Category Archives: Environment

Fracking Waste Disposal Fuels Opposition in U.S. and Abroad

Yves here. We’ve posted on some of the not-as-widely publicized damage done by fracking, such as methane releases and increased incidence of earthquakes, as well as the most obvious hazard, which is contamination of water supplies.

This article describes yet another environmental cost, that of fracking waste disposal. Expect this to become a new NIMBY (not in my back yard) issue as the public becomes more familiar with this risk.

Read more...

New Study Says U.S. Underestimated Keystone XL Emissions

Yves here. Some advocates greenhouse gas reduction policies argue that the fight against the Keystone XL pipeline is misguided, since it represented a lot of political capital spent against a not-terribly-significant target. However, this post does reveal an important coda: that of the Administration’s characteristic dishonesty, in this case around climate change issues. Other examples, chronicled at length here and here, is Obama’s pro-fracking climate change headfake, which conveniently fails to include methane emissions in his new carbon containment policies.

Read more...

Climate Movement Agenda: One Million (Frequent) Electric Buses Plus Protected Bikeways, “Everywhere”

Yves here. Hoexter makes an important point, that many climate activists’ proposals have focused on energy sources, as in promoting more use of solar or wind energy, and haven’t focused on how consumers use energy, as in the related infrastructure. Whether or not you agree with his proposals for electric busses and bicycles, they do make for a point of departure in getting to pragmatic reforms.

Read more...

Humanity May Face Choice By 2040: Conventional Energy or Drinking Water

Yves here. It is surprising that it is only now that the idea of water as a scarce resource is getting the attention it deserves in advanced economies. It was when I was in Australia, between 2002 and 2004, that I first heard forecasts of resource constraints that depicted potable water as the one at most risk, with global supplies in serious trouble by 2050. A related issue, which this post addresses to a degree, is that dealing with water, energy, and food supply limits are an integrated problem, yet are typically handled as isolated issues.

Read more...

Wishful Thinking About Natural Gas: Why Fossil Fuels Can’t Solve the Problems Created by Fossil Fuels

Albert Einstein is rumored to have said that one cannot solve a problem with the same thinking that led to it. Yet this is precisely what we are now trying to do with climate change policy.  The Obama administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, many environmental groups, and the oil and gas industry all tell us that the way to solve the problem created by fossil fuels is with more fossils fuels.  We can do this, they claim, by using more natural gas, which is touted as a “clean” fuel — even a “greenfuel.

Like most misleading arguments, this one starts from a kernel of truth.

Read more...

South Portland, Maine: The Mouse That Roared on Canadian Tar Sands

Yves here. The article below illustrates how local communities are throwing spanners in the works of various North American energy plays. For instance, New York State’s highest court (confusingly called the Court of Appeals) ruled that towns have the authority to ban fracking via local ordinance, a decision that sent shivers down the spine of natural gas developers.

Another development that is causing some consternation to energy industry incumbents is an ordinance passed by the city council of South Portland, Maine, which put in place new zoning rules that would prohibit the export of Canadian tar sands through the port.

Read more...

New York Times Hit Piece on Tom Steyer and Fossil Fuel Divestment

Word came recently that both the Philadelphia Quakers and the Unitarian General Assembly have decided to divest from fossil fuels. It followed by a few weeks the news that the Roman Catholic University of Dayton and Union Theological Seminary, the home of many a great thinker, had done likewise.

Read more...

Gaius Publius: IPCC’s “Carbon Budget” Gives One-in-Three Chance of Failure

All of the talk in the lead-up to this year’s meeting in Paris of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change will be about how much “burnable carbon” we can still emit. In other words, what’s our remaining “carbon budget”? Or more to the point, how much more money can Exxon make and still be one of the good guys?

Read more...

Ilargi: Overshoot Loop and Evolution

Yves here. As Ilargi himself acknowledges, even by the standards of his fare, this post on “overshoot” is plenty sobering. We do seem to be on our way to precipitating a mass species die off (as in it’s underway already and humans seem remarkably unwilling to take sufficiently stern measures to stop it). The end of civilization as we know it seems almost inevitable, given that most “advanced” economies are seeing serious erosion of their social fabric, as reflected in falling social well-being measures.

However, the provocative point that Jay Hanson argues is that our hard-wired political habits guarantee our undoing.

Read more...

Gaius Publius: Arctic Seafloor Methane Release is Double Earlier Estimates

one of the cornerstones of the idea that mankind still has a “carbon budget” — that we can still release even more CO2 and other greenhouse gases like methane, though a “limited” amount — is the idea that we can do a good job of modeling climate-changing feedbacks. We can do a good job of modeling some feedbacks, but we’re very bad at modeling others, and some feedbacks have so much randomness about them that modeling them becomes next to impossible.

The release of frozen methane is one of the biggest uncertainties in climate modeling. Results so far are much worse than forecasted.

Read more...

“Risky Business” Climate Report: Paulson, Bloomberg, Rubin, Schultz Late to Combat the Denialists

Those who have been involved in trying to raise awareness of the risks of global warming might have to repress a “Beware of Greeks bearing gifts” response to a new, accessible, and well written report on the probable impact of climate change on the US. The effort, called “Risky Business” has Hank Paulson, Michael Bloomberg, and Thomas Steyer, retired chairman of Farallon Capital, as co-chairs, with its other committee members including Bob Rubin, George Schultz, Henry Cisneros, Gregory Page (the executive chairman of Cargill), Donna Shalala, and Olympia Snowe. In other words, when Hank Paulson looks like the best of a bunch, there’s reason to be cautious.

Nevertheless, the report is meant to demonstrate that the US is long past having the luxury of debating whether global warming is happening, and that a sober look at the seriousness of the outcomes says we need to do something, pronto. If nothing else, it presents some important new analysis and represents a split among the elites, always a welcome development.

Read more...

Why a Carbon Tax is Better Than Obama’s Cap and Trade

This weekend, former Treasury secretary Hank Paulson weighed in at the New York Times abouyt the need for more urgent action on the climate front, and described how various indicators of how quickly climate change is taking place, such as the speed of Arctic and Antarctic ice melt, are moving much faster than models had predicted.

Paulson, who has long been an ardent conservationist (and in contrast to his alpha Wall Street male standing, lives modestly), made a forceful pitch for carbon taxes. The irony of this proposal is that we have a Republican showing what a right-winger Obama really is.

Read more...