When I drove to the offices of a start-up called Switch Lighting last week, I wasn’t expecting much. A company representative had promised to show me something amazing—an alternative light bulb that uses a fraction of the energy of a traditional incandescent bulb and lasts 20 times as long, but that plugs into a standard socket and produces the same warm, yellowish, comforting glow that we’re all used to seeing when we flip the switch.

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Ducks Unlimited on Climate Change and Waterfowl: 

Background on climate change
The issue of global climate change has received much attention in recent years. Most scientists predict that climate change will affect almost every aspect of our environment, including North America’s wetlands and waterfowl. Projections for the next 100 years indicate an acceleration of ongoing impacts, including extensive warming in many areas, shifting patterns of precipitation, sea level rise, changes in the timing and length of the seasons, declining mountain snow packs, and increasing frequency and intensity of severe weather events.

House Republicans fighting the Obama administration’s environmental agenda are finding themselves making decisions that threaten the party’s carefully nourished relationship with the hook and bullet crowd.

Anglers and hunters once courted by President George W. Bush don’t like what they’re seeing in the GOP’s mad dash to cut spending and have made their feelings clear in meetings this month with top aides to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.).

From NOAA:

A shroud of high pressure has taken a foot-hold over the U.S. from the Plains to the Northeast, and with it has brought temperatures well into the 90’s and 100’s for half of the country. This animation shows the predicted daily high temperatures from NOAA’s high resolution North American Model (NAM) from July 13-21, 2011. Credit: NOAA

Bottom line: Yes they have mercury – vanishingly small, and getting smaller amount. (see below) The coal burning that your bulb help us avoid will keep more mercury out of the environment than exists in the bulb.

No, incandescent bulbs are not banned – the efficiency standard simply says they have to meet a certain performance level, like the mileage standard on your car.

And anyway, the whole issue will become moot as high quality LED bulbs, even more efficient than compact fluorescents, with no mercury, drop in price over the next few years.

Media Matters cuts through:

The conservative media campaign in support of House GOP efforts to overturn light bulb efficiency standards signed into law by President Bush centers on two primary claims: 1) That we will all be forced to use compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) when the standards take effect and 2) That CFLs are terrible.

It is simply not the case that consumers will have to use CFLs, contrary to what conservative media outlets claimed in at least 40 instances over the past seven months. Moreover, these media outlets have used false and misleading attacks to demonize CFLs, which can save households more than $57 per bulb, according to Consumer Reports.

MYTH: CFL Bulbs Pose Serious Health Risk

Product Safety Group: “If Disposed Of Properly, Mercury In CFLs Shouldn’t Be A Safety Hazard.” According to a report on CFLs and mercury from the product safety certification organization Underwriters Laboratories:

CFLs contain a small amount of mercury sealed within the glass tubing – approximately 5 milligrams – a hundred times less mercury than found in a single old-style glass thermometer. No mercury is released when the lamps are intact or in use and if disposed of properly, mercury in CFLs shouldn’t be a safety hazard. [Underwriters Laboratories, accessed 3/22/11]

[EnergyStar explains how to clean up a broken CFL bulb]

Lawrence Berkeley Lab Researchers: Breaking A CFL Comparable To Eating Tuna. According to Yahoo! News, researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have found that mercury exposure from broken CFLs is comparable to eating tuna:

But, just how dangerous is a broken bulb? Researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory set out to answer that question. They compared how much exposure you’d get from breathing in the amount of mercury released from a broken CFL bulb to how much mercury you’d take in from eating Albacore tuna.

If you do a common sense job of cleaning up (open the windows, clean up, and remove the debris), then your mercury exposure would be the equivalent of taking a tiny nibble of tuna, according to Francis Rubinstein, a staff scientist at Berkeley Lab. What if you did the worst job possible, say closed all the doors and smashed the bulb with a hammer? It’s still no big deal, says Rubinstein, who points out that it would be the equivalent of eating one can of tuna. [Yahoo! News, 5/7/09]

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Minnesota Public Radio:

Call this one a “Humistorm” or “Torrid Tuesday.”

The “Extreme Heat Wave of 2011” set numerous all time heat index & humidity records in Minnesota Tuesday.

3 consecutive days with 80 degree dew points at MSP Airport. (First time that has ever happened according to UM climate guru Dr. Mark Seeley)

82 degree dew point new all time record high dew point at MSP Airport. (May have been as high as 84 degrees in between hours!)

119 degree heat index (3:53pm) at MSP Airport ties all time record heat index at MSP!

88 degree dew point at Moorhead last night between 6pm and 8pm sets new all time record highest dew point reading in Minnesota! (Previous record was 86 degrees)

134 degree heat index reading at Moorhead sets new all time highest heat index reading for Minnesota! (Previous record was 124 degrees at Moorhead in 1966)

A knowledgeable correspondent tells me:

I’m seeing dew point levels I’ve never (ever) seen before. MSP set a new record yesterday (82), but in-between hours the DP jumped to 84. We had 3 days/row with dew points at or above 80, which is unprecedented in the historical record going back to the mid-1800s. Moorhead saw an unimaginable dew point of 88 Tuesday around the dinner hour, heat index of 134 F. For a few hours Moorhead, Minnesota had the highest dew point (and highest heat index) of any regular reporting station on the planet. At Penn State I was taught that dew points in the upper 80s to near 90 were only possible along the shore of the Red Sea, in the Middle East.

