Thursday, January 7, 2010

Climate Progress

Climate Progress

"Experts: Cold snap doesn't disprove global warming"

Posted: 07 Jan 2010 09:19 AM PST

… experts say the cold snap doesn't disprove global warming at all — it's just a blip in the long-term heating trend.

"It's part of natural variability," said Gerald Meehl, a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo. With global warming, he said, "we'll still have record cold temperatures. We'll just have fewer of them."

Deke Arndt of the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C., noted that 2009 will rank among the 10 warmest years for Earth since 1880.

Leave it to the Associated Press to state the obvious starting with the blunt headline.  They've been doing some of the best straight reporting on human-caused climate change (see AP analysis of stolen emails: An "exhaustive review" shows "the exchanges don't undercut the vast body of evidence showing the world is warming because of man-made greenhouse gas emissions.")

In fact, 2009 ranks among the 5 warmest on Earth, and the entire planet just keeps warming thanks to human emissions (see Must-read AP story: Statisticians reject global cooling; Caldeira — "To talk about global cooling at the end of the hottest decade the planet has experienced in many thousands of years is ridiculous").  It's not just the surface that's warming, but we're also seeing it where climate science said more than 90% of the warming would end up — the oceans (see "Skeptical Science explains how we know global warming is happening: It's the oceans, stupid!")

Robert Henson, author of The Rough Guide to Climate Change also has a good piece in the UK's Guardian, "Snow, ice and the bigger picture":  The cold snap tells us little about climate change, but if you want something to blame it on, try the Arctic oscillation," which notes:

What's different now is that climate change is shifting the odds towards record-hot summers and away from record-cold winters. The latter aren't impossible; they're just harder to get, like scoring a straight flush on one trip to Vegas and a royal flush the next.

It's also critical to remember the "global" in global warming. Even if every inch of land in the northern hemisphere were unusually cold, that would only represent 20% of Earth's surface. There's plenty of warmth elsewhere around the world. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration data through November hints that 2009 may end up ranked as the southern hemisphere's warmest year on record. For the planet as a whole, last year falls solidly among the 10 warmest years of the past 100. And despite all the talk about Earth having cooled since the late 1990s, this past decade trumps the 1990s as the warmest on record.


I'd also note that the AP story begins:

Beijing had its coldest morning in almost 40 years and its biggest snowfall since 1951. Britain is suffering through its longest cold snap since 1981.

And some in the media have also queried me about stories where people report non-record-breaking cold.  It bears repeating, as I said on Fox, that global warming can't turn January into July.  So merely reporting it's cold in January isn't news that has any relevancy to global warming.

If we see record-breaking extremes of a very certain kind — once-in-a-century type events — those I think can be evidentiary (see "Hell and High Water hits Georgia" and "Weather Channel expert on Georgia's record-smashing global-warming-type deluge").  But reading about near-record temps in a city or small country or part of a big country just doesn't cut it.

It's one thing to say, for instance, 2009 was one the five warmest years on record — or even Australia had its hottest decade ever, but to say, it was so cold yesterday in one city it didn't even break the record or we just had a once-in-30-years weather event, well, that's just not evidence of anything but boredom by the media.

The scientific literature now says "Record high temperatures far outpace record lows across U.S." (the lead author is NCAR's Meehl, cited in the AP story). So it's only the statistical accumulation of record highs versus record lows over an extended period of time that tell us much about the state of the climate.

We've only had about 1°F warming in recent decades, which can't do much more than skew the odds — it certainly hasn't warmed anywhere near enough to have driven us outside the bounds of the much larger temperature swings that come from regional weather patterns, let alone the seasons.  That's why one needs to do statistical analysis to draw conclusions like the one signed off on by Bush's Commerce Sec. Carlos Gutierrez, Energy Sec. Samuel Bodman, and Science Advisor John Marburger III (see "why the anti-science disinformers try to shout down any talk of a link between climate change and extreme weather"):

Heavy precipitation events averaged over North America have increased over the past 50 years, consistent with the observed increases in atmospheric water vapor, which have been associated with human-induced increases in greenhouse gases.

And they signed off on the conclusion that those "Extreme precipitation episodes" now "account for a larger percentage of total precipitation. The most significant changes have occurred in most of the United States."

And for some reason, it always bears repeating that precipitation isn't temperature — and record snowfall in places where it is normally cold enough in the winter to snow doesn't provide evidence against the theory of human-caused climate change.  Quite the reverse (see Was the "Blizzard of 2009″ a "global warming type" of record snowfall — or an opportunity for the media to blow the extreme weather story (again)?).

