October 28, 2006

Rebutting Climate Skeptics

Gristmill organizes all the articles in "How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic," a series by Colby Beck with objective, fact-based responses to common skeptic's arguments about global warming. They are organized into subtopics under four main categories:
* Stages of Denial
* Scientific Topics
* Types of Argument
* Levels of Sophistication

Gristmill: "How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic"


Posted by dougsimpson at 10:43 AM

October 22, 2006

Lasting Hybrid Batteries & Now American Made

My wife and I recently ordered a Toyota Prius hybrid. A friend who I told about it asked about battery replacement cost, saying he'd hear they were expensive. I had to admit I did not know, but none of the increasing number of favorable reviews I'd read mentioned the issue. So, I checked.

Hybrid Blog has a set of links from Toyota, MSNBC and HybridBlog's research director, which agree that the NiMH batteries are expected to last the life of the vehicle, even though they may be warranted for only 8-10 years or 80,000 - 100,000 miles. Toyota reports that they've had some that have run hundreds of thousands of miles without deterioration. The Energy Department stopped testing them after 160,000 miles without deterioration, according to those sources.

More at: HybridBlog: HybridCenter Q&A: So what about those batteries? (Oct. 20, 2006).

More good news from HybridBlog for those who want to get a fuel economy hybrid and also want to "buy American" ... Toyota's "family size" 2007 Camry hybrid will be produced in Kentucky, and they plan to make 60,000 per year. Nissan plans to compete with its similarly sized Altima hybrids to be built in Tennessee, using Toyota's older generation hybrid drive now used in the Prius. Source: HybridBlog: New Hybrid Sedans Show Sales, Policy Successes (Oct. 20, 2006)


Posted by dougsimpson at 06:55 PM

New NASA Data on Shrinking Greenland Ice Pack

NASA studies confirmed accelerating net shrinkage of the Greenland ice pack used Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellite data. Melting of the ice pack has increased since the 1990's.

According to Science Daily, study co-author Jay Zwally said:
"In the 1990's, the ice sheet was growing inland and shrinking significantly at the edges, which is what climate models predicted as a result of global warming. Now the processes of mass loss are clearly beginning to dominate the inland growth, and we are only in the early stages of the climate warming predicted for this century."

Source: ScienceDaily: Greenland Ice Sheet On A Downward Slide (Oct. 22, 2006), reporting on studies from the NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center


Posted by dougsimpson at 04:40 PM

October 21, 2006

Berkshire's Deal with Equitas

Marc Mayerson over at Insurance Scrawl writes an analysis of the recently announced deal by Berkshire to reinsure Lloyd's Equitas legacy exposures. Its contingent on some UK governmental assurances, but represents the kind of deal that Warren Buffett is so good at: taking the long view. Insurance Scrawl: Berkshire Hath A Way Out for Equitas and Lloyd%u2019s


Posted by dougsimpson at 10:55 AM

October 20, 2006

Evangelicals Can Turn Green "On a Dime": DeWitt

Scientist and evangelical Christian Calvin DeWitt, co-founder of the Evangelical Environmental Network, talked with Grist's David Roberts in a telephone interview published by Grist.org. It is part of "God and the Environment, a Grist special series, by David Roberts (October 2006).

DeWitt discussed the scriptural basis for "creation care," the increasing concern among evangelicals with the current administration's environmental policy, and some of the reasons behind past splits between evangelicals and environmentalists, He also discussed the potential for reaching a "tipping point" in which large numbers of evangelicals accept a biblically-founded mission to protect the climate of the Earth. DeWitt notes that unlike traditional denominations that draw doctrine from hierarchical structures, evangelicals draw guidance direct from the Bible, so that "they are used to conversion. They can turn on a dime."

DeWitt is one of those behind the Evangelical Climate Initiative, which has issued a Climate Change: Evangelical Call to Action, including the following four claims:
Claim 1: Human-Induced Climate Change is Real
Claim 2: The Consequences of Climate Change Will Be Significant, and Will Hit the Poor the Hardest
Claim 3: Christian Moral Convictions Demand Our Response to the Climate Change Problem
Claim 4: The need to act now is urgent. Governments, businesses, churches, and individuals all have a role to play in addressing climate change—starting now.

