Monday, October 03, 2016

The time to act is now, and yes that means politics

This article published in Nature Climate Change last February has received scant attention, to the world's detriment.

Differences between carbon budget estimates unravelled

Joeri Rogelj,    Michiel Schaeffer,    Pierre Friedlingstein,    Nathan P. Gillett,    Detlef P. van Vuuren,    Keywan Riahi,    Myles Allen    & Reto Knutti

Nature Climate Change 6, 245–252 (2016) doi:10.1038/nclimate2868
The authors' state "Current CO2 emissions are about 40 GtCO2 yr−1, and global CO2 emissions thus have to be reduced urgently to keep within a 2°C-compatible budget."

Let me put these numbers in context. A ceiling of 590 GtCO2 will be reached in less than 590/40 years, that is June, 2031. That is pretty darn close.

Here are things that will make this deadline date move closer to us, most significant first:
- the Supreme Court ditches the Clean Power Plan (but at least that seems unlikely)
- the GOP retains control of both the House and the Senate and remains firmly opposed to additional measures reducing carbon emissions (unfortunately, this seems quite likely, although the Senate might flip for 2016-2018)
- weak adherence to the Paris accords

Here are things that we can do to make this deadline move further into the future:
- vote for progressive Democrats at the local, state, and federal level
- fight hard for redistricting to win back the House after the 2020 census
- start talking NOW with your friends about the importance of climate change as an issue
- give money to candidates who will make a difference and give until it hurts.

and this is probably the most important thing
- convince our legislators that decarbonizing the economy must be a priority in local and state spending for the foreseeable future.

I am assuming that each of us is doing what we can individually to make our family carbon footprint as small as possible, so take that to heart.

In my opinion, the politics of global warming is the battleground of the next decade. We should join with our brothers and sisters at Standing Rock and support their fight [1], and stand side by side with Bill McKibben [2]:

"If we’re going to have a chance of dealing with climate change, it means mobilizing in ways that we haven’t in a very long time. And one of the points of writing this first piece for the New Republic this year was to demonstrate that at least that was possible. If you go look at how America mobilized during World War II, the industrial might that we brought to bear, and then you do the calculations, it’s at the outside edge of possible that we could, in the short time that we have, build enough solar panels and wind turbines. But it’s going to take the same kind of focused effort."

"We literally can’t build anything else and stay within those limits—no Dakota pipeline, no new coal mines in Australia, none of the things that our political leaders—I mean, Justin Trudeau in Canada two days ago green-lighted a massive LNG project on the British Columbia coast. In the light of this new climate data, it’s completely clear that these things, we just can’t do. We can’t drain most of what’s in the fields that we’ve already got in production. But as that dwindles, we have to be replacing it, day by day, with renewable energy instead."

If the carbon lobby and its servants in the GOP can delay for the next decade, then we are doomed and will sail past the 2°C mark, past 3°C and beyond into a punishing hell of warming for those who survive our foolishness.

The time to act is now. #putapriceonit and #keepitintheground. Act now #orleg.

[1] Taking a Stand at Standing Rock, DAVID ARCHAMBAULT II. AUG. 24, 2016

[2] As Earth Reaches Frightening CO2 Milestone, Bill McKibben Calls for War on Climate Change, SEPTEMBER 30, 2016,

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Tamworth, New Hampshire

Jim has a few pictures from Tamworth, New Hampshire.
Just before sunrise

Walking by a brook in Wonalancet

Whiteface and Passaconaway

Lake Winnipesaukee from Castle in the Clouds

Crepuscular rays at sunset

Early morning light

Jim confronts a loon - not the denier type

At Heart Lake, near Lake Placid, NY.
It looks like Jim got pretty close to a loon at Heart Lake, in the middle of Adirondacks State Park in upstate New York.

He sent a few other pictures.
Sunset at Heart Lake after a storm
Just another sunset

Avalanche Lake and Lake Colden from summit of Algonquin

Miniature 'shroom in the alpine zone on Algonquin

Getting ready to hunt

Silhouette after the storm

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Onymous Guy looks into his crystal ball and is starting to get worried

Source: CAP
I have found it difficult to convince people who should know better that we are going to hit the carbon ceiling much sooner than most people think. [Don't take my word for it, see for example A lower limit for future climate emissions or Electricity emissions surge by 5.5% since removal of carbon price, if you are looking for evidence of a more immediate nature.

Here in Oregon, we pride ourselves on being ahead of the curve, using a lot of green energy (mostly salmon-killing hydro), and legislating moving away from coal (our per capita carbon footprint is still 15.1 Mg CO2e per capita, still much higher than the world average).

