Monday, October 28, 2019

Ocean Heat Content and a Lost Island in Chesapeake Bay

The 3rd quarter numbers for ocean heat content are in. Needless to say, the trend continues.

Both the 0-700 m region and the 0-2000 m region will very likely set records for the year, which is usually the case these days.

Also, an educational center on Fox Island in the Chesapeake Bay is closing due to sea level rise. The Fox Island Environmental Education Center run by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation has been on the island for 40 years, but due to "sea level rise and erosion" protective salt marshes have washed away; they had reduced the impact of wind and waves on the center. "Over the past 50 years, more than 70 percent of the island’s land area washed away."

Fox Island is only about 5 miles from Tangier Island, which is also being lost despite strong denialism there and the promises of President Trump.

Here's a 25-year comparison:

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Carbon Savings From the Internet

This is a little interesting: a plot of real US GDP (in 2012 dollars) versus miles driven by all Americans:

It shows a clear shift around 1995, just when the Internet came up -- US GDP took off relative to the miles driven by Americans.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Oops on Older Comments

I have to apologize -- I failed to sort through the comments here that were flagged as possible spam, and found several that were real comments. I just approved them. I only moderate comments that are > 14 days old, to reduce spam, but get about 2-4 flagged comments a day, 90+% of which are spam. But I neglected to look for a few months. There were over 900 there, so I might have missed a few from several months back. Sorry.

I'll try to do better.

Guest Post: Climate Implications of the Canadian Election

Guest post by: Layzej

In a recent episode of "Patriot Act", Hassan Minhaj took Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to task for the Liberal government's apparently inconsistent position on climate change.

Speaking to the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Trudeau proclaimed "There is no country on the planet that can walk away from the challenge and reality of climate change."

But Minhaj pointed out that just months earlier at an energy conference in Texas he said, "No country would find 173 billion barrels of oil in the ground and just leave them there."

"Does he think you can just do both of those things?" Minhaj asked "Because we did the math and there is no overlap."

On policy the Liberal government appears just as conflicted. On the one hand they have implemented a revenue neutral carbon tax to curb demand for fossil fuels. The tax would encourage consumers to adopt alternatives to fossil fuels and stimulate the development of alternative technologies. Since the tax is revenue neutral, all profits generated would be returned to the taxpayer in the form of rebates. Economists largely agree that a carbon tax offers the most cost-effective lever to reduce carbon emissions at the scale and speed that is necessary.

But at the same time the Trudeau government is working aggressively on an oil pipeline expansion that would triple the existing pipeline's capacity to 890,000 barrels a day and bring Alberta's oil to an international market. This effort included nationalizing the pipeline project at a cost of $4.5 billion, after the company that owned the pipeline threatened to cancel the project in the face of mounting opposition.

Canada's oil sands are the third largest oil reserves in the world -- they account for 10% of the world's oil reserves. Some have argued that fully exploiting the Canadian reserves would mean "game over" for the climate. According to Prof James Hansen, "We are getting close to the dangerous level of carbon in the atmosphere and if we add on to that unconventional fossil fuels, which have a tremendous amount of carbon, then the climate problem becomes unsolvable."

In the “Patriot Act” interview, Trudeau justified the apparent contradiction by claiming that the intent was not to increase production, but only to ship the product more efficiently. While it is true that a pipeline is a more efficient means of delivery than tuck or rail, it is not true that tripling pipeline capacity would not result in increased production. Trudeau did not provide a coherent defense of his government’s position.

But the position is defensible. Canada is doing its part to curb its own fossil fuel demand. If every country followed Canada’s lead and implemented a carbon tax, we could start to move more aggressively towards the new energy economy. It is true that Canada could diminish the global supply of oil by leaving its resources in the ground, but eliminating 10% of the world’s oil would not go far in diminishing the global appetite for fossil fuels.

It seems unreasonable for Americans Hansen and Minhaj to ask Canadians to not only address their own fossil fuel consumption, but to bear the burden of reducing global consumption as well. The United States is a country without a national climate strategy. Canada has demonstrated a strategy that can work. It’s time for America, and the world, to catch up.

Layzej is a long-time commenter on this site.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Annual Increases in CO2 Emissions

BP has released its Statistical Review of World Energy 2019, which always looks authoritative because there are many pages of numbers all neatly aligned in rows and columns, and that's what counts, right.

