Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Steyer and Bloomberg Diverge on Fracking

A young protestor holds a placard at the entrance gate belonging to a site run by Cuadrilla Resources (Credit: www.dailymail.co.uk)(Credit: ) Click to enlarge.
Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg today diverged from his ally in politically active environmentalism, Tom Steyer, on the volatile question of whether hydraulic fracturing of shale gas can safely help slow the march of climate change.

In a New York Times op-ed published today, Bloomberg and Environmental Defense Fund President Fred Krupp staked out a middle ground on fracking that emphasizes "strong rules and enforcement" in order to mitigate legitimate local resistance to a fossil fuel extraction method that "is indeed lowering energy costs, creating new jobs, boosting domestic manufacturing and delivering some measurable environmental benefits."  In his own October column on the topic, Steyer called for tabling any discussion about fracking's emissions upside until oil and gas producers begin "paying their fair share" in taxes and royalties.

Steyer and Bloomberg Diverge on Fracking

DOE's Advanced Vehicle Manufacturing Loans Come Under Attack in Senate

Ford Louisville Assembly Plant (Credit: Sam Varnhagen, Ford Motor Co.) Click to enlarge.
Robust federal investment in research and development programs is central to ensuring U.S. global competitiveness, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle said yesterday at a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on U.S. innovation.  But with a severe strain on the budget, senators expressed concern that certain federally supported programs could take a hit.

DOE's Advanced Vehicle Manufacturing Loans Come Under Attack in Senate

Coastal Storm Resilience Measures Slowly Moving into 'Tornado Alley'

Two kinds of shelter: Some residents of Vilonia, Ark., rode out a killer tornado this week in a storm shelter (right). Those who stayed in their homes saw severe damage, but experts say some of it could have been avoided. (Credit: Karen E. Segrave / AP Images) Click to enlarge.
Last Sunday and Monday night, tornadoes struck in Arkansas and Oklahoma, killing at least 35 people and leaving the little town of Vilonia, Ark., looking as if a giant maul had battered its homes.  The severe weather continued yesterday and left residents of "tornado alley" in the southern and central United States to debate how they might have been better prepared.  The answer might be found just a few miles farther south, where communities on the Gulf and Atlantic coastlines have been adapting to hurricanes -- intensified by climate change -- for several years.

Coastal Storm Resilience Measures Slowly Moving into 'Tornado Alley'

Historic Vote Will Reduce Hot Water Waste, Save Americans Money and Time

Iinsulation of hot water piping (Credit: francobelli.com)
Plumbing inspectors, manufacturers, engineers, contractors, labor representatives and other industry technical experts in Las Vegas voted overwhelmingly yesterday to make a change to plumbing codes that will ensure hot water pipes in new homes and commercial buildings are insulated.  Overall, insulation of hot water pipes will shorten the amount of time spent waiting for hot water at showers and faucets, and cut hot water waste by 15 to 30 percent.

Historic Vote Will Reduce Hot Water Waste, Save Americans Money and Time

New Solar Reactor Technology to Produce Jet Fuel

Artist's rendering of the functional principle. (Credit: Solar-Jet) Click to enlarge.
With the first ever production of synthesized "solar" jet fuel, the SOLAR-JET project has successfully demonstrated the entire production chain for renewable kerosene obtained directly from sunlight, water and carbon dioxide (CO2), therein potentially revolutionizing the future of aviation.  This process has also the potential to produce any other type of fuel for transport applications, such as diesel, gasoline or pure hydrogen in a more sustainable way.

Although the solar-driven redox cycle for syngas production is still at an early stage of development, the processing of syngas to kerosene is already being deployed by companies, including Shell, on a global scale.  This combined approach has the potential to provide a secure, sustainable and scalable supply of renewable aviation fuel and more generally for transport applications.  Moreover, Fischer-Tropsch derived kerosene is already approved for commercial aviation.

New Solar Reactor Technology to Produce Jet Fuel

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

   Tuesday, Apr. 29, 2014

What Are the Chances that Global Warming in the Industrial Era Was Just Due to Natural Factors?

View of an oil sand extraction plant (Credit: www.accuweather.com) Click to enlarge.
Despite the growing alarm in the scientific community on climate change, deniers have continued to raise their voices to drown out concern.  Two arguments most often used by climate skeptics are that climate change is part of the planet's natural cycle and climate variability and that climate projections rely on fallible computer models.  A study released this month in the peer-review journal Climate Dynamics, though, should put these arguments to rest.

Conducted by geophysicist Dr. Shaun Lovejoy of McGill University in Montreal, the study analyzed temperature data collected since 1500, paying particular attention to changes in the past 125 years, since the onset of the Industrial Revolution.  Lovejoy considered these temperature changes in the context of longer-term climate fluctuations and looked at records of tree rings, ice cores, cores of the ocean floor and lake sediments.  This kind of data offers insight into hemispheric and global climate fluctuations over hundreds, thousands, or in some cases even hundreds of thousands of years.

After a review of these geological climate records, Lovejoy applied a "fluctuation-analysis technique" -- a method for determining the probability of a given event -- to understand temperature variations over wide ranges of time.  He concluded that a global warming event such as the one we have been experiencing over the past century has an incredibly small likelihood, at least one in 1,000.  If a bell curve analysis is applied to the data, that likelihood would become even more minuscule, ranging from one in 100,000 to one in 10 million.  Lovejoy's study indicates with a confidence greater than 99% that the rate of climate change that has taken place over the past 125 years cannot be ascribed to natural cycles.

