Climate & Energy

On climate, Hu's leading whom?

Snappy comebacks for the climate do-nothing set who’s using China as an excuse

On a hot day this summer, Chinese President Hu Jintao and a group of state leaders appeared at a public function wearing short-sleeved shirts, rather than their normal business suits. According to the state press, the casual attire wasn't just a new fashion statement: China's top brass were leading by example, encouraging Chinese workers to dress in light clothing in order to reduce the use of air conditioners in office buildings. Fashions do change. Outright denial of global warming is out of vogue. Instead, the climate change do-nothing set is sporting this season's new line: "Why should we bother trying to fight climate change when China won't do anything to reduce its emissions?" (Conservative communications consultant Frank Luntz even insists that the "'international fairness' issue is an emotional home run." Emotional home run? One might ask what a win looks like in his game?) How to counter this flawed logic? Hu Jintao's climate-fighting wardrobe choices aside, here are three ways:

The twilight of Inhofe

One last rant from the Senate’s loopy streetcorner anti-prophet

Sen. James Inhofe has become something of an epic figure, worthy of contemplation by historians, playwrights, or perhaps psychoanalysts. The zeitgeist, which once seemed to rise up around him like a thundercloud, has now moved on, leaving him dripping and bedraggled, resorting to ever more unhinged grand gestures to try to recapture some of the old magic. His historical moment is over, as his career may soon be, but he’s not going gently into that good night. Quite the contrary: he seems to have entered some sort of bizarre fugue state, taking to the Senate floor for over two hours …

Cities and counties take note

Berkeley shows the way to climate change mitigation at a local level

The city of Berkeley, Calif., shows how to take serious action on climate disruption by paying up-front costs to help residents switch to solar power. This could be done at any scale, from village to nation. All that is needed is wisdom and an understanding that any "ROI" (return on investment) calculation that doesn't include the risk that failure to respond to climate disruption will bankrupt us (in addition to its moral bankruptcy) isn't worth the paper it's printed on.

Berkeley, Calif., suggests innovative solar scheme

The Berkeley, Calif., city council will soon vote on an innovative scheme to front the cost of solar panels to homeowners, who would pay the city back over 20 years as a property tax add-on. The amount to be paid back would be roughly what homeowners would save on electric bills by being sun-powered. “This plan could be our most important contribution to fighting global warming,” says Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates. “We’ve already seen interest from all over the U.S. People really think this plan can go.” What will those crazy hippies think of next?

BP settles three federal investigations

Oil giant BP settled three federal investigations yesterday. Drumroll please … In regards to the 2005 Texas refinery explosion that killed 15 workers, BP will admit it is Beyond Guilty to felony charges of violating the Clean Air Act and not enforcing safety standards, and will pay a $50 million fine. In regards to last year’s snafu with leaky oil pipelines in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, the company will plead guilty to a misdemeanor for violating the Clean Water Act and will pay $20 million in fines. And in regards to allegations that it manipulated the propane market in 2004, BP …

Can't we all just get along?

Gore, partisanship, and climate change

A Gore conservatives could love? Photo: Eric Neitzel/WireImage. One of the stranger things I sometimes read about Al Gore is that because he is so partisan, because he turns off a certain bloc of the U.S. public, he is flawed as a leader on climate change. Surely the issue deserves a prophet that’s not so sullied by politics! This seems confused. In terms of spreading awareness and generating pressure behind a response, Gore has done more than anybody in the world on this issue, by a quantum leap. If there are leaders in the wings with the potential to be …

Gore's flaw: He doesn't sound enough like an uptight libertarian wonk

Says uptight libertarian wonk

I don’t understand what Steven Landsburg is supposed to be saying here. By his own admission, the position Gore advances is in line with the Stern Review. But Stern showed his work, with a few hundred pages on discount rates and risk assessments, and Gore just made a movie that got seen by tens of millions of people, so Gore is some kind of buffoon and Stern should have gotten the Nobel? That doesn’t make any sense. Why should the technical language of economics be the only legitimate way to grapple with climate change? Why not approach it in the …

White House spokesfolks play up health benefits of climate change

Recent Senate testimony on the public-health impacts of climate change by the director of the Centers for Disease Control was watered down because the White House wanted “to focus that testimony on public health benefits,” White House spokesperson Dana Perino said this week. She went on to state that U.S. experts are attempting to determine “what are going to be the health benefits and the health concerns of climate change, of which there are many.” Asked to elaborate on said benefits, Perino said, “Look, this is an issue where I’m sure lots of people would love to ridicule me when …

Everything old is new again

U.S. blocks consensus at international global warming conference … 17 years ago

Does it seem to you like nothing ever changes in the world? Well, you're right, and now I have hard evidence. I was searching through the archive of Bob Park's What's New newsletter when I ran across this snippet, right above an update about the miracle of cold fusion: At the World Climate Conference in Geneva this week, the United States blocked consensus on specific goals for reduction of carbon dioxide emission. As What's New predicted a month ago, the US sided with such backward nations as China and the Soviet Union, and oil producers like Venezuela and Saudi Arabia. Our traditional allies, Western European nations, Canada Japan, New Zealand and Australia, said they could cut emissions through energy efficiency measures at no net cost. A German study even concludes they can make money -- selling energy-saving technologies to backward countries like the US. John Knauss, the head of NOAA who led the US delegation, contended the revised Clean Air Act would lead to significant CO2 reductions, but a recent estimate from EPA put the reduction at only about 2%. The date of the newsletter: November 9, 1990. Seems like it could have been yesterday. Or tomorrow. P.S. You should subscribe to Bob's newsletter. It's required reading for those who are interested in the politics of science.

Got 2.7 seconds?

We've devised the world's shortest survey to find out what kind of actions our readers are taking. You know you want to.