Freak Newscast gets Extreme Weather story right

November 2, 2011

The IPCC’s new statement on freak event weather due to climate change has leaked. But the real freak event is that the media got the story right, see video above.  No false balance with a climate-denial nutcake, just the facts.

Is this a one-off random variation? or a sign of things to come?

Associated Press:

WASHINGTON — Freakish weather disasters — from the sudden October snowstorm in the Northeast U.S. to the record floods in Thailand — are striking more often. And global warming is likely to spawn more similar weather extremes at a huge cost, says a draft summary of an international climate report obtained by The Associated Press.

The final draft of the report from a panel of the world’s top climate scientists paints a wild future for a world already weary of weather catastrophes costing billions of dollars.

The report says costs will rise and perhaps some locations will become “increasingly marginal as places to live.”

The report from the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will be issued in a few weeks, after a meeting in Uganda.

It says there is at least a 2-in-3 probability that climate extremes have already worsened because of man-made greenhouse gases.

This marks a change in climate science from focusing on subtle changes in daily average temperatures to concentrating on the harder-to-analyze freak events that grab headlines, cause economic damage and kill people.

29 Responses to “Freak Newscast gets Extreme Weather story right”

  1. Martin_Lack Says:

    Very interesting (absence of contrarian position quoted in order to be fair and give equal time to alternative view point). We can but hope it is the way things will be in the future (though not before time it must be said).

    However, like I said in response to another recent post, why has it taken until now for the IPCC to explicitly link increased frequency of storms (etc) to climate change? We have known for a very long time that the driver for all of these phenomena is heat in the oceans; and for most of that time we have known that the oceans are warming as well ( i.e. 1 + 1 = 2 ).

    Also, in advance of my posting something on my blog about this tomorrow, would people agree with James Hansen when he says (on p184 of Storms of my Grandchildren) that even the greenest governments are “lying through their teeth” about being committed to the UNFCCC process because all seem to be working on the assumption that we “have a god-given right to burn all fossil fuels” (simply because the exist); which is bound to result in contravention of Article 2 of the UNFCCC (i.e. to “prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system“)…?

    If Hansen is right, while everyone is waiting for someone else to be the first to act, what we are witnessing is in fact humanity’s final validation of Garrett Hardin’s ‘Tragedy of the Commons’.

    • Daneel Says:

      “However, like I said in response to another recent post, why has it taken until now for the IPCC to explicitly link increased frequency of storms (etc) to climate change?”

      Well, the IPCC has to come up with a consensus statement, something that all authors agree on, so it’s bound to be conservative. More ‘extreme’ views are, by definition, not shared by most scientists so only the more conservative ones end up in the report.
      On the other hand the IPCC did talk about extreme wheather events (http://www.ipcc.ch/ipccreports/tar/wg2/index.php?idp=354), so I don’t see what’s new.

    • sinchiroca Says:

      Martin, the reason we haven’t seen these conclusions reached earlier is that they are necessarily based on statistics, not individual events. We can’t blame ACC for any single extreme weather event, but when we look at extreme weather events statistically, we can start to make some statistically reliable statements about the correlation. Only recently have we experienced a large enough set of such events to permit the kind of statistical calculations necessary to pull this off. That’s why climatologists have been slow to empirically confirm our theoretical expectations.

      As to the political tardiness, the problem here is exactly as you state: it’s a ‘tragedy of the commons’ problem. Germany is paying huge amounts of money to reduce its carbon footprint, but its own reductions are dwarfed by the increases from the USA and China. It is often noted that China is the largest carbon emitter, but I don’t think that’s the correct metric. The ideal metric, IMO, is carbon emissions per capita, where the USA is way ahead of everybody else. It therefore seems to me that it is incumbent upon the USA to sponsor a treaty granting every nation the right to release carbon at some designated per-capita level, which would require the biggest per-capita emitters to make the biggest reductions, while the smallest would be free to continue advancing their economies. However, the American body politic is much too stupid to realize that this is in their long-term best interest.

  2. BlueRock Says:

    [thud… climbs off floor, back in to seat]

    No equivocation, no “but sceptics say” – and they called the Kochs “deniers” on national TV! Bravo!

    Is this a sign of sanity descending… or a sign of The End Times!!

    P.S. First Coca Cola and polar bears, now this. Rush Limbaugh is not going to be a happy camper.


  3. so the reality is beginning to surface –

  4. Alteredstory Says:

    I like the steroid analogy.

