The ones that got away: global warming edition

A collection of stories that I never got around to comment on:

Ecological debt: No way back from bankrupt

“Nature Doesn’t Do Bailouts!” said the banner strung across Bishopsgate in the City of London…

Each year, humanity’s ecological overdraft gets larger, and the day that the world as a whole goes into ecological debt – consuming more resources and producing more waste than the biosphere can provide and absorb – moves ever earlier in the year.

Geoengineering and the New Climate Denialism

For conservatives to push geo-engineering is the height of hypocrisy since actually deployment of “hard geo-engineering” (like injecting aerosols into the air) requires strongly believing in two things that conservatives completely reject today — climate scientists and climate models.  If you don’t believe climate models, then you would never contemplate geo-engineering in a million years.  Only models can tell you what geo-engineering might do –-  there is no way to run a global experiment at scale and there are no paleoclimate analogs of the kind of geo-engineering that is being contemplated.  But this is the Catch-22.  Long before you had enough faith in climate scientists and climate models to justify geo-engineering, you would have a near certain understanding of the catastrophic global warming impacts we face on our current emissions path and a near certain understanding of how mitigation is the wisest and safest response.

MIT Study Says Temperatures Could Rise Twice As Much

The outlook for global warming if the world continues its current path is a lot worse than it was just a few years ago, says new research from MIT, making it even more urgent to put in place strong policies to curb greenhouse-gas emissions.

Motorpsycho Nitemare

I landed a job as executive director of a policy organization in Washington. This felt like a coup. But certain perversities became apparent as I settled into the job. It sometimes required me to reason backward, from desired conclusion to suitable premise. The organization had taken certain positions, and there were some facts it was more fond of than others. As its figurehead, I was making arguments I didn’t fully buy myself. Further, my boss seemed intent on retraining me according to a certain cognitive style — that of the corporate world, from which he had recently come. This style demanded that I project an image of rationality but not indulge too much in actual reasoning.

That doesn’t sound like a great policy organization. Which one could it be? A quick search turns up The Marshall Institute.

Science academies: ocean acidification must be on CO2 agenda

With governmental negotiations over carbon dioxide emissions focusing exclusively on limiting climate change, a consortium of 70 national scientific academies attempts to remind policy makers that ocean acidification should be on their agenda as well.

Coral reefs face extinction within 50 years

Climate change threatens to snuff out the world’s coral reefs within the next half-century, a group of scientists led by David Attenborough warned on Monday.

Several prominent scientists and marine experts gathered at the Royal Society in London, England, to discuss the future of the world’s coral reefs. After the meeting, they called on world leaders to make greater cuts in carbon emissions.

“A coral reef is the canary in the cage as far as the oceans are concerned,” said Attenborough, speaking after the meeting.

“They are the places where the damage is most easily and quickly seen. It is more difficult for us to see what is happening in, for example, the deep ocean or the central expanses of ocean,” the renowned British naturalist and broadcaster said.

The reefs provide important fish habitat and protect coastal areas from flooding. They support a vast array of marine ecosystems, which humans in turn depend on for sustenance — be it for food or the economic benefits yielded by tourism.

Potential wind power is 23 times current US electricity use

When the National Academies of Science recently looked at the potential for renewable energy deployment in the states, its expert panel made some reasonable assumptions, such as limits imposed by manufacturing capacity and the current electric grid. This week, the NAS Proceedings will see the publication of a paper that considers what would happen if we dropped reasonableness from the analysis and calculated what we might achieve if we pushed wind power to its maximal capacity. The paper is an odd mix of these unreasonable assumptions and conservative estimates, and is probably best viewed as a sort of thought experiment. Still, the numbers that come out of the analysis are quite impressive: maxing out deployment of current-generation technology could produce five times the total energy used in the world today, and 40 times the electricity.

Again, it’s important to emphasize that this isn’t being presented as a realistic plan to achieve a renewable energy nirvana; it’s simply an attempt to provide a sense of what’s possible. In the end, though, the study does make clear that supplying a lot of our energy via wind is possible, and that finding should inform debates about the degree to which it makes sense to do so and the adjustments we’ll need to make to our existing energy systems in order to make it happen.

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