While Americans are preoccupied with the antics of an insane criminal president, the world spins on.

Perennial tensions between nuclear armed India and Pakistan boiled over – and above, two senior glacier experts remind us that as a warming climate causes glaciers to retreat in the Himalayas, water and food pressures will increase in the most densely populated areas of the world.

Jeff Masters in Weather Underground:

As nuclear-armed India and Pakistan engage in military clashes over the disputed Kashmir region, consider that a “limited” nuclear war between them is capable of causing a catastrophic global nuclear winter that could kill two billion people. The inevitable wars and diseases that would break out could kill hundreds of millions more.

A 2008 paper by Brian Toon of the University of Colorado, Alan Robock of Rutgers University, and Rich Turco of UCLA, “Environmental Consequences of Nuclear War”, concluded that a war between India and Pakistan using fifty Hiroshima-sized weapons with 15-kiloton yield on each country, exploded on cities, would immediately kill or injure about forty-five million people. However, the final toll would be global and astronomically higher, according to recent research.

The most recent study of the environmental aftermath of a nuclear conflict, Mills et al. 2014, Multidecadal global cooling and unprecedented ozone loss following a regional nuclear conflict, used an Earth system climate model including atmospheric chemistry, ocean dynamics, and interactive sea ice and land components, to investigate a limited nuclear war where each side detonates fifty 15-kiloton weapons over urban areas—less than half of the existing arsenals of the approximately 140 warheads each that India and Pakistan have. These urban explosions were assumed to start 100 firestorms. Firestorms are self-feeding fires that suck air into themselves and generate immense columns of rising smoke which lofts into the stratosphere, where it spreads globally. The model predicted the smoke would block enough sunlight for the Earth to experience the coldest temperatures since the last ice age, thousands of years ago.

nuclear-winter-temp-change

 

 

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A climate denial crock of so, so, many weeks ago blooms afresh.

The ever-repeating idea that “real” scientists are not being heard, or drowned out in the global plot by evil UN conspirators. Plays good for paranoid old folks, I guess – but it’s run its course. The proof?
Trump.

Washington Post:

The White House plans to create an ad hoc group of select federal scientists to reassess the government’s analysis of climate science and counter conclusions that the continued burning of fossil fuels is harming the planet, according to three senior administration officials.

The National Security Council initiative would include scientists who question the severity of climate impacts and the extent to which humans contribute to the problem, according to these individuals, who asked for anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

The group would not be subject to the same level of public disclosure as a formal advisory committee.

The move would represent the Trump administration’s most forceful effort to date to challenge the scientific consensus that greenhouse gas emissions are helping drive global warming and that the world could face dire consequences unless countries curb their carbon output over the next few decades.

Axios:

We’re at the beginning of a make-or-break period to confront global warming. A combination of forces, from dire scientific reports to extreme weather events, have crystallized a movement to action.

The big picture: A rare convergence of science that reveals the urgency of the problem; extreme events that highlight threats almost nationwide; and shifting public views that are fueling support for stronger policies, scientists and polling experts say.

In the past 2 years, a spate of dire scientific reports have been published, each of which has hammered home the urgency of acting on this issue.

  • In October, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that the effects of global warming are already evident worldwide.
  • To avoid more severe impacts, the panel said greenhouse gas emissions should be cut by about 45% by 2030, relative to 2010 levels — a Herculean task compared to current global trends.
  • Another report the Trump administration released on Black Friday tied trends in wildfires, sea level rise, and other extreme events to human-caused greenhouse gas emissions.
  • The collective message from these studies is that the actions we take in the next 10 to 20 years will be crucial to determining the climate for centuries to come.

 

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Grim but not hopeless.

wutip

Weather Underground:

Super Typhoon Wutip underwent an impressive burst of rapid intensification on Saturday morning, topping out as Category 4 super typhoon with a central pressure of 925 mb and sustained winds of 155 mph—just short of Category 5 strength. This makes Wutip the strongest Northwest Pacific typhoon ever observed in February, as well as the strongest tropical cyclone anywhere north of the equator in February.

According to NOAA’s Historical Hurricane Tracks database, only seven January and February Category 4 or Category 5 typhoons have been recorded in the Northwest Pacific since records began in the late 1940s. Wutip is tied with Super Typhoon Rose of January 1957 as the second strongest typhoon to form in these two months. The only stronger typhoon ever observed so early in the year was Super Typhoon Ophelia, which peaked as a Category 5 storm with 160 mph winds on January 13, 1958.

The previous strongest February typhoon on record was Super Typhoon Higos, which hit 150 mph winds on February 10, 2015.

