Energy and Global Warming News for August 6th: Climate change could destroy 80% of rainforest by 2100

Scientist: “Conservation of the world’s biota, as we know it, will depend upon rapid, steep declines in greenhouse gas emissions.”

Climate change could destroy 80 per cent of rainforest by next century:  Fewer than one in five of the plants and animals which currently live in the world’s rainforests will still be here in 90 years time, a study predicts.

Rainforests currently hold more than half of all the plant and animal species on Earth.

However, scientists say the combined effects of climate change and deforestation may force them to adapt, move, or die.

By 2100, this could have altered two-thirds of the rainforests in Central and South America, about 70 per cent in Africa.

The Amazon Basin alone could see changes in biodiversity for 80 per cent of the region.

Greg Asner, of the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Global Ecology in California, who led the research, said it was the first study yet to show the world’s natural ecosystems will undergo profound changes.

He explained: “This is the first global compilation of projected ecosystem impacts for humid tropical forests affected by these combined forces.

“For those areas of the globe projected to suffer most from climate change, land managers could focus their efforts on reducing the pressure from deforestation, thereby helping species adjust to climate change, or enhancing their ability to move in time to keep pace with it.

“On the flip side, regions of the world where deforestation is projected to have fewer effects from climate change could be targeted for restoration.”

Asner and his team made their findings by looking at global deforestation and logging maps from satellite imagery, and high-resolution data from 16 climate-change projections worldwide.

They then ran scenarios on how different types of species could be geographically reshuffled by 2100.

The results showed only 18 per cent- less than a fifth – to 45 per cent – less than half- of the plants and animals making up ecosystems in tropical rainforests may remain as we known them today.

Daniel Nepstad, senior scientist at the Woods Hole Research Center, which studies climate change in Massachusetts, said: “This study is the strongest evidence yet that the world’s natural ecosystems will undergo profound changes including severe alterations in their species composition through the combined influence of climate change and land use.

“Conservation of the world’s biota, as we know it, will depend upon rapid, steep declines in greenhouse gas emissions.”

The study was published in the journal Conservation Letters.

Corporation or consumer: Who’s driving us toward sustainability?

As a consumer, it’s nice to think that you’re in the driver’s seat. Each dollar you spend goes to this retailer, then to that supplier and on to such-and-such manufacturer, quite often ending up at so-and-so corporation and/or global conglomerate. Where and on what you spend that dollar determines which companies earn profit and influences how other companies make products as they try to compete on the open market. That is the win-win scenario often outlined by “free market” proponents, is it not?

Of course, there are other variables, such as the limited knowledge consumers have of any given product beyond store shelves. How many of us really know (or want to know) where that t-shirt, canned corn or package of steak came from? That has led to some of the so-called “greenwashing” problems the natural foods industry has experienced, leaving catchphrases like “all-natural” essentially meaningless. It is also why we have USDA Organic and other eco-labeling organizations that vet products and companies claiming to be “green.”

Clean-coal project advances with $1 billion in funding

The Obama administration Thursday awarded $1 billion to an Illinois project that aims to sharply reduce greenhouse-gas emissions from coal-fired power plants, the latest in a long-running saga aimed at proving coal’s viability amid widespread pressure to combat climate change.

The new project, known as “FutureGen 2.0,” replaces an earlier plan to build a first-of-a kind, “clean coal” power plant in Illinois using a different technology. Supporters of the latest version say it will create jobs and reduce greenhouse-gas pollution. Opponents contend it is a waste of money and thinly veiled reward for President Barack Obama’s home state.

The move is the latest development in the roller-coaster history of the concept, part of a controversial effort by Washington and the coal industry to prove that coal can be burned without releasing heat-trapping gasses into the atmosphere. The George W. Bush administration launched the first incarnation of FutureGen in 2003, only to cancel it five years later, citing cost overruns.

The project got a new shot last year with the inauguration of Mr. Obama, who supported the venture as an Illinois senator and vowed repeatedly on the campaign stump to support “clean-coal” projects.

Change in Ontario’s FIT program: New price for ground-mounted solar

Since passing the Green Energy Act last year, Ontario has tried to position itself as the leader for clean energy in Canada, North America, and around the world. One of the highlights of the Green Energy Act is the feed-in-tariff (FIT) program, which allows clean energy developers to create renewable energy projects and sell the electricity back to the grid. Ontario’s current FIT prices are the highest in Canada and among the highest in the world, providing anywhere between 44.3 and 80.2 cents per kWh for solar PV projects, depending on the size. All FIT prices are available online.

The FIT program has been relatively successful in boosting Canada’s green energy market. Solar PV projects are particularly popular with 700 solar rooftop projects approved in all areas of Ontario, including in Windsor, Toronto, and Thunder Bay. Ground-mounted projects are even more popular. More than 16,000 applications have been submitted for solar PV projects, with the lion’s share going to ground-mounted solar systems.

Scion iQ to hit dealerships in March 2011

We’ve all heard the rhetoric about how small cars are primed to be big sellers over the next few years, and nobody seems to be responding to that direction sooner than Toyota. The Japanese automaker is getting ready to challenge the diminutive Smart Fortwo here in the United States with the Scion iQ, and we’ve just been told by Toyota representatives to expect it to hit dealer showrooms around March of next year.

Unlike its main competitor, the iQ sports a unique 3+1 seating arrangement that will allow three real-sized human beings to fit in the car with an extra spot for a munchkin or car seat. Scion also promises that its micro car will boast real storage capacity, which is an important factor if people have any inkling to use their urban runabout as a second car. Expect a price somewhere in the vicinity of the Fortwo when the iQ hits the streets early next year.

On our radar: Russia warns of climate change

During an unparalleled heat wave, President Dmitri Medvedev of Russia steps up his climate warnings. “Everyone is talking about climate change now. Unfortunately, what is happening now in our central regions is evidence of this global climate change, because we have never in our history faced such weather conditions in the past,” he says. “This means that we need to change the way we work, change the methods that we used in the past.” [Kremlin]

59 Responses to Energy and Global Warming News for August 6th: Climate change could destroy 80% of rainforest by 2100

  1. catman306 says:

    With billions of years of trial-and-error, Nature worked out the details of clean-coal to perfection:

    leave leave coal buried in the ground.

