National Geographic on how cell phone can help fight pirate fishing Brian Clark Howard reports on how West Africans are using cell phones to spot and report illegal, unregulated fishing — often known as pirate fishing. "Over the past few years, the [Environmental Justice Foundation] has been arming West African fishermen to help them fight back against piracy in their waters. Only instead of guns, the foundation is handing out cell phones and GPS-enabled cameras. ... The EJF trains the fishermen on how to use the cameras to protect their turf. When they are out in their boats—which are often as small as dugout canoes—and they see a fishing vessel that shouldn't be there, they snap a photo of the intruder's call sign, name, or unique markings. They collect the geospatial coordinates and then send all that data to the EJF."
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London Review of Books on the recent literature of climate change Thomas Jones reviews three recent books about the ways humans are causing — and, at the same time, trying to mitigate — climate change. His conclusion is bleak: "Policymakers aren’t entirely to blame for the frustrating vagueness of their proposals, which often seem to consist of no more than a commitment to look at the situation again in a few years’ time. Perhaps the best we can hope for is that somehow – using some of the technologies and policies I’ve discussed here, and some of the many I’ve overlooked – we’ll muddle through. But only if we slow climate change to a rate that we, like other organisms that evolved when the world was mild, can adapt to. If we don’t, we may indeed be doomed."
The Huffington Post on the reality of our environmental harm "There's ample room for debate on the particulars: How hot will the planet get? How quickly? How will our various ecosystems, from forests and oceans to vast tracts of tundra and polar ice, respond to rising temperatures, and how will these responses feed, in turn, into the incredibly dynamic and interactive machinery of our climate? And then based on all this, what the hell should we do about it?" writes Tom Zeller, Jr., about recent surveys of the public's opinion toward evidence of climate change. "These are all questions without precise answers, and they are providing rich and important territory for scientific investigation as well as social, political and economic soul searching. What's not a matter of debate, however, is that human beings are saturating the atmosphere with volumes of carbon dioxide — mostly arising from the burning of fossil fuels — at an unprecedented rate."
The New York Times on how insurers are dealing with increasingly catastrophic weather Eduardo Porter surveys the insurance industry, in hopes of figuring out how the industry plans to deal with weather events aggravated by climate change. The surprising answer: not a whole lot. "The insurance industry’s reluctance is born of hesitation to become embroiled in controversies over energy policy," he says. "But perhaps its executives simply don’t feel so vulnerable. Like farmers, who are largely protected from the ravages of climate change by government-financed crop insurance, insurers also have less to fear than it might at first appear. The federal government covers flood insurance, among the riskiest kind in this time of crazy weather. And insurers can raise premiums or even drop coverage to adjust to higher risks. Indeed, despite Sandy and drought, property and casualty insurance in the United States was more profitable in 2012 than in 2011, according to the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America."
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Forbes on the future of energy storage How will store our increasing amount of alternative energy? Peter Kelly-Detwiler, in a report on the seemingly mundane aspect of energy technology, why the answer will be crucial: "While grid connected storage is not yet broadly commercially viable in the U.S., it is still valuable in some applications. The key is to look for applications where the value of reliability is critical. Where do you find this? Server farms, military bases, hospitals, and prisons – any place where loss of electricity can be economically crippling or involve life safety itself. ... In fact, the Santa Rita Jail smart grid project in Alameda County, CA is a pretty fair example of how this might play out in the future. ... This jail, the fifth largest in the nation, uses 3 megawatts of power daily. Since continuous power supply is necessary for safety of staff and inmates, a self-sustaining micro-grid was created. This grid can be islanded from the central power grid and sustain itself for up to eight hours until utility power is restored or on-site back-up generators kick in."