Energy and Global Warming News for July 21st: American Meteorological Society endorses geoengineering research

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"Energy and Global Warming News for July 21st: American Meteorological Society endorses geoengineering research"

Geo-engineering remains at best a secondary climate strategy if you first do really aggressive CO2 reductions and keep concentrations below 450 ppm.  For now, as Obama’s science advisor put it [and reiterated to me this year], “The ‘geo-engineering’ approaches considered so far appear to be afflicted with some combination of high costs, low leverage, and a high likelihood of serious side effects.” At worst, geo-engineering is an utterly false hope that will undercut efforts to achieve the kind of emissions reductions needed for it to have any value.  That, of course, is why conservatives love it (see here).  Still, there is no reason not to do some research, as long as one is realistic….

Climate engineering research may get green light

Hacking the planet to rein in humanity’s effect on the climate has been given a scientific stamp of approval.

The umbrella body for meteorological scientists in the US is about to endorse research into geoengineering as part of a three-pronged approach to coping with climate change, alongside national policies to reduce emissions.

New Scientist has seen the final draft of the American Meteorological Society‘s carefully worded position paper on geoengineering. The AMS is the first major scientific body to officially endorse research into geoengineering.

The document states that “deliberately manipulating physical, chemical, or biological aspects of the Earth system” should be explored alongside the more conventional approaches to climate change. Conventional approaches means reducing emissions – “mitigation” in policy-speak – and adjusting to the unavoidable effect of climate change – known as “adaptation”….

Opponents of geoengineering may be reassured to find that the statement calls for studies into the social, ethical and legal implications of geoengineering solutions, and for methods to be developed in a transparent fashion.

Riding a Wave of Culture Change, DOD Strives to Trim Energy Demand


Capt. John Hickey was on a mission.

The commanding officer at Honolulu’s U.S. Coast Guard Integrated Support Command was determined to save energy on his base when the data server manager bluntly refused, saying he would not slow his machines until the last drop of oil was extracted from Alaska’s protected lands.

“I said to him, ‘OK, we’re at war,’” recounted Hickey, who called supervisors in Washington to eventually override the man’s intransigence.

The episode illustrates some of how far the U.S. military, the nation’s single largest energy consumer — at more than 1 percent of the U.S. total — has come in recognizing and reducing its reliance on fossil fuels. But experts say it also indicates just how far the military still has to go. In 2006 alone, the Pentagon bought 110 million barrels of oil and 3.8 billion kilowatts of electricity. To put that in perspective, it’s about what the entire world uses each day.

Experts say making strides will require changing the culture of an institution accustomed to having everything it needs to get its job done.

Chasing the wind

“¦Aesthetic concerns have stalled the Cape Wind project, which would erect 130 turbines 5 to 13 miles from Cape Cod and Nantucket. But technological advances in recent years are allowing developers elsewhere to consider building wind turbines farther from shore, where they would be less visible.

Last month, the US Department of the Interior granted the nation’s first ocean leases for exploring the feasibility of large wind farms, with most of the sites 12 to 18 miles off New Jersey and Delaware. New York power companies are exploring the possibility of a vast wind farm 13 miles off the Rockaways. And a 120-turbine farm has been proposed 48 miles off New Bedford.

If these and similar projects prove viable, some wind energy specialists and developers say, they could leapfrog closer-to-shore projects like Cape Wind. Winds are often stronger and more sustained farther from shore.

IPCC Chief Raps G-8, Calls for Global Greenhouse Gas Emissions Cuts After 2015

The chief of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change criticized the Group of Eight summit participants for ignoring the IPCC’s scientific findings and the declaration that emerged from the 2007 U.N. climate conference in Bali, Indonesia, in which leaders agreed to work toward a new treaty limiting average global temperature increase to 2 degrees Celsius.

Though simultaneously praising the 2-degree commitment as “clearly a big step forward” in international talks, IPCC Chairman Rajendra Pachauri told reporters here yesterday that G-8 leaders failed to heed warnings that global greenhouse gas emissions levels must peak by 2015. Nations must also start to come up with concrete plans for rapidly slashing emissions afterward, Pachauri said.

“They have clearly ignored what the IPCC came up with,” he said. “If the G-8 leaders agreed on this 2-degree increase as being the limit they will be accepting, then I think they should have also accepted the attendant requirement of global emissions peaking by 2015.”

