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News from a warming world

Dan Farber, professor of law | April 2, 2015

There’s been a lot of interesting environmental news recently, much of which seems to have gotten little notice. The topics range from U.S. wind power (growing) to U.S. coal power and Arctic sea ice (both shrinking), with a bit of Ted Cruz to spice things up. Here’s the round-up:

wind turbines

Altamont Pass wind turbines (David Laporte via
Wikimedia Commons)

Out with coal, in with wind. The Energy Information Administration reports that new electrical generating capacity this year will be predominantly wind, solar, and natural gas, with wind as the largest component at ten gigawatts. Coal plants are being retired, with coal-based generating capacity declining thirteen gigawatts. Apart from climate benefits, these changes are very positive in terms of public health.

Cleaning up China’s air. RAND estimates that cleaning up China’s air would cost $140-160 billion annually. That’s a lot of money, but RAND also estimates the annual cost of air pollution in China as three times as big – over half a trillion dollars a year! Air pollution has been costing China about 6.5% of its GDP annually.

Obama beats Bush on energy and environment. According to Pew, 52% of the public think that Obama is doing a good job on environmental issues, as opposed to 30% who thought that about Bush at the same point in his second term. Obama rates lower in terms of energy policy (39% approval), but still higher than Bush (26% approval). This probably doesn’t mean a lot in electoral terms, since relatively few voters cast their votes based on environmental issues. But it does suggest that Obama are by no means out of touch with public preferences (or at least less so than GOP policies).

Climate change? What climate change? Ted Cruz remains confident that there’s no global warming, which the Washington Post attributes to his cherry-picking data (using only satellite data and ignoring ground-level data and picking an especially hot year as a baseline).

The shrinking ice cap. The polar bears may be unconvinced by Senator Cruz’s assurances that nothing is happening to the climate. “The winter ice covering the Arctic Ocean has reached its annual peak, but the extent of sea ice cover this winter is smaller than it has been at the end of any winter since 1978, when scientists began keeping consistent satellite records.” So reports the NY Times.

Cross-posted from the environmental law and policy blog Legal Planet.

Comments to “News from a warming world

  1. Prof. Farber, I wish to thank you, Kim Thuy Seelinger, Robert Reich and others for speaking out loud and clear on this blog and internationally on issues that are truly most vital to the creation and perpetuation of an acceptable quality of life for the human race.

    Considering the severity of our drought, worldwide violence and inequalities and the inadequacy of actions to overcome these threats, it is imperative that many more professors and scholars like you speak out before too many tipping points overwhelm the human race.

  2. Isn’t this Global Warming concern a bit of hysteria? Who says that in the over 4 billion years of the age of the earth that NOW is the ideal temperature and CO2 level? For example how much warmer and how much more CO2 must have been present to support a boreal forest a half million years ago to exist in Greenland? Sea levels had to be 3- 6 feet higher than they are right now!

    We as a species may have to adapt, but history has shown the Earth will be just fine.

  3. “Ted Cruz remains confident that there’s no global warming, which the Washington Post attributes to his cherry-picking data (using only satellite data and ignoring ground-level data and picking an especially hot year as a baseline).” – There are times in the past of our climate that were actually hotter than today’s climate. I am just curious who was burning coal and driving SUV’s back then.

  4. Dan, thanks again for your efforts, but Pogo is still right:

    “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

    Humans have the best brains on the planet, but we are the dumbest thinkers.

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