Archive by category | Jeff Tollefson

A new adaptation tool: climate insurance

A new adaptation tool: climate insurance

As even the staunchest advocates will tell you, climate insurance is by no means a magic bullet. But clearly the tools of modern finance could certainly help make poor nations prepare for and respond to all manner of natural disasters big and small. We explore some of these ideas in this week’s issue of Nature, taking a quick look at how the insurance debate is playing out in the ongoing United Nations climate talks. The upshot is that some kind of insurance mechanism is likely to make it into whatever climate deal is struck in Copenhagen and beyond. One commonly  … Read more

Bridging the divide between developed and developing nations

Bridging the divide between developed and developing nations

Cross-posted from the Great Beyond The world’s biggest greenhouse gas polluters are poised to adjourn a series of meetings in Italy without any significant breakthroughs between developed and developing nations. Though hardly surprising, the news certainly reaffirms fears that it could be a long slog to Copenhagen. In this week’s issue of Nature, we take a look at some of the positions and ideas being put on the table by developing nations. The upshot is that many developing countries, recognizing the threats posed by climate change, are doing quite a bit to clean up their economies. Nonetheless, they remain understandably  … Read more

Time to shift gears on climate policy? Maybe not.

Cross-posted from Jeff Tollefson on The Great Beyond An international crew of academics this week boldly declared that the world is headed down the wrong track in trying to put a lid on global greenhouse gas emissions. But with global leaders pressing the issue in Italy this week, it’s not clear that anybody is listening. The team includes Gwyn Prins of the London School of Economics and Steve Rayner of Oxford University, who made a splash with their 2007 indictment of the Kyoto Protocol, dubbed The Wrong Trousers (Nature also published a summary of the article). Their latest paper, which  … Read more

Quantifying the unquantifiable: global warming’s elusive death toll

Quantifying the unquantifiable: global warming's elusive death toll

Cross-posted from Nature’s The Great Beyond blog. The Global Humanitarian Forum certainly attracted some publicity last week when it published a report suggesting that global warming kills 315,000 people each year and seriously harms another 300,000. Total price tag: $125 billion annually. Such numbers are as appealing to journalists as they are to those who put them out, precisely because they are easy to understand and explain. They should also raise alarms, and for the very same reasons. It’s not that anybody really doubts that global warming is impacting ecosystems and communities and thus affecting lives, but these are complex  … Read more

A better pathway for biomass?

Most of the biofuels debate as of late has been about the merits and trade-offs of various fuels, be they corn ethanol, sugarcane ethanol, biodiesel or more advanced second and third generation fuels. But a new study suggests we need to take a step back and consider an alternate pathway for biomass: Electricity.  Read more

White House sidesteps shift on HFC regulation

The White House this week stepped back from a proposal to shift regulation of hydrofluorocarbons from the United Nations climate convention into the Montreal Protocol, which has been successful in phasing down chemicals that damage the ozone layer (NYT’s dot.earth, Reuters).  Read more

Bad news: Aerosols are good for plants

The aerosol story just keeps getting more interesting. In addition to ongoing research about the direct impact of various aerosols on climate and temperature (see here and here, for example), there’s also the indirect impact on photosynthesis and carbon uptake. A study in this week’s Nature explores the latter phenomenon with regard to sulphur dioxide and comes up with some startling results.  Read more