Energy and Global Warming News for August 19th: Pakistan is new benchmark in climate-related disasters; Windstalks harvest wind energy in a field


Windstalks Harvest Wind Energy In A Field

… [A] group of designers has created a new style of wind farm that takes a few cues from nature itself.

Designed as a potential energy source for the planned city of Masdar in Abu Dhabi, the Windstalks, as they are known, resemble a wheat field. Only instead of stalks of wheat, the fields consist of 1,203 55-meter-tall carbon fiber-reinforced resin poles, each full of piezoelectric ceramic discs and electrodes. When the poles blow in the wind, the electrodes produce a current, which is then stored in two battery-like chambers located beneath the field. Each pole is outfitted with an array of LED lights on its tip, which either light up or go completely dark depending on how much the pole is actually moving.

The creators say that a Windstalk field should be able to produce an amount of energy comparable to a traditional turbine array. Even though a single turbine can produce more power than a single pole, the Windstalks can be packed into much denser arrays.

Via Inhabitat.

windstalk, wind turbines, land art, abu dhabi, masdar city, green design, renewable energy

Pakistan — a Sad New Benchmark in Climate-Related Disasters

Devastating flooding that has swamped one-fifth of Pakistan and left millions homeless is likely the worst natural disaster to date attributable to climate change, U.N. officials and climatologists are now openly saying.

Most experts are still cautioning against tying any specific event directly to emissions of greenhouse gases. But scientists at the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in Geneva say there’s no doubt that higher Atlantic Ocean temperatures contributed to the disaster begun late last month.

Atmospheric anomalies that led to the floods are also directly related to the same weather phenomena that a caused the record heat wave in Russia and flooding and mudslides in western China, said Ghassem Asrar, director of the World Climate Research Programme and WMO. And if the forecasts by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) are correct, then Pakistan’s misery is just a sign of more to come, said Asrar….

During the most intense storms, about a foot of rain fell over a 36-hour period. Parts of the affected areas, in particular Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province (formerly Northwest Frontier province) received 180 percent of the precipitation expected in a normal monsoon cycle. More rain is expected in the days ahead.

Records show that the famed Indus River is at its highest water level ever recorded in the 110 years since regular record-keeping began. Estimates put the number of displaced people at somewhere between 15 million and 20 million, and the government believes about 1,600 are confirmed dead.

6.5 million need food, drinking water and medicine

The International Organization for Migration says the greatest immediate need is in Punjab, where roughly 500,000 families pushed out by the floods are awaiting assistance. All told, agencies guess that about 6.5 million Pakistanis need shelter, food, potable water and medicine.

“This is a disaster which has affected many more people than I have ever seen,” said John Holmes, head of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, who also leads relief efforts in Haiti.

Zamir Akram, Pakistani ambassador to the U.N. center in Geneva, said floodwaters now cover an area roughly the size of England. Satellite surveys show about 160,000 square kilometers (62,000 square miles) is underwater, or about one-fifth of Pakistan’s landmass and roughly equivalent to the areas of Austria, Belgium and Switzerland combined.

Asrar at the WMO says higher-than-average Atlantic temperatures and conditions made ripe by the La Ni±a cycle of lower temperatures in the central Pacific Ocean created the perfect conditions for the rains. Experts acknowledge that the scale of this disaster has been made worse by a history of deforestation and land-use changes in the affected areas, but Asrar insists that the sheer volume of precipitation absorbed by clouds and then dumped on Pakistan is chiefly to blame.

Climate scientists at WMO and elsewhere, including those with the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, say this year’s summer is one of the hottest ever, with high temperatures breaking records across the United States, Europe and Central Asia. Consequently, the surface of the Atlantic has also been much warmer than usual.

The IPCC assessment reports note that higher ocean temperatures lead to more water vapor entering the atmosphere. This fact, Asrar said, already pointed toward a stronger than usual monsoon season in store for South Asia.

Abnormal airflow dumps supersaturated air

“Basically, this rift that was forming blocked the warm air moving from west to east, and then, on the other side, this air that was super saturated with water vapor had to precipitate all this excess water that was in the atmosphere, which created this unprecedented amount of rain in short period of time,” Asrar explained. “The connecting factor is that clearly the warming is a driver for all these events.”

