Climate & Energy

Warming globe will have major security issues, says think tank

The security implications of climate change resemble those of nuclear war, a security think tank said today. “Fundamental environmental issues of food, water, and energy security ultimately lie behind many present security concerns, and climate change will magnify all three,” wrote the International Institute for Strategic Studies, which foresees collapsed governments, heightened racial and ethnic tensions, and escalating conflict. Now where have we heard this before?

Breaking: Automakers lose

Vermont judge rules that Calif. and other states can implement tough tailpipe emission standards

Big news: the lawsuit by U.S. automakers attempting to block California and 14 other states’ adoption of tough new tailpipe emissions standards has lost: A federal judge on Wednesday rejected the U.S. auto industry’s attempt to block California and 14 other states from setting tough new fuel economy standards, saying the industry had not proved the regulations were illegal, unsafe or unattainable. The ruling was a big loss for the industry in the fight over whether California and other states can require more efficient vehicles to reduce emissions linked to global warming. … … In his ruling, Vermont U.S. District …

Judge rules against Big Auto, says states can regulate emissions from cars

States should be allowed to restrict greenhouse-gas emissions from cars, and Big Auto should just deal, a federal judge ruled today. Right now, the only real way to curb the emissions is to improve gas mileage; when Vermont decided to adopt California’s strict emissions rules, automakers sued, claiming that the state was illegally regulating fuel economy — and that making cleaner cars was unattainable and unsafe, to boot. U.S. District Judge William Sessions didn’t see it that way: “The court does not find convincing the claims that consumers will be deprived of their choice of vehicles, or that manufacturers will …

Take that, Bjørn!

Harvard economist disses most climate cost-benefit analyses

Harvard economist Martin Weitzman has a new paper in which he points out that the vast majority of conventional economic analyses of climate change should carry the following label: WARNING: to be used ONLY for cost-benefit analysis of non-extreme climate change possibilities. NOT INTENDED to cover welfare evaluation of extreme tail possibilities, for which a complete accounting might produce ARBITRARILY DIFFERENT welfare outcomes. In short, if you don't factor in plausible worst-case scenarios -- and the vast majority of economic analyses don't (this means you, William Nordhaus, and you, too, Bjørn Lomborg) -- your analysis is useless. Pretty strong stuff for a Harvard economist!

Oil company Conoco agrees to offset carbon emissions from refinery project

California has reached a settlement with oil giant ConocoPhillips that requires the company to spend $10 million to offset greenhouse-gas emissions from a proposed refinery expansion in the state’s East Bay area. As part of the deal, the company will spend $7 million on as-yet-unspecified environmental projects in the San Francisco Bay Area as well as $2.8 million on reforestation in California, and about $200,000 on local wetland restoration. The projects are meant to offset an anticipated emissions increase of carbon dioxide at the refinery of about 550,000 tons. State attorney general Jerry Brown said the deal was the first …

Energy storage in the field

American Electric Power to install large battery banks to store wind energy

Sweet. A utility called American Electric Power is going to set up a huge bank of batteries to store wind power. The short write-up in the NYT is both exciting, in that it’s good to see storage moving to the deployment phase, and sobering, in that it highlights the limitations of current battery technology. Here’s the setup: The batteries can each deliver one megawatt of power — enough to run a medium-size shopping center — for a little more than seven hours. Replenished nightly, they give back about 80 percent of the electricity put into them. Each is the size …

New rules for action

Advice for political leaders on how to deal with climate change

This post is by ClimateProgress guest blogger Bill Becker, Executive Director of the Presidential Climate Action Project. I'd like to propose a few new rules our political leaders might keep in mind as they figure out their role in addressing global climate change.

Markey and the FTC

Rep. Markey asks the Federal Trade Commission to investigate voluntary carbon offsets

Rep. Markey has asked the FTC to investigate whether or not the sale of voluntary carbon offsets violates the Guides for the Use of Evaluating Environmental Marketing Claims, as laid out by the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC has responded and agreed to commence an investigation, noting that: The FTC staff has been monitoring this nascent market as part of the Commission's ongoing consumer protection programs in the energy and environmental areas. The carbon offset market poses potential consumer protection challenges. Carbon offset claims may present a heightened potential for deception because it is very difficult, if not impossible, to verify the accuracy of the seller's claims. At the same time, the sale of carbon offset products afford interested consumers the opportunity to participate in the market for products and services that may reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Because of the benefits that this developing market may provide, we want to better understand the market to avoid acting in a way that could restrain innovation or harm consumers. For full details, see here. There is clearly a potential for fraud and cause for investigation, but my personal guess is that this is also a good example of the cost of not participating in Kyoto. The accounting for GHG offsets is really complicated, and the formal, audit-worthy work on that topic is now being done in London and Brussels. Voluntary markets are an attempt to bridge that gap, but will never carry the rigor of a Big-4 audited statement. In any event, this will be worth following to see how the story develops.

Will polar bears go extinct by 2030? Part II

Loss of summer ice in the Arctic will threaten polar bear survival

We've seen the USGS predict that two-thirds of the polar bear population will be wiped out by 2050. But that analysis assumes the Arctic will still have summer ice then. The USGS acknowledges (PDF) their projection is "conservative" since it is based upon an average of existing climate models and "the observed trajectory of Arctic sea ice decline appears to be underestimated by currently available models." In fact, the Arctic now is poised to lose all its ice by 2030 -- and possibly by 2020, as I discuss below. What will happen to the polar bears?

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