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States take the lead against climate change

Charles W. Petit, US News & World Report
Call it the Greenhouse in the Statehouse effect. While climate change may sow no fear in the White House, plenty of worried governors, legislators, and other local officials are rejecting Washington’s cue.

The result is an increasingly energy-schizoid land. From the state level, the United States is actually something of a global leader, passing laws sharp enough to take a bite out of climate change. “Sometimes the government leads the people, and sometimes the people lead the government. In this case, the states are way ahead of Washington,” says Mickey Glantz of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo.

Propelled by subsidies, tax breaks, and mandates to wean industry from fossil fuel, broad swaths of the country bristle with aggressive programs to put the brakes on global warming. More than half the states have climate action plans, and 22 have specific targets their utilities must reach in the share of their power from renewable sources, according to the Pew Center on Global Climate Change.
(1 April 2006)

Gavin Schmidt, climate modeler, founder of RealClimate

Anjali Nayar, NY Times
[Gavin Schmidt] is a climate modeler, meaning he uses physics to understand and make projections about the climate. But after a day in his office above the restaurant, he loves to sit back in this patch of Morningside Heights and try to make sense of the ebb and flow of the street, the city and the world.

“The climate is like the city,” he said as he gestured at the scene around him.

The city is made up of millions of people making individual decisions: when to wake in the morning, what time to go to work, where to go on vacation. Yet many things about the city can be predicted. On weekdays, the subways will be more crowded at 8:30 a.m. than at midday. The government knows roughly how many jobs there will be next year.

“It is the same thing with the climate,” Dr. Schmidt said. “We don’t have to worry about every little detail of the weather to understand what is going on at the global scale, just like we don’t have to worry about every person to understand how a city works.”

Climate models put together a basic understanding of storms, clouds and weather, past, present and future. More often than not, these models match up well with observed data.

…BECAUSE so many people get their information about climate change from sources that sit on one side or the other of the global warming debate, Dr. Schmidt started a blog ( that provides context for climate stories in the news media. Since the blog was started in December 2004, it has helped nearly a million visitors navigate through the haze of politics surrounding climate change.
(2 April 2006)

Is it too late to stop global warming?

Seth Borenstein, Associated Press via Common Dreams
WASHINGTON – A man stands on a railroad track as a train rumbles closer.

“Global warming?” he says. “Some say irreversible consequences are 30 years away. Thirty years. That won’t affect me.”

He steps off the tracks — just in time. But behind him is a little girl, left in front of the roaring train.

The screen goes black. A message appears: “There’s still time.”

It’s just an ad, part of a campaign from the advocacy group Environmental Defense, which hopes to convince Americans they can do something about global warming, that there’s still time.

But many scientists are not so sure that the oncoming train of global warming can be avoided. Temperatures are going to rise for decades to come because the chief gas that causes global warming lingers in the atmosphere for about a century.

“In the short term, I’m not sure that anyone can stop it,” said John Walsh, director of the Center for Global Change and Arctic System Research at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks.
(3 April 2006)

Turning up the Heat
A surprising consensus is transforming the complex politics of global warming

Bret Schulte, US News & World Report
It’s a group you’d be hard pressed to find sharing the same table, much less a point of view. Evangelicals and the Union of Concerned Scientists. Greenpeace and DuPont. Even some Republicans and Democrats are growing flirtatious. It’s still no lovefest, but a number of strange bedfellows are cozying up on a subject that was once all but taboo in Washington: global warming.

America belches up more greenhouse gases than any other country: 5.8 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2003 alone, thanks mostly to autos burning gasoline and power plants consuming coal. But the Bush administration and the U.S. Senate have refused to join almost 160 nations in signing the Kyoto Protocol, the landmark treaty that went into effect last year and hopes to curb the growth of greenhouse gas emissions. In the States, global warming skeptics and pro-business politicians argue that mandatory restrictions would drag down the economy and provide a boon for unregulated rivals like China and India.

But for reasons that range from economics to ethics, a confluence of Christian leaders, corporations, and investors are turning up the heat for legislative action.
(10 April 2006 issue)

‘Major melt’ for Alpine glaciers

Richard Black, BBC
Europe’s Alps could lose three-quarters of their glaciers to climate change during the coming century. That is the conclusion of new research from the World Glacier Monitoring Service (WGMS) in Zurich.

Scientists base their conclusion on forecasts of temperature and precipitation changes in a new computer model of Alpine glaciation.

