Category Archives: Global warming

Don Quijones: Spain’s Silent Reconquest of Mexico

With the ink still drying on Mexico’s historic energy reform, global oil and gas majors are salivating at the prospect of gaining access to one of the world’s largest and until recently most nationalized energy markets. One of those companies is the Spanish electricity giant Iberdrola, which expects to massively expand its operations in Mexico through increased investments of close to €1 billion.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: €1 billion is chicken feed in this age of inflated corporate balance sheets. Indeed, for some corporations such a sum is probably hardly worth getting out of bed for these days. However, in Mexico it can go a very long way, much further than it can in Europe or the US – especially when you have paid moles lobbying for your every interest at the highest level of government.


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.


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.


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.


Climate Tipping Requires Precautionary Accumulation of Capital and an Additional Price for Carbon Emissions

Many ecological systems feature ‘tipping points’ at which small changes can have sudden, dramatic, and irreversible effects, and scientists worry that greenhouse gas emissions could trigger climate catastrophes. This column argues that this renders the marginal cost-benefit analysis usually employed in integrated assessment models inadequate. When potential tipping points are taken into account, the social cost of carbon more than triples – largely because carbon emissions increase the risk of catastrophe.


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.


Will Fossil Fuel Be the Subprime of This Cycle?

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard makes a compelling argument in his latest article: that the $5.4 trillion of investment poured into fossil fuel exploration and development projects over the last six years includes quite a lot of investments that will never show an adequate return. He argues that when that sorry fact starts to be recognized, the losses could be the wake-up call to investors who have shrugged off risk as financial assets climb to ever-more-implausible valuations.


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.


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?


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.


Noam Chomsky: America’s Real Foreign Policy –  A Corporate Protection Racket

The question of how foreign policy is determined is a crucial one in world affairs.  In these comments, I can only provide a few hints as to how I think the subject can be productively explored, keeping to the United States for several reasons.  First, the U.S. is unmatched in its global significance and impact.  Second, it is an unusually open society, possibly uniquely so, which means we know more about it.  Finally, it is plainly the most important case for Americans, who are able to influence policy choices in the U.S. — and indeed for others, insofar as their actions can influence such choices.  The general principles, however, extend to the other major powers, and well beyond.

There is a “received standard version,” common to academic scholarship, government pronouncements, and public discourse.  It holds that the prime commitment of governments is to ensure security, and that the primary concern of the U.S. and its allies since 1945 was the Russian threat.

There are a number of ways to evaluate the doctrine.  One obvious question to ask is: What happened when the Russian threat disappeared in 1989?  Answer: everything continued much as before.


“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.


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.