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Monday, den 4. February 2013

This is the SodaStream commercial CBS banned from airing during the Superbowl: Sodastream is a home carbonation system that touts itself as “Earth Friendly”: SodaStream is an “Active Green” solution that minimizes the huge eco-footprint caused by the manufacture, transport and waste of plastic bottles. SodaStream says its “vision is to create a  world free from bottles .” They claim that ”since January 2009, we have saved the world from over  1 billion plastic bottles .” Now it is is hard to see why CBS banned that ad gently ribbing the competition (albeit two Superbowl sponsors) — especially since last year NBC ran this ad by Chevy that (humorously) suggests you won’t survive the Mayan apocalypse if you drive a Ford truck [insert line here about trucks and the real apocalypse that's coming]. You shouldn’t shed a tear for SodaStream, however, since they will reportedly be airing a different commercial — and this ban has been a marketer’s dream , with the above ad being viewed more than 2.5 million times this week already.

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Tuesday, den 11. September 2012

In the annals of idiotic remarks by Presidential candidates, Mitt Romney now has a strong claim for the top spot. On Meet the Press , the GOP nominee actually told NBC’s David Gregory: I’m not in this race to slow the rise of the oceans or to heal the planet .

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Wednesday, den 5. September 2012

How much extra energy are we putting in the atmosphere through emission of greenhouse gases? One Australian researcher put it into context : “The radiative forcing of the CO2 we have already put in the atmosphere in the last century is … the equivalent in energy terms to almost half a billion Hiroshima bombs each year.” With more energy radiating down on the planet rather than back up into space, the planet continues to heat up. As the atmosphere warms, it is able to hold more water vapor — thus strengthening the global hydrological cycle.

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Saturday, den 1. September 2012

A cyber-penny for your thoughts.

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Monday, den 13. August 2012

by Climate Progress ; August 12, 2012; 9:00 am. Romney Visits Iowa ‘Farmer’ Who Is Also A Millionaire Real … This post was originally published by Climate Progress .

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Wednesday, den 8. August 2012

A year ago Climate Progress used the exact same clip that Obama does in his ad — except we were slamming Romney for having Etch-a-Sketched away his previous pro-environmental record, whereas team Obama is …

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Wednesday, den 8. August 2012

FUN FACTS About Big Oil Profits: GRAPHIC: GRAPHIC ( Climate Progress ): Every hour so far in 2012, the five largest oil corporations have recorded a $14400000 profit. And every hour, they received more than $270000 in …

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Friday, den 3. August 2012

STORIES DISCUSSED IN TODAY’S ‘GREEN NEWS REPORT’…

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Friday, den 3. August 2012

STORIES DISCUSSED IN TODAY’S ‘GREEN NEWS REPORT’… FUN FACTS About Big Oil Profits: GRAPHIC: ( Climate Progress ): Every hour so far in 2012, the five largest oil corporations have recorded a $14400000 profit.

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Friday, den 3. August 2012

Top 10 Things Climate Change Is Making Worse Right Now. by Climate Progress ; July 31, 2012; 10:00 am. Top 10 Things Climate Change Is Making Worse Right Now

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Monday, den 30. July 2012

There are 5.4 million in-ground residential swimming pools in the Unites States, and, according to Opower ,  the homes with those pools use 49% more electricity each year than homes without. The increase in energy use amounts to about $500 per home per year.

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Wednesday, den 18. July 2012

by Tom Kenworthy As controversy over the use of hydraulic fracturing mounts across the U.S., the Natural Resources Defense Council has produced a handy fact sheet on best practices that can reduce risks of pollution from the technique. The four-page publication details the various risks to both surface and underground water from hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which is used in oil and gas drilling operations and has become more widespread with the development of large new reserves found in shale rock formations.

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Sunday, den 15. July 2012

Last week I wrote that “ Every Network Gets Extreme Weather Story Right .” The ABC News weather editor even ended his story, “Now’s the time we start limiting manmade greenhouse gases.” But the major networks only devote 3 minutes each to what is in fact the “ Climate Story of the Year : Warming-Driven Drought and Extreme Weather Emerge as Key Threat to Global Food Security.” Indeed, global warming is the story of the century — and if we don’t start reducing greenhouse gas emissions ASAP, it will be the story of the millennium — see  NOAA stunner : Climate change “largely irreversible for 1000 years,” with permanent Dust Bowls in Southwest and around the globe (if we don’t act quickly).  See also  Nature Geoscience : Ocean dead zones “devoid of fish and seafood” are poised to expand and “remain for thousands of years.“ So the story deserves much more than 3 minutes.

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Saturday, den 14. July 2012

A penny for your cyberthoughts. Global Warming Deniers Are Getting Burned By Clay Bennett via the  Cartoonist Group Plus a bonus cartoon Mike Smith via the  Cartoonist Group

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Friday, den 13. July 2012

Here’s a chart that voters in the Midwest probably aren’t going to like: This graphic, put together by the wind industry, illustrates how an expiration of the production tax credit may impact employment in the U.S. Notice the spike in activity before the drop-off. That’s due to the rush of development we’re seeing currently in the lead up to the lapse of the credit.

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Thursday, den 12. July 2012

ABC’s Bill Blakemore has a 5-part interview of the most  vindicated climate scientist in America , Michael Mann.

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Wednesday, den 11. July 2012

by Brad Johnson Freshman Sen.

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Tuesday, den 10. July 2012

Could your coffee cup also be a battery?

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Saturday, den 7. July 2012

The Union of Concerned Scientists – Cooler Smarter Event at Politics and Prose : Details here and below Jul 7 2012 6:00 pm When it comes to climate change, each individual’s everyday decisions have tremendous impact. This science-based guide, informed by a two-year study by the Union of Concerned Scientists , a nonprofit organization that combines independent scientific research and citizen action to develop innovative, practical solutions—looks at transportation, home energy use, and personal consumption, showing how people can cut carbon emissions by 20%.

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Tuesday, den 3. July 2012

A round-up of the top climate and energy news. Millions of people learned a new word over the weekend: “derecho.” It was not a happy lesson. [ New York Times ] If you want a glimpse of some of the worst of global warming, scientists suggest taking a look at U.S

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Sunday, den 1. July 2012

by John Farrell, via the Institute For Local Self-Reliance A new study for the California Public Utilities Commission explores the “ Technical Potential for Local Distributed Photovoltaics in California .”  Basically, it’s one of the more in-depth analyses of local solar power in the country, suggesting that California has the capacity to add 15 gigawatts (GW) of local solar (20 megawatts and smaller) to its grid by 2020.  The study pushes the boundaries of distributed generation by assuming that local solar can be installed sufficient to meet 100% of local demand , far beyond the conservative “15% rule” that utilities typically apply.

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Friday, den 29. June 2012

By Brad Johnson, campaign manager of Forecast the Facts The Obama administration’s Bureau of Land Management auctioned a major tract of Wyoming coal to Peabody Energy at a bargain-basement price of $1.10 per ton yesterday. The North Porcupine coal tract in the Powder River Basin went to the single bidder, Peabody subsidiary BPU Western Resources, for $793,270,310.80 for 721 million tons, BLM representative Beverly Gorny stated in a telephone interview. This sale, made under the provisions of the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920, represents a massive fossil-fuel subsidy based on the assumption that the use of coal benefits the American public.

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Friday, den 29. June 2012

T he U.S. coal industry is so deeply unpopular, it has now turned to its imaginary friends for help.

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Wednesday, den 27. June 2012

With spending from interest groups up 1,100 percent since the last presidential campaign, the emerging fact checking industry has been busy.

