Climate & Energy

Offshore wind

This exciting story about offshore wind in Britain reminds me that I meant to link a while back to a fascinating post on offshore wind by Jerome Giullet, who works in the industry. At the bottom are links to a bunch of other posts he’s done on wind. As he says, "Wind is free, clean, indigenous, and available today." Go educate yourself.

Is the competence of CBS News overblown?

Presidential candidates answer dumb question about global warming

I have complained a number of times — even on CNN! — that the mainstream political press is ignoring the issue of global warming, particularly in the context of the presidential race. Well, it seems CBS News finally decided it was time to address the issue, as part of its "Primary Questions" series, which asks 10 questions of each of the candidates. What question did they choose? "Is the global warming threat overblown?" Oh. My. God. Will you please just kill me? Have you ever heard CBS ask, "Is the terrorist threat overblown?" "Is the Social Security solvency threat overblown?" …

It <em>is</em> easy being green

Michael Gelobter argues that the hair-shirtists need to give it a rest

Ask "how can we break our addiction to fossil fuels and stop global warming?" and climate, renewable energy, and peak oil advocates reply in unison: it's going to be hard. They do couch their warnings in beautifully written and, for the most part, evocative essays on the difficulty and loss involved in weaning ourselves from dinosaur fuel. They express significant melancholy for the (wayward?) ways of wanton energy use and thoughtless environmental destruction we leave behind. But underneath it is always the the hair-shirt: in the creed of those not motivated by greed (lefties), nothing worthwhile could ever be easy. There are two problems with the "anti-easy" argument: It's wrong, and it's bad political strategy.

Pity West Virginia

The backlash against coal has not made it to the halls of power in WV

There are some heartening recent stories from the land of Coal Backlash. Portland-based PacifiCorp is giving up on new coal plants entirely — not for environmental reasons but for economic ones. (Lesson: coal isn’t cheap.) Missouri is probably the most hostile state for climate activists. It ranks among the top five states for emitting CO2, its emissions are growing faster than any other state’s, 85% of its power comes from coal, it is 46th out of 50 state in terms of conservation programs, its citizens are generally poor and in dire need of jobs, and its entire political class is …

Al Gore is so wrong

There is no comparison between Chinese and American GHG emissions

Al Gore's Nobel Prize speech, as reported by the NY Times: ... he singled out the United States and China -- the world's largest emitters of carbon dioxide -- for failing to meet their obligations in mitigating emissions. They should "stop using each other's behavior as an excuse for stalemate," he said. Much as I love him, Gore's sentiment here is far too generous to the good ol' U.S. of A. There is simply no fair comparison with China. We're not equally responsible for the problem. Not even close.

Dealing with uncertain risks

Jim Manzi replies to Ryan Avent

The following is a guest essay from Jim Manzi, CEO of Applied Predictive Technologies (APT), an applied artificial intelligence software company. He writes occasionally for National Review and blogs at The American Scene. ----- Last week on this site Ryan Avent presented a thoughtful response to my recent article at The American Scene arguing against a carbon tax. Grist has graciously invited me to reply. As I understand it, Ryan had three basic criticisms of my logic: the impacts of global warming will be more messy, unpredictable, and heartbreaking than I let on, I don't understand the economic trade-offs that make a carbon tax an elegant solution to the problem, and the technology-focused approach to the problem I propose is insufficiently conservative. I'll try to address each of these in turn, all with a spirit of open-minded inquiry. The first objection highlights the fact that productive global warming debates almost always hinge crucially upon predictions of the future. Consider three generic types of predictions: deterministic ("If I let go of this pencil, it will fall"), probabilistic ("If I flip this coin, it has a 50% chance of coming up heads and a 50% chance of coming up tails"), and uncertain predictions, for which we can not specify a reliable distribution of probabilities ("There will be a military coup in Pakistan in 2008"). Economists will immediately recognize the distinction between probabilistic and uncertain forecasts as, in essence, Knight's classic distinction between risk and uncertainty. Strictly speaking, all predictions are uncertain, but as a practical matter we treat different predictions differently based on the observed reliability of the relevant predictive rules used to generate them. No serious person believes that even the physical science projections for climate sensitivity (i.e., how many degrees hotter the world will get if we increase atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration according to some emissions scenario), never mind our predictions for how fast the world economy will grow or the economic impact of various degrees of climate change, are deterministic. This is why climate modelers and integrated climate-economics modelers spend so much time developing probability distributions for various outcomes and combining possible outcomes via odds-weighting to develop expected outcomes. When we hear a modeling group say "the expected outcome is X," it doesn't mean they've assumed only the most likely scenario will occur; it does mean, however, they assume their distribution of probabilities is correct (not being idiots, of course they constantly work hard to try to test and improve this distribution of probabilities). For the moment, let's assume that predictions of global warming outcomes are probabilistic. I go into all this in my posts and articles in much greater detail, but if we take Nordhaus's DICE modeling group at Yale as a benchmark, we can make the following observations about global warming:

Greenland ice sheet is meeeelllting, it’s meeelllting!

The Greenland ice sheet is melting at an alarming rate! As in, faster than it has since satellite measurements began in 1979, and with 10 percent more melting in 2007 than in the previous record year of 2005. Allow researcher Konrad Steffen to put it into perspective for you: “The amount of ice lost by Greenland over the last year is the equivalent of two times all the ice in the Alps, or a layer of water more than one-half mile deep covering Washington D.C.” Yes, we think that qualifies as alarming.

The land down underwater

What happens to a woman without a country?

By Amanda McKenzie, national coordinator of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition. ----- Along with 10 other young Australians, I traveled to Bali to bring the voice of Australia's youth to the U.N. Climate Change Conference. We have been reminding world leaders that our future is threatened. However, my personal concerns about my future were eclipsed when a young woman named Claire from the small island nation of Kiribati stood up in front of 200 international youth and told her story. For Claire, climate change is more than a future concern. It is right here, right now. Youth from all over the world, including Australia, had come together to share their stories and successes in raising awareness and taking action on climate change in their home countries. Every participant was humbled by Claire, who offered her heartfelt thanks to all of us for our efforts. Her home, only two meters above sea level, is rapidly being inundated by the rising ocean. Two islands that make up Kiribati have already been submerged. Claire's island, home, culture, and future are all under imminent threat from climate change. It is likely that her entire nation will have to be evacuated in the near future. Where do you go when your country simply vanishes? Claire's voice, and the voices of the Pacific, are largely absent from the U.N. Climate Change Conference. These nations are small in terms of their size, population, wealth, and greenhouse-gas emissions. That's the irony: those who have contributed the least -- and benefited the least from the extraction and burning of fossil fuels -- will suffer first. Kiribati will be underwater before the bulk of the Australian population realizes that climate change is the most serious issue on the planet.

Notable quotable

“And we ought to declare that we will be free of energy consumption in this country within a decade, bold as that is.” – Mike Huckabee, Republican presidential candidate, 10 Dec. 2007 [UPDATE: It appears Huckabee was misquoted in an early draft of the transcript. His quote now reads, "And we ought to declare that we will be oil free of energy consumption in this country within a decade, bold as that is." That doesn't make a ton of sense either, but at least it's a little more clear what he's getting at. He wants to eliminate our use of …

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