May 2011 Newsletter

Climate Change Denial becomes Harder to Justify

Washington Post Editorial, May 15

“CLIMATE CHANGE is occurring, is very likely caused by human activities, and poses significant risks for a broad range of human and natural systems.”

So says (in response to a request from Congress) the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences, the country’s preeminent institution chartered to provide scientific advice to lawmakers.  (This is a very interesting read: ).

In a report titled “America’s Climate Choices, 2011”- a panel of scientific and policy experts also concludes that the risks of inaction far outweigh the risks or disadvantages of action.

And the most sensible and urgently needed action, the panel says, is to put a rising price on carbon emissions, by means of a tax or cap-and-trade system. That would encourage innovation, research and a gradual shift away from the use of energy sources (oil, gas and coal) that are endangering the world.

None of this should come as a surprise. None of this is news. But it is newsworthy, sadly, because the Republican Party, and therefore theU.S.government, has moved so far from reality and responsibility in their approach to climate change.

Seizing on inevitable points of uncertainty in something as complex as climate science, and on misreported pseudo-scandals among a few scientists, Republican members of Congress, presidential candidates and other leaders pretend that the dangers of climate change are hypothetical and unproven and the causes uncertain.

Not so, says the National Research Council. “Although the scientific process is always open to new ideas and results, the fundamental causes and consequences of climate change have been established by many years of scientific research, are supported by many different lines of evidence, and have stood firm in the face of careful examination, repeated testing, and the rigorous evaluation of alternative theories and explanation.”

Climate-change deniers, in other words, are willfully ignorant, lost in wishful thinking, cynical or some combination of the three.

And their recalcitrance is dangerous, the report makes clear, because the longer the nation waits to respond to climate change, the more catastrophic the planetary damage is likely to be — and the more drastic the needed response.

What happens when Congress asks a question and gets an answer it doesn’t like? The response from Texas Rep. Joe Barton, senior Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, provides a clue.   “I see nothing substantive in this report that adds to the knowledge base necessary to make an informed decision about what steps — if any — should be taken to address climate change,” Mr. Barton told the New York Times.

Every candidate for political office in the next cycle, including for president, should be asked whether they disagree with the scientific consensus of America’s premier scientific advisory group, as reflected in this report; and if so, on what basis they disagree;

&  if not, what they propose to do about the rising seas, spreading deserts and intensifying storms that, absent a change in policy, loom on America’s horizon.    (& crop failures due to prolonged droughts & ocean life dying due to oceans becoming more acidic..wch).

NOTE: a quote from the above NAS May report:

Most people rely on secondary sources for information, especially the mass media; and some of these sources are affected by concerted campaigns against policies to limit CO2 emissions, which promote beliefs about climate change that are not well-supported by scientific evidence. U.S. media coverage sometimes presents aspects of climate change that are uncontroversial among the research community as being matters of serious scientific debate. Such factors likely play a role in the increasing polarization of public beliefs about climate change, along lines of political ideology that has been observed in the United States.”

Climate Change has loaded the Dice:  

All extreme weather events are now subject to human influence,” said Dr. Peter Gleick, a climate & water scientist and president of the Pacific Institute, at a Capitol Hill briefing  organized by the American Meteorological Society. “We are loading the dice and painting higher numbers on them.”

It is difficult, of course, to link or “attribute” individual extreme weather events in a single year to global warming. Climate factors—including human influences—shape weather patterns. According to Munich Re, one of the world’s largest reinsurers, “the only plausible explanation for the rise in weather-related catastrophes is climate change.”

And as Kevin Trenberth, Sc.D., head of the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Researchexplained at the American Meteorological Society’s January 2011 meeting, “Given that global warming is unequivocal, the null hypothesis should be that all weather events are affected by global warming rather than the inane statements along the lines of ‘of course we cannot attribute any particular weather event to global warming.’”

Atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas pollutants are turning up the heat on our planet. Scientists agree that the string of disastrous weather extremes this past year are the types of severe weather that will become more frequent or ferocious as the planet continues to warm. For instance, in the “first major paper of its kind” tracking global climatic trends from 1951 to 1999, Scottish and Canadian researchers used sophisticated computer models to confirm a human contribution to more intense precipitation extremes with very high confidence.

This analysis is supported by a 2010 Duke University-led study that found, “Global warming is driving increased frequency of extreme wet or dry summer weather in southeast, so droughts and deluges are likely to get worse.”

study published in the 2011 Journal of Climate presents “evidence of a significant human influence on the increasing severity of extremely warm nights and decreasing severity of extremely cold days and nights.”

More Dice: Record high temperatures far outpace record lows across U.S. February 11, 2010

Spurred by a warming climate, daily record high temperatures occurred twice as often as record lows over the last decade across the continental United States, new research shows. The ratio of record highs to lows is likely to increase dramatically in coming decades if emissions of greenhouse gases continue to climb.

The key point is that you can’t draw conclusions about the climate from any single weather event, but instead need to do statistical analyses across large regions to understand what is happening.  (thus we can not say for sure that the increase in tornadoes is due to Climate Change until we see the 5-10yr trends. We can say more energy in = more energy out .  The dice are loaded.

The study left out Alaska, the state where temperatures are rising the fastest.  Including it would likely have increased the trend.

This is from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR).   And NCAR posted a video of lead author Gerald Meehl discussing his findings:

“Climate change is making itself felt in terms of day-to-day weather in the United States,” says Gerald Meehl, the lead author and a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). “The ways these records are being broken show how our climate is already shifting.”

… If temperatures were not warming, the number of record daily highs and lows being set each year would be approximately even. Instead, for the period from January 1, 2000, to September 30, 2009, the continental United States set 291,237 record highs and 142,420 record lows, as the country experienced unusually mild winter weather and intense summer heat waves.

This decade’s warming was more pronounced in the western United States, where the ratio was more than two to one, than in the eastern United States, where the ratio was about one-and-a-half to one.

Also most of the nation’s warming is occurring at night, when temperatures are dipping less often to record lows. This finding is consistent with years of climate model research showing that higher overnight lows should be expected with climate change.


  • The ACID SEA: National Geographic, April 2011, shows what happens from natural leaks of CO2 – not pretty.  The link  below has the words but not all the pictures.   Check  a copy at the library.

·        Seattle Launches Building Energy Disclosure Program

Seattle commercial buildings will have their energy performance benchmarked and energy ratings available to prospective buyers, tenants and lenders, under an initiative launched yesterday.

The City of Seattle sent letters to more than 800 large commercial property owners and managers yesterday, informing them about the citywide program designed to help owners and managers assess and improve building energy efficiency and spur the market for building energy retrofits.

  • The EV Project is the largest deployment of electric vehicles and charge

    infrastructure in history

    ECOtality ($230 million)  will deploy approximately 14,000 chargers in 18 major cities and metropolitan areas located in six states.   Chevrolet and Nissan North America are members.  Chevrolet Volt and Nissan LEAF drivers who qualify to participate in The EV Project will receive a residential charger at no cost.

U.S. Government Backs Concentrated Photovoltaics

A 30-megawatt plant will be one of the largest to use the technology. By Kevin Bullis

A relatively new type of solar power called concentrated photovoltaic (CPV) technology is getting a $90.6 million boost from the U.S. Department of Energy. The government backing will help with financing for a 30-megawatt facility near Alamosa, Colorado, which will be one of the largest concentrated-photovoltaics plants ever built.

Concentrated photovoltaics is different from concentrated solar power, which is also known as solar thermal. In solar thermal plants, mirrors and lenses concentrate sunlight to generate the temperatures needed to produce steam that drives a turbine and generator.

