The Obama administration will formally adopt an ambitious regulation for cutting greenhouse-gas pollution on Monday, requiring every state to reduce emissions from coal-burning power plants and putting the country on a course that could change the way millions of Americans get their electricity.
A retooled version of the administration’s Clean Power Plan, first proposed a year ago, will seek to accelerate the shift to renewable energy while setting tougher goals for slashing carbon emissions blamed for global warming, according to administration officials briefed on the details.
The new plan sets a goal of cutting carbon pollution from power plants by 32 percent by the year 2030, compared with 2005 levels — a 9 percent jump from the previous target of 30 percent — while rewarding states and utility companies that move quickly to expand their investment in solar and wind power.
PBS Newshour has some more analysis:
Coal-burning produces about 40 percent of the electricity used by Americans, but reliance on coal has been slowly falling for several reasons, including government pollution controls, lower prices for solar and wind energy, and a resurgence of cheap natural gas. In the spring, natural gas surpassed coal as the biggest single source of electricity generation.
Vox’s Brad Plumer has calculated that the president’s rule would shave just 6 percent from U.S. carbon emissions by 2030. Climate science and international equity demand the U.S. cut emissions 80 percent by then. We’re nowhere near that pace.
Still, this plan is not nothing. In its coverage, the Times includes this hopeful gem:
But experts say that if the rules are combined with similar action from the world’s other major economies, as well as additional action by the next American president, emissions could level off enough to prevent the worst effects of climate change.
That’s a lot of hedging on which to base a climate legacy.
August 3, 2015
Last month, I interviewed Geo-Chemist Lee Kump PhD via skype at his office, at Penn State University.
Dr. Kump gave an absolutely terrific mini-seminar on paleoclimate, and I’ve made clips from this an important part of my newest video, which will be posted very soon.
In the clip above, Dr. Kump explains a point that often comes up in climate denial disinformation. Climate deniers are unaware that paleo-scientists have looked long and hard at all the sources of carbon in the atmosphere, and understand quite well that human contributions are responsible for the current build-up of CO2 that is warming the planet.
August 2, 2015
I’m fortunate again this week to have another guest post on a critical topic.
As we enter the election season, Climate Change looks like it will be, for the first time, front and center in the debate.
Bernie Sanders and Martin O”Malley have laid out strong stands on climate, and in the last week, Hillary Clinton, still the likely nominee, has made it clear she will be taking dead aim at the climate/science denial that poisons the contemporary GOP, not just challenging them, but ridiculing their stupidity. So far, Republican candidates are just about defenseless on this issue, which polling shows has now become a new moral imperative for a majority of Americans.
In another post on this page you can see that Jeb Bush, (who some still consider the most likely GOP nominee, although he is currently trailing in polls) has been getting advised to try to triangulate on this issue, which may or may not help him in the early primaries.
Still, many on the left continue to make the perfect the enemy of the good, which brings to mind the oft heard maxim from the 2000 election, “There’s not a dime’s worth of difference between Al Gore and George Bush.”
I hope we don’t make that mistake again…
Are critics of Hillary Clinton’s plan to address climate change ignoring its most important aspect?
Since the Democratic presidential candidate laid out her vision on climate in late-July, she’s taken some heat for not specifically indicating how she intends to deter development of dirty energy. The editorial pages of the New York Times and the Washington Post faulted her for not endorsing a federal carbon tax, and 350.org’s Bill McKibben and former MSNBC host Ed Schultz noted that she has yet to come out foursquare against the Keystone XL pipeline.
Perhaps the most withering criticism has come from James Hansen, the former head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and a man who has been consistently correct on climate for decades. In an interview for The Guardian, Hansen branded Clinton’s efforts on emissions “just plain silly,” further observing, “[Y]ou cannot solve the problem without a fundamental change, and that means you have to make the price of fossil fuels honest. Subsidizing solar panels is not going to solve the problem.”
Hansen went on to declare that in the United States, “We have two political parties, neither one of which is willing to face reality…Conservatives pretend it’s all a hoax, and liberals propose solutions that are non-solutions.” This criticism raises three questions:
First, if Hansen feels that this is indeed the case, then why not pair his call for federal carbon-pricing legislation with a direct call for climate activists to join the grassroots effort to amend the US Constitution to nullify the Citizens United decision, an effort that would presumably clear a path towards such carbon-pricing legislation? (Hansen has previously noted, “Money has too big an influence on our politics in Washington and somehow we need to do something about that”; nullifying Citizens United via a Constitutional amendment is the most effective way to do something about that.) Second, does Hansen really feel that Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley’s plan to move the United States away from fossil fuel completely by 2050 constitutes a “non-solution”? Third, isn’t there one aspect of a potential Clinton Administration that would indeed provide a solution to the climate crisis–that is, the appointment of pro-science judges to the Supreme Court, federal appeals courts, and federal district courts (assuming, of course, that a Senate inclined to confirm such pro-science judges is also elected in 2016, and retains power during Clinton’s term or terms)?