Wutip rapidly intensified from a Category 3 storm with 120 mph winds to a top-end Category 4 storm with 155 mph winds in 24 hours, under conditions that appeared marginal for rapid intensification: moderate wind shear of 15 – 20 knots combined with sea surface temperatures that declined from 29°C (84°F) to 27°C (81°F) along Wutip’s track. These water temperatures are near average for this time of year. As of Saturday afternoon (EST), satellite images showed that Wutip had likely reached its peak intensity, and I do not expect Wutip to become a Category 5 storm. The typhoon appeared to be undergoing an eyewall replacement cycle, and the intensity of the eyewall thunderstorms was waning.

 

greenface3

David Roberts on Twitter:

All right, I view the argument over personal carbon-cutting behavior as a toxic distraction, taking place almost entirely *within* the already insular climate community & mostly furnishing ways for ppl in that community to bash others in that community. And …

… the last few days reinforced that tenfold. So I want to share one last anecdote & then hopefully leave the subject behind. Pull up a chair.

Back around 2007, Al Gore’s first movie came out & green was briefly “cool” in pop culture. Magazines had glossy “green issues.”

“Green” popped up in commercials, movies, & sports events. And, most memorably for me personally, NBC instituted a “green week” during which all their programming would be, in some vague & poorly specified way, “green.” It was a strange & heady time.

“Green week” perfectly captured what went so horribly wrong with all this. The thing is, though Gore made climate “trend,” as we say these days, the vast, vast majority of people, including the people making pop culture, didn’t understand it.

Most people had no frame of reference whatsoever other than the simple fact that this was “environmental” — the latest thing environmentalists were going on about, some new kind of pollution, some new set of threatened critters, something something.

Lacking any guidance from NBC, or any user-friendly resources to learn more, the creatives behind NBC shows, forced to incorporate “green,” simply fell back on their pre-existing impressions & associations & stereotypes. And what were those? Funny you should ask. Read the rest of this entry »

Terri Kanefield on Twitter:

Trump & pals have positioned the goalposts: If Mueller doesn’t produce evidence of Trump crimes in each filing, it’s all a hoax.

I suspect Team Trump invented the nonsense that Mueller is ready to submit a report.

 Look how clever that was. It set up the expectation that the sentencing memo would contain Mueller’s endgame.

A sentencing memo is about the defendant: It gives a picture of the defendant beyond the crimes so the court can pass a sentence taking into account all factors👇

Click for larger

In looking to the Manafort sentencing report for evidence of Trump crimes, we’re allowing Trump & pals to frame—and simplify—the inquiry.

I suggest the sentencing memo IS about the big picture—but much bigger than Trump’s complicity in Russia’s attempt to sway the election.

The memo is about Manafort’s “brazen” lawbreaking that continued while he was Trump’s campaign manager, and even while he was under indictment.

The picture is of a man who habitually breaks laws, and lived his entirely life as if he’s above them.

breakglass

A lot of rhetoric around the “Time to Panic” message.
I think the idea is to make the point we are in an emergency.

I was a paramedic for 15 years, so have been around a few emergencies.
I can tell you that panic is not the optimal approach.
Seriousness and quick, effective action is what is required. Applying solutions that are evidence based and shown to work, backed by training, is the most effective strategy.

That said, a lot of talk about how Green New Deal is “too aggressive” misses the point.
We do need to act, and we need to act now.

Vox:

To put it bluntly: this is not normal. We are not in an era of normal politics. There is no precedent for the climate crisis, its dangers or its opportunities. Above all, it calls for courage and fresh thinking.

Rather than jumping into individual responses, I want to take a step back and try to situate the Green New Deal in our current historical context, at least as I see it. Then it will be clearer why I think so many critics have missed the mark.

The earth’s climate has already warmed 1 degree Celsius from preindustrial levels, unleashing a cascade of super-charged heat waves, wildfires, hurricanes, storms, water shortages, migrations, and conflicts. Climate change is not a threat; it’s here. The climate has changed.

And it is changing more rapidly than at any time in millions of years. The human race is leaving behind the climatic conditions in which all of advanced civilization developed, going back to the beginning of agriculture. We have no certainty about what will happen next, mainly because we have no certainty about what we will do, but we know the changes are bad and going to get much worse, even with concerted global action.

Without concerted global action — and with a few bad breaks on climate sensitivity, population, and fossil fuel projections — the worst-case scenarios include civilization-threatening consequences that will be utterly disastrous for most of the planet’s species.

