About Me

I am an award-winning journalist writing primarily about the environment and energy. I am working on a book about whether the planet has entered a new geologic age as a result of human impacts and, if so, what we should do about this Anthropocene. I’ve been writing for Scientific American since November 2005 and have written on subjects ranging from astronomy to zoology for both the Web site and magazine. I’ve been reporting on the environment and energy since 1999—long enough to be cynical but not long enough to be depressed. I am the host of the 60-Second Earth podcast, a contributor to the Instant Egghead video series and author of a children’s book on bullet trains. I also write for publications ranging from the L.A. Review of Books to Yale e360, speak on radio shows such as WNYC’s The Takeaway, NHPR’s Word of Mouth, and PRI’s The World as well as host the duPont-Columbia award winning documentary “Beyond the Light Switch” for PBS. I also happen to think Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species is a surprisingly good read.

39 Responses to About Me

  1. Tina Walther says:

    Dear David,
    Im a Master Student from Germany and I am currently writting about China and how renewable energies can change their CO2 emissions. I came several times across your article “China’s Energy PARADOX, Scientific American Earth 3.0, 2008-1218:5″. Unfortunately it was nowhere available for free. If you could send your acticle to me that would be very kind. I will only use it for my paper and not publish it somewhere.
    Your help would be very much appreciated.
    Thanks in advance

    Tina Walther

  2. Bill Henderson says:

    Hi David,

    just read your latest Sci-Am contribution: ‘Will the world act’ and would like to send you pics – but don’t expect them to come through in this window – pics of carbon addict denial:

    []
    http://www.eci.ox.ac.uk/4degrees/programme.php

    Shellnhuber’s graph describes the 100% by 2020 reduction needed by countries like the US and Canada with 20 tonne plus per capita annual emissions. The 100% emission reduction by 2020 is in order to have a 60-70% chance of staying below 2C, the presently agreed upon precautionary ceiling to protect against dangerous, uncontrollable, runaway warming.

    This is not just his opinion but the product of several key papers on a global carbon budget published over the past couple of years: Meinshausen, Allen, the WGBU (Shellnhuber) paper, and the Anderson-Bows paper commenting upon what we’ve learned about carbon budgets.

    If you have high per-capita emissions (plus 20 tonnes) and the global per-capita emission rate over the next century to stay below 450 ppm / 2 C is somewhere below 2 tonnes annually then you are using a decades worth of your 21st century budget each year of present emissions. Countries like the US, Canada and Australia will, at present emission rates, use up their whole carbon budget for the next century in just the next decade. Deep, immediate cuts are necessary.

    The Bali target of 25% of 1990 levels by 2020 is today regarded as a big stretch, laughable now in these post-Copenhagen, Climategate times, but the actual science, the reality, is that to have only a 70% chance of staying under 450 ppm / 2C the bottom line is 100% by 2020.

    But the Arctic is melting and with the possibility of potent latent positive feedbacks in a climate history where even small forcings have whipsawed climate in our past, there is a substantive scientific case that getting below 350 ppm fast – not just staying below 450 ppm – has to be our new precautionary bottom line. Climate change isn’t a slow, long term threat but tipping points that we are passing over today. Climate change is an emergency requiring urgent action.

    Mark Lynas amongst others has described the dangers of increasing global temperatures by one, two, five or six degrees C. Two degrees is civilization threatening and six is probably extinction for most species including man. The history in ice cores from Greenland and Antarctica is that an increase of global temperature by one or two degrees can with latent feedbacks lead to temperature increase past six degrees to major extinction events. A one degree increase is already happening. The melting Arctic ice cap will accelerate warming with albedo decrease and melting permafrost. The inter-generational ethics precautionary ceiling has arguably been exceeded.

    So what level of emission reduction should we be making in 2010? And what actions should we be taking to reduce emissions?
    http://www.countercurrents.org/henderson250310.htm

    And, second pic, the presentation here:
    http://docs.google.com/Doc?docid=0AZyl0UPbjZBlZGd4Nm16empfMjIwY3pqcGZrY3Q&hl=en

    If this picture of carbon addict denial interests, e-mail me back. Otherwise, good luck and thanks for your time,

    Bill Gibsons, B.C.

