Blog Archive

Friday, April 30, 2010

Daily Kos: We should keep our eye on British Petroleum, re Deepwater Horizon well disaster in the Gulf of Mexico

We should keep our eye on BP

Share this on Twitter - We should keep our eye on BP
Everyone is watching the Deepwater Horizon well in the Gulf of Mexico spill oil near the mouth of Mississippi River, threatening delta wetlands and wildlife (see these summaries by Magnifico and Unenergy for the latest on the spill). Most know the rig was leased by oil giant BP and have heard how the Big Oil fought against tighter safety regulations on offshore platforms before the explosion. BP's specific objections to new rules can be found here.

The Deepwater Horizon well accident can and should be viewed in the larger context of BP's recent past and plans for the future. Looking at BP under the microscope has many unsettling implications.

The troubled recent history of BP
Prior to May 1, 2007, BP was run by Edmund John Philip Browne (Baron of Madingly). Browne actively cultivated a "green" image for BP, creating the slogan "Beyond Petroleum," making substantial investments in renewable energy and divesting the company of holdings in the Alberta tar sands. BP talked about climate change, made some environmentally sound decisions, and seemed to be a breath of fresh air when compared to Exxon and other major oil companies.

In March 2005, BP became "bad publicity" when an  explosion tore apart its Texas City Refinery. The public initially focused on the loss of life as the accident killed 15 workers and injured nearly 200 others. Several factors changed the narrative. Details of cost and corner cutting at the facility painted the oil giant as something of a monster that endangered its employees to keep profits soaring. Because of its poor safety record, BP lost civil damage suits, was forced to admit responsibility, and upgrade the facilities. The blast also focused attention on the fragility of supplies as it crippled the third largest refinery in the U.S, causing ripples in supply and pump prices.

Evidence that the safety violations at the refinery were attributable to budget cuts imposed by Browne had sharks circling the legal waters in Texas. The situation looked grim for the company until it had a sudden streak of legal good fortune. First, BP appealed lower court decisions that would have forced Browne to testify about management decisions related to the refinery. Browne had the foresight to make campaign contributions totaling over $2 million to all 9 Republican justices on the Texas Supreme Court in the election cycle before the case was heard. The high court saw no conflict of interest in the campaign cash and ruled in Browne's favor. The Bush Department of Justice also rode to BP's defense. Federal prosecutors entered into a plea deal with the company that limited criminal penalties to a small fine and a slap on the wrist.

A year after the Texas City disaster, BP and Browne were back in the news in 2006 after a leak was discovered in the Trans-Alaska pipeline from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez. The leak was initially described as small, but several miles of pipe were subsequently found to be badly corroded. Apparently inspection and maintenance of a pipeline that carries 100,000 barrels of oil each day was not much of a priority for BP. Heck of a job, Browney.
"This is where it all started," says BP Prudhoe Bay field manager Kemp Copeland, pointing to a rust-colored steel pipe snaking its way across the bleak Alaska tundra 250 miles north of the Arctic Circle. Normally this line carries 100,000 barrels of oil a day, the first step in a journey that takes crude from America's biggest oilfield to the Trans-Alaska Pipeline and then on to the port of Valdez, where it is loaded into supertankers bound for the West Coast and millions of gas-hungry drivers.
But the 34-inch pipe has been down since March, when a dime-sized hole caused by corrosion sent nearly 5,000 barrels of crude spilling out across the snow. The oil has been cleaned up, leaving behind a bare two-acre patch of ground, but the leak -- and the subsequent discovery that six miles of BP (Charts) pipeline was badly corroded -- led not only to the shutdown of much of Prudhoe Bay and the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars but also to a PR disaster that, in a single blow, undid the green reputation CEO John Browne had meticulously crafted for BP over the past decade.
Fortune Magazine article by Nelson Schwartz
The two high profile accidents eventually led to the ouster of Browne. Tony Hayward, a geologist that ran the extraction side of the company, took charge. His decisions were described as turning BP "back to petroleum" as he began shedding renewable energy assets and announcing plans to reinvest in the Alberta tar sands.
A year into the Hayward regime, more controversy and bad press erupted. This time the focus was on the shores of Lake Michigan. BP announced plans to expand its refinery operations in northern Indiana on the lake. As part of the expansion plans, the company petitioned the Indiana Department of Environmental Management to grant water pollution permits to increase the discharge of toxic liquid wastes, including mercury, into Lake Michigan. Republican governor Mitch Daniels was happy to oblige until the media and public officials in Chicago noticed the discharge permits. Why was BP expanding the refinery and asking for pollution discharge variances?
BP contends that it needs the permit (the first it has received since 1990) for a $3.8 billion expansion that will enable the refinery, already the largest in the Midwest, to process more heavy Canadian crude oil.
Hayward faced a small stockholder revolt over BP's operations in the Alberta tar sands. In advance of the meeting in April, BP produced a greenwashed presentation for stockholders on the tar sands operations. It is filled with granola goodness, sustainability, efficiency, recycling, tiny footprints, and caribou clusters. Stockholders voted overwhelmingly to move ahead with tar sands oil project. In case you harbor doubts that any cap-and-trade will price carbon high enough to discourage greenhouse gas emissions, I give you Exhibits A and B:
Exhibit A:
However, the resolution questioned the business on economic terms, saying Sunrise could become unprofitable if governments impose new charges for emitting carbon dioxide.
BP directors opposed the resolution, saying the company had already factored in higher CO2 charges.
Exhibit B:
Few analysts believe CO2 emission charges will be high enough to threaten the profitability of the business in the future.
"We doubt that either the Canadian or U.S. governments will use this mechanism to attack an industry delivering an otherwise low risk oil supply," analysts at Citigroup said in a report published on Wednesday.
The BP board of directors and financial analysts seem to think the fix is in when it comes to carbon pricing. When you do not have to worry about emissions from one of most significant sources of greenhouse gases on the planet, carbon pricing is a joke.

Finally, Hayward appears to have as much contempt for worker safety as his predecessor. In addition to safety violations associated with the Deepwater Horizon well disaster, the Department of Labor found many of the same violations at the Texas City Refinery responsible for the explosion in 2005.
More than four years after an explosion at its Texas City refinery killed 15 workers, BP still hasn't made required safety upgrades, has committed new safety violations and should pay a record $87 million in fines, federal regulators said Friday.
The London-based oil giant said it will contest the allegations and the fine, and that it has met the terms of a previous settlement agreement involving the 2005 blast. In unveiling the proposed fines, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration said the company had not completed all the safety upgrades required under the agreement. OSHA also alleged 439 new “willful” safety violations, chiefly related to pressure release devices at the plant.
“We don't need to see the loss of another life there,” Labor Secretary Labor Hilda Solis said in a news conference. “Our motto is we would like to see people go into work and be able to come home to their families.”
Houston Chronicle article, October 31, 2009 by Tom Fowler
Where BP is headed?
Tony Hayward lays out his preferences for energy policies and legislation in this 3 minute video (recorded March 23, 2010). These preferences mirror the strategic plan of BP as laid out in previous speeches such as this one in October of 2009.

First on Hayward's list is a cap-and-trade system (0:40 mark in the video). For those concerned about environmental policy and reducing carbon emissions to limit climate change, it sounds like Hayward is on the right side. However, it is an illusion. Not all cap-and-trade schemes are created equal.

