New data from Antarctica further underlines the description I gave in this vid from 2014.

Chris Mooney in the Washington Post:

Warm ocean water has been discovered underneath a massive glacier in West Antarctica, a troubling finding that could speed its melt in a region with the potential to eventually unleash more than 10 feet of sea-level rise.

The unprecedented research, part of a multimillion-dollar British and U.S. initiative to study the remote Thwaites Glacier, involved drilling through nearly 2,000 feet of ice to measure water temperatures in a narrow cavity where the glacier first connects with the ocean. This is one of the most difficult-to-reach locations on Earth.

At a region known as the “grounding line,” where the ice transitions between resting on bedrock and floating on the ocean, scientists measured water temperatures of about 0 degrees Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit). That is more than 2 degrees warmer than the freezing point in that location, said David Holland, a New York University glaciologist. He performed the research with Keith Nicholls of the British Antarctic Survey.

“That is really, really bad,” said Holland. “That’s not a sustainable situation for that glacier.”

Scientists already knew that Thwaites was losing massive amounts of ice — more than 600 billion tons over the past several decades, and most recently as much as 50 billion tons per year. And it was widely believed that this was occurring because a layer of relatively warmer ocean water, which circles Antarctica below the colder surface layer, had moved closer to shore and begun to eat away at the glaciers themselves, affecting West Antarctica in particular.

But that had not been directly confirmed because Thwaites is gigantic (larger than the state of Pennsylvania) and exceedingly difficult to reach.

“The biggest thing to say at the moment is, indeed, there is very warm water there, and clearly, it could not have been there forever, or the glacier could not be there,” Holland said.

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Astounding that as the evidence of climate change literally washes up around their ankles, Republicans are looking for ways to pretend they’ve been right all along, and slander as “alarmists” those who have been communicating the unvarnished science of global change for decades.

Now there is a movement to push forward “conservative” solutions, meaning, no solution.

Houston Chronicle:

Texas Rep. Dan Crenshaw said Wednesday that conservatives can’t afford to ignore the topic of climate change.

“We can make fun of the left’s sort of alarmist views on climate change — and we should, to an extent — but we can’t ignore it completely,” Crenshaw said during a keynote Q-and-A at the right-leaning Texas Public Policy Foundation’s 2020 policy conference. “From a political standpoint, we cannot ignore it completely.”

The 35-year-old congressman, who has proven to be a leader within the party for rallying young conservatives, said most of the left’s alarmism on climate change is unwarranted, but not all of it.

“It’s not totally untrue. Their alarmism is often, almost always, completely untrue and not founded in facts or data. When they’re blaming storms and things on climate change, it’s usually nonsense,” Crenshaw said. “That doesn’t mean there isn’t some effect on the climate from man-made emissions, and we can admit that.”

Noting that the environment is a top priority for members of both sides of the aisle, and especially independents, a key target for Republicans, Crenshaw said that even if Americans disagree on the cause of climate change, there is common ground. Everyone has an interest in cleaner air and water and “generally lowering emissions,” he said.

“Even if we don’t know what it’s doing to the environment, let’s at least err on the side of caution,” Crenshaw said. “But it doesn’t mean erring on the side of destroying the economy, which is what the left would have. So two things: grant some of the premise — not all of the premise — that they’re operating on, some of it, and expose them for what they’re really trying to do, which is a complete socialist takeover of the economy.”

Crenshaw’s comments Wednesday starkly contrasted with those of President Donald Trump — who just Tuesday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, dismissed those who warn about climate change as “prophets of doom” — and other Republican leaders who deny climate change.

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Gregory Jaczko served on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission from 2005 to 2009, and as its chairman from 2009 to 2012. The author of “Confessions of a Rogue Nuclear Regulator,” he is the founder of Wind Future LLC and teaches at Georgetown University and Princeton University.

Gregory Jaczko in the Washington Post:

Nuclear power was supposed to save the planet. The plants that used this technology could produce enormous amounts of electricity without the pollution caused by burning coal, oil or natural gas, which would help slow the catastrophic changes humans have forced on the Earth’s climate. As a physicist who studied esoteric properties of subatomic particles, I admired the science and the technological innovation behind the industry. And by the time I started working on nuclear issues on Capitol Hill in 1999 as an aide to Democratic lawmakers, the risks from human-caused global warming seemed to outweigh the dangers of nuclear power, which hadn’t had an accident since Chernobyl, 13 years earlier.

