Which is better for Earth : an electric or gas-powered vehicle? The answer to this question might seem blindingly obvious: Of course electric cars must be better for the environment, because they don’t have exhausts and so don’t emit greenhouse gasses as they drive. However, electric vehicles (EVs) aren't perfect, and they come with their own set of polluting problems. Notably, their batteries contain components, such as lithium , that require a significant amount of energy to source and extract. But battery production is just one part of an electric car's life span. A 2014 study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences looked at the entire life cycle of an EV's emissions, from mining the metals required for the batteries to producing the electricity needed to power them, and then compared this with the average emissions of a gas-powered vehicle. The team found that when electric vehicles are charged with coal-powered electricity, they’re … [Read more...] about Is an electric car better for the planet?
Environmental science policy
In "Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future" (Crown), New Yorker magazine writer Elizabeth Kolbert examines the seemingly futile efforts we human beings must engage in to address our species' depredation of the planet. That man should have dominion "over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth," is a prophecy that has hardened into fact. Choose just about any metric you want and it tells the same story. People have, by now, directly transformed more than half the ice-free land on earth – some twenty-seven million square miles – and indirectly half of what remains. We have dammed or diverted most of the world's major rivers. Our fertilizer plants and legume crops fix more nitrogen than all terrestrial ecosystems combined, and our planes, cars, and power stations emit about a hundred times more carbon dioxide than volcanoes do. We now routinely cause earthquakes. (A particularly damaging human-induced quake that shook Pawnee, Oklahoma, on the … [Read more...] about Book excerpt: “Under a White Sky” by Elizabeth Kolbert
POCONÉ, Brazil: A fire has been burning since mid-July in the remote wetlands of west-central Brazil, leaving in its wake a vast charred desolation bigger than New York City. A team of veterinarians, biologists and local guides arrived in late August to prowl the bumpy dirt road known as the Trans-Pantanal Highway in pickup trucks, looking to save what injured animals they could. Jaguars were wandering the blackened wasteland, they said, starving or going thirsty, with paws burnt to the bone, lungs blackened by smoke. They saw bodies of alligator-like caiman, jaws frozen in silent screams, the last act of creatures desperate to cool off before being consumed by flames. This massive fire is one of thousands of blazes sweeping the Brazilian Pantanal - the world's largest wetland - this year in what climate scientists fear could become a new normal, echoing the rise in climate-driven fires from California to Australia. READ: Search crews scour charred Oregon landscape, … [Read more...] about Burned jaguars, fire tornadoes: Blazes in Brazil wetland deliver climate warning
SAINT PAUL, Minnesota: President Joe Biden is so far maintaining his predecessor’s tough China policy, which aims to curb China’s international power both economically and politically. In the US and Europe, China is widely recognised as a rising star that threatens Western power. But my research on the country suggests China may no longer see itself that way. CHINA’S RISE There have been three discrete eras in China’s approach to international relations. After the death of the Communist Chinese leader Mao Zedong in 1976, Mao’s successors, Deng Xiaoping and Jiang Zemin, introduced economic reforms that launched China on a path of phenomenal economic growth. The country rose from 11th to second place in the global GDP rankings between 1990 and 2020. The prevailing view in Western capitals in the 1990s was that China’s economic transformation would inevitably culminate in an affluent, peaceful and democratic country. READ: Commentary: The year China’s rise enters … [Read more...] about Commentary: Major countries are concerned about implications of China’s rise. So is China
SINGAPORE: Increasingly, Big Tech is throwing more money at improving its relations with politicians and government officials in the US. These include the five American tech giants – Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft – who are spending big money on advocacy and hiring people in front-facing public policy, government relations and public relations roles. PERSONNEL TOUCH Facebook, for example, has brought in Joel Kaplan, former deputy chief of staff to George W Bush, who is now its vice-president of global public policy. Facebook’s former general counsel, Ted Ullyot, was also a key aide to Bush. Apple has hired Lisa Jackson, Barack Obama’s former Environmental Protection Agency administrator, to be its vice president of environment, policy and social initiatives. Apple also has former US vice president Al Gore on its board of directors. Obama’s former press secretary James Carney is senior vice-president of global corporate affairs at Amazon. Microsoft had … [Read more...] about Commentary: Big Tech is showing some love to the US government – which comes as no surprise