Climate & Energy

Judge tosses out lawsuit brought by California against automakers

Automakers gained an edge yesterday in the Big Auto vs. California debate, as a federal judge tossed out a lawsuit against the world’s six largest auto companies brought by California Attorney General Jerry Brown. Brown had claimed that because of the harmful environmental effects of vehicles’ greenhouse-gas emissions, the Big Six were running afoul of California’s public nuisance laws. But U.S. District Judge Martin J. Jenkins ruled that the issue should be legislated, not litigated; that calculating the exact percentage of blame to be pinned on automakers was impossible; and that a ruling in favor of Brown would threaten the …

Investors petition SEC to require companies to disclose climate risk

Activists, investors, and activist investors have teamed up to try to compel the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to require publicly traded companies to disclose their climate-change risks. Under current law, the SEC requires companies to detail potential risks to investors in their annual and quarterly reports to the agency. The activists, armed with a petition, are seeking an “interpretive” release from the agency clarifying that climate risk, and the risks and benefits that could come from domestic climate legislation, should already be part of a company’s financial reports. “This is about an investor’s right to know,” said a spokesperson …

Me on the radio

Talking to Bill Scher

I was on Bill Scher’s radio program on Saturday for about 20 minutes. It was broadcast on WHMP-AM in western Mass.; you can listen to the podcast here. Or if you like, you can watch Bill talking to me: One amendment, for those who actually listen to the whole thing: I praised renewable portfolio standards for being “technology neutral” in that they don’t dictate what “non-fossil” energy has to fill the quota. That’s not quite right. As I add later, a good, genuinely technology-neutral RPS would allow for energy efficiency and cogen, both of which are, or can be, fossil-based, …

Discover Brilliant: The business of climate change

The final session of the day (hooray) is about "the business of climate change." On the panel: Climate Change Journal, Grant Ferrier, Editor (Moderator) Climate Solutions, K.C. Golden, Policy Director Sterling Planet, Alden Hathaway II, Senior VP, Business Development Environmental Resources Trust, Gordon Smith, EcoLands Director We start with Smith, who begins by, of all things, talking about forestry credits in carbon markets! He says they aren’t attractive in the compliance (mandatory) carbon markets, but voluntary offset customers love them. And they’re sketchy. But nonetheless, that’s what he specializes in. Uh … why? Doesn’t say. Hathaway starts by talking about …

Debunking Bjørn Lomborg: Part III

Lomborg’s a real Nowhere Man

In Cool It, Lomborg writes about global warming -- but the globe he is writing about certainly isn't Earth. We've already seen in Parts I and II that on Planet Lomborg, polar bears can evolve backwards and the ice sheets can't suffer rapid ice loss (as they are already doing on Earth). On Planet Lomborg, the carbon cycle has no amplifying feedbacks -- even though these are central to why warming on Earth will be worse than the IPCC projects. I couldn't even find the word "feedback" or "permafrost" in the book [if anyone finds them, please let me know]. On Planet Lomborg, free from the restrictions of science, global warming is kind of delightful (p.12): The reality of climate change isn't necessarily an unusually fierce summer heat wave. More likely, we may just notice people wearing fewer layers of clothes on a winter's evening. On planet Earth, a major study in Nature found that if we fail to take strong action to reduce emissions soon, the brutal European heat wave that killed 35,000 people will become the typical summer within the next four decades. By the end of the century, "2003 would be classed as an anomalously cold summer relative to the new climate." Lomborg's entire book takes place in a kind of fantasy land or Bizarro world. Aptly, on the last page is "A Note on the Type" that begins: This book was set in Utopia ... Irony can be so ironic. Utopia is from the Greek for "no place," or "place that does not exist." Lomborg is the nowhere man!

Climate update from NOAA

Second-warmest U.S. August ever

Let's look at some of the records for the month:, according to the National Climatic Data Center, a division of NOAA: For the contiguous U.S., the average temperature for August was 75.4°F (24.1°C), which was 2.7°F (1.5°C) above the 20th century mean and the second warmest August on record. More than 30 all-time high temperature records were tied or broken, and more than 2000 new daily high temperature records were established. Raleigh-Durham, N.C., equaled its all-time high of 105°F on August 21, and Columbia, S.C., had 14 days in August with temperatures over 100°F, which broke the 1900 record of 12 days. Cincinnati, OH, reached 100°F five days during August, a new record for the city. The warmest August in the 113-year record occurred in eight eastern states (West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, the Carolinas, Georgia, Alabama, and Florida) along with Utah. Texas had its wettest summer on record. This was the driest summer since records began in 1895 for North Carolina, and the second driest for Tennessee. At the end of August, drought affected approximately 83 percent of the Southeast and 46 percent of the contiguous U.S. Coincidence? I think not! This post was created for, a project of the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

Discover Brilliant: The policy and investment landscape

Next up, H. Jeffrey Leonard, president of the Global Environment Fund. He wants America to "get real." 1. Aggregate global use of fossil fuels will not fall in the next two decades. 2. American "energy independence" is an unrealistic pipe dream driving bad policy. 3. The Biofuels Initiative won’t achieve anything environmentally speaking, and is a grotesque example of pork barrel politics. 4. Consumer and lifestyle steps being taken by Americans are all but irrelevant. Chipper! One interesting point: China has no domestic access to natural gas. No nation has ever cleaned up its pollution or dealt with its environmental …

Tackling climate: Beltway tone-deafness edition

On subsidizing ‘green’ energy R&D

In its "green" issue this week, The New Republic features an excerpt from Ted Nordhaus and Michael Schellenberger's new book, Break Through: From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility. Their basic point is that the emphasis of the political debate is all wrong. I'm not sure they really understand how things are shaping up, but they're saying that politicians should spend less "time" talking about regulatory approaches, and more time reiterating the importance of innovation. This gives pretty short shrift to the fact that a carbon tax (or cap-and-trade program that auctions credits) is basically an in-kind subsidy to clean energy. But still, regulation and direct subsidies aren't mutually exclusive, and I think the reason you don't hear a lot of hand-wringing about subsidies for green R&D is that securing real (as opposed to de facto) subsidies -- in any future climate change bill -- to well-positioned clean energy companies will be the easy part.* * Keep in mind that part of the reason this will be easy is that the biggest subsidy winner will almost certainly be King Coal, who will almost without a doubt receive billions and billions of dollars to refine and implement carbon capture and sequestration technology across the country and, perhaps, the entire world.

Alaska joins regional climate initiative

Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has created a climate-change committee and joined her state with the cool kids at the Western Climate Initiative.