Brian Kahn

Brian Kahn

Posts by This Writer

9 years 8 months ago

There have been some high profile companies recently, including energy heavy hitter BP, that have stepped away from dealing with climate change. However, corporate engagement with climate change is not dead. Not even close.Just this week, Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) has just released a report providing guidelines on how companies can improve their engagement with climate change and public policy. The report identifies three areas of climate reporting businesses can do better.

The first...


9 years 8 months ago

Fiji was recently hit by Tropical Cyclone Tomas, a category four storm. Reports coming from the hardest hit areas indicate the effects were felt for four days, but that thankfully, there appear to be few fatalities. Was the cyclone caused by climate change?  Not really. Were some of its impacts linked to climate change? Possibly.

Shorter-term factors like El Nino and local factors like sea surface temperatures and wind shear had a much more immediate impact on the strength and track of Tomas. In fact,...


9 years 8 months ago

A toy manufacturing plant closes in Cleveland and opens in Shenzhen. The jobs sent overseas are easy to quantify. The carbon emissions, less so. A recent paper by Steven Davis and Ken Caldeira attempts to clear up the answer, showing just how many tons of carbon are outsourced to developing countries to make our carbon footprints...


9 years 8 months ago

Global warming has always been a shaky term for me. It implies that there’s a one-dimensional effect of burning fossil fuels and that every place in the world is seeing the same trend. Climate change is a much more dynamic term that gets at the complexities of how humans interact with and alter the Earth’s systems. It also makes local changes in the climate more understandable, particularly if they're not what you'd expect. A recent talk I went to beautifully illustrates this point.

The presentation I saw was on...


9 years 8 months ago

India has renewed its commitment to continued international climate change negotiations.  In fact, two recent pieces of news indicate that they are perhaps looking to take an even larger role in shaping future global actions on climate change.

First up, India has nominated their Secretary of the Environment, Vijay Sharma, to lead the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate...


9 years 8 months ago

Ken Salazar, the Secretary of the Department of the Interior (DOI) recently announced the University of Alaska will be the first of eight Regional Climate Change Response Centers. These Centers were already being developed to help manage fish and wildlife in the face of the effects of climate change.  The secretarial decree (how archaic!) indicates a wider role, though, stating that it will:

...broaden their mandate to encompass other climate change-related impacts on Departmental resources...and develop tools that the Department's managers and partners can use when managing the...


9 years 8 months ago

Last week I saw Daniel Kammen, a professor at UC Berkeley, speak about innovation in the clean energy and policy field. One of the things he talked about was the need to reach positive tipping points in the field of renewable energy. To do pass that tipping point, the innovation happening at the fringe needs to move towards the center.

There have been reports lately of renewable energy growing quickly. However, some perspective needs to be tied to these reports. Though energy from wind power in the US increased 39% last year, it still only accounts for less than 2% of total...


9 years 8 months ago

Recently, I read a story about a town in Venezuela that reemerged from the depths of a reservoir after being covered for years.  The church steeple is poking up from the waters due to a drought that can be blamed in part on El Nino.  However, it raises a scary prospect for Venezuela’s energy system if climate change dries the area out.  Despite being the fifth largest oil producer in the world, Venezuela gets 70% of its electricity from hydropower.

Is it possible dams will be obsolete in Venezuela? According to the 2007 IPCC report, Venezuela is likely to be dryer in the both the...


9 years 8 months ago

Visualizing climate change is one of the biggest barriers to the public’s understanding of it.  You know the phrase a picture’s worth a thousand words?  Though its clichéd, it’s also got a grain of truth.  Yellowstone didn’t become the US’s first National Park because someone wrote a good description of its geysers.  It took William Henry Jackson’s photos to get Congress to designate it as a protected area.

We have five senses, but perhaps none is as important to us as our sense of sight.  Look at how TV displaced the radio...


9 years 8 months ago

You’ve heard of biofuel from corn, algae, sugar cane, and switch grass.  Now researchers from the University of Central Florida have recently published a study in the Plant Biotechnology Journal showing how to produce ethanol from tobacco.  Could tobacco be the next big form of renewable energy in the US?

Corn ethanol has proven to be less than stellar for the local and global environment.  It takes almost as much energy to produce corn-based ethanol as it provides.  This negates some of the greenhouse gas savings corn ethanol might offer.  Nitrite fertilizers...


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