- Joe Nocera on "The Phony Solyndra Scandal": The "Real Winner is … the Chinese Solar Industry."
- What Questions Would You Like Climate Progress to Ask?
- We're Poisoning the Oceans and It Threatens Our Food
- Hottest Decade on Record Would Have Been Even Hotter But for Deep Oceans — Accelerated Warming May Be On Its Way
- Getting the Facts Straight on Green Jobs
- House Passes Sweeping Anti-Clean Air TRAIN Act
- Wall Street Journal Readers Name US Chamber of Commerce in the "Top Corruption-Related Story of the Year"
Posted: 24 Sep 2011 09:46 AM PDT
That's business columnist Joe Nocera in a great NY Times piece "The Phony Solyndra Scandal." Nocera is not some progressive, renewable energy advocate columnist. Before joining the NYT in 2005, "Mr. Nocera spent 10 years at Fortune Magazine, where he held a variety of positions, including contributing writer, editor-at-large and executive editor."
That's why his piece makes so much sense – he is just looking at this with business sense. Here's more:
Posted: 24 Sep 2011 06:36 AM PDT
I re-instigated the weekend question a month ago and response has been great.
You have given great answers to "What Topics Would You Like Climate Progress to Cover?" and "If You Could Ask a Climate Scientist One Question…." and "Is President Obama a Lost Cause Environmentally — and What Should Progressives Do?" And Stephen Lacey and I are definitely incorporating your ideas into our planned future posts.
They say knowing what questions to ask is as important as knowing how to find the answers. So I'd like you to suggest weekend questions you would like Climate Progress to ask you, the readers, in the coming months.
Some classics include "What should Ian do with his life?" and, of course, "Where would be the best place to live in 2035? 2060?"
Posted: 24 Sep 2011 05:14 AM PDT
by Sheril Kirshenbaum, in a Science Progress cross-post
Marine chemist Richard Feely, a senior scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration, has been collecting water samples in the North Pacific for over 30 years. He's observed a decrease in pH at the upper part of the water column, notably the region where carbon dioxide from automobile exhaust, coal-fired power plants, and other human activities has collected. This surface water is now acidic enough to dissolve the shells of some marine animals such as corals, plankton, and mollusks in laboratory experiments. Feely's findings are just one sign of a troubling global phenomenon called ocean acidification.
We spend a lot of time worrying about carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, as a form of pollution and also as a key greenhouse gas that traps solar heat. But we pay less attention to the effects emissions have in the ocean. There is no debate that rapidly increasing seawater acidity is the result of man-made carbon emissions.
"The chemistry of the uptake of carbon dioxide and its changing pH of seawater is very, very clear," explains Feely.
The oceans absorb an estimated 22 million tons of CO2 from the atmosphere every day. This buffers the greenhouse effect by drawing the planet-warming gas out of the atmosphere and storing it in water, but at a great cost to ocean life. This carbon mixes with the salt water to create carbonic acid, which immediately breaks down, forming bicarbonate and hydrogen. And this excess hydrogen increases the water's acidity.
Higher acidity, in turn, makes life difficult for marine animals by hampering their ability to form shells and skeletons. For microscopic plankton and many other species at the base of marine food chains, this means slower growth and potential population decline. These problems trickle up to affect the large fish that depend on smaller organisms for food.
Acidification also causes some coral species to grow more slowly or disappear. Since coral reefs support 25 percent of the ocean's species of fish, this spells widespread trouble. Marine ecosystems are so interconnected, in fact, that scientists cannot predict the full effects of acidification. They only know that changes in the availability of food and in community structure can scale up quickly.
Carbon emissions released since the start of the industrial revolution have sped the process of ocean acidification, leaving little time for plants and animals to adapt to altered conditions. Scientists now anticipate an average pH decline from 8.1 units to 7.8 in oceans by the end of this century. According to John Guinotte, a marine biogeographer at the Marine Biology Conservation Institute, in Washington, D.C., human activity is now increasing the amount of CO2 in the ocean at an accelerating rate. "Unless we alter human behavior," he warns, "we may experience irreversible shifts in the marine environment that can have dire consequences for life on Earth."
An international team of marine biologists recently traveled to Papua New Guinea where excess CO2 released from volcanic activity has already decreased local ocean pH to the levels that are expected globally by 2100. In this area, they found that more than 90 percent of the region's coral reef species were lost. The study provided a glimpse of how oceans might one day change around the world and serves as a warning that we must curb carbon emissions as quickly as possible.
