Weatherdem's Weblog

Bridging climate science, citizens, and policy

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Climate Change Solutions – Where We Need To Go

Climate change is a monumental problem.  I characterize it by saying that it is our species’ greatest confirmed threat.  Nuclear war?  Possible but unlikely in any given decade.  An asteroid/comet collision with Earth resulting in an extinction level event?  Possible but unlikely in any given decade.  I would, however, rate the asteroid/comet threat above nuclear war.  One day, the former will happen, we just don’t know when; the latter can be held off and eliminated based on our own decision making.  In a way, climate change combines aspects of both of these threats.  Climate change (at a level that will challenge our civilizations) is both possible and likely in a given decade; it is currently happening and its magnitude will only increase each decade during the rest of this century unless and until we decide to do something about it.

It should not be surprising then that, given the sheer magnitude of catastrophic climate change, solutions addressing it are also monumental in scale.  That’s the root of why so many climate change activists have been calling for a “climate-Manhattan Project” or a “climate Apollo Project”.  My view on climate change actions has shifted somewhat from thinking a bunch of personal actions will eventually accumulate enough inertia to reduce our climate forcing to recognizing that the number of actions will require large-scale policy shifts – something that requires governments to act.  That’s why the U.S. Senate’s recent failure to seriously address this developing crisis is so maddening.  The status quo approach to policy will not work with climate change, mostly because we’re dealing with physical systems that respond to forcing, not people’s tender egos and greed.

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Broomfield, CO Con Lashes Out At Denver Post Editorial

Via a tweet, I found this letter to the editor, trying to argue against the inclusion of a public option in legislation this year.  The Denver Post had previously written a short take in favor of Congress passing a public option.

First, the DP Ed board is pretty conservative.  That said, I agree with the Post – the public option bill won’t pass this year.

Second, what is the Broomfield Con arguing?  It’s actually pretty hard to tell.  Something about “government controlling everything”.  Eye-roll.  He cites the government’s control of the American auto industry, the finance industry, the banking industry, and then tries to scare readers into thinking Congress wants to control the energy industry too!!!  Oh noes!

This letter-writer obviously has no problem with the government controlling the war industry.  How many of his taxpayer dollars were physically lost in Iraq and Afghanistan?  I’m not talking about the supplementals funding the occupation; I’m talking about the physical bills that were well and truly lost – by Bush’s government, if it makes any difference to the writer.

The auto industry isn’t any more controlled by the government than the energy industry would be if the pathetic energy bill now being considered passes.  Unfortunately, private corporations will still control the lion’s share of the generation and transmission of energy across the entire country.  By the way, letter-writer, we pay dearly for that dirty energy immersed in the most inefficient infrastructure possible, just as we pay for the lack of care (but bountiful private management!) and massive inefficiencies in our health care system.

After the Bush government gave away more billions of dollars to the largest banks in the land, did this person write a letter of protest?  I doubt it.  Guess what those private entitie did with our taxpayer dollars, Mr. Letter-Writer.  They bought smaller banks.  They still aren’t lending the money to those who would help the economy to grow again – us.  They’re sitting on it all, waiting until the broken economy (which they broke, by the way), finally turns around.  Just as many honest observers pointed out back in 2008, the plan to dole out our tax dollars to unaccountable private industries wouldn’t pan out.  Yet you sit there defending them!

If a government entity can help provide  energy, or health care, or directly loan money to people who actually need it, I’m all for it.  There’s an advantage in that approach, actually.  Governments, unlike obscenely profitable corporations, can be held accountable.  Neither you nor I can hold Bank of America or United Health or Xcel or Halliburton as accountable as we can our Representatives and Senators.

If you truly believed in the power of private industry, Mr. Letter-Writer, you would be begging for the government to offer a public option.  Because if private industry was as smart and powerful as you seem to think it is, that public option would have no chance in surviving.  Your attack against the editors and a public option indicates that you recognize that health care isn’t being delivered by our private entity dominated industry.  Why are you rooting for failure and profiteering, Mr. Con?  Are you one of the billionaires running one of those corporations?

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No Shock Here: Obama’s Bailout Guy Lets Obscene Bank Bonuses By

Given this news, I continue to think the Obama adminstration still hasn’t accepted the public’s anger at the taxpayer-funded bailouts that the immoral banks received, no matter how quickly they’re paid back; no matter how much interest is paid on top of them.

Why?  Because the banksters have given themselves Billions of dollars in bonuses while millions of Americans still have no job.

