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Here’s how you can get conservatives to care about the environment


Stop appealing to climate-change deniers with science and moral arguments, folks -- it ain't gonna work. Just get them worrying about their own health and the "purity" of their local environment. At least that's how I'm reading this new study from UC Berkeley published today in the journal Psychological Science.

From the press release:

A UC Berkeley study has found that while people who identified themselves as conservatives tend to be less concerned about the environment than their liberal counterparts, their motivation increased significantly when they read articles that stressed the need to “protect the purity of the environment” and were shown such repellant images as a person drinking dirty water, a forest filled with garbage, and a city under a cloud of smog ...

“These findings offer the prospect of pro-environmental persuasion across party lines,” said Robb Willer, a UC Berkeley social psychologist and coauthor of the study. “Reaching out to conservatives in a respectful and persuasive way is critical, because large numbers of Americans will need to support significant environment reforms if we are going to deal effectively with climate change, in particular.”


We got a copy of the subpoena Chevron sent a rebellious shareholder

Chevron has a lot of money. Which is a good thing, because lawyers are expensive, and Chevron has developed quite an affinity for lawyers. And if you're a Chevron shareholder who dares speak out, expect to hear from them.

The fossil fuel giant faces an $18 billion fine levied by a court in Ecuador stemming from massive pollution in the Amazon rainforest throughout the 1970s and '80s. Chevron is understandably loathe to write a check for that amount, given that it constitutes almost nine months' worth of 2011 profits (or, if you prefer, 25 days worth of revenue). Instead, it would rather unleash an army of esquires who are already on retainer.

Image (1) chevron_ecuador.jpg for post 43220

Last month, we told you that Chevron filed a complaint against Thomas DiNapoli, the comptroller of the state of New York, because Chevron thinks that plaintiffs' attorneys gave DiNapoli a campaign contribution to sway his political opinion on the Ecuador judgment. (This is what psychologists call "projection.")

Powerful political figures aren't the only object of Chevron's wrath. In true evil-corporate-behemoth fashion, it has a new target for those attorneys: its own shareholders. From The New York Times:


Rural America: Poorer, less populous, less powerful — but now with fracking!

It is the best of times and the worst of times for rural America. On the one hand, they're the only ones among us who've been getting richer lately. Thanks, fracking!


From USA Today:

The nation's oil and gas boom is driving up income so fast in a few hundred small towns and rural areas that it's shifting prosperity to the nation's heartland, a USA TODAY analysis of government data shows. ...

Inflation-adjusted income is up 3.8% per person since 2007 for the 51 million in small cities, towns and rural areas.

The energy boom and strong farm prices have reversed, at least temporarily, a long-term trend of money flowing to cities. Last year, small places saw a 3% growth in income per person vs. 1.8% in urban areas.

Small-town prosperity is most noticeable in North Dakota, now the nation's No. 2 oil-producing state. Six of the top 10 counties are above the state's Bakken oil field.

"Give us a little shale, and we'll show some pretty good income growth, too," says Bill Connors, president of the Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce in Idaho.

Connors' comment leads us to the other hand: Rural areas without energy reserves are suffering. Across the country, poverty rates are higher in rural areas than in urban areas, according to the USDA. About half of rural counties have lost population over the last four years, and that's led to a loss of political clout as well. According to the Associated Press and TV news exit polls, rural voters accounted for only 14 percent of the Nov. 6 electorate (and more than 60 percent of them went for Mitt Romney).

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, formerly the Democratic governor of Iowa, told a Farm Journal forum last week that rural America is "becoming less and less relevant." From the Associated Press:

Read more: Cities, Food


New York’s bike share gets a new new new new new launch date

New York City's bike-share program -- originally slated for late summer, then this fall, then some point next year, then who-knows-when-because-Sandy -- will be launched in May of 2013. If you believe the city, which you shouldn't, based on its prior track record.

D.C.'s version of the bikeshare, which made launching one look deceptively easy
D.C.'s version of the bike share, which made launching one look deceptively easy.

Here's what the plan is this time, according to The New York Times:

In August, the city said the program would initially feature 7,000 bikes at 420 stations by March, then expand to 10,000 bikes and 600 stations by this summer.

Now, the plan is to have at least 5,500 bikes at 293 stations by May. There is no timeline for the program to expand to 10,000 bikes. ...

[City transportation commissioner Janette] Sadik-Khan said “we still remain committed” to expanding the program to 10,000 bikes, but she said she was unsure when that might happen.

My guess: no time soon! My sympathies to Ms. Sadik-Khan, however, for constantly having to update her talking points on why the bike share isn't yet in place.


Projections for future carbon emissions in U.S. keep dropping — but the emissions keep rising

The U.S. Energy Information Agency has a graph showing how its projections for U.S. carbon dioxide output keep being revised downward. In case you didn't get the point, it has a big blue arrow pointing down. They probably had a few meetings to discuss whether the arrow was big enough.

co2 reductions eia

Year after year, the EIA has revised its projections. Its 2013 calculations suggest that 2040 emissions will still be 5 percent lower than what the U.S. produced in 2005. Which is good news!

But it is also higher than what we're emitting today. Every projection from the agency shows an increase in emissions over 2010 levels by 2040. So the celebratory down arrow is maybe a bit much.

Read more: Climate & Energy


Sandy’s aftermath: Economy, jobs, housing hit hard — but for how long?

