Climate & Energy

Climate change and flooded freeways

Climate disruption comes home to the Northwest

In the late 1990s, after pineapple express storms caused severe flooding and deadly mudslides across the Northwest, National Climatic Data Center Chief Scientist Thomas Karl said the storms were "an example of the type of weather patterns that would be expected to become more frequent and yield an increase in precipitation extremes as the climate continues to warm." Welcome to the future. The Northwest was fire-hosed again in recent days, flooding communities and leaving them in the dark throughout western Washington state, while cutting I-5 from Portland to Seattle, and rail service to boot. As of today, a lengthy detour to the east or an air flight remain the options for travel between the two major U.S. Northwest cities. Costs are placed at $4 million per day, and that is before expensive repairs to the I-5 roadbed are taken into account. The connection of global warming to increased storms and rainfall is as easy to make as the connection of steam rising from a pot of water to the stove flame beneath -- Heat causes evaporation. Global warming is heating the oceans, and the steamy, moist air rising from ocean surfaces is rocket fuel for storms. A warmer atmosphere also holds moisture better. The line of clouds pointing from the tropical Pacific to the Northwest that show up on the weather report satellite photos are the physical illustration of these phenomena. Of course, the scientific caveat is that no one weather event conclusively demonstrates global warming. The point here is that global warming loads the dice for more frequent and intense storms such as the Northwest has seen in recent days. When rainfall in the rain city of Seattle hits the second greatest one-day level in recorded history, and the record was set only in 2003, it provides a very suggestive indicator.

Ireland will phase out incandescent light bulbs

So Australia wants to phase out incandescent light bulbs by 2010? Ireland plans to do it by as early as January 2009. Anybody wanna try to top that?

Me, in the Guardian, on the energy bill

I have a new piece up on the Guardian‘s Comment Is Free opinion site, running down the latest action on the energy bill and What It All Means. Check it out.

California declares emissions-reduction target, requires industry to track emissions

As California’s landmark global-warming law requires the state to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, the state Air Resources Board has determined just what that goal will be: 427 million metric tons of …

Bartlett opposes energy bill over RFS

I’m a fairly enthusiastic supporter of the energy bill that just left the House, but I am painfully aware that the Renewable Fuel Standard, which would mandate (insofar as one can mandate ponies) 36 billion …

Cap dunce

A carbon tax isn’t the only solution

At least someone gets it: All three of the leading Democratic candidates have proposed cap-and-trade plans that auction 100% of their CO2 permits. This is, economically speaking, the same thing as a carbon tax. The context: New York Times columnist Tom Friedman is complaining that no major presidential candidate has proposed a carbon tax -- which he takes as evidence that nobody has had the guts to take a stand in favor of policies that would "trigger a truly transformational shift in America away from fossil fuels." But as uber-blogger Kevin Drum points out, this is simply rubbish.

What does climate change look like?

Northwest flooding gives some clues

If you live in the Pacific Northwest, it looks like the last few days, according to this report in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. In pictures, it looks like this and this.

And now a word from their sponsors

Industry groups lobby against climate legislation

If you want to get some sense of what Lieberman-Warner — or any piece of climate legislation — is in for when it hits the floor of the Senate, have a look at what its …

Prius smackdown, round two

High gas prices make hybrids look even better

A couple of years ago, I ran some numbers trying to figure out which was the better buy for the planet -- a biodiesel Jetta or a hybrid Prius. And I came to the tentative, but perhaps counterintuitive, conclusion that the best buy was ... wait for it ... a Toyota Corolla. The Corolla, you see, was thousands of dollars cheaper than the Prius (the runner-up), even after I accounted for all the savings on gas from driving a fuel-miser. And if you were a green-minded consumer -- someone whose top priority was reducing climate-warming emissions, say -- you could probably put those thousands to better use somewhere else. Depending on the circumstances, I figured that lots of other investments -- power-sipping appliances, say, or a furnace upgrade, or home insulation, or even donations to a worthy cause -- might all count as "better buys" than a brand-new Prius. But with recent gas-price spikes, I wondered if my earlier calculations were still holding true. And I've got to admit it: if you're in the market for a new car, a Prius is looking better and better all the time.

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