waterheaterRenewables International:

Germany apparently still has 1.4 million electric heaters spread across roughly 40 million households, putting the percentage of electric heating at around 3.5 percent. Nonetheless, RWE estimates that these electric heaters could add the equivalent of around 10 gigawatts of pumped storage – equivalent to an eighth of peak German power capacity and a sixth of peak demand on a normal workday.

The approach will only make sense, however, if the heaters are not only used to store power at night, but quite the opposite – to store excess renewable electricity during the day. Going forward, the problem Germany faces is not a lack of demand for power at night, but excess solar power during the day.

While this option marks a fundamental break with environmentalists’ previous focus on more efficient heating systems, the renewables community is increasingly praising electric heaters as a way of allowing more renewables to be installed.


The Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) is recruiting one hundred homeowners in Washington for an experiment on how to store surplus wind energy. The BPA is testing a promising smart-grid concept that would use residential water heaters to help manage the fluctuations of wind energy generation.

The project will address two problems experienced on the grid: shortage of power during peak times and surges of power during windy periods, when the energy isn’t needed.

While homeowners will be able to override the control device at any time, it’s unlikely that they would even notice a change in temperature.

The water heaters in effect become energy storage devices — turning on to absorb excess power and shutting down when demand ramps up —leveling out the peaks and valleys of energy use. Benefits include:

  • no need for expensive and toxic battery storage
  • no need for fossil fuel burning power plants to fill in low wind energy gaps
  • water heaters provide distributed storage, avoiding point loads on grid
  • smart water heaters can be manufactured economically, for just a few dollars more.

First, we know that journalists are not as gullible as they were in 2006, or 2009. Having been burned and made to look foolish by climate denial distortions of previous IPCC reports, and cherry picked emails, mainstream media is not quite so easily manipulated these days.
At long last, we are seeing a general acknowledgement of what we, in the reality based community, have long known – there is a right wing information bubble – a heretofore impenetrable, seamless, logic loop of epistemic closure in the incestuous tribal pack behavior of the Fox news/right wing blog/talk radio alternative universe – finally, catastrophically, and hilariously revealed to all in Fox News’ unbelievable live melt-down as Mitt Romney’s predicted landslide failed to materialize last month.  There is, at last, some agreement among mainstream news sources that in those fevered swamps, there be madness.

Many of the leading journalistic gatekeepers for climate information have, for some time in fact, been checking the science-centric blogosphere, even this blog and the climate crocks video series, for the reasoned, informed framing of disinformation attacks like that attempted last week.

See video above for a brief clip of my interview with Climate model expert Ben Santer – one of a number of interviews I conducted at this fall’s American Geophysical Union Conference in San Francisco. A longer video is coming this week from the Yale Forum.

This has been a matter of discussion among scientists, journalists, and communicators over the past year or more. The early dissemination of factual corrective responses to deliberate distortions is now proven to largely dampen these cheap attempts before they bubble onto the intended Fox News/Limbaugh/Beck circuit and become talking points of the day for the low-info army. The game has changed.

The Independent:

An attempt by climate sceptics to hijack the latest UN report on global warming by selectively leaking claims that it is caused by sunspots rather than man-made emissions of carbon dioxide has backfired.

Sceptics described the forthcoming report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as a “game changer” because of its apparent support for the controversial theory that solar activity, interacting with cosmic rays from deep space, can explain global warming.

Alec Rawls, a Republican blogger in the United States who signed himself up as an expert IPCC reviewer, decided to leak the panel’s Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) on the grounds that it is a taxpayer-funded document.

Mr Rawls claimed the report suggests that the IPCC has finally come round to the idea that solar activity – sunspots – is partly responsible for the observed global temperatures rise seen over the past half century.

However, climate scientists pointed out that Mr Rawls has selectively quoted from the draft report and has ignored other parts of the document stating that solar activity and cosmic rays cannot explain the increase in global temperatures seen over the past half century, as sceptics have repeatedly claimed.

The AR5 draft report states that although there is “some evidence” that solar activity combined with cosmic rays may influence the formation of clouds, and therefore temperatures, but the phenomenon is “too weak” to influence the climate in any significant way.