    What a breath of fresh air reasoning missing from our national scene where defending the status quo is all the rage.

    “This means that we need to change the way we work, change the methods that we used in the past.”

  2. SecularAnimist says:

    It is profoundly unfortunate that the Obama administration is squandering billions of dollars on the nuclear power boondoggle and the “clean coal” hoax.

    But no one should be surprised. Obama has longstanding ties to the nuclear and coal corporations and in his speeches on energy as both a candidate and as president, he has consistently emphasized coal and nuclear above wind and solar and other renewable technologies.

  3. Leif says:

    It is ludicrous to talk of reforesting areas in the future that are not suitable today as the climate changes and trashes large areas of current forests. In the first place without mitigation soon, in 90 years the climatic disruption does not stop and attain a “new” steady state come 2100. Quite the contrary, climatic disruption will be in full swing with extremes that make todays pot shots of disruption look like ????… well pot shots.
    What type of forest is going to grow in the Sahara, Central Russia, Great Plains, with heat waves followed by deluge? Assuming you could get something to grow, what animal species do you introduce? Where does the “bread baskets” of the world go? How do you achieve a steady state ecosystem and not have the “pine bark beetles” of the time eat it all down. The thought of planet wide Eco-engineering with a moving climate target AND billions of people looking for food water and shelter …. How many of those people are going to go quietly into the everlasting night without a fight. What kind of a population does society end up with under that type of evolutionary pressure?

    As I say. It is ludicrous.

    Nation building in Far-of-i-stan is a cake walk in comparison.

  4. Michael Tucker says:

    Yes clean coal is an experiment that still cannot be implemented and it may never work the way its proponents envision. The reason the US and China are still experimenting with carbon capture and storage is because they will still be using coal to produce electricity well into the future. Even with all the wind and hydro and solar that China is investing in, the best case projections still say that China will still get 50% of its electricity from coal by 2050. This is because China’s overall population will continue to grow, its middle class population will continue to grow, China’s cities will continue to grow, and electrical generation will have to keep up. This is also true with India. It is important to remember that currently large populations in both China and India still get light from kerosene. As those communities modernize, not even really move to middle class incomes but simply demand basic services, more electrical generation capacity must be created. Unfortunately for the world community this still means continued dependence on coal.

    China and India do not necessarily clean the sulfur from the coal, as is required in the US, so other climate and environmental effects may be in store from continued use of the filthiest of fossil fuels.

  5. Sable says:

    More unsettling news about the news:

    With paranoid claims of liberal conspiracies voiced by many conservatives, this story is more than a little ironic if it proves to be true…

  6. Bob Wallace says:

    Animist – a couple of points.

    1) President Obama has to operate within the existing political structure, he is not a dictator. He cannot afford to make enemies of voters who earn their living from coal and voters who think nuclear the only answer. We need every vote we can get if we wish to not turn the government back over to oil and coal interests.

    2) If you will look at President Obama’s actions you will see that he has actually tossed coal and nuclear only small bones. He has made enough available through loan guarantees to allow a couple of reactors to be built. (Some of us think he’s giving the nuclear industry just enough rope to hang itself. That by building a new reactor or two they will openly prove that nuclear is too expensive and too slow to construct to be useful in combating climate change.)

    Furthermore, President Obama has supported “research into clean coal”. Nothing wrong with research. He’s not made money available to build new coal plants or open new mines.

    His actions take a great deal of heat off his administration, don’t use much federal money, and don’t distract us from the valuable work of bringing more renewable energy on line.

  7. caerbannog says:

    Of course, your typical Wall-Street Journal reader couldn’t care less about rainforests and biodiversity.

    But golf-course greens? That’s a whole ‘nother kettle of fish. See for more.


    June, world-wide, was the hottest month ever recorded, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Russia’s staggering heat continues — who would have imagined Moscow temperatures approaching 40 degrees Celsius? Historic low rainfall levels accompanying the heat have hurt crops throughout Europe.

    It’s also been hot in the U.S. Temperature averages for June and July were at or near record-high levels across the eastern seaboard and in the Midwest. U.S. farmers haven’t suffered as much as those in Europe because rain has been plentiful, but for many golf courses that combination of heat, rain and humidity has been disastrous.

    Several high-profile courses have had to close entirely because of stressed-out and dying greens. Huntingdon Valley Country Club outside Philadelphia, which dates from 1897, shut two of its three nines indefinitely two weeks ago because of a serious turf disease caused by the torrid wet weather. Members at The Golf Club at Cuscowilla, east of Atlanta, received letters this week that the club’s highly-ranked Ben Crenshaw-Bill Coore course would be closed for eight to 10 weeks so that the greens can be resurfaced.

    Ansley Golf Club in Atlanta broke similar news to its members. “The continued, excessive heat and humidity have put our greens into a critical situation and the possibility of saving many of them is remote,” said a letter from the grounds committee chairman. Even Winged Foot in Westchester County, New York, the site of five U.S. Opens, is having serious weather-related problems with its two courses.

    The U.S. Golf Association last month issued a special “turf loss advisory” to courses in the Mid-Atlantic states, urgently advising greenkeepers to institute “defensive maintenance and management programs” until the weather crisis ends. Most of the danger is to the greens, particularly those planted in creeping bentgrass and annual bluegrass (also known as poa annua).

  8. SecularAnimist says:

    Bob Wallace wrote: “Furthermore, President Obama has supported ‘research into clean coal’. Nothing wrong with research.”

    I disagree. “Research into clean coal” is a hoax whose purpose is to perpetuate the burning of coal using today’s decidedly UNclean technology on the pretext that it will someday be possible to sequester the CO2 emissions.

    Nor does so-called “clean coal research” address any of the other toxic pollution that occurs at every step of the whole coal fuel cycle, from the devastation of mountaintop-removal coal mining to the devastation of coal ash spills.

    There is no such thing as clean coal. Money put into “clean coal research” is at best being wasted — and diverted from investment into efficiency and renewable energy, where it could actually do some good — and at worst, is exacerbating the problem by prolonging the use of coal which MUST be stopped, sooner rather than later.

