Archive for May, 2012


Coal is struggling even in its strongest locales (NY Times).

A Brooklyn developer seeks a self-sustaining apartment building (NY Times).

Activists say new legislation in Brazil threatens the Amazon (LA Times).

The southern part of the Keystone XL pipeline may soon be ready to proceed (Washington Post).

The U.S. imposes duties on Chinese wind tower makers (NY Times).

The most difficult thing about energizing people to take action about global warming is that you’re always pointing to future events or speaking in the abstract about sea level measurements. And once, the actual climate change effects start taking hold, it will be too late to take action.

Thanks to a study released today, we no longer need to wait to be able to show the effects of climate change. There’s a large swath of desert land in the Pakistan/Afghanistan/Indian region that once was the home to a great civilization a few thousand years ago, but as the climate changed, this civilization failed to adapt until 600 years after it started, the area was all but abandoned, according to the study which was summarized by the New York Times:

In its bustling hubs, there was indoor plumbing, gridded streets and a rich intellectual life. Unlike the Egyptians and Mesopotamians, who used irrigation systems to support crops, the Harappans relied on a gentle, dependable cycle of monsoons that fed local rivers and keyed seasonal floods. …
As time passed, the monsoons continued to weaken until the rivers no longer flooded, and the crops failed. The surplus agriculture was longer there to support traders, artists, craftsmen and scholars . The Harappans’ distinct writing system, which still has not been deciphered, fell into disuse.

The lesson is easy to find, according to one of the study’s authors.

Dr. Giosan suggests that the Harrapans’ fate offers lessons for today. “We think about tomorrow — we think of the lives of our children or maybe grandchildren,” he said. “But these accumulating effects of climate that are so slow, they don’t really enter our vocabulary or thinking.”
Modern-day cultures and policy makers need to pay attention to “deep time,” or the very slow changes that accompany the deterioration of climatic conditions and resources, for the benefit of third, fourth or fifth generations, Dr. Giosan said. But in some cases, he adds, the changes are not so slow — for instance, the depletion of fossil fuels.
“Just as the Indus civilization did, we’re depending on a resource that came and went,” Dr. Giosan said. “That resource is oil.”

It is sad to think that our beautiful world could slowly fade away, but that is certainly possible if we don’t act now to stop the effects of climate change. Do your part and take the 11-1 pledge to help conserve energy.


UN climate talks have made little progress (BBC).

Zoos are being forced to to save some animals at the expense of others (NY Times).

Gas prices have come down slightly in recent weeks (NY Times).

Activists say EU fishing reforms are being weakened (BBC).

Wind farms look for ways to prevent bird deaths (LA Times).

A Penn State professor at the center of several climate change debates is out with a new book (Washington Post).

Obama nominates a new chair for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (Washington Post).

Happy Memorial Day.

The Arctic is the new frontier for oil drilling (NY Times).

Gulf oil drilling is very political (LA Times).

Hot summers drive butterflies north (BBC).

L.A. bans plastic bags at the supermarket checkout (LA Times).

Sustainability will be a theme of the Rio+20 summit (BBC). Meanwhile, environmentalists want Obama to attend (Washington Post).

Europe is far from the perfect picture with many things these days, as the continent’s economy threatens to nosedive, but they still stand as one of the gold standards for carbon emissions. The commitment that the nations have made – and the results – are well-documented. In my recent two weeks in Europes, I was able to get a firsthand account of what they’re doing right … and wrong. Here’s a breakdown from a foreign traveler’s perspective.
- Low-flush toilets: It takes some adjusting, but it does work pushing two different buttons depending upon what type of bathroom trip you had.
- Electricity main switch: Putting your room key in the slot to activate electricity in the room means you’ll never leave the lights on when you leave. Or you might, but it means you’ll have forgotten your room key.
- Great MPG in cars: I suppose it’s KPG, since they’re on the metric system, but adjusting into miles, makes it easier to realize that some car manufacturer somewhere can indeed make a 60 MPG car that runs on gas. I just used one to get around Tuscany and I never had to fill up.
- Bottled water: Try asking for tap water, like you might at just about every restaurant in America, and you’ll be meet with more than a pompous look of disgust. You will be met by an answer of “no.” Just about everywhere you go, you must order bottled water for the table.
Allin all, however, you can’t complain about much that’s going wrong for carbon emissions in Europe. Now, about that economy …


Millennia-old methane is being released in the Arctic (BBC).

Japan urges 15% energy usage cuts (BBC).

Cheap natural gas dampens demand for carbon capture projects (NY Times).

An Alaska mine would harm salmon, an EPA assessment says (Washington Post).

A proposed Peru dam would displace thousands (NY Times).


The U.S. puts high tariffs on Chinese solar panels (NY Times).

A controversial Brazilian forest bill may be vetoed (NY Times).

Beach erosion is a growing problem for Hawaii (NY Times).

Oil prices have dropped 13% this month (Washington Post).

So far, most airlines are conforming with EU emissions reporting rules (BBC).

A UK climate fix balloon is grounded for a year (BBC).

(Posting for Matt)


In case you’re wondering just what climate change is affecting, add two more aspects of every day life: flowers and rice, according to reports released earlier this month.
In the case of rice, the effects are being felt in Southeast Asia:
The countries of South and Southeast Asia are home to more than 30 percent of the world’s population, about half of whom depend on agriculture—mainly rice, but also other crops such as wheat—for their livelihoods. But according to the World Bank, global warming could reduce agricultural productivity in the region by 10 to 50 percent in the next 30 years.
With flowers, the scientists found in many countries that the old timeframe for predicting when plants would flower was wrong:
The study finds experiments had underestimated the speed of flowering by 8.5 times and growing leaves by four times. It says long-term historical records show leafing and flowering will advance an average of five to six days per degree Celsius.
“Future plant and ecosystem responses to warming may be much higher than previously estimated from experimental data,” study author Elsa Cleland said.

Add in the effect of climate change on coffee, chocolate, syrup, skiing … and the list is even longer than just deadly storms or changes to sea levels.


Coastal erosion threatens RI (NY Times).

The EU struggles to keep leading on climate change (BBC).

The UN adopts land grab guidelines (BBC).

California and Quebec are close to a deal on trading carbon permits (NY Times).

The Interior Department approves new natural gas wells in Utah (Washington Post).

Biodiversity losses add to cultural diversity losses, a study finds (BBC).


Solar power may have a bright future in India (Washington Post). Meanwhile, installation deals are spurring growth in the U.S. (NY Times).

Plastic waste increases in the Pacific Ocean (BBC).

Britain’s Environment Agency head supports fracking expansion (BBC).

Fewer satellites could impede weather forecasting (LA Times).

Oil prices have come down a little (Washington Post).