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Powering Minnesota to prosperity through energy leadership

September 20th, 2017 · No Comments

A positive vision for the future is too rarely part of America’s political conversation at the moment. Today, Minnesota’s Rebecca Otto put out a serious marker to change that.  Otto’s Minnesota Powered Plan targets leveraging Minnesota’s envious position as a manufacturing state with excellent wind and (yes) solar resources to transform the state into a clean energy powerhouse, with serious economic benefits for all of the state’s citizens and a true leadership position in creating a prosperous, climate-friendly future.

Rebecca Otto knows clean energy … and knows its value for Minnesota

While Otto’s plan merits a read (in no small part for the substantive supporting material), it’s core is that it focuses on achieving desire results through reforming our energy system toward a basic sensible path: a well-regulated market economy that enables private business to flourish while recognizing our social contract.

The three key action points in the plan:

  • Price carbon
    • One of the worst elements of our energy system is all the damaging ‘externalities’ that are not in the economic equation. By pricing carbon, Minnesota Powered would correct that market distortion.
    • Incorporating key externalities into the economic decision making (by businesses, individuals, governments, …) would allow the efficiency of a ‘well-regulated market’ to find the best paths to reduce those costs, those externalities (e.g., pollution & associated costs to human health, productivity, and our future prospects).
  • Cash Dividends to Minnesotans
    • The plan dedicates 75 percent of the associated resources to quarterly dividends (estimated to be in the range of $50 every month, $150 per quarter) to every Minnesotan resident.
    • Such dividends would have significant benefits — not just political (people like cashing checks) but also social (a small path toward addressing economic inequality) and in rewarding those who are more diligent are reducing their fossil-foolish (carbon) footprints.
  • Clean Energy Refundable Tax Credits
    • The remaining resources would provide tax credits for things like efficient water heaters and HVACs, insulating homes, solar panel installations, and electric vehicles.
    • This would enable serious financial savings for those who leverage the tax credit. And, with the advances in financing, many of these projects could be executed with zero dollars down and thus save people money from day one.
    • This is a serious job creation measure along with helping people save money through reducing home energy costs. The campaign analysis is that “This will create tens of thousands of good-paying new private-sector jobs—often paying more than $80,000 per year—in every community across Minnesota.”

Otto — with over a decade as Minnesota’s State Auditor and time in the legislature — has the sort of serious credentials and knowledge of state government that voters should expect from a serious candidate for Governor.  With Minnesota-Powered, Otto shows that she has the sort of vision that voters should want from their political leaders.

While I will be returning for additional looks and commentary on the Minnesota Powered Plan, there is a simple truth: this is the sort of thinking and plan that every state in the Union (and, well, the Federal Government) should be pursuing.  I would hope that it is taken seriously and considered in State Houses across the land.

UPDATE NOTE: Others’ commentaries

  • Greg Laden’s overview includes a detailed look at the economic benefits from the plan with an emphasis of something that is ‘implicit’ in comments above: this is a ‘revenue neutral’ carbon price.

→ No CommentsTags: Energy

May we fight on so that a climate warrior may rest in peace …

September 18th, 2017 · No Comments

One of privileges of our internet world is the ability to interact with and develop relationships with people all over the globe without ever having the opportunity to meet face to face. (Yes, it was possible in snail mail days but, well, so much harder even as a ‘pen pals’.)

One of the privileges of being engaged in the struggle to enhance understanding of climate science and the urgent necessity to address our climate challenges/seize climate opportunities is the chance to interact with impressive, passionate, knowledgable, thoughtful, incredibly decent people.

The two are the combination of the engaged climate netcitizen: tens, hundreds, thousands of people communicated with and collaborated with without ever having had the opportunity to meet them.

And, reality is that these networks mean that we will have to mourn people who are part of our lives, part of our communities, without ever having ‘met’ them in person.

