A solar updraft tower generates electricity with nothing more than a greenhouse and a tall chimney. A 195 meter tall prototype in Spain cheaply operated at 50 kW for years. Now there are plans to build others, including a 40 MW tower, 750 meters tall (near twice as tall as the current tallest structure in the EU). Two others, a 200 MW tower in Australia (previously discussed) or a 400 MW tower in Namibia could become the tallest structure of any kind if built: 1km and 1.5km tall, respectively. Yet even those are dwarfed by the theoretical super chimney which could stand 5km tall and 1km wide. Such a tower would use the Earth's atmosphere itself as the greenhouse, could cause rain, reduce global warming and generate over 300,000 MW of "green" electricity. [more inside]
A great lecture on global warming given by Professor Stephen Schneider at Stanford University Professor Schneider discusses the pitfalls of presenting scientific ideas on global warming to the public.
Global warming quick fixes roundup, featuring the new water spray cooling method. There's also biochar carbon sequestration for the soil, or perhaps growing reflective crops, or growing crops with seawater in barren deserts. For the oceans, we have iron fed green algae management, and crop waste dumping too. In the skies, there's sunshading to reflect the problem rays, or perhaps a volcano simulation by filling the atmosphere with sulphur. Finally, there's an idea for a three-mile high superchimney that does it all.
Arctic Melt update: Scientists now have unambiguous evidence that the theorized phenomenon known as "polar amplification" has in fact been occurring for the past 5 years. It was not expected to be seen for at least another 10 or 15 years. "We're in a vicious positive feedback loop." [more inside]
Gwynne Dyer's new book Climate Wars discusses the conflicts likely to result in the near future from our changing climate. The first chapter ("The Geopolitics of Climate Change") is available here. He is now on a lecture tour [various lecture notes] and speaks on the subject [MP3 of radio interview] next Monday in Toronto. [more inside]
Scientists are now revising earlier projections about the speed at which global warming will impact the arctic ice sheet. By 2013 it could very well disappear in the summer months, opening up new sea lanes for commerce and, potentially, "a quarter of the earths oil and natural gas resources". Several arctic countries are thinking ahead, while it appears others have been for quite some time.
New Year’s Day 2030. A new report from Forum on the Future, Climate Futures (6.7MB PDF), maps out five possible scenarios for how climate change might affect our collective future by 2030. Meanwhile, the WWF has released a report, Climate Change: Faster, Stronger, Sooner (1.65MB PDF) which claims that global warming is accelerating at a faster rate than climate change experts had previously predicted. [Via Gristmill and Disinformation]
The clathrate gun hypothesis has been discussed previously, but now might be a good time to start considering it less hypothetical. [via] [more inside]
Old Growth Forests Are Valuable Carbon Sinks. "Contrary to 40 years of conventional wisdom, a new analysis published in the journal Nature suggests that old growth forests are usually 'carbon sinks' - they continue to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and mitigate climate change for centuries." Seven Best National Parks for Visiting Old Growth Forests. 20 Visually Arresting but Threatened Forests. [more inside]
80 percent of Americans say global warming is real and poses a threat to humanity. Which is good because if the global temperature raises by 4 degrees we're all dead. However only 44 percent would be willing to face any financial hardship in the name of a solution.
Andy Grove on Our Electric Future - "Energy independence [viz.] is the wrong goal. Here is a plan Americans can stick to." Perhaps some infrastructure spending1,2 is in order? [etc., &c., cf.] [more inside]
Melting Greenland glacier water forms a "slow wave" that stays in the Atlantic for at least 50 years before reaching the Pacific, according to a new study. The water piles up in the Atlantic. "It is often assumed that sea levels will rise instantaneously, but that is unlikely, given what we know about ocean dynamics." Fifty years after the meltwater is released from Greenland, sea-level rise could be 30 times greater around Greenland and down the eastern side of North America, including the Gulf of Mexico, than in the Pacific Ocean. Sea-level rises in Europe are around six times that of the Pacific, but only a fifth as great as on the opposite shore of the Atlantic.
