climate change

Wonkette Book Club Part 1: A (Climate) Change Is Gonna Come

Kim Stanley Robinson's The Ministry For The Future, Week 1.

We're starting off our summer 2023 edition of the Book Club with a book that's about as timely as you could hope for: Kim Stanley Robinson's 2020 novel The Ministry for the Future, which imagines a very near future of catastrophic climate change and a decades-long process of humanity's attempts to bring the climate crisis ... well, not under control, but to at least to remake politics and economics in a direction that's better suited to survival of the Earth's inhabitants.

For this week, I asked you to read the first chapter, which is fairly short, and and tends to stay with you after you read it. If you just got here and want to catch up, the publisher, Orbit Books, conveniently posted Chapter 1 in full right on the interwebs for free! The discussion from here will involve spoilers for the first chapter, so take a few minutes to go read it ... or maybe the discussion here will make you want to go read it.

Last summer, novelist Monica Byrne tweeted for a lot of us who have read the book:

I feel like my circles have divided between those who’ve read the opening chapter of The Ministry for the Future and those who haven’t.

If you haven’t….you should. Because I basically can’t think about my future without it now.
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climate change

Rural America Gonna Get Woke Clean Energy Dollars. Thanks A Lot, Joe Biden!

Rural utilities won't even have to teach CRT, so it's quite the deal.

The Biden administration is rolling out another part of its effort to speed up America's transition to renewable energy, announcing Tuesday that $11 billion in grants and loans are now available to rural areas to ditch old inefficient fossil fuel plants and replace them with affordable clean energy.

The aid comes in the form of two Department of Agriculture programs: The "Empowering Rural America" or “New ERA” program will provide $9.7 billion in grants for rural electric cooperatives to "deploy renewable energy systems, zero-emission and carbon capture systems," and the "Powering Affordable Clean Energy" (PACE) loan program that will provide another billion dollars in partly forgivable loans to a range of rural and tribal energy entities to "help finance large-scale solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, hydropower projects and energy storage in support of renewable energy systems."

The administration has been very diligent in pointing out that this is the biggest federal investment in rural energy infrastructure since Franklin D. Roosevelt's Rural Electrification Act in 1936, although the announcements have also been fairly careful not to put the words "green" and "New Deal" anywhere near each other.

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Wonkette Book Club: Chaos, Capitalism, And Saving Humanity From Itself​

We're gonna read The Ministry For the Future

Heya Wonkers, the Wonkette Book Club is back, finally! Over the next few weeks, we're going to read Kim Stanley Robinson's influential 2020 climate change novel, The Ministry for the Future, which proudly proclaims right on the cover that it's among Barack Obama's favorite books of the year.

UPDATE: Well this is exciting! I see that the publisher, Orbit Books, has the first chapter of the novel free to read on the web. Check it out here!

Pretty easy to see why. It's a Big Ideas novel whose first chapter takes you gently by the throat and says "Pay attention. This is important." And it is. Set in the very near future (the novel opens in the last years of this decade and goes forward several decades), Ministry for the Future imagines how humanity might finally make the changes it needs to make in order to get global warming under something like control. Spoilers: it isn't easy, and the catastrophes of an ever-warming world aren't at all downplayed. But without giving away too much, the tone by the end is one of hard-won hope. Humanity, what's left of it, survives. But let's not get too far ahead of ourselves.

I'm planning to have our book club posts weekly, starting next Friday, and to get started, I think we should actually read just the first chapter, because even though it's fairly short, it's a LOT. The scenario is not only plausible, but extremely likely: A massive heat wave hits India, in a perfect storm of deadly atmospheric conditions that end up killing millions. It's the kind of disaster that's very likely to hit the warmest parts of the world in the next decade or so.

Previously: Climate Crisis Well Into 'Just Like Science Fiction' Territory

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climate change

EPA Gonna Punch That Climate Emergency Right In The Snoot!

Stop it, Joe Manchin, we will pull this yacht over right now!

The Biden administration rolled out yet another piece of its climate plan today, as the Environmental Protection Agency proposed new regulations to limit the greenhouse gases emitted by electric power plants fueled by coal and methane (so-called "natural" gas). As the New York Times puts it in an admirably simple and accurate sentence,

The nation’s 3,400 coal- and gas-fired power plants currently generate about 25 percent of greenhouse gases produced by the United States, pollution that is dangerously heating the planet.

Instead of mandating any particular technology, the rules set caps on rates of carbon dioxide pollution that plants can release, leaving it up to energy producers to find ways to meet the goal of eliminating CO2 emissions by 2040. If industry can find ways to capture all CO2 from smokestacks — technology that doesn't exist yet — then great. But it's more likely that utilities would have to switch to green energy, or for gas plants, to burning green hydrogen (the kind produced without fossil fuels), which emits no carbon.

And while the EPA doesn't say it, we're happy to: The faster the US and the world adopt solar and wind electricity, the cheaper that electricity will be per megawatt hour. According to an Oxford University study published in September, a rapid transition away from fossil fuels to wind and solar could save the world $12 trillion by 2050, which would help offset other costs of the transition like grid upgrades and developing reliable storage/backup/distribution of clean energy. Going slow, on the other hand, will cost more and result in greater climate caused damage.

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