Will Fracking Help Or Hinder the Fight Against Climate Change?

By Keith Kloor | August 29, 2012 12:30 pm

Keith Kloor is a freelance journalist whose stories have appeared in a range of publications, from Science to Smithsonian. Since 2004, he’s been an adjunct professor of journalism at New York University. You can find him on Twitter here.

When it comes to climate change, the bad news pummels you the way Mike Tyson, in his prime, pummeled opponents into submission. The onslaught is so relentless that sometimes I just want to crumple into a heap and yell: Make it stop! The latest beat-down, for example, is news of the record ice shrinkage in the Arctic. That seems to have shaken up a lot of people.

But before everyone sinks into catatonic despair, I want to return to a recent piece of stunningly good news on the climate front. Perhaps you saw the headline several weeks ago: “U.S. carbon emissions drop to 20-year low.”

Alas, there was a catch. The biggest reason for the decline, as the AP reported, “is that cheap and plentiful natural gas has led many power plant operators to switch from dirtier-burning coal.”

If this isn’t the definition of quandary, I don’t know what is. Gas emits much less carbon than coal (probably between 25% and 50% less), which is a net plus on the global warming ledger. And shale gas, in case you hadn’t heard, is entering a golden age; it is abundant and newly retrievable across the world, not just in the United States. It’s the bridge fuel to a clean energy future that liberal think tanks and university researchers were touting just a few years ago. Given the political stalemate on climate change, one energy expert gushed in a recent NYT op-ed: “Shale gas to the rescue.”

But a grassroots backlash to the relatively new technology (hydraulic fracturing) that unlocks shale gas has set in motion powerful forces opposed to this bridge getting built. Leading climate campaigners, citing concerns about industry practices and continued reliance on fossil fuels (even if less carbon intensive), are now a big part of the growing anti-fracking coalition. Mainstream environmentalists have also jumped on that bandwagon.

Thus the battle lines are drawn, with enviros and climate activists digging in their heels against a shale gas revolution that could pay big climate dividends. This is a story in of itself. Now a new twist promises to make it even more interesting. Earlier this week, Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire philanthropist and New York City mayor, gave the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) a $6 million grant for its work “to minimize the environmental impacts of natural gas operations through hydraulic fracturing.” The grant follows on the heels of a Washington Post op-ed that Bloomberg co-authored with a gas industry executive. In the piece, they champion the environmental and economic benefits of natural gas, while also calling for more stringent fracking rules and better industry practices.

Bloomberg’s foray into the gas issue complements the $50 million he gave last year to the Sierra Club, to support its nationwide anti-coal initiative. But his embrace of natural gas as a substitute for coal puts him at odds with many establishment greens. EDF President Fred Krupp, for his part, seems to be straddling that divide. The announcement of Bloomberg’s grant to EDF included this statement from Krupp: “There is a path forward for natural gas production if we get it right—but that’s a big if. The Mayor is helping to chart that path forward.”

Whether the gas industry can frack responsibly is an important question that needs resolution. But an equally important one is whether climate campaigners and greens can embrace the path being charted by EDF and Bloomberg. For that to happen, several salient issues will have to be satisfactorily addressed. New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman put his finger on one when, earlier this month, he wondered if the shale boom will “undermine new investments in wind, solar, nuclear and energy efficiency systems—which have zero emissions—and thus keep us addicted to fossil fuels for decades.” Climate and energy experts have similar concerns.

And cheap, bountiful shale gas may be less noxious than coal, but it will still be heating up the atmosphere well into the century. Michael Lemonick at Climate Central doesn’t find this to be an appealing path. He writes:

As scientists Ken [Caldeira] and Nathan Myhrvold showed in a paper earlier this year, gas can ultimately cut emissions, but during the time you’re building the plants—a process that itself takes substantial energy—you’ve added so much more CO2 to the air that, as Myhrvold told Climate Central, “It’s like living on a credit card. It’s easy to get into a situation where it will take years and years to pay back.” It’s not just the CO2, either: drilling for natural gas releases substantial amounts of methane, which is an even more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

But if shale gas is at least moving us in the right direction (i.e., lower carbon emissions) doesn’t that count for something? Energy analyst Michael Levi thinks so, though he is also cautious about just how far it can take us:

Natural gas can do a lot to bend the U.S. emissions curve over the coming years. In even the medium run, though, simply moving from coal to gas is not a substitute for broader policy…Best to think of gas as a climate opportunity – to forestall construction of long-lived and highly polluting infrastructure, to make carbon capture and sequestration cheaper, to balance intermittent renewable sources – rather than as a solution in itself.

