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Bridging climate science, citizens, and policy

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Climate Bill Action In The Senate – 9/30/09

The Senate version of the 2009 energy and climate bill, the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act, has made some small progress this week.  The draft version of their version of the legislation, largely constructed thanks to Sen. Boxer and Sen. Kerry, is reported to include a 20% reduction of 2005 GHG emissions by 2020, which is slightly better than the 17% goal in the House ACES bill.  This version should have been released after a 11:30A EDT press event in D.C. today.  Like the House bill, a cap-and-trade system is established.  Also, pollution allowances will be generated, but no distribution plan has been laid out yet.

It is well worth noting that GHG emissions are estimated to have been reduced by 6% below 2005 levels thanks to the Republican’s Great Recession.  So the 20% reduction is really an additional 14% reduction, according to the Senate version, and an additional 11% reduction according to the House version.  Which means it is very, very doable.  Energy efficiency measures alone would likely help us achieve those reductions in time for the 2020 goal.  Between now and then, as climate change effects continue to take hold, and political willpower to do something about climate change hopefully grows, technologies will be developed and marketed and it will become normal to reduce our greenhouse forcing.

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Nobody ‘Stole’ The Cup

I’m a hockey fan.  I’m not the biggest hockey fan ever, but I do love to watch and play the game.  I got pretty spoiled by having the Quebec Nordiques move to Denver in 1995 to become the Colorado Avalanche and then win the Stanley Cup in 1996, especially since no other major sports franchise had won a championship at that time in the Mile High City.

I have a healthy respect for the tradition of the game and the NHL.  As an Avs fan, I have a special place in my mind reserved for the Detroit Red Wings.  They’re a good hockey club.  They’re so good, their fans are arrogant.  So I love it when they lose anything – be it one game or Game 7 of the Stanley Cup playoffs as they did back in June.  That loss capped off the best week of my life.

All that aside, it is disappointing as a sports fan to read this kind of stupidity:

It’s been almost four months since that dramatic June night at Joe Louis Arena when the Penguins held on to defeat the Detroit Red Wings and steal the Stanley Cup from the defending champions.

Nobody ‘stole’ the Cup, Scott Burnside, no matter what the Wings or their fans might tell you.  Pittsburgh played every game of that series, the same that Detroit did.  They earned the Stanley Cup as much as the Wings earned it in 2008.  The 4th best team (in regular season) from the East beat the 2nd best team from the West in a 7-game series.  By the way, Detroit was up 3-2 in the series before dropping the last two games.  Nobody forced them to lose those games.  They just played a little worse than Pittsburgh did.

Writing things like Pittsburgh ‘stole’ the Cup from the defending champions is an attempt to cheapen their achievement and that’s immoral.  Get over your sour grapes, already.


Why Climate Action Is Lacking

From Paul Krugman’s Sunday op-ed [emphasis mine]:

But the larger reason we’re ignoring climate change is that Al Gore was right: This truth is just too inconvenient. Responding to climate change with the vigor that the threat deserves would not, contrary to legend, be devastating for the economy as a whole. But it would shuffle the economic deck, hurting some powerful vested interests even as it created new economic opportunities. And the industries of the past have armies of lobbyists in place right now; the industries of the future don’t.

Indeed.  The G20 summit meeting that just ended failed to come up with any kind of viable plan or steps toward establishing a plan wherein developed nations would pay for the low-carbon development and emissions reductions their actions necessitate.  The result is the continuation of an immoral failure of the U.S. and other nations.  We are not the greatest nations on Earth.  We are countries of unsustainable resource consumers hell-bent on leaving future generations a severely depleted planet.

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Misc. News 9/27/09

Occasionally, a number of things catch my eye on the same day.  With so much, I can’t go into detail about all of it.  Instead, I try to sample them with much shorter opinions.  Here’s today’s:

Democrats Are Jarred By Drop In Fundraising“.  Really?  Democrats are really jarred by this?  A big reason might be it’s nearly October2009 and all the Democratic-led government has done is given away trillions of dollars to rich people and corporations while working feverishly to explain to America that they just can’t put together real health care reform.  It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that Americans are unlikely to continue forking over their hard-earned cash to such insipid waffling.

Petitions target state spending” sounds innocuous, until you realize that the right-wing rag Denver Post decided on the lede.  Three ballot initiative petitions are circulating in CO that would take an additional $1 billion per year away from the government to do things like fix roads and bridges, maintain telecommunications infrastructure and give a big middle finger to local school districts who voted to opt out of spending limits.  It seems the Cons talking point about keeping control local doesn’t apply when people don’t agree with their insane economic policies.  The petitions will gather signatures, there’s no doubt about that.  But asking Coloradans to further weigh the state government down when everything is already being defunded thanks to similar efforts in the past?  I doubt that will resonate.  Who knows, though – Coloradans could again prove how senseless they are.

Rural counties taking a beating” tries to perpetuate the story that urbanites are likely to overlook rural concerns as the economy tries to recover.  It ignores one simple, basic fact though.  Those “common-sensical” rural folks?  Yeah, they voted for the economic policies that caused the Great Recession for over 30 years.  It seems to me their “concerns” carried too much weight in the past – and it’s brought all of us down.  They want to lead a different kind of life than those of us in the cities?  That’s fine, it’s their right after all.  But it sounds stupid when they complain about conditions they created.  How about the concerns of the majority of Coloradans, who happen to live in cities?