  9. James Newberry says:

    The idea that humans can manage an eighty percent die-off of world tropical forests, along with die-off of ocean phytoplankton, coral reefs, fish and marine animals, even as the planet’s response to radiative forcing accelerates in the twenty-first century, is ludicrous.

    Without an immediate end to new financing of fossil exploitation (as “fuels”), including elimination of direct, indirect and externalized subsidies ($ trillions per decade), we face collapse of civilization from a disintegrating ecosphere (including its cryosphere).

    Mother Earth will not condone the human myth that petroleum fluids and coal are “energy resources.” They are matter.

  10. David says:

    Maybe it’s time to start seriously considering geoengineering to prevent a climatic catastrophe. I don’t see how we’ll be able to get our atmospheric CO2 concentration down to 350 ppm anytime soon.

  11. NASA pics: Numerous forest fires in BC. Double climate whammy: pine beetle survives soft winter, summer very dry + hot:

  12. Michael Tucker says:

    We ARE conducting “geoengineering”. We spew tons of chemicals into the environment daily and we really don’t know what the long term consequences will be. Should we then elect to spew more compounds into the atmosphere without really knowing what the long term consequences of that will be? We call it ‘engineering’ as if we know what it is we are building. It should be called climate experimentation and attempting to cool the climate without addressing CO2 is like placing a sick man, with a burning fever, in an ice bath. It may bring down the temperature but does nothing to address the disease.

  13. SecularAnimist says:

    David wrote: “Maybe it’s time to start seriously considering geoengineering to prevent a climatic catastrophe.”

    Because a human society that cannot agree to undertake straightforward, relatively simple, economically and socially and environmentally beneficial steps to reduce CO2 emissions, will agree to undertake complicated, poorly-understood, risky and dangerous and probably ineffective geoengineering schemes?

  14. Demand may outstrip building of wind in China, but the only reason it will in the U.S., if it does, will be continued lack of a serious energy policy. Wind can be installed very rapidly and the domestic resource is several times total U.S. electricity demand.

  15. Leif says:

    I will gladly consider any Geo-engineering that does not cause more harm than good with, here comes those words again, solid peer reviewed science. 95% would be fine. The same as the percentage of scientists that tell us climate disruption is big trouble.

    Sustainable2050, @ 11: I guess we will show those beetles, we will burn their little butts. Problem solved.

  16. Moscow never reached 37C (98.6F, sorry) in 130 years of measurements, now 5th time in 12 days. Visibility 500 metre again due to fires:

  17. And here’s the weather forecast for Moscow: Friday 39C/102F, Saturday 39C/102F, Sunday 38C/100F, Monday 38C/100F, Tuesday 38C/100F:

  18. Bob Wallace says:

    Animist – you took my ‘research on clean coal’ statement out of context…

    I believe that President Obama cannot afford to take an anti-coal or anti-nuclear position. The political margins are just too slim to piss off potential voters.

    (Just like Reagan who showed no indication of being religious, but finished every speech with “God Bless America”. Sometimes you gotta play the game.)

    The stimulus bill provided $3.4 billion for clean coal research. That’s chump change.

    Do you see him showing up at coal mines and coal-burning plants or battery and EV factories?

  19. James Newberry says:

    The year 2010 may not be remembered just for one of the greatest oil/ environmental disasters in history, but as a beginning universal perception of the danger of exponential response by the planet from radiative forcing due to invisible gases released by mankind.

  20. Icarus says:

    13.SecularAnimist says:
    August 6, 2010 at 2:45 pm
    David wrote: “Maybe it’s time to start seriously considering geoengineering to prevent a climatic catastrophe.”

    Because a human society that cannot agree to undertake straightforward, relatively simple, economically and socially and environmentally beneficial steps to reduce CO2 emissions, will agree to undertake complicated, poorly-understood, risky and dangerous and probably ineffective geoengineering schemes?

    I think perhaps the worry is that by the time it becomes painfully clear to *everyone* that climate change is real and devastating and caused by us, it will, almost by definition, be too late even for the complete elimination of anthropogenic CO2 emissions to be effective. It will then be so warm that the warming will be self-sustaining, from reduced albedo, conversion of sinks to sources (of CO2), exponential increases in atmospheric methane and so on. At that point, only reducing incoming solar radiation would have any hope of stopping or reversing global warming.

  21. Hello Icarus,

    Relying upon geoengineering to solve the global warming problem is sort of like choosing to rely upon dialysis to solve the drinking-until-your-kidneys-die problem. Dialysis is wonderful from a technological standpoint but mighty unpleasant from a human standpoint and those who rely upon it live in a perpetual state of near death.

    A healthy lifestyle is always better than desperate technological solutions meant only to avoid the absolute worst case scenario. By the time the world realizes that something really catastrophic is happening none of those geoengineering schemes will provide any sort of effective, sustainable, long-lasting solution. In essense, geoengineering amounts to nothing more than putting a band aid on a mortal wound.

    Given that humankind cannot muster up enough wisdom and foresight to address the pollution problem it is extremely unlikely that in a world facing climate catastrophe, economic collapse, millions of climate refugees, peak oil, the collapse of global agriculture, etc. any government will possess the resources to undertake a heroic though misguided geoengineering scheme in order to save humankind from extinction.

    At that point it will become pretty much “every human for himself/herself” otherwise known as “survival of the fittest” otherwise known as “the collapse of technological civilization” and also ultimately known as “the human extinction event”.

    From all the evidence gathered by science so far and also surmised from humankind’s continued accelerating pollution of the planet I am quite certain that our species has already crossed the tipping point separating survival from extinction. The cause is already lost.

    Fortunately there is life after humankind just as there was life after the dinosaurs. Nature will clean up humankind’s mess and erase all memories of humankind’s existence. The Earth will flourish and diversify again and the planet will look very much like a Garden of Eden.

    Nature has millions of years to accomplish all of these tasks. Humankind needed to address the pollution problem decades ago and didn’t.

    So much for humankind. Ir is no great loss to the Universe, by the way.

  22. Doug Bostrom says:

    More adaptation:

    A variety of freakish weather conditions across the world has sent the price of staples including wheat, pork, rice, orange juice, coffee, cocoa and tea to fresh highs in recent weeks. Yesterday’s decision by the Russian government to ban the export of wheat to protect home consumers saw grain prices jump 8 per cent on the day, on what was already a two-year high.