Lovejoy says "... skeptics continue to dismiss the models and insist that warming results from natural variability. The new GCM-free approach rejects natural variability, leaving the last vestige of skepticism in tatters."

What Are the Chances that Global Warming in the Industrial Era Was Just Due to Natural Factors?

EPA's Cross-State Pollution Rule Upheld by Supreme Court

Gibson Generating Station, Ind. 2011 CO2 emissions (million metric tons): 16.9 (Credit: www.huffingtonpost.com) Click to enlarge.
The Supreme Court has given the Environmental Protection Agency an important victory in its effort to reduce power plant pollution that contributes to unhealthy air in neighboring states.

The court's 6-2 decision Tuesday means that a rule adopted by EPA in 2011 to limit emissions from plants in more than two-dozen Midwestern and Southern states can take effect.  The pollution drifts into the air above states along the Atlantic Coast and the EPA has struggled to devise a way to control it.

EPA's Cross-State Pollution Rule Upheld by Supreme Court

Bill Moyers:  Putting the Freeze on Global Warming

Ellen Dorsey and Tom Van Dyck on Bill Moyers & Company (Credit: BillMoyers.com) Click to enlarge.
This week, Bill talks with two leaders who helped inspire the new fossil fuel divestment movement that the Archbishop of South Africa, Desmond Tutu, is encouraging.  Ellen Dorsey is executive director of the Wallace Global Fund and a catalyst in the coalition of 17 foundations known as Divest-Invest Philanthropy. Thomas Van Dyck is Senior Vice President – Financial Advisor at RBC Wealth Management, and founder of As You Sow, a shareholder advocacy foundation.

They are urging foundations, faith groups, pension funds, municipalities, and universities to sell their shares in polluting industries and reinvest in companies committed to climate change solutions.

Bill Moyers: Putting the Freeze on Global Warming

Tornadoes, Extreme Weather, and Climate Change - by Joe Romm

Insured losses due to thunderstorms and tornadoes in the U.S. in 2013 dollars. (Credit: data and image from Property Claims Service, Munich Re.) Click to enlarge.
The return of tornado season with a vengeance has people asking again about a possible link to climate change.  At the same time, tantalizing new preliminary research finds “some evidence to suggest that tornadoes are, in fact, getting stronger.”

And a September 2013 study from Stanford, Robust increases in severe thunderstorm environments in response to greenhouse forcing, points to “a possible increase in the number of days supportive of tornadic storms.”  In particular, the study found that sustained global warming will boost the number of days experiencing conditions that produce severe events during spring, representing “an increase of about 40 percent over the eastern U.S. by the late 21st century.”

Tornadoes, Extreme Weather, and Climate Change - by Joe Romm

Monday, April 28, 2014

   Monday, Apr. 28, 2014

Nuclear Industry Gains Carbon-Focused Allies in Push to Save Reactors

The troubled San Onofre nuclear plant in California is in the initial stages of preparation to be decommissioned after being closed in 2013.  It was one of several reactors across the country that are planned to close. (Credit: Gregory Bull/Associated Press) Click to enlarge.
Environmentalists and the nuclear industry are beginning a push to preserve old nuclear reactors whose economic viability is threatened by cheap natural gas and rising production of wind energy. They argue that while natural gas and wind are helpful as sources of electricity with little or no production of greenhouse gases, national climate goals will be unreachable if zero-carbon nuclear reactors are phased out.

Total System levelized costs for plants entering service in 2018. (Credit: U.S. Energy Information Administration)

The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, an independent nonprofit group based in Washington that was formerly known as the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, released on Monday a research paper that charts the decline of the industry.

“The loss of nuclear plants from the electricity grid would likely lead to millions of tons of additional carbon dioxide in the atmosphere each year,” because the substitute would be fossil fuels, the paper concludes.  “This is a prospect the global climate cannot afford.”

Nuclear Industry Gains Carbon-Focused Allies in Push to Save Reactors

Storms 20 Times More Likely to Top New York City’s Seawall Than in Mid-1800s

Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan (Credit: Shutterstock) Click to enlarge.
Thanks to sea level rise, New York City’s seawall could be overrun by storm surges every four to five years, says a new paper in Geophysical Research Letters.

The original estimate back in the mid-1800s was that breaches would only occur every 100 to 400 years. 

The paper also found that the more powerful “ten-year storms” — ones with a ten percent chance of hitting in a given year — have increased their flooding potential.  With the added lift from sea level rise, their storm tides can now reach almost six-and-a-half feet, versus 5.6 feet in the mid-1800s.  That’s admittedly a far cry from the record-setting 14.06-foot surge Hurricane Sandy brought to New York City, flooding Battery Park in the process.  But Manhattan’s seawall is only 5.74 feet high.

Storms Are 20 Times More Likely to Top New York City’s Seawall Than in the Mid-1800s

Obama's Last Shot - Rolling Stone

Damsel Earth in Distress. (Credit: Jeff Goodell, Rolling Stone, Apr 23, 2014) Click to enlarge.
The president came into office promising to make fighting climate change a priority.  Now he finally seems to be getting serious about it.

President Obama is not even halfway through his second term yet, but you can almost feel the cement hardening around his feet.  The glory days of hope and change have faded, his approval rating has flat-lined below 50 percent, and jockeying for 2016 has begun in earnest.  But for Obama, the game ain't over yet.  In the next few months, he will take one of the biggest gambles of his presidency by testing the radical proposition that even SUV-loving Americans believe that global warming is real and are ready to do something about it.

