The story of ‘snowball earth” has been distorted and used as confusion fodder by climate denial luminaries like His Celestial Magnanimity, the looney “Lord” Monckton, – see above.(starts about 1:50)

In contrast to today, when warming from our industrial injection of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere threatens life on the planet, in the deep past, CO2 pulled planet earth from a permanent, deathly world-wide deep freeze, maybe more than once.  In both cases, it’s those same heat-trapping properties that made the difference.

It’s all more evidence of how co2 has acted as the planet’s “biggest control knob” for temperature over 4 billion years.

Ian Fairchild, PhD, in The Conversation:

The idea of a deep-frozen world, “snowball Earth”, has captured the imagination since first proposed in the 1990s. On several occasions in history, long before animals evolved, apparently synchronous ice sheets existed on all the continents. However, much like falling into a crevasse on a glacier, it’s easy enough to enter such an ice age, but very difficult to escape.

The snowball Earth theory came from climate modellers who found that low carbon dioxide levels could trigger the growth of ice sheets. The whole planet would become glaciated and its mean temperature drop to as low as -45°C. As ice is much more reflective than the sea, or bare land, the Earth at that point would have been bouncing nearly all of the sun’s radiation back into space. So how could the planet ever emerge from such an ice age?

Volcanoes had to be the answer. Only they could emit enough carbon dioxide into the atmosphere to overcome the effects of Earth’s cool reflective surface. But climate models still found it difficult to plausibly describe how the Earth could have shed its glaciers.

We now have the first full explanation for how the best-known snowball event, the Marinoan, finished 635 million years ago with a several hundred metre rise in sea level. The study is the result of work by an international team of scientists, including myself. Our results are published in the journal Nature Geoscience.

We found slight wobbles of the Earth’s spin axis caused differences in the heat received at different places on the planet’s surface. These changes were small, but enough over thousands of years to cause a change in the places where snow accumulated or melted, leading the glaciers to advance and retreat.

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As Poland endures a crushing drought, vanishing waterways yield long hidden skeletons buried in the mud.

Guardian:

As river levels in Poland fall to record lows in a prolonged drought, Jewish tombstones and a Soviet fighter plane with the remains of its pilots have been found in the riverbank, evidence of Poland’s tortured 20th-century history.

Those discoveries follow the findings of stone fragments from the early 20th-century Poniatowski bridge across the Vistula river in Warsaw, which the Germans blew up in 1944 as they crushed the Warsaw uprising. The bridge was rebuilt after the war.

“The Vistula river is hiding no end of secrets. They are everywhere,” said Jonny Daniels, head of the Jewish foundation From the Depths, who waded into a shallow area of the Vistula on Tuesday, picking up fragments of stones with Hebrew lettering.

Elsewhere on this page, you can see that, similarly, as the fossil fuel industry dries up in the US, Court documents from a coal bankruptcy have revealed ugly details of climate denial’s buried bodies.

This rather stunning news item from several months ago shows that we may be finding more skeletons in the muck as the coal industry continues it’s death spiral – first in the US, then in the rest of the world.

CNBC:

The coal sector’s investment outlook is a paradox.

What’s not to like? Plenty.

Coal stocks have been clobbered, and there remain few signs of life in the sector. The Dow Jones Coal Index has plunged 36.5 percent in the past year, and in the past five years (brace yourself) it is down almost 75 percent—87 percent since before the last recession began in 2007.

Of coal companies that have publicly traded debt, Moody’s Investors Service and Standard & Poor’s rates all their bonds as junk. “If you look at the long term, it’s not getting any better,” said Standard & Poor’s analyst Aneesh Prabhu. “It’s a secular decline.”

Almost none of the companies are currently growing sales—a recipe for stock inertia, at best—and at a time when they’re beset by utilities’ switch to natural gas, prompted by hydraulic fracking, a transition that skeptics still don’t think the sector can manage. Natural gas prices collapsed beginning in 2008 as new supplies hit the market, changing probably forever the competitive landscape for fuels used in the electricity business.

