Global emissions of carbon dioxide may be showing the first signs of a “permanent slowdown” in the rate of increase.

According to a new report, emissions in 2012 increased at less than half the average over the past decade.

Key factors included the shift to shale gas for energy in the US while China increased its use of hydropower by 23%.

However the use of cheap coal continues to be an issue, with UK consumption up by almost a quarter.

The report on trends in global emissions has been produced annually by the Netherlands Environment Assessment Agency and the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre.

It finds that emissions of carbon dioxide reached a new record in 2012 of 34.5bn tonnes.

But the rate of increase in CO2 was 1.4%, despite the global economy growing by 3.5%.

Breaking the link

This decoupling of emissions from economic growth is said to be down to the use of less fossil fuels, more renewable energy and increased energy savings.

The main emitters, accounting for 55% of the global total, were China, the US and the European Union. All three saw changes that were described as “remarkable” by the report’s authors.

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New research linking loss of arctic ice to increased rain in the UK, drying around the Mediterranean, and more Greenland Melt.

University of Exeter:

“In the UK, summer 2012 was the wettest for over 100 years, with frequent occurrences of flooding that caused damage to property and some fatalities; and profound impacts on local farming and tourism,” said Screen. “At the same time Arctic sea ice was very low. The six summers from 2007 to 2012 witnessed the six lowest amounts of sea ice on record, with summer 2012 the all-time low.”

In order to check whether there’s a link between melting Arctic sea ice and wet UK summers, Screen changed the amount of sea ice in a climate model – the UK Met Office Unified Model – whilst keeping constant other factors that affect European weather. Decreasing the amount of sea ice cover in the model caused a shift towards wetter summers over the UK and north-west Europe.

“The pattern of rainfall anomalies in the model looked very similar to the pattern of rainfall anomalies in recent years,” said Screen. “This led to the conclusion that the loss of Arctic sea ice is one factor that has likely contributed to increased rainfall in recent summers.”

Melting Arctic sea ice causes the jet stream (currents of strong winds roughly 10 km up in the atmosphere) to shift further south than normal, Screen found, increasing the frequency of cloudy, cool and wet summers over north-west Europe.

Dr. Jennifer Francis:

Dr Screen used a state-of-the-art atmospheric model to compare the mid-latitude circulation during conditions of extensive sea ice (representative of the late 1970s) to that with much reduced sea ice (representative of present day). Except for the sea-ice extent and ocean temperatures where ice was lost, all surface conditions were fixed at climatological values in the model, thereby isolating the influence of sea-ice loss. Observation-constrained reanalysis fields were composited for the wettest and driest summers in northern Europe and used to verify the model simulations.

The atmospheric responses to reduced sea ice in both real and modeled worlds show not only precipitation patterns in Europe similar to those observed during the past six abnormally wet summers, but they also reveal features in the large-scale circulation that appear coincident with unusual weather patterns experienced elsewhere around the northern hemisphere in recent years. For example, the meridional wind anomalies near the jet-stream level  suggest that reduced sea ice favors enhanced ridging over the western N. Atlantic, which is consistent with increased high-pressure blocking observed during June  and expanded melting of the Greenland ice surface

Below, recent video of Jennifer Francis and Jeff Masters explaining the ice/jetstream connection.

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I’ve discussed water as the limiting factor on conventional energy before.  This is one more reason why it is wrong to suppose the next 30 years of energy production will be the same as last – and one more way that climate change is sneaking up to bite fossil fools on the ass.

New study out of Argonne, profiles Texas as a microcosm – but the situation is global.

Christian Science Monitor:

..up to now, studies that have tried to glean the most economically viable mix of technologies for generating electricity have focused on the mix needed to meet some sort of cap on CO2 emissions.

“But that never considered the water,” he says, even as other studies looked at the water consumption that coal, nuclear, or gas-fired plants require for cooling and for steam to spin the turbines running the generators.

Researchers call this confluence of water and energy production in a world facing an ever-warming climate the water-energy nexus.

The issue made headlines in August 2008, when the Tennessee Valley Authority had to temporarily shut down three reactors at its Browns Ferry nuclear power plant in Athens, Ala., after a drought reduced water levels in the Tennessee River and a heat wave boosted the water temperatures. In principle, the plant still could have used the water for cooling its reactors, but the temperature of the effluent pumped back into the river would have exceeded limits set to protect aquatic life. Two years later, low water levels forced the utility to throttle back the reactors there to 50 percent capacity.

Similar concerns over water temperature and availability have affected nuclear plants from Kansas and the Connecticut coast to Europe.

Nuclear plants are not the only types of generating facilities affected.

