If you’ve been following the historic spotlight that Inside Climate News has been shining on Oil Giant Exxon’s long-time research into climate change impacts – well, you’re way ahead of most human beings. The silence of the mainstream media outlets on this story may be as stunning as the story itself, which is saying a lot.
Meanwhile, as I’ve posted yesterday, we’re witnessing a classic exercise in misdirection, as Congress begins investigating – not what Exxon knew and when they knew it – but rather, the small group of scientists who have had the timerity to write a letter asking the President and Attorney General to file a Racketeering case against the fossil fuel industry, much as was done against the tobacco industry, almost 20 years ago.
When coupled with the emerging consensus and sense of urgency that polls are showing among a majority of voters, heading into an election year that will likely be one of the hottest in history – the pieces are in place for a game changing political earthquake.
In 1980, as Exxon Corp. set out to develop one of the world’s largest deposits of natural gas, it found itself facing an unfamiliar risk: the project would emit immense amounts of carbon dioxide, adding to the looming threat of climate change.
The problem cropped up shortly after Exxon signed a contract with the Indonesian state oil company to exploit the Natuna gas field in the South China Sea—big enough to supply the blossoming markets of Japan, Taiwan and Korea with liquefied natural gas into the 21st century.
Assessing the environmental impacts, Exxon Research and Engineering quickly identified Natuna’s greenhouse gas problem. The reservoir was contaminated with much more carbon dioxide than normal. It would have to be disposed of somehow—and simply venting it into the air could have serious consequences, Exxon’s experts warned.
Exxon’s dawning realization that carbon dioxide and the greenhouse effect posed a danger to the world collided with the company’s fossil fuel ambitions.
“They were being farsighted,” recalled John L. Woodward, who wrote an internal report in 1981 on Natuna’s climate implications.
“They weren’t sure when CO2 controls would be required and how it would affect the economics of the project.”
October 7, 2015
Why will there paradoxically be both heavier rainfall and increased droughts under climate change? Prof. Michael Mann of Penn State explains. Useful to understand, once again, how increasing incidents of severe downpours can actually result in dryer soil conditions over time.
In addition, below, Dr. Mann explains why debating climate deniers is like mud wrestling pigs.
If the US Congress is to take meaningful action to curb climate change, the support of corporate America and Republicans will be required. This is why a meeting of food industry executives and politicians – joined by a lone Republican congressman – on Capitol Hill on Thursday may be the first glimmer of a bipartisan approach to climate action.
US senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a Rhode Island Democrat, and US representative Chris Gibson, a New York Republican, chaired the briefing. Bucking party orthodoxy, Gibson recently drew attention by organizing 11 moderate Republicans to support a resolution acknowledging the reality of climate change and asking Congress to act.
The briefing was held to call attention to a letter signed by CEOs of some of the world’s biggest food companies, which asks governments to set “clear, achievable” science-based targets for carbon emissions reductions. Ceres circulated the letter, which was published in full-page ads in the Washington Post and Financial Times.
Signed by the CEOs of companies including Mars, General Mills, Unilever, Dannon North America, Ben & Jerry’s, Kellogg, Nestle USA, New Belgium Brewing, Stonyfield Farm and Clif Bar, the letter says that climate change is “bad for farmers and for agriculture” and warned that “drought, flooding and hotter growing conditions threaten the world’s food supply and contribute to food insecurity”.
Gibson said he advocates action to curb climate change for the same reason that he supports a balanced federal budget: “So that future generations get the same choices and freedoms that we have.”
Oil Industry Covered Up Climate Concerns – Now Congress want to Investigate, of course, – Climate Scientists
October 7, 2015
Above, one of my more popular vids traces how the same tactics used to harass critics of the tobacco industry were turned against climate scientists – often by the very same individuals.
Now we know, Oil companies knew the truth of climate change for 25 years while they funded misinformation, distortions and lies to decieve the public.
Now that we know about it, Congress wants to investigate – of course – climate scientists.
A climate scientist who was the lead signatory on a letter urging President Obama to launch a federal investigation into whether fossil fuel companies “knowingly deceived the American people about the risks of climate change” is now facing an investigation by Congress because of his part in the letter.
Jagadish Shukla, a climate scientist at George Mason University in Virginia, received notice Oct. 1 that the non-profit research organization he runs, the Institute of Global Environment and Society (IGES), will soon be investigated by the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology for suspected misuse of federal funding.
Republican Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, who chairs the House committee, requested that Shukla and IGES “preserve all e-mail, electronic documents, and data (‘electronic records’) created since January 1, 2009,” according to the notice.