  5. sinchiroca Says:

    Peter, regarding your observation that Germans use less energy per capita, and therefore their monthly bill is lower:

    I don’t think that monthly bills provide a useful metric. To offer an extreme counterexample, a starving family in Somalia will certainly have lower food bills than an obese American family, but that doesn’t mean that they’re better off. The Germans as a polity have decided on policies that greatly increase their rates. That’s their decision and I applaud them for it, because it encourages conservation. This in turn makes it economically feasible for them to use a lot of wind and solar power. That’s great — but it doesn’t alter the economics. The fact that wind and solar make economic sense in a high-priced environment suggests to me that wind and solar won’t make economic sense anywhere until the retail price of electricity reaches about USD 0.30/kW-hr. I’m not that pessimistic: I agree that the price of solar is falling fast. But the evidence we have before us strongly suggests that we need retail prices of electricity in the USA to double before we can really expect solar to make economic sense — except, of course, for the falling price of solar.

    • BlueRock Says:

      That ‘theory’ might hold some water if you knew nothing about what is happening globally:

      * Renewables 2011 Global Status Report. Renewable energy accounted for approximately half of the estimated 194 gigawatts (GW) of new electric capacity added globally during 2010. Global investments in renewables up over 30% to a record $211 billion. http://www.ren21.net/REN21Activities/Publications/GlobalStatusReport/GSR2011/tabid/56142/Default.aspx

    • greenman3610 Says:

      so you’re saying that the Germans live like Somalians?
      sorry. you can have a living standard superior to most Americans
      and use quite a bit less energy. The Germans demonstrate that, the Danes, perrenially polled as the happiest people on the planet, are examples as well.

      • sinchiroca Says:

        “so you’re saying that the Germans live like Somalians?”

        C’mon, Peter, that’s beneath your usual high standard of commentary.

        The issue of standard of living is highly subjective and context-dependent. For example, most Germans live in high-density cities, and their excellent public transportation make it easy to get from one place to another. If Americans cut back dramatically on their use of cars and relied instead on public transport, we’d have a disaster, because American population densities are so much lower than those in Germany. When my German friends come visit, they are awestruck by the 40 acres of forestland I reside on; they would love to live that way, but they know it’s impossible. So are low population densities a positive factor in the standard of living? Or are they a negative factor? That depends on how you like to live.

        I agree that it is possible to have a high living standard without wasting as much energy as Americans waste, but I can’t condemn outright my SUV-driving neighbor. I myself would never drive such a horrid gas-guzzler, but I can’t bring myself to declare that his enjoyment of his gas-guzzler is wrong. And if that’s what he likes, that’s part of his standard of living.

        The best overall solution is to raise the effective price of energy, most readily by applying proper Pigovian taxes.


        • sinchiroca, I’m following your logic (I think Peter misinterpreted your point). However, I question the $0.30 / KWh price point given the current and projected costs of CSV, CSP, and wind. How did you derive that price point?

          • sinchiroca Says:

            Charles, the basis of my estimate of USD 0.30 is my earlier comment that the retail price of electricity in Germany is USD 0.33 (I rounded down for the benefit of solar). The reasoning is as follows:

            We know that wind and solar are economically viable in Germany. The retail price of electricity in Germany is USD 0.33. Therefore, we know that wind and solar will be economically viable in the USA when the retail price of electricity in the USA is USD 0.33.

            However, we have to take into consideration lots of additional factors, some working to lower the price point and some raising it. For example, the proximity of German wind sources to German cities lowers the price at which wind is economically viable in Germany; here in the USA, our best wind areas are far from urban centers, so we’d have an additional transmission line cost. On the other hand, the Germans are using HVDC lines, which are more expensive than our HVAC lines. Solar energy in Germany is really lousy because it is so far north and has so much cloudy weather; that indicates that solar will be cheaper for us, with lower latitudes and more sunny days.

            And round and round we go…

          • BlueRock Says:

            > Solar energy in Germany is really lousy …

            Yet again reality doesn’t agree with you.

            Germany currently have 19 GW peak capacity which closely follows peak demand and is largely produced at point of consumption (efficiency!). That number is predicted to rise to 40 GW by 2014. They won’t stop there:

            * “By 2020, Germany may realistically have 90 GW of solar and wind capacity to cover peak demand of generally no more than 75 GW. We will have surpassed peak demand parity.” http://www.renewablesinternational.net/yes-we-have-no-base-load/150/537/29353/

            And they’ve just announced the first phase of their DESERTEC program – solar power from north Africa. The Germans can pipe power from Africa to northern Europe but you think pumping power from the plains to eastern cities or deserts to western cities is beyond US capability? Dude, the Wright Brothers must be spinning at your “no can do” attitude.