Glaciers are crucial in providing fresh drinking water, and are also key for tourism, irrigation and hydro-power. There is already strong evidence of a major ongoing melt.
(4 April 2006)

EPRI’s Steve Specker calculates the cost of greenhouse gas reductions
As lawmakers consider a cap on greenhouse gas emissions, electric utilities could be looking at major challenges to increasing future energy output. During today’s E&ETV Event Coverage, Steve Specker — president and CEO of the Electric Power Research Institute — compares the costs of various electricity generation options, including renewable energy, nuclear power and coal gasification. Specker, speaking last week at an event sponsored by Resources for the Future, also discusses major issues facing the utility sector, such as nuclear waste storage questions, rising natural gas prices and the feasibility of capturing and storing carbon dioxide emissions.
(4 April 2006)
E&E TV has many videos on climate change from industry representatives, scientists and journalists: Episode Guide (#1).

Just say it’s sunny

Linda Baker, Salon
Why is global warming a forbidden topic for most TV weather reporters? Climate change is “controversial” and bad for ratings.
In 1981, Steve Schneider, then a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., was faced with what he refers to as a “real job crisis.” He was offered a job as weekend meteorologist at a station in New York City, a position that would have brought him the kind of fame and fortune that can otherwise elude the hardworking American scientist.

Schneider, who is now a Stanford professor in interdisciplinary environmental studies and biological sciences, and a 1992 MacArthur Foundation “genius” fellow, says he made a couple of requests during his station interview. Instead of describing the weather to viewers — “showers, sun breaks” — he wanted to deliver “probabilistic forecasts,” which reflect the uncertainty inherent in any forecast and the odds that any given event will occur. Schneider also wanted to discuss the daily weather in the context of global climate, as well as human activity, such as pollution.
(4 April 2006)
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Recommended by David Roberts at Gristmill

…a fascinating piece from Linda Baker on efforts among the meteorological community — that is, local weathermenpersons — to inject a little scientific education on climate change into their segments, and the resistance they’re getting from the suits. The depressing thing is the consensus among everyone Baker spoke to that stories about, or even mentions of, climate change are bad for ratings. People seem really to resist having global warming inserted into what, uh, somebody (who was that, anyway?) called the “sacred mundane,” the rituals of day-to-day life that give us a sense of grounding and safety. Joe Sixpack would rather climate change stay “out there,” as a political or scientific issue, a public debate. He doesn’t want it intruding on his private world.

Global warming: what, me worry?

Molly Ivins, TruthDig
On the premise that spring is too beautiful for a depressing topic like Iraq, I thought I’d take up a fun subject—global warming.

Time magazine warns us to “Be Worried. Be Very Worried.” On the other hand, my sister is on the Global Warming Committee of the Unitarian Church in Albuquerque, N.M. They go around replacing old light bulbs with more energy-efficient models. My money’s on my sis.

It’s a good thing the phrase “the tipping point” became a cliche just in time to help us describe global warming. Just a few years ago, we were more or less cruising along on global warming, with maybe 50 years or so to Do Something about it. Suddenly, the only question is how soon to push the panic button, and 10 minutes ago appears to be the right answer.
(3 April 2006)
Also posted at Common Dreams

Congress begins to feel heat from global warming danger

Ian Hoffman, Oakland Tribune
In February last year, the chairman of the Senate energy committee sat down at Los Alamos National Laboratory for a private briefing on climate change.

Was global warming real, Sen. Pete Domenici wanted to know. He turned for answers to a federal lab that he had gazed on admiringly since he was a boy.

In a barrage of computer slides, Los Alamos scientists showed the 72-year-old Republican senator a planet tipping into uncertainty. Greenhouse gases were increasing in the atmosphere and the trapped solar radiation was boosting temperatures worldwide, with cascading impacts on natural and human welfare.

Natural causes alone could not explain the measured warming, the scientists told Domenici, without the human addition of greenhouses gases, mostly from burning fossil fuels.

“I came out of there having listened,” Domenici later said to reporters. “And I concluded it is enough of a problem to try to do something about it.”

Today, Domenici and his committee host 29 corporate executives, scientists, economists and environmentalists to discuss a mandatory cap on greenhouse-gas emissions. It promises to be the most serious conversation in Congress to date about dealing with climate change.

Once considered a Cassandra cry of the environmental left, concern about global warming is drawing lawmakers into a thorny debate over how the nation gets its energy and how much it is willing to sacrifice to avoid potentially serious impacts.
(4 April 2006)