Climate Compass Blog

Too Much of a Good Thing

The sheer amount of misinformation on the science of climate change is stunning.  It’s no wonder that the public is confused (see our FAQ for some clarity).  The latest argument is easily dismissible, or at least it would be if it weren’t being repeated so much in the press (like this story in last Friday’s Washington Post, along with a series of ads for a new group pushing the idea).  You may have heard a politician or two talking about the “benefits” of carbon dioxide—it goes something like this: plants breathe in CO2, so more of it is good for them.  Nothing to worry about, they say, let’s go on burning fossil fuels as we always have.  A group even has a new website dedicated to spreading the lie that more CO2 is good for the planet.

Most science journalists have finally gotten beyond the “he-said, she-said” articles that falsely portray a balance of views where no controversy exists among experts.  Simply put, no experts in climate change are arguing that because plants use CO2, it’s ok for us to emit as much as we want.  That’s because they understand that humanity has released so much CO2 into the atmosphere that it’s beginning to affect the planet.  Without aggressive reductions in emissions, we are facing (among other impacts) rising sea levels, an increase in extreme weather, changes in precipitation patterns, and ocean acidification—oceans absorb CO2, threatening fisheries and marine ecosystems. The world’s scientific community has assessed the science of climate change and concluded that “warming is unequivocal and primarily human-induced.” (See this report by the U.S. Global Change Research Program or the comprehensive assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.)

Aiming For Success In Copenhagen

Whenever the UN climate change negotiations convene these days, as they will again later this month in Bangkok, an oversized digital timer glares at delegates from the front of the hall, methodically counting down the days, hours, minutes, even seconds until the upcoming climate conference in Copenhagen.  (The online version at the website of the UN climate secretariat reads at this writing 81:13:02:28.)

This staged countdown is a stark, if superfluous, reminder of the expectations looming for Copenhagen, arguably the most pivotal moment in climate diplomacy since Kyoto 12 years ago.  With the dangers of global warming more clear and present today than any had foreseen then, countless are not only eager but desperate for Copenhagen to deliver what Kyoto did not – an effective global response.

But with the days quickly ticking away, it is becoming clearer to all that the time is too short.  A blitz of high-level diplomacy might yet conjure a miracle, but less than three months out, the odds of a final, ratifiable deal by the time the clock hits zero appear virtually nil. 

Welcome To Our Blog

Welcome to our new blog. This blog presents ideas and insights from the Center and its experts on topics critical to the climate conversation. These topics include domestic and international policy, climate science, low-carbon technology, economics, corporate strategies to address climate change, and communicating these issues to policymakers and the public. Our bloggers include policy analysts, scientists, economists, and communication specialists – all of whom are working to advance solutions to our climate and energy challenge.

Thank you for visiting our blog, and check back often for more timely posts.

Tom Steinfeldt is Communications Manager

Should Uncle Sam Turn Down Our Lights?

July 7, 2009
Should Uncle Sam Turn Down Our Lights?

Should the federal government force Americans to use less energy?

Congress is considering legislation that would require residential and commercial buildings to be 50 percent more energy-efficient within the next five to six years. Those account for about 40 percent of U.S. energy consumption, the most of any sector. Building standards have traditionally been the purview of local governments, but a new coalition of business, electric industry, and consumer and environmental groups is pushing for national action.

Meanwhile, President Obama recently announced a federal lighting standard aimed at cutting the amount of electricity used by certain industrial light bulbs. He also dedicated $346 million in stimulus funds to boost energy efficiency in new and existing homes and commercial buildings.

Should Washington mandate tougher energy standards for appliances, equipment and buildings? Or can industry and consumers take sufficient energy efficiency actions on their own?

-- Margaret Kriz,

Will EPA's Health Hazard Decision Spur Climate Action?

April 20, 2009

Will EPA's Health Hazard Decision Spur Climate Action?

The Environmental Protection Agency just released a landmark decision concluding that greenhouse gas emissions pose a threat to human health and welfare. The action was based on a 2007 Supreme Court ruling ordering EPA to assess the health impacts of climate change. The Bush White House never completed that study. Now the Obama EPA is in position to slap controls on U.S. emissions of carbon dioxide and other global warming pollutants -- although the agency indicated that it won't rush to impose new regulations.

Will the EPA's action compel Congress to pass climate change legislation? How will it impact U.S. industry? Will the Obama administration's willingness to consider greenhouse gas regulations make it easier for the White House to negotiate an international treaty at the December United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change? If Congress is slow to pass climate change legislation, should EPA begin regulating those pollutants?

-- Margaret Kriz,