    Wheat is just the latest crop to be affected by unusual weather. Coffee has been hit by excessive rain in Brazil and Colombia, just as rice production was reduced in India last year because of a late monsoon in India; pork and other meat prices have been driven higher by rising grain feedstock prices; and the Floridian orange juice harvest is down because of an unseasonal frost.

    Russian wheat export ban threatens higher inflation and food riots

    “Freakish” and “unusual” weather, nary a mention of the neat consistency of all of this with the C02 bulge beginning to catch up.

    Journalists should pull their underwear out of their collective crack where it was left by fringe cranks and adjust their “Overton Windows” back to the point where they can help readers understand their context a little bit better.

  23. johna says:

    8. Secular Animist “Nor does so-called “clean coal research” address any of the other toxic pollution that occurs at every step of the whole coal fuel cycle, from the devastation of mountaintop-removal coal mining to the devastation of coal ash spills.

    That is quite true for each process stages you mention. And no one would be happier if coal plants would gradually all just walk away in the night. But they won’t. The combustion process being developed is far cleaner than current plants and will scrub out NOx, SO2, mercury, in addition to CO2. The EPA has renewed their enforcement of the Clean Air Act, pushing utilities to cleanup traditional emissions. If that can be done with add-on systems that are later used to reduce CO2, so much the better.

    “Oxy-combustion burns coal with a mixture of oxygen and CO2 instead of air to produce a concentrated CO2 stream for safe, permanent, storage. In addition, oxy-combustion technology creates a near-zero emissions plant by eliminating almost all of the mercury, SOx, NOx, and particulate pollutants from plant emissions. The Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory studies have identified oxy-combustion as potentially the least cost approach to clean-up existing coal-fired facilities and capture CO2 for geologic storage.”

    Diagram of an oxy PC combustion system –

  24. BenjaminG says:

    Off Topic

    I’d like to voice a complaint about the readability/navigability of the blog. A couple of things contribute to it being irritating to read at times:

    1) the extreme length of the home page means that it takes a while to load even with 5mb/s fast internet. Is there really the slightest reason to have ~50 pages worth of stuff on the home page? Couldn’t you dump the bottom 40 pages onto a series of linked ‘older posts’ pages, like practically every other blog out there?

    2) Every time you return to the home page from a blog post, after it finishes loading, it returns to the top of the page.

    The result is, that if I am browsing posts a couple days old, every time that I return from reading the post, I have to wait for the home page to fully load and automatically return to the top, before I then page down to the point where I was browsing. If I try paging down before it’s done with it’s process, then it will pop me back up to the top, so I just end up waiting to avoid unnecessary clicks.

    Two suggestions:

    Drastically cut down on the content served up on the home page.

    When someone returns to the home page from the details of a blog post, return them to the point in the home page where they left from, instead of popping back up to the top.


  25. mike roddy says:

    Woods Hole scientists should focus on North America. Pacific NW forests hold triple the carbon per acre of Amazon or African forests. The cost of liquidating coastal forests in Ore and Wash alone was 6 billion tons of CO2 equivalent (Franklin, Harmon 1990). Are our scientists intimidated by the US timber industry?

  26. Michael Tucker says:

    An ice island four times the size of Manhattan broke off from one of Greenland’s two main glaciers, scientists said on Friday, in the biggest such event in the Arctic in nearly 50 years.

    And Greenland wants to drill for oil off the west coast…

    The rollercoaster ride into our grim new future continues!

  27. Edie Frederick says:

    Your appraisal for readability of this blog makes sense – for you – but I am reading from an international resort in the USA where the typical-connection Mbps is less than 2. I prefer long pages because moving to other post-pages is a slow process, even if you have a lot to think about. Too bad the USA is #23 or less in Internet speed & broadband availability. For an upcoming software development project location I am considering
    Kista near Stockholm, Sweden @ 100 Mb/s +

  28. Edie Frederick says:

    The reference to 80% destruction of rain forest seems surreal. There must be a much lower tipping point where if you have destroyed XX% you’ve doomed it all. I would guess that less than 50% would suffice.

  29. Chad says:

    David Matthews: I don’t think it is fair to lump all forms of geo-engineering into one basket. There are three forms of geo-engineering that are being discussed that (and this is a HUGE caveat) IF we had much better knowledge than we currently have, could at least potentially mitigate climate change AND provide ancillary benefits. These are:

    1: Ocean fertilization. While trials so far have been disappointing (though not total failures), one could at least imagine that a sufficiently knowledgable society could use this technique both to sequester carbon *and* turn biological deserts into places which support much larger quantities of life. This in turn could have potential commerical benefits, which could generate funds to keep the system going.

    2: Cloud seeding. As with ocean fertilization, a sufficiently advanced society may be not only able to reflect sunlight with artifically-generated clouds, but do so in a manner than induced rainfall in places where we are short of water. Unfortunately, cloud seeding only address warming, not ocean acidification.

    3: Bio-char. True carbon sequestration AND better soil. What’s not to love?

    Now, I am not saying that any of these plans will work. But they might, and they might work very well and have multiple streams of benefits. This stands in contrast to something like shooting sulphates into the atmosphere, which will mitigate warming (but not ocean acidification), but will have a host of negative side effects such as increased acid rain, poor air quality, and a reduction in sunlight and its corresponding decline in crop yields and photosynthesis in general. The only positie side effect of the sulphate plan that I can think of is prettier sunsets. Hey, it’s something!

  30. Robert says:

    I have a 10Mb connection in the UK and have no problem with speed / page loading time. My only gripe is that the blog software seems designed to make it very difficult to cut-and-paste text so that it can be quoted in comments. Conventionally in Windows you can hold the left button down and drag across a piece of text to select it, but on this blog this causes the whole page to be highlighted and the cursor moves to the top of the page. The only workround I have found is to double-click the text to highlight a paragraph, then cut the parts you want from within the comments box.

  31. Lore says:

    Tom Gray #14

    “Demand may outstrip building of wind in China, but the only reason it will in the U.S., if it does, will be continued lack of a serious energy policy. Wind can be installed very rapidly and the domestic resource is several times total U.S. electricity demand.”