They give lots of data on energy generation, such as
  •  renewable energy generation in 2018 was up 14.5% compared to 2017, but that's only 1/3rd of the total power increase.
  • Coal consumption was up 1.4%.
  • "Global energy demand grew by 2.9% and carbon emissions grew by 2.0% in 2018, faster than at any time since 2010-11." 
  • "The United States recorded the largest-ever annual production increases by any country for both oil and natural gas, the vast majority of increases coming from onshore shale plays."
Here are some CO2 emission numbers. The US annual increase was greater than both China's and the world's. For energy we were even hoggier than we were before.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

The Mess in California

The power outage in California is making a mess of some people's lives.

  • a woman had to spend the night in her wheelchair because her special air mattress with circulating air to avoid pressure wounds deflated. She thought the outage wasn't going to happen to the next day.
  • a man with COPD who relies on an oxygen generator was feeling congested and short of breath.
  • a paraplegic with a bone disease that requires a powered wheelchair, and a pump to keep blood circulating in his legs, said he won't be able to withstand a few hours without power. “I can’t be moving around too much because my wheelchair will die within a couple hours.”
This seems especially believable:
Napa resident Gina Biter-Mundt said that’s a common problem among people who have health issues — they lack the mobility or the money to prepare appropriately, even if they are well informed.
But the article does say "there had been no reports of individuals in immediate danger due to the outages."

Cost estimates range from $65 M to $2.5 B, though some economists say it's not calculable. PG&E has no plans to reimburse anyone.

To the extent climate change is involved in this -- deeper drought perhaps, hotter temperatures and hotter win -- this might open some eyes. Perhaps Hurricane Katrina did as well, and maybe Hurricane Maria and this year's Hurricane Humberto in the Bermudas and 40 inches of rain dumped onto Houston -- twice in three years. This is an interesting thought:
“It’s not worth the risk to them,” Alan Scheller-Wolf said about PG&E’s decision to preemptively shut off power. He said the utility “might be signaling to the powers that be that the business environment of providing power to people is fundamentally changing and they need help adjusting to it.”

Wednesday, October 09, 2019

CA Blackout: "Another version of the problem"

An article in Slate by April Glaser, a Californian, gives a good picture of the blackout situation in California and failures of the power company, PG&E.
It’s true that the lights can go off at any time due to a storm. This happens to all of us at some point in our lives. But this feels different. It usually happens because of a natural disaster, like a snow or thunderstorm. This is primarily an unnatural disaster, a disaster of neglected maintenance of power lines owned by PG&E. It feels like the company doesn’t want to be blamed for another tragedy, so it’s just shutting the whole thing down. It also feels like the company doesn’t realize that real people are trying to live here—that this is not a solution, but another version of the problem.

California Shutting off Power!

If it comes to a dystopia this will seem one early step down the road. Power companies in California are shutting off power to 800,000 people in 31 counties because of the potential for wildfires in the current windy, dry conditions.

That's difficult to believe, but it started today at midnight -- about 513,000 customers without power in 22 counties. A second phase starts at noon today for another 234,000 customers, and the remainder later. Officials don't know how long it will last -- it could be several days, as they inspect every inch centimeter of their power lines .

There have actually been two previous shutoffs this year, one iSeptember and last weekend, but on a much smaller scale (just three counties). I haven't read about what the impacts might have happened for those.

But this seems kind of crazy. Just imagine: no hot showers. No hot food. Everything in your refrigerator could spoil. No easy way to charge your cell phone (you can always do it in your car, assuming you have one). No use of medical equipment like CPAP machines and ventilators. No Internet, unless perhaps if cell towers are still working. Street lights? Presumably hospitals already have generators, but what about grocery stores and gas stations? How many businesses will this close temporarily? It could well have an effect on California's GDP. Schools are closed in the Bay area.

I realize big wildfires are dangerous (especially when power companies aren't properly trimming the conditions around their lines), with winds tonight in the Bay Area expected at up to 65 mph. but cutting power like this seems almost as dangerous.

Anyone in California affected by this? (DiC?) Does it seem as difficult, even scary, as it looks to me?

PS: And there's this:
Pacific Gas and Electric Co. diverted more than $100 million in gas safety and operations money collected from customers over a 15-year period and spent it for other purposes, including profit for stockholders and bonuses for executives, according to a pair of state-ordered reports released Thursday.

