PR for climate science, both due to unfortunate errors made by scientists and (okay, mostly) a well-funded noise machine intent on preserving the status quo at any cost. So how can climate scientists dig themselves out of the negative publicity trench and help reeducate the public on the dangers of climate change? The answer's not debating skeptics on TV, that's for sure. So would a full-on national media blitz by Obama's Nobel Prize winning science team--Stephen Chu and John Holdren--help do the trick?
That's what Climate Progress's Joe Romm suggests, after taking advice from a recent editorial in the scientific journal Nature.
Here's an excerpt from the Nature article (subscription required), entitled Climate of Fear (via CP): The integrity of climate research has taken a very public battering in recent months. Scientists must now emphasize the science, while acknowledging that they are in a street fight.
Climate scientists are on the defensive, knocked off balance by a re-energized community of global-warming deniers who, by dominating the media agenda, are sowing doubts about the fundamental science. Most researchers find themselves completely out of their league in this kind of battle because it's only superficially about the science. The real goal is to stoke the angry fires of talk radio, cable news, the blogosphere and the like, all of which feed off of contrarian story lines and seldom make the time to assess facts and weigh evidence. Civility, honesty, fact and perspective are irrelevant.
And all that is exactly why it's all but futile for a climate scientist to go on TV to attempt to refute anti-science misinformation. So what to do? Scientists, who were never trained for and therefore aren't particularly adept at "street fights" aren't the ideal candidates to get in the ring. But scientists, despite the recent deluge of bad PR regarding climate, remain more trusted than almost any other group in relaying information to the people--and rightly so. When I write about a scientific report, for instance, the skeptical are apt to write me off because of my involvement in the media and my 'liberal bias'.
So here's what Romm suggests:
"I urge the administration to send science advisor Holdren and NOAA Administrator Lubchenco and Energy Secretary Chu on a media blitz and national tour to explain and emphasize the science ... Launch a cross-country tour and media blitz with the science advisor and NOAA Administrator. They should be joined by local scientists and, whenever possible, our energy secretary. When you are in a street fight, you want to bring your biggest guns.
What do you think? Could a media blitz from our nation's top-ranking scientists help quell the onslaught of denier misinformation being peddled in outlets like Fox?
Saturday, March 13, 2010
Thursday, March 11, 2010
Ocean levels are rising around the globe, so rather than tethering our buildings to the sinking shoreline why not suit them for a life at sea? That’s the approach behind the Water-Scraper, a futuristic self-sufficient floating city. A special mention in this year’s eVolo Skyscraper Competition, the design expands the concept of a floating island into a full-fledged underwater skyscraper that harvests renewable energy and grows its own food.Touted as a self-sufficent floating city, Sarly Adre Bin Sarkum’s Water-Scraper utilizes a variety of green technologies. It generates its own electricity using wave, wind, and solar power and it produces its own food through farming, aquaculture, and hydroponic techniques. The surface of the submerged skyscraper sustains a small forest, while the lower levels contain spaces for its inhabitants to live and work. The building is kept upright using a system of ballasts aided by a set of squid-like tentacles that generate kinetic energy.
Take a huge oceanic catamaran, stick a hydroelectric turbine underneath it, and hitch it to a 6.5 million-square-foot parafoil flying nearly a mile in the air. That’s a Korean research team’s new proposal for generating gigawatts of clean energy.
As the parafoil pulls the boat, seawater would be forced through the turbine, which generates electricity. The 800 megawatts of electricity produced would separate seawater into hydrogen and oxygen by electrolysis, and the hydrogen would then be stored on-board the ships.
The new system is a remarkable, if a bit wacky, synthesis of different lines of new energy R&D. Park and Kim rightly note that parafoils — large industrial-strength kites — are now used by the German company Skysails to reduce the fuel consumption of ocean-going vessels by up to 35 percent.
High-altitude wind power using similar parafoils has received increasing attention from entrepreneurs and green tech backers like Google.org because the higher you go, the better and steadier the winds are.
And small groups have been working on hydroelectric generators mounted to sailboats.
