“Rush Limbaugh, more than any other individual, is responsible for shifting conservative opinion to deny the existence of global warming.”

 -John K. Wilson, author of The Most Dangerous Man in America: Rush Limbaugh’s Assault on Reason.

Climate denier, and fatally, tobacco denier, Rush Limbaugh, died this week from lung cancer.
Yeah, made me think back to that time I talked to him.

Some time later in the nineties, maybe ’97?
I had been following climate science for 20 years, and Jim Hansen’s work since 1981, and I understood, in a rudimentary way, what the mainstream science was telling us.
Scientists, as of 1995, had detected a “discernible” human influence warming the planet.
Hansen’s model had accurately predicted the planetary response from the Mt Pinabubo eruption, a major validation of the (by today’s standards) primitive climate models Hansen relied upon. Still lots to discuss, but it looked like this mechanism was real, and the process was happening.
I knew, as someone that grew up outside, on snow and water, that things were certainly changing in my upper-midwest neck of the woods.

On that particular day, Friends of the Earth had published a full page ad about climate change in USAToday, with a speculative “weather map” for the 2020s. It depicted a heat wave with a shocking temperature of 124 F in California.
(This past summer the temperature hit 130 in the desert, and an insane 110 F in LA, near the ocean.

Ridiculing the ad, Limbaugh launched into a climate denial rant, listing the most popular nonsense memes that we are all familiar with. And anyway, he said, even the most extreme eco-nuts were only talking about a few degrees rise in global temps, so obviously this ad was just more over-the-top scare tactics, he fumed.
Taking a breath, he invited “any environmentalist out there who can defend or explain this, to call in. I want to talk to you.”

Hunched over my keyboard, and listening as I struggled to nudge along a barely-alive communication business – I took up the challenge, and – incredibly – got through.
A voice asked me if I was indeed, the environmentalist Rush was asking for – I assured him that was me.
“Hold on for Rush” the voice said.

A few minutes went by, while I took some deep breaths and stretched.
Suddenly, the familiar voice was on the line.
“Ok, we have Peter from Midland, Michigan. Are you a greenie? an enviro?”

“Well, I often wear sandals, I hug trees when I’m climbing them, but not, you know, in a weird way.
And I’ve been known to order the tofu in my veggie stir fry.”
That was good enough.
“Alright, so explain this ad to me. The claim is made here that in the 2020s, we’ll see temperatures of 124 degrees Fahrenheit – but even Al Gore says the planet is only warming by a degree or so. So this is more scare tactics, right?”

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Volts:

A company called Direct Connect is currently in the development and permitting phase of a privately financed, $2.5 billion project called the SOO Green HVDC Link, a proposed 349-mile, 2.1-gigawatt (!), 525-kilovolt transmission line to run underground along existing railroad from Mason City, Iowa, to the Chicago, Illinois, area. It aims to go into operation in 2024.

Going underground will allow the line to minimize environmental and visual impact. It will be much more resilient than an overhead line against weather, temperature shifts, sabotage, or squirrels

Two side-by-side cables will run through tubes of Cross-Linked Polyethylene (XLPE) and will be self-contained, lightweight, and easy to handle. They won’t get hot, interfere with signaling equipment (unlike AC lines), or affect rail operations. There are fiber-optic sensors along the lines to monitor sound and heat for any problems. 

(Nemo Link, the world’s first 400 kilovolt line using XLPE, runs undersea between the UK and Belgium; it began operation in January 2019.)

Running alongside the railroad means SOO Green will have no need to claim land via eminent domain. Almost all of that railroad is owned by Canadian Pacific (one of seven large “class one” railroads in the US), so there are a tractable number of parties to deal with. 

A deal like this offers railroads a new passive revenue stream; royalty fees well exceed what they get from similarly buried fiber-optic lines, of which there are more than 100,000 miles along US railroads. And it’s also a chance for railroads to be part of a positive sustainability story. 

