Today’s forests have been greatly altered by human activity and face increasing threats from drought, insect infestations and fire. A Special Section in Science this week examines forest health from the tropics to the boreal forests of the north. Read more:

Christian Science Monitor:

“Although it [the boreal forests] remains largely intact, it faces the most severe expected temperature increases anywhere on Earth. Mr. Schepaschenko said some parts of Siberia are likely to eventually become 11 C warmer. That will bring greater precipitation, but not enough to compensate for the dryness caused by hotter weather. A drier boreal will suffer new diseases, insect infestations and vast wildfires,” The Canadian Press’s Bob Weber reported.

The boreal forest, which is sometimes called by its Russian name “the taiga,” is a belt of coniferous trees that sprawl across North America and Eurasia. Lying atop formerly glaciated areas and places with patchy permafrost, these forests are subject to varying environmental conditions.

Now, Schepaschenko says that the trees cannot move northward, or towards colder climates, quickly enough.

“The forests can’t go so far to the north. The speed at which forests can move forward is very slow, like 100 metres a decade,” he said.

Above, I recently chatted again with Michael Osborne, former Executive at Austin Energy,  now Chairman of the Electric Utility Commission for Austin, Texas.
Austin Energy is one of the nation’s largest municipal utilities, and has been on the cutting edge of solar and wind energy development for decades.

Wall Street Journal:

FORT STOCKTON, Texas—A new energy boom is taking shape in the oil fields of west Texas, but it’s not what you think. It’s solar.

Solar power has gotten so cheap to produce—and so competitively priced in the electricity market—that it is taking hold even in a state that, unlike California, doesn’t offer incentives to utilities to buy or build sun-powered generation.

Pecos County, about halfway between San Antonio and El Paso and on the southern edge of the prolific Permian Basin oil field, could soon host to several large solar-energy farms responsible for about $1 billion in investments, according to state tax records.

On a recent day, contractors for OCI Solar Power LLC erected posts for a solar farm that will be the size of more than 900 football fields. First Solar Inc. was negotiating to lease an adjacent property, its second project in the county. Last year, the Arizona company began capturing sunlight on 400,000 black solar panels in a separate project, converting the abundant sunlight into about 30 megawatts of power.
texas_solarwsfWest Texas “is flat, the land is open, available and cheap and there is a lot of sun” said Raiford Smith, vice president of corporate planning for CPS Energy, a city-owned utility in San Antonio. “It is an ideal place for putting solar.”

Another reason for the boom: Texas recently wrapped up construction of $6.9 billion worth of new transmission lines, many connecting West Texas to the state’s large cities. These massive power lines enabled Texas to become, by far, the largest U.S. wind producer.

Solar developers plan to move electricity on the same lines, taking advantage of a lull in wind generation during the heat of the day when solar output is at its highest.

My discussion with Michael was wide ranging, and I’ll be posting a part 2 in the coming week.

My prior interview with Mr. Osborne was included in the very popular Yale Climate Connections video on solar and renewable energy, below:

Read the rest of this entry »

Leading experts have been telling me that a strong new El Nino event could kick off a renewed surge in warming, with global temperatures beginning again to rise as fast, or faster, than they did from 1975 to 1998.
2015, so far, is blowing the record year of 2014 out of the water.
Looking at these frightening graphs, it’s hard not to be concerned. Indeed, a well known scientist told me in an email last night, “I am emotionally having a hard time because dear god, how can it be this hot?”

Joe Romm in Climate Progress:

Last month was not just the hottest July on record. Since July is “the warmest month of the year globally,” NOAA’s latest monthly State of the Climate Report, notes that July 2015 “was also the highest among all 1627 months in the record that began in January 1880.”

There never was any slow-down in surface temperature warming, and indeed the NOAA report confirms that 2015 is all but certain to crush previous global temperature records. That’s especially likely since the strong underlying global warming trend is being boosted by an emerging “Godzilla El Niño,” as a NASA oceanographer put it.

Here are some of the other records NOAA identifies for “combined average temperature over global land and ocean surfaces” in the dataset for the month of June from the years 1880 to 2015:

  • Hottest first seven months of any year “at 0.85°C (1.53°F) above the 20th century average, surpassing the previous record set in 2010 by 0.09°C (0.16°F).”
  • “Austria recorded its hottest July since national records began in 1767.”
  • “A high pressure dome over the Middle East brought what may be one of the most extreme heat indices ever recorded in the world on July 31st … a heat index of 74°C (165°F).”