  3. We want update of this blog. Thanks!

  4. Bailey Lynch says:

    Hey David, I’m doing an essay about ethanol and I need to do an interview with someone who knows a lot about the topic, could you help me out?
    1. Do you think that eventually we will be able to use ethanol to completely replace regular gasoline, even by using other green materials?
    2. What’s the cost of producing ethanol, does it balance itself out?
    3. What kind of impact is using corn for fuel making on our food supplies?
    If you could take a moment of your time to answer these questions for me, I would be very appreciative.

  5. Daniel Scott says:

    David,

    We really enjouyed your 60 second SA update “Halloween Chocolate: More Trick Than Treat?”

    We’d love to send you a treat for such a nice trick. Please drop me an email and let’s talk!

    Daniel Scott
    MEDIA MONSTER
    for the Fearless Chocolate Co.

  6. Richard Blakely says:

    Hello David,
    You have written many great articles, but many of them are based upon the notion that carbon dioxide is causing climate change. Look at the file at http://carbon-sense.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/05/hertzberg.pdf. In that file about the lynching of carbon dioxide, Dr. Hertzberg shows that carbon dioxide cannot change Earth’s temperature because CO2 already blocks all 15-micron photons. Decreasing CO2, or increasing CO2 in the atmosphere has no effect on climate change!
    Sincerely, R. Blakely.

    • dbiello says:

      Thanks Richard for reading and writing, and thanks for sending this link. Unfortunately, I think the work from Lavoisier on down pretty much disproves Hertzberg’s contention. In fact, you can do the test yourself in the lab, if you like.

  7. Richard Blakely says:

    David, you are involved in the “lynching of CO2″ since you are calling Hertzberg’s work “nonsense”. As far as I can tell, you do not understand the physics, and so you are calling the work “nonsense”. Otherwise, you would offer a more scientific explanation of how CO2 can block more photons than it already does.
    CO2 is used in microwave waveguides because it is so transparent to microwaves. CO2 only blocks two photon types. One of these it blocks totally already. Therefore, CO2 cannot cause climate change.

  8. Jason Lamendola says:

    I was just wondering if you have ever had any articles pertaining to oil spills be published in a peer review journal, and if so which one(s). Thanks.

  9. Jan Lundberg says:

    Dear Mr. Biello,
    Your latest piece on peak oil in Scientific American is useful, and is quoted with a link in communication to an Indiana media outlet concerning itself with a “NAFTA Superhighway.” I used to concern myself greatly with road fighting, but I’ve moved on to concentrating on other aspects of petroleum dependence such as the plastic plague. Here’s what I sent to the station for their show; I could find no other way of reaching you. – JL

    Q: How can anyone square oil reality with the urge to build unsustainable new roads?

    Putting aside that the scientific findings are overwhelming that we are in effect roasting the planet and upsetting its delicate balance, we need to admit and act as if oil and refined-product prices are high (and higher when subsidies are included), and supplies of oil are unreliable geopolitically. Plus, road building is damaging to ecosystems and means more roadkill of humans and animals.

    The end of cheap, abundant oil means the end of economic growth. A new Scientific American article says, “A new analysis concludes that easily extracted oil peaked in 2005, suggesting that dirtier fossil fuels will be burned and energy prices will rise.” But that view assumes no collapse of the oil-based economy through major supply disruption can happen. Based on our experience in the 1970s’ oil shocks, now that peak oil has hit and society is unprepared with alternative fuels and materials, and the human population has mushroomed, it’s only reasonable to anticipate that in our lifetime we’ll see the house-of cards economy finished off for hapless consumers dependent on no end of polluting, toxic petroleum products.

    Despite this “negative” view, there is great joy and hope in living car-free, closer to nature, and in community which we have lost as isolated materialists working for corporations and buying their questionable, unnecessary goods.

    Background:
    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=has-peak-oil-already-happened
    http://www.culturechange.org/cms/content/view/727/1/

    Thanks for putting on the debate,

    Jan Lundberg
    independent oil industry analyst
    founder, Alliance for a Paving Moratorium (now Culture Change)
    Culture Change / Sail Transport Network
    Mobile: 1-415-613-1936 Voicemail & fax: 1-215-243-3144
    P.O. Box 3387, Santa Cruz, CA 95063 USA
    http://CultureChange.org
    http://SailTransportNetwork.com
    ______________________________
    Dear Friends and Supporters,

    Please tune into WTIU for this documentary. CARR co-founder Thomas Tokarski will be a panelist discussing I-69 after the broadcast.
    You can submit questions NOW for the panel discussion. The e-mail address to submit questions is news@indianapublicmedia.org.

