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Clean energy, overpopulation, black carbon, rising sea level, and other environmental news

Environmental news

By / April 16, 2009



Let's take a quick look at a few of the environmental issues making news today, which include whether old coral formations in Mexico show a "catastrophic" rise in sea levels 12,000 years ago, and if so, what it might mean today. And more:

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Is consumption in industrialized nations more harmful to the environment than overpopulation in the developing world? 

Writing at Yale Environment 360, British author Fred Pearce argues that it is. For instance, he says: "Stephen Pacala, director of the Princeton Environment Institute, calculates that the world’s richest half-billion people — that’s about 7 percent of the global population — are responsible for 50 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions. Meanwhile the poorest 50 percent are responsible for just 7 percent of emissions."

This is an opinion piece destined to raise strong feelings for and against. (And as a personal aside that has nothing to do with his article, if you haven't read Mr. Pearce's latest book, "Confessions of an Eco-Sinner: Tracking Down the Sources of My Stuff," I recommend it.)

But what about black carbon?

A Page 1 story (for those who still read print editions) in today's New York Times, "Soot From Third-World Stroves Is New Target in Climate Fight," has a slightly different take:

"While carbon dioxide may be the No. 1 contributor to rising global temperatures, scientists say, black carbon has emerged as an important No. 2, with recent studies estimating that it is responsible for 18 percent of the planet’s warming, compared with 40 percent for carbon dioxide. ...

"In Asia and Africa, cookstoves produce the bulk of black carbon, although it also emanates from diesel engines and coal plants there. In the United States and Europe, black carbon emissions have already been reduced significantly by filters and scrubbers. ... One recent study estimated that black carbon might account for as much as half of Arctic warming."

Where environmental problems are worst

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