An interview with environmental scientist and evangelical leader Calvin DeWitt | By David Roberts | Grist | Main Dish | 17 Oct 2006


Posted by dougsimpson at 08:12 PM

October 18, 2006

Climate Change Research Conference Presentations

Speaker notes, slides and data are online from a conference sponsored by the California Energy Commission & California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA): Climate Scenarios, Impacts, and Adaptation Options in California: Status of Research Activities (Sacramento, Sep. 13-15, 2006)

Includes slides from keynote speaker James Hansen of NASA: Is There Still Time to Avoid Disasterous Human-Made Climate Change? He opened by presenting detailed facts from multiple international studies and projections based upon the latest scientific examinations. He sketched the effective roles played by scientists, the media, special interests, the public and the government in the response to the CFC threat and compared it to the leadership failures, disinformation campaigns and subordination to special interests exhibited in response to the global warming threat.

Hansen closed with a question of law and morals for us and our grandchildren: "As it appears that the world may pass a tipping point soon, beyond which it will be impossible to avert massive future impacts on humans and other life on the planet: who bears (legal/moral) responsibility?"


Posted by dougsimpson at 08:15 PM

Serious Risks to California from Climate Change: White Paper

In February, the California Climate Change Center released a study commissioned by the California Energy Commission and the California EPA. It forecasts "serious risks" in the form of increased fires, floods and agricultural damage that can be moderated by prompt reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) and other global warming pollution emitted by human use of fossil fuels.

From the Introduction:
"It is now apparent that the increasing atmospheric concentration of GHGs, resulting from human activities, is changing the climate in ways that pose serious risks to California’s health, economy, and environment. However, the most severe impacts that are expected with greater temperature rises could be avoided if the rate of GHG emissions is reduced. To help identify the potentially avoidable climate impacts in California, this paper summarizes some of the impacts expected under lower, medium, and higher ranges of projected warmings, as determined by different GHG emissions scenarios and different global climate models."
Scenarios of Climate Change in California: An Overview (Feb. 2006).


Posted by dougsimpson at 07:48 PM

October 17, 2006

$74 Trillion Cost of Inaction on Climate: GDEI at Tufts Calculates

A new report from the Global Development and Environmental Institute ("GDAE") at Tufts University, commissioned by Friends of the Earth: England, Wales and Northern Ireland, calculates the cost of climate inaction at US$74 trillion by the end of the century, with devastating impacts on less developed nations and a legacy of massive social and health problems for the grandchildren of today's young adults. Due to the inherent momentum of the climate system, deferred response may be too late to prevent passing a "tipping point" leading to catastrophic and irreversable heating that would render large areas of the globe uninhabitable.

From the Executive Summary:
"This report examines the costs of inaction – the worsening damages that will result from allowing climate change to continue unabated. Economic models have estimated damages as great as US$74 trillion, but even these numbers fail to convey the multiple harms that lie in store for the world. In brief, we find that the first 2° of warming will have many harmful and costly impacts, outweighing the modest potential benefits, for northern countries such as the United Kingdom. Most developing countries will fare even worse, experiencing greater costs and no benefits at all. The first stages of warming already have begun to put essential ecosystems at risk, and will strain the ability of the world's economies and governments to respond.

Beyond 2°, in the second half of this century and later, the effects of further warming – which will certainly occur in the absence of ambitious mitigation efforts – will be much more dangerous, as all potential benefits vanish and all regions suffer steadily increasing harms. The risk of a global catastrophe will increase rapidly as temperatures continue to rise. If nothing is done to slow the process of warming, the grandchildren of today's young adults will inherit a world crippled by food and water shortages, extreme and variable weather, extinctions and other ecosystem damages, and a growing danger of an even more severe catastrophe.

The climate system, and our economic activities that affect it, have enormous momentum. It is not possible to wait until the world begins to get uncomfortably warm, and then suddenly decide to stop. Because of its momentum, a supertanker has to turn off its engines 25 km before it comes to a stop. Likewise, we have to achieve a drastic reduction in carbon emissions several decades before we can bring climate change under control. In other words, we have to take action long before we experience the full severity of the problem. The world as a whole can, just barely, cope with the impacts of the first 2° of warming, but only if there are immediate, large-scale, and creative approaches to international equity and cooperation. The challenge will be to understand the near term damages from climate change as a sign of much worse to come if nothing is done to stop it, while interpreting any limited benefits of the early stages of warming as a temporary windfall, soon to disappear."