In both the U.S. and Europe, regulatory changes now in the pipeline are expected to make new coal-powered electricity plants economically unfeasible, and even accelerate the mothballing of existing coal plants.

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enso_plume0815

Above, NOAA has published a graph of modeling predictions from various professional groups looking at the developing El Nino event in the Pacific.

The dark line that starts at the left is actual observations of what we see so far in unusually warm surface water in the central and eastern pacific.  The various colored lines that proceed to the right are the different attempts at predictions. As you can see, they are running hot – very hot, to the point of sailing off the top of the chart…

As you can see from this diagram, global temperatures tend to get a bounce in El Nino years, while La Nina years exert a cooling influence.

elnino5-copyEconomist:

EL NIÑO is Spanish for…The Niño!” joked Chris Farley on a 1997 episode of Saturday Night Live, a sketch comedy programme. The skit was memorable for its absurdity but it did not do much to explain “The Niño”. It aired during the devastating 1997-1998 El Niño, which caused at least $35 billion in destruction and 23,000 deaths globally. A new El Niño is now brewing. NASA satellite pictures indicate this year’s could be even bigger than the 1997-1998 one, the strongest on record. So what is El Niño?

godzillarises

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Irony alert. Leading anti-science attack dog’s funding comes to light in a coal company bankruptcy proceeding.

Chris Horner, (who I met some years ago while soundly thrashing him in a “debate”), is an attorney, who, early in his career, worked for Enron. Presumably, they were not evil enough for him, so he moved on to someplace he could do more harm to larger numbers of people and species.
For insight on what Horner does for a living, see above.

Lee Fang at firstlook.org:

Christopher Horner, an attorney who claims that the earth is cooling, is known within the scientific community for hounding climate change researchers with relentless investigations and public ridicule, often deriding scientists as “communists” and frauds.

hornerHorner is a regular guest on Fox News and CNN, and has been affiliated with a number of think tanks and legal organizations over the last decade. He has called for investigations of climate scientists affiliated with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and NASA, and inundated climate researchers at major universities across the country with records requests that critics say are designed to distract them from their work.

New court documents reveal one source of Horner’s funding: big coal.

Last Thursday’s bankruptcy filing of Alpha Natural Resources, one of the largest coal companies in America, includes line items for all of the corporation’s contractors and grant recipients. Among them are Horner individually at his home address, as well as the Free Market Environmental Law Clinic, where he is a senior staff attorney.

Reached by phone today about his relationship with Alpha Natural Resources, Horner said he would get back with us. David W. Schnare, director of the Free Market Environmental Law Clinic, subsequently emailed a response neither confirming nor denying that Horner or his organizations have received funding from the coal giant. Schnare said that “nearly all” his organization’s donors “request that we not disclose their names” and noted that under IRS regulations it is not required to do so. Schnare also stated that “the sources of our funding have no role in which cases” his organization prosecutes.

Wow. Nothing like a bankruptcy filing to shine a light on nefarious doings of the fossil fueled anti-science fringe…

Lee Fang at firstlook.org:

The corporation helped fund the Kentucky Opportunity Coalition, a secretive nonprofit group that refused to disclose any donor information during the election last year. The Kentucky Opportunity Coalition was the largest outside campaign entity in the Kentucky senate race, spending over $14 million on television and radio commercials to successfully reelect Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in his campaign against Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes. Read the rest of this entry »

Free Market Free Loaders

August 25, 2015

lessgov

Snohomish County firefighter Ken Lawless, left, and Lt. Brandon Gardner being thanked by a man near Omak after firefighters saved his home from a wildfire.

In this pic posted at Daily Kos, there is a lot of irony.

In fire-devastated Washington state, the gentleman on the right is thanking exhausted, hard-working fire fighters for saving his house, while wearing a tee shirt that says, “Lower Taxes + Less Government=More Freedom.
Presumably the gentleman is one of those free market freeloaders who hates the government, hates taxes,  but wants to drive on the roads, fly safely in the skies, use the internet, get weather data from satellites, have clean water to drink and safe food to eat, to keep poison tainted toys away from his children, and send them to good schools,  but who apparently thinks all these services,  including, when needed, police and fire protection, and for that matter, climate protection, will come for nothing, provided by untrained people who work for sub-minimum wages.