The global gas outlook is also unclear. In the UK and Europe, prospects are not as sunny as in the United States. But in China, now the world’s number one emitter of carbon emissions (due, in large part, to its heavy coal usage), there is tremendous potential for the country to make a U.S.-like shift to natural gas, as Andy Revkin recently explored at Dot Earth. In that post, there is a really smart and nuanced big picture take on the shale gas/climate nexus by University of California professor David Victor, author of the 2011 book, Global Warming Gridlock: Creating More Effective Strategies for Protecting the Planet. At Dot Earth, Victor says that,

the gas revolution is a reminder that for most countries facts on the ground will have a much bigger impact on emissions that international diplomatic agreements. As diplomats look for new agreements they need treaties that are a lot more flexible and adjustable to these on-the-ground realities. Treaties based on rigid emission targets and timetables—as in the Kyoto treaty—stand little chance of working.

But he also acknowledges that “if gas is to be a real ‘bridge’ to a low-emission future rather than a nice-looking dead end, then we must seriously explore ways to further cut emissions from gas plants.” Perhaps EDF and Michael Bloomberg can team up on that worthy goal—after they help make fracking more environmentally responsible and convince their fellow greens that they have charted a viable a path to a low-carbon energy future.

Images: U.S. Energy Information Administration (1, 2)

 

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Top Posts
  • Paul

    Perhaps gas should be sold as a means to reduce the cost of complying with CO2 restrictions, with CO2 taxes being part of the package?

  • PeteTheBee

    It should be noted that everyone who studies carbon sequestration believes that the emissions from gas fired electrical generators are probably the easiest to work with.

    Coal to gas is literally a comparison between the dirtiest fossil fuel and the cleanest.

  • Alan Nogee

    I often disagree with Keith Kloor, but not on this one. What many environmental advocates wishfully overlook is that a transition to renewable energy (and/or other very low carbon technologies) will necessarily take decades. There is an enormous amount of power plant, transmission, and distribution infrastructure to be replaced and built. It can’t be done overnight.

    Even in feasible best-case scenarios, as in the NREL Renewable Electricity Futures 80-90% renewable energy by 2050 study, we’re looking at a long time where we’d be ramping up renewables with either coal or gas providing a lot of the residual generation. We’d be a lot better off from a climate perspective–as well as for providing the system flexibility to ease the integration of renewables–if gas displaces coal during that ramp-up period.

    That said, the gas industry hasn’t really picked up the olive branch offered by some environmental leaders to partner in such a scenario. The industry would need to take water issues a lot more seriously. And renewables do need ongoing policy support to continue growing while gas prices are low. It may be that a period of grassroots fracking opposition will be (unfortunately) needed to get the gas industry to cooperate in a broader gas/renewable energy agenda.

    Alan Nogee
    Clean Energy Consulting
    Former Director, Union of Concerned Scientists Clean Energy Program

  • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/ Uncle Al

    Add 1 ppm sodium fluorescein (uranine) to the fracking fluid, one teaspoon/5 tonnes. Now you know where the fracking fluid goes to at least 10,000-fold dilution. Stop whining. Burning more hydrogenaceous fuels increases humidity in rising exhaust plumes. This destroys the Ozone Layer, Science 337(6096) 835 (2012). God save us from do-gooders.

  • Alan Nogee

    Left out that the gas industry also needs to take the issue of methane leakage much more seriously. The best science to date shows that leakage erodes some, but not all, of gas’s advantage over coal. But that difference is still important to meeting climate goals. Moreover, the evidence indicates that leakage can be reduced substantially at a low cost, or even a profit. It is critical that the gas industry gets serious and proactive about these issues.

  • Eric Hsu

    While fracking can produce cleaner energy, the process itself isn’t all that clean. What this is looking at is Carbon dioxide emissions, but it isn’t mentioning the chemicals that are used to extract the gas. Fracking may save us from CO2 emissions, or at least for the time being, but what about the chemicals used? They can and have leaked into water supplies, harming both people and animals. Even more, some companies that engage in fracking are not required to release the composition of the chemicals they use, since it has been considered to be an industry secret.

