John Kerry in Peru on Climate Change

It is nice to know that the 97% consensus on climate change science is assumed to be a real thing by the leaders. This is John Kerry talking about climate change, in Peru.

He notes that scientists were telling us that climate change is real and already happening in 1988, and he notes that in Rio 1992, the UN Secretary General delcared that he was persuaded that we are on the road to tragedy. He mentioned the superstorm happening now on the West coast and says, “It’s become common place now to hear of record breaking weather events.”

The psychology behind our failure to act on climate change

Chris Mooney writing for the Washington Post has an article on “The 7 psychological reasons that are stopping us from acting on climate change

He notes:

When a gigantic threat is staring you in the face, and you can’t act upon it, it’s safe to assume there’s some sort of mental blockage happening. So what’s the hangup? That’s what a new report from ecoAmerica and the Center for Research on Environmental Decisions (CRED) at Columbia University’s Earth Institute — entitled Connecting on Climate: A Guide to Effective Climate Change Communication — seeks to help us better understand.

The report is framed around communicating about climate change effectively — but read more closely and you’ll quickly see that the reason we need help here to begin with is that humans have some pesky attributes, ones that render us pretty poor at grappling with slow-moving, long-range, collective problems like climate change. So which traits are we talking about?

Read the rest here.

Happy Anniversary Real Climate

Ten Years of RealClimate

In the spring of 2004, when we (individually) first started talking to people about starting a blog on climate science, almost everyone thought it was a great idea, but very few thought it was something they should get involved in. Today, scientists communicating on social media is far more commonplace. On the occasion of our 10 year anniversary today it is worth reflecting on the impact of those changes, what we’ve learned and where we go next.

Why we started and why we continue

RealClimate is one of the more important climate science blogs out there. If you don’t know about it, you should!

Read the rest of the story here.

Global warming’s dangers stare us in face: Op Ed by Michael Mann

The Providence Journal has published an Op Ed by climate scientist Michael Mann. You should read the whole thing, but I found the following paragraphs to be one of the better written descriptions of the situation we are in:

Here’s what my fellow scientists and I know: Thermometers and satellites all point to the fact that the world is rapidly warming. Glaciers are shrinking, the ocean is heating and expanding, precipitation is falling in heavier doses, and we’re watching the Arctic icecap shrink away.

Why the rapid warming? Heat-trapping carbon dioxide in our atmosphere has increased about 40 percent since pre-industrial times. It comes from major industries that extract and burn coal and oil, as well as tropical deforestation.

Now, climate risks are staring us in the face….

Mann reminds us that those who support climate science denialism such as Dennis Slonk, who had previously written for the Journal, insist that denialists are merely asking legitimate questions of scientists and the science. Mann then asks, if this is so, why have deniers in Congress called for criminal investigations of the scientists, and why would someone send a climate scientist a package of mysterious white powder, which, even if the powder is inert (as it turned out to be) is probably a terrorist act.

I recommend reading this Op Ed, it is quite enlightening.

Michael Mann also has an Op Ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer, HERE.

Here’s a Quiz: How Much Methane is Seeping from Old Wells?

Peter Sinclair has a post on this topic.

One is – we assume that US carbon emissions are on the downswing, and to the best of my knowledge, that’s true. However, there are some emissions that we don’t count, because they are poorly understood. These include the gentle seeping of powerful greenhouse gases from thousands of abandoned wells around the country.

So, what are we doing about this? Interesting story here.

Australian scientists announce solar energy record

AUSTRALIAN SCIENTISTS have set a new record in increasing the efficiency of solar panels, which they hope could eventually lead to cheaper sources of renewable energy.

..the researchers were able to convert more than 40 per cent of sunlight hitting the panels into electricity.

“This is the highest efficiency ever reported for sunlight conversion into electricity…We used commercial solar cells, but in a new way, so these efficiency improvements are readily accessible to the solar industry,”…

While traditional methods use a single solar cell, which limits the conversion of sunlight to electricity to about 33 per cent, the newer technology splits the sunlight across four different cells, each optimised for the fraction of the sunlight they receive, which boosts the efficiency level, Green said.

The four-way solar cells can be used at the centre of a field of mirrors which are arranged to concentrate the Sun’s rays. …

Read all about it HERE.

Hat tip: Astrostevo

Is the age of oil, gas, and coal over? Almost?

Well, not yet, but one can hope for a rapid transition .

Check out this piece at Motherboard:

?In just 15 years, the world as we know it will have transformed forever. The ?age of oil, gas, coal and nuclear will be over. A new age of clean power and smarter cars will fundamentally, totally, and permanently disrupt the existing fossil fuel-dependent industrial infrastructure in a way that even the most starry-eyed proponents of ‘green energy’ could never have imagined.

