March 31, 2012
March 30, 2012
Fernanda B. Viégas and Martin Wattenberg, founders of Many Eyes, have created one of the coolest maps I’ve ever seen — it looks like a living Vincent van Gogh masterpiece. (Makes me think van Gogh was able to see the wind.)
You can see a still of the map above, but you have to check out the (nearly) live wind map to get the full effect.
Martin and Fernanda work for Google, and the wind visualization map works best in Google Chrome (which you should be using anyway!). However, the creators note that the map is just a personal art project and not associated with any companies. More from Viégas and Wattenberg:
Surface wind data comes from the National Digital Forecast Database. These are near-term forecasts, updated once per hour. So what you’re seeing is close to live data. (See the NDFD site for precise details; our timestamp shows time of download.) And for those of you chasing top wind speed, note that maximum speed may occur over lakes or just offshore.
An invisible, ancient source of energy surrounds us—energy that powered the first explorations of the world, and that may be a key to the future.
This map shows you the delicate tracery of wind flowing over the US….
We’d be interested in displaying data for other areas; if you know of a source of detailed live wind data for other regions, or the entire globe, please let us know.
More on wind energy soon – I’ve been working on a major wind-themed project. For now, if you haven’t seen my first wind video from a little while back, its below:
March 30, 2012
Invisible in the mainstream media, the Fukushima slow-motion disaster continues.
Radiation inside the reactor 2 containment vessel at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant has reached a lethal 73 sieverts per hour and any attempt to send robots in to accurately gauge the situation will require them to have greater resistance than currently available, experts said Wednesday.
Exposure to 73 sieverts for a minute would cause nausea and seven minutes would cause death within a month, Tokyo Electric Power Co. said.
The experts said the high radiation level is due to the shallow level of coolant water — 60 cm — in the containment vessel, which Tepco said in January was believed to be 4 meters deep. Tepco has only peeked inside the reactor 2 containment vessel. It has few clues as to the status of reactors 1 and 3, which also suffered meltdowns, because there is no access to their insides.
The utility said the radiation level in the reactor 2 containment vessel is too high for robots, endoscopes and other devices to function properly.
Spokesman Junichi Matsumoto said it will be necessary to develop devices resistant to high radiation.
High radiation can damage the circuitry of computer chips and degrade camera-captured images.
March 30, 2012
What does environmental devastation actually look like? At TEDxVictoria, photographer Garth Lenz shares shocking photos of the Alberta Tar Sands mining project — and the beautiful (and vital) ecosystems under threat.
For almost twenty years, Garth’s photography of threatened wilderness regions, devastation, and the impacts on indigenous peoples, has appeared in the world’s leading publications. His recent images from the boreal region of Canada have helped lead to significant victories and large new protected areas in the Northwest Territories, Quebec, and Ontario. Garth’s major touring exhibit on the Tar Sands premiered on Los Angeles in 2011 and recently appeared in New York. Garth is a Fellow of the International League Of Conservation Photographers
March 29, 2012
Yesterday’s public statement by Dr. Zunli Lu indicated that his work on climate proxies and global temperature had been completely taken out of context and distorted by the Daily Mail, and in turn by the dozens of climate denial bloggers who had republished the bogus article.
Contrary to the Daily Mail’s headline, Dr. Lu affirmed that “Our study does not question the well-established anthropogenic warming trend. Reader Martin Lack has written to Paul Dacre, editor of the Daily Mail, to inquire as to how it is the paper sees fit to let falsehoods remain on their website.
Dear Mr Dacre,
Why is it that in addition to allowing your newspaper to become an anachronism, you also seem content to publish falsehoods even when the people (such as Dr Zunli Lu) whose views your journalists willfully misrepresent warn you against doing so. Will you, I wonder, publish a retraction/correction in an equally prominent place as your original misrepresentation of the research findings?
I’ll report here if there is any response.
March 29, 2012
Look at the graph above.
It indicates that we are on the verge of a revolution. Remember the last few years before the internet explosion? Say, 1992.
How many of you had personal computers? I didn’t.
Most people said to themselves, “Well, I’m not a programmer, I don’t like math or computer games. I have actual real people to play chess with. And I already have a typewriter. So why do I need a computer?”
