Blame Canada

September 22, 2014


Canada leads the world in forest degradation, according to a new mapping project.

The project, put together by World Resources Institute, Greenpeace and multiple other groups, uses interactive maps to display forest degradation and destruction around the world between 2000 and 2013. According to WRI, more than 104 million hectares (about 401,546 square miles) — a chunk of land the group notes is three times the size of Germany — of the world’s remaining large, undisturbed forests, or Intact Forest Landscapes, were degraded in the last 13 years. The Northern boreal region of Canada, Russia and Alaska had some of the largest area of degraded forests, with the Amazon having the second-largest and the Congo basin the third.

In Canada’s tar sands region, forest fires and industrial development have destroyed or degraded almost two million acres of boreal forest since 2000, according to Peter Lee, Director of Global Forest Watch Canada. Lee told ThinkProgress in an email that Canada’s main driver of forest destruction is an “increased frequency and extent of forest fires” driven by climate change. These fires are likely converting areas that were once heavily forested into shrublands. Logging and road-building are the second-biggest causes of forest destruction and degradation, Lee said, and “massive increases in the pace and scale of energy developments, especially non-conventional oil and gas developments in northern Alberta’s tar sands region and also in north-eastern British Columbia with the shale plays,” is the third.

In order to mine for tar sands in Canada’s boreal region, swaths of boreal forest are cut down, and according to the Sierra Club, none of the land altered to make way for tar sands mining has been “certified as reclaimed” by Alberta, Canada’s government. Canada’s boreal forests serve as key breeding habitat for 292 species of protected birds, according to a June report, and tar sands development has resulted in the death of thousands of these birds. Read the rest of this entry »

Well, I would. You probably would.

But TV journalists are highly trained, and rigorously selected, to be able walk right through such a thing and be completely incurious and oblivious.
Hey, that’s why they make the big bucks.

Jack Mirkinson in Huffington Post:

The People’s Climate March on Sunday was perhaps the largest climate change protest in history. Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets of New York City. Celebrities and high-profile politicians were among the marchers. The protest was a huge topic on social media.

All in all, it was a perfect opportunity for some of America’s biggest news organizations to cover the topic of climate change, something that usually gets either ignored or badly handled. For Sunday talk show hosts, there was even a nice political hook, since the march was pegged to a UN summit that President Obama will be attending.

Well, so much for that idea. It seems climate change remains one potentially world-shattering issue that just can’t get any respect on television. No Sunday morning show except MSNBC’s “Up” so much as mentioned climate change, or the march, save for one stray reference on “This Week” by The Nation’s Katrina vanden Heuvel. She pointed out that the march was actually gathering right outside the ABC studios in Lincoln Center where the show is taped.

“NBC Nightly News” was the only evening news show to do any segment on the march. (ABC devoted about 23 seconds to the topic in its evening show, and CBS spent exactly zero seconds on it.) Cable news, with the exception of Al Jazeera America, mostly looked the other way, besides a couple of segments on CNN and MSNBC.

A correspondent writes to me:

While the rally exceeded expectations in terms of turnout and energy. I have to say even I am floored by the abysmal coverage on the part of the networks.
As far as I can tell — based on (a friend’s) vigilant monitoring and what I’ve seen – or not seen – this morning, it is truly appalling that CNN, and apparently ABC  and CBS (one minute of random raw footage on does not cut in my book) ignored what was happening in their own backyard, weekend or not.
Good for NBC Nightly News for at least doing a story on it but cannot say the same for it’s Today Show which so far this morning — almost two hours in — has
not so much as mention the historic rally. They have, of course, heavily covered the missing UVA student, sadly still missing with NOTHING NEW TO REPORT, and what Gwen Stefani “really” thinks about the judges on some stupid talent show. Ugh.



Climate Central:

Just days after NASA data showed that August 2014 was the warmest August on record, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration confirmed the ranking and raised the ante: There’s a good chance 2014 could become the warmest year on record.

“If we continue a consistent departure from average for the rest of 2014, we will edge out 2010 as the warmest year on record,” said Jake Crouch, a climatologist with NOAA’sNational Climatic Data Center, during a press briefing Thursday.

Specifically, if each of the remaining months of the year ranks among the top five warmest, 2014 will take the top spot, he said.

The news may come as a surprise to those living in the eastern portion of the U.S., which has seen a relatively cool year so far, with a frigid winter followed by anear-average summer (which seemed extremely mild compared to recent steamy summers). But the global picture shows that the East was “pretty much the only land area in the globe that had cooler-than-average temperatures,” Crouch said. (The western U.S., on the other hand, has been baking.)

For the year-to-date, the globe has measured 1.22°F above the 20th century average of 57.3°F, which makes January-August 2014 the third warmest such period since records began in 1880. The record-hot August marks the 38th consecutive August and the 354th consecutive month with a global average temperature above the 20th century average, according to the NCDC.

The oceans have fueled much of this year’s warmth, with parts of the Indian Ocean and central Pacific, among other spots, recording their record warmest conditions in both August and the entire January-August period. “And most of the oceans were much warmer than average” during that period, Crouch said.

