Going thru my interview with Emily Atkin, who edits the great climate newsletter Heated.

I’m working on a piece about the crossover between climate denial and the tsunami of Bullshit that is swamping our democracy.

Above, Atkin mentions congressional hearings, and the endless nattering of fossil fuel tools, which made me think of the clip of Scientist Richard Alley handling Dana Rohrabacher, on ice ages and “earth wobbles”. (which are real, just not responsible for current warming)

As fires raged in California last year, I interviewed Daniel Swain of UCLA on the science. He made note that along with the flames, conspiracy theories also raged.

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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Every time I see one of these I realize it’s this times a billion with every new catastrophe.

Like the neo-nazi demonstrators in the capitol last week, who pooped on Capitol floors and smeared it on walls, climate deniers wish to leave a science denial turd behind as they are chased out of the White House.

Above, William Happer, one of the White House’s favored “climate experts”, insists that carbon dioxide has been unfairly discriminated against.
““The demonization of carbon dioxide is just like the demonization of the poor Jews under Hitler,”

UPDATE:
NOAA has released a statement disavowing the bogus “climate science” flyers:

Washington Post:

Controversial papers questioning the seriousness of climate change led by David Legates, a senior official at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration appointed by President Trump, have been published online without White House approval.

The papers, which were published on nongovernment websites, bear the imprint of the Executive Office of the President and state they were copyrighted by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). But they were disavowed.

“These papers were not created at the direction of The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy nor were they cleared or approved by OSTP leadership,” OSTP spokeswoman Kristina Baum said in an email.

The papers make controversial and disputed claims about climate science, including that human-caused global warming “involves a large measure of faith” and that computer models are “too small and slow” to produce meaningful climate simulations.

Legates did not reply to requests for comment regarding why the papers were published bearing the seal of the Executive Office of the President when they were not approved.

Legates, a climate skeptic and climatology professor at the University of Delaware, has been a mysterious figure at NOAA since he started in September. Shortly after joining the agency he was detailed to a position overseeing the U.S. Global Change Research Program, which coordinates federal climate change research, while remaining a NOAA employee.

David Legates
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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.

Then: Ken Cuccinelli was the Attorney General of Virginia and running for Governor. He relentlessly (but unsuccessfully) attacked a leading climate scientist, Michael Mann.

Now: Same guy, working in the Department of Homeland Security, when he’s not ripping babies from their mother’s arms, is trying to cover up intelligence about Russian attacks on our elections.

Lesson: Once you’ve betrayed your children, betraying your country is a snap.

Paul Waldman and Greg Sargent in Washington Post:

House Democrats just released a complaint from a new whistleblower at the Department of Homeland Security. It makes a series of extraordinary charges about senior DHS officials seeking to manipulate intelligence to boost Trump politically.

The complaint from the whistleblower, Brian Murphy, a senior official at DHS’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis, claims intense pressure was brought to bear to hype the threat of leftist violence. The complaint says two top DHS officials — acting DHS secretary Chad Wolf and deputy Ken Cuccinelli — halted the distribution of a Homeland Threat Assessment because of how it “would reflect upon President Trump.”

“Two sections were specifically labeled as concerns: White Supremacy and Russian influence in the United States,” the complaint continues.

On Russian influence, the complaint says, Wolf ordered Murphy in May 2020 to report on efforts by China and Iran to interfere in our election, and to “cease providing intelligence assessments on the threat of Russian interference.”

Incredibly, the complaint says Murphy “would not comply with these instructions, as doing so would put the country in substantial and specific danger.”

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Planet of the Stupid

April 25, 2020

Exhautive, devastating and much-deserved point by point takedown of Michael Moore’s sadly bogus energy doc. This is the the one I’ll be linking people to, for now.

The fact-checked response is, a film that is not just stupid, but lazy.
“Not only is the documentary bad, it’s old bad.

“All of the stuff in this documentary is ancient”

Ketan Joshi:

The film ‘Planet of the Humans’ opens with the director, Jeff Gibbs, operating a fossil-fuelled combustion engine vehicle, on a road full of combustion engine vehicles, followed up with some footage taken from the International Space Station (fossil fuelled rockets put that in space).

This is not a documentary about the environmental damage that had to occur for Gibbs to go on his drive – it is not mentioned. Nor is it about the harm from fossil fuels.

It is about why renewable energy is bad. I used to work in the renewable energy industry – first, with wind farms and later in research, government agencies and advocacy groups. So it was hard to resist both watching and reviewing this one, considering it launched on ‘Earth Day’, and it has been widely promoted.

Not only is the documentary bad, it’s old bad. Please join me on this journey back in time. It won’t be fun, but I’m glad you’re here with me.

All of the stuff in this documentary is ancient

It is clear that Gibbs has been trying to make this documentary for a long, long time.

“He is currently working on a film about the state of the planet and the fate of humanity”, read his bio, in 2012. It is clear, digging into these early posts, that he very passionately loathes the burning of trees to generate energy – a wildly controversial and genuinely problematic thing, for sure.

But as early as 2010, Gibbs was posting HuffPost blogs extending that into wind and solar, too.

This one, for instance, repeats a bog-standard list of anti-wind and anti-solar memes that, back in 2010, were fashionable among climate deniers. The ‘wind and solar are too intermittent’ meme, for instance, is a great hallmark of that era. “How much variable energy can a grid accept? Around ten percent, twenty percent tops it appears”, he wrote back then. I’d include examples of grids with higher percentages operating without a hitch today, but it feels almost cruel.

The extreme oldness of this documentary stands out. In one instance, he tours a solar farm in Lansing, Michigan, in which a bemused official states that a large farm can only power ten homes in a year.

It is the Cedar Street Solar Array, a 150 panel 824 kilowatt (that’s small) farm in downtown Lansing. Guess when that bad boy was built? 2008. Twelve years ago – an absolute eternity, in solar development years.

As PV Magazine writes, “The film reports on a solar installation in Michigan with PV panels rated at “just under 8 percent” conversion efficiency. It’s difficult to identify the brand of panel in the film (Abound?) — but that efficiency is from another solar era”. Efficiency gains in solar have been so rapid that by leaving the dates off his footage he is very actively deceiving the audience. The site generates 64-64 MWh a year, according to the owner – a more recent installation in the same area generates around 436. The footage really is from another era. It’s like doing a documentary on the uselessness of mobile phones but only examining the Motorola Ultrasleek.

Later, they visit the Solar Energy Generating System (SEGS) solar farm, only to feign sadness and shock when they discover it’s been removed, leaving a dusty field of sand. In the desert. “Then Ozzie and I discovered that the giant solar arrays had been razed to the ground”, he moans. “It suddenly dawned on me what we were looking at. A solar dead zone”.

Which is a weird one, because the latest 2020 satellite imagery shows a site full of solar arrays, and a total absence of any “dead zones”. The damn thing is generating electricity.

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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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