Privatizing Climate Protection?

With comprehensive government action on climate change stalling, the UN climate chief is meeting with business leaders to plot a new way forward.

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Plugging the Leak Update

Bad news: the cap didn't work.  The 40-foot-tall, 98-ton, iron cap that BP was hoping to use to clog the leak over the weekend has become clogged itself, by "deep-sea crystals...a slushy mix of gas and water, and been tossed aside.

As Yahoo notes, the cap took two weeks to build and 3 days to put into place.  During that time 85,000 barrels of oil have spilled into the Gulf.

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Plugging the Leak

The BBC is reporting a possible short-term solution that BP is cooking up to stem the oil geyser in the Gulf of Mexico -- a rusty metal box.  The 40-foot-tall, 98-ton iron cap -- being built by Wild Well joke -- will be lowered onto the leaky valve and the oil will be funneled up to a ship on the surface, hopefully as soon as the end of the week.

Grab a paintbrush and geo-engineer

In addition to planting fake plastic trees, another simple "geo-engineering" measure, suggests Brad Plumer (via Yglesias), is to "paint all our roofs white, reflecting more of the sun’s heat and cooling the Earth."

This obviously makes sense, and along with other standard home modification measures (solar panels, high-efficiency lighting, etc.), as well as some that are probably more instinctively unpopular -- the fetish of having a perfectly green lawn (and not in the environmental sense) is not lying to die out soon -- painting roofs while is indeed a "total no-brainer" in terms of reducing our environmental impact. The problem, as Matt recognizes, is that the farther that the geo-engineering scale tips toward the drastic (or the ridiculous), the less vigorously politicians feel compelled to push for costly reductions in carbon emissions.

The point of trying to reclaim the term "geo-engineering" from the province of futuristic tubes pumping sulfur dioxide into the air does seem worthwhile. If it's about painting houses, everyone can be a "geo-engineer," and maybe we won't have to worry as much about those rogue environmentalist billionaires.

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Fake earthquake in Lebanon

But worry not, UN peacekeepers were there:

The United Nations peacekeeping mission in Lebanon today wrapped up a two-day large-scale disaster response exercise, responding to a fictitious earthquake in the south of the country.

The dry run, which the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) conducted with the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), tested the forces’ combined reaction to an earthquake with a magnitude of six on the Richter scale.

I suppose that for those who might assume (wrongly, in my opinion) that taking on environmental projects goes beyond peacekeepers' responsibilities, stopping a fake earthquake doesn't sound too impressive. The difference, of course, is that a real earthquake, were one to hit Lebanon, would be all too tangible -- and the benefits of peacekeepers' training all too apparent. The takeaway from environmental projects may not always seem as lifesaving, but it's harder to appreciate their positive impact because they are preventative measures. Kind of like, say, preparing to deal with a large-scale earthquake.

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How many lightbulbs does it take to change global warming?

Well, many. But, according to the S-G, it can make a big difference:

Recently, I visited an ambitious project to promote energy-saving lighting in China. By phasing out old-fashioned incandescent lightbulbs and introducing a new generation of lighting, China expects to cut national energy consumption by 8 per cent.

This can have a profound global impact. Consider this: lighting accounts for 19 per cent of world energy consumption. Scientists say we can reduce that by a third or more merely by changing lightbulbs.

Sure, it's one thing to use the nifty-looking CFL bulbs in your own house, but one house times...China...makes for a lot of energy saved.

(image from flickr user TheRogue under a Creative Commons license)