Thursday, June 3rd, 2010
Adapting to climate change is a complex matter for human communities, as Mark Carey makes abundantly clear in his newly published book In the Shadow of Melting Glaciers: Climate Change and Andean Society. Carey is a historian and explores nearly sixty years of disaster response in Peru since the beginning of his story in 1941 when an outburst flood from a glacier lake in the Cordillera Blanca mountain range sent a massive wave of destruction on the city of Huarez, obliterating a third of the city and killing an estimated 5000 people.
There have been further disasters since that one. Peruvians have, Carey points out, suffered the wrath of melting glaciers like no other society on earth. Further outburst floods followed in 1945 and 1950, and glacier avalanches in 1962 and 1970 (the latter following an earthquake) killed many thousands. (more…)
Friday, May 21st, 2010
Tony Seba is currently a lecturer in clean energy, entrepreneurship, finance and technology strategy at Stanford University. He is also an internationally known keynote speaker on the future of energy, entrepreneurship, innovation, and cleantech and high-tech market opportunities.
I recently sat down with Tony Seba to discuss his latest book, “Solar Trillions,” which is about market and investment opportunities in the emerging clean-energy economy.
CleanTechies: What is the premise of your book?
Seba: The clean energy economy will provide the largest wealth-building opportunities in history. The world will spend $382 trillion in energy over the next 40 years and every aspect of this industry is up for grabs: from generation and transportation to storage and use. The race for dominance has already started and the entrepreneurs, investors, and countries who win will dominate the 21st century. The problem is that the whole conversation about energy is wrong. (more…)
Tuesday, May 11th, 2010
“The momentum of the heating, and the momentum of the economy that powers it, can’t be turned off quickly enough to prevent hideous damage. But we will keep fighting, in the hope that we can limit that damage.”
Bill McKibben’s words occur on the final page of his newly published book Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet. The misspelling indicates a planet still recognizable but fundamentally changed. A planet that he first warned about over twenty years ago in his earlier book, The End of Nature.
McKibben is an activist as well as a writer. He led the 350.org campaign last year. Three hundred fifty parts per million is the level James Hansen and other scientists consider the upper limit of a safe level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Thursday, May 6th, 2010
“Wetlands are wastelands” was the explanation the chair of a local trust in my city gave for opposing a grant to a wetlands restoration project. He’s a rabid climate change denier and hence unlikely to read Melanie Lenart’s book Life in the Hothouse: How a Living Planet Survives Climate Change.
If he did he would discover how wrong he was. Not that he needed wait for her book: it has been evident for many years that wetlands are vital to ecological health. So are forests, which play an equal part in Lenart’s explanation of how Gaia, or, if you don’t like metaphor, the complex interacting system of the biosphere, responds to maintain a temperature within a range suitable for life.
A scientist with a background in journalism, Lenart is well placed to provide a coherent account for the general reader of the work of a host of researchers who have explored some of the intricacies of response to warming in Earth’s ecosystems. (more…)
Friday, April 30th, 2010
Economic growth is such an established mantra in political and economic circles that it can seem almost outlandish to question it. Tim Jackson not only questions it but affirms we can do better without it. His book Prosperity Without Growth: Economics for a Finite Planet, published last year, is based on a report he wrote earlier in the year as Economics Commissioner of the Sustainable Development Commission, the U.K. Government’s independent watchdog.
The prosperity Jackson writes of is our ability to flourish as human beings. It transcends material concern. It has to do with such matters as physical and mental health, access to education, relationships and sense of community, meaningful employment and the ability to participate in the life of society. He argues that in the developed countries we can (and must) have such prosperity without the economic growth paradigm that currently rules our thinking.
