This American Life, one of the most listenable and ingenious hourly shows that public radio has ever offered,  has done a piece on climate change, that a lot of people have told me about. Finally got the chance to listen, and its well worth it. I recommend putting it on when you have some quiet work to do.

If you can’t listen to the whole hour right now, I’ve excerpted 4 minutes here from the long segment that profiles Bob Inglis. Inglis is a conservative Republican who actually believes in science.  As far as his former constituents in South Carolina care, (at least, the tea party nut bags who dominate the primary process) he might as well as come out of the closet as a Gay Muslim Rastafarian.  Small piece of his interview here – but even more revealing, a chat with a Republican congressional staffer, who chose to be anonymous. He discusses the abject terror that a small number of closeted science-literate GOP reps are living with, should anyone ever find out that they, too, accept the overwhelming mainstream scientific view.

It’s  not a profile in courage.

Below, when he was still in congress, Inglis made a sharp point to his colleagues. Guys, this is all on video. Your children are going to know  what you did, and what you said, when it counted.

Read the rest of this entry »

I’ve written and talked about this for years. It’s not getting any less significant.

Smart money is betting on sustainability and renewable technology.  There’s a new sense of urgency, because in states like mine, where the anti-science crowd has done their best to hold up progress, there is a real threat to the health of our major utilities if we do not update our regulatory structures fast enough to keep up with new technology, and the increasing recognition by the financial community that sustainable business will soon be the only business.

Climate Deniers, WindBaggers and the “Agenda 21” crowd will take this as more evidence of the vast, left wing conspiracy.

Guys, if you want to argue the science of interdependence, don’t look at me. Take it up with the capitalists at Walmart.

DomesticFuel.com:

According to a recent survey conducted by SRI, 65 percent of retail investors and 53 percent of institutional investors are currently expressing interest in fossil fuel-free portfolios in reaction to climate change. More than 2,000 SRI industry professionals took the First Affirmative Financial Network’s Fossil Fuels Divestment Survey in anticipation of the 24th annual SRI Conference taking place October 28-30 in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Other key survey findings include:

  • 77 percent see growing risks for investors associated with fossil fuel company holdings in their investment portfolios.
  • 30 percent of those surveyed either already do – or are getting ready to – offer fossil-fuel free portfolios to investors.
  • 63 percent believe that investors will in the next 10 years start divesting in meaningful numbers from fossil-fuel companies due to climate change implications of such energy sources.

GreenBiz:

Since launching its sustainability program in 2006, Walmart has reduced energy consumption in its stores, installed solar panels on its rooftops, curbed emissions from its trucks and recycled millions of tons of its trash. Now that the world’s biggest retailer has streamlined its own operations, it is turning its attention elsewhere — actually, almost everywhere.

Since last fall, Walmart has rolled out what it callsa supplier sustainability index to thousands of suppliers, asking them pointed questions about their operations and prodding them to better understand and manage their own supply chains.

It’s Walmart’s most ambitious environmental project ever, and if all goes according to plan, it will change the way all kinds of consumer products — clothes, toys, electronics, food and beverages — are made. The typical Walmart stocks 125,000 to 150,000 products (!), and the environmental and social performance of most companies that make them soon will be rated and ranked in Bentonville, Ark.

So Walmart is asking lots of questions of its suppliers. Among them:

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windfarm

I’ve pointed out in the past that efforts to slow down the adoption of Renewable Energy are coordinated and enabled by Koch and Fossil Funded groups like Americans for Prosperity.  They rely on the same media manipulation that has given us everything from Weapons of Mass Destruction to the “Romney Landslide”, to Climate denial, to Kenyan birth certificates – and, they’ve even succeeded to some degree in poisoning the mainstream media dialogue.

But all lies must all eventually crash on the rocks of reality. Despite a nationwide windbagger mobilization and disinformation campaign that drew far more attention than the issue deserved, on tuesday, Massachusetts voters who live near wind turbines gave resounding approval to keeping them in operation.

AP:

Voters in Falmouth on Cape Cod decided Tuesday to keep the town’s two wind turbines, despite complaints about noise and health problems.

Voters were asked to decide on a plan to remove the two, 400-foot-tall turbines. They voted against the plan by a 2-1 margin, according to the Cape Cod Times. The vote was 6,001 against removal and 2,940 in favor of the plan, the newspaper said.

Both turbines are located at the town’s wastewater treatment facility. The first turbine began running in 2010.

Since the turbines’ installation, about 40 households in the neighborhood have complained about headaches, vertigo, sleep interruption and other problems.

After the initial complaints, the town tried curtailing the operation during extremely strong winds and also tried shutting them off at night. But some residents persisted in a campaign to take them down.

