Climate & Energy

Mortgages go green

Lenders believe energy-efficient homeowners are less likely to default on mortgage payments

With all the bad news about mortgages, it is time for some good news: Mortgages that promote energy efficiency are on the rise. The basic idea is simple. If you make your home more energy efficient, you reduce your monthly energy bill. And that means you have more money to pay your mortgage, and are less likely to default, so lenders are wisely encouraging this: The Wall Street Journal has a very good article on this:

Global warming brings Greenlanders potatoes, destroys their heritage

It gets lost in all the gloom and doom, but global warming does have its upside. In the sub-Arctic south of Greenland, rising temperatures over the last five to 10 years have brought residents more potatoes, broccoli, and flowers, and have made officials optimistic about economically beneficial opportunities for drilling and mining as sea ice melts. Of course, melting sea ice is also ravaging the hunting and fishing that provide cultural identity and livelihood to many residents — but the broccoli! Did we mention the broccoli?

Sky Trust explained

Peter Barnes looks at carbon-capping methods

Peter Barnes has a guest post on the Step It Up blog giving a good brief description of how a Sky Trust would work:

Debunking Bjorn Lomborg: Part I

The great polar bear irony

For debunkers, Lomborg's work is a target-rich environment. There is even a Lomborg-errors website, where a Danish biologist catalogs Lomborg's mistakes and "attempts to document his dishonesty." Lomborg's latest work of disinformation, Cool It, isn't out yet in Europe to be debunked, so I'll fill the gap for now. I will start with polar bears for two reasons. First, the nonironic reason: Lomborg starts his book with a chapter on polar bears, presumably because he thinks it's one of his strongest arguments -- it isn't. Second, the ironic reason. "Bjorn" means "bear"! Yes, "Bear" Lomborg is misinformed about his namesake. Lomborg himself notes (p. 4): Paddling across the ice, polar bears are beautiful animals. To Greenland -- part of my own nation, Denmark -- They are a symbol of pride. The loss of this animal would be a tragedy. But the real story of the polar bear is instructive. In many ways, this tale encapsulates the broader problem with the climate-change concern: once you look closely at the supporting data, the narrative falls apart. Doubly ironic, then, that the polar bear is doomed thanks to people like Bear Lomborg, who urge inaction. Lomborg says (p. 7) polar bears "may eventually decline, though dramatic declines seem unlikely." Uh, no. Even the Bush Administration's own USGS says we'll lose two-thirds of the world's current polar bear population by 2050 in a best-case scenario for Arctic ice. How will the bears survive the loss of their habitat? No problem, says Lomborg, they will evolve backwards (p. 6):

Treadles are not the devil, after all

Human-powered irrigation can increase harvests for farmers

Recently, I wrote about treadle pumps that let human power replace diesel power for irrigation. As a one-to-one replacement it sounded pretty oppressive. But it turns out that it is not a one-to-one replacement. Poor farmers who only earn a dollar or so, per person per day, can afford to do a lot more irrigation with treadles than they can renting diesel pumps from rich farmers and buying diesel fuel to run it. So they multiply the size of their harvests by two or three, their incomes by even more. Even in a formal efficiency analysis, you are probably increasing rather than decreasing the output per unit of labor. In human terms, you are increasing the amount of fresh vegetables the family can eat, and paying for things like school fees in areas where education is not necessarily completely tax-paid. So you are making life better for the farmers, and even slightly increasing their autonomy from richer neighbors.

Climate change will cause agricultural output to decline significantly, says study

Attention, people who eat: Climate change could cause global agriculture output to decline by up to 16 percent by 2080, according to a new study from the Center for Global Development and the Peterson Institute for International Economics. Like life itself, the allocation won’t be fair: productivity is likely to generally decline in developing countries — India, Pakistan, and most of Africa and Latin America — while improving in the U.S., most of Europe, and Canada. India, which is on track to become the world’s most populous nation by mid-century, could see its food production fall by up to 38 …

Global warming art and articulation

The next generation puts us to shame

These are the winners of the 16th International Children's' Painting Competition on the Environment. This year's theme was climate change. The works speak for themselves, but the children who created them also wrote eloquent statements. The winner (top) is by 12 year-old Charlie Sullivan of the United Kingdom, who writes:

The lash is back

Stratfor analysis of the backlash against ethanol

Stratfor’s Bart Mongoven on why the growing negative buzz around ethanol is having limited political effect: … the backlash against biofuels is in full swing. The critics, however, are running head on into the powerful agricultural lobbies in the United States and Europe that so successfully championed the issue in the first place. These advocates say that ethanol, biodiesel and other nonpetroleum-based transportation fuels reduce pollution, help fight climate change and improve national security by reducing dependence on foreign oil. Though many policymakers find these arguments compelling, the biofuels issue would not have achieved the political momentum it has without …

The USDA goes all lukewarm on cellulosic ethanol

In related news, the ’07 corn harvest will break records

For decades now, the USDA has been dumping cash into cellulosic ethanol research (most recently through a joint venture with the DOE). So the USDA’s analysts should know something about the prospects for mass production of cellulosic ethanol, hailed by its boosters as a panacea that can wean us not only from oil, but also from corn as an ethanol feedstock. So what’s the latest from USDA analysts on this miracle fuel? From a report released last week: Although cellulosic-based production of renewable fuels holds some longer-term promise, much research is needed to make it commercially economical and expand beyond …

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