The United States has now told the world what it intends to do about climate change in the 2020s, by submitting its INDC (“Intended Nationally Determined Contribution”) to the United Nations. As we found in our report Halfway There? in January, the U.S.’ land sector – agriculture and forests – could be a big deal for the climate negotiations in Paris next December. Of course, our actions to reduce fossil fuels will be critical, but land use is important both as a source of global warming pollution and a way to take it back out of the atmosphere. Read More
Forests, Agriculture, and Climate Change: Why the U.S. Needs Action, Not Just Accounting, in its INDC
April 3rd, 2015
March 18th, 2015
I’ve blogged many times about the clean energy policies California has in place that have made it a leader. The state is well on its way to supplying 33 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020 and now, in a visionary step to dramatically reduce global warming emissions, is considering ways to increase that amount to 50 percent by 2030. Read More
March 11th, 2015
A few years ago, my colleagues and I worked with Andrew Hoffman, the director of the Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise at the University of Michigan, to host a forum on increasing public understanding of climate change. The event sticks with me because the participants came from so many different backgrounds: environmental justice, Creation care, energy production, social science, media, climate science, and service in Congress.
Hoffman has condensed the myriad approaches to climate communication we discussed that day — and much more — into an indispensable guide. At a slim 100 pages, Hoffman’s book offers a fine distillation of the growing body of social science that explains our curious and conflicting approaches to climate issues. In addition to identifying the problematic ways we often approach climate change, he also suggests several potential ways forward that can restore the climate debate to what he calls a “more civilized plane.” Read More
March 6th, 2015
When former Texas Governor Rick Perry (R) ran for president in 2011, he flatly rejected climate science and even claimed that scientists had manipulated climate data. But last week, in response to a question about climate and energy issues at the Conservative Political Action Conference, he touted his environmental record, instead. Read More
Smothering Snow, Spiking Sea Levels, and Other Climate Plot Twists: Expecting the Unexpected in the Northeast
February 27th, 2015
When I first started digging into climate impacts, I used to think that the northeastern U.S., where I live, was a pretty good place to have landed. I still think so. It’s unlikely we’ll see historic mega-droughts, like those forecast by some for the U.S. Southwest. We’ll see heat that we’re far from prepared for, but it’ll be hotter still in the South. Our forests are expected to change, but they’re not under pressure like those in the Mountain West, nor are they currently experiencing rising risks of wildfire. We have our own problems, to be sure, like coastal vulnerability and trends in extreme precipitation.
But this week in the news there are two new studies that reminded me to expect the unexpected. While we understand the general pathway of change, the shorter-term directions the climate can take along the way can take us by surprise. Read More
February 26th, 2015
With global challenges such as diminishing environmental quality and public health, combined with accelerating climate change, we need more than ever to know how to confront many problems at once. Since plants inhale carbon dioxide and soils store carbon, there are numerous reasons to expect agriculture to play a significant role for improving the human prospect. Indeed, scientific research documents that we have tools to achieve ecological and climatic sustainability, but here’s the catch—we have to use them. Read More
February 26th, 2015
For many years, small farmers in developing countries have been blamed for deforestation because of the way that they make breakfast. While in developed countries nearly everyone cooks with fossil fuels, or with electricity generated by fossil fuels or hydroelectricity, in developing countries firewood still predominates, especially among the poorest people in rural areas. But is this really an important driver of deforestation—and thus a major contributor to global warming? A new study—the most in-depth and comprehensive look at the subject yet—says no.
February 24th, 2015
This morning, Rep. Raul Grijalva sent letters to seven universities seeking documents related to academics who have testified before Congress on climate change. The requests come in the wake of revelations over the weekend that the Smithsonian Institution agreed not to disclose payments from the Southern Company, a major utility, to fund and review the work of Smithsonian aerospace engineer Willie Soon. As all of the researchers in question have been critical of mainstream climate science, some are wondering if Rep. Grijalva’s requests can be considered a witch hunt. So is it? Read More
Willie Soon’s Failure to Disclose Industry Funding for Contrarian Climate Research is Another Reason to Support Transparency
February 24th, 2015
My first job in science communication was as an “Explainer” in the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. The program helps visitors – particularly students – understand the forces of flight. Our uniforms included red polo shirts that said “The Explainer Program” on the front and had the name of the company that sponsored the program – Cessna Aircraft – on the sleeve.
I recall this old uniform because the Smithsonian is under scrutiny for an entirely different type of sponsorship that was hidden from public view. Read More
February 10th, 2015