The “Pay Czar” wasn’t given legal authority to stop obscene bonuses from being paid to the banksters.  It was said last year that had that authority been given, those “in charge” of the banks would leave and the banks wouldn’t be able to conduct their business.  Bo0-freaking-hoo.

It’s not the banksters who will be held accountable (Obama and Congressional Democrats made sure of that); it’s not Obama’s advisers, including men who came straight from some of these same banks to whisper sweet policy nothings in Obama’s ears, who will be held accountable; it’s those Congresspeople who will be held accountable this November.  Good luck with that agenda next year, Obama!

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More Electric Car Charging Stations To Come

This is good news in a time when “natural gas vehicles” are being pushed by some in the dirty energy industry:

Only a few hundred public chargers exist now, but several government grants totaling more than $115 million will help add thousands more, including in San Diego, Detroit, Washington, D.C., and Bellevue, Wash.

Electric vehicle advocates hope more will be built by private retailers and restaurants, using the charging stations to draw in customers the same way coffee shops offer Wi-Fi.

Those grants are puny in comparison to the scale needed to develop this new industry, especially in light of President Obama’s stated goal of 1 million electric vehicles on American roads by 2015.  Still, I suppose some small grant are better than none at all.

Once electric vehicles become a growing portion of the transportation marketplace, efforts to stop building dirty energy facilities and build up clean energy facilities will also become commonplace.  I look forward to that day.

BetterPlace continues to make progress around the world implementing their vision for deploying electric vehicles.

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Will Obama’s 2010 Message Resonate?

I don’t think it will.

The Obama administration’s new message:

Republicans caused the nation’s economic troubles, but he and the Democrats are starting to fix them. So stick with the Democrats and don’t go back to the GOP.

On a factual level, the first sentence is absolutely true.  On a messaging level, the second will have a hard time resonating.

For activists such as myself, it won’t resonate because we know Obama and his team made the decision to take the easy road.  They didn’t want to fight with the Cons that drove us all into the metaphorical ditch Obama is talking about.  Heck, the Obama crew did everything they could to try to get the Cons to work the shift pedal while they worked the gas pedal.  Guess what happened?  The Cons kept their promise and didn’t work with the Dems.

To expand on Obama’s framing, the car has lurched all over the road, giving Americans whiplash and bruised limbs.  We voted for Democrats in 2008 because they said they would fight for us.  Backroom deals for industries has rendered signature legislation toothless and ineffectual.  And instead of fighting for us, the Dems have done everything they could to not fight with the Cons.

For Americans that aren’t activists and don’t follow policy developments closely, Obama’s message will have a hard time resonating because they simply haven’t seen many positive results of giving Democrats massive Congressional majorities and the White House – something that has happened every few decades.  Those Americans might not know the extent to which the stimulus was pared back or how little the Health Insurance Reform Giveaway will change their lives in the future.  All they see is, as week after week slides by, their lives aren’t changing for the better.  When you’re barely treading water, or in the process of drowning, “Stay Pat” doesn’t solve those problems.  You can’t tread for years; how possible is it to recover from drowning?

The worst part for Americans is the big projected Democratic losses will occur in the place where the best and most solutions have originated: the House.  It’s the Senate that’s broken.  It’s the White House that decided not to aggressively pursue policies.  Yet it could very well be the House members who take the brunt of the electorate’s frustration.  If there are fewer Democrats in 2011-2012, will the solutions we need be crafted?  One thing is for sure, it will be a lot harder to do so.  More importantly, if the Democrats don’t fix the broken Senate, it doesn’t matter how many Democrats lose their House seats.  More necessary legislation will continue to die in the upper chamber.

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Obama White House Continues Right-Wing Pandering & Left-Wing Slamming

President Obama’s administration had better start figuring out who helped propel them into office and who will never vote for them.

In the wake of the Obama administration’s largest initiative failure to date, an administration official ran crying to the tone-deaf Politico, telling them that it was all the enviros fault that a climate and energy bill won’t be taken up in the dysfunctional, anti-democratic Senate this year.

While Obama’s team keeps asking, “How high?” every time Fox Propaganda and Rush think about telling them to jump, action on issue after issue is reduced to a hollow shell and progressives are kicked to the bottom of the ditch by the side of the road.

The biggest problem with this whole scenario isn’t Obama or Sen. Reid or the right-wing disinformation and smear bloc – it’s unelected yo-yos like this official who just like to see their b.s. in D.C.-based media.  These clowns don’t care what the science says; they don’t care what Americans outside of D.C. think or want.  They’re attention whores and they’ll gladly sabotage any initiative that leans slightly left of the tea-baggers.

