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Climate Change

NPR loves the grid

NPR is sure doing its due diligence on the “smart grid.”  This week they’re running a 10-part seriesevery day both on Morning Edition and All Things Considered…now that’s dedication. 

This morning, while moving my car to a legal spot, I caught Part 5: Getting Constant Current From Fickle Winds, which explores the chicken and egg problem that potential wind farmers face in South Dakota. They are slow to build wind farms because there are no power lines to take the energy to market, and they won’t build power lines because there is no power generation yet. Seems like a deal could be worked out…

My favorite so far? Part 1: An Aged Grid Looks to a Brighter Future. Also love the cool interactive map they’ve built so you can better envision the grid.



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The UK Announces World’s First “Carbon Budget”

Via 10 Downing Street’s Twitter, UK Chancellor Alistair Darling just released what the British government is calling the “world’s first carbon budget.” It pledges £1.5 billion for low carbon industries and commits the UK to a 34% reduction in carbon emissions by 2020 (compared to 1990 levels).   The Financial Times explains:

The effects of the “carbon budget” will not be worked out in detail until later this year, but Alistair Darling said the “landmark step” of setting such a legally binding target would “give industry the certainty” needed to make low-carbon investments.

Mr Darling had good news for offshore wind farm developers, increasing the amount they receive from the Renewable Obligation scheme, which subsidises renewables through charges on electricity bills. His reforms would give offshore wind farms an extra £525m, he said, which would “lead to major projects getting the go-ahead”. The future of several proposed offshore wind farms, including the London Array, the world’s biggest, was in doubt because of cost increases.

Happy Earth Day! 

Photo from flikr user firthcycles of Alistair Darling holding the budget in a beaten up briefcase.


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U.S. EPA submits findings on GHGs

Today the EPA has submitted a proposed finding suggesting that greenhouse gases pose a danger to public health and welfare, an action that could trigger regulation under the Clean Air Act.   The EPA’s “rigorous, peer-reviewed scientific analysis of six gases — carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulfur hexafluoride” that lead to these proposals followed a 2007 order by the U.S. Supreme Court to do so.  The next step before the findings are finalized is a 60-day public comment period.

A separate process is necessary to propose specific steps to regulate GHGs under the Act.  Both EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and President Obama have said that they prefer to address the issue through Congressional action.

Interestingly, the review also noted:

disproportionate impact climate change has on the health of certain segments of the population, such as the poor, the very young, the elderly, those already in poor health, the disabled, those living alone and/or indigenous populations dependent on one or a few resources

as well as that…

climate change also has serious national security implications. Consistent with this proposed finding, in 2007, 11 retired U.S. generals and admirals signed a report from the Center for a New American Security stating that climate change “presents significant national security challenges for the United States.” Escalating violence in destabilized regions can be incited and fomented by an increasing scarcity of resources – including water. This lack of resources, driven by climate change patterns, then drives massive migration to more stabilized regions of the world.

But, none of this should come as any surprise.  The UN’s IPCC has been saying this for quite a while.


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Solar Sciences

A couple months ago I blogged about the virtues of “solar cookers” — devices designed, chiefly for the developing world, to reduce the often-dangerous reliance on ever-dwindling firewood (and reduce carbon emissions a la fois).  Now I see that one particularly ingenious cooker, cutely called the “Kyoto Box,” has won first prize in a “green” technology contest.

It is made from two cardboard boxes, which use reflective foil and black paint to maximise absorption of solar energy.

Covering the cooking pot with a transparent cover retains heat and water, and temperatures inside the pot can reach at least 80 [Celsius].

Perhaps by next year they’ll have come up with an even better “Copenhagen box.”


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Don’t Tell George Will


NASA releases new satellite imagery showing shrinking ice levels in the Artic Sea.  H/t News Unfiltered. 

The latest Arctic sea ice data from NASA and the National Snow and Ice Data Center show that the decade-long trend of shrinking sea ice cover is continuing. New evidence from satellite observations also shows that the ice cap is thinning as well.

Arctic sea ice works like an air conditioner for the global climate system. Ice naturally cools air and water masses, plays a key role in ocean circulation, and reflects solar radiation back into space. In recent years, Arctic sea ice has been declining at a surprising rate.

Scientists who track Arctic sea ice cover from space announced today that this winter had the fifth lowest maximum ice extent on record. The six lowest maximum events since satellite monitoring began in 1979 have all occurred in the past six years (2004-2009).

Until recently, the majority of Arctic sea ice survived at least one summer and often several. But things have changed dramatically, according to a team of University of Colorado, Boulder, scientists led by Charles Fowler. Thin seasonal ice — ice that melts and re-freezes every year — makes up about 70 percent of the Arctic sea ice in wintertime, up from 40 to 50 percent in the 1980s and 1990s. Thicker ice, which survives two or more years, now comprises just 10 percent of wintertime ice cover, down from 30 to 40 percent.

According to researchers from the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colo., the maximum sea ice extent for 2008-09, reached on Feb. 28, was 5.85 million square miles. That is 278,000 square miles less than the average extent for 1979 to 2000.


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Marvin Gaye, Environmentalist

Today would have been the legendary R&B artist Marvin Gaye’s 70th birthday.  I’ve always been a big fan–albums don’t get much better than”What’s Going On.”  And from that album we get this gem of call to arms for the environment,  Mercy, Mercy Me (The Ecology).   

It is stunning to consider that this song was written back in 1971.


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