Sea-surface temperatures may explain why climate change is not warming the planet as fast
From the 1940s through the 1970s there was no major warming trend in the average surface temperature of Earth. At the same time, the tropical Pacific Ocean, which is responsible for the weather patterns known as El Niño and La Niña that can swing global average temperatures by as much as 0.3 degree Celsius, was anomalously cold. For the past decade or so the tropical Pacific has again gone cold—more Niña than Niño—and a new study suggests that the phenomenon may explain the recent "pause" in global warming of average temperatures.
Don’t be fooled by the promise of “clean” coal. “Clean coal” is the industry’s tooth fairy. There’s no such thing. Wind and solar on the other hand, are real clean energy technologies that are viable today.
In reality, there’s no such thing as "clean coal” — it’s a false solution. Coal is a dirty fuel — from start to finish. During the coal mining process mountaintops are blasted away and toxic slurry ponds left behind. Burning coal results in pollutants that are harmful to human health, like mercury and smog. As if this weren't enough, worldwide, more carbon pollution comes from the burning of coal than any other fuel. A limited number of coal plant operators are now experimenting with capturing the carbon pollution their plants produce and storing it underground. But the present cost of this technology — known as Carbon Capture & Storage (CCS) — is extremely high and safe storage areas are limited. While CCS may play a limited role in a low-carbon future, it shouldn’t be mistaken for a quick fix to the climate crisis. To make meaningful progress in curbing climate change we need to invest in real clean energy sources, like wind and solar, which are more economically viable and better for our climate and health, too. That’s the bit Big Coal won’t advertise.
The future of our planet depends on the world economy’s rapid transition to “green growth” – modes of production based on clean technologies that significantly reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Yet carbon remains badly mispriced, owing to fossil-fuel subsidies and the absence of tax revenues needed to address the global externalities of climate change.
Long before economics turned to psychology, environmentalists were nudging and framing and pushing their cause like highly gifted amateur psychologists. Their interventions seem to have changed behavior by altering beliefs, norms and preferences, but because psychological interventions are often coarse, inadvertent, offsetting side effects occur. After discussing the interplay between environmental preference-making and economics, I turn to three areas where strong, simple views have spread—electric cars, recycling and local conservation efforts. In all three areas, environmental rules of thumb can lead to significant, adverse environmental side effects. Local environmentalism, for example, may increase carbon emissions by pushing development from low emission areas, like coastal California, to high emissions areas elsewhere. I end by discussing how economic analysis of the political market for ideas can make sense of the remarkable disparity of views on global warming.
At first glance, Daliuta in northern China appears to have a river running through it. A closer look reveals the stretch of water in the center is a pond, dammed at both ends. Beyond the barriers, the Wulanmulun’s bed is dry.
We often hear how the world as we know it will end, usually through ecological collapse. Indeed, more than 40 years after the Club of Rome released the mother of all apocalyptic forecasts, The Limits to Growth, its basic ideas are still with us. But time has not been kind.
The Limits to Growth warned humanity in 1972 that devastating collapse was just around the corner. But, while we have seen financial panics since then, there have been no real shortages or productive breakdowns. Instead, the resources generated by human ingenuity remain far ahead of human consumption.
But the report’s fundamental legacy remains: we have inherited a tendency to obsess over misguided remedies for largely trivial problems, while often ignoring big problems and sensible remedies.