Proponents said support for the turbines and the renewable energy and revenues they produce is silent but strong.

Wind Wise-Massachusetts, which opposed the turbines, said the group was disappointed, but said the vote drew attention to ‘‘the negative impact of wind turbines on the lives of families living near them,’’

I’ve pointed out that in Europe, as in America, people that live close to and know wind turbines best support them overwhelmingly.  A recent poll in Iowa, the state which gets almost 25 percent of its electricity from wind, gave 81 percent support to more wind power.  Efforts to blame  all manner of vapors, demonic possession, bad juju, and even herpes, on wind turbines – continue to be trumped by pesky reality.

Media Matters:

…there is no evidence for a causal link between wind turbines and the reported health effects. On the other hand, there is significant evidence that these are symptoms could be a result of the “nocebo effect,” a phenomenon whereby people experience negative health effects from the mere suggestion that something could be harmful:

  • As NPR noted, a study published in Health Psychology found that people who were given information designed to provoke “low expectations that exposure to infrasound causes specified symptoms” experienced “no symptomatic changes.” On the other hand, people in the high expectations groupreported “significant increase in symptoms” whether they were exposed to sham infrasound or real infrasound.
  • Public health professor Simon Chapman found in a not yet peer-reviewed paper that “only five of the 49 wind farms in Australia have ever drawn complaints, and that all five had been targets of anti-wind activism. He also points out that, although wind turbines have been operating in Australia since 1993, over 80 percent of complaints arose after 2009, when anti-wind groups first began emphasizing the potential health hazards of wind turbines,” according to NPR.* Chapman further noted in an email to Media Matters, “turbines have been running in Denmark, Holland, Germany, Spain and parts of France for many years and all this is unheard of — my public health colleagues from those nations look at me blankly when I ask about it.”
  • As comedian Stephen Colbert mentioned in a satire of “wind turbine syndrome,” people have attributed everything from “weight gain” to “weight loss” to “herpes” to it, according to Chapman’s research.

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Last week I linked to Coral Davenport’s notable article in National Journal,  “The Coming GOP Civil War on Climate Change”.  I still think it’s a significant indicator that we are nearing a turning point on climate science for the Republican party.

Rob Sisson, President of ConservAmerica, an organization of Environmentally minded conservatives, agrees that the problem is urgent, and that there are those in the Republican party who recognize the problem. He sends me this in an email:

“The sand in the hour glass is slipping away from my party. If we don’t begin to lead on climate and energy issues, we will not be capable of winning national elections. We will struggle to win the hearts and minds of young voters, under the age of 30, who understand the science of climate disruption and worry about their own future. More problematic for the GOP is the awakening of pro-life, faith voters who increasingly view strong environmental protection as part and parcel of a non-hypocritical pro-life ideal.”

More and more on the conservative side know that they are as far from the mainstream on science as they are on immigration, and that an adjustment is coming.
I’ve shared it around, and I hope it will be a catalyst for more conversation on the topic at the grass roots.

Not everyone agrees with the premise. D. R. Tucker, a frequent contributor here, doesn’t hold out much hope.

D. R. Tucker is a conservative writer and blogger whose recent essay “Confessions of a Climate Change Convert” crystalized the angst of intelligent, scientifically literate conservatives who have seen their movement taken over by Rush Limbaugh sensibilities and Sara Palin science.  

tucker2From D.R.Tucker:

“I hear it, but I don’t buy it.”

That’s something my old mentor the late David Brudnoy used to say when confronted with something that didn’t pass his common sense test. I remembered his line—and found myself saying the same thing—upon reading Coral Davenport’s newest piece in National Journal, “The Coming GOP Civil War Over Climate Change.”

The piece contends that a plucky band of Christian conservatives and reformist Republicans are trying to pry the lips of Republican representatives and senators away from David Koch’s rich rear end.
Good luck with that.

Does anyone seriously believe that the GOP will return to climate sanity anytime soon? The goings-on in my home state, Massachusetts, suggest otherwise.

On June 25, climate hawk Congressman Edward Markey (D) is scheduled to face Navy SEAL and businessman Gabriel Gomez (R) in a special election to fill the vacant Senate seat held for nearly three decades by another climate hawk, Secretary of State John Kerry. Gomez is being aggressively promoted as a “new kind of Republican,” just as Michael Steele was in his high-profile 2006 Senate race against Democrat Ben Cardin in Maryland. While Gomez doesn’t come across as a Tea Party freak in interviews, his campaign advisers are the old kind of Republicans—namely, former members of Team Romney (presumably the ones who convinced Romney to tell that dopey climate-change joke at the 2012 Republican National Convention.)