            HVDC has ~3% loss per 1000km, so that old bit of FUD about wind not being in the “right” place for the US doesn’t stand up… unless you’re advocating no investment in a modern power grid? Maybe no bridges as well? They’re expensive too. I’m sure the Chinese would be quite happy with your economic plan….

            Then there’s offshore:

            * US Offshore Wind Potential 4,150 GW. There is 4,150 gigawatts of potential wind turbine nameplate capacity (maximum turbine capacity) from offshore wind resources around the United States. By comparison, in 2008 the nation’s total electric generating capacity from all sources was 1,010 gigawatts. http://www.earthtechling.com/2010/09/u-s-offshore-wind-potential-4150-gw/

            P.S. Isn’t it funny how all your ‘mistakes’ go in only one direction? What’s that saying?

            “Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, three times is enemy action.”

        • BlueRock Says:

          So, for you, ‘standard of living’ = doing whatever you want and damn the consequences to the rest of the world. Got it.

          Got evidence that a system of mass transit would be a “disaster” for the US? Got any evidence that continuing to rely on gas-guzzling SUVs as peak-oil and unmitigated ACC bite down will *not* be a disaster?

          > …Pigovian taxes.

          The Koch’s vile propaganda network – particularly the Cato Institute – and their army of self-obsessed, ‘free market’, ‘small government’ libertarians like to babble about that regulation-dodging mechanism.

          It pushes responsibility on to the victim to claim and it’s easy for the pollutocrats to deny their part, easy for them to lobby against, easy for them and their billions of $$$s and army of lawyers to swat away ordinary people who are being poisoned and very easy to destroy the environment which has no voice.

          Yeah, the Kochs and their toady shills could live with Pigovian taxes….


        • Thanks. There is indeed irony in the power of the German PV industry. As lovers of tedious details, let’s dig deeper.

          I calculate the overall cost added by pass through renewable incentives – Feed in Tariffs – to be tiny ($5.52 per month for 553 KWh / mo = $0.01 / KWh). So not a big factor – other than a key part of their industrial/energy policy.

          There is a whopping difference in what utilities pay for fossil fuel, especially coal. Coal supplies 47% of their electrical output and is 2.3x higher ($103) than the US ($45) for a short ton. I’m guessing this is due to Cap & Trade, labor intensive environmental friendly mining practices and no subsidy. Although, there’s also an investigation into the 4 major German for price fixing, coal is certainly the major reason for higher prices.

          The US states and utilities have their own ways of financing renewable typically involving consumer willingness to pay extra for a green choice – so as not infringe upon anybody’s “freedom and liberty”. A steadily increasing price on carbon would send a big signal to the market. Perhaps we can get that done – right after increasing the gasoline tax enough to maintain the roads and keep up with inflation. We pay $0.184 / gallon. Germans pay $6.30 / gallon.

          We’ve got a long ways to go. However, despite swimming upstream amid our politics of ignorance, determined people are developing and deploying and saving energy.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feed-in_tariff
          http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/ene_ele_con_percap-energy-electricity-consumption-per-capita
          http://www.iea.org/stats/electricitydata.asp?COUNTRY_CODE=DE
          http://www.eia.gov/cneaf/coal/page/special/coal_prices.html
          http://www.eex.com/en/
          http://www.economist.com/node/13527440


  6. […] Denial Crock of the Week: Lovins: The Myth of Baseload, Moore’s Law and the Renewable Advantage; Freak Newscast gets Extreme Weather story right; Mike Mann Wins one for the […]


  7. “Is this a one-off random variation? or a sign of things to come?”

    or a sign that NBC ran out of Herman Cain stories? 🙂

  8. greenman3610 Says:

    “We know that wind and solar are economically viable in Germany. The retail price of electricity in Germany is USD 0.33. Therefore, we know that wind and solar will be economically viable in the USA when the retail price of electricity in the USA is USD 0.33.”

    this is logic?
    somebody help this guy out.

    Wind is between 5 and 10 cents a kw/hr right now in the US.
    That’s why it’s competing straight up with gas turbines, and beating new coal.
    Solar will be there in the next 5 years or so. Solar is already beating gas for peaking power in California.

    “proximity of wind”? hello, there’s enough offshore on the east coast, a thousand gigawatts, right on top of our most populous areas, to power the whole country.
    Add in the great lakes, west coast, gulf coast – and the fact that rebuilding our transmission is not optional. We have a third world grade system that is not acceptable if we wish to remain a world power. We can let it fall down, rebuild it to 20th century standards, or do it right and lead the world again. It’s our choice.
    My take is I’d rather lead the world – we can still do it, as long as we don’t listen to the tea party faction and stumble back to the 14th century.


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