Not as svelte as a Tesla Power Wall, but – Smart is the ultimate sexy.

Chris Mooney in the Washington Post:

New research suggests that in the future, one of the most lowly, boring, and ubiquitous of home appliances — the electric water heater — could come to perform a surprising array of new functions that help out the power grid, and potentially even save money on home electricity bills to boot.

The idea is that these water heaters in the future will increasingly become “grid interactive,” communicating with local utilities or other coordinating entities, and thereby providing services to the larger grid by modulating their energy use, or heating water at different times of the day. And these services may be valuable enough that their owners could even be compensated for them by their utility companies or other third-party entities.

“Electric water heaters are essentially pre-installed thermal batteries that are sitting idle in more than 50 million homes across the U.S.,” says a new report on the subject by the electricity consulting firm the Brattle Group, which was composed for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Peak Load Management Alliance.

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Russian wheat field burns in the historic 2010 drought

Climate denier talking point: We’ll open up northern areas and grow more food.

Reality. Not so much.
NPR reports. Videos show why this is a big problem.


The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says last month was the warmest January on record. That sets off alarm bells for climate scientists, but for the average person living in a northern climate, it might not sound so bad.

That’s what many people are saying these days in Russia, where the expected icy winter has failed to materialize this year – to widespread joy. Of course, any climate scientist will tell you that an unusually warm month — or even a whole warm winter — doesn’t mean much. It’s the long-term trend that counts.

But that’s not how it appears to the popular imagination, says George Safonov, who heads the Center for Environmental and Natural Resource Economics at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow. He says there’s a big temptation in northern countries to believe that warmer weather can bring economic opportunities, such as improving conditions for farming.

“Before 2010, we had a rising harvest rate for crops, and that was explained as a very positive impact of climate change,” he says. “It was not easy to convince people that this is not correct.”

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Divestment movement starting to bite.

Climate Change News:

Big Oil must thwart the movement to leave fossil fuels in the ground, the world’s most powerful oilman said on Tuesday.

Addressing executives in Texas, Saudi oil minister Ali Al-Naimi said the industry had to shed its “Dark Side” image and show it was a “force for good”.

“As an industry, we should be celebrating that fact, and better explaining the vital importance of these precious natural resources,” he said according to an transcript from an event in Houston.

“We should not be apologizing. And we must not ignore the misguided campaign to ‘keep it in the ground’ and hope it will go away. For too long the oil industry has been portrayed as the Dark Side, but it is not. It is a force, yes, but a force for good.”

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Yes. Like that.

More please.

Tweet: The Epitome of Irony

February 25, 2016

The new Hansen interview vid caused youtube to remind me of this jewel from my “Climate Denial Crock of the Week” series. (people say,” why don’t you do more of those” – dude, fund me. I’m working as hard as I can)

This is the video I refer people to when they give me the “earth has been warmer before, don’t scientists know that?” line. (trust me, scientists have thought of this)

I took a lecture that James Hansen had online, and enhanced with explanatory graphics – and a teensy bit of sarc. And it’s not your ears, the sound is muffled first 30 seconds.

Yeah. Scientists know it’s changed before.

65 million years in 8 minutes.

I finally caught up with James Hansen at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting in December, and he gave a terrific interview, touching on many key topics.

Here, he gives a brief synopsis of one of the most important points in his most recent paper. Hansen’s concerns, if borne out, would mean substantially higher sea level rises than most other researchers predict – but one hesitates to bet against someone with his track record.

Bucket list honor for me. I’ll be posting more excerpts from this, and many other interviews from December, in coming  months – including a new video on surface temperature measures, and those much ballyhooed “adjustments” – coming (fingers crossed) next week.

In the US congress, powerful Republican leaders with ties to the fossil fuel industry are threatening the crown jewels of American Earth science, NOAA and NASA, with cuts, subpoenas and harrassment.  The threats are real, and even if not followed through, have a chilling effect on the scientific endeavor.

In Australia, those threats have become a reality.   But don’t worry – for those impacted by climate change, budget cutters have a solution. Read on.

The Mercury:

A NOTABLE centenary happens next month. On March 16, 1916, a young Australian nation took its first tentative steps into funded scientific research when prime minister Billy Hughes set up the Advisory Council of Science and Industry.

It was a modest affair. The council set up committees of experts who, while able to employ paid assistants, were expected to work without pay. Unsurprisingly, this didn’t work. Various governments experimented with different structures before settling on the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, now known by its acronym.

