Archive | Climate change

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California doubles down on fighting climate change

The California Senate just passed a hugely ambitious plan to shift to renewable energy, electric cars, and to combat global warming. The goals are laudable, however there are real questions whether they can be reached without massive, painful disruption to regular Californians. Seriously. Mandating a 50% cut in petroleum use within 15 years means way more electric and alt-energy vehicles, including big rigs. Electric cars require electricity, which means more power plants will need to be built. California is also mandating 50% in-state renewable energy by 2030, which is, um, highly optimistic, as grids now have trouble handling large amounts of always fluctuating renewable energy. Plus, the price of electricity may climb sharply.

California has a long way to go and a short time to get there. This plan is so ambitious they it will either be a hero for achieving or a clown for failing.

“I’m quite dubious about our ability to accomplish these goals we’re getting so many kudos for setting,” said James Sweeney, director of Stanford University’s Precourt Energy Efficiency Center.

“It’s going to be up to future governors and future lawmakers to make these goals work,” Sweeney said. “Unless we come up with a plan that’s not terribly disruptive to average Californians’ lives, they’re never going to follow through.”

If the legislation becomes law, it will be up to the California Air Resources Control Board to implement two of the measures’ toughest goals: cutting petroleum use by cars and trucks in half over the next 15 years and slashing greenhouse gas emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels over the next 35 years.

Posted in Climate change, Energy

say what

Increasing energy efficiency leads to greater, not less, demand.

say what

Higher levels of energy efficiency does not decrease demand. Instead it increases it. This counter-intuitive effect is called rebound. Thus, expected energy savings and reductions in emissions from better efficiency are substantially less than might be expected.

The IPCC made clear: climate mitigation strategies that heavily rely on energy efficiency measures must be re-evaluated. After years of simplistic accounting, which was roundly criticized by Breakthrough and independent scholars, the IEA has finally caught up to the academic literature. Their latest report, Capturing the Multiple Benefits of Energy Efficiency, acknowledges that direct rebound in wealthy countries ranges from zero to 65 percent and agrees with a major modeling effort finding globally averaged rebounds from energy efficiency could reach as high as 52 percent by 2030.

“Rather than saving energy, in many cases we can expect the adoption of energy efficiency-improving technologies to contribute to processes that lead to an overall increase in energy consumption.”

This pattern is similar to water use in the Imperial Valley of California. Big agriculture is constantly and successfully finding ways to grow crops with less water per acre. However, water usage there is increasing because farmers simply plant crops on more land. Water usage per acre has dropped. The number of acres growing crops has increased. The same process is true for energy usage. Increase efficiency and demand increases too.

Posted in Climate change, Energy

Photo: Gruenenrw on Flickr

US kills IPPC climate change proposal to help poor nations

Photo: Gruenenrw on Flickr

Photo: Gruenenrw on Flickr

US hypocrisy over climate change is nauseating. Our government bleats sanctimoniously about stopping global warming then kills calls for funding poor nations in the IPPC report. Poor nations are the biggest victims of climate change yet the least responsible. The World Bank estimates helping poor nations deal with global warming will require $100 billion a year. The IPPC report mention this in all versions except the final version.

The need for $100 billion in crisis funds to aid poor nations was removed from the 48-page Summary, the only document that will be read outside the scientific community.

The U.S. led the push to remove the statement.

Thus, we have gasbags like Secretary of State John Kerry babbling about how we must stop climate change while he and his ultra-wealthy ilk work secretly to make sure it never happens. As Secretary of State it is inconceivable Kerry wasn’t responsible for removing the IPPC statement.

Your three take-aways from this material should be:

1. There will never be international cooperation, because the rich will never pay a dime to offset anyone’s cost to deal with this crisis.

2. Any nation can embark on a Zero Carbon energy economy the minute it wants to.

3. The rich will have to be moved aside to solve the climate crisis. And by that I mean forcefully.

Posted in Climate change, Energy


Dissent within IPPC over alarmist conclusions in coming report


Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is facing internal dissension over whether their upcoming update, the first in seven years, is too alarmist. Some IPCC scientists say the challenges of climate change will be manageable, not apocalyptic, and want the report to reflect that. It’s important to note these criticisms are coming from scientists in IPCC and not from climate change deniers.