In Lester R. Brown's new book Plan B 3.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization (2008, full-text)) - an update to Plan B 2.0: Rescuing a Planet Under Stress and a Civilization in Trouble (2006, full-text) - he calls for a war-time mobilization (ch.13) to save global civilization (already showing Early Signs of Decline (ch.6)) from Deteriorating Oil and Food Security (ch.2), Rising Temperatures and Rising Seas (ch.3), Emerging Water Shortages (ch.4), and Natural Systems Under Stress (ch.5)
Project Genesis - "It's destined to be the world's largest cruise ship—when launched next year, Royal Caribbean's US$1.24 billion Project Genesis will be 1,180 feet long, and carry 5400 passengers (6,400 at a pinch). It's the most expensive ship in history, and it's longer, wider and taller than the largest ocean liner ever built, (Cunard's QE II), 43 per cent larger in size than the world's largest cruise ship, (Freedom of the Seas [previously]) and remarkably, bigger than any military ship ever built, aircraft carriers included. In a world where choice of amenities count, Project Genesis has yet another trump card—in the the center of the ship is a lush, tropical park which opens to the sky." cf. The Lilypad
Abrupt climate change is popularly thought of in the movies. But new Greenland ice core findings show two huge Northern Hemisphere temperature spikes occured prior to the close of the last ice age some 11,500 years ago, with a 22-degree-Fahrenheit spike in just 50 years. These followed a massive "reorganization" of atmospheric circulation taking just one or two years. "We know such events are in Earth's future, but we don't know when .. we are speeding blindly down a narrow road, hoping there are no curves ahead." [more inside]
New Kiribati "...will future climate change refugees become a new caste of service sector workers inhabiting a sort of Floating Hotel & Duty Free Mall ... ?" Small island states are on the front line.
Today marks the official 8-language launch of 350.org and the start of global action against climate change. But what does this 350 number even mean? As author Bill McKibben and a chorus of scientific voices suggest, it means everything to the planet. If we want an earth at all, we'll need an Earth at 350.
Earth2100.tv is a project by ABC (video preview) to solicit ideas from the public and experts about the dangers facing world in the next 100 years. "The world’s brightest minds agree that the “perfect storm” of population growth, resource depletion and climate change could converge with catastrophic results. We need you to bring this story to life."
Inconvenient Truths: Get Ready to Rethink What It Means to Be Green. Last month, Wired published what it called "10 green heresies" which makes the case for urban living, intensive forest management and, er, air conditioning, among other things.
Before and after sattellite photos (along with much more information) of the effects of climate change over the past 30 years are available through UNEP's (the United Nations Environment Programme) Atlas of Our Changing Environment (Via)
Sucking CO2 out of the air has long been a holy grail for solving global warming; Richard Branson has promised $25m to anyone who succeeds. Of course it's already been done, but the amount of energy required doesn't make it net carbon positive. Now a team in Arizona, led by Klaus Lacknet under the company of Global Research Technologies, says it has made a significant breakthrough that massively reduces the amount of energy required - the "project has reached the stage where it is quite clear we can do it." The planned prototype, which will be finished in two years, will cost $200,000 USD, be smaller than a shipping container and be capable of eliminating around 1 ton of CO2. Even if it works many hurdles remain but it portends a cooler future for air-capture technology.
“I can’t express how extremely disappointed I am that the United States Fish and Wildlife Service has chosen to list the polar bear as threatened under the Endangered Species Act," Alaskan Senator Lisa Murkowski said in a statement issued today. [more inside]
The thaw of political ice has freed up data from impressive Russian research projects documenting and analysing the accelerating thaw of real ice. A multi-generational study (Mikhail M. Kozhov, his daughter, her daughter...) of Lake Baikal has unexpectly demonstrated that the lake is warming....At higher latitudes, Sergei Zimov has not just documented the thaw of Siberian permafrost, he is attempting to mitigate it....
Why bother? "That really is the big question facing us as individuals hoping to do something about climate change," by Michael Pollan.
At TED this past March, Al Gore once again presented the Mother of all Power Point Shows. This time around, there is a renewed sense of urgency, with updated slides about Arctic sea ice loss, among other things. More so than in the past, Gore specifically focuses on the necessity for laws to change, and how before that can happen, politics, especially American politics, must change as well. Another theme of Gore's latest TED appearance is how climate change is also a tremendous opportunity for a new heroic generation, to be remembered as the ones who solved the greatest crisis of human civilization.
Earth Hour For one hour tonight, turn off the lights and help conserve energy. Supporters of the plan say it is the equivalent of taking nearly 50,000 cars off the road for an hour. Critics say it's equivalent to taking 6 cars off the road for a year, and claim that media coverage of the effects is greatly exaggerated.
Global warming - good for elephants? The melting of the tundra means that more wooly mammoth remains are surfacing. And this means more mammoth ivory for carvings and other purposes. The linked article says conservationists are happy with this development, as it means ivory for the Asian market coming from extinct species rather than species that are nearly extinct. But is this really the answer?
The locavore movement arose in recognition of the high environmental costs associated with imported food, particularly with respect to global warming (previously). This article from The Guardian (London) suggests that the carbon cost-benefit equation may be very hard to calculate, and that local (at least, without organic) may not always be better. As a planet we seem to be boxing ourselves into a very tight little environmental corner.
About 10% of Iceland is covered by glaciers. Thanks to the ongoing catastrophy of global warming, we Icelanders have noticed drastic changes in our poor glaciers. On of the more concerned individuals regarding this is the now retired physician Leifur Jonsson, who is seen in this report by National Geographic. The report does not contain, however, the story about when Leifur almost died on a glacier. In his younger years he got lost in a blizzard, skiied off cliffs and fell 900 feet into the crater of Grímsvötn, an active volcano underneath Icelands largest glacier Vatnajökull. Decades later, two people, also lost in a blizzard, accidentally drove off the same cliffs, as is reported here. The interesting part is that when they were brought to the Emergency Department of Landspitali-University Hospital in Reykjavik, the physician taking care of the was Leifur...
