July 31, 2014
We had a chance to shoot a quick interview this morning, and an ironic visual to place in the background.
Back in 2 weeks.
July 31, 2014
“SnowPiercer” is the big buzz action movie this summer – a Chris Evans Cli-Fi vehicle that follows a catastrophic rebellion on an apocalyptic bullet train in a dystopian snowy, ice-encrusted world – the result of geo-engineering gone terribly wrong. The climax is a CGI spectacular of cascading ice, twisting metal, charred bodies, and crashing train cars tumbling into vast chasms.
Probably wasn’t the best choice for viewing while strapped in to a metal tube 30,000 feet over the Greenland ice sheet. But if you’ve ever wondered what a collaboration between Terry Gilliam and Quentin Tarantino would look like, this is your meat. Think “Inglorious Basterds” crossed with “12 Monkeys”.
I mean that as a warning.
This will probably be my last post for a couple of weeks. OK, my second to last post.
July 29, 2014
Hat tip to D. R. Tucker. Above, NBC finally shows its possible to mention climate change when talking about the effects of climate change.
The costs of fighting wildfires are rising dramatically, and could keep climbing in the face of climate change that’s contributing to longer fire seasons out West and the spread of housing developments near forests, a science group warned Wednesday.
“The annual suppression cost has exceeded $1 billion in each year since 2000,” said Rachel Cleetus, senior climate economist with the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) during a phone conference with reporters Wednesday.
But the actual damage costs — when including lost tourism revenue, the harm caused to public health and expenses related to watershed damage — can dwarf firefighting costs, she added.
The report comes as the largest wildfire in Washington-state history continues to blaze, and a total of 26 fires are burning almost a million acres in the western U.S. Nationally, wildfires have burned less than half the 10-year average so far this summer.
The report noted that since 1985, fire-suppression costs have increased nearly fourfold from $440 million (in 2012 dollars) to more than $1.7 billion in 2013.
July 29, 2014
Nuclear promoters get real touchy when you talk about the connections between nuclear power and nuclear weapons.
Let’s assume that the US has the most professional stewardship of these deadly devices.
I am not reassured.
July 29, 2014
Good news from Canada for a change.
The first grid-connected energy storage facility in Canada, in the country’s leading solar province, Ontario, is now operational.
The 2MW flywheel storage facility will provide regulation service to Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator, allowing it to balance increasing volumes of intermittent renewables on the grid.
Developed by storage specialist start-up NRStor and built by Temporal Power, the facility uses a spinning steel flywheel on magnetic bearings to store energy in the form of kinetic motion, rather than chemicals, as are used in battery systems.
To ‘charge’ the system, grid to power is used to drive a motor that accelerates the flywheel to high speeds. When discharging, momentum from the wheel drives the motor in reverse to act as a generator.
The so-called Minto flywheel system will allow IESO to balance the grid in real time, by matching scheduled generation with actual consumption.
Launching the project, Ontario energy minister Bob Chiarelli, said: “Energy storage technologies have the potential to revolutionise the electricity system, increasing its effectiveness, lowering costs and increasing reliability for the consumer.”
July 29, 2014
Rebecca Smith of the Wall Street Journal has consistently been delivering the unwelcome news for electric utilities about changing times, and this morning she’s done it again. I won’t often recommend a Murdoch paper as a resource, but do read the whole thing at the link if you can. It’s darkly comedic, for example:
Sherry Pfister, a retiree who once worked at the Palo Verde nuclear power plant 45 miles west of Phoenix, says she didn’t hesitate to lease solar panels for her home in Waddell, Ariz., and says the panels have cut her utility bill by a third.
“Why isn’t everybody doing it?” she wonders.
Turns out that growth in the economy no longer requires growth in the electricity sector. One CEO marvels, “It’s a new world for us.”
As the video above shows, that new world of decoupled growth and electricity began in the 1970s. But Utility Executives have never been hired to be forward thinking.
Perhaps that will change sometime soon..
When customers of American Electric Power Co. AEP +2.69% started dialing back on power consumption in early 2009, company executives figured consumers and businesses were just pinching pennies because of the recession.
Five years and an economic recovery later, electricity sales at the Columbus, Ohio-based power company still haven’t rebounded to the peak reached in 2008. As a result, executives have had to abandon their century-old assumption that the use of electricity tracks overall economic conditions.
July 28, 2014
Posts will be thinning out in coming days. I’ll be flying tomorrow to meet Dr. Jason Box, Dark Snow Project Chief Scientist, in Copenhagen. From there, we’ll hop to Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, and up to the ice sheet for the following 2 weeks or so. I’ll be checking in and posting till we jump to the ice.
Dr Box just sent me his latest blog post, something he had to look into that’s been keeping him awake nights. The methane studies covered in the video above relate mainly to methane from thawing permafrost on land. Dr. Box’s piece below looks into some more recent developments in the study of undersea methane deposits – the sleeping dragon of climate change. Note this is territory fraught with controversy, as the data from these remote areas is thin. But the stakes are very, very high.
Using a vast and credible set of climate data and physics, James Hansen’s Storms of My Grandchildren makes the case that humans are on track to allow oceanic and atmospheric heating to reach a level triggering the release of vast additional carbon stores locked in shallow sea gas hydrates and/or from the ground in the Arctic.
