January 13 News: AFL-CIO Chief Blasts Congress as “Effectively Controlled by Climate Change Deniers”

Other stories below: How to restrain global warming by nearly 1 degree Fahrenheit by 2050; Sunflowers inspire new solar designs

Union chief: Congress controlled by ‘climate change deniers’

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said Thursday that climate change deniers call the shots in Congress.

“[I]t is clear that as long as Congress is effectively controlled by climate change deniers, all of us — investors, companies, workers and the broader public — must take action ourselves,” Trumka said.

In a wide-ranging speech in New York at the Investor Summit on Climate Risk & Energy Solutions, Trumka made the case for creating jobs with the build-out of low-carbon infrastructure.

He said the collapse of global warming legislation has prompted the labor federation to seek other means to spur investments in climate-friendly technologies. The federation backed the sweeping climate bill that passed the House in 2009, but climate legislation collapsed in the Senate the following year and remains politically moribund amid GOP control of the House and the Democrats’ slim Senate majority.

Mobilize to Stop Soot and Methane

Humanity has done little to address climate change. Global emissions of carbon dioxide reached (another) all-time peak in 2010. The most recent international talks to craft a global treaty to address the problem pushed off major action until 2020. Fortunately, there’s an alternative—curbing the other greenhouse gases.

Specifically, in the case of rapid action to slow catastrophic climate change, the best alternatives appear to be: methane and black carbon (otherwise known as soot). A new economic and scientific analysis published in Science on January 13 of the benefits of cutting these two greenhouse gases finds the benefits to be manifold—from human health to increased agricultural yields.

Even better, by analyzing some 400 potential soot- and methane-emission control measures, the international team of researchers found that just 14 deliver “nearly 90 percent” of the potential benefits. Bonus: the 14 steps also restrain global warming by roughly 0.5 degree Celsius by 2050, according to computer modeling.

Toward a National Coastline Policy

The United States has thousands of miles of coastline, and more than half of its population lives in counties bordering oceans or the Great Lakes — areas administered by a hodgepodge of federal, state or other agencies, often with conflicting goals.
For years, environmental groups and expert panels have called for federal oversight for these areas.

On Thursday, the idea took a step forward when the White House issued a National Ocean Policy action plan for regulations governing stewardship of those regions. The White House said the goal was to base decisions on solid science and on a philosophy of openness and responsiveness to the requirements of shipping, national security and the needs of vulnerable ecosystems, especially in an era of climate change.

In a statement, John P. Holdren, the White House science adviser, said that one goal was to “ensure that the interests of all stakeholders, from recreational beachgoers to fishermen and farmers, are taken into account.”

Once Again, More Questions than Answers

Concerned citizens seeking confirmation that a brine-injection well located in Youngstown, Ohio caused 11 earthquakes to shake the Mahoning Valley in 2011 left the Covelli Centre disappointed last night after officials from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources were unable to provide the answers they sought.

One man went as far as to call Wednesday’s informational meeting hosted by the City Council Public Utilities Committee a “dog and pony show” after Jeffrey Dick, chairman of Youngstown State University’s geology department, stated there is little data to directly connect the well and earthquakes.

After the crowd’s protests and jeers subsided, Dick went on to explain that while drilling deep injection wells can cause earthquakes, he does not believe that is the case in Youngstown.

Report Blames Safety Lapses for an Epidemic of Deaths at Wyoming Job Sites

C. J. Moss was on the final day of his weeklong shift working in Wyoming’s oil fields when he died. A burnt cable electrocuted Mr. Moss, 26, while he was cleaning part of a motor for a drilling rig, killing him instantly.

In a state with fewer than 600,000 residents, accidental deaths like Mr. Moss’s, which occurred in February 2007 and has led to a lawsuit over who was responsible, have become disquietingly common. Wyoming, with its growing oil, gas and mining industries, is one of the most dangerous places in the United States to work.

A report compiled by an epidemiologist hired by the state and released on Jan. 3, found that Wyoming’s work sites lacked what it called a culture of safety and that proper safety procedures were not followed in the vast majority of cases when someone was killed on the job.

The report also noted that Wyoming had the highest workplace fatality rate in the country for all but one year from 2003 through 2008. In 2010, the last year that data was provided, Wyoming’s estimated occupational death rate was three and a half times the national average, the report said.