“Journalist Paul Waldman argued recently that 2016 will be a Supreme Court election because right-wing voters will be motivated by anger over their losses on marriage and health care, even though ‘the Roberts Court has given conservatives an enormous amount to be happy about’ — gutting the Voting Rights Act and giving corporations and zillionaires the right to spend as much as they want to influence elections, and much more…
August 2, 2015
Gambling that Neanderthals will not vote as a block in this election, Jeb Bush insulted the proto-humans by comparing them to Climate Deniers.
In doing so, former Climate Denier Jeb Bush opened a crack between himself and fellow GOP candidates on the issue of climate change. Last week’s series of climate messages from Hillary Clinton most likely prompted this flip – and shows some Democratic strategy at work. Jeb knows talking about climate for realsies hurts him with the Dittohead base in the early primaries – but NOT talking about it makes him look like a clown for the general election, later on.
The Dems have smoked him, and, we’ll see, maybe others, out of their climate denial spider holes sooner than they would like.
GOP presidential hopeful Jeb Bush says human activity is contributing to climate change and the country has an obligation to work to stop it.
“I think it’s appropriate to recognize this and invest in the proper research to find solutions over the long haul but not be alarmists about it,” Bush said in an interview published Thursday with Bloomberg BNA.
“We should not say the end is near, not deindustrialize the country, not create barriers for higher growth, not just totally obliterate family budgets, which some on the left advocate by saying we should raise the price of energy so high that renewables then become viable,” he added.
The remarks differ from comments Bush made as recently as June on the issue, when he recognized that the climate is changing but questioned whether human activity plays a role — something the vast majority of scientists in the field believe.
“The climate is changing, whether men are doing it or not,” he said in June, adding that he is “a little skeptical” of taking advice on climate policy from Pope Francis, who released an encyclical on climate change days later, according to the Huffington Post.
But in May, Bush said that human activity is a part of climate change.
“Clearly there is some influence, we are living on a planet and we kind of dominate the planet, manmade climate change is part of this,” he said at a New Hampshire event, according to his campaign.
“But there is also natural changes and so why do we have to have a debate where people that may have some doubts about this are considered Neanderthals,” he continued, referring to criticism of climate skeptics.
Bloomberg BNA:What role should renewable energies, including solar and wind, play in our domestic energy supply?
Bush: I support an approach that uses diverse sources—such as wind, solar, other renewables, nuclear, natural gas and coal—for this country’s energy needs. Power generation should reflect, as much as possible, the diverse attributes and needs of states and their citizens. The federal government should not be dictating what types of power should be used where. It should not be picking winners and losers.
August 2, 2015
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The toxic algae blooms in the Pacific Ocean stretching from southern California to Alaska — already the largest ever recorded — appear to have reached as far as the Aleutian Islands, scientists say.
“The anecdotal evidence suggests we’re having a major event,” said Bruce Wright, a scientist with the Aleutian Pribilof Island Association, the federally recognized tribal organization of Alaska’s native Aleuts. “All the populations [of marine mammals] are way down in the Aleutians.”
While algal blooms are not uncommon in the Pacific, 2015’s blooms appear to be the largest on record, scientists say. Stretching from Southern California to Alaska, the blooms are responsible for unprecedented closures of fisheries and unusual deaths of marine life up and down the Pacific coast.
Pseudo-nitzchia is one species of algae that produces domoic acid, a neurotoxin that can be lethal to humans and wildlife. The toxin is ingested by shellfish and krill that, when consumed, pass the toxin onto the predator — in some cases, people.
Raphael Kudela, a professor of ocean sciences at the University of California, Santa Cruz, said climate change may be a factor enabling the blooms to thrive. “I think, personally, it’s quite possible that these warm conditions just set up the ideal incubator conditions for this organism. It’s doing really well and lasting a lot longer than usual.”
In California, researchers in Monterey Bay observed some of the highest levels of the toxin ever seen. Oregon’s Department of Agriculture has shut down recreational harvest of razor clams along much of its coast. In Washington, authorities instituted an unprecedented closure of the state’s lucrative Dungeness crab fisheries. A fishery near Vancouver was closed in June over concerns of the algae’s toxin, which can cause seizures and death if consumed by humans.
“It’s definitely the largest bloom of this particular algae seen on the West Coast, possibly anywhere, ever” Raphael Kudela, a professor of ocean sciences at the University of California Santa Cruz, told CBS News.
“If you think of Qingdao, China, where they had the ‘green tide’ during the Olympics, that was even larger, but it wasn’t producing toxins.”
You wouldn’t know it by looking — the bloom consists of microscopic algae that give the water a vague brown-green cast — but chemical analyses and satellite images show that a large swath of the ocean is being overtaken by a single-celled algae called Pseudo-nitzschia that produces domoic acid, a powerful neurotoxin.
August 1, 2015
Above, drone footage from July over major California water storage reservoirs.
A new NASA study has concluded California accumulated a debt of about 20 inches of precipitation between 2012 and 2015 — the average amount expected to fall in the state in a single year. The deficit was driven primarily by a lack of air currents moving inland from the Pacific Ocean that are rich in water vapor.
In an average year, 20 to 50 percent of California’s precipitation comes from relatively few, but extreme events called atmospheric rivers that move from over the Pacific Ocean to the California coast.
“When they say that an atmospheric river makes landfall, it’s almost like a hurricane, without the winds. They cause extreme precipitation,” said study lead author Andrey Savtchenko at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.