In discussing the potential benefits of cap-and-trade, Brad Johnson describes what a smart cap-and-trade scheme should look like in this Wonk Room post. The benefits include cutting carbon emissions, promoting clean energy, job creation, and economic growth. In other words, if done correctly, cap-and-trade can be a win for the environment and a win for the economy. Note what a good system includes:
The cap-and-trade system modeled uses full auction of permits and 75% of proceeds going directly back to consumers and 25% going to technology investments.
Contrast this with the reality of the proposed cap-and-trade under consideration in the Senate:
A flexible market-based approach with plenty of offsets to help keep carbon prices low, 85% of carbon allowances are given away rather than auctioned to industry in the early phase, and there are plenty of subsidies to sweeten the medicine.
At the 1:04 mark, Hayward whines about a level playing field. What he means is that too many pollution allowances were given to utilities instead of the transportation sector (Big Oil). Here is what he wants and likely to get as part of the weak cap-and-trade system.
The US oil industry, however, sees itself carrying an unfair burden. According to ConocoPhillips, the oil industry would receive just 2% of free allowances, while the electric power sector would receive 35%.
Second on Hayward's list is "drill baby drill" (1:38 mark in the video). As we know, President Obama opened up offshore drilling leases on March 31, 2010. The decision was unpopular among environmentalists but Hayward was no doubt thrilled. Now that the White House has referred to the Deepwater Horizon well spill as the "BP oil spill," his thrill may have diminished.

Third on Hayward's list is shale gas (1:50 mark in the video). Shale gas is the next fossil fuels gold rush in the United States. While natural gas has advantages over coal as a power source in terms of emissions, there are two major problems - water consumption and the use of hydraulic fracturing (hydrofracking). Because of threats to groundwater contamination from the use of toxic agents in the soup injected into a well, the Environmental Protection Agency has been studying "hydrofacking" and may regulate the procedure. At the 2:40 mark in the video, the interviewer related Hayward's opposition to federal regulation in favor of state regulations where monitoring and enforcement resources are low and public officials are easy to influence.
Efficiency for Hayward means weak regulation, preferably by underfunded state agencies.

Fourth on Hayward's list is tar sands oil which he euphemistically calls "Canadian heavy oil" (3:10 mark in the video). The tar sands exploitation in Alberta is one of the most environmentally destructive processes in existence. It is destroying a boreal forest, generating massive greenhouse gas emissions, consuming enormous amounts of water, creating toxic waste pools that now stretch over 100 square miles, and trampling the rights and welfare of First Nations populations living nearby.

Hayward has even devised a clever scheme to dodge greenhouse gas emissions caps in the US and having to expend pollution allowances on tar sands oil.
In the company's sustainability review, released today, Tony Hayward, the company's chief executive, gives a two-page interview setting out BP's reasons and defending its environmental impact.
He points out that greenhouse gas emissions from oil sands extraction are not always higher than from other forms of production, saying there is "a wide range of emissions in both oil sands and conventional crudes."
Mr Hayward also says the Sunrise project would have lower emissions than many, because the oil does not need to be processed in an upgrader before being pumped to the US.
Financial Times article, April 15, 2010 by Ed Crooks and Fiona Harvey
At the refinery, there will be probably be a flat emissions charge which will not distinguish between light crude and dirty heavy oil. All you need is a pipeline to get the tar sands oil to the refineries in the US.

On August 20, 2009, the State Department approved permits for the Keystone Pipeline system to bring tar sands oil to the US based on national security and economic grounds while sweeping the environmental devastation associated with tar sands exploitation under the proverbial rug.
The Department found that the addition of crude oil pipeline capacity between Canada and the United States will advance a number of strategic interests of the United States. These included increasing the diversity of available supplies among the United States’ worldwide crude oil sources in a time of considerable political tension in other major oil producing countries and regions; shortening the transportation pathway for crude oil supplies; and increasing crude oil supplies from a major non-Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries producer. Canada is a stable and reliable ally and trading partner of the United States, with which we have free trade agreements which augment the security of this energy supply.
The whitewashing of U.S. reliance on tar sands oil continued as the State Department released a draft environmental impact statement for the Keystone Pipeline a few weeks ago. As noted in this summary by Bruce Niles, the impact statement narrowly focused on the effects of building the pipeline and ignores the effects of extraction, refinement, and burning of the heavy oil.

So what is missing from Hayward's strategic plans? Clean, renewable forms of energy that do not require extraction, refining, emissions caps or trades, pipelines, or shipping lines.

What can we learn from BP?

Lesson 1: Over the past five years, BP has had catastrophic accidents on a offshore drilling platform (Deepwater Horizon), pipeline (Prudhoe Bay), and refinery (Texas City) in the United States. Without accountability, nothing will ever change. The good news is that the Obama administration announced that BP would be responsible for clean-up costs. The bad news is that the penalties for the negligence and criminal violations for previous BP accidents were trivial.

Lesson 2: The cap-and-trade scheme under consideration as part of the Senate climate and clean energy bill will likely be of little value. The high rate of free emission allowances and lack of consumer dividend will limit potential positive environmental and economic impacts. Thank BP. Its demands will be met.

Lesson 3: There is nothing special about BP. They are more politically adept in greenwashing, but show just as much disregard for worker safety and environmental regulations as Massey Energy and ExxonMobil.

Lesson 4. Expect more toxic discharges and refinery accidents as U.S. refineries shift to tar sand oil. BP seeking variances for mercury as part of its refinery expansion in northern Indiana to handle tar sands oil is a bad sign. BP wants Bathroom Privileges to go with their Big Profits - they eat caviar, you catch their crap.

Lesson 5. BP is betting on shale gas and tar sands oil as the core of its business for the future. U.S. energy policies currently too closely mirror those of BP. Our economic, energy, and environmental security will be better served by a more aggressive transition to clean energy.

Lesson 6. If BP is pushing for weak state regulation of hydraulic fracturing for shale gas wells, we need strong federal regulation.


North American Countries Target “Super” Greenhouse Gases Through Strengthened Ozone Treaty -- Victory Would Eliminate 100 Billion Tonnes of CO2-equivalent s

North American Countries Target
“Super” Greenhouse Gases Through Strengthened Ozone Treaty

Victory Would Eliminate 100 Billion Tonnes of CO2-equivalent

Washington, DC, April 30, 2010 – Last night, the United States, Canada, and Mexico submitted a proposal to strengthen climate protection under the Montreal Protocol. The proposal targets the production and use of HFCs, a group of “super” greenhouse gases.

If accepted by the other Montreal Protocol Parties, the proposal would deliver climate mitigation equivalent to preventing over 100 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions.  This is 10-20 times the mitigation under the Kyoto Protocol’s first commitment period (see graph) assuming full compliance.

The Federated States of Micronesia submitted a similar proposal on HFCs last night as well.  This is the fourth year in a row the tiny island nation has lead efforts to strengthen climate protection under the Montreal Protocol.

“HFCs are a big target that can be eliminated through the world’s best environmental treaty, and at a very low cost—maybe $4 billion,” said Durwood Zaelke, President of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development.  “The North American Parties know that eliminating one of the six Kyoto gases will give us the fast mitigation we need to avoid passing tipping points for abrupt and potentially catastrophic climate impacts,” he added. “That would be one down, and five to go.  But first we need to bring the rest of the Parties on board.”

The Montreal Protocol has already phased out nearly 100 dangerous gases and chemicals, reducing climate emissions by up to 222 billion tonnes of CO2eq and delaying climate change by up to 12 years. Because HFCs have the same uses as earlier chemicals controlled by the Montreal Protocol, the treaty is ideally equipped to ensure a cost-effective, efficient, and orderly phase-down of HFCs. HFC emissions controlled under the Kyoto Protocol would not be affected by either the North American or Micronesia proposal.