I spent the day yesterday in Salem at Willamette University's Clean Power Forum, where the head of the state Global Warming Commission and others spoke to mostly students and a few faculty like me. I was whelmed and underwhelmed, not overwhelmed.

Near the end, I said that I didn't think much of Oregon's climate targets, because they were so unambitious, that Secretary of State Kerry had said over a year ago that we needed to de-carbonize the economy by 2030, and what was being discussed (50% reduction by 2040) didn't look anything like that.

Source: The Guardian
There is an inadequate sense of urgency in these people - and these are activists and supporters!

A look into my crystal ball predicts that we have until 2031, perhaps 2035 before we hit the world-wide carbon ceiling, that warming in the El Nino cycles of the '30s will be so devastating that some rogue nation will start pumping SO2 into the atmosphere, and we will see the Paris accords start to unravel.

 I am not in a state of panic, nor despair, but...

[By an odd twist of fate, Salem was filled with smoke from nearby field burning - I am guessing that the Air Quality Index was in the upper 200s].

UPDATE: Maybe the geo-engineers will strike sooner, rather than later.

Friday, April 01, 2016

An unusual property of the integers

Source: Wikipedia
 How does one explain the age of Methuselah?

The meaning of Methuselah's age has engendered considerable speculation, but no widely accepted conclusions.

Interpretations of the Bible following Biblical literalism take Methuselah's 969 years to be 969 solar years. Some literalists suggest certain arguments for how this could be: early humans had a better diet, or a water vapor canopy protected the earth from radiation before the Flood.

Some believe that Methuselah's extreme age is the result of an ancient mistranslation that converted "months" to "years", producing a more credible 969 lunar months, or 78½ years, but the same calculation applied to Enoch would have him fathering Methuselah at the age of 5 using numbers from the Masoretic Text.

Such conundrums are unnecessary.

The reason is simple: Millenia ago, the integers were much closer together than they are now.

Not only does this explain the extreme age of Methuselah and others, the same logic can be used to solve other important riddles:

The age of the Earth

While scientists argue that physical evidence leads to the inevitable conclusion that the Universe is 13.7 billion years old, more or less, and the Earth itself is 4.54 billion years old, Biblical scholars and noted scientists such as Isaac Newton thought the Earth was created around 4000 BC. These are reconcilable if one assumes that, prior to the 6thday of Creation, the integers experienced something akin to the inflationary expansion of the early universe:
"The fact that O is between 0.1 and 1 today means that in the first second of the Big Bang it was precisely 1 to within 1 part in 10^{60}".

The value of π

Mathematicians argue that π possesses an infinite number of non-repeating decimals, 3.14159265358979...

[I use the mnemonic - attributed to Richard Tolman at Cal Tech -  "Yes, I need a drink, alcoholic of course, after the heavy sessions involving quantum mechanics" to remember π to 15 decmials as shown above.]

This could be interpreted as 3 plus a fraction that is small now and was smaller years ago - so small that in 1879 it was nearly legislated that the value of π was exactly 3.

The Easter Island statues 

It is well-known that the Rapa Nui people had erected large states, perhaps as large as 270 tons:
Moai are monolithic human figures carved by the Rapa Nui people on Easter Island in eastern Polynesia between the years 1250 and 1500 CE...
The production and transportation of the 887 statues are considered remarkable creative and physical feats.[5] The tallest moai erected, called Paro, was almost 10 metres (33 ft) high and weighed 82 tons; the heaviest erected was a shorter but squatter moai at Ahu Tongariki, weighing 86 tons; and one unfinished sculpture, if completed, would have been approximately 21 metres (69 ft) tall with a weight of about 270 tons.
Since the integers were much closer together 3600 years ago than they are today, the mass of such statues would have been much less, easily manipulated by the Rapa Nui, whose physical condition was surely improved by frequent canoeing over large expanses of open ocean [citation needed].

As one can see, there are an infinite number - surely a denumerable number - of similar problems easily resolved by applying the same reasoning.

I wish I could take credit for this, but I cannot. The inspired absurdity - the integers were once much closer together than they are today - is due to Peter Doan, now Associate Research Professor in the Hoffman groups at Northwestern.

Bravo, Signore Doan!

Please, before you reply or comment, note the date of this post.

Saturday, March 05, 2016

Mr. Big turns 30k, and yes, EVs really are cheap

Jim and his spouse bought an EV back in 2013, a 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV. Jim is not ordinarily a first-wave technology fan, but he was pretty sure the costs were low and it could be a very green choice. They had done research on EVs for two months before making their decision. This was the first Spark EV sold in Oregon.

