Foreign Policy Blogs


I've been looking at energy and environmental issues for nearly 40 years and I've never before seen the proliferation of big news stories that I've been seeing for the past year or so, particularly, of course, on climate change.  Maybe it was "An Inconvenient Truth," released on May 24 last year; maybe it was the 72° temperature on January 6 in New York City this year (and no snow in the Alps); and maybe it was the sinking in of just how catastrophic Katrina was.  The war in Iraq is likely a factor.  It's probably for these reasons and more that energy and environment have become such critical concerns.

We'll look at some of the flak that Al Gore's been taking recently in a post tomorrow or the next day.  This is a compelling story.  For your viewing pleasure, you might want to watch Al Gore and Bjorn Lomborg, one of the more prominent climate change skeptics, testifying on their "Perspectives on Climate Change" at a joint House hearing tomorrow.  Or see also Gore's testimony before the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee:  "Vice President Al Gore's Perspective on Global Warming."

In the meantime, I'm going to just quickly hit a number of important stories that have come up in the past week or so.  I may do this from time to time, just because there's so much out there to cover!  (That there's so much to report, as I've said before, is a pretty good thing.)

First, let's look at New Hampshire.  Town meetings throughout the state this month have declared war on global warming.  The Carbon Coalition in New Hampshire sponsored a campaign for the annual town meetings.  This initiative received enormous support.  Presidential candidates better have their climate change ducks in a row when they come a calling for the next year.  See also this from the "New Hampshire Union Leader."

Following on the heels last month of the enormous breakthrough involving the shelving of eight coal-fired power plants in Texas in a deal negotiated by Environmental Defense, a deal was announced today that will substantially reduce the carbon loading from Kansas City Power & Light. The Sierra Club was the driving force in bringing this agreement to conclusion.  Wind farms and energy efficiency will be a cornerstone of KCP&L's ongoing operations.  Adding 400 megawatts of wind power and reducing load by 300 MW are big numbers. 

Here's an eye-catching headline: "Funds with $4 trillion under management want Washington to put mandatory limits on carbon emissions."  Not, as one might say in New York, chopped liver.  See also this from Ceres and the Investor Network on Climate Risk.

In Washington yesterday, Henry Waxman, held a second hearing on the subject of "Political Interference with Climate Science" in the Oversight and Government Reform Committee that he now chairs.  Waxman, from Los Angeles, is an old hero of mine from the Acid Rain Wars of the 1980's when he was chairman of the House Health and Environment Subcommittee (of the Energy and Commerce Committee).  Waxman's formal statement said this:  "It would be a serious abuse if senior White House officials deliberately tried to defuse calls for action by ensuring that the public heard a distorted message about the risks of climate change."  James Hansen, one of the most respected climate scientists in the world and one of the first to indicate the sources and the dangers of global warming, testified as to the considerable pressure that has been brought on him under the Bush Administration.  One must understand Hansen's position and stature.  He heads NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), which "emphasizes a broad study of global climate change."  Bill McKibben characterized him, in a recent piece in the "NY Review of Books," as the scientist whose testimony before Congress in 1988 really set off the global gold rush to sharpen and deepen scientific inquiry on the matter.   Hansen appeared with Philip A. Cooney, George C. Deutsch, III, and James Connaughton, all Bush administration appointees, all of whom said that undue pressure had not been focused on scientists and that editorial liberties had not been taken with scientific reports.  See this summary from the L.A. Times.

Finally, even for someone brought up in the age of color television and space flights to the moon, I have to marvel at technology sometimes.  Technology can be, certainly, the source of environmental ills, but it can also provide some wonderful flights of fancy that prove, often, to provide solutions for some of humankind's enduring problems.  Here's a new trip on gossamer wings:  "Flying electric generators (FEGs) are proposed to harness kinetic energy in the powerful, persistent high-altitude winds."  See this from the special issue on wind power from the technical journal "IEEE Transactions on Energy Conversion."



Bill Hewitt

Bill Hewitt has been an environmental activist and professional for nearly 25 years. He was deeply involved in the battle to curtail acid rain, and was also a Sierra Club leader in New York City. He spent 11 years in public affairs for the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation, and worked on environmental issues for two NYC mayoral campaigns and a presidential campaign. He is a writer and editor and is the principal of Hewitt Communications. He has an M.S. in international affairs, has taught political science at Pace University, and has graduate and continuing education classes on climate change, sustainability, and energy and the environment at The Center for Global Affairs at NYU. His book, "A Newer World - Politics, Money, Technology, and What’s Really Being Done to Solve the Climate Crisis," will be out from the University Press of New England in December.

Areas of Focus:
the policy, politics, science and economics of environmental protection, sustainability, energy and climate change