UN official demands drought action at Cancun

The UN’s pointman on desertification called Wednesday on participants at the next climate summit in Cancun to take urgent measures to prevent future disasters by staving off land degradation.

“Those most vulnerable to climate change live in the driest parts of the globe: look at what is happening in Pakistan where the rain should come as a blessing and ends up being a curse,” Luc Gnacadja told AFP.

“We ask ourselves why efforts are concentrated on protecting the forests, while we know that what drives deforestation is land degradation. If we do not find a response to land degradation, which gets worse with desertification, people will continue to cut down trees.”

Gnacadja, the executive secretary of UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), called for a “serious accord” by the end of the year.

A new UN conference is due to be held in the Mexican resort of Cancun to try to build on a loose accord hammered out at marathon talks in Copenhagen in December last year that were widely regarded as a failure.

Cancun will host negotiators from November 29 to December 10 who are set to discuss a binding agreement on reducing carbon dioxide emissions that will replace the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in December 2012.

Carbon Profit Grows on Trees for New Zealand Farmers

New Zealand’s sheep farmers are flocking to a government carbon trading program that pays more to plant trees than sell wool and mutton.

The system, begun in 2008 and the only one of its kind outside Europe, awards farmers credits that are sold to offset greenhouse gas emissions. The project may earn them about NZ$600 a hectare ($172 per acre) a year on land unprofitable for grazing animals, said David Evison, a senior lecturer at the University of Canterbury’s New Zealand School of Forestry.

Forests planted for carbon credits may increase to 30,000 hectares a year compared with 3,500 hectares in 2009, the government estimates. The system is a welcome alternative for sheep farmers who’ve struggled for decades from a combination of slumping wool prices, drought and competition for land from the dairy and lumber industries, says Neil Walker, a forester in the Taranaki region of New Zealand’s North Island.

“If you’re an industry in decline, you have to see what options are available,” said Walker, who also heads the Taranaki Regional Council’s policy and planning committee. “There’s an economic case to be made for converting hill- country sheep farms to forests.”

Delusions Abound on Energy Savings, Study Says

When it comes to saving energy, many Americans seem to get it “” and at the same time they don’t get it at all. That’s the takeaway from a new study by researchers from Columbia University, Ohio State University and Carnegie Mellon University who found that people are far more likely to focus on switching off lights or unplugging appliances than on buying new bulbs or more efficient refrigerators. But people’s perceptions of the relative savings of various actions are significantly at variance with reality.

“Participants estimated that line-drying clothes saves more energy than changing the washer’s settings (the reverse is true) and estimated that a central air-conditioner uses only 1.3 times the energy of a room air-conditioner (in fact, it uses 3.5 times as much),” the researchers wrote.

Perhaps more to the point, people seem conditioned to think of energy savings as they would of saving money: that they can save by simply reducing use, the study found. But the biggest energy savings are tied to replacing things that use a lot of energy with things that use far less.

Keystone concerns: EPA right to require attention to minority pollution problems in pipeline project

The proposed Keystone XL Pipeline, designed to bring crude oil extracted from tar sands in western Canada to refineries in Houston and Port Arthur, has recently attracted the attention and concern of the Environmental Protection Agency.

A high-level EPA official has communicated that the pipeline doesn’t adequately evaluate potential health impacts on minority communities near the Port Arthur refinery where some of the crude would be processed.

The agency’s interest in this topic should not come as a complete blind-side to the parties involved in the construction of the pipeline. They reflect frequently expressed views of EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson that minorities and poor people have historically not had a say on decisions such as these that continue to have a direct impact on their health and quality of life. We share those concerns.

The situation in Port Arthur has drawn particular attention because of its large minority population living close by several refineries, chemical plants and a waste incinerator. Port Arthur was flagged as one of 10 sites with particular “environmental justice” issues, and received government grants in 2009 to help mitigate those effects.

Vestas shares plummet following huge second-quarter losses

Vestas, the world’s biggest wind turbine manufacturer, has spread a dark cloud over the renewable energy sector by turning a sizeable second-quarter profit last year into a ‚¬120m (£99m) loss over the past three months.

Shares in the company plunged more than 20% on the Copenhagen stock market as analysts took fright, despite claims by Vestas that the financial turnaround was just a delayed reaction to the credit crunch, which had led to delayed orders.

