By Climate Guest Blogger on Oct 18, 2011 at 7:14 pm
Far from being “alarmist,” predictions from climate scientists in many cases are proving to be more conservative than observed climate-induced impacts.
The observed rate of Arctic ice loss exceeds the projections of all IPCC climate models — by NSIDC scientist Julienne Stroeve updated through 2011 (via Climate Crocks, click to enlarge).
By Douglas Fischer, Daily Climate editor, in a repost
The warnings were dire: 188 predictions showing that climate-induced changes to the environment would put 7 percent of all plant and animal species on the globe – one out of every 14 critters – at risk of extinction.
Predictions like these have earned climate scientists the obloquy from critics for being “alarmist” – dismissed for using inflated descriptions of doom and destruction to push for action, more grant money or a global government.
But as the impacts of climate change become apparent, many predictions are proving to underplay the actual impacts. Reality, in many instances, is proving to be far worse than most scientists expected.
“We’re seeing mounting evidence now that the scientific community, rather than overstating the claim or being alarmist, is the opposite,” said Naomi Oreskes, a science historian with the University of California, San Diego. “Scientists have been quite conservative … in a lot of important and different areas.”
A decade ago scientists predicted the Arctic wouldn’t be ice-free in summer until 2100. But the extent of summer ice in the North has rapidly shrunk and today covers 70 percent of the area it did in 1979. Now some scientists think the Arctic could be naught but open water within 25 years.
The 27-story Bosco Verticale in Milan, designed by Stefano Boeri as the world’s first ‘vertical forest’. Click to enlarge.
If you can’t plant a forest horizontally in a dense urban setting, how about vertically? The architect explains his design on his website here:
Bosco Verticale (Vertical Forest) is a project for metropolitan reforestation that contributes to the regeneration of the environment and urban biodiversity without the implication of expanding the city upon the territory. Bosco Verticale is a model of vertical densification of nature within the city….
The first example of a Bosco Verticale composed of two residential towers of 110 and 76 meters height, will be realized in the centre of Milan, on the edge of the Isola neighbourhood, and will host 900 trees (each measuring 3, 6 or 9 m tall) apart from a wide range of shrubs and floral plants.
On flat land, each Bosco Verticale equals, in amount of trees, an area equal to 10,000 sqm of forest. In terms of urban densification the equivalent of an area of single family dwellings of nearly 50,000 sqm.
The Bosco Verticale is a system that optimizes, recuperates and produces energy. The Bosco Verticale aids in the creation of a microclimate and in filtering the dust particles contained in the urban environment. The diversity of the plants and their characteristics produce humidity, absorb CO2 and dust particles, producing oxygen and protect from radiation and acoustic pollution, improving the quality of living spaces and saving energy. Plant irrigation will be produced to great extent through the filtering and reuse of the grey waters produced by the building. Additionally Aeolian and photovoltaic energy systems will contribute, together with the aforementioned microclimate to increase the degree of energetic self sufficiency of the two towers….
Christopher Woodward, director of London’s Garden Museum, has the story on “Living Architecture” with lots of images in the Financial Times. He reports that in this case, the green design “adds only 5% to construction costs.”
Woodward has a great figure on Harmonia 57, an office block in São Paolo, which he calls “the cult ‘green building’ of the moment”:
Drastic shifts in global weather patterns are, in the aggregate, a catastrophe for human welfare. But it’s a big planet, and there’s always some upside somewhere. And in an odd way, the catastrophe is better illustrated by the success stories, if only because there’s less incentive for denial. So I thought Andrew Kramer’s report from Russia’s Arctic seaports is pretty fantastic:
One thing Captain Bozanov did not encounter while towing an industrial barge 2,300 miles across the Arctic Ocean was solid ice blocking his path anywhere along the route. Ten years ago, he said, an ice-free passage, even at the peak of summer, was exceptionally rare. [...] Oil companies might be the most likely beneficiaries, as the receding polar ice cap opens more of the sea floor to exploration. The oil giant Exxon Mobil recently signed a sweeping deal to drill in the Russian sector of the Arctic Ocean. But shipping, mining and fishing ventures are also looking farther north than ever before.
