December 31, 2013
I posted earlier today about the Republican Party’s hostility to scientific knowledge.
Just before his death, Carl Sagan warned us about the perils of a technological society where fewer and fewer people know, or care, what science says.
December 31, 2013
If you’re having trouble nailing down your New Year’s resolutions, here’s a good place to start.
Seventy years ago, American folk legend Woody Guthrie scribbled in his journal a list of 33 tasks he would dedicate himself to in the coming year. According to WoodyGuthrie.org, he called them “Rulin’s.”
At age 31, he was in the prime of his life, with a wife and three kids, as well as a good deal of life experience, having survived the Dust Bowl to make it out to California.
As a result, it’s a pretty unbeatable list.
Good summation? “Take it Easy. But take it.”
December 31, 2013
UPDATE 3-Train collision in North Dakota sets oil rail cars ablaze
Dec 30 (Reuters) – A BNSF train carrying crude oil in North Dakota collided with another train on Monday setting off a series of explosions that left at least 10 cars ablaze, the latest in a string of incidents that have raised alarms over growing oil-by-rail traffic.
UPDATE: VIDEO DISCUSSION HERE
Local residents heard five powerful explosions just a mile outside of the small town of Casselton after a westbound train carrying soybeans derailed, and an eastbound 104-car train hauling crude oil ran into it just after 2 p.m. CST (2000 GMT), local officials said. There were no reports of any injuries.
Half of the oil cars have been separated from the train, but another 56 cars remain in danger, said Cecily Fong, the public information officer with the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services. The collision destroyed both engines on the oil train. Both trains were operated by BNSF Railway Co, which is owned by Warren Buffett’s Bershire Hathaway Inc.
The incident threatens to stoke concerns about the safety of carrying increasing volumes of crude oil by rail, a trend that emerged from the unexpected burst of shale oil production out of North Dakota’s Bakken fields. Over two-thirds of the state’s oil production is currently shipped by rail.
December 31, 2013
New research from the University of New South Wales discussed by study author Steven Sherwood, above.
Sherwood’s paper shoots more holes into lingering hopes that climate sensitivity, the amount of warming we expect for a given rise in CO2, might be lower than we thought – that maybe temp rises could be more moderate in the future.
One of the last, lingering, tattered bastions of climate denial has been that, somehow, there might be some kind of moderating feedback in the system, that, as climate warmed and brought more moisture into the atmosphere, more clouds might form, reflecting heat and moderating the changes. This has been the hobby horse for the Richard Lindzens and Roy Spencers of the world.
That hope is being steadily crushed as we learn more.
“Our research has shown climate models indicating a low temperature response to a doubling of carbon dioxide from preindustrial times are not reproducing the correct processes that lead to cloud formation,” said lead author from the University of New South Wales’ Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science Prof Steven Sherwood.
“When the processes are correct in the climate models the level of climate sensitivity is far higher. Previously, estimates of the sensitivity of global temperature to a doubling of carbon dioxide ranged from 1.5°C to 5°C. This new research takes away the lower end of climate sensitivity estimates, meaning that global average temperatures will increase by 3°C to 5°C with a doubling of carbon dioxide.”
The research indicates that fewer clouds form as the planet warms, meaning less sunlight is reflected back into space, driving temperatures up further still. The way clouds affect global warming has been the biggest mystery surrounding future climate change.
Professor Steven Sherwood, at the University of New South Wales, in Australia, who led the new work, said: “This study breaks new ground twice: first by identifying what is controlling the cloud changes and second by strongly discounting the lowest estimates of future global warming in favour of the higher and more damaging estimates.”
“4C would likely be catastrophic rather than simply dangerous,” Sherwood told the Guardian. “For example, it would make life difficult, if not impossible, in much of the tropics, and would guarantee the eventual melting of the Greenland ice sheet and some of the Antarctic ice sheet“, with sea levels rising by many metres as a result.
The research is a “big advance” that halves the uncertainty about how much warming is caused by rises in carbon emissions, according to scientists commenting on the study, published in the journal Nature. Hideo Shiogama and Tomoo Ogura, at Japan’s National Institute for Environmental Studies, said the explanation of how fewer clouds form as the world warms was “convincing”, and agreed this indicated future climate would be greater than expected. But they said more challenges lay ahead to narrow down further the projections of future temperatures.
Below, Andrew Dessler describes earlier research on the climate sensitivity question.