It's a gamble that could have a profound impact on energy politics, our economy and our ability to stabilize the climate.  But if the president is wrong, it could not only cost his party control of the Senate this fall but also blow the last opportunity we have to save ourselves from life on a superheated planet.  "It's a transformative moment," says Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island in what may be the understatement of the century.

Obama's Last Shot - Rolling Stone

Experimental Efforts to Harvest the Ocean’s Power Face Cost Setbacks

Ocean Power Technologies is taking its buoy project from the Oregon coast to Australia. (Credit: Thomas Patterson for The New York Times) Click to enlarge.
Despite receiving at least $8.7 million in federal and state grants, Ocean Power told regulators that it could not raise enough money to cover higher-than-expected costs and would instead pursue a similar project in Australia, backed by a $62 million commitment from that country’s government.

The shuttering of the ambitious project — which, as the nation’s first grid-connected commercial-scale wave park, was to have 10 buoys supplying power to about 1,000 homes — is the latest setback for the nascent wave energy sector in the United States, which remains in the experimental stage.

Experimental Efforts to Harvest the Ocean’s Power Face Cost Setbacks

   Sunday, Apr. 27, 2014

Sunday, April 27, 2014

A Battle Is Looming over Renewable Energy, and Fossil Fuel Interests Are Losing

Solar panel installation on a Walmart store (Credit: Flickr/Walmart) Click to enlarge.
But the campaign — despite its backing from powerful groups such as Americans for Prosperity — has run into a surprising roadblock:  the growing political clout of renewable-energy interests, even in rock-ribbed Republican states such as Kansas.

The stage has been set for what one lobbyist called “trench warfare” as moneyed interests on both sides wrestle over some of the strongest regulations for promoting renewable energy.  And the issues are likely to surface this fall in the midterm elections, as well, with California billionaire Tom Steyer pouring money into various gubernatorial and state and federal legislative races to back candidates who support tough rules curbing pollution.

A Battle Is Looming over Renewable Energy, and Fossil Fuel Interests Are Losing

General Electric to Invest $1 Billion a Year in Renewable Projects

Installation team at wind tower base. (Credit: Flickr/Duke Energy) Click to enlarge.
General Electric Co.’s Energy Financial Services has invested about $10 billion in 17 gigawatts of renewable power since 2006, when the unit was formed.  Now, GE has announced the unit plans to invest more than $1 billion a year in clean energy projects, such as wind and solar.

EFS Chief Executive Officer David Nason told Bloomberg News that renewable power is EFS’s fastest-growing energy market.  “We see renewable energy providing very significant returns going forward,” Nason said.  “We have a robust pipeline in the U.S. for the next couple of years.”

While GE’s core business is oil and gas infrastructure, the company is looking to invest in solar and wind because these forms of energy employ GE equipment such as wind turbines and power inverters.  GE owns part of the 550-megawatt Desert Sunlight solar farm, which is being built using GE power inverters.  Wind farms under construction or completed across the U.S. and in other countries like Ireland use more than 4,400 GE wind turbines.

General Electric to Invest $1 Billion a Year in Renewable Projects

Coffee Is on a High

A cup of coffee and tablespoon. (Credit: Cookantean via Wikimedia Commons) Click to enlarge.
In recent days Arabica coffee beans – by far the most popular variety of coffee – have been fetching around US$2 a pound on the world market.  That’s nearly double the price of a year ago.

Several factors seem to be driving the market upwards:  in Central America, a significant production area, an outbreak of a disease called leaf rust – believed to be linked to changes in climate – has severely damaged the crop.

A prolonged period of drought and some unseasonably cold weather in Vietnam – now the world’s second biggest coffee-producer – has cut back crop forecasts for robusta beans, mainly used for instant coffee.  A lack of rain has also hit coffee-producing areas in East Africa.

But it’s climate-related events in Brazil, the world’s biggest coffee grower – responsible for about 40% of global production – which seem to be causing the most froth amongst international market traders.

Coffee Is on a High

Five Questions for IPCC Chairman on Future of Climate Change Action

Rajendra Pachauri (Credit: IPCC) Click to enlarge.
This month, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a report on steps the world can take to avoid the worst impacts of future climate change.  The report by the panel’s Working Group III was the final interim report before the IPCC’s major Fifth Assessment Report due to be released in October.  Yale Environment 360 asked Rajendra Pachauri, who has served as IPCC chairman since 2002, five questions about the latest report and about the prospects that the international community will finally take decisive action to address climate change.

Five Questions for IPCC Chairman on Future of Climate Change Action

“Climate Change War” Is Not a Metaphor

Staff Sgt. Jonathan Lovelady / U.S. Air Force.  Click to enlarge.
Last month, retired Navy Rear Adm. David Titley co-wrote an op-ed for Fox News:
The parallels between the political decisions regarding climate change we have made and the decisions that led Europe to World War One are striking – and sobering. The decisions made in 1914 reflected political policies pursued for short-term gains and benefits, coupled with institutional hubris, and a failure to imagine and understand the risks or to learn from recent history.
In short, climate change could be the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of the 21st century.

Earlier this year, while at the American Meteorological Society annual meeting in Atlanta, I had a chance to sit down with Titley, who is also a meteorologist and now serves on the faculty at Penn State University.