In most contexts, if you phone up Exxon Mobil and ask about climate change you’re likely to get an evasive answer. But you can see here that they’re putting real money down on the prospect that this isn’t just some random coincidence of warm weather, but that an actual large permanent shift in the polar ice caps has happened and will continue to happen. For the narrow purposes of Arctic Ocean oil drilling, this is good news. And arctic seaports will benefit. But of course precisely because the climate is so inhospitable, very little of humanity lives in the arctic. Instead, people live in places where the climate has historically been suited to living. Dramatic shifts in global weather patterns will disrupt all those lives and degrade the value of the massive fixed investments we’ve made over the years in our non-arctic cities and farms.
Please post any comments you’d like Gavin to see here, and I’ll send them his way.
AGU: “In recognition of his exceptional work as a climate communicator, the American Geophysical Union (AGU) has selected Gavin Schmidt as the recipient of its inaugural Climate Communications Prize.”
One of the great things about climate blogging is that you get to know so many other terrific bloggers. One of the best is NASA’s Gavin Schmidt, winner of the first ever $25,000 Climate Communications Prize from the American Geophysical Union, the largest organization of earth and space scientists. News release here.
Schmidt is the “driving force” behind, RealClimate, one of the sites that inspired me to blog. I have gotten to know him over the years, and he is one of the most tireless champions of climate science in the world. And he does not suffer deniers gladly.
Gavin was particularly amazing during the Climategate nonsense. And yet he delivering straightforward yet powerful scientific answers, such as this response to a commenter who asked, “Gavin, In your opinion, what percentage of global warming is due to human causes vs. natural causes?”:
Herman Cain, a former Pizza-mogul turned GOP presidential candidate, sells himself as the only political outsider in the national race. But Cain’s relationship with the Koch brothers and their anti-clean energy “activist” group Americans for Prosperity suggests he is just another insider for the 1%.
Cain’s absurd claim that solar and wind “could at best provide only 5 percent of our total energy needs”– debunked below — makes clear he is happy to shill for the pollutocrats and against the 99%. German politicians have explained that they were able to cross the 20% renewable energy generation threshold last month and adopt policies that will achieve far higher penetration in the coming years, “Because we don’t have … the Koch Brothers.”
A WashPost story from this weekend explores why Cain’s relationship with the politically-influential Koch Brothers is “key” to his campaign:
Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain has cast himself as the outsider, the pizza magnate with real-world experience who will bring fresh ideas to the nation’s capital. But Cain’s economic ideas, support and organization have close ties to two billionaire brothers who bankroll right-leaning causes through their group Americans for Prosperity.
Cain’s campaign manager and a number of aides have worked for Americans for Prosperity, or AFP, the advocacy group founded with support from billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, which lobbies for lower taxes and less government regulation and spending. Cain credits a businessman who served on an AFP advisory board with helping devise his “9-9-9” plan to rewrite the nation’s tax code. And his years of speaking at AFP events have given the businessman and radio host a network of loyal grassroots fans.
AFP tapped Cain as the public face of its “Prosperity Expansion Project,” and he traveled the country in 2005 and 2006 speaking to activists who were starting state-based AFP chapters from Wisconsin to Virginia. Through his AFP work he met Mark Block, a longtime Wisconsin Republican operative hired to lead that state’s AFP chapter in 2005 as he rebounded from an earlier campaign scandal that derailed his career.
The “9-9-9” flat-tax plan is, of course, just another effort by the 1% to shift more of the tax burden to the 99%.
By Climate Guest Blogger on Oct 18, 2011 at 2:37 pm
by John Farrell
What if the U.S. could get 20 percent of its power from solar near transmission lines without covering virgin desert?
It could. Transmission right-of-way corridors, vast swaths of vegetation-free landscape to protect high-voltage power lines, could provide enough space for over 600,000 megawatts of solar PV. These arrays could provide enough electricity to meet 20 percent of the country’s electric needs. (Note: There may not be good interconnection opportunities for solar under these huge towers, so this should be read as a land use discussion rather than technical analysis of interconnection to the grid.)
It starts with the federal Government Accountability Office, which estimates there are 155,000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines in the United States (defined as lines 230 kilovolts and higher). According to at least two major utilities (Duke Energy and the Tennessee Valley Authority), such power lines require a minimum of 150 feet of right-of-way — land generally cleared of all significant vegetation that might come in contact with the power lines.
That’s 4,400 square miles of already developed (or denuded) land for solar power, right under existing grid infrastructure.
Consumers in the Northeastern U.S. who heat with oil may be facing substantial price increases this winter, according to the Energy Information Administration. The agency projects that heating oil prices will average $3.71 a gallon, or about 33 cents more than last winter.
According to EIA, the average price paid by homeowners in the region has more than doubled in the last seven years.