“We appreciate the leadership shown by the North American countries,” said Ambassador Masao Nakayama, Micronesia’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations. “A fast HFC phase-down could buy a decade of delay in equivalent CO2 emissions and give the world the time we need to phase down all other greenhouse gases.”

The phase-down of HFCs under the Montreal Protocol is essential for achieving the science-based goal of over 100 countries to reduce atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases to 350 ppm and limit temperature increases to a global average of 1.5 °C. For low-lying islands and other vulnerable countries, “failure to achieve these goals will threaten our homes, way of life, and, in some cases, our very existence,” said Ambassador Nakayama.

“Uncontrolled growth of HFCs will offset the benefits of reducing carbon dioxide,” said Zaelke. “The only way we can gain ground is by phasing down HFCs and other non-CO2 greenhouse gases and aerosols, along with aggressive CO2 cuts.”

More than 40 Parties expressed their support for taking action on HFCs by joining a declaration by Micronesia at the last Montreal Protocol meeting in November 2009.  However, a series of challenges kept the Parties from reaching consensus on the HFC proposals.

Last year, the HFC phase-down was considered premature by some Parties, who wanted to first agree on the funding for the accelerated HCFC phase-out agreed to in 2007.  Earlier this month, the funding issue was resolved when guidelines were agreed upon for releasing the $490 million for phasing out HCFCs.  The decision was made by the Executive Committee of the Montreal Protocol’s funding mechanism, known as the Multilateral Fund.  The Multilateral Fund also agreed to pay a 25% premium for climate benefits when phasing out HCFCs, above and beyond the ozone-only cost-effective thresholds, where the project will provide climate benefits. This provides an incentive for countries to choose energy efficient, lowglobal warming potential (GWP) replacements instead of highGWP HFCs when phasing out HCFCs.  This is the first time any treaty has taken this innovative approach.

This year, there is also more information available about a growing choice of alternatives for at least half of HFC use, including for mobile air conditioning, representing one-third of global HFC use, and foams, representing one-fifth of use.  Companies are motivated to avoid HFCs.

Another issue last year was the insistence by some Parties that a phase-down of HFCs under the Montreal Protocol should wait for the Copenhagen climate negotiations to play out. 

With many of these issues now resolved, the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and Micronesia are optimistic that the Montreal Protocol Parties will be ready to phase down HFCs this year.

“This could be the single biggest climate play this year,” added Zaelke. “Passing it up would be Planetary negligence. The U.S. has taken the first big step in the right direction, but success will require follow-through, including Presidential leadership in the run-up to the annual meeting in November.”

In addition to phasing down HFCs, the U.S. and rest of the world should also be taking action on the other short-lived climate forcers, like black carbon, methane, and tropospheric ozone. These “fast-action” strategies will be critical to avoiding the tipping points for abrupt climate change in the near-term.

“Carbon dioxide is the long-term bad guy, and rightfully deserves attention, but we won’t even have the chance to fight that battle if we ignore the near-term forcers,” said Zaelke.

Contact: Alex Viets, IGSD: +1 (213) 321-0911,

Jeff Masters' Wunderblog: Gulf of Mexico oil spill hits Louisiana coast

  Gulf of Mexico oil spill hits Louisiana coast

by Jeff Masters, Wunder Blog, April 30, 2010

The oil slick from the ruptured well due to the April 20, 2010, explosion and sinking of the offshore oil rig Deepwater Horizon has reached the Louisiana coast near the mouth of the Mississippi River. Strong southeasterly winds blowing at 20-25 knots will continue through Sunday, which will push a large amount of oil onto most of the eastern Louisiana coast from the mouth of the Mississippi River northwards to the Mississippi border. It is likely that the Mississippi coast will see the arrival of oil by Saturday night or Sunday. 

On Monday, the winds shift to southwesterly, but weaken. The wind shift will allow oil to move eastwards towards Alabama and the Florida Panhandle, but at just 1 mph or so. The winds remain southwesterly through Tuesday, which should allow the oil to reach Alabama by Monday and possibly the extreme western Florida Panhandle by Tuesday. On Tuesday night, a cold front is expected to move over the Gulf of Mexico, bringing offshore northwesterly winds. These offshore winds will last for two days and blow the oil slick 5- 10 miles offshore. High pressure is expected to build in late next week, bringing relatively light offshore winds that should cause little transport of the oil spill for the final portion of next week.

Figure 1. The oil spill on April 29, 2010, as seen by the MODIS instrument on NASA's Terra spacecraft. A tendril of oil is beginning to touch the Mississippi River "bird's foot" in Louisiana. Sun glint on the water at this hour happened to be just at the right angle to light up the spill dramatically. Image credit: University of Wisconsin.

Oil continues to gush from the well head at 5,000 feet depth at a rate five times what was previously estimated--210,000 gallons per day. This is equivalent to about 2% of the total spilled oil from America's worst oil spill, the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska, entering the Gulf of Mexico each day. If 210,000 gallons per day has been leaking since the disaster began on April 20, over 2 million gallons of oil has already been spewed into the Gulf, about 20% of the 11,000,000 gallons spilled in the Exxon Valdez disaster.

Figure 2. Previous location and forecast location for today of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Image credit: NOAA Office of Response and Restoration.

Oil a long-range threat to southwest and southeast Florida, Cuba, and the Bahamas
The surface ocean currents that transport the oil are driven by the wind and by the large scale ocean current structure of the Gulf of Mexico. The latest surface ocean current forecast (Figure 3) from NOAA's RTOFS model shows a complicated current structure along the Gulf Coast over the next seven days. By Tuesday night, when the winds shift to northwesterly (offshore), the forecast calls for surface currents of about 1 m/s (roughly 2 mph) to transport oil to the southeast from the site of the blowout. There is a danger that the oil thus transported could make it all the way south to the Loop Current, since offshore winds are now expected to last Tuesday through Friday of next week. The warm Loop Current enters the Gulf from the south and loops around to the southeast to exit through the Florida Keys, where it becomes the Gulf Stream. Oil caught in the Loop Current would move relatively rapidly at 2-4 mph to the southeast and then eastwards through the Keys, potentially fouling beaches in the Keys, northwest Cuba, the southwest and southeast coasts of Florida, and the western Bahamas. I don't think the spill will be able to make it into the Loop Current next week, since it has to travel about 120 miles south-southeast from the blowout location to reach the Loop Current. The duration and strength of next week's offshore winds are probably capable of pushing the oil slick only half way to the Loop Current. However, that may be close enough so that the oil will reach the Loop Current the following week, unless strong onshore winds develop again. The long range wind forecast is too uncertain to put odds on the possibilities at this point. If the oil keeps spewing from the ocean floor for many months, though, eventually a wind pattern will set up that will take the oil into the Loop Current. This would most likely happen if a persistent trough of low pressure settles over the East Coast in May, or if a tropical storm makes landfall along the Florida Panhandle this summer. Any oil that does make it into the Loop Current will suffer significant dispersion before it makes landfall in Cuba, Florida, or the Bahamas, and far less oil will foul these shores compared to what the Louisiana coast is experiencing this weekend.

Figure 3. Surface ocean current forecast for 8pm EDT Tuesday, May 4 from the NOAA's RTOFS model run made at 8 pm EDT on Wednesday, April 28, 2010. Note that on Tuesday, northwest winds are expected to create surface currents of about 1 m/s (roughly 2 mph) from the site of the spill towards the southeast. It is possible that these currents will be strong enough to transport oil far enough south that it will enter the Loop Current, which would then transport the oil into northwest Cuba, the Florida Keys, and South Florida.


