Climate & Energy

Bad combo

Cheap coal and $100 oil

Amid vague talk of how $100/barrel oil might represent a kind of sea change, inspiring corporations and individuals to lower their carbon footprints, the smart money is betting on another direction: the burning of more …

For every 1 degree Celsius globe warms, some 21,000 people could die, says study

For every 1 degree Celsius of anthropogenic global warming, some 21,000 people worldwide could die, including more than 1,000 in the U.S., says a new study in Geophysical Research Letters. According to computer modeling by …

Shorter winters weaken forest carbon sinks

New study says trees are absorbing less CO2 than predicted

Forests have gained a lot of attention in the climate change conversation because of their ability to suck carbon out of the atmosphere. Individuals can buy "reforestation" offsets on the internet. There's talk of including credits for carbon stored in trees and wood products as part of many proposed cap-and-trade systems. Cities and businesses are even planting trees as part of their efforts to slow climate change. But forest ecosystems are, by their nature, unpredictable. And new research shows carbon sinks are weaker than predicted. There's no doubt that forests, and their tremendous ability to store carbon, can play a role in protecting the climate. But we have to be cautious about that role. Forest ecosystems are, by their nature, unpredictable -- - there's simply no way to know how much carbon a forest will store over the long haul. Worse, climate change itself magnifies those uncertainties. If a warmer climate makes forest fires more frequent -- as some people believe is possible -- then a lot of "offsets" will simply go up in smoke. Or consider BC's devastating pine beetle infestation -- an example of how ecosystem disruption can fell more trees than any chainsaw. And there's troubling news today that makes us more cautious than ever: A new global study by researchers at the University of Helsinki shows that trees are absorbing less CO2 than predicted, as the world warms and vegetation patterns shift.

For reals?

Toshiba said to have developed mini nuclear reactor

Says Next Energy News: Toshiba has developed a new class of micro size Nuclear Reactors that is designed to power individual apartment buildings or city blocks. The new reactor, which is only 20 feet by …

California stats say state emissions-reduction plan far more effective than federal law

When the U.S. EPA denied California the right to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions from vehicles, the agency reasoned that the just-passed energy bill’s boost to national fuel-economy standards would be stronger emissions-reduction policy than the state’s …

Why grandfathering sucks

More on cap-and-trade systems

Here's a clear demonstration of why, in a cap-and-trade system, grandfathering emissions rights to historic polluters is a terrible idea: The UK's biggest polluters will reap a windfall of at least £6bn from rising power prices and the soaring value of carbon under the new European carbon trading scheme ... Critics argue ... that the scheme, under which nearly all allowances are granted free of charge rather than having to be bought by big polluters, has created a distorted market in which the worst offenders will enjoy bumper profits while incurring no extra underlying cost for producing greenhouse gases. That's just about right: handing out pollution rights for free, as the European emissions trading system did, creates the potential for massive, unearned windfall profits. Permits will have a market value -- someone will want to buy them. So when we hand out emissions permits at no cost, we're essentially handing out free money. There may be a few exceptions to this rule: a few economic sectors where free allocation won't lead to windfall profits. But they're the exceptions. The rule (as demonstrated in Europe) is that grandfathering is great for polluters, and bad for consumers. So maybe that's why lots of big oil and coal companies are so supportive of grandfathering ...

<em>The Ecologist</em> dishes it up

Climate refugees and Wi-Fi pollution

The Ecologist is such a great magazine. But I'm sorry that they don't make any of their content freely available online for me to link to here, because the Dec/Jan issue has some really important reading. For one, the world's first (human) climate refugees are about to lose their islands (in the Sunderbans Delta, which straddles the border of India and Bangladesh and is the world's largest mangrove forest, due to increased flows of water from melting glaciers in the Ganges headwaters). There's also a meaty discussion about the possible negative health effects of Wi-Fi. Whether or not Wi-Fi microwaves actually cause headaches, sleep disturbance, depression, memory loss, and worse, as some studies claim, it is pretty remarkable -- according to a physicist interviewed for the piece -- that this technology could come to market and become ubiquitous without having to undergo safety trials or scrutiny.

With oil prices rising, Asia turns to coal

You may have heard that oil prices are flirting with $100 a barrel; what’s an oil-dependent, energy-hungry globe to do? In Asia, home to a third of the world’s proven coal reserves, the answer seems …

The year ahead

What will it take to make 2008 great?

The following guest post is by Rep. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.), originally published on Climate Progress. He is the co-author of Apollo's Fire: Igniting America's Clean Energy Economy. ----- Now that our New Year's Eve party hats are put away, it's time to look to the next year in the battle against global warming. In the year 2007, some good things did indeed happen on this front. Measures significantly improving car mileage standards and promoting the growth of renewable fuels were signed into law. But if 2007 was a year that could be considered in some ways good, then 2008 needs to be a year that will be great. Nothing else will do. The cataclysms of one million square miles of ice melting in the Arctic, a several-fold increase in the rate of melting tundra, and the acceleration of melting in Greenland, foretell possible feedback mechanisms that demand a faster and more aggressive clean energy revolution than we even envisioned a year ago. Whatever we thought necessary on New Year's Day 2007 needs to be doubled in 2008. So what will it take to make '08 great? Three things will do the trick.