New Yorker Climate Issue – Just for the Record

The New Yorker had a characteristically superb compendium of stories last month about the climate crisis.  The best one was “Climate Change from A to Z” by Betsy Kolbert.  She relates important facts about climate change, going through the entire alphabet:  A for Arrhenius (who scoped the physics of global warming in the late 19th Century) to Z for Zero (in which she recounts how the “Colorado River basin has been called ‘ground zero for climate change in the United States.'”

She touches on the promise of clean tech but neglects one of the key burgeoning areas that is going to help us mitigate the worst impacts of the climate crisis, namely hydrogen.  I wrote a letter to the magazine and, just for the record, I want to share it here. Continue reading

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Renewables Are Powering Ahead

(Click on the graphic to open it in a new window.)

Here’s a headline for you:  The world is set to add as much renewable power in the next 5 years as it did in the past 20.

Maybe you didn’t see that coming.  Well, Amory Lovins, among others, saw it coming.  I heard him speak at a conference in New York City in the fall of 2009 and he said then:  “The Renewable Revolution has been won.  Sorry, if you missed it.”

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One Giant Leap Toward A Newer World

The premise of my book from way back when (2012) was that, stipulating that we were then (and are now) in a climate crisis, there were nevertheless heroic efforts underway to bring us back to some degree of climate health.  I wrote then:  “Some of my students and others have asked me over the last several years if we are addressing the climate crisis in time and with sufficient force and focus to avoid a planetary catastrophe. I tell them I don’t know. What I do know, however, is that we are forging new tools for much more sustainable, much cleaner and smarter ways to live. We have been realizing progress in areas like renewable energy that even ten years ago people in the field would have told you was not possible by now. We have a long way to go, but what we are seeing happen is incontrovertible evidence that there is a path to sustainability, that we can, in the words of the environmental prophet Barry Commoner, make peace with the planet.” Continue reading

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Solar Sanity is Restored

With solar power blossoming in the United States and the Biden Administration’s Day One vow to supercharge renewables, it came as a shock to learn in late March that the Commerce Department was throwing sand in the gears.  Based on what turned out to be a largely inaccurate interpretation of data offered by an American solar panel manufacturer, Commerce began an investigation that effectively blocked the importing of solar products from Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam.  The impact was immediate and devastating according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA):  forecasts for this year and next year being cut by 46%.  The 700 responses from an SEIA survey of industry businesses showed that 318 projects accounting for 51 GW of solar capacity and 6 GWh of attached battery storage were being cancelled or delayed, putting $52 billion of private investment and tens of thousands of jobs at risk.  An independent analysis, from Rystad Energy, found similar catastrophic disruptions as a result. Continue reading

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Hurricane Lizards and Plastic Squid

I have always said that I’m an environmentalist but not a naturalist.  I’m an environmentalist largely because I had so much pleasure outdoors as a kid:  camp on the ever-magnificent Lake George in New York, climbing and hiking in the Adirondacks, skiing in the Green Mountains, traveling around the American West one memorable summer, playing ball in the fall and spring.  I was blessed that way.  My wife and daughter have imbibed much of that love of the great outdoors.  I have never gained, however, a great deal of a grasp of the inner workings of the natural world.  Birders are all around me in Central Park during migration, but I can’t tell a hawk from a handsaw. The wonders of nature nevertheless never cease to astonish me.  An article from last year absolutely mystified me with this fact:  A species of beetle in South Africa, feeding on animal dung, like others of their cousins which are found on all the continents except Antarctica, roll their dung balls in a straight line at night by orienting with the Milky Way.  Astonishing.  The flash of color from a male Red-winged Blackbird once captivated me so thoroughly hitchhiking at dusk in Wisconsin that I realized it was my totem animal.  When I watch trees waving in the wind, it seems to me that they are dancing in joy at the sunlight and air. Continue reading

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Water in the American West – Supply-Side Management

Climate models predict a continuation of the trends we’ve been seeing in many countries:  heat waves happening more often and more intensely, longer and more severe droughts owing to decreased precipitation, wildfires as a consequence of long-term dry spells, and water stress for both urban and rural populations as well as for agriculture.  Nowhere are these trends more in evidence than in the American West.  The extraordinary engineering that has gone into making the West prosperous is at risk.  (I blogged about the landmark history of water policy and politics in the West, Cadillac Desert, here in September.) Continue reading

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Water in the American West – Demand-Side Management

I wrote about Cadillac Desert, the classic book about water in the American West, in September.  Scores of millions of people depend on the waterworks that were built up over the 20th Century there, and many millions more benefit from the bounty of fruits and vegetables that grow there, much of it in California, where agriculture accounts for 80% of overall use.  The story of Cadillac Desert, though, is that there has been a tremendous price paid for all that concrete, steel, energy, and the treasure needed to build and operate the waterworks.  Environmental destruction has been catastrophic, lives were lost when dams broke, thousands of small farmers and their communities were destituted because the water too often benefited Big Ag, and the American taxpayer was bilked out of billions over time. Continue reading

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NYPD’s Scofflaws

Let me see if I have this right:  The law says that you have to wear a mask on public transportation in New York City, including in subway stations and on the trains.  But police officers feel free to ignore the law.  They not only don’t enforce it, but they don’t observe it.  And our mayor says, point blank, the cops won’t enforce the law!  What am I missing here? Continue reading

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“Water flows toward power and money.”

That water flows toward power and money is, according to Marc Reisner in his magisterial book, Cadillac Desert, “the West’s cardinal law.”  In every chapter, that sad fact is illustrated in abundance.  The book, first published in 1986 and revised in a 1993 edition, put a new lens on the American West and the regional and national politics of water.  It, like so many chronicles of the abuses of power, and the lies, arrogance, and destruction that accompany them, is both revelatory and maddening.

Dept. of Better Late than Never:  A friend gave me the book more than 30 years ago.  Continue reading

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