It doesn't look like we'll have to put with these stories much longer:

Jeff Masters, director of meteorology for Weather Underground, a forecasting service, said he expects more typical winter weather across North America early next week.

And, of course, 2010 still remains likely to be the hottest year on record, given the moderate to strong El NiƱo we are still experiencing — more on that shortly.

Energy and Global Warming News for January 7th: EPA announces strict new health standards for smog; Clean tech funding outpaces every other VC sector

Posted: 07 Jan 2010 08:58 AM PST

E.P.A. Announces Strict New Health Standards for Smog

The Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday proposed stricter health standards for smog, replacing a Bush-era limit that ran counter to scientific recommendations.

The new limits — which are presented as a range — will likely put hundreds more counties nationwide in violation, a designation that will require them to find additional ways to clamp down on pollution or face government sanctions, most likely the loss of federal highway dollars….

The proposed range was what scientists had recommended during the Bush administration. However, former President George W. Bush personally intervened and set the standard above what was advised after protests from electric utilities and other industries.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said in a statement Thursday that science, this time around, had been followed.

"EPA is stepping up to protect Americans from one of the most persistent and widespread pollutants we face," Jackson said. "Using the best science to strengthen these standards is long overdue action that will help millions of Americans breathe easier and live healthier."

The Obama administration earlier this year had indicated it planned to scrap the Bush smog limits.

Smog is a respiratory irritant that has been linked to asthma attacks and other respiratory illnesses. It is formed when emissions from cars, power plants and other factories mix in sunlight.

While smog has been a long-term problem in parts of Texas, California, and along the northeast Coast, the new standards could affect counties in Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, the Dakotas, Kansas, Minnesota and Iowa for the first time based on EPA data.

Clean tech gets big piece of venture-capital funding

Venture-capital funding for clean-technology firms fell 33% in 2009 from the year before, but the sector fared better than others amid a dismal economy, data released Wednesday indicate.

More than $5.6 billion in venture-capital investment went to clean-tech firms — including solar, wind, energy efficiency, transportation and biofuels — last year, say preliminary data from market researcher Cleantech Group and finance firm Deloitte.

Total venture-capital investment has retreated to 2003 levels, but clean tech has reset only to 2007 levels, the Cleantech Group says. "It was a difficult year, but I see clean tech … as the best of the worst," says Shawn Lesser, founder of finance firm Sustainable World Capital.

The money flow underscores that:

•Clean tech has muscle. In 2004, the sector accounted for about 3% of venture-capital investment. That expanded to about 25% in 2009. The sector last year, for the first time, received more private venture capital than any other sector, including software, Cleantech Group says.

•Efficiency and transportation are in. The top clean-tech recipient in 2009 was solar, which got 21% of it. But solar investment was down 64% from the previous year, while the transportation and energy-efficiency sectors had record years.

The drop for solar stems from several factors, including the big amounts of money needed to commercialize technologies, says Dallas Kachan, managing director of the Cleantech Group. Meanwhile, energy-efficiency firms — those concentrating on everything from lighting to green building materials — often need less money to bring products or services to market, may rely on more proven technologies and may pose less risk to investors. "They're not reinventing the wheel," Kachan says.

Last year, venture capital for transportation — for such things as electric cars and new battery technology — rose 47% to $1.1 billion. Investment in energy efficiency rose 39% to $1 billion.

•North America may be slipping. The region is still dominant for clean-tech venture capital, but it's getting a smaller share than it used to. Last year, North America received 62% of clean-tech venture-capital dollars, down from 72% in 2008, the Cleantech Group says. Europe and Israel took in 29% of 2009 dollars, up from 22% in 2008. That Europe and Israel increased their share of venture-capital funding may reflect the desire for investors to pursue less risky deals in markets where clean tech is already more widely deployed, Lesser says.

Hannity, Ever Wrong, Says CIA Is Diverting Resources For Climate Change

Did you know that the CIA is distracted by climate change and is diverting resources on global warming that should be spent on counter terrorism? It's true. Ask Sean Hannity and ExxonMobil. Said Hannity last night on his TV program: "The CIA director redirects manpower to monitor climate change, but is it all the cost — at the cost of our security, your security, your family's security? "[I]n the wake of the attempted Christmas Day terror attack, you would think the spies at the CIA, that they would have their hands full securing America. But, believe it or not, assets at Langley are being used for other projects."

