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World’s cities are the ‘battleground’ in fight against climate change

Or, the other option.The world's cities are going to have to move aggressively to curb their greenhouse-gas emissions, or the whole planet is going to pay for it. That's the word in a new report from the United Nations Human Settlement Program, or UN-HABITAT. The report is called "Hot Cities: Battle-Ground for Climate Change," (you can find a summary and links to purchase the full report here). It paints a dire picture of how an increasingly urban and wealthy global population could mean "potentially devastating effects of climate change on urban populations": Urban centres have become the real battle-ground in …

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PG&E to let customers disable their smart meters — for a price

Over the past year, a revolt against the rollout of utility Pacific Gas & Electric's smart meters has swept through Northern California as some customers claimed the devices' wireless transmission of electricity data was harming their health. In response, city councils in a number of cities tried to ban their installation. On Thursday, PG&E, acting under orders from state regulators, unveiled a proposal to let customers have their smart meter's radio turned off -- for a price. PG&E would charge a one-time fee ranging from $105 to $270 and then customers would pay between $14 and $20 a month for …

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Only bulldozers and bison can save Detroit now

Aren't these preferable to a statue of robocop?Photo: Cathleen ShattuckThe latest U.S. census reveals that not even Detroit natives are that into the Motor City anymore. The once-flourishing city saw the biggest population drop in 10 years -- 25 percent -- of any city ever, except for the special case of post-Katrina New Orleans. Civic-minded organizations have a plan for saving Detroit, however, and it's got nothing to do with delusional hail-Mary attempts to restart old-style growth. It's called managed decline, and basically it involves giving up on the city and finding something more useful to do with that space. …

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Cities with the most energy efficient buildings: L.A., Houston, Detroit, Dallas

It's that time of year, when the United States Environmental Protection Agency releases its list of the top 10 American cities [PDF] with the most energy efficient buildings. In this case, that means commercial buildings that have earned an Energy Star rating that signifies they consume 35 percent less energy and release 35 percent less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than average buildings. For the third year running, Los Angeles, generally not considered a paragon of restraint, snagged the No. 1 spot in 2010 with 510 Energy Star buildings, up from 293 buildings in the previous year. That 75 percent …

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Actor/activist Mark Ruffalo will follow you on Twitter if you donate to Japan relief

Last seen agitating for a ban on fracking, actor and environmental activist Mark Ruffalo is now using Twitter as a platform to raise money for relief efforts in Japan. Dude is following and retweeting the sh*t out of anyone with good news about the island nation, and/or anyone who pledges to donate. Go Mark go!

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The world’s top 10 walking cities [SLIDESHOW]

Photo: Miss KA great city is a great walking city. So which is the greatest of them all? Travel book publisher Lonely Planet just surveyed its readers and asked them to pick the best walking cities in the world from a list of 186. Take a stroll through the top 10, counting down to the city that readers rated No. 1, and see if your favorite made the cut. Venice "Venice is like eating an entire box of chocolate liqueurs in one go."                                           -- Truman Capote          

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This year’s Cleantech Forum: Less sexy, more efficient

Looking for new ways to get in the cleantech game.Photo: emilydickinsonridesabmxIt's a rite of spring, the annual Cleantech Forum in San Francisco. Venture capitalists, startup entrepreneurs, and various hangers-on gather at an upscale hotel to network, pitch, and hopefully clinch some deals. There are scores of these green biz conferences, of course, and after awhile they all tend to blend together in a mashup of hype and prognosticating. Still, the Cleantech Forum is one I make an effort to attend, and not just because it's a short BART ride from Berkeley. Over the years, I've found the confab to be …

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Liberal NIMBYism: the most despicable form of hypocrisy?

Prospect Park's new bike lane is worse than airborne weaponized AIDSPhoto: shannonvsimmsIn staunchly liberal enclaves all over the country, citizens who profess to progressive environmentalism in the abstract are thwarting local efforts to increase the sustainability of their immediate environment. Whether it's suing over bike lanes in Park Slope, Brooklyn, or blocking a bus rapid transit system in Berkeley, Calif., the children of the summer of love appear to have grown up, grown old, and grown immune to the needs of their descendants. Ryan Avent, online economics editor for The Economist, says that there is something even more damaging to the environment …

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It’s the ‘burbs, stupid: on the Ezra Klein/Tom Vilsack dustup

Carried away: Ezra Klein and Tom Vilsack ride an imaginary "raft of subsidies." This week, an interesting -- and, I think, bizarre -- argument broke out between Washington Post political blogger Ezra Klein and USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack. The topic was whether rural residents deserve what Klein called a "raft of subsidies," when in fact, "we still need cities." Klein's contributions to the debate were widely hailed as "brilliant" and Vilsack's were widely deplored (see here and here); but I was left wondering what precisely the two were arguing about -- and whether either one of them actually knew what …

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Are ‘smart cities’ not as smart as they think they are?

Smart cities like Masdar, in Abu Dhabi, are all the rage. But are they intelligent in the right way?Photo: Trevor PattCross-posted from the Natural Resources Defense Council. "Intelligent cities" and "smart cities" are all the rage right now, especially in corporate image advertising related to emerging technology. But is there a downside? I think there may be, insofar as those phrases are used to describe tech-based panaceas for urban problems whose roots lie not in a lack of sophisticated information flow, but in a half-century or more of dumb growth patterns, central-city disinvestment, and poor neighborhood design.    Just a …