Jackson recognises the difficulties of the situation we have landed ourselves with. On the one hand growth is unsustainable, at least in its current form. The burgeoning consumption of finite resources and the heavy costs being imposed on the environment are accompanied by profound disparities in social well-being. (more…)
Friday, April 2nd, 2010
Meegan Jones has been the sustainability coordinator for such famous U.K. festivals as Glastonbury, Reading and Leeds. She’s put together her experiences in a new book, Sustainable Event Management: A Practical Guide, which talks about the ways to understand and manage the environmental impact of any event.
Using her U.K. experiences and examples from around the world, including the Burning Man, Coachella and Bonnaroo festivals in the United States, Jones discusses energy, zero emissions options, carbon and waste management and other aspects of handling the small to mid-sized cities that spring up during festival season and quickly dissolve in days.
CleanTechies: Do sustainable events cost more than non-sustainable ones? Tell us what the differences are between the two. (more…)
Thursday, March 25th, 2010
Daniel B. Botkin’s new book, Powering The Future: A Scientist’s Guide to Energy Independence, offers a balanced look at the issues surrounding our future energy resources. In his own words, Botkin provided CleanTechies with an overview of his vision:
“We hear so many opinions about how to solve America’s energy problem that it is hard to know what to believe. As an ecologist with a background in physics, and as previously as chairman of the Environmental Studies program at the University of California, Santa Barbara, I have long been interested in how energy is obtained and used in natural ecosystems, how energy from our environment affects us, and how we affect our environment in our pursuit of energy.
“For my work, I had to keep up with energy issues, and in doing so noticed some odd contradictions that began to occur around 2002. Solar and wind were already providing energy in many parts of the world, but environmental economists I worked with kept telling me a very different story. (more…)
Wednesday, March 24th, 2010
Eighteen months ago Clive Hamilton finally admitted to himself that we’re not going to act with the urgency needed to meet the action required by the science. Hence his new book Requiem for a Species: Why We Resist the Truth About Climate Change.
It is now too late to prevent far-reaching changes in the earth’s climate. An optimistic outlook could see global emissions peaking in 2020 then declining by 3 percent each year, with emissions in rich countries falling by 6 to 7 percent. It’s not enough.
Drawing particularly on the 2008 paper by Kevin Anderson and Alice Bows from the United Kingdom’s Tyndall Centre, Hamilton concludes that this would see the greenhouse gas concentration rise over the century to 650 parts per million, far in excess of the ‘safe’ 450 ppm talked about.
Four degrees of warming is more likely by the century’s end than two degrees. The assumptions on which international negotiations and national policies are proceeding have no foundation in the way in which the Earth’s climate system actually behaves. (more…)
Monday, March 22nd, 2010
Davis, Calif., is joining other American cities in a race towards carbon neutrality. The city with a population over 65,000 was the first to introduce bike lanes and climate-specific energy efficiency ordinance.
Teaming up with David Gershon (Earth Run organizer and author of Social Change 2.0), Davis is striving to be carbon neutral by mid-century, using the State of California’s 20 percent reduction goal as its starting point. The short-term target is also ambitious: cut the community’s emissions by 50 percent by the year 2013.
Organizers hope that with the “Cool Davis” campaign, up to 75 percent of Davis residents will participate by going on Gershon’s “Low Carbon Diet,” a 30-day program designed to help households shed 5,000 pounds of carbon. (more…)
Thursday, March 18th, 2010
William F. Stewart is the author of Climate of Uncertainty: A Balanced Look at Global Warming and Renewable Energy, from Ocean Publishing. He is co-chair of the climate change and energy practice at Cozen O’Connor.
CleanTechies had four questions about his new book.
CleanTechies: You promise a balanced look in your title, and you give the global warming nay-sayers a chapter. Why do you feel it’s important to take this approach?
William F. Stewart: I know it is a cliché, but skepticism really is the lifeblood of science. Historically, it is through the intense questioning of conventional wisdom that advancement has been possible. Although there are certainly a lot of cynics and charlatans masquerading as skeptics, good faith skepticism itself must be embraced if we are to achieve new discoveries. (more…)