Gathering momentum for a United Nations climate conference in Bali, Indonesia, in December where the successor to the Kyoto Protocol is expected to be born, the U.N. hosted a one-day climate conference at its headquarters in New York on Monday. The conference attracted 150 nations, about 80 of which sent at least their heads of state, making it the best-attended climate meeting in U.N. history among high-level officials. “This event has sent a powerful political signal to the world, and to the Bali conference, that there is the will and the determination at the highest level, to break with the …
And so it begins: Tomorrow, NRG Energy will become the first company in nearly 30 years to file an application to build a new nuclear reactor in the U.S.
In the annals of self-delusion, NASA's Moon-Mars mission ranks right at the top. Today's NY Times, for example, carries details about NASA's plans for a moon base to be built sometime around 2020. Let me be clear. There is a 0 percent chance that this Moon base or anything like it will ever be built, for the following reason: the moon missions in the '60s and early '70s cost something like $100 billion in today's dollars. There is no way that setting up a semipermanent lunar base will be anything other than many times more expensive. That would put the total cost at one to a few trillion dollars. NASA, however, is spending a few billion dollars each year on this -- something like 1 percent of the money they would need to spend each year to actually accomplish this task, well short of the $100 billion or so actually required. Given this reality, there is no way we will ever actually do this.
These last few years have not been kind to the climate flat-earthers. Their patron political party got drubbed in the mid-terms, the IPCC demolished their favorite talking points, numerous post-IPCC scientific results make the IPCC look conservative, and the impetus for action on climate change is growing at breakneck speed everywhere outside the U.S. executive branch. This last couple weeks has been particularly humiliating. In the Vermont trial wherein the automakers sued to block California’s emission standards (ultimately losing), famed climate change denier Patrick Michaels was called to testify on automakers’ behalf as an expert witness. As part of an …
Global warming makes wildfires more likely and more destructive -- an amplifying climate feedback that releases more carbon into the atmosphere. The full committee of the Senate for Energy and Natural Resources is having a hearing on the subject today. You can get live video here -- click on Live Webcast. I'm looking forward to this hearing since one of the witnesses is Dr. Thomas Swetnam, Director of the Laboratory of Tree Ring Research and Professor of Dendochronology, University of Arizona. He coathored the August 2006 Science cover story, "Warming and Earlier Spring Increase Western U.S. Forest Wildfire Activity" ($ub. req'd). The abstract is viewable online -- here is the conclusion:
Al Gore's address to the U.N. General Assembly today was a much darker affair than I assumed it would be. Given that the stated goal today is to lay the groundwork for international institution-building and unity of vision, I expected he'd take a more inspirational approach. Instead, about three-quarters of his speech was a thorough enumeration of the effects global warming is already having on the planet. Included in his litany of woes: The faster-than-expected melting of Arctic ice, the million of years it will take for the caps to reform if they melt entirely, and the pressure the melting puts on the Greenland shelf. The potential six-meter rise in sea levels associated with such melting. Glaciers retreating all over the planet. The total disappearance of Lake Chad. Stronger typhoons, cyclones, and hurricanes making landfall worldwide. Record floods in India, Bangladesh, and elsewhere. 35,000 people killed in 2003 European heat wave. Goodness.
Arnold Schwarzenegger, who gave a rather good speech today here at the U.N. climate summit, is famously attempting to cut California's greenhouse-gas emissions. Now come accusations that the White House is behind a lobbying effort to get the U.S. EPA to reject Schwarzenegger's plan to regulate GHGs from cars and trucks. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), chair of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, got wind of the situation. Writes Jesse Lee in "The Gavel," Speaker Pelosi's blog: Chairman Waxman has obtained internal e-mails which show that Transportation Secretary Mary Peters personally directed a behind-the-scenes lobbying campaign approved by the White House to oppose EPA approval of California's landmark standards reducing greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles.
Bush may be hosting a climate summit this week, but "what he will not do, officials said, is chart any shift in policies." Specifically, the Washington Post reports: Top Bush administration officials said the president is not planning to alter his opposition to mandatory limits on greenhouse gases or to stray from his emphasis on promoting new technologies, especially for nuclear power and for the storage of carbon dioxide produced by coal plants. This is straight from the Frank Luntz playbook on how to seem like you care about the climate when you don't: Technology, technology, technology. Yada. Yada. Yada. Delay, delay, delay.
Here at today's U.N. Climate Summit in New York, everyone seems to agree that bringing America into a leadership role on climate change is a necessary condition for forestalling the climate change crisis. From my perspective, then, the success or failure of this summit should be judged by its ability to make progress on that front. We've heard from -- among others -- Chilean President Michelle Bachelet and Federal Chancellor of Austria Alfred Gusenbauer, both of whom delivered passionate speeches about the pressing need for mitigation but without really explaining why countries (and America in particular) are hesitant to mitigate their emissions or how to upend that hesitance. We've heard about California's inspiring example, without hearing how crucial it is for that example to influence the greater United States. And on and on.