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2013 SkS Weekly News Roundup #49B

Posted on 7 December 2013 by John Hartz

  • ALEC calls for penalties on 'freerider' homeowners
  • Australia's spring was the warmest on record
  • Dangerous global warming closer than you think
  • Panel says global warming carries risk of deep changes
  • Report warns global warming could trim tree supply for lumber industry
  • Safe limit for global warming is lowered dramatically by experts
  • Scientists’ concerns challenge conservative sea-level rise projections
  • The "Carbon Warrior"
  • U.N.’s post-2015 agenda needs a triple play
  • Warm Arctic waters emit carbon, though region is carbon sink overall
  • White House directs U.S. agencies to double renewable energy use
  • Why some meteorologists still deny global warming

ALEC calls for penalties on 'freerider' homeowners

An alliance of corporations and conservative activists is mobilising to penalise homeowners who install their own solar panels – casting them as "freeriders" – in a sweeping new offensive against renewable energy, the Guardian has learned.

Over the coming year, the American Legislative Exchange Council (Alec) will promote legislation with goals ranging from penalising individual homeowners and weakening state clean energy regulations, to blocking the Environmental Protection Agency, which is Barack Obama's main channel for climate action.

Details of Alec's strategy to block clean energy development at every stage – from the individual rooftop to the White House – are revealed as the group gathers for its policy summit in Washington this week.

ALEC calls for penalties on 'freerider' homeowners by Suzanne Goldenberg and Ed Pilkington, The Guardian, Dec 4, 2013

Australia's spring was the warmest on record

The spring of 2013 has been Australia's warmest on record. Mean temperatures for the season were 1.57C above the 1961-1990 average, surpassing the previous record of 1.43C (set in 2006) by 0.14C. Daytime maximum temperatures were also the highest on record, coming in 2.07C above average and 0.24C above the previous record (also set in 2006), while overnight minimum temperatures were the fourth-warmest on record. 

Australia's spring was the warmest on record, climate records show by Blair Trewin for the Conversation, part of the Guardian Environment Network, The Guardian, Dec 3, 2013

Dangerous global warming closer than you think 

Abrupt climate change is not only imminent, it's already here. The rapid dwindling of summer Arctic sea ice has outpaced all scientific projections, which will have impacts on everything from atmospheric circulation to global shipping. And plantsanimals and other species are already struggling to keep up with rapid climate shifts, increasing the risk of mass extinction that would rival the end of the dinosaurs. So warns a new report from the U.S. National Research Council.

That's exactly why longtime climate scientist James Hansen and a panoply of scientists and economists are urging in another new paper that current efforts to restrain global warming are woefully inadequate. In particular, global negotiations to limit global warming to no more than 2 degrees Celsius risk "wrecking the planet," in the words of lead author Hansen, recently retired head of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies and a researcher at Columbia University's Earth Institute.

Dangerous Global Warming Closer Than You Think, Climate Scientists Say by David Biello, Scientific American, Dec 4, 2013

Panel says global warming carries risk of deep changes

Continued global warming poses a risk of rapid, drastic changes in some human and natural systems, a scientific panel warned Tuesday, citing the possible collapse of polar sea ice, the potential for a mass extinction of plant and animal life and the threat of immense dead zones in the ocean. 

At the same time, some worst-case fears about climate change that have entered the popular imagination can be ruled out as unlikely, at least over the next century, the panel found. These include a sudden belch of methane from the ocean or the Arctic that would fry the planet, as well as a shutdown of the heat circulation in the Atlantic Ocean that would chill nearby land areas — the fear on which the 2004 movie “The Day After Tomorrow” was loosely based.

In a report released Tuesday, the panel appointed by the National Research Council called for the creation of an early warning system to alert society well in advance to changes capable of producing chaos. Nasty climate surprises have occurred already, and more seem inevitable, perhaps within decades, panel members warned. But, they said, little has been done to prepare.

Panel Says Global Warming Carries Risk of Deep Changes by Justin Gillis, New York Times, Dec 3, 2013

Report warns global warming could trim tree supply for lumber industry

Canada’s forest products industry is booming but faces a long-term threat from climate change, according to a new federal report tabled in the House of Commons.

The industry, while enjoying thriving and growing markets in Asia and a rebound in U.S. housing construction, could see its long-term supplies jeopardized, according to 2013 edition of Natural Resources Canada’s annual report, The State of Canada’s Forests.

“Canada’s forests are undergoing significant changes as a result of a changing climate, including more frequent fire, drought, and disease and insect attacks,” the report states.

Report warns global warming could trim tree supply for lumber industry by Peter O'Neil, The Vancouver Sun, Dec 5, 2013

Safe limit for global warming is lowered dramatically by experts

Unless significant, steady reductions in the emissions of carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels begin extremely soon, the Earth might be much closer to potentially catastrophic warming than is widely believed. So argues climatologist James Hansen of the Columbia University Earth Institute and an international team of colleagues in a new analysis published today in the journal PLOS One. Their paperfurther underscores other recent studies showing that even small delays in shrinking the industrial output of carbon dioxide (CO2) could steeply complicate not only attempts to temper climate change but also any attempts by future generations to adapt to it.