But it’s fair to say that though the system is largely a recombination of things that are on the cusp of feasibility, nothing even remotely similar has been tried, or even suggested, by anyone. As such, the components such a plant would need are not currently manufactured. For example, the largest commercially available parafoil has an area of just 6,835 square feet, or about 945 times smaller than the wing the researchers propose.
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
When it comes to going green, image counts for a lot. You may have just outfitted your entire house with solar panels, but order up one diet soda to go with your sprout-topped double veggie burger, and all of a sudden your eco-conscious friends think you're a junk food-loving slob. I'm hyperbolizing of course, but it does call to mind the paradoxical (yet all-too-common) image of the weight-conscious American hitting up the drive-thru: I'll take a double cheeseburger, large fry, and a Diet Coke, please! That's probably why my environmental consultant friend apologizes every time we lunch and she orders up a diet pop, as she calls it. She knows it looks bad, but like you, she just can't help herself.
I'm not one to harshly judge such eco-vices; even the most dedicated environmentalists among us have at least one (mine: Pantene conditioner), and an occasional indulgence in a diet soda isn't likely to break the global warming bank. But if you're drinking at least one a day, you might be surprised to know that there are some interesting environmental ramifications for your beloved beverage -- aside from the already well-publicized negative ones regarding your health, like increased risk of weight gain and a decline in kidney function.
While the arguments below may also apply to other beverages packaged in bottles and cans (e.g., regular soda and bottled water), let's, for argument's sake, give exhibit A -- Diet Coke -- a thorough eco-examination.
The aspartame: Likely genetically modified, since it's made using a fermentation process involving corn and soy, two of the biggest GM crops. Switching to regular Coke won't get you off the hook, either (at least not in the United States), since the sweetener used -- high fructose corn syrup -- is made from genetically altered corn. Think you're only polluting your own body? A study last year by German researchers found that artificial sweeteners may be contaminating our drinking water, since sewage treatment plants don't seem to be effective at removing them from waste water.
The plastic bottle: Twenty-five percent recycled polyethylene terephthalate (PET), 75 percent good old-fashioned fossil fuel-based plastic. The bottled water industry gets a bad rap (deservedly so) for the 17 million barrels of oil a year used to produce its plastic bottles, but let's not forget that your 20-ouncer of DC is packaged exactly the same way. Or that Coca-Cola also owns Dasani.
The glass bottle: Super cool looking, not so cool for the environment: Retro-style Diet Coke has twice the carbon footprint of Diet Coke in the can, thanks to heavier transportation loads (read: more fuel). And although glass containers are infinitely recyclable, US consumers recycle only about a quarter of them.
The can: Made from half virgin aluminum -- an abundant resource that unfortunately is environmentally destructive to mine: The aluminum industry uses as much electricity as the entire continent of Africa, and a ton of toxic chemicals is left behind for every ton of the metal produced.
The can lining: Contains packaging additive bisphenol A (BPA), a toxic chemical that's been linked to cancer, sexual development abnormalities, and heart disease, among other serious health conditions. A Health Canada study last year found BPA levels in soda to be below what's been deemed a "safe limit," but other studies have found even extremely low doses of the chemical to spur cancer cell growth in test animals.
The water: Comprises 99 percent of a Diet Coke -- a fact Coca-Cola has touted in its advertising, perhaps to take advantage of the eight-glass-a-day hydration craze. But all that water has to come from somewhere, and the company has taken heat in recent years for continuing its bottling operations in areas afflicted by severe water shortages, most notably in drought-stricken India.
Bringing it to you: And of course, you can't forget the energy cost -- and associated greenhouse gas emissions -- of manufacturing, distribution, and refrigeration. In its 2008 Corporate Responsibility Review, Coca-Cola UK determined that the equipment used in retail outlets to refrigerate its drinks accounted for over 70 percent of the company's carbon emissions.
While a daily Diet Coke may seem small as sustainability sins go, curbing consumption could have a collectively large impact when you consider that 59 percent of Americans drink diet soda. Can't beat the fake thing? Reduce packaging waste by only treating yourself to a fountain-dispensed glass of diet pop at a restaurant, or consider a home soda maker like one from Sodastream. How's that for (artificially) sweet success?
