Climate & Energy

All's well that ends not completely horribly

Countries strike climate deal in Bali

Apparently they’ve reached some kind of agreement at Bali. Sounds like the last 24 hours have been a real white-knuckler: BALI, Indonesia (CNN) — The United States made a dramatic reversal Saturday, first rejecting and then accepting a compromise to set the stage for intense negotiations in the next two years aimed at reducing carbon dioxide emissions worldwide. The U.N. climate change conference in Bali was filled with emotion and cliff-hanging anticipation on Saturday, an extra day added because of a failure to reach agreement during the scheduled sessions. The final result was a global warming pact that provides for …

Growing pains

Why ecology explains growth, and economists don’t

Recently there have been a number of discussions concerning economic growth and global warming. Some have argued that the effort to prevent as much global warming as possible will incur unacceptable costs to the global economy in terms of growth. Others have argued that growth is causing global warming. I want to argue that neoclassical economics is badly designed to help with this debate. The two main problems, in my opinion, are that economics does not see the economy as being composed of a set of nonsubstitutable "life support" functions, to use Joshua Farley's phrase; and the neoclassical theory of economic growth is inadequate (PDF) for understanding how global warming (and most everything else) will effect growth. The problem of economic growth looms large in both the DICE model put forward by William Nordhaus, and the Stern Report, led Sir Nicholas Stern, because they both calculate the extent to which global warming and global warming mitigation will effect growth. In 1991, Stern opined that growth theory "has, however, been a popular topic for those involved in formal economic theory only for short periods, notably from the mid 1950s to the late 1960s." There is a good reason for this: neoclassical growth theory doesn't really explain economic growth.

Big Bali of trouble

It’s time to throw down on the home court

Post by Richard Graves and Erin Condit-Bergren, U.S. youth delegation. Nusa Dua, Bali. We have been sitting outside the closed conference rooms where delegates from around the world engage in the grueling process of working out an international climate policy, line by line. Campaigners, delegates, and journalists mill about, trading rumors and whispering strategy. Everyone has been working nonstop for two whole weeks, and it all has come down to this one long session. The milling crowd reflects nothing of the nuance of the international negotiations, which will determine the future of international climate change policy. Instead, the din reveals the clanking of glasses and the milling hubbub of various national representatives, sound and fury, signifying nothing. The air may be charged, but what exactly are we all waiting for? Everyone is as edgy and nervous as an expectant father banished from the maternity room, yet there will be no agreement born today. At the moment, all we hope for is a plan to negotiate another plan. Why on earth are we here at 2:00 a.m.? We know that in the end, despite all our efforts at the conference and over the last year, the White House delegates will ignore the will of the American people and even the plight of their own children. The sad truth is that while we have done so much over the last year and won so many victories, when we try to get our own government to represent us it is like we are the nagging conscience they have grown comfortable ignoring.

The United Nations and climate equity

U.N. creating small Adaptation Fund by going carbon neutral

The following essay is a guest post by Kari Manlove, fellows assistant at the Center for American Progress. ----- The IPCC has warned us that developing nations are poised to bear the most dramatic effects of global warming, and so far we (the world) have done practically nothing to counter or prevent that fact. But the U.N. is trying. This week in Bali, the U.N. announced that it will go carbon neutral by offsetting the operations of over 20 agencies, including the office of Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. With the money collected, the U.N. will invest in an Adaptation Fund to help developing countries combat the consequences of climate change in coming decades. At its start, the fund will be worth no more than $50 million, but advocates hope that number will grow as we see increasing need for a fund of its type.

Walruses trampled as a result of climate change — no, seriously

Here’s a climate-change impact you don’t think about every day: trampled walruses. When walruses get tired of swimming, they clamber onto sea ice to rest. As ice is in increasingly short supply above the Arctic Circle, walruses are huddling on shore in extremely high numbers. And as the tusky animals are liable to stampede at the appearance of a polar bear, hunter, or low-flying airplane, more than 3,000 walruses are estimated to have been trampled to death by their panicky brethren this past year. Let that be a lesson to us all. Or something.

Points of no return ahead

James Hansen talks about what to do now that we’ve passed the ‘tipping point’

For the last few years, James Hansen, the man who first warned Congress of global warming in testimony last century, and the man considered NASA's "top scientist" on climate questions, has been giving talks around the country asking can we avoid dangerous climate change (PDF)? But Hansen has changed his tune: no longer does he ask if we have passed the tipping points of climate change. In a press conference Thursday morning at the American Geophysical Union, he stated that we have passed several tipping points. He said scientists now know that soon the Arctic will be ice-free in the summer, that huge ice sheets will melt, and the climactic zones will shift towards the poles of the earth, among other consequences.

It's debate time!

Climate skeptic steps up

We've finally found someone willing to debate me: Tim Ball, a retired professor from the University of Winnipeg. The debate will be online Monday, Dec. 17, at 2 p.m. CST. You will be able to listen online through BlogTalkRadio's service. In fact, you can even call in during the show (see the BlogTalkRadio web site for details). You can also post questions on SciGuy Eric Berger's website. I realize that these types of events don't do much to move the climate debate forward. I'm mainly doing this to test my own ability to answer the skeptic's questions and see how I fare in this type of activity. For those who miss it live, it will be archived in mp3 format.

Australians R Us!

No country in the world is more like the U.S., so where’s our national climate-change leader?

Kevin Rudd. Photo: AP / Rob Griffith Culturally, politically, and spiritually, what country in the world is most like the United States? It's not Canada and it's sure not Great Britain. The answer is Australia. Ask anyone who's been there. It just feels like America there, from the sprawling suburbs to the cars people drive, from the obsession with sports to their unit of currency: the Australian dollar. Add these factors too: both countries were British colonies, both wiped out indigenous peoples, both have big cities in the east and vast frontiers to the west, both have huge coal deposits and per capita greenhouse-gas emissions that lead most of the world, and, in the last several years, both have had conservative national governments that basically deny the reality of global warming. The Aussies R Us! So how, then, did Australia just complete a national election where the issue of climate change played a central role and may have determined the outcome? How did a country so steeped in America's brand of fierce self-reliance, consumerism, and fossil-fuel addiction throw out a "climate skeptic" prime minister and hand a landslide victory to a Labor candidate who talked persistently about ratifying Kyoto? And most important, if they can do it Down Under, is there still hope for America?

A little Al for the rest of us

Blogging from Al Gore’s speech in Bali

Post by Richard Graves, U.S. youth delegate and editor of It's Getting Hot in Here As I wrote this post, I was listening to Al Gore give his speech at the U.N. Climate Negotiations. It had been a long trip here, and despite the schedule and the heat I was still excited. As we sat in the audience, we spoke with Kevin Knobloch from UCS and watched Kelley trying to talk with U.S. representative Paula Dobriansky ... but we were all here to listen to Al Gore. I was surprised to hear him lead with a reference from the Holocaust, but it hit home. How can we ignore those who are the harbingers of the threat of climate change. People can't ignore stories of people like Claire Antrea, a young nun from Kiribati whose home is being flooded. These threats are coming for us, and the sense of urgency must come from the fact the science is changing so fast that none of us, even in the developed world, can assume we are safe. This is a powerful idea, and one that seems to be coming true.

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