James West

James West

Climate Desk Producer

James West is senior producer for the Climate Desk and a contributing producer for Mother Jones. He wrote Beijing Blur (Penguin 2008), a far-reaching account of modernizing China’s underground youth scene. James has a masters of journalism under his belt from NYU, and has produced a variety of award-winning shows in his native Australia, including the national affairs program Hack. He's been to Kyrgyzstan, and also invited himself to Thanksgiving dinner after wrongly receiving invites for years from the mysterious Tran family.

Get my RSS |

VIDEO: Wait Until China Acts on Climate. What? They Are!?

| Mon Feb. 25, 2013 7:12 AM EST

Did you hear the one about the Chinese carbon tax? Sorry. Not a joke.

That was one bit of news drowned out by last week's (understandable) conniption over Chinese computer hacking. China plans to introduce a carbon tax, says state-run news agency Xinhua. That's right, that great thorn in the side of global carbon reduction treaties, that recalcitrant negotiator and world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases, is now on the path to imposing its own tax to tackle dangerous carbon emissions.

Now, we should treat this news with some caution. I say "on the path" because not many other details were forthcoming, and China's environmental regulations tend to be like cheap Swiss cheese: a bit rubbery and full of holes. Ella Chou, an analyst for Brookings and a clean-energy consultant, points out in this great post that the tax is "puny," and local governments may still try to skirt it:

Local governments would continue to come up ways to give industries tax rebates and subsidies to attract them to their own jurisdictions, so the effect of the environmental tax or the carbon tax on the industries would be negligible.

Still, China's decision deals a powerful blow to the oft-stated rhetoric that the United States must wait for China before bringing domestic climate legislation to the floor of Congress. James Fallows makes this point at Climate Desk partner, The Atlantic:

Chinese officials have long used U.S. inaction on climate and carbon-tax issues as a rationalization for not taking steps of their own. On average, we're still quite a poor country, the spokesmen would say. If the rich U.S. can't "afford" to deal with emissions, how could we? Now the country is taking this carbon-tax step for reasons of its own reasons—as a way to deal with pollution and as another step in un-distorting the economy. But as a bonus it gets talking points to prod the US to do its part.

The basic message: It's small, and we'll have to wait to see what the whole package will look like. But it's action. So it may be time to update those action-resistant talking points, guys.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Explained in 90 Seconds: Permafrost

| Thu Feb. 21, 2013 7:01 AM EST

Glaciers. They really are the pinup geological formation for climate change. But spare a thought for permafrost. Perma-what? Answer: The gigantic carbon-rich Arctic landmass, that—until recently—has locked away its greenhouse gases in a deep freeze for millennia. That is, until man-made climate change has begun to unlock its CO2 stores, only then to be devoured by methane-spewing organisms. This microbial feast is accelerating climate change. The problem: It's a feedback loop. The hotter it gets, the more the permafrost melts, the more CO2 is emitted. And around and around we go, in a devastating roundabout for Arctic communities and the entire globe. Continuing our "Explained in 90 Seconds" series, here's a primer on permafrost.

Explained in 90 Seconds: It's Cold. That Doesn't Mean Global Warming is Fake.

| Fri Jan. 25, 2013 7:11 AM EST

At Climate Desk, we like to call them—affectionately—our "pet trolls." (You know who you are. Hi!) They are regular readers that pepper us on Twitter and Facebook with one of several climate myths upon the publication of every article, sometimes with freakish speed. One of the most popular myths is this: Global warming isn't real because it's really cold outside; climate models are thus full of sh*t. So, here in 90 seconds, is our attempt to explain something we interact with every day, in all sorts of ways, from flying in a plane, to getting a loan, to betting on a horse: computer modeling.

Our video features Drew Purves, from Microsoft in Cambridge, UK, a statistics whiz specializing in modeling the climate and ecosystems. Think of him as the Nate Silver of carbon. You can read about his latest research project, a rallying cry to model the entire world's ecology—that's right, the entire world—in the latest edition of Nature.

Is it Obama? Is it Gore? No! It's the Green Ninja!

| Tue Jan. 22, 2013 7:01 AM EST

President Obama's high-profile statements about climate change in his inauguration speech—"Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms"—will need to be backed by strong action if there's any hope of dimming recent attacks on science in America's classrooms.

The National Center for Science Education lists four new bills in the last week alone that have been introduced in state legislatures: two in Oklahoma, and one each for Missouri and Colorado. For example, House Bill 179, introduced in the Missouri House of Representatives on January 16, labels as controversial the teaching of "biological and chemical evolution;" Ditto for Colorado, which on the same day introduced House Bill 13-1089 (PDF) which also misrepresents global warming and evolution as questionable science.

No wonder Dr Eugene Cordero thinks climate change needs a superhero. Bam! Enter the Green Ninja, the not-very-talkative martial arts master who whips up all sorts mayhem to teach young minds about carbon footprints, energy-saving strategies and gas guzzling leaf blowers, a kind of climate-bent Captain Planet, for a younger generation.

Cordero—both the creator of Green Ninja and a climate scientist at San Jose State University—has already created a series of videos and lesson plans for teachers. And they are now looking to the crowd on the popular funding website Kickstarter for more cash to produce a 16-episode YouTube series, starting this Spring. At the time of writing, with just 10 days to go, the Green Ninja team has raised half of its stated $10,000 goal.

Fri May. 9, 2014 7:07 PM EDT
Tue Jan. 7, 2014 3:51 PM EST
Tue Nov. 19, 2013 3:11 PM EST
Tue Nov. 12, 2013 1:44 AM EST
Tue Jun. 25, 2013 11:56 AM EDT
Fri Jun. 21, 2013 3:47 PM EDT
Fri Jun. 7, 2013 6:56 AM EDT
Fri May. 10, 2013 6:01 PM EDT
Wed Feb. 27, 2013 1:18 AM EST
Thu Feb. 21, 2013 7:01 AM EST
Fri Jan. 18, 2013 7:01 AM EST