China wind turbine makers blow over foreign rivals

China-based wind turbine manufacturers have overtaken foreign competitors in the race to supply domestic wind power projects for the first time – a lead that is likely to widen due to the government’s controversial “buy Chinese” procurement policy.

According to figures from the state-run Chinese Wind Energy Association, domestic and Sino-foreign joint venture turbine makers accounted for 61.8 per cent of China’s market share at the end of 2008, surpassing overseas producers for the first time.

The top three wind turbine suppliers were homegrown companies Sinovel Wind, Goldwind Science & Technology and Dongfang Electric. Denmark’s Vestas Wind Systems, the world’s largest turbine manufacturer, maintained its fourth-ranking position from 2007, while Spain-based Gamesa fell to fifth place from third.

Coal giant offers cash for biggest clean rival

Canada’s biggest generator of dirty power has launched a $1.5 billion hostile bid for the country’s leading developer of clean power, including the two largest wind farms in Ontario.

Analysts say TransAlta Corp.’s proposed acquisition of Calgary-based Canadian Hydro Developers Inc. could be the first of many moves in an energy sector that sees big polluters trying to green up their assets, partly to limit their exposure to carbon-emission penalties once a national cap-and-trade system is introduced.

“This is a big public indication of what’s to come,” said MacMurray Whale, an alternative energy analyst with Toronto-based Cormark Securities. “It highlights how valuable low-carbon power production is, and it’s a massive opportunity in Canada.”

Cutting Water Use in the Textile Industry

The process of making textiles can require several dozen gallons of water per pound of clothing, especially during the dyeing process. Amid tightening environmental regulations and a push to save money, companies are working to reduce the waste.

One such company working to cut its water use is California-based Colorep. Its AirDye technology, found in the occasional window shade or T-shirt, uses air instead of water to help the dye penetrate the fiber, a process that it claims uses no water and requires less energy.

Solar Cells, Automation and Green Jobs

Aside from its environmental benefits, solar energy is frequently touted for its job creation potential. But for solar manufacturers themselves, machines “” not employees “” may be the key to their long-term survival.

Take, for example, photovoltaic solar panels “” the most common form of solar technology. As Roger Efird, the managing director of the United States branch of Suntech Power, a solar energy company based in China, the process of making these cells is already largely automated.

How Accurate Is Emissions Reporting?

Each day, more companies claim to have slashed their carbon footprints or achieved other sustainability goals. But how meaningful are these claims, and are they independently verified?

The short answer: It’s murky.

Kids’ lower IQ scores linked to prenatal pollution

Researchers for the first time have linked air pollution exposure before birth with lower IQ scores in childhood, bolstering evidence that smog may harm the developing brain.

The results are in a study of 249 children of New York City women who wore backpack air monitors for 48 hours during the last few months of pregnancy. They lived in mostly low-income neighborhoods in northern Manhattan and the South Bronx. They had varying levels of exposure to typical kinds of urban air pollution, mostly from car, bus and truck exhaust.

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20 Responses to Energy and Global Warming News for July 21st: American Meteorological Society endorses geoengineering research

  1. Alex J says:

    Interesting, but it irks me just a bit when science journalists take silly liberties with their bylines. I mean, really, there is a difference between endorsing research into last-ditch emergency measures (at least for now), and giving the “scientific stamp of approval” to “hacking the planet”.

  2. paulm says:

    I am not a fan of GeoE to solve climate change. But I think we are at a stage where we shouldn’t rule it out and should be tinkering and think about it, in the best possible way.

    CO2 draw down is straightforward, you don’t need gazillions of scientist working on this solution. Just swap the Coal Plants out and move to more sustainable green paradigm.

    So instead of sitting around twiddling their thumbs or trying to get us to mars they aught to be focusing on the number one problem – which is to get us through the next century relatively in one piece.

  3. paulm says:

    I wonder what the impact is going to be on the Mediterranean?

    Barcelona gets new water supply
    Dried-up riverbed at Llosa del Cavall (file pic)
    Catalonia has suffered repeated droughts in recent years

    A desalination plant has opened near Barcelona – said to be the biggest of its type in Europe – to ease chronic water shortages.

    A drought last year forced Barcelona to import drinking water by tanker. It was one of Spain’s driest years on record.

  4. paulm says:

    hey gail….

    Mapping America’s giant trees
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/

    The project is designed to follow up research, in the Yosemite National Park, which suggests that giant trees are perishing as a result of climate change.

    “You know that there’s a bigger picture and that you’re starting something, you’re becoming a really positive part of history. It’s rewarding and fulfilling knowing that people far into the future are going to come back to what we have started here.”