    Personally, I would support fracking as a short term solution if there wasn’t so much baggage involved with it. I would like to encourage companies to try to find more environmentally friendly methods of extracting natural gas, and to also release th composition of the fluids they use for fracking. People deserve to know what is being put into the earth, whether it is harmless or if it is some sort of endocrine disruptor.

    Please take into consideration that the end (cleaner burning gas), does not always justify the means.

  • Brian Too

    @3. Alan Nogee,

    Well said. We risk doing far more damage to our populations, and in an immediate way, if we press too hard on the timelines and make “perfect” technologies the only acceptable policy.

    Like it or not, and the environmental groups certainly do not like it, climate change is a long-term issue. We are going to have to fix that problem over the long term because our civilization has been built, in energy terms, on fossil fuels.

    The implication is that some currently inhabited locations may become undesirable and/or uninhabitable. We likely cannot save every at-risk jurisdiction. Personally I worry the most about the coastal cities, of which there are many. There are hints that some already impoverished rural areas are also going to fare badly.

    We will adapt of course, because what choice do we have?

  • Ross Forbes

    Research at the UK Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research (http://www.tyndall.ac.uk) concludes that there is little evidence to suggest that shale gas will play a key role as a transition fuel in the move to a low carbon economy as measured across their respective lifecycles.

    The Centre also says that there is little evidence from data on the US that shale gas is currently, or expected to, substitute at any significant level for coal use and that projections suggest that shale gas will continue to be used in addition to coal in order to satisfy increasing energy demand.

    There is no assessment in Keith Kloor’s article of how the global economic decline might have contributed to the recent reduction in US first quarter CO2 emissions as shown by the EIA data.

  • Keith Kloor

    I’d like to direct readers attention to this recent Yale Environment 360 piece: http://e360.yale.edu/feature/natural_gas_role_in_us_energy_endgame/2561/

    It strikes me as excellent elaboration of the points that Alan Nogee makes above.

  • Alan Nogee

    Keith,
    Thanks. I’d missed that one over summer vacation. Really good piece. Alan

  • harrywr2

    Let’s face facts.

    Engineers don’t currently know how to build low carbon energy infrastructure at a price that the majority of people are willing to pay. We have a lot of ‘promising technologies’, but ‘promising’ isn’t reality and the time it takes for a technology to go from lab to succesful demonstration project to commercial acceptance is 10 years or more.

  • MarkB

    For all those who still don’t like fracking – look at the first graph above. And then look at it again. That’s with no Kyoto, no cap and trade, and no carbon tax. And wind and solar power have nothing to do with it.

    Now the question is very simple – do you care about global warming or not? If you do, then that graph says that you MUST be in favor of fracking. Germany, that world leader in renewable energy, has NOT decreased it’s production of CO2, and is now in the process of building 10 new coal fired power plants.

    Whereas the United States is moving dramatically to a lower-CO2 power production – without CO2 regulation. The EPA did not force power companies to replace coal with natural gas. Congress did not pass a law forcing power companies to replace coal with Natural gas. THE MARKET made it happen.

    If there are any questions, just look at the graph above again. That is my answer.

  • http://www.collide-a-scape.com Keith Kloor

    Ross (8)

    “There is no assessment in Keith Kloor’s article of how the global economic decline might have contributed to the recent reduction in US first quarter CO2 emissions as shown by the EIA data.”

    Duly acknowledged. But in the links that I provide the economic downturn is mentioned. I wasn’t intentionally ignoring it, but mainly staying focused on the factor that has been most attributed–and that would be the gas boom.

  • OilInvestor

    Fracking occurs thousands of feet down. Water is hundreds of feet down, usually less than 500 feet. I’m no expert like the global warming guys are but it sounds highly unlikely fracking is the source of the problem. And I’ve never seen anyone address the issues of the byproducts of clean energy. Imagine if all the cars ever made had batteries in them, where would they be decaying right now? There’s really no debate here, it’s a simple choice. Will society go back to cavemen technology or live with man-made global warming? And it’s quite possible, in fact highly likely, man has nothing to do with any climate change. And while we’re debating this, let’s not forget we’re already spreading our pollution to mars.

