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Making the business case for climate action

Bipartisan group makes business case to act on climate

The bipartisan coalition pressing the business case for action on climate mounted a full-court press ahead of the release of its Risky Business report tomorrow. Former Treasury Secretary and Goldman Sachs honcho Hank Paulson, on whose watch credit markets seized up in 2008, took to the Sunday NYT to compare that financial breakdown with the climate crisis—though if he’d served up this welcome prescription with a larger side-dish of humility, he might have defused the inevitable jabs from left and right. Another Risky Business leader, investor Tom Steyer, is enduring GOP attacks, but Dems doubt the slime will stick. 

Solar market capturing mainstream buyers

More than half of U.S. builders plan to offer photovoltaic panels as an option on the homes they construct in 2016 (ClimateWire, subscribers only), up from 12 percent in 2013, according to a new report from the National Home-Builders Association. The trend is part of a proliferation of ways for homeowners to power their homes from the sun, which includes neighborhood purchasing schemes that slash the price per household. Consumers without adequate solar access—either because as renters, they don’t own their roofs, or because their homes are too shady—can sign up for the off-site systems touted as “community solar gardens.”

Carbon pricing advances in China, threatened in Australia

China launched its seventh and final pilot carbon market last week, as it tests ways to meet its goal of ratcheting down its energy intensity 40 percent between now and 2020. Although permits at the Chongqing market debut sold for just $5 per ton, the bidding will probably get brisker as the cap declines by 4 percent each year. To the south, in Australia, the fossil-fuel industry’s fingerprints are all over the attempt to repeal the carbon tax, now held up in the Senate; polling there shows that the public overwhelmingly supports targets calling for 20 percent renewable electricity by 2020.

Even sprawling cities amble toward walkability

A new study that ranks the walkability of major metro centers documents a marked trend away from post-War II sprawl toward more walkable cities. The usual cities—D.C., New York, and Boston—topped the list, but were joined by cities more known for sprawl like Atlanta and Detroit. A parallel development: central cities are growing faster than their suburbs in 19 out of 51 metro areas as residents vote with their feet and real estate dollars. Not only does walkability benefit the climate, this 2009 study also tied it to higher property values.

Harper greenlights tar sands pipeline, but obstacles remain

The Canadian federal government last week approved the Northern Gateway pipeline from Alberta tar sands to the northern B.C. port of Kitimat—but the $7 billion project may become a political football that endangers Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s majority in Parliament. The pipeline also faces opposition from First Nations wielding their court-affirmed aboriginal rights, including the Haisla, who took umbrage when project proponent Enbridge felled 14 cedar trees culturally modified by natives. Other oil-hauling is in the spotlight, too: expiration looms for the South Dakota permit for the Keystone XL, and Politico highlighted the dangers from exploding oil trains.

Texas makes play for EVs

Texas Governor (and climate denier) Rick Perry is out to make America’s bastion of fossil fuel not only EV-ready but Tesla-ready, the Rocky Mountain Institute reports. Competition from other states for a massive battery factory reportedly moved Perry to back Tesla's desire to bypass dealers in selling its cars. Texan cities are already investing in EV-charging infrastructure, and the state will soon roll out a rebate program for EVs. Morgan Stanley dubbed Tesla the most important car company in the world; meanwhile, Tesla leader Elon Musk was in the news as chairman of PV installer SolarCity, which bought a PV manufacturer to cut costs.

Climate science colors debate over classroom science

Climate is taking its place alongside evolution as a shibboleth in how Americans view science curricula, according to an in-depth article in US News and World Report. Climate denial has sparked right-wing opposition to new national science standards because that program calls for instruction about human-caused global warming. Democrats are betting that those attitudes brand Republicans as out-of-step, and hope to use climate as a wedge issue in the midterm elections. To talk about climate well, Sightline says, communicators would do well to follow EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy’s lead in presenting global warming as an urgent threat that we can solve with innovative effort.

Should gas pumps carry climate warning labels?

A municipal advisory panel in Berkeley, CA, has recommended that the city require warning labels on gas pumps, reminding drivers that emissions from motor fuel are implicated in the health and economic impacts of global warming. Modeled on the warnings found on cigarette packs, the stickers are the brainchild of the grassroots activist group 350 Bay Area, and will come to a city commission vote next month.

Seth Zuckerman's picture

Editor, ClimateCast

, Climate Solutions

For over 20 years, Seth has covered issues of natural resources and the environment as a freelance journalist for numerous publications, including The Nation, Sierra, Orion, Newsweek, and the Christian Science Monitor.  He is the co-editor and co-author of Salmon Nation: People, Fish, and Our Common Home (Ecotrust, 1999) and author of Saving Our Ancient Forests (Living Planet Press, 1991). He taught environmental journalism for two semesters at Brown University and directed the forestry programs of northern California’s Mattole Restoration Council from 2006 to 2011. Seth’s work with Climate Solutions marks a return to his academic roots: he holds an A.B. from Stanford in Energy Studies (1983), and an M.S. from UC Berkeley’s Energy and Resources Group (1990).