Next time there’s a fire, and there will be a next time, perhaps he will ponder whether he can fight it with his garden hose, or form a bucket brigade with his neighbors…

tarsandds

Tar Sands Tomorrowland – the future climate deniers have in mind for you and your children.  But reality is not cooperating…

Much as water is a critical limiting factor for the supposed infinite fossil fuel development in China and Asia – it’s turning out to be a crimp on Canada’s massive Oil sands projects.

At the same time, slumping global oil prices – which are not projected to recover any time soon, are drying up investments in the expensive “exotic” oils that we’ve been told are going to extend fossil fuel dominance in this century.  That story is steadily fraying around the edges…

ClimateProgress:

Dozens of tar sands developers in Alberta’s tar sands have been suspended from taking water — needed for their operations — out of local rivers, after a low flow advisory was issued.

The Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) suspended 73 licenses to temporarily divert water (TDLs) from the Athabasca, Peace, and Wabasca rivers on July 24, after unusually dry weather caused water to fall to at or below healthy maintenance levels. Now, scientists are saying this could become a regular issue for Alberta’s tar sands industry.

Tar sands mining is a type of surface mining in which the top layer of organic matter — trees and plants — is scrapped off, and heavy crude oil is filtered from the sand and clay below. Three barrels of water are needed for every barrel of oil extracted from the tar sands, according to Friends of the Earth.

“More than 90 percent of this water, 400 million gallons per day, ends up as toxic waste dumped in massive pools that contain carcinogenic substances like cyanide,” the group says. Processing the oil from tar sands is incredibly carbon-intensive, and because of tar sands, the energy sector has become Canada’s biggest source of greenhouse gases.

As global warming worsens, some regions, including Alberta, can expect more and more dry summers, scientists say.

“This is absolutely a preview of the future,” Simon Dowell, a climate scientist at the University of British Columbia, told ThinkProgress.

Inside Climate News:

A dramatic reversal of fortune for Canada’s tar sands oil industry has cheered environmental advocates, and it may also leave Prime Minister Stephen Harper vulnerable in the coming federal election because of the economic repercussions, some have predicted.

Harper, who has essentially bet his career on the bounty from unlimited expansion of tar sands production, has spent his six terms in office as the champion of extracting as much energy as possible from Alberta’s vast bitumen deposits—the tar-like fossil fuel found in ancient sand formations.

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Christian Science Monitor:

Energy in the 21st century is slowly but surely shifting from centralized, emissions-heavy generation to decentralized, cleaner generation. The US government hopes to nudge that transition along by incentivizing businesses and homeowners to play a larger role in producing and consuming electricity.

That’s the aim of a new climate and energy package released Monday by the White House. The new initiatives are modest, especially when compared to the sector-wide Clean Power Plan finalized earlier this month. But they emphasize an element of the 21st-century energy shift that is often overlooked in debates about our energy future: namely, that tomorrow’s power won’t just be cleaner or more efficient, it is also likely to be less concentrated in the hands of utilities and more distributed among everyday citizens across the country.

“We are seeing the beginning of this transformation,” Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said in a press call unveiling the initiatives Monday, “and we see a huge opportunity to expand it rapidly.”

Emerging technologies like solar panels, smart thermostats, microgrids, and advanced batteries give consumers more information about their energy use, and give them more control over the flow of electrons that powers their everyday devices. Traditionally, electricity generation has been concentrated in the hands of massive power plants and the utilities that run them. That power is beginning to expand out into decentralized networks of solar panels, wind turbines, and energy storage sites across the country.

Solar Energy, not just for tree huggers anymore…Conservatives like Arizona’s Barry Goldwater Jr. have now become advocates of what they are calling “energy freedom” – pushing Utilities to stop throwing roadblocks in front of citizens who want to participate in the renewable revolution.

Crain’s Detroit Business:

Barry M. Goldwater Jr. has a problem with fellow conservatives and utility executives in Michigan.