Where did Hannity get his info. From National Center for Public Policy Research (NCPPR), sponsored by Exxon, that's where. In a press release, they said, "As terrorists continue to infiltrate America, the Obama Administration is tasking some of our nation's most elite intelligence-gathering agencies to divert their resources to environmental scientists researching global warming."

Sadly for Hannity, the intelligence community says that the information sharing has no impact at all on counter-terorrism efforts. In a New York Times article, officials said:

"The monitoring program has little or no impact on regular intelligence gathering, federal officials said, but instead releases secret information already collected or takes advantage of opportunities to record environmental data when classified sensors are otherwise idle or passing over wilderness."

Labor Department gives nearly $100 million in green-jobs training grants

The government is funneling nearly $100 million into training programs for green jobs, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis said today.

The funds, part of a $500-million green workforce development initiative through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, will go to 25 projects around the country.

The programs are designed to help workers find jobs — such as hybrid and electric auto technicians, weatherization specialists, wind and energy auditors, and solar panel installers — in growing energy-efficiency and renewable-energy industries.

The money will be parceled out in Energy Training Partnership Grants ranging from $1.4 million to $5 million each. Projects in communities affected by the restructuring in the auto industry will receive $28 million.

Only one project based entirely in California will get funding. $5 million will go to develop training for the state's unemployed and underemployed electricians through the California State Labor Management Cooperation Committee for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the National Electrical Contractors Assn.

But four other grantees will spread their new resources across several states including California. For example, the Utility Workers Union of America, AFL-CIO, will spend part of its nearly $5-million package on women, minorities, incumbent workers and young people in Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Riverside counties.

The International Training Institute for the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Industry will also include parts of the state as it creates training for veterans, minorities, women and the unemployed and underemployed using its nearly $5-million grant.

Funding figures for two remaining green grant categories will be released over the next few weeks, according to the Labor Department.

Line 'needed' for green gold rush

The rush to generate energy from wind and the sea is the main driver behind the Beauly to Denny line, according to Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE).

Scotland, like the rest of the UK, has been set targets for producing more power from renewable sources to help tackle climate change.

Sites in the north of Scotland will play major roles in doing that.

The Pentland Firth, Western and Northern isles have been identified as prime locations for "green" projects.

SSE said the transmission line between the Highlands and central Scotland must be upgraded to carry the volume of electricity created and to encourage greater competition in the market.

The existing line carries 132,000 volts (132kV), while the new one will be able to carry 400kV.

SSE said of the Beauly to Denny line: "The need for the country's green and more indigenous sources of energy is becoming increasingly acute and a rejection, or even partial rejection, of the replacement line will significantly delay Scotland's efforts to tackle climate change.

"Scotland's climate change commitments, industry confidence in renewables investment, broader economic development and employment in harnessing Scotland's renewable resources will all falter, at a time when the delivery of green energy solutions has never been more urgent."

The north of Scotland has been flagged up as key to the generation of renewable power.

First Minister Alex Salmond has previously described the Pentland Firth between Caithness and Orkney as the Saudi Arabia of marine power because of its tidal energy potential.

New Life for Solar-Updraft Technology?

The solar updraft tower, which uses the greenhouse effect and thermal convection to drive wind turbines and produce electricity, has been hailed as a novel — and promising — approach to renewable energy generation.

The technology relies on an elementary principle of physics: heat rises. To generate power, a massive greenhouse creates hot air and funnels it into a tall chimneylike structure. This hot wind propels a wind turbine within the tower. According to some estimates, such towers could, if sufficiently large and in the proper environment, generate emissions-free power at a considerable discount over traditional renewable sources.

Nevertheless, solar updraft has been a nonstarter in the world of utility-scale power. A 50-kilowatt research prototype was built and successfully operated in Spain for several years in the mid-1980s, but the technology has not been proven commercially viable.

Now, an Australian company, EnviroMission Ltd., hopes to convince investors to support its plans to build two utility-scale solar updraft towers in the desert of Arizona. The company has submitted applications to use several hundred acres of public land in La Paz County for the plants. Last November, the Southern California Public Power Authority approved the company as a potential power provider.

Each solar-tower plant would require a 2,400-foot-tall chimney – just 200 hundred feet shorter than the Burj Dubai, the world's tallest building – to be situated over a four-square-mile-wide greenhouse.

The company estimates the 200-megawatt plants will both cost $750 million.

