Climate & Energy

Teddy would be proud

Conservation organization sues feds over energy development

The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership has sued the Department of the Interior over the authorization of thousands of new oil and gas wells, roads, and miles of pipeline in a wildlife-rich area of Wyoming. News that an organization has sued the federal government over environmental travesties is, well, not really news -- unless it's TRCP, a non-litigious group with a largely Republican membership. The move is indicative that even the Bushies' natural allies are fed up with the administration's one-track-mind approach to energy development. Case in point: The Bureau of Land Management stated that opening the Wyoming area to drilling would "have adverse impact to suitable habitat for many wildlife species" and turn hunting grounds into "an industrial setting" -- but recommended the DOI go ahead anyway. sources: Casper Star-Tribune, The New York Times

Are scientists overestimating -- or underestimating -- climate change? Part I

Read on

A study by Stephen Schwartz of Brookhaven National Lab, to be published in the Journal of Geophysical Research (JGR), has the deniers and doubters delighted. "Overturning the 'Consensus' in One Fell Swoop" gloats Planet Gore, which says the study "concludes that the Earth's climate is only about one-third as sensitive to carbon dioxide as the IPCC assumes" and so we "should expect about a 0.6°C additional increase in temperature between now and 2070″ [0.1°C per decade] if CO2 concentrations hit 550 parts per million, double preindustrial levels. Is this possible? Aren't we already warming up 0.2°C per decade -- a rate that is expected to rise? Has future global warming been wildly overestimated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) consensus? Or, as I argue in my book, has future global warming been underestimated by the IPCC? This is perhaps the central issue in the climate change debate, so this will be a long post. To cut to the chase, it is not possible for one study to overturn the consensus, and in any case this inadequately researched, overly simplistic, and mistake-riddled study certainly doesn't. Climate sensitivity expert James Annan points out key mistakes that rip the guts out of Schwartz's analysis. That is strike one. Now I'll offer my two cents.

Do they just not caribou?

BLM offers yet another plan for drilling on Alaska’s sensitive North Slope

In 1923, President Warren G. Harding designated 23 million acres on Alaska's North Slope as a national petroleum reserve. The ecologically sensitive northeast corner of the reserve -- which includes pristine Lake Teshekpuk and is vital habitat for breeding caribou, migrating birds, and Inupiat Eskimos -- was closed to energy development by the Reagan, Bush Elder, and Clinton administrations. But damned if the current administration won't pull out all the stops trying to access it! The Bushies tried in 2005. They tried in 2006 -- twice. Last fall, a judge blocked the administration from its quest, saying it had failed to consider environmental impacts of drilling in the area, and ordered the Bureau of Land Management to develop a new plan. Yesterday, the agency obliged, offering a vague proposal which suggests various options for development. The BLM will offer final recommendations after a two-month public-input period, which starts Friday. So get thee to inputting! sources: Reuters, Associated Press, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner comment on the plan: Bureau of Land Management website

Pricey oil, more carbon

From the Boston Globe, the dirty truth about ‘alternative energy’

Referring to high oil prices, the billionaire airline magnate Richard Branson recently declared, "Thank God it’s happened … A high oil price is what we needed to actually wake up the world" to the reality of climate change. (This from a man who openly pines for a techno fix that will allow us to burn through all the fossil fuel we want, and enjoy our climate, too.) David and others have made the point before, but it bears repeating: High oil prices do not by any stretch translate to lower carbon emissions. In fact, as an excellent essay by Drake …

A meter of sea level rise by 2100?

Sea levels may rise much faster and higher than predicted

Popular Science has published a terrific article, "Konrad Steffen: The Global Warming Prophet," about one of the world's leading climatologists. Steffen has spent "18 consecutive springs on the Greenland ice cap, personally building and installing the weather stations that help the world's scientists understand what's happening up there." The article notes: Water from the melting ice sheet is gushing into the North Atlantic much faster than scientists had previously thought possible. The upshot of the news out of Swiss Camp is that sea levels may rise much higher and much sooner than even the most pessimistic climate forecasts predicted. What is going on in Greenland? Steffen explains what he and NASA glaciologist Jay Zwally figured out from their study of fissures in the ice sheet (called moulins -- see figures above and below):

Big Ethanol

Economists say that only the largest ethanol producers will survive

Of all the arguments in favor of government backing for corn-based ethanol, only one seems even remotely reasonable to me: that it could lead to real economic development in depressed areas of the Midwest. The theory goes like this: When farmers pool resources and build their own ethanol plants, they’ll capture much higher profits than by merely selling corn to big buyers like ADM and Cargill. According to an article in today’s Wisconsin State Journal, that rationale for corn-based ethanol may be about to unravel. For about two generations, the Midwest’s farmers have seen the price for corn and other …

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