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Tuesday, den 29. May 2012

A round-up of the top climate and energy news. Please post other links below. German solar power plants produced a world record 22 gigawatts of electricity – equal to 20 nuclear power stations at full capacity – through the midday hours of Friday and Saturday, the head of a renewable energy think tank has said. [ Guardian ] The record-breaking amount of solar power shows one of the world’s leading industrial nations was able to meet a third of its electricity needs on a work day, Friday, and nearly half on Saturday when factories and offices were closed…. Germany has nearly as much installed solar power generation capacity as the rest of the world combined and gets about four percent of its overall annual electricity needs from the sun alone. It aims to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 40% from 1990 levels by 2020. An advance guard of 18-wheelers is scheduled to roll into a business park in Cheyenne, Wyo., this week to unload components of a supercomputer called Yellowstone. This 1.5-quadrillion-calculations-per-second crystal ball will model future climate and forecast extreme weather. [ Washington Post ] According to hurricane researchers, the spell of relative calm between major hurricanes is mainly due to the random variability that is inherent in the weather and climate. [ Climate Central ] Southern California Gas Co. is trying out an unusual new technology that uses the sun’s rays to provide air conditioning as well as power. [ Los Angeles Times ] The Army and Air Force are confident they can each meet a White House target to produce a gigawatt of renewable energy on their installations by 2025. But it’s going to depend on industry’s ability to make good business deals to construct those projects. [ Federal News Radio ] So what does the presumptive GOP nominee really believe? And how would he address climate change if elected president? One person who may well know is Gina McCarthy, who Romney tapped for top environmental posts in Massachusetts. But these days she’s not talking—presumably because she’s working for President Barack Obama as a top-ranking political appointee at the Environmental Protection Agency. [ Mother Jones ] With crude prices bouncing around above $90 a barrel, many companies are trying to wring the oil out of their operations. [ Los Angeles Times ] The debate may be continuing about global warming, but the ground reality here is that dozens of streams and brooks of Kullu district have dried up completely, while many others are about to disappear. [ Times of India ]  

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Thursday, den 17. May 2012

Photo: Jefferson Beck/NASA by Michael D. Lemonick, via Climate Central The sea ice that blankets the Arctic Ocean each winter peaked in early March this year, as usual, and is now in retreat , en route to its annual minimum extent in September. How low it will go is something scientists worry: Ice reflects lots of sunlight back into space, and when the darker ocean underneath is exposed, more sunlight is absorbed to add to global warming. That’s the simple version of the story, but things look even worse when you dig into the details. For one thing, all that open water does re-freeze each winter, but it freezes into a relatively thin layer known as seasonal, or first-year ice. Because it’s so thin, first-year ice tends to melt back quickly the following season, giving the ocean a chance to warm things up even more in what National Snow and Ice Data Center director Mark Serreze has called a “death spiral” that could lead to ice-free Arctic summers by 2030. But it’s worse than that, says a new analysis by scientists at the U.S. Army’s Cold Regions Research Laboratory in Hanover, N.H. “First-year ice is not just thinner, “ said Donald Perovich, lead author of a report in Geophysical Research Letters , in an interview. “We’re also beginning to realize it has other properties.” The most important: New ice is less reflective than old ice, for most of the year, anyway . It absorbs more heat from the Sun, which means it doesn’t just melt faster: It actually speeds up its own melting . Here’s how it happens, according to Perovich. “Most of the precipitation in the Arctic,” he said, “happens at the end of summer and in the early fall.” When the snow first begins to fall, it builds on the multi-year ice, but disappears onto the patches of open ocean. Those patches eventually freeze, and the snow sticks there as well; it just forms a thinner layer. So for most of the winter, all of the ice, thick and thin, is covered with a brightly reflective blanket. That would be good as far as warming is concerned, except that for most of the winter, the Sun doesn’t rise. When the Sun finally does rise in spring, it melts the thinner snow first, forming heat-absorbing pools on the surface of the first-year ice. The older ice eventually catches up, forming pools of its own, but since the surface is crumpled, the ponds don’t spread as widely, and they absorb less heat. In short, the death spiral — where more melting leads to more melting — appears to be even steeper than anyone thought. That doesn’t mean that there’s less ice literally every year. The lowest levels ever recorded happened in September of 2007 ; since then, coverage has been bouncing around near, but not quite at, those historic lows, and first-year ice in the winter has been near its historic highs. “What it means,” Perovich said, “is that with more seasonal ice, the Arctic is more susceptible to an outlier kind of year.” If there’s significantly more heat in a particular year due to natural variations, in other words, there could be a huge loss of ice. It’s kind of like a staircase, Petrovic said. “It bounces around for a while, then there’s a drop to a new normal, then it bounces around.” The point, he said, is that “we now have a type of ice cover that’s even easier to knock over than it was before.” What that means is that at some point in the not too distant future, an unusually warm summer (even for a globally warming world) could knock the ice in the Arctic ocean down another major step, and take the world closer to the time when all of it vanishes — creating a new heat-trapping region where none existed before, and pushing climate change into an even higher gear. – Michael Lemonick covered science and the environment for TIME magazine for nearly 21 years, where he wrote more than 50 cover stories. This piece was originally published at Climate Central and was reprinted with permission. Related Posts: Arctic Death Spiral Continues (9/11): Sea Ice Volume Hits Record Low for Second Straight Year The Arctic Death Spiral Continues (3/12): Thick, Multi-Year Sea Ice Melting Faster, NASA Study Finds “ The average thickness of the Arctic sea ice cover is declining because it is rapidly losing its thick component, the multi-year ice. At the same time, the surface temperature in the Arctic is going up, which results in a shorter ice-forming season ,” explains NASA senior scientist

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Thursday, den 17. May 2012

The Environment Protection Agency’s landmark mercury and air toxics standards, announced in December, would reduce pollutants from coal power plants, saving 11,000 lives , prevent 130,000 asthma attacks and avoid 4,700 heart attacks. But Sen. James Inhofe has found the required 30 Senators to bring the rule to a Senate vote. In an event with FreedomWorks , a participant posed the question to Inhofe (at 27:00): “Can we really trust companies to protect our natural resources without the institution of the EPA?” Inhofe, a climate denier who has attempted to circumvent EPA rules because they lack “science,” did not think anyone has said the EPA doesn’t have a place: INHOFE: I don’t think anyone has said you want to eliminate the EPA altogether. If you look at the Clean Air regulations they were good. They worked. If you look back to the Bush administration we had the clear skies act that they refused to act on that would have done away with SO2, NOx, mercury, real pollutants. We’re not talking about that. There needs to be some regulation there but the regulation needs to be based on science and theirs is not based on science. But Inhofe really doesn’t need to look far to find many Republicans who want to “abolish” the EPA. Last year, ThinkProgress spoke to six current and recent GOP lawmakers aiming to end the agency, and Senate Republicans voted to end the EPA by combining it with the Department of Energy, with 15 GOP co-sponsors. And Rep. Stephen Fincher recently said “ We must cut the EPA’s legs off .” And of course, Inhofe has attempted to block coal and oil oversight — the climate denier has claimed there’s no science for it. However, Inhofe’s interests do not lie with the hundreds of thousands of Americans who would benefit from mercury reduction, but with his oil and coal donors .