Climate Change - Costs of Inaction - Global Development and Environment Institute - Tufts University (October 11, 2006)


Posted by dougsimpson at 07:13 PM

October 15, 2006

Global Warming and Role of Insurers: Ceres Report

Risk Prof is reporting on initiatives by particular insurers to address global warming. RiskProf : Global Warming Redux (Oct. 12, 2006).

To add to his developing list, a recent report from Ceres, "From Risk to Opportunity: How Insurers Can Proactively and Profitably Manage Climate Change," concentrates the role the insurance industry has played in developing responses to emerging risks. Just as they devised tools to deal with earthquakes, killer hurricanes and assure availability of insurance in hard-to-insure sectors, they have much to contribute to responding to global warming.

According the Ceres announcement of the release of the report, it "identifies 190 innovative products and services available or in the pipeline from dozens of insurance providers in 16 countries. Many provide win-win benefits, by reducing financial losses and greenhouse gas emissions. More than half of the activities come from U.S. companies, covering climate change solutions including energy efficiency, green building design, carbon emissions trading and sustainable driving practices." Ceres | Dozens of New Insurance Products Emerging to Tackle Climate Change and Rising Weather Losses (Sep. 7, 2006).


Posted by dougsimpson at 04:59 PM

EPA cutting budget for staff research sources

The Environmental Protection Agency is cutting its budget for staff access to technical journals and publications and subscriptions to environmental news reports, according to a news release by: Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility: News Releases; EPA SCIENTISTS LOSING ACCESS TO JOURNALS (October 9, 2006)

Thanks to: beSpacific: PEER Reports EPA Scientists Losing Access to Research Sources


Posted by dougsimpson at 04:41 PM

October 12, 2006

ABA Conference on Renewable Energy Credits (RECs)

ABA Teleconference "Using RECs for Compliance or Voluntary Trading -- Emerging Conflicts!" Wednesday, October 18, 2006 - Renewable Energy Resources Committee.

Meeting description: "The use of Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) in voluntary and compliance markets continues to evolve. This teleconference will present a moderated panel discussion among industry experts regarding how current and potential future uses of RECs and the potential for those uses to conflict with other attribute trading programs and policy objectives. Panelists will present positions on the extent to which, if at all, environmental and regulatory compliance attributes associated with renewable electricity can (or should) be traded separate from the underlying electricity, whether such trading advances policy objectives and brings value to generators, utilities and their customers, and how RECs interrelate with other environmental policies such as NOx and SOx emission control programs."
Renewable Energy Law Resources Committee - ABA Section of Environment Law, Energy Law, and Resources Law


Posted by dougsimpson at 07:41 PM

Faith and Environmentalism

"It's because I'm a religious person that I'm an environmentalist," said Gary Gardner in an interview with Grist's David Roberts. Gardner is director of research at the Worldwatch Institute, author of Inspiring Progress: Religions' Contributions to Sustainable Development (2006) and one of a growing number of conservative Christians supporting environmentalism and the need for action on climate change.

Gardner sees religious people as bringing a valuable perspective to environmentalism by addressing the need to consume less from the standpoint of basic values. He also sees the potential for the Christian community to make a big difference politically.

"Because religious people are motivated by something they believe passionately in, if you can help them see their tradition in a different light, you see tremendous changes in vision you don't typically see in the secular world. We're seeing that with evangelicals and climate change. This is a 180-degree turn we're seeing in the evangelical community, and it's possible because they believe so deeply in a created world and a creator who cares about that world. The framework has not changed. But they're interpreting the reality of the world today, within that framework, in a different way. It's the very power of religion, the very fundamental place it holds in people's lives, that gives it the power to help people to see things differently. When they do, they're able to make tremendous change."

A chat with Worldwatch's Gary Gardner on faith and environmentalism | By David Roberts | Grist | Main Dish | 11 Oct 2006

This is one of several articles in a series that include interviews with Bill Moyers (PBS Special "Is God Green?"), Bill McKibben, J. Matthew Sleeth, Rabbi Michael Lerner and Rev. Richard Cizik. God and the Environment: A Grist special series, by David Roberts, October 5, 2006


Posted by dougsimpson at 07:25 PM

October 10, 2006

NYU's Big Buy of Wind Power RECs

NYU has committed to buy 118 million kWh of renewable energy credits (RECs) from Community Energy, Inc. University President John Sexton was inspired by the Clinton Global Initiative conference to make what is called the 11th largest purchase of RECs yet. NYU Executive VP was quoted as saying that:
"Cities and universities share an important characteristic -- they are the places that draw in mankind to confront, contemplate, and address our most pressing challenges. It is in that spirit that we take this step." RenewableEnergyAccess.com | NYU Makes Largest Wind Power REC Purchase by a University


