Environment and Energy

According to NASA, the first six months of 2010 were officially the hottest half-year on record—and we're now on track to witness the hottest year on record (although that will largely depend on La Niña conditions later this year). A few of the usual bullet points on how this relates to global warming: 1. One hot year doesn't, on its own, prove that humans are warming the planet any more than one cold year disproves it. That said, there's a clear upward trend here, and reams of evidence that the planet is heating up.

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Everyone knows that sea otters are adorable (just look at that picture).

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Over the past few years, large polluters have become pretty adept at blocking climate legislation in Congress. But there are still plenty of individual states out there trying to put limits on carbon emissions. So what's a poor oil or coal company to do? Why, bring the battle to the states, of course. Back in 2006, California passed AB32, a law that would set up a cap-and-trade system and cut the state's emissions 15 percent by 2020.

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Michael Hiltzik has an interesting piece in the Los Angeles Times on the false promise of the Hoover Dam, that great symbol of the New Deal (even though, of course, the dam wasn't actually brought about by the New Deal—FDR had initially campaigned against Hoover's large public-works projects, and only changed his mind once in office). During the postwar era, the reservoir created by the dam helped transform the U.S. Southwest, allowing Los Angeles and San Diego to balloon in size and setting the stage for a major agricultural boom in the region.

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Lucky for us, the Earth's not going to stop spinning anytime soon. So cross that off the list of apocalypses we need to fret about (though I've got a long list handy if anyone needs a few). But what if it did stop spinning? Witold Fraczek of ESRI decided to model what the planet would look like in the absence of all that centrifugal force. The Earth's gravity would shift and the oceans would rush up to the poles. No more Canada, Europe, or Russia: Well, that and our days and nights would be all screwed up...

Is global warming going to be very costly? I certainly think so. But the key premise of Jim Manzi's argument against tackling carbon emissions (see his initial post, my reply, and his reply) is that it won't do too much damage. Indeed, Manzi's reading of the IPCC leads him to contend that future temperatures rises can be expected to reduce global GDP by only about 3 percent in 2100, while curbing carbon pollution will cost more than that. But how confident should we be in those numbers? The blogger over at Things Break makes the case that this 3 percent figure is dubious: 1.

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When most people hear the phrase "renewable power," they tend to think of solar panels and wind turbines. But in the United States, the reality is quite different. Right now, the country gets about 8 percent of its power from renewables, and most of that is from large hydropower dams (2.6 percent) and biomass (2.3 percent). And even if Congress were to pass some sort of clean-energy legislation, that would remain the case for the foreseeable future.

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Okay, next stop on the Climategate express: Earlier today, a British panel released the results of its third-party investigation into the scandal and… yup, it basically exonerated the scientists at the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia. You know, all the folks whose e-mails were hacked and taken out of context and offered up as Exhibit A that climate change is all a massive hoax. Turns out, there's no hoax.  "On the specific allegations made against the behavior of C.R.U.

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This week, two more "Climategate"-related investigations trickled out, and—no surprise—both of them knocked down (yet again) the long-running charge that climate scientists are engaged in some sort of massive fraud. Mainstream climatology is still holding up under scrutiny. (Well, either that or the climate conspiracy runs far, far deeper than anyone thought.) But that said, there were a few twists and complications in the two reports, and they're worth looking at in some detail.

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In the summer of 2008, Democrats had a serious oil problem. Just as the presidential primaries were winding down, gas prices were soaring toward $4 per gallon. Anxious voters were watching their budgets gobbled up by fuel costs, while truck drivers were protesting across the country—at one point circling the Capitol in hornhonking caravans. Republicans were dominating the message war: Newt Gingrich had just launched his “Drill Here, Drill Now” campaign, gathering more than 1.3 million signatures.

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