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Sunday, den 8. January 2012

In short, what would you like Climate Progress to cover in 2012 that we aren’t already covering. CP tries to be responsive to readers.  You wanted more coverage of clean energy and solutions, so last year we brought on reporter Stephen Lacey to fill that gap, and  now CP has some of the best, most reposted and retweeted content on clean energy in the blogosphere or MSM. We won’t be hiring anyone new this year, but are very much interested in what you’d like to see more coverage of. Also, one thing CP tries hard to do is be ahead of the curve, to dive into subjects before the MSM catches on to them — as we have with shale gas, the connection between global warming and extreme weather, food insecurity and Dust-Bowlification, the Keystone XL pipeline and protests against it, to name but a few.  What do you think are next big energy and climate stories that aren’t getting enough attention?

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Thursday, den 29. December 2011

The Debunking Handbook is a guide to debunking myths, by John Cook and Stephan Lewandowsky. This Handbook boils down the psychological research on misinformation into a short, simple summary, intended as a guide for communicators in all areas (not just climate). This is part four in a five-part series cross-posted from Skeptical Science. The third and arguably most potent backfire effect occurs with topics that tie in with people’s worldviews and sense of cultural identity.  Several cognitive processes can cause people to unconsciously process information in a biased way. For those who are strongly fixed in their views, being confronted with counter-arguments can cause their views to be strengthened. One cognitive process that contributes to this effect is Confirmation Bias, where people selectively seek out information that bolsters their view. In one experiment, people were offered information on hot-button issues like gun control or affirmative action. Each parcel of information was labelled by its source, clearly indicating whether the information would be pro or con (e.g., the National Rifle Association vs. Citizens Against Handguns). Although instructed to be even-handed, people opted for sources that matched their pre-existing views. The study found that even when people are presented with a balanced set of facts, they reinforce their pre-existing views by gravitating towards information they already agree with. The polarisation was greatest among those with strongly held views. 1 What happens when you remove that element of choice and present someone with arguments that run counter to their worldview? In this case, the cognitive process that comes to the fore is Disconfirmation Bias, the flipside of Confirmation Bias. This is where people spend significantly more time and thought actively arguing against opposing arguments. 2 This was demonstrated when Republicans who believed Saddam Hussein was linked to the 9/11 terrorist attacks were provided with evidence that there was no link between the two, including a direct quote from President George Bush. 3 Only 2% of participants changed their mind (although interestingly, 14% denied that they believed the link in the first place). The vast majority clung to the link between Iraq and 9/11, employing a range of arguments to brush aside the evidence. The most common response was attitude bolstering – bringing supporting facts to mind while ignoring any contrary facts. The process of bringing to the fore supporting facts resulted in strengthening people’s erroneous belief. If facts cannot dissuade a person from their pre-existing beliefs – and can sometimes make things worse – how can we possibly reduce the effect of misinformation? There are two sources of hope. First, the Worldview Backfire Effect is strongest among those already fixed in their views. You therefore stand a greater chance of correcting misinformation among those not as firmly decided about hot-button issues. This suggests that outreaches should be directed towards the undecided majority rather than the unswayable minority. Second, messages can be presented in ways that reduce the usual psychological resistance. For example, when worldview-threatening messages are coupled with so-called self-affirmation, people become more balanced in considering pro and con information. 4,5 Self-affirmation can be achieved by asking people to write a few sentences about a time when they felt good about themselves because they acted on a value that was important to them. People then become more receptive to messages that otherwise might threaten their worldviews, compared to people who received no self-affirmation. Interestingly, the “self-affirmation effect” is strongest among those whose ideology was central to their sense of self-worth. Another way in which information can be made more acceptable is by “framing” it in a way that is less threatening to a person’s worldview. For example, Republicans are far more likely to accept an otherwise identical charge as a “carbon offset” than as a “tax”, whereas the wording has little effect on Democrats or Independents—because their values are not challenged by the word “tax”. 6 Self-affirmation and framing aren’t about manipulating people. They give the facts a fighting chance. The Debunking Handbook , a guide to debunking misinformation, is now  freely available to download . Although there is a great deal of psychological research on misinformation, there’s no summary of the literature that offers practical guidelines on the most effective ways of reducing the influence of myths. The Debunking Handbook boils the research down into a short, simple summary, intended as a guide for communicators in all areas (not just climate) who encounter misinformation. References Taber, C. S., & Lodge, M. (2006). Motivated skepticism in the evaluation of political beliefs. American Journal of Political Science , 50, 755–69. Nyhan, B., & Reifler, J. (2010). When Corrections Fail: The Persistence of Political Misperceptions. Political Behavior , 32, 303-330. Prasad, M., Perrin, A. J., Bezila, K., Hoffman, S. G., Kindleberger, K., Manturuk, K., et al. (2009). “There Must Be a Reason’’: Osama, Saddam, and Inferred Justification. Sociological Inquiry , 79, 142-162. Cohen, G. L., Sherman, D. K., Bastardi, A., Hsu, L., & McGoey, M. (2007). Bridging the Partisan Divide: Self-Affirmation Reduces Ideological Closed-Mindedness and Inflexibility in Negotiation. Personality & Soc. Psych. , 93, 415-430. Nyhan, B., & Reifler, J. (2011). Opening the Political Mind? The effects of self-affirmation and graphical information on factual misperceptions. In press. Hardisty, D. J., Johnson, E. J. & Weber, E. U. (1999). A Dirty Word or a Dirty World?: Attribute Framing, Political Affiliation, and Query Theory, Psychological Science , 21, 86-92

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Thursday, den 29. December 2011