Safe Limit for Global Warming Is Lowered Dramatically by Experts by John Rennie, Scientific American, Dec 3, 2013

Scientists’ concerns challenge conservative sea-level rise projections

Independent videographer Peter Sinclair, a regular contributor to The Yale Forum, in this month’s post explores the views of several leading scientists on prospects for sea-level rise in coming years.

“We still are potentially underestimating the instability of the ice sheets,” Stefan Rahmstorf of Potsdam University in Germany cautions.

Scientists’ Concerns Challenge Conservative Sea-level Rise Projections, The Yale Forum on Climate Change & The Media, Dec  3, 2013

The Carbon Warrior

Watching the colossal destruction of Typhoon Haiyan over the past month, Columbia University Professor Graciela Chichilnisky knows one thing for sure: climate change will likely result in more of these massive storms, threatening the very existence of humanity.

As one of the world’s foremost experts on climate change and creator of the carbon market enshrined in the Kyoto Protocol emissions treaty, Chichilnisky also knows this is nothing new.

The Carbon Warrior by Anna Shen, Inter Press Service (IPS), Dec 1, 2013

U.N.’s post-2015 agenda needs a triple play

As the international community fleshes out a new set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to be unveiled next year, civil society activists and U.N. officials agree their success will hinge on policies that address the nexus of poverty, hunger and environmental degradation.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who is making a strong push for a politically realistic set of SDGs, points out the latest grim statistics: more than one billion people are still living in extreme poverty and over 840 million are perilously hanging on the edge of starvation and hunger.

Danielle Nierenberg, co-founder of the U.S.-based NGO Food Tank, told IPS, “The urgency of finding ways to alleviate hunger, obesity, and poverty in the world is more important than ever before.”

U.N.’s Post-2015 Agenda Needs a Triple Play by Thalif Deen, International Press Service (IPS), Dec 5, 2013

Warm Arctic waters emit carbon, though region is carbon sink overall 

The Arctic Ocean has has long been known as a carbon sink, but a new study suggests that while the frigid waters do store large quantities of carbon, parts of the ocean also emit atmospheric carbon dioxide.

Researchers from MIT constructed a model to simulate the effect of sea ice loss in the Arctic, finding that as the region loses its ice, it is becoming more of a carbon sink, taking on about one additional megaton of carbon each year between 1996 and 2007. But while the Arctic is taking on more carbon, the researchers found, paradoxically, the regions where the water is warmest are actually able to store less carbon and are instead emitting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

While the Arctic region as a whole remains a large carbon sink, the realization that parts of the Arctic are carbon emitters paints a more complex picture of how the region is responding to global warming.

Warm Arctic Waters Emit Carbon, Though Region is Carbon Sink Overall by James A. Foley, Nature Wrold News, Dec 04, 2013

White House directs U.S. agencies to double renewable energy use

U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday ordered federal agencies to get at least 20 percent of their energy supply from renewable sources by 2020, double the current rate, as the White House rolled out the latest phase of its climate change action plan.

Obama signed a memorandum setting the 20 percent target as an extension of an executive order he issued in 2009 that called on the federal government to be a leader in clean energy and energy efficiency.

The administration's Climate Action Plan is a multi-agency approach to regulate and reduce heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions with measures that do not require congressional approval. 

White House directs U.S. agencies to double renewable energy use by 2020, Reuters, Dec 5, 2013 

Why some meteorologists still deny global warming

Just before Thanksgiving, many conservatives seized on a new study examining the climate views of members of the American Meteorological Society. It's no secret that there's a schism between climate scientists and weather forecasters over climate change, and the study captured this, to skeptics' delight. The fact that a sizable percentage of AMS members disagree with mainstream climate science represented "the latest in a long line of evidence indicating the often asserted global warming consensus does not exist," according to Forbes blogger and Heartland Institute fellow James Taylor. 

Yet a closer look at the study—conducted by researchers at George Mason University, Yale, and the AMS itself—shows that its main punch line is quite different. The research was chiefly focused on trying to understand why the meteorological community as a whole (the AMS includes climate scientists, academic meteorologists, forecast meteorologists, and general atmospheric scientists, among others) features such disparate views on global warming. And one of its principal findings is that AMS members who publish less peer-reviewed climate research, or less peer-reviewed research in general, are more likely to be climate skeptics.

Why Some Meteorologists Still Deny Global Warming, Blue Marble, Mother Jones, Dec 4, 2013

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Comments 1 to 10:

  1. "An alliance of corporations and conservative activists is mobilising to penalise homeowners who install their own solar panels – casting them as "freeriders" – in a sweeping new offensive against renewable energy, the Guardian has learned."