“The message in the first draft was that through adaptation and clever development these were manageable risks, but it did require we get our act together,” he told BBC News.

“This has completely disappeared from the draft now, which is all about the impacts of climate change and the four horsemen of the apocalypse. This is a missed opportunity.”

Posted in Climate change, Energy


Global warming causes ice-free region in Antarctica to disappear


You read that headline right, and no, I’m not a climate denialist. In a weird quirk, climate change has stopped the up-swelling of relatively warm ocean water in a specific area of Antarctic waters, resulting in it freezing over. A lid of fresh water, possibly from melting glaciers, has blocked that warmer salt water from reaching the surface.

Deep ocean waters only mix directly to the surface in a few small regions of the global ocean, so this has effectively shut one of the main conduits for deep ocean heat to escape.”

If and when conditions change and the deep waters do surface “it will release decades-worth of heat and carbon from the deep ocean to the atmosphere in a pulse of warming.”

Posted in Climate change

Keystone XL vs lethal Lone Star threat





Texas Supreme Court poised to save planet. Keystone XL pipeline ruling could avert any choice by Obama

Most of the Keystone XL chatter these days is about the U.S. State Department fantasy that tapping the tar sands of Canada will be a benign blessing for America and the world. But almost no one mentions the Texas Supreme Court case that could shut the pipeline down completely – since a court ruling for the appellant could mean that the pipeline was built on property to which the pipeline owner had no rights.

If completed, the 1,700-mile Keystone pipeline is intended to bring highly-polluting tar sands oil from the Canadian tar sands to the Texas Gulf Coast, where much of it will likely be refined and shipped overseas. There is no dispute that tar sands oil (or dilbit) is a pollutant that contributes exorbitantly to climate change, but there is debate as to whether burning this oil will be more harmful to the planet than the extraction process itself in the oil pits of Northern Alberta (as in “Game Over for the Climate.”).

At issue in the Texas case is the TransCanada southern section of the pipeline, which is already built, but may be located on land to which the TransCanada corporation has no legal right. That’s the argument of the Crawford Family Farm Partnership in its 25-page petition filed with the Texas Supreme Court on November 4, 2013. The first response from TransCanada was to ask the court for a waiver from responding, in effect asking to close the case immediately.

But the Texas Supreme Court did not grant that waiver and, on January 7, 2014, ordered TransCanada to file a response by midnight on February 6 (which it has done).

Julia Trigg Crawford, in a press release for the Crawford Family Farm Partnership, characterized the court’s action as “a clear victory for pipeline opponents and landowners fighting TransCanada’s overreach on property rights.”  As victories go, this one is pretty limited, since all it means is that TransCanada has to make its case to the court. The court could still rule for TransCanada, as lower courts have in the past.

Eminent domain ruling could save the planet, is that ironic?  

This is an eminent domain case, not an environmental case. TransCanada used the state’s eminent domain law to take land from the Crawford Family Farm (and others from Oklahoma to the Gulf Coast) to use as the pipeline route. This corporate use of state power by a private, foreign corporation was allowed by the Texas Railroad Commission, which has an unsavory history of its own. Julia Trigg Crawford has been fighting this issue in court since 2012, losing peremptorily at the local trial court in Lamar County and again at the 6th Court of Appeals.

As the Crawford Family Farm press release explained it: “At the heart of Crawford’s case is the ability of TransCanada, a foreign corporation, to use eminent domain under the state’s ‘common carrier’ clause since their pipeline transports 90% Canadian tar sands and 10% North Dakota oil. There is no on ramp for Texas oil therefore violating the definition of a common carrier under Texas law.”

According to Texas custom, all one has to do to become a common carrier – and thereby be able to wield eminent domain power – is to check a box on a form provided by the Texas Railroad Commission, which then says OK, bud go get ‘em! No proof required, no evidence requested, no fact check made, no hearing held, no questions asked. Check the box and you’re it.