Mainstream news outlets spent a lot of time in 2011 covering the record-breaking year for extreme weather in the U.S. But only a few of them spent much time exploring the link between those events and global warming (see With No End in Sight for Texas Drought, ABC News Explains: “Every Farmer in the World Will Be Affected by Climate Change” and links below). So PBS deserves a special mention for a segment that aired yesterday looking at how global warming is influencing extreme weather events. As Jeff Masters, co-founder of the Weather Underground (and periodic contributor to this blog) explained in the piece: “They all tend to get increased when you have this extra energy in the atmosphere. I call it being on steroids … for the atmosphere.” Watch the full segment: Watch How 2011 Became a ‘Mind-Boggling’ Year of Extreme Weather on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.   And here’s the transcript: JUDY WOODRUFF: Some of the biggest stories of 2011 involved extreme weather that wreaked havoc in many states and cities. As the year comes to a close, it’s sparking plenty of discussion in the world of science about the causes and meaning of those events. Hari Sreenivasan explores all that following some background. HARI SREENIVASAN: From snow to floods to tornadoes, it has been a year of record-breaking weather across the U.S. mainland, more, in fact, than any year since modern record-keeping began. It started in late January with paralyzing blizzards that dumped heavy snow on 22 states. Chicago was buried under nearly two feet of snow, and the Windy City ground to a near standstill. RAPHAEL GUZMAN, resident of Chicago: For the past ten hours, I have traveled 0.9 miles. So, now, when the fire department finally came to see if I wanted to leave my car, I saw the tow truck four cars back, and I was like, I will just wait for it. That was two hours ago. MAN: This is amazing. HARI SREENIVASAN: Spring brought the start of an especially deadly tornado season, with three of the largest twister outbreaks in American history in just six weeks, killing more than 550 people and causing $25 billion in damage. More than 300 were killed over three days in late April in Central and Southern states. Tuscaloosa, Alabama, was the hardest-hit. MATT WILSON, resident of Tuscaloosa: It was horrifying. It was coming towards us, so we ran to the back, and got under a metal structure back in the back. And that’s, honestly, what saved us. HARI SREENIVASAN: Then, in late May, a tornado with winds topping 200 miles an hour leveled the town of Joplin, Mo. It was the single deadliest U.S. tornado since 1947, killing nearly 160 people. MAN: I actually was planning on helping where it was really torn up, but there’s nothing really to help. It’s just flattened. There’s — I don’t know. There’s probably three-quarters-of-a-mile of nothing. HARI SREENIVASAN: That same storm system brought triple the normal amount of rainfall to the Ohio River Valley. The rain, coupled with snowmelt, caused both the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers to flood. In August, Hurricane Irene drenched the Eastern Seaboard. It triggered record flooding in New Jersey, New York State and Vermont, and cost more than $7 billion. WOMAN: Once the water started coming through the front door. I mean I knew things were getting bad. And then the walls started to break and the molding started to pop, and I knew I was really in trouble. HARI SREENIVASAN: The Southern Plains and Southwest could only hope for some of that rain. Texas suffered through its worst one-year drought, as losses reached $10 billion in crops, livestock and timber. The tinder-dry conditions in Texas also fueled wildfires that burned a million acres. The Bastrop fire over Labor Day weekend was the state’s most destructive on record. Overall, it was the hottest summer Texas has ever seen. Wichita Falls had more than 100 consecutive days of 100-degree readings. Nationwide, more than 6,000 heat records have been broken this year. On average, the U.S. has three or four events every year that are considered major natural disasters. But, this year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration counted at least a dozen such events. Based on reports to date, damages are expected to exceed $52 billion. Weather around the world showed equal extremes. Australia was hit with record flooding, followed by one of its worst tropical cyclones ever. Floodwaters also ravaged parts of Thailand and China, while the Horn of Africa suffered its worst drought in decades. We have more on this with two experts who watch the impact of weather closely. Kathryn Sullivan is the deputy director of NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, an oceanographer and former astronaut. She helps oversee NOAA’s work on weather observation and climate sciences. And Jeff Masters, who’s a meteorologist with the Weather Underground website, he joins us from Ann Arbor, Michigan. So thanks for being here. Ms. Sullivan, I just rattled off what seemed like an exceptional year of weather, but put this in perspective for us. How rare is this? KATHRYN SULLIVAN, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: Well, the prior record-breaking year was nine significant events, well above the three to four that are typical. That was 2008. So, we went a third again in the number of events each of which had greater than a billion dollars, many other events, of course, that just fell below that billion-dollar threshold through the course of that year, quite a remarkable string, quite a remarkable array. I came aboard NOAA as the deputy administrator early in May, and the preceding month of April, in one month alone, we had record-breaking flood, wildfire, tornado outbreaks, just all within one single month. It was certainly unprecedented in my experience. HARI SREENIVASAN: And, Jeff Masters, you’ve said in your blog that you have never seen a year like this. What else stands out to you? JEFF MASTERS, Weather Underground: In one year, we had three of the most remarkable extreme weather events in history of the U.S. I mean, we talk about the Dust Bowl summer of 1936. Well, this summer pretty much matched that for temperature, almost the hottest summer in U.S. history. We also talk about the great 1974 tornado outbreak. Well, we had an outbreak that more than doubled the total of tornadoes we had during that iconic outbreak. And, also, we talk about the great 1927 flood on the Mississippi River. Well, the flood heights were even higher than that flood this year. So, it just boggles my mind that we had three extreme weather events that matched those events in U.S. history. HARI SREENIVASAN: So, Jeff, how do we tie this in with any particular cause? We can’t say that a temperature warming or a global temperature increase causes a tornado or this hurricane. But what can we say? What does the data show us? JEFF MASTERS: That weather has natural extremes. We all know that you can have extreme years and not very extreme years. Certainly, this year was a very naturally extreme year. But I argue that when you have a naturally extreme year occurring within the context of global warming, okay, now you’ve put more heat in the atmosphere. That means you have more energy to power stronger storms and more energy also to give you more intense heat waves and droughts. So, in particular, we look at heat waves, droughts, and flooding events. They all tend to get increased when you have this extra energy in the atmosphere. I call it being on steroids kind of for the atmosphere. HARI SREENIVASAN: Explain that, being on steroids. What do you mean? JEFF MASTERS: Well, normally, you have the everyday ups and downs of the weather, but if you pack a little bit of extra punch in there, it’s like a baseball hitter who’s on steroids. You expect to see a big home run total maybe from this slugger, but if you add a little bit of extra oomph to his swing by putting him on steroids, now we can have an unprecedented season, a 70 home run season. And that’s the way I look at this year. We had an unprecedented weather year that I don’t think would have happened unless we had had an extra bit of energy in the atmosphere due to climate change and global warming. HARI SREENIVASAN: Kathryn, you were in Joplin yourself. What are some of the longer-term impacts, some of the costs that we’re not seeing here as we just total up the dollar signs? KATHRYN SULLIVAN: It is a really sobering and heart-wrenching experience to be on the ground in some of those tornado-ravaged areas. The casualties, of course, the injuries and loss of life take precedence over everything. But the scale — the scale of the damage and the pervasiveness of it really just boggle my mind. The figure I heard that day out in Joplin was there were 1,800 acres of debris. And debris hardly begins to describe it. Things that had been businesses and homes and a large first-class hospital were little more than toothpicks. Fabulous large trees with trunk diameters up to 18 to 24 inches were maybe 10- or 12-foot-tall stubs with not a shred of bark left on them, just amazing, the power and fury that had ripped through that community in such a really brief period of time. So, you think about rebuilding a house, but, you know, first to clear some portion of 1,800 acres of debris, it’s just a massive undertaking, then to deal with the administrative mechanics of whatever you might have, insurance and a builder. And for it to be that pervasive over that large of a swathe of a community just means it’s all going to take such a long time to come back. Small businesses affected, larger, major stores affected with major building damage, firehouses, schools, and then one of the primary hospitals all destroyed. So the fabric of the community is really affected in an experience like this. And that also makes it harder for the community itself and its citizens to rebound, so a very long train of consequences well beyond the media moments that we tend to pay attention to. HARI SREENIVASAN: Jeff, also, what sorts of economic or geopolitical consequences do you see when we have natural disasters like drought in different parts of the world? JEFF MASTERS: Drought is my number-one concern for climate change because drought affects food prices. We had a terrific drought in Russia last year that caused them to shut off their exports of wheat. Now global food prices spiked thereafter, and it’s thought that the Arab spring revolts that happened this year were due in part to the fact that food prices were so high due to the Russian drought. Those food prices were the highest we have seen since the early 1990s. Had we had a drought of that magnitude this year in the U.S., there would have been very severe consequences for the global economy, the global food supply, and there would have been a large amount of political unrest, much higher than we saw, I think. HARI SREENIVASAN: Kathryn, briefly, what kind of changes are you making at NOAA when it comes to modeling, and what are cities trying to do to plan for the possibility of more extreme weather? KATHRYN SULLIVAN: Well, we always are working to advance the technology we use to observe the atmosphere in countless ways, as well as the computing infrastructure that runs the forecast models that give us our everyday three-, five-, seven-day outlook. In addition, this season really has focused our attention even further, along with our partners in the private sector such as Jeff and his colleagues and emergency managers, on the really human part of the warning process. From the forecast information that NOAA puts out for everyone to work with, from there to the signal that triggers someone to take a response, how can we do better on that? What combination of communication improvements or better understanding how people are accessing information these days, of how people make high-impact decisions, almost the social science side of completing the full warning process certainly will have heightened attention from us in the years ahead. HARI SREENIVASAN: Alright, Kathryn Sullivan from NOAA, Jeff Masters from Weather Underground, thank you both for being here. KATHRYN SULLIVAN: It was a pleasure. Related Posts: Terrific ABC News story (1/14/11) : “Raging Waters In Australia and Brazil Product of Global Warming” “Scientists: Climate Change No Longer a Theory, It’s Happening” The pictures today from around the world of dramatic rooftop rescues from raging waters , makes it seem as though natural disasters are becoming an everyday occurrence. But they’re not all that natural; climate scientists say man-made global warming is the sudden force behind the forces of nature. Another terrific ABC News story (1/24/11) — on the role global warming is playing in extreme winter weather ABC news contacted 10 climate scientists to ask their take, if the extreme winter like the one we’re having is the way of the future.  The consensus:  global warming is playing a role by shifting weather patterns in unpredictable ways.  Many say the forecast for the future calls for record-breaking precipitation and extreme temperatures year-round.