    ARE WE THERE YET?
    Thursday, January 26, 2012, at 8 PM
    WTIU Public Television

    WTIU/WFIU News presents a documentary about the various sides of the I-69 issue and explains the complications that INDOT has faced in its attempt to complete the corridor.

    The documentary debuts on WFIU and WTIU at 8 p.m. 1/26. It will be followed by a half hour panel discussion moderated by WFIU/WTIU News Bureau Chief Sara Wittmeyer. Panelists include CARR Co-founder Thomas Tokarski, Daviess County Economic Development Corporation Executive Director, Ron Arnold and Bloomington/Monroe County Metropolitan Planning Organization member Richard Martin.

    The live panel will take questions from the radio and TV audiences by phone, email, and through social media sites Facebook (facebook.com/interstate69) and Twitter (@INpubmedianews).

    The Indiana Channel is carrying the documentary on 2/8/12 and 2/9/12. The documentary is also running on a number of other radio and television stations in other states.

    ~~~~~~~~~~

    Thomas & Sandra Tokarski
    CARR
    PO Box 54
    Stanford, IN 47463
    carr@bluemarble.net
    812-825-9555
    800-515-6936

    • dbiello says:

      Hi Jan,

      Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts. It’s always nice to hear from readers! And feel free to leave this comment on the SA site as well, if you care to. Thanks again.

      db

  10. Luis Razob says:

    Hi! I thought this paper of mine might be of interest to you since you had previously written about ammonium sulfate and also since the paper proposes obtaining it from microalgae.

    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0960852411018219

    I ejnoy reading your tweets, by the way.

    • dbiello says:

      Thanks! And thanks for sharing. Unfortunately, I don’t have access to the paper but I’m always interested in Haber-Bosch alternatives. Can you send me the paper?

  11. Luis Razon says:

    Oops.. typo in my name.

  12. scotthedges says:

    Hi David,

    I recently heard you on PRI talking about Guar beans and Halliburton and had a few questions regarding Guar and the Hydraulic Fracking Industry.

    With the dramatic rise in prices of Guar what efforts are Halliburton and their competition doing to minimize their exposure to Guar. Are they creating alternatives like the food industry? If so how are far are they along?

    What are the specifications for Guar that are bought and used for Hydraulic Fracking? Who is supplying the Guar to these companies? What is the process from the fields in India to the wells in Texas?

    I am a student at Indiana University doing a project on Guar and its affect on hydraulic fracking. If anyone has any information or a contact within the industry I could talk to about Guar it would be much appreciated.

    Scott Hedges
    hedgess@indiana.edu

  13. Thank you for your latest post via 60 seconds Earth on our latest research, it is much appreciated to inform the public of what is going on in their Public lands such as their National Parks and National Forest. We hope to highlight soon the long-term ramification of what many of these toxicants left at grow sites are doing to the food web for many wildlife species in these wilderness settings.
    Thanks again!

  14. Ludwig says:

    Dear David,
    Interesting blog. Can you send me a link or post it here to your Halloween Chocolate: More Trick Than Treat.

    I tried to follow your link to Dysneyland with no sucess. Is this a tweet function link only?

    Like the view on China and clean energy debate.
    What is the reason why some reject the notion of Global warming?

    Is it about Jobs, politics money bad science? What is the main objections?

  15. Andrea Shum says:

    Dear David,

    I am a Singaporean student who’s currently conducting a research on geo-engineering experiments. I recently came across a Scientific American article by you, “Controversial Spewed Iron Experiment Succeeds as Carbon Sink”. It was very enlightening. As a non-native English speaker, I encountered some problems when reading it, but my instructors gave me different opinions. So I wonder if you could kindly help me.

    In the third paragraph, your story says, “The problem for scientists is that oceanic waters tend to mix, which makes monitoring and delineating an experiment in the ocean challenging.” I’m wondering whether the word “delineate” means “describe” or “trace the outline of”.

    And in the last paragraph but one, the story says, “… which… tend to form long strands of cellular slime…” I’m wondering whether the world “cellular” means “of (diatom) cells” or “porous”.

    Could you kindly help me out?

    Thanks in advance for your enlightenment.

    Best regards,

    Andrea Shum

    • dbiello says:

      No problem. “Delineate” in this case means “trace the outlines of,” sort of. The problem is setting the boundaries of an experiment in the ocean because of this water mixing. The scientists’ solution? To do it in a gyre, which, as long as it lasts, has coherent boundaries.