Today, I learned of the passing of Andy Skuce, a ‘recovering oilman’ who learned/educated himself about climate change and sought to contribute to changing humanity’s path to avert climate catastrophe. As part of that, Skuce was a key player in Skeptical Science, which is an invaluable place for gaining understanding about climate science issues — including, perhaps most notably, climate science denial by the numbers.

I had the privilege of email communications with Andy — thoughtful, decent, insightful, knowledgeable, humble … My latest communication just six days ago as he provided insights on how climate change is impacting agricultural options in Canada, including what is the world’s most expensive olive oil.

On 28 August, Andy made the last post on his blog site Critical Angle discussing his terminal cancer, his life, medical insurance, and his perspectives on climate change.  In his honor, I have posted this after the fold. Exit, Pursued by a Crab is beyond question worth your time to read it and, by doing so, to honor Andy Skuce’s life.

Dear Andy Skuce — you will be missed … you will be remembered … you will continue to inspire.

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Documenting Trump Administration Silencing of Climate Science

September 18th, 2017 · 2 Comments

Donald Trump’s and his GOP acolytes anti-science attitudes created a flurry of activity in the interregnum prior to their White House occupation to capture key U.S. government science (especially climate science) information on servers accessible to the world’s researchers (and, well, everyone with internet access) that are outside U.S. government control (good example/discussion). In the past nine months, from time to time, reporting has captured why that made sense (such as this CNN reporting on EPA’s “removal of climate change information from its website“).  The Guardian provided an excellent overview of worst of the first 100 days,

In the more than 100 days since, the administration has largely opted for a chisel and scalpel approach to refashioning its online content, but the end result is much the same – mentions of climate change have been excised, buried or stripped of any importance.

Federal government websites are being combed through to apply new verbiage. The state department’s office of global change, for example, has removed links to the Obama administration’s 2013 climate action report and mention of the latest UN meeting on climate change. Text relating to climate change and greenhouse gases has also been purged.

While political pundits, often too interested in horse race than substance, discuss the failure of major legislation to go through and foolishly suggest that Trump is somehow magically a ‘post partisan’ President after making (yet to be executed) deals with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, there is a horrific grinding reality across the US government: the science denial forces are hard at work to make it harder for quality scientific work to be done and to adopt a ‘see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil’ path toward climate change: if we don’t study it and don’t have any information out there about it, obviously the problem doesn’t exist and we can say whatever we want about it.

The above-mentioned efforts to guard records of what existed on U.S. government websites as Trump put his hand down on the Bible (to lie) in takingthe Oath of Office provides tools to understand just how Team Trump is devastating the U.S. government’s climate change material.

Dr. Peter Gleick took, over this week, a statistical look at pre-Trump and September 2017 Trumpian-era climate change information on the USGS web site.  This is sobering material.

  • In December 2016, 5,932 climate science items linked there (9 were just pictures). Today there are 416 and 292 are just pictures.
  • In December 2016, 320 of those items were links to climate data. Today, 0 links to data. 5,271 were web links. Now, 0 web links.
  • In December 2016, the USGS “Effects of Climate Change” webpage had 2,825 items. Today … zero.

 

When it comes to Team Trump & climate science, in some ways, this response to Gleick is an excellent summary:

The challenge of that image, however, is a form of passivity: that there is simply ‘ignoring’ going on when the reality of Team Trump’s dystopia are active efforts to undermine climate science, the public’s understanding of climate science, and humanity’s potential to take action effectively to reduce the risks of climate catastrophe.

A note of appreciation for Peter Gleick for worsening my Monday by this effort to quantify one corner of the Trump Administration’s war on science and knowledge.

→ 2 CommentsTags: climate change · science denial · Trump · Trump Administration

Turning one’s back on science: the New Mexico derivative

September 18th, 2017 · No Comments

In the name of science, school systems — state school boards typically — around the nation are working on science standards. Much is made, by many, of American education’s need to focus on STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) (and, often now, STEAM: Science Technology Engineering Arts Mathematics).