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Tuesday, den 27. December 2011

by Michael Conathan This year was a big one for fisheries. If you’re into fishery legislation and important milestones, you already know that it was the 35th anniversary of the Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the law that first ejected foreign fishing fleets from the United States’ exclusive economic zone and provided the foundation for how we manage our fisheries. It was also the 15th anniversary of the Sustainable Fisheries Act and the fifth anniversary of passage of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Reauthorization Act, the last two major updates to our fisheries statute. But there were also many significant developments this year that will benefit our fishing industries and our marine environment for generations to come. Here’s a quick rundown of the top five stories in fishery management from 2011. 1. Ending overfishing in America By far the biggest story of the year in fisheries management was the successful implementation of annual catch limits in our fisheries . This effectively ended overfishing in America. In March, National Marine Fisheries Service Administrator Eric Schwaab announced that his agency was on track to implement science-based catch limits on all 528 federally managed species of fish, thereby preventing overfishing—the act of catching more fish than science dictates can be sustainably harvested—from occurring in U.S. fisheries. Of course, fisheries science remains an elusive discipline, and our estimates of fish stock populations are rife with variables. This means that as more data are collected, our perceptions of the health of fish populations may change, and we may realize that what we thought were sustainable harvest levels may have been overly optimistic. Still, given that fisheries scientists don’t have a crystal ball showing what the future holds for fish populations, operating within limits that reflect the best science we have still gives the United States worldwide bragging rights to say our fisheries are the most sustainably managed on the planet. And that’s no small feat. So whether you’re putting a piece of Alaskan salmon or Atlantic swordfish on your plate, you can end 2011 with the assurance that if it’s U.S.-caught, it’s sustainable. 2. Cracking down on pirate fishing Illegal fishing activities, more colorfully known as “pirate fishing,” are carried out by vessels that are either unregulated or operating in direct violation of the laws of their home countries. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, pirate fishermen are responsible for catching as much as 26 million tons of seafood annually with a value possibly as high as $23 billion worldwide. These fishermen represent a significant threat to the future sustainability of global fisheries. Two important steps were taken this year to rein in this harmful activity. The first was a recent U.S.-EU agreement that Jane Lubchenco, administration of NOAA, referred to as a “ down payment ” on future efforts to stop pirate fishing. EU Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki traveled to the United States in September for a series of meetings. The European Union is developing its Common Fisheries Policy , the governing statute for EU fisheries, which is roughly analogous to our Magnuson-Stevens Act. As the Europeans attempt to hammer out a compromise on the intricate details of fishery management, Commissioner Damanaki joined Lubchenco to announce that the European Union and the United States had established a bilateral cooperation to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing . And second, on the domestic front, just last week Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI) introduced legislation supported by the Obama administration that would implement an international agreement preventing vessels that engage in pirate fishing from entering their ports. 3. The little fish that could No smaller fish made bigger headlines in 2011 than the 12-inch-long menhaden, a species that scientists and conservationists say is fundamental to the ocean food web as prey for larger species of fish, such as striped bass, and seabirds like osprey and bald eagles. Menhaden don’t end up in fish markets but are more typically processed into fishmeal and fish oil because they are so rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, which have tremendous health benefits. They’re also often used as bait in other fisheries. In November the Atlantic States Fishery Management Coalition—the interstate body charged with managing fishing that occurs primarily in state waters along the Atlantic coastal— voted 14-3 to reduce the catch limit for menhaden by 37 percent after scientific recommendations and more than 90,000 public comments urged them to take such action. This action was particularly noteworthy both for the volume of interest it generated from recreational fishermen and the general public, and for the fact that the action was taken despite a stock assessment completed in 2010 that said the resource was not overfished and overfishing was not occurring . Thus, catch in the menhaden fishery was not limited primarily to benefit the species itself but rather to benefit its predators. This decision was a prime example of ecosystem-based management, a concept conservationists have been preaching for years: that we should manage a species according to its role in the ecosystem rather than simply looking at each as an individual. The menhaden decision was a step forward for such big-picture analysis. Besides, a big reduction in its catch limit must have been a welcome consolation prize for a species that in February lost a bid to be named the Virginia state fish . The winner of that vote? Menhaden’s biggest predator: the striped bass. Gulp. 4. The farmer in the delta Aquaculture, perhaps better known as fish farming, is certain to be a part of our future with the world population on the rise and wild fish stocks under increasing stress from fishing pressure as well as rising ocean temperatures and increasing acidification as a result of global climate change. In June, NOAA announced a new aquaculture policy that recognized the need to develop this industry domestically in a manner that addresses environmental concerns. Aquaculture certainly has its detractors, however, who fear further industrialization of our ocean space, the potential for increased water pollution from fish food and waste, and that escapes of farmed fish could affect wild populations. In October, for example, some British Colombian scientists reported discovering a highly infectious Atlantic salmon virus in some wild Pacific salmon, which are an entirely different species. To date, Canadian officials have yet to replicate these findings , but a hearing is currently ongoing before a provincial justice of Canada’s Supreme Court to get to the bottom of the allegations. Still, as I discussed in June , if we take domestic aquaculture off the table, our options for seafood become extremely unpalatable. Foreign farmed fish is filthier than anything we would ever allow here, our domestic wild fisheries are already stressed, and the environmental impacts of additional beef, chicken, and pork production make aquaculture look positively pristine. Thinking we should eat more vegetables and less fish? Try selling vegetarianism as a wide-scale solution to Americans’ omnivorous ways and see how far you get. Especially with my 4-year-old. NOAA’s policy represents an excellent step toward a future that includes domestic, sustainable seafood. 5. Sharks are friends, not soup 2011 was a banner year for sharks, particularly when it came to combating the practice of shark finning . Because shark fins have such a high market value relative to the value of the meat, some fishermen engage in finning—slashing the fins off sharks and tossing the rest of their carcasses overboard. The fins are mainly prized as the signature element in the Asian delicacy shark fin soup, which can sell for more than $1,000 per serving in some high-end restaurants despite the insistence by epicures that the fin itself adds nothing to the actual taste of the dish. In addition to being inherently cruel—a finless shark cannot swim and will die slowly—this practice also allows fishermen to catch far more sharks. And increased harvest can put entire species at risk since sharks are slow to reproduce. To combat finning, President Obama signed the Shark Conservation Act in January, which strengthened the law banning the practice in U.S. waters. Then in October, California passed a law banning the sale of shark fins throughout the state, joining Washington, Oregon, Hawaii, and Guam. And in November, a high-end chain of hotels in Asia announced it was taking shark fin soup off its menus . A public service announcement from NBA superstar Yao Ming and a CNN “ Planet in Peril ” report featuring actress Lisa Ling may have helped the cause as well. In the film “Finding Nemo,” Pixar portrayed three frightening sharks claiming “ fish are friends not food .” It’s nice to be able to return the sentiment. Michael Conathan is the Director of Ocean Policy at the Center for American Progress. This piece was originally published at the Center for American Progress website.

