Sep 25, 2009 | 25
The U.S. Secretary of Energy—channeling former Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev perhaps?—has one thing to say in this week's Science to the greenhouse gases emitted by coal-fired power plants: We will bury you. Nobel laureate Steven Chu's department has funneled $3.4 billion in stimulus dollars to research and develop the technology known as carbon capture and storage (CCS).
But to give you a sense of the challenge, here are his estimates of the scale of the challenge: six billion metric tons of coal burned every year, producing 18 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide and requiring an underground storage volume of 30,000 cubic kilometers per year with untold consequences on subsurface pressure, mineral composition and the like. And we are nowhere near that scale: "We now sequester a few million metric tons of CO2 per year," he wrote, largely from cleaning natural gas or so-called "enhanced oil recovery" efforts, in which CO2 is pumped down to flush out more of the valuable petroleum (and therefore not as useful, from a climate perspective, as sequestration for its own sake).
Sep 23, 2009 | 73
Population growth, now at roughly 78 million extra people per year, is the don't-go-there zone of modern environmentalism and political discourse.
But let's go there for the moment: The biodiversity crisis. The water crisis. The climate crisis. Lurking behind all these crises is at least one shared factor: human population. Species extinction? Think land clearing for agriculture to feed a growing population of 6.8 billion people. Water? The majority of water goes directly to growing that same food supply. And giving a helping hand to all these other crises as a result of all the fossil fuel burning needed to power our lives and lift billions out of poverty: anthropogenic climate change.
Sep 22, 2009 | 16
President Obama gave his first major speech on climate change today at the United Nations, part of a special session convened by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. The reason for the session? Lack of speed in international negotiations to address climate change.
You can see the president's speech here:
In addition to reaffirming the U.S. commitment to addressing climate change, the president listed some recent accomplishments: new efficiency standards for all vehicles, billions of dollars for renewable energy development, and the nation's first mandatory greenhouse gas reporting system. He even noted a plan to work with the world's other largest economies, known as the G20, to "phase out fossil-fuel subsidies so that we can better address our climate challenge."
Sep 11, 2009 | 23
How do you make a movie about changes to the ocean's chemistry? See here:
Sven Huseby and wife Barbara Ettinger have made a new documentary about ocean acidification, the other offspring (along with global warming) of the rising concentration of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere (and the one that can't be covered up with a good batch of geoengineering.) As a staffer at the marine environmental group Oceana once told me: "If the ocean goes, we're all toast."
Sep 1, 2009 | 28
Do you really want to start messing with the atmosphere? If not, then stop emitting so much CO2. Or so argues the U.K.-based Royal Society, the same people who brought you Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin and Stephen Hawking. A new report by the Society analyzes so-called geoengineering—"the deliberate large-scale manipulation of the planetary environment," or consciously tweaking Earth's climate in an attempt to stave off global warming—and finds that it is feasible and worth studying carefully, but probably not something we want to get involved in.
Artificial volcanoes, mirrors in space or other climate-altering schemes might be the last, best hope for mankind if we don't get started reducing greenhouse gas emissions pronto—specifically a 50 percent reduction (at minimum) in global emissions from 1990 levels by mid-century, according to a 12-member panel convened by the Society. "Geoengineering and its consequences are the price we may have to pay for failure to act on climate change," said report chair and climate modeler John Shepherd of the University of Southampton in a prepared statement. "Used irresponsibly or without regard for possible side effects, geoengineering could have catastrophic consequences similar to those of climate change itself."
Aug 31, 2009 | 2
Since the 1990s, Vietnam has managed a seemingly impressive forestry trick: Although overall forest cover in the country has increased, so have its exports of wood goods, like patio furniture. So how did the Southeast Asian country manage the feat?
The answer to the riddle: forests felled elsewhere, often illegally. The lumber first came in from neighbors Laos and Cambodia and now is coming from Malaysia, Myanmar and Indonesia, among others, according to a new analysis in today's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by geographers Patrick Meyfroidt and Eric Lambin of Belgium's Universite Catholique de Louvain.
All told, forest now covers roughly 38 percent of Vietnam, up from around 25 percent since 1987, according to figures the authors compiled from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N. That increase is thanks to government policies that restricted logging and "shifted the source of wood from natural forests toward plantations and imports," the researchers wrote. But, they added, the domestic forest industry also shut down "because of a growing scarcity of raw materials."
Aug 25, 2009 | 46
In a bid to avoid regulations on the greenhouse gas emissions contributing to climate change, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce wants to put the science of global warming on trial. "It would be evolution versus creationism," the chamber's William Kovacs, senior vice president for environment, technology and regulatory affairs, told the Los Angeles Times.
In other words, the chamber hopes for a "Scopes monkey trial for the 21st century," referring to the famous 1925 court case that determined whether evolution could be taught in Tennessee (a battle that has broken out again in states like Texas). The chamber, which represents millions of U.S. businesses, is urging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to set up a hearing to discuss the science behind that agency's move to declare carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases a threat to human health and therefore subject to regulation under the Clean Air Act.
Aug 10, 2009 | 2
A large, coal-burning utility in the U.S. and another in China have agreed to cooperate to develop methods to more cleanly burn coal, including so-called carbon capture and storage technology. Duke Energy will partner with China's Huaneng Group to further develop and build technologies to gasify coal and strip it of its impurities, including the carbon dioxide that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere from coal burning. As it stands, Huaneng releases some 285 million metric tons of CO2 per year while Duke emits 112 million metric tons, according to data from the Center for Global Development, a Washington, D.C.-based thinktank.
"We find ourselves at a pivotal point in world history," said Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers in a statement announcing the partnership. "China has committed to rapidly developing clean-energy technologies, as has the U.S.… Working together, the U.S. and China can commercialize and drive down the cost of these technologies for the benefit of the entire world."
Jul 17, 2009 | 2
Just as Wal-Mart’s plan to start eco-labeling its products is splashing down into the summer corporate news kiddie pool, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is in talks about making companies do some serious environmental reporting of their own.
The SEC may eventually require all publicly traded companies to let consumers (that is, investors) know what kinds of risks—financial and otherwise—climate change may pose to the bottom line.
“It’s really time for us to take another very serious look at the disclosure system,” an SEC commissioner told Environment & Energy Publishing (via The New York Times).
Jun 10, 2009 | 13
Flooded farmland has already forced thousands of Bangladeshis to higher ground, but that's just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak, of the numbers of people who will need to move because of climate change in the coming decade, according to a report released by the Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN) at Columbia University, the United Nations University and CARE International today.
As climate change alters weather patterns—hastening desertification in some places and sopping others—increases the strength of natural disasters—from cyclones to landslides—and raises sea levels world wide, it will make many areas and livelihoods untenable, say the authors.
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