If history is any guide, the project will be difficult to translate from blueprints to reality. After incorporating in 2000, EnviroMission sought to construct a nearly identical updraft tower in rural New South Wales, Australia.

The company raised millions of dollars and purchased 24,000 acres of land, but failed to secure sufficient financing to begin construction. In a November 2009 message to shareholders, the company's chairman, Roger Davey, blamed its failure to break ground on the withdrawal of support from the Australian government.

With the Australian project on hold, EnviroMission has focused its hopes on the American market, opening an office in downtown Phoenix and hiring the financial services firm Raymond James to help attract new investors.

It is not the only company seeking to make utility-scale solar updraft towers a reality.

In late 2008, the Namibian government pledged its support for a feasibility study on a nearly one-mile-high updraft tower.

The project, dubbed "Greentower," would use a massive greenhouse to grow crops, while also generating hot air to drive wind turbines.

Has the U.S. Reached Peak Vehicles?

Americans scrapped 4 million more cars and trucks last year than they purchased, the first significant drop in the U.S. auto fleet in more than four decades, according to a new report.

The United States scrapped 14 million vehicles last year while buying only 10 million new ones, dropping the nation's fleet from an all-time high of 250 million to 246 million, according to the Earth Policy Institute.

Lester Brown, the author of the report, said the drop — the first significant shrinkage the U.S. fleet has seen since record-keeping began in 1960 — represents a "cultural shift away from the car" and estimated the fleet size will continue to recede during the next decade. He estimated the fleet could shrink a total of 10 percent by 2020.

"No one knows how many cars will be sold in the years ahead, but given the many forces at work, U.S. car sales may never again reach the 17 million that were sold each year between 1999 and 2007," Brown said. "Sales seem more likely to remain between 10 million and 14 million per year."

The report comes one day after the automakers posted sales numbers for December, a month that showed a small but significant uptick in sales and brought a close to what has been one of the worst years in the history of the industry.

Brown said this summer's federal Cash for Clunkers program, which paid Americans to scrap old cars and trucks for newer, more fuel-efficient ones, played only a small role in the downward trend because it accounted for roughly 700,000 cars. "It has an effect but a minor one," he said.

Instead, Brown attributed the drop to a number of other factors and stressed that it was being driven by more than just the current economic recession, which is widely seen as the major cause of the recent sales slump that has plagued the auto industry.

Among the reasons cited in the report were market saturation caused by more registered vehicles than licensed drivers, economic and environmental concerns, and a shift away from the importance and prestige of the automobile in the youth culture.

"Perhaps the most fundamental social trend affecting the future of the automobile is the declining interest in cars among young people," Brown said. "Many of today's young people living in a more urban society learn to live without cars. They socialize on the Internet and on smart phones, not in cars."

Assuming the fleet downsizing continues, Brown said it would cut long-term oil demand and greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector, which currently accounts for roughly a third of U.S. emissions. He said it could also lead to increases in steel supplies as big cars get recycled and fewer are produced.

He said the trend will also decrease the need to build new roads and highways, and that fewer cars and trucks on the road would cut maintenance and repair costs, as well as decrease demand for parking lots and parking garages.

"As this evolution proceeds, it will affect virtually every facet of life," Brown said.

The report was based on data from the Transportation Department's Federal Highway Administration and was compiled with the help of R.L. Polk & Co., an automotive research and consulting firm.

Va., Md. to push for disposable bag fee

Maryland and Virginia lawmakers say they will push for 5-cent fees on disposable paper and plastic bags at stores, according to the Washington Examiner. The move comes after the District became the first major city in the nation to impose such a fee.

"The environmental clean-up cost is the primary reason why we're introducing this in Virginia," said Del. Adam Ebbin, a Democrat who represents parts of Arlington and Fairfax counties, as well as part of Alexandria in the Virginia General Assembly. Del. Alfred Carr, a Democrat who represents Montgomery County, said the region needed to move ahead as one and plans to introduce similar legislation in the Maryland General Assembly, the Examiner reported.

Reports of Climate Bill Death are Greatly Exaggerated

Posted: 07 Jan 2010 07:16 AM PST

No CEO Steve Jobs doesn't have a lot in common with the bipartisan climate and clean energy jobs bill — except perhaps that his company shuffled off the nano-Chamber of Commerce over its 'frustrating' global warming denialism.  But the bill is still alive and kicking, as I've been saying (see here and here).  Bradford Plumer, Assistant Editor at The New Republic has a must-read analysis, "Hold Off On Those Climate Bill Obituaries…." that makes the same point, which I reprint below.