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Tuesday, den 27. December 2011

NOTE:  NY Times readers who want to see an extended excerpt of my Nature article can go here: “ Nature Publishes My Piece on Dust-Bowlification and the Grave Threat It Poses to Food Security .” The NY Times reviews two new books on Dust-Bowlification — A Great Aridness: Climate Change and the Future of the American Southwest , and Lessons from the World’s Least Sustainable City : Both authors cite the work of Jonathan Overpeck , a geologist and a director of the Institute of the Environment at the University of Arizona, whose tracking of simultaneously increasing temperatures and decreasing rainfall leads him to conclude that a new era of drought is dawning in many regions. He is not alone. The NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies had already predicted that extreme droughts would be an every-other-year phenomenon in the United States by the middle of this century. And of course, the American Southwest is not the only region experiencing drought apparently tied to climate change . According to the journal Science, of the 12 driest winters the Mediterranean has experienced since 1902, 10 have occurred in the last 20 years. Researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration say climate change can explain half of the added dryness. See NOAA Bombshell: Human-Caused Climate Change Already a Major Factor in More Frequent Mediterranean Droughts “The coming droughts ought to be a major driver — if not the major driver — of climate policies,” Joseph Romm wrote in a recent issue of the journal Nature. Dr. Romm, a physicist who edits the blog Climate Progress , added, “Raising public awareness of, and scientific focus on, the likelihood of severe effects of drought is the first step to prompting action.” People who read these books will understand that message. CP will run a full review of deBuys’ A Great Aridness shortly . Dr. deBuys explains what we need to do and what we are likely to do: Dr. deBuys puts it somewhat differently. History teaches that people have difficulty adapting to prolonged, extreme drought, he writes. Faced with it, they typically abandon efforts to cope and simply abandon their homes. That is why we call dry places deserts — they are deserted. Is that tactic likely for today’s Southwest? No. But, he writes, any answers to the water challenge will require “strong social will and collective commitment.” At the moment, though, the region’s politics tend to embrace the idea that collective action of any kind is inherently suspicious or even evil; government is the problem, never the solution; and regulation is the bane of economic growth. These ideas are not in accord with Dr. deBuys’s prescription, which is to “get on with what we should have been doing all along, including limiting greenhouse gases.” There is no silver bullet, he writes. “There is only the age-old duty to extend kindness to other beings, to work together and with discipline on common challenges.” Precisely.

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Monday, den 5. December 2011

Upwelling seawater along parts of Pine Island Glacier Ice Shelf has carved out caves in the ice. A new study links CO2 and Antarctica glaciation. The news release for a new Science study, “ The Role of Carbon Dioxide During the Onset of Antarctic Glaciation ” (subs. req’d), explains: A drop in carbon dioxide appears to be the driving force that led to the Antarctic ice sheet’s formation, according to a recent study led by scientists at Yale and Purdue universities of molecules from ancient algae found in deep-sea core samples.The key role of the greenhouse gas in one of the biggest climate events in Earth’s history supports carbon dioxide’s importance in past climate change and implicates it as a significant force in present and future climate…. “ The evidence falls in line with what we would expect if carbon dioxide is the main dial that governs global climate; if we crank it up or down there are dramatic changes ,” [co-author Matthew} Huber said. "We went from a warm world without ice to a cooler world with an ice sheet overnight, in geologic terms, because of fluctuations in carbon dioxide levels." We know from earlier study this year led by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory that polar ice sheet mass loss is speeding up and on pace for 1 foot sea level rise by 2050 : The Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are losing mass at an accelerating pace, according to a new NASA-funded satellite study. The findings of the study — the longest to date of changes in polar ice sheet mass — suggest these ice sheets are overtaking ice loss from Earth’s mountain glaciers and ice caps to become the dominant contributor to global sea level rise, much sooner than model forecasts have predicted. Recent modeling work suggests we are approaching the tipping point for irreversible melting of the Greenland ice sheet, which would, ultimately, represent 20 feet of sea level rise (see New study of Greenland under “more realistic forcings” concludes “collapse of the ice-sheet was found to occur between 400 and 560 ppm” of CO2 ). And we know from paleoclimate studies that the Antarctic ice sheet (which contains 90% of the ice on the planet) is vulnerable to modest warming from current levels, particularly the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (see Science: CO2 levels haven’t been this high for 15 million years, when it was 5° to 10°F warmer and seas were 75 to 120 feet higher -- “ We have shown that this dramatic rise in sea level is associated with an increase in CO2 levels of about 100 ppm ”). While the new study  firms up our understanding that CO2 is the "main dial that governs global climate," it does not appear to tell us what the tipping point is for full deglaciation: The team found the tipping point in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels for cooling that initiates ice sheet formation is about 600 parts per million. Prior to the levels dropping this low, it was too warm for the ice sheet to form. At the Earth's current level of around 390 parts per million, the environment is such that an ice sheet remains, but carbon dioxide levels and temperatures are increasing. The world will likely reach levels between 550 and 1,000 parts per million by 2100. Melting an ice sheet is a different process than its initiation, and it is not known what level would cause the ice sheet to melt away completely, Huber said. "The system is not linear and there may be a different threshold for melting the ice sheet, but if we continue on our current path of warming we will eventually reach that tipping point," he said. "Of course after we cross that threshold it will still take many thousands of years to melt an ice sheet." It would no doubt take a long time to fully melt an ice sheet, but we are headed toward some serious polar warming (see M.I.T. doubles its 2095 warming projection to 10°F — with 866 ppm and Arctic warming of 20°F ).  That study projects some 13°F warming over Antarctica in the 2090s. And a study from earlier this year suggests we are headed toward far higher warming post-2100 (see Science : On our current emissions path, CO2 levels in 2100 will hit levels last seen when the Earth was 29°F (16°C) hotter ; Paleoclimate data suggests CO2 “may have at least twice the effect on global temperatures than currently projected by computer models ”). Back in October, Climate Progress interviewed Rice University oceanographer John Anderson, a leading expert on sea level rise with more than 200 publications, (see Flood-Gate: Perry Officials Try to Hide Sea Level Rise from Texans with “Clear-Cut Unadulterated Censorship” ). Anderson explained that he's been working in Antarctica for 4 decades, that they've found unprecedented warming in the Antarctic Peninsula, and that "I am quite concerned about the potential of catastrophic contribution to  sea level rise from ice sheet collapse." Indeed, he said " if people say that ice sheets react slowly, they are not familiar with what we know about ice sheets. There is clear evidence that that ice sheets behave catastrophically. " He was specifically worried about the "weak underbelly" of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, the Pine Island Glacier.  For two recent discussions of PIG, see Large Antarctic glacier thinning 4 times faster than it was 10 years ago: “Nothing in the natural world is lost at an accelerating exponential rate like this glacier.” Ocean Currents Speed Melting of Antarctic Ice, as “Seawater Appear[s] to Boil on the Surface Like a Kettle on the Stove” That’s why so many leading experts on the subject agree with the recent scientific literature that as long as we stay anywhere near our current emissions path, we are headed toward a meter or more of sea level rise by century’s end — and then 6+ inches of sea level rise a decade for a long, long time. Related Posts: Eight Must-Have Charts Summarize the Evidence for a “Human Fingerprint” on Recent Climate Change 10 indicators of a human fingerprint on climate change In must-see AGU video, Richard Alley explains “The Biggest Control Knob: Carbon Dioxide in Earth’s Climate History” How carbon dioxide controls earth’s temperature — NASA’s Lacis: “There is no viable alternative to counteract global warming except through direct human effort to reduce the atmospheric CO2 level.”