Posted by dougsimpson at 08:09 PM

Long Island Overdue for Devastating Hurricane: Coastal Study

A Florida International University study reports a list of the sites most vulnerable to a major hurricane. Not surprising is that New Orleans is number one. The Lake Okeechobee dike rebuilt during Hoover's administration is number two. Last time it broke (1928), it drowned 2,500 people. If it broke today, 40,000 would be in danger, according to press stories about the study.

Most interesting to Northeasterners is the listing of Long Island, New York as number 8 on the list. Since the 1938 hurricane, property values along the island's sandy south shore have skyrocketed. Losses from another hurricane like that in 1938 would be "astronomical," according to Stephen P. Leatherman, who directs the International Hurricane Research Center at Florida International University. Surprises in a New Tally of Areas Vulnerable to Hurricanes - New York Times


Posted by dougsimpson at 08:24 AM

Global Heating Could Displace Over 75 Million Asians: CSIRO

Widespread drought, flooding and increased disease associated with higher global temperatures will devastate Asia, driving millions of climate refugees, if we do not promptly reverse human contributions to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, according to a new study from Australia. Climate Change May Hurt Asian Economies, Climate Change Report Says Hotter Temperatures, Higher Sea Levels May Destroy Asian Economies - CBS News

Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) issued the report October 9. According to the Times of India, the CSIRO says that remaining below the generally accepted threshold for "dangerous" climate change of about two degrees Celsius would require global greenhouse gas emissions to be reduced by 30-55 percent below 1990 levels. Studies in the report indicate that a one-meter rise in sea level would displace over 75 million people in Asia-Pacific areas. India faces global warming disaster: Study- The Times of India


Posted by dougsimpson at 08:00 AM

October 05, 2006

Evangelicals Against Global Warming? Is God Green? An Interview with Bill Moyers About His Special

Bill Moyers will host a special on the recent emergence of concern over global warming among evangelical Christians. "Is God Green" will air October 11, 2006 on PBS. Grist interviewed Moyers on October 5. Moyers discussed his views of the political struggle among evangelicals over the issue of control of greenhouse gas emissions. Bill Moyers discusses the spread of environmental concern among evangelicals | By David Roberts | Grist | Main Dish | 05 Oct 2006


Posted by dougsimpson at 09:59 PM

Wilma Third Worst Hurricane Yet

"Wilma caused the largest disruption to electrical service ever experienced in Florida. Media reports indicate up to 98 per cent of South Florida lost electrical service, and Florida Power and Light reported outages in 42 Florida counties. The amount of total insured damage compiled by the Property Claim Services of the Insurance Services Office, Inc., is $10.3 billion. Using a doubling of insured losses to obtain the total damage gives a current estimate of Wilma’s U.S. damage of $20.6 billion, making Wilma the third costliest hurricane in U.S. history, behind only Katrina and Andrew."
National Hurricane Center: Tropical Cyclone Report Hurricane Wilma : 15-25 October 2005


Posted by dougsimpson at 09:48 PM

Hotter Cities Will Endanger Health in Northeast States

Unless we cut use of fossil fuels now, climate heating will make the Northeast states feel like Virginia or Georgia, cities will have over 20 days of hundred-degree highs, destructive winter floods and summer droughts will become more frequent. All during this century, says a team of scientists in a new study released this week that projects the impact of continued human emissions of climate polluting greenhouse gases.

Full report (52 pages): Climate Change in the U.S. Northeast - A report of the Northeast Climate Impacts Assessment (Oct. 2006). Includes some excellent charts and graphs for educators.

This may sound pleasant to those renewing their snow plowing or fuel oil contracts. It will sound less pleasant to those still sore from last summer's electric bill. It will sound particularly bad to the most vulnerable of the 25% of the Northeast population that lives in urban areas.

From the The 8 page summary:
"While summer heat affects us all, extreme heat is a particular concern in big cities. Hot temperatures intensified by the urban heat island effect can create dangerous conditions, especially for the elderly, infants, the poor, and other vulnerable populations. * * * These projections show that conditions dangerous to human health could become commonplace in most of the region’s major urban centers over the course of this century."