For us on land, ocean acidification will do more than raise the cost of seafood. A decline in reefs worldwide, for example, would make coastal communities more vulnerable to storm surges and hurricanes. Meanwhile, the fishing and shellfish industries stand to lose hundreds of millions of dollars, and countless jobs, because of acidification's effects on shellfish, as well as associated changes in the populations of larger species. In the United States, oyster hatcheries in the Pacific Northwest have already experienced reduced shell growth due to higher acidity levels. No one can predict the full consequences of ocean acidification, but it's clear our own species will experience them in many ways.
"About one billion people throughout the world depend on protein from fish for survival, so we have to think about what this means for international food security," explains Feely.
Carbon emissions clearly cause problems beyond climate change. And because sea waters mix slowly, whether or not we reduce emissions now, acidification will continue for centuries. If Congress cannot act to restrict emissions, it must as least ensure that marine scientists have the funding needed to study the effects of changing pH on different marine species and, in the decades ahead, to search for ways to mitigate the effects of ocean acidification.
Sheril Kirshenbaum is an author and research associate at the Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy. You can find this post and many other good scientific pieces at Science Progress.
Posted: 23 Sep 2011 03:05 PM PDT
The last decade was easily the hottest on record. We've known that sulfate aerosols (from volcanoes and/or Chinese coal) and the "the deepest solar minimum in nearly a century" masked the rate of warming somewhat.
Even so, NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), which probably has the best of the long temperature datasets, reported the 12-month running mean global temperature reached a new record in 2010. As a NASA analysis found: "We conclude that global temperature continued to rise rapidly in the past decade" and "there has been no reduction in the global warming trend of 0.15-0.20°C/decade that began in the late 1970s."
But other datasets appeared to show a slight slowing in the rate of warming, though even that may have been due to flawed data, as in the case of the UK's Hadley Center.
Scientists have long known that the overwhelming majority of human-caused warming was expected to go into the oceans (see figure below). And many have suspected that deep ocean warming has also been masking surface warming.
Now a new study led by led by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) finds that may indeed be the case:
These potential consequences include accelerated warming in the coming decade and melting of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. Let's take these two in order.
I asked Trenberth whether we might see a decade where warming is a tad faster than expected, and he emailed me, "Yes." Once the decade of slower warming "is over, the subsequent warming can play catchup."
This idea that the ocean can mediate periods when human-caused global warming is faster and slower is not new. Indeed, Dr. Mojib Latif, head of the Ocean Circulation and Climate Dynamics Division at the Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences, came to the exact same conclusion in a widely misunderstood 2008 article (see "Nature article on 'cooling' confuses media, deniers: Next decade may see rapid warming").
Here was Latif's Nature "forecast" — the green dashed line (click to enlarge) — notice the accelerated "catch up" surface warming this decade:
For more explanation of this figure, see here.
A key point from recent observation is that whatever slight slowing in global warming some groups may have observed in the past decade, it was primarily in the surface temperature data set. The oceans kept warming (see "Sorry Deniers, the Oceans are Still Warming as Predicted"):
A 2009 NOAA-led study, "An observationally based energy balance for the Earth since 1950" (subs. req'd, release here) concluded:
Note that this Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres study was done "without using global climate models."
There is a second consequence of ocean warming, of course. As Climate Progress reported last December, "Deep ocean heat is rapidly melting Antarctic ice":
"Warm waters carried by the Antarctic Circumpolar Current are brushing the ice front in the western part of the continent, in the area of the Bellingshausen Sea."
Antarctica is disintegrating much faster than almost anybody imagined — see "Nothing in the natural world is lost at an accelerating exponential rate like this glacier." In 2001, the IPCC "consensus" said neither Greenland nor Antarctica would lose significant mass by 2100. They both already are. As Penn State climatologist Richard Alley said in March 2006, the ice sheets appear to be shrinking "100 years ahead of schedule."
A presentation at the fall 2010 meeting of the American Geophysical Union sheds some light on the underlying cause of this rapid melt — the ice is being attacked from the bottom. Discovery News had the story:
And that was updated in a June post, Ocean Currents Speed Melting of Antarctic Ice, as "Seawater Appear[s] to Boil on the Surface Like a Kettle on the Stove." The news release by Columbia University's Earth Institute explained:
This new study, "Stronger ocean circulation and increased melting under Pine Island Glacier ice shelf" (subs. req'd), gives us a better understanding of just how PIG is being undermined from underneath: "We conclude that the basal melting has exceeded the increase in ice inflow, leading to the formation and enlargement of an inner cavity under the ice shelf within which sea water nearly 4◦C above freezing can now more readily access the grounding zone.