4 years later, like the rest of us, you were up till midnight every night “surfing” the web, and checking your “email”.
It didn’t happen because it was mandated. It happened because the technology became so cool, affordable, profitable, and compelling, that you just absolutely had to jump in.
You can argue about the timing. 2 years. 5 years. 10 years on the outside. But competitive photovoltaics are coming to your country, state, or town. It is already here in some areas. And when it arrives, it will turn the world upside down. Those players in the power generation sector that are ready will benefit. Those that are not may be swept away.
Here is a pair of graphs that demonstrate most vividly the merit order effect and the impact that solar is having on electricity prices in Germany; and why utilities there and elsewhere are desperate to try to reign in the growth of solar PV in Europe. It may also explain why Australian generators are fighting so hard against the extension of feed-in tariffs in this country.
The first graph illustrates what a typical day on the electricity market in Germany looked like in March four years ago; the second illustrates what is happening now, with 25GW of solar PV installed across the country. Essentially, it means that solar PV is not just licking the cream off the profits of the fossil fuel generators – as happens in Australia with a more modest rollout of PV – it is in fact eating their entire cake.
Both graphs were published last week on the website Renewables International, and were sourced from EPEX, the European power price exchange. The first graph, from 2008, shows peaking power prices rising to around €60/MWh and staying there for most of the day, with some visible peaks around noon and the early evening – the size of which would depend on the temperature and the usage.
The second graph shows a brief leap to €65/MWh around 9am, before the impact of solar PV takes hold – erasing the midday peak entirely and leaving only a smaller one in the evening. The huge bite out of day-prices is also a bite out of fossil fuel generators’ earnings and profits. Note that the average peak price in the second graph is barely higher than the baseload price.
Read the rest of this entry »
March 29, 2012
There’s a compelling case to be made that those who reject scientific facts are a little, well, touched, and Chris Mooney’s outstanding and provocative new book The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science — and Reality (due out April 3) makes it. Mooney, whose 2005 bestseller The Republican War on Science called attention to the GOP’s intolerance for inconvenient information, delves deeper into the dynamic that causes the American right to express scorn for that which independents, moderates and progressives recognize as basic common sense.
Mooney notes that the phenomenon of “motivated reasoning” — the belief in concepts that are manifestly false — plays a significant role in the right’s rejection of reason:
According to intriguing research by Yale Law professor Dan Kahan and his colleagues, people’s deep-seated views about morality, and about the way society should be ordered, strongly predict who they consider to be a legitimate scientific expert in the first place–and where they consider ‘scientific consensus’ to lie on contested issues. These same views also lead them to reject the expertise of experts who don’t agree with them. They simply assume they’re not really experts at all… When they deny global warming, then, conservatives think the best minds are actually on their side. They think they’re the champions of truth and reality, and they’re deeply attached to this view. That is why head-on attempts to persuade them otherwise usually fail. Indeed, factual counterarguments sometimes even trigger what has been termed a backfire effect: Those with strongly held but clearly incorrect beliefs not only fail to change their minds, but hold their wrong beliefs more tenaciously after being shown contradictory evidence or a refutation.
Not for nothing did Rush Limbaugh title his first book The Way Things Ought to Be. Today’s conservatism is all about the way things ought to be, as opposed to the way things are. This wasn’t always the case, but thanks to Limbaugh and his ilk, it is now.
Mooney asserts that not all Republicans engage in motivated reasoning. He notes that former George W. Bush speechwriter David Frum and former Ronald Reagan domestic policy advisor Bruce Bartlett are examples of clear thinking on the right:
These are often people who lament the right’s loss of nuance and intellectual seriousness, its betrayal of principles, and its intolerance of dissent (namely, theirs). Therefore, it appears that [independent thinkers such as Frum and Bartlett] are reacting against authoritarianism, and are people who may have more need for cognition and more integrative complexity. The death of nuance on the right, the ideological extremism, pushes them away.
