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Articles by Tom Athanasiou

Tom Athanasiou is a long-time left green, a former software engineer, a technology critic and, most recently, a climate justice activist. He is the author of Divided Planet: The Ecology of Rich and Poor and the co-author of Dead Heat: Global Justice and Global Warming. In 2000, with Paul Baer, he founded EcoEquity, an activist think tank focused on the development and promotion of fair and potentially viable approaches to emergency climate stabilization. This work has taken shape as the Greenhouse Development Rights Framework. Tom is now the director of EcoEquity.

Featured Article

Recall one version of the peaker story – peak oil as a repository of hope.  This is the take in which, despairing of other avenues to rapid, large-scale changes, we look to peak oil to at least save us from the more extreme forms of climate disaster. 

The idea is that, as we burn our way through the peak, fossil fuels will get more expensive and this will tip the competitive balance to low-carbon energy sources.  So that despite the obvious reality of the day – let’s just say “governance failure” for the moment, and leave it at that – in which it’s all but impossible to price carbon at anything like its true social cost, its price will nevertheless rise, maybe even fast enough to save our bacon.

Does anyone still believe this?  They won’t after reading the Carbon Bubble report, which was just released by the impeccably capitalist Carbon Tracker Initiative, which describes itself as “the first project of Investor Watch, a non-profit company established by its directors to align the capital markets with efforts to tackle climate change.”  This report, which is unfortunately based on ... Read more

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  • A ton of carbon, an imported widget, and thou

    It’s been a long time coming, but a team led by Glen Peters, of the Centre for International Climate and Environmental Research in Oslo, has finally published a comprehensive “consumption-side” analysis of global greenhouse-gas emission, one that takes international trade fully into account.   Estimates of “outsourced emissions” or “embodied carbon” have been knocking around […]

  • One year after Copenhagen, and counting

    The first thing to say about the climate negotiations – meeting soon in sunny Mexico – is that they’re teetering at the edge of what, back in the day, we used to call a “legitimation crisis.”  On every side, folks are eager to suggest that the negotiations have become a waste of time.  It’s gotten […]

  • Meanwhile, back at the global negotiations

    The bad news is that the climate/energy push just crashed and burned in the Senate. The good news is that, in the wake of that crash, the U.S. climate community is having a Big Think, one of the best in years. The last time we had such an exchange was back after what, for lack of a better term, I will call the Copenhagen Disappointment. Which raises an interesting question -- do we only debate, openly and seriously, after we lose?

  • The National Academies study, from a global point of view

    A few days ago, I got mail from a colleague at Climate Action Network International, a communications guy, asking for a comment on the US National Academy of Science’s recent climate reports, or rather on the US emissions budget that is recommended / affirmed in these reports.   It turned out to be quite an interesting […]