Blog Archive

Monday, October 17, 2016

Peter Sinclair: 2016 Arctic Sea Ice (new video!)

by Peter Sinclair, Climate Denial Crock of the Week, October 17, 2016

I included interviews here with David Barber, one of the truly important experts in the area, that I conducted on the first leg of this year’s crowd funded Dark Snow Field work, at a meeting in Lund, Sweden.

You’ll also see Ted Scambos, lead scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center

Important points: although this year did not set a new record low for sea ice minimum, the kind of ice loss we did see, and the mechanism of that loss, show that, even in a year when the months of greatest insolation, July and August, were not particularly conducive to melt, we can still see dramatic losses.

Also, important fun fact – although we generally assume that since the ice is melting, it automatically makes human endeavors in polar regions easier and safer. Not so.
Barber points out some counter-intuitive processes that make the Arctic more unpredictable, and at least for now, just as challenging if not more so than in the past.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

NC WARN Sues State of North Carolina and Regulators for Blocking Court Access in Long-running Climate Fight

NEWS RELEASE                                                                                          Contact: Jim Warren
October 12, 2016                                                                                                           919-416-5077
NC WARN Sues State of North Carolina and Regulators for
Blocking Court Access in Long-running Climate Fight

Duke Environmental Law & Policy Clinic attorneys challenge constitutionality of two laws – from 2015 and 1965 – in a case that could derail Duke Energy plans to build $30 billion in fracked-gas power plants and pipelines

Durham, NC – In a case that goes to the heart of Duke Energy’s corporate business plan, climate protection nonprofit NC WARN today filed a lawsuit against the State of North Carolina and its utility regulators over two state laws passed 50 years apart.  The group, represented by attorneys for the Duke Environmental Law & Policy Clinic, say a 2015 law passed specifically to allow Duke Energy to shortcut the approval process for a large, fracked-gas power plant in Asheville violates both the state and federal constitutions.

NC WARN also contends that the NC Utilities Commission shielded itself from an appeals court review of the $1 billion Duke Energy project by invoking a never before used law from 1965 to require a $98 million bond that unconstitutionally locked the courthouse doors.  The lawsuit says no other state allows its regulators to invoke a bond to block a power plant appeal.

The lawsuit seeks to have a NC Superior Court panel deem both laws unconstitutional so that Duke Energy cannot rely on similar shortcut approvals and court-blocking bonds for the 15-20 fracked-gas plants it plans to build in the Carolinas by 2030. 

The suit itself would not stop Duke Energy’s controversial Asheville project, which is just getting underway.  A separate case by NC WARN and The Climate Times contesting both the shortcut approval and a $98 million bond order by the NC Utilities Commission is still being fought at the NC Court of Appeals.  The groups insist that a full hearing must finally be conducted, and that case could well go to the State Supreme Court.  

Jim Warren, executive director of NC WARN said today, “The General Assembly gave special favors to a powerful special interest.  But it is plainly unconstitutional for politicians and regulators to allow the giant Duke Energy monopoly to keep building power plants without careful, open review.”

He said the 2015 law led the Commission to approve Duke Energy’s Asheville plant without adequate scrutiny and information, thus creating a financial burden for customers that is wholly unnecessary due to a regional glut of power supply.  Also, a climate expert for NC WARN – who was not allowed to testify – said the plant would be disastrous for the fight to slow the accelerating climate crisis.

The largest US electricity provider, Duke Energy is greatly expanding its burning of fracked gas despite burgeoning evidence that the natural gas industry has become the leading driver of US greenhouse emissions.  Cornell researchers and others say a large amount of unburned gas – which is mostly methane, a super-potent heat trapper – is spewing into the air throughout the US natural gas system, making gas burned to generate electricity even worse for the climate than coal.  

Critics also say the gas industry and regulators have grossly overstated supplies of shale gas, perpetuating a Ponzi-scheme of drilling even as production quickly declines.  

