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Besieged by natural-gas exploration, a Wyoming town draws the line

On a summer weekend in the high country, I talked my grandmother into taking a drive into the Wyoming Range, where she'd worked with my grandfather as a hunting guide more than 20 years earlier. We wanted to have a look at a certain 44,600 acres of forest that had been leased by companies in search of natural gas. Can the Wyoming Range be protected from drilling? Photo: JessLeePhotos.com Heavily timbered with pine, fir, and aspen, the range lies to the west of Pinedale, my hometown. The leased land fell across the Beaver Creeks, where Grandma had grown up on …

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Coal is the enemy of the human race

It’s also the road to ‘energy security’

A few times now John has made a point I have made in the past and now shall make again (how's that for a self-referential intro?). To wit: "Energy security" is a lopsided way of framing our energy problem, and left un-balanced, will do more harm than good. Why? Because the shortest, cheapest route to energy security (or "independence," if you like) is through coal, and coal is ... wait for it ... the enemy of the human race. This is not just true for China and the U.S.; Germany, Britain, and even France are planning a slew of new …

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An interview with Travis Bradford, author of Solar Revolution

Solar power has been the Next Big Thing for decades now, yet it remains a niche player in the energy world. The problem of intermittency is unsolved, up-front capital costs remain high, and surging demand for polysilicon, a key component of solar panels, has recently outstripped supply, stifling production. Travis Bradford. So when someone claims that within decades solar photovoltaic technology will come to dominate the world's energy portfolio -- with or without subsidies, with or without rising fossil-fuel prices, with or without new environmental legislation -- one could be forgiven a degree of skepticism. But Travis Bradford is no …

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Letting the Cataclysm Out of the Bag

Supreme Court hears opening arguments in landmark climate-change case Climate change made its Supreme debut yesterday, as the high court began considering whether the U.S. EPA must regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. Much of the opening session concerned whether the plaintiffs, including several green groups and a dozen states, had suffered enough harm to sue. Massachusetts Assistant Attorney General James Milkey said coastlines were in grave danger and emissions rules would help; Deputy U.S. Solicitor General Gregory Garre countered that such rules would do economic harm and were unadvisable "in light of the substantial scientific uncertainty surrounding …

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Coal or happiness: you can't have both

Know it

There's a great op-ed in the NYT today making the argument that, however much Malthus and his heirs have fallen out of favor, they may have the last laugh. Limits are back, baby! Here are two memes I'm happy to see getting out into the mainstream: In the words of a recent interviewee (watch for it tomorrow): Coal is the enemy of the human race. This, from the last paragraph: ... we really need to start thinking hard about how our societies -- especially those that are already very rich -- can maintain their social and political stability, and satisfy …

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Mass Appeal

Supremes to decide whether EPA can or must regulate greenhouse-gas emissions Tomorrow, the U.S. Supreme Court will begin hearing arguments in Massachusetts v. EPA, a humdinger of a case looking at whether the federal government can or must regulate greenhouse-gas emissions. The case centers on a Clean Air Act provision that requires regulation of air pollutants that "may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare." The plaintiffs (a cadre of 12 states, three cities, and green groups) argue that planet-toasting greenhouse gases fit that description. The Bush administration, on the other hand, claims that GHGs are not air …

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Why the Supreme Court case is not a really big deal

One way or the other, we’re waiting for the next administration

If the Supreme Court rules that CO2 does not have to be regulated, it will give the present administration cover to do nothing for two more years. However, most serious candidates for president support action to curb greenhouse-gas emissions, so regardless, I suspect you'll see action in the next administration. If the Supreme Court rules that CO2 can be regulated, the administration will ... do nothing for two more years. But again, the next president will likely take some action. If the Supreme Court rules that CO2 must be regulated, the administration will drag its feet and ... end up …

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Could the Sun be causing climate change?

It’s likely not the primary cause

In climate change debates, one hears a lot about the Sun. A favorite argument of those opposed to action is that the warming we're presently experiencing is due to increases in solar output, also known as solar brightening, and not from greenhouse gases. Before critiquing this argument, first remember what the IPCC says about human contribution to climate change: There is new and stronger evidence that most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities. Note that the IPCC says most of the recent warming is due to human activities. This leaves as much …

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‘They predicted global cooling in the 70s’–But that didn’t even remotely resemble today’s consensus

(Part of the How to Talk to a Global Warming Skeptic guide) Objection: The alarmists were predicting the onset of an ice age in the '70s. Now it's too much warming! Why should we believe them this time? Answer: It is true that there were some predictions of an "imminent ice age" in the 1970s, but a cursory comparison of those warnings and today's reveals a huge difference. Today, you have a widespread scientific consensus, supported by national academies and all the major scientific institutions, solidly behind the warning that the temperature is rising, anthropogenic CO2 is the primary cause, …

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'If we can't understand the past, how can we understand the present?'

Understanding what is happening right under our noses does not require paleoclimate perfection

(Part of the How to Talk to a Global Warming Skeptic guide) Objection: Climate science can't even fully explain why the climate did what it did in the past. How can they claim to know what is going on today? Answer: There are two requirements for understanding what happened at a particular point of climate change in geological history. One is an internally consistent theory based on physical principles; the other is sufficient data to determine the physical properties involved. It is extremely hard, in some cases impossible, to gather sufficient data about every aspect of the climate system for …

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