The Pacific warmth is due in part to the El Nino that has been struggling to develop there for much of the year. An El Nino is defined by warmer-than-average sea surface temperatures in the tropical central and eastern Pacific and tends to raise global temperatures; some El Nino years rank among the warmest on record.

Of the five warmest years on record (2010, 2005, 1998, 2013, and 2003, in that order), only 2013 and 2014 didn’t start with a mature El Nino, according to NOAA. Of the top 10 warmest years on record, 1998 is the only year that didn’t occur in the 21st century, showing how much global temperatures have risen due to the increase of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Read the rest of this entry »


John D. Rockefeller built a vast fortune on oil. Now his heirs are abandoning fossil fuels.

The family whose legendary wealth flowed from Standard Oil is planning to announce on Monday that its $860 million philanthropic organization, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, is joining the divestment movement that began a couple years ago on college campuses.

The announcement, timed to precede Tuesday’s opening of the United Nations climate change summit meeting in New York City, is part of a broader and accelerating initiative.

UPDATE: Message from Nobel Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Times continued:

“This is a threshold moment,” said Ellen Dorsey, executive director of the Wallace Global Fund, which has coordinated the effort to recruit foundations to the cause. “This movement has gone from a small activist band quickly into the mainstream.”

Not everyone will divest completely or right away, Ms. Dorsey noted, and some are divesting just from specific sectors of the fossil fuel industry, such as coal.

“The key thing is that they are moving along toward a common destination,” she said.

The Guardian:

Archbishop Desmond Tutu has called for an anti-apartheid-style boycott and disinvestment campaign against the fossil fuel industry for driving global warming, just days ahead of a landmark UN report on how carbon emissions can be slashed.

In an article for the Guardian, the archbishop writes: “We live in a world dominated by greed. We have allowed the interests of capital to outweigh the interests of human beings and our Earth. It is clear [the companies] are not simply going to give up; they stand to make too much money.”

Tutu, one of the most revered figures of South Africa’s anti-apartheid struggle and a key backer of the economic and moral campaigns that helped end the system, says: “People of conscience need to break their ties with corporations financing the injustice of climate change. We can, for instance, boycott events, sports teams and media programming sponsored by fossil-fuel energy companies.”

The Nobel peace prize winner also called for investors to dump their fossil fuel stocks: “It makes no sense to invest in companies that undermine our future. Already some colleges and pension funds have declared that they want their investments congruent with their beliefs.”

Washington Post:

“There is a moral imperative to preserve a healthy planet,” said Valerie Rockefeller Wayne, a great-great-granddaughter of oil magnate John D. Rockefeller Sr. and a trustee of the largest charitable foundation in which the family still plays the leading role.




At a private shindig in little town called New York City last week, SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive and Chairman Elon Musk (Lyndon’s cousin and also the CEO, Chief Product Architect, and Chairman of Tesla Motors) made a few casual but potentially world-changing announcements, as is practically a habit with Elon.

Most notably, they stated that SolarCity would be including battery backup systems with every single one of its rooftop solar power systems within 5-10 years. Many of those, but not necessarily all of them, would come from Tesla’s planned gigafactory.

Even with the battery backups, Lyndon and Elon contend that a SolarCity installation will cost less than the price of electricity from the grid!

For Tesla Motors, the leap from a mobile EV battery to a stationary battery package for businesses is a logical move, now that its production costs are on track. Tesla co-founder JB Straubel explains:

The economics and scale that Tesla has achieved in the automotive market now make stationary energy storage more cost effective and reliable than it has ever been in the past. We expect this market to grow very rapidly now that we have crossed this economic threshold.

MIT Technology Review:

Rive and Musk, who are cousins, also said at the New York event that within the same time frame electricity from solar power would become cheaper in the U.S. than power produced from natural gas. To meet that target, the pair both plan to build two major manufacturing operations that will feed off each other. One of Musk’s other companies, Tesla Motors, announced plans earlier this month to build a vast factory for producing lithium-ion batteries in Nevada (see “Does Musk’s Gigafactory Make Sense?”). This factory will supply batteries for its electric vehicles as well as to Solar City. While some lithium-ion batteries and solar cells are made in the U.S. today, the vast majority are made in Asia.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Tipping Point

September 21, 2014

We won’t know for decades whether we have crossed critical thresholds, tipping points, in the climate system, but I think this much we can say – the Climate and Renewable Energy movement crossed a tipping point on September 21, 2014.

Elite media journalists, the kool kids of DC, true to current form, will be the last to know.
UPDATE: Monday morning talk shows largely ignored the climate march.

Shhhh. Be vewy, vewy, quiet… let’s see how long it takes them….

Media Matters:

Sunday news shows on NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN and Fox failed to cover the People’s Climate March, a massive protest against climate change being held September 21 in New York City in conjunction with events in more than 150 countries worldwide.

Meet the PressFace the NationState of the Union, and Fox News Sunday ignored the event, which is being touted by participants as “the largest mobilization against climate change in the history of the planet.” The Nation editor and publisher Katrina vanden Heuvel briefly mentioned the march on ABC’s This Week while arguing that national security concerns surrounding climate change are not receiving adequate attention.



