01 April 2007

This is what we're talking about - the cover of Sports Illustrated. The article quotes Bill McKibben, a guy who is pretty much the inspiration for blog and who is also the subject of a recent profile in the New York Times.
The SI article is interesting but is short on specifics, which seems to be a recurring problem with articles of this type (though a couple of nice examples with footballers down south and what might happen to baseball spring training). There's a real gap for a comprehensive look, either in the US or around the world or both, of how climate change is changing culture. Gosh, someone should start a blog.
Also from the NY Times, some scientists are taking issue with Al Gore. They acknowledge the problem but disagree about degree and alarmism. Expect to see more stories like this in the future. Journalists have been slow to realise that the story is moving on - from 'global warming - what is it, is it happening?' (even the SI reporter had to explain the basic concept) to 'what do we do, how is it affecting us, what are the ideas for tackling it?' It's becoming a much more complex public issue than many people really realise.

12 March 2007

Lights, heat, action

Hollywood is catching on. Given the success of An Inconvenient Truth, it wouldn't take an expert to predict that a rash of global warming movies - some more 'popcorn' than others, as the articles nicely puts it - would be coming to the screen soon. Can't wait for the green angle to the Simpsons.

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04 March 2007

Syrup and sugar

When I was a kid, we went on a field trip to a maple farm in upstate New York. Honestly that's not something that's going to happen much longer.
Well look at this. Same newspaper, same day. The big picture and the small. Not Iraq. Not alienating most of the world; nor making a mess of border controls or social policy. Bush II will be remembered for failing to recognize the danger of business-as-usual.

26 January 2007

High in the Alps

This week I’m in Davos helping to make programmes for the BBC. Fitting then that one of the themes of the WEF this year is climate change. Confirmation that 2006 was the year that global warming became ‘mainstream’ – the sweltering planet seems to be near if not at the top of much of the coverage I’ve managed to catch (in between slogging through snowbanks and eating fondues). On the programme I’m on you can hear the CEO of Orange talk about whether climate change will affect business travel (5:30 p.m. on Saturday, Radio 4!). Also just caught a debate on CNBC. The audience voted overwhelmingly against:
-Clean coal and nuclear are the only viable alternatives to oil.
-Markets are better than regulation.
-A global carbon tax will do more harm than good.
Note that the participants included a lot of business converts to the green agenda as well as the most high-profile activists; perhaps a better survey would include everyone here. Still – interesting

10 January 2007

Go North!

The European Environment Agency came out with a report today detailing some of the cultural changes that will occur because of climate change. Tourism could be affected in the Med; more people will die in Southern Europe because of heat (but fewer in Northern Europe because of cold). We could be eating different types of fish. As usual the Independent is out front, putting the story on their front page, but also as usual their tone is alarmist and generally lacking in solutions. The Indy is becoming a strange beast, an environmental tabloid.
I rarely buy a paper these days (I read online or at the office) but I picked up the Sunday Observer over the weekend (well actually Rachel bought the thing, I picked it up when she got home). Interesting article here about Haparanda-Tornio in Sweden/Finland, and how global warming and an international flavour might make it a really nice place to hang out. But here it seems to me that the economics are a bit fuzzy. Ikeas are everywhere, and the fact that 'firms carrying goods from China to Europe will send their ships through the ice-free North East Passage' won't make the place rich. If busy ports equalled cultural and economic power, Grimsby would be the capital of the United Kingdom.

02 January 2007

New Year

My green new year's resolutions:
1. Make an effort to take bags to the supermarket and to refuse a new one when the cashier shoves my shopping in without me asking.
2. Save paper cups at work for compost, and continue my quixotic crusade to have styrofoam banned from the BBC.
3. Stop doing the washing up with the water running and no plug (Rachel says this is 'abhorent').

Hopefully it won't be a case of Rhetoric Up, Action Down - as it seems 2006 was. Also pointed out by Rachel (another one of her resolutions is 'stop abusing husband') is this blog by Anna Shepard of The Times.

21 December 2006


A while since the last update because we've been in Amsterdam, which is sinking. You had better see it while it lasts. It's useful to think of the sea level being a meter or two higher than it is now and thinking about what that would mean for a place ... but then again people are quite resourceful, perhaps they'll figure out ways to hold back the flood.
Today's news comes from China, where green energy sometimes means big deals for wealthy Western bankers.

15 December 2006

Good King Burning Arse

You (and everyone else) missed yesterday's debate about domestic carbon emissions in the Commons. The most interesting tidbit is down near the bottom where Lib Dem MP Martin Horwood mocks a poem that the government has allegedly come up with to demonstrate the effects of climate change on Christmas. Quoting now:

Good King Wenceslas looked out
On the Feast of Stephen
Sunbathers lay round about
Tanned and crisp and even
Brightly shone the moon that night
With mosquitoes cruel
When a poor man came in sight
Malaria killed his mule

Rubbish poetry or carol or whatever but probably the best thing to come out of the Blair junta in quite some time. Unfortunately a quick search only comes up with this error page and Horwood is vauge about its origins. Any help from DEFRA? Send me a working link if you find it.