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Wednesday, den 16. November 2011

Energy Secretary Steven Chu is going to be in the hot seat tomorrow when he testifies before a House committee investigating the Solyndra bankruptcy. If Chu’s previous remarks to the press are any indication of what he’s going to say to Congress, he’ll be stressing the need for continued strategic federal investments in clean energy — after defending himself from accusations of political influence in the loan guarantee process. In this week’s podcast, we’ve got a brief conversation with Secretary with Chu, who laments the political response to the science of climate change, and who reiterates his support for continued federal investments in renewables. “Even in desperate times like the Civil War, the United States was spending money, giving subsidies to railroad companies to build the transcontinental railroad. That wasn’t free. The United States invested their resources in federal lands to generate land grant universities that would increase the productivity of U.S. agriculture and schools like the University of California Berkeley and MIT and Cornell. That wasn’t free. And so, when push comes to shove, yes we have to make tough decisions, but we never took our eye from the long view. We didn’t eat our seed corn, we didn’t sell our plow horse.” Chu sets up our conversation with Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, who describes why the military can be a force for accelerating the commercial deployment of cutting-edge renewables. He’ll explain why non-fossil based energy will make the Navy and other branches of the military more effective, and why preparing for a changing climate is a necessary part of their strategy. The Navy has always led when we’ve changed energy. In the 1850’s, we went from sail to coal. In the early part of the 20th century, we went from coal to oil. We pioneered the use of nuclear for transportation in the 1950’s. Every single time we did these things there were people who said ‘it’s a fad.’ There were people who said ‘you’re trading one very known source of propulsion or energy for something that’s unsure – too expensive or just won’t work.’ And every single time they were wrong. Every single time. And I am absolutely confident those folks are going to be wrong this time too. You can find past episodes of the Climate Progress podcast on our RSS page. Previous Podcasts: Podcast: Amory Lovins on How to “Reinvent Fire” and Run a 158% Bigger Economy With No Oil, Coal or Nuclear Podcast: Solving Energy Poverty Without Addressing Climate Change is “The Biggest Threat Multiplier of All” Introducing the Climate Progress Podcast: Jigar Shah on Why Renewables Will Win This Decade, Even Beating Natural Gas

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Wednesday, den 9. November 2011

As the political jostling over Department of Energy loan guarantees to clean energy companies continues, the hypocrisy keeps getting worse. The latest is from Republican Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey, who co-wrote a letter to the Inspector General on Monday urging him to investigate a conditional commitment for a $730 million loan guarantee to a high-strength steel producer under the DOE’s Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing program. His argument? That this high-strength, lightweight steel technology is too mature to need subsidies: “Given the tremendous fiscal crisis that we find ourselves in today, it does not seem appropriate for the program to subsidize technologies that have already achieved commercial success through private-sector means.” That’s quite a noble fiscal mission. However, this is coming from a Senator who has repeatedly voted to maintain tax breaks to the most profitable and commercially successful oil and gas companies in the world. In the first three quarters of 2011 alone, the top five oil companies have brought in a staggering $101 billion in profits. But Senator Toomey, who says he’s against funding companies that have “achieved commercial success” due to the “tremendous fiscal crisis” has voted against repealing $21 billion in tax breaks over 10 years that could be used to close the deficit or fund clean energy. In fact, Senator Toomey’s record has been so consistent, the American Petroleum Institute just issued a new ad praising him on his record: Toomey isn’t alone in having an odd stance on subsidies. Last month, Florida Republican Congressman Cliff Stearns explained to Climate Progress that “when somebody is successful, then you give them subsidies.” As Republican members of Congress continue to push this mind-bending logic on how subsides should work, 62 others — many of whom have been critical of government investments in clean energy after the Solyndra bankruptcy — have requested money from the Department of Energy to fund clean energy projects in their districts. Toomey’s co-signer to the letter, Indiana Republican Senator Dan Coats, has at least entertained the idea of rolling back oil tax breaks to reduce the deficit. When it comes to questioning the loan guarantee, their concerns are not completely unfounded. Although the market for high-strength steel is expected to grow substantially with the increase in advanced automobile manufacturing, there is debate about whether this particular loan guarantee was instrumental in helping build new facilities, or if expansion would have happened without government backing. That is a legitimate question to be asking. But it’s far different to blast a potential $730 million loan guarantee (one that is designed to create a whole new supply chain for a whole new innovative industry) in the name of fiscal responsibility, and then turn around and support tens of billions in tax breaks to the most profitable companies on the planet. Related Post: After taking $96K from oil and gas firms, Toomey pushes for more offshore drilling.

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Sunday, den 30. October 2011

