Other stories below: Spread of infected ticks linked with global warming; Antarctic plants under threat from invasive species
Google is stepping up wind-power purchases to reduce emissions, even as it devotes most of its renewable energy investments to sun-related projects, a trade-off aimed at reining in costs as the company seeks higher returns.
Google drew 30 percent of the energy it consumed last year from renewable sources, virtually all of it from wind, up from 19 percent a year earlier. Yet of the $917 million that the company has invested in renewable-energy projects, about two-thirds—or $622 million —is channeled toward solar.
Wind power is at least 50 percent cheaper than solar energy, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That explains why Google, which consumes 2.26 million megawatt-hours of electricity a year, mainly for data centers that run its billions of Web searches, increasingly prefers wind.
A new study has documented the rapid growth in Canada of ticks that can cause Lyme disease, and global warming is thought to be a factor.
Ticks capable of carrying Lyme disease went from being almost non-existent in populated areas in Canada in 1990 to now being in 18 per cent of such spots east of Saskatchewan, and this is expected to reach 80 per cent by 2020, says the paper published in the British Ecological Society’s Journal of Applied Ecology.
The report did not specifically link global warming with this trend, but lead researcher Patrick Leighton, of the University of Montreal’s faculty of veterinary medicine, said rising temperatures are thought to be a reason.
“My opinion is that there probably has been an increase in the spread [of ticks] due to the warming climate,” he said.
While Grover Norquist’s conservative American Enterprise Institute (AEI) decided to host a conference to speak out against solar and renewable energy in general, the industries didn’t notice. They steamrolled forward last week, gaining more ground internationally as well as domestically.
The libertarian think tank, AEI, held a conference Feb. 24, called “Clean, Green, Renewable: What Could Go Wrong?,” where economists Timothy Considine, and Benjamin Zycher argued against renewable energy. The two argued that incentivizing renewable energy is not in the public’s interest and will cost the U.S. This is despite the continued falling costs of renewable energy, and Zycher actually argued that the cost of solar power rose 63 percent since 2001.
That seems to fly in the face of exactly what the solar industry’s been doing over the last few years, which is significantly lowering the cost of solar. And those cost reductions continue through a variety of efforts collaborative and otherwise. For instance, the SunSpec Alliance recently announced its first round of awards for companies and organizations that are working to reduce the cost of solar power through standardizing certain aspects of technologies.
The economic cost of disasters in 2011 was the highest in history — with a pricetag of at least $380 billion, mainly due to earthquakes in Japan and New Zealand, a U.N. envoy said Monday.
Margareta Wahlstrom, the secretary-general’s special representative for disaster risk reduction, said the figure was two-thirds higher than the previous record in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina struck the southern United States.
In addition to the earthquakes, Wahlstrom said major floods in Thailand and other countries caused extensive damage.
“The main message is that this is an increasing — very rapidly increasing trend with increasing economic losses,” Wahlstrom said.
I happen to think carbon dioxide re-radiates energy within the infrared spectrum. I also believe combustion of a million years of fossilised carbon within the space of a year, as well as deforestation of large tracts of the world’s forests, is likely to lead to a material increase in carbon dioxide within the atmosphere. All other things being equal, I think this is likely to lead the Earth’s atmosphere to trap greater amounts of the sun’s energy, leading to an increase in global temperature. I also think that if we make emitting carbon dioxide more expensive and harder to do, we’ll reduce the amount of carbon dioxide we emit and moderate temperature rises.
Does that make me a communist?
If the climate continues to warm and development doesn’t slow down, the first avian calamities are likely to the California black rail, the California and Yuma clapper rails, and a few species of coastal song sparrows.
In the first study of its kind, the Point Reyes Bird Observatory, an environmental bird organization, and the California Department of Fish and Game have created a guide prioritizing bird species most at risk from climate change.
The study was published Friday in the journal Public Library of Science.