For the moment, this is the opening for the Department of Education STEM page:

“[Science] is more than a school subject, or the periodic table, or the properties of waves. It is an approach to the world, a critical way to understand and explore and engage with the world, and then have the capacity to change that world…”

— President Barack Obama, March 23, 2015

Then comes a discussion of STEM shortfalls: in numbers of teachers, pipelines of students to meet 21st employment requirements, etc … STEM is, for many, core to economic competitiveness in the years, decades, centuries to come.

Amid the drive to tackle this challenge, the Next Generation Science Standards “to create a set of research-based, up-to-date K–12 science standards. These standards give local educators the flexibility to design classroom learning experiences that stimulate students’ interests in science and prepares them for college, careers, and citizenship.” The NextGen Standards were state driven and funded, with several dozen states involved.  These standards are having impacts in science classrooms around the country.

New Mexico is next in line, it seems, with a proposal of new teaching standards (sort of) based on the NextGen Science Standards. Why ‘sort of’?

omit references to evolution, rising global temperatures and the age of Earth from the state’s science curriculum.

Right … New Mexico’s state Public Education Department has proposed that public school science education does not educate students about

  • The Scientific Theory of Evolution,
  • The reality of Global Warming
    • let alone humanity’s driving of a warming earth, and, of course not,
    • the risks that unchecked climate change creates for humanity let alone
    • the risks of making the desert Southwest virtually uninhabitable with the potential for massive droughts amid hotter temperatures;
  • Geology’s scientific learning as to Earth’s history

Ignoring and, in fact, seeking to undermine quality science in the name of — almost certainly — religious extremism and ideological purposes is the exact opposite of what STEM/STEAM is about.

All young people should be prepared to think deeply and to think well so that they have the chance to become the innovators, educators, researchers, and leaders who can solve the most pressing challenges facing our nation and our world, both today and tomorrow.

This is being done in the name of having education that is “a reflection of the diversity of New Mexico“, the “diversity of perspectives” of NM residents.  With that in mind should ask:

  • Will New Mexico’s science classes offer alternative perspectives that the Earth is flat?
  • Should students be taught that the moon landings were fake?
  • Will history classes teach that the Bush Administration was behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks?
  • Will there be a year of education about alien abductions?
  • Will there be an AA portion of NM’s science education: astronomy + astrology?
  • Will …

All of these are, sadly, beliefs held by some Americans, including in New Mexico.  Does ‘diversity of perspectives’ mean equally balancing the ‘perspectives’ of people whose last science education was in 10th grade thirty years ago and a Nobel-laureate scientist?

Ignoring and undermine STEM education will not make America and Americans more competitive in the 21st century and will not help set the path to ‘solve the most pressing challenges.

“I’m certainly not going to move a high-tech company here, because I’m not going to get a scientifically educated population,” said Kim Johnson, a physicist and former president of the New Mexico Academy of Science.

“We’re doing the one thing in terms of educating our children that tend to push those kinds of businesses away,” he said.

Johnson said the proposed standards are an attempt to appease those who have for years tried to scrub evolution and climate change from the state’s science curriculum.

Just as appeasement worked very well with Hitler, it isn’t any more sensible as a path to deal with those with anti-science attitudes.  The proposed New Mexico (anti-)science standards that emphasize “diversity of perspectives” would will lead to an undermining of the education of New Mexico’s public school students.

 

[Read more →]

→ No CommentsTags: climate zombies · SciComm · science · Science Communication · science denial

Trump might (MIGHT) not be leaving Paris Accords … Should we care?

September 16th, 2017 · No Comments

The ‘breaking news’, according to an EU official and Wall Street Journal reporting, Donald Trump and @TeamTrump might act (yet again) in ways to piss off their #MAGA-frothing base. After announcing, in front of a sweating audience of fossil fools on the White House lawn, that the United States would be leaving the Paris Accords, Saturday’s breaking news is that this might not be the case.

The U.S. has stated that they will not renegotiate the Paris accord, but they will try to review the terms on which they could be engaged under this agreement

This is amid the first major international meeting on the Paris Accords since Trump’s June announcement.