“They didn’t deliver a single Republican,” the official told POLITICO. “They spent like $100 million and they weren’t able to get a single Republican convert on the bill.”

In this idiot’s world, the administration is supposed to sit back and let issue groups write legislation and decide who needs to be targeted to pass it.  The President has the biggest bully pulpit in this country, but it’s people like this official who are holding him and this country back from the greatness we can achieve.

How much did the dirty energy corporations spend to water down the House legislation and water down the Senate Committee version even further? A lot more than $100 million, I assure you.  Which amounts to round-off error for corporations posting the biggest profits in the history of the world.

Politico does provide some context for how monumental this failure really is for the Obama administration:

Eighteen months ago, Barack Obama took office pledging to deal with a “planet in peril.”

His party held big majorities in Congress, and the House answered by passing a tough cap-and-trade bill. A massive climate conference in Copenhagen, with Obama at the center of the action, focused the world on the need to address global warming.

Then came the nation’s worst-ever environmental disaster, an oil spill in the Gulf that put momentum behind environmentalists and scarred the image of big, polluting industries.

Add in a summer of record-high temperatures, and it would seem the stars had been aligned like never before for climate legislation.

Climate legislation that the cowardly Dems have decided not to pursue this year.  Because there’s always next year, or maybe 2012 would be better … no, there’s a Presidential election that year – we wouldn’t want the Dems to have to make tough decisions while running for re-election.  Well, there’s always 2013, right?  I mean, big parts of the Health Insurance Reform Giveaway won’t even take effect until 2013 or 2014.  The Dems could certainly take up at least a small climate/energy bill in 2013 or so.

By all means, keep putting the most important issue our species faces until it’s a sure thing politically.  It’s not like this country faces any kind of negative consequences as a result of your continued inaction incompetence.

Just don’t take progressives’ votes and hard work for granted after you keep slapping us aside.


Cowardly Democrats & Climate

If you follow this policy topic, by no doubt you’ve already heard or read somewhere that elected Democrats have decided not to even try to put together a climate and energy bill in 2010.  I don’t know when they think they’ll take it up.  I don’t think they know when they’ll take it up.  What I do know right now is outside of Nancy Pelosi, a number of Democratic “leaders” have done anything but lead and should be voted out of office (or positions of responsibility) as soon as possible.  Sen. Reid. Sen. Schumer and Sen. Durbin are on that list.  President Obama very well could be.

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Atlantic Tropical Weather – 7/22/2010: Tropical Storm Bonnie & Tropical Depression #3

[Updated post]:

Tropical Storm Bonnie has formed in the Atlantic basin this afternoon.  Surface winds are now a sustained 40mph and the system is organizing itself more and more every hour.

T.S. Bonnie’s center is located near 22.7N, 75.4W; has maximum sustained winds fo 40mph; is moving NW @ 13mph and has a central pressure of 1006mb.

Bonnie has deep convection near the west side of her center.  Outflow is looking better in most quadrants.  She is still battling a strong upper-level low to her west, which has kept high vertical wind shear and dry air near Bonnie.  The storm’s center moved around during the day, resulting in some adjustment to the specific location of her probably future track.  The direction of her track will likely remain toward the NW/WNW, but is somewhat further north than it was earlier today.  As a result, Bonnie could pass closer to mainland Florida tomorrow afternoon before entering the Gulf of Mexico.  The official track still calls for a likely landfall near LA later this weekend (Sunday or later).

[Original post]:

Atlantic Basin Tropical Depression #3 has formed between the Bahamas and Cuba today.  The tropical wave that eventually developed a closed surface circulation has been moving across the Atlantic basin this week.  Heavy bursts of intense convection occurred the past three days as the wave passed along the northern Caribbean islands.

Given local weather features, T.D. 3 should intensify into a Tropical Storm later today but not intensify into a hurricane before making landfall somewhere along the U.S. Gulf coast (next week?).

T.D. 3’s center is located near 21.9N, 75.0W; has maximum sustained winds of 35mph (just below T.S. strength); is moving WNW @ 14mph and has a central pressure of 1008mb.

T.D. 3 will move through the Florida Strait (between FL & Cuba), likely right over the Florida Keys, entering the Gulf of Mexico tomorrow.  Thereafter, forecast models project a track envelope extending from southwest of Houston to south of New Orleans (~3 days from now).  The official track forecast from the National Hurricane Center shows the storm making landfall closer to the Lake Charles area.  While T.D. 3 (then T.S. Bonnie) won’t be a monster storm like Katrina or Rita, the projected tracks take the storm very close to the site of the Gulf Oil Disaster.  Work near the disaster site has been halted while officials confer on what the course of action should be as the storm evolves.

