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Environment - Apr 8

Click on the headline (link) for the full text.

Many more articles are available through the Energy Bulletin homepage


Cap of Good Hope
Biggest energy companies in U.S. call for caps on carbon emissions

By Amanda Griscom Little, Grist
Tuesday saw a tectonic shift in the climate-change debate during an all-day Senate conference on global-warming policy. A group of high-powered energy and utility executives for the first time issued this directive to Washington: Bring on the carbon caps!

The Energy and Natural Resources Committee heard statements from leaders representing eight big energy companies, including General Electric, Shell, and the two largest owners of utilities in the U.S., Exelon and Duke Energy. Six of the eight said they would either welcome or accept mandatory caps on their greenhouse-gas emissions. Wal-Mart too spoke in favor of carbon caps. The two outliers from the energy sector, Southern Company and American Electric Power, delivered pro forma bids for a voluntary rather than mandatory program, but they, too, broke with tradition by implicitly acknowledging that regulations may be coming, and offering detailed advice on how they should be designed.

Many industry players are increasingly concerned about the inconsistent patchwork of climate regulations that are being proposed and adopted throughout the U.S., from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative that seven Northeastern states put forward in December to plans for greenhouse-gas caps unveiled in California this week. Worried companies say federal regulations would bring stability and sureness to the market.
(6 April 2006, thanks to BG)


UT professor criticized over comments about pandemic

Liz Austin, Associated Press
AUSTIN -- A University of Texas biology professor has been targeted by talk radio, bloggers and vitriolic e-mails — including a death threat — after a published report that he advocated death for most of the population as a means of saving the Earth.

But Eric Pianka said Monday his remarks about what he believes is an impending pandemic were taken out of context.

"What we really need to do is start thinking about controlling our population before it's too late," he said. "It's already too late, but we're not even thinking about it. We're just mindlessly rushing ahead breeding our brains out."

The public furor began when The Gazette-Enterprise of Seguin, Texas, reported Sunday on two speeches Pianka made last month to groups of scientists and students about vanishing animal habitats and the explosion of the human population.

The newspaper's Jamie Mobley attended one of those speeches and also interviewed Forrest Mims, an amateur scientist and author who heard Pianka speak early last month before the Texas Academy of Science.

After the newspaper's report appeared, it was circulated widely and posted on "The Drudge Report." It quickly became talk radio fodder.
(4 April 2006)
Related:
UT professor says death is imminent (Seguin Gazette via Drudge Report) - the article that started the fuss
Other coverage via Google News
David Roberts at Gristmill:

Well, dammit. I had a bad feeling about posting this, but it seemed like the kind of juicy thing that would start discussion. Now it seems I was a dupe. Via Andrew Sullivan, I see that the big stink being raised over this professor was started by an anti-evolutionist kook, and that the professor's words have been twisted and stripped of context. Let this be a lesson to all of you (OK, to me) about the dangers of speed blogging. Pharyngula has more.

-BA


The Worldchanging newsstand

Alex Steffen, WorldChanging
April is the coolest month, as far as the print/ mainstream media goes. The newsstand is positively overflowing with magazines taking up Worldchanging issues and approaches. There's almost too much to read this month -- not only the fashion mags' green issues Sarah covered earlier, but a growing array of other pubs:

SEED has a special issue State of the Planet 06: What is it going to take?, with good pieces on hybrid cars, climate science and other topics. Most of the good stuff is paper-only.

Mother Jones rings the alarm bells with a cover story on the Last Days of the Ocean, and, while some of the good stuff in only available affixed to dead trees, their site thankfully has plenty of online content about the issue to scan through.

The latest, 25th anniversary issue of Metropolis isn't specifically greenish, but is nonetheless chock-a-block with worldchanging stuff, as we mentioned before. Plus, it's pretty to look at.