By 2005, my views had begun to shift.

I’d spent almost four years working on nuclear policy and witnessed the influence of the industry on the political process. Now I was serving on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, where I saw that nuclear power was more complicated than I knew; it was a powerful business as well as an impressive feat of science. In 2009, President Barack Obama named me the agency’s chairman. 

Two years into my term, an earthquake and tsunami destroyed four nuclear reactors in Japan. I spent months reassuring the American public that nuclear energy, and the U.S. nuclear industry in particular, was safe. But by then, I was starting to doubt those claims myself. 

Before the accident, it was easier to accept the industry’s potential risks, because nuclear power plants had kept many coal and gas plants from spewing air pollutants and greenhouse gases into the air. Afterward, the falling cost of renewable power changed the calculus. Despite working in the industry for more than a decade, I now believe that nuclear power’s benefits are no longer enough to risk the welfare of people living near these plants. I became so convinced that, years after departing office, I’ve now made alternative energy development my new career, leaving nuclear power behind. The current and potential costs — in lives and dollars — are just too high. 

Nuclear plants generate power through fission, the separation of one large atom into two or more smaller ones. This atomic engine yields none of the air pollutants produced by the combustion of carbon-based fuels. Over the decades since its inception in the 1950s, nuclear power has prevented hundreds of fossil-fuel plants from being built, meaning fewer people have suffered or died from diseases caused by their emissions.

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As oil flirts with the prospect of decline, energy executives are at odds over what to do. Some firms, like ExxonMobil, are positioning themselves to squeeze the last lucrative years from the oil economy while arguing to shareholders that they will be able to sell all their oil. Shell and a handful of others are beginning to adapt.

Under (CEO Ben) van Beurden’s leadership, Shell is charting a path that will allow it to continue to profit from oil and gas while simultaneously expanding its plastics business and diversifying into electrical power. By the 2030s, the 112-year-old fossil-fuel giant wants to become the world’s largest power company. As part of this strategy, Shell has worked to present itself as environmentally friendly. Last year, it committed to reduce its emissions by as much as 3% by 2021, and by around 50% by 2050, tying its executives’ compensation to the cuts.

Shell’s moves earned some applause among environmentalists, but the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the U.N.’s climate-science body, concluded in 2018 that to keep temperatures from rising to levels that would bring a wide range of catastrophescountries must halve their greenhouse-gas emissions by 2030 and hit net-zero emissions by 2050. That would mean more than incrementally reducing emissions; it means keeping vast reserves of oil already discovered in the ground.

Van Beurden’s strategic response shows that years of political and economic pressure–especially from governments and investors responding to a sustained public outcry–can push even the most powerful interests to change. Whether climate activists can harness this mounting pressure to compel Shell and other oil companies to transform the global energy economy may be the weightiest question of our time.

Executives at Shell knew decades ago that burning fossil fuels would cause the planet to warm, and that once climate change became a global issue, their firm would need to change. Last year, I sat down with van Beurden for a wide-ranging interview and asked him how he felt about “Shell knew,” the activist mantra that accuses the company of failing to act on climate change despite knowing the consequences. He was sanguine: “Yeah, we knew. Everybody knew,” he said. “And somehow we all ignored it.”

In the 1990s, he explained, Shell publicly acknowledged climate science and said the world needed to act to combat the problem. But at the time, neither governments nor consumers seemed too concerned about emissions, and the demand for oil was growing like gangbusters to fuel a global economic expansion. So the company dutifully responded to market demands: it produced and sold oil to turn a profit.

Nearly three decades later, Shell’s business model is shifting by the same market-driven calculus. Despite advertising that depicts the oil giant as environmentally friendly, its decision to reduce reliance on oil is not born of benevolence. It’s reacting to market forces. A 2019 McKinsey report predicts that declining gas consumption in the transport sector, because of factors like fuel efficiency and electrification, could lead oil demand to begin decreasing in the early 2030s. “The future of energy needs to evolve as something else,” van Beurden says. “And we find a role for ourselves in it.”