The other major problem with the sunspots idea is that solar activity has largely flat-lined over the past 50 years, whereas average global temperatures have continued to rise, the IPCC report says.

“The lack of trend in the cosmic ray intensity over the last 50 years provides another strong argument against the hypothesis of a major contribution of cosmic rays to on-going climate change,” the draft report says.

Professor Bill McGuire of University College London said that the IPCC report reiterates the widely accepted view among scientists that climate change is not a natural process but the consequence of human activities.

“Alec Rawls’ interpretation of what IPCC5 says is quite simply wrong.  In fact, while temperatures have been ramping up in recent decades, solar activity has been pretty subdued,” Professor McGuire said.

Delaware Online:

Something rather cataclysmic has being happening among anti-global-warming enthusiasts. A growing number admit they’ve been wrong. An Associated Press poll found four of every five Americans said climate change will be a serious problem for the United States if nothing is done about it. That’s up from 73 percent three years ago.

Personal experience, not the complicated formula of science measurements is winning new converts. That includes extraordinary changes in the rise of sea levels as The New Journal has been tracking, accelerated patterns of wildfires that are destroying entire communities in the country’s western regions and shorter cold weather patterns during winter.

Read the rest of this entry »


One reason I hoped Michigan would pass a 25 percent Renewable Energy standard in November was, to get our  utilities off the dime in preparing for an impending disruptive change in electrical generation.  Remember what the internet looked like in 1993? Remember how it looked in 1997?  That’s what happens when  compelling technology comes of age – and companies that aren’t ready for change that their customers want, will simply disappear.

Renewable Energy World:

Quick question.  Your state has good sunshine, lots of open rooftops, and the cost of solar energy has been falling by 10% per year.  Do you think it will take 13 years to double the 10 megawatts (MW) of installed solar power?

Yes, if you’re the largest corporate utility in my state, and willfully ignoring the economic trend.  But ‘no’ if you make decisions based on data, because the price of unsubsidized solar electricity will undercut most utility retail electricity prices within a decade, enabling 200 times more solar (4,400 MW) than found in this utility’s plans.

That’s just one utility’s wake up call in a new report from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR), Commercial Rooftop Revolution, and it’s far from the only one.  By 2016, over 100,000 MW of unsubsidized rooftop solar will able to match grid electricity on price.  Within 10 years, it will be 300,000 MW, enough to provide 10% of the nation’s electricity.  This affordable solar future presents a stark challenge to traditional utility planning and a clarion call for better electricity policy

Some utilities have responded by clinging to the 20th century paradigm of centralized control.  Virginia’s Dominion Power, for example, expressed satisfaction at a recent conference at introducing standby charges on solar producers, ostensibly to help them recover the cost of “backing up” solar power.

On the other hand, many utilities and state regulatory commissions are finding the value in solar and realizing that perceived barriers aren’t as large as they had feared.  Austin Energy, a Texas municipal utility, now pays a non-subsidy premium for solar because it helps them offset expensive peak power purchases.  In Hawaii, utilities who two years ago argued that the distribution grid was at its limit have been managing to accommodate thousands more solar projects on their grid systems.

Regardless of their predisposition toward solar power, utilities, regulators, and policy makers need to recognize that there’s a revolution in electricity systems coming soon.  Solar will become so affordable in the next 5-10 years that as many as 38 million homes and businesses will elect to produce their own power more cheaply from unsubsidized solar rather than buy it from their utility.  That means policies that limit distributed generation will have to change: net metering limits must rise, permitting must be simplified, archaic “15% rules” will have to be driven by data not speculation.


coyoteThe buffoonasphere bubble that briefly bobbed up over a leaked non-operative IPCC draft has subsided.  Result? A moderate  rustling in the internet weeds. This week’s news that matters?  A new huge majority of Americans have chosen to believe their eyes.

The Hill:

Four out of 5 people in the U.S. say global warming will be a big problem for the nation without action to reduce it, and a growing majority believe that temperatures are going up, a poll shows.

