Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Avoiding Defeatism on Climate Change

Kevin Drum sounds a little bit down in the mouth:
If you were teaching a graduate seminar in public policy and challenged your students to come up with the most difficult possible problem to solve, they'd come up with something very much like climate change. It's slow-acting. It's essentially invisible. It's expensive to address. It has a huge number of very rich special interests arrayed against doing anything about it. It requires international action that pits rich countries against poor ones. And it has a lot of momentum: you have to take action now, before its effects are serious, because today's greenhouse gases will cause climate change tomorrow no matter what we do in thirty years.

I have to confess that I find myself feeling the same way Andy does more and more often these days. It's really hard to envision any way that we're going to seriously cut back on greenhouse gas emissions until the effects of climate change become obvious, and by then it will be too late. I recognize how defeatist this is, and perhaps the proliferation of extreme weather events like Sandy will help turn the tide. But it hasn't so far, and given the unlikelihood of large-scale global action on climate change, adaptation seems more appealing all the time. For the same reason, so does continued research into geoengineering as a last-resort backup plan.
I don't think this is really quite the right way of thinking about the problem with it's all-or-nothing, either-or quality.  I'd like to suggest some other ways of framing the issue that are helpful to me in staying motivated to take action.  As a starting point, let's look at a few emissions scenarios and temperature projections:

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Weekend Links

  • Chinese leader's family now worth billions.  Amazing investigative piece by NYT - wonder how this news will go down in China?
  • Iran has installed the last of the centrifuges at Fordow.
  • O/T (or maybe not): Food Reward Fridays.
  • Latest on self-driving cars. 'Driving cars, he added, “is the most important thing that computers are going to do in the next 10 years.”'  Note the absence of any comment from anyone skeptical of the benefits technology or of any groups who will lose their jobs to this technology.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Thursday Links

  • Automation and globalization central to US middle class decline.  These issues have been much discussed on this blog; good to see them becoming more accepted in mainstream publications like the NYT.
  • UK economy post great recession is underperforming historical expectation, while US is outperforming (slightly).
  • The US infrastructure for managing drone kill lists.  (FWIW, I think this program is unjust and immoral and sets a terrible example to the rest of the world.   I think upending eight hundred years of Anglo-American legal tradition is a terrible idea - back in the 1200s King John was obligated to agree to the Magna Carta which included this text: "No Freeman shall be taken or imprisoned, or be disseized of his Freehold, or Liberties, or free Customs, or be outlawed, or exiled, or any other wise destroyed; nor will We not pass upon him, nor condemn him, but by lawful judgment of his Peers, or by the Law of the land." The 14th amendment of the US constitution encodes very similar ideas.  I don't believe Presidents Bush, Obama, et al, should be held to a lesser standard).
  • Greek universal healthcare has been reversed due to the crisis.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Tuesday Links

  • Is the eastern US cooling in winter due to global warming?
  • Tar sands extraction not so pretty.
  • British supermarkets starting to sell "ugly" blemished fruits and vegetables in response to climate-related harvest difficulties and high prices.
  • Spanish economy still contracting.
  • Farmland prices still rising.  I don't know if this has reached the bubbly phase yet, but it seems likely that it will at some point.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Weekend Links

  • China trying to fix US election as well as currency?
  • Winners and losers in the US natural gas boom. "Although the bankers made a lot of money from the deal making and a handful of energy companies made fortunes by exiting at the market’s peak, most of the industry has been bloodied — forced to sell assets, take huge write-offs and shift as many drill rigs as possible from gas exploration to oil, whose price has held up much better".
  • Greece: More austerity, more recession, more extremism.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Thursday Links

  • Are we losing interest in the Eurozone crisis?
  • Visualizing the US drought from satellite gravity measurements.
  • How and why some folks are opposing the Keystone XL pipeline.
  • A123 Systems battery maker for the Chevy Volt Fisker Karma has filed for bankruptcy.  The assets and operations will be acquired by Johnson Controls.
  • I thought this article about life in Damascus was very interesting (if sad).  This is what it's like to live through a social breakdown.
  • Extraordinary: "And the findings were sobering: Every single hour of television watched after the age of 25 reduces the viewer’s life expectancy by 21.8 minutes."
  • Jim Hamilton does the energy fact check on the presidential debate.  Personally, I found it dispiriting that energy issues could take such a high profile while being discussed in a way that almost completely ignored the real factors in the situation.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Tuesday Links

  • The above map shows the fraction of new houses that are Energy Star rated according to the EIA.  Overall, 26% of new construction is energy-star rated.  A summary of the current requirements is here.  It's amazing to me that we in the US still haven't done basic things towards dealing with climate change like mandating that all new construction meets strict energy-efficiency requirements.
  • The future of farming according to John Deere.
  • The recovery in the US heavy truck market.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Weekend Links

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Thursday Links

  • Human impact of the US drought (recent map above).
  • Currency plunge in Iran - capital flight - riots in the streets - trade with Iran grinding to a halt.  If the west does actually manage to break the will of the Iranian regime with economic sanctions alone, it will be a first.  In my view it would be a very positive thing for the international community to have a way to bring misbehaving countries into line without resorting to blowing things up.  Not a done deal yet, however.
  • Netanyahu has apparently decided that Israel can't bomb Iran by itself, realized that it's hopeless to get the US to engage in an attack before the election, and is now campaigning for more sanctions.  The basis of the Israeli calculation that they can't act alone is unclear to me.  Maybe they have been surprised by how effective the sanctions seem to be.
  • Weighing what sea-level rise will cost Miami.  This is consistent with my general take on sea-level rise for at least the next few decades - it's going to be expensive, but the developed world is just going to pony up the cost to put in the levees and seawalls and maintain business-as-usual (at least in the cities).  It may be another story in rural areas and poor countries.
  • Tesla Model S review in the NYT.  I want one.
  • PIOMAS September Arctic sea ice volume.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Tuesday Links