The Climate Desk
Welcome to this inaugural series from The Climate Desk, a unique journalistic collaboration dedicated to exploring the impacts — human, environmental, economic, and political — of a changing climate. Climate Desk participants include Mother Jones, Slate, Wired, The Atlantic, PBS’s Need to Know, Reuters, Grist, and the Center for Investigative Reporting.
Stories in this series:
Corporations love to talk about going green, but not many are planning for a changing climate
About a decade ago, Miguel Torres planted 104 hectares of pinot noir grapes in the Spanish Pyrenees, 3,300 feet above sea level. It’s cold up there and not much good for grapes — at least not these days. But Torres, the head of one of Spain’s foremost wine families, knows that the climate is changing. His company’s scientists reckon that the Rioja wine region could be unviable within 40 to 70 years, as temperatures increase and Europe’s wine belt moves north by up to 25 miles per decade. Other winemakers are talking about growing grapes as far north as Scandinavia …
Betting on change
Last year, Beluga Shipping discovered that there’s money in global warming. Beluga is a German firm that specializes in “super heavy lift” transport. Its vessels are equipped with massive cranes, allowing it to load and unload massive objects, like multi-ton propeller blades for wind turbines. It is an enormously expensive business, but last summer, Beluga executives hit upon an interesting way to save money: Shipping freight over a melting Arctic. Beluga had received contracts to send materials on a sprawling trip that would begin in Ulsan, South Korea, head north and west to the Russian port city of Archangelsk—located …
Can federal courts help tackle global warming?
If Congress and the president fail to tackle global warming, can courts step in? Can federal judges allow people struggling with the losses of global warming to sue polluters directly? The idea may at first seem crazy. In a legal world obsessed with claims of judicial activism, the image of a judge taking on a global problem like climate change seems like the punch line to a bad joke at an Exxon board meeting. But it turns out there is a long and proud history of judges addressing pollution in the absence of environmental regulation. For much of the last …
Will an SEC ruling convert short-term greed into long-term sustainability? [UPDATED WITH TRANSCRIPT]
I know. I know. Securities and Exchange Commission: zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. But the SEC did something sort of landmark last January: in a 3-2 vote, commissioners approved guidelines that urge companies to regularly disclose climate change-related risks (and opportunities) to investors. If you’re a big box store importing underwear from China, or an insurance company indemnifying coastal businesses, you’ll have to start accounting for the carbon cost of all that transportation, or the projected rise in global sea levels. We’re not talking laws here, just guidelines. But the SEC’s decision should make corporate America take climate change more seriously, and it may …
What climate change means for the wine industry
John Williams has been making wine in California’s Napa Valley for nearly 30 years, and he farms so ecologically that his peers call him Mr. Green. But if you ask him how climate change will affect Napa’s world famous wines, he gets irritated, almost insulted. “You know, I’ve been getting that question a lot recently, and I feel we need to keep this issue in perspective,” he told me. “When I hear about global warming in the news, I hear that it’s going to melt the Arctic, inundate coastal cities, displace millions and millions of people, spread tropical diseases and …
Can global warming give you kidney stones?
The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp by Rembrandt van RijnPhoto: Wikimedia Commons. The 1995 Chicago heat wave was one of the most brutal weather events the United States has ever experienced. On July 13, the thermostat hit 106 degrees F. Many of the city’s poor and elderly residents had no air conditioning; many of those who did lost power as blackouts swept the city. Soon, thousands were suffering from dehydration, kidney failure, and respiratory distress. The hospitals were overloaded; the city couldn’t cope with the flood of 911 calls. Over the following days, more than 600 people died from heat-related illnesses, with hundreds …
Will the new climate bill damage U.S. energy security?