Among the lawsuit’s key constitutional challenges:

Ø   Violation of the fundamental principles of due process, separation of powers and open access to the courts.  The complaint alleges that the NC Utilities Commission cannot constitutionally prevent the courts from reviewing Commission orders by setting excessive bonds that prevent parties from challenging those orders before the State’s appeals courts.

Ø  By granting Duke Energy a shortcut approval process, the General Assembly violated the State’s requirement that monopolies be strictly regulated and provide an ascertainable public benefit, satisfying an actual public need; the State Constitution otherwise prohibits monopolies, saying they are “contrary to the genius of a free state.”
The lawsuit seeks a declaratory ruling from the Wake County Superior Court that would prevent the State from allowing Duke Energy to use the shortcut approval process for large shale-gas power plants it plans to build.  It also seeks to prevent the Commission from blocking court review of its own decisions by imposing multi-million dollar bond requirements as a condition of a court appeal.

Warren added today: “Duke Energy clearly cannot win an open debate over the need for new fracked gas plants and their disastrous climate impacts.  The regulators have protected Duke from that vitally needed debate – a protection not allowed in any other state – and we’re calling on the courts to correct that massive injustice.”

Sunday, October 9, 2016

The Daily Climate Weekend Environment Reader

EIA: US residential electricity prices set to decline for first time since 2002.
During the first six months of 2016, U.S. residential customers paid on average $0.124/kWh, or 0.7% lower than the same period last year, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA). Utility Dive.  
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Editor comments: This is precisely the opposite of what many coal supporters have predicted, like this piece from 2014.-PD

VIDEO: PM Modi talks to David Letterman about climate change and clean energy.
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Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that if the world helps him with technology, he will be the first person to 'switch over to clean energy completely'. Firstpost, India.  
Hurricane Matthew: Haiti battles cholera outbreak.
Hurricane-ravaged Haiti is struggling to cope with a rise in cholera cases with officials warning that contaminated water and a lack of hygiene are posing a risk to thousands of people in the impoverished country. Al Jazeera.  
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Editor comments: Haiti has been battling cholera outbreaks since the 2010 earthquake, when it is believed that aid workers inadvertently imported the disease.-PD
Analysis: Will climate change come up in the second presidential debate?
By any reasonable measure, climate change is a serious issue that is worthy of significant attention during the presidential debates. Yet as our debate scorecard documented, the topic was ignored by the moderators of the first presidential debate and the vice-presidential debate, further heightening the need for ABC’s Martha Raddatz and CNN’s Anderson Cooper to lead a substantial climate discussion when Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump square off on October 9. Media Matters.  
Matthew becomes post-tropical as it begins to move away from the U.S.
Matthew became a post-tropical cyclone just off the coast of North Carolina early Sunday morning. The Weather Channel.  
San Francisco Bay ecosystem collapsing as rivers diverted, scientists report.
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Evidence of what scientists are calling the planet’s Sixth Mass Extinction is appearing in San Francisco Bay and its estuary, the largest on the Pacific Coast of North and South America, according to a major new study. San Francisco Chronicle, California.  
What Changed the World This Week