Vestas, which closed down its Isle of Wight manufacturing facility last summer, said it was going to chop 600 more jobs – half of them short-term contracts – in Denmark, its home base.

The unexpectedly poor financial results come amid recent warnings from the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) that the previously buoyant US wind market was in precipitous decline and desperately needed positive new policies from the White House.

The global renewable energy sector has become increasingly fearful that governments are now more concerned about cutting public spending than keeping the green energy revolution on track.

56 Responses to Energy and Global Warming News for August 19th: Pakistan is new benchmark in climate-related disasters; Windstalks harvest wind energy in a field

  1. homunq says:

    “Participants estimated that line-drying clothes saves more energy than changing the washer’s settings (the reverse is true)”: I was suprised by this, so I checked. The “changing settings” refers to a cold rather than hot wash, which makes sense; heating water takes a lot of energy.

    Those “windstalks” don’t look any prettier than windmills, to me.

  2. Lewis Cleverdon says:

    From Nasa’s Modis program:

    “According to the Sukachev Institute of Forest, as of August 13, the Moscow Region had lost 43,718 hectares (189 square miles) to fire, 94,950 hectares (367 square miles) in the Vladimir Region, and 300,047 hectares (1,158 square miles) in the Nizhny Novgorod Region. They also report the total acreage burned in the Russian Federation up to this date is 15,688,855 hectares (60,575 square miles).”

    That official account of 15.69 MHa.s of Russian forests burned up to August 13 deserves to be worldwide news. The implications just as a feedback in its own right are stark, let alone its material contribution to arctic albido loss through soot deposition on vulnerable snow & ice.

    Allowing a moderate 100 Ts C per hectare, x 3.67 for CO2, would imply a feedback emission from Russia’s forests in the first eight months of 2010 of:
    15.69 MHa.s x 367Ts CO2 = 5.758 GTs of CO2.
    Added to which are the related volumes of CO, CH4, VHCs, etc.

    Would anyone care to put that feedback emission of 5.76 gigatonnes of CO2 into context – say as a percentage of US anthro emissions, or of the Russian output, or by naming the nation whose annual output is nearest to that figure ?



  3. command & control advantage says:

    I thought piezoceramics “wear out” to quick?

  4. Abe says:

    I love the windstalks.

    I like the look better than the windmills, even if they do make it seem like some sort of ancient tentacle god is trying to enter our dimension

    They also seem like they would avoid the air pressure problem that results in bleeding bat lungs.

  5. Raul M. says:

    Oh, the energy experts are so busy with wining
    and dining so that they can get some funds to
    prepare for disaster at some locations that they
    forgot to paint the school temp. buildings with
    infrared barrier paint. The portables AC units
    run very often and the officials would rather
    do a study to see if they had followed directions
    at the time the buildings were made than to
    just paint the roofs with barrier paint and save
    the huge amount the board pays in elec. overuse.
    Good luck in your area, maybe you’ll just say
    oh, that is so stupid and then paint the roofs
    with barrier paint.
    Good luck.

  6. catman306 says:

    Actually, these wheat fields look like art, 60s art.

    Here is one at the Albright Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo.

    There used to be one at main entrance the to High Museum in Atlanta.

    These wheat field wind farms seem to be a good idea if they can work for many years without much maintenance.

  7. Daniel Ives says:

    The wind stalks can probably be designed to produce power at a larger range of wind speeds compared to a turbine, which typically produces power between 4 m/s and 25 m/s. Also, being lightweight, they could easily be mounted on tall buildings. I like it!

  8. homunq says:

    Lewis, all that CO2 was slated for emission when you ate it and breathed out anyway.

    Yes, you’re going to find something else to eat. But how that changes your eating (and of course, livestock’s eating) could easily halve or double the raw CO2 output here.

  9. homunq says:

    oops, sorry. Those were forests, not wheat fields. Forget I said anything.

  10. Gord says:

    In our latest paper on Household Thermodynamics, we demonstrate by using 6 years of data that per dollar spent adding insulation to an older house is three times more efficient than generating power using solar panels. We are at 43 degrees Latitude in North America.

    Read the paper in PDF at:

    All data used is our own data collected here at The Ravina Project on a daily basis.

    Our paper suggests that around this latitude, in an older house, insulating first and generating later will give you the ‘best bang’ for your green dollar.