Sunflowers Inspire Better Solar Power Tech

We’ve all seen concentrated solar power (CSP) plants — those rows and rows of shiny mirror heliostats all crowded around a 100-metre-high pillar, like worshippers peering up at a towering god.

The orchestra of mirrors track the sun throughout the day, bouncing rays up at the central tower where the heat is concentrated, converted into electricity and piped into the national grid. Only a small handful of these plants — like PS10, in the Spanish desert region of Andalucia — exist around the world.

Their growth is restricted thanks to their sizable footprints. “Concentrated solar thermal energy needs huge areas,” said Alexander Mitsos, the Rockwell International assistant professor of mechanical engineering, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in a press release.

“If we’re talking about going to 100 percent or even 10 percent renewables, we will need huge areas, so we better use them efficiently,” he said in the release.

11 Responses to January 13 News: AFL-CIO Chief Blasts Congress as “Effectively Controlled by Climate Change Deniers”

  1. prokaryotes says:

    Comparing Energy Conversion of Plants and Solar Cells

    Comparing plant and photovoltaic systems is a challenge. Although both processes harvest energy from sunlight, they use that energy in different ways. Plants convert the sun’s energy into chemical energy, whereas solar cells produce electricity.

    In all cases, the research team considered the efficiency of harvesting the entire solar spectrum as a basis for comparison. Additionally, the researchers compared plants to solar cell arrays that also store energy in chemical bonds. Calculations were applied to a solar cell array that was coupled to an electrolyzer that used electricity from the array to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. The free energy needed to split water is essentially the same as that needed for photosynthesis or a solar cell, so the comparison provided a level playing field.

    Using this type of calculation, the annual averaged efficiency of solar-cell-driven electrolysis is about 10 percent. Solar energy conversion efficiencies for crop plants are about 1 percent, which illustrates the significant potential to improve the efficiency of the natural system, according to Ort. While, in the context of the team’s efficiency analysis, solar cells have a clear advantage compared to photosynthesis, there is a need to apply both in the service of sustainable energy conversion for the future.

    This energy-efficiency analysis between plant photosynthesis and solar cells will lay the groundwork for improving the efficiency of plant photosynthesis in agriculture for improved yield.

  2. prokaryotes says:

    Negative Feedback and exactly what has been predicted (more snowfall from ice free conditions).

    Arctic warming, increasing snow cover and widespread boreal winter cooling

  3. Joe Romm says:

    It’s what he does.

  4. Paul Magnus says:

    attacks are on the rise in many parts of the world. Yellowstone National Park saw human-bear conflicts spike in 2008 and 2010 — followed in 2011 by its first fatal bear attacks in 25 years — and officials are grappling with similar issues in Japan, Russia and elsewhere.

    The violence has been linked to a variety of factors, including habitat loss, human intrusion, food shortages and even climate change.

  5. Paul Magnus says:

    Anchorage, Alaska Snowfall Sets Record
    ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Heavy snow fell in Alaska’s largest city Thursday, adding to what already has been the snowiest period for Anchorage since records have been kept. The National Weather Service predicted a snowfall of 8-16 inches, with the city’s upper Hillside neighborhoods expe…

  6. Merrelyn Emery says:

    The report from Wyoming shows you why the fossil fuel industry fights tooth and nail to keep unions out. Treating people as replaceable parts is much cheaper than abiding by safety regulations, ME

  7. Mossy says:

    Regardless of the outcome of the informational meeting in Youngstown, OH, regarding the recent earthquakes, there is a wide perception by local landowners that the brine well injections did indeed cause the seismic activity, and therefore a ground-level reluctance to sign lease permits is percolating.

  8. prokaryotes says:

    Gas-hydrate tests to begin in Alaska: US team will pump waste carbon dioxide into natural-gas well to extract methane

  9. Paul Magnus says:

    I it sensible to sink this amount of money into coastal lowlands?

    Coastal Louisiana Land Loss: Bold Plan Proposed
    NEW ORLEANS — A $50 billion, 50-year proposal aspires to stop coastal land loss in Louisiana, build new levee systems to protect cities and even begin to slowly reverse the trend of eroding marsh that has turned the entire southern portion of the state into one of the nation’s most vulnerable regio…