Source Wikipedia
They called their car "Mr. Big", after the Rocky & Bullwinkle character, not the "Sex and the City" character. In spite of his small stature, Mr. Big cast a large shadow, and scared the bejeesus out of Boris and Natasha.

Mr. Big recharging at work.
Just like Rocky and Bullwinkle's character, the EV Mr. Big is diminutive (it is a small four door, four passenger car), but, according to Jim, he casts a large shadow that scares the bejeesus out of the carbon lobby ("The Kochs Are Plotting A Multimillion-Dollar Assault On Electric Vehicles").

I  asked Jim about what it's been like to own and drive an EV over the last three years. Here is what he reports.

  • The marginal cost of  operation is extremely low, $0.0936/mi (insurance, recharging, tires, car wash, maintenance)
  • Maintenance costs are very close to zero, aside from replacing the tires
  • Regenerative braking makes power use very efficient and brake wear almost non-existent. Mr. Big has been averaging 4.65 mi/kWh, much more than other EVs.
  • Recharging is amazingly cheap and easy. The recharging rate on a 110V line is about a net gain in range of 6 miles per hour of charging time. On a 240 V line, the rate is 13 miles of increased range per hour of charging time. Jim averages a fuel cost of about $0.018/mi. Gas even at $2/gal is at least five times that.
  • Use of renewable energy for the power source makes the lifetime carbon footprint of an EV much less than that of a similar conventional vehicle. The Union of Concerned Scientists estimates that "A 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV charged in zip code 97219 using an average energy mix for Oregon produces about as much global warming pollution as a gasoline vehicle getting 111 miles per gallon," emitting 62 g CO2e/km, (98 g CO2e/mi), about one fourth of the net emissions from an internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle of similar size. According to the US Energy Information Energy, Oregon has an average energy mix of about 349 lbs/ MWh. At Mr. Big's rate of energy consumption, this energy mix is  21 g CO2e/km (34 g CO2e/mi), so use of a green energy source reduces Mr. Big's lifetime carbon footprint to 41 g CO2e/km, (64 g CO2e/mi), one sixth of the emissions of an ICE. Those are total lifetime comparisons, not marginal comparisons.
  • Mr. Big has 10 CPUs!
  • Mr Big is very fun to drive, with great acceleration. Only another EV can pull away from a traffic light more quickly. And there is no traffic ticket for too fast an acceleration!
  • It is a great commuting car, excellent in the city, easy to park, and QUIET.
  • It is great for 95% of the driving that Jim and his spouse do, but...
  • Initial costs are substantial -73% of the projected 6 year total cost of $34,400 for Mr. Big (standard vehicle price, destination charge, paint and fabric protection, clear shield [protection against road debris], 6 yr warranty, less the federal tax credit, Clipper Creek charger).
  • The auto sales people will not tell you the bad news: you will probably not get a full tax credit of $7500. The $7500 federal tax credit is a non-refundable tax credit; that is, the credit is limited to the lesser of $7500 or the amount you paid in federal income taxes in the year of purchase. In Oregon in 2014, only the top 30% of income earners filing jointly would have qualified for the full amount of the federal tax credit. 
More Cons

  • Mr. Big has 10 CPUs! Since CPUs are known to fail, Jim and his spouse did the unthinkable - they bought the extended warranty, which added $2351 to the initial cost, and yes, Jim included that in his lifetime costs.
  • Electronic devices misbehave every now and then. Just once, and only that once, Jim was a few miles from home at the start of his 36 mile commute to work, when Mr. Big, who had started with a full 21 kWh charge battery pack,  reported that it had only two miles of range left! A very disappointed Jim drove Mr. Big back home. Jim is a chemist, so he knew that it was a first-year student exercise to figure how how much energy it took to vaporize a block of ice (Converting 1.00 g of ice at 0.00 °C to water vapor at 100.00 °C requires 3.01 kJ of energy). A complete discharge of the 21 kWh battery would have been enough energy to vaporize a 25 kg block of ice, and Jim had witnessed no such event. The next day at the dealer, a scan of the on-board CPUs revealed no errors, so it was a momentary glitch.
  • The standard portable recharging unit from the manufacturer failed two times in the first 10,000 miles, so Jim bought his own from Clipper Creek. It has worked flawlessly over the last 20,000 miles (and yes, Jim included that in his lifetime costs).
  • Mr. Big is a white car. White cars need frequent washing, especially in the rainy season in Oregon. Jim has spent more washing Mr. Big (at places that re-use their wash water, of course) than he has spent on maintenance.
  • The range really is limited, and you will get stuck if you exceed it. Jim scared his spouse once, but just that once, by driving Mr. Big on a long trip through the wine country, and they made it home with one mile of range left. Jim pointed out that they had in fact made it home, but that argument did not carry the day,
The bottom line: Leasing an EV is now inexpensive, as low as $200/month. These are great commuting cars. If most people knew how little maintenance an EV required, they would demand more EVs.

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Oregon makes historic move away from coal - thank your legislators

Oregon's legislature has become the first state in the USA to mandate a transition away from coal. The pressure on the governor to not sign it will be all from the right.

Is it enough? Probably not, but it is an important step in the right direction.

Be sure to thank all of your legislators, as well as Speaker of the House Tina Kotek, House Majority Leader Jennifer Williamson, Senate Majority Leader Ginny Burdick, and Senate President Peter Courtney.

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Time to act: Transition from coal bill nears a vote

Jim has been devoting a lot of time to this piece of legislation. ThinkProgress has a nice summary.

The Oregonian, the state's largest newspaper, is not happy about any of this. Nick had a very good letter published: 

The Oregonian was quick to trumpet the words of John Savage and others on the Public Utility Commission (PUC), a committee of unelected bureaucrats who oversee Oregon utilities. The PUC has a history of refusing to support clean energy; its objections to the Clean Electricity and Coal Transition Plan are just more of the same. Part of the reason we need this legislation in the first place is that the PUC has failed to push utilities toward renewables. One case in point: In 2010, the PUC decided Portland General Electric's Boardman coal plant could continue polluting until 2020, despite immense public support for a speedier cleanup. Now members are incensed because Oregon's elected legislators have the temerity to go where the PUC won't. Sorry, but that's democracy. Oregonians are ready for clean energy even if the PUC isn't.

More pro-coal editorials drove Jim over the edge; he submitted this letter Sunday, but he doesn't think it will be published. Too bad. I think it is pretty funny.

To the editor:

The continuous pro-coal cacophony from the Oregonian Editorial Board (“Oregon's no-coal 'accounting scheme' and its phantom benefits”,”Kate Brown doubles down on muzzling of no-coal plan critics”) is NOT as mysterious as the nocturnal shrieking in Forest Grove.Surely, it is just like the shrieking of the Koch brothers, ALEC, and their allies. They can no longer claim that global warming doesn’t exist. So their argument became that global warming is too large a problem for us to deal with at the state level. But seventy percent of Oregonians think we should be doing something about it now.

Support for legislation moving Oregon away from burning coal is so strong that even the public utilities support it. But not the Oregonian Editorial Board.

So the new argument is that someone else is going to burn that coal. Just like someone else is going to buy that ivory. Someone else is going to eat that dolphin. Someone else is going to buy that DDT. So WE must keep burning coal because someone else will too. Ridiculous.

Global warming is real, it is a serious problem that requires the efforts of everyone including the OEB, and continued burning of coal is not commensurate with keeping our planet below 2°C of warming.

The time to act is now. We need to transition Oregon away from relying on electricity from coal. We must act and convince other states to do the same.


This bill is nearing a vote in the Oregon House and will probably go to the Oregon Senate for a vote tomorrow or Thursday. If you are an Oregon resident, please contact your state senator and urge them to support Senate Bill 1547.

You can find your state legislators here.

UPDATES: 11:15 AM. Debate in the House is finishing now. I'm watching online.
It just passed the House. House Republicans are now caucusing in the back of the chamber.

13:30  Here are the votes:first, an attempt to substitute the minority measure; second, the bill itself.

Motion to substitute Minority Report for Committee Report failed.Ayes, 24; Nays, 34--Barker, Barnhart, Barton, Boone, Buckley, Clem, Doherty, Evans, Fagan, Frederick, Gallegos, Gomberg, Gorsek, Greenlick, Helm, Holvey, Hoyle, Keny-Guyer, Komp, Lininger, Lively, McLain, Nathanson, Nosse, Piluso, Rayfield, Read, Reardon, Smith Warner, Taylor, Vega Pederson, Williamson, Witt, Speaker Kotek; Excused, 2--McKeown, Nearman. 

 Third reading. Carried by Vega Pederson. Passed.Ayes, 38; Nays, 20--Barreto, Bentz, Davis, Esquivel, Hack, Hayden, Heard, Kennemer, Krieger, McLane, Olson, Parrish, Post, Smith, Sprenger, Stark, Weidner, Whisnant, Whitsett, Wilson; Excused, 2--McKeown, Nearman.

UPDATE March 2. Senate was scheduled to meet at 08:30. Finally there is a quorum at 13:00.