Sunday, February 24, 2013

Weekly News Roundup 2-24

Another week dominated by talk of Keystone XL. And some scary new climate/environment changes.
  • Inside Climate News: The biggest US enviro story of the week was the Keystone XL rally. "As many as 40,000 protesters from 30 states descended on the White House on Sunday and demanded that President Obama kill the proposed Keystone XL oil sands pipeline. By the estimates of organizers, it was the biggest protest march for climate change action in the nation's history."
  • Grist: David Roberts on the virtues of being unreasonable on KXL. "Intensity wins in politics, as I’ve said many times before, even if — [Michael] Levi’s unreasonable demand notwithstanding — its effects cannot be easily predicted. There are benefits to an activated, impassioned constituency and the social and political machinery that brings them together in large numbers. It’s what the right has: an intense core, fighting on behalf of the status quo (using the status quo’s money), that has captured one of America’s two political parties. It’s what the fight against climate change does not yet have: an intense core, fighting on behalf of social and political change, with at least one political party that is scared to cross it.
    Intensity is built through conflict, through the drawing of political and moral lines. That’s what activists like Bill McKibben are trying to do, with activist logic, not wonk logic, taking advantage of symbolism and opportunity. If there’s some other groundswell for change from which those efforts are 'distracting,' I haven’t heard about it."
  • Wonkblog: One more on KXL. Joe Nocera (NY Times op-ed writer) wrote a misguided defense of Keystone (which he later retracted). Brad Plummer of Wonkblog wrote a good reply to Nocera. OK, that's enough on KXL for now.
  • Xinhua: China announced a carbon tax. It is big news, but the tax would start off at 10 yuan per ton, or around $1.60. 
  • Discover: Drought in 2012 was bad: 

Source: USGS
  • NY Times: Unfortunately, the thin snowpack this winter means that drought might extend into 2013. "Lakes are half full and mountain snows are thin, omens of another summer of drought and wildfire. Complicating matters, many of the worst-hit states have even less water on hand than a year ago, raising the specter of shortages and rationing that could inflict another year of losses on struggling farms." Dire stuff.
  • Think Progress: Arctic ice volume is falling rapidly. "Death spiral" seems appropriate:

  • Wonkblog: More good stuff from Brad Plummer. US grasslands are being converted to farmland at the fastest pace since....the Dust Bowl. "U.S. farmers converted more than 1.3 million acres of grassland into corn and soybean fields between 2006 and 2011, a period of soaring crop prices and biofuel mandates (right)." Why can't we see how stupid biofuels from corn are?
  • AlertNet: Palm oil expansion is a big threat to African forests. Did you know that palm oil is actually native to Africa? Well now it's coming back in a big way. "Around 1.6 million hectares of new developments have been announced in the central African region since 2009, and palm oil companies are actively searching for bigger areas, the report said. Two thirds, or some 115 million hectares, of the total Congo Basin forest area is believed to have suitable soil and climate conditions for growing oil palms, it noted."
  • ICRAF: A little good news at the end, looks like Filipino households are willing to pay for watershed protection, a promising development. "The results showed that more than 50% of the respondents voted positively to pay a certain amount for the conservation of the Layawan watershed."

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