Goldwater Jr., 77, told me in an interview this week that he is upset with Michigan Republican legislators who he says want to discard the state’s successful net metering law that has helped to create jobs and a booming yet fledgling industry for rooftop solar projects on residential homes, churches and small businesses.

goldwaterjrThe son of one of the icons of the Republican Party – five-term Sen. Barry Goldwater of Arizona, Cold War warrior and Republican presidential nominee in 1964 – Goldwater says Michigan conservatives have it all wrong.

Goldwater contends the legislative effort in Michigan to pay rooftop solar owners less for the power they generate and ignore the contributions they are making to increase reliability and electricity on the grid is similar to one playing out in at least 15 other states.

“You might say there is a conspiracy of some sorts,” said Goldwater, who was a U.S. congressman representing California from 1969 to 1983. He served on many energy, science and technology committees during his career.

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Part 2 of my interview with Austin, TX Electric Utility Commissioner Michael Osborne. Part one here.

We talked about an unexpected synergy between Texas oil men and a new breed of Solar wildcatters. In West Texas, where an oil boom has been in progress, (up to the last few months, see elsewhere on this page) – electric transmission is not well developed.  Oil wells require steady supplies of electricity, which has driven up prices locally – motivating solar entrepreneurs to come in and meet the demand – which in turn revs up the solar market, lowering prices across Texas, and elsewhere…

Bloomberg:

SunEdison Inc., the biggest clean-energy developer, began construction on a Colorado solar farm that will be the largest in the state and comes out ahead in direct competition with natural gas.

The 156-megawatt Comanche solar farm will deliver power to Excel Energy Inc.’s Public Service of Colorado utility under a 25-year agreement, Maryland Heights, Missouri-based SunEdison said in a statement Thursday. The utility awarded the contract through an open solicitation, with the solar farm beating out other power sources including gas, SunEdison said.

The deal shows that renewable energy is increasingly able to compete on price with fossil fuels. Utilities that are planning for future demand growth are looking more carefully at solar panels and wind turbines, which will be cheaper to operate over the next few decades in part because they have no fuel costs, said Julie Blunden, chief strategy officer at SunEdison.

“We actually can offer solar and wind that’s cheaper than gas,” Blunden said in a phone interview Thursday. “It’s such an important inflection point. We can sell power without any fuel-price risk.”

PV Tech:

An administrative judge in the US state of Minnesota has ruled solar generation to be a better investment than natural gas for electric and natural gas utility, Xcel Energy.

The judgment is the first time in the US that unsubsidised solar energy has been officially ruled to be a better deal for ratepayers than natural gas in a competitive bidding process.

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2015’s Summer of Fire

August 25, 2015

At least 4 firefighters killed in the Twisp, Washington area in the last few days.
My brother lives in the area, – he’s ok as of now, but it’s the second year in a row fires have threatened to burn him out.

Mashable:

The Okanogan Complex wildfire in Washington State has become the largest wildfire in state history, burning more than 400 square miles and counting, beating another fire that earned the dubious title just last year. As of Monday morning, the fire was only 10% contained, and officials warn that it could continue burning until snow arrives in the fall.

The fire, which has now surpassed last year’s Carlton Complex blazes, is one of at least a half-dozen large blazes burning across Washington, where a federal disaster declaration has been issued and firefighting assistance has arrived from as far away as Australia and New Zealand, in addition to state and federal assets on the ground and in the air.

In Washington, resources were so strained that officials earlier took the unprecedented step of seeking volunteers to help fight the flames. Fire officials over the weekend began providing basic fire training to volunteers who have machinery like backhoes and bulldozers so they can help dig fire lines.The surge in wildfires has smothered much of the West in a blanket of smoke, limiting visibility in Seattle and Portland, and casting a shadow in front of normally pristine vistas in national parks from Glacier National Park to Yellowstone.

These unnerving images show the scale of destruction from wildfires close to Lake Baikal, the jewel of Siberia. The sky is aglow over the Republic of Buryatia from the uncontrolled burning, the latest outbreaks of fires that have been destroying forests around the world’s oldest and deepest lake for a number of weeks.