These are not the airy-fairy hopes of a tree-hugging hippy living off the land in an eco-commune. It’s the startling verdict of ?Tony Seba, a lecturer in business entrepreneurship, disruption and clean energy at Stanford University and a serial Silicon Valley entrepreneur….

Read it here.

How Addressing Climate Change Can Fit In A Positive Economic Agenda

From Bernie Sanders’ “An Economic Agenda for America: 12 Steps Forward

The United States must lead the world in reversing climate change and make certain that this planet is habitable for our children and grandchildren. We must transform our energy system away from fossil fuels and into energy efficiency and sustainable energies. Millions of homes and buildings need to be weatherized, our transportation system needs to be energy efficient and we need to greatly accelerate the progress we are already seeing in wind, solar, geothermal, biomass and other forms of sustainable energy. Transforming our energy system will not only protect the environment, it will create good paying jobs.

Minnesota High school league votes to let transgender athletes pick their teams

From MPR News:

After months of review, the Minnesota State High School League voted Thursday to let transgender athletes play on the sports teams that best align with their gender identity.

The vote was 18-1. One board member abstained.

Three Republican state lawmakers told the board that the Legislature, not the high school league, should handle policy on transgender student athletes. State Rep. Barb Yarusso, DFL- Shoreview, countered that the transgender policy would only apply to a handful of students and urged the board to act.

Supporters of the policy say it will make transgender students feel more welcome in sports. Critics say it’s risky to let transgender girls, who were born as boys, play on girls’ teams.

Melanie Outcalt, a 10th grader, said she was worried transgender girls who were born as boys would have an advantage in her favorite sport, volleyball.

“I think it’s unfair that you’re giving boys the opportunity to proclaim themselves as girls just so they can play on a girls team and potentially take away our scholarships,” Outcalt said.

That’s the same argument made in a full-page ad placed by the Child Protection League last Sunday in the Star Tribune.

Advocates for transgender athletes say those fears are baseless, and have never been a problem in the two dozen states with similar policies already in place. Minnesota will become the 33rd state to implement a policy for transgender high school athletes, according to high school league media specialist John Millea.

Elliott Kunerth, [noted] “Transphobia and a simple lack of education regarding the transgender community are not an excuse to discriminate against transgender players … Nor will they be valid excuses to treat someone differently. Whether or not a player happens to be transgender is no one else’s concern.”

Critics of the policy aren’t sure what their next step will be.

“There’s going to be some very unhappy people,” [one opponent of the policy said] “This was obviously a very controversial issue and some folks are going to be very, very upset about this.”

The policy will go into effect next school year, but religious schools will be exempt.

A partial history of the turkey

cover-320x320“As Thanksgiving ebbs into memory and Christmas looms on the horizon, Eat This Podcast concerns itself with the turkey. For a nomenclature nerd, the turkey is a wonderful bird. Why would a bird from America be named after a country on the edge of Asia? The Latin name offers a clue; the American turkey is Meleagris gallopavo, while the African guineafowl is Numida meleagris. But why did the first settlers adopt a name they were already familiar with, rather than adopt a local indigenous name such as nalaaohki pileewa for the native fowl. Simple answer: nobody knows…”

Listen to the podcast (with extensive notes) here…

Saint Paul Saints Building With Solar Power

You all know about the Saint Paul Aints. No, wait, I mean Saint Paul Saints. This is a local baseball team here in the Twin Cities. They are building a new stadium (much needed) right in the middle of Saint Paul to replace their old stadium out by the railroad tracks.

What you may not know is that the Saints Stadium is going to be one of the greener sports stadiums built. Other people building stadiums should take note. From MPR News:

St. Paul Saints stadium builders aim to make it a ‘green’ field

… When the $62 million stadium opens in May, the home of the city’s minor league baseball team will take a major step forward as an environmentally friendly sports facility.

A canopy of photovoltaic solar panels next to the baseball field will generate 103 kilowatts of power for Minnesota’s newest sports complex, a 7,000-seat facility owned by the city of St. Paul.

“We think it’s going to be the third largest solar array at a sports facility in the U.S,” project manager Paul Johnson said.

That’s only about a tenth of the power needed to run the lights and meet the energy needs for the rest of the stadium. But it will be a high-profile alternative to conventional electric power. The baseball scoreboard is expected to tout the solar power generated along with the score. Its panels also will shade a group dining area.