  • Ken Bowdon

    I am a geologist and a pioneer in horizontal drilling. My team drilled the first exploratory horizontal well in the continental US in 1987. My consulting company has helped operators drill well over 8000 horizontal wells since 1996. Fracing is NOT a new technology. There have been more than 8 million wells that have been fraced. The new part of this is the combination of horizontal drilling and fracing.

    Technology is the answer. Just a short eight years ago we as humanity were faced with a significant problem which would ultimately lead to an economic collapse that would be much worse than what we are faceing now. Our entire civilization is built upon an ample supply of cheap energy. All of you blue sky optimists out there that dream of a world without fossil fuels do not realize that there is currently absolutely nothing that can replace hydrocarbons as an energy source. The oil and gas industry has given us another 100 years to find the answer with a fuel that is cleaner than oil or coal. We need to take advantage of this GIFT and use the extra time to find an alternate energy source. How bout we just stop using hydrocarbons now. What do you suppose would happen? Our civilization would cease to exist, simple as that. There is no replacement for fossil fuels and will not be for decades baring the discovery of a portable fusion generator you can put in your car.

  • Michael Dean Lewis

    These people who are recognized for writing a title that immediately attracts those who so believe that humans are the ‘all and end all’ and have all these ascribed powers, I say ‘rubbish’. What bullshit. Climate change will be here on Earth whether humans are here or not. It will never cease to amaze me how incompetent, amatuerish people and their undeveloped, low-level understanding and knowledge keep appearing in print and how we, those who read this crap, are so enraptured. I suggest learn, question, and when you get your understanding of quantum mechanics down and general relativity, write like I do and say basically, what I’m saying, this article and author are chasing a ghost.

  • J.Gill

    Yes, let’s save our air only to poison our water.

    You don’t take an important big-picture idea cram it in a box of data. Between the natural metals and gases, salts, and other additives it is creating a one-way toxic hazard. The toxins cannot be purified or contained. Leaks are occuring already and how much water can you pollute before it either strains the ecosystem or poisons it? Are we going to sit around using natural gas with toxic silos of water waiting to seep back into the environment?

    I don’t know if Keith Kloor lacks a sense of logic and the big picture or he is whoring himself out, but either way he proves his irrelevancy.

  • Stuart L. Meyer

    There has so far not been a mention of a new technology for fracking using gelled propane rather than water and chemicals. Additionally, the propane is recycled. The Canadian company pioneering this technology is called Gas Frac ( GSFVF ). Not only does it obviate the need for water and its recycling but it seems to be more efficient in extracting shale gas.

  • Dewey

    While all the politicos and environmentalists are debating the economics of fracking I am still struggling with imagining what the long term effects may be geologically. There is no way of knowing if water tables will be violated by fracking in the long term and once we have a “long term” process behind us it may be irreversible, leaving us only with “We didn’t know this would happen!” proclamations to comfort us. Secondly, we have seen time and again that we cannot count on big business to do what is best for climate; they will feign vigilance and then move ahead with maximizing profits after they get the go ahead from government. Most recent example is BP Oil in the Gulf. Pick an industry … any industry … and investigate the history of those that began it all. Almost without exception you will find that the environment lost in homage to the dollar.

  • Kristin Dewey

    Thank you for your input Ken Bowdon!! I’m for fracing, and personally fracing on our own land so we don’t have to depend on foreign oil! We have lived next to 6 wells in Weld County for the past 25 years, and have had not one health problem or water problem yet. Frac on!

  • Richard Levy

    Fool around with the earth’s plates and the earth can strike back by setting of earthquakes such as the ones in Virginia and Ohio recently where there has been extensive drilling.

  • Richard Levy

    I am guessing that the fracking may end up setting off earthquakes such as recently in Ohio and Virginia

  • Pingback: A supergroup forms in the anti-fracking movement | City Atlas()

  • http://www.stampsbythemes.com Mike Shefler

    @14. OilInvestor

    Unfortunately, to get to the fracking zone, you have to go through the water table zone. There are numerous things that can go wrong on the way up or down. For instance, defective or cracked well casings can release fracking fluids or methane into the water table. Mining (which in many cases occurred decades ago and is not well-mapped) has made the substructure porous, allowing pollutants to travel long distances from the drilling site to affect water supplies miles away. Drilling companies may have the best of intentions and/or technology (and remember, many don’t), and still have accidents. Once an accident occurs that pollutes a water table, there is not much that can be done to remediate it. I live in Pennsylvania, where a lot of these problems are surfacing now that fracking is proceeding apace with little regulation. I predict there will be a big backlash against natural gas drilling in a few years as the drilling proliferates throughout the state. New Yorkers should feel grateful that it is still restricted in their state.

