Another selection from my interview with Dr. Jennifer Francis – What does this year’s sea ice loss mean, and are we seeing the beginning of another arctic feedback?

Dr. Francis addresses the newly popular “but there was a big storm” dodge we’ve been seeing here in comments and elsewhere.


We’ve actually known this for a long time. It’s actually cheaper and more profitable to do the right thing.

Tyler Elm and Jim Harris in HuffPost:

It is surprising just how big is the “sustainability” opportunity is.

In just the energy efficiency (EE) field McKinsey & Company estimates that $2 trillion can be invested in EE by 2020 with an internal rate of return (IRR) of 17 per cent. To put that into perspective: that rate of return is better than investing in the stock market or in real estate over the long-term — the two investments we’re always told give the best long-term returns.

The net effect would be equivalent to cutting the need for 64 million barrels of oil a day — about one and a half times today’s entire U.S. consumption.

In a separate McKinsey study, “Reducing US greenhouse gas emissions: How much at what cost?” shows that 40 per cent of the CO2 emissions reduction strategies are highly profitable. Jon Creyts, the US McKinsey partner in charge of the study, notes that if these profits were re-invested in the next least-cost solutions, the U.S. would achieve all of its Kyoto reductions at no cost to society!

It’s important to note that these two studies come from one of the pre-eminent management consulting firms worldwide — so business leaders should pay attention.

Amory Lovins, the founder of the Rocky Mountain Institute, and one of the world’s leading energy efficiency experts, has documented how North American firms could cut their energy use by 70-90 per cent using existing, proven, practical technology — all in a way that profitable.

Here’s another surprising one: if every roof worldwide was white, it would eliminate $2 trillion of carbon emissions. Black roofs are the industry standard. Because black surfaces retain the sun’s heat, on a hot32°C day a black roof will be 88°C while a white roof will be 43°C — a staggering 45°C cooler. And where do engineers put the air handling equipment? Yes, on the roof! So fresh air is being drawn in at 88°C and having to be cooled to a comfortable temperature. On installation there’s no difference in capital cost between a black and a white roof, and on resurfacing there is no cost difference. So imagine being able to save $2 trillion for free!

We could triple the efficiency of Ontario’s electric grid by using combined heat and power (CHP). Conventional power plants, whether coal, gas or nuclear vent two-thirds of the energy as waste heat. By contrast CHP — also known as co-generation or district heat — uses this “waste” heat to heat buildings. This increases the efficiency up to 90 per cent. Denmark generates a staggering 54 per cent of it’s power from co-gen.

File under “cool things you find while googling other things.”


A few days ago a little box popped up on youtube as I was re-watching this interview with Mauri Pelto. Something like “we detect that your video needs improvement. Would you like Youtube to improve this video?”

I absentmindedly checked “yes”, wondering if they could repair my patented shaky-cam style.
Well, you be the judge, but, if you’re high – or get dizzy easily, …. well, don’t say I didn’t warn you..


The droughts that ravaged crops across North American and Russia have had a huge impact on the food supply, livestock and farmers but now it may be time to hit the “panic” button – one pig group is predicting a BACON SHORTAGE.

“A world shortage of pork and bacon next year is now unavoidable,” the National Pig Association in the UK said this week.

The droughts meant less feed to go around and farmers had to take drastic measures. One farmer fed his cows candy to survive, while others have pared their herds. The NPA warned that he number of slaughtered pigs could drop by 10 percent in the second half of next year and that could cause theprice of pork products to DOUBLE.

The group is taking the situation so seriously, they have launched a “Save Our Bacon” campaign.

The price pressures on food and meat are no joke.  Recent unrest in the middle east was in large part sparked by rising food prices following droughts in grain producing areas like Russia and Argentina.  This year’s crop failure in the US may bring unpredictable consequences in the coming year.

But in an interesting parallel development, US consumers seem to be eating less meat – a trend worth noting due to the impact of industrial animal husbandry on climate, water, and land resources.


Americans eat more meat than any other population in the world; about one-sixth of the total, though we’re less than one-twentieth of the population.

But that’s changing.

Until recently, almost everyone considered their dinner plate naked without a big old hunk of meat on it. (You remember “Beef: It’s What’s for Dinner,” of course. How could you forget?) And we could afford it: our production methods and the denial of their true costs have kept meat cheap beyond all credibility. (American hamburger is arguably the cheapest convenience food there is.) This, in part, is why we spend a smaller percentage of our money on food than any other country, and much of that goes toward the roughly half-pound of meat each of us eats, on average, every day.

But that’s changing, and considering the fairly steady climb in meat consumption over the last half-century, you might say the numbers are plummeting. The department of agriculture projects that our meat and poultry consumption will fall again this year, to about 12.2 percent less in 2012 than it was in 2007. Beef consumption has been in decline for about 20 years; the drop in chicken is even more dramatic, over the last five years or so; pork also has been steadily slipping for about five years.

