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PORTSMOUTH, R.I. — A Benedictine monk who works at a private Rhode Island school has discovered that finding solitude is no easy feat, even 175 feet in the air.

Brother Joseph Byron was recently relaxing atop the Portsmouth Abbey School’s wind turbine — as he often does — when a drone zoomed in.

Video taken by the drone, owned by a Californian on vacation, shows Byron sprawled across the turbine’s flat surface, with views of Narragansett Bay in the background. The footage was posted online this week.

Byron told the Providence Journal on Thursday he’s now hearing from everyone on the planet.

He says seeing the drone was a little annoying since he climbs the turbine when he wants to be alone.

Byron has been climbing the turbine since its 2006 installation.

Weird. “..fossil fuels are partly to blame for climate change..”.


UPDATE: For what it’s worth, one of the major “fact checking” web sites has now contacted the scientists interviewed here to follow up.

I think this is important.

The other night, we had yet another demonstration of how things go wrong when one of our major political parties decides that they no longer believe in the scientific method.

Rick Santorum, former Senator and current Presidential candidate in the US, appeared on the Bill Maher program.  With the departure of Jon Stewart, Maher is left as one of the few remaining powerful, critical and satiric voices available in the media, and thus the platform is an important one.
Maher quizzed Santorum about climate change, and why it was that Santorum did not believe in the overwhelming consensus, 97 percent, of the science community, who have warned about the human causes of climate change.

Santorum’s response was horrifying, but at least we can take the opportunity to learn from it, as an example of how the alternative universe of climate denial works.

“The most recent survey of climate scientists said, 57 percent don’t agree with the idea that 95 percent of the change in the climate is being caused by man.”

Maher’s response, “Which ass did you pull that out of?”,  was dead-on appropriate.

Since I spend a lot of time looking at asses on this blog, I decided to investigate, using an obscure, antique, and seldom used technique that has fallen out of favor among most professional journalists, –  calling up the author of the survey, and asking him what it really said.

Meet Bart Verheggen.

Another paper that Santorum maligned was the famous “97 percent” paper by John Cook. I spoke to John via skype twice in the last 24 hours, and here’s the first quick cut, more coming.

UPDATE: I had a second chat with John Cook this morning, and he went thru the Santorum statements in more detail.

Read the rest of this entry »

Transcript here.

About that Arctic drilling thing:

This is all real. This is happening to our fellow Americans right now. In fact, Alaska’s governor recently told me that four villages are in “imminent danger” and have to be relocated. Already, rising sea levels are beginning to swallow one island community.Think about that. If another country threatened to wipe out an American town, we’d do everything in our power to protect ourselves. Climate change poses the same threat, right now.

President Obama discussed his upcoming three-day trip to Alaska in this morning’s weekly address, tying the visit tightly to the dangers and challenges of climate change. And while he lauded the nation’s efforts to move to clean energy, he spoke of the need to continue to rely on less-than-clean sources—which led him to discuss his adminstration’s recent decision about letting Shell into the Arctic:

Now even as we accelerate this transition, our economy still has to rely on oil and gas. As long as that’s the case, I believe we should rely more on domestic production than on foreign imports, and we should demand the highest safety standards in the industry – our own. Still, I know there are Americans who are concerned about oil companies drilling in environmentally sensitive waters. Some are also concerned with my administration’s decision to approve Shell’s application to drill a well off the Alaskan coast, using leases they purchased before I took office. I share people’s concerns about offshore drilling. I remember the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico all too well.

His administration, he told listeners, has “made it clear that Shell has to meet our high standards in how they conduct their operations – and it’s a testament to how rigorous we’ve applied those standards that Shell has delayed and limited its exploration off Alaska while trying to meet them.”

I interviewed paleo-biologist Jonathan Payne, of Stanford, for my recent piece on Extinction events, which you can find below the fold.

The last major extinction event, the one most people have heard about, happened, we think, when a massive asteroid strike wiped out the Dinosaurs.  The good news is, that’s pretty rare.
The bad news is, not all extinctions are caused by asteroids. Read the rest of this entry »

One Day at the Wind Farm

August 29, 2015

One summer day at Breckinridge Wind Farm nearby, a time lapse video went somewhat awry..
Wind Turbines, more economical, and beautiful, than ever.

For the video above, full screen and headphones advised.

Scaling Green:

  • After a “Lackluster” 2013, Wind Power Grew in 2014: “Wind power additions rebounded in 2014, with 4,854 MW of new capacity added in the United States and $8.3 billion invested.”
  • Wind power represented 24% of electric-generating capacity additions in 2014. Wind power was the third-largest source of new generation capacity in 2014, after natural gas and solar. Since 2007, wind power has represented 33% of all U.S. capacity additions…”
  • Lower turbine prices have driven reductions in reported installed project costs. The capacity-weighted average installed project cost within our 2014 sample stood at roughly $1,710/kW—down $580/kW from the apparent peak in average reported costs in 2009 and 2010.”
  • Wind PPA prices have reached all-time lows. After topping out at nearly $70/MWh for PPAs executed in 2009, the national average levelized price of wind PPAs that were signed in 2014 (and that are within the Berkeley Lab sample) fell to around $23.5/MWh nationwide—a new low” and “below the bottom of the range of nationwide wholesale power prices.” Read the rest of this entry »

Nasa has some new videos out tracking vanishing ice caps and rising seas. I’ll let them spell it out.


Sea level rise is a natural consequence of the warming of our planet.

We know this from basic physics. When water heats up, it expands. So when the ocean warms, sea level rises. When ice is exposed to heat, it melts. And when ice on land melts and water runs into the ocean, sea level rises.

For thousands of years, sea level has remained relatively stable and human communities have settled along the planet’s coastlines. But now Earth’s seas are rising. Globally, sea level has risen about eight inches since the beginning of the 20th century and more than two inches in the last 20 years alone.

All signs suggest that this rise is accelerating.

While NASA and other agencies continue to monitor the warming of the ocean and changes to the planet’s land masses, the biggest concern is what will happen to the ancient ice sheets covering Greenland and Antarctica, which continue to send out alerts that a warming planet is affecting their stability.

“We’ve seen from the paleoclimate record that sea level rise of as much as 10 feet in a century or two is possible, if the ice sheets fall apart rapidly,” said Tom Wagner, the cryosphere program scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “We’re seeing evidence that the ice sheets are waking up, but we need to understand them better before we can say we’re in a new era of rapid ice loss.”

Read the rest of this entry »