Mike MacCracken has been thinking deeply about climate longer than just about anyone alive.
In the course of researching my recent piece on the Australian fires, I came across some clips from an interview I did with Mike in 2012. I’ll be posting some in coming days.

Above, Dr. MacCracken muses about novel approaches to keeping the arctic cool while we try to lower or reverse emissions in the rest of the world, in the hope of averting the worst impacts of polar amplification.
Below, maybe the most interesting idea on best use of icebreakers for mini-geo-engineering.


Today, IBM Research is building on a long history of materials science innovation to unveil a new battery discovery. This new research could help eliminate the need for heavy metals in battery production and transform the long-term sustainability of many elements of our energy infrastructure.

As battery-powered alternatives for everything from vehicles to smart energy grids are explored, there remain significant concerns around the sustainability of available battery technologies.

Many battery materials, including heavy metals such as nickel and cobalt, pose tremendous environmental and humanitarian risks. Cobalt in particular, which is largely available in central Africa, has come under fire for careless and exploitative extraction practices.1

Using three new and different proprietary materials, which have never before been recorded as being combined in a battery, our team at IBM Research has discovered a chemistry for a new battery which does not use heavy metals or other substances with sourcing concerns.

The materials for this battery are able to be extracted from seawater, laying the groundwork for less invasive sourcing techniques than current material mining methods.

Just as promising as this new battery’s composition is its performance potential. In initial tests, it proved it can be optimized to surpass the capabilities of lithium-ion batteries in a number of individual categories including lower costs, faster charging time, higher power and energy density, strong energy efficiency and low flammability.

New battery design could outperform lithium-ion across several sustainable technologies 

Discovered in IBM Research’s Battery Lab, this design uses a cobalt and nickel-free cathode material, as well as a safe liquid electrolyte with a high flash point. This unique combination of the cathode and electrolyte demonstrated an ability to suppress lithium metal dendrites during charging, thereby reducing flammability, which is widely considered a significant drawback for the use of lithium metal as an anode material.

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Inside Climate News:

When Utah lawmakers start their legislative session next week, they’ll have a roadmap waiting for them that could become one of the nation’s most aggressive climate action plans in a Republican-led state—and potentially a path forward for other conservative states looking to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

That the proposal even exists signals a major shift in thinking in a state where legislators for years have publicly questioned—and sometimes ridiculed—climate science.  

Led by a University of Utah economics think tank, proponents of the seven-point strategy managed to dodge political potholes by emphasizing widely supported goals like cleaning up air pollution and stressing economic benefits, an approach some policy experts say could provide a model for bipartisan action on climate change in other conservative states.

“That’s the sort of framing that can help change the conversation in a way that does bridge partisan divides,” said Jay Turner, an environmental politics and policy researcher at Wellesley College and co-author of the book “The Republican Reversal: Conservatives and the Environment from Nixon to Trump.”

Conservatives in the State Capitol haven’t abandoned fossil fuels. They actively support lawsuits to open up West Coast shipping terminals and maintain a $53 million fund to help build export capacity for shipping Utah coal overseas. But widespread public concern about air pollution has also made them more receptive to emissions reductions.

Utah’s shift started with high school students raising their voices. In 2018, they succeeded in persuading lawmakers to pass a resolution acknowledging the risks of climate change that Republican Gov. Gary Herbert signed. Then, last year, the legislature voted to provide $200,000 for the University of Utah’s business school to report on the state’s air pollution and climate change problems and recommend solutions. 

“I really think that this is a great indicator of the progress we’ve made as a state,” said Piper Christian, one of the students who lobbied the legislature and is now a University of Utah sophomore majoring in politics and environmental studies. “I want to stress that this is one more step, definitely not the end of the road. Now we need to see these actions through.”

The draft proposal, “Utah Roadmap,” was released in early January and suggests reducing carbon dioxide emissions 25 percent below 2005 levels by 2025 and 80 percent by 2050. Another of the 7 points presses state leaders to step up participation in “national discussions about how to harness the power of market forces and new technologies to reduce carbon emissions in a way that protects health, sustains economic development, and offers other benefits to Utahns.”  

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