The Associated Press-Gfk poll released Friday shows that 80 percent say the country faces a “serious” problem if nothing is done to reduce future warming.

Associated Press:

A growing majority of Americans thinkglobal warming is occurring, that it will become a serious problem and that the U.S. government should do something about it, a new Associated Press-GfK poll finds.

Even most people who say they don’t trust scientists on the environment say temperatures are rising.

The poll found 4 out of every 5 Americans said climate change will be a serious problem for the United States if nothing is done about it. That’s up from 73 percent when the same question was asked in 2009.

And 57 percent of Americans say the U.S. government should do a great deal or quite a bit about the problem. That’s up from 52 percent in 2009. Only 22 percent of those surveyed think little or nothing should be done, a figure that dropped from 25 percent.

CBS News: 

Belief and worry about climate change are inching up among Americans in general, but concern is growing faster among people who don’t often trust scientists on the environment. In follow-up interviews, some of those doubters said they believe their own eyes as they’ve watched thermometers rise, New York City subway tunnels flood, polar ice melt and Midwestern farm fields dry up.

Christian Science Monitor:

“They don’t believe what the scientists say, they believe what the thermometers say,” Krosnick said. “Events are helping these people see what scientists thought they had been seeing all along.”

Phil Adams, a retired freelance photographer from North Carolina, said he was “fairly cynical” about scientists and their theories. But he believes very much in climate change because of what he’s seen with his own eyes.

“Having lived for 67 years, we consistently see more and more changes based upon the fact that the weather is warmer,” he said. “The seasons are more severe. The climate is definitely getting warmer.”

“Storms seem to be more severe,” he added. Nearly half, 49 percent, of those surveyed called global warming not just serious but “very serious,” up from 42 percent in 2009. More than half, 57 percent, of those surveyed thought the U.S. government should do a great deal or quite a bit about global warming, up from 52 percent three years earlier.

A well known denialist told me last spring that his primary concern was the effect of extreme weather events on public opinion.  One of the recurring themes of recent months among scientists I’ve spoken to, is “..a new climate state..”, where extremes beyond human memory have become more commonplace.

That sound you hear, as James Carville said recently in another context, “…is pine on skull.”

Cherry Pick Update: Australian Radio interviewed the author (there’s an exotic concept) of the “game changing” out-of-context leak from the upcoming IPCC report.  Does this pattern look familiar?


MARK COLVIN: A blogger has put most of the drafts of the fifth International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, due next year, on the internet.

The blogger Alec Rawls is a climate change sceptic.

He and other climate sceptic journalists and bloggers have isolated one section of the draft to suggest that cosmic rays, such as those of the sun, may have a greater influence on warming than had been claimed.

The leaked IPCC drafts cover a range of subjects from the quality of climate models to measurements of sea level rise and Arctic ice loss.

Professor Steve Sherwood is a director of the Climate Change Research Centre at the University of New South Wales.

He is also a lead author of chapter seven of the IPCC report, which happens to be the one the sceptics are claiming for their side.

But Professor Sherwood is scornful of the idea that the chapter he helped write confirms a greater role for solar and other cosmic rays in global warming.

STEVE SHERWOOD: Oh that’s completely ridiculous. I’m sure you could go and read those paragraphs yourself and the summary of it and see that we conclude exactly the opposite, that this cosmic ray effect that the paragraph is discussing appears to be negligible.

MARK COLVIN: They’re saying that it is the first indication that the IPCC recognises something called solar forcing.

STEVE SHERWOOD: It’s not the first time it recognises it. What it shows is that we looked at this. We look at everything. The IPCC has a very comprehensive process where we try to look at all the influences on climate and so we looked at this one.

And there have been a couple of papers suggesting that solar forcing affects climate through cosmic ray/cloud interactions, but most of the literature on this shows that that doesn’t actually work.

MARK COLVIN: So you’re saying that you’ve managed to basically eliminate this idea that sunspots or whatever are more responsible for global warming than human activity.

STEVE SHERWOOD: Based on the peer-reviewed literature that’s available now, that looks extremely unlikely.

MARK COLVIN: So what have these people done? Is this just a case of cherry-picking a sentence?