In Texas, the state’s power plants should be able to tap existing surface-water supplies  through 2030, according to a study published in January that looked at the impact of weather variability on the state’s electric utilities and their future access to water.

But population growth and the need for more power plants are expected to force utilities to slake their thirst from other sources. These range from aquifers containing drinkable or brackish groundwater to some limited additional consumption of water currently being used to irrigate “low value” crops, the report suggests.

All of these are likely to be more expensive than currently available surface water supplies, according to the report prepared by energy and water specialists at Argonne National Laboratoryin Argonne, Ill.; Sandia National Laboratory in Albuquerque, N.M.; and the University of Texas at Austin.

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Climate change is gonna be, like, gnarly, dude.


While many Europeans were battening down the hatches and heading indoors until the storm known as Saint Jude had passed, a group of surfers in Portugal made their way out into the ocean to catch what may be some of the biggest waves ever ridden.

But it was also a day of high drama as a legendary Brazilian surfer nearly died, only to be rescued by a friend, who then went on to ride one of the biggest waves ever seen – possibly even topping the mythical 100 feet.

The coastline of Praia do Norte, near the fishing village of Nazaré, is known as a surfing paradise, but during the swell whipped up by Monday’s storm it seems the British surfer Andrew Cotton and the Brazilian Carlos Burle surfed waves that may yet break the all-time record, which currently stands at 78ft (23.8m).

The pictures and video emerging from Monday show that surfing is not all about golden Hawaiian sand. The astonishing waves in Portugal rose up from a storm-tossed sea driven in from the Atlantic, as crowds watched wrapped up against the rain.

Saint Jude killed at least 11 people across Europe and the waves were so dangerous in Portugal on Monday that Brazilian star Maya Gabeira was nearly drowned. She was being knocked unconscious and broke her ankle but was rescued by her compatriot Burle.

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Bright lights, small cities. Flares from fracking and oil shale fields in North Dakota are visible from space.

Windbaggers – when you told your wife that your herpes came from wind turbines – did she buy it?

I was once a first responder in my small midwest American town where a big company had come and started building a nuclear plant.
What a lot of folks didn’t get when they saw the utility slide show about jobs, jobs, jobs, – is that, invariably, while a certain number of local workers get hired, some of the demands of these projects invariably mean the local talent pools are quickly exhausted, particularly in a small town.  There’s a need for itinerant workers,  people with a fairly specialized skill set – boomers, who move from job to job, state to state, working these kinds of projects.
One of the first things local authorities noticed was a rise in the general level of chaos when the community became host to a large number of rootless, mostly male newcomers, who had money, and needed something to do on saturday night.

Ah, I remember it fondly.


Fracking rigs have popped up in at least 17 states including California, Texas, North Dakota, and Pennsylvania. Eighty-two thousand frack wells have been drilled since 2005, according to a report this month by the advocacy group Environment America. Seen in satellite images from space, parts of the Great Plains grow nearly bright as New York City with the light of drilling rigs and gas flares.

The rapid industrialization of North America’s countryside has brought a litany of big city problems to rural America. While critics accuse frackers of fouling air, drinking water, and farmland with swamp gas and carcinogens; prostitution, methamphetamine, and sexual crime have stalked drilling operations.

“There’s like 80 guys for every woman,” said an industry veteran who has watched a rising sprawl of trailer parks, dive bars, and strip clubs consume the North Dakota prairie in recent years. “A friend of mine brought his wife here with him. If he turns his back on her at Walmart, there are guys talking to her when he returns.”
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After the Earth 101 conference in Reykjavik, organizer Gudni Ellisson invited videographer Phil Coates and me to a tour of important renewable energy sites in south central Iceland.


Phil Coates in full Zen photon warrior mode

Phil is a top flight outdoor videographer, with recent credits documenting the Catlin Ice Survey,  and experience in just about every part of the world.  I’m not usually comfortable in front of a camera, but Phil insisted that I be a front man for interviews with Haldor Bjornsen of Iceland’s Met Office – our resident expert resource for the conference.  Then Phil did a bangup job of editing the resulting interviews in almost no time.

Brain eating Amoeba. photo National Geographic


Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) are investigating whether climate change could allow for the presence of the brain-eating amoeba, Naegleria Fowleri, in locations it has not previously threatened.

Naegleria Fowleri survives in warm, fresh water and infects people when contaminated water enters the nose and travels to the brain, resulting in the deadly infection known as primary amebic meningoencephaltis, or PAM.

The infection was confirmed in four children in the U.S. in the summer of 2013, killing three.

“There certainly is a concern,” Dr. Jennifer Cope, medical epidemiologist at the CDC, told

“We don’t have data right now to show that the infections are increasing, but just by the virtue of the fact that it’s a thermophillic organism and we’re seeing warmer temperatures, I think just put those two together. It certainly is something we are concerned about and we will be paying attention to.”