The investigation stems from Shukla’s involvement in the letter to President Obama, Attorney General Loretta Lynch and White House science advisor John Holdren on Sept. 1. The letter’s 20 signees—climate scientists from Columbia University, the National Center for Atmospheric Research, the University of Maryland and other institutions—asked the administration to explore whether energy companies could be prosecuted under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) of 1970 for purposefully casting doubt on the scientific evidence for climate change. Federal prosecutors used the RICO Act in the 1990s and 2000s to sue tobacco companies for covering up the health impacts of smoking. ScienceInsider first reported Smith’s investigation.
Shukla’s research organization, IGES, posted a copy of the RICO letter to its website—a move that Smith told Shukla “raises serious concerns” over a taxpayer-funded scientific group “participating in partisan political activity.” The research center has received funds from the National Science Foundation, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA.
October 7, 2015
Readers of this blog are familiar with the (not so) “positive feedback” effects that exacerbate climate change – for instance, as arctic ice melts, more open water, which absorbs more heat, which melts more ice, etc, or melting permafrost, which creates more GHGs, which melts more permafrost -etc.
Now, finally we’ve identified a positive feedback that really is positive – Solar and wind energy are now in a virtuous cycle with relation to fossil fuels.
A new analysis suggests that we continue to move into a world in which it makes more economic sense to draw electricity from the sun or the winds, rather than from fossil fuels.
The report, from Bloomberg New Energy Finance, examined the “levelized cost of electricity” around the world in the second half of 2015 — a metric that seeks to take a comprehensive look at costs including capital expenditures, interest rates and operating costs. It’s an approach that is able to “put technologies on a level playing field and enable that comparison, which is valuable,” says Seb Henbest, head of Europe, Middle East, and Africa analysis for Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
The report was based on analysis of some 55,000 projects around the world, says Henbest. And it found that globally, onshore wind now on average costs $83 per megawatt-hour of electricity ($2 cheaper than in the first half of the year), and thin film solar photovoltaics costs $122 per megawatt-hour — a drop of $7 in just half a year.
Nonetheless, the pattern is changing, and as Henbest explains, once there are more renewables online, there can actually be a process in which their utilization undermines fossil fuels. That’s because renewable installations don’t require any fuel to operate, and thus don’t have that recurring cost that fossil fuel-fired generation has.
So as renewables bid in low to supply power to the grid, they come to supply more of it — meaning that fossil fuel plants operate less.
Second, the shift illustrates a serious new risk for power companies planning to invest in coal or natural-gas plants. Historically, a high capacity factor has been a fixed input in the cost calculation. But now anyone contemplating a billion-dollar power plant with an anticipated lifespan of decades must consider the possibility that as time goes on, the plant will be used less than when its doors first open.
October 6, 2015
In which an international community of very smart, very brave, very passionate people set to work on a task where the stakes are survival.
If you like this blog, you’ll like this movie.
Like this blog, it involves severe weather, terra forming, innovative agricultural techniques, international cooperation, a global view, NASA, and solar panels.
And, like this blog, it is relentlessly optimistic, even in the face of devastating events, tall odds, and seemingly endless bad news.
“I guarantee you, that at some point, everything is going to go south on you, .. you’re going to say, “this is it,.. this is how I end.’ Now, you can either accept that – or you can get to work.”
“I’m going to have to science the shit out of this.”
I’ve been playing “movie catch up” this week.
October 6, 2015
NOTE: If you are reading this, then, apparently the world has not ended, as a fringe “Christian” group has prophesied.
Above, Pastor John Kilpatrick on the Jim Bakker Show. Yes, Jim Bakker of Reverend Jim and Tammy. Jim’s out of jail, it turns out.
Anyway Kilpatrick says climate is changing all because of people sinning, aborting, and doing, like, gay things.
There’s a grand tradition here, which works well as long as the hurricane isn’t blowing away your Full Gospel Family radio station.
What’s really poignant here is that the earth really is sending a message, just not one of homophobia. Or a whole lot of other stuff.
When something terrible happens, it’s usually not long before someone on the religious right attributes it to God’s wrath. From hurricanes to earthquakes to tornadoes to floods, if you look closely enough you’ll see that there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation for all that horror and suffering: gay people and/or American foreign policy.Enter Michele Bachmann. You probably know by now that South Carolina is experiencing its worst flooding in hundreds of years. At least eleven people have died due to weather-related incidents in the Carolinas since the flooding began on Thursday. The former congresswoman (who evidently moonlights as a meteorologist) has a theory, however.