      And “cellular” definitely means “of (diatom) cells” in this case. Long strands of material made from dead diatom cells was sinking to the bottom.

      Thanks for the questions and good luck! – db

  16. Ari Abram says:

    Hello David!

    My name is Ari and I am a second year student at the University of Toronto. I am in a specialist program for Physical & Environmental Geography and currently writing a research paper regarding climate change from an environmental, economical, ethical perspective.

    I came across many of your articles and found them insightful and eloquent. Needless to say you will be cited multiple times in my paper! I would love if I could reference you directly (in addition to your articles) in this project.

    The questions I am most interested in hearing your response to are:
    In your opinion, what is/are the most compelling argument/s in favor of taking action on climate change?
    Moreover, what are the most profound implications of climate change?

    Any response would be greatly appreciated, and I thank you in advance for your help!! Have a great day.

    Ari

    • dbiello says:

      Hi Ari,

      Thanks for writing and good luck with your studies. I’d be happy for you to cite me (and would love to see the final result):

      I think the most profound implication of climate change is that we have become the dominant species on the planet. If that wasn’t apparent before now, it certainly should be as we change the very mix of the life-giving atmospheric gases wreathing the planet. We have similar profound impacts on basic biogeochemical cycles: carbon, obviously, but also nitrogen, and even water. Given that we also have the possibility of being conscious about our role, it’s also high time we start taking responsibility for our actions and proactively managing our impacts.

      But the most compelling reason for taking action on climate change remains human suffering. The actions of folks in rich countries are starting to impact the livelihood of folks in poor countries. It’s as simple as that, though, of course, that doesn’t discount many of the other compelling reasons for taking action: species extinction, loss of unique biomes like Arctic sea ice, coastal flooding from sea level rise and the like.

      Hope that helps.

  17. Ward Riggins says:

    David,
    I just listened to your interview about Uni-Solar. This past week I attended a conference on Energy Solutions for the Southeast. One of my interest was the Future Farmstead build site. Cadmus Construction is a major sponsor for this project. They used UniSolar Thin film which seemed to work great. Now I see they went under and maybe bought by Quarton Partners, an investment firm. Have you heard whether or not this happened? You mentioned in the interview that they were a very large firm, so was Solyndra. Is thin film still a viable product? I am a solar equipment sales rep for a small company in south Georgia, http://www.okefenokeesolar.com. The idea and simplicity of thin film works well with the metal roofs on farms and barns any insights?
    YOu mentioned that you thought the going rate for a kwh was $.16 is that still true? Where did you get that number?wriggins3@gmail.com
    Ward Riggins

    • dbiello says:

      Hello Ward and thanks for listening, reading and writing in. I’m not sure who ended up with the assets of Unisolar, that may still be in the process of being worked out in bankruptcy court. But there is no doubt that thin film is a viable product from a technology standpoint so, for example, Dow’s solar shingles might be a good bet for those who had previously favored Unisolar’s thin film shingle. I’m also pretty sure that price number is (way) out of date. More up to date numbers can be found in this report:

      http://emp.lbl.gov/sites/all/files/LBNL-5919e-REPORT.pdf

      Hope that helps! – db

  18. Denise Yates says:

    Mr. Biello,
    I am writing a paper and I need to show that my sources are credible. I need to do this by including applicable experience and educational information. I have found a lot online about your experiences but not your education. What degrees do you hold and where did you earn them?

  19. Hi David,
    I heard you yesterday being interviewed by Warren Olney on “To the Point” KCRW, are you the person who said the EPA’s “tough” new carbon emission standards for coal plants will in fact only effect TWO imminent plants and possibly another couple in the future? Have you written about this, could you send me a link please, I am also researching this shockingly paltry factoid.
    Thanks,

    Belinda

  20. Marie M says:

    Hello Mr. Biello,
    For our AP English class we are required to choose a columnist that interests us and read their columns. At the end of the semester, we do a report on the columnist. I just wanted to let you know I very much admire your writing and find all of your articles very interesting, so I chose you for the first semester.
    Marie

  21. Dear Sir, To fight global warming, have the United Nations create ‘The Global 50/50 Lottery’, the world’s first honest global lottery, to raise the massive funds needed to buy clean electricity generating wind, solar, ocean and water systems, to replace the electricity from our coal burning electric power plants that are emitting the carbon dioxide that is causing global warming. Remember, human greed is like a force of nature that can move mountains. If we can exploit it to fight global warming, we just might beat it!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s