Other features will include a storm water filtration system that will take drainage from the nearby Metro Transit maintenance facility roof and use it to irrigate the turf at CHS Field. Rain water also will be diverted to flush 10 percent of the toilets in the restrooms.

Making the stadium environmentally friendly came with a cost. The solar project added an additional $600,000 to the project, and the storm water system added an estimated $450,000. But grants are covering the extra cost.

Still, the price tag on the solar project has drawn skepticism even from some environmentalists.

Eric Jensen, senior energy associate for the Izaak Walton League of the Midwest, is encouraged that solar energy will receive such a high-profile installation and that more people will see a practical use for it. But he said the funding from Xcel Energy would have gone further on other projects.

“This is the highest dollar per watt,” Jensen said. “It’s the most expensive dollar per watt project.”

But Gerken, the project architect, thinks even seasonal use of environmentally-friendly facilities can inspire the public to think differently. He cites light rail service at Target Field.

“Many people’s first experience with Metro Transit and the light rail was ‘hey, let’s go to a Twins Game,'” he said. “And now they’re used to it, they know about it. … It’s an option to go to the airport; it’s an option to go to the Mall of America.”

Ann Hunt, environmental policy director for the city of St. Paul, said the innovative stadium features aren’t just demonstration projects but part of a larger effort across the city’s public sector. Another example of the city’s environmental focus, she said, is the solar hot water system for the RiverCentre convention center. Hunt said it’s one of the biggest in the Midwest.

“This installation heats hot water to help heat the RiverCentre complex and the Xcel Energy complex and provide domestic hot water for that facility,” she said.

Maybe We Should Have Elected a White President After All

I originally wrote this in August 2009. It still pertains, though I’d probably write it a bit differently today. Slightly edited:

There is no doubt that this country is not ready for a Black President.

Nor would this country ever be ready for any non-white or non-male president until we actually went ahead and elected one–ready or not–and then made the necessary adjustments. And that could have been what would have happened with the historic election of Barack Obama.

Except it didn’t.

Join me, if you will, in a moment of utter, deep cynicism. That would mean you thinking, for just a moment, exactly like I think every second of the day. This will be painful for you, unless you are already where I am. In my world, I see almost every nationally elected Republican, almost every one of the teabaggers at the town hall meetings, and almost every one of the strutting libertarians with their strap-ons (because they don’t have real ones) as a racist. I also see half the liberals that I know as racists. I see almost every white person who lives in the suburbs and who has a job and an income with benefits as a racist. I probably think you are a racist. You may think I’m over doing it, you may think I’m being unfair, you may think I’ve oversimplified, and you may think I’ve got it wrong.

I have oversimplified, but I’m not overdoing it, I’m not being unfair, and I don’t have it wrong. It is you that has it wrong and that is the problem. Standing by and letting what we are seeing happening on the national stage and doing nothing about it is plain and pure complicity.

I’m thinking about the response to health care reform. The most active of them all, the teabaggers and the Republicans in office, each and every one, are reacting not to anything about health care, but rather to the fact that our president is a black man, and they are reacting to little else. Proposals that the Republicans have made themselves over the last decade are being touted as attempts to kill grandma or take away our freedoms or introduce socialism. There is nothing rational in what the teabaggers and Republicans are saying. Not. One. Thing.

Does any of this mean that we have prematurely elected our first black president? No, of course not. That is all to be expected. That would all be part of the transformation our country will go through to make the election of non-white-male presidents (in some combination) plausible rather than jaw-dropping remarkable.

The problem is not that the crazy right wing is upset and screaming at us from the back of the room telling us to shut up. The problem is that the rest of the country, or at least a significant number of individuals, especially in elected office and in the media, are not calling this what it is. Yes, there have been hints, here and there, of racist undertones and overtones, but the spade is not being called a spade. As it were.

And the reason is disgusting. The reason that the mainstream press and numerous elected officials are not identifying the town hall teabaggers and the anti-health care Republicans as racists is because the ground has been prepared to make sure that when someone does call someone else out on racism in the mainstream public square, that act…the act of identifying racism…is considered just as bad as the racism itself. It is called “playing the race card.” The whole “Oh, now you’re going to play the race card, aren’t you!” gambit was developed, prepared, and inculcated into society over the last 15 years (really, 14 years…since the OJ Simpson trial), so now racism has a place at the table. Where it does not belong.

Over the last 24 hours (as I write this on Monday) the public option part of health care reform has been taken off the table. I can hope, tell myself, guess, fantasize, that this is just a strategy, and that the public option will be back. I can figure that this is just to give some time for the famous Obama grassroots organizing to get up to speed, and that the public option will be in the health care bill and will be voted into place. But I doubt it. I strongly suspect that the golden opportunity, which comes around very 12 to 20 years, has been lost once more.