Sunday, October 06, 2019

Friday, October 04, 2019

Greta for Peace Prize, and More Record Warmth

(I'll probably add to this post as the day goes by.)
If you're looking for the latest PDO data (Pacific Decadal Oscillation), it moved here.
Some European (and British!) bookies are putting Greta Thunberg as the favorite to win this year's Nobel Peace Prize. The winner will be announced early next Friday. Announcements start on Monday, with the Physics prize announced on Tuesday.
Of the 607 Nobel prizes awarded for science, only 20 have gone to women, says today's Nature Briefing (email).

I know of at least two thefts: Rosalind Franklin for the discovery of the structure of DNA, and Jocelyn Bell for the discovery of pulsars. Bell is still alive -- at least half this year's prize should be hers. But, sadly, won't be.
Probably you know by now, but both UAH and RSS calculated the lower troposphere to have the warmest September in their records, which start in 1979. Roy Spencer did some analysis and says it was Mother Nature, not an instrument problem. So did Carl Mears of RSS. RSS also found the troposphere as a whole to be the warmest September. Here are RSS's September anomalies for the total troposphere:

The Copernicus Climate Service in the EU finds that September was the warmest September for surface temperatures, too, 1.02°C above the 1981-2010 baseline. Since the world had already warmed by the time of this baseline, global warming is now moving past 1.0°C.

Wednesday, October 02, 2019

Dave Werth

David F. Werth ObituaryI have been avoiding some text messages on my phone for over nine months.

They were from Dave Werth, who lived here in Salem. He commented here on this blog, and elsewhere, as "Riverrat."

He liked to travel down rivers on inflatable rafts -- hence his nickname. Dave got in touch because he read my blog, and after I moved to Salem, where he lived, we had beers several times, and once went to Portland together to see James Hansen speak.

He was a software programmer for Garvin, who makes GPS devices. Later he invited me on a rafting trip down the Snake River, but I couldn't make -slash- was afraid I couldn't make it.

We didn't know each other well. My fault mostly. I do not make new friends easily, a bane of mine, a painful difficulty.

The last time I saw him, sometime in spring 2018, we met at a McMenamins -- a pub -- in suburban Salem. We commiserated about our various ailments -- being two lonely single guys in our 50s -- and he told me he had cancer, and it was consuming his insides, and it was pretty serious. Sadly, I'm not really sure I knew him well enough to understand its full extent.

And then, just before Christmas last year, December 18th, I was in my bathroom trimming my pathetic little beard to go somewhere and I received this text message:
(1/3) David, we haven't been in contact much lately but I want to let you know they found a big cancerous tumor in my liver and it's not likely I'll survive much past Christmas. But we had a few interesting times together like the Hansen lecture and I felt like I owe you something before I just disappeared. Thanks for some good memories, Dave Werth.
I called him immediately. I didn't know what to say. He was surprisingly forthright about it all. We talked, about the few times we had together, and also about global warming, something we had often talked about, because we knew each other through my blog. I remember us agreeing that global warming had turned a corner due to Hurricanes Garvey in Houston and Maria in Puerto Rico the previous year.

We only talked for a few minutes. Our friendship wasn't deep. Perhaps that was my failing. What do you say in such a situation? I said I was thankful I knew him and I had fond memories and I regretted I wasn't able to raft with him down the Snake River.

Then it seemed his illness lingered and he was going to live past Christmas. A few days later he send a group text:
(1/2) Folks, turns out things are not quite as dire as I was making out earlier today and I'm not going to die tonight or not likely in the next several days.

(2/2) I'm making this generic message so I can copy and paste and save some energy.
He was so open and direct.... He lived until the new year. Dave died on January 12th in the presence of both of his sisters. I think, from what I can tell, that that was a happy situation for him.

I didn't know him well enough to go to his funeral, I thought, but now I think I did and I made a mistake by not going and I'm kicking myself. Knowing me, I will kick forever.

I haven't been able to fully look at Dave's text messages until today -- I've been carrying them on my phone since December.

But today I was able. Again I didn't know him well. But Dave was special because he was astonishingly willing and able to look his death straight in the face and accept it. I didn't know a lot about him, but wish I did. He had a lot of dignity and bravery in his final weeks. He didn't have a wife or kids but he had his sisters and he had courage. He really impressed me. He moved me. No one else in that situation has ever done exactly the same.

And I've been thinking about it, and about him, ever since, with his text messages on my phone. Until today. Today I was able to read them. Today I was finally able to write this.