Last Friday, the government released its first assessment of the nation's employment since Hurricane Sandy. Surprisingly, the data suggested that the storm hadn't had much impact on unemployment figures, a point called out by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. "[O]ur survey response rates in the affected states were within normal ranges," the agency wrote. "Our analysis suggests that Hurricane Sandy did not substantively impact the national employment and unemployment estimates for November."

Full state data comes out later this month, which may show a different picture for New York and New Jersey. There's external evidence of an effect: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) suggests that the region saw 50,000 people in New York state lose jobs due to the storm and Moody's says the number could be 86,000 across the region. The BLS' data itself already shows an effect from the storm, as noted by Jordan Weissmann at The Atlantic. Here is a graph he created showing the number of people, in thousands, who missed work due to weather last month.

The Atlantic

That's more than twice any month prior.

The New York Times reported this weekend that the storm resulted in the complete loss of thousands of jobs in lower Manhattan -- and that the negative economic effects of Sandy are ongoing.


The U.N. climate conference wraps up, and now all of our problems are solved

There are pretty good odds that the atmosphere already contains enough greenhouse gases to push global temperatures more than 2 degrees C higher by the end of the century, an increase broadly understood to mean catastrophic effects across the globe. If the atmosphere isn't yet at that point, the amount that we'd have to curb our pollution to prevent it becomes steeper and less realistic by the day.

Which is why the United Nations -- having previously eradicated from the world the scourges of war, poverty, inadequate medical care, and hunger -- holds annual meetings during which it consistently and efficiently ratchets down the levels of greenhouse gas emissions from all of the nations of the world. Every schoolkid, no matter his or her nation of origin, has a photo of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon over the bed, dreaming of one day attaining that most-powerful position on Earth.

This year's annual meeting, held in Doha, Qatar, wrapped up over the weekend. Two weeks ago, we offered a fairly cynical preview of what to expect from the United Nations' gathering. Our prediction for its ineffectiveness was almost too optimistic.


Could clones save California’s endangered redwoods — in Oregon?

True story: My grandmother built her California house entirely from redwood. It's a really nice house! But it makes me pretty uncomfortable to be inside the place with its massive beams made of ancient, dead trees when we've got only 5 percent of old-growth redwood forest left standing today. And as the climate keeps heating up, those trees will be subject to new dangers -- and new potential for rebirth further north.


According to new research published in the journal Science, the California redwoods, American pines, Australian mountain ash trees, and other living giants are in danger of being lost forever if we don't change how we treat them.

Just as large-bodied animals such as elephants, tigers, and cetaceans have declined drastically in many parts of the world, a growing body of evidence suggests that large old trees could be equally imperiled.

From The Bangkok Post:

The study showed that trees were not only dying en masse in forest fires, but were also perishing at 10 times the normal rate in non-fire years. The study said it appeared to be down to a combination of rapid climate change causing drought and high temperatures, as well as rampant logging and agricultural land clearing.

"It is a very, very disturbing trend," said Bill Laurance of James Cook University.

"We are talking about the loss of the biggest living organisms on the planet, of the largest flowering plants on the planet, of organisms that play a key role in regulating and enriching our world."

Large old trees play critical ecological roles, providing nesting or sheltering cavities for up to 30 percent of all birds and animals in some ecosystems.

Some people are now taking action to save the remaining redwoods and repopulate West Coast forests with new-old trees. In Santa Cruz, activists are trying to raise millions to purchase a section of old-growth forest. And this week in Oregon, the Archangel Ancient Tree Archive began planting 250 clones from 28 of California's biggest, oldest redwoods and sequoias on the southern Oregon coast. From the Associated Press:

Read more: Climate & Energy


Green branding sells for Patagonia

A company that actively dissuades its own customers from buying any stuff and transparently tracks its own environmental failings -- and still turns a profit selling clothes. No, this isn't a weird dream. It's fleece-'n-flannel purveyor Patagonia, which has built a brand, and corresponding loyalty, around sustainable, built-to-last goods, resulting in $400 million in annual revenue. It even recycles its products that you've worn out.

Worn-out Patagonia clothes bound for the recycling center.
Reno Patagonia
Worn-out Patagonia clothes bound for the recycling center.

From Fast Company Co.Create:

Patagonia makes some of the best, and most expensive outdoor gear in the world, but the company’s mission is bigger than simply maximizing profit. The mission is: “Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.”

That would be an easy pursuit if Patagonia didn’t care about running a great business. But therein lies the lesson. Patagonia has found a way to marry good business with its brand promise. According to Patagonia’s Director of Environmental Strategy, Jill Dumain, “If I wanted to make the most money possible, I would invest in environmentally responsible supply chains … these are the best years in our company’s history.”


Go skiing now, while you still can

Hopefully, this lady also enjoys walking down mountains
Hopefully this lady also enjoys walking down mountains.

From the Denver Post:

A new study says a warming climate could cost the country's winter tourism industry as much as $2 billion a season as snowpack dwindles.

The analysis -- authored by a pair of doctoral students from the University of New Hampshire -- concludes that rising winter temperatures since 1970 are threatening winter tourism in 38 states. The report said the difference between a good snow year and a bad snow year from 1999 to 2010 cost the industry between $810 million and $1.9 billion; 13,000 to 27,000 jobs; and 15 million skier visits.

Looking forward, the researchers estimate snow depth could decline to zero at lower elevations in the West and that the ski season in the East could shrink by as much as half in the coming decades.

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living