Thursday, April 29, 2010

ANDRILL ice cores show far more dynamic melt history for Antarctica than previously thought

Geologists Drill into Antarctica and Find Troubling Signs for Ice Sheets' Future

New sediment cores from an Antarctic research drilling program suggest that the southernmost continent has had a more dynamic history than previously suspected

by Clay Farris Naff, Scientific American, April 19, 2010

EAST ANTARCTIC MYSTERIES: Even the most snow-covered place on Earth has patches of snow-free ground. In Antarctica, a series of parallel valleys lie between the Ross Sea and the East Antarctic Ice Sheet. Known as the Dry Valleys, they are swept free of snow by nearly relentless katabatic winds -- cold, dry air that rolls downhill toward the sea from the high altitudes of the ice sheet.  Jesse Allen, using data provided courtesy of NASA/GSFC/METI/ERSDAC/JAROS, and U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team.

ERICE, Italy—If you think of Earth's poles as fraternal twins, the Arctic has been the wild one in recent years, while the Antarctic has been a steady plodder. Withered by summer heat, Arctic sea ice has shrunk to record low coverage several times since 2005, only to rebound to within 95% of its long-term average extent this winter. By comparison, Antarctica, with some 90% of the world's glacial reserves, has generally shed ice in more stately fashion.
However, emerging evidence from an Antarctic geological research drilling program known as ANDRILL suggests that the southernmost continent has had a much more dynamic history than previously suspected—one that could signal an abrupt shrinkage of its ice sheets at some unknown greenhouse gas threshold, possibly starting in this century. Especially troubling, scientists see evidence in the geological data that could mean the vast East Antarctic Ice Sheet, which holds at least four-fifths of the continent's ice, is less resistant to melting than previously thought.
ANDRILL, a collaboration among scientists from Germany, Italy, New Zealand and the U.S., obtained the evidence from a 3,734-foot-long core extracted in 2007 from the seafloor on the southern McMurdo Sound, near Antarctica's Ross Island.
A prior core, extracted from the McMurdo Ice Shelf between October 2006 and January 2007, indicated that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet has frequently advanced and retreated. As ANDRILL scientists met here April 6-11, 2010, to integrate core results, the geologists and climate modelers pondered the hints of dynamism observed in the much larger East Antarctic Ice Sheet.
Contrary to what climate simulations suggest, David Harwood, the program's co-chief scientist, says, "nature seems to give us a record that the ice sheets are coming and going."
The southern McMurdo Sound core yielded clear evidence of some 74 cycles of ice sheet buildup and retreat during a 6-million-year stretch starting in the Miocene Epoch some 20 million years ago. The unexpected ice-sheet dynamism has ANDRILL climate modelers considering what input or software adjustments would make the simulation produce the kind of dynamism seen in the geological record. Their model currently indicates that even if the imperiled West Antarctic Ice Sheet succumbs to current warming trends, the much larger East sheet should stubbornly resist melting. According to the simulation, the East ice sheet melts only when atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are at least eight times higher than preindustrial levels. The ice sheet’s so-called hysteresis, or resistance to change, is now in doubt.
Modeler and geologist Robert DeConto of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, says the policy implications are grim. "Our models may be dramatically underestimating how much worse it's going to get," he says, noting that many population centers worldwide are within a few meters of sea level. Looking at signs of meltwater in the early Miocene, DeConto says, "we're seeing ice retreat faster and more dramatically than any model predicts."
Antarctica's ice sheets contain roughly two-thirds of the world's fresh water. A meltdown of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet alone would boost sea levels by an estimated 20 feet, but if the East sheet were to also succumb, along with the Greenland ice sheet, sea levels could rise by more than 200 feet. This would be catastrophic for major population centers near sea level, such as New York City, much of Florida and nearly all of Bangladesh. No one expects the ice sheets to disappear overnight—even the worst timelines span centuries—and uncertainty about their fate remains, but radar altimetry from NASA satellites indicates that melting is under way in some parts of the East sheet, as well as in much of the West sheet. Researchers say the effects of melting ice sheets could be apparent within a lifetime as undersea currents are disrupted and weather patterns shift.
DeConto's collaborator, climate modeler David Pollard of Pennsylvania State University, says the answer to the puzzling disparity between model predictions and the core data could lie in an erroneous assumption about Antarctica itself. For example, Pollard says, some parts of the land underlying the East ice sheet might be much lower than currently believed. In that case, if warming oceans strip away the surrounding ice shelves, significant chunks of the ice sheet could slide into the ocean. Subglacial lakes, which form as glaciers slide over depressions, may have an underappreciated role, he added. DeConto says polar stratospheric clouds also need further study. There are indications, he says, that they act as infrared reflectors, which might contribute to ice sheet melting in ways not yet accounted for in models.
Whatever the cause, the key evidence for ice sheet dynamism in the Antarctic comes from the core's lithographic record. Sedimentologists have studied its facies, the visible characteristics that distinguish each stratum, for indications of how warm or cold the surrounding environment was. The McMurdo Sound facies repeatedly vary from "ice proximal," where fractures, scraping and larger grain size indicate a glacier rumbling by, to "ice distal," where laminated sediments and marine fossils speak of lapping waves in an ice-free marine environment.
Numerous other lines of evidence from the core support the idea of wide climate swings in Antarctica's past. There are spikes in the amount of pollen found within the core, for example, indicating flowering plants nearby. Levels of various organic molecules repeatedly rise and fall in the column, showing that microorganisms and shellfish flourished in the warmer periods and receded during cold times. The presence or absence of clasts—chunks of sedimentary rock carried along and deposited by glaciers—also indicates a fluctuating Antarctic climate. Co-chief scientist Fabio Florindo of Italy's National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology notes that surges of magnetic mineral in the core may also mark warming trends. Reviewing the record, sedimentologist Christopher Fielding of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln says that in its warmest periods Antarctica must have resembled Patagonia today, where winters average a few degrees below freezing and summertime highs occasionally reach 80 °F.
However, Fielding, DeConto and others agree the core data is not conclusive. The McMurdo Sound core offers a pinhole view of East and West Antarctic Ice Sheet behavior, but at the price of extreme difficulty of interpretation. Scientists expect that firmer answers will emerge from other Antarctic research, including a hoped-for third ANDRILL project planned for Coulman High, also in the vicinity of Ross Island.
Harwood, a University of Nebraska geoscientist, says there is already evidence enough for policymakers to take action against global warming in hopes of preventing a dramatic Antarctic meltdown. "This core is going to be studied for the next 20 to 30 years," he notes, but already, he adds, the Miocene-age evidence it contains strongly suggests that it would be a mistake to count on ice-sheet stability in the Antarctic. "We see two or three periods of ice-sheet collapse, including one that looks abrupt, with very rapid deglaciation."


Jeff Masters: Unfavorable winds set to push Gulf of Mexico oil spill into Louisiana

Unfavorable winds set to push Gulf of Mexico oil spill into Louisiana

by Jeff Masters, Wunderblog, April 29, 2010

Work crews burned off oil on the surface of the Gulf of Mexico just 20 miles southeast of the Louisiana coast yesterday, in an effort to keep as much oil as possible from moving shoreward and fouling the beaches of the Gulf Coast. Relatively good weather, with moderate southeast winds of 10-15 knots, aided the efforts, and work crews were also able to use skimmers and dispersants to remove and thin the oil spill from the April 20 explosion and sinking of the offshore oil rig Deepwater Horizon. For now, it appears that the fires are not large enough to generate air pollution capable of causing health problems for those living downwind, according to the latest graphics from NOAA's Hazard Mapping System Fire and Smoke Product.

