October 1, 2014
Jason Box returned to Greenland for a few days late in August, and was able to shoot the video above. Newest observations show the lowest reflectivity on record for Greenland’s Upper elevations.
And there’s this.
Spongy sediments under Greenland’s ice sheet may accelerate its flow into the sea — an effect that previous estimates of ice loss failed to account for, according to University of Cambridge researchers. They said that means the ice sheet may be more sensitive than previously thought to overall climate change, along with short-term events like heavy rain and heat waves.
The researchers said it was thought that Greenland’s extensive ice fields rested on hard bedrock, but new evidence shows that soft sediments also are present. Those sediments weaken as they soak up water from seasonal melt, allowing the sheet to move faster to the sea, the researchers said. Greenland’s ice sheet covers 660,000 square miles (1.7 million square kilometers) to a depth of nearly 2 miles (3 kilometers) at its thickest. A 2012 study found that the sheet’s melting was accelerating, and a 2013 study estimated that because of melting in Greenland and Antarctica, sea levels could be 2 feet higher when today’s preschoolers are grandparents. The research was funded by the Natural Environment Research Council and published Monday in the journal Nature Communications.
October 1, 2014
I’ve been to several conferences in recent weeks tracking the rollout of renewable energy regionally and nationally. The interview above was recorded a few weeks ago in Traverse City, Michigan, and documents another small piece of the huge story that is the renewable energy revolution in the heartland. Below, a leading conservative, establishment, financial firm, Lazard, publishes its most recent assessment.
NEW YORK–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Lazard Ltd (NYSE:LAZ) has released its Levelized Cost of Energy Analysis – Version 8.0, an in-depth study comparing the cost of generating energy from conventional and alternative technologies. Lazard’s Global Power, Energy & Infrastructure Group has been publishing the study since 2008.
The study shows the acceleration of an ongoing trend: Utility-scale solar and wind power are increasingly cost-competitive with traditional energy sources such as coal and nuclear, even without subsidies. The study also highlights the ongoing need for diverse power generation technologies, especially in regions with limited renewables resources.
“The economics of alternative energy have changed dramatically in the last decade,” said George Bilicic, Vice Chairman and Global Head of Lazard’s Power, Energy & Infrastructure Group. “Utilities still require conventional technologies to meet the energy needs of a developed economy, but they are using alternative technologies to create diversified portfolios of power generation resources.”
The study offers a variety of insights, including the following selected highlights: Read the rest of this entry »
October 1, 2014
Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you got till its gone..
In this case, maybe we’re waking up to what we have. Who knew that parking lot had so much value?
A 2005 study by the Environmental Protection Administration estimated there were some 105.2 million parking spaces in the U.S. But according to Ben Joseph, that could be low. He told the New York Times that he estimated there were some 500 million parking spaces in the U.S., “occupying some 3,590 square miles, or an area larger than Delaware and Rhode Island combined.”
But increasingly, when it comes to energy use and sustainability, parking lots are actually becoming part of the solution. Why? In many parts of the country, they are becoming solar power plants.
Typically, solar panels are most easily placed in open fields, or on the roofs of building – flat surfaces that afford direct exposure to the sun and aren’t otherwise being used. The same principle applies to parking lots and garages – provided you build a bunch of canopies to serve as platforms for the solar panels.
Such canopies provide a bunch of benefits. In the summer and in hotter regions, they provide shade for parked cars, preventing them from getting too hot. At all times of the year, they provide protection from rain. In the winter, they can shield drivers from the annoyance of having to wipe snow and ice off their windshields. And when there’s light, they produce electricity.
Several companies are now scaling up to turn America’s parking lots into power plants. One of those active in the Northeast is Solaire Generation, based in New York City. “We see a unique opportunity to make a significant and enduring contribution to the global deployment of renewable energy through the parking lot,” as the company describes about on its website, Solaire has a meter tallying its progress: 2.9 million square feet and 23,100 parking spaces.
October 1, 2014
The number of wild animals on Earth has halved in the past 40 years, according to a new analysis. Creatures across land, rivers and the seas are being decimated as humans kill them for food in unsustainable numbers, while polluting or destroying their habitats, the research by scientists at WWF and the Zoological Society of London found.
“If half the animals died in London zoo next week it would be front page news,” said Professor Ken Norris, ZSL’s director of science. “But that is happening in the great outdoors. This damage is not inevitable but a consequence of the way we choose to live.” He said nature, which provides food and clean water and air, was essential for human wellbeing.
“We have lost one half of the animal population and knowing this is driven by human consumption, this is clearly a call to arms and we must act now,” said Mike Barratt, director of science and policy at WWF. He said more of the Earth must be protected from development and deforestation, while food and energy had to be produced sustainably.
September 30, 2014
CIRES, NOAA study confirms leaks from oil and gas operations
During two days of intensive airborne measurements, oil and gas operations in Colorado’s Front Range leaked nearly three times as much methane, a greenhouse gas, as predicted based on inventory estimates, and seven times as much benzene, a regulated air toxic. Emissions of other chemicals that contribute to summertime ozone pollution were about twice as high as estimates, according to the new paper, accepted for publication in the American Geophysical Union’s Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres.
When a natural gas facility was built locally in the mid 80s, I was convinced it was a good idea as a “bridge” to the renewable technologies that I knew would eventually be taking over, in response to the growing consensus on global warming.
I did not anticipate that the disinformation campaign against science would be so strong and long lasting, nor that the media would be so compliant, and our politicians so craven.
Natural gas will obviously play a role for some decades to come, but further envisioning of gas as the solution to our climate problems has become insupportable.
A new study questions the utility of natural gas as a “bridge fuel” – and that’s when envisioning only a 1.5 percent leakage rate in the system, which seems increasingly naive.