The continued increases in oil-based heating fuels is encouraging many consumers to switch to gas. But it also offers an opportunity for the renewable thermal-energy sector to raise awareness about biomass, solar thermal and geothermal heat pumps.
Currently, only 4% of the Northeast’s thermal energy comes from renewables. The Biomass Thermal Working Group issued a report last year looking at how New England and New York State can source 25% of their thermal energy requirements from renewables — mostly sustainably-harvested biomass — by 2025. The group calls on policy makers to recognize the trends in fossil energy pricing and make thermal renewables a part of the policy mix:
By Jessica Goad, Manager of Research and Outreach, Center for American Progress Action Fund.
This week, progressive western thought leaders met in Las Vegas at the Project New West summit to debate what an equitable, diverse, and successful future of the West might look like. One of the biggest themes of the conversation was jobs — driving them to and keeping them in the region. Participants on panels discussed high-tech, green tech, renewable energy, and other quintessentially American jobs. Another important sector that was discussed and is critical to western growth is the conservation economy — recreation, tourism, restoration, and other mechanisms that protect landscapes while creating jobs.
Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) spoke to ThinkProgress Green about how important jobs in the conservation economy are to the West:
One of the big issues I’ve always thought about is how do you have a balance of lands in the West? So, how do we find ways to protect the remaining wilderness areas in our state and in our region, at the same time encouraging development of clean energy, appropriate development of natural gas, solar wind, all of that. And to me, that’s not only preserving our really special western way of life, it’s also developing our economy because it gives us ways to preserve wilderness areas for people to recreate, it gives us ways to develop our resources in a sustainable way. And what that will do is build our population in a responsible way and it will give good jobs.
Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM) agreed that the conservation economy is critical to his state and must be promoted:
It’s the fabric of who we are as a state, and why we can all embrace it. And look, this notion that there are people that say you can’t bring in business interests to be able to embrace conservation, that they can’t work together—it’s not true. If they can just come to New Mexico and take a look around—we can make it happen, we’re doing it there, and it should be a part of everything we are talking about from an economic perspective.
Both DeGette and Lujan are sponsoring bills in Congress that support jobs in the conservation economy, such as protecting new wilderness area and national conservation areas and attracting renewable energy development to their states.
Northeast Facing Record Heating Oil Prices This Winter |
Households in the Northeast will face record prices for heating oil this winter, the Energy Information Agency projects. The record-high costs are caused by the earlier surge in crude oil prices, spurred by rampant financial speculation. Homeowners in the region have been moving rapidly away from the once-dominant heating oil to natural gas, which has been much cheaper in recent years.
At Climate Progress, Stephen Lacey has more: “The continued increases in oil-based heating fuels is encouraging many consumers to switch to gas. But it also offers an opportunity for the renewable thermal-energy sector to raise awareness about biomass, solar thermal and geothermal heat pumps.” Even more important for the Northeast’s old housing stock is home insulation retrofits.
The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) is poised to vote on position limits for oil trading, but some senators are concerned that the rule will be too weak to diminish oil speculation. Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) both wrote letters to CFTC Commissioner Gary Gensler, asking him to take stronger steps to curb financial speculators like Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. Sanders called the expected rule “simply unacceptable“:
Unfortunately, if recent reports in the media are correct, the final rule on position limits, as currently drafted, will do little or nothing to lower prices and it will not eliminate, prevent or diminish excessive speculation as required by the Dodd-Frank Act. At a time when the American people are experiencing extremely high oil and gas prices, this would be simply unacceptable.
Financial institutions have grossly distorted oil and other commodity markets that used to be dominated by actual buyers and sellers of the underlying products. The Dodd-Frank Act mandated that the CFTC establish stronger limits on financial speculation in commodity markets by Jan. 17, 2011. Nine months behind schedule, the CFTC is planning to establish position limits that would allow a single speculator to control 25 percent of the physically deliverable supply of oil, and to control 125 percent of the cash-settled supply.
Sanders also called on the CFTC to ban “speculative commodity index fund trading,” citing the new report by Better Markets that identifies commodity index funds as the “primary drivers of excessive speculation.”
Sen. Maria Cantwell’s (D-WA) letter to the CFTC goes into more detail about the ineffectiveness of the proposed rule. “I urge the Commission to drop the ‘conditional spot month position limit’ policy from the final ‘Position Limits for Derivatives’ rule and treat the physically-settled and economically equivalent cast-settled ‘look alike’ contracts equally,” she wrote.
