U.N. Climate Summit: Free beer with big shots

Bloggers and U.N. officials chat, don’t quite connect

Sunday night, I along with some other writers attended a U.N. Foundation dinner designed to bring the U.N.'s climate change directors into better contact with members of the online media. As far as accomplishing that goal, I suppose the dinner was a huge success. I and other members of the online media came into contact with some important employees of the U.N.! As to bringing American political writers and U.N. officials to a common understanding of the political problems of climate change, it was frustratingly unproductive. The evening started out quietly enough. The guests of honor were Yvo de Boer, executive director of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and Nick Nuttall, spokesperson for UNEP, the United Nations Environment Program (or Programme, if you prefer). For a while we all exchanged banal pleasantries: They wanted to better understand online media and blogger outreach, and we told them a bit about it; we asked them what to expect at Monday's big U.N. climate meeting, and they provided answers. Everybody enjoyed the free food. About halfway through the evening, though, Nuttall, a British journalist cum climate advocate with a gentle disposition, grew a bit agitated about what he regarded as the other guests' insouciant approach to the issue at hand. That's where progress slowed.

Channel surfing summary

One show for dumb guys and one for smart guys

I channel surf (I'm a guy). I find something of interest and as soon as a commercial hits, I move on. I landed on Keith Olbermann's show, Countdown, just as he was launching into Bush. I sat there shaking my head in awe. When Olbermann lets loose, he is intelligent, courageous, and articulate -- the polar opposite of Glenn Beck, the smarmy bobblehead clown who also has a show that attempts to mix humor with news. One show is funny, the other comical. There's a difference. One show is for smart guys, the other for dummies. Everybody is covered. Here's Olbermann: Here's Beck, doing what he does best (from earlier this year). If television had existed when Darwin published The Origin of Species, Beck would have been right there poking fun at a man who claimed we were descended from monkeys. The intellectual chasm is vast:

Fast and furious

Ted Glick enters Day 17 of climate fast

Yesterday I went through a day-long fast for Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year, a day of atonement, and the climax of the Days of Awe. We Jews usually start to get hungry by the afternoon. So it's worthwhile to remember that Ted Glick was likely really hungry in Day 18 of his fast to solve the climate crisis, something probably even more important to God than the condition of our souls. Check out this video from Ted on Day 17:

San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders on gay marriage

Pardon the weekend detour away from green issues, but this is one of the more remarkable pieces of video I’ve seen in years, and I wanted to share it. See here for the backstory. It’s …

Capping carbon: Is nothing better than something?

On whether to advocate weaker climate change bills

This post is by ClimateProgress guest blogger Bill Becker, Executive Director of the Presidential Climate Action Project. How fearsome must the headlines be about tomorrow before people change their ways today? -- Nancy Gibbs, TIME In Greenland today, the ice is thawing at a pace that is alarming climate scientists. Meanwhile in Washington, D.C., Congress remains frozen on the issue of carbon pricing. And that may be a good thing. Carbon pricing, as most readers of Gristmill know, is the idea that some portion of the costs of greenhouse-gas emissions should be reflected in the price consumers pay for carbon-intensive fuels. The energy that is causing global climate change would cost more than the energy that isn't, and the marketplace would become the ally of climate stabilization. There are two schemes on the table. The first is a carbon tax -- simple, straightforward and, according to conventional wisdom, political suicide. The second approach is carbon trading. Carbon emissions would be capped; polluters would buy and sell emission permits. Carbon trading is more complex and would take longer to make a difference, but because it is not a tax, it appears to be the favored approach in Congress. Several cap-and-trade bills have been introduced in Congress, some setting tougher goals than others. The word on the street is that the leading bill will be proposed soon by Senators Warner and Lieberman. It reportedly will call for a 15 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2020, compared to current levels. Therein lies the rub. Is the glass (of melted ice) half empty or half full?

PARK(ing) Day

Parking lots transform into parks for one day

There are two kinds of public demonstrations. Those that attract people to the cause and demonstrate new possibilities, and those that just piss people off and make enemies out of potential friends. Here's a beautiful example of the former. "Parking" can either mean leaving an expensive hunk of climate-changing steel to cool on greasy asphalt, or it can mean sitting on the grass with friends, drinking wine in the fresh, clean air. These guys have an elegant way of getting people to think about which definition of "park" should get more city space. If you are in SF, NYC, LA, DC, Seattle, Portland, Chicago, St. Paul, Boston, Austin, Salt Lake City, Tampa, Miami, then check it out. Some pictures below the fold, courtesy of Transportation Alternatives.

Sanders-Boxer TKO

New WRI report compares climate bills

The World Resources Institute has a new report out comparing the various climate bills floating around Congress. Here’s what you need to know (click for larger version): This confirms what we already knew, that Sanders-Boxer …

Whither the energy bill?

Rep. Ed Markey looks down the road on climate and energy

The Center for American Progress hosted Rep. Ed Markey at a roundtable for reporters to give a sort of primer for what to expect in the run-up to and during the marathon of international climate-change events in the coming week. He was, to my ear, a little bit sanguine about the energy bill, which he expects will be completed and sent to the White House this fall, in time for the Congress to then turn its attention to a climate-change bill. Markey said, "The NRDC estimates that that bill, if it was signed by the president, would meet 25 percent of the greenhouse-gas goals of the United States by 2030." It's unclear, though, whether he was talking about the NRDC's ambitious benchmarks or the president's laughably dubbed "aspirational goals" for long-term greenhouse-gas reduction. And in any case, it would depend upon all of the emissions-mitigating provisions of the bill -- some now in the House version, some in the Senate version -- finding their way into the final version that emerges from the conference committee.

Feds apologize for encouraging employees to buy fuel-efficient Japanese cars

A Bush administration official has apologized for encouraging government employees to consider buying fuel-efficient Japanese cars. Which is why we have a “dumbassery” tag.

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