“This degree of warming would make large swaths of the tropics uninhabitable by humans and cause most forests at low and middle latitudes to change to something else,” says Steven Sherwood of Australia’s University of New South Wales, who led the study.
Read the rest of this entry »
December 31, 2013
I’m not sure if there is a conversion factor for IQ points vs belief in evolution, but if there is, the climate-denying Republican Party is experiencing a severe Brain drain. We now have the report (see below) that belief in the foundation of modern biology has dropped 10 points among Republicans recently, while the rest of the country is more or less steady.
There are several possibilities. One is that the Brain Eating Amoebas made it into the punch bowl at CPAC. Another is that literate, thinking people are leaving the party in droves. I know they were, at least once, there because my Father was Republican County Chairman in the Eisenhower era, when “family values” meant that, well, you valued families, by supporting the things that made them strong, functional and healthy. See my interview with Chris Mooney from 2011’s AGU meeting.
The other corrosive factor is the long term program by the anti-science industry to “recapture the K through 12 education system”, by passing laws that teach “both sides” – meaning, assert that the “Christian Bible as literal truth” is some kind of valid intellectual cafeteria style optional reality, as opposed to Science. ( I’m not the only one that’s asked if we should, to be fair, teach the creation myths of all cultures..never mind). These laws, not coincidentally, usually mandate, or allow, teaching the anti-science view on climate change as well. In the video above, ex-astronaut turned Tea Party nut-job Jack Schmitt, who should know better, advocates the “reforms” being pioneered in states like Tennessee and Louisiana. (skip to 3:00 if you’re in a rush)
Belief in evolution among Republicans has dropped more than 10 percentage points since 2009, according to a new poll by the Pew Research Center.
Pew found that 43 percent of Republicans said they believed humans and other living beings had evolved over time, down from 54 percent in 2009. More (48 percent) said they believed all living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time.
The percentages for Democrats and independents were considerably more stable: Democratic belief in evolution went from 64 percent in 2009 to 67 percent in 2013; independent belief dipped from 67 percent in 2009 to 65 percent in 2013.
December 30, 2013
The financial services firm UBS is predicting a “difficult year ahead” for global investor-owned utilities.
In a recent research paper, UBS equities analysts outlined a combination of challenges for utilities: —
“We forecast year-on-year power demand growth to be negative in key developed markets in 2014 and beyond,” wrote the analysts. “Regulatory and consumer focus on energy efficiency initiatives will further erode the demand pie. Simultaneously, we expect renewables — especially solar and wind — to continue to gain competitiveness as cost structures improve, and renewables supply to further pressurize the demand curve and profitability of conventional generators.”
Aside from Indonesia, most key emerging markets will see considerable declines in electricity demand compared to traditional growth rates. A combination of emerging efficiency standards and increasing renewables deployment are causing the slowdown.
Total U.S. electricity sales have declined in four of the past five years, and are on track to continue to decline in 2013. The only year-over-year rise in electricity use since 2007 occurred in 2010, as the country exited the 2008-09 recession.
December 30, 2013
A well connected individual in the EV industry told me the other day, “There are three kinds of liars. Liars, damn liars, and battery salesmen.”
Having said that, he went on to relate how, despite all the hype, false promises, and vaporware we’ve seen in recent years, it appears that serious people now believe we are on the cusp of transformative energy storage technology in wide use – tech that will make electric cars with performance comparable to gasoline, at a price point the middle class can afford, within this decade.
Welcome to the days of miracles and wonders.
We are now in a transition period where battery prices are dropping by 20-30% each year. The consequences for the automotive industry are mind boggling.
About a century ago the nascent automotive industry started out by producing electric vehicles. Even big names such as Porsche started their business on a pure-electric basis. In the hundred-year hiccup that followed we have burned billions of tons of fossil fuel, but the clean times of pure electric are returning.
The trigger to this all is simple: affordable batteries. Just as the television business was turned upside-down by the prices of flat-panel TVs in the 90’s and similarly the solar business by plummeting panel prices in the decade thereafter, we are now in a transition period where battery prices are dropping by 20-30% each year. The consequences for the automotive industry are mindboggling.
Battery prices are the main cost drivers of electric vehicles. Last year Volkswagen stated that it would be possible to manufacture a 100% electric vehicle more cheaply than a car with a combustion engine within three years.