Oil continues to gush from the well head at 5,000 feet depth at a rate five times what was previously estimated -- 210,000 gallons per day. This is equivalent to about 2% of the total spilled oil from the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska entering the Gulf of Mexico each day. If 210,000 gallons per day has been leaking since the disaster began on April 20, over 2 million gallons of oil has already been spewed into the Gulf, about 18% of the 11,000,000 gallons spilled in America's previous worst oil spill, the Exxon Valdez disaster. With the winds expected to begin blowing the oil spill on shore this weekend, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill appears destined to become one of the most disastrous oil spills in U.S. history.

Figure 1. The oil spill on April 25, 2010, as seen by the MODIS instrument on NASA's Aqua spacecraft. Sun glint on the water at this hour happened to be just at the right angle to light up the spill dramatically. Image credit: NASA.

Figure 2. The oil spill on April 27, 2010, as seen by the MODIS instrument on NASA's Aqua spacecraft. The sun angle was not as favorable during this overpass to see the oil spill. The ability to detect oil slicks in photo-like satellite images is very sensitive to the viewing geometry--the angles between the surface, the Sun, and the satellite--at the time of the image. If the slick happens to be located in the sun glint part of the image, it may be very visible, but if not, it can be faint or even impossible to see.

The winds turn unfriendly
The winds have been relatively kind in the week since the Deepwater Horizon explosion, with offshore winds occurring frequently enough to keep the oil spill at least 20 miles from land. However, beginning today (Thursday), NOAA predicts that on-shore winds out of the southeast will increase to 15-20 knots, and strengthen to 20-25 knots tonight through Saturday night. These winds should be able to push the oil slick close to or on the coast by this weekend, along the Louisiana's Mississippi River "bird's foot" visible in the satellite images above. The winds will weaken to 10-20 knots on Sunday through Monday, but remain on-shore. It is not until Tuesday that offshore winds are expected, when a strong cold front should move into the Gulf of Mexico. These offshore winds will last for two days, then high pressure is expected to build in, bringing relatively light winds that should cause little transport of the oil spill for the final portion of next week. My guess is that the winds will not be able to push the oil all the way to the Florida Panhandle coast over the next ten days, but coastal areas from eastern Louisiana to Alabama will be at risk of getting oil.

Oil a long-range threat to southwest and southeast Florida, Cuba, and the Bahamas
The surface ocean currents that transport the oil are driven by the wind and by the large scale ocean current structure of the Gulf of Mexico. The latest surface ocean current forecast (Figure 3) from NOAA's RTOFS model indicates a complicated current structure along the Gulf Coast over the next seven days, making it difficult to predict exactly where the oil slick might go. The warm Loop Current enters the Gulf from the south and loops around to the southeast to exit through the Florida Keys. A counter-clockwise rotating cool eddy is located a few hundred miles south of the Florida Panhandle, and a clockwise-rotating warm eddy is located south of Louisiana's Mississippi Delta. If next Tuesday's cold front brings strong enough northwesterly winds to the oil spill region, it is possible that a portion of the spill will get caught in the circulation of these two eddies and sucked southwards into the Loop Current. If this occurs, the oil would be move relatively rapidly at 2-4 mph to the southeast and then eastwards through the Keys, potentially fouling beaches in the Keys, northwest Cuba, the southwest and southeast coasts of Florida, and the western Bahamas. Based on the movement of the spill earlier this week during offshore winds, I don't think the spill will be able to make it into the Loop Current next week. However, if the oil keeps spewing from the ocean floor for many months, eventually a wind pattern will set up that will take the oil into the Loop Current. This would most likely happen if a persistent trough of low pressure settles over the East Coast in May, or if a tropical storm makes landfall along the Florida Panhandle this summer. We're fortunate that there are no hurricanes to worry about right now, as the strong winds and storm surge of a hurricane would be able to drive the oil far inland along a wide swath of coast.

Figure 3. Surface ocean current forecast for 8pm Thursday from NOAA's RTOFS model. Forecast was made at 8 p.m. EDT on Tuesday, April 27, 2010.

Oil and coal are essential to modern society, and we need to continue extracting and transporting these fossil fuels to sustain our economy. However, we also need to be aware that the price we pay at the pump for gasoline does not include such expenses as the environmental damage from oil spills, nor the pollution from burning fossil fuels. Any debate about the costs of moving to more expensive but cleaner forms of energy needs to be honest about the tremendous costs due to environmental destruction and pollution that the mining and transport of fossil fuels cause -- not to mention the death toll from oil drilling operations, oil refinery accidents, crashes of oil tanker trucks, and wars fought over oil.

Figure 4. Fire boat response crews battle the blazing remnants of the offshore oil rig Deepwater Horizon, April 21, 2010. Note the list of the platform. Image credit: USCG.


Severe thunderstorm kills 137 and leaves over a million homeless in eastern India, April 13, 2010

Tornado and associated severe weather leave 1 million homeless in India

by Jeff Masters, Wunderblog, April 13, 2010

The U.S. has the world's most violent and numerous tornadoes, but second place goes to Bangladesh and eastern India. There, warm moist air from the Bay of Bengal often encounters cold, dry air from the Himalayas, setting up the instability needed to support severe thunderstorms. On Tuesday, April 13, 2010, a very unstable airmass (CAPE values > 3000) with strong westerly wind shear set up over eastern India, providing the classic set-up for supercell thunderstorms. Radar loops from the Kolkatta radar that day show a severe thunderstorm formed over extreme northeast India, near the Bangladesh border, and moved southeast into Bangladesh. The thunderstorm appeared to form a "bow echo," a configuration that often generates strong winds in excess of hurricane force near the bowed-out portion of the radar echo. Winds of 75 mph affected a large area of densely populated land, killing 137, severely damaging or destroying 200,000 homes, and leaving 1 million homeless. A weak tornado may have accompanied the storm. This may be the greatest number of people ever left homeless by a severe thunderstorm in world history.

Radar image from the Kolkatta Regional Meteorological Centre of the Indian Meteorological Department, showing the severe thunderstorm that killed 137 people and left 1 million homeless. Thanks go to Steve Nesbitt of UIUC for saving this image.


Joseph Romm: Senior U.S. military leaders announce support for climate bill

Senior U.S. military leaders announce support for climate bill

33 generals, admirals: "Climate change is making the world a more dangerous place" and "threatening America's security"

by Joseph Romm, Climate Progress, April 29, 2010

Generals smallThe Pentagon affirmed earlier this year that “Climate change, energy security, and economic stability are inextricably linked.”