It was especially hot for the 6 billion of us up here in the northern hemisphere, where the first seven months of 2015 were a remarkable 0.3°F warmer than the first seven months of any year on record — and nearly a half degree Fahrenheit warmer than any year before 2007:


2014 was the hottest year on record. 2015 will easily top that. And it is entirely possible 2016 could beat 2015, as discussed here. The long-awaited speed up in global surface temperatures appears to be starting now, as heat that has been sequestered in the deep oceans begins to come out in the current El Nino.

Oil Slide Gets Even Uglier

August 21, 2015


More indicators that the current oil price chasm will be longer, and stronger, than most experts have been telling us over the last year.

China’s economic slowdown, and the expected flood of Iranian oil on to the world market, will tend to hold prices down and keep them down. This means sustained pain for “exotic” oil producers, such as extreme arctic drilling, or Alberta Tar Sands. Stay tuned.


If crude’s slump back to a six-year low looks bad, it’s even worse when you reflect that summer is supposed to be peak season for oil.

U.S. crude futures have lost 30 percent since the start of June, set for the biggest drop since the West Texas Intermediate crude contract started trading in 1983. That beats the summer plunges during the global financial crisis of 2008, the Asian economic slump in 1998 and the global supply glut of 1986.

Crude could fall to $10 a barrel as the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries engages in a “price war” with rival producers, testing who will cut output first, Gary Shilling, president of A. Gary Shilling Co., said in an interview on Bloomberg Television on Friday.

“OPEC is basically saying we’re not going to cut production, we’re going to see who can stand lower prices longest,” Shilling said. “Oil is headed for $10 to $20 a barrel.”


With oil prices collapsing and companies in retrenchment, a federal auction in the Gulf of Mexico on Wednesday attracted the lowest interest from producers since 1986.

It was the clearest sign yet that the fortunes of oil companies are skidding so fast that they now need to cut back on plans for production well into the future.

The auction, for drilling leases, attracted a scant $22.7 million in sales from five companies, but energy analysts said that came as no surprise on a day when the American oil benchmark price plummeted by more than 4 percent. For the first time since the recession, it is approaching the symbolic $40-a-barrel level. Last summer, it was above $100 a barrel.

A glut on American and world markets is to blame for the depressed prices, but the unusually large daily decline occurred after the Energy Department, in a report, lowered its oil price projections and showed a considerable increase in inventories.

Until now, most companies have insisted that they would not sacrifice production in future years when they said oil prices were sure to rebound strongly. But in recent weeks, executives have expressed concern that the oil price collapse could last through 2016 and even 2017, and it is important that they tighten their belts even more.



Above item from a BBC production shows that scientists have been concerned about climate enhanced drought impacts in California and other areas for several decades,  in particular the social and economic impacts of these kinds of events.

Here’s an update on a few things we know about the current California drought. As senior scientists have been telling me for years, climate warming may or may not cause more droughts, but for those that do occur, they can come on stronger, be more intense, and perhaps last longer, then they other wise would.  New research confirms this is the case in the ongoing California situation.

Experts have told me that the new research looks at whether a warmer climate in itself has intensified the drought, but not as to whether a warmer climate has caused unusual atmospheric circulation patterns, such as the “ridiculously resilient ridge” that has been so persistent in diverting moisture from the US West Coast.


Global warming caused by human emissions has most likely intensified the drought in California by 15 to 20 percent, scientists said on Thursday, warning that future dry spells in the state are almost certain to be worse than this one as the world continues to heat up.

Even though the findings suggest that the drought is primarily a consequence of natural climate variability, the scientists added that the likelihood of any drought becoming acute is rising because of climate change. The odds of California suffering droughts at the far end of the scale, like the current one that began in 2012, have roughly doubled over the past century, they said.

“This would be a drought no matter what,” said A. Park Williams, a climate scientist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University and the lead author of a paper published by the journal Geophysical Research Letters. “It would be a fairly bad drought no matter what. But it’s definitely made worse by global warming.”

and, Oh, by the way..

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration also reported Thursday that global temperatures in July had been the hottest for any month since record-keeping began in 1880, and that the first seven months of 2015 had also been the hottest such period ever. Heat waves on several continents this summer have killed thousands of people.