    Unfortunately in a democracy planting wind towers where people will notice them is still unpopular and lacks support. Given that we may look forward to at least another six years of any meaningful action on energy policy we can expect a slow and difficult slog up-hill before wind generation becomes a significant factor in the U.S.

    Just yesterday, once again, my neighbors voted down a 100 sq/mi wind farm to be built by Sandia Wind of Norway in Lake Michigan.

    “HART — The Oceana County Planning Commission recommended that the county board reject Scandia Wind Offshore’s proposal for a Lake Michigan wind farm off Pentwater. The planners’ 7-2 vote Thursday afternoon comes a day after a contentious public information meeting when Scandia opponents strongly voiced their objections to wind turbines being put in Lake Michigan.”

    The county board of Mason, already rejected the proposal. Here is a link to the comments section of the local rag with some typical citizens voicing the following.

    “COAL’S the answer! Most you people make me sick! Wind towers are NOT the way to go! If pentwater and ludington allow this to go, tourism will take a huge hit. Next they will want to put them up on the dunes at the state park!”

  32. Robert says:

    My other gripe(!) is that it is hard to follow up on your own comments and to get into any sort of discussion mode. This is because (a) comments are put in moderation so by the time they see the light of day they are buried by other comments, (b) there are many posts each day and each takes a lot of home page space so you have to scroll down a long way to get back to the post you commented on, assuming you can even remember what it was called, and (c) there is no login system so no way to list and find your own comments (as is done on message boards).

    Maybe a blog is a different concept from a message board and not really meant to be interactive but it would be a much more engaging experience if you could have live discussions with other readers.

  33. Doug Bostrom says:

    This is quite thought-provoking:

    LET’S say you were reading a German newspaper in mid-February, 1943, and came upon an account of a successful counterattack by the 679th Regiment of the Wehrmacht’s 333rd Infantry Division, part of the XL Panzer Corps, which had just seized the town of Krasnogorka from a Russian infantry and tank formation. Presumably, such a report in a German newspaper at that time would have described the action as evidence that German troops were holding their own on the eastern front, and that the Russian advance in the aftermath of the Battle of Stalingrad had been stymied. Such a report, needless to say, would have been deceptive. The German victory in this particular skirmish was an exception; the Russians were beginning the long slow process of crushing the German army and driving its remnants out of Soviet territory. Drawing an overall conclusion about the course of the war from this bit of evidence would have been misleading and tendentious.

    But let’s say you were to read an account in a German newspaper some months later of the fighting at Prokhorovka on July 17th, where the Red Army had succeeded in retaking the city after a German armoured offensive had seized it some days earlier. And imagine that this account treated the fighting as simply a back-and-forth between the two armies, a single incident from which no overall conclusions could be drawn about the course of the war. Such a report would be equally deceptive. The German assault on Prokhorovka was a desperate attempt to puncture the bulging Russian front line that had developed as the Red Army advanced in the aftermath of Stalingrad; the Russian retaking of the town signaled that they were going to win the Battle of Kursk and destroy the German hope of holding their front line together. By the summer of 1943, the overall picture was clear: the Russians were throwing the Germans back. Reporting the action at Prokhorovka without putting it in the overall context of the Russian advance would have been misleading and tendentious.

    The question of whether a newspaper account should link these two individual actions to broader trends, then, is not symmetrical. It’s misleading to connect the German victory at Krasnogorka to any larger trend. It’s misleading not to link the Russian victory at Prokhorovka to the larger trend. That’s because, in 1943, Krasnogorka was the exception, and Prokhorovka was the rule.

    Last winter, the American political media ran through a variant of this problem with reference to global warming. Heavy snowstorms and low temperatures in the eastern United States and Europe were used by those seeking to downplay evidence of climate change to argue that it wasn’t happening. In response, climate scientists and the news media stated forcefully that individual weather events aren’t significant evidence of overall climate trends. (In fact, globally, last winter was warm, not cool; it just happened to be cool in the areas where most of the world’s English-language media are based.) The media emerged with a consensus that individual weather events, whether hot or cold, should not be explicitly linked to broader climate-change trends.

    And then, this summer, Russia’s forests started burning—125,000 hectares are on fire. July was the hottest month since Russia began keeping records in the 1880s. The country’s Grain Union says the ongoing drought is also the worst on record. Moscow, where the average high in July is 23°C, hit a new temperature record of 38°C last Thursday, and some regions are predicted to see 42°C (108°F) this week. Yet following the current journalistic protocol, reports on the drought, heat wave, and wildfires have scrupulously avoided linking them to the fact that the planet is getting warmer. Globally, this summer is the hottest ever on record, and this year is so far the hottest year on record. The hottest ten years on record have all come in the past 13 years. The global monthly and annual temperature figures keep marching relentlessly upwards, sometimes dropping back slightly in certain regions (as they did in America and Western Europe last winter) only to climb higher yet, like the Red Army advancing implacably across western Russia in 1943-44.

    It’s one thing to recognise that an individual forest fire or group of fires can’t be directly linked to climate change. Relentless heat records all across Russia this summer, which are part of a global record heat wave, which contribute to a trend of repeated global heat waves that keep going gradually higher over the course of decades, are something else again. Russia’s record temperatures are part of the planet’s record temperatures, and the planet’s record temperatures are the phenomenon of global warming. The refusal to link these smaller trends to the broader trend seems, to me, like a foolhardy case of denial. It was misleading to claim that last winter’s lows were evidence that global warming had stopped because last winter’s lows were like the German victory at Krasnogorka: the exception to the rule. It’s misleading not to link this summer’s highs to global warming because this summer’s highs are like the Russian victory at Prokhovorka: they’re the rule. Now, there may be no need for the media to make the point that the two are linked. But if so, that’s only because the linkage is obvious to most readers, just as it was obvious to most readers by the summer of 1943 that Germany was losing at Kursk because it was losing the war.

    From The Economist’s Democracy in America blog.

  34. Lewis Cleverdon says:

    SecularAnimist at 13, and others

    David wrote: “Maybe it’s time to start seriously considering geoengineering to prevent a climatic catastrophe.”

    S.A replied:
    “Because a human society that cannot agree to undertake straightforward, relatively simple, economically and socially and environmentally beneficial steps to reduce CO2 emissions, will agree to undertake complicated, poorly-understood, risky and dangerous and probably ineffective geoengineering schemes?”