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The real reason they hate the German example. Germany is creating an energy ownership society, spreading ownership and control of power production to individuals, communities, and small businesses – and eating away at the monopolistic control of energy by the few. – Graphic by Windworks

They said it couldn’t happen. They keep trying to trash the EnergieWende – Germany’s planet-leading transformation to renewable energy.

But the pesky Germans keep perking along.

Wall Street Journal:

FRANKFURT–Germany exported more electricity than it imported for the seventh consecutive year in 2012, despite an accelerated exit from nuclear-power generation that included the immediate and permanent shut-down of nearly half of the country’s atomic reactors in 2011.

Germany exported about 22.8 terrawatt-hours of electricity more than it imported in 2012, the Federal Statistics Office, Destatis, said Tuesday in a written statement.

The main destinations for German-produced electricity were the Netherlands, Switzerland and Austria, said the statistics office, citing data supplied by Germany’s four power transmission grid operators.

wsjnetpower

The main sources of power imports into Germany were France, Denmark and the Czech Republic, it said.

The statistics office didn’t provide any reasons for the continued power exports, despite the fact that Germany shut down eight of 17 nuclear reactors in the wake of the Fukushima disaster in Japan in March 2011.

The rapid expansion of solar- and wind-power installations are seen as the main reason for continued German electricity exports, as well as the erosion of wholesale power prices under which many of Europe’s utilities are presently suffering.

I’m declaring the tornado drought officially over.

Monday’s horrifying events in Oklahoma are still being sorted out.  Standard disclaimers apply, “No particular weather event …” etc

I have a statement from Dr. Kevin Trenberth of the Natonal Center for Atmospheric Research by email:

trenberthleftOf course tornadoes are very much a weather phenomenon. They come from certain thunderstorms, usually super-cell thunderstorms that are in a wind shear environment that promotes rotation. The main climate change connection is via the basic instability
of the low level air that creates the convection and thunderstorms in the first place.
Warmer and moister conditions are the key for unstable air.

The climate change effect is probably only a 5 to 10% effect in terms of the instability and subsequent rainfall, but it translates into up to a 32% effect in terms of damage.
(It is highly nonlinear).
So there is a chain of events and climate change mainly affects the first link: the basic buoyancy of the air is increased. Whether that translates into a super-cell storm and one with a tornado is largely chance weather.

Below: Damage in Moore, Oklahoma, from the air.

mooredamage

Despite last week’s lethal tornado in Texas, and the continued rash of storms today – the first part of May saw an unusually low number of tornadoes, – striking in contrast to 2 years ago, when in 2011 we saw an awesome eruption of tornado fury across the US. Jeff Masters of Weather Underground addresses the issue in the video above – both kinds of extremes are very low probability events.  Coming in such close succession, they tend to reinforce the “weather whiplash” story that has characterized our “new normal”.

Jeff Masters at Weather Underground:

With just three tornadoes during the period May 1 – 7, 2013 has had the third-fewest U.S. tornadoes during the first week of May since record keeping began in 1950. The only year with fewer tornadoes during the first week of May were 1970 (zero) and 1952 (two.) During the ten year period 2003 – 2012, the U.S. averaged 73 tornadoes during the first week of May, with a high of 239 during May 1 – 7, 2003.

UPDATE: Then again, the tornado drought may be ending.
Breaking – CNN:

(CNN) — At least one person was killed and around a dozen injured Sunday when a string of tornadoes tore through four states, ripping roofs off homes, downing power lines and tossing trees like matchsticks

One tornado touched down near Wellston, Oklahoma, taking out power lines and damaging several homes, according to video from CNN affiliate KFOR. The affiliate’s helicopter pilot estimated the funnel cloud to be about a half-mile wide.

“It’s tearing up everything,” the pilot said. “Just ripping everything up in its sight.”

 

birds_v_nukes

Figure 2. Avian deaths per year in the United States from various energy and non-energy
sources, 2009. Note: When a range of estimates has been given, the figure presents only data
for the lowest end of that range.

Among the big lies that windbaggers like to spread about wind energy, there are 2 that come up a lot.

One is that wind turbines kill a lot of birds, relative to other human activities.

The other is that windbaggers give a damn about birds.

New York State Energy Research and Development Authority:

There are many ways to classify the impacts of electricity generation on wildlife. Effects can be direct and/or indirect; acute or chronic; individual or cumulative; and local, regional, or global. Each type of effect was explored in this study. Acidic deposition, climate change, and mercury bioaccumulation are identified as the three most significant and widespread stressors to wildlife from electricity generation from fossil fuels combustion in the NY/NE region.