13 December 2006

Lil doggies

Much play given to the UN report on livestock and greenhouse gases (btw check out the scot-themed comments. My favourite near-incomprehensible: 'The heidline, for wance, is bang oan! Guff, jist Guff!').
And the NY Times is discovering how business is figuring out how to make money off climate change. I don't want to gloat or anything but this wouldn't be a story in Europe - it's yesterday's news. The homeland has a lot to do to catch up but before you go off America-bashing (or accusing me of doing the same), remember we're all in this together - and we need the US to catch up and quick. Plus the US economy is much more flexible - once peeps get their heads around it, my prediction is that they'll leave Europe in the dust from an effeciency standpoint. And probably make a lot of money besides.
In the New Yorker, Elizabeth Kolbert adds a bit of colour to the Supreme Court case mentioned earlier (Massachusettes v. Environmental Protection Agency). I'm becoming a fan of Kolbert; someone can buy me her book for xmas.

When a story is a story, and when it's not a story.

I recently wrote more about the extreme end of the direct action environmental movement in the UK for The First Post. The peg for the story was intially going to be Gordon Brown's decision to increase road taxes for the biggest-polluting vehicles, a development that was widely trailed.
Unfortunately the leaks turned out to be, well, if not wrong, then a little bit, uh, wrong. Pundits deducted that Brown is still testing the limits of political acceptability of green taxes. After all, in 2000, truckers blockaded the roads to protest at rises in fuel duty. Brown gave in on that one and froze it - only to unfreeze it last week. So far, rebellion has not broken out on the streets of London, or anywhere else in the country.

06 December 2006

London's sinking

Here we go ... check out the soundtrack to the era of climate change, playing now in a financial district near, uh, me. Here's a review. And unrelated, though from the same edition of the Independent, questions raised about the Green Belt. At the end it mentions that 'climate change will worsen if the countryside disappears under concrete.' That's a scientific reason against building on the ring of green that surrounds British cities. But here's where artists tend to be out in front of us workaday journalists. The 'idea' of a Green Belt orders urban society in this country to a profound degree. It creates a limit and a boundary to cities. You wouldn't put that in a news article, though, the editor would laugh (with some good reason). Thus: bring on the opera.

30 November 2006

How is climate change like child porn?

Yesterday the U.S. Supreme Court took on climate change. The specific question is whether the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency should be forced to regulate carbon emissions. It's worth noting that the EPA is part of the executive, i.e., under Bush's control. The current 'regulators' argue that the Clean Air Act (last amended in 1990) doesn't specify carbon as a pollutant; thus they shouldn't bother doing anything about it.
Without getting too technical, the case revolves around 'standing'; the real question is, are the plantiffs (U.S. states, cities and enviro groups) being injured by the behaviour of the defendent (the EPA); and can a lawsuit remedy such injury? During arguments some core questions were teased out:

  1. Does global warming exist? (the justices seem strangely reluctant to give even this question a 100% yes)
  2. Are the plantiffs being hurt? (Interseting detail: Assistant Attorney General James R. Milkey of Massachusetts aruged that the states risk losing "soverign territory" to rising sea levels)
  3. Does the E.P.A. have the power to act?


4. Will action make any difference?

Big stuff.

29 November 2006


OK, so I started as a way to chart the current and future impacts of climate change on our lives. Most of this has come from links to the MSM. But even that task seems to be tough. I turn my back for two days and there's too much to keep track of. If you're into your Malthusian economics, try Thomas Homer-Dixon's column in the New York Times. This is one of those big questions: is there an environmental limit to economic growth.
A bit more accessible: Newsweek's description of how and where we might have to deal with extreme weather events. But is it just me or is Newsweek, usually a reliable sort of downmarketish Time, a bit clunky. Not only does it describe a possible temperature change of 12 standard deviations as "statistician-speak for 'holy cow!'" - but elsewhere in the issue there's also this really unfunny satire.
To round it up - a round up. Of climate change books, from Sunday's Observer. Which reminds me to namecheck Bill McKibben's article published last year (eons ago, I know) on opendemocracy.net. It's the big inspiration for this little site.

27 November 2006

Downhill from here

For every point a counterpoint - and maybe the skiiers can move to Seattle. They'll have to endure more rain though. One curious detail near the end notes that "the population (of Seattle) suffers disproportionately from Seasonal Affective Disorder." I wonder where the citation comes from on this - are there tables around the USA or around the world of the most SAD cities? Which ones are they?

I pine for the Alpine

This is basically a perfect example of what I'm talking about in this blog so I'll just leave it at that: Climate change has disrupted Alpine snow patters and threatens the future of pro skiing.

24 November 2006

Snake vs. Gator - both lose

Last night I was thinking I shouldn't ever do the 'this doesn't really have much to do with culture and climate change' post. But, well, a snake trying to eat an alligator doesn't really have much to do with climate change, just check out the picture.
I could argue that with climate change we'll see lots more weird animal confrontations. And you'll probably be eating native things that weren't once native. I could argue that. But I won't.