Some are theorizing that evapotranspiration (sweaty corn) may be injecting more water into the air. Farmers can now cram more rows of corn into an acre. Other theories include more standing water (Missouri River flooding), even fracking for natural gas (which strains credulity a bit, but I guess nothing should be ruled out). For the past few days dew points over the Upper Midwest have consistently been 10 degrees higher than along the Gulf coast – the alleged source of most of our summer moisture.

Jeff Masters (Weather Underground) has called this heatwave a 1 in 7 year event, but he is apparently at a loss to explain the incredible levels of water vapor associated with this suffocating heat. No more gradual heatwaves either, the heat seems to come on suddenly, more like a heat “storm” than a heatwave.

One of my scientific advisors writes:

Some points.  In summer there is a strong relationship between heat and moisture.  Drought or dry areas lack evaporative cooling and provide a setting for heat waves to develop.  Heat waves in turn dry out the soil.

Given the wet spring and extensive flooding over many regions, the evapotranspiration can be large and the high temperatures enable very high dew points that make conditions extremely uncomfortable.  The human body keeps cool to a large extent by evaporation of moisture from the skin: sweat, and high dew points cut down on that cooling capacity.

We are now harvesting the environment left behind by the spring.

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Joe “I apologized to BP” Barton’s bill to boost the bonehead bulb is back.  The real reason it’s so tough to kill inefficient 19th century technology is of course, because by using efficient bulbs, we remove the need for dozens of new coal fired power plants.

Mass Climate Action Network:

You would have thought that last week’s defeat of the Barton Bill on a voice vote would have settled the light bulb question for a while, but this is the U.S. political system, after all.

Facts, rumors, and distortions have been flying for months, and heating up even more in the past few weeks, about the on and off switches of the US Legislature regarding rules for energy efficiency of light bulbs.

It’s a light issue next to the question of whether the United States will have a functioning government after August 2nd. Yet in its own way I think of it as a small but fully featured model of the mutually repellant forces that are tearing apart the American legislative system and making effective policy on climate change  impossible to achieve in this legislative session.

Here’s a quick summary of the situation: In 2007 the Legislature approved, and President Bush signed, a law to increase the energy efficiency of light bulbs, which is to be fully implemented by 2014. Now several Republicans of a contrarian stripe have determined to block the law by passing new legislation to negate it or make its implementation impossible. Texas Rep Joe Barton’s BULB Act was defeated on a voice vote on July 12, failing to win a two-thirds majority of the House.  Most recently, Rep. Michael Burgess’s (R-TX) amendment to block enforcement of more-energy-efficient light bulb standards  passed the House of Representatives by a voice vote on July 15.

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Bicycles for the Mind

July 19, 2011

A common assumption is that raising living standards in the third world means everyone needs to be driving an SUV and cooking in the kitchen of tomorrow. In fact, modest changes can make a huge difference. A solar cell the size of a paperback book, plus an LED the size of a pea, means a child can read at night. A bicycle means a child can get safely to school.

Small changes, infinite difference in people’s lives. It brings to mind one of my favorite quotes of all time by Steve Jobs….

Unraveling like a Monte Python sketch reworked by David Lynch, the ongoing descent into madness of Climate Denialists and their most famous advocate, His Serene and Exquisite Highness Lord Christopher Monckton – continues.  A recent radio interview from Australia is above. His Lordship would have you shut up and listen.

Now, in an unprecedented step, the UK House of Parliament has demanded publicly that His Magnificent and Benevolent Lordship stop referring to himself as a member of the House of Lords.

The Guardian:

The House of Lords has taken the unprecedented step of publishing a “cease and desist” letter on its website demanding that Lord Christopher Monckton, a prominent climate sceptic and the UK Independence party’s head of research, should stop claiming to be a member of the upper house.

The move follows a testy interview given by Monckton to an Australian radio station earlier this month in which he repeated his long-stated belief that he is a member of the House of Lords. When asked by ABC Sydney’s Adam Spencer if he was a member, he said: “Yes, but without the right to sit or vote … [The Lords] have not yet repealed by act of parliament the letters patent creating the peerage and until they do I am a member of the house, as my passport records. It says I am the Right Honourable Viscount Monckton of Brenchley. So get used to it.”

The letter, sent by David Beamish, clerk of the parliaments, to Monckton last Friday and now published on the Lords’ website, states: “You are not and have never been a member of the House of Lords. Your assertion that you are a member, but without the right to sit or vote, is a contradiction in terms. No one denies that you are, by virtue of your letters patent, a peer. That is an entirely separate issue to membership of the House. This is borne out by the recent judgement in Baron Mereworth v Ministry of Justice (Crown Office).”


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