According to the researchers, it is well known that climate change and rising sea levels pose a threat to sensitive bird populations, but this information is generally not included in lists identifying endangered or at-risk bird populations.
A senior official in the British Royal Navy came to Southern California last week with a message about how climate change can affect political stability. Rear Admiral Neil Morisetti is climate and energy security envoy for the United Kingdom. He said most people think about a warming climate solely as an environmental problem.
“We haven’t really in the past thought of it as a potential security issue,” Morisetti said. But he added that he observes that changing. He’s traveling with a counterpart from the U.S. Navy to colleges and military bases to make the case that global warming deserves attention as a military and political issue.
Climate change, he said, “can act as a threat multiplier in those parts of the world where tree’s already stresses — food, water, health, and demographic challenges, often in countries where governments don’t have the capacity and resilience to look after their citizens. And it can act as a catalyst for conflict and therefore increase the risk of instability.”
Gasoline prices are keeping up their record-setting ways.
California drivers paid an average of $4.358 for a gallon of regular gasoline, up 6.6 cents from a week earlier, the Energy Department said Monday. That’s a fresh record high for this time of year and is 48.4 cents above the year-earlier price.
Nationally, the average rose 7.2 cents to $3.793, also a record for this week, according to Energy Department statistics. A year earlier, the average U.S. price was 27.3 cents lower.
Retail gasoline prices have jumped so quickly that some experts are rethinking their predictions on how high fuel prices could go in 2012. In California and across the nation, prices are already above levels analysts weren’t expecting to see until May.
With its federal license in hand, a Maine-based tidal energy company is ready to install its underwater power system for the first time on the floor of the ocean.
Ocean Renewable Power Co. aims to begin installation of its first grid-connected power unit in mid-March at a 60-acre site in Cobscook Bay at the nation’s easternmost tip.
The first unit capable of powering 20 to 25 homes will be hooked up to the grid this summer, and four more units will be installed next year at a total cost of $21 million for the project, said Chris Sauer, president and chief executive officer of the Portland-based company.
From its perch in a spacious brand-new headquarters blocks from the White House, the Cato Institute has built on its reputation as a venerable libertarian research center unafraid to cross party lines.
Now, however, a rift with one of its founding members — the billionaire conservative Charles Koch — is threatening the institute’s identity and independence, its leaders say, and is exposing fault lines over Mr. Koch’s aggressive and well-financed brand of Republican politics.
The rift has its roots, Cato officials said, in a long-simmering feud over efforts by Mr. Koch and his brother David Koch to install their own people on the institute’s 16-member board and to establish a more direct pipeline between Cato and the family’s Republican political outlets, including groups that Democrats complain have mounted a multimillion-dollar assault on President Obama. Tensions reached a new level with a lawsuit filed last week by the Kochs against Cato over its governing structure.
Every year, thousands of tourists flock to Argentina’s Perito Moreno glacier for majestic views of frozen H2O. This week, many have been treated to a rare glacier collapse.
Around 2,500 tourists watched and cheered as the 97-square-mile glacier splintered and ice crashed down, according to The Telegraph. The BBC notes that the glacier reaches a massive 230 feet (70 meters) into the air, at times growing large enough to separate Lago Argentino, the lake in which it floats, in half.
Alien species are invading Antarctica from as far away as the Arctic — and could fundamentally alter ecosystems in the world’s last relatively untouched continent, an international team of scientists has reported.
The risks from these biological interlopers — seeds and plant material carried in on the shoes and clothing of well-meaning scientists, ecotourists and support staff — will increase as the icy content continues to thaw because of climate change, the scientists reported Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
People think of Antarctica as a pristine wilderness, but that is fast changing, said lead author Steven Chown of Stellenbosch University in South Africa. Over the last few decades, human activity there has increased dramatically. During the 2007-08 summer season, about 33,000 tourists and 7,000 scientists (including support personnel) made landfall there, bringing unintended ecological consequences, Chown said.