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Let’s be clear. The future of energy is renewable. All of us are going to be using it. The only question is, who will we be buying the technology from?

This is not a welcome reality to fossil fuel interests who control, unfortunately, the Republican party agenda. But, while they can’t stop the the inevitable transition to renewables, but they can insure that America does not lead the industrial revolution of the new century. If that’s the goal, climate deniers have had a few victories recently.


FAIRLESS HILLS, Pa. — Last month, Gamesa, a major maker of wind turbines, completed the first significant order of its latest innovation: a camper-size box that can capture the energy of slow winds, potentially opening new parts of the country to wind power.

But by the time the last of the devices, worth more than $1.25 million, was hitched to a rail car, Gamesa had furloughed 92 of the 115 workers who made them.

“We are all really sad,” said Miguel Orobiyi, 34, who worked as a mechanical assembler at the Gamesa plant for nearly five years. “I hope they call us back because they are really, really good jobs.”

Similar cuts are happening throughout the American wind sector, which includes hundreds of manufacturers, from multinationals that make giant windmills to smaller local manufacturers that supply specialty steel or bolts. In recent months, companies have announced almost 1,700 layoffs.

At its peak in 2008 and 2009, the industry employed about 85,000 people, according to the American Wind Energy Association, the industry’s principal trade group.

About 10,000 of those jobs have disappeared since, according to the association, as wind companies have been buffeted by weak demand for electricity, stiff competition from cheap natural gas and cheaper options from Asian competitors. Chinese manufacturers, who can often underprice goods because of generous state subsidies, have moved into the American market and have become an issue in the larger trade tensions between the countries. In July, the United States Commerce Department imposed tariffs on steel turbine towers from China after finding that manufacturers had been selling them for less than the cost of production.

And now, on top of the business challenges, the industry is facing a big political problem in Washington: the Dec. 31 expiration of a federal tax credit that makes wind power more competitive with other sources of electricity.

The tax break, which costs about $1 billion a year, has been periodically renewed by Congress with support from both parties. This year, however, it has become a wedge issue in the presidential contest. President Obama has traveled to wind-heavy swing states like Iowa to tout his support for the subsidy. Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee, has said he opposes the wind credit, and that has galvanized Republicans in Congress against it, perhaps dooming any extension or at least delaying it until after the election despite a last-ditch lobbying effort from proponents this week.

Wind industry jobs range in pay from about $30,000 a year for assemblers to almost $100,000 a year for engineers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The industry’s contraction follows several years of sustained growth — with a few hiccups during the downturn — that has helped wind power edge closer to the cost of electricity from conventional fuels. The number of turbine manufacturers grew to nine in 2010 from just one in 2005, according to the United States International Trade Commission, while the number of component makers increased tenfold in roughly the same period to almost 400, according to the Congressional Research Service.

Aside from Clipper Windpower and General Electric, most of the turbine manufacturers operating in the United States have headquarters overseas, especially in Europe, where wind power took off first, spurred by clean energy policies and generous subsidies.

The script for the anti-renewable, anti-science movement has been written in a network of fossil-fuel funded right wing think tanks and PR shops, as a recently released memo described.

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If you saw the current sea ice video, you saw part of my recent interview with Rutger’s Jennifer Francis, whose research is helping fill in the blanks on how an increasingly ice free arctic affects us in temperate zones around the planet.

I’m breaking this interview up into bite size pieces – this first one dovetails nicely with a recent report on NPR comparing the loss of arctic sea ice to the less discussed melt back of snow coverage – particularly in the spring time.  Watch Dr. Francis above describe the effects of such a process, as compared to arctic ice, – only a minute or two, then check the
All Things Considered story here:

Arctic sea ice is in sharp decline this year: Last week, scientists announced that it hit the lowest point ever measured, shattering the previous record.

But it turns out that’s not the most dramatic change in the Arctic. A study by Canadian researchers finds that springtime snow is melting away even faster than Arctic ice. That also has profound implications for the Earth’s climate.

Springtime snowmelt matters a lot: It determines when spring runoff comes out of the mountain to fill our rivers. And Chris Derksen at Environment Canada in Toronto says snow also reflects sunlight back into space, helping to keep the Earth from heating up too fast.

“When you remove the snow cover form the land surface, much as when you remove the sea ice from the ocean, you take away a highly reflective, bright surface, and you expose the bare land or tundra underneath, and that absorbs more solar energy,” he says.

That darker land traps heat and warms the planet. Scientists have been keeping an eye on this trend for years.

But Derksen and colleague Ross Brown have produced a study, which has been accepted for publication in Geophysical Research Letters, that documents a dramatic increase in the speed of this snowmelt. It turns out that in May and June, snow across the far north is disappearing fast.

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While we’re concentrating on the collapse of arctic sea ice, the drought goes on.