  5. paulm says:

    Cost of fighting wildfires more than doubled this year
    Province has spent $54 million, compared to $23 million last year
    Dave White VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) | Tuesday, July 21st, 2009 8:00 pm
    Bookmark

    VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – So how much are these wildfires costing us? Alyson Couch with the Provincial Fire Headquarters says this year, we’ve reached a whopping $54 million – last year $23 million was spent fighting fires. “We have responded to almost 1,100 fires across the province since April ’01. At this point last year we had responded to just over 930.”

    While the number of fires fought may not seem like a big difference, it’s the size and strength of the fires this season that have hit B.C.’s pocketbook. Couch says with at least two months left in the fire season and combined with tinder dry conditions and a lack of rain, we could see that $54 million figure grow even larger.

  6. Jim Beacon says:

    Geo-engineering? The world is balking at the price tag of the realtively simple mechanical approach to achieving a 17% to 25% reduction of CO2 by 2020 — and the American Meteorological Society (and other pie-in-the-sky scientists) thinks people are going to pop for mega-trillions of dollars for 1940′s style sci-fi pulp magazine geo-engineering stunts? What a wet dream.’

    Hey, I know: Let’s get all 7 billion of us to put on our tin-foil hats and go sit outside in the sun all day — that way we will reflect all the heat back into outer space! Problem solved.

  7. Lou Grinzo says:

    paulm: I’m no fan of geoengineering either, by a long shot, but I think we’re quickly coming to the realization that we won’t have a choice. I think this is a major turning point for humanity. Not the time when we’ve influenced the climate (the Anthropocene), or even the time when we can’t fix this mess via mitigation and adaptation alone, but the time when we know all of the above and therefore have to take steps to explicitly manage the climate.

    This will require us to measure and manage the environmental impact of a much greater range of human activities than any of us would like. It will upset a lot of people, and it will likely be expensive, but compared to the results from not doing it, it will be a pleasure and a bargain.

    Because this awareness will trigger a major shift in our behavior, I think this period deserves its own name. I’ve been calling it the Metricene.

  8. SecularAnimist says:

    The anthropogenic excess of CO2 in the atmosphere is already at dangerous levels, as demonstrated by the effects that anthropogenic warming is already having. So, it is true that we not only need to cease all CO2 emissions as quickly as possible, we also need to draw down the excess CO2 to pre-industrial levels.

    The way to do this is through (1) a massive worldwide program of reforestation (and of course preservation of existing forests) and (2) organic agriculture techniques that sequester carbon in the soil (while simultaneously enhancing soil fertility rather than degrading it as so-called “conventional” petro-agriculture does).

    We already know that reforestation and organic agriculture will work. There is no need for risky “geoengineering” schemes.

    However, if emissions continue at current levels for even a few more years, it will almost certainly be too late for anything we do to prevent catastrophic warming and climate change.

    Phasing out all CO2 emissions as fast as possible remains the urgent priority.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for that link Paulm. There is also this out:

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/090721214622.htm

    I think it is predominantly the dormancy issue. It’s no fun being right in this case – I don’t think reforestation is going to work out all that well, Secular Animist.

  10. Lucas says:

    As SecularAnimist says, stopping CO2 emissions isn’t enough. The oceans are collapsing with CO2 levels of 390 ppm and we depend on the oceans for a significant part of our proteins.
    Geoengineering is risky, so I’ll only accept two techniques:
    - Biological sequestration of carbon in the form of reforestation and/or pyrolysis of biomass (biochar). If we’re going to capture carbon we should store it in trees and the soil, not underground.
    - Brightening paved surfaces (white rooftops) to change the albedo.
    For now, I reject unproven, dangerous technologies like injection of sulphates in the atmosphere.

  11. Solar Battery Chargers is what I use to save me money! They work so well, I think everyone should have one!

  12. John McCormick says:

    Secular, you said:

    [The way to do this is through (1) a massive worldwide program of reforestation (and of course preservation of existing forests)]

    Thanks for your simple solution. Why has it taken us this long to understand how easy it will be?

  13. Wilma says:

    Has any one happened to go outside, look up, and see sky graffiti?

  14. Jim Beacon says:

    Reforestation is a great plan, but given the growth rate of new trees it will take 15 to 20 years before they are really sucking up a lot of CO2 and in that time we will have produced a lot more. So, yeah, gotta cut our own CO2 output as the #1 priority. There’s reason we can’t do reforestation at the same time, however. By the way, planting trees is something most individuals can do on their own easily and cheaply. How many have each of us planted this year?

