Climate & Energy

Tell Us What You Flaunt, What You Really Really Flaunt

Spice Girls reunion tour will be — gasp — carbon-intensive We’ve been looking for an excuse to mention the Spice Girls reunion since it was announced two weeks ago, and we’ve finally got one. It seems that — brace yourself — the group’s world tour will not be eco-friendly. In fact, each Girl will get a private Lear jet for the 11-show tour, which starts in December and covers ground from Los Angeles to Madrid to Buenos Aires. According to Alex Lambie, who runs a London-based website that helps consumers compare energy options, the combined flights will churn out nearly …

Should we call them Green 5 now?

Pop band Maroon 5 launches ‘carbon neutral’ tour

Grammy-winning pop quintet Maroon 5 have teamed up with Global Cool to green their upcoming arena tour in support of their sophomore album It Won’t Be Soon Before Long. From the press release: Global Cool will work closely with Maroon 5’s production team, management, and the boys themselves to reduce the carbon emissions produced by the world tour before offsetting the remaining emissions that cannot be reduced. For its part, Maroon 5 will donate $1.00 for each ticket purchased in North America to buy offsets that go toward making the tour "carbon neutral." Frontman Adam Levine says the band is …

The wind and the William

Malawian man powers village with a $16 windmill

A great story via Inhabitat: With all the sobering news lately about global warming and war, it’s important to remember all the positive things that are also going on in the world at any given time. Case in point: the story of intrepid Malawi youth William Kamkwamba who, despite having no education or training, recently engineered and built a windmill that powers his entire village. It’s certainly the most inspiring story we’ve read this month, and we think you’ll agree. After having to drop out of school due to lack of funds, William Kamkwamba from Malawi decided to learn as …

Global warming: That's a rap!

Young rappers say ‘peace out’ to skeptics

“Glaciers melting, waters rising, sky is storming, global warming!” That’s how a rap written by a group of Vermont teens begins. And they hope it ends with local lawmakers taking action on climate change. The students, who call themselves X-10, first drew attention this spring with their rap, “802,” which described life in Vermont. Their video has been viewed more than 123,000 times on YouTube. Instead of 802, they’re now rapping about CO2 — carbon dioxide, which some scientists blame for global warming. They’re urging lawmakers to override Governor Jim Douglas’ veto of H. 520, a bill that calls for …

Britain's new McFleet

McDonald’s trucks to use french fry grease as fuel

On July 2, McDonald's announced plans to convert its entire British fleet of 155 delivery trucks, which consume about 6 million liters (a little less than 1.6 million gallons) of diesel per year, to run on cooking oil from Britain's 1,200 McDonald's restaurants. The company pledged to make the switch within the next twelve months. In an apparently unintentionally ironic statement, VP John Howe said the fuel wouldn't smell like french fries -- though, he remarked, the Pavlovian effect that would have been "one of the best marketing campaigns we've ever had." Two steps forward, too many back.

Umbra on biodegradable products

Dearest Umbra, With biodegradable corn-plastic products like clothes hangers, credit cards, and trash bags, we are led to believe there are good alternatives to plastic that can be thrown out guilt-free. But doesn’t all trash get put in landfills that are then hermetically sealed to prevent the bad contaminants from leaching out, but hold in the things that would have been composting otherwise? I thought that was the reason to compost organic matter: to reduce anaerobic digestion in a landfill that causes methane production. So what’s the deal with alternative plastics? Is it a scam? Should it be put out …

An observation on the offset debate

Many offset critics appear to be shadowboxing

I’ve been watching the public debate over carbon offsets out of the corner of my eye for some time, and have formed a general impression, which I would like at long last to get off my chest. Offset critics often strike a moralistic tone, comparing offsets to medieval "indulgences." Let’s be clear: That rhetorical gimmick makes no damn sense whatsoever. If there really were such a thing as sin, and there was a finite amount of it in the world, and it was the aggregate amount of sin that mattered rather than any individual’s contribution, and indulgences really did reduce …

A few random climate thoughts

Climate skeptics lose even more credibility

The first half of 2007 is the warmest Jan-June period on record, +0.79°C above the long-term average (from NASA GISS data, via QuarkSoup.net). For those who question the consensus on climate change, see the collection of proconsensus statements at Logical Science (hat tip: Michael Tobis). Just recently, my department (the Dept. of Atmospheric Sciences at Texas A&M University) unanimously adopted a statement endorsing the primary conclusions of the IPCC reports. See the statement here. In the scientific community, virtually no one believes that solar variations are the dominant driver of climate over the last few decades. However, among skeptics, this has been one of the last remaining shreds of hope for a non-human cause of climate change. New research, however, validates the doubt of the scientific community: Writing in Proceedings of the Royal Society A, a journal of Britain's de-facto academy of sciences, the team said that the Sun had been less active since 1985, even though global temperatures have continued to rise. "Over the past 20 years, all the trends in the Sun that could have had an influence on the Earth's climate have been in the opposite direction to that required to explain the observed rise in global mean temperatures," they write.

It’s Not the Sun

Sun is not causing current global warming, researchers confirm Attention all ye who think the sun might be a primary cause of climate change, and all ye who know someone who thinks that: No. It’s not the sun. Researchers have published a study of the last century of solar activity, finding that the sun’s output has actually declined over the last 20 years. (And yes, they did brainy adjustments to account for variations and cycles and such.) “The sun did a U-turn around 1985, but the temperatures kept on rising,” says English solar physicist Mike Lockwood. “Everything on the sun …