    I thought conservatives and business groups promoted personal freedom and new products. What a group of dishonest, bullying, hypocrites. 

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  2. @nigelj: Sadly, most politicans will say and do whatever it takes to remain in power. Consistency is not one of their strong suits. Think: "Jack be nimble, ..." 

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  3. Ah, a conservative group arguing for MORE regulations on the scrappy home-based "business" of selling extra power to the electric company. Perhaps their ideology of smaller government, protecting the "little guy," and the kind of unfettered can-do do-it-yourself self-sufficiency we've heard so much about is finally cracking! Now we just need to aim their newfound love of regulation at a worthy target. How about the fossil fuels industries? We could get them to strengthen regulation of frac-

    A model bill endorsed by the Alec board of directors last August would strip the EPA of power to shut down a frack site or oil industry facility.

    ... oh.

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  4. Apparently some meteorologists are sceptical of climate change. Of course some of this is probably quite healthy scepticism, but I think an element of this is likely to be driven by professional jealousy. It may also be simply a poor understanding of the issues, and I suspect some meteorologists get bogged down in natural cycles given their job.

    I just hope that they carefully consider the origins of their scepticism, and whether its rigorous and based on the evidence. It is very confusing for the public to see disagreement like this.

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  5. All mentions of "ALEC" should be in caps, to delineate it as an it; 'Alec' is a person. Great report!

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  6. That ALEC mob would have been supporting Great Britain in the US War of Independence!

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  7. That first article on ALEC is a shocker.  At least they have shown their hand as clearly as is possible.  As with all good lies, there is a grain of truth in what they say.  By having a grid tie system, you gain the considerable advantage of not having to buy a full set of batteries every 7 years or so and your power is distributed to other users. You get a service from the power company. But the fee you pay should take the form of a simple, transparent line charge.  One little proviso here, though.  The power company must be forced to charge the same line charge to the user and the user/generator.  Otherwise the solar panel owner will end up paying a huge line charge and a small kWh charge while the simple user the reverse.

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  8. By the by, the power company gains a huge advantage too.  With lots of renewable energy being fed into the grid, they don't have to build an extra gas powered generator for peak shaving - a power station that is only used occasionally and hence isn't financially worth while.  They can store this extra power by simple pumped storage to be used as needed.

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  9. William:  To be fair, at some level of solar input, load balancing does start to become a more difficult job.  However at that point the cost of upgrading the grid to handle it, divided by the number of producers, is still a small cost.  I'm happy to pay that cost.

    Not to mention that in large parts of the US, peak power demand occurs precisely when peak solar power is available, since the power is being used to remove solar-generated heat from buildings.  Which makes solar generation from individual buildings inherently load-leveling.

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  10. The 'line charge' thing is a total scam. In Arizona, the first state to rule on it, ALEC and the power companies were pushing for a $100 per customer monthly line charge. That's more than the total monthly electric bill of most households. Even the $5 per month charge they eventually settled on is pure highway robbery. There are over 100 million 'households' in the US (for 300 million people). Even if we ignore businesses, charging each of those 100 million households $5 per month would mean $500 million per month available for grid maintenance. For that kind of money they could replace the entire US electric grid every ten years or so. Instead, most of the equipment in use is over a century old.

    Yes, there is some hypothetical amount of money that power companies spend to keep the electric grid operating. The fact that it stops operating every time a strong storm blows through or a squirrel chews on the wrong wire ought to be a clue that this amount isn't very large. In some places the power companies are actually making money on solar because it generates power at peak usage times and they get to sell the power at peak rates while paying the solar generators a flat rate. In other cases the peak rate gets passed on to the solar generator, but the power companies are still benefitting because they can produce steady baseload power (the least expensive) rather than having to ramp up as much for the peaks.

    In all likelihood, the money power companies make off of selling 'excess' solar power to their customers is greater than the amount they 'lose' by not charging the solar generators for maintenance of the electric grid. However, the profits they lose from those people generating their own electricity are even greater... and they are introducing these grossly inflated line charges as a way to discourage solar power generation and still get their profits even though they no longer supply the electricity.

    William's point about applying the same rates to all customers is the correct way to go. The $5 'line charge' in Arizona is only being applied to solar producers. The proper way to implement it would have been to apply the new $5 charge to all customers and decrease the cost of electricity such that on average the total monthly bill wouldn't change.

    That said, $5 per customer is a low enough 'tax on solar' / 'fossil fuel subsidy' that it will do little to slow the growth of solar power. The fact that it was kept so low shows that the fossil fuel industry is already losing their political clout... and as that happens they will begin to lose some of their big subsidies, leading to higher costs, which will drive more adoption of solar (and/or wind), and the whole thing will just continue to snowball. The fossil fuel industry is dying. Finally.

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