January 31, 2013
Jason Box is one of the premier experts on the Greenland ice sheet, having spent, in total, more than year camping on the ice over the course of the last 2 decades.
Dr. Box is the creator of the Dark Snow Project, an ambitious attempt to Crowd-fund an arctic expedition this summer. Over the last decade, Jason’s measurements indicate that the surface of Greenland has become darker, more absorptive of the sun’s light and heat. There are a number of processes that could be causing it – some natural, some manmade. DarkSnowProject is designed to sample snow at various points on the ice sheet, and determine if soot from increasing numbers of large wild fires could be one of the significant reasons for darker snow.
If the fund raising goes well, I’ll be going along to document the project – so Jason and I took advantage of the ClimateDesk press event (above) to hang out for a day and strategize, visit some key journalists, and bond over beers at a dark DC watering hole. (well, beers and a shotglass of unpronounceable clear liquid something that Jason shoved in front of me)
Among the press who picked up on the Climate Desk event, and the Greenland Story – PBS Newshour:
Are wildfires speeding up ice melt in Greenland? Jason Box, founder of the Dark Snow project, is taking up a collection to find out.
Last summer, record-setting wildfires raged across Colorado and New Mexico. It was the third most devastating wildfire year on record in the U.S. Warmer and drier temperatures in recent decades has also led to increased fire activity in the Arctic tundra. The Anaktuvuk River fire in Alaska in 2007, for example, burned 401 square miles, an area the size of Cape Cod. It was the largest tundra fire ever recorded.
While forests and grasslands burned, the Arctic melted. Greenland’s ice sheet melted at a faster rate than scientists had ever observed, with 90 percent of the mass thawing in July.
Box, who is a Greenland ice climatologist at the Byrd Polar Research Center, thinks there might be a connection between the wildfires and the unprecedented ice melt.
“I was on my way back to Greenland while the fires were going on, and a light bulb went on,” he said. “Soot is a multiplier [of snow melt]…human activity is interacting with Greenland’s climate through fire.”
Box is no stranger to Greenland. He’s made 19 trips to the country since 1994 to study the glaciers. He’s also been involved in the Extreme Ice Survey, a research and photography project that monitors the disappearance of the earth’s glaciers.
January 31, 2013
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Sixty-seven percent of Americans would rather see the government tax carbon pollution rather than cut spending as a way of solving our budget problems. This is the result of a national survey of 1,000 voters by Mellman Group, a leading polling firm. It was conducted last month, at a time when raising taxes on wealthier Americans was being hotly debated.
“The numbers are in: American voters strongly support new ways of solving our budget problems, while protecting our planet at the same time,” said Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth, which commissioned the poll. “The president and members of Congress don’t need to think about another harsh round of cuts to our social safety net, when carbon taxes are a popular and promising budget solution.”
Even a modest tax on carbon dioxide pollution, like that proposed by Representative Pete Stark (D-Calif.) in 2009, has the potential to generate substantial revenue: Stark’s tax, for example, could have yielded $80 billion in the first year alone, and $600 billion over 10 years. That is about half the amount that the automatic spending cuts ($1.2 trillion) would save over nine years, less if part of the revenue were refunded to consumers.
Survey respondents were very supportive of a carbon tax even when presented with strongly-worded arguments against it, including the contention that “with the economy in trouble and too many people struggling to find jobs, this is a wrong time to pass a new tax on every business and consumer in America.”
The poll also indicated that:
- Compared with taxing carbon pollution, only 15 percent of respondents favored cutting government spending as a way of solving our budget problems.
- Voters’ strong support for carbon taxes do not differ greatly based on how the revenue would be used: whether to help solve our budget problems (70 percent in favor), or to help solve our budget problems as well as fund climate and clean energy jobs programs (72 percent in favor).
- Support for a carbon tax was high among Democrats (93 percent in favor) and Republicans (66 percent) alike.
The survey was conducted between December 16-19, 2012, by the Mellman Group, two-time winner of “Pollster of the Year” by American Association of Political Consultants. The survey polled a scientifically selected random sample of 1,000 adults from throughout the United States. All voted in the 2012 presidential election. The survey was balanced between men and women, and between those who described themselves as Democrats versus Republicans, and liberal versus conservative. The margin of error associated with this survey is +/– 3.1 percent.
January 31, 2013
During a short trip to DC early this week, I had the chance to interview Chris Mooney, above, on how Washington is processing President Obama’s sudden change in tone on climate change.
Meanwhile, the basic idea of setting a price on carbon has been steadily working its way into the mainstream conversation…almost like there was some kind of over-arching communication strategy….
The White House has ruled out proposing a carbon tax.
Mooney points out that the president has a lot of levers to pull short of pricing carbon.
Three dimensional chess masters, assemble.
If Congress and the president were more rational than political — admittedly, a very big if — they could kill a covey of birds with one stone. They could replace the payroll tax with a carbon tax.
Suddenly, Social Security and Medicare funding would be secure, which means the rest of the fiscal crisis would be fixed. Plus, you might save the planet in the process.
Instead of paying combined Social Security and Medicare taxes of 7.65 percent through payroll deduction, workers would keep that money.
They’d need at least part of it to pay for the carbon taxes on gasoline, natural gas and electricity produced by coal or gas plants. For example, if oil companies were taxed $20 a ton for the carbon dioxide their products created, they’d pass along the cost to consumers. The price of gasoline would go up about 20 cents a gallon.
Consumers, eager to save money, would look for ways to reduce their carbon use. Entrepreneurs, eager for ways to cash in, would look for ways to help them. Instead of a regressive flat tax on payroll, the carbon tax would be more efficient consumption tax.