Thailand’s Great Flood Likely to Peak this Weekend and Damage One Quarter of Rice Crop of World’s Top Exporter No, the main headline wasn’t about Thailand — it was about El Salvador (as is the picture).  We’ve been seeing twin uber-deluges this month on opposite sides of the Earth, both spurred by warming waters, as meteorologist and former hurricane hunter Dr. Jeff Masters explains on his blog. The Thai floods have gotten more attention, because of their epic nature — and global economic impact on rice prices (see below).  So let’s start with El Salvador and Central America : “I want to tell the world that El Salvador is going through one of the most dramatic disasters in its history,” President Mauricio Funes said on national radio and television Wednesday night, as he appealed for international aid. A week of torrential rains across Central America have triggered extreme floods and landslides that have killed 105 people, according to media reports. El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua have declared states of emergency due to the disaster. El Salvador and Guatemala have seen the worst flooding, with 34 and 38 people killed, respectively. Another 18 have died in Honduras, 13 in Nicaragua, and 5 in Costa Rica. The rains were due to a large area of low pressure that was moistened by the landfall of Tropical Depression 12-E near the Mexico/Guatemala border last week. Contributing to the record-intensity rains were ocean temperatures off the coast of El Salvador that were 0.5 – 1°C above average during the first half of October, allowing more water vapor than usual to evaporate into the air . Over the past ten days, rainfall amounts of over a meter (39.4″) have fallen over a large area of southwest El Salvador (Figure 2.) At Huizucar, an astonishing 1.513 meters (4.96 feet) of rain fell in the past ten days. Climatologist Kevin Trenberth explained the deluge-warming connection in an interview with Climate Progress last year: I find it systematically tends to get underplayed and it often gets underplayed by my fellow scientists. Because one of the opening statements, which I’m sure you’ve probably heard is “Well you can’t attribute a single event to climate change.” But  there is a systematic influence on all of these weather events now-a-days because of the fact that there is this extra water vapor lurking around in the atmosphere than there used to be say 30 years ago . It’s about a 4% extra amount, it invigorates the storms, it provides plenty of moisture for these storms and  it’s unfortunate that the public is not associating these with the fact that this is one manifestation of climate change . And the prospects are that these kinds of things will only get bigger and worse in the future. The AFP reports that many in Central America do understand the connection between warming and deluging: Officials have blamed the effects of global warming for the spate of deadly rains and flooding. “Climate change is not something that is coming in the future, we are already suffering its effects,” said Raul Artiga with the Central American Commission on Environment and Development (CCAD). Here’s a graphic of the “astonishing” amount of rain El Salvador has been hit by: CLICK HERE TO READ MORE OR COMMENT Rainfall [in mm] in El Salvador for the 10-day period ending on Friday, October 21, at 8 am EDT. At Huizucar, an astonishing 1.513 meters (4.96 feet) of rain fell during those ten days. Image credit: Hydrological Service of El Salvador. Here’s the latest on the unfolding catastrophe in Thailand: Thailand’s Great Flood likely to peak this weekend The most damaging natural disaster in Thailand history is growing more serious, as the flood waters besieging the capital of Bangkok continue to overwhelm defenses and inundate the city. Heavy rains during September and October have led to extreme flooding that has killed 373 people and caused that nation’s most expensive natural disaster in history, with a cost now estimated at $6 billion. Thailand’s previous most expensive disaster was the $1.3 billion price tag of the November 27, 1993 flood, according to the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) . Floodwaters have swamped fields and cities in a third of Thailand’s provinces, affected 9 million people, and damaged approximately 10% of the nation’s rice crop. Thailand is the world’s largest exporter of rice, so the disaster may put further upward pressure on world food prices, which are already at the highest levels since the late 1970s. The highest tide of the month occurs this weekend at 8:07 am ICT in the capital of Bangkok , and the additional pressure that incoming salt water puts on the flood walls protecting the city is a major concern. Fortunately, the monsoon has been quiet this week over Southeast Asia, and the latest GFS model precipitation forecast show little additional rain over the country in the coming week. Heavy monsoon rains are common in Thailand and Southeast Asia during La Niña events, and we currently have a weak La Niña event occurring. Ocean temperatures in the waters surrounding Thailand during September and October have been approximately 0.3°C above average, which has increased rainfall amounts by putting more water vapor into the air. The remains of Tropical Storm Haitang and Typhoon Nesat also brought heavy rains in late September which contributed to the flooding. Figure 3. Top ten most expensive natural disasters in Thailand since 1900, as tabulated by the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) . This month’s disaster (number one on the table above) is not yet in the CRED data base. And here’s what the deluge is doing to food insecurity: BANGKOK: Thailand may lose a quarter of its main rice crop in the nation’s worst flooding in decades, the government estimates, which could boost prices of the staple and further squeeze shipments from the world’s top exporter. The flood damage to rice comes at a time when Thailand, which accounts for about 30% of global trade, has in place an intervention scheme that is likely to push prices even higher, encouraging buyers to seek alternative origins. A rally in the market for Asia’s main staple could stoke tensions across a region where several nations are struggling with a double-digit increase in food inflation, although ample global reserves and new supplies in the pipeline are expected to keep buyers calm for now. “The 6 million tonnes damage (to rice paddy) is just an initial estimate. We need to conduct a survey again after flood water recedes,” Apichart Jongsakul, head of the Office of Agriculture Economy, told Reuters, adding that the figure, which is a 50% jump from early estimates, referred to the main crop. As a result, Thailand may not be able to meet its rice export commitments to Indonesia, the Indonesian trade minister said on Friday, forcing Southeast Asia’s largest economy to explore other sources. “I just received information that they (Thailand) don’t appear to be able to fulfill their commitment to sell and ship rice to Indonesia,” trade minister Gita Wirjawan said…. The worsening flood situation could cut Thai production to 19 million tonnes of paddy, Apichart said, nearly a quarter down from the previous forecast of 25 million. Thailand has a second smaller crop producing around 7 million tonnes a year. Thailand has seen about 1.6 million hectares of farmland inundated, forcing the government to cut its estimate for this year’s main crop by 24%. High Water is here. Related Posts: Virginia Deluge Was an “Off the Charts Above a 1000-year Rainfall,” Says National Weather Service “An Extreme Rainfall Event Unprecedented in Recorded History Has Hit the Binghamton, New York Area” Last year, we had  Tennessee’s 1000-year deluge aka  Nashville’s ‘Katrina’ . Coastal North Carolina’s suffered its  second 500-year rainfall in 11 years. Craig Fugate, who heads the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency, said in December, “ The term ’100-year event’ really lost its meaning this year ” (see  Munich Re : “The only plausible explanation for the rise in weather-related catastrophes is climate change”). Northern Territory Chief Minister on Carlos’s deluge: “So a really one in 500 year event; nobody’s experienced anything like this before” High Water: Aussie inland tsunami labelled 1-in-370 year event In other UK news: “Rain like this happens once every 1,000 years” Yes, “human-induced increases in greenhouse gases have contributed to the observed intensification of heavy precipitation events” over much of the NH

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Thursday, den 28. July 2011

by Richard Caperton It sure would be nice if members of Congress actually listened to the Congressional Budget Office. If they did, they would learn what we’ve known for quite some time: shifting to cleaner electricity generation is an affordable and effective way to reduce carbon emissions. The CBO just released a summary of seven different types of standards from a variety of sources. The summary uniformly finds that either an RES (renewables alone) or a CES (some combination of renewables, natural gas, nuclear and CCS) will reduce carbon emissions, and that any price impacts to consumers will be minimal. Some consumers may even pay lower utility bills. The report does acknowledge that some regions could see price increases. You can bet that some people will jump all over this and claim that clean energy mandates drive up rates. But let’s put the figures into perspective. Only one out of seven scenarios sees a price increase of more than 5 percent by 2030. At the same time, in five of the seven scenarios, at least one region of the country is projected to see lower electricity prices. Virtually all price impacts are between plus or minus 5 percent, which is extremely small compared to other expected price impacts. For example, a price increase of 1 percent would be overwhelmed by any change in the price of natural gas generation or in a regulated utility’s allowable rate of return. Electric rates for all consumers will change by 2030, and virtually none of that change would be because of a clean energy standard. The CBO report also discusses the best ways to make clean energy standards more cost-effective for consumers. While CBO isn’t in the business of making recommendations, it’s clear that these will be a key part of designing a successful clean energy standard.  In fact, that’s why the Center for American Progress included these cost-effective measures in our clean energy standard proposal. Specifically, CBO’s report validates these aspects of our proposal: Allowing utilities to use energy efficiency to meet part of the standard reduces compliance costs.  Obviously, accounting for energy efficiency can be challenging, and this aspect of a CES needs to be properly designed, but it’s important to include the most cost-effective emission reduction measures possible. A federal CES should complement existing state standards, and utilities should be able to use clean energy credits from state programs to meet a federal standard. Different regions of the country have different clean energy resources, and should be given flexibility to use the least-cost resources available. Clean energy credits should be tradable. The timing of interim targets should be flexible and gradual, so that utilities have sufficient time to develop the most cost-effective resources. CBO’s report points to the need for more modeling of specific clean energy standard proposals. All of the studies in this report differ from serious policy proposals in significant ways. Specifically: A study that doesn’t allow for all clean energy sources (including wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, hydropower, nuclear, and natural gas, to name a few) is unnecessarily imposing false constraints that will only increase the costs of compliance. Studies that have less ambitious targets than 80 percent clean power will project fewer benefits, especially in terms of reduced carbon emissions. CAP’s clean energy standard proposal includes a tiered approach, in which utilities should meet 35 percent of their target with renewables and energy efficiency.  Ignoring energy efficiency will lead to exaggerated costs of compliance, and ignoring specific targets for renewables will underestimate deployment of the most economically beneficial technologies. Non-utility generators – like industrial facilities that use biomass or combined heat and power – need to be included in any modeling.  These facilities are key parts of the electricity system and their actions will lower the costs of compliance by contributing to a liquid trading market, especially in the southeast. Frustratingly, none of the studies CBO includes look at actual policy proposals. Whereas the President has proposed getting 80 percent of the country’s power from a diverse mix of low-carbon sources, the studies in the CBO report are based on meeting much lower targets with much smaller sets of technologies. Inevitably, this means that CBO has underestimated the benefits and overestimated the costs of actual CES proposals. — Richard Caperton, Senior Policy Analyst at the Center for American Progress

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