Trees Are Always Welcome In Our Pages

The notion that clear-cutting can be counteracted by the planting of trees is a political product of the timber industry.Photograph © Robert Adams / Fraenkel Gallery

Jill Lepore gives us a 30-minute read on a topic we have linked to more times than any topic other than birds:

What We Owe Our Trees

Forests fed us, housed us, and made our way of life possible. But they can’t save us if we can’t save them.

The woods I know best, love best, are made of Northern hardwoods, sugar maple and white ash, timber-tall; black and yellow birch, tiger-skinned; seedlings and saplings of blighted beech and striped maple creeping up, knock-kneed, from a forest floor of princess pine and Christmas fern, shag-rugged. White-tailed deer dart through softwood stands of pine and hemlock, bucks and does, the last leaping fawn, leaving tracks that look like tiny human lungs, trails that people can only ever see in the snow, even though, long after snowmelt, dogs can smell them, tracking, snuffling, shuddering with the thrill of the hunt and noshing on deer scat for dog treats. Continue reading

Green Capitalism Explained & Criticized

We are new to the website where this interview is on offer, and appreciate its proclamation: “We cut through the noise. Of social media. And algorithmic distraction. We find the serious stuff. The stuff you miss. Every week. With human curators.” We are also new to the explainer and critic on a set of topics we often have had links to:

ADRIENNE BULLER ON GREEN CAPITALISM AND THE PITFALLS OF CLIMATE FINANCE

Adrienne Buller is Director of Research at the think tank Common Wealth, where she leads investigative projects about building a democratic economy. She previously researched the intersection of finance and the climate crisis at InfluenceMap, and has also written for The Guardian and the Financial Times, among other publications. Continue reading

India’s Progress With Solar Power Generation

Reuters Graphics

Progress on solar power generation in India is a big deal. The country’s reduction in poverty, remarkable as it has been, is counterbalanced by its environmental impoverishment. Thanks to Reuters for this article by Sarita Chaganti Singh and Sudarshan Varadhan:

Exclusive: India amends power policy draft to halt new coal-fired capacity

NEW DELHI/SINGAPORE, May 4 (Reuters) – India plans to stop building new coal-fired power plants, apart from those already in the pipeline, by removing a key clause from the final draft of its National Electricity Policy (NEP), in a major boost to fight climate change, sources said. Continue reading

Norway’s Combustion Transition

About 80 percent of new-car sales in Norway were electric last year, putting the country at the vanguard of the shift to emissions-free vehicles. David B. Torch for The New York Times

A major fossil fuel producing country has figured out how to transition away from combustion engines:

About 80 percent of new cars sold in Norway are battery-powered. As a result, the air is cleaner, the streets are quieter and the grid hasn’t collapsed. But problems with unreliable chargers persist.

BAMBLE, Norway — About 110 miles south of Oslo, along a highway lined with pine and birch trees, a shiny fueling station offers a glimpse of a future where electric vehicles rule. Continue reading

Viewed From Above, Our Most Important Leaks

Illustration by Ard Su

David W. Brown offers this updated look at the use of satellite technology for a key metric:

A Security Camera for the Planet

A new satellite, funded by a nonprofit, aims to pinpoint emissions of methane—a gas that plays a major role in global warming.

When his phone rang, Berrien Moore III, the dean of the College of Atmospheric and Geographic Sciences at the University of Oklahoma, was fumbling with his bow tie, preparing for a formal ceremony honoring a colleague. He glanced down at the number and recognized it as nasa headquarters. This was a bad sign, he thought. In Moore’s experience, bureaucrats never called after hours with good news.