White House senior adviser Everett Eissenstat unveiled the U.S. plan, according to an official at Saturday’s gathering, as Ottawa, Beijing and Brussels accelerate their joint effort to minimize the fallout from a potential U.S. withdrawal from the Paris agreement.

Putting aside the mercurial nature of Donald Trump’s gaslighting and the incertitude that anything Trump or anyone from Team Trump says will remain firm, a question that we should ask is ‘so what?’

[Read more →]

→ No CommentsTags: Trump · Trump Administration

Polluters as proud parents: Climate-enhanced weather event achievements

September 12th, 2017 · No Comments

Parents are (often too) proud of their children’s accomplishments (and it can go too far, from the screaming parents on the side-line  to one-upmanship comments at back-to-school night to …).  Considering the significant accomplishments of the past month’s climate catastrophes From Sea to Shining Sea, the public affairs staffs of the 90 global firms responsible for “more than a quarter of sea level rise and about half the warming from 1880 to 2010” should be working overtime to brag about Hurricanes Irma and Harvey and the West Coast heat waves and fires.

As many are reporting ‘relief’ that Irma wasn’t as bad as it could have been (even while recognizing that some 20% of Floridians are without electricity, the devastation in the Caribbean, and untold damages throughout Florida), let’s consider Hurricane Irma’s Accomplishments (see after fold for fuller list) that include:

  • 185 mph lifetime max winds – tied with Florida Keys (1935), Gilbert (1988) and Wilma (2005) for second strongest max winds of all time in Atlantic hurricane.
    • Allen had max winds of 190 mph in 1980 – 185 mph lifetime max winds –
  • the strongest storm to exist in the Atlantic Ocean outside of the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico on record –
  • 185 mph max winds for 37 hours – the longest any cyclone around the globe has maintained that intensity on record.
    • The previous record was Haiyan in the NW Pacific at 24 hours
  • 914 mb lifetime minimum central pressure – lowest pressure by an Atlantic hurricane outside of the western Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico on record –
  • 3.25 day lifetime as a Category 5 hurricane – tied with Cuba (1932) for longest lifetime as Category 5
  • 3 consecutive days as a Category 5 hurricane – the longest in the satellite era (since 1966)
  • – 8.50 major hurricane days – the 2nd most in satellite era (since 1966)
  • Generated the most Accumulated Cyclone Energy by a tropical cyclone on record in the tropical Atlantic (7.5-20°N, 60-20°W)
  • Generated more Accumulated Cyclone Energy than the first eight named storms of the Atlantic hurricane season (Arlene-Harvey) combined
  • Generated enough Accumulated Cyclone Energy to satisfy NOAA ACE definition for an average Atlantic hurricane season
  • Generated more Accumulated Cyclone Energy than 18 entire Atlantic hurricane seasons in the satellite era (since 1966)

 

 

When it comes to Hurricane Harvey, over 50 inches rain — nuff said?

California heat wave with over 105F temperatures in San Francisco …

 

Oregon, Washington State, Montana, Canadian, …. Forest Fires burning with smoke clouds crossing the nation …

Exxon, Total, Mobil, Chevron, BP, … should be proud parents …

Parents of climate change?

their climate catastrophe offspring are truly accomplished.

 

 

[Read more →]

→ No CommentsTags: catastrophic climate change · climate change

Stunning contrast … must watch/consider video re #climate & #science denial politicians

September 11th, 2017 · No Comments

Two Get Energy Smart Now blog posts inspired the above DeSmogBlog video:

→ No CommentsTags: catastrophic climate change · climate change · science denial

The morning after Back-to-School: Six points to explain climate change

September 8th, 2017 · No Comments

Like 10s of millions of American parents, the month of September brings back to school night. Writ large, mine last night was what you can hope for: with one exception, what appear to be good to excellent teachers; positive statements about ‘the kids’ and atmosphere; and some positive feedback about your child.  Tensions issues related to school funding, concern about how the parents will have to backfill to cover one lousy teacher, and …. but, again, about as good as it gets. Thus, the mindset was ‘high school’ when seeing an OutPostUtopia (Michael Jenkins) tweet this morning sharing a six-step discussion re climate change and severe weather that provides the sort of clarity that any/all who m

A straightforward climate science explanation that any Middle Schooler should understand

anaged to not fail a high school physics class can/should understand.