The project is privately funded, so there will be no need for any complicated cost-allocation formulas. The financiers (including Siemens, which very rarely puts direct capital in transmission projects) will make their money back from those who use the line — the suppliers that put power on it, the shippers that sell power across it, and the buyers that consume the power — through competitive bidding for capacity. SOO Green is holding an open solicitation right now to allocate its 2,100 megawatts among them.

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Science Alert:

The stretch of Arctic ice between Greenland and the Canadian Arctic Archipelago is known as ‘the Last Ice Area’, thought by scientists to have the best chance of surviving the climate crisis – but new research suggests it could be more vulnerable to disappearing than previously thought.

It’s the oldest and the thickest stretch of ice in the Arctic region, and up to this point it’s managed to survive even the warmest summers on record. There are even hopes that it will eventually act as the foundation of a spreading Arctic ice region, if we can get the planet to begin cooling down again.

Maybe not, according to a new analysis of satellite data looking specifically at ice arches along Nares Strait, which is 40 kilometres (25 miles) wide and 600 kilometres (373 miles) long.

Ice arches aren’t traditional arches at all, they’re key patches of ice that form seasonally and prevent other pieces of ice from entering a body of water. The Nares Strait and its arches could play a crucial role in whether or not the Last Ice Area survives through the peak of global warming.

“The ice arches that usually develop at the northern and southern ends of Nares Strait play an important role in modulating the export of Arctic Ocean multi-year sea ice,” write the researchers in their published paper.

“We show that the duration of arch formation has decreased over the past 20 years, while the ice area and volume fluxes along Nares Strait have both increased.”

Simply put, the Nares Strait ice arches that effectively hold the Last Ice Area in place are becoming less stable. The risk is that this old ice will not just melt in place, but also break up and drift southwards into warmer regions, speeding up the melting process.

The ice arches look like bridges on their sides, blocking the movement of ice from north to south. The problem is that the arches are breaking up earlier in the year than they have previously, allowing more ice to flow through the Nares Strait.

Every year, according to observations, the ice arches are breaking up a week earlier than before. The ice blockage is becoming thinner and less of a barrier, and that is leading to changes further north – it’s estimated that ice movement in the Last Ice Area is increasing twice as fast as it is in the rest of the Arctic.

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This whole process of degrading truth had spreading hatred against those that tell it, is not new to climate scientists.
Below, comment on one of my video threads, about 10 years ago. Note poster’s screen name.

They moved on to threats against Michigan’s Governor, then Georgia’s Secretary of State.
Now they’re threatening Mike Pence, and any Republican who is considered “disloyal”.

UPDATE: Marc Morano, who follows me obsessively, responded to this post almost instantly on twitter, below.

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2020’s Will Be Great

December 31, 2020

Optimism is often seen as naive, but I choose to believe that, properly exercised, it is a force multiplier.

Above, Reuters has a clear eyed view of the unprecedented moment we are at in the energy transition.
Below, Keith Schneider, the Sage of Benzonia, Michigan, looks forward.

Keith Schneider in ModeShift:

There really is not a way to hit on a word, or even an assembly of words, to adequately encompass the tough, dangerous, and ultimately exceptional year that 2020 has been.

Next year will be better. And the 2020s promise to be a decade of real progess. During this decade technology and ecology will marry more firmly than ever to produce pathbreaking achievements in sectors that really matter— energy, transportation, agriculture, climate, resources, and manufacturing.

With Trump gone, a new era has opened. The United States is again seriously considering how to construct a true green new deal — the melding of ecological values to investment and industrial practices to build a fairer and more just economy.

The foundation is in place. Black fuels, for instance, are in retreat as investors move capital to less expensive and cleaner alternative energy sources. In 2018, according to an assessment by Tim Buckley, an Australian analyst, 31 significant financial institutions abandoned coal. In 2019 the list was longer, with 46 major investment banks and institutions announcing coal exits. In 2020 so far there have been 68 such actions around the world.

Oil companies evaporated as sound investment options. Oil and natural gas prices are near historic lows. Drilling activity has diminished. A proposal to build a monumental gas storage hub in West Virginia is slipping closer to irrelevancy.