  11. Steve Bloom says:

    Gord, possibly you have latitude locations memorized, but most don’t. Just naming the city would be better, especially since the need for insulation will vary depending on which city it is (e.g. with a mountain vs. seaside location).

  12. catman306 says:

    Jay Gulledge at PEW dispels the ‘winners and losers’ paradigm of climate change. We all lose.’s-extreme-weather

  13. NASA: Global plant growth starts to decline. “Serious warning that warmer temps not endlessly improve plant growth”:

  14. BB says:

    Those “Wheat field farms” could be pretty promising…One of the issues that snag projects trying to get off the ground is the radar interference signals the rotating blades can cause, so this could be a great work-around.

  15. Theodore says:

    I noticed that there is no photo of an actual windstalk, or even a lab prototype. Enthusiasm seems premature.

  16. Marc Roberts says:

    Love the windstalks.
    Here’s a cartoon on the increase in extreme events

  17. fj2 says:

    “Eulogizing the Climate Bill that Wasn’t”

    Adam Fischer
    Columbia Institute University
    Earth Institute
    State of the Planet
    August 18, 2010

  18. Prokaryotes says:

    Fracking Linked to Water Contamination, Health Problems In Several States

    Hydraulic fracturing is now used in about 90 percent of US gas and oil wells. The process involves injecting water, sand, and a cocktail of chemicals at high pressure into rock formations thousands of feet below the surface. Because the federal Energy Policy Act of 2005 exempted hydraulic fracturing from regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act, shale gas drillers don’t have to disclose what chemicals they use. According to a report issued by the Environmental Working Group, fracking has already been linked to drinking water contamination and property damage in Colorado, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wyoming.

  19. Prokaryotes says:

    Satellite Data Show Plant Growth is Declining on Earth

    One idea about climate change suggested that higher temperatures would boost plant growth and food production. That may have been a trend for awhile, where plant growth flourished with a longer growing season, but the latest analysis of satellite data shows that rising global temperatures has reached a tipping point where instead of being beneficial, higher temperatures are causing drought, which is now decreasing plant growth on a planetary scale. This could impact food security, biofuels, and the global carbon cycle. “This is a pretty serious warning that warmer temperatures are not going to endlessly improve plant growth,” said Steven Running from the University of Montana.

  20. Prokaryotes says:

    Not on my beach, please
    Across the world, wind technology produces as much political heat as electric light—stirring local arguments as well as global ones

    “OF COURSE I’m all in favour of clean energy, especially wind power, but…” That is a familiar opening gambit in a new sort of political storm, raging ever more fiercely in corners of the world where electric power comes, or may soon come, from flashing blades rather than blazing furnaces.

    Yet advocates of wind insist that tourists and turbines can go together. In 2002, a survey of visitors to the west of Scotland (where wind farms abound) found that only 8% said their feelings were negatively affected by the blades; some 43% said the mills made them feel better about the region. “In China and Poland people go to wind farms to have wedding pictures taken,” notes Steve Sawyer, of the Brussels-based Global Wind Energy Council.

  21. Michael Tucker says:

    Market for Water Recycling & Reuse Technologies to Reach $57 Billion in 2015 as Global Demand Intensifies

    Demand for water is increasing as the world’s population grows, agricultural needs increase and developing nations become more affluent. Unfortunately, there is not an increase in water supply to match this growing demand; in fact, as weather patterns change and water sources continue to be overused, fresh water supplies are decreasing.

  22. Gord says:

    Fair enough, Steve.

    Toronto, Canada.

  23. Prokaryotes says:

    Duke Energy drops NC wind turbine project

    Construction in shallow water would also have potentially disturbed underwater vegetation more than originally expected, the company said.

    Underwater vegetation?

  24. Davis Smith says:

    carbon fiber-reinforced resin poles

    Made from carbon. As I recall, that carbon and the resin are both from crude oil. Like Koch industry refines.

  25. P. G. Dudda says:

    Speaking of climate-related disasters, is this AQUA/MODIS satellite picture (from 18.Aug) really showing a new crack running diagonally across Petermann glacier? If so, is this a sign that the entire glacier is priming for a collapse along its entire length?

  26. Doug Bostrom says:

    Davis Smith says: August 19, 2010 at 5:45 pm

    As I recall, that carbon and the resin are both from crude oil. Like Koch industry refines.

