Climate & Energy

IPCC synthesis report confirms global warming is a force to be reckoned with

And now, ladies and gents, the moment you’ve all been waiting for. The Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, with input from delegates of more than 140 countries, has synthesized three previous reports into …

British government publishes climate change bill

The British government has published its climate change bill, which would set a target of reducing carbon emissions 60 percent by 2050. The bill will now go through a parliamentary process; if made law, Britain …

The speaker speaks on the energy bill

Nancy Pelosi answers my question about renewables in the energy bill

I and several other journalists spent the morning at an on-the-record breakfast with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) where, armed with my trusty digital voice recorder, I asked her to address last week's rumors about the potential demise of renewable energy in the energy bill. Will the electricity standard and the tax titles be dropped? If not, will the bill be split into parts? Her reaction was ... well, I'd call it slight consternation. She, not surprisingly, stopped short of saying anything definitive -- there are still no guarantees that the Congress will pass the energy bill enviros are hoping for. But it sounds very much as if renewables were not thrown under the bus, though Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) may still turn it into two or three bills if he thinks it will help certain parts of it overcome the 60-vote hurdle in the Senate. But that's not exactly chastening because -- let's be realistic here -- if he's unwilling to force a real filibuster over Iraq withdrawal timelines, then he's unlikely to force a real filibuster over renewable energy. Still, Pelosi did at one point describe the bill as, potentially, a "beautiful Christmas present," and reiterated her hope that the bill would pass -- with renewables and all the rest -- before the end of the year. I sat near one end of a rather long banquet table and the Speaker sat at the opposing head, so my recording was, in certain parts, difficult to transcribe. But 99 percent of it is below the fold.

Be car-ful?

Giving up car-lessness for Rob Lowe’s plug-in hybrid

This essay is part of a series on not owning a car. ----- The weekend before Halloween, my car-less family got a loaner plug-in hybrid-electric car to try. You see, the City of Seattle and some other local public agencies are testing the conversion of some existing hybrids to plug-ins to accelerate the spread of these near-zero-emissions vehicles. As a favor and, perhaps, for some publicity (this post), the city's program manager offered me four days' use of the prototype -- previously driven by actor Rob Lowe. Enthusiasm about plug-in hybrids -- like their now-almost-mainstream siblings the gas-electric hybrids -- has been running high of late. For example, the California Air Resources Board is among the toughest air quality regulators in the world. When members of the board's expert panel reviewed the evidence on plug-in hybrids, they issued a boosterish report predicting widespread adoption and fast market penetration. The Western Governors' Association is similarly smitten (MS Word doc). The tone of some popular press reports makes it seem that the vehicular second coming may be at hand. For this auto (pictured in our back yard, with our Flexcar visible out front), I wondered, would my family give up its car-less ways? Would the joy of these 100+ mpg wheels cause us to end our 21 months of car-free-ness, emulate Rob, and buy our own plug-in? The short answer? No. Plug-in hybrid-electric cars hold great promise, as long as we can fix the laws. And the technology. Oh, and the price. None of those fixes are "gimmes." Without fixing the laws -- and specifically, without a legal cap on greenhouse gases -- plug-ins could actually do more harm than good. And without the second two fixes -- working technology and competitive prices -- plug-ins won't spread beyond the Hollywood set. (Echoes of this point are in Elizabeth Kolbert's latest article in The New Yorker.) But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me start at the beginning.

Technology alone won't alleviate climate change

NYT’s Andy Revkin and E. O. Wilson get suckered by Newt Gingrich’s phony techno-optimism

