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As Kyoto goes live, U.S. green groups offer tepid response

It's an action-packed week on the climate front: The Kyoto Protocol finally goes into effect today throughout the vast majority of the industrialized world (the U.S. conspicuously not included), and Capitol Hill is awash in climate-related assaults and initiatives. As Kyoto and climate bills heat up, greens' response is tepid. Congress is facing a double whammy of President Bush's most environmentally controversial proposals: The back-from-the-dead omnibus energy bill -- a feast for purveyors of planet-warming fossil fuels -- will get a hearing in a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee today. Meanwhile, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will vote …

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Photos of Tuvalu show global warming in action

Since 1999, photographer Gary Braasch has worked to document global warming around the world. His images bring home a concept that's often hard to visualize. Today, as the Kyoto Protocol goes into effect, Braasch sends a dispatch and photos from Tuvalu, a Pacific island nation whose fate already hangs in the balance. Photos: © Gary Braasch They see a lot of rainbows in Tuvalu. But people disagree about whether they're a sign of God's protection or just a cruel reminder of this tiny country's position in the world. When I got to the capital, Funafuti, many of the friendly people …

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Join a people’s campaign to ratify the Kyoto Protocol

The much-discussed Kyoto Protocol takes effect today, Feb. 16. In the face of the United States' continuing refusal to ratify the international agreement, a group of progressive activists is launching a drive to gather millions of signatures from U.S. citizens for a "People's Ratification of the Kyoto Global Warming Treaty." Ross Gelbspan, a Grist contributor and author of two books on climate change -- The Heat Is On and Boiling Point -- explains why you should put your coffee mug down and sign the petition today. What on earth is a person supposed to do? History and nature are on …

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Unilateralism Is Starting to Look Pretty Good, Huh?

E.U. battles with U.K. over CO2 emissions Tony Blair has fashioned himself a climate champion of late, vowing to make the issue of global warming central to the U.K.'s 2005 leadership of the G8 nations. So it's rather embarrassing for him that the E.U. has just threatened to take legal action against the U.K. over its projected carbon-dioxide emissions. Last April, the U.K. submitted a plan to the European Commission calling for the country to be permitted just over 811 million tons of CO2 emissions. In early July, the commission approved the plan, giving the U.K. two months to request …

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Ain’t it funny how time slips away

We are late on this one -- later than J Lo's apology for sucking, later than the U.S. signing on to Kyoto -- but just in case you missed it: Willie Nelson is getting into the biodiesel business! The iconic singer and three partners have formed "Willie Nelson's Biodiesel," and they're marketing "BioWillie" (a name that somehow conjures former President Clinton, but never mind) to truck stops across the country. Lots of bloggers have gushed about this already. But here's my favorite part: "I got on the computer and punched in biodiesel and found out this could be the future," …

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Cloudy Day, Sweeping the Doom Away

Artificially enhanced clouds may ease global warming, scientists say With gloomy scientific report after gloomy scientific report warning about our globally warmed future, finally one group of scientists is offering a ray of sunshine -- in the unlikely form of clouds. Low-altitude, lumpy gray clouds, called stratocumulus, have the desirable quality of being especially reflective at their tops, which the scientists hope to exploit. Since, as atmospheric scientist John Latham says, "clouds become more reflective if you increase the number of droplets in them," the eggheads propose spraying seawater high into the air near stratocumulus clouds, causing salt particles to …

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Seeing Is Believing

Dramatic weather convinces many Westerners of global warming As the Western U.S. increasingly suffers from what many scientists believe are the effects of climate change -- reduced snowpack, massive forest fires, alternating drought and torrential rain -- more and more residents are accepting the reality of the phenomenon. "Do I believe in global warming? Absolutely," said Reese Woodling, who last year abandoned his ranch along the New Mexico-Arizona border because of crippling drought. A decade-long drought has Arizona's economy drying up as well, costing cattle-related industries $2.8 billion in 2002. But current conditions are just a taste of what's to …

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Burial’s Vetting

BP spending $100 million to bury CO2 under Sahara, hopes it stays there With the countdown to Kyoto nearing its end, oil and gas company BP is experimenting with burying some of its carbon-dioxide emissions deep underground in the Sahara desert. The burial project's price tag of $100 million is expected to cover the injection of about one million tons of CO2 each year for some 20 years -- the expected lifetime of the natural-gas processing plant producing the CO2. But the project is not without its problems. One of the two custom-built compressors that force the CO2 underground has …

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Umbra on effective activism

Dear Umbra, If an environmentalist has about six hours per week to devote to activism, what should the person do to make the biggest, most positive impact? Some people (like myself) think that climate protection is a key leverage point -- but is it? If yes, why, and what is the best way activists can help protect the climate? (And what's a leverage point anyway?) AnnGraton, Calif. Dearest Ann, Such a good question, and so important that I asked a real expert about it. Dr. Allen Hershkowitz is a senior scientist at Natural Resources Defense Council, as well as a …

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New Republican leaders emerging in battle against climate change

Last week, an international task force co-chaired by Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe (Maine) predicted a fast-approaching "point of no return" for climate change -- possibly in as few as 10 years -- after which the crisis and its symptoms will be irreversible. Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine). You probably didn't read about it in the U.S. papers, which largely ignored the findings -- just as you probably haven't been reading much about the Kyoto Protocol, though the treaty will go into effect in less than two weeks, with the conspicuous noncooperation of the world's most heavily polluting nation. But, even as …