Seems like the conventional wisdom in Washington right now is that there's no way the Senate passes a climate bill in 2010—especially after that long, gory health care battle we just saw.

Here's The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza: "No matter what Obama and his advisers said… there is now no chance that the Administration's climate-change proposal will come up for a vote in the Senate prior to the 2010 election. Politicians never like casting controversial votes, but they like doing so even less in an election year."

Cillizza posted that in late December, shortly after Politico published its own story on how "moderate Senate Democrats are urging the White House to give up now on any effort to pass a cap-and-trade bill next year." Now, there's slightly less to the Politico story than meets the eye, since the main cap-bashing quotes came from Mary Landrieu and Ben Nelson, who have been surefire "no" votes since day one. (Nelson we're all familiar with, and Landrieu's a no because she relies on support from Louisiana's oil refiners, who seem to outweigh any concern that her state's particularly vulnerable to rising sea levels and hurricanes.) But Politico's right that it'll be a tough slog.

That said, there don't seem to be any signs that Democrats are planning to relent just yet. A few days ago, Ben Geman of The Hill reported that most of the caucus wants to move on a climate bill, and that includes coal-staters like Arlen Specter. True, a few conservative Dems would rather drop the carbon cap and just pass a standalone energy bill—money for renewables, money for the grid and electric vehicles, etc.—but that's still a minority view. And the White House insists it won't stand for "slicing and dicing." They want the full cap.

Granted, just because Democrats are moving ahead doesn't mean they have the votes. And if Landrieu and Nelson are opposed, they'll need some Republican support. But optimists should note that Lindsey Graham is still huddling with John Kerry and Joe Lieberman on a "tripartisan" climate bill. Graham keeps getting abused by the South Carolina GOP, but he's calling for a "meaningful control" on pollution. Also, Susan Collins is co-sponsoring a cap-and-dividend bill—read about the pros and cons of that approach here. So that's at least two Republicans. Not a slam-dunk, but not sheer fantasy, either. (And for those who love tea leaves, two more Republicans, Richard Lugar and Lisa Murkowski, were saying positive things about the Copenhagen accord.)

So what about Cillizza's argument that politicians "never like casting controversial votes in an election year"? That depends how controversial you think a climate bill will be. Many pundits (and Democrats) think it's poison. But curbing carbon pollution does surprisingly well in the polls—and support has held steady for some time now, despite Climategate, GOP attacks on the House bill, etc. (Last I checked, swing Dems in the House weren't suffering for their Waxman-Markey votes, either.) Mind you, health care's been hogging all the oxygen lately, and once the spotlight's on climate, support could shrivel—especially if the economy's still flopping and everyone's furious at Obama. But, for now, it's not clear that climate/clean energy's a toxic issue.

What's more, as Tom Daschle has pointed out, it's not even true that Congress shies away from controversial bills in election years. Welfare reform passed in the summer of 1996, and the most recent Clean Air Act amendments—including a cap-and-trade system for sulfur-dioxide—passed the Senate in April of 1990. Both big election years. (If anything, you'd think that House members would be more skittish about passing election-year bills; senators were given six-year terms precisely so their chamber didn't have to freak out over every little midterm.)

Then there's the biggest reason climate change isn't likely to slink away in 2010—the EPA, remember, is still preparing to regulate carbon-dioxide on its own if Congress doesn't step in. That's already prompted a few swing senators, like Mark Pryor, to reconsider their stance on cap-and-trade. The Senate doesn't have a choice between doing nothing and doing something. It's a choice between doing something or having the EPA do it for them and making a lot of businesses angry. (One caveat: As Kate Sheppard reports, on January 20th, the Senate will vote on a Murkowski amendment to strip the EPA's CO2 authority. It's unlikely this gets 60 votes, but if it does pass, that obviously makes a huge difference.)

Anyway, I'm not wholly confident a climate bill will pass in 2010—it's the Senate, after all, and lots can go awry. But none of the early obituaries for cap-and-trade sound very persuasive. What's more, it's worth considering what would happen if Dems did abandon climate change this year. The party's expected to lose seats in both the House and the Senate this fall, and there aren't a whole lot of green Republicans on the ballot (especially now that Charlie Crist could get snuffed out in Florida). So how will tackling carbon emissions get any easier in 2011 or 2012? It feels a little extreme to say, "It's now or never," but on this issue, that's a real possibility…

JR:  I certainly agree it would be harder in 2011 or 2012, since the Dems are likely to lose some two dozen House seats and possibly a few Senate seats (albeit some to "moderates").  If you want a bill, this is the year to pull out all the stops.