Another example of a Republican who rejects “motivated reasoning” is MIT professor Kerry Emanuel, who has demonstrated remarkable courage for defending the integrity of climate science in the face of a vehement, vicious, yet intellectually vapid assault from denialist degenerates. As Mooney notes, Emanuel embraced the sort of high-IQ conservatism exemplified by William F. Buckley, only to see the right’s intellectual standards decline below measurable levels:
[Although President] Reagan moved the country significantly to the right, he was also considerably more politically pragmatic and compromising than much of the GOP today. For instance, Reagan supported a global environmental treaty, the Montreal Protocol, to curtail emissions of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which at that time posed an enormous threat to the stratosphere’s protective ozone layer. It’s hard to imagine the Tea Party going along with such a thing.
But the GOP moved further to the right in subsequent years, from the Gingrich Revolution of 1994, to the George W. Bush presidency, to the 2010 election — and today, Emanuel perceives the political situation as largely reversed. The extremes, as he sees them, are now to be found not on the left and on campuses, but rather, on the Tea Party right. By comparison, the Democrats these days are a bunch of centrists and pragmatists. Thus, Emanuel — who really, it appears, was always a moderate — finds not so much that he has moved but that his party did.
‘Psychologically, I associate it with the  death of William F. Buckley,’ he says. ‘I’m turned off by those people for exactly the same reasons I was turned off by the [progressive] ideologues of the 1970s.’
Right-wing motivated reasoning has resulted in the conservative movement psychologically segregating itself from the rest of the country. Veteran Republicans who deviate from the party line are shunned, scorned, savaged. The Republican brain creates its own world, with no connection to the real one.
March 29, 2012
Chris Mooney is the author of ”The Republican War on Science”.
The following is excerpted from a longer piece discussing his most recent book, “The Republican Brain”.
I think we need to understand three points in order to understand why conservatives act this way. And I will list them here, before going into them in more detail:
Conservatism is a Defensive Ideology, and Appeals to People Who Want Certainty and Resist Change.
Conservative “Morality” Impels Climate Denial — and in particular, conservative Individualism.
Fox News is the Key “Feedback Mechanism” — whereby people already inclined to believe false things get all the license and affirmation they need.
Let’s go into more detail:
1: Conservatism is a Defensive Ideology, and Appeals to People Who Want Certainty and Resist Change.
There’s now a staggering amount of research on the psychological and even the physiological traits of people who opt for conservative ideologies. And on average, you see people who are more wedded to certainty, and to having fixed beliefs. You also see people who are more sensitive to fear and threat — in a way that can be measured in their bodily responses to certain types of stimuli.
At the extreme of these traits, you see a group called authoritarians – those who are characterized by cognitive rigidity, seeing things in black and white ways — “in group/out group,” my way or the highway.
So in this case, if someone high on such traits latches on to a particular belief — in this case, “global warming is a hoax” — then more knowledge about it is not necessarily going to open their minds. More knowledge is just going to be used to argue what they already think.
And we see this in the Tea Party, where we have both the highest levels of global warming denial, but also this incredibly strong confidence that they know all they need to know about the issue, and they don’t want any more information, thank you very much.
2. Conservative “Morality” Impels Climate Denial — in particular, Conservative Individualism.
But, you might say, “well, Tea Party conservatives don’t deny every aspect of reality.” And it’s true. Presumably, they still will accept a factual correction if they have, say, the date of Mother’s Day wrong. Presumably they’re still open minded about that… we hope.
So why deny this particular thing? Why deny that global warming is caused by humans? And here, I think you’ve got to look at deep seated moral intuitions that differs from left to right. And it’s important to note at the outset that whatever your moral intuitions are, they push you emotionally to reason in a particular direction long before you are actually consciously thinking about it.
So, conservatives tend to be “individualists”– meaning, essentially, that they prize a system in which government leaves you alone — and “hierarchs,” meaning, they are supportive of various types of inequality.
The individualist is threatened by global warming, deeply threatened, because it means that markets have failed and governments — including global governments — have to step in to fix the problem. And some individualists are so threatened by this reality that they even spin out conspiracy theories, arguing that all the world’s scientists are in a cabal with, like, the UN, to make up phony science so they can crash economies.
So now let’s look at what these individualist assumptions do to the denial of science. In one study by Yale’s Dan Kahan and colleagues:
Paul Douglas is a nationally-respected meteorologist, with 32 years of broadcast television and 36 years of radio experience. He is the founder of several companies and author of two books, “Prairie Skies, the Minnesota Weather Book”, and “Restless Skies, the Ultimate Weather Book.”
