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Adaptation redux

Roger Pielke Jr. has an overheated post up today wondering why I don't care about the suffering of "millions, perhaps billions" of people around the world adversely affected by climate. Oy. I hesitate to reply, but here goes. People, mainly poor people -- in the U.S., but far more so in developing countries -- are increasingly vulnerable to severe weather: floods, droughts, hurricanes, etc. The reasons have mainly to do with growing population, bad land-use decisions, economic dislocation, oligarchic greed, and other socioeconomic forces. Global warming plays some role at the margins, increasing the severity of the weather, but for …

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Champagne vineyards threatened by radioactive contamination

Global warming isn't the only thing threatening wine. In France, groundwater less than 10 km from the famous Champagne vineyards has tested positive for radioactive contamination, caused by a nearby leaking nuclear waste dump: "We have been told for decades that nuclear dumpsites will not leak and that the best standards are being applied. In reality the dumpsite in Normandy is a disaster, and radioactivity is already leaking from the dumpsite in Champagne," said Shaun Burnie nuclear campaigner at Greenpeace International. "The authorities know they have a problem in Champagne already, with mistakes in the design. This is only the …

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And the Sand Played On

World's deserts will become more desert-y, says U.N. Happy World Environment Day -- we got you some bad news! As climate change progresses, desert temperatures will rise up to 12.6 degrees F by the end of the century; rainfall in most deserts will decline by up to 20 percent; water will become scant, or too salty to drink or use for crops. So warns a chipper new United Nations report, anyway. These changes could endanger the globe's 500 million desert-dwellers and a variety of rare animals, including our new favorite, the Asian houbara bustard. Desert regions account for nearly a …

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Wining and Declining

Global warming screwing up wine country Bad news for oenophiles: Global warming is messing with wine country. Wine grapes are highly temperature-sensitive, and if the globe gets much hotter (which smart folks say it will), famed wine-producing regions like France's Burgundy and California's Napa Valley may lose optimum climate for their grape varieties. Already, warmer temperatures in southern Spain are driving grape growers to shade vineyards, develop heat-resistant grapes, and in some cases, move to the mountains. Climate change could reduce the world's viable grape-growing regions by nearly 80 percent by the end of the century. Of course, other regions …

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Adaptation and political context

The U.S. should be doing more to prepare for changes in the climate that are already inevitable. As many folks have pointed out, even if we completely stopped emitting CO2 tomorrow, the gases already in the atmosphere will yield climate weirdness 30 to 40 years from now. Adaptation -- the term of art for these sorts of adjustments -- is necessary. And it probably doesn't get the attention it should in policy discussions. Nevertheless, I'm leery about discussing it too much. Why? Because there's more to policy discussions than policy discussions. There's also the political and cultural context in which …

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Can we replace oil and maintain energy supply?

This piece on EnergyBulletin is brilliant, and by that I mean it makes arguments I like to make. Can we simply switch out oil for other fuels? No: The question is: can production from non-conventional sources such as the Alberta tar sands or synthetic fuels using coal-to-liquids (CTL) technology be ramped up to anything even approaching a supply deficit of 22 million barrels per day by 2015? The answer appears to be a clear no. Not by a long shot. So what's the answer? Rather than focusing only on what I see as futile and costly attempts to continue to …

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Under the Radar

FAA shuts down work on proposed wind farms The Federal Aviation Administration has shut down work on at least 15 Midwest wind farms pending ... wait for it ... more research. Last year, Sen. John Warner (R-Va.), a critic of the Cape Wind project planned for Nantucket Sound, added an amendment to a military spending bill directing the Defense Department to study wind turbines' effect on small-aircraft radar signals. Since then, despite the fact that dozens of wind projects currently operate within sight of radar systems and have caused no discernable problems, all proposed turbines within the scope of military …

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Why we’re not Brazil

BioD already mentioned it in comments, but I thought I'd draw above-the-fold attention to this post from Robert Rapier on The Oil Drum. One often hears that Brazil is the model for biofuels usage: They've come close to achieving energy independence by creating ethanol with sugar cane. As Tom Daschle and Vinod Khosla said in their recent NYT op-ed, "Brazil has it figured out; why can't we?" Rapier explains exactly why: Yes, Brazil has in fact "figured it out" with respect to energy independence. But the reason they achieved energy independence is primarily because of their frugal energy usage, not …

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Appy Days Are Here Again

Ancient Arctic was balmy, a discovery that worries climate scientists Fifty-five million years ago, the average temperature of the Arctic was a balmy 74 degrees, according to research published today in Nature. The data was gleaned from the first significant sample of sea-floor sediment ever taken from underneath the thick ice at the North Pole. During the Paleocene/Eocene Thermal Maximum, "the Earth released a gigantic fart of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere," according to Dutch researcher Appy Sluijs. The greenhouse-gas release was much larger than what humans are, uh, emitting today, but even given the strength of the ancient release, …

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Yeah, But How’s Shiloh Doing?

Climate change gets splashy coverage in USA Today and U.S. News The paradigmatically middle-of-the-road USA Today is running a series on global warming this week -- guess that means mainstream America is getting hep to the crisis. Articles cover the life of an eco-groovy family in Colorado, the greening of corporate America, and the likelihood of abrupt Day After Tomorrow-esque climate changes. Alaska gets a special designation as the "poster state" for climate problems -- apparently it's melting -- and is the subject of a three-part video series. Other features point out global warming's effects on precipitation, wildlife, and the …

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