Monthly Archives: April 2007

The Old Global Cooling Scare

I was in Ohio last week visiting with folks in Cincinnati and Columbus. Most of the discussion focused on business opportunities for Ohio in the new low-carbon economy, but I also got interesting questions about global warming science.

I was especially impressed to learn what the city of Columbus is doing to go "green" (details are on the Columbus city site). We heard from Andy Darrell last week on Mayor Bloomberg’s vision for New York City, and it’s great to see that New York isn’t the only city thinking of a greener future.

But I most wanted to share with you a science question from the visit.

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Posted in News / Read 2 Responses

Slicing the greenhouse gas pie: Where from?

In the previous post, I described which gases are important and what activities they come from. But we can also learn a lot by looking at regional patterns in how those gases are emitted.

For example, most deforestation occurs in poor tropical countries (in fact, in many of these countries deforestation is a much larger source of CO2 than fossil fuel use). In contrast, most CO2 emissions from fossil fuel use come from the developed countries.

As I described in an earlier post, the U.S. is the largest emitter in the world, both today and historically. Next let’s take a closer look at the U.S. greenhouse gas pie.

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Posted in Greenhouse Gas Emissions / Read 5 Responses

Slicing the greenhouse gas pie: What gases?

We keep talking about the need to reduce the greenhouse gas we produce. But how do these gases get in the atmosphere? To answer that question we need to look at what I like to call the “greenhouse gas pie,” and it turns out there are lots of ways to slice it up.

One way is to slice the pie up by the type of gases we’re talking about. There are dozens of human-produced greenhouse gases, three of them get special attention: carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O). Here’s why.

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Posted in Greenhouse Gas Emissions / Read 6 Responses

Part 3 of 5: Shifts in Lifecycle Timing

The second installment of the IPCC’s 4th Assessment on Climate Change, titled “Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability”, was released on April 6, 2007. In recognition of this report, I’m doing a weekly series called “Climate Dangers You May Not Know About“.

1. More Acidic Oceans
2. Drinking Water and Disease
3. Shifts in Lifecycle Timing
4. Drought and Violence
5. Melting of the North Pole

Spring is finally here, and lifecycles are on display all around us — flowers are blooming, birds are migrating, eggs are hatching. The signs of spring may seem simple, but actually they’re intricately choreographed. Flowers bloom when insects are around to pollinate them; migrating birds and newborns normally arrive when there is food for them to eat. Life’s fragile choreography is based on signals from the environment, such as light or warmth. As global temperatures rise, what happens to all those cues?

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Posted in Plants & Animals / Read 5 Responses

Should we fill our gas tanks with coal?

We know our growing dependence on foreign oil threatens our national security. It is also now widely recognized that climate change is a serious national security risk.

Fortunately, we can often kill these two birds with one stone. Many solutions for climate change would also diminish our dependence on foreign oil, and vice versa. For example, a national cap on greenhouse gas emissions would spur more fuel-efficient vehicles, low-carbon fuels and other modes of transportation. All of these would reduce demand for foreign oil. (And, to sweeten the deal, lowering demand would also help reduce the price of traditional gasoline.)

Unfortunately, some ideas being considered to address our dependence on foreign oil would make global warming worse.

One of the most vexing examples is “coal-to-liquids,” a process that converts coal to liquid fuels like gasoline and diesel for cars and trucks. At first blush it might seem like a great idea – we have huge coal reserves, so why not use them to replace foreign oil?

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Posted in Cars and Pollution / Read 3 Responses

New York City's sustainability plan: A bold 'greenprint' for the city's future

Andy Darrell, today’s guest, is director of Environmental Defense’s Living Cities program, and a member of the advisory board that helped the mayor develop the plan.

For the past eight months I’ve been honored to be a part of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s advisory council to develop a city plan for sustainability. The team has been meeting to hammer out ideas for making New York a world model of a “green” megacity.

Frankly, when I joined the Advisory Board, I didn’t know where it would end up. With my colleagues at Environmental Defense, I put forward big ideas for healthy air, less traffic, green buildings and energy efficiency, more trees and parks and cleaned-up waterways. In December 2006, the mayor announced 10 bold goals, including achieving the cleanest air of any big city in the country, cutting greenhouse gases 30 percent from today’s levels by 2030 and making sure that every New Yorker can walk to a park within ten minutes.

Great goals — but could they be made real?

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Posted in News / Read 2 Responses