“Climate Change War” Is Not a Metaphor

The Consequences of Climate Change (in Our Lifetimes) - Video


Journalist Peter Hadfield (aka Potholer54) has a new video out on climate change issues. Peter takes his usual effective approach of imploring people to not rely solely on blogs for information.  You have to actually read the published scientific literature ...

It's interesting that Peter is taking on the "in our lifetimes" aspect of climate change, because this is an issue I've often noticed that many people don't grasp.  There are far too many people out there who somehow erroneously came to believe that all the predictions in Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth were going to happen in a few years. 

One of the most deeply complex aspects of climate change is cross generational responsibility.  There are definitely impacts that we are already seeing, and we there are more impacts that we are going to see in the coming decades.  But the worst is being saved for those who follow us.  Our children and grandchildren. 

Peter takes the time to carefully walk us through several aspects of climate change – ice melt, sea level rise, crop production, precipitation and feedbacks – with his engaging wit. And, with appropriate balance, he doesn't hesitate to address errors related to extreme climate impacts that are not scientifically supportable.

The Consequences of Climate Change (in Our Lifetimes) - Video

Saturday, April 26, 2014

   Saturday, Apr. 26, 2014

California Governor Issues Second Drought Emergency Proclamation

California Governor Jerry Brown walks onstage to speak at the 2014 California Democrats State Convention. (Credit: Reuters/David McNew) Click to enlarge.
California's drought is so severe that the state will roll back some environmental protections and loosen the rules on transferring water to farmers, Governor Jerry Brown said on Friday.

Issuing his second emergency proclamation on the drought in just three month, Brown said the state would redouble its efforts to conserve and distribute water fairly, and called on residents to avoid washing their cars, watering their lawns and even accepting glasses of water in restaurants if they are not thirsty.

Brown linked the drought to global climate change, saying that unless people reduce their dependence on fossil fuels, conditions will continue to worsen.

"The only way out over the long term is to substitute the fossil fuel with solar, with wind," Brown said. "We are playing Russian roulette with our environment."

California Governor Issues Second Drought Emergency Proclamation

Questions on the Future of Fracking

Fracking the Bakken of North Dakota: To ensure US energy self-sufficiency – or to fetch the highest price? (Credit: Joshua Doubek via Wikimedia Commons) Click to enlarge.
The fracking industry is the new star on the US energy scene, credited by its backers with bringing down domestic fuel prices and revitalising the US economy.  But amid the talk of an energy revolution, there are questions about just how long the fracking boom can last.

Questions on the Future of Fracking

Want to Stop Climate Change?  Take the Fossil Fuel Industry to Court

Demonstrators gather during a protest against the Keystone XL Pipeline outside the White House on Sunday, November 6, 2011, in Washington. (Credit: AP Photo/Evan Vucci) Click to enlarge.
In November 2013, American climate scientist Richard Heede, of the Colorado-based Climate Accountability Institute, published a paper with a revolutionary thesis. After nine years of researching the energy industry in dozens of countries, he concluded that nearly two-thirds of the world’s carbon dioxide and methane emissions dating back to the dawn of the industrial era were the responsibility of just ninety companies. Heede called them the “carbon majors.”

Not surprisingly, the biggest players were publicly owned fossil fuel corporations like Exxon-Mobil and Chevron, along with state-held or nationalized energy monopolies in countries like Russia and Saudi Arabia. Just five investor-owned companies—BP, Chevron, Conoco-Phillips, ExxonMobil and Shell—produced enough fossil fuel to account for 12.5 percent of human-generated CO2 since 1854.  Seven of the carbon majors are cement manufacturers, a particularly noxious, carbon-intensive industry.  The eighty-three energy producers on Heede’s list extracted, refined and marketed the oil, gas and coal that have powered modern civilization.  Along the way, they started the process that will ultimately cause our climate system to crash.

“The anti-tobacco guys lost and lost and lost in court for decades—until they won,” says Kert Davies, who worked on the breakthrough case on behalf of Oakland, Boulder and other cities while a researcher at Greenpeace.  “That’s point number one.  Plus, advocates like me can say that we don’t care if we win as long as we make a point.

“We want to influence the court of public opinion,” Davies continues.  “We have to educate people about the truth after all this industry disinformation.  So let the lawsuits produce documents and testimony and all sorts of information for the public.  That’s one of their functions.  That’s where the tobacco wars were won.  Even [Representative Henry] Waxman’s famous tobacco hearings in Congress—the tobacco execs never admitted anything.  You didn’t need to get to that.  By the time they left the hearing room, they were already pariahs.  We’d seen through them.”

Want to Stop Climate Change?  Take the Fossil Fuel Industry to Court

Smart Wind and Solar Power

U.S. wind power generation (Credit: MIT Technology Review) Click to enlarge.
Big data and artificial intelligence are producing ultra-accurate forecasts that will make it feasible to integrate much more renewable energy into the grid.

On the open plains of eastern Colorado, wind power is booming.  Every few seconds, almost every one of the hundreds of wind turbines in the area records the wind speed and its own power output.   Every five minutes they dispatch data to high-performance computers 100 miles away at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder.  There artificial-intelligence-based software crunches the numbers, along with data from weather satellites, weather stations, and other wind farms in the state.  The result:  wind power forecasts of unprecedented accuracy that are making it possible for Colorado to use far more renewable energy, at lower cost, than utilities ever thought possible. 

