Environment and Energy

In recent months, we've seen a host of companies protest the Chamber of Commerce's stance on global warming by either speaking out or resigning: Apple, Nike, GE, Johnson & Johnson, three electric utilities... The Chamber, in turn, has pointed out that the vast majority of its three million members haven't defected. Fair enough, but that raises a question: How did the Chamber's climate policy get decided in the first place? Was it a transparent, open process, and Apple and Nike are just sore losers? Nope.

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Over at the Council of Foreign Relations' site, Michael Levi's got a useful explainer-type thing on the ins and outs of the global climate talks. This part, for instance, is a succinct explanation of what members of Congress want to see from China: Members of Congress seem to have made the legal form of a Chinese commitment their overarching priority. They want to see China make commitments that are technically legally binding in the same sense that U.S. commitments would be legally binding under an international agreement. And if that's not forthcoming then they would want symmetry. So U.S.

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We can now add Apple to the list of companies bidding the Chamber of Commerce farewell over the group's obstruction on climate policy. This is the Chamber's highest-profile defection to date, and one that's guaranteed to keep the story percolating in the news a bit longer.

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Last year, U.S. intelligence analysts prepared a report on how climate change could pose a threat to global security, especially as "floods and droughts [trigger] mass migrations and political upheaval in many parts of the developing world." So, in response, the CIA set up a small unit called the Center on Climate Change to study more carefully the potential national-security implications of a warming planet. Seems innocuous enough. Whatever you may think of cap-and-trade, this stuff is at least worth studying, right? Apparently not.

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It's not just on health care where Obama's obsessed (maybe too obsessed) with the lessons of the Clinton years. As Juliet Eilperin reports in The Washington Post today, his climate team also agonizes over the memory of 1997, when Clinton and Gore agreed to the Kyoto Protocol abroad, and then watched as the Senate cudgeled the climate treaty with a 97-0 vote: Like most members of President Obama's climate team, David Sandalow was one of President Bill Clinton's negotiators in Kyoto.

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There are two main arguments conservatives put forward against cutting carbon emissions. The first is that the science undergirding rising global temperatures is wrong, or uncertain, or that the effect is negligible. Generally this argument relies upon grasping at small bits of data while ignoring their broader context. Here’s a classic example from a recent op-ed column from a climate change skeptic: One recent conservative op-ed column, for instance, seizes upon a recent New York Times article that cites a recent plateau in global temperatures.

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Drunk with Power

In 2001, an entrepreneur named Tom Casten traveled down to southern Louisiana, near the small town of Franklin, with a clever idea. For decades, the area had sustained a pair of chemical plants that produced carbon black, a grimy powder used in printer ink and tire rubber. But the owner of one of the plants, Cabot Corporation, was struggling to compete against cheap tire imports from abroad, and desperately seeking ways to cut costs. That’s where Casten came in. He pointed out that the gas left over from the carbon-black process was just getting wasted--burned off and flared up into the sky.

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In case you missed it on the homepage today (or on that sidebar to the right), Bill McKibben has a piece in our current print magazine on why global warming, as a policy issue, is going to be fundamentally different from health care. Physics and chemistry, he argues, don't tend to be terribly flexible negotiating partners: In Washington, and in Copenhagen, political realism dictates reaching some kind of deal.

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Yesterday, the other big climate news that broke, apart from the release of the Kerry Boxer-bill in the Senate (and, do take note, the official moniker appears to be "Kerry-Boxer," not "Boxer-Kerry"), was that the EPA clarified new rules for regulating greenhouse gases from large stationary sources—from coal-fired power plants to refiners to large factories. I'm just going to rip off Dave Roberts's lucid summary: When the new EPA fuel economy regulations [for vehicles] go into effect in 2010, that will automatically—as in, by law—trigger regulations of stationary sources.

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Earth to Obama

Bill McKibben: You can't negotiate with the planet.

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