Birthing the Solar Age

June 30, 2014

A few years ago I set out to make a series of “Renewable Energy Solution of the Month” videos, but I’ve been swamped in the meantime by continually trying to keep up with and sort out  the tidal wave of information, and disinformation, about climate change itself.  Finally I’m getting back around to presenting the hopeful facts. Speaking to thousands and thousands of people has convinced me that, if you only talk about the problem, and not the path forward, its almost as if people literally, physiologically – can’t hear you.

One more reason to support Dark Snow this year:


For months I’ve been gathering interviews with people I know who are following the renewable energy explosion –  and everywhere I go, I’m telling people that we are in a stage very much like the internet in about 1993 – taking shape and about to blow up. In fact, the key enabling technologies for renewables are growing right out of the distributed information network that is shaping the new century. There’s no going back, and the companies, and countries, that do not grasp the scale of the change we are seeing, may not survive.

Dr. Jeff Masters has a nice write up or current Greenland conditions, and the Dark Snow Project. He mentions Maniitsoq, which is one of the stops we made last year on our way to the ice cap, and the site one month later of the warmest temps in Greenland’s historical record. See Above.

The graph Dr. Masters uses reminded me of a similar one from James Hansen, which I’ve inserted below the fold, along with ominous results of recently published research.  The message is, we’d better get Greenland right.

Dr. Jeff Masters at Weather Underground:

The heat is on in Greenland, where the high temperature on Tuesday hit an unusually warm 67°F at Kangerlussuaq (Sønder Strømfjord) in southwestern Greenland. It’s been a hot June at Kangerlussuaq, where the temperature peaked at 73°F on June 15. That’s not far below the all-time hottest temperature ever recorded in Greenland of 78.6°F, set just last year on July 30 at nearby Maniitsoq Mittarfia, as documented at wunderground’s extremes page. The unusual warmth this year melted nearly 40% of the Greenland Ice Sheet in mid-June, according to data from the National Snow and Ice Data Center–far above the usual 15% figure. The warm June temperatures could be setting the stage for a big Greenland melt season this summer, and scientists with the Dark Snow Project are on the ice, 48 miles east Kangerlussuaq, conducting a two-month field experiment on the causes and implications of Greenland ice melt.

Human-caused global warming has set in motion an unstoppable slow-motion collapse of the glaciers in West Antarctica capable of raising global sea level by 4 feet (1.2 meters) in a few hundred years, said NASA in a May 2014 press release. What’s more, one of the glaciers involved, the Thwaites Glacier, acts as a linchpin on the rest of the ice sheet, which contains enough ice to cause a total of 10 to 13 feet (3 to 4 meters) of global sea level rise over a period of centuries. This unstoppable collapse makes saving Greenland “absolutely essential”, said glaciologist Richard Alley in a May 2014 interview in Mother Jones.

Greenland’s ice sheet holds enough water to raise global sea levels by 7.36 meters (24.15 feet) were it all to melt, and civilization would be hard-pressed to deal with 10 – 13 feet of sea level rise from West Antarctica, let alone another 20+ feet from Greenland. “If we’ve committed to 3.3 meters (10.8′) from West Antarctica, we haven’t committed to losing Greenland, we haven’t committed to losing most of East Antarctica,” said Alley. “Those are still out there for us. And if anything, this new news just makes our decisions more important, and more powerful.” Unfortunately, the Greenland Ice Sheet is much more vulnerable to melting than previously thought, found a May 2014 study by Morlighem et al.,Deeply incised submarine glacial valleys beneath the Greenland ice sheet. The researchers found that widespread ice-covered valleys extend much deeper below sea level and farther inland than previously thought, and would likely melt significantly from steadily warming waters lapping at Greenland’s shores.

Figure 2. Monthly changes in the total mass (in Gigatonnes) of the Greenland ice sheet estimated from GRACE satellite measurements between March 2002 – July 2013. The blue and orange asterisks denote April and July values, respectively. Note that the decline in ice mass lost from Greenland is not a straight line–it is exponential, meaning that in general, more ice loss is lost each year than in the previous year. However, the mass loss during the 2013 summer melt season was probably smaller than during 2012, said the 2013 Arctic Report Card.

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Dipping their toes in the sanity pool.
Hey guys, the water’s fine.

Rising. But fine.