At the moment, nobody is doing a better job of describing the tragic unfolding reality of climate change than author David Wallace-Wells, especially in his new book The Uninhabitable Earth, but also in this New York Times piece. Here’s just a paragraph of coming attractions:

All of that is expected when the global average temperature rises 2 degrees Celsius.

Jeffrey Sachs in CNN:

The right wing and corporate lobbies are already hyperventilating: It is unachievable; it will bankrupt us; it will make us into Venezuela.
These claims are dead wrong. The Green New Deal agenda is both feasible and affordable. This will become clear as the agenda is turned into specific legislation for energy, health care, higher education, and more.
The Green New Deal combines ideas across several parts of the economy because the ultimate goal is sustainable development. That means an economy that delivers a package deal: good incomes, social fairness, and environmental sustainability. Around the world, governments are aiming for the same end — a “triple-bottom line” of economic, social, and environmental objectives.

In the US, the economy is feeding the wealth of billionaires while leaving tens of millions of households with no financial cushion at all. Meanwhile, the fossil-fuel lobby continues to endanger the planet by promoting the use of fuels that contribute to climate change, raising the risk of mega-floods, droughts, hurricanes, and heat waves, claiming many lives and costing the US more than $450 billion during 2016-18, or more than $150 billion per year on average.

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AZCentral:

The energy market in the Southwest has hit a turning point, with battery prices falling so low that the technology is now the least expensive way to provide customers electricity, according to officials from Arizona Public Service Co.

To take advantage of the historic shift, the state’s biggest electric company will spend hundreds of millions of dollars to add large, building-size batteries to the power grid across Arizona.

APS will use the batteries to soak up surplus energy on the grid early in the day when solar power plants across the region are pumping out more electricity than the homes and businesses require.

The batteries will then discharge that power in the evening, when the sun sets, solar panels power down for the night, and customers turn on their lights and need the energy.

The 850 megawatts of batteries planned by APS will make better use of the solar already on the grid. They will allow for more people to add solar panels to their roofs and utilities to build more solar power plants without creating problems on the grid, officials said.

“Eight-hundred fifty megawatts shows you how incredibly transformational what we’ve seen happening on the grid is and how quickly that has been evolving,” APS President Jeff Guldner said.

“The holy grail in the industry right now is trying to figure out how we capture solar energy during the day when there is tons on the system and then use it later when the sun goes down,” he said.

The amount of batteries APS plans to add by 2025 is more than the 338 megawatts of batteries the entire U.S. utility industry added last year, based on estimates from the Edison Electric Institute.

APS does not offer cost estimates for the entire project because of proprietary information from its construction partners and because not all the work has been put out to bid.

But in general, 100 megawatts of battery capacity with four hour of storage runs about $120 million, APS officials said.

That would put the total cost of the projects at more than $1 billion. APS will own some of the projects and purchase power from others.

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RawStory:

According to a congressional report, a group that includes former senior U.S. government officials is lobbying to sell nuclear power plants to Saudi Arabia. As an expert focusing on the Middle East and the spread of nuclear weapons, I believe these efforts raise important legal, economic and strategic concerns.

It is understandable that the Trump administration might want to support the U.S. nuclear industry, which is shrinking at home. However, the congressional report raised concerns that the group seeking to make the sale may have have sought to carry it out without going through the process required under U.S. law. Doing so could give Saudi Arabia U.S. nuclear technology without appropriate guarantees that it would not be used for nuclear weapons in the future.

A competitive global market

Exporting nuclear technology is lucrative, and many U.S. policymakers have long believedthat it promotes U.S. foreign policy interests. However, the international market is shrinking, and competition between suppliers is stiff.

Private U.S. nuclear companies have trouble competing against state-supported international suppliers in Russia and China. These companies offer complete construction and operation packages with attractive financing options. Russia, for example, is willing to accept spent fuel from the reactor it supplies, relieving host countries of the need to manage nuclear waste. And China can offer lower construction costs.

Saudi Arabia declared in 2011 that it planned to spend over US$80 billion to construct 16 reactors, and U.S. companies want to provide them. Many U.S. officials see the decadeslong relationships involved in a nuclear sale as an opportunity to influence Riyadh’s nuclear future and preserve U.S. influence in the Saudi kingdom.

Of the 56 new reactors under construction worldwide, 39 are in Asia.
IAEA, CC BY-ND

Why does Saudi Arabia want nuclear power?

With the world’s second-largest known petroleum reserves, abundant untapped supplies of natural gas and high potential for solar energy, why is Saudi Arabia shopping for nuclear power? Some of its motives are benign, but others are worrisome.

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