The discussion to the side summarized:

Sequence of cause & effects:

  1. The carbon-energy economy is increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide.
  2. That increased carbon dioxide is causing atmosphere AND ocean warming (and ocean acidification) globally.
  3. Global warming is driving Arctic sea loss, retreating glaciers, and sea-level rise (warmer => more volume + melting glaciers/Greenland/Antarctica).
  4. Global warming/climate change does not necessarily cause weather events.
  5. Global warming can augment (make more severe) weather events.
  6. Augmented weather events, therefore,
    1. can be a real expression of climate change because
    2. global warming of the atmosphere and oceans has augmented them.

The above is a defensible discussion which lays out a logical case that any with a modicum of education and (critically) an open mind to science can understand and absorb.

Regretfully,Three wise monkeys the US government is controlled by those who best resemble two of the three monkeys: See No Evil, Hear No Evil.  However, they certainly aren’t that third monkey as people like Donald Trump and Scott Pruitt and those dominating the GOP have no hesitation in their willingness to Speak Evil in their climate science denial even as climate catastrophes (“augmented weather events”) literally kill and otherwise threaten Americans “From Sea to Shining Sea”.

 

→ No CommentsTags: science · Science Communication

Irma: considering the worst …

September 7th, 2017 · No Comments

The damage reports are coming in from Caribbean islands and the warnings are mounting for the Continental United States: Hurricane Irma could drive up the entire Atlantic Coast of Florida, a category 5 hurricane strike on Miami and the homes/work places of millions of American citizens.  Prior to the first rain drops hitting Miami, people are already bandying about that this could turn out (seen predictions of odds from 5-20%) as the most expensive (human-climate enhanced/driven) natural disaster in U.S. history — potentially on the order of $300 billion of direct impacts (without, for example, dealing with the financial impacts of the quite possible (likely) collapse of coastal real estate in Florida if not across the United States and even globally).

(update: courtesy of Climate Central)

While some might (secretly and/or openly) celebrate that Donald “global warming is a Chinese Hoax” Trump’s Mar-A-Lago lies directly in the storm’s path, the catastrophic nature of the potential impacts are nothing to joke about.

Let’s think about potential Storm Surge impacts.  Some people are bandying about that this could, dependent on many factors, reach a 15 foot storm surge. [Update: NWS is predicting 7-10 foot storm surge in Miami area; 5-8 foot Palm Beach) Just how much impact might this have?  Let’s use Climate Central’s sea-level rise tool to judge this.

First, what if it is a minimal storm and only has a two-foot storm surge.

A 2 foot sea level rise and Miami area http://sealevel.climatecentral.org/

Not much impact to see …

Let’s go, however, to the maximum that Climate Central allows: a 10 foot sea level rise.

The Miami area and a 10-foot sea level rise

[UPDATE: Climate Central has visualizations of potential storm surge impacts. Rather daunting in terms of potential risks.]

See all that blue?  Essentially all of southern Florida would be under water with 10 feet of sea-level rise (SLR). While SLR is far from a perfect surrogate for storm surge impacts (storm surges are generally geographically limited (not that whole region) and temporarily short, unlike SLR’s (on human scale) permanence), it provides a window for understanding just how far saltwater might reach if Irma’s impacts on Florida are as bad as some fear it could be.

Consider this, the National Weather Service is already warning of “possible devastating impacts across south Florida …” with “locations [potentially] uninhabitable for weeks or months”.

The nation is being struck by a series of “unprecedented”, “never seen before”, “record-breaking” #climate catastrophes From Sea to Shining Sea.

The bill is mounting — in human lives, in money, in stressing society, in … — and Irma could add a massive increase to the mounting bill.

Those fighting climate action, denying climate change reality, often argue that ‘we can’t afford’ to invest perhaps $100-$200B per year to mitigate climate risks (with huge returns outside reduced risk) while we see ever mounting costs accruing from climate-related disasters and challenges.

Just from current catastrophes,

  • Harvey: $150B-$250B+
  • California Fires/Heat Wave: Unknown
  • Oregon/Montana/Washington State Heat Waves/Fires: Unknown
  • Irma: Potentially over $300B.

And, of course, this is ‘just’ counting direct US catastrophic events — ignoring disastrous situations around the world

The bills are coming in from our failure(s) to #ActOnClimate. Those bills will continue to mount … even as the imperative to #ActOnClimate mounts. Action — whether clean energy, energy efficiency, land-use changes, and/or — is required and the only path we have to gain any prospect of controlling how large tomorrow’s climate bills will become.

==============

UPDATEs:

Storm surge risk

Potential Irma cost. Over $1 Trillion?

And, I thought $300B sounded high …

 

→ No CommentsTags: Energy

The contrast stuns me/should stun you: Climate Catastrophes vs Fossil Foolish Promotion

September 7th, 2017 · 2 Comments

Whether purposeful or not, Donald Trump manages to provide stunning, jaw-dropping moments and actions at a pace impossible for a reasonable person to track while attempting to maintain anything close to a normal life.  Amid outrageous actions (like against the Dreamers & DACA), immoral and despicable commentary (such as emphasizing those “very fine people” who marched under Nazi flags in Charlottesville), criminal actions (Emoluments Clause, anyone), outrageous twitter distractions (commentary against media), etc, etc, etc, there are many items that can fly by without notice.

How many, in the media world and punditry, has picked up and run with a stunning contrast yesterday. As fossil-fueled climate catastrophes strike the United States “From Sea to Shining Sea”, Donald Trump flew out to North Dakota to speak at an oil refinery!

Bill Mckibben, in a tweet last night, sought to shine a spotlight on this the incredible (probably unconscious) disconnect:

While a rational and competent President, who put the interests of the nation and Americans above his own self-interest and self-absorption, would be focused on monitoring these disastrous situations across the nation and assuring the most effective Federal response to assistance to save lives and speed recovery, Trump is off promoting tax concepts that would (further) enrich the richest of society at the expense of everyone else (both today’s and tomorrow’s Americans).

When the science is (and has been for decades) eminently clear and incredible strong linking the burning of fossil fuels with climate change AND that human-driven (fossil-fueled) climate change creates circumstances for catastrophes and worsens them, the climate-science denying (“Chinese Hoax) “narcissistic maniac” occupying the White House is off promoting fossil foolish intensification of our use of oil, natural gas, and coal: e.g., Team Trump is working hard(est?) to foster conditions for even more and even worse climate catastrophes in the coming years and decades.

That rational and competent President, as well, would be asking the question:

  • (how) Can we reduce the risks of such catastrophes?
    • Drive toward a lower carbon (negative emissions) economy at an accelerated pace.
    • Adopt policies that foster better land use and agricultural practices (that lower carbon impacts, reduced methane emissions, etc …)
    • And …
  • (how) Can we reduce the impacts of future natural disasters — recognizing that human-driven climate change creates conditions for new “unprecedented” events and severity events for decades to come (even with the most aggressive efforts to act on climate)?
    • Learn lessons and create resiliency in our society (built environment and otherwise);
    • Invest so that mitigation, resiliency, and adaptation investments are optimized so that resiliency and adaptation investments, as much as possible, also contribute to climate change mitigation.
    • NOTE:  Houston’s medical system and its operations during Hurricane Harvey, as a case study, provide a partial template and ideas for this.

As Bill McKibben highlighted in yesterday’s stunning contrast between climate catastrophes and fossil-fuel promotion, as we are already aware in so many ways, Donald Trump is not that rational and competent President.

UPDATE:  That contrast is even more stunning if you have the strength to listen to Trump’s speech.

 

→ 2 CommentsTags: climate change · Donald Trump