Today an unprecedented 33 retired US military generals and admirals announced that they support comprehensive climate and energy legislation in a letter to Senators Reid and McConnell as well as a full page ad (click to enlarge).  The news release points out:
It was the largest such announcement of support ever, reflecting the consensus of the national security community that climate change and oil dependence pose a threat American security.
Here is the full text of the letters signed by these generals and admirals:

Dear Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell,
Climate change is threatening America’s security. The Pentagon and security leaders of both parties consider climate disruption to be a “threat multiplier” – it exacerbates existing problems by decreasing stability, increasing conflict, and incubating the socioeconomic conditions that foster terrorist recruitment. The State Department, the National Intelligence Council and the CIA all agree, and all are planning for future climate-based threats.
America’s billion-dollar-a-day dependence on oil makes us vulnerable to unstable and unfriendly regimes. A substantial amount of that oil money ends up in the hands of terrorists. Consequently, our military is forced to operate in hostile territory, and our troops are attacked by terrorists funded by U. S. oil dollars, while rogue regimes profit off of our dependence. As long as the American public is beholden to global energy prices, we will be at the mercy of these rogue regimes. Taking control of our energy future means preventing future conflicts around the world and protecting Americas here at home.
It is time to secure America with clean energy. We can create millions of jobs in a clean energy economy while mitigating the effects of climate change across the globe. We call on Congress and the administration to enact strong, comprehensive climate and energy legislation to reduce carbon pollution and lead the world in clean energy technology.
The anti-science crowd is blind to the growing threat and forced to offer the most ridiculous explanations of why so many of the nation’s military leaders have come together to warn the public and call on Congress to act.  Senator Inhofe (R-OIL) actually trashed generals who advocate for bipartisan clean energy legislation, saying they crave “the limelight.”

In fact, the national security threat posed by unrestricted greenhouse gas emissions is great (see “NYT: Climate Change Seen as Threat to U.S. Security” and “Veterans Day, 2029”).  The threat is so clear cut that even the Bush Administration’s top intelligence experts were raising the alarm (see “The moving Fingar writes”).

The time to act was a long time ago, but now is better than later.


How Judith Curry has embarrassed all women by joining the Climate Denial Machine as a useful idiot a la Roy Spencer

The curious incident of Judith Curry with the fringe

by Joseph Romm, Climate Progress, April 28, 2010

I had started writing my post to debunk the utter canard that the IPCC’s and media’s treatment of uncertainty have left the public with an overestimation of projected climate impacts on our current emissions path.
But then came her latest jaw dropper:

The people slagging off on McIntyre, Watts et al. have probably spent no time over at their blogs or made an effort to get to know them personally and understand what makes them tick.   Or to talk to the scientific skeptics like Christy, Michaels.  Or talk to the libertarian think tanks, like CATO and CEI.  Well, i’ve made that effort, and therefore I think I know alot more about the what the “deniers” are really like than the people accusing me of naivete, who have drawn premature conclusions because somebody found some sort of obscure link to an oil company.
That isn’t true of me or many commenters here or many science bloggers, who have wasted countless hours on those thoroughly debunked and discredited blogs.  Indeed, that’s why they are debunked and discredited.  And here’s CEI’s “obscure” link to oil.

What is shocking is that she asserts she has spent a lot of time over at WattUp and yet still wrote the following in her unconstructive February essay, “On the Credibility of Climate Research, Part II:  Towards Rebuilding Trust”:
And finally, the blogosphere can be a very powerful tool for increasing the credibility of climate research.  “Dueling blogs”  (e.g., versus and versus can actually enhance public trust in the science as they see both sides of the arguments being discussed.
Huh?  You may not agree with everything I write, but at least it is grounded in the actual scientific literature.  Watts posts whatever anti-scientific nonsense he can get his hands on, as just about everyone in the science blogosphere has shown (see Wattergate: Tamino debunks “just plain wrong” Anthony Watts).

He is a hard-core disinformer (see FoxNews, WattsUpWithThat push falsehood-filled Daily Mail article on global cooling that utterly misquotes, misrepresents work of Mojib Latif and NSIDC).  He reprints utter bunk (see “here“).

Not content to simply dispute the science with disinformation, he attacks climate scientists.  Watts said last year that NASA’s James Hansen is “no longer a scientist.”  Watts routinely smears all climate scientists, approvingly reprinting anti-science manifestos that claim global warming “is the biggest whopper ever sold to the public in the history of humankind” — see here.  He also smeared NSIDC director Mark Serreze.
I rarely “duel” with Watts, since he’s not making a serious effort to understand and report on the science.  He is making a serious effort to spread disinformation and confusion.  I confess I gave up trying to understand what makes such a person “tick” — same for Christy, Michaels, and the disinformers at Cato and CEI.
As Scott Mandia, Professor of Physical Sciences commented on CP:
McI[ntyre] and Watts operate their blogs with the notion that climate scientists are liars and cheats at worst or misguided group-thinking incompetents at best.
Dr. Curry is setting science back and hurting her reputation by including those two.
In spite of spending time on his blog, Curry apparently believes WattsUpWithThat is somehow contributing to increasing the credibility of climate research.  In fact, Watts ain’t interested in science and balked at the biggest chance he had to do so (see Watts not to love: New study finds the poor weather stations tend to have a slight COOL bias, not a warm one).

As for Curry, as recently as October 2007, she was going out of her way to debunk Bjorn Lomborg on the pages of the Washington Post, while endorsing “Making the transition to cleaner fuels,” in order to make a “big dent in carbon emissions” noting “the rationale for reducing emissions of carbon dioxide is to reduce the risk of the possibility of catastrophic outcomes.”

These day Curry spends her time demonizing the much-exonerated Michael Mann, repeating the long-discredited attacks on the much-vindicated Hockey Stick, praising the well-debunked Wegman report (repeatedly asserting the falsehood that it is an NRC report), and actually criticizing a blogger for failing to include WUWT in his blogroll.

So yes, I think I and everyone else has the right to be puzzled by what Judith Curry writes today (see “Beef with Curry” and “My response to Dr. Judith Curry’s unconstructive essay“).

She has personalized the entire debate by insisting on dividing scientists and others into tribes — with me, according to her, apparently in a very different tribe than her.

Some people are “warmists” (undefined), some are “lukewarmers” (undefined), some are “moderate warmers” (her, self-identified, essentially undefined), some are “deniers” (undefined), some are “affirmists” (undefined, except that, like “deniers” they “describe someone that isn’t open to changing their mind based on evidence” — which applies to not a single “warmist” scientist I know).

When William Connolley asks of her, “I’m a bit confused by what JC’s actual views on climate change are. Not the politics or that, but the actual state of the science,” she replies:
I find the main text of the WG1 Report to be an accurate assessment of the science.  The problem that I have with the WG1 Report is the summary narratives (executive summary, summary for policy makers) where all this is integrated and summarized.  My main issue with the WG1 report is that I think that many of confidence levels are too high: there is inadequate scientific uncertainty analysis, and lack of accounting for known unknowns and unknown unknowns.   I have substantial issues with the WG2 report and the impacts.
So what does all this add up to?  A moderate warmist that sees very large uncertainty with regards to hypothesized catastrophic impacts
Of course this “adds up to” undefined meaninglessness, since she doesn’t spell out what the “hypothesized catastrophic impacts” are or what emissions scenario she is talking about.  Like many people who don’t define their terms or spell out what they believe the science says happens under business-as-usual emissions, she conflates uncertainty in the climate’s sensitivity with uncertainty about how much we’re going to emit.

You see, I’m also a moderate warmist that sees very large uncertainty with regards to hypothesized catastrophic impacts — if we act quickly to limit emissions and stay below 450 ppm.  But WG1 doesn’t really leave much doubt that if we, say, listened to the people like Anthony Watts — or other disinformers, like those at CATO and CEI who keep asserting the whole damn thing is a hoax (or might actually be good for us) — then we are headed to very high concentrations (and yes catastrophic impacts) with high probability [see U.S. media largely ignores latest warning from climate scientists: “Recent observations confirm … the worst-case IPCC scenario trajectories (or even worse) are being realised” — 1000 ppm].

Doing nothing sharply reduces the uncertainty of hypothesized catastrophic impacts (see here).

