Emissions figures are in million tons of carbon; for tons of CO2, multiply by 44/12. Source: Compiled by Earth Policy Institute with 1950-1993 from “Carbon Dioxide Emissions from Energy Consumption by Source, 1949-2011,” Table 11.1 in U.S. (Brian McGill)Between 2007 and 2011, the amount of carbon dioxide the United States spewed into the air decreased by 2 million tons, or 11 percent. Accounting for part of the decrease, explains the Earth Policy Institute, is the recession. When the economy slows, carbon emissions slow with it. But our habits have changed as well, and in the past few years America really has gotten “greener.”
Cars have become more efficient, and emissions from oil are down about 100 million tons since the middle of the last decade. We’re also driving less — national miles driven peaked in 2007. Now, the Earth Policy Institute explains, “more cars stay parked because more people live in urban areas, opt for public transit, work remotely, or retire and thus no longer commute to work.” Factor in the decline of coal power, and the small but significant rise of wind energy, and the U.S. is 11 percent greener than it was just a few years ago.
And this happened, more or less, without a concerted federal effort. “U.S. carbon emissions have declined at an impressive rate given the absence of any cohesive federal climate-change policy,” the Yale Forum on Climate Change explains. “The U.S. has actually managed to make significant progress toward its long-abandoned Kyoto Protocol target to reduce emissions 7 percent below 1990 levels.”
Granted, even though the levels have dropped, carbon dioxide continues to accumulate in the atmosphere. There is certainly more CO2 in the air today than there was in 2007 (and while the U.S. is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions — about 16 percent — it certainly isn’t the only one).
But this is a promising trend considering recent research from the journal Nature that predicts when climate change will have fundamentally altered local climates. The study spells out two diverging scenarios for Earth. One is business as usual, in which cities like Washington and New York will have a radically altered climate (diverging from long-historical norms) by 2047. But if we significantly reduce the amount of carbon emissions, that date could stretch to 2072.
The developed nations of the world will have to lead the way, the report concludes, as the first countries to feel the impacts of climate change will be poorer nations in tropical climates. The authors write:
… any progress to decrease the rate of ongoing climate change will require a bigger commitment from developed countries to decrease their emissions but will also require more extensive funding of social and conservation programs in developing countries to minimize the impacts of climate change. Our results on the projected timing of climate departure from recent variability shed light on the urgency of mitigating greenhouse-gas emissions if widespread changes in global biodiversity and human societies are to be prevented.
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Foreign Policy takes a look at the future of mining the estimated "100,000 near-Earth objects—including asteroids and comets—in the neighborhood of our planet. Some of these NEOs, as they’re called, are small. Others are substantial and potentially packed full of water and various important minerals, such as nickel, cobalt, and iron. One day, advocates believe, those objects will be tapped by variations on the equipment used in the coal mines of Kentucky or in the diamond mines of Africa. And for immense gain: According to industry experts, the contents of a single asteroid could be worth trillions of dollars." But the technology to get us there is only the first step. Experts say "a multinational body might emerge" to manage rights to NEOs, as well as a body of law, including an international court.
Not to be outdone by Jeffrey Goldberg's recent piece in The Atlantic about President Obama's foreign policy, the New York Times Magazine checks in with a longread on the president's economic legacy. In it, Obama is cognizant that the economic reality--73 straight months of growth--isn't matched by public perceptions. Some of that, he says, is due to a constant drumbeat from the right that "that denies any progress." But he also accepts some blame himself. “I mean, the truth of the matter is that if we had been able to more effectively communicate all the steps we had taken to the swing voter,” he said, “then we might have maintained a majority in the House or the Senate.”
Ronald Reagan's children and political allies took to the media and Twitter this week to chide funnyman Will Ferrell for his plans to play a dementia-addled Reagan in his second term in a new comedy entitled Reagan. In an open letter, Reagan's daughter Patti Davis tells Ferrell, who's also a producer on the movie, “Perhaps for your comedy you would like to visit some dementia facilities. I have—I didn’t find anything comedic there, and my hope would be that if you’re a decent human being, you wouldn’t either.” Michael Reagan, the president's son, tweeted, "What an Outrag....Alzheimers is not joke...It kills..You should be ashamed all of you." And former Rep. Joe Walsh called it an example of "Hollywood taking a shot at conservatives again."
In a sign that she’s ready to put a longer-than-expected primary battle behind her, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D) is no longer going on the air in upcoming primary states. “Team Clinton hasn’t spent a single cent in … California, Indiana, Kentucky, Oregon and West Virginia, while” Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) “campaign has spent a little more than $1 million in those same states.” Meanwhile, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sanders’ "lone backer in the Senate, said the candidate should end his presidential campaign if he’s losing to Hillary Clinton after the primary season concludes in June, breaking sharply with the candidate who is vowing to take his insurgent bid to the party convention in Philadelphia.”
The team behind the bestselling "Clinton Cash"—author Peter Schweizer and Breitbart's Stephen Bannon—is turning the book into a movie that will have its U.S. premiere just before the Democratic National Convention this summer. The film will get its global debut "next month in Cannes, France, during the Cannes Film Festival. (The movie is not a part of the festival, but will be shown at a screening arranged for distributors)." Bloomberg has a trailer up, pointing out that it's "less Ken Burns than Jerry Bruckheimer, featuring blood-drenched money, radical madrassas, and ominous footage of the Clintons."