Climate & Energy

Gary Snyder: James Lovelock's arguments for nuclear power 'demented'

Nuclear power is too risky

This past weekend the Ojai Poetry Festival featured the great American poet Gary Snyder, who read to a large crowd of listeners mostly from work written this century, especially his 2004 book of haibun called Danger on Peaks. (Haibun, we learned, is a mix of prose and haiku: Japanese professor Nobuyaki Yuasa has described it as having a relationship "like that between the moon and the earth: each makes the other more beautiful.") Snyder read poems linking the destruction of the Buddhas of Bamiyan in March 2001 by the Taliban to the destruction of the Twin Towers, among others, as well as an indelible new poem called "No Shadow." He concluded with his classic "For All," the conclusion to which was recited by all the poets and the crowd. He then went away from poetry for one moment to warn of a recent trend toward nuclear energy. "Some people who should know better," he said, mentioning Stewart Brand, were calling for the construction of new nuclear power plants to hold down carbon emissions. Snyder objected vociferously, arguing that climate change would not destroy life on earth, though it might make things difficult for humans for a few hundred years. He specifically went after famous British scientist James Lovelock, the man who first formulated the concept of Gaia, for saying nuclear waste is overly feared as a pollutant.

Mongabay highlights for May '07

Good reading on Mongabay

There is so much good stuff over there I hardly know where to start. You might consider subscribing to the weekly email. Top of the list is an interview with Luke Hunter (the same biologist I pissed off with my pincushion post). Coincidentally, roughly a fifth of the interview dealt with that topic: ... does conservation of the species require radio-tagging? There are many, many cases where it does not. I often read proposals by graduate students who are wishing to radio-collar cats to address a conservation issue when they could far better achieve their goal by some other means. Trapping or darting animals does increase their vulnerability, so it is critical to reduce that as much as possible. The great bulk of biologists I've met are very concerned about this and take great care in reducing the risk. Take a few minutes out of your life (or off your boss's time clock) to sign this petition. This was my message: "Please cosponsor the Great Cats and Rare Canids Act. Your grandchildren will thank you." Dooo it ...

Umbra on albedo

Hi Umbra, Can we make small changes to increase the albedo in the Northern Hemisphere? Choose white or light-colored autos (white is safer, anyway), white or light-colored roofs. Could we float white “islands” (recycled Styrofoam) in our lakes and oceans in locations that would not disrupt transportation? Sometimes white plastic bags get caught in the branches of trees and I’ve been so angry about that litter — maybe I should appreciate them as increasing the albedo? Thanks for all you do, Shelley Forest Park, Ill. Dearest Shelley, How generous of you to see a silver lining on litter. Alas, it …

Are Republican presidential candidates taking global warming seriously?

Brownback’s plan is not promising

He hasn’t released a detailed plan yet, but Republican presidential contender Sam Brownback gave a speech yesterday to the Set America Free coalition that outlined his thoughts on energy policy. (There’s more info in this Greenwire story, but it’s subscription only.) Republican candidates haven’t talked about climate and energy as much as their Dem counterparts, but Brownback’s comments are more or less representative. Consider this a critique, then, of mainstream Republican climate/energy policy. Brownback — like Romney and McCain, at least — acknowledges global warming and the need to reduce carbon emissions. He says that "we need to reduce our …

Noah's ark rebuilt

A not-so-subtle call for climate change attention

At the base of snow-capped Mount Ararat, where the bible says Noah's ark came to rest after 40 days of flooding, environmentalist volunteers are constructing a miniature version of the famed zoological craft. Its completion is being timed to coincide with next month's G8 summit in Germany, where climate change will be a hot issue. Last week, for instance, scientists from all across Africa plus Brazil, India, China, Mexico, and South Africa presented joint statements to German prime minister Angela Merkel calling for "united global action on energy efficiency and climate change mitigation." The Network of African Science Academies (NASAC) also called for a joint fund to be set up between the G8 and the African Union to finance shared science and technology projects in priority areas. All of which is a good thing, since this ark -- 10 meters long and 4 meters high -- might not quite cut it.

Department of unresolved contradictions

I’m going to put up a longer post about this in a second, but for now, I merely note the following two statements from Republican presidential candidate Sam Brownback’s energy speech. One: … we need to reduce our carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere. This is possible using our ingenuity, resources and determination. Two: Coal needs to be at the center of our energy policy for the foreseeable future.

Another attempt to push nukes

Using high gas prices to push for a rebirth

In today's New York Times, President Gerald Ford's energy adviser, in an article entitled "How to Win the Energy War," tries to use higher gas prices and oil dependence as an excuse to build more nuclear reactors: The other major way to wean us from oil is to resume construction of nuclear power plants. Nuclear energy is the cleanest and best option for America's electric power supply, yet it has been stalled by decades of unproductive debate. Our current commercial nuclear power plants have an outstanding record of safety and security, and new designs will only raise performance. How can Washington help? One thing would be federal legislation to streamline the licensing of new plants and the approval of sites for them. His first way to wean us from oil is to gradually increase gas taxes. Ford's original energy independence plan might make you wince, as it included 150 new coal-fired plants and 200 nuclear power plants. Not a word about global warming or peak oil, by the way. Not that mentioning those would help: Prime Minister Tony Blair tried to use global warming as a cover for more nukes, a trick that even Margaret Thatcher used as well.

NYC's yellow cabs go green

Big Applers breathe easy

Starting in 2008, every new yellow taxi purchased by the city of New York will be a hybrid vehicle, according to an announcement yesterday by Mayor Bloomberg. By 2012, the entire fleet -- some 13,000 cabs -- will have been replaced with a mixture of Toyota Priuses, Highlander Hybrids, Lexus RX 400h's, and Ford Escapes. Thirteen thousand may sound like a drop in the ocean, given that 232 million cars are currently registered in the U.S. alone. Still, cabs are a great target for greening, both because of their high public profile and because of their disproportionately large carbon expenditure. New York City never sleeps, and neither do its taxis, ever spewing their emissions, even while they mostly idle in traffic. Bloomberg certainly is the consummate businessman, as you can see in this Today Show clip -- adept at rubbing shoulders with corporate execs from Yahoo!(which donated 10 hybrid vehicles to one of the major cab fleet operators) to the American Lung Association. One gets rolling advertisements, the other gets less asthma ... and we all get slightly cleaner Big Apple air.

Industrial Revelation

Carbon emissions increasing faster than expected, says new study Remember climate change? It’s still happening — and faster than expected. From 2000 to 2004, global carbon dioxide emissions leapt from an average 1.1 percent annual growth rate to more than 3 percent annual growth, according to a new report published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. That means the globe’s inhabitants spewed nearly 8 billion tons of carbon in 2005, up from 6 billion tons in 1995. “We’re burning more carbon per dollar of wealth created,” says lead author Mike Raupach, blaming the trend on intensive industrialization in …

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