In writing about climate change it’s hard to avoid the use of catch phrases and clichéd metaphors, as much we try to stop shooting silver bullets and keep all those pesky canaries out of our coal mines. At times, though, such oft-repeated words are used in paradoxical ways, jarring you into thinking about them a bit more deeply. This happened to me a few days ago when, in response to new Department of Agriculture data on the U.S. livestock industry, a beef producer referred to the impacts of the persistent drought as “a perfect storm.” Read More
February 11th, 2013
December 3rd, 2012
I’m now in Doha, Qatar, at the international climate negotiations (“COP18″), and today was Forest Day. This annual event focuses on the role of forests and deforestation in emissions of global warming pollution, and often is the venue for presenting some of the newest science from around the world. Read More
November 27th, 2012
Over the past several years, one of the few pieces of hopeful news about global warming has been the annual release of data from Brazil on its rate of Amazon deforestation. Since forests are immense storehouses of carbon, deforestation causes high levels of greenhouse gas emission. Brazil, which contains about 60% of the Amazon forest, is key to those emissions, and over the last six years it has made important progress in reducing its deforestation rate.
Today, the new data for 2011-2012 were released, and once again they are a ray of sunshine on an otherwise gloomy day. They show a decrease of deforestation to 4,656 square kilometers – down 27% from last year.
November 15th, 2012
We’ve seen it again with Hurricane Sandy. A storm rages, thousands of trees are blown down, and the power goes out for millions of homes, sometimes for weeks. It’s so common that we take it for granted: whether it’s a blizzard, a cyclone, or an ice storm, storms are followed by power outages as surely as darkness follows the day. But – why? The answer isn’t rocket science. It isn’t even airplane science. In fact, it’s barely bicycle science. It’s because the storm, the trees, and the power lines are all above the ground. Read More
October 15th, 2012
There are two Washingtons – the unrepresented one in the District of Columbia, and the state way out west of the Beltway. Here in DC life is going well: It’s a beautiful fall day, Congress is out of town, and the Nationals had the best record in baseball this year.
In the other Washington, though, things are different. The old quip about Washington’s ball team — “First in war, first in peace, and last in the American League” — used to be about the Senators; now it’s about the Mariners. But more seriously, the landscape is burning up.
September 10th, 2012
Last winter, after two weeks at the climate negotiations in Durban, I took a few days of vacation and visited the unique “Afrotemperate forests” of the Southern Cape of South Africa, in the Knysna-Tsitsikamma region. Natural forests cover less that 0.5 percent of South Africa, which is much more famous for wildlife-rich savannas and for the incredibly biodiverse fynbos vegetation around the Cape of Good Hope. Read More
September 6th, 2012
Over the past five years, I’ve noticed that our work here at UCS on tropical deforestation has gradually changed its emphasis from actions in tropical forest countries, such as REDD+, to what can be done in consuming countries (which are not the same as developed countries) about the demand that drives tropical deforestation. Read More
August 20th, 2012
It’s now nearly a month since we started our series of blog posts on the 2012 Drought in America, and during that time we’ve seen its effects spread more and more widely through the network of connections that make up our modern global society. Read More
August 9th, 2012
The drought of 2012 has reminded us that water is a scarce resource, even though we pay fractions of a penny per gallon for it and expect that it’ll be there every time we turn on the tap. We depend on it not only for our drinking and washing and especially for the food we eat, but also for generating the electric power on which our economy depends. Read More
August 1st, 2012
The Midwest drought continues to intensify. As you can see in this animation of how the 2012 drought has spread and deepened over the past 12 weeks, we’re witnessing a major climate impact on our agricultural system that is leading to record corn and soybean prices, among other significant and costly consequences. Lately I’ve started considering the potential long-run impact of this drought on the region and on the entire structure of U.S. agriculture. Read More