In CPV, arrays of lenses are used to focus sunlight onto small solar cells. The concentrated light improves the efficiency of the cells and reduces the amount of expensive solar cell material needed to produce a given amount of electricity. Amonix,  will be supplying the concentrated photovoltaic systems for the project, says its system can generate twice as much power per acreas conventional solar panel technology.

CPV accounts for a small part of the solar market now—just 0.1 percent. That’s largely because it’s newer than ordinary photovoltaic technology and has been more expensive; it’s more complex, since the lenses have to precisely track the sun.

Catholics Believe

A Vatican-appointed panel of scientists has reported what climate change experts have been warning for years: the Earth is getting warmer, glaciers are melting, and urgent measures are necessary to stem the damage.

The scientists called for urgent reduction of carbon dioxide emissions and reductions in methane and other pollutants that warm the air, and for improved observation of mountain glaciers to better track their changes.

“We appeal to all nations to develop and implement, without delay, effective and fair policies to reduce the causes and impacts of climate change on communities and ecosystems, including mountain glaciers and their watersheds, aware that we all live in the same home,” the report said.

Mangroves Rule:

Forests are protected, but carbon sinks in mangroves, seagrasses and marshes are ignored.   M. da Silva Copertino wants Brazil to change that.

The 9,000-kilometre vibrant and productive Brazilian coastline is covered with vegetated ecosystems that together contain hundreds of millions of tonnes of such carbon, at least. Brazil is home to the third-largest mangrove area in the world and has more than 20,000 hectares of seagrasses near tropical reefs and in coastal lagoons.

Why aren’t these systems recognized as vital pieces of the climate-change puzzle? They cover just 0.5% of marine areas, but are among the largest carbon sinks in the ocean. Typically, they store up to 15 times more carbon per hectare than terrestrial soils, absorbed over hundreds or even thousands of years. And these coastal systems sequester carbon 10–50 times faster than terrestrial forests.

Finally:  We did Not make these Up !    

►Philanthropist and CNN founder Ted Turner has turned his sights to renewable energy — and he had some fighting words for the wind industry at the kickoff to its annual convention.  Coal, Oil Industries Need ‘    A Good A**      Kicking’”

He noted that he had “nightmares” caused by clean coal advertisements.

►Three Republican congressmen have taken their names off the T. Boone Pickens-endorsed legislation to steer billions of dollars in tax incentives to natural gas-fueled vehicles.  Reps. Tim Griffin of Arkansas and Glenn Thompson of Pennsylvania & Missouri Rep. Todd Akin, a six-term Republican;   quietly removed themselves Thursday as co-sponsors of the NAT GAS Act (H.R. 1380), a bill that has drawn conservative ire as an expensive and targeted tax subsidy.

Club for Growth President Chris Chocola, a former GOP congressman, took to Red on Thursday to call for conservatives to oppose the measure.

If billions of dollars in tax incentives aren’t enough to rally the troops, the former Indiana congressman highlighted a “sense of Congress” section of the bill that he believes could be read as endorsing the Obama administration’s push to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.  (So it does not matter if the action reduces oil imports; just don’t believe in climate change).

►Interview with Jon Huntsman; R candidate for President

You also believe in climate change, right?

This is an issue that ought to be answered by the scientific community; I’m not a meteorologist. All I know is 90 percent of the scientists say climate change is occurring. If 90 percent of the oncological community said something was causing cancer we’d listen to them. I respect science and the professionals behind the science so I tend to think it’s better left to the science community – though we can debate what that means for the energy and transportation sectors.

One of the most effective things we can do is to call our Elected representatives: . You don’t need to know the bill name or be an expert ; – just say  your opinion.   You can be sure the Flat earth people call frequently.     A staff member will answer the phone. It’s their job to take calls from constituents, so don’t be shy. To make the most impact, make it personal. EG:  I am concerned about climate change;    Please follow the Science ;   We need to take action…

Senator Robert Casey: (202) 224-6324

Senator Pat Toomey: (202) 224-4254

These calls really have an impact !

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