    But, since so many people (and Americans in particular) just *love* the idea of the Big Tech Instant Solution, there’s only one idea along those lines I’ve heard that is virtually guaranteed to work, is cost-effective, is adjustable and can be REVERSED easily if it doesn’t quite work out as well as planned:

    Use the Space Shuttle fleet to quickly build a gigantic mylar “sun umbrella” out in space which would block a small percentage of the sunlight from reaching the Earth. It could be adjusted (repositioned) as necessary to fine tune the results. It would only need to be a few millimeters thick with a lightweight support structure and could be assembled with incredibly simple construction techniques. It would be relatively inexpensive, since it could be fabricated from off-the-shelf materials that are already manufactured in large quantities and put in place with spaceships we already have paid for and which are operating today.

    Finally, it could be put in place so fast that we can actually *wait* to try it until it becomes obvious that everything else we’ve done is not going to be enough.

    Of course, this plan would not only work, but it does not require any hacking of the planet — so, no tinkering with the Earth’s oceans or atmosphere — and what fun is that?

  15. Vested, Texas says:

    People. The human effect on the planet/atomsphere/universe is near ZERO. Man-made global warming is a farce – an expensive farce that will bankrupt us if we let it. There have been numerous natural events that have indeed affected the environment, but none of them – including atomic bombs dropped on Japan during WWII – have caused measurable climate change. Yes. We need to clean up our air and our water and our waste. We expecially need to get the Rednecks to stop throwing their trash out the windows of their vehicles and leaving junk cars in the yards of their mobile homes. But, we can’t go back to the stone age for energy resources. Please give common sense a try.

  16. John Hollenberg says:

    Vested in the Status Quo:

    Try educating yourself about global climate change, which has a very long history, by reading “The Discovery of Global Warming”:

    http://www.aip.org/history/climate/

    This is not some fad, it is the culmination of over a century of scientific discoveries and research.

  17. Sable says:

    Hey Vested!

    Our effect on the planet is “near zero”? Are we talking about the same planet? We’ve already had an enormous impact on our world, resulting in either long term or permanent damage. This has often caused economic damage too. Do you really need a list?

    Even if we put aside the well supported science, “common sense” would tell you that you can’t keep pumping megatons of a heat trapping gas like CO2 into an essentially closed system without getting some likely nasty results. So like a chain smoker in a McMansion’s living room, you’re gonna’ eventually breath the smoke in every room of the house.

    Bush senior once said (I paraphrase), “…the economy of the United States is more important than the environment”. Absolutely asinine. No environment, no economy.

  18. The AMS policy statement was approved with caution by the Society Council on July 20.

  19. Lucas says:

    @Jim Beacon,
    “Reforestation is a great plan, but given the growth rate of new trees it will take 15 to 20 years before they are really sucking up a lot of CO2 and in that time we will have produced a lot more. So, yeah, gotta cut our own CO2 output as the #1 priority. There’s reason we can’t do reforestation at the same time, however. By the way, planting trees is something most individuals can do on their own easily and cheaply. How many have each of us planted this year?”
    Reforestation is a way to reclaim degraded land and we have a good supply of degraded land. The fixation of CO2 (in the long run, I know) is a sweet side effect.
    “Use the Space Shuttle fleet to quickly build a gigantic mylar “sun umbrella” out in space which would block a small percentage of the sunlight from reaching the Earth. It could be adjusted (repositioned) as necessary to fine tune the results. It would only need to be a few millimeters thick with a lightweight support structure and could be assembled with incredibly simple construction techniques. It would be relatively inexpensive, since it could be fabricated from off-the-shelf materials that are already manufactured in large quantities and put in place with spaceships we already have paid for and which are operating today.”
    OK, let’s suppose that this techno-fix solves the climate crisis without adverse effects (mmm, what about reduced photosynthetic capacity? Someone has to done the maths) for the planet. We’d have solved only one of the symptoms of our disease: the unsustainable use of energy and the disruption of the carbon cycle. Ocean acidification and fossil fuel depletion would continue unabated under any tehno-fix that involves managing the incoming solar energy. That’s the reason of my support for biochar.

    In other news, the denialosphere is using the tough winter here in South America as evidence for the nonexistence of GW.

  20. Jane M says:

    Try the following:

    http://astore.amazon.com/gt09a-20

    Great initiative !!!

    Jane M.