    Yes, and isn’t wonderful that instead of us setting it on fire like cavemen, we’ll use it for something better?

    One of the things I find really disturbing about oil companies is their constant encouragement for us to burn a mineral resource that is useful for so many things. We’re profligately wasting hydrocarbon molecules we’ll have to assemble later, once the fossil fuel pyre goes out and “we’re sitting in the dark” as these numbskulls are so fond of saying.

    Stewards of a precious resource? Sure, right.

  27. Prokaryotes says:

    Atlantic Hurricane Season Set to Intensify

    Brian McNoldy, a meteorologist at Colorado State University who maintains a useful Web site on tropical storms in the Atlantic Ocean, has distributed an alert about a particularly noteworthy wave of low pressure moving west from Africa that appears likely to become a hurricane within a week.

  28. Prokaryotes says:

    Massive 926 mb extratropical storm generating huge waves off Antarctica
    One of the most intense extratropical storms in recent years is churning up the waters near the coast of Antarctica in the South Indian Ocean. The powerful storm peaked in intensity yesterday afternoon with a central pressure of 926 mb–the type of pressure typically found in a Category 4 hurricane.

  29. Kim says:

    Surely wind stalks are quieter than windmills.

  30. Tom Bennion says:

    A very thorough analysis of the NZ ETS has been published. Its not pretty. All units will be given away (no auctioning) and there is no cap.

    However, the scheme may be better than nothing and should encourage some forest planting over BAU.


  31. catman306 says:

    For wannabes, wish-they-weres and maybe professionals, here climate modeling software. Maybe someone here will know if this is a good investment.

    climate modeling software

  32. Bob Wallace says:

    In most places the good wind is up high, not down where the stalks would live.

    That’s why towers have been getting taller.

  33. Prokaryotes says:

    China to Invest Billions in Electric and Hybrid Cars

    The Chinese government, determined to become a world leader in green technology, says it plans to invest billions of dollars over the next few years to develop electric and hybrid vehicles.

    The government said a group of 16 big state-owned companies had already agreed to form an alliance to do research and development, and create standards for electric and hybrid vehicles.

    The plan aims to put more than a million electric and hybrid vehicles on the road over the next few years in what is already the world’s biggest and fastest growing auto market.

  34. Prokaryotes says:

    Students Design Zero-Emission Electric Car

    During the test run, the developers recorded a fuel economy of 300 mpg for the car. The students are now finding a suitable automaker, who can make their project turn into full-scale commercial entity on a world platform. During the test run, the developers recorded a fuel economy of 300 mpg for the car.

  35. Prokaryotes says:

    UK wheat ethanol plant fails the smell test

    …odor complaints, and the initial fix – doubling the height of the chimneys- has not solved the problem.
    The Health Protection Agency has stated that though unpleasant, the odor will not cause any health issues. The new fix being contemplated is the retrofit of thermal oxidizers at a cost of millions.

  36. Prokaryotes says:

    Scientists working in Chernobyl have found a way to predict which species there are likely to be most severely damaged by radioactive contamination.

    The secret to a species’ vulnerability, they say, lies in its DNA.

    “What we have discovered is that when we look at the species in Chernobyl, we can predict, based on their substitution rates, which ones are most vulnerable to contaminants.” Brightly coloured birds and birds that have a long distance migration were some of the organisms most likely to be affected by contaminants.

    “One explanation may be that these species have, for whatever reason, less capable DNA repair mechanisms,” … that there is a shared causal relationship between accumulating mutations over time and the ability to withstand radiation.”

  37. Prokaryotes says:

    More than 50 whales die after being washed up on New Zealand beach

  38. Prokaryotes says:

    One German Town’s Fight against CO2 Capture Technology

    The next Chernobyl? A death blow to tourism? Poisoned drinking water? The residents of Beeskow, Germany worry that a planned CO2 storage facility under their town could end in disaster and are fighting the project. Europe, though, hopes the technology will drastically reduce emissions.,1518,710573,00.html

  39. Prokaryotes says:

    Eyewitness: Indonesian deforestation exposed

    Photographs from the Guardian Eyewitness series

  40. Prokaryotes says:

    Finland aims to build the world’s first green highway

    Aiming is to create the model for an ecological highway that could be used anywhere in the world, Finland has take up a project under which it will build the world’s first “green highway”. The 81-mile stretch of pavement yet to be built on a highway linking Turku on Finland’s southwestern coast with Vaalimaa near the Russian border will include service stations offering charging points for electric cars and pumps filled with local biofuels.

