G8: We really mean it on climate change this time


The 33rd meeting of the G8 is happening in early June, in Germany. German Chancellor Angela Merkel — perhaps in retaliation for the infamous backrub — is determined to put climate change high on the agenda. Not surprisingly, the U.S. and Canada are working to water down the draft communique Merkel has put together. Somewhat surprisingly, Merkel — backed by Tony Blair — isn’t backing down. Indeed, they seem to be ramping up the pressure on Bush. Will Bush’s weakness and the now-universal chorus of concern on climate change combine to yield U.S. federal movement on the issue? Ha ha. …

Great Danes

Denmark is a model of energy independence

Back in January, Jonathan Cohn wrote a fantastic piece in The New Republic about Denmark. Conventional economic wisdom says that countries must choose between robust social services and economic growth. But, Cohn wrote, Denmark casts doubt on that notion: Over the last decade, the Danes have turned the conventional wisdom on its head by boasting not only one of the world’s most expansive welfare states, but also one of its most robust economies. Given the way average American workers’ wages continue to stagnate even as their burden of risk — of losing a job, of losing medical insurance — continues …

American automakers: The power of can't

What a bunch of whiners

So, remember that lawsuit by the automakers against states implementing California’s clean air standards? The one I said might be dismissed, um, several weeks ago? Breaking: it wasn’t dismissed! In fact, the trial is rolling along, and the whiny-ass-titty-baby automakers are in court right now arguing that they don’t have the smarts, money, or time to boost their fuel efficiency, and anyway, American consumers demand big, inefficient cars. Why, they won’t accept anything less! Poor, poor automakers. Remember when the ingenuity and creativity of American industry was envied the world over? When did the political and financial elites in this …

Flogging the horse race

Will campaign coverage drown out or draw out competing stories?

Can you believe we're already several galloping laps into horse race reporting on the 2008 presidential campaign? Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi describes this phenomenon more eloquently than I can (and with more profanity than I would probably dare) here. For anyone already snorting in disgust and tuning out the constant stream of chatter about who's raised more money, who's realigning their image this way or that (with what hunting photo-op or change of hairdo), and who's notched up a point and a half in Iowa polls, Taibbi is spot on: The election, after all, is nearly a full Martian year away, with a Super Bowl and two World Series still to play out in between -- which means that the "urgency" of breaking campaign news is now and will remain for at least a year an almost 100% media concoction.

Gristmill to Schweitzer: STFU

Quit with the coal boosting already

Down in Salt Lake City, the National Governors Association is holding a three-day Energy Summit. Tired of federal slacking, the NGA has for the first time in its history drawn up a specific list of priorities for Congress to consider this session. Here’s what they said: At the top of the list – in fact, an “imperative” – is acting to head off the devastation of climate change, Huntsman said during opening remarks at the three-day Utah Energy Summit in downtown Salt Lake City. The governors want expanded alternative fuels programs, vehicles with better fuel efficiency, continued renewable energy development …

Walking backwards from cataclysm: A strategic planning methodology

The basic approach of the Bright Lines project

((brightlines_include)) After a decade of brutal political trench warfare, the surreal debate in the U.S. on the reality of climate change is over. A Democratic Congress looking to put climate in play in 2008, serious buy-in for federal regulation from a band of corporate heavyweights, and a rash of climate conversions from the likes of Pat Robertson and Frank Luntz (author of the infamous strategy memo advising Bush administration operatives how to muddle the climate change debate) demonstrate that a significant and probably permanent shift in climate change political gravity has taken place within the last year. U.S. environmentalists have a very brief opportunity to reshape our climate agenda in order to meet the demands and seize the opportunities of new circumstances, and the stakes could not be higher. It is likely that the actions of U.S. environmentalists in the next two or three years –- more so than any other group of people on the planet -– will determine whether a functional global response to abrupt climate change is advanced.

U.S. military steps it up

Maybe the Pentagon can persuade red-staters

The military -- which tends to insist on operating in a reality-based world, as a matter of self-preservation -- thinks global heating is a big threat. A bit from the story: Today, 11 retired senior generals issued a report drawing attention to the ability of climate change to act as a "threat multiplier" in unstable parts of the world. The Army's former chief of staff, Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, who is one of the authors, noted he had been "a little bit of a skeptic" when the study group began meeting in September. But after being briefed by top climate scientists and observing changes in his native New England, Sullivan said he is now convinced that global warming presents a grave challenge to the country's military preparedness. "The trends are not good, and if I just sat around in my former life as a soldier, if I just waited around for someone to walk in and say, 'This is with a hundred percent certainty,' I'd be waiting forever," he said.

The Err Up There

EPA relaxes clean-air requirements for ethanol-fuel plants Before last week, plants turning corn into liquor (yes, please) were allowed to emit 250 tons of emissions per year before triggering clean-air regulations, while those processing corn into ethanol fuel could emit only 100 tons annually. Just doesn’t seem fair, does it? So the U.S. EPA did the logical thing, announcing that ethanol-fuel plants will now be allowed the higher pollution level too — and they won’t have to keep track of emissions from vents and other minor sources. Because a process for making clean energy should get to be dirty! The …

Greening geopolitics

Friedman in the NYT Magazine

What's red white and blue, and green all over? The cover of this week's New York Times Sunday Magazine. In "The Greening of Geopolitics," Thomas Friedman applies his trademark econo-politico-historical analysis to the state of the global environment, and he is nothing if not comprehensive. From China, Schwarzenegger, and Wal-Mart, to Islamic fundamentalism and oil prices, Friedman traces the connections. Enviros won't learn much about global warming they didn't already know; on the other hand, how greening America could ultimately result in democracy in Saudi Arabia and better schools in Qatar is a point not often made in activist circles. Particularly encouraging are Friedman's call for regulations at the national level to encourage green innovation (free hand of the market won't do this by itself) and his call for a 2008 candidate with a rock-solid plan to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Oh yeah, and the art is pretty too.

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