Environment and Energy
Hey, look: Environmentalists are suddenly getting excited again. Remember the old renewable electricity standard? The one that would force utilities to get 15 percent of their power from sources like wind, biomass, and solar by 2021? It wasn't the greatest clean-energy policy of all time, but it was something. And it's slowly creeping back into the Senate conversation: Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) is trying to resurrect it, and he's already snagged four Republican co-sponsors—Sam Brownback, Chuck Grassley, Susan Collins, and John Ensign.
Via Joe Romm, two new scientific studies reaffirm the infamous hockey stick graph.
Trying to convince the countries of the world to reduce their carbon emissions is one hell of a coordination problem. It's no surprise that UN climate talks always descend into bickering and in-fighting. But what if we decided to cool the Earth through geo-engineering means instead? True, that would be far from a perfect solution—we probably couldn't stave off most sea level rise, and the oceans would continue to acidify—but mightn't it be easier to get a global deal? Not necessarily.
The march of science proceeds apace: If you're going to lace dead mice with poison, and drop them from helicopters into a rainforest in Guam in such a way that they become entangled high in the trees where they might murder the brown tree snakes, but you want to avoid (as much as possible) having the toxically tasty mouse corpses fall all the way to the ground, where they could instead get gobbled by coconut crabs, perhaps you should graft them on to something like a parachute. Those were the findings of a recent study by Peter Savarie, Tom Mathies, and Kathleen Fagerstone of the National Wil
Recently, White House science adviser John Holdren got some unwanted attention when he noted, in a speech at Oslo, that "global warming" might be a "dangerous misnomer." Yes, emitting greenhouse gases will raise overall global temperatures, he noted, but the warming won't be uniform everywhere, and we can expect a lot of weird variations from place to place. So Holdren suggested "global climate disruption" as a preferred term of art.
Last month, The New Yorker's Jane Mayer published a long piece on how billionaires David and Charles Koch fund a variety of libertarian causes—from Tea Parties to the Cato Institute. Given that the brothers own Koch Industries, the second-largest privately held oil company in America, it's no surprise that the Kochs also like to wade into the carbon/climate debate. (The Koch-funded wing of the Smithsonian Natural History Museum, for instance, has a... creative... exhibit on climate change.) But how important are the Kochs, in the grand climate-skeptic scheme of things? Pretty central.
Yesterday I noted that only one Republican running for a Senate seat this year believed in climate change. That was Delaware's Mike Castle, who got ousted in his state's primary last night by Christine O'Donnell. And what's O'Donnell's deal? Well, she doesn't believe in the greenhouse effect. But she also doesn't believe in evolution.
It's been a good year for climate skeptics. Not, mind you, because they've been vindicated at all on the merits. Quite the opposite: 2010 is shaping up to be the hottest year on record, Arctic sea ice continues to thin out, heat waves have been torching Russia, and nearly one-fifth of Pakistan has been submerged underwater. The science on global warming is still overwhelming. But politically, skepticism is at its zenith. Consider: During the sweatiest U.S.
Congress is in session this week and it's not likely that any energy legislation will come up, much less pass.
These days I do believe we're supposed to hail China as our clean-energy overlords. The country now produces half the world's wind turbines and half its solar panels. How did the Chinese do it? Partly through aggressive renewable-energy laws and various incentives for budding tech industries. And that's to be expected—as long as fossil-fuel externalities go unpriced, renewables are always going to need a little boost. But, according to Keith Bradsher of The New York Times, there's another side to this story.