Here, Kevin Trenberth sums up the effect of a warming climate on droughts.

Below, several interviews shed more light on the evolving crisis.

Read the rest of this entry »

6 minute report from Democracy Now.


A group of leading Islamic scholars have issued a declaration calling on the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims to do their part to eliminate dangerous greenhouse gas emissions and turn toward renewable energy sources. The declaration urges world leaders meeting in Paris later this year to commit to a 100 percent zero-emissions strategy and to invest in decentralized renewable energy in order to reduce poverty and the catastrophic impacts of climate change. The declaration comes on the heels of the publication of Pope Francis’s encyclical on the environment earlier this year, which also calls for sweeping action on climate change. Like the encyclical, this declaration, endorsed by more than 60 leading Islamic scholars, links climate change to the economic system, stating: “We recognize the corruption that humans have caused on the Earth due to our relentless pursuit of economic growth and consumption.” We speak to Bangladeshi climate scientist Saleemul Huq, one of the contributors and signatories to the Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change.

The Conversation:

However there is an environmental framework inherently embedded within the traditional principles of Islam, and it is possible to extend these principles to consider contemporary changes. Traditionally there are five major obligations for all Muslims: proclamation in the oneness of Allah, prayer, fasting, pilgrimage and alms-giving (charity towards the poor). Each can help the environment.

Read the rest of this entry »

Very nice video from the ice sheet edge in this report from a Chinese English News service on the effects of rain events on the speed of Greenland Ice flow. Significant because those kinds of events are happening over larger areas of the ice sheet as the climate warms. (audio slightly out of synch, but good visuals)

Not sure if this represents greater coverage of climate issues in the Chinese media, but welcome nevertheless.

The video features several scientists from the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland, who were co-authors of a study published in Nature, with Jason Box, and Alun Hubbard.

CCTV English:

In one of the studies published in ‘Nature,’ scientists described how lakes under the ice sheet are draining far faster than previously thought. The water released then lubricates the bottom of the sheet, accelerating its movement.

The result is increased ‘calving,’ where blocks of ice break off from the glacier’s edges. The other study points to a similar mechanism from rainfall.

“When you get rainfall occurring over the ice sheet, especially close to the end of the melt season, the water finds it hard to get out of the ice sheet. So it goes down to the bed of the glaciers of the ice sheet and it will try to find a way out anyway it can,” said Ruth Mottram, climate scientist, Danish Meteorological Institute.

“But, by the end of the melt season there isn’t very efficient drainage: it’s like the pipes that drain the ice sheet are starting to close down; they’re starting to get blocked.”

“So this means that the whole ice sheet starts to move, it starts to accelerate, because this water is lifting it up and it’s kind of lubricating the bed a little. So this has quite an important impact on the ice sheet as a whole; the whole thing starts to stretch, it starts to move a bit fast, you maybe get an increase in calving.”

Below, video from Jason Box, taken during a rain event in 2014. Read the rest of this entry »

In this, undoubtedly the hottest year in the modern record, already well on the way to smashing the last record set in 2014, one of the hardest hit regions on earth is the already calamity-battered middle east.

Meanwhile, would-be leaders in the US remain stubbornly oblivious to the gathering climate-fueled political crisis. (above)


Bandar Mahshahr, Iran, soared to a staggering heat index of 163 degrees Friday afternoon as a heat wave continued to bake the Middle East, already one of the hottest places on earth.

“That was one of the most incredible temperature observations I have ever seen, and it is one of the most extreme readings ever in the world,” AccuWeather meteorologist Anthony Sagliani said in a statement.

While the temperature was “only” 115 degrees, the dew point was an unfathomable 90 degrees. On Thursday, the Iranian city of about 100,000 reached a heat index of 154 degrees. The combination of heat and humidity, measured by the dew point, is what makes the heat index — or what the temperature actually feels like outside.

“A strong ridge of high pressure has persisted over the Middle East through much of July, resulting in the extreme heat wave in what many would consider one of the hottest places in the world,” Sagliani said.

Baghdad sweltered to its all-time record high on Thursday when temperatures soared to 124 degrees, AccuWeather reported. The heat was so bad that Iraq’s Council of Ministers declared a four-day mandatory holiday throughout the country starting Thursday.