Curry says things like, she says, “If I say members of the climate consensus or establishment, that would almost leave out Romm and Hansen, since both go beyond the IPCC consensus in some ways.”  But wait — I thought people should be open to changing their mind on evidence.  And the overwhelming majority of studies published since the IPCC are more dire than the IPCC — sea level rise being the most obvious case.

Indeed, in a AAAS presentation this year, William R. Freudenburg of UC Santa Barbara discussed his research on “the Asymmetry of Scientific Challenge”:
New scientific findings are found to be more than twenty times as likely to indicate that global climate disruption is “worse than previously expected,” rather than “not as bad as previously expected”
So by Curry’s logic, anyone who doesn’t believe that climate impacts on the business-as-usual emissions path will be worse than the IPCC projected is either an affirmist or a denier.

And that is why failing to define one’s terms makes debate all but meaningless.

I believe her views on hurricanes have evolved.  After much discussion with her trying to understand the hurricane issue while I was writing my book, she gave me this projection in late 2006:
On our current warming trend, four super hurricanes — category 4 or stronger — a year in the North Atlantic is likely to become the norm 20 years from now.
Now that is pretty friggin’ alarming, don’t you think?

If her views have evolved based on newer science, that’s fine.  But then she can’t criticize others for evolving their views based on the science.

She tells Kloor in a second interview:
So should Joe Romm be puzzled by this?  Probably, but I think part of his puzzlement arises from assuming that I and all “warmist” climate researchers share his policy objectives.  People really find it hard to believe that I don’t have a policy agenda about climate change/energy (believe me, Roger Pielke Jr has tried very hard to smoke me out as a “stealth advocate”).  Yes, I want clean green energy, economic development and “world peace”.  I have no idea how much climate change should be weighted in these kinds of policy decisions.  I lack the knowledge, wisdom and hubris to think that anything I say or do should be of any consequence to climate/carbon/energy policy.
That’s nonsense.  And she should know it.

I spent a lot of time with her giving joint talks in Florida. She made clear again and again she was not an energy policy expert and didn’t want to talk about energy policy.  But, again, she never defines what “policy” is, so like many of her statements, this one is all but meaningless.

When asked if our current understanding of climate sensitivity means “we should aim to keep CO2 well below 550 ppmv,” she writes in the comments of Kloor’s second post:
No. There is the whole issue of what constitutes “dangerous” climate change. Which is a value laden issue.
I for one do not have any confidence in setting a CO2 limit with two significant figures, given the uncertainties described in 1-3. This takes us into a policy arena, which is where I am drawing the line in this discussion.
That’s her excuse — she can’t set a CO2 limit with two significant figures?  OK, Dr. Curry, I’ll settle for a CO2 limit with one significant figure.

Some people objected when I said she was in the McIntyre and WattsUpWithThat “tribe.”  But I was using the term tribe the way she seems to.  It does not mean people who share the same scientific and/or policy views.  After all, she lumps me in with Hansen — and while I have far too much respect for Hansen to ever claim to be in his “tribe,” it is widely known that I do not share his scientific and/or policy views.  She has also lumped me in with RealClimate, and again, I don’t share all of their views on the science — and they tend to avoid policy entirely.

No, tribes are determined by whose faults you gloss over. That seems to be Curry’s point about the IPCC.  And THAT is why I wrote, “She has joined the WUWT and McIntyre tribe.

That is why I titled this “The curious incident of Judith Curry with the fringe” (along with the fact that I’m a fan of the musical Oklahoma).  As the Sherlock Holmes story goes:
“Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?”
“To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”
“The dog did nothing in the night-time.”
“That was the curious incident,” remarked Sherlock Holmes.
If you read her Discover interview or her “On the Credibility of Climate Research, Part II:  Towards Rebuilding Trust” paper, what’s curious is that among her incessant attacks on Mann, Jones, IPCC scientists and the like she has nothing negative whatsoever to say about McIntyre and Watts.

That’s the sense she’s in their tribe.  When the most people are listening, she just can’t find fault in them.  Now we know it’s because she spends so much time with them trying to understand what makes them tick.


My comment: 
Your comment is awaiting moderation.
You gentleman give Curry far too much credit. She was never any kind of intellectual heavyweight. If she is not a paid denier, then she is nothing more than a useful idiot like Roy Spencer. In either event, as a woman, I find myself deeply embarrassed by her.

I hope, Joe, that you will not give her much more space here. She is just one more Climate Denial Machine puppet propped up to sidetrack us and waste our time that could be so much better spent on bringing to the public the truth about the likes of Koch, Schlumberger, Blankenship, Michaels, and companies like ExxonMobil, Chevron, Halliburton.

She is meant to be a distraction, as they all have been. She’s their latest and greatest. The best tactic is to show her up for the joke she is. No need to criticize her “emotions,” just point up her lack of evidentiary thinking.

p.s. Dano, you seem surprised. You are trained in critical analysis. Look deeper. She can’t even spell or punctuate for crying out loud.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Sea surface temperature anomalies for April 29, 2010 -- massive buildup between northern coast of South America and West Africa

Sea surface temperature anomalies for April 29, 2010 -- massive buildup between northern coast of South America and West Africa means if wind shear drops, some very strong hurricanes may form.  [Click on image to enlarge and see to Africa.]  The solar equator has not even reached the Tropic of Cancer, meaning that there are about 2 more months to go and then it will start coming back south for several months, all months that will warm those waters.

From wikipedia:

The Tropic of Cancer is the circle of latitude on the earth that marks the apparent position of the sun at the time of the northern solstice.

Also referred to as the Northern tropic, it is one of the two tropics (with the Tropic of Capricorn) that represent the extremes of the sun's path across the sky with the change of the seasons.

Because of the tilt of the earth's axis of rotation relative to the plane of its orbit around the sun, the sun is directly overhead on the Tropic of Cancer at the June solstice. It is the northernmost latitude at which the sun reaches 90 degrees above the horizon at its zenith, with the Northern Hemisphere tilted toward the sun to its maximum extent.

The tropics are two of the five major degree measures or major circles of latitude that mark maps of the Earth, besides the Arctic and Antarctic Circles and the Equator.

The Tropic of Cancer currently (Epoch 2010) lies 23º 26′ 17″ north of the Equator [1].
It is drifting south at the rate of almost half a second (0.47) of latitude per year (it was at exactly 23º 27' in year 1917).[2]

Monday, April 26, 2010

James Hansen: People’s Climate Stewardship / Carbon Fee and Dividend Act of 2010

People’s Climate Stewardship / Carbon Fee and Dividend Act of 2010:

Proposed Findings:

1. Causation: The overwhelming consensus of peer-reviewed literature by climate scientists worldwide indicates that burning of fossil fuels is increasing atmospheric CO2 levels which, along with emissions of other greenhouse gases, is causing an accelerating rise in global temperatures and ocean acidification.

