Climate & Energy

Bush swaps debt for nature

Costa Rica and Guatemala deals could point to common ground on climate crisis

The Bush administration, Costa Rica, Conservation International, and The Nature Conservancy will today announce a "debt-for-nature" swap that could herald something bigger in the future. The United States will write off $12.6 million in debt owed it by Costa Rica. In exchange, Costa Rica will protect some of the most valuable rainforest wildlife habitat in the world. Photo: obooble This follows the Bush administration's support for an even bigger swap with Guatemala. Of course, the sums involved and the area conserved are relatively puny compared to the global forest destruction caused by the Bush administration, especially through its support for tropically grown biofuels that require deforestation to be grown. But the Bush administration has always had two sides to its tropical forest policy. Although it's happy to help Cargill, ADM, and other agrigiants despoil the last remaining tropical forests, it's also expressed quiet backing for carbon ranching -- allowing polluters to get global warming credit for protecting forests instead of cleaning up pollution at their own facilities. They like it because saving carbon through protecting forests is generally a lot cheaper than cleaning up industrial pollution, and we should like it because that means we can keep a lot more carbon out of the atmosphere a lot quicker -- and save the forests, their wildlife, and their indigenous people at the same time. Of course, the Bush administration's quiet backing of this concept is completely worthless right now until the Bush administration backs strict, mandatory limits on greenhouse-gas pollution. Until they do, polluters will have no incentive to actually go ahead and protect those forests (or clean up their own pollution). But that support -- and today's forest conservation actions -- signals that forest conservation may provide some common ground between Democrats and the White House on stopping the climate crisis.

Notable quotable

“I’m interested in good policy. Kyoto, I thought, was bad policy.” – George W. Bush

Kill King Corn

Nature on ethanol

The editors at Nature discover that corn ethanol sucks: Biofuels are unlikely ever to be more than bit-players in the great task of weaning civilization from Earth’s coal-mine and oil-well teats. But they may yet have valuable niches — including some that allow them to serve some of the world’s poor, both as fuels for their own use and as exports. Provided, that is, that someone kills king corn.

An interview with Ron Paul about his presidential platform on energy and the environment

This is part of a series of interviews with presidential candidates produced jointly by Grist and Outside. Update: Ron Paul dropped out of the presidential race on June 12, 2008. Ron Paul. Photo: MyTwistedLens Enviros may roll their eyes at a candidate who dismisses the U.S. EPA as feckless and disposable, who believes all public lands should be privately owned, and whose remedy for an ailing planet is “a free-market system and a lot less government.” But Ron Paul, the quixotic libertarian U.S. rep from Texas, has a bigger cult following online than any other presidential candidate*, and has won …

Think you very much

Smart commentary on Gore’s Nobel

“Do I derange you?” Photo: Eric Neitzel/WireImage. Gore’s Nobel certainly brought out the mouthbreathers, but it also inspired some insightful commentary, some of it, mercifully, not about its effects on the presidential race. Most commentators did, however, find it difficult to avoid the Bush/Gore comparison. Here’s a sample of some of the better stuff I’ve found around the tubes. Paul Krugman on Gore Derangement Syndrome: What is it about Mr. Gore that drives right-wingers insane? Partly it’s a reaction to what happened in 2000, when the American people chose Mr. Gore but his opponent somehow ended up in the White …

It's getting hot in here

2007: A record-setting U.S. drought year

The National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) just issued its September report -- and the West and Southeast continue to scorch: About 43 percent of the contiguous U.S. fell in the moderate to extreme drought categories (based on the Palmer Drought Index) at the end of September. Here is the U.S. Drought Monitor (darker = drier): Here are some of the drought records being set around the country:

Just in time for Halloween

A scary pro-coal op-ed

It's said that when John Paul Jones' ship the Bonhomme Richard was in tatters, and captain of the British ship Serapis demanded his surrender, Jones cried out, "I have not yet begun to fight!" Upon which a petty officer said to himself, "There's always some dumb bastard who doesn't get the word." Both phrases live on in the Navy, the second one probably more relevant today. They both popped into my head when I read this scary coal-boosting op-ed piece from "up Nort'" in Minnesota.

From is to ought

Donald Brown on the ethical dimensions of climate change

Here’s a great 10-minute video on the ethical dimensions of climate change, by Donald Brown of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. Transcript here. (Thanks Calvin!)

A few opinion leaders do get global warming: Part II

E.O. Wilson, John Updike, and others on climate change

So we've seen much of the so-called intelligentsia ignore the global warming issue when asked by the Atlantic Monthly to consider the greatest challenges to the American idea. But not all of those asked were so short-sighted. You would expect the one environmentalist they asked, Edward O. Wilson (essay below) to get it right. But what about a Harvard constitutional law professor and his policy analyst/linguist wife? Lawrence H. Tribe and Carolyn K. Tribe: "Our greatest national challenge is to reverse the profoundly misguided course the last two presidential elections have set, while doing three things ... Third, cooperating with the international community before it is too late to restore the degraded health of our fragile planet and to protect the well-being of all its inhabitants." Who else got it right, or partially right? John Updike, Anna Deavere Smith, and even Stephen Breyer: John Updike: "The American idea, as I understand it, is to trust people to know their own minds and to act in their own enlightened self-interest, with a necessary respect for others ... The challenges ahead? A fury against liberal civilization by the world's poor, who have nothing to lose; a ruinous further depletion of the world's natural assets; a global warming that will change world climate and with it world geopolitics. The American idea, promulgated in a land of plenty, must prepare to sustain itself in a world of scarcity." My point exactly!

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