Most often, the infections are reported in southern-tier states, such as Florida and Texas, during the summer months. The two states have accounted for almost 50 percent of cases reported to the CDC since 1962.

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Stanford Engineer Mark Jacobsen has done ground breaking work on approaches to power the planet with Renewable energy. He tells Dave how.

Renewable Energy World:

1. What is your take on the Energiewende program?

Energiewende encouraged the growth of solar and wind worldwide. The feed-in tariff propagated globally, increasing solar penetration, and the solar industry in Germany boomed, creating significant jobs. The growth of wind in Germany spurred other countries to grow wind as well and encouraged a growth of wind manufacturers and the development of bigger and better turbines.

2. The New York Time’s article “Germany’s Effort at Clean Energy Proves Complex” states that “one of the first obstacles encountered involves the vagaries of electrical power generation that is dependent on sources as inconsistent and unpredictable as the wind and the sun. And no one has invented a means of storing that energy for very long, which means overwhelming gluts on some days and crippling shortages on others that require firing up old oil- and coal-burning power plants. That, in turn, undercuts the goal of reducing fossil-fuel emissions that have been linked to climate change.” However, others claim that more coal power plants have been shut down than started up (at least 20) and your work has shown that this would indeed be the case. What is your take on what is likely happening in terms of reserve fuels and emissions in this scenario?

Ensuring the reliability of the grid is merely an optimization problem. If fossil generators are used to fill in gaps, it is only because the current grid is inefficient and the health and climate impacts of fossils are not reflected in the costs of these fuels. It has nothing to do with whether it is possible to have a reliable grid with wind, water, and solar power. Several groups have shown that it is possible to combine wind and solar and use geothermal as a base load and fill in gaps between demand and renewable supply with hydroelectric and/or stored concentrated solar power to provide a grid reliable to 99.8 percent and higher. In addition, using demand response can help reduce demand at peak times. Further, oversizing the grid with wind and solar to make it easier to match normal electric power demand, and using excess wind and solar to produce hydrogen for transportation and district heat (as done in Denmark) can allow for a reliable grid and provide energy for other sectors of the energy economy.

3. The article also states the plan has created a strain on Germany’s power grid. A spokesperson for the grid operator Tennet is quoted saying: “Where energy was previously brought into the state and distributed to small communities, these communities are now producing the power, and we need to find a way to transmit it to the larger urban areas. Everything has been stood on its head.” Is this a valid concern or a normal step of transitioning energy systems?

Most people would argue that having local sources of energy increases local jobs and energy reliability, particularly when a disaster occurs. The fact that the local communities are producing too much can easily be rectified by converting other sectors of the local energy economy (e.g., transportation, heating/cooling, industry) to electricity.

It’s the weekend. You can warm up a cup of cider, or something stronger, stretch out, and put this on.

You’re welcome.


Bit of the Carbon bubbly anyone?

Wall Street Journal:

PITTSBURGH — Some of the largest pension funds in the U.S. and the world are worried that major fossil fuel companies may not be as profitable in the future because of efforts to limit climate change, and they want details on how the firms will manage a long-term shift to cleaner energy sources.

In a statement released Thursday, leaders of 70 funds said they’re asking 45 of the world’s top oil, gas, coal and electric power companies to do detailed assessments of how efforts to control climate change could impact their businesses.

“Institutional investors must think over the long term, which means that we must take environmental risks into consideration when we make investments,” New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli told The Associated Press in a statement. The state’s Common Retirement Fund manages almost $161 billion of investments.

Fossil fuels currently provide about 80 percent of all the energy used in the world. The pension funds say that because it takes decades to recoup the huge investments required for fossil fuel exploration, there’s a significant chance that future regulations will limit production or impose expensive pollution-control requirements that would reduce the fuels’ profitability.

Others signers of the letter include the comptrollers or treasurers of California, New York City, Maryland, Oregon, Vermont and Connecticut, as well as The Church of England Pensions Board, the Scottish Widows Investment Partnership, the investment firm Rockefeller & Co. and dozens of other funds that control a total of about $3 trillion. Only a fraction of that is with fossil fuel companies, however.

The American Petroleum Institute, which represents the industry, was examining the statement and did not immediately comment.

Big money quote:

“The scientific trajectory that we’re on is clearly in conflict” with the business strategy of the companies, Ehnes added, referring to the overwhelming consensus among top scientists from around the world that global warming is a man-made threat, that pollution from fossil fuels is the biggest problem and that many of the already-discovered fossil fuel reserves will need to stay in the ground to avoid extreme climate change.”

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