At last year's Copenhagen climate conference, many developed countries had hoped the Kyoto Protocol, which only requires emissions cuts of rich countries, would be replaced with an accord that also makes demands on developing nations.
Instead, the U.S., EU, Brazil, South Africa, India and China brokered a deal requiring poor countries to propose voluntary actions. Rich countries also vowed to provide $30 billion in emergency climate aid to poor nations in the next three years, and set a goal of eventually channeling $100 billion a year to them by 2020.
Xie said China hoped developed countries would be able to work out the sizes of their own contributions to emergency climate aid by the end of the year.
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
It has come to the attention to the Facebook staff that there is an email/message being sent to almost everyone who is a member of Facebook that contains a virus. If you receive a message, DO NOT open it; it will come as a video off of Youtube. If you click the link, the virus instantly begins downloading and attacking your PC. The virus has been identified as a "Koobface" virus, or to hackers as the "Computer Zombie". If the virus is downloaded into your PC, you are risking not only loosing all of your files and personal information but the chance of never being able to use your computer again.
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Comparing the call to create "green jobs" to former President John F. Kennedy's call for landing a man on the Moon, Gillibrand said at a forum that the nation needs to act in order to inspire the next generation of scientists.
"Green jobs" are those in industries that promote environmental protection and energy independence, like energy efficiency, renewable energy and smart energy. With millions of Americans unemployed and global warming threatening the globe, the burgeoning field of green technology could be the nation's next great job creation vehicle.
It's the "moral, political and economic challenge of our time," said Jones, former special adviser for Green Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation at the White House Council on Environmental Quality. Jones said that creating new jobs in green industries would combat both global warming and the recession.
Jones was http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/09/06/glenn-beck-gets-first-sca_n_278281.html
forced out of the White House in September after conservatives, led by Fox News Channel host Glenn Beck, launched an attack on his background in radical activism.
While the U.S. dithers, other countries are aggressively moving ahead. Gillibrand noted that China invested $440 billion last year in green technology such as solar panels.
Gillibrand said that she'd like to see the nation be "energy independent in a decade," adding that it's a "call to action I'd like to see this President give us."
Jones said that government policy needs to favor problem solvers like green entrepreneurs rather than problem makers like the oil and coal industries. But Gillibrand pointed out that the Senate is not full of progressives clamoring for change. Moderation is needed, she said. The big ideas like the ones that powered the Obama campaign are "not a reality" from a legislative or political perspective, Gillibrand said. Obama himself is "already pushing towards moderation," she noted in a reference to the president's embrace of nuclear technology, traditionally a Republican cause.
"There was a sweeping election in 2008, but there wasn't a sweeping movement in 2008," said Erica Payne, founder of the Agenda Project, the progressive advocacy organization that hosted Monday's forum. A movement needs a combination of ideas, messages and leaders, Payne said. All three are needed in large supply, she added.
To get the country to fully embrace the green technology movement, Obama needs to give a "shoot-for-the-moon speech," Gillibrand said. "And he has to do it now."
Monday, March 8, 2010
The figure, which did not include power generated in its windy Panhandle region, is expected to increase significantly in the coming years as the state plans to invest nearly $5bn on increasing the number of transmission lines in the state supporting new wind farms.
Currently on windy days the state has to slow or shut down its turbines in West Texas, which are responsible for about 89 per cent of its wind capacity, because of a lack of transmission lines.
The construction of additional transmission lines is expected to resolve the problem and significantly increase the state's use of wind energy, but the project is currently bogged down in the courts following a series of legal challenges.
A 2008 Department of Energy report indicated that, if the country is to succeed in hitting its target of generating 20 per cent of its energy via renewable sources by 2030, it would need to invest heavily in new transmission lines.
In related news, Hawaii has moved forward with plans to establish the state as a renewable energy hub after developer Kahuku Wind Power last week secured a $117m loan guarantee from the Department of Energy for a planned 30MW wind farm on the island of Oahu.
The Kahuku wind farm, which will be built by First Wind Holdings, is expected to be based on 12 turbines, producing 2.5 megawatts each and providing enough power in total to power 7,700 homes.