  • Ken Bowdon

    Folks, uninformed speculation and risk aversion will not solve our current energy predicament. No energy source is risk free. One must balance the risk versus the benefit in every endeavor. Energy production is no different. No energy source is risk free, and no energy sources leaves the earth unchanged. Not in my back yard seems to be the driving force in most protests against fracing. The Industry, in spite of the government, has already reduced foreign contribution to our energy supply from about 65% to 47% in six short years. We could be energy independent in another 5 to 6 years if government would cooperate by opening more public lands to development. Imagine not needing to buy oil from OPEC, imagine the number of jobs that can be created. It is estimated that energy independence will create over 3 million jobs.

    http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/energy/story/2012-05-15/1A-COV-ENERGY-INDEPENDENCE/54977254/1

    Those are jobs directly related to finding production and distribution of energy. Energy independence can also produce a climate to reintroduce manufacturing jobs to the US because Cheap energy, combined with our greater productivity will make us competitive again. Once energy is no longer a global commodity controlled by small, largely militant countries, the price will fall. Drilling drove down the price of natural gas from $11 per MCF to less than $3 per MCF because Natural gas is not a global commodity yet.

    You guys that complain about tiny earthquakes which may or may not be caused by fracing and water contamination that is certainly not caused wholsale by fracing are probably also against war to insure the free flow of oil, and are probably against nuclear energy and windmills off the East Coast. Wake up, the miracle of energy independence is finally within our reach. Independence will allow us to finally put resources to work finding the alternative to fossil fuel because we won’t have to send trillions of dollars to people that don’t like us.

  • Nancy Shiffler

    Let’s put the “energy independence” argument to rest. Oil and gas companies are applying left and right to build coastal facilities to convert the shale gas to liquid natural gas so it can be sold overseas. Why? Because they can get a higher price for it. That in turn will increase the price of natural gas in the US market. Production of liquid natural gas requires large amounts of energy and has its own pollution problems.

  • David44

    @Ken Bowdon,

    Agreed, good to hear comments from someone who knows what he’s talking about. Now what can be done to decrease gas leakage from gas wells and flaring from oil wells? I understand that at some wells in the booming western oil leases, much of the methane is flared because infrastructure to capture, hold and transport it isn’t yet in place. Should we be allowing this rapid expansion of drilling before such infrastructure is available? (Building the storage tanks and pipelines creates jobs, too.)

    Also, what can/should government do to promote propane gel fracturing as an alternative to hydrofracking? (And Keith, how about a post on that? First I’d heard of it was in the comment above. Apparently, it is a viable process.)

  • p vogel

    Nowhere in the article did I find mention of the most crucial aspect of horizontal hydraulic fracturing- mention of the water that is used in the process, never to be recovered. Not the same as the vertical drill! One horizontally- fractured well, depending on the depth and size of it uses anywhere from 4 to 9 MILLION gallons of fresh water to force the gas out of the bedrock earth. Mixed with a cocktail of toxic chemicals, including biocides and lubricants and VOCs, all of this fresh clean water is lost from the dwindling supply of clean drinking and agricultural water. The water is not re-used, they cannot, or do not have technology to strip it of those chemicals. There are no regulations nor incentives to do so. Not only that, but when it returns to the surface there are additional poisons from the deep earth, carcinogenic substances, and radioactive substances that have been in the bedrock for millions of years, brought to the surface: strontium, barium, plutonium. The waste water either sits on-site, is transported and dumped into deep well injection sites, (seismic events above mentioned, water contamination) or brought for partial treatment to industrial waste sites, such as the Niagara Falls Water Treatment facility before being dumped into the Niagara River. Hydrofracking wastewater contains 19,000 pCi (picocuries) of radiation per liter (i.e., 8,000 times the allowable limit of drinking water). Yet, the Niagara Falls Water Board is unable to remove that radioactivity from the water. The New York DEC and Niagara Falls Water Board (NFWB) have identified 136 chemicals of concern (COCs) and claim their current facility cannot handle the volume of waste projected. Land ruined, water wept away, sick and crying humans, farms and streams. No, it is hardly worth it. http://wnypeace.org/new/fracking_factoids.pdf
    As a biology and earth science teacher I have been actively researching environmental issues for over thirty years, and never have I seen such an assault on the fragile ecology of the earth’s surface. I do my best to limit my footprint on Earth, I try my hardest to teach to the future. Natural gas is touted as the new “clean” energy, and while it is true that it burns more efficiently and cleaner than coal, the costs to air and water through the filthy process are mind-boggling. Each well requires fresh water that needs to be transported to rural sites. Each well requires one thousand two-way diesel truck loads to provide the supplies, the chemicals, and the water necessary to frack it. Up to 16 wells can be developed per pad. 77,000 well sites have been proposed for upstate New York alone.
    Diesel trucks, generators, pumps, and drill rigs, condensers, and compressors (the noise itself!) provide plenty of benzene, tolulene, and ultra-fine particles of soot, ozone, and the carcinogenic benzo-a-pyrene, not to mention the wear on the roads, and who knows how many UNREPORTED and UNREGULATED spills and leaks and DUMPS along the way. Diesel exhaust itself contributes to bladder, lung, and breast cancer, to stroke and diabetes. In children the toxins can cause premature birth, several varieties of cognitive defects, asthma and stunted lung development, the latter two alone costing the US 242 Billion per year. The effects of the exhaust travel up to 200 miles through the air. Methane escapes, 25 times worse than CO2 as a heat-trapping greenhouse gas, bubbling up through wells, and pipelines, in streams and wells.