Risks to wildlife vary substantially by life cycle stage. Higher risks are generally associated with the resource extraction and power generation stages, as compared to other life cycle stages. Overall, non-renewable electricity generation sources, such as coal and oil, pose higher risks to wildlife than renewable electricity generation sources, such as hydro and wind. Based on the comparative amounts of SO2, NOx, CO2, and mercury emissions generated from coal, oil, natural gas, and hydro and the associated effects of acidic deposition, climate change, and mercury bioaccumulation, coal as an electricity generation source is by far the largest contributor to risks to wildlife found in the NY/NE region.

Journal of Integrative Environmental Studies:

..wind farms are responsible for roughly 0.27 avian fatalities per gigawatt-hour (GWh) of electricity while nuclear power plants involve 0.6 fatalities per GWh and fossil-fueled power stations are responsible for about 9.4 fatalities per GWh. Within the uncertainties of the data used, the estimate means that wind farm-related avian fatalities equated to approximately 46,000 birds in the United States in 2009, but nuclear power plants killed about 460,000 and fossil-fueled power plants 24 million.

To recap, about 46,000 avian mortalities were associated with wind farms across the United States in 2009 but nuclear plants killed about 458,000 and fossil-fueled power plants almost 24 million, estimates illustrated by Figure 2. Figure 2 also reveals how the number of absolute birds killed by wind energy pales in comparison to other causes such as
windows and cats. Regardless of where the wind turbines are located, by minimizing reliance on fossil fuels and nuclear power, they prevent the death and injury of wildlife that would otherwise occur across the world’s coal mines, uranium tail
ponds, oil refineries, natural gas facilities, uranium acidified forests, polluted lakes, and habitats soon to be threatened by climate change.

National Academy of Science:

Although most evaluations of the beneficial effects of wind-generated electricity, including the present one, have addressed the degree to which they reduce (through displacement) atmospheric emissions, other important effects are potentially displaced as well. For example, obtaining fossil fuel through mining, drilling, and chemical modification of one form to another (e.g., gasification of coal) has a variety of environmental effects including loss of habitat for terrestrial and aquatic species.

Operation of thermal (energy generation units), which generate heat to drive turbines, produces heated water, either from cooling or in the form of steam to drive the turbines, or both. If the energy from the heated water is not recovered, the water is usually discharged into the environment; in closed cooling systems, its heat is discharged. All forms of generation have associated life-cycle emissions and wastes along with other environmental effects that are affected by the design, materials provision (including mining), manufacture, construction, transportation, assembly, operation, maintenance, retrofits, and decommissioning of the generators and their associated infrastructure. Some of these stages of the life cycle—most notably, mining—have adverse effects on human health as well.

So many folks have written to me and urged me to listen to this, that I finally did.

They’re right, it’s worth hearing. In an era when the ideals of enlightenment seem to have fallen out of favor, Senator Whitehouse makes a case that Jefferson or Franklin would instantly recognize.

Delaware Newszap:

GEORGETOWN – Sussex County Council members are not on the same wave length regarding the debatable issue of sea level rise.
At the May 7 council meeting, Susan Love, a planner with the Department of Environmental Control and Natural Resources’Coastal Management Program, delivered an update on progress made by the state’s Sea Level Rise Advisory Committee, which is developing an adaptation plan for the state that will provide a path forward for planning for impacts of sea level rise.

Ms. Love’s presentation drew no love from councilmen Samuel Wilson, R-Georgetown, and Vance Phillips, R-Laurel.

Mr. Wilson cast doubt sea level rise even exists.

“They don’t have no facts. It’s almost BS, to be honest with you,” said Mr. Wilson.

“Man has been on this earth … according to the Bible … about 6,000 to 7,000 years,” challenged Mr. Wilson. “Salt (water) may intrude. You’re talking like it’s going to happen in the next 10 years. It’s been 7,000 years we’re thinking it might come. If it hasn’t done it in the last 7,000 why is it going to do it now all of a sudden?”

Washington Post blogs:

An unusual controversy has erupted at Emory University over the choice of famed neurosurgeon Ben Carson to deliver this year’s commencement address because he does not believe in evolution.

Nearly 500 professors, student and alumni signed a letter (see full text below) expressing concern that Carson, as a 7th Day Adventist, believes in creationist theory that holds that all life on Earth was created by God about 6,000 years ago. It rejects Darwin’s theory of evolution, which is the central principle that animates modern biology, uniting all biological fields under one theoretical tent, and which virtually all modern scientists agree is true.

The letter’s authors are not seeking to have Carson disinvited. Instead, they say it was written to raise concerns about his anti-scientific views.