It can see large methane concentrations along its orbital path, but can’t pinpoint emissions sources. Illustration by Ard Su

For roughly six years, Moore and his colleagues had been working on a space-based scientific instrument called the Geostationary Carbon Cycle Observatory, or GeoCarb. nasa had approved their proposal in 2016; it was now 2022, and GeoCarb was being built by Lockheed Martin, in Palo Alto, California. Once it was in space and mounted to a communications satellite, GeoCarb would scan land in the Western Hemisphere continuously in strips, taking meticulous measurements of three carbon-based gases: carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and methane. It would give scientists a detailed view of the carbon cycle—the process by which carbon circulates through the Earth’s forests, lakes, trees, oceans, ice, and other natural features. Continue reading

An Optimistic View On Climate

Illustration by Nicholas Konrad / The New Yorker; Source photographs from Getty.

We appreciate the author’s wide reach and tireless exploration for solutions to seemingly unsolvable puzzles:

A Case for Climate Optimism, and Pragmatism, from John Podesta

The veteran political operative now has one of the nation’s top climate jobs. He speaks about the Willow oil-drilling project, the Inflation Reduction Act, and the Biden White House.

“Humanity is on thin ice, and that ice is melting fast,” António Guterres, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, recently warned, in response to a newly alarming climate report. The ice is melting, in large part, because the world keeps burning fossil fuels. To change that, the U.S. will need to join other nations in replacing machines that burn them—cars, stoves, furnaces, and eventually things like planes and factories—with machines that run on electricity. Continue reading

Lie-Liable Fossil Fuel Companies

Following record rains in April of 2014, a section of Baltimore street simply collapsed. Now there’s some chance of holding the culprits accountable.

Thanks to Bill McKibben for this legal news following plenty of precursor stories on the same topic:

High court lets cities and states sue Exxon et al

…But something else happened yesterday too, with a price tag that may eventually dwarf that settlement, and with even larger potential implications for the future of the planet. The Supreme Court, also tersely, declined to grant cert in a case brought by oil companies desperately trying to hold off state court trials for their climate crimes. Continue reading

Not So Happy Earth Day

Over the past three decades, the rate of ice loss from Greenland has increased sevenfold. Photograph by Kerem Yücel / AFP / Getty

On yet another Earth Day, whatever those two words mean together in tandem these days, a message from a reliable source:

It’s Earth Day—and the News Isn’t Good

New reports show that ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica are melting faster than anticipated, and other disasters loom.

The Greenland ice sheet is, quite literally, a relic of the last ice age. It consists of snow that fell year after year, century after century, and never melted; at the very bottom, there are flakes that fell more than a hundred thousand years ago. Continue reading

McKibben Embraces Green Building Boom

Grace J. Kim

We link to one person more than anyone else, for good reason:

ELECTRIFY EVERYTHING

Yes in Our Backyards
It’s time progressives like me learned to love the green building boom.

The United States is on the brink of its most consequential transformation since the New Deal. Read more about what it takes to decarbonize the economy, and what stands in the way, here

I’m an environmentalist, which means I’ve got some practice in saying no. It’s what we do: John Muir saying no to the destruction of Yosemite helped kick off environmentalism; Rachel Carson said no to DDT; the Sierra Club said no to the damming of the Grand Canyon. Continue reading

Fort Lauderdale Weather In Context

Police evacuate residents from this week’s epic Ft. Lauderdale floods

You probably did not need Bill McKibben’s newsletter to tell you about this weather event, but putting it in context is what he is particularly good at:

We’re in for a stretch of heavy climate

Ominous signs that the next step phase of global warming is starting;

This week’s Fort Lauderdale rainstorm was, on the one hand, an utter freak of nature (storms ‘trained’ on the same small geography for hours on end, dropping 25 inches of rain in seven hours; the previous record for all of April was 19 inches) and on the other hand utterly predictable. Continue reading

Anthropocene’s Marker

The Ediacaran Period, which ended some 540 million years ago, is marked by a gold spike in the Flinders Ranges of South Australia. JAMES ST. JOHN

We do not love the word Anthropocene, but we appreciate the marker it represents. And until now we did not know there would be a physical counterpart, a marker that will be placed in a representative location:

A Golden Spike Would Mark the Earth’s Next Epoch: But Where?