2. Mitigation (return to 350 ppm or below): Current atmospheric CO2 levels of 387 parts per million (“ppm”) are the highest in human history. A rapid return to levels of 350 ppm CO2 or less is necessary to slow or stop the rise in global temperatures and ocean acidification.
3. Endangerment: We face a global climate emergency. Further increases in global temperatures and ocean acidification pose imminent and substantial dangers to human health, the natural environment, the economy and national security and an unacceptable risk of unmanageable catastrophic impacts to human civilization.
4. The False Economy of Cheap Fossil Fuels: Fossil fuel prices currently do not reflect their true, long term-costs to society, the environment and future generations. This false economy of cheap fossil fuels is obstructing an economy-wide transition to low carbon energy sources.
5. Benefits of Carbon Fees: Steadily-increasing carbon fees on fossil fuels are the most efficient, transparent and enforceable mechanism to drive an effective and fair transition to a low-carbon economy. They will stimulate investment in low-carbon technologies, create powerful, predictable incentives for businesses and households to increase their energy-efficiency and reduce their carbon footprints and harmonizing carbon tariffs will create incentives for other nations to enact carbon fees.
6. Co-Benefits: Adding carbon fees to the prices of fossil fuels will have many additional benefits, including: (1) reducing dependence on foreign oil, (2) stimulating advances in low-carbon energy technology, (3) job growth in low-carbon energy and energy conservation, efficiency and retrofitting, (4) reducing conventional (non-greenhouse-gas) pollutants emitted by fossil fuel burning which cause health and environmental harm.
7. Return Revenue: All revenue from carbon fees should be returned to households equitably, in order to build broad public support and ensure that families can afford the energy they need during the transition from fossil fuels to cleaner energy,.

Therefore, we propose the People’s Climate Stewardship Act:

1. Collection of Carbon Fees/Carbon Fee Trust Fund: Beginning on July 1, 2011, a carbon fee of $15 per ton of CO2 equivalent emissions will be imposed on all fossil fuels at the point of first sale in the U.S. economy. CO2 equivalent fees shall also be imposed for other greenhouse gases including methane, nitrous oxide, sulfur hexafluoride, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) emitted as byproducts, perfluorocarbons, and nitrogen trifluoride. All fees are to be returned to American households as outlined below.
2. Steady step-up of CC2 Fees, Ensuring Replacement of Fossil Fuels with Low-Carbon Energy: The yearly increase in carbon fees including other greenhouse gasses shall be at least $10 per ton of CO2 equivalent each year, to steadily reduce U.S. CO2-equivalent emissions by 2050 to 10% of the 1990 U.S. CO2-equivalent emissions. EPA and DOE shall annually review greenhouse gas emissions data and determine whether an increase larger than $10 per ton per year is needed to achieve emissions reductions commensurate with that reduction trajectory. If EPA and DOE find that U.S. emissions are not being reduced sufficiently, the CO2 fee shall increase by $15/T CO2 in the following year. [Modeled after Rep. Larson’s H.R. 1337
“America’s Energy Security Trust Fund Act.”]
3. Mechanisms for 100% Revenue Return: All revenue from CO2 and CO2 equivalent fees shall be returned to households. Mechanisms include: (1) Equal monthly per-person “dividend” payments made to all U.S. households (1/2 per child under 18 years old, with a limit of 2 children per family) each month beginning on August 28, 2011, (2) Use all carbon fee revenue to reduce payroll taxes for employers and employees. Unemployed persons and Social Security recipients shall receive equivalent distributions.
4. Border Adjustments: To ensure that U.S.-made goods remain competitive abroad and to provide an additional incentive for U.S. trading partners to adopt their own carbon fees, Carbon-Fee-Equivalent Tariffs shall be charged for goods entering the U.S. from countries without comparable Carbon Fees. Carbon-Fee-Equivalent rebates shall reduce the price of exports to such countries and ensure that U.S. goods remain competitive in those countries. 

5. Phase Out of Fossil Fuel Subsidies : All existing subsidies of fossil fuels including tax credits,
shall be phased out within 5 years.
6. Moratorium on New or Expanded Coal-Fired Power Plants without CCS: No new coal-fired power plants shall be permitted, constructed, or operated. No expansions in capacity of any existing coal power plants shall be permitted, constructed, or operated. [Exception: Permits may be issued for facilities that successfully demonstrate safe and effective long-term Carbon Capture and Sequestration of at least 90% of CO2 emissions.]
7. Seeking Treaties: The President shall seek treaties with other countries that encourage adoption of similar programs to reduce CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. 

Proposed by Dr James Hansen: Earth Day, April 25, 2010.

More information at the Carbon Tax Center:

Contact: James Handley at 202-546-5692


People's Climate Stewardship Act by James Hansen

People's Climate Stewardship Act
by James Hansen

It's time to take back Earth Day.

Some of our best friends have become the planet's worst enemies.

The climate and energy bills in Congress were designed by big banks and fat-cat environmental organizations that have lost touch with the people and nature.

The bills all use smoke-and-mirrors: cap-and-trade, offsets, and give-aways.

The truth is this: as long as fossil fuels are the cheapest energy we will go to the ends of Earth the deepest ocean, the most pristine land for the last drop of oil and gas, and destroy mountains for the last shard of coal.

But that would guarantee climate disasters for young people and nature – we would destroy creation.

Fossil fuels are cheapest only because they do not pay their costs to society – for damage to human health, the environment and future generations.

So today, based on discussions with religious leaders, congressional staffers, economists, and concerned citizens, I am proposing a People's Climate Stewardship bill.

The bill defines a simple, honest carbon fee, collected from fossil fuel companies upon the first sale at the mine, wellhead or port of entry.

The money collected will be distributed monthly to the public as a green check – so families can afford the energy they need during the transition to a clean energy future.

The rising carbon fee will stimulate investment in low-carbon energy and efficiency.

We will reduce our dependence on foreign oil. We will create jobs, good jobs.

And we will preserve for our children and grandchildren the remarkable planet that we inherited from our elders.

Here, in our nation's capital, it is time to demand a government of the people, by the people and for the people – not for special interests.

It is time not for greenwash and half-hearted measures. It is time for honest effective action for all people and life on the planet. Thank you.

James Hansen, Remarks at Earth Day on the Mall, Washington, DC, 25 April 2010

Press Release of the Carbon Tax Center follows.

Scientist James Hansen Proposes “People’s Climate Stewardship Act”:

A Simple Carbon Fee with Revenue Returned to Americans

“Our grandchildren will blame us if we destroy the remarkable planet that we inherited,” warned renowned climate scientist James Hansen today at the 40th anniversary celebration of Earth Day on the National Mall in Washington, DC. Dr. Hansen, awaiting the imminent birth of a grandchild (his 4th), is keenly aware of the threat that potential human-made climate chaos poses to her generation and all who will follow.
We live in a “false economy” of cheap fossil fuels whose prices don’t reflect their true costs to society, the environment and future generations. “As long as coal is so cheap that low-carbon energy can’t compete, we will not make the transition to a clean-energy future,” Dr. Hansen said.
Dr. Hansen, director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, spoke on this policy-related topic today as a private citizen. He called on the public and lawmakers to reject the “smoke and mirrors” of energy bills now before Congress, which rely on “cap-and-trade” and “offsets.” “We need a bill designed for the public, not for big banks and fossil-fuel companies,” Dr. Hansen said.
His proposal calls for a “simple, honest” carbon fee, collected from fossil-fuel companies upon the first sale at the mine, wellhead or port of entry.
The money collected via this fee would be distributed to the public as a monthly “dividend” or “green check.” Distributing all of the revenue equitably to households will ensure that families can afford the energy they need during the transition to a clean energy future, and it should help win public support for a rising carbon fee.   

Dr. Hansen's proposal was produced after months of discussion with religious leaders, the Carbon Tax Center, Citizens Climate Lobby and the Price Carbon Campaign. It incorporates key elements of bills proposed by Congressmen John Larson (D-Conn) and Bob Inglis (R-S.C.), whom Dr. Hansen calls on to join forces for the benefit of American people in building an effective, bipartisan “Climate Stewardship Act.”


More information:

Carbon Tax Center:
James Handley: 202-546-5692

Citizens’ Climate Lobby:
Steve Valk: 404-769-7461

Price Carbon Campaign:
Tom Stokes: 413-243-5665