Vietnam Needs Its Trees; Romney Flip-Flops on Solar Panels, Too

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The Guardian on deforestation in Vietnam After taking a look at Vietnam's urban pollution yesterday, let's turn to its more rural areas -- mainly, its coasts, where arces of mangroves are being torn down to make way for development. Focusing on the town of Lang Co, where the trees stand in the way of a proposed golf course, The Guardian's Alisa Tang notes that what's happening in Vietnam is just part of wider trend. "Mangroves grow along the ocean coasts of 118 countries – with a quarter of the world's 40m hectares being in south-east Asia – but with widespread deforestation due to population pressure, expansion of shrimp farms and development, scientists fear mangroves may disappear altogether in as little as 100 years," she writes. "At their best, mangroves form a vast coastal barrier of trunks and roots against the sea, controlling erosion, protecting communities from storms, and providing an environment for greater fish diversity." Off the coast of Lang Co, villagers have noticed some fish species already gone missing.

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Salon on Romney's solar flip-flop The presumptive GOP nominee has switched on almost every other conceivable position, so only a fool would be shocked to hear that the candidate once loved solar panels... before he hated them. Salon's Andrew Leonard puts Romney's position on solar power in 2007 ("cost is dropping and affordable solar energy could be available in the United States in six to eight years") against his position today ("Green technologies are typically far too expensive to compete in the marketplace"). It's a discouraging, but typically rightward evolution for Romney, who also flipped on supporting cap-and-trade and even believing in global warming. Which Romney is right? 2007's, for better or worse, is Leonard's conclusion. "The tragedy is that the countries that will benefit the most from the maturation of the market for solar power will be those — China, Germany — who poured the most resources — private and public — into the industry, and stayed steadfast, while those who abandoned the market after a few high-profile bankruptcies will be left on the sideline." 

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Maria van der Hoeven on the state of carbon emissions The executive director of the International Energy Agency, ahead of a report to be released by her organization is today, doesn't seem too thrilled with how much carbon dioxide is being released into the atmosphere. "The world's energy system is being pushed to breaking point, and our addiction to fossil fuels grows stronger each year," she comments in The Guardian. "Many clean energy technologies are available, but they are not being deployed quickly enough to avert potentially disastrous consequences." That even with progress on clean energy, carbon emissions are set to double by 2050, is something her organization can't accept. Among her recommendations: have governments incorporate the "true cost" (i.e., cost to the environment) of dirty energy into prices while getting rid of subsidies for fossil fuels

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ClimateWire on diesel's comeback Whether or not we agree on the promise of solar, one thing's for sure, according to Julia Pyper at ClimateWire. Diesel has revamped its image as a sooty fuel to an energy-efficient alternative to regular gas. "Diesel engines have always been more efficient than their gasoline counterparts, but over the last decade, the autos and the fuel they run on have had to come a long way to shed their dirty image." Pyper traces the recent history of the fuel, with manufacturers dabbling with diesel engines in the 1970s during the oil embargo and the EPA setting strict standards to clean up its emissions in the 1990s. Due to improved technology and regulations, diesel today is as clean for the air as gas.

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Mother Jones on rising sea levels Mother Jones reports that some of the very energy producers contributing to carbon-driven climate change will be threatened by rising sea levels in coming years. "Extreme coastal deluges—of the sort that's only supposed to happen once a century—are those that reach at least four feet above local high tides," writes Erika Eichelberger. "The rate of this kind of biblical flooding is expected to more than double by 2030 ... This is bad news for coastal energy facilities." Nearly 300 facilities stand in that flood zone even, including "130 natural gas, 96 electric, 56 oil and gas, and [gasp!] 4 nuclear facilities." The prospect of flooding for those four nuclear plants isn't pleasant to think about, post-Fukushima.