    Perhaps we might agree that there is no point, under any circumstances, in embarking on Geo-E without first ratifying a global climate treaty to cap and cut GHG outputs ?

    In fact the damage potentials of Geo-E are such that it will not be permitted unilaterally – it has potential to generate a classic ‘causus belli’ and so will not go ahead operationally without global agreement. I suggest the logical price for that agreement is the ratification of the climate treaty.

    Perhaps we might further agree that even a ‘radical’ rate of ending GHG outputs – say 98% by 2040 – would yield little reduction in the airborne GHG stocks for many decades at best, as the sinks are both minor (~1.0ppmv/yr of CO2) and declining, and feedback emissions are already accelerating.

    From this reality, it is worth observing that we are far beyond the point where ending our emissions would prevent the feedbacks becoming entirely self-fuelling or ‘runaway’.

    Addressing the actual problem, the massive excess stocks of airborne GHGs, demands a carbon recovery program on a global scale. The means to do so are a secondary issue but it is worth noting that, unlike the various unproven techno options, sustainable forestry optimized for biochar, fuels and biodiversity could be self funding, socially and ecologically constructive, and potentially fully capable of managing the gigatonnes of carbon per year that need to be recovered.

    If we here could agree the need for carbon recovery, we could then face its main limitation squarely – the fact that even at a giga-hectare scale of full operation by 2030, and cutting around 4ppmv/yr of CO2 thereafter, it could not hope to keep pace with the ongoing acceleration of the interactive feedbacks in the coming decades. Their potential output is of a different order of magnitude.

    Controlling global temperature for the duration of carbon recovery until the atmosphere is returned to 280ppmv of CO2 is thus pre-requisite to decelerating the feedbacks. If there is another means of doing so than albido restoration I’d like to hear it.

    As for the efficacy and reliability of the chosen method(s) of albido restoration, they surely are outcomes of appropriate governance, research and development. Given the existential stakes that climate change imposes, perhaps it needs saying that the risks of action to deploy the means of albido restoration are patently very minor in comparison with the risks of inaction ?



    I’m wondering just how much of the above we might agree on.



  35. John Mason says:

    Doug (#33),

    I had a ponder some time ago on the big Nor-easter snowstorms the Eastern U.S. experienced. Looking at the synoptic patterns responsible, I came to the conclusion that in a warming world, such intense snowstorms are actually more likely while winter land temperatures remain cold enough for precipitation to fall as snow.


    The bit about the snowstorms is about halfway down the page.

    Cheers – John

  36. Roger says:

    Lewis and others, these are great comments about what Pulitzer Prize-winning author and naturalist E.O. Wilson told me he considers “the Mother of all Problems,” namely the problem of dealing with climate change in light of our very ill-equipped human nature.

    Yes, we could agree on your well-reasoned points—IF we had earlier agreed that we would delegate responsibility for deciding what to do about climate change, geo-engineering and etc. to a group of concerned, humane, experienced, disinterested, intelligent and appropriately well-educated individuals who were up to the task.

    Unfortunately, such is NOT the case, as anyone familiar with the situation in Washington, DC and most other national capitols must readily admit. So, what to do?

    It’s easy to say what to do, but tough to implement without a billion dollars available to fund the solution. (It’s weird to think that Earth’s climate could very likely be kept livable for us, our kids, and generations to come, for about one tenth of the amount of money that the US military has simply ‘lost track’ of in Iraq recently—not to mention the many other billions being spent to perpetuate the fuels that are causing our demise!)

    How would one solve the problem with a billion bucks, and turn the tide in a matter of a few months? I’ll tell you how. Recruit the best advertising and PR talent that money can buy to fund an intense public information campaign about climate change and its dire consequences. A successful democracy requires a properly informed electorate.

    If citizens are given adequate guidance in connecting the dots between climate change and the increased likelihood of the unusual natural events that are occurring almost daily throughout the world, we will have the support needed to get climate legislation in place.

    Also, it is a normal role of government to see that its citizens are alerted to danger and protected. (Ever heard of air raid sirens, or, if younger, pre-flight airline lectures about passenger safety, or seatbelt laws?) So, if the fossil fuel industry responds to government alerts with their own big dollar PR campaign in order to keep the public confused, the government must be prepared to spend enough money (2-3 x as much?) to keep the public properly informed. (NO, for those who are quick to fault find, this would not be ‘propaganda,’ any more than a pre-flight safety lecture is propaganda!)

    So, lets ask our elected leader, President Obama, to take the lead on solving this problem. He’s done some good things, but not nearly enough. He could do more to speak out, he could use executive orders to get more done, and he could simply be a better leader.

    Michele has a garden at the White House by way of example. Why doesn’t President Obama have solar panels on the White House roof? Well, everyone is invited to join us in asking him just that question as part of a “White House Work Party” at noon on Sunday, October 10th. We’re even going to find donors for the solar panels, and for other things to ‘green up’ the White House—from LED bulbs to added insulation.

    For more information on the WHWP, and to sign our petition asking Obama to Please Educate and Lead on Climate Change, go to

    Warm regards,


  37. paulm says:

    So we should ramp up nuclear power in an unstable world? Not!
    Also of concern is fires that have hit the Bryansk region of western Russia, which suffered radioactive contamination from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in nearby Ukraine. There are fears that fires may burn through the contaminated area, releasing harmful radiation into the atmosphere.

    Theres also this…
    …soil moisture in some portions of European Russia has dropped to levels one would expect only once every 500 years.

  38. Peter Mizla says:

    Doug Bostrom #33

    In the summer of 1943-the month of July- are you referring to ‘Operation Citadel’ the Battle of Kursk? The greatest tank battle ever?

    Your summation is most interesting- again the US Media has given scant attention to the disaster in Russia. Our own heat & corn belts are just as vulnerable.

  39. Peter Mizla says:

    Correction to my #36 ‘Our own wheat & Corn belts are just as vulnerable.

  40. The largest forest in the world are not in the Amazon than in Russia. We are witnessing a number of fires in Russia that destroyed thousands of hectares of forest every day. Adverse impacts that are already visible, air pollution, increase in temperature, lack of food.

