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But It’s Still Friggin’ Raining in Seattle

2005 is hottest year on record, and 2006 weather is wacked We know you've been waiting with bated breath to hear the outcome of the competition between 1998 and 2005 for hottest year on record, and NASA's results are in: 2005 wins! 1998 had El Nino, but 2005 had a remarkably warm Arctic. Congratulations, 2005, on your Highest Annual Global Average Surface Temperature Award! The top five hottest years on record have all occurred in the last decade, but that's probably just a coincidence. In related news, Edmonton, Alberta -- that's in Canada -- is forecasted to reach a balmy …

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Al’s Well That Pens Well

Al Gore to publish new book on global warming The self-proclaimed "former next president of the United States" -- currently at the Sundance Film Festival (and, may we point out, looking quite natty) to promote his new documentary about global warming, An Inconvenient Truth -- has announced that he'll soon be coming out with a new book on the same subject, with the same name. The book, to be published by Rodale (of South Beach Diet, uh, fame), will serve as a sequel of sorts to Al Gore's controversial 1992 best-seller Earth in the Balance. It will cover not only …

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The Royalty Wee

Taxpayers have been getting screwed on oil and gas royalties A three-month New York Times investigation has uncovered a complex tale of oil and gas royalties, price discrepancies, accounting chicanery, and lax enforcement. But at its heart, it's the same old story: The Bush administration is essentially helping energy companies screw taxpayers. The American people own oil and gas reserves on public land; energy companies pay royalties to extract and sell them. Oil and gas prices have been rising sharply for years, but the royalties haven't -- if they had, taxpayers would have received an additional $700 million in natural-gas …

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Umbra on fireplaces

Dear Umbra, We pile on socks and sweaters, but there are just times you need more warmth. Should we use the fireplace or our central (gas-powered) heater? Also, can you let us know which is better, natural firewood or those chemically infused logs that claim lower particulate matter is released? Kas SutDavis, Calif. Dearest Kas, Although we've contemplated this heating dilemma before, I find I have more to say about fire. Don't use the fireplace. It is probably the least efficient way to heat a room. Remember the story about amazing Ben Franklin inventing the wood stove, and how mind-blowing …

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The End is Nigeria

Oil pollution, corruption contribute to hostage-taking in Nigeria In Nigeria, oil, corruption, pollution, and violence have produced a drama rich with 21st-century portent. Last week, militants in Nigeria's oil-rich delta region took four Western oil workers hostage. Their demands include more local control of Nigeria's massive oil wealth -- the proceeds of which typically end up in the pockets of crooked leaders -- and $1.5 billion from Royal Dutch Shell in compensation for pollution in the delta, like the big pipeline rupture last July that oozed contamination over farmers' fields and a fishing stream near the poor village of Iwhrekan. …

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Global warming could wipe out the bottom of the food chain.

When you woke up this morning, did you thank [God, your lucky stars, the Big Bang] for plankton? If you didn't, consider adding it to your daily routine. Sure plankton are teeny-tiny and look like scary aliens, but they're also moderately important, in that sustaining-life sort of way. Sadly, global warming could kill them off. The Independent wins my nomination for "Most Sinister Opening Paragraph o' the Day": The microscopic plants that underpin all life in the oceans are likely to be destroyed by global warming, a study has found. The article goes on to tell how this has "catastrophic …

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Johnson Left Hanging

Six former EPA chiefs tell Bush to cap and cut greenhouse gases Six former heads of the U.S. EPA -- including five Republicans -- have blasted the Bush administration for failing to act on global warming. In an unprecedented united front, the ex-chiefs, gathered yesterday to commemorate the agency's 35th anniversary, agreed that debating the extent to which climate change is a human-caused phenomenon (a favorite Bushy pastime) is pointless. They want federally regulated carbon caps and cuts. Current EPA head Stephen Johnson defended Bush policies, but the panel wasn't biting. "This is not a sort of short-term cycle problem. …

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An interview with swashbuckling climate scientist Lonnie Thompson

Lonnie Thompson has clocked more hours above 18,000 feet than any other person in history, and yet he doesn't exactly like climbing mountains. A masochist? No, just a hard-driving climate scientist. The iceman cometh. Photo: Courtesy Lonnie Thompson. Thompson treks up the highest peaks of the tropics -- including the Himalayas and Andes -- to extract ice-core samples. He then takes the samples back to giant refrigerated vaults at Ohio State University's Byrd Polar Research Center, where he analyzes the air and debris captured in the ice to get a picture of historic temperatures, greenhouse-gas levels, and weather events stretching …

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Keeping Up With the Bushes

Conservative Canadian politico vows to back out of Kyoto agreement As Canada's federal election looms -- yes, Canada is having an election -- Conservative leader Stephen Harper is campaigning on virtually abandoning the Kyoto accord on climate change. Harper, who proclaimed in 2004 that the treaty would never become international law (oops), says victorious Conservatives would jettison mandatory targets and timelines for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions in favor of voluntary ones. The Canadian Climate Coalition accuses Harper of putting Canada "into the same camp as U.S. President George W. Bush." Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin is using the issue to hit …

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Iran and oil

So, let's return to a familiar subject: The use of oil as a political tool in international relations. Iran's heading toward nukes. The U.S. wants to prevent it. So the U.S. is threatening economic sanctions -- specifically, threatening to restrict Iran's major export, oil. But, ahem, don't we need that oil? Points out Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, "You need us more than we need you. All of you today need the Iranian nation." Kevin Drum asks, and Stuart Staniford answers, the obvious question: Could cutting off, or even slowing down, Iranian oil exports really do that much damage to us, …

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