Nobel-prize winning economist Paul Krugman wrote a short piece on the potential greening of the economy.  He relates a very important concept about the energy and climate legislation Congress has stalled on: it’s cheaper to do something about climate change than not.  Point in fact, it’s probably cheaper than even he relates in the column.


Study: $1240 TRILLION In Costs Due To Climate Change With No Adaptation

Many scientists and activists have stated, with good reason, that the 2007 IPCC 4th Assessment Report (4AR) didn’t look deeply enough into the potential costs of doing nothing to change the globe’s GHG emissions.  The good news is that in addition to developing a more robust research methodology to dig into the unknowns of the science surrounding climate change, work has also taken place to assign realistic figures of the costs of adapting to climate change.  The figures available for the past few years were viewed as having major shortcomings: unrealistic assumptions, not accounting for enough of the effects (which have interdependencies and feedbacks of their own), etc.

A new study was issued earlier this month by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) that worked to address some of those concerns.  For reference, I’m going to discuss the Section 8 material.  It is not without its own set of caveats and disadvantages: it looks at the IPCC A2 scenario, for instance, even though our actual emissions have already outpaced this mid-range emissions scenario.  There’s another equally out-dated caveat that I’ll talk about more below.  So, take the results with a grain of salt – realize that these costs continue to be an underestimate of what we’re likely to face!

With that in mind, what are some of the results of this study?  Without adaptation, the mean net present value of climate change impacts under the A2 scenario is $1240 Trillion.

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When Religious Fanatics Impact Business Fanatics

Normally, the corporate-wings of the American political parties largely control what the parties do.  There are times, however, when the boogie-men of the religious fanatics reach out and tell the business-types what to do.  Such is the case with Creation, a film about the life of Charles Darwin, that no distributor in the United States wants to touch.

Oooh, see how scary that is?  A film about the life of Charles Darwin is too problematic for a business to distribute to American theatres.  Very little about his theories make it into the film; just the things he experienced in life, of which his research was only part.  Indeed, one of the most impressive things about Mr. Darwin was his realization of what his work would mean – far outside the scientific circles for which he directed his research.

This country is so ridiculously, purposefully closed-minded about scientific facts and implications that it is truly frightening at times.  It seems counterproductive to me that there are those in this country who would rather keep Americans ignorant of discovery and deeper meanings behind discoveries than continue progressing forward in an increasingly scientifically and technologically demanding world.  This country cannot be the greatest on the planet if they have their way.

[h/t Ethan]

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State of the Arctic 9/18/09

This post comes about a week earlier than my end-of-the-month version because it looks like the minimum areal extent of arctic sea ice has likely been reached for 2009.  Allowing for the possibility for the final, official number to come out later this year, the minimum extent should come in near 5.10 million sq. km. (1.97 million sq.mi.).  This places 2009’s extent as the third-lowest on record, behind the record low extent in 2007 and last year’s 2nd place finish.  The difference between 2008 and 2009 is about 580,000 sq. km. (220,000 sq. mi.) and this year’s minimum is 970,000 sq. km. (370,000 sq. mi.) above the record low set in 2007.

In contrast to longer-term conditions, the 2009 minimum is 1.61 million sq. km. (620,000 sq. mi.) below the 1979 to 2000 average minimum and 1.28 million sq. km. (490,000 sq. mi.) below the thirty-year 1979 to 2008 average minimum.  Another way of describing this year’s minimum is it also fell well below the 2nd standard deviation below the median, just as it did in 2007 and 2008.  Does this mean the danger to the arctic ice sheet is over?  After all, 2007 saw the minimum and the extent has only increased since then.  The answer is no.  As I wrote in my last two monthly posts, the low extent this year instead indicates that a new range of conditions appear to be “normal” for the Arctic.  The areal extent that was observed in the 20th century is less and less likely to be observed in the 21st century.

Keep in mind that these areal minimums (3 of them in a row) have occurred when solar input has been at an abnormally long minimum and during a moderate-strength La Nina event.  Those La Nina conditions have since changed to El Nino conditions, which continue to strengthen this fall.  After the maximum intensity, expected sometime this winter, 2010 is pretty likely to see record high global average temperatures.  We already know that the Arctic has seen the fastest rise in temperatures than anywhere else on the globe so far – how will even more warming on top of the human warming affect the ice and ocean next year?  Does anyone seriously think conditions will significantly improve?  How about when the sun’s activity increases?  Things might oscillate around and one year or another might exhibit slightly different characteristics, but things have fundamentally changed.  Unless and until we get our GHG emissions under serious control, the Arctic will be a very different place in the 21st century than it was in the 20th.

An extensive report on the State of the Climate for 2008 by the American Meteorological Society has been issued.  I’ve found a number of interesting items I want to write about already with more to discover, I’m sure.  Look for upcoming posts about the 2008 data and tie-ins to even more recent results like this one.

Cross-posted at SquareState.