The appeal, formally THE CRAWFORD FAMILY FARM PARTNERSHIP v. TRANSCANADA KEYSTONE PIPELINE, L.P., (docket no. 13-0886), argues that: “TransCanada is not a common carrier with statutory eminent domain authority and cannot condemn appellant’s property because it cannot subject itself to the provisions of Texas Natural Resource Code, Chapter 111…. Therefore, the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, and the trial court’s orders denying appellant’s plea to the jurisdiction and granting TransCanada’s motions for summary judgment must be reversed.”

The appeal relies in part on a Texas Supreme Court precedent known as “Denbury” (Officially, TEXAS RICE LAND PARTNERS, LTD. AND MIKE LATTA, PETITIONERS, v. DENBURY GREEN PIPELINE-TEXAS, LLC, RESPONDENT, docket no. 09-0901) decided unanimously on August 26, 2011, in which the entire conclusion stated:

“Private property is constitutionally protected, and a private enterprise cannot acquire condemnation power merely by checking boxes on a one-page form. We reverse the court of appeals’ judgment, and remand this case to the district court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.”

State Dept. tilts toward parochial profit, shrugs off global pain 

Meanwhile the 105-day comment period on the State Department’s fraudulent environmental report is running, and it’s not clear whether the Texas court will act within that time.  Wait, “fraudulent” report? Well, based on early reporting, the report is:

Intellectually fraudulent: by assessing just the pipeline element of the tar sands nexus, the report can’t possibly be meaningful. It’s like assessing an elephant based on only its left foot. When the report says, “the proposed Project [pipeline] is unlikely to significantly affect the rate of extraction in oil sands areas (based on expected oil prices, oil-sands supply costs, transport costs, and supply-demand scenarios)” – that translates into meaning something like: “Canada’s going to screw the world no matter what, so we might as well get our piece of the action.” In other words it’s an environmental report that takes no full account of the environment.

Procedurally fraudulent: according to Friends of the Earth, “the U.S. Department of State issued its long-awaited environmental review of the Keystone XL pipeline. The report was written by a dues-paying member of the American Petroleum Institute that lied on its conflict of interest disclosure form.”

Politically fraudulent: first clue, they released it late on a Friday. The main talking point was “it’s not a decision document,” but it raises no significant barrier to approving the pipeline. And the official reaction of TransCanada:

“We’re very pleased with the release and about being able to move to this next stage of the process. The case for the Keystone XL, in our view, is as strong as ever.”

TransCanada is right, the case for the pipeline is as strong as ever – which in the view of opponents was never very strong in the first place. And last spring, President Obama promised he would only approve Keystone if it “does not significantly exacerbate the climate problem.”

Well, that’s what the report says. And we’ve seen this shuck and jive before, less than a year ago.  Mission accomplished?

Or will Texas take a cue from Nebraska? 

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News.

Posted in Climate change

Obama links California drought to global warming, with no proof

If the California drought was due to climate change, there would not have been previous droughts when few people lived there. The link between the current drought and climate change is tenuous (as the NY Times says.) That didn’t stop Obama from linking the two. Politicos on both sides then then jumped in with their own agendas, not bothering to look at inconvenient facts. This obscures and complicates dealing with the drought.

Right wing sites said it was all due to an out of control federal government, conveniently forgetting that without the federal government, most of the vast water projects in the Southwest wouldn’t exist at all. Inhabitat was equally evasive, not even mentioning there is no scientific link between Southwest drought and climate change as they called for immediate action. However, there is clear evidence the Southwest historically and routinely has droughts, which sometimes last for decades, and which were not caused by humans. The current drought could just be part of a normal cycle.

While a trend of increasing drought that may be linked to global warming has been documented in some regions, including parts of the Mediterranean and in the Southwestern United States, there is no scientific consensus yet that it is a worldwide phenomenon. Nor is there definitive evidence that it is causing California’s problems.

