American climate policy could use a bit of James Madison.
In a letter written in 1822, five years after leaving office, the fourth President of the United States cautioned that “A popular Government, without popular information … is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy, or perhaps both.” A strong democracy, Madison argued, requires both knowledge and public opinion.
How has U.S. climate policy treated either? Not well.
Oceans 30% More Acidic than in 1750
Chemists first theorized the process commonly referred to as “ocean acidification” in the 1970s, but only during the past few years have researchers begun to fully appreciate the threats it poses to ocean inhabitants such as corals and fish.
With few major studies yet completed, researchers over the past few years have been encouraging the U.S. to launch a coordinated ocean acidification research program. Authorized in March but not yet funded, the program’s overarching goal will be to decipher ocean acidification’s biological and economic impacts to enable informed and adequate response to the issue.
KEY WEST, FLA. – Since the 1970s, Billy Causey has observed ominous signs of change in the coral reefs of the Florida Keys. As southeast regional director for the National Marine Sanctuary Program of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Causey has a front-row seat.
He has spent decades diving on Florida’s coast, where he has witnessed effects of warming waters and ocean acidification on reef ecosystems. (Click below to see a three-minute video interview with Causey.)
The electric car, seemingly on its death bed throughout the 90s and much of this decade, appears over the past two years to be rising from the grave. Every car company worth its road salt is rushing to put a plug-in hybrid or an all-electric car on the market.
All-electric cars directly release no air emissions, and they seem for many a perfect green alternative to “clunkers,” SUVs, and other road hogs dependent for their get-up-n’go on internal combustion engines.
Cars of course need energy to move, so when someone plugs in an electric car, the battery is charged with electricity from the electric grid. In the U.S., electricity generation is responsible for about 40 percent of total carbon emissions. So from a full life-cycle standpoint, electric cars are hardly zero-emissions when it comes to carbon; and depending on where one lives, a new electric car may not be the only – or the optimum – choice, at least until we get more renewable energy on our grid.
From various media outlets’ efforts to try to clarify and make relevant the climate change story, two points stand out. One involves the challenge of adequately addressing the nuances of science, making the story both scientifically rigorous and yet accessible. The other involves how to make climate change issues tangible to a public which, studies show, often thinks the issue is remote from them in time and space.
Now, artists have begun to address both. And, increasingly, they are getting their inspiration from scientists and researchers.
Add Electricity to Americans’ Addictions? ... Scary?
An interactive graphic on the new website Powering a Nation says a lot about America’s insatiable appetite for energy.
The graphic is part of a Web feature called “Down The Lines.” And it’s scary.
A sliding scale (you can move it yourself with your mouse) takes you from the year 1910 to 2010. As the years progress from left to right, two circles below expand. The one on the left represents the nation’s population. The one on the right shows the amount of electricity generated, in kilowatt hours, for that population.
Exploring Journalism's Unchartered Future
When Marianne Lavelle left U.S. News and World Report a year ago, the news weekly was rapidly shrinking the amount of space devoted to in-depth reporting as part of its transition to becoming strictly an online journal.
“You could just see there wasn’t going to be a place for that kind of reporting any more,” says the long-time environmental writer.