  41. Rick DeLong says:

    Increasingly frequent forest fires are a means of turning what was formerly forest into wooded steppe and even steppe. The biome boundaries are moving north.

  42. Doug Bostrom says:

    Peter Mizla says: August 7, 2010 at 5:43 am

    Peter, sorry I should have put quotes around the piece. My contribution stops at “…thought provoking:”

    I’m hoping Joe will put that little essay up for more attention. The author makes a really good point and illustrates it in a way a journalist should be able to understand.

    In case Joe missed it…. Missing links

  43. paulm says:

    #24 Ben, I have to agree with this joe.
    The return to page issue seems to only affect Fire Fox browsing.

  44. Robert says:

    Roger #36

    “How would one solve the problem with a billion bucks, and turn the tide in a matter of a few months? I’ll tell you how. Recruit the best advertising and PR talent that money can buy to fund an intense public information campaign about climate change and its dire consequences. A successful democracy requires a properly informed electorate.”

    We have been through this in the UK in 2008 / 2009 with an intense program of government funded TV adverts backed up by websites, funding for home energy saving measures, regulation of boilers, new-build insulation requirements, phasing out of filament bulbs, etc, etc.

    Net result – zilch. The UK population have gone into a collective state of denial / boredom over the entire issue and are far more concerned about the faltering economy and the Euro / dollar exchange rate that they will experience when their cheap flight touches down half way round the world for that well earned weekend break.

  45. mike roddy says:

    Rick, #41,

    The problem is that as certain areas become too hot to maintain forests (the most carbon sequestering ecosystem), this does not mean that large numbers of trees can just colonize northward. The most fecund forests feature intricate webs that enhance biomass productivity. These cannot be developed in a few decades, or even centuries.

  46. Prokaryotes says:

    Honda’s compact hybrid to be cheapest in October: reports

  47. Leland Palmer says:

    It’s good news about the FutureGen 2.0 project. Not because “clean coal” is a good idea, but because the same technology can be applied to biomass, especially carbonized biomass (charcoal).

    Digging more coal out of the ground is a very bad idea- kind of brain damaged, in fact.

    But applying this technology to retrofitting existing coal fired power plants to bio-energy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) power plants may be the only way to halt and eventually reverse the kind of apparent runaway global heating we are seeing, at a reasonable cost.

    BECCS can be worth a 50-150 ppm reduction in global CO2 levels, according to the scientific references quoted by the Wikipedia BECCS web page.

    If an alien were to visit Earth, and he saw we were ignoring or badmouthing a technology that could return the whole climate system to stability, what would he think? Likely, he would quietly just get in his star ship and leave, never to return.

    I’m delighted, actually. I’ve been promoting oxy-fuel combustion on this blog for a couple of years now, applied to BECCS. The reason for this is that oxy-fuel combustion raises combustion temperatures. This increased temperature capability, if it can be exploited, can result in higher efficiencies, if corrosion resistant materials and techniques can be found.

    So, carbon negative BECCS retrofitted coal plants draw ever nearer! Wonderful news!

    From Scientific American:

    The Department of Energy is scrapping plans for a zero-emissions coal plant in Illinois and going for plan B.

    In what it is calling “FutureGen 2.0,” the department announced yesterday it was providing $1 billion in stimulus money to retrofit a shuttered coal plant in Meredosia, Ill., rather than build a new one with experimental carbon-cutting technology. There, engineers plan to swap out a boiler in the 200-megawatt plant, replace it with one that can capture C02 and pipe the resulting gas across the state to a storage spot in Mattoon, Ill.

    The retrofit plan — which experts described as a coal plant transplant– is a much less ambitious and costly proposal than the original FutureGen project. The original concept envisioned unprecedented construction of a more than $2 billion dollar coal plant in Mattoon gasifying coal before burning and capturing nearly all of its emissions.

    But for the project’s backers, yesterday’s announcement was a victory nonetheless. If the revised project works, it could result in the world’s first commercial-scale power plant using oxy-combustion technology to capture and store almost all of its carbon dioxide.

    The oxy-combustion method burns coal in pure oxygen, creating a high concentration of C02 in the emissions stream that is easier to capture than coal burned in air.

    “This was a great day for Illinois,” said Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) on a conference call with reporters. “The heart of this is a research effort. We’re going to learn as we go.”

    A ‘transplant’ model for elderly coal-fired power plants
    The project would bring 900 jobs to downstate Illinois and 1,000 additional jobs to Illinois manufacturers, Durbin said. He said he hoped the revised FutureGen would lead to additional retrofits on the 594 coal-fired power plants in the U.S. fleet.
    Coal fires almost half of U.S. electricity and produces about a third of its emissions.


    The next step is to add a gas turbine topping cycle, as in the Clinton era HIPPS studies and pilot plants, and use the extra efficiency to more than pay for the CCS.

    And finally, or at the same time, we need to start adding in increasing amounts of biomass co-firing, for a true carbon negative impact.

    Wonderful! Great!

    But far from fast enough, IMO.

  48. Prokaryotes says:

    The blame for not enacting a climate change bill has to be shared by several parties. First the president has not demonstrated any leadership or courage on the matter. Nor has the leadership in the Senate or among Democrats. Finally, the Republicans — beholden to energy companies, business and outmoded ideology — have opposed any reasonable policies to tackle the carbon, air quality and energy problems that currently face this country. Also the public has not lighted the fires required for reform or to hold our politicians accountable.

    A total lack of responsibility and courage have led our politicians into a state of paralysis.

  49. Doug Bostrom says:

    More adaptation:

    Landslides killed at least 80 people and left an estimated 2,000 missing Sunday in northwest China’s Gansu province, the latest disaster caused by widespread flooding in the country.

    Overall this year, about 875,000 homes have been destroyed, 9.61 million people evacuated, and 22 million acres (8.76 million hectares) of crops ruined, according to the government’s flood control office.

    Landslides Kill Dozens in China

  50. Doug Bostrom says:

    Spontaneous adaptation festivals erupting all over:

    More rain fell yesterday upon a Pakistan already inundated with floods, prompting the displacement of untold numbers of villagers and the despair of millions more. The United Nations said the disaster was, in terms of damage caused and the people in need, now “on a par” with the 2005 Kashmir earthquake which killed 73,000. Even heavier deluges are forecast for coming days.

