who may determine the fate of climate policy in the next two years: Rep. John Dingell. The formidable Democrat from Michigan, now 80, has served 51 years in the House of Representatives -- the second-longest of any congressional career in history. During that time, he played a key role in pushing through many of America's cornerstone environmental laws, including the Wilderness Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Air Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and the original Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) system that has defined America's automotive energy-efficiency strategy since …

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‘Volcanoes emit more CO2 than humans’–Not even close …

(Part of the How to Talk to a Global Warming Skeptic guide) Objection: One decent-sized volcanic eruption puts more CO2 in the atmosphere than a decade of human emissions. It's ridiculous to think reducing human CO2 emissions will have any effect. Answer: Not only is this false, it couldn't possibly be true given the CO2 record from any of the dozens of sampling stations around the globe. If it were true that individual volcanic eruptions dominated human emissions and were causing the rise in CO2 concentrations, then these CO2 records would be full of spikes -- one for each eruption. …

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‘Mars and Pluto are warming too’–No they aren’t — and what if they were?

(Part of the How to Talk to a Global Warming Skeptic guide) Objection: Global warming is happening on Mars and Pluto as well. Since there are no SUVs on Mars, CO2 can't be causing global warming. Answer: Warming on another planet would be an interesting coincidence, but it would not necessarily be driven by the same causes. The only relevant factor the earth and Mars share is the sun, so if the warming were real and related, that would be the logical place to look. As it happens, the sun is being watched and measured carefully back here on earth, …

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Congress gives parting nod to offshore drillers, but also to renewable-energy industries

Dark clouds on the horizon -- and drilling rigs too. Photo: iStockphoto The GOP-controlled 109th Congress went out with a bang -- that of drills hitting sea bottom. In the waning hours of the final legislative session earlier this month, Republican leaders pushed through a provision to open up 8.3 million acres on the outer continental shelf of the eastern Gulf of Mexico to oil and gas development. But, perhaps trying to avoid fossil-fuel deposits in their stockings, members of Congress also extended a number of tax incentives for renewable energy. All of these measures were wedged into the corpulent …