Slowly, perhaps imperceptibly at first, carbon emissions into the atmosphere would be reduced. The temperature of the atmosphere would not go up so fast, perhaps stabilizing enough to avoid worldwide catastrophe. The Earth might be habitable for our grandchildren.
Liberal economists like the carbon tax. Conservative economists like the carbon tax. Environmentalists like the carbon tax. So why not do a carbon tax instead of fooling around with spending cuts, tax expenditures, payroll taxes, plan Bs, sequestration and all the rest of the fiscal cliff discussion?
The president, in his first term, was not idle. Fuel-efficiency standards are mandated to rise to 54 miles per gallon by 2025, the Environmental Protection Agency is now applying the Clean Air Act to carbon dioxide, and nearly $100 billion in stimulus funds went toward development of clean energy.
But much more is required, and Congress must be on board if the country is to meet Obama’s modest 2020 target for reducing carbon emissions by 17 percent, and 80 percent by 2050. For that to happen a carbon tax is vital.
It is also essential that the United States assume a leadership role in reviving international climate talks aimed at a global strategy for arresting the rise in carbon dioxide levels that, if unchecked, will overwhelm future generations.
With his call to action, the president has taken an encouraging step that will require many more from him and from all Americans. There is, quite literally, no time to waste.
Americans now will be focused on his State of the Union speech in mid-February, to see what kinds of policy changes and funding goals he might propose.
He tried and bombed on promoting a cap-and-trade measure in 2009.
The bill was designed to make businesses buy and sell permits to meet an overall goal of fewer emissions. But this complicated approach is too lenient on polluters and would take too long to work. Congress rejected it.
Instead, The Kansas City Star and some environmental groups favor imposition of a carbon tax or fee on fossil fuels, designed to encourage coal-fired plant operators to install more modern equipment.
January 31, 2013
Good summary of how coal barons extract coal from public lands, paying virtually nothing for the resource, and are planning to expand their markets overseas, even as coal continues to shrink as a share of generation in this country.
January 29, 2013
This video discusses the importance of stopping development of Canadian tar sands, which might be the single most destructive industrial project ever attempted.
In watching it, I was reminded of Colin Powell’s formulation for dealing with the Iraqi army.
“First, We’re going to cut it off. Then we’re going to kill it.”
January 29, 2013
I could have titled this “A River Used to Run Thru it”.
Nebraska had its driest year on record in 2012.
The result: In 2012, the red state of Nebraska got a lot redder. On 3 January 2012, none of the state was in extreme or exceptional drought (and less than 1% was in moderate or severe drought). By 1 January 2013 over 96% of the state was experiencing extreme or exceptional drought – and most of that (over 77%) was in exceptional drought. See the map below for the situation on 22 January 2013,
(D3-D4 drought, bright red and dark red on the map).
Adding insult to injury, the Republican River – which runs from Nebraska into Kansas – ran dry. The discharge for the Republican River near Orleans, Nebraska, in September 2012 was 0.00 cubic feet per second. It stayed that way for the month of October. Not until mid-November did the rate substantially increase – but still the Republican River is flowing “much below normal.”
Below: Streamflows for the Republican River near Orleans, Nebraska.
Below: Republican River at zero flow
January 29, 2013
Reader Neven sends along a reminder that there is more than one way to green a desert. I think I’ve posted this before, but worth more than one look.
Reader Marc McNaught writes me that he has been using the Sahara Forest technology at Sundrop Farms down under for some time.
January 28, 2013
To state, with a straight face, that the jury is still out, or that we can’t separate natural variation from human caused changes, or that the earth has stopped warming for the last decade, or any of the other things we constantly hear from climate change denialists is exactly the same thing as standing there with a big sign that reads “I am a moron.”
Most times, though, the science-denialism comes from a handful of very active blogs, from those charismatic lecture circuit denizens such as “Lord” Christopher Monkton, and a very large number of commenters and their probable sock puppets who show up at every on line newspaper and blog to spew the same exact lines again and again even though every single remark they make … without exception … has long ago been discredited with science and reason.
It turns out that there is a fairly straight forward explanation for this continued craziness. $500,000,000 dollars.
According to Steve Conner at The Independent,
A secretive funding organisation in the United States that guarantees anonymity for its billionaire donors has emerged as a major operator in the climate “counter movement” to undermine the science of global warming…
The Donors Trust, along with its sister group Donors Capital Fund, based in Alexandria, Virginia, is funnelling millions of dollars into the effort to cast doubt on climate change without revealing the identities of its wealthy backers or that they have links to the fossil fuel industry.
Conner documents a link between billionaire Charles Koch and Donors, via another organization called the “Knowledge and Progress Fund,” which is a Koch Family run non-profit. This organization gave $1.25 million each in 2007 and 2008, $2 million in 2012 to Donors, and appears to have made no other donations to anyone or any thing. According to Conner,
The Donors Trust is a “donor advised fund”, meaning that it has special status under the US tax system. People who give money receive generous tax relief and can retain greater anonymity than if they had used their own charitable foundations because, technically, they do not control how Donors spends the cash.
This is a general pattern among Big Oil, but the Koch Brothers seem to have been competing with the more traditional players for the role of Big Daddy to the climate science deniers.
January 28, 2013
Andy Lee Robinson has updated his brilliant and clear 3-d visualization of Arctic Ice Volume loss.
Andy writes me:
We’re starting the year with 1058km3 less sea ice than this time last
year. That’s around a trillion tonnes that won’t need to be melted this
I used a previous version in last fall’s sea ice video – click here or see below. You can see how a good graphic like this makes a deeper impression.