Climate & Energy

Our defining moment

The next president needs to move with speed and clear vision on mitigating climate change

This post is by ClimateProgress guest blogger Bill Becker, Executive Director of the Presidential Climate Action Project. Rajendra Pachuari. As I mentioned in a previous post, many of my colleagues in climate-action circles are delighted at the detailed commitments the presidential candidates in the Democratic field are making around global warming. It seems ungrateful to ask them for more. But ask we must. We need to know what they'll do to act quickly. And we need to hear their unifying vision for the post-carbon world. On speed: We've all read Jim Hansen's warning that the international community must take significant action within a decade if we wish to avoid the most dangerous consequences of global warming. Now the head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has moved up the deadline. In announcing the IPCC's final report on Nov. 16, Rajendra Pachuari warned, "If there's no action before 2012, that's too late. What we do in the next two to three years will determine our future. This is the defining moment."

Cheaper to power Nevada with renewables than coal, says consultancy

Nevada will end up with costlier power if it goes ahead with plans to build three new coal plants instead of relying on renewables, says a study from an independent economic consultancy. Higher construction costs and an inevitable tax on emissions will drive up costs of the black rock in the not-so-long run, according to ECONorthwest. The conclusions will surely get the thumbs up from downwind Utah residents, who are petitioning to protest one of Nevada’s planned plants.

Global warming and the Holocaust

Is the analogy between climate change and Hitler’s atrocities appropriate?

Andy Revkin has an interesting post on Dot Earth about global warming and Holocaust analogies. On Oct. 22, climate scientist James Hansen testified before the utilities board in his home state of Iowa. He said, among 59 pages of other stuff, this: If we cannot stop the building of more coal-fired power plants, those coal trains will be death trains — no less gruesome than if they were boxcars headed to crematoria, loaded with uncountable irreplaceable species. Hansen was subsequently scolded by Kraig Naasz, president of the National Mining Association, and Kenneth Jacobson, deputy national director of the Anti-Defamation League. …

Palm oil may be certified sustainable, some greens skeptical

Hoping to quell criticism from biofuel bashers, palm-oil producers have drawn up criteria for certifying their product as sustainable. It’s a nice idea, but green group Friends of the Earth has threatened to withdraw its support of the standards, saying that Malaysia and Indonesia — which together produce nearly 85 percent of the world’s palm oil — are using the voluntary initiative as an excuse to keep from legislating against rainforest-pillaging palm plantations.

The cash nexus

Is there really so much money in environmental devastation that it can’t be stopped?

In the Nov. 12 New Yorker, Elizabeth Kolbert published an article (unavailable online; abstract here) typical of her style: spare, restrained, vivid, cogent, devastating. The topic was Canada’s tar sands, now being profitably exploited by the major oil companies: Shell, Conoco-Phillips, Chevron, and ExxonMobil. And they’ve only just begun. According to Kolbert, the oil majors intend to invest more than $75 billion over the next five years in building infrastructure to transform a little bit of Canada into fuel for our cars. "Thanks in large part to what’s happening in the tar sands," Kolbert reports, "Canada has become America’s No. …

Response to Jeremy Carl, part one

Developing nations will not remain immune to the need for sustainable development

I want to thank Jeremy Carl of Stanford’s Program on Energy and Sustainable Development for dropping by and making the case for coal — or rather, the case for holding our nose, accepting that coal’s growth is inevitable, and working to make it cleaner (Jeremy’s posts are here and here). I hope the conversation will be ongoing. As I see it, the core case has still not been made. Lemme try to clarify what I see as The Coal Question and the range of answers on offer. Jeremy is absolutely right that the question is ultimately about China and India. …

Leaving Las Vegas

What’s the ecological footprint of the gambling industry?

I won't explain how it came to pass that -- only two days after a trip to NYC to present Greenhouse Development Rights at a meeting of the UN's Committee for Development Policy -- I went to Las Vegas. I will say that that my wife, an Aussie, wanted to see the place, that we have a 11-year-old boy, and that the Hilton contains an installation honoring the United Federation of Planets. (The flag of which has a notable similarity to the one displayed in the UN's own, rather more dilapidated, halls.) Some quick thoughts:

Men again?

A study on gender equality as a prerequisite for sustainable development — debunked!

Lord knows we men are to blame for most things -- but global warming? Yes -- according to a major new report (PDF) by Gerd Johnsson-Latham for the Environment Advisory Council of the Environment Ministry of ... wait for it ... Sweden. The report's focus: What we know about the extent to which women globally live in a more sustainable way than men, leave a smaller ecological footprint and cause less climate change. Ouch! Don't look at me -- I telecommute; my wife takes the car. If gender equality is in fact a prerequisite for sustainable development, it's definitely be time to buy property on high ground. Fortunately, the theory is debunked by a best-selling nonfiction book: Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. This is fatal to Gerd's theory. After all, which of those two planets is cold -- and which is "a 900-degree inferno" with a "runaway greenhouse effect," to quote a 2002 NASA study? The defense rests.

Australia elects prime minister who wants to ratify Kyoto Protocol

The Kyoto Protocol climate treaty may soon welcome a new industrialized country to the fold. Australia’s newly elected prime minister, Kevin Rudd, has announced he will act in the next few weeks on a campaign promise to have Australia ratify the Kyoto Protocol, which would make the United States the only industrialized country in the world not to agree to making mandatory reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions under the treaty. Showing just how eager the new prime minister is to get busy reducing greenhouse gases, Rudd met with government officials about ratifying Kyoto the day after his decisive electoral victory over …

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