I just finished a Skype interview with Paul that will be part of an upcoming video. He has some important things to say.
I’m going to tell you something that my Republican friends are loath to admit out loud: climate change is real. I am a moderate Republican, fiscally conservative; a fan of small government, accountability, self-empowerment, and sound science. I am not a climate scientist. I’m a meteorologist, and the weather maps I’m staring at are making me uncomfortable. No, you’re not imagining it: we’ve clicked into a new and almost foreign weather pattern.
To complicate matters, I’m in a small, frustrated and endangered minority: a Republican deeply concerned about the environmental sacrifices some are asking us to make to keep our economy powered-up, long-term. It’s ironic. The root of the word conservative is “conserve.” A staunch Republican, Teddy Roosevelt, set aside vast swaths of America for our National Parks System, the envy of the world. Another Republican, Richard Nixon, launched the EPA. Now some in my party believe the EPA and all those silly “global warming alarmists” are going to get in the way of drilling and mining our way to prosperity. Well, we have good reason to be alarmed.
These are the Dog Days of March. Ham Weather reports 6,895 records in the last week – some towns 30 to 45 degrees warmer than average; off-the-scale, freakishly warm. 13,393 daily records for heat since March 1 – 16 times more warm records than cold records. The scope, intensity and duration of this early heat wave are historic and unprecedented.
And yes, climate change is probably spiking our weather. “Climate is what you expect, weather is what you get.” 129,404 weather records in one year? You can’t point to any one weather extreme and say “that’s climate change”. But a warmer atmosphere loads the dice, increasing the potential for historic spikes in temperature and more frequent and bizarre weather extremes. You can’t prove that any one of Barry Bond’s 762 home runs was sparked by (alleged) steroid use. But it did increase his “base state,” raising the overall odds of hitting a home run. A warmer atmosphere holds more water vapor, more fuel for floods, while increased evaporation pushes other regions into drought.
Here’s what I suspect: the patient is running a slight fever. Symptoms include violent tornado sneezes, severe sniffles of flooding and raging rashes of jaw-dropping warmth. It’s 85 in March. What will July bring? It’s as if Mother Nature seized the weather remote, put America’s seasons on fast-forward, and turned the volume on extreme weather up to a deafening 10. This isn’t even close to being “normal”. Weather Underground’s Dr. Jeff Masters put it best. “This is not the atmosphere I grew up with.”Some TV meteorologists, professionals who are skilled at predicting short-term weather, are still in denial. Why? Some don’t like being upstaged by climate scientists; we’ve all been burned by weather models, and some (mistakenly) apply the same suspicion to climate models. Others haven’t taken the time to dig into the climate science. “It’s all political” one local TV weather-friend told me recently. No, it’s science. But we’ve turned it into a political football, a bizarre litmus test for conservatism. Weather and climate are flip-sides of the same coin; you can’t talk about one without understanding the other.
Acknowledging Climate Science Doesn’t Make You A Liberal
My climate epiphany wasn’t overnight, and it had nothing to do with Al Gore. In the mid-90s I noticed gradual changes in the weather patterns floating over Minnesota. Curious, I began investigating climate science, and, over time, began to see the thumbprint of climate change, along with 97% of published, peer-reviewed PhD’s, who link a 40% spike in greenhouse gases with a warmer, stormier atmosphere.
March 29, 2012
The Foxis of Evil campaign against American technological leadership took an odd turn the other day.
I’ve reported here on the exasperation of Auto executives at the supposedly “conservative pro-business” ideologues at Fox News who have been relentlessly trashing one of the most hopeful symbols of America’s revived Auto industry, the Chevy Volt.
Fox News can’t stop the electric car, or renewable energy. What they can do is insure that those technologies will be developed somewhere else and sold back to us. One would think American technological prowress would be celebrated. But at Fox, everything takes a back seat to pushing the latest blast Fax from GOP headquarters.
In a bizarre turnaround, suddenly, the Volt “.. is a great car, that’s gotten a bad wrap, all because of President Obama’s record.”
Huh? I know. You just have to watch it.