Thomas Friedman in the New York Times:

Then we saw something we’ve not seen before: An Iraqi government was sacked over its failure to deliver air conditioning. Two weeks ago, the prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, abolished all three vice-presidential posts and the office of deputy prime minister and proposed sweeping anti-corruption reforms after weeks of street protests over the fact that the government could supply electricity for air-conditioning for only a few hours a day during weeks of 120-degree temperatures.

As The Times’s Anne Barnard reported on Aug. 1, the heat issue in Iraq “has even eclipsed war with the Islamic State. The prime minister … declared a four-day weekend to keep people out of the sun … and ordered an end to one of the most coveted perks of government officials: round-the-clock power for their air-conditioners. …

Read the rest of this entry »

pluto ‘Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.’ – Albert Einstein

Climate deniers are often compared to those who claim NASA never landed on the moon.  There are similarities, and probably a certain amount of crossover, as it seems we have a hard core of people who simply want to believe that those crazy NASA scientists are lying to them, in order to steal their money, or something.

Now we have a new strain of denier, unwilling to believe that a spacecraft has reached Pluto. Remember the days when we had hope that the internet would make us smarter?


There’s a small but vocal group of conspiracists—bloggers have taken to calling them “Pluto Truthers”—who claim the recent images are fake. In fact, they argue, New Horizons is simply the latest bogus galactic mission to deceive the public, perhaps to divert tax money to more secretive or nefarious government projects. That trickery is nothing new, they charge; it goes all the way back to the first moon landing.

Crrow777 isn’t the only one calling it baloney. Kedrick Blessed (real name), a 30-year-old computer engineer in California, says he grew up wanting to be an astronaut—until he stopped believing that NASA had the technology to go into space. “Anybody can go on the computer and create those,” he says of the Pluto images. “There’s no radiation lines…. There’s no stars.” NASA claims to do missions such as New Horizons, he says, only to build popularity for the agency.

Justin Shaw of Lethbridge, Alberta, says there is no doubt in his mind that the flyby images are computer-generated. “The whole mission is fallacious. There’s no authenticity to this at all,” he says. “People don’t think twice about it.” He adds, “I’m not sure what their motive would be to be faking it, other than deception. We have a lot of tax money that’s disappearing for who knows what reason.”

Years of dealing with climate science denial have taught me that Einstein had it right.


Following the declaration by Pope Francis in June, leaders in the Islamic world have now issued a warning on climate change to the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims.

In May, I interviewed Imam Achmat Sallie, an important leader in the burgeoning movement of “Green Islam”.  Imam Sallie is founder of the Islamic Studies program at Mercy College of the University of Detroit.


Muslim leaders and experts from 20 countries emerged from talks in Istanbul on Tuesday with an eight-page declaration urging Islam’s 1.6 billion followers to recognize and take action against the threat of climate change, Reuters reports.

The declaration, signed by 60 leaders, including the Grand Muftis of Uganda and Lebanon, takes an urgent tone on the moral obligation of corporations, political leaders and all Muslims to protect Earth.

“We are in danger of ending life as we know it on our planet,” the statement says, according to The Guardian. “This current rate of climate change cannot be sustained, and the earth’s fine equilibrium (mīzān) may soon be lost.”


A group of Islamic experts urged the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims on Tuesday to do more to fight global warming, in a new example of religious efforts to galvanize action before a U.N. climate summit in Paris in December.

In June, the world’s most important Christian leader, Pope Francis, urged world leaders to hear “the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor” in an encyclical on the environment for the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics.

Unlike Roman Catholicism, Islam is a highly decentralized religion with no single recognized authority. But Muslim experts from 20 nations agreed an 8-page declaration at talks in Istanbul where it was adopted by 60 participants including the Grand Muftis of Uganda and Lebanon, a statement said.

“Excessive pollution from fossil fuels threatens to destroy the gifts bestowed on us by God, whom we know as Allah – gifts such as a functioning climate, healthy air to breathe, regular seasons, and living oceans,” they wrote.

They said inaction on reining in manmade greenhouse gas emissions, from factories, power plants and cars, would mean “dire consequences to planet earth”.

The declaration called on rich governments – and oil-producing states that include some OPEC nations where Islam is the state religion – to lead the way in “phasing out their greenhouse gas emissions as early as possible and no later than the middle of the century.”