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An excerpt from Feeling the Heat sizes up the ominous Asian Cloud

This piece is excerpted from Feeling the Heat: Dispatches From the Frontlines of Climate Change. Other contributors to the book include writers Ross Gelbspan, David Helvarg, and Mark Hertsgaard and photographer Gary Braasch. Feeling the Heat: Dispatches From the Frontlines of Climate Change Edited by Jim Motavalli, Routledge, 176 pages, 2004 The Indian city of Mumbai, formerly Bombay, is home to one of Asia's largest slums and endures among the worst air quality on earth. Half the city's population lacks running water or electricity, and the smoke from countless wood-burning cooking fires joins with the acrid haze from two-stroke auto …

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Baked Alaskans

Global warming is destroying Eskimo villages While debates over the "precautionary principle" and economic tradeoffs take place down in the cozy lower 48, global warming is entirely less abstract to Inupiaq Eskimos on the coast of Alaska. They're not so much worried about losing jobs as losing, well, their villages. The annual mean air temperature in Alaska has risen 4 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit in the last 30 years, the warm season now starts earlier and finishes later, and Arctic Ocean ice has shrunk 5 to 10 percent, making ice fishing more difficult, among other problems. In spots, the coastline …

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Go West, Young Pollutocrat!

Bush administration makes big push for oil and gas drilling in West With unprecedented speed, the Bush administration has opened vast swaths of environmentally sensitive land in the West to oil and gas drilling -- this by-now-familiar story is told comprehensively in articles in The Washington Post and The Seattle Times. The situation is summed up by Dave Alberswerth, former Clinton adviser and now a lobbyist for The Wilderness Society: "They haven't changed any statutes. They haven't changed any regulations. But they've changed a whole lot of practices and policies without any real public scrutiny." Bureau of Land Management employees …

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Credit Where Credit is Overdue

Congress renews wind-energy tax credit for a year A popular tax credit for companies generating wind energy will likely live on through 2005. Renewal of the wind-energy production tax credit was included in the monstrous Bush administration energy bill, but that bill is, to enviros' great relief, currently stuck in legislative limbo. However, lawmakers inserted the tax credit in a family tax-cut bill that passed last week, which Bush is expected to sign. According to Tom Gray of the American Wind Energy Association, this means that "about $3 billion in wind-energy investments forecast over the next several years are now …

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Like a Tundra of Bricks

Arctic tundra may produce rather than absorb CO2, accelerating warming It's not often that drama emerges from the Arctic tundra, but there seems to be genuine excitement around revelations from a 20-year study just completed and published in the journal Nature. Researchers have long assumed that Arctic tundra would be a carbon dioxide "sink," absorbing CO2 and slowing -- at least slightly -- the global-warming trend. Well, turns out not so much: According to the study, warming might cause accelerated decomposition of the lower levels of the tundra, releasing far more CO2 than subsequent growth will absorb and establishing a …

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Global dimming? Global warming? What’s with the globe, anyway?

Raise a toast to solar radiation. The director of the Zurich-based World Radiation Monitoring Center, the organization that measures the amount of solar radiation hitting the ground around the globe, has a strange talent. Give Atsumu Ohmura a glass of white wine and tell him only its vintage, and he'll swish a mouthful and -- without referring to legs, bouquets, or mango backgrounds -- announce where the grapes were grown. His trick? The sweetness of white wine grapes is a function of solar radiation. The more sun a grape plant's leaves absorb, the more sugar the plant produces and the …

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Umbra on choosing the least evil gasoline company

Dear Umbra, Every week I scan the gasoline signs looking for the cheapest deal, while knowing that what I pay in rock-bottom prices may come at the expense of environmental integrity and social justice. I'd like to choose my brand of gas with more conscience. Would you help? I'd love to see a ranking or rating system of the major gasoline brands. It could let us know which ones are meaningfully pursuing renewable energy sources, protecting indigenous political and property rights at the source, and making efforts to minimize the environmental impact of their oil extraction and refinement. Are any …

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Sturm Und Dang

Climate change and urbanization lead to more natural-disaster fatalities Thanks to global warming and the increasing concentration of the earth's denizens in densely populated urban centers, more and more people are vulnerable to natural disasters -- floods, droughts, storms, fires, landslides, and the like. The number of reported natural disasters rose from 261 in 1990 to 337 last year; during the same period, the number of people affected rose almost threefold to 254 million. The statistics, reported by a U.N. agency on Friday, are particularly relevant at the moment, as the Caribbean and Southeast U.S. are being pounded by a …

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Umbra on finding solar-power stats

Dear Umbra, Are there any statistics that show what percentage of solar power is generated state by state, and which states are more solar-friendly? Also, do power companies give out any figures on how much energy they buy back from home solar producers? Thanks from Los Angeles, Calif. Dearest Los Angeles, Life is great. As your researcher, I get paid to find previously obscure (to me) gems like today's favorite website: the Energy Information Administration, an entire government agency dedicated to answering your question. Isn't that just so 1977? Not made in the shade. Photo: National Renewable Energy Laboratory. I …

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Boilerplate Tectonics

Bush and Kerry discuss their positions on science In the latest issue of the journal Nature, President Bush and John Kerry each respond to 15 questions about science and related topics. Because the responses are written, neither candidate sounds like himself -- there are no Bushian malapropisms or Kerryan layered qualifiers -- and for the most part they simply regurgitate campaign-trail boilerplate. However, there are revealing differences, particularly on global warming. When asked, Bush acknowledged that it is a "serious long-term issue," but then said the following: "In 2001, I asked the National Academy of Sciences to provide the most …