I will die before there is a good health care system. My daughter will reach middle age or even old age before there is a good health care system.

The outcome, years later, as we enter the last two years of President Obama’s second term, is this: The Democrats can not nominate another black president, ever. The Republicans have succeeded in their strategy. Keeping the White in the White House.

And the Democrats let that happen.

Saline Church Uses Solar For The Majority Of Electric Needs

Saline is a small town in Michigan, just under 9,000 people. As the name might suggest, it is the site of a natural salt source used by Native Americans, later explorers and traders. Today the big industry there is auto parts, but the University of Michigan provides many jobs there as well.

The First Presbyterian Church of Saline has covered much of their roof with a big solar array capable of covering well over half of their electricity needs.

From the Saline Reporter:

In early August, a 15 kilowatt, 56-panel system was installed… Officials recently received their first utility bill from DTE, which showed more than a 70 percent savings, said Chip Manchester, founding member of the church’s Environmental Stewardship group.

During the September billing period, the panels generated 2,160 kilowatt hours, which is more than 70 percent of the energy needed to power the 2,800 square-foot building for the month. The electricity bill at the church went from $350 to $75, he said.

“It (the bill) was definitely a pleasant surprise, it’s one thing to have it promised but it’s another thing to have it realized,” said Kurt Leutheuser, finance elder with the church.

The $45,000 system is projected to fund about two thirds of the church’s electrical use throughout the year, last 25 years and pay for itself in 13 years. It was financed by the nearly 300-person congregation with the average contribution being close to $1,000, Manchester said.

Small town getting a good way off the carbon-based grid

Geneseo, Illinois is a small town with fewer than 7,000 people. They plan to meet about half their electricity needs, on a good day (windy, sunny) with clean energy, after the installation of some new cool technology.

From the Dispatch Argus:

City officials have been notified of a $1 million grant for a one-megawatt solar energy array from the Illinois Clean Energy Foundation.

Total cost of the project is expected to be $2 to $2.5 million. Under the project, renewable energy would provide about half the city’s daily nine-megawatt appetite for power — enough for about 220 homes — between the one-megawatt solar system and the three megawatts from the city’s two wind turbines on an ideal day.

The council voted unanimously Tuesday to authorize Mayor Nadine Palmgren to sign an agreement with the foundation for the grant. Ald. Howard Beck, 3rd Ward, was absent.

Council approval also will be needed for funding, seeking bids and awarding the project, according to electric superintendent Lewis Opsal.

Geneseo’s solar array would be located on five acres now a soybean field at the foot of the city’s wind turbines, where it would connect to an existing substation.

“It would be great for reducing our transmission costs,” said Mr. Opsal. “There is a long line of people very interested in that grant. It’s a perfect project for Geneseo.”

Kathy Allen, of Geneseo, questioned if the project would lower power bills in the city. Mr. Opsal said, hopefully, the city would be able to hold costs steady. He noted a large utility recently raised rates 23 percent and U.S. power rates could double in the future because of the closure of high-emission plants.

Giant Batteries in Chicago

An example of Clean Energy marching forward:

Renewable Energy Systems Americas Inc., better known as RES Americas, said Tuesday it will build two of the largest commercial-sized energy storage projects in North America.

RES, a wind farm developer based in Broomfield, Colorado, said the two projects will be built outside of Chicago, and once completed in 2015, will be capable of storing a total of 19.8 megawatts of power to support the local Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) electricity grid.

These batteries will be on line, or should I say, inserted into the back of Chicago behind a giant plastic plate held in by a huge screw (I assume). by August 2015, and they will operate for ten years.

Details here.

Build a solar power plant to help run a water treatment plant!

RMU Announces Solar Plant Completion

Rochelle Municipal Utilities, in Rochelle, Illinois, has. started operation of a large Photovoltaic Solar Plant providing power to their water treatment facility. This is a great example of a project that should be done in more places.

In the Spring of 2014, RMU was awarded a $500,000 grant from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation to fund construction of the Solar Plant. ICECF provides grants for up to $2/watt or 60% of the system and its installation costs, whichever is less. As a result of the competitive bidding process, Eagle Point Solar was awarded the project.

“Rochelle’s 312 kW Solar Photovoltaic plant is one of the larger Public Power Utility owned plants in Illinois. This plant will provide renewable energy to the water treatment plant” stated Business & Financial Analyst Dan Westin. “Treatment plants require a lot of energy to make clean water. Rochelle will continue to explore financially sound projects in the area of renewable energy.”