I came across a recent example of very pure congressional climate paranoia porn in this vid from a Sara Palin wannabe running in Louisiana.
Watch if you dare, but put down hot liquids first, and don’t say I didn’t warn you. Read the rest of this entry »

E&E News:

Two years ago this week, a fierce, fast-moving thunderstorm system known as a derecho ripped through the Mid-Atlantic leaving more than 1 million of Maryland’s 2.5 million electricity customers without power.

In the aftermath of the storm, the state stepped up efforts to improve the resiliency and reliability of the grid. This week, at the behest of Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), the Maryland Energy Administration (MEA) released a road map for microgrid deployment as part of a strategy to withstand future storms, which are expected to become more intense as a result of climate change.

Building microgrids is one possible solution. A microgrid combines various loads with distributed energy resources and advanced control equipment to allow portions of the electric grid to operate independently from the larger grid network, or to “island” in the case of the macrogrid going down.

Islanding capability is attractive to universities, hospitals and military installations aiming to protect their critical loads. It’s also attractive to communities looking to survive the next storm, a dynamic that is spurring the development of a new, potentially controversial microgrid model.

Interest in microgrids has soared in recent years as extreme weather events like Superstorm Sandy have battered the United States and as the price of solar, combined heat and power plants and other decentralized energy sources has dropped.

As part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, the Department of Energy launched a microgrid competition yesterday that will give six operational microgrids an award of $100,000. The submissions, due Aug. 29, are intended to help DOE learn more about how microgirds can improve grid resiliency while promoting cleaner, cost-effective power generation.

According to Navigant Research, North America will be the global leader in total microgrid capacity through 2020, when global annual market revenue is expected to hit $40 billion.
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After a stream of grim and grimmer news on the climate front, I’ve been putting together a new video on solutions to the climate crisis.
To do so, I spoke to some of the most insightful and experienced people I know in and out of the utility industry, academia, and government.

Skip Pruss is a former advisor to Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, and an advanced student of energy economics.  His explanation of Minnesota’s “Value of Solar” initiative is clear and valuable.  He is among the luminaries who will appear in the upcoming video, the first, I hope, of many highlighting the way forward.

Alan Carlin, (no relation to George, I’m quite sure) was a Fox News flash in the denialist pan a few years ago. An economist with no climate credentials, but apparently with right wing conspiracist leanings, claimed to have authored a “report” on climate change, that was censored by the EPA. Remember?
Anyway, he’s being recycled.  Which is normal in the science denial business.

And, well, it got me thinking, why not recycle my takedown of Mr. Carlin from several years ago, above.

Media Matters:

CNBC sought someone to write about “global warming being a hoax” in order to counter a major new report that shows the economic cost of failing to take climate action.

As Republic Report first reported, the cable business channel CNBC reached out to DeSmogBlog, a website that rebuts climate change denial, to ask Alan Carlin, an economist who denies that the majority of recent warming is man-made, to write about “global warming being a hoax.” (CNBC apparently mistakenly assumed that Carlin worked with DeSmogBlog because they had profiled him.) Media Matters has confirmed that Cindy Perman, the commentary editor of, sent the following message to DeSmogBlog:

Hi there. Given this new report on the cost of climate change, wanted to extend an invitation to Alan Carlin to write an op-ed for Can be on the new report or just his general thoughts on global warming being a hoax.

As Media Matters has documented, the majority of CNBC’s climate change coverage in 2013 falsely suggested that climate change is not occurring or that it is not mostly man-made, even though 97 percent of climate scientists say it is.

And Cenk (above) throws in another 10 K. Shoot. That’s real money.

Dialogues on Global Warming:

I have heard global warming skeptics make all sorts of statements about how the science doesn’t support claims of man-made climate change. I have found all of those statements to be empty and without any kind of supporting evidence. I have, in turn, stated that it is not possible for the skeptics to prove their claims. And, I’m willing to put my money where my mouth is.

I am announcing the start of the $10,000 Global Warming Skeptic Challenge. The rules are easy:

1. I will award $10,000 of my own money to anyone that can prove, via the scientific method, that man-made global climate change is not occurring;

2. There is no entry fee;

3. You must be 18 years old or older to enter;

4. Entries do not have to be original, they only need to be first;

5. I am the final judge of all entries but will provide my comments on why any entry fails to prove the point. Read the rest of this entry »