The forecasts are helping power companies deal with one of the biggest challenges of wind power:  its intermittency.  Using small amounts of wind power is no problem for utilities. They are accustomed to dealing with variability—after all, demand for electricity changes from season to season, even from minute to minute.  However, a utility that wants to use a lot of wind power needs backup power to protect against a sudden loss of wind.  These backup plants, which typically burn fossil fuels, are expensive and dirty.  But with more accurate forecasts, utilities can cut the amount of power that needs to be held in reserve, minimizing their role.

Mining these detailed forecasts to develop a more flexible and efficient electricity system could make it much cheaper to hit ambitious international goals for reducing carbon emissions, says Bryan Hannegan, director of a $135 million facility at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado, that uses supercomputer simulations to develop ways to scale up renewable power.  “We’ve got a line of sight to where we want to go in the long term with our energy and environment goals,” he says. “That’s not something we’ve been able to say before.”

Smart Wind and Solar Power

Automakers Comply Quickly with EPA Tailpipe Rule

Traffic in Chicago (Credit: freefoto.com) Click to enlarge.
Automakers on average have reduced the greenhouse gas footprint of their model year 2012 passenger vehicles even below the levels required by U.S. EPA's new tailpipe emissions rules, according to a new report released today by the agency.

The report found that in the first year of the Obama administration's new fuel economy standards, cars and light trucks averaged 286 grams of greenhouse gas emissions per mile -- nearly 10 grams less than called for in the EPA rule.  All but one covered manufacturer ended the year with a balance of credits, and that one -- Jaguar Land Rover Automotive PLC -- plans to make up that deficit in model year 2013.

EPA Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe told reporters on a call Friday morning that the additional reductions were due to earlier-than-expected deployment of new technologies and a growing preference among consumers for fuel-efficient cars.

Automakers Comply Quickly with EPA Tailpipe Rule

Friday, April 25, 2014

   Friday, Apr. 25, 2014

Rep. Grimm (R-NY) Abandons Skepticism, Embraces Science on Showtime Climate Series

Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY) (Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin) Click to enlarge.
Representative Michael Grimm (R-NY) has become the first GOP member of Congress in recent memory to flip from denying the science of man-made climate change climate to accepting it.  He does so on this Sunday evening’s broadcast of Episode 3 of Showtime’s acclaimed docu-series, Years of Living Dangerously.

It is a remarkable on-air conversion, though Grimm still believes this country will not act because “I don’t think that humans in America, Americans, have the will to do it.”  Hayes calls that “a terribly depressing statement.”

Rep. Grimm (R-NY) Abandons Skepticism, Embraces Science on Showtime Climate Series

The Weird and Wondrous Politics of Climate Change in Massachusetts

The Weird and Wondrous Politics of Climate Change in Massachusetts
George Bachrach, a former state senator, has spent the last seven years as the President of the Environmental League of Massachusetts, briefing candidates and incumbents on environmental policy, and the goals of his influential non-profit.  But last month, when Bachrach’s group hosted a forum for all six candidates for state governor, he found himself in an odd situation.

The five candidates who showed up were Democrats, so, Bachrach noted, it was tough to get much of an environmental policy debate out of them.  They roundly agreed on two of the group’s most important issues: that climate change is real, and that action needs to be taken to prevent and adapt to it.

Democratic candidates supporting a pro-climate agenda would not be surprising in any state.  But in Massachusetts, Bachrach says, it’s particularly necessary.  Because if you’re a climate denier in Massachusetts, you haven’t got a chance at winning elected office.

The Weird and Wondrous Politics of Climate Change in Massachusetts

Calif. Cuts Part of Its Greenhouse Gas Emissions by Exporting Them

How Do Regulated Entities Satisfy Their Compliance Obligations? (Credit: CARB, California Cap-and-Trade Regulation) Click to enlarge.
A California economist says that the state's landmark, economywide cap-and-trade system for reducing greenhouse gases has a fatal flaw that is now emerging.

Utilities, and even a state agency, are ending contracts for electricity from coal-fired power plants, which have high levels of carbon dioxide emissions. That would be no problem, and, in fact, good for the state's climate goals, but the electricity is still being generated and consumed out of state.

The issue is known as "resource shuffling" -- a thorny problem that stems from the basic fact that California has capped its carbon emissions before anyone else in the West. Reducing emissions within California does no good for the climate if the emissions simply resurface elsewhere.

Calif. Cuts Part of Its Greenhouse Gas Emissions by Exporting Them

Dr. Katharine Hayhoe, Star of Showtime Climate Series, Makes TIME 100 Most Influential People List

Dr. Katharine Hayhoe and Don Cheadle (Credit: Shutterstock) Click to enlarge.
Evangelical climate scientist Dr. Katharine Hayhoe has just been named to TIME magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world!  A featured star on Showtime’s landmark climate series, Years of Living Dangerously, Katharine joins such one-namers as Beyonce and Hillary — and Vladimir and Francis (the Pope).

Here is the TIME profile, by the Oscar-nominated actor Don Cheadle:
There’s something fascinating about a smart person who defies stereotype. That’s what makes my friend Katharine Hayhoe — a Texas Tech climatologist and an evangelical Christian — so interesting.