Here is a particularly remarkable observation the scientific team made one day:
As Trenberth said, "The heat has not disappeared, and so it cannot be ignored. It must have consequences."
Finally, some of you may recall a certain controversy from a certain email:
I discussed Trenberth's response at the time here. I emailed Trenberth to ask, "Does this close the chapter on your 'travesty' comment? He replied:
Posted: 23 Sep 2011 01:42 PM PDT
by Kate Gordon
The past few weeks have seen a perfect storm of misinformation on green jobs: what they are, how many there are, how much they contribute to the economy. Many of those throwing numbers around have relied on one source, a recent report from the Brookings Institution, which worked with Battelle's Technology Partnership Practice to attempt to define, evaluate, and count green jobs as a part of the economy from 2003-2010.
It is clear to those of us who have been deeply engaged in making the case for green jobs for years that the Brookings report has been almost universally misunderstood. Hence this post to try and clear up some of the details. But first, a digression about green jobs.
The phrase "green jobs" does not stand for, and in fact has never stood for, one specific set of occupations that can be set aside and easily counted. In this, green jobs are not unique. Think about "high tech jobs," for instance. There are jobs in inventing and developing software, to be sure. But there are also jobs in using software to make existing companies more productive and efficient. There are manufacturing jobs associated not only with the hardware in our computers, but with the servers we use to store data. There are construction jobs that would not exist were it not for the need to build server farms. All the jobs that have come about because of the invention of the computer, and the transformation of our economy from a low-tech to a high-tech one, are arguably "information technology jobs."
Similarly, "green jobs" go way beyond the obvious jobs, like the wind turbine operators. They span huge numbers of industries and occupations, and touch nearly every sector of the economy because they can include all those who use cleaner or more efficient energy and fuel, as well as those who invent, manufacture, install, operate, and maintain those things. Just like the phrase "high tech jobs" has come to stand for an entire economic transformation toward computerization of nearly everything we do, so does "green jobs" stand for a huge transformation in the kinds of energy we use to underpin our long-term economic growth.
So, back to the Brookings report. In that report, Brookings researchers tried valiantly to pin down at least some of the industries and occupations that are most clearly associated with the green economy transformation. They did an admirable job, and here's what they actually found:
Those are some of the facts about the new clean economy. It goes beyond clean energy, though that is probably the most exciting and high-growth sector. A green jobs growth strategy spans industries, occupations, skill levels, and geographic regions, making these businesses and workers less vulnerable to price spikes, extreme weather events, recessions, attacks – you name it.
And most important, the clean economy is real. It employs real people in real jobs with real salaries – something at I bet the 14 million Americans who are currently unemployed sure wish they had.
– Kate Gordon is Vice President for Energy Policy at the Center for American Progress.
Posted: 23 Sep 2011 12:50 PM PDT
Leading Environmental Groups Call on Senate to Reject It, Commend Veto Threat from White House
Today the House of Representatives passed a sweeping anti-environment bill that blocks two landmark public health safeguards against air pollution. The TRAIN Act, H.R. 2401, blocks standards that would curb mercury emissions from power plants and reduce pollution that travels across state lines and endangers communities. Leading environmental and public health groups (listed below) issued the following statement after the House vote:
Posted: 23 Sep 2011 11:57 AM PDT
Wall Street Journal readers were asked to name the "Top Corruption-Related Story of the Year." So far, the easy winner is the US Chamber of Commerce.
The Chamber is one of the major forces behind the destruction of a livable climate and a sustainable US economy (see "The Chamber is so extreme they oppose R&D into renewable energy" and "U.S. Chamber Fights Regulations On Chemicals Linked to Penis Deformations, Birth Defects"). In spite of the staggering economic advantage they get from their pollutocrat members, they still use the most despicable tactics (see "Chamber lobbyists solicited hackers to sabotage unions and smear its political opponents").
So if you want to spend a few seconds of your weekend casting your vote against the Chamber, click here. Do it for the children.
|From ThinkProgress » Climate Progress|