On the other hand, the American Prospect's special report on the green economy After Oil: The economic and political promise of a post-petroleum society is brimming with topics that could be (indeed often have been) featured here, though the going can be a little slow and little is available online. A notable exception is David Morris' The Once and Future Carbohydrate Economy which is insightful, well-written, and freely available in its entirety...
(6 April 2006)
See original for links.
Related: Vanity Fair's first-ever "green issue"


Big Gav does global warming
"CEOs On Climate Risks"

Big Gav, Peak Energy (Australia)
Today's entry at Peak Energy (Australia) contains many interesting links for global warming.
(7 April 2006)


Global warmers: American Electric Power

Frank O'Donnell, TomPaine.com
If you wonder why the Congress hasn’t taken decisive action on global warming, you might start by asking Michael G. Morris, chairman, president and CEO of American Electric Power—probably the single biggest source of global warming in America.

Morris loves to bask in the glow of awards given to his company by the Bush administration and others for its “voluntary” approach to climate control—while consistently lobbying against any effort in Congress to limit global warming pollution.

In his other role as chairman of the board of the power industry lobby, the Edison Electric Institute, Morris reiterated his voluntary-only stance this week as the Senate Energy Committee held an all-day conference on possible remedies to global warming.

It’s worth taking a moment to focus on Morris and the power industry. In a recent but barely-noticed report, the federal Energy Information Administration pointed out that power companies are not only the biggest source of carbon dioxide in America, but they’re also expected to be the fastest-growing in the next several decades. As a result, any comprehensive plan to restrain global warming pollution needs to include, and possibly even start with, limits on power company emissions.
(6 April 2006)


CEOs on climate risks

Henry Thornton
As reported in today’s Oz the chief executive of Australia’s largest insurance company IAG, Michael Hawker, has asserted that the extreme weather that has been sweeping the world will raise insurance costs in affected areas to point where people will no longer be able to afford insurance coverage.

Hawker drew a direct connection between the extreme weather, such as Cyclone Larry in Northern Queensland and Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, and global warming, stating that "there has been almost a linear increase in catastrophes occurring since global temperatures started rising in the early 1970s".

As also reported in the Oz, Hawker is part of an impressive group of worthies called the Australian Business Roundtable on Climate Change, including Westpac chief David Morgan, managing director of Origin Energy Grant King, BP Australasia chief Gerry Hueston, head of Visy Industries Harry Debney, and Keith Scott, Australian chief of reinsurance company Swiss Re.

The members of the group, which has been meeting for several years, released a report entitled the Business Case for Early Action, suggesting that the Australian government aim to reduce greenhouse gas by 60 per cent by 2050.

The proposals listed in the report, including the establishment of a carbon price signal (ie. tax), elicited a speedy response from the mining industry, with Macarthur Coal saying the industry has invested millions of dollars into the development of low-emission technologies on a voluntary basis.

In Henry's experience, and over 200 years of thinking by economists, pricing signals are required to change most habits. Relevant pricing signals are of course required to alter the polluting habits of industry. Voluntary actions are welcome, and will be rewarded in heaven, but are certainly unable to bring about significant change in the real world we inhabit.
(7 April 2006, thanks to BG)


Heat rising at the Washington Post

Real Climate
The Washington Post has published a second op-ed in as many days about global warming ("Spinning Global Warming", By Robert D. Novak, Page A19, April 03, 2006--story is no longer available on the website, but the Chicago Sun Times version is available here). In this one, Novak claims that Hansen in 1988 over-predicted global warming by 400% (a story originated by Pat Michaels and subsequently propagated by Michael Crichton). This story is a fabrication that has already been set right by us in 2004.

Smearing Hansen, a leading climate scientist and member of the National Academy of Sciences, appears to have become sport among contrarian commentators (see our earlier discussions here and here). As ad hominem attacks and "shoot the messenger" strategies are often the last refuge for those losing the substantive debate, this might be viewed by some as a positive sign, indicative of just how intellectually bankrupt the contrarian movement has become.

We are Earth scientists. We are not part of a vast conspiracy to perpetrate a hoax, nor are we crowd-following herd animals. We are concerned about the world we are leaving to our children. We have not asked James Hansen, but we would venture a guess that his motives are similar.
(4 April 2006, thanks to BG)
The Washington Post had a good article on April 6 about censorship of climate scientists: Climate Researchers Feeling Heat From White House.

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