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Why your money can’t protect you from climate change

It's hard to see how the West will benefit from, say, more floods.Photo: NZRicoIn a recent article in Newsweek, Nobel laureate economist Thomas Schelling argues that one of the greatest obstacles to addressing climate change is persuading the non-poor in the developed world to take the problem seriously. As he states: Estimates of lost world product due to climate change are moderate because the poor have so little to lose. More than a billion people, maybe 2 billion, are estimated to live on less than the equivalent of $2 per day. If a billion of those poorest people lost half …

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The gobsmackingly gargantuan challenge of shifting to clean energy

If I were king, I'd make everyone in America set aside time to watch the first hour of this video. It will change the way you think. Since I'm just a blogger, I expect most people won't, so beneath, I've extracted some of the key slides from Saul Griffith's extraordinary presentation, to give a clear sense of just what an enormous task lies ahead of us this century. Say we decide we want to prevent the climate from entering irreversible feedback loops that spin us into biophysical circumstances our species has never experienced. Seems reasonable, no? To avoid those feedbacks, …

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Are we in a ‘clean energy race’ with China?

A popular line among climate hawks these days goes something like this: If the U.S. doesn't support domestic clean energy, China will beat us in the clean energy race. The message has become quite popular lately, and indeed Obama said something very like it in his State of the Union, what with the "Sputnik Moment" (which, because I'm a bad person, I can't help thinking sounds like the title of a porn movie). There's been a wide-ranging debate about the merits of this approach on the interwebs over the last few months. I think it helps to separate the claim …

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The people have spoken: let the EPA do its job

Cross-posted from the Natural Resources Defense Council. Yesterday, members of Rep. Fred Upton's (R-Mich.) House Energy and Commerce Committee held their first hearing on Chair Upton's proposal to block the Environmental Protection Agency from updating Clean Air Act safeguards to protect our health from life-threatening carbon pollution. (Hat tip and bow to EPA chief Lisa Jackson who withstood hours of dirty air extremism from panel members, and didn't give one inch on the EPA's obligation to protect public health by limiting carbon pollution.) We've already learned most Americans don't support various proposals to eliminate or block the EPA, as Reuters, …

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Bush’s Johnson stood up for climate

Stephen Johnson, former EPA administrator under Bush.Cross-posted from the Natural Resources Defense Council. Yesterday, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) released a 2008 letter [PDF] from Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Stephen Johnson to President George W. Bush saying that the science supported "a positive endangerment determination" on carbon pollution, and proposing an action plan to curb emissions from motor vehicles and industrial sources just like the action plan actually carried out by the Obama EPA. Who knew controlling carbon pollution under the Clean Air Act was actually a Bush administration plan? Actually, we knew part of this before, but only part. We …

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Smackdown: Climate science vs. climate economics

As I see it, there are two incommensurate stories being told about climate change. I'm not talking about the largely fake debate between those who say climate change is happening and human-driven (scientists) and those who say it isn't (the GOP). I'm talking about two different ways of envisioning what we can expect in a climate-changed future, both of which exist among people who take climate change seriously. Sometimes they take up residence in the same head! Like, er, mine. But they don't fit together very well. One comes to us from science, the other from economics. Eban Goodstein wrote …

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Wind power now competitive with coal in some regions

Photo: Vlasta JuricekMore good news on the renewable energy front Monday: The cost of onshore wind power has dropped to record lows, and in some regions is competitive with electricity generated by coal-fired plants, according to a survey by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, a market research firm. "The latest edition of our Wind Turbine Price Index shows wind continuing to become a competitive source of large-scale power," Michael Liebreich, Bloomberg New Energy Finance's chief executive, said in a statement. "For the past few years, wind turbine costs went up due to rising demand around the world and the increasing price …