In my professional opinion as a climatologist with more than 70 externally reviewed scientific publications, after 12 years of university education focused on atmospheric and oceanic science, and followed by 10 years of university lecturing, eventually tenured, on micro and mesoscale meteorology and instrumentation, Hansen’s warnings should be met with an aggressive atmospheric decarbonization program. We have been too long now on a trajectory pointed at an unmanageable climate calamity. If we don’t get atmospheric carbon down, we will probably trigger the release of these vast carbon stores, dooming our kids’ futures to a hothouse Earth. That’s a tough statement to read when your worry budget is already full.
December 2013, I found myself in a packed room at the world’s largest science meeting [the AGU fall meeting]. The session: “Cutting-Edge Challenges in Climate”. Invited speaker Dr. Lori Bruhwiler presented ”Arctic Permafrost and Carbon Climate Feedbacks” – a cautious, objective, and science only survey of the problem and what data we have. Also invited, Dr. Peter Wadhams pitched ”The cost to society of a methane outbreak from the East Siberian shelf”, completely off the fence, citing costs to humanity measured in trillions of $. The take home from the session was well paraphrased by Bruhwiler, citing a sparse observational network, concluding ‘we just can’t say much yet’.
That was then…
Maher holds up the new National Review cover, which explains it all.
Reminds me of recent remarks by Jeb Bush that scientists and those that believe in what science says, are “sanctimonious”. (video link hat tip to D.R. Tucker)
Maher tries to steer the conversation into an atheist vs theist frame, and Tyson backs him off, noting that an appreciation of the largeness and complexity of the universe, and our connection to it, is an “..almost spiritual revelation..”.
Wow. The existential angst of the modestly literate “conservative” (Hell, I’m a conservative – real conservatives are no longer welcome in the anti-science crowd) – who looks around him and sees that Sara Palin, Michelle Bachman, and Louie Gohmert are all wearing the same lanyards as he is.
One part insecure hipsterism, one part unwarranted condescension, the two defining characteristics of self-professed nerds are (a) the belief that one can discover all of the secrets of human experience through differential equations and (b) the unlovely tendency to presume themselves to be smarter than everybody else in the world. Prominent examples include MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry, Rachel Maddow, Steve Kornacki, and Chris Hayes; Vox’s Ezra Klein, Dylan Matthews, and Matt Yglesias; the sabermetrician Nate Silver; the economist Paul Krugman; the atheist Richard Dawkins; former vice president Al Gore; celebrity scientist Bill Nye; and, really, anybody who conforms to the Left’s social and moral precepts while wearing glasses and babbling about statistics.
July 25, 2014
Brewster McCracken and the Amazing Pecan Street Project sounds like a great name for a movie, – with a marvelous electric flying vehicle, maybe.
Brewster McCracken is CEO of the Pecan Street Project – an Austin, Texas based research outfit that has been following the experiences of early adopter households who have upgraded to solar panels, electric cars, and smart meters.
The longitudinal study is revealing a number of surprising insights into how real people use new energy technology – which I’ll be covering in future posts. I had a wide ranging Skype conversation with Brewster not long ago, much of which will make its way into new video projects – but I wanted to share a sample now. This is one whipsmart guy and one cool, informative initiative.
Dan McAtee and Laura Spoor’s utility bill last year came to $631. That’s not bad considering the average annual electric bill in Austin, the Texas capital, is more than $1,000, largely because air-conditioning may be the only thing locals love more than barbecue. But it’s even more impressive once you realize the bill actually came to negative $631. The solar panels on their roof mean McAtee and Spoor produce more electricity than they consume. “We got the biggest system we could get,” says McAtee, pointing to the array of panels laid atop their one-story home like domino tiles. “Now we’ve got what you might call overgeneration.”
But while the solar panels stand out–such arrays are rare in Texas–what really sets McAtee and Spoor’s home apart can’t be seen at all. Smart circuits are tracking their electricity use on a minute-by-minute and appliance-by-appliance basis, providing a running record of how power flows through their home. On his computer, McAtee opens a website that shows in near real time the rise and fall of their electricity use over the months. When Spoor opens the refrigerator to get a pitcher of lemonade, the readings spike for a moment, reflecting the extra watts consumed as the appliance compensates for the rush of warmer air. “You can literally see when a lightbulb is turned on,” says McAtee, 73, who spent years as an engineer at IBM before his retirement.
My brother lives in the Methow Valley of Washington, where fires have raged in recent weeks.
Despite power outages, he was able, with a neighbor, to rig pumps and keep a water sprayer on his ranch, while digging firebreaks – sufficient to avoid significant losses. As more and more Americans have these experiences first hand, Climate denial is more and more on the ropes.
The President’s recent aggressive stand on climate science is the best evidence of what pollsters know – climate denial is withering under the relentless pounding of a changing natural world. Moreover, the Sierra Club’s Michael Brune notes here, that 70 percent of renewable energy is being produced in Republican congressional districts, and the messages from home on the benefits of new energy are filtering through to all but the more thick headed politicians.