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Archive for the ‘conflict’ Category


The drive to green energy, courtesy of…the military?

Monday, October 4th, 2010

The NY Times is running a story, Military Orders Less Dependence on Fossil Fuels, that evaluates the American military’s role in green energy innovation:

Even as Congress has struggled unsuccessfully to pass an energy bill and many states have put renewable energy on hold because of the recession, the military this year has pushed rapidly forward. After a decade of waging wars in remote corners of the globe where fuel is not readily available, senior commanders have come to see overdependence on fossil fuel as a big liability, and renewable technologies — which have become more reliable and less expensive over the past few years — as providing a potential answer. These new types of renewable energy now account for only a small percentage of the power used by the armed forces, but military leaders plan to rapidly expand their use over the next decade.

“There are a lot of profound reasons for doing this, but for us at the core it’s practical,” said Ray Mabus, the Navy secretary and a former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, who has said he wants 50 percent of the power for the Navy and Marines to come from renewable energy sources by 2020. That figure includes energy for bases as well as fuel for cars and ships.

While setting national energy policy requires Congressional debates, military leaders can simply order the adoption of renewable energy. And the military has the buying power to create products and markets. That, in turn, may make renewable energy more practical and affordable for everyday uses, experts say.

Last year, the Navy introduced its first hybrid vessel, a Wasp class amphibious assault ship called the U.S.S. Makin Island, which at speeds under 10 knots runs on electricity rather than on fossil fuel, a shift resulting in greater efficiency that saved 900,000 gallons of fuel on its maiden voyage from Mississippi to San Diego, compared with a conventional ship its size, the Navy said.

The Air Force will have its entire fleet certified to fly on biofuels by 2011 and has already flown test flights using a 50-50 mix of plant-based biofuel and jet fuel; the Navy took its first delivery of fuel made from algae this summer. Biofuels can in theory be produced wherever the raw materials, like plants, are available, and could ultimately be made near battlefields.

Read more.


Photo credit: Shortbread1015DT

Posted in biofuels, conflict, energy, solutions, technology, transportation | No Comments »

Is a post-Copenhagen roadmap emerging?

Monday, February 1st, 2010

WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM ANNUAL MEETING 2010 DAVOSOver the past few years, there have been a couple of major approaches for dealing with climate change:

  • Use political tools to set emissions targets (e.g., 80% reduction by 2050);
  • Invest heavily in green technology to drive green energy prices lower.  Only then will these technologies take hold. Carbon reductions are an important byproduct but not the main goal.

Of course these are not mutually exclusive, but they might as well be given the way they have played out on the political stage.

With a lot of people down on political solutions to deal with climate change, strong advocates of the latter approach may now gain the upper hand.  Folks like Shellenberger and Nordhaus have been arguing that green energy needs to be produced as quickly and cheaply as possible—forget all of the games with cap and trade or carbon taxes.   Tom Friedman has also argued the need for swift action on energy, while also endorsing political solutions like carbon taxes.

If you look for areas that are gaining or have the potential to gain traction, there seem to be two levers that may work:

Both of these general concerns have attracted Republican support for green energy and climate change mitigation, including Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC).

This may be a signal of potential game changers and the clearest path forward that we’ve seen in awhile.


Photo credit: / CC BY-SA 2.0

Posted in climate economics, conflict, energy, policy, risk analysis, solutions | 1 Comment »

Haiti’s story

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010


Little good news is coming out of Haiti these days.   There’s a deep social-environmental history that needs to be explored to understand why crises like poverty, AIDS, mudslides, and this week’s earthquake have been so devastating to the Haitian people.

I have written a bit about this history for one of the book projects I’m working on.  Below are a few excerpts, but before reading further, please consider helping with the humanitarian relief for earthquake victims:


Posted in conflict, energy, food and agriculture, health, nature and culture, population, race and class, risk analysis, social science | 2 Comments »

The cost of warming—393,000 increased deaths from civil war in Africa by 2030

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009


A new article1 by Marshall Burke and colleagues this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (open access) explores the relationship between climate and conflict.

Their argument is that historically warm years have correlated strongly with increased warfare in Africa.  Based on this relationship and GCM projections of African climate, they forecast a 54% increase in armed conflicts by the year 2030, resulting in 393,000 additional battle deaths.

One might wonder about precipitation changes associated with climate warming—Do they alter this result?  Short answer:  No. The temperature-conflict model was robust regardless of whether or not precipitation was included.

1Burke, M.  et al. (2009) Warming increases the risk of civil war in Africa. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 106:20670-20674.

Photo credit: / CC BY-SA 2.0

Posted in climate change science, conflict | No Comments »

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