The Paris climate agreement is entering into force. Now comes the hard part.
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The European Parliament voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to ratify the Paris climate accord, a move that will make the sweeping international agreement a legal reality long before even those who negotiated it expected. Washington Post.  
Americans bought more EVs last month than ever before.
US plug-in vehicle sales reached a quarterly record for the three-month period that ended September 30, as demand improved for plug-in models such as the Tesla Model S battery-electric vehicle and the Chevrolet Volt extended-range plug-in, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). AutoBlog.  
McConnell vows to keep up pro-coal fight during next administration.
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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he won’t back down from fighting certain environmental regulations during the next president’s term. The Hill, District of Columbia.  
Saved by 20 miles: Hurricane Matthew could have been much worse in Florida.
Hurricane Matthew continues to batter the coast of Florida as it crawls northward, but the devastation could have been much worse if the hurricane had passed 20 miles closer to the Space Coast shore, according to meteorologists. Florida Today, Florida.  
Seas rising but Florida keeps building on the coast.
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Sea level rise as a result of global warming is not stopping developers of Florida’s coast.ClimateWire.  
Analysis: Why did the Obamas fail to take on corporate agriculture?
Eight years ago this month, I published in these pages an open letter to the next president titled, “Farmer in Chief.” “It may surprise you to learn,” it began, “that among the issues that will occupy much of your time in the coming years is one you barely mentioned during the campaign: food.” New York Times.  
Oil clout ebbs in Alaska as billions in tax credits are cut.
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Four decades after unlocking America’s biggest oilfield, Alaska and its drillers are drifting apart. Bloomberg Markets Magazine.  
How a former reporter is helping big oil and gas frack the news.
Oil and gas industry officials and regulators looking to influence media coverage of fracking, a controversial method for extracting natural gas, have received advice from someone who really knows how newsrooms work: a former Denver Post investigative reporter. Huffington Post.  
Syrian seed bank gets new home away from war.
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A major seed bank in Aleppo, Syria, holds genes that might help researchers breed crops to survive climate change. But the conflict tearing the country apart has rendered the bank largely inaccessible for the past four years. Nature.  
Californians stopped saving so much water this summer.
Mandatory water cuts ended in most California cities this summer, and the results have been predictable. In August, Golden State city-dwellers used just 18 percent less water than they did in the same month in 2013, the Los Angeles Times reports. Pacific Standard.  
Six scientists, 1,000 miles, one prize: The Arctic bumblebee.
One hundred miles north of the Arctic Circle, by the side of a dusty road, two women in anti-mosquito head nets peer at a queen bumblebee buzzing furiously in a plastic tube. New York Times.  
How global warming is changing how we play outside.
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Climate change is affecting America’s recreation meccas—from Yosemite to Yellowstone—in profound ways. As the planet heats up and weather patterns shift, so will the ways we interact with the outdoors. Outside.  
This scientist just shredded conservatives for making up ‘absurd’ Hurricane Matthew conspiracies.
A scientist from the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University slammed conservative conspiracy mongers like Matt Drudge and Rush Limbaugh for urging people not to evacuate ahead of Hurricane Matthew. Raw Story.  
India ratifies Paris climate change agreement.
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India, which accounts for about 4.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, ratified the Paris climate change agreement Sunday at the United Nations, officials said. Associated Press.  
Hurricane protection project underway near New Orleans.
The federal government will pay a firm more than $7 million to tear out and replant trees in a forested part of Avondale, a task intended to complement the West Bank's hurricane protection project. New Orleans Times-Picayune, Louisiana.  
In rural Bangladesh, solar power dents poverty.
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Microfinance and small rooftop panels can transform lives in a country where the electric grid reaches just 25 percent of the population. New York Times.  
North Sea oil spills reach record high.
Spills from North Sea oil rigs have reached a 14-year high, according to a UK Government report obtained by the Sunday Herald. Herald Scotland, United Kingdom.  
Next ‘renewable energy’: Burning forests, if Senators get their way.
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The president’s Clean Power Plan is being fought by 28 states, and a bipartisan group of senators who want burning wood for electricity to be considered carbon neutral. New York Times.  
Warning to forest destroyers: This scientist will catch you.
Matthew Hansen uses satellites to spot deforestation as it happens. Nature.  

Bringing light to the darkness: Illiterate women trained as solar technicians.
There are 1.2 billion people in the world living without electricity. An Indian organization hopes to change that by training illiterate woman to become solar technicians. Der Spiegel.  
The Mix

