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Week's Top Enviro Stories: Kyoto, R.I.P. and More

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Week's Top Enviro Stories: Kyoto, R.I.P. and More
PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images

Kyoto, R.I.P.
This is hardly news to anyone who follows international climate negotiations, but it's still worth pointing out: the notion that the good people of the Earth are going to come together and solve the climate crisis by creating some big international agreement to cut emissions is dead.  Even Christina Figueres, the United Nations' climate change chief, now says publicly that "this planet is not going to be saved by any big bang agreement."  The solution?  Smaller, incremental steps, regional agreements, local initiatives. The problem: if the goal is avert dangerous climate change, we're running out of time. [Trust.org]

Sixty Million Barrels of Band-Aids
Everyone knows that our insane and self-destructive addiction to oil is going to cause us great economic pain and grief very soon (like it hasn't already).  But in yet another attempt to postpone our day of reckoning, the International Energy Agency announced it will release 60 million barrels from the strategic petroleum reserve.  That might sound like a lot, but it's little more than three days of U.S. consumption. As Bryon Walsh writes at TIME, "Don't Think for a moment that our backups can keep our oil prices from rising for very long."  The problem: rising demand from China and other nations, as
well as political instability in North Africa and the Middle East, especially Libya.  "We need a comprehensive energy policy that develops alternatives and emphasizes conservation," Walsh writes. "What we have instead is 60 million barrels worth of band-aids." [TIME]

Google Invests Big in Clean Energy
Without electrons, there is no Google.  And without clean electrons, there will be no Google customers, since we'll all be too busy fleeing from rising seas, droughts, and disease. So it's really no surprise that Google has emerged as one of the most aggressive clean-power investors in 2011.  The company has invested over $780 million into clean power projects and technologies, including $700 million this year alone. This week, Google announced it is adding another $102 million into a wind farm being built in California's Mojave Desert. So is Google getting into the energy business?  Not directly, but since the company's massive data centers are big energy hogs, the investments make strategic sense. [International Business Times]

Our Unprotected Ocean
In the United States, we do a pretty good job of protecting iconic landscapes and postcard views, but the ocean gets no respect.  Bruce Barcott does an excellent job of articulating the problem in a story for Yale 360, in which he points out that little more than 3 percent of U.S. territorial waters – 381,969 square kilometers – is protected at the highest level as marine reserves. But 95 percent of that area is contained in a single reserve, the 363,680-square-kilometer Papahānaumokuākea National Monument in the Hawaiian islands created by President George W. Bush in 2006.  "Without Papahānaumokuākea," Barcott points out, "marine reserves make up only one-tenth of 1 percent of U.S. waters."  But let's not give Bush too much credit. The Marianas Trench National Marine Monument, the 95,000-square kilometer marine reserve he announced in January 2009 in a last-minute bid to make it look like he gave a shit about the environment, protects the seafloor but not the six-mile-deep water column above it. As Barcott writes, "Welcome to the promising, confusing, and maddening world of marine reserves." [Yale 360]

Related:

Climate of Denial: Can Science and the Truth Withstand the Merchants of Poison? by Al Gore

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