Well lookie here, according to climate change projections, California should be getting wetter. Yet clearly it’s not.

In fact, the most recent computer projections suggest that as the world warms, California should get wetter, not drier, in the winter, when the state gets the bulk of its precipitation.

Posted in Climate change, Water


Are climate change concerns irrelevant to coping with Southwest drought?


California and the Southwest have a long history of drought. Some Southwest droughts lasted 100 years. Worse, the 20th Century may have been unusually wet. Yet water infrastructures were built and planning was done assuming droughts, if any, would be brief. This was almost certainly a short-sighted, irresponsible approach. These droughts, since they have occurred in the past when far few humans were in the Southwest, have little to do with human-based climate change. Arguing whether or not climate change is a factor in the current drought seems to me to be mostly irrelevant. The more important issues are dealing with drought now and planning in advance for future droughts that surely will come.

It’s getting dire, and this drought may be less of a drought and more the beginning of a dry spell.

As 2013 came to a close, the media dutifully reported that the year had been the driest in California since records began to be kept in the 1840s. UC Berkeley paleoclimatologist B. Lynn Ingram didn’t think the news stories captured the seriousness of the situation.

“This could potentially be the driest water year in 500 years,” says Ingram, a professor of earth and planetary science and geography.

Ingram co-authored The West without Water: What Past Floods, Droughts, and Other Climatic Clues Tell Us about Tomorrow which explores these issues in detail.

Climate change is indeed a problem and may be making a potentially bad situation worse. However, killer droughts (like the one that probably wiped out the Anasazi, were not due to human-caused global warming. This means reversing the effects of climate change will not end long droughts in the Southwest.

You mentioned global warming. Is what we’re seeing consistent with the predictions that have been made about how climate change could affect California?

Yes. We’ve already started having a decreased snow pack and increased wild fire frequency. And we’ve been warming, and it’s gotten drier. With Pacific Decadal Oscillation [the ever-changing temperature of surface water in the North Pacific Ocean], every 20 or 30 years we go in and out of these positive and negative shifts that affect precipitation and temperature. But now we’re entering a period where it looks like we’re getting drier even though it doesn’t necessarily correspond to that cycle. It looks like a trend. It’s warming and drying, and that’s definitely a big concern for Western states.

Posted in Climate change, Water


CA hearing: climate change requires a paramilitary response


Can your home be taken to “save the planet”? Absolutely, if nascent California Green Police get their way. Huge calamities are surely about to befall us, so the only logical thing to do, they say, is to create paramilitaries to enforce green edicts. This will be done solely for the greater good of course, so no worries, even if democracy, property rights, and freedom of expression get demolished in the process. Sorry granny, your house is on a flood plain so you’ll have to live in your car.

To paraphrase The Doors, cancel my subscription to your resurrection.

Paramilitary tactics may be necessary in California to prepare for, or head off, an apocalyptic future with flooded coastal communities, scorched central valleys and rampant wildfires in the Sierras. That was the advice and prediction from one of the experts at a recent hearing on climate change adaptation by the state watchdog agency the Little Hoover Commission

Said Robert Verchick, an environmental law professor at Loyola University, New Orleans:

“The way that you build resilience and robustness is to think about everything at once and then move forward in some kind of regimented, maybe paramilitary, way.

Resilience is the ability to act quickly and effectively to changing situations without needing Big Brother. It is the opposite of a blundering, thuggish paramilitary response. To suggest that paramilitary action should be a primary response to climate change borders on derangement.

Posted in Climate change, environment

IPCC report shows global warming slowed during hottest decade on record

Is global warming a religion or based on scientific fact? The reaction of major countries like US and Germany to IPCC saying the rate of warming has slowed, is to find new justifications retroactively for how this could be. Germany goes so far as to say the data should be ignored. In other words, climate change proponents are doing exactly what they accuse the denialists of, ignoring inconvenient data.

My view: renewable energy is important regardless of climate change, because electricity can be generated locally, adding to power security and reducing dependence on oil, coal, and gas imports.

Posted in Climate change


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