From the introductory paragraph of the summary:
Across the Northeast, from Pennsylvania and New Jersey northward to Maine, signs of our rapidly changing climate become clearer each year. Records show that spring is arriving sooner, summers are growing hotter, and winters are becoming warmer and less snowy. These changes are consistent with global warming, an increasingly urgent phenomenon driven by heat-trapping emissions from human activities. New state-of-the-art climate research shows that if global warming emissions continue to grow unabated, the Northeast can expect dramatic temperature increases and other climate changes over the course of this century. If the rate of emissions is lowered, however, projections show the changes will be significantly smaller. Emissions choices we make today—in the Northeast and worldwide—will help determine the climate our children and grandchildren inherit, and shape the consequences for their economy, environment, and quality of life.

Some callouts from the summary or full report:

  • By the end of the century, the typical summer in upstate New
    York may feel like the present-day summer in South Carolina.
  • Most major Northeast cities currently experience no more than
    two days of 100°F weather in the average summer, but on a higher-
    emissions pathway that number could rise to more than 20 days.
  • By the latter part of this century, higher emissions will cut
    by half the number of snow-covered days across most of the region.
  • Streamflow is projected to become more extreme—higher in winter,
    likely increasing flood risk, and lower in summer, exacerbating
    drought. Higher winter flows increase the frequency of ice jams,
    resulting in major flooding and infrastructure damage.

    The Northeast Climate Impacts Assessment (NECIA) is a collaboration between The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and a team of independent experts.

    Question: If New York City would feel like Charleston, what will Charleston feel like? And what about New Orleans?

    Call me unpatriotic, but perhaps its time for our government to stop indulging the fossil fuel lobby and resume protecting the population.

    A two page summary on how government, businesses and individuals can act now to reduce greenhouse gas polluting emissions: Reducing Heat-Trapping Emissions in the Northeast (Union of Concerned Scientists)


    Posted by dougsimpson at 07:57 PM
  • October 03, 2006

    2003 Blackout Due to Recuring Faults and Failure of Voluntary Standards

    The Task Force appointed to study the causes of the 2003 electrical power blackout has issued its final report. It provides bad news for those who recommend relying upon voluntary measures to deal with challenges of this type.

    "The blackout of August 14, 2003, affected some 50 million people and imposed economic losses in the United States and Canada totalling billions of dollars. The subsequent investigation of the blackout by the Task Force revealed two disquieting facts: (1) failure to comply with voluntary reliability standards was a significant contributing factor to the blackout, and (2) several causes identified in the investigations of previous blackouts were also factors in the 2003 blackout. This led the Task Force to urge the Government of the United States and federal and provincial governments in
    Canada to move forward with the implementation of mandatory and enforceable reliability standards. It also led the U.S. and Canadian governments to extend the mandate of the Task Force to monitor and report on the implementation of the recommendations in order to reduce the risk of these same factors recurring in the future."

    U.S.-Canada Power System Outage Task Force: Final Report on the Implementation of the Task Force Recommendations (September 2006)

    The report includes 46 detailed recommendations in the following areas:
    1) institutional issues relating to reliability,
    2) supporting and enhancing NERC actions of February 10, 2004,
    3) enhancing the physical and cyber security of North American bulk power systems and
    4) the Canadian nuclear power sector.


    Posted by dougsimpson at 07:52 PM

    October 02, 2006

    Population Growth in Florida Puts Millions in Harm's Way

    Stu Ostro at the Weather Channel Blog reminds us of the force and size of past hurricanes, such as the 1947 hurricane that hit Florida with hurricane force winds over 240 miles of coastline. That hurricane was less destructive than it would be today, because the worst of it passed between Miami and Palm Beach. In the last 60 years, the population of Palm Beach and Broward counties have increased 10-fold, the spaces between the two cities have filled in with people and shorefront property, and the property values have soared with both. weather.com - Blog: The Weather Channel on WINDS, HURRICANES, AND POPULATION GROWTH

    Ostro includes some nifty charts of the explosion in numbers of those that are today in harm's way. Ostro warns against the short-memory complacency that follows a mild storm season: "with the inevitable return of bad hurricanes and the continued increase in coastal population, this country is still cruisin' for a bruisin'. Just as Hugo and Andrew served as a wake-up call back in the late 1980s and early 90s, it's important for the recent ones from Isabel in 2003 through Wilma late in 2005 to do the same."


    Posted by dougsimpson at 07:50 PM