Bachmann took to Twitter over the weekend to let her followers know what’s really going on in South Carolina. “U.S. turns its back on Israel, disasters following,” she wrote above a link to an article on the record-setting storms on the East Coast. Got that, Carolinians? If you’re upset about the deluge sweeping your state and you want answers, don’t look to science or Hurricane Joaquin or that tropical moisture from the south or the unusually high water temperatures in the Atlantic – you’re suffering because Obama and Netanyahu don’t get along.
Bachmann, of course, has a history of divining the real causes of natural disasters. When Hurricane Irene pummeled the East Coast in 2011, she opined: “Washington, D.C. – you’d think by now they’d get the message. An earthquake. A hurricane. Are you listening? The American people have done everything they possibly can. Now it’s time for an act of God and we’re getting it.”
I’ve been saying for a long time that the next refuge of deniers, after “I’m not a scientist”, and “oh well, it’s too late”, will be “See? God’s doing it to punish our sins.” The exact causative sin will depend, of course, on the wack fundamentalist religious perspective of your choice, but I can predict with serene confidence that, across all fringe theological boundaries, gay people and sassy women are going to be high on the list of scapegoats for bringing down God’s wrath.
And Bryan Fischer finds the gay/sorcery/climate hypotheses is totally reasonable. Worthy of more research.
You can make a case, is what I’m sayin.. Read the rest of this entry »
October 5, 2015
From Andy Lee Robinson – video description:
This is an animated visualization of the startling decline of Arctic Sea Ice, showing the minimum volume reached every September since 1979, set on a map of New York with a 10km grid to give an idea of scale. It is clear that the trend of Arctic sea ice decline indicates that it’ll be ice-free for an increasingly large part of the year, with consequences for the climate.
The rate of ice loss in the Arctic is staggering. Since 1979, the volume of Summer Arctic sea ice has declined by more than 80% and accelerating faster than scientists believed it would, or even could melt.
Based on the rate of change of volume over the last 30 years, I expect the first ice-free summer day in the Arctic Ocean (defined as having less than 1 million km² of sea ice) to happen between 2016 and 2022, and thereafter occur more regularly with the trend of ice-free duration extending into August and October.
I also composed and played the piano music, “Ice Dreams”. A longer version played live can be found here: http://youtu.be/_miBCygvO4Y
A full HD 1080p version is available for broadcast, and can be customized on request.
October 8, 2015
The Sierra Club, Environmental Media Association and RYOT launched today the first-ever virtual reality climate change public service announcement, which offers 360 degree panoramic shots that catapults viewers into the heart of the Arctic to explore frontline communities and melting glaciers.
Our presumed Speaker of the US House of Representatives could make Congress even less climate friendly than it already is.
On the other hand, having Kevin McCarthy as the Face of Climate Denial would be a great boost for truth in advertising.
Boehner’s presumed successor is Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California. McCarthy, the No. 2 Republican in the House, would be as bad—if not worse—than the Ohio congressman on climate change and environmental issues, political and environmental experts said. They said the other potential candidates, Florida Rep. Daniel Webster and Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, who chairs the Tea Party-aligned House Freedom Caucus and has not officially announced interest in the position, are just as dismal.
“Let me not pull any punches: McCarthy’s going to be horrible,” said RL Miller, chair of the California Democratic party’s environment caucus and founder of Climate Hawks Vote, a super PAC that works to elect climate-conscious candidates. “His district is Bakersfield, California, deep red rural farm country. He stands up for oil companies and for big agriculture.”
McCarthy, a businessman, has risen quickly through the Congressional ranks since he was elected to the House in 2006. Two years after starting in D.C., he became Republican chief deputy whip, moving to majority whip in 2011. He became majority leader in 2014 when Virginia Republican Eric Cantor unexpectedly lost his seat to Tea Party candidate Dave Brat.
“Energy is the issue I care most about,” McCarthy told The Wall Street Journal in 2014. McCarthy, 50, is a fourth-generation resident of Kern County, which produces approximately 75 percent of California’s oil and 58 percent of its natural gas. If the county were a state, it would rank fourth in oil production in the nation, according to the Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce. The oil and gas industry is McCarthy’s fourth largest campaign donor, contributing more than $825,000 over his Congressional career, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks donations.
For more insight into the New Speaker’s unique oratorical stylings, see below.
October 8, 2015
How to get the media’s attention? Here’s an idea that might work..