It’s hard to be a good steward of the planet if you don’t accept the hard science behind what’s harming it, and it can be just as hard to take action to protect our world if you don’t love it as the rare gift it is. For many people, that implies a creator. Katharine and her husband, evangelical pastor Andrew Farley, have authored the defining book for the planet-loving believer, A Climate for Change: Global Warming Facts for Faith-Based Decisions.  I got to know Katharine as we worked on Showtime’s climate documentary Years of Living Dangerously.  But we are all getting to know and benefit from her work.
Dr. Katharine Hayhoe, Star of Showtime Climate Series, Makes TIME 100 Most Influential People List

Questions on Nuclear Power to Dr. James Hansen, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing

Dr. James D. Hansen at Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Keystone XL, March 13, 2014. (Credit: www.foreign.senate.gov) Click to enlarge.
Senator Robert Menendez question #1:  Given that a new nuclear power plant would probably cost more than $12 billion, it seems few companies are willing to take the risk to build new plants here. This reluctance occurs despite the fact that new nuclear plants receive a production tax credit, and that the federal government has agreed to foot some of the bill in the case of a catastrophic accident. What makes you so bullish on nuclear power when other technologies, with less carbon emissions, are attracting much more investment in the United States than nuclear power?

Menendez question #2:  In your testimony, you state that further nuclear cooperation with China is important.  From a climate perspective I can understand your argument. However, given  China’s lack of transparent governance, can we trust that they will adequately oversee nuclear safety and protect the health and safety of the public?

Questions on Nuclear Power to Dr. James Hansen, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing

Thursday, April 24, 2014

   Thursday, Apr. 24, 2014

84,000 Lives Threatened by Sea Level Rise in New England

Flooding in the Bronx during Hurricane Sandy. (Credit: Shutterstock) Click to enlarge.
A new sea level rise analysis has found that $32 billion in property and 84,000 people are at risk of extreme coastal flooding in five New England states.

As part of its Surging Seas initiative, Climate Central is using data from federal agencies like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Geological Survey, among many others, to map sea level rise by zip code in an interactive tool that also shows the number of people and the value of the property at risk.

The mapping tool was launched in 2012 for New York, New Jersey and Florida.  Now, data on Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Maine and Connecticut is also available.  Of the states just added to the map, Connecticut has the highest value of property at risk from coastal flooding — $14.9 billion.  For its part, Massachusetts has about 47,888 people who would be endangered by a four-foot flood. The odds of such a flood occurring in Boston in the next 15 years is 67 percent.  Most at risk are the 17,662 people who are highly vulnerable to flooding because of their social and economic situations.

84,000 Lives Threatened by Sea Level Rise in New England

Carbon Loss from Soil Accelerating Climate Change

Research published in Science found that increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere cause soil microbes to produce more carbon dioxide, accelerating climate change. (Credit: NAU Idea Lab) Click to enlarge.
New research has found that increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere cause soil microbes to produce more carbon dioxide, accelerating climate change.  This research challenges our previous understanding about how carbon accumulates in soil.

Carbon Loss from Soil Accelerating Climate Change

Last Month Was the Fourth-Hottest March on Record

Land & Ocean Temperature Departure from Average Mar 2014 (Credit: NOAA) Click to enlarge.
The Midwest's corn crop may be delayed because the ground is still too wet or too cold to plant, and much of the United States is still not quite sure if spring has arrived.

But looking at the entire globe -- as scientists do when they track things like global warming -- 2014's month of March was the fourth-hottest one on record. Only 2002, 2010, and 1990 were warmer.  Data from 135 years of records show that the average global temperature in March 2014 was 1.3 degrees F warmer than the 20th century average of 54.9 degrees F.  This was the 38th March that was hotter than average.

Why was it only the 34th coldest winter in 119 years of records?  Because most of the land west of the Rocky Mountains was warmer and drier than average, so those warmer temperatures offset the cold snaps to the east.  California had its hottest winter on record, and several other states came close.  Though it is not included in the contiguous U.S. measurements, Alaska also thawed in spring-like heat and rain that melted snow and ice.

This temperature schism in North America, caused by a kink in the jet stream, could also become the norm due to climate change, according to Climate Central.

Last Month Was the Fourth-Hottest March on Record

Increased Infrastructure Required for Effective Oil Spill Response in U.S. Arctic - National Academy of Sciences

Arctic drilling sites are extremely remote - hundreds of miles away from equipment needed for a major spill. (Credit: www.pewenvironment.org) Click to enlarge.
A changing climate is increasing the accessibility of U.S. Arctic waters to commercial activities such as shipping, oil and gas development, and tourism, raising concern about the risk of oil spills.  A new report from the National Research Council says that a full suite of proven oil response tools is needed to address potential oil spills in U.S. Arctic waters, but not all of them are readily available.  While much is known about both oil behavior and response technologies in ice-covered environments, there are areas where additional research would enable more informed decisions about the most effective response strategies for different Arctic spill situations, the report adds.

The Arctic poses several challenges to oil spill
Arctic drilling sites are extremely remote - hundreds of miles away from equipment needed for a major spill. (Credit: www.pewenvironment.org) Click to enlarge.
response, including extreme weather and environmental settings, limited operations and communications infrastructure, a vast geographic area, and vulnerable species, ecosystems, and cultures.  The report finds that there is a need to validate current and emerging oil spill response technologies under these real-world conditions, and recommends that carefully controlled field experiments that release oil in the U.S. Arctic be conducted as part of a long-term, collaborative Arctic oil spill research and development program that spans local, state, and federal levels.