They’re calling it the largest mobilization against climate change in the history of the planet. Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators of all ages and from around the world turned out for the massive People’s Climate March Sunday, filling the streets of midtown Manhattan with demands for global leaders take action to avert catastrophic climate change.

Crowds gathered with banners, flags and floats around Columbus Circle late Sunday morning as music and chants rang out at the start of the march. At exactly 12:58 p.m., demonstrators held a moment of silence in honor of the victims of climate change, followed by a cacophony of noise with drums, cheers and horns to sound the alarm to the crisis.


NYTimes environmental writer Justin Gillis tweets on the march.

Organizers estimate that as many as 310,000 demonstrators turned out for the march, though police won’t comment, telling msnbc they don’t release crowd numbers. The crowds were so massive that by mid-afternoon, organizers said they were asking people to disperse and cut the march short by nearly ten street blocks.

Vice News:

Overwhelming Manhattan’s seemingly unwhelmable Midtown neighborhood, demonstrators rallied together in support of Mother Earth two days ahead of the UN summit, where nations are expected to lay the groundwork for a future carbon emissions plan. Any potential binding agreement is not expected to be made until the Climate Change Conference in Paris late next year.

Organizers had expected around 100,000 people to attend but announced Sunday afternoon that more than 310,000 protesters had assembled. The impressive march, organized in conjunction with more than 2,800 events in 166 countries, couldn’t have come at a more demonstrative moment — just a week after national climate scientists reported searing temperatures over the summer months that broke all records since, well, records began.

Climate March Live Feed

September 21, 2014

Live feed above. let me know if it works.

Some estimates of more than 300k people.

Arctic Sea Ice Bucket Update

September 21, 2014

The Arctic Sea Ice Bucket Challenge is being answered and going viral.  If you’re keeping up, here are the latest.

Above, John Cook of Skeptical Science, below, Ice expert Mauri Pelto


Stephen Lewandowsky’s response to John Cook. (amusing)

The Future is not what it used to be.  Although I don’t expect to have a rocket car anytime soon, it looks as though dreams of solar panels and wind turbines powering a green economy are no longer in the future, they are now.  I’m working on a new “solutions” piece for Yale Climate Connections, and gathering a wealth of  exciting perspectives.

I unexpectedly found myself on a Skype call the other day with S. David Freeman, former chair of the Tennessee Valley Authority, and someone who has forgotten way more about energy than I ever will know.  89 odd years old and spot on.

Turns out he’s got a lot of company these days in heralding the new age of renewable energy.

IEEE Spectrum:

Large wind and solar power farms have the economics to go toe-to-toe with the cheapest fossil fuel-based power supplies in the United States according to the venerable financial advisory firm Lazard Ltd. Thanks to falling costs and rising efficiency, reports Lazard in an analysis released this week, utility-scale installations of solar panels and wind turbines now produce power at a cost that’s competitive with natural gas and coal-fired generating stations—even without subsidies.

The results appear in the eighth annual update of Lazard’s Levelized Cost of Energy Analysis [pdf], which compares the combined cost of financing, building, and operating power generating plants using a variety of energy technologies. Lazard projects that new utility-scale solar plants will deliver energy at US $72-86 per megawatt-hour, and wind turbines beat that with a cost of $37-81/MWh.

Those renewable energy options compare well against the cost of the most cost-effective natural gas-fired technology—combined cycle plants—which delivers at a projected $61-127/MWh (depending on whether the plant captures its carbon dioxide emissions). The renewables look even better against coal in Lazard’s analysis, which prices new coal-fired generation at $66-171/MWh.

The London-based Financial Times says the message is that renewables arestarting to “outshine” gas. The FT quotes George Bilicic, Lazard global head of power, energy & infrastructure, accepting that renewable energy has finally arrived: “We used to say some day solar and wind power would be competitive with conventional generation. Well, now it is some day.”

Financial Times:

Large wind farms and solar plants are now cost-competitive with gas-fired power in many parts of the US even without subsidy, according to Lazard, raising the prospect of a fundamental shift in the country’s energy market.

Read the rest of this entry »

New ad sponsored by Billionaire Tom Steyer’s political action group is funding the new ad, aimed at the GOP Candidate’s connection with the Koch brothers, an issue that seems to have traction here.

Washington Post Plum Line:

Dem Rep. Gary Peters, who is running for Senate in Michigan, is calling on GOP foe Terri Lynn Land to take a stand on whether she believes human activity is responsible for global warming. It may seem far fetched, but climate change could actually be an issue in this one Senate race, because of two factors: The centrality of the Great Lakes to the Michigan economy; and the huge expenditures on behalf of Land by the political group founded by Charles and David Koch.

Land’s spokesperson, in a statement to me, would say only that she disagrees with Peters on the “extent” to which humans have caused climate change, while adding that there “should be a healthy and educated debate on the impact of human activity on our environment.”

In an interview with me on Friday, Peters said (this will strike some as implausible, and others as refreshing) that he intends to talk about climate change as a key issue in this race, with a focus on the Great Lakes and on the role of a Koch Industries affiliate in a major local story involving piles of petroleum coke along the Detroit River.