Michael Lemonick in Climate Central:

The massive and widespread 2012 drought that has gripped the nation since the spring refuses to die, according to the latest report from the U.S. Drought Monitor — and in fact, it’s expanded a little: as of September 18, 64.82 percent of the contiguous U.S. was suffering from at least moderate drought, slightly more than the 64.16 percent reported a week earlier, enough of a gain to set a new record for this drought category.

At the same time, NOAA released its seasonal drought outlook for the period ending December 31, and it offers little prospect for significant improvement. Drought is projected to persist in a huge swath of the country, especially in the West from Southern California to West Texas, north to Wisconsin, and back west to Montana, Idaho, southeastern Oregon and back down to Nevada — and everywhere in between.

In addition, drought conditions are projected to develop during the period in the rest of the Pacific Northwest and Upper Midwest. A small swath from south Texas up through Indiana and parts of Ohio may see “some improvement” in drought conditions, as might parts of Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina. The rest of the East and Southeast are mostly unaffected by drought at this time, and that is projected to continue.

The drought forecast for the next few months is being shaped by the expected influence of a developing El Niño event in the equatorial tropical Pacific Ocean. Such events are characterized by warmer than average sea surface temperatures, which can profoundly reshape weather patterns in the U.S. and elsewhere. El Niño winters tend to be wetter than average in the South and the Ohio Valley.

In a conference call with reporters on Thursday, Hugh van den Dool, a climate forecaster with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, said El Niño conditions are not developing quickly, and is likely to be modest in strength.

“We believe there will be an El Niño,” van den Dool said, “but the strength of it is debatable, and it may be a fairly weak one.” He said water temperatures halted their increase during September, and this may prevent a strong El Niño event from occurring. “We expect this will intensify a little bit as we get into later fall, but it is probably too late to get a major El Niño.”

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Only about 7 percent of likely voters have not yet decided whether they will support Barack Obama or Mitt Romney in the 2012 election, a new national survey finds. But on the topic of climate change, at least, these undecideds look more like Obama supporters than Romney voters.

Undecided voters are more likely than Romney voters to see climate change as an important issue, and their desire for government action approaches levels seen in Obama voters. What’s more, undecideds are as likely as Obama supporters to believe that global warming is happening and that humans are causing it.

“We were surprised to look at how undecided voters broke on this issue, that they were much more similar to Obama voters than they were to Romney voters,” study researcher Anthony Leiserowitz, the director of the Yale University Project on Climate Change Communication, told LiveScience.

The new survey queried a nationally representative sample of 1,061 American adults, who filled out an online questionnaire on their voting plans and their climate-change beliefs. People chosen to be on the survey panel who did not own a computer or have an Internet connection were given one, ensuring that older and poorer Americans were not left out of the sample.

For Romney and Obama voters, the margin of error of the findings is plus or minus 5 percentage points. For undecided voters, the margin of error is plus or minus 11 percentage points.

Sixty-one percent of the undecided voters said they see global warming as an “important issue” they’ll consider when making their choice. Seventy-five percent of Obama supporters said the same, as did 32 percent of likely Romney voters. In many ways, undecided voters match likely Obama voters with their climate-change concern: 80 percent believe the globe is warming, compared with 86 percent of Obama voters. (In contrast, 45 percent of Romney voters accept that global warming is happening.) [10 Climate Myths Busted]

Yale Project on Climate Change Communication:

Global warming is an important issue for undecided voters and likely Obama voters when voting for President
Though few likely voters say global warming is the “single-most important” issue to them in this election, majorities of likely Obama voters (75%) and Undecideds (61%) say it will be one of several important issues determining their vote for President. Only 32% of likely Romney voters say it will be one of the “important issues” determining their vote.

Desire for Presidential and Congressional action
Undecided voters and likely Obama voters say that President Obama (64% and 61% respectively) and Congress (72% and 78%) should be “doing more” about global warming. By contrast, fewer than half of likely Romney voters think the President or Congress should be doing more (35% and 35% respectively) and, in fact, are more inclined to say they should be doing less to address global warming (47% and 44%).

Bipartisan agreement that the U.S. should use more renewable energy sources
There is broad agreement among all likely voters – 85% of likely Obama voters, 83% of undecided voters, and 73% of likely Romney voters – that the U.S. should use more renewable energy sources (e.g., solar, wind, and geothermal) in the future.

However, while more than half of Undecideds and likely Obama voters say that in the future the U.S. should use fewer fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and gas (55% and 65% respectively), fewer than half of likely Romney voters agree (38%).

Is global warming happening?
80% of undecided voters believe that global warming is happening, while only 3% believe it is not happening – which is very similar to likely Obama voters (86% and 4% respectively).  By contrast, 45% of likely Romney voters believe global warming is happening. In fact, one out of three likely Romney voters believes it is not happening.


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Kind of a bookend to the summer just past, another jaw dropping record in a year of jaw dropping records.  Let me know what you think.