For Exxon, hybrid car technology was another road not taken.
Exxon’s ambitious work on powering clean vehicles 40 years ago parallels its cutting-edge research on climate change during the same era. InsideClimate News.  
Will climate change sink the Mekong Delta?
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No delta region in the world is more threatened by climate change. Will Vietnam act in time to save it? Mongabay.  
Planet at its hottest in 115,000 years thanks to climate change, experts say.
Global warming is said to be bringing temperatures last seen during an interglacial era, when sea level was 6-9 meters (20-30 ft) higher than today. The Guardian.  
Reykjavík: The geothermal city that aims to go carbon neutral.
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Reykjavík used to be marketed as a place of “pure energy”, run on geothermal power – and now Iceland’s capital is trying to become the world’s first carbon neutral city. The Guardian
Ethanol in US gas tanks is backfiring for climate change.
A team of researchers has concluded that for every three gallons of corn ethanol that’s being burned under America’s flagship renewable fuel rules, Americans will avoid burning just one gallon of gasoline made from crude. Climate Central.  
Blankenship to send out 250,000 booklets declaring innocence.
Three weeks before a federal appeals court will hear Don Blankenship’s challenge of his criminal conviction, the former Massey Energy CEO says he is sending out 250,000 copies of a booklet in which he proclaims his innocence. Charleston Gazette-Mail, West Virginia.  

When the next hurricane hits Texas.
Imagine a hurricane, a hurricane like Matthew, aimed straight at the heart of the American petrochemical industry. Unfortunately for us, we’re still not very good at controlling the future.New York Times.  
A military view on climate change: It's eroding our national security and we should prepare for it.
In this presidential election year we have heard much about some issues, such as immigration and trade, and less about others. For example, climate change was discussed for an estimated 82 seconds in the first presidential debate last week, and for just 37 minutes in all presidential and vice presidential debates since the year 2000. The Conversation.  
Is the media to blame for climate inaction?
For years climate reporting had two strands: climate science got more alarming as we got closer and closer to exceeding various warming thresholds, and climate diplomacy and public policy were a relatively unbroken saga of disappointment and delay. EcoWatch.  
Paul Krugman: What about the planet?
Our two major political parties are at odds on many issues, but nowhere is the gap bigger or more consequential than on climate. New York Times.  
Beyond the headlines.
In this week’s trip Beyond the Headlines, Peter Dykstra laments with host Steve Curwood the potential loss of several iconic ecological treasure spots and provides an update on sexual harassment charges against the National Park Service and other science institutions. For the weekly history lesson, he recalls partial meltdown of the Fermi nuclear power plant in Michigan, kept secret for years. Living On Earth.  
Hurricane Matthew looks a lot like climate change.
As Hurricane Matthew continues to churn through the Atlantic, leaving more than 260 dead in the Caribbean and threatening the Florida coast, the focus must be on public safety. CNN
Putting carbon back in the land is just a smokescreen for real climate action.
Using land carbon to “offset” our fossil fuel emissions is ultimately a smokescreen for real climate action. The Conversation, Australia.  
The coming public health disaster.
High temperatures are disrupting global ecosystems and food production, causing more extreme weather events and wildfires, threatening coastal communities with accelerated sea level rise and creating the perfect conditions for deadly diseases to spread. US News & World Report.  

Haiti’s new catastrophe.
Hurricane Matthew battered Florida and points north on Friday, having already wreaked deadly havoc in the Bahamas, Jamaica, Cuba and Haiti. All those along its path need aid and protection and, when the wind and rain end, swift help in rebuilding. New York Times.  
For life, not for an afterlife.
Seeking to make Earth expendable is not a good reason to settle other planets. Economist
Natives, oil and gas, and a search for common ground.
There is at least a glimmer of hope that the Canadian oil and gas industry and the First Nations will not always be in inexorable conflict. Globe and Mail, Ontario.  
Climate change must be a bigger part of election discussion.
The future of the planet might not make for compelling TV. It certainly should make a compelling reason to vote. Philadelphia Daily News, Pennsylvania.  
Hurricane Matthew brings our community together.
South Florida isn't known as the most down-homuth Florida isn't known as the most down-home, neighborly area. This is a region where most of us hail from somewhere else, where some of us don't make close friends, where we often don't know our next-door neighbor.e, neighborly area. This is a region where most of us hail from somewhere else, where some of us don't make close friends, where we often don't know our next-door neighbor. South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Florida.