Unlike other large wind installations, a battery storage system will also be introduced to make electricity delivery to the Hawaiian Electric Company more consistent and to stabilise the energy load.
The facility is considered an ideal test case for the new energy storage approach as each island has its own self-contained energy grid. The cons truction process is anticipated to create 200 jobs and the finished plant will require between six and 10 permanent staff to operate it.
Hawaii is fast emerging as a leading player in the US renewable energy sector after the state government announced plans to produce 70 per cent of its energy from low-carbon sources within 20 years.
A prototype gets a real-world tryout after the opening this week of an eco-friendly research building in Syracuse. Researchers at CASE – a collaborative research group involving Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy and the international architecture firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill – call it a step toward exploiting the huge but largely untapped "green" resource of building exteriors.
"The reason we're interested in windows is because they have the largest surface areas, typically, in buildings – especially in tall, urban buildings," said Dyson, a professor of architecture at RPI. "We have a lot of vertical surface area to work with to really generate a lot of power." In contrast to typical flat solar panels, CASE's system is designed to do several things.
Each clear pyramid – with facets less than a foot square – has a lens to focus sunlight onto a tiny solar cell. The concentrated cells are designed to be more efficient in generating energy than traditional cells. And the pyramid modules rotate to track the sun. Pumped water keeps the solar cells cool to maximize efficiency. The cooling water also "captures" that waste heat for other uses, such as hot water or radiant heat for the building.
The pattern of pyramids also would deflect and diffuse the sun's rays, meaning office workers with eastern exposures could work in natural light all morning instead of drawing the blinds against the glare. Windows will still provide a view, albeit one obstructed a bit where the patterns of pyramids are placed.
The technology behind concentrating the sun's energy through a lens is not new, nor is the concept of placing solar cells on the side of a building. But the integration of all these ideas to perform multiple tasks in this way is novel.
Dyson notes that a building's biggest energy suckers are usually cooling, heating and lighting. This system would tackle all three, whether it's extracting maximum solar power in New York City or deflecting and diffusing sunlight in Phoenix. Jason Vollen, an RPI architecture professor at CASE, said their integrated system squeezes every bit of usability out of the system.
The prototype, one of many green features of the state-of-the-art building, is an 8-by-8-foot panel and will become fully operational sometime after the building is dedicated Friday. A second, portable prototype will be generating energy earlier.
The problem? The Obama administration won't disclose the risk involved with any of the proposed reactors it's considering for loan guarantees. Credit subsidy rates are confidential business issues, says Jonathan Silver, head of the DOE's loan guarantee program. Another senior administration official confirms that the subsidy rate is "not a number that's being given out" and is "different for every single project." The official will not even disclose the range of rates assigned to the plants under consideration for the program. Last month, the Obama administration offered the first loan guarantee of $8.3 billion to build two new reactors at the Vogtle plant in Georgia. It won't say how much Southern Company, the utility that owns the plant, will be required to set aside in order to receive the loan—or whether the government has calculated a figure at all.
In a report in the news service Climatewire last November, industry sources described tensions between the Office of Management and Budget and Department of Energy concerning how much money companies should be required to pony up if they want access to a taxpayer-guaranteed loan. The nuclear industry, backed by the DOE, argued for 1 to 2 percent of the total loan; the analysts at OMB reportedly pushed for something in the 2 to 4 percent range. (Obama administration officials dispute this account of agency infighting.) Nuclear critics say that even a 4 percent contribution wouldn’t come close to protecting taxpayers in the event of a loan default, and that companies should have to pony up a larger sum upfront. The 2003 CBO study recommended a 30 percent subsidy rate to cover the risk that a project would go under.
In addition to being cagey about the risks involved with reactor projects, the administration has also been working hard to discredit the CBO’s 2003 prediction that the default risk on loan guarantees is 50 percent or more. DOE's Silver called concern over that study "much ado about nothing." That report, he said, "was a hypothetical for a non-existent plant with a hypothetical set of conditionalities around it." The Vogtle plant, he argues, is a "real project with real power purchase agreements in place, real sums of money being required."