Before the Anthropocene can be officially proclaimed, a scientific working group must select a single site that permanently captures the new human-influenced epoch. Nine candidate sites — from California to China to Antarctica — are under consideration, with a decision expected soon.

The peatland below Poland’s Mount Śnieżka contains contaminants from burning fossil fuels, nuclear testing, and other human activities. MYSTICWALKER / ALAMY STOCK PHOTO

At first glance, these nine sites scattered across the globe seem unremarkable. Continue reading

Thaw Gas Measurement

Covered in netting to deflect stray balls, these instruments gather methane data on the seventh hole of Midnight Sun Golf Course. Permafrost is rapidly thawing across the far north, deforming fairways here and releasing the highly potent greenhouse gas, which leads to more warming. PHOTOGRAPH: FRANKIE CARINO

Thaw problems are coming. Permafrost is losing its permanence. Measuring the speed and impact of the thaw is a new form of sleuthing:

The Arctic’s Permafrost-Obsessed Methane Detectives

The Far North is thawing, unleashing clouds of planet-heating gas. Scientists rely on an arsenal of tech to sniff out just how nasty the problem is.

AT THE MIDNIGHT Sun Golf Course in Fairbanks, Alaska, they say you never get the same shot twice. Continue reading

Valuation Of Biodiversity

Cape Buffalo in Kenya. MARTIN HARVEY / ALAMY

Biodiversity valuation is a topic we link to from time to time, so we thank Zach St. George for this article’s contribution to our understanding:

Pricing Nature: Can ‘Biodiversity Credits’ Propel Global Conservation?

Backed by the UN, an alliance of conservationists and policymakers is devising new ways to finance the preservation of biodiversity by placing economic values on ecosystems. Some analysts say such schemes have the potential to boost conservation, but others are skeptical.

In 2009, as global financial markets shuddered, David Dorr became interested in the possibility of putting a price on nature. Dorr is a Cayman Islands-based global macro trader, attuned to what he calls the “butterfly effect” of geopolitics and other international forces on financial markets. Continue reading

Small But Meaningful Legal Support Of Protest

Insulate Britain supporters protesting in London this month. Photograph: Daniel Leal/AFP/Getty Images

Strange that this requires a protest, but that’s how it is. Our thanks to Damien Gayle of the Guardian for this coverage:

Top lawyers defy bar to declare they will not prosecute peaceful climate protesters

Six KCs among more than 120 mostly English lawyers to sign pledge not to act for fossil fuel interests

Leading barristers have defied bar rules by signing a declaration saying they will not prosecute peaceful climate protesters or act for companies pursuing fossil fuel projects. Continue reading

Sailing Cargo Ships, Again

An illustration shows a wind-powered car and truck carrier ship that a Swedish consortium is developing and aiming to launch late 2024. Photograph: Wallenius Marine/Reuters

Old school (sailing cargo ships) becoming the new trend is as good as news gets these days:

Cargo ships powered by wind could help tackle climate crisis

Shipping produces much of the world’s greenhouse gases but new technology offers solutions to cut fuel use

Cars, trucks and planes get plenty of blame for helping drive the climate crisis, but shipping produces a large portion of the world’s greenhouse gases, as well as nitrogen oxides and sulphur pollution because ships largely use cheap heavy fuel oil. Continue reading

The Great Atlantic Sargassum Belt

A worker removing sargassum with machinery at a resort in Cancun, Mexico, last year. Alonso Cupul/EPA, via Shutterstock

We have seen its beauty and otherwise tended to feature its positive uses, but not all seaweed is created equal; so, our thanks to Livia Albeck-Ripka and Emily Schmall for this news and analysis:

A Giant Blob of Seaweed is Heading to Florida

The mass, known as the great Atlantic Sargassum belt, is drifting toward the Gulf of Mexico. Scientists say seaweed is likely to come ashore by summer to create a rotting, stinking, scourge.

For much of the year, an enormous brown blob floats, relatively harmlessly, across the Atlantic Ocean. Its tendrils provide shelter and breeding grounds for fish, crabs and sea turtles. Spanning thousands of miles, it is so large that it can be seen from outer space. Continue reading

SUV Realities, Fictions, Dangers

Carmakers have long profited from what’s known as the S.U.V. loophole, which allows auto manufacturers to get around fuel-efficiency regulations by selling trucks. Photograph from Alamy

SUV is a three-letter word, popular to the point of problematic. Thanks again to Elizabeth Kolbert for the most recent thinking on the topic:

Why S.U.V.s Are Still a Huge Environmental Problem

The world is moving toward heavier cars at a time when it should be doing precisely the reverse.

Last year, the world’s S.U.V.s collectively released almost a billion metric tons of carbon dioxide. If all the vehicles got together and formed their own country, it would be the world’s sixth-largest emitter, just after Japan. This is a disturbing figure, but, according to a new report from the International Energy Agency, it gets worse. Globally, S.U.V. sales continue to grow, even though, last year, total passenger-vehicle sales fell. And the trend has now spread to electric vehicles: in 2022, for the first time, the sale of electric S.U.V.s edged out the sale of other electric cars. Continue reading

Phosphogeddon, Peecycling & Other Modern Portmanteaus

Addressing the problem, some scientists believe, may require reimagining agriculture from the ground up. Illustration by Juan Bernabeu

Stephen Porder is Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, a Fellow in the Institute at Brown for Environment and Society, and the Assistant Provost for Sustainability at Brown. Elemental is his new book looking at how life shapes Earth using basic elements we may take for granted. Read on to learn more about the book, and its wider relevance to other books now being published that discuss phosphorous.

Thanks, as always, to Elizabeth Kolbert for her book reviews, and in this case a nod to the Rich Earth Institute:

Phosphorus Saved Our Way of Life—and Now Threatens to End It

Fertilizers filled with the nutrient boosted our ability to feed the planet. Today, they’re creating vast and growing dead zones in our lakes and seas.

In the fall of 1802, the German naturalist Alexander von Humboldt arrived in Callao, Peru’s major port, just west of Lima. Humboldt had timed his visit to coincide with a transit of Mercury, which he planned to observe through a three-foot telescope, in order to determine Lima’s longitude. He set up his instruments atop a fort on the waterfront, and then, with a few days to kill before the event, wandered the docks. A powerful stench emanating from boats loaded with what looked like yellowish clay piqued his curiosity. From the locals, Humboldt learned that the material was bird shit from the nearby Chincha Islands, and that it was highly prized by farmers in the area. He decided to take some home with him. Continue reading

Living Carbon

OUR MISSION

We believe the challenge of climate instability is the biggest opportunity for global mobilization we have ever seen. It is an opportunity to learn how to use technology to rebalance our ecosystems rather than further alienate us from them. We work with the inherent power of plants, informed by generations of scientific research, to restore ecosystems, improve biodiversity, and enhance the ability of photosynthetic organisms to draw down and store carbon from the atmosphere.

A mission we are curious about, click the image above to learn more.

Africa’s Sunlight & Europe’s Electricity

The Noor solar power station near Ouarzazate, Morocco. SEPCO III / XINHUA / ALAMY STOCK PHOTO

Fred Pearce brings us news from the European-African axis of renewable energy:

In Scramble for Clean Energy, Europe Is Turning to North Africa

In its quest for green energy, Europe is looking to North Africa, where vast solar and wind farms are proliferating and plans call for submarine cables that will carry electricity as far as Britain. But this rush for clean power is raising serious environmental concerns.

Solar panels in sun-rich North Africa generate up to three times more energy than in Europe. And North Africa has a lot more room for them than densely populated Europe. Continue reading