An Air Force Reserve hurricane hunter is on its way to the storm to gather additional data.  We will know later today whether T.D. 3 has intensified to T.D. Bonnie or not.

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Climate & Energy News Roudup

Occasionally, there are too many news bits and stories that I want to take more time to comment on but can’t.  Here then are a series of things that caught my eye recently, in no particular order.

The English climate scientists that had their emails illegally hacked have been vindicated in a number of different investigations.  At worst, ‘proper openness’ to data was found.  Unfortunately, the right-wing misinformation apparatus that sprang into over-drive about the emails’ contents might have accomplished its goal: delaying climate action in the U.S. and England.  The short-sighted fools might have put the finishing touches on condemning the next 50 generations to a hellish Earth.  Thanks a lot.  Oh, in the meantime – nobody has investigated the only crime in the story: the original hacking of servers, what a number of us called ‘hackergate’, but was never picked up by the corporate media (go figure).

GE is putting together $200 Million for an “Ecomagination Challenge”, which they describe as a contest to improve smart grid technology.  This is a good role for GE to play.  Smart grids have so far had only limited deployment into the real world and that’s something that public policy-makers need to get busy on.  Those deployments have been delayed and scaled back because of issues found during deployment.  That isn’t shocking, it just means more efforts need to be made to solidify this critical component of our future energy use.  I would be even more impressed if GE put a larger purse together, of course.  How about $2 Billion for a series of contests.  It’s not like they wouldn’t recoup the costs many times over.

I’ve included this in the previous post already, but it really can’t get enough coverage.  A Stanford study found that extreme heat waves could be very common within 30 years’ time.  The effects on people’s health (fatalities) and agriculture would be massive.  Maybe when most of our crops fail and people are dying from heat exhaustion by the thousands, maybe then we’ll take this climate change thing seriously.  I would still expect people like Sen. Inhofe to spout his latest nonsensical climate denier talking points, of course.

Add the Pentagon to the list of pinko-commie, tree-hugging, one-world-conspiracy theorists that “believe” in global warming.  A group of people responsible for national security have let scientists know they want probabilistic climate change risk assessments conducted.  National security folks already come close to speaking the language of climate science.  Instead of expecting perfect projections, experts in both fields use ranges and levels of certainty to ascertain risk.  Get used to news like this, deniers.  After the U.S. military has jumped the shark, there’s no telling who’s next.

Working hand-in-hand with a smart grid (see the GE story above), smart meters remain an unknown technology in terms of how people use them and whether energy usage shifts as a result.  The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy released a report a few weeks ago that showed that smart meters alone don’t work to trim consumers’ consumption.  Just as Prius owners have discovered, once up-to-the-minute feedback is shared to users, people don’t typically have an incentive to conserve.  If homeowner’s could see real-time energy prices and demand within their home, they would make changes to how and when they did the same activities they’ve always taken for granted.

I found some designs for vertical farms to be used in urban settings recently.  They look cool and they would serve to reduce our food’s carbon footprint dramatically.  Google ‘vertical farming’ and enjoy looking through the results sometime.

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The Heat Continues: NASA & NOAA Detail Warmest Jan-Jun On Record in 2010

The first half of 2010 has been the hottest globally in recorded history.  A small change from last month: I briefly saw this headline at the top of a corporate media outlet: MSNBC.  I should have taken a screen-shot because I saw it at 10:45P local time last night and it had been replaced by 11:00P when I looked again.  So it would be untruthful to claim, for this month at least, that you couldn’t have seen this story covered in a prominent way by the corporate media.  I will lament that it took four straight months of record warmth before they did, however.  I will also lament that it was replaced, nearly in the middle of night, by other headlines within minutes – short shrift for such an important topic.

In a similar fashion as last month, the NOAA analysis of global temperatures have marked the warmest month of June, the warmest 3-month April to June period and, along with NASA, the warmest 6-month January to June period in recorded human history.  That makes for one heck of a headline, doesn’t it?

June 2010

NASA’s global analysis reported a +0.59°C (+1.062°F) surface temperature anomaly for June 2010 (over the 1951-1980 base period).  June 2010 joined June 2005 as the third highest anomaly in the NASA dataset, behind the record anomaly from 1998 of 0.69°C (1.24°F) and the 0.62°C (1.116°F) anomaly from 2009, according to NASA’s GISS dataset.

NOAA’s global analysis reported a +0.68°C (+1.224°F) surface temperature anomaly for June 2010.  According to the NOAA methodology, the next warmest June was observed in 2005: +0.66°C (+1.188°F).

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