    The plan involves the production of ethanol from waste and other resources found along the way, as well as clean electricity to power both the cars and infrastructure along the way. Other proposals include installing geothermal heat pumps, providing information to users on their emission levels and installing smart lighting systems along the way that adjust illumination levels depending on the weather and other factors.

  41. Prokaryotes says:

    Japan’s government plans to subsidize domestic plants producing clean-energy and energy-efficient goods under steps to support the slowing economy

  42. Prokaryotes says:

    Maine offshore energy project exceeds expectations

    “largest ocean energy device ever installed in U.S. waters,” the Ocean Renewable Power Company (ORPC) announced Wednesday.

    That device is the company’s Beta Power System, which was installed in Cobscook Bay off of Eastport, Maine, and includes a submerged Turbine Generator Unit with a capacity of 60 kilowatts.

    “Experts estimate that the Gulf Stream currents are capable of generating between 4 and 10 gigawatts of power–the same amount of energy produced by 4 to 10 new nuclear power plants. If ocean energy technology harnessed just 1/1,000 of the Gulf Stream’s available energy, we could power up to 7 million homes and businesses in the state of Florida with renewable, reliable, emission-free electricity,” ORPC says on its company Web site.

    60 kilowatts AWESOME! We are now in the position to counter the threat of CC! Great Progress!

  43. Prokaryotes says:

    Rwanda harnesses energy from exploding lake

    At first glance, the lake’s placid blue waters appear harmless enough (shown to the right). But beneath its beautiful exterior lie huge reservoirs of methane and carbon dioxide that, if released onto the surface, would endanger the two million people living around its shores.

    Kivu is one of the three known “erupting” lakes in the world. Only a stone’s throw away from Nyurangongo volcano, the lake has thousands of years worth of dissolved volcanic gases trapped in its waters.

    It’s a ticking time bomb, but one with a silver lining. Rwanda’s government recently built the Kibuye power plant along the lake’s shore, which siphons off the noxious gases and uses the methane as fuel for three large generators.

  44. Prokaryotes says:

    Radical transparency could lay bare the eco impact of our shopping

    Economic theory applied to ecological metrics offers a novel way to ameliorate our collective assault on the global systems that sustain life. There are two fundamental economic principles that, if applied well, might just accelerate the trend toward a more sustainable planet: marketplace transparency about the ecological impacts of consumer goods and their supply chains, and lowering the cost of that information to zero.

  45. Prokaryotes says:

    Is climate science a settled matter?

    POLITICO reports that a series of candidates running for the House, Senate and governor’s mansions have gotten bolder in stating their doubts over the well-established link between man-made greenhouse gas emissions and global warming. If climate change doubters win in November, including Republican Senate candidates Sharron Angle (Nev.) and Ron Johnson (Wis.), would that kill the chances of any form of cap an trade legislation in the near future? Would supporters of stronger environmental regulations find themselves arguing over first principles about the linkage between human activity and carbon dioxide emissions?

  46. Prokaryotes says:

    Gov. Chris Christie signs offshore wind power bill

    The Offshore Wind Economic Development Act was signed by Christie at a former BP Oil Company facility in Gloucester County, where a port that once held tanks of fuel oil will become New Jersey’s launching point for an ambitious renewable energy program.

    Paulsboro Marine Terminal, a port on the Delaware River the state has struggled to revitalize, is envisaged under the legislation as the preferred hub for manufacturing wind turbines. Through these turbines, the state hopes to one day generate 1,100 megawatts of electricity from farms located 12 to 20 miles off the coast.

  47. Prokaryotes says:

    How Will Your Campus Adapt to Wacky Weather in the Climate-Change Era?

    Our item last week about the floods at Iowa State University—along with alarming reports about the heat waves and flooding around the world—got me thinking about the mayhem that wacky weather will bring to colleges and what colleges are doing to prepare.

    Two years ago, following the disastrous floods at the University of Iowa, The Chronicle ran a story on this very topic, in which we quoted analysts from insurance companies who are trying to grapple with the risks of climate change. Of course, one cannot connect any single weather event, like the Iowa floods, to climate change—but the overall trends are unsettling, even to scientists who are cautious about making such links.