Complete with orchestral music fit for a Lord of the Rings movie and supportive quotes from media pundits, Perry’s campaign attempts to spin his climate-killing energy plan into a hopeful vision for the future.
In cinema, high-budget drama doesn’t mean the director can weave a good story — or bring in good reviews from critics. Perry does neither. Here’s what others are saying about Perry’s energy plan:
“I appreciate you endorsing my energy ideas.” — Republican Presidential Candidate Michele Bachmann
“A long-standing jobs and energy proposal that resembled a wish list for the oil and gas industry…he offered no specific in the speech to support its two major claims.” — Richard Oppel, Jr, New York Times
The Perry energy plan is both scary and laughable. Watch the hilarious video below for an alternative version of the Perry campaign’s attempt at inspiration:
Koch’s AFP Starts Big Oil Bus Tour |
Americans for Prosperity, the Koch Industries astroturf group, in conjunction with the oil front group American Energy Alliance (AEA) and the Institute for Energy Research, launched a nationwide Energy for America bus tour in Columbia, Missouri on Monday. “The Energy for America tour is all about reducing the burden of energy prices on families by encouraging domestic exploration and production of our vast energy resources” — i.e., oil, gas, and coal. Wind, solar, geothermal, and hydropower are smeared as “companies like Solyndra.” The tour will continue through Nebraska, Montana, Colorado, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Ohio, most of which are 2012 U.S. Senate battlegrounds.
Welcome to Clean Start, ThinkProgress Green’s morning round-up of the latest in climate and clean energy. Here is what we’re reading. What are you?
Winds gusting at more than 70 mph churned up a 8,000-foot-high dust storm that roiled through the Texas South Plains during the Monday afternoon commute. [AP]
Historic drought conditions are fueling the largest algae bloom in more than a decade along the Texas Gulf Coast, killing fish, sparking warnings about beach conditions and making throats scratchy, researchers said Monday. [AP]
Tuvalu is almost out of clean water because of sea level rise and severe drought. [Time]
The U.S. Senate unanimously approved a pipeline safety bill on Monday that would require strength-testing of old pipes and hike fines for safety violations after a series of accidents and explosions. [Reuters]
Thailand‘s budget deficit would be far higher than planned because of the worst flooding in 50 years, the government said on Tuesday, and people in Bangkok were told not to drop their guard even if the immediate danger to the capital had passed. [Reuters]
The EPA is trying to put “an end to the myth that the Agency is planning to tighten” the regulations for industrial farm dust that have been in place since 1987. [Mother Jones]
There is much the Western world can learn from indigenous people to address some of the problems of global warming, and to more effectively deal with the impending changes. [National Geographic]
Enacting carbon pricing mechanisms at the point of extraction could be efficient and avoid the relocation of industries that could result from regulation at the point of combustion. [Science Daily]
Molecular Solar Ltd, a spinout company from the University of Warwick, reports it has achieved a significant breakthrough in the performance of organic solar photovoltaic cells. [Science Daily]
Texas public high school football players will likely have far fewer two-a-day practices starting in 2012 under rules approved Monday that would give the state some of the strongest guidelines in the country to protect athletes from heat-related injuries. [AP]
Other stories below: Europe Could Reconsider Climate Approach; EU Roadmap Sees Big Shift Toward Renewables; Why the World May be Running out of Clean Water; Developing World Ups Ante in “Cleantech Race.”
I have little doubt that readers without a chip on their shoulder realize that this photo (Peter Biro/IRC) is meant as a visual of the health threat the doctors warn about in the article (see comments below).
Medical experts have urged policy makers to take concrete steps to tackle climate change, warning that failure to do so poses an immediate, grave and escalating threat to the health and security of billions of people around the globe.
More than 100 medical and military professionals, including Dr Hamish Meldrum, chairman of council at the British Medical Association and Lord Michael Jay, chairman of medical relief charity Merlin, yesterday backed a statement declaring climate change the greatest current threat to public health.
The statement outlines how rising temperatures and weather instability will lead to more frequent and extreme weather events, loss of habitat and habitation, water and food shortages, the spread of diseases, ecosystem collapse, and threats to livelihood, potentially triggering mass migration and conflict within and between countries.
Edited by Joe Romm, we cover climate science, solutions and politics. Columnist Tom Friedman calls us "the indispensable blog" and Time magazine named us one of the 25 "Best Blogs of 2010." Newcomers, start here.