CSIRO is fundamental to our national identity and underlies much of our prosperity. Employing over 4500 people throughout Australia, its research interests include agronomy, forestry, mining and manufacturing, health and nutrition, digital technology, space physics and natural ecosystems.

It studies Earth’s structure and dynamics: the big systems that determine climate and provide energy to power our lives. The division most concerned with these matters is run from CSIRO’s complex on Hobart’s waterfront.

CSIRO’s diversity of research interests gives huge scope for brainstorming key questions. No other national science agency, anywhere, can match that in-house diversity — one reason why CSIRO attracts so much talent from around the world. It’s truly a national treasure.

CSIRO was early out of the blocks in putting resources into climate research, led for a decade by atmospheric scientist Graeme Pearman. Its modelling and analysis — the best then and now for the Southern Hemisphere — gave it a global reputation.

That’s why the global scientific community was so shocked by this month’s announcement that climate research was to be cut in favour of making money from technology. The size of that shock can be measured in a single document. Five days after the announcement, a remarkable letter was sent from the US to PM Malcolm Turnbull, the CSIRO board and others spelling out the damaging consequences of downsizing this “vibrant and world-leading research program”. The letter was signed by 2676 climate scientists, including 922 from the US, 391 from the UK, 200 from Germany and 159 from France.

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No Miracles Needed, Mr. Gates

February 24, 2016


If I wanted to, I could just repost whatever Joe Romm writes over at Climate Progress and be done every day.  It’s usually the final, most authoritative word.

And I love it when he’s angry. In this case, with Bill Gates.

Joe Romm at ClimateProgress:

For six years, Bill Gates has been arguing that we need “energy miracles” to avoid catastrophic climate change. For six years, he has been wrong.

In fact, Gates is more wrong now than he was in 2010. Why? Because in the last six years, we have seen that aggressive deployment of clean energy technology driven by government policies has — as was predicted — led to precisely the kind of game-changing cost-slashing innovation that Gates mistakenly thinks happens primarily from basic energy research and development (R&D).

For six years, Gates has claimed we were wildly under-investing in basic energy R&D. Yet, somehow the very thing Gates says he wanted — huge price drops in key low-carbon technologies (like renewables and efficiency) and key enabling technologies (like batteries for storage) — kept happening. The fact is that accelerated deployment policies around the world created economies of scale and brought technologies rapidly down the learning curve, as the DOE reported last November:


Again, this isn’t because of technology “breakthroughs.” We still are waiting for those to pan out — for any type of practical and affordable fusion power after decades of research or for high-temperature superconducting to realize its potential decades after the early “breakthroughs” or for next-generation nuclear power that’s too cheap to meter (as opposed to the reality today, which is too expensive to matter much).

What is particularly unfortunate about Gates’ mistaken rhetoric is that it can disempower people and policymakers and pundits into thinking that individual or even government action is not the central weapon needed to win the climate fight and that our only hope is some long-term deus ex machina strategy to avoid catastrophic warming. Nothing could be worse than leaving people with the impression that humanity’s only hope is future miracles — especially since a quarter-century of largely ignoring the warnings of climate scientists has left us with quite literally no time left to dawdle in exponentially ramping up deployment.

Significantly, “the time of break-even [when an energy technology becomes competitive in the marketplace] depends on deployment rates, which the decision-maker can influence through policy,” as the International Energy Agency explained in great detail way back in 2000 in its report, “Experience Curves for Energy Technology Policy.” Here is the key conclusion:

“… for major technologies such as photovoltaics, wind power, biomass, or heat pumps, resources provided through the market dominate the learning investments. Government deployment programmes may still be needed to stimulate these investments.”

What is particularly ironic about Gates’ mistaken energy-miracle-centered strategy, as I’ll discuss at the end, is that it is the exact opposite of the deployment-driven innovation strategy Gates himself used to make Microsoft a software giant and to make personal computers the “miracle” that Gates calls them today.

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This week’s news that sea level is rising faster than at any time in the last 3000 years underlined the threat that coastal cities around the world are facing, not in some distant future, but now. No place in North America is this more true than Miami, as my most popular “This is Not Cool” video shows. (below)

The response to the news from Denierville was predictable, but probably summed up in most cluelessly amusing fashion in this tweet from tobacco apologist and climate denial opportunist, “Junk Science” purveyor Steven Malloy, who suggested in a tweet that Miami’s hot real estate market disproved climate change.


Newsflash. Real estate bubbles not always based on reality.

Soon they may be singing a different tune. Read the rest of this entry »