STEVE SHERWOOD: Yeah, it’s a pretty severe case of that, because even the sentence doesn’t say what they say and certainly if you look at the context, we’re really saying the opposite.


The climate denial clown car careens onward.  In breathless, puffed-up prose, the bizarro-sphere was buzzing last night about a “game changing” passage in a draft IPCC document, posted online by a self promoting would-be “mole” in the IPCC review process.

A new IPCC report is due next fall. Look for  more attempts to muddy and confuse the public about it.  The reality-based community is, this time, prepared.

Graham Readfern explains:

Alec Rawls runs a blog called “stopgreensuicide” and he registered himself as an “expert reviewer” for WG1. As I’ve pointed out in the case of climate science mangler Lord Christopher Monckton, practically anyone can register for these positions using an online form. Nobody appoints “expert reviewers”, even though Lord Monckton likes to make out that he was “appointed”.

Once Rawls was registered, this gives him access to the draft reports of the AR5 as they wind their way through the protracted process of formulation and review. Work on the AR5 actually started back in July 2009. The IPCC states that

The IPCC considers its draft reports, prior to acceptance, to be pre-decisional, provided in confidence to reviewers, and not for public distribution, quotation or citation.

Each page of the drafts are also marked with the words “Do not cite, quote or distribute”.  This did not deter Mr Rawls from discussing the first draft of the report on climate change sceptic blog Watts Up With That.

At the time, Mr Rawls wrote:

Like everyone else who participated in this review, I agreed not to cite, quote or distribute the draft. The IPCC also made a further request, which reviewers were not required to agree to, that we “not discuss the contents of the FOD (First Order Draft) in public fora such as blogs.

Well Mr Rawls’ itchy blogging finger has got the better of him. He decided to upload the entire second draft of the AR5 WG1 report and popped it on his blog, which as I write is now down, most likely due to the traffic from other bloggers, including New York Times’ Andy Revkin, The Daily Telegraph’s James Delingpole, and Watts Up With That.

Mr Rawls’ main point appears to be that in Chapters 7 and 8 of the draft WG1 report (you still with me?), the IPCC is about to make “game-changing” admission, to quote the WUWT headline, that observed global warming has more to do with the sun than previous reports have suggested. Rawls then quotes one paragraph from Chapter 7, discussing galactic cosmic rays (GCR), which states

Many empirical relationships have been reported between GCR or cosmogenic isotope archives and some aspects of the climate system (e.g., Bond et al., 2001; Dengel et al., 2009; Ram and Stolz, 1999). The forcing from changes in total solar irradiance alone does not seem to account for these observations, implying the existence of an amplifying mechanism such as the hypothesized GCR-cloud link. We focus here on observed relationships between GCR and aerosol and cloud properties.

What this is actually talking about, is a fringe theory that cosmic rays have an important influence on the climate. What neither Mr Rawls, Watts Up With That or the climate sceptic blogger James Delingpole did, was to point out that the paragraphs on the chapter which follow the one which Rawls quotes, go on to explain why these theories were not robust.

Professor Steve Sherwood, of the University of New South Wales Climate Change Research Centre, is a lead author on Chapter 7. Commenting on the publicly-quoted paragraph about cosmic rays (the one cited by Delingpole as a “game changer) Professor Sherwood told me

The single sentence that this guy pulls out is simply paraphrasing an argument that has been put forward by a few controversial papers (note the crucial word “seems”) purporting significant cosmic-ray influences on climate.  Its existence in the draft is proof that we considered all peer-reviewed literature, including potentially important papers that deviate from the herd.  The rest of the paragraph from which he has lifted this sentence, however, goes on to show that subsequent peer-reviewed literature has discredited the assumptions and/or methodology of those papers, and failed to find any effect.  The absence of evidence for significant cosmic-ray effects is clearly stated in the executive summary. This guy’s spin is truly bizarre.  Anyone who would buy the idea that this is a “game changer” is obviously not really looking at what is there.

Skeptical Science has also looked at Rawls’ cherry-picking and offers a more detailed summary of the “cosmic ray” theory.

Read the rest of this entry »

Sobering to come away from the world’s largest scientific meeting with a very real and urgent question. One that would have seemed science fiction a generation ago.


Many of us have wondered at some point in almost precisely these terms: “Is Earth F**ked?” But it’s not the sort of frank query you expect an expert in geomorphology to pose to his colleagues as the title of a formal presentation at one of the world’s largest scientific gatherings.

Nestled among offerings such as “Bedrock Hillslopes to Deltas: New Insights Into Landscape Mechanics” and “Chemical Indicators of Pathways in the Water Cycle,” the question leapt off the pages of the schedule for the American Geophysical Union’s fall meeting.  Brad Werner, a geophysicist at the University of California, San Diego, is one of the more than 20,000 Earth and atmospheric scientists who descended on downtown San Francisco this week to share their research on everything from Antarctic ice-sheet behavior to hurricane path modeling to earthquake forecasting. But he’s the only one whose presentation required the use of censorious asterisks. When the chairman of Werner’s panel announced the talk’s title on Wednesday, a titter ran through the audience at the naughtiness of it all.

Why shout out the blunt question on everyone’s mind? Werner explained at the outset of the presentation that it was inspired by friends who are depressed about the future of the planet. “Not so much depressed about all the good science that’s being done all over the world—a lot of it being presented here—about what the future holds,” he clarified, “but by the seeming inability to respond appropriately to it.”

Scientists have been loath to answer such questions in unequivocal terms. Overstepping the perceived boundaries of prudence, objectivity, and statistical error bars can derail a promising career. But, in step with many of the planet’s critical systems, that may be quickly changing. Lately more and more scientists seem shaken enough by what their measurements and computer models are telling them (and not just about climate change but also about the global nitrogen cycle, extinction rates, fisheries depletion, etc.) to speak out and endorse specific actions. The most prominent example is NASA climatologist James Hansen, who was so freaked out by his own data that he began agitating several years ago for legislation to rein in carbon emissions. His combination of rigorous research and vigorous advocacy is becoming, if not quite mainstream, somewhat less exotic. A commentary in Nature last month implored scientists to risk tenure and get arrested, if necessary, to promote the political solutions their research tells them are required. Climate researchers Kevin Anderson and Alice Bows recently made an impassioned call on their colleagues to do a better job of communicating the urgency of their findings and to no longer cede the making of policy prescriptions entirely to economists and politicians.

Lonnie Thompson, one of the world’s foremost experts on glaciers and ancient climates, framed the dilemma in a speech he gave to a group of behavioral scientists in 2010:

Climatologists, like other scientists, tend to be a stolid group. We are not given to theatrical rantings about falling skies. Most of us are far more comfortable in our laboratories or gathering data in the field than we are giving interviews to journalists or speaking before Congressional committees. Why then are climatologists speaking out about the dangers of global warming? The answer is that virtually all of us are now convinced that global warming poses a clear and present danger to civilization.

Just Wow. I’m ashamed to share a state with this weasel Fred Upton. First time I’ve seen him on video.


A long, but interesting and well-researched story in the Los Angeles Times chronicles the rise of the Koch brothers’ influence on the GOP. The story suggests Upton has changed his stance on climate change: “Until recently, Upton would have been an unlikely champion of that view.”

“Perhaps the Kochs’ most surprising and important ally on the committee is its new chairman, Rep. Fred Upton. The Republican from Michigan, who was once criticized by conservatives for his middle-of-the-road approach to environmental issues, is now leading the effort to rein in the EPA.

“Upton received $20,000 in donations from Koch employees in 2010, making them among his top 10 donors in that cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

“In recent months the congressman has made a point of publicly aligning himself with the Koch-backed advocacy group, calling for an end to the ‘EPA chokehold.'”

Mother Jones magazine takes a similar view of Upton’s climate change position in a recent story:

“In the past, Upton — the incoming chair of the House energy and commerce committee — has advocated taking action on global warming. ‘I strongly believe that everything must be on the table as we seek to reduce carbon emissions,’ he once stated on his website. But that statement recently vanished from his site — along with, it seems, his concern about global warming.”