Increased Infrastructure Required for Effective Oil Spill Response in U.S. Arctic - National Academy of Sciences

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

   Wednesday, Apr. 23, 2014

Climate Dollars and Sense – Preventing Global Warming Is the Cheap Option

Preventing global warming is the cheapest option. (Credit: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images) Click to enlarge.
The IPCC has now released all three of the reports that comprise its 2014 Fifth Assessment of climate science.  The first report tackled the physical changes in the global climate, while the second addressed climate impacts and adaptation, and the third looked at climate change mitigation.  Ironically, after the second report was published, many media outlets argued that the IPCC was shifting its focus from global warming prevention to adaptation, seemingly unaware that its report on mitigation was scheduled to be published just a few weeks later.

It's important to understand that our choices aren't to either reduce carbon emissions or to do nothing.  Our options are to either reduce carbon emissions or to continue with business-as-usual emissions that will cause accelerating climate change and damage costs beyond what we can accurately estimate.  From an economic perspective, and from a risk management perspective, this should be a no-brainer.

Climate Dollars and Sense – Preventing Global Warming Is the Cheap Option

Local Leaders Push for Climate Action as Congress 'Drops the Ball'

Chris Johanning, with Puget Sound Solar of Seattle, seals an attic in a home in Seattle's View Ridge neighborhood to make it more energy efficient. Taking steps to increase energy efficiency in buildings is a key part of Seattle’s Climate Action Plan. (Credit: Ellen M. Banner / The Seattle Times) Click to enlarge.
Climate action in Seattle aims to make the city carbon-neutral in less than 40 years.  In Bridgeport, Conn., a former landfill is sheathed in solar panels to produce clean power.  And a Republican mayor in Carmel, Ind., is seeing emissions ebb by turning sewage into fertilizer.  That's happening despite a gun-shy Congress that's avoided taking federal action on rising temperatures, leaving local officials to lead the way on thorny political efforts to cut carbon from cars, buildings and electricity sources, according to municipal leaders.

Local Leaders Push for Climate Action as Congress 'Drops the Ball'

Does El Niño Plus Global Warming Equal Global Temperature Records in 2014 and 2015?

Chart of global temperature since 1950, also showing the phase of the El Niño-La Niña cycle. (Credit: NASA) Click to enlarge.
An El Niño appears increasingly likely this year, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology (BOM).  If it starts relatively quickly, then 2014 could well be the hottest year on record, but if it is a strong El Niño, as many currently expect, then 2015 would likely break all previous global records.

When the El Niño forms and then peaks is crucial to whether 2014 or 2015 (or both) will be the hottest year on record.  A 2010 NASA study found the 12-month running-mean global temperature tends to lag the temperature in the key Niño 3.4 region of the equatorial Pacific “by 4 months.”

Because 1997/1998 was a “super El Niño,” and because we haven’t had one of those since — or indeed any El Niño at all since 2010 — it can appear as if global warming has slowed (if you cherry-pick a relatively recent start year).  But in fact several recent studies have confirmed that planetary warming continues apace everywhere you look, especially the ocean.

Recent research finds that one reason the rate of surface warming has the slowed down is that trade winds have sped up in an unprecedented fashion, mixing more heat deeper into the oceans, while bringing cooler water up to the surface.  Remember, more than 90 percent of human-induced planetary warming goes into the oceans, while only 2 percent goes into the atmosphere, so small changes in ocean uptake can have huge impact on surface temperatures.  The lead author of this study explained when that process ends “as it inevitably will –- our research suggests heat will quickly accumulate in the atmosphere.  So global temperatures look set to rise rapidly.”

As meteorologist Eric Holthaus notes on Slate, a major El Niño could in fact be the triggering event to the return of the rapid phase of warming surface air temperatures.

Does El Niño Plus Global Warming Equal Global Temperature Records in 2014 and 2015?

Eleven States Generated Electricity from Nonhydro Renewables at Double U.S. Average

Percent of electric generation from nonhydro renewable sources (2013) (Credit: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Electric Power Monthly) Click to enlarge.
About 6.2% of total U.S. electricity supplies in 2013 were generated from nonhydro renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, biomass, and geothermal, up from 5.4% in 2012.  But 11 states produced electricity at more than twice the national average from these sources—accounting for between 14% and 32% of their net electric generation—according to preliminary 2013 generation data in EIA’s Electric Power Monthly report.

Maine led all states by generating 32% of its electricity from nonhydro renewables—primarily biomass generation by the wood products industry.  The state had one-fourth of its net electric generation come from biomass resources.

Nearly all other states with high proportions of renewable generation relied primarily on wind power.  Iowa and South Dakota each got more than 25% of their net electricity from wind generation, and Idaho, Kansas, Minnesota, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Colorado generated 12%-20% of their power from wind resources.

Eleven States Generated Electricity from Nonhydro Renewables at Double U.S. Average

Florida Senator Holds Miami Beach Hearing on Rising Sea Level

U.S. Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) speaks to the 2013 National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) convention in Orlando, Florida July 15, 2013. (Credit: Reuters/David Manning) Click to enlarge.
Climate change is already impacting south Florida coastal communities, which could see a three-foot rise in sea level by the end of the century, a panel of officials and scientists testified at a Senate hearing on Miami Beach on Tuesday.

"This is ground zero for sea-level rise," said Senator Bill Nelson, who hosted the hearing of the Senate Subcommittee on Science and Space at Miami Beach City Hall.

Part of a series of statewide meetings organized by Nelson, the hearing coincided with Earth Day.

Florida had recorded between five and eight inches of sea level rise in the last 50 years, said Miami-born Nelson, noting that 75 percent of the state's population live near the coast.

"We'd best get about the process of recognizing what is happening all around us," the Democratic lawmaker said.