Newt Gingrich is an anti-environmentalist who spreads disinformation and has done more than any politician in the last two decades to thwart a sensible climate policy that includes a major clean technology component, as I have explained. Absent serious regulations, no technology-only strategy can possibly avoid catastrophic global warming (as we should have learned in the 1990s). Some well-meaning people, like The New York Times' first-rate climate reporter Andy Revkin and the great conservation biologist, E.O. Wilson, have gotten taken in by Newt's new-clothes rhetoric. Why? They don't know the history of climate technology policy that I and others have written about -- and they don't understand the explicit Luntz/Bush strategy of trying to get political credit on the climate while blocking the crucial regulatory (and technological!) solutions by talking about "technology, technology, blah, blah, blah," as I put it. I am in 100 percent agreement with David's analysis on this. Gingrich is most certainly not part of a "move to the pragmatic center on climate and energy," as Revkin writes -- especially not an imaginary center that Revkin claims includes Bjørn Lomborg and Shellenberger & Nordhaus (for a debunking of these folks, click here and follow the various links). Gingrich and Lomborg are not classic global warming deniers -- since they realize denial is now politically and scientifically untenable -- which is why I label them delayers. (I will come back to S&N's ongoing disinformation campaign in a future post.) Gingrich and his coauthor are not "realists and visionaries" -- the phrase Wilson uses in a foreword to their book, A Contract with the Earth (you can read the foreword -- and, if you're clever and have a huge amount of time, the whole book -- for free if you click here [reg. may be req'd]). I have emailed Wilson -- whom I don't know -- my earlier Gingrich post. I'll focus on Revkin, since I do know him, and he has a blog where he is fighting back against David (and others) who criticize him.

L.A. bereft of clouds, rain; climate change the culprit?

I arrived in L.A. yesterday in the midst of an unusual meteorological phenomenon. The sky seems to have been wiped out, replaced entirely with a deep, featureless expanse of turquoise blue. And that’s not the …

IPCC Synthesis Report coming out Saturday

Policymakers of the world, get ready. Tomorrow, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change releases its Synthesis Report that will attempt to summarize the world’s climate-y plight in a language governments can understand. Saturday’s report will …

Shameless self-promotion

RED positioned to fund $1.5 billion of recycled energy projects

While humility makes it awkward for me to be posting this, David said it would be OK. (I swear!) More seriously, this is a day of great pride at RED and I wanted to share a bit with you -- and perhaps explain the lack of time I've had for more insightful posts lately. We've just completed a pretty substantial equity raise, with funds available to invest in recycled energy projects that convert waste heat to power. The target for our investments are places where we can simultaneously generate profits, lower energy costs, and reduce greenhouse-gas emissions - in other words, all the things I've blogged about here before. But now instead of just being an academic idea, we have the financial resources to go out and prove the concept. And, it bears noting, quite a bit of financial pressure to do so. More important than that, though, is that we have a platform to change the way the world makes power. Lots of good press today in Bloomberg, the Chicago Tribune, and The International Herald Tribune, among others. (Or, if you're a stickler for original source material, our press release is here.) But perhaps the best piece -- and the one that really gets what we're out to do -- is on the Dow Jones newswire, printed below the fold ($ub req'd, or else I'd give the link).

Made for the USA?

On who is accountable for Chinese greenhouse-gas emissions

Yesterday a D.C. nonprofit, the Center for Global Development, released an inventory of the world's power plants. Its nifty database shows that on a national level, China trails only the the U.S. in total emissions of greenhouse gases, and not by much. This will disappoint the global warming proponents at the National Review, who have been predicting for months that China will surpass the traditional emissions champ -- the United States -- this year. But both the scoffers on the right and the worriers on the left may be overlooking a central question, which was broached this Monday in a news story from The Wall Street Journal. Simply put: a high percentage of Chinese emissions are produced in factories making products for buyers around the world. Shouldn't that be considered in the emissions accounting? The vast majority of the world's MP3 players are made in China, where the main power source is coal. Manufacturing a single MP3 player releases about 17 pounds of planet-warming carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. iPods, along with thousands of other goods churned out by Chinese factories, from toys to rolled steel, pose a question that is becoming an issue in the climate-change debate. If a gadget is made in China by an American company and exported and used by consumers from Stockholm to São Paulo, Brazil, should the Chinese government be held responsible for the carbon released in manufacturing it? The story hints at the complexity of fault-finding when it comes to emissions, which we as a nation and as a species have barely begun to unpack. Not only must we contend with the fact that carbon dioxide is indivisible -- and equally warming no matter if it's emitted in a Communist nation such as China, a capitalist nation such as the U.S., or a third-world nation such as India -- but there is also what The Stern Review calls the "intergenerational" aspect of emissions. Carbon released today may have catastrophic effects thirty years from now, when the original emitters are long dead. Who will the children of today blame then? But to continue with Jane Spencer's thoughtful, probing story:

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