Graham won't bow to "political push back": "I have come to conclude that greenhouse gases and carbon pollution [are] not a good thing."

Posted: 07 Jan 2010 06:32 AM PST

picture        When we last left Lindsey Graham, the conservative Senator from South Carolina was being censured again (!) by a SC county party for trying to create clean energy jobs in the state, clean its air and reduce the nearly $1 billion a day we ship overseas to buy oil, "some of which finds its way to extremist or terrorist organizations."

On Tuesday, he pushed back:

U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham renewed his call Tuesday for federal controls on greenhouse gas pollution, despite continued criticism from the Republican Party's most conservative members.  Graham, R-S.C., backs legislation to crack down on carbon dioxide pollution, which he said will also boost the U.S. economy and reduce the nation's dependence on foreign oil.

He dismissed his censure as the 'misplaced priorities' of narrow interests within the larger Republican Party, asserting, "The man who authored the resolution has never voted for a Republican nominee for president in the history of his life," and is "the head of the Ron Paul movement in this part of South Carolina."

Then Graham went on to make a very strong pitch for climate action, while "speaking to more than 100 people at a climate change conference in Columbia":

Graham said Congress needs to act to control greenhouse gases or the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will adopt its own regulations.

With polar ice caps melting and air pollution a threat, it's also good for the world and the nation, he said.

"I have come to conclude that greenhouse gases and carbon pollution is not a good thing," Graham said. "All the cars and trucks and plants that have been in existence since the Industrial Revolution, spewing out carbon day-in and day-out, will never convince me that's a good thing for your children and the future of the planet."

Graham's comments came a day after the Lexington County Republican Party voted to censure him, in part for supporting federal cap-and-trade legislation. He has been a leader in the push and has worked with leading Democrats. A cap-and-trade system is supposed to limit pollution by requiring companies that want to emit more than certain amounts of greenhouse gases to buy credits from those producing lower amounts. Some critics have complained bitterly about the costs to businesses of cap-and-trade legislation.

But Graham said controlling carbon pollution "is a worthy endeavor" that would, in addition to attacking the problem of rising global temperatures, clean up the nation's air and water.

He also explained reiterated the national security argument for his bipartisan climate and clean energy jobs bill:

Moving away from the nation's reliance on foreign oil will create more demand for other energy sources and create a new energy economy for the U.S., he said. It's also good for national security, since many nations that sell oil are hostile to the U.S., he said. Although some environmentalists oppose offshore oil drilling and the expansion of nuclear power, Graham said both can be done cleanly. "Whatever political push back I get I'm willing to accept because I know what I'm trying to do makes sense to me," Graham said. "I am convinced that reason, logic and good business sense, and good environmental policy, will trump the status quo."

What a minute?  Graham is "convinced that reason, logic and good business sense, and good environmental policy, will trump the status quo"?  And you all think I'm an optimist!  Let's hope he's right.

Photo from Rich Glickstein/ /The State.

Related Post:

Democratic majorities safe, for now

Posted: 07 Jan 2010 06:13 AM PST

That's the Politico's headline today in a story that concludes, "it doesn't yet appear that the party's congressional majorities are threatened."  Anyway, it's a good piece if you want to know the conventional center-right "establishment" wisdom these days.

Breaking: Salazar Gets Permission To Run For Gov

Posted: 07 Jan 2010 05:48 AM PST

Ken SalazarPres. Obama is about to lose his first cabinet officer just a year into his term, as Interior Sec. Ken Salazar has gotten WH clearance to return home to seek the GOV mansion.

That Hotline story, if true, would certainly be a loss for clean energy advocates because Salazar has been one of the administration's superstars in this area (see "Interior Secretary Salazar, Senator Reid announce 'Fast-Track' initiatives for up to 100,000 MW of solar energy development on Western lands").

The story is a tad confusing, though, since they provide no evidence or quotes confirming in the body of the story:

Sources told the Denver Post that Salazar was encouraged to stay in the admin, but that the WH would support his decision to return to CO to run for the seat left vacant by Gov. Bill Ritter's (D) surprise retirement announcement.

Salazar did not comment on his future plans during a conference call with reporters.

