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Tilley's Track

by Prof Allen Tilley |

Disclaimer: the material in this section is not necessarily the policy of the Sierra Club. The referenced materials are the responsibility of the publishers/writers and Mr. Tilley’s analysis is intended to provoke thought and action, but not necessarily endorsed or held as policy by the Sierra Club.

About Allen Tilley

To receive these items in your email, please join the listserv called the Global Warming Study Group: GWSG lists.unf.edu/mailman/listinfo/gwsg   


Sent 9/2

1.  A new study concludes that the chances for a thirty year megadrought in the Southwest is 50%, and the chance for a dust-bowl like ten year drought is 80%.  The severity may increase as the temperature rises.  http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-california-megadrought-forecast-20140829-story.html

2.  In California, agriculture consumes 2/3 of the water.  Farmers facing water shortage are letting land lie fallow and even destroying fruit trees to allow them to use the water elsewhere.  http://www.nbclosangeles.com/news/california/California-Drought-Threatens-Nations-Most-Productive-Farming-Valley-273339641.html

3.  In Central America, as many as 2.8 million people are going hungry due to drought, according to a UN report.  http://in.reuters.com/article/2014/08/30/central-america-drought-idINKBN0GU00320140830

4.  1961’s science fiction film The Day the Earth Caught Fire may have thought it was about nuclear war, but a recent audience perceived it in more contemporary terms.  http://www.theguardian.com/environment/blog/2014/sep/01/doomed-earth-science-fiction-climate-reality  (38° C is 100.4° F.)

5.  Cool Planet has established a modest business in biochar (treated in a proprietary process), which enhances soil fertility and water retention while sequestering carbon.  The market may grow.  http://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2014/sep/02/cool-planet-biochar-charcoal-biomass-energy-gasoline-soil-fertilization

6.  Climate scientists are professionally dedicated to dispassionate judgment.  An Australian has established a blog to let them tell us how they feel about what they study.  Generally, they are pretty worried, but not hopeless.  The first letter imagines us achieving a sustainable way of living and others urge us to try.  http://isthishowyoufeel.weebly.com/ 


Sent 8/29

1.   China’s use of coal is declining and may have peaked.  http://cleantechnica.com/2014/08/26/chinas-coal-consumption-finally-decreased/?utm_source=Cleantechnica+News&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=60bcdac191-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_term=0_b9b83ee7eb-60bcdac191-331994013

2.  President Obama is working toward an international climate accord which would be “politically binding” but would sidestep a senate treaty vote, where Republican obstruction makes a 2/3 vote for any significant climate treaty unlikely.  The accord is intended for the Paris talks next year.  http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/27/us/politics/obama-pursuing-climate-accord-in-lieu-of-treaty.html?emc=edit_th_20140827&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=43628374&_r=0

3.  Concentrated solar power is causing the deaths of birds.  So much has been made of this in the press that I thought it worth passing on this piece about how many birds are lost to other power sources, and to cats.  We may imagine for ourselves how many birds would be lost if we did not develop renewable power. I wish that all power sources could be rendered innocuous, but I am angered by attempts to use the deaths of birds as a disingenuous propaganda issue.  This line of attack on wind and solar power is not new, and neither is the response, though it gets less coverage.  http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2014/08/25/3475348/bird-death-comparison-chart/?elq=~~eloqua..type--emailfield..syntax--recipientid~~&elqCampaignId=~~eloqua..type--campaign..campaignid--0..fieldname--id~~ 

Here’s an article about the impact of climate disruption and other human interventions on birds in the North Atlantic. http://www.environmentalhealthnews.org/ehs/news/2014/aug/wingedwarnings3empty-nests-of-the-north  Finally, and beyond the propaganda, we should do what we can to protect birds from concentrated solar plants.  The linked article describes the problems and some suggested mitigating practices.  http://www.climatecentral.org/news/can-birds-be-protected-from-solar-plants-17943

4.  Al Jazeera supplies an overview of the need for and development of utility-scale batteries.  http://america.aljazeera.com/watch/shows/real-money-with-alivelshi/articles/2014/8/25/the-new-face-of-electricity.html

5.  Avoided health costs can make up for or surpass the cost of carbon reduction policies.  http://newsoffice.mit.edu/2014/cutting-carbon-health-care-savings-0824

6.  A new process for manufacturing silicon solar panels does it 100 times faster and at half the cost of current methods.  The panels are over 20% efficient and could bring the installed price of rooftop solar under $1 per watt.  The method is in the pilot manufacturing phase and Crystal Solar is looking for a plant site in the US. http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2014/08/researchers-develop-faster-cheaper-way-to-make-solar-cells?cmpid=WNL-Friday-August29-2014

7.  Libertarian ideology is inherently at war with science—that is to say, it is inherently prone to willful and dangerous ignorance.  http://www.theguardian.com/science/blog/2014/aug/29/libertarian-ideology-natural-enemy-science 


Sent 8/23

1.  The lead in conventional auto batteries is usually harvested for new batteries.  As lithium ion batteries become more popular the lead has nowhere to go.  An MIT proposal would use it to produce cheap solar cells.  When they expire the lead could be harvested for the next cells.  http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2014/08/recycling-old-batteries-into-solar-cells?cmpid=WNL-Wednesday-August20-2014

2.  Yale Climate Connections has launched a series of 90 second spots on climate issues to be broadcast on 38 NPR stations and elsewhere.  http://climatecrocks.com/2014/08/21/yale-climate-connections-launches-new-climate-series-on-npr-stations/

3.  Ice loss from the Greenland Ice Sheet has doubled since 2009.  Thanks to Tom Larson for the lead.  http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-28852980    In 1996 the loss was about 96 cubic kilometers.  The current loss rate is about 375 cubic kilometers a year, said to be twice the rate of 2009.  Based on that information the mass loss approximately doubled in the thirteen years between 1996 and 2009, and then doubled again in the past five years (though there is variation from year to year).  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greenland_ice_sheet  In the past five years mass loss from the West Antarctic has tripled.    http://www.dw.de/greenland-ice-melting-at-record-speed/a-17869513  Mass loss in the polar ice sheets appears to be accelerating.  The 2007 James Hansen article mentioned in Wikipedia observes that a relatively rapid, nonlinear ice sheet disintegration best fits the historical record—in fact, that straight linear melting does not appear.

4.   Peter Sinclair, just back from Greenland on the Dark Snow project, discusses the new mass loss figures in an eight minute interview.  http://climatecrocks.com/2014/08/22/the-realnews-interview-greenland-and-sea-level-rise/

5.  A U of Washington study published in Science uses data from the Argo float system to argue that warm saltwater subduction in the North Atlantic has been sequestering much of the additional global heat in recent years.  Historical patterns suggest that process will end in about a decade, and atmospheric heating will increase more rapidly.  http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/oceans-hid-the-heat-and-slowed-pace-of-global-warming/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+sciam%2Ftopic%2Fglobal-warming-and-climate-change+%28Topic%3A+Global+Warming%29

6.  In “The Climate Swerve” Robert Jay Lifton draws a parallel between the change of consciousness which saw an end to the nuclear arms race and a change he sees in our willingness to trade the future for our financial gain from fossil fuels.  http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/24/opinion/sunday/the-climate-swerve.html?emc=edit_tnt_20140823&nlid=43628374&tntemail0=y&_r=0  I argue in Plots of Time (1995) that a growing ability to tolerate the presence of the other underlies the changes in our slavery practices, the treatment and status of women and children, the spread of democracy, and the appearance of telepathy in the late Eighteenth Century.  I am willing to see the same dynamic in our growing awareness of and sensitivity to what we are doing to current and future life forms on earth with our disruption of the climate. 


Sent 8/19



1.  A review of research published in the Public Library of Science shows five emerging trends in studies of climate change ecology.  http://blogs.plos.org/blog/2014/08/12/ecologists-worried-right-now-5-emerging-trends-climate-change-ecology/

2.  A new polymer absorbs CO2 under the conditions for producing hydrogen in an IGCC and then releases it, perhaps for sequestration.  It has the potential to render hydrogen a sustainable power source, assuming that satisfactory storage can be devised for the CO2.  http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/08/140810124200.htm?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+sciencedaily+%28Latest+Science+News+--+ScienceDaily%29


3.  A 3,000 megawatt wind farm in Wyoming awaits federal environmental approval.  None of the power will remain in Wyoming, which uses primarily coal, unless the EPA rules can overcome ALEC and other fossil fuel interests in the state.  http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2014/08/11/3469826/wind-farm-wyoming-carbon-county/?elq=~~eloqua..type--emailfield..syntax--recipientid~~&elqCampaignId=~~eloqua..type--campaign..campaignid--0..fieldname--id~~


4.  22% of the world’s power came from renewable sources in 2013, an increase of 8% over 2012.  Over 144 countries have renewable energy targets, and 138 have support policies for that energy.  http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2014/08/global-renewable-energy-status-uncovered?cmpid=WNL-Friday-August15-2014 


Wave and tidal power are proving more expensive than forecast and are growing slowly than other renewable sources.  http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-08-14/wave-and-tidal-power-costing-more-than-forecast.html


5.  A booming market in solar panels has reversed the glut of recent years.  Production may lag demand for the first time in eight years, though new production is planned and may pace demand.  Prices are not expected to rise since the increasing demand is based partly on the declining cost of solar power.   http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-08-18/solar-boom-driving-first-global-panel-shortage-since-2006.html


6.  The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s Order 1000 requires regional grid planning which takes renewable portfolio standards into account and otherwise paves the way for a transition to renewable power.  It has been fought in the courts by utilities and other interests but has now been affirmed by the US Court of Appeals.  The next step for the enemies would be the Supreme Court.  The Southeast and West are the regions most likely to see changes from Order 1000.  http://www.sustainablebusiness.com/index.cfm/go/news.display/id/25870


7.  A report by the Department of Energy and the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab calculates the current cost of wind energy at 2.5 cents/kilowatt hour, an all-time low more remarkable because recent projects have often been in less favorable areas.  http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/Price-of-US-Wind-Power-at-All-Time-Low-of-2.5-Cents-Per-Kilowatt-Hour?utm_source=Daily&utm_medium=Headline&utm_campaign=GTMDaily

Sent 8/11


1. Biomass burning accounts for 18% of carbon emissions, far more than we had thought, and for 5-10% of mortalities from air pollution.  http://news.mongabay.com/2014/0805-hance-biomass-burning-impacts.html.


2. Glint Photonics has developed a system which traps and concentrates solar energy from the changing angles of the day, greatly simplifying the need for tracking technologies.  It has the potential to reduce the cost of concentrated solar energy to $.04/kilowatt hour.  The technology is not yet commercial.  http://www.technologyreview.com/news/529476/adaptive-material-could-cut-the-cost-of-solar-in-half/?utm_campaign=newsletters&utm_source=newsletter-weekly-energy&utm_medium=email&utm_content=20140804    The concentrated solar power industry is in something of a tailspin because it cannot compete with solar panels (or gas) in cost.  Glint’s news should help it recover, if commercialization works as well as promised.  http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/Areva-Abandons-Solar-and-Shutters-Its-Ausra-Concentrated-Solar-Effort?utm_source=Daily&utm_medium=Headline&utm_campaign=GTMDaily


3. Startup company Semprius has found a way to stack collectors of a range of solar frequencies so as to increase efficiency to 50%.  The technique has the potential to decrease the cost and the footprint of pv solar power.  The company estimates that the cost would drop to below $.05/kWh—making it competitive with Glint’s concentrating solar technology above.  http://www.technologyreview.com/news/529651/stacking-cells-could-make-solar-as-cheap-as-natural-gas/?utm_campaign=newsletters&utm_source=newsletter-weekly-energy&utm_medium=email&utm_content=20140811


4. As photovoltaic power prices continue to drop, utilities have worked to keep people from using it in several states.  http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-no-solar-20140810-story.html#page=1


5. The Environmental and Energy Study Institute has summarized a selection of recent government publications on climate.  Topics include health vulnerability, defense, and extreme heat events.  A selection of forthcoming publications is also provided.  http://www.eesi.org/papers/view/summarizing-recent-governmental-climate-change-publications


6. While Broward County municipalities have adopted the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact’s Climate Action Plan, local governments in the other three Compact counties have not.  The linked article emphasizes the resistance to action in Southeast Florida and sketches the near-term challenges the region faces from sea level rise.  http://www.eenews.net/stories/1060004241 


The Compact’s web site, with a link to the plan:  http://southeastfloridaclimatecompact.org/

7. In a U of WA study on the behavior of plants as temperatures rise, 60% of plant species generally and occasionally all plants in a habitat moved down slope, perhaps in response to changing precipitation patterns, rather than moving higher to cooler temperatures as was expected.   Planning for conservation in a changing climate asks for careful analysis of specific environments.  http://news.sciencemag.org/climate/2014/08/plants-have-unexpected-response-climate-change


8. An article in Nature Climate Change observes that the climate impact of the Keystone XL pipeline has been greatly underestimated because the pipeline would reduce the cost of oil and therefore increase consumption.  http://www.ctvnews.ca/business/keystone-climate-impact-could-be-4-times-u-s-state-dept-estimate-study-says-1.1953616



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