    Downpours Friday and early yesterday again swelled rivers and streams, and heavy rains in Afghanistan are expected to make things even worse over the next 36 hours, as the bloated Kabul River surges into Pakistan’s north west. Pakistani officials estimate as many as 14 million people have been affected by the rising waters. About 1,600 people have died, most of them in the north west, the hardest-hit region. Mass evacuations are under way in the southern region of Sindh after the Indus River rose there.

    As the floods spread south into Sindh yesterday, about 600 people were reported missing. Rushing waters washed away more than 2,000 villages and displaced 500,000 people. Authorities were desperately trying to protect two large dams in the region, in an attempt to prevent devastation on the scale seen in the north. Nevertheless, acres of wheat and sugar cane fields in the country’s most fertile region were enveloped in water overnight, destroying two of Pakistan’s most valuable export crops within hours. About half of the camps in southern Punjab have been evacuated over the past 48 hours as waters rose higher than expected, according to the NGO Plan International.
    Millions in despair as Pakistan floods spread

  51. Prokaryotes says:

    More adaptation:

    The worst-hit part of Gannan was Zhouqu county, with Xinhua reporting that half of it was under water. Many houses collapsed and streets were covered with one yard (meter) of mud and water, it said.

    ”Now the sludge (thick mud) has became the biggest problem to rescue operations. It’s too thick to walk or drive through,” he was quoted as saying.

  52. Prokaryotes says:

    The runoff from the downpour late on Saturday banked up behind a landslide in a narrow valley in Zhouqu County in Gannan.

    The accumulated water then triggered mudslides that hit the county’s main town, smashed a hydro-electric power station, Xinhua and local television reports said. “A preliminary estimate is that 50,000 people have been affected by the disaster,” state television said. “About half of the county seat was covered.”

    State broadcaster CCTV said 45,000 people had been evacuated from the area.

  53. Doug Bostrom says:

    Government officials in Pakistan are now calling the floods affecting the country the worst in their nation’s history as the death toll soars and figures of those displaced by the disaster climb to over 16 million.

    Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani of Pakistan addressed his country and the world Friday using uncharacteristically frank language in a televised speech.

    “Pakistan has been hit by the worst flood of it’s history,” the prime minister said. “As I speak, the flood is still engulfing new areas and adding to the scale of devastation.”

    The scale of devastation is indeed vast. The disaster management authority in Pakistan announced Friday that initial estimates based on new information and events had vastly changed the government’s understanding of the disaster.

    According to new figures, 650,000 homes are underwater, damaged or destroyed and 1,500 people are dead, while 16 million people are left without food or shelter. On August 6th, Big News Network understood that 4 million people had been effected, revealing the extent to which the situation has rapidly deteriorated.
    Vast devastation in Pakistan flooded areas

    More “torrential” rain expected.

    This is what Tol was probably referring to when he mentioned “transitional costs,” presumably.

  54. Prokaryotes says:

    Monsoon floods and landslides ravage China, India, and Pakistan; Colin still weak

  55. Prokaryotes says:

    Leland Palmer, the oxy-fuel combustion plant, has still the unsolved and untested problems of Co2 storage. Why not build a solar or wind plant for 1 billion or a biochar plant?

  56. Leland Palmer says:

    Hi Prokaryotes-

    Solar and wind plants are marginally carbon positive, depending on the technologies employed. They are almost carbon neutral, but not quite. So they don’t add much to global warming.

    BECCS plants would be carbon negative. They would actively shift carbon back underground.

    The Scientific American article quotes one of the FutureGen 2.0 supporters saying that they have a site that can accept 50 million tons of CO2 per year for 50 years. Back of the envelope, that’s 680 million tons of carbon.

    Suppose that 680 million tons of carbon comes from coal. Net effect on the climate problem is approximately zero.

    Now suppose that 680 million tons of carbon comes from biomass, from dedicated plantations planted on marginal agricultural land, planted specifically for that purpose. Net effect on the climate problem is 680 million tons of CO2 subtracted from the air, plus a lot of electricity generated that could power electric vehicles, and avoidance of methane production from decaying organic matter that ends up being burned and sequestered instead. If we want, we can spend our CO2 reduction to compensate for 680 million tons of carbon output from motor vehicles, to bring our impact on the global heating back up to zero. We could also get biomass by cutting firebreaks through the local forests, avoiding more CO2 injection by forest fires into the atmosphere.

    That’s why we need to go carbon negative- the synergistic effects on the problem. The ability to generate useful electricity at the same time we put carbon back underground makes a huge quantitative difference on the math of the problem.

    The Wikipedia BECCS article says that it has been estimated that such a program could be worth a 50 to 150 ppm reduction in CO2 levels. That article also shows a graph that shows that the cost to reach 350 ppm CO2 is manageable with BECCS, but rises asymptotically to very high levels with the other alternatives.

    I support BECCS because it appears to be very synergistic, and the least bad of a range of bad options.

    Biochar is also a carbon negative alternative, but 680 million tons of biochar seems like a lot of biochar. If the transport is done using fossil fueled vehicles, a lot of the carbon negative nature of biochar goes away, assuming that it is transported instead of buried on site.

    I support Biochar, too.

    But this oxy-combustion retrofit idea seems like an especially good one. Burning biomass or charcoal fuel in such a retrofit would make it truly carbon negative. And oxy-combustion occurs at higher temperatures than air combustion, opening up the possibility easily adding a gas turbine topping cycle, increasing thermal efficiency greatly- enough to pay for the CCS and the generation of the oxygen.

  57. Prokaryotes says:

    Now the real catastrophe unfolds

    The Ugly Summer of 2010
    Brutal heat has greenkeepers fighting to save their courses from ruin

  58. Joe Earth says:

    I agree that corporations make money by labeling things “green”, “all natural”, “eco-friendly”, etc.

    But that must mean that large corporations want people to think that global warming caused by human beings is a real threat and something that should be dealt with.

    So much for the idea that anthropogenic global warming is a liberal concept.

  59. Doug Bostrom says:

    Prokaryotes says: August 9, 2010 at 7:15 am

    Sardonic “Hah!”