    When our watersheds, our roadways, and our air are threatened, so is our food. Agriculture feeds us. Dairy farms, orchards, vineyards, the ever-growing organic farm industry all provide jobs that are satisfying and sustainable. But they rely on water, safe and clean, and plenty of it.

    The Health effects of this industry are an enormous, immoral and unnecessary burden to our futures, to our future generations. The health effects have only begun to surface. Renewable energy should be our priority. The technology exists, the planet calls for it, and calls for it now. If only the renewable energy wind, geothermal, and solar and wood sources were subsidized by the amounts given away to the oil and gas development companies! We could slow down the devastating heating of the planet and start to breathe easier. As it is, they are beyond regulation, are generously subsidized, and reap enormous profit at the sake of solid, scientific, yet very fragile ecology. We live here on Earth, we all do, and we had best move toward a cleaner future.
    97% of the water on Earth is salt water. Of the remaining 3%, two thirds is locked up in glaciers and ice, (rapidly shrinking, remember- making more salt water) or too deep to reach. That leaves 1% of the water on Earth fresh, attainable water. All life depends on it. All life is made of it. Water is our most precious resource.

    Are you considering the causes of the drought that we’ve experienced this very year? Well, we pull billions of gallons of water out, poison it, the lands, and air, and burn more fossil fuel. Cattle die, farmers fold, banks refuse mortgages on leased lands. Not economical, and not at all sensible.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Roger-Faulkner/1059666184 Roger Faulkner

    If only there was a carbon tax, the incentives would favor gas over coal, unless the carbon from coal is sequestered. A carbon tax is so obviously what we need to:
    1) balance the budget
    2) incentivise gas over coal, yet incentivise wind & solar more.
    3) This is the sort of non-biased tax that attempts to favor an environmentally sound future, but
    4) a full-out “tax equalization” should overtly tax mercury emissions and destruction of forests too, to capture all the major effects.

    I ran for office in WI in 1992 as a “Green Republican” and talked up a deal in which taxes on vice, pollution, health effects, and resource depletion are introduced. At that time I proposed to direct the tax revenues 100% to reductions in other taxes (Income, property, and sales taxes), but the today version of that would be to devote some fixed percentage of all the new taxes towards deficit reduction, with most of the rest going to reduce other taxes and fees.

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About Keith Kloor

Keith Kloor is a NYC-based journalist, and an adjunct professor of journalism at New York University. His work has appeared in Slate, Science, Discover, and the Washington Post magazine, among other outlets. From 2000 to 2008, he was a senior editor at Audubon Magazine. In 2008-2009, he was a Fellow at the University of Colorado’s Center for Environmental Journalism, in Boulder, where he studied how a changing environment (including climate change) influenced prehistoric societies in the U.S. Southwest. He covers a wide range of topics, from conservation biology and biotechnology to urban planning and archaeology.

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