10 years after An Inconvenient Truth, climate science, which has been mainstream since the 1950s, has finally become indispensable background knowledge for anyone that wants to be taken seriously by grownups, and, even better, succeed in the greatest industrial revolution since the invention of fire.

Evidence? See Elon Musk’s eloquent and simple explainer on “The Dumbest Experiment in History”, above.

Another view:


Below, Dr Box explains the multiple pathways to increased Ice Sheet loss.

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This weekend’s record flooding in Germany was a reminder of one of the most basic, first-order-physics predictions of climate science – warmer air holds more moisture.
The pattern of increase in record breaking precipitation events is well documented and global, as my friend Stephan Rahmstorf reminded me this morning with a graph from a recent study of similar events.

Potsdam University:

Heavy rainfall events setting ever new records have been increasing strikingly in the past thirty years. While before 1980, multi-decadal fluctuations in extreme rainfall events are explained by natural variability, a team of scientists of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research detected a clear upward trend in the past few decades towards more unprecedented daily rainfall events. They find the worldwide increase to be consistent with rising global temperatures which are caused by greenhouse-gas emissions from burning fossil fuels. Short-term torrential rains can lead to high-impact floodings.


Extreme rainfall in Pakistan 2010 caused devastating flooding which killed hundreds and lead to a cholera outbreak. Other examples of record-breaking precipitation events in the period studied include rainstorms in Texas in the US, 2010, which caused dozens of flash-floods. And no less than three so-called ‘once-in-a-century’ flooding events in Germany all happened in just a couple of years, starting 1997. “In all of these places, the amount of rain pouring down in one day broke local records – and while each of these individual events has been caused by a number of different factors, we find a clear overall upward trend for these unprecedented hazards”, says lead-author Jascha Lehmann.

Watch the first few frames of this video as an emergency vehicle, lights flashing, is swept by the camera.

Potsdam continued:

The average increase is 12 percent globally – but 56 percent in South East Asia

An advanced statistical analysis of rainfall data from the years 1901 to 2010 derived from thousands of weather stations around the globe shows that over 1980-2010 there were 12 percent more of these events than expected in a stationary climate, a scenario without global warming. “Due to the upward trend, the worldwide increase of record-breaking daily rainfall events in the very last year of the studied period reaches even 26 percent”, Lehmann adds.

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Caution – Earthquake in Progress.

The Energy Gang on Soundcloud:

Nevada Power is likely doing a lot of soul searching.

Last week, two of the biggest Las Vegas casino companies — MGM Resorts and Wynn – filed to leave Nevada Power and set off to buy wholesale electricity on their own. MGM has particularly strong renewable energy goals, and this move signals that the company thinks it can procure clean electrons cheaper than the utility.

As more large corporations make similar moves, will it lead to a financial disaster for utilities? This week, we’ll discuss the implications with Cory Honeyman, the associate director of GTM’s US solar research practice, who has been following the commercial customer class closely.

A big deal, as the discussion points out – this is a big deal because MGM alone accounts for 5 percent of Nevada Power demand – and MGM was willing to pay an 87 million dollar penalty to get off reliance on the utility.

A development that might have seemed like science fiction just a few years ago is rapidly entering mainstream thinking.

Of course, if the Financial Times had been reading this blog, they might have been quicker off the mark.

Financial Times:

The annual meetings of some of the world’s largest oil companies this week were like therapy sessions for an industry that is suffering from existential angst. The international objective of holding the increase in global temperatures to “well below” 2C, agreed at the Paris climate talks last year, implies the obsolescence of all fossil fuel production within the next few decades. The oil companies have not yet reconciled themselves to quite what this means.


One option for escaping those limits is for the big oil companies themselves to take part in the energy transition. Total, which has the most ambitious plans for diversification, has set a goal of having 20 per cent of its assets in low-carbon energy by 2035.

But decades of unsuccessful ventures into alternative energy — such as BP’s Beyond Petroleum initiative — suggest that is a long shot. Disruption in other industries, from computers to taxis, has generally been led by new entrants, not incumbents.

Instead of railing against climate policies, or paying them lip-service while quietly defying them with investment decisions, the oil companies will serve their investors and society better if they accept the limits they face, and embrace a future of long-term decline.

Even more astounding is this piece from Canadian Broadcasting.  Renewable transition now “realistic” – “not even controversial”.


Canada’s status as an “energy superpower” is under threat because the global dominance of fossil fuels could wane faster than previously believed, according to a draft report from a federal government think-tank obtained by CBC News.

“It is increasingly plausible to foresee a future in which cheap renewable electricity becomes the world’s primary power source and fossil fuels are relegated to a minority status,” reads the conclusion of the 32-page document, produced by Policy Horizons Canada.

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A Scientist contact in Europe sends these.

Looks more like a tsunami than a typical flood.


Below, driving rain and hail from the same storm turn an auto race into a Keystone cops comedy: Read the rest of this entry »



For a snapshot of the woes of the U.S coal and nuclear industries, take a look at Illinois.

Following a four-year drop in electricity demand, power companies there announced the closing of coal and nuclear plants that account for more than 10 percent of generating capacity. The shutdowns come amid a fourfold increase in cheap wind from neighboring states and growing competition from generators burning low-cost natural gas.

Exelon Corp., the operator of 11 nuclear reactors in Illinois, and Dynegy Inc., which has 10 coal-fired plants in the state, are asking lawmakers to bail out their money-losing assets to prevent further job-cutting, closures and, in Exelon’s case, preserve carbon-free electricity production.

“You’ve got free wind power coming from the west and cheap gas coming from the east and that’s not a good place to be for coal and nuclear power plants,” said Travis Miller, a utility analyst for Morningstar Inc., an investment research firm.

The Atlantic:

But over the past couple of years, researchers have come across another potential solution, one that seems almost too simple. The wind is usually blowing somewhere, and the sun is usually shining somewhere. If we could just connect the whole country to a special grid that would let utilities tap into those resources anytime, wouldn’t that get rid of—or at least lessen—the reliability problem?

The most recent high-profile paper making this argument was published in January by researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the University of Colorado at Boulder. Christopher Clack and colleagues built a model to predict the long-term costs of putting all kinds of energy into the electrical system. When they imposed a constraint on their model—it couldn’t use coal—they found that the cheapest option involved a grid of transmission lines that could carry solar and wind energy from almost any part of the country to anywhere else. Other technologies—perhaps Gates’s imagined miracle—would still be required to get rid of carbon-emitting fuels altogether, but the new grid would get us quite far, reducing emissions from power plants by up to 80 percent within 15 years.

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