A study published today in the journal Environmental Research Letters found that switching from coal to natural gas would not significantly lower the greenhouse gas emissions that drive climate change.
That’s chiefly because the shift would delay the deployment and cost-competitiveness ofrenewable electricity technologies for making electricity,” concluded the three researchers from the University of California Irvine, Stanford University and Seattle-based nonprofit Net Zero.
“Increased use of natural gas has been promoted as a means of decarbonizing the U.S. power sector, because of superior generator efficiency and lower CO2 emissions per unit of electricity than coal,” said the study. “We model the effect of different gas supplies on the U.S. power sector and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Across a range of climate policies, we find that abundant natural gas decreases use of both coal and renewable energy technologies in the future.”
September 30, 2014
Big piece from Reuters this week on the global utility panic as solar photovoltaic generation promises to eat away at their 100+ year old business model. Recent historical experience with technological revolutions like the internet and cell phones come to mind, suggest that those that fight, and refuse to adapt, will inevitably be absorbed.
A year after Spain, the sunniest country in Europe, issued notice of a law forcing solar energy-equipped homes and offices to pay a punitive tax, architect Inaki Alonso re-installed a 250 watt solar panel on a beam over his Madrid roof terrace.
“The government wanted people to be afraid to generate their own energy, but they haven’t dared to actually pass the law,” Alonso said as he tightened screws on the panel on a sunny summer day this month. He had removed solar panels from the roof last year.
“We’re tired of being afraid,” he said.
Halfway across the globe, in the “sunshine state” of Queensland,Australia, electrical engineer David Smyth says the war waged by some governments and utilities against distributed energy, the term used for power generated by solar panels, is already lost.
“The utilities are in a death spiral,” he told Reuters by telephone while driving between a pub where he helped set up 120 solar panels to cut its A$60,000 ($53,000) annual power bill and a galvanizing plant which was also adding solar panels to reduce costs.
In Australia, he said, solar panels have shifted from being a heavily subsidized indulgence for environmentally-conscious households to a pragmatic option for businesses wanting certainty about what their running costs will be next year.
“Not many people are doing it because of emissions or the environment,” Smyth said. “It’s about the cost.”
Solar photovoltaic (PV) panels constitute the fastest growing renewable energy technology in the world since 2000. Global capacity has exploded from 1.5 gigawatts at the turn of the century to 136 gigawatts currently, according to the Paris-based International Energy Agency. Meanwhile, the price of solar panels has plummeted 80 percent since 2008 thanks to generous state subsidies aimed at promoting clean energy.
It’s still less than one percent of energy capacity worldwide, but the surge in installations of rooftop solar panels is beginning to hit utilities and their business model of charging customers on the basis of consumption.
Although solar energy is still a midget among U.S. energy sources, its rapid growth from a small base is beginning to make some of the big players nervous. Regulated utilities in a number of states—Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho and Louisiana—have started to complain about the various benefits for photovoltaics (PV), says Mac Gunther, in a article appearing on Yale’s environment360 website. Gunther, a contributing editor at Fortune, describes the position of PV in the U.S. energy mix as “puny” or “a mere blip,” inasmuch as it accounted for barely one-tenth of 1 percent of U.S. electricity last year. (Coal delivered 37 percent and natural gas 30 percent.) Yet rooftop PV installations jumped nearly 50 percent last year, enough to make some incumbents seriously nervous.
September 30, 2014
The recent rush of big Brand name tech firms to distance themselves from climate denial is evidence that last week’s huge climate march in New York was both a catalyzing event, and an indicator of a broader shift in public consciousness. Climate Denial is on the way to transitioning from an acceptable “alternative” position, to a poisonous, untouchable social disease like racism, apartheid, spousal abuse, or kiddie pornography, and its practitioners will be remembered in those terms.
For years, tech giants like Facebook, Google and Yahoo with deep roots in both libertarianism and the laissez faire tech culture of Silicon Valley had managed to find common cause with the American Legislative Exchange Council.
ALEC takes a conservative, national political approach down to the state level through model bills that do the bidding of big, corporate interests which provide the funding. ALEC bills are generally promoted word for word at the state level by GOP legislators on issues ranging from information technology to renewable energy.
Despite criticism from consumer advocacy groups like Forecast the Facts that ALEC was distorting science in some of its model bills – specifically its efforts to distort climate science in model bills designed to thwart renewable energy innovation at the state level, or block state implementation of the White House’s clean power plan – the tech industry giants that rely on science and innovation stuck with ALEC.
In just one week, Google, Facebook and Yahoo all separately decided to drop their affiliation with ALEC – mostly because, as Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt said on the Diane Rehm show on National Public Radio, ALEC was twisting science in the pursuit of its political goals at the state level.
More importantly, last week’s climate march and UN meeting on climate issues became an important showcase for corporations to weigh and and acknowledge what the science has been telling us for decades. Denial is no longer a respectable option. This is creating running room for politicians who want to find their own way out of the climate denial or climate agnostic ghetto.
Governments and companies have long linked the use of coal, oil and natural gas with economic growth and prosperity, and many world leaders therefore view the push for emissions cuts as a call for deprivation.
Metzger of the World Resources Institute said that’s what made last week’s blitz from business so important.
“There were a lot of heads of state leading up to this [summit] that were very curious about what companies were going to say because they needed talking points for their speeches…so they could say, look, this isn’t going to kill jobs, this is something that a lot of companies are behind, and this is, in a lot of cases, good for the economy,” Metzger said.
He paraphrased comments from Ikea CEO Peter Agnefjall, who urged an audience of government leaders to act boldly on climate change, reassuring them, “You take that ambitious step, and we’ll be there to support you. We’ll be there behind you.”