  48. Prokaryotes says:

    Why it matters that spilled Michigan oil came from tar sands

    Environmental experts said it was likely tar sands oil — the controversial asphalt-thick bitumen whose mining and drilling operations are causing major environmental destruction in the forests of Alberta, Canada.

    While reporting on the spill, I asked Enbridge Energy Partners CEO Patrick Daniel several times whether his company’s pipeline was carrying oil from tar sands — or “oil sands,” as the industry typically calls it. He definitively told me that it was not.

    That turned out to be false — the spilled oil did come from the Alberta tar sands, as the Michigan Messenger reports. Enbridge later backtracked on his statement

  49. Prokaryotes says:

    Government proposes higher energy taxes in 2011 budget
    Finland’s government on Thursday concluded its budget talks
    Taxes on various forms of energy production such as peat, natural gas and coal, are being increased in the budget proposal, which is expected to raise heating bills in Finnish homes.

  50. Leland Palmer says:

    Hi Lewis-

    Roughly five gigatons of CO2 is equal to more than one year of U.S. coal fired power plant emissions.

    So, if your CO2 estimates are correct, the Russian fires have just injected more CO2 into the air than all U.S. coal fired power plants did last year.

    It’s something like 18 months worth of U.S. coal fired power plant emissions.

    Even if ALL U.S. coal fired power plants were converted to carbon negative BECCS (Bio-Energy with Carbon Capture and Storage), it would take us 18 months to put all of that carbon back underground.

    On the other hand, if all coal fired power plants worldwide were converted to BECCS, we could put that much carbon back underground in a couple of months.

    So, it’s a lot of carbon, released by the Russian fires.

    On the other hand, assuming 20% charcoal yields from the fires, about 300 million tons of carbon has been removed from the active carbon cycle for a hundred or more years.

    It all seems to be happening much too quickly. And these global warming catalyzed events seem to be overwhelming our ability to deal with them, even under scenarios where radical and radically effective action is taken.

    And of course, we are not taking any effective action, let alone radically effective action to put carbon back underground.

  51. Leland Palmer says:

    The mainstream media is covering the Russian fires, a little.

    They are covering them as either natural disasters, with no mention of global warming, or as “smog in Moscow” mostly.

    Fires break out that release more CO2 into the atmosphere than an entire year of U.S. coal fired power plant emissions.

    And the MSM covers them as “smog in Moscow”.

    It’s diabolical, and it goes beyond stupid, IMO.

  52. Omega Centauri says:

    I think the windstalks make a great artistic project. I doubt they make sense economically. Looks like you need lots of them to replace the output of a few traditional windturbines. And they can’t be cheap. As far as I know, piezoelctrics should be able to last a long time, no moving parts….

  53. Leland Palmer says:

    Hi Lewis, again (Comment #2)

    The situation regarding carbon release from the wildfires in Russia might not be as clear cut as we were thinking. Some studies at Oregon State University that I have been looking at seem to indicate that only a small percentage of carbon is released from a forest ecosystem during a wildfire. A great deal of carbon ends up as charcoal, and this results in longer term sequestration of carbon. So, your 5 gigaton estimate for the amount of carbon released by these fires may be high, by a factor of ten, perhaps.

    These studies have also been examining the use of woody biomass from forests to make biofuels, and have generally seen a decrease of forest carbon storage for all such efforts.

    One thing that such studies have not examined, however, is the use of woody biomass and understory growth for BECCS, a strategy that would put the carbon back underground as supercritical CO2 rather than releasing it to the atmosphere.

    Even if the amount of carbon immediately lost to wildfires is small, I wonder myself about the decay processes in burned forests over the next few decades, and the carbon released by decay. Certainly, it will take decades before these burned areas can become net carbon sinks again.

    Certainly, if the climate change was happening more slowly, one could see how charcoal generation in wildfires would actually be a negative feedback, taking carbon out of the active carbon cycle for a century or even thousands of years.

    But this climate change is happening so quickly, I wonder if many of these burned areas will in fact come back as forest. I wonder if many of them will in fact become grasslands.

    It’s an important question, the effect of wildfires on boreal forests. Is this a positive feedback, a negative feedback, or a feedback that was negative in the past but is being overwhelmed by the pace of climate change?