Climate & Energy

Lomborg and Shellenberger & Nordhaus redux

Yet more musing on Lomborg and S&N

Looks like I'm not the only one who sees a scary similarity between the messages in their respective books, Cool It and Break Through. The San Francisco Chronicle just ran a double review by Robert Collier, a visiting scholar at the Center for Environmental Public Policy at UC Berkeley's Goldman School of Public Policy. The review ends pointedly: [T]he arguments of Nordhaus and Shellenberger attain an intellectual pretense that could almost pass for brilliant if their urgings weren't so patently empty. The closing chapter calls for "greatness," but, like the rest of the book, it offers little in the way of substantive proposals to back up its rhetorical thunder. Perhaps that's for their next book. Or perhaps real solutions, rather than pretentious sniping, are not the authors' purpose. Nordhaus and Shellenberger, like Lomborg, will get plenty of attention in Washington from those who want to preserve the status quo. But for those who recognize the urgent need to transform the national and world economies and save the planet as we know it, they are ultimately irrelevant. Precisely.

Climate change will bring more humidity and heat-related deaths

Climate change is increasing global humidity, according to a new study in Nature. If the globe heats as projected, air stickiness could increase globally by up to 24 percent by 2100. Says study coauthor Katharine Willett, “Although it might not be a lethal kind of thing, it’s going to increase human discomfort.” For a lethal kind of thing, we turn to a study in the American Journal of Public Health, which predicts that the number of heat-related deaths in and around New York City will nearly double by 2050. And just to top things off, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric …

Fascinating, but for the wrong reasons

Shellenberger & Nordhaus echo flawed economic assumptions

I just finished reading Shellenberger & Nordhaus' latest, and while I realize I am a bit late to the party, I think they say some fascinating things -- perhaps not for the reasons they intended. S&N manage to succinctly distill an awful lot of the ideas that are core not only to policy debates on carbon, but to policy discussions of any major change to the economy. Understanding these biases is critical to understanding why S&N write what they write, but also why they are so deeply wrong.

French conservatives go green, too!

Sarkozy pushes proposals on energy and the environment

We have already seen that British Conservatives "get" global warming -- both the danger of inaction and the economic opportunity of a "green revolution." Now the right wing cheese-eating surrender monkeys are also putting their American political counterparts to shame. As Nature reports about the new conservative French president: Sarkozy made the greening of France a major plank of his election campaign this year. He has since created a superministry for ecology, biodiversity and sustainable development, with responsibility for the powerful sectors of transport, energy and construction -- a first in France, where ecology was previously off the political radar. Yet it seems inconceivable a U.S. conservative politician could take such action, or agree to the following remarkable proposals now under active consideration in France:

Are we there yet?

Nuclear still on the verge of its comeback

If the nuclear industry “primes” for its long-rumored comeback much longer, the country’s going to get a collective case of blue balls. Meanwhile, this short excerpt pretty much contains the entire history of the nuclear debate in a nutshell: [Nuke company] NRG Energy chief executive David W. Crane proclaimed “a new day for energy in America.” But there is still a lot of worry about the economics of nuclear power. Nuclear plants are hugely expensive to build; they have long lead times and a history of cost overruns. Bottlenecks loom for key components if more than a few plants are …

Storage in the spotlight

Congress finally pays attention to energy storage tech

I missed this when it happened, but (via Hill Heat) it’s nice to see that the House science committee recently held a hearing on energy storage technology. It’s a woefully underappreciated piece of the energy puzzle and overdue for some concerted attention. In the context of the hearing, the Subcommittee also discussed draft legislation entitled Energy Storage Technology Advancement Act of 2007, a bill soon to be introduced by Committee Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN). "Energy storage is also critical for the next generation of vehicles, which will help reduce our dependence on foreign oil and lower greenhouse gas emissions," added …

Lomborg skews the facts, again

Sorry, glacial thinning does not equal glacial growth

On Sunday, Bjørn Lomborg wrote: And while the delegations first fly into Kangerlussuaq, about 100 miles to the south, they all change planes to go straight to Ilulissat -- perhaps because the Kangerlussuaq glacier is inconveniently growing. But is it? I questioned this claim -- and asked readers for the relevant citation, which they provided. The key article from which he is drawing this claim is "Rapid Changes in Ice Discharge from Greenland Outlet Glaciers" from Science in March of this year. The article begins by noting ominously: The recent, marked increase in ice discharge from many of Greenland's large outlet glaciers has upended the conventional view that variations in ice-sheet mass balance are dominated on short time scales by variations in surface balance, rather than ice dynamics. Beginning in the late 1990s and continuing through the past several years, the ice-flow speed of many tidewater outlet glaciers south of 72° North increased by up to 100%, increasing the ice sheet's contribution to sea-level rise by more than 0.25 mm/year. The synchronous and multiregional scale of this change and the recent increase in Arctic air and ocean temperatures suggest that these changes are linked to climate warming.

Sustainable energy blueprint

A strategy for a no-nuclear, low-carbon, highly efficient, sustainable energy future

This came my way several weeks ago, but I ran across it again while hacking my way through my inbox and I thought it was worth sharing, particularly in light of the long list of endorsements. It comes from the Sustainable Energy Network, “a network of 450+ organizations, businesses, and individual advocates promoting aggressive deployment of renewable energy and energy efficient technologies as a strategy for phasing-out nuclear power, eliminating energy imports, and making deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.” —– The following statement outlines an ambitious but doable strategy for dramatically reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, phasing out nuclear …

Holes in the ozone theory

What the ozone hole tells us about the science of climate change

The atmospheric sciences community is excitedly discussing new results that potentially cast doubt on our understanding of the chemistry of the Antarctic ozone hole. The ozone hole is formed when two molecules of chlorine monoxide react with each other to form what is known as the chlorine dimer, ClOOCl, and that molecule is subsequently blasted apart by sunlight to release the chlorine atoms. New results suggest that this reaction is actually much slower than previously suggested. If this is true, it suggests that there is some important chemical process destroying ozone in the Antarctic stratosphere that we do not know about. In reaction to this unexpected scientific result, stratospheric chemists are attacking the problem, trying to think up potential mechanisms that reconcile these new measurements with everything else we know about the chemistry of the stratosphere. As a former stratospheric chemist, I can say that I have not seen this level of excitement in the stratospheric chemistry community in at least 10 or 15 years. So what does this tell us about the science of climate change? It tells us that many of the criticisms of climate science coming from the skeptics are dead wrong.