Paul Douglas does a great job explaining the paradox that a lot of people have noticed. I love his style because you can shoot this video to your grandmother, and she’ll be comfortable with the format and the messenger.

Seth Borenstein – Associated Press:

WASHINGTON (AP) — With scant snowfall and barren ski slopes in parts of the Midwest and Northeast the past couple of years, some scientists have pointed to global warming as the culprit.

Then when a whopper of a blizzard smacked the Northeast with more than 2 feet of snow in some places earlier this month, some of the same people again blamed global warming.

How can that be? It’s been a joke among skeptics, pointing to what seems to be a brazen contradiction.

But the answer lies in atmospheric physics. A warmer atmosphere can hold, and dump, more moisture, snow experts say. And two soon-to-be-published studies demonstrate how there can be more giant blizzards yet less snow overall each year. Projections are that that’s likely to continue with man-made global warming.

Consider:

— The United States has been walloped by twice as many of the most extreme snowstorms in the past 50 years than in the previous 60 years, according to an upcoming study on extreme weather by leading federal and university climate scientists. This also fits with a dramatic upward trend in extreme winter precipitation — both rain and snow — in the Northeastern U.S. charted by the National Climatic Data Center.

— Yet the Global Snow Lab at Rutgers University says that spring snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere has shrunk on average by 1 million square miles in the last 45 years.

— And an upcoming study in the Journal of Climate says computer models predict annual global snowfall to shrink by more than a foot in the next 50 years. The study’s author said most people live in parts of the United States that are likely to see annual snowfall drop between 30 and 70 percent by the end of the century.

“Shorter snow season, less snow overall, but the occasional knockout punch,” Princeton University climate scientist Michael Oppenheimer said. “That’s the new world we live in.”

Ten climate scientists say the idea of less snow and more blizzards makes sense: A warmer world is likely to decrease the overall amount of snow falling each year and shrink snow season. But when it is cold enough for a snowstorm to hit, the slightly warmer air is often carrying more moisture, producing potentially historic blizzards.

Admiral David Titley (ret) was, until just a few years ago, Chief Oceanographer for the US Navy. I posted video of his 2010 TEDxPentagon talks some time ago, worth reviewing and sharing. (above and below)

Below, he updates us on the national security implications of a thawing Arctic Ocean.

WBUR Boston:

It’s all about the water.

Okay, it’s partly about food and energy, too. But from a national security perspective, climate change is all about the water: where it is or isn’t, how much or how little there is, how quickly it changes from one state (e.g., solid ice to liquid water) to another.

Because of the effects of climate change in the Arctic, for the first time in 500 years we’re opening a new ocean to navigation. The last guy who did that was Christopher Columbus.

Until 2005, the Arctic Polar ice cap consisted mostly of multi-year ice — ice that had formed two or more years before the date of measurement and was generally 2 to 4 meters (6.6 to 13 feet) thick and much harder to break through than first-year ice. Since 2007, most Arctic ice is now less than a year old and less than one meter thick. Climate scientists now expect that by 2030 much of the Arctic Ocean will be free of ice several months a year, opening it for commercial navigation just as the Baltic Sea is now.

The opening of the Arctic is the most immediate national security challenge presented by climate change. Except for submarines, the U.S. Navy has not operated widely on the surface of the Arctic Ocean; neither has anyone else. The Arctic is poorly charted and therefore dangerous to navigation. There’s very little infrastructure and it’s an extremely harsh operating environment.

Read the rest of this entry »

Democracy Now:

While the secretive Donors Trust has given millions to a variety of right-wing causes, denying climate change appears to be its top priority. An analysis by the environmentalist group Greenpeace reveals Donors Trust has funneled more than one-third of its donations — at least $146 million — to more than 100 climate change denial groups over the past decade. In 2010, 12 of these groups received between 30 to 70 percent of their funding from Donors Trust. We’re joined by Suzanne Goldenberg, U.S. environment correspondent for The Guardian, who has written a series of articles detailing the ties between Donors Trust and opponents of climate change science. “The goal here is to create this illusion that there is a really strong movement against the science of climate change and against action on climate change,” Goldenberg says. “And in fact, that has become a reality now: You see that opposition to action on climate change is essential to Republican thinking.”

Suzanne Goldenberg in The Guardian:

Conservative billionaires used a secretive funding route to channel nearly $120m (£77m) to more than 100 groups casting doubt about the science behind climate change, the Guardian has learned.

The funds, doled out between 2002 and 2010, helped build a vast network of thinktanks and activist groups working to a single purpose: to redefine climate change from neutral scientific fact to a highly polarising “wedge issue” for hardcore conservatives.

The millions were routed through two trusts, Donors Trust and theDonors Capital Fund, operating out of a generic town house in the northern Virginia suburbs of Washington DC. Donors Capital caters to those making donations of $1m or more.

Whitney Ball, chief executive of the Donors Trust told the Guardian that her organisation assured wealthy donors that their funds would never by diverted to liberal causes.

 

The piece mentions The Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, which is behind the website Climate Depot, a repository for the climate denial ramblings and attacks of Marc Morano.  Sounds like his new theme will be warnings about “eco-terrorists” .

For the record, I interviewed Morano at the recent Heartland Institute climate denial conference in Chicago, and gave him full latitude to state his case.

Read the rest of this entry »

The anti-science movement is rooted in the decades old realization among conservative corporate and political entities, that the findings of science were not always compatible with the economic interests of the wealthy and powerful. (read this post first for background. If you still have 17 minutes, the video above is worth your time)

The publication of an exhaustive investigation into the origins of a tobacco funded anti-science movement got headlines last week, as clear lines can now be drawn between corporate pirates like David Koch, the Tobacco barons, and “grassroots” movements like the Tea Party, all of which are prominent in the climate denial movement. (for example, we have at least one prominent Tea Party member who regularly posts his climate denialist views in comment threads here)

UC San Francisco:

The study, which appears on Feb. 8 in the journal Tobacco Control, shows that rhetoric and imagery evoking the 1773 Boston Tea Party were used by tobacco industry representatives as early as the 1980s as part of an industry-created “smokers’ rights’’ public relations campaign opposing increased cigarette taxes and other anti-smoking initiatives.

From previously secret tobacco industry documents available at the UCSF Legacy Tobacco Documents Library, IRS filings and other publicly available documents, the study authors traced a decades-long chain of personal, corporate and financial relationships between tobacco companies, tobacco industry lobbying and public relations firms and nonprofit organizations associated with the Tea Party.

Desmogblog:

A new academic study confirms that front groups with longstanding ties to the tobacco industry and the billionaire Koch brothers planned the formation of the Tea Party movement more than a decade before it exploded onto the U.S. political scene.

Far from a genuine grassroots uprising, this astroturf effort was curated by wealthy industrialists years in advance. Many of the anti-science operatives who defended cigarettes are currently deploying their tobacco-inspired playbook internationally to evade accountability for the fossil fuel industry’s role in driving climate disruption.

The study, funded by the National Cancer Institute of the National Institute of Health, traces the roots of the Tea Party’s anti-tax movement back to the early 1980s when tobacco companies began to invest in third party groups to fight excise taxes on cigarettes, as well as health studies finding a link between cancer and secondhand cigarette smoke.

Published in the peer-reviewed academic journal, Tobacco Control, the study titled, ‘To quarterback behind the scenes, third party efforts’: the tobacco industry and the Tea Party, is not just an historical account of activities in a bygone era. As senior author, Stanton Glantz, a University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) professor of medicine, writes:

“Nonprofit organizations associated with the Tea Party have longstanding ties to tobacco companies, and continue to advocate on behalf of the tobacco industry’s anti-tax, anti-regulation agenda.”

The two main organizations identified in the UCSF Quarterback study are Americans for Prosperity and Freedomworks. Both groups are now “supporting the tobacco companies’ political agenda by mobilizing local Tea Party opposition to tobacco taxes and smoke-free laws.” Freedomworks and Americans for Prosperity were once a single organization called Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE). CSE was founded in 1984 by the infamous Koch Brothers, David and Charles Koch, and received over $5.3 million from tobacco companies, mainly Philip Morris, between 1991 and 2004.

In 1990, Tim Hyde, RJR Tobacco’s head of national field operations, in an eerily similar description of the Tea Party today, explained why groups like CSE were important to the tobacco industry’s fight against government regulation. Hyde wrote:

“… coalition building should proceed along two tracks: a) a grassroots organizational and largely local track,; b) and a national, intellectual track within the DC-New York corridor. Ultimately, we are talking about a “movement,” a national effort to change the way people think about government’s (and big business) role in our lives. Any such effort requires an intellectual foundation – a set of theoretical and ideological arguments on its behalf.”

The common public understanding of the origins of the Tea Party is that it is a popular grassroots uprising that began with anti-tax protests in 2009.

However, the Quarterback study reveals that in 2002, the Kochs and tobacco-backed CSE designed and made public the first Tea Party Movement website under the web address www.usteaparty.com. Here’s a screenshot of the archived U.S. Tea Party site, as it appeared online on Sept. 13, 2002:

Read the rest of this entry »

rice

One of the biggest challenges of adapting to and mitigating climate change will be adjusting agriculture to the demands of a changing climate, feeding an expanding population, and finding a way to reduce climate impacts of key food crops. The following news item offers hope on all three fronts.

Eco Business:

Changing the way rice is grown, from planting it in flooded paddy fields to drier soil cultivation, is dramatically increasing yields and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The results of trials in eleven countries show that yields increased by an average of 60 per cent, although they varied sharply  between states, from an 11 per cent increase to 220 per cent.

A paper published in The Geographical Journal, the scientific publication of the Royal Geographical Society of London, says the System of Rice Intensification, or SRI, is having such success that 50 countries are now adopting it.

The method evolved in Madagascar over two decades but can now be applied in all rice-growing countries. Four studies in India, Indonesia, Kenya and Mali showed that production costs fell by 20-32 per cent, and profit per hectare rose between 52 per cent and 183 per cent.

In China, which has adopted SRI on a large scale, yields increased, but – just as important for a country short of water – 22.6 per cent less irrigation was needed.

SRI involves growing rice in aerated soil instead of flooded paddies. Single young seedlings are planted with regular wide spacing, and soils are kept moist but not wet. Nutrients are placed in the soil next to the plant rather than spread randomly.

The method reduces the costs of land preparation, seed, fertilizer and water use, and cuts methane emissions, while achieving the increased crop yields. Rice grown by the new method has bigger roots, and the larger plant produces more and heavier grains.

The environmental benefits, apart from the reduction in methane emissions from the flooded paddies, include a lower need for tractor power and the labour required before the crop is planted.

Climate News Network:

Less seed is needed for fewer, stronger plants.  Achieving this with less fertilizer means saving greenhouse gases in production, and less irrigation also saves the amount of fuel needed for water pumps.

In areas where arsenic in water is a problem – like Bangladesh – this new method reduces arsenic contamination in crops and soil. There are also health benefits to farmers and labourers working in dry fields rather than flooded ones. SRI also reduces the mosquito population and therefore malaria.

It is proving a success in all 50 countries which have adopted it across Asia, Africa and Central America. Despite this, one obstacle to exploiting this potentially huge boost to yields is getting the message to farmers, say the researchers, Amir Kassam, convener of the Land Husbandry Group at the UK  Tropical Agriculture Association and Hugh Brammer, former United Nations agricultural development adviser to Bangladesh.

Educating the poor farmers who will benefit most is an uphill task because in many African and Asian countries they have little or no institutional backup, or sometimes because governments have collapsed altogether.

The researchers suggest that modern communication devices – mobile ‘phones, computers and television sets – could be used to educate the farmers. Non-governmental organisations “with their closer contacts with rural people than most government officials” could play a valuable role both in testing ideas and obtaining feedback.

The second video in a series about Dr. Jason Box and his “Dark Snow Project”  – an effort to enlist the power of crowd sourcing and citizen science to pursue some of the most critical issues affecting arctic melt and sea level rise.

In the first video we heard from Bill Mckibben, whose article in Rolling Stone jumpstarted interest in Dr Box’s research. Following the shocking melt over nearly the full surface of the Greenland ice cap in July, 2012, it was clear that Dr. Box and his team had published a stunningly prescient paper, predicting melt over the whole surface of Greenland, within 10 years – What was stunning is that the melt materialized mere days after the paper came out.

june_julybox

Mckibben wrote:

Box had conservatively predicted that it might take up to a decade before the surface of Greenland’s ice sheet melted all at once. That it actually happened in just a few weeks only underscores how consistently cautious ice scientists have been in forecasting the threat posed by global warming. Now, however, that caution is being replaced by well-founded alarm. “Greenland is a sleeping giant that’s waking,” says Box. “In this new climate, the ice sheet is going to keep shrinking – the only question is how fast.”

The new data from Greenland matters for every corner of the planet. Water pouring into the North Atlantic will not only raise sea levels, but is also likely to modify weather patterns. “If the world allows a substantial fraction of the Greenland ice sheet to disintegrate, all hell breaks loose for eastern North America and Europe,” says NASA’s James Hansen, the world’s foremost climatologist.

In this new video, you’ll see Dark Snow team member Dr. Tom Painter of NASA JPL explain his work on dust in the Rocky Mountain snow fields, and Phd student Mckenzie Skiles describe how samples will be obtained – IF a large enough cohort of citizen scientists, activists, and just plain folks go to Darksnowproject.org and kick in a tax deductible donation. Now is a critical moment, as commitments must soon be made for all the moving parts that go into making an expedition work. This science will have to be done – someone will have to do the ground truth sampling to tease out the secret of the ice.

If not us, who? If not now, when?

Another one of those “drawing hand on whiteboard” videos that seem so popular.

It’s not the best one I’ve seen, but has some really good information on what is coming in the rooftop solar sector. That is – technological earthquake on the scale of the internet.

Ready or not.

Cool that she opens the lecture with my video, which was cribbed and re-edited from one of her previous lectures – but if you want to cut to the chase go to about 20 minutes in, that’s where I started learning stuff.

I’ve been meaning to edit this down to just the best parts, – its long – and I probably will, – but more important to get it posted and circulated,  because Dr. Francis is leading one of the most important discussions in climate science right now.

When future generations write the history of this era, perhaps one footnote will be about the peculiar disconnect between the Journalist class and the ground reality of what is happening, and what is important.  There is an inexplicable hostility among certain elite journalists to a) the truth about how dire our planetary situation is, and b) the good news about actual solutions that are at hand.

Recently, such a journalist wrote a scurrilous and misleading report about the all-electric Tesla Model S sedan. Tesla CEO Elon Musk responded by handing John Broder his ass, complete with graphs.

Teslamotors Blog:

You may have heard recently about an article written by John Broder from The New York Times that makes numerous claims about the performance of the Model S. We are upset by this article because it does not factually represent Tesla technology, which is designed and tested to operate well in both hot and cold climates. Indeed, our highest per capita sales are in Norway, where customers drive our cars during Arctic winters in permanent midnight, and in Switzerland, high among the snowy Alps. About half of all Tesla Roadster and Model S customers drive in temperatures well below freezing in winter. While no car is perfect, after extremely thorough testing, the Model S was declared to be the best new car in the world by the most discerning authorities in the automotive industry.

To date, hundreds of journalists have test driven the Model S in every scenario you can imagine. The car has been driven through Death Valley (the hottest place on Earth) in the middle of summer and on a track of pure ice in a Minnesota winter. It has traveled over 600 miles in a day from the snowcapped peaks of Tahoe to Los Angeles, which made the very first use of the Supercharger network, and moreover by no lesser person than another reporter from The New York Times. Yet, somehow John Broder “discovered” a problem and was unavoidably left stranded on the road. Or was he?

After a negative experience several years ago with Top Gear, a popular automotive show, where they pretended that our car ran out of energy and had to be pushed back to the garage, we always carefully data log media drives. While the vast majority of journalists are honest, some believe the facts shouldn’t get in the way of a salacious story. In the case ofTop Gear, they had literally written the script before they even received the car (we happened to find a copy of the script on a table while the car was being “tested”). Our car never even had a chance.

The logs show again that our Model S never had a chance with John Broder. In the case with Top Gear, their legal defense was that they never actually said it broke down, they just implied that it could and then filmed themselves pushing what viewers did not realize was a perfectly functional car. In Mr. Broder’s case, he simply did not accurately capture what happened and worked very hard to force our car to stop running.

Here is a summary of the key facts:

Read the rest of this entry »

Description:

The Barenaked Ladies, a children’s choir, and the commander of the International Space Station. Put them together and what do you get? The first space-to-earth musical collaboration.
The song, “I.S.S. (Is Somebody Singing) was commissioned by CBCMusic.ca and The Coalition for Music Education with the Canadian Space Agency to celebrate music education in schools across Canada.