The WashPost story opens:

Salazar dodges queries about Colo. governor run

Updated 6:29 p.m. ET

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar dodged four questions about a possible campaign for Colorado governor during a previously scheduled conference call with reporters on Wednesday.

Salazar is reportedly "under tremendous pressure" to make a run as the state's current governor, Bill Ritter, said he will not seek reelection.

So far I can't find a story confirming The Hotline.  Please post any news/links if you find them

Related Post:

Where on Earth is it unusually warm? Greenland and the Arctic Ocean, which is full of rotten ice

Posted: 06 Jan 2010 01:48 PM PST

Arctic warmth

Map of air temperature anomalies for December 2009, at roughly 3,000 feet above surface, Areas in orange and red are warm anomalies, areas in blue and purple are cool.

It's cold here and in northern Eurasia, but it's been positively toasty ar0und the Arctic circle — thanks to an extreme negative phase of the Arctic Oscillation, as the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) explained in their online report yesterday.

The temperatures reported by NSIDC show some Arctic anomalies exceeding 7°C (13°F)!  That's not good news for the kind of re-freezing one wants to see in the otherwise rapidly melting Greenland ice sheet (see Nature: "Dynamic thinning of Greenland and Antarctic ice-sheet ocean margins is more sensitive, pervasive, enduring and important than previously realized").  It's also one reason "December 2009 had the fourth-lowest average ice extent for the month since the beginning of satellite records, falling just above the extent for 2007. The linear rate of decline for December is now 3.3% per decade."

Significantly, a new study, "Perennial pack ice in the southern Beaufort Sea was not as it appeared in the summer of 2009" by Barber et al. finds that all the crowing by the anti-science crowd about the supposed "recovery" of Arctic sea ice was quite premature:

In September 2009 we observed a much different sea icescape in the Southern Beaufort Sea than anticipated, based on remotely sensed products. Radarsat derived ice charts predicted 7 to 9 tenths multi-year (MY) or thick first-year (FY) sea ice throughout most of the Southern Beaufort Sea in the deep water of the Canada Basin. In situ observations found heavily decayed, very small remnant MY and FY floes interspersed with new ice between floes, in melt ponds, thaw holes and growing over negative freeboard older ice. This icescape contained approximately 25% open water, predominantly distributed in between floes or in thaw holes connected to the ocean below. Although this rotten ice regime was quite different that the expected MY regime in terms of ice volume and strength, their near-surface physical properties were found to be sufficiently alike that their radiometric and scattering characteristics were almost identical.

Yes, satellite (and other) measurements of Arctic sea ice extent were apparently deceived.   You might even say that an unfortunate trick of Nature helped hide the decline of Arctic ice:

This case of mistaken identity is physically explained by the factors which contribute to the return to Radarsat-1 from the two surfaces; both ice regimes had similar temperature and salinity profiles in the near-surface volume, both ice types existed with a similar amount of open water between and within the floes, and finally both ice regimes were overlain by similar, recently formed new sea ice in areas of negative freeboard and in open water areas. The fact that these two very different ice regimes could not be differentiated using Radarsat-1 data or in situ C-band scatterometer or microwave radiometer measurements, has significant implications for climate studies and for marine vessel navigation in the Canada Basin.

I had blogged on Barber's work when it was first reported by Reuters in November (see "Arctic ice reaches historic seasonal low; "We are almost out of multiyear sea ice in the northern hemisphere"):

The multiyear ice covering the Arctic Ocean has effectively vanished….

"I would argue that, from a practical perspective, we almost have a seasonally ice-free Arctic now, because multiyear sea ice is the barrier to the use and development of the Arctic," said Barber [Canada's Research Chair in Arctic System Science at the University of Manitoba].

Barber and his team thought they'd find "a huge multiyear ice pack that should have been in the Beaufort Sea" but

Instead, his ice breaker found hundreds of miles of what he called "rotten ice" — 50-cm (20-inch) thin layers of fresh ice covering small chunks of older ice.

"I've never seen anything like this in my 30 years of working in the high Arctic … it was very dramatic," he said.

And now we have the Geophysical Research Letters paper by Barber et al., which concludes:

Our results are consistent with ice age estimates (Fowler and Maslanik, that show the amount of MY sea ice in the northern hemisphere was the lowest on record in 2009 suggesting that MY sea ice continues to diminish rapidly in the Canada Basin even though 2009 areal extent increased over that of 2007 and 2008.