Locals and tourists could only gaze from beaches beside the lake at the impressive but disturbing images from the flames and smoke.

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It’s hideous, sad, darkly funny, but all too true,  “state of the art” of climate denialism comes out of the mouths of US presidential candidates, of the once-great Republican Party.   These are people clearly smart enough to know better,  with funding to hire staff who certainly know that the majority of US voters are now concerned about climate change, and in favor of dealing with it.

But the job these briefers have is not enviable, because they have to craft statements that steer a narrow passage between the rabidly anti-science base of that party, those most motivated to turn out in early  primaries next year, and the remainder of the population, many of whom are concerned, but confused and unclear on the facts of climate threats, and solutions.
The ideal statement will convey something like “of course we all want clean air” platitudes, sprinkled with enough distortions to placate the uninformed, and ideally, kick the wormcan of ignorance down the campaign trail a few more months so that said candidate might somehow remain acceptable to sentient voters, as well as those with barely functioning brainstem awareness.

Not long ago, I posted a notable example from Louisiana Guv Bobby Jindal – but this week’s winner is former Hewlett Packard exec and newly buzzy it-girl Carly Fiorina, in an interview with Katy Couric, above.

Dave Roberts in Vox provides cliff notes:

1) “One nation, acting alone, can make no difference at all”

This is the argument du jour on the right, pushed most prominently by writers at the Cato Institute. The idea is that climate policy is all pain for no gain. For instance, they note that according to EPA’s own model, the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, aimed at reducing carbon emissions from power plants, will only avert 0.018°C of warming by 2100. Why bother?

This is a daft argument, for two reasons.

First, it’s not true that one nation can make no difference at all (0.018 is not 0.000). It’s just that a single policy by a single nation can make only a small difference.

But … so what? Climate change is a big problem, global in scope, affecting this generation and all future generations. We don’t have much experience with problems like that, but we know, via logic and math, that the only way to solve such a problem is for every major country to do its part, in a coordinated effort that is sustained over the remainder of the century. So America is doing its small part and working to coordinate with other countries doing the same, building a framework of trust that may allow for greater ambition down the road.

What’s the alternative? Unchecked climate change will lead to immense suffering, concentrated in but not confined to the world’s poorer countries. Unless we’re willing to accept that suffering — and you never quite hear Republicans own up to that — we have to do our part.

Second, there’s a growing body of research showing that an aggressive transition to clean energy pays for itself even aside from its effects on climate. Reducing the use of fossil fuels will have enormous “co-benefits,” including better health, cleaner air and water, and a much lower fuel bill. And while renewable energy is still more expensive on average, its costs are rapidly falling, and most analysts expect it to outcompete most fossil fuels in most places within the next few decades. Cleantech industries are booming, offering great advantages to first movers. The transition is inevitable; only the speed is to be decided, and the winners and losers.

So “one nation, acting alone” can make a difference, by doing something that’s worth doing anyway. And refusing to do it would be a gross abdication of moral leadership.

2) California “destroys lives and livelihoods with environmental regulations”

California’s climate regulations are indeed the most ambitious in the nation, and they just keep getting more ambitious. (A pair of new climate bills has cleared the Senate and is headed to the Assembly.)

If California were its own country, it would be one of the world’s top 10 in total renewable energy generation and one of the bottom two in carbon intensity. It is the top state in the nation for venture capital investments in cleantech, cleantech patents, and advanced-energy jobs. In fact, it leads the nation in virtually every cleantech category, from electric vehicles to green buildings to solar capacity to policy to investment, reliably topping the US Cleantech Leadership Index.

Meanwhile, between 1993 and 2013, thanks to energy efficiency, the average residential electricity bill in California declined, on an inflation-adjusted basis, by 4 percent, even as bills rose elsewhere in the country. Between 1990 and 2012, the state cut per-capita carbon emissions by 25 percent even as its GDP increased by 37 percent. Its total carbon emissions are declining, even as its economy continues to grow.

Oh, and California created more jobs than any other state in the nation last year, with the fifth-highest GDP growth rate. And its budget is balanced.

Looks like the state is surviving its environmental regulations so far.

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