The problem Houston represents for all of us this week is that we don’t know enough about the impacts that localized, intense rainfall will have on cities.
Heat and happiness
One of the reasons we think we should take action about climate change is that the costs of doing something about the problem are lower than the stream of future damages if we fail to act. Figuring out what damages from climate change will be 100 or more years into the future is difficult. It … Continue reading »
Does the Paris agreement open the door to geoengineering?
The Paris establishes an aspiration goal of holding climate change to 1.5°C, with a firmer goal of holding the global temperature decrease “well below” 2°C. As a practical matter, the 1.5°C goal almost certainly would require geoengineering, such as injecting aerosols into the stratosphere or solar mirrors. Even getting well below 2°C is likely to … Continue reading »
We are entering a new era of migration – and not just for people
By Jessica Hellmann, University of Minnesota, and David Ackerly, UC Berkeley The world is watching as refugees flood into a Europe unprepared for the new arrivals. Conflict and social unrest due in part to climate stress – including induced food shortages and social conflict – have prompted migrants to search for new homes and new … Continue reading »
Climate change and the future of fire policy
It has been a brutal fire season here in California. It’s been brutal in part because of a historically bad drought. But unfortunately, the end of the drought (when it comes) will not be the end of our fire problems. Those fire problems are the result of long-term, human-caused trends that will only continue: climate … Continue reading »
Why the Pope is wrong on markets
On a recent speaking engagement in Germany I ran into Prof. John Schellnhuber, who was on his way to the Vatican to present Pope Francis’ major coming out document on climate change. After I got over feeling oh so cool for being one degree of Kevin Bacon removed from one of the most powerful figures … Continue reading »
What the market is telling us about coal
The market’s message is simple: coal’s day is ending. Three major coal companies (Alpha Natural Resources, Walter Energy, and Patriot Coal) have gone into bankruptcy. The two largest publicly traded companies (Peabody and Arch) are now trading for a dollar a share, down from $16 and $33 within the past year. They, too, may well … Continue reading »
Jeb, the Pope and climate change
Jeb Bush’s environmental views seem to be evolving. In a recent speech at Liberty University, he had this to say about environmental protection: “America’s environmental debates, likewise, can be too coldly economical, too sterile of life . . . Christians see in nature and all God’s creatures designs grander than any of man’s own devising, the … Continue reading »
Energy options: Just say ‘Nein’ to nukes and coal?
On March 11, 2011, I was sitting in a coffee shop in Berlin, dressed appropriately in a black turtleneck and leather jacket, reading about the terrible Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear disaster. The next day I read that the German government was pushing for “Atomausstieg,” which is German for “let’s retire all nuclear generating capacity.” Eighty percent of … Continue reading »
A (sometimes) beautiful equilibrium: John Nash’s gifts to a crowded planet
John Nash and his wife died May 23 in a cab crash while returning from a trip to Norway to receive a major mathematical prize. He is best known to the public because of the movie “A Beautiful Mind,” which described his struggle with mental illness. His concept of the Nash Equilibrium is basic to … Continue reading »
Is residential solar really the future of electricity generation?
Renewable energy technologies have made outstanding progress in the last decade. The cost of solar panels has plummeted. Wind turbines have become massively more efficient. In many places some forms of renewable energy are cost competitive. And yet…just as these exciting changes are taking place, the renewables movement seems to be shifting its focus to … Continue reading »
I gather that people are tired of hearing about climate change. I’m tired of hearing about climate change, too. Sadly, Nature just doesn’t care that much about entertaining us. It’s going to be climate change this year, climate change next year, climate change the year after that . . . But don’t worry, it won’t … Continue reading »
Carbon vouchers: A small-government approach to climate action
What I’m going to sketch here isn’t a zero government approach. But the government’s role is very limited: federal agencies don’t do any enforcement and the government doesn’t touch any revenue from the scheme. So this approach deals with the concern that a carbon tax or something similar would either expand EPA’s ability to abuse … Continue reading »
Climate-change gag rules and the First Amendment
There have been recent reports about state agencies that forbid employees from discussing climate change. Since this is obviously a restriction on speech, it’s natural to wonder what the First Amendment has to say on the subject. The answer depends in large part on the kind of employee speech at issue. Let’s being with a ban … Continue reading »
The Brazilian deforestation puzzle
Brazil’s rate of deforestation went down dramatically over the last ten years. It’s not completely clear why that’s happened. The trend now seems to be reversing (or at least encountering an upward blip). But it’s not clear why that’s happening either. I wish I had a clear explanation to give you. A big part of … Continue reading »
For energy (and water) conservation, moral suasion is no substitute for getting the prices right
My office light switch recently acquired a little sticker that politely reminds me to turn it off when I leave. And over the past year, an edgy Lawn dude and an amicable Bear have been urging Californians to cut back on water use in order to meet our drought-stricken state’s water restrictions (which have to … Continue reading »
News from a warming world
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: Out with coal, in with wind. The Energy … Continue reading »
The futility of an international climate treaty
Call it Kyoto Syndrome, but each year for the past few decades we hear hopeful things about the upcoming negotiations for the “United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.” These discussions usually take place in some far-flung world capital, but they seem to always result in a nothing sandwich. In 2009, President Obama embarrassed himself … Continue reading »
Don’t know much ’bout climatology
Why should we believe the scientists about climate change? Nobody — not even any individual scientist — understand all the details of the 1552-page “summary” of climate science by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). So why buy into the idea that tiny amounts of gases from beneficial energy production can cause devastating global harm? Part of … Continue reading »
What’s a university to do about climate change?
About a year ago, I blogged about the fossil-fuel divestment movement at universities, arguing that it is unlikely to have any effect, and that even if it did it would be to raise fuel prices, which we could do more directly with a carbon tax. I said that those of us at the University of … Continue reading »