The revenue-neutral carbon tax: an idea whose time has come? The British Columbia government has just introduced a carbon tax, starting at $10/tonne in July 2008 and rising to $30/tonne in 2012. All revenues from the tax (close to $2 billion over three years) will be returned to taxpayers in the form of income tax cuts, reducing income and corporate taxes to the lowest levels in Canada. Details from the BC budget. Globe and Mail. [more inside]
Some time this month, French wine will once again be transported by sail. As the Guardian reports today, French vineyards concerned about climate change are about to make life much easier for oenophiles wishing to reduce their carbon footprint. Later this month, the Belem, a 19th century barque will sail from Languedoc to Dublin with 60,000 bottles of Bordeaux. [more inside]
A Solar Grand Plan: By 2050 solar power could end U.S. dependence on foreign oil and slash greenhouse gas emissions. [Via Gristmill.] [more inside]
Biofuels worsen global warming, according to two studies published in Science last week. Current US biofuel policies would double carbon emissions over the gasoline alternative. More details: ScienceExpress fulltext pdf of study #1, powerpoint summary of study #1, abstract of study #2, summary of both, policy recommendations pdf (via: 1, 2). [more inside]
In all its 55 year history, MAD magazine has been known much more for media satire than political satire... anything political was often camouflaged as a movie or TV parody and generally less partisan than most. (How can you take their politics seriously when they offered Alfred E. Neuman for President?) Another thing about MAD is how rarely it goes outside its "Usual Cast of Idiots" for content. Well, things have changed, as the MAD editors used 10 Pulitzer Prize Winning Op/Ed Cartoonists to illustrate the incendiarilly-titled “Why George W. Bush Is in Favor of Global Warming”. The usually web-shy MAD even allowed the New York Times to put most of the piece online in a slideshow. [more inside]
Thoreau was into it. Scientists are using it to understand climate change. When Project Budburst starts again on Febraury 15th, you can participate, too. [more inside]
"Intended to deepen our understanding of disputes over climate change and the human contribution to it," the new 'Climate Debate Daily' is brought to you by the folks who created the well-known 'Arts and Letters Daily'. Links to everything from scientific articles through PR releases down to blog entries, are arranged on the page in 'face-off' format, with pros and cons in side-by-side columns. If you want to keep on top of the debate on climate change, it seems that you'll find no better source of information anywhere ..
"So by this analysis dead-tree magazines have a smaller net carbon footprint than web media. We cut down trees and put them in the ground. From a climate change perspective, this is a good thing" explains Chris Anderson, Wired Magazine's editor-in-chief. While some decry this type of carbon footprint accounting as "cheating", the paper industry has lately been eager to convince the public that they are carbon-neutral.
2007 was a year of extreme weather records, and 2008 could be worse, for example an unrelenting southeast drought could be devastating. 2008 will also be Bush's last year, and as the evidence for global warming mounts, Bush's agenda appears to be greening. "If global warming turns out to be a defining issue of this generation, advisers said, Bush does not want to be remembered as a roadblock."
The dangers of living in a zero-sum world economy - naked capitalism reprints (with added commentary) an FT article by Martin Wolf on why it's vital for (civilised) society to sustain a 'positive-sum' world, otherwise: "A zero-sum economy leads, inevitably, to repression at home and plunder abroad." Wolf's solution? "The condition for success is successful investment in human ingenuity." Of course! Some are calling for more socialism, while others would press on to build more megaprojects. For me, at least part of the solution lies in environmental accounting and natural capitalism :P
The new UN Human Development Report is out. Lots of interesting stuff on climate change. But for me, nothing beats the Human Development Index, a number that means different things to different people.
The historically significant* "4th IPCC report on global warming" was published in full last weekend to wide publicity. Part 1 "The Science". Part 2 "The Impacts" and Part 3 "The Solutions" - each about a 1000 page 6 pound brick, but summaries make it accessible. Beyond its gloomy dire warnings and calls for immediate action, observed global measurements of CO2 levels are already worse than the worse case scenarios and some say the report is overly conservative and already outdated. However there is a surprising idea for "solving" climate change (TED) that may be inevitable.
CARMA, released today, is a map/database that shows the carbon emissions of more than 50,000 power plants and 4,000 power companies in every country on Earth, showing not only the worst but the best. Find out how much CO2 comes from electricity plants in a particular city, county, congressional district, company, town, ZIP code, or an individual plant.
300,000 people are stranded due to massive flooding in Tabasco, Mexico. More from UNICEF. Video from Reuters. [more inside]
So you've all heard about how global warming will lead to rising sea-levels, but what about falling freshwater levels? [more inside]