One Army Corps of Engineers forecast projects that the water around Miami could rise by up to 2 feet by 2060, even though the average elevation in localities like Miami Beach is less than 5 feet, Philip Levine, mayor of Miami Beach, said.  The region's porous geology forbids typical flood solutions like sea walls, putting billions of dollars of the nation's most valuable real estate at risk.  Rising water levels also threaten the area's drinking water, as salt water increasingly creeps underground, going inland through porous limestone to contaminate groundwater wells.


Florida Senator Holds Miami Beach Hearing on Rising Sea Level

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

   Tuesday, Apr. 22, 2014

Wildfires in West Increasing Burn Area at Nearly One Denver per Year

Plane drops fire suppression chemicals. (Credit: AP/Jae C. Hong) Click to enlarge.
Just as wildfire season is getting off to a heated start, a new study has found that in the last 30 years in the western United States, both the number of fires and the area that they burn have increased.  The study, published by the American Geophysical Union, looked at the 17-state region stretching from Nebraska to California.  It found that wildfires over 1,000 acres in size increased by about seven fires a year from 1984 to 2011.  It also found that the amount of area these fires burned increased each year at about 140 square miles, or 90,000 acres, per year — an area about the size of Las Vegas and nearly the size of Denver.

The researchers assert that these trends are likely due to climate change and associated shifts in rain patterns and temperature norms, rather than local factors.  The study does not directly link the findings to human-caused climate change, but it says the observations fit well with the predictions of climate models for the region.

Wildfires in West Increasing Burn Area at Nearly One Denver per Year, Study Finds

Why Aren't Southern Utilities Jumping into the Solar Business?

Solar panel installation. Google has boosted its investment in solar by putting $75 million into a fund that solar installers can draw on to finance solar panels on homes. (Credit: David McNew / Getty Images) Click to enlarge.
The debate over how rooftop solar panels can be paid for in some Southeastern states will stay around until the laws change to something utilities and solar advocates can live with. That may take a while.

In the meantime, private solar companies in states including Georgia, Florida, North and South Carolina cannot finance solar systems and sell that electricity to a homeowner or business at a fixed rate.

Solar advocates, especially the private companies that have made this third-party business model popular, say this is a major barrier to rooftop solar flourishing in the Southeast.  In more than 20 states, residents and businesses can finance those solar systems in a way that alleviates those upfront costs and also allows the recipients to receive federal tax credits.

Why Aren't Southern Utilities Jumping into the Solar Business?

Monday, April 21, 2014

   Monday, Apr. 21, 2014

Toon of the Week - I really doubt we'll run out of sand.



I really doubt we'll run out of sand. (Credit: www.skepticalscience.com)


Toon of the Week - I really doubt we'll run out of sand.

Recommendations on Climate Change Mitigation

The figure demonstrates the overlap between adaptation and mitigation. (Credit: Penney 2008) Click to enlarge.
Changing agricultural practices and ending food waste around the world are among recommendations made by scientists charged with looking at ways to mitigate global climate change.  "Agriculture globally contributes about 10 to 12 percent to greenhouse gas emissions," the author said.  "If you add in forestry it moves it up to around 25 percent.  Agriculture is significant but not the major contributor and has declined slightly, percentage-wise, since the last report in 2007, not so much because agriculture has changed that much but because the energy sector is contributing more."

Recommendations on Climate Change Mitigation

Run-Of-River Hydro May Expand Tenfold over Next Decade

Hugh Keenleyside Dam, a run-of-river hydropower station operated by BC Hydro, and the Arrow Lakes Generating Station (Credit: BC Hydro) Click to enlarge.
“Run-of-river” hydro power, gentler and smaller-scale than massive hydroelectric projects that irretrievably flood huge areas of land, may become a $1.4 billion-dollar industry in the next 10 years, according to Tocardo International BV, a Dutch turbine maker.

To many, run-of-river technology represents the most environmentally friendly hydropower because it lacks the enormous investment and impacts of traditional impoundment projects. Tocardo general director Hans van Breugel explains its appeal to companies and investors:
The advantages of river-turbine projects are you don’t need to build infrastructure, they’re easy to install and maintain, and they can be easily connected to the local grid.  Within a year you can start installing these projects, whereas hydropower projects can take 12 to 15 years.
Run-Of-River Hydro May Expand Tenfold over Next Decade

China Is Spreading the Use of Insurance to Cope with Climate Change Damage

Farming on the terraced fields in China becomes less risky with insurance. (Credit: David Woo, courtesy of Flickr) Click to enlarge.
Weeks before the harvest started last summer, Li Ping's rice paddies were hit by extreme weather.

Temperatures of 95 degrees Fahrenheit baked Longtan village in north China for over a month, and Li's rice yields decreased by 20 percent compared with normal years.  But Li did not struggle to raise money for his next planting, which he did after previous crop failures. Instead, the 51-year-old farmer waited at home for the money to come.

China Is Spreading the Use of Insurance to Cope with Climate Change Damage

Corn Biofuels Worse than Gasoline on Global Warming in Short Term – Study

Biofuels made from corn residue have attracted more than $1bn in federal support. (Credit: Marvin Dembinsky Photo Associate/Alamy) Click to enlarge.
Biofuels made from the leftovers of harvested corn plants are worse than gasoline for global warming in the short term, a new study shows, challenging the Obama administration's conclusions that they are a much cleaner oil alternative and will help combat climate change.

Corn Biofuels Worse than Gasoline on Global Warming in Short Term – Study