On the other side of the energy sector, carbon-free power is seizing command of the electrical sector. Electric vehicles are poised to lead the market by the end of the decade, if not sooner. Responding to climate disruption is a top tier political issue, and not just in the United States. Energy, water, soil, and community-conserving food production practices are being adopted as central tenets of mainstream agriculture.

American companies’ commitment to ingenuity, science, and manufacturing prowess just delivered two COVID-19 vaccines in under a year. Amazon is remaking how the world operates with the same era-changing influence that steam engines had on sailing schooners. The same is true for Tesla and Google. Look at Linkedin’s news page. It’s a scrolling compendium of trends that convey hope for the world.

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Markets starting to respond to climate reality.
Insurance companies are getting hammered. The way they adjust will affect our perception of climate change.

A few months ago, I posted a piece, based on interviews with leading permafrost experts, that pushed back, hard, on the “we’re all gonna die and there’s nothing we can do” catastrophism around the so-called “methane bomb” in the arctic. (I’ll repost that one below if you have not seen it)

That’s not to say that we don’t have a problem. When people tell me that the world is about to end, my response is that we’re not getting off that easy.
Above, more from the same researchers, looking at a little more fine grained data from the permafrost – and observations of a phenomenon that is coming into sharper focus.
As the planet warms, permafrost is softening, causing microbes to awaken and begin feeding on the organic matter therein – releasing more CO2 and methane. Good enough – but a lot of folks don’t understand that THAT process alone is not a world breaker – in fact, as more vegetation springs from softened permafrost, photosynthesis is kicking in – carbon is being stored, and in some models, actually sequestering more carbon.

The more pressing issue coming into focus is that the permafrost does not melt uniformly, and tends to collapse here and there into thousands, maybe millions, of lakes – that break through the surface “active layer” of the permafrost, and into the reservoir of more deeply stored carbon.
These lakes are hot-spots of carbon and methane release, and could add substantially to the total output in coming centuries.
It’s not the sudden catastrophic impact of disaster movies, but, as one of the experts, Katey Walter Anthony, told me, “..it’s a strong headwind.”

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The First Climate Election

November 6, 2018

In a country so closely divided as the US is right now, the emergence of climate as an issue that a significant number of voters care about can be a game changer in close races.
We have seen in this cycle a number of Democratic politicians embrace climate, and more broadly, a respect for science and fact, as an issue – as well as advocating for clean energy strategies.

Prominently, Andrew Gillum in his run for the extremely important Florida Governor seat, and Beto O’Rourke in his Texas Senate race, have been fearless and out front on climate change and renewable energy.

In regions like South Florida, Rep. Carlos Curbello, a Republican, has joined a bipartisan “climate caucus” as a means of demonstrating concern about climate and the sea level rise so obvious in his district.

Regardless of today’s results, the importance of climate and clean energy as a political issue has crossed a threshold.

Vox:

The industry’s dilemma is brought home by a recent bit of market research and polling done on behalf of the Edison Electric Institute, a trade group for utilities. It was distributed at a recent meeting of EEI board members and executives and shared with me.

The work was done by the market research firm Maslansky & Partners, which analyzed existing utility messaging, interviewed utility execs and environmentalists, ran a national opinion survey, and did a couple of three-hour sit-downs with “media informed customers” in Minneapolis and Phoenix.

The results are striking. They do a great job of laying out the public opinion landscape on renewables, showing where different groups have advantages and disadvantages.

The takeaway: Renewables are a public opinion juggernaut. Being against them is no longer an option. The industry’s best and only hope is to slow down the stampede a bit (and that’s what they plan to try).

In our polarized age, here is something we almost all agree on: Renewable energy is awesome.

Here’s the most striking slide in the presentation:

poll18

In case you don’t feel like squinting, let me draw your attention to the fact that a majority of those surveyed (51 percent) believe that 100 percent renewables is a good idea even if it raises their energy bills by 30 percent.

That is wild. As anyone who’s been in politics a while knows, Americans don’t generally like people raising their bills, much less by a third. A majority that still favors it? That is political dynamite.

Meanwhile, there are some on the climate action side who view Republicans like Rep. Curbelo as “climate peacocks”, more show than substance.

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