This piece was co-authored by Michael A. Levi of the Council on Foreign Relations. Few groups have been more strident in their opposition to cap-and-trade legislation than the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Last year, four prominent members of the powerful business lobby, including Exelon Corp. and Pacific Gas & Electric, quit on account of its obstructionist approach to climate policy. When some activists announced, in a prank press conference, that the chamber would throw its weight behind an ambitious climate bill, the group responded with a lawsuit. In arguing against cap-and-trade, the chamber has repeatedly advanced the notion that such …
‘Reasonably high’ chance BP files for bankruptcy
Bankruptcy expert Peter S. KaufmanPhoto: Gordian GroupThere is a reasonably high chance that BP could file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the next few years, or even months, and the result would be an “absolute horror” for the government, according to a bankruptcy expert. Peter S. Kaufman, the President of investment bank Gordian Group and head of the firm’s Restructuring and Distressed M&A practice, told me that if he had BP’s ear, “I’d advise them to explore the option of bankruptcy.” If he had the government’s ear, he’d tell them to stop berating the company to the point where BP …
How green was my organic milk? A podcast with author Heather Rogers
Heather RogersThink you’re saving the environment by buying organic or fueling your car with corn oil? Heather Rogers, author of Green Gone Wrong: How Our Economy Is Undermining the Environmental Revolution, says that “green” products aren’t always as environmentally responsible as they appear. In this PBS interview with Need to Know host Alison Stewart, she discusses the truth about organic foods and biofuels, among other things.
Why drilling moratoriums are a ‘morally false choice’ [VIDEO]
Should offshore drilling be banned? Jon Meacham of PBS’s Need to Know asked Lisa Margonelli, who writes about the global culture and economy of energy, at Monday’s TEDx Oil Spill conference. She explains her view that Americans don’t have a right to drive cars and use gasoline unless we’re willing to drill for it in our own backyard.
The mystery BP Twitterer revealed!
Leroy Stick is the brains behind a fake BP Twitter account called BPGlobalPR that’s racked up more than 180,000 followers. Need to Know‘s Erin Chapman grabbed an exclusive on-camera interview with him at the TEDxOilSpill conference. Stick (an alias) began feeding his updates to humor-starved news junkies on May 19 and — like the oil — hasn’t slowed since. Some of his recent status reports include: As long as we can get loaded potato skins at T.G.I.Friday’s, seafood can suck it. Tropical Storms = 1/2 days. Anyone accusing us of tarring and feathering pelicans is ignorant. They feathered themselves. In …
The climate war’s western front
Gov. Schwarzenegger at a press conference. Photo: Office of the GovernorThe latest California ballot measure to make a national splash addresses neither marijuana nor gay marriage, but an even more contentious issue these days: cap-and-trade. Proposition 23 would suspend California’s statewide cap-and-trade plan, currently scheduled to take full effect in 2012, until unemployment drops to 5.5 percent in the state for a full year. The carbon pricing scheme is one of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s pet projects, and it is a key component of the emissions reduction measure known in California as AB 32, which Schwarzenegger signed in 2006 despite intense …
BP whistleblower: ‘They just don’t know who they’re messing with’
If you’ve been reading Mother Jones lately, you’ve heard about BP’s stranglehold on media access in the Gulf, which has included preventing reporters from visiting oil-soaked public beaches and barring its spill cleanup workers from talking to the press. Now, one of BP’s ex-media enforcers is speaking out. Former BP contractor Adam Dillon went public last Friday, telling a local news station in New Orleans that he was fed up with BP’s handling of the spill response, not least of all its information clampdown. In an interview with Mother Jones this week, Dillon, who claims he was fired for raising …
Is the population bomb ever going to explode? [AUDIO]
Environmentalists and human-rights advocates regularly point to a growing world population as a potential source of strife. But one environmental journalist doesn’t agree. Fred Pearce, author of The Coming Population Crash, argues that fears of a population explosion are overblown. His recent post on Grist sparked a sharp rebuttal from Robert Walker, executive vice president of the Population Institute. In this PBS interview with Need to Know host Alison Stewart, Pearce and Walker talk about the issue of population growth and its impact on climate change.
A conversation with pro-drilling environmentalist Amanda Little [AUDIO]
Amanda LittleAlison Stewart of PBS’s Need to Know speaks with Amanda Little, a Grist contributor and self-proclaimed “pro-drilling environmentalist.” Little describes her personal experience on an offshore oil rig, her argument for continuing offshore drilling, and her optimistic belief that American ingenuity can solve our energy problems. Little is the author of Power Trip: From Oil Wells to Solar Cells — Our Ride to the Renewable Future.
BP's secret ticket request line
For more than a decade, BP has operated a hush-hush phone line that California lawmakers can call to request box seats to NBA games and concerts at the Sacramento stadium named after its West Coast subsidiary.
How Reid's parliamentary maneuvering could doom reforms to the oil industry
The Sen. majority leader may block amendments to an oil reform bill, endangering a bipartisan priority in order to prevent efforts to sideline the EPA