As a result of this project, Rochelle Municipal Utilities has been selected as a recipient of this year’s Northern Illinois Renewable Energy Summit & Expo’s “Leadership by Example” award.

You can view the plant’s output real time here.

The water treatment plant has a peak energy demand of about 420 kW and the PV system can cover over half of that. During summer months, when the Sun’s energy is maximally available, the sun will provide about 45% of the plant’s energy requirements. It helps that the plant operates mainly during daylight hours, so this is a good fit for a solar installation.

According to Dan Westin, of Rochelle Municipal Utilities, “the unique part of Rochelle is that as a Muni owned utility it can include the grid capacity cost savings in the business case as well the solar energy credits marketed in the Pennsylvania market. The payback is less than five years that way. So 15 years of free solar energy. The cost of producing clean water goes down.”

Dan also told me that there are similar projects in Galena and Rockford Illinois.

Ford Is Installing Green Energy Facilities

Ford is going to put the state of Michigan’s largest solar array at their headquarters in Dearborn Michigan, in cooperation with DTE Energy. This will provide 360 covered parking spaces with 30 spots for plug-in electric vehicles. I will be a 1.038 mW plant and will offset nearly 800 metric tons of CO2 emissions annually. That’s actually a very small amount of solar power considering what could be done, but it is a start.

Meanwhile, Ford is also installing wind turbines at four US dealerships. This is a wind sail type turbine, which is fairly efficient and should be relatively bird friendly. Each installation will be accompanied by a 7 kW solar array. Each system will produce 20,000 kW of electricity each year, offsetting 14 tons of GHG annually per installation. The electricity will be used to provide electricity to the dealerships and power a few plug-in chargers for cars.

How To Drive In The Snow

Slowly and carefully. This is not hard to remember.

I think most people do that, but it seems that at least here in Minnesota, when the snow and ice is on the road, while most people slow down and become more cautious, a smaller subset of individuals speed up and become more reckless. Usually, the latter are driving pickups, but not always.

So, I made this chart of inverse caution while driving:

Screen Shot 2014-11-11 at 10.55.26 AM

Chipping away at the baseload myth

One of the most persistent myths about clean energy is that clean energy does not supply a reliable source of electricity. That myth usually includes ideas such as we need coal, or nuclear, to provide baseload.

Check out this analysis from Forbes:

Experts: Reducing Carbon Emissions And Increasing Grid Reliability Are Doable

With the Clean Power Plan out for comment, a lot utilities are scurrying to figure out their game plan — or just how they would work with their state utility regulators to reduce their carbon emissions by 30 percent by 2030, from a 2005 baseline. The general feeling is that the goal is doable but it may take a little more time.

Understandably, the utilities and the state regulators want to find better and cheaper ways of doing business. Their level of enthusiasm, though, differs based on which part of the country they live and which fuels they burn to make electricity. The Northeast and California are leading the charge, having created free market exchanges to buy and sell credits to reduce carbon levels — mechanisms that each say is helping to broaden their generation mixes and to boost their economies.

Detroit-Chicago High Speed Rail

Nice to see some movement on advanced, 21st (really, 20th) century public transportation. From Detroit Free Press:

A completed high-speed rail corridor between Chicago and Detroit could boost round-trip passenger train service between the two cities from the current three daily trips to 10 by 2035 at speeds of 110 m.p.h., according to preliminary planning on the project.

The higher speeds would also cut the 5 hour, 38 minute trip by almost two hours, and reduce 20 minutes from the leg that continues from Detroit to Pontiac, which would see an extra four daily round-trips from the current three.

John Coleman, Founder of The Weather Channel On Fox News

… to play the victim. Interestingly, Fox News doesn’t exactly give him a pass at first. Then they threw him an Al Gore softball on Arctic Ice. Watch:

Media Matters for America has a great writeup on this. It is all about false balance. Fox is great at that.

Coleman’s experience in weather forecasting does not make him an expert in climate science — there is an immense difference between a scientist and a weather forecaster. … Disregarding the fact that Coleman never received a formal education in meteorology — his degree was in journalism — his experience predicting the weather does not make him a credible source to debunk the vast majority of scientific literature on climate change.

Coleman also claimed that “9,000 Ph.D.’s and 31 [thousand] scientists” agree with his position on climate change, referring to the widely discredited Oregon Petition Project. Its signatories are mostly engineers with master’s degrees, and it once included the names of fictitious characters and a member of the Spice Girls.

Coleman is not a climate scientist. Neither is Al Gore, actually. But one of them is seriously concerned about climate change and does listen to what climate scientists day. Guess which one.