This study suggests that the Arctic continues to lose area — and, more importantly, volume — at a much more rapid pace than any major climate models had suggested.  I'll end with this figure of mean monthly Ice Volume for the Arctic Ocean from a release by several scientific institutions:

Arctic Volume

I still like my odds on a 90% ice free Arctic by 2020 (see "Another big climate be t — Of Ice and Men").  By then, I assume they'll have figured out how to deal with Nature's sea-ice-decline-hiding trick — or there will simply be too little ice for anybody to be fooled.

For more, see "Looking for Above Normal Temperatures? They are in the Arctic."

Related Posts:

Chris Matthews: Politico serves as the Drudge-Like "news conduit" for Dick Cheney

Posted: 06 Jan 2010 01:08 PM PST

I am less and less a fan of the more and more center-right Politico (see "Memo to Politico: Do you really aspire to being nothing more than a new media version of the MSM — stenographers of the status quo?")  This TP repost has some blunt comments from a leading TV journalist:

Last month, Politico conducted an "interview" with former Vice President Dick Cheney. As ThinkProgress noted at the time, the paper's top reporters — Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen — transcribed Cheney's attacks on Obama without challenge, criticism, or rebuttal.

Indeed, Cheney has been using Politico as his print version of Fox News. In May, Politico's Allen was leaked an "exclusive" preview of Cheney's attacks on Obama's decision to close Guantanamo. Again in October, Allen "broke news" that Cheney was attacking Obama's Afghanistan policy. And just last week, Allen again reported a Cheney attack on Obama's handling of the Christmas Day terrorist incident that was released "in a statement to Politico."

Does Cheney "have a thing with Politico?" MSNBC's Chris Matthews asked Politico's Jonathan Martin today on Hardball. "He uses you like he'd use Drudge or somebody," Matthews charged. A stunned Martin had no response for why Cheney has been so willing to give Politico "exclusives." "You'd have to ask the Vice President, Chris," Martin responded, "I'm not sure." Matthews kept pressing the issue:

MATTHEWS: I mean, he's got his own news conduit.

MARTIN: You know, we aggressively report on both sides.

MATTHEWS: It's not reporting. He feeds you this stuff. … I do like Politico. He's feeding you guys this crap. [...]

What's he call up and say? "I got a hot one for you, Jon. Can you take — what's your email address?" Is that what he does?

Watch it:

Paul Allen, Sr. VP Constellation Energy on solving the "climate crisis": "I'm not a believer that we have to wait until some new technologies come along. We have ample technologies now."

Posted: 06 Jan 2010 10:21 AM PST

I have some more videos taken while waiting in line to try to get into the Bella Center in Copenhagen (for background, see "Welcome to Disneyland in Denmark — plus one reason Europe's been eating our lunch on renewables, creating hundreds of thousands of clean energy jobs").

Here is Paul Allen, Senior VP and Chief Environmental Officer, Constellation Energy, a Fortune 500 company with 7,100 megawatts of generating capacity, on why the company is a "big supporter of climate legislation, cap-and-trade":

Constellation is the largest wholesale power seller and largest retail power seller in the country.  In Part 2, Allen explains Constellation's view of natural gas and energy efficiency and why we don't need to wait for new technologies to address climate change now:

And yes, these (F)lip videos are too close. I wanted to make sure I got the audio in the noisy crowded line. Sadly, the Flip camera does not take the microphone attachment.

Related Post:

Waxman sees push for climate bill in 2010

Posted: 06 Jan 2010 10:18 AM PST

A key House committee chairman today dismissed the idea that stalled cap-and-trade legislation is dead for the year and waved off the conventional political wisdom that it will cost Democrats seats.

"We're determined to accomplish all our goals, and climate is a very important one that I expect to see in the Senate, with a bill emerging this year," said House Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.). "I feel confident based on the intelligence I've received from conversations with some of the key players in the Senate."

So E&E News PM (subs. req'd) reported last night.  E&E feels obliged to quote Sen. Inhofe saying the bill is dead, but Waxman notes:

"On every issue that I've worked on this year, people have said it can't happen and it's dead for the year," Waxman said.

As for those who think the bill is a political liability, Waxman explains:

"I don't believe it because I don't think the American people want our national security compromised by our increasing overreliance on foreign oil," Waxman said. "They want jobs. That's the way to get out of this recession. They want to do something about the threat to our environment from carbon emissions."

I have a bunch of videos from Copenhagen I haven't posted yet.  Here's Waxman and Markey together speaking at the BlueGreen Alliance reception about the climate and clean energy jobs bill: