Earth Island Institute logo, tap or click to visit the Institute home page

Go Back: Home > Earth Island Journal > Issues > Winter 2008 > Temperature Gauge

Temperature Gauge

Temperature Gauge

Nothing’s the Matter with Kansas

In October, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment denied a utility corporation’s plans to build a giant coal-fired power plant near the town of Holcomb, saying that the plant would generate too much greenhouse gas. The decision marked the first time that a state has denied a power plant proposal solely based on concerns over climate change.

In making his decision, Roderick Bremby, secretary of the health and environment agency, cited the Supreme Court’s 2007 decision that carbon dioxide meets the Clean Air Act’s definition of a pollutant. The $3.6 billion, two 700-watt generator power station would have been the largest coal-fired power plant in the US, and would have created about 12 million tons of CO2 annually.

Buyer Beware

Turns out there is plenty of blame to go around for China’s skyrocketing greenhouse gas emissions. A recent report by the London-based Centre for Climate Change Research concludes that as much as one-quarter of China’s CO2 problem is attributable to its export trade with the US and Europe.

As the report’s authors point out, “Global trade means that a country’s carbon footprint is international.” Many developed countries are understating their carbon emissions because they have, in effect, exported their smokestack industries to China, and now are purchasing products they once made themselves.

There’s a name for this, the report authors say: “Carbon laundering.”

Pipe Dream

Two well-known scientists are floating an idea that they think could help address global warming: Placing tens of thousands of buoyant pipes in the ocean to better circulate nutrient-rich water and thereby encourage more algae, which reduce carbon dioxide.

James Lovelock (best known for his Gaia theory) and Chris Rapley (director of the British Science Museum) have been talking with billionaire Richard Branson about funding an experiment to re-jigger marine ecosystems to counter climate change. The pair proposes building 100-yard-long, 30-foot-diameter pipes that would float in the ocean and use flaps inside the tubes to increase the mixing of warm and cool waters. “We wondered if we could restore algal growth with its capacity to draw down carbon dioxide and to emit dimethyl sulphide, the precursor of clouds,” Lovelock wrote recently. Lovelock predicts it would take up to 100,000 of the pipes to make a noticeable difference in the climate.

It’s a bold idea, to be sure. But one has to wonder: Wouldn’t driving our cars less and using fewer kilowatts of electricity be simpler?

Buy the Numbers

Clean energy promoters say that wind power is one of the best ways of generating carbon-neutral electricity and addressing climate change. Yet nearly every time wind entrepreneurs seek to build new windmills, they face opposition from people who say the wind turbines kill too many birds.

In an effort to put the debate in perspective, the staff at High Country News recently compared wind turbine bird kills to other causes of avian deaths. According to figures from the US Forest Service, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and the American Ornithologists’ Union, bird deaths caused by wind turbines are a tiny fraction of all human-caused avian deaths in the country.

Wind turbines whack an estimated 28,500 birds every year. In comparison, power lines take out 130 million birds, automobiles smash 80 million, and cats chew up 100 million of our feathered friends. What’s the largest single cause of bird deaths? Buildings, which blindside some half a billion birds annually. Z



Email this article to a friend.

Write to the editor about this article.

Comments are closed for this post


Four issues for just
$15 a year.

cover thumbnail EIJ

Join Now!