It’s true that the CBO study is several years old. But critics of the administration’s nuclear policy say that no one has yet offered a better analysis of the risks. "Nothing has happened in the nuclear industry since 2003 that has proved that study to be incorrect," says Peter Bradford, a Nuclear Regulatory Commissioner from 1977 to 1982 and now a professor at the Vermont School of Law. "The Obama administration hasn’t a clue what the current realities are, and neither does anybody else, because nobody [in the US] has built these plants in three decades."
The administration also dismisses concerns about the rising price estimates for nuclear reactors. "I don’t think there’s that much uncertainty about what it’s going to cost to build," says the senior administration official. Yet the red flags surrounding nuclear construction are numerous.
No one has broken ground on a new reactor in the US for thirty years, because costs for the first generation of nuclear plants spiraled out of control. The industry claims it has fixed the problems that led to those massive cost blowouts. Areva, the French nuclear giant, is building what it calls the flagship of a new generation of reactors in Finland. That project hit a wall last year after the anticipated price tag leapt by more 50 percent. Areva now refuses to even give an estimate of when the plant will be completed.
In the US, several proposed plants have run into trouble before they’ve even made it off the drawing board. Of the 26 applications for new reactors submitted to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for approval in the past three years, nine have been canceled and 10 have been significantly delayed. Last month, one of the top candidates for a loan guarantee—a proposed plant in San Antonio—stalled after skyrocketing cost projections prompted one investor to bail on the venture. (This happened even after the project already had agreements in place to sell power to customers.) The Tennessee Valley Authority cut their plans for four new reactors down to one, due to financial concerns. The utility AmerenUE pulled the plug on a proposed reactor in Calloway, Missouri, after it failed in a bid to bill utility customers for the plant before construction had even started. Pending reactor projects in Florida have either been scrapped or thrown into question after the state public service commission rejected a request to raise rates in order to subsidize the construction.
Meanwhile, the first recipient of a DOE-backed loan, the Vogtle project in Georgia, hasn't even been able to obtain a permit from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission due to safety shortcomings with its shield design. A spokesman for Georgia Power says it doesn't expect final approval until the end of 2011.
And what has the administration received in return for its big nuclear push? So far, not much. After the DOE announced its plan to triple the loan guarantee program, the House GOP accused the Obama administration of being "anti-nuclear." Longtime nuclear booster John McCain called the administration’s plan a "non-starter." "You shouldn’t have to waste $54.5 billion in order to buy a few Republican votes," says Jim Riccio, a nuclear policy analyst for Greenpeace USA. "They’re not going to play anyway."
Bradford, the former nuclear regulator, observes that if the Georgia reactors alone defaulted, taxpayers could be left with a bill of as much as $8.3 billion. "If the Tea Party folks ever figure that out, the [DOE] building is going to be three floors deep in tea bags," he says. "This administration desperately needs someone to point out that this emperor isn’t wearing any clothes."
Representative Nick Huffman Travels to State House Thursday and Meets With State Representatives and Senators
Nick Huffman and State Representative Pond discuss the values and importance of investing into Renewable Energy. (photo taken by Katie Mettler)
Thursday was an unusual day for me, instead of waking up and going to a boring day of school, I got to travel on a bus with fifteen other students to the State Capitol. I originally spoke with State Senators and Representatives about making my way down to the State House to speak with them about Renewable Energy and luckily Thursday was my day. "It is the House and Senate's busiest day of the year," said intern Lauren Petterson "You either make the bill or break it." Luckily I got to squeeze in a little time and speek with a few members of both the House and Senate. Like in the picture above, Representative Phyllis Pond spoke with me about the different steps in building a wind farm and the importance of even having one. "I am 150% for Renewable Energy, I think it is something that not only myself, but Indiana needs to take a bigger look and investment in." Pond has a 150 acre farm in the Plum Tree area that she is looking at leasing to WESCO in the future. She also wants to establish a residential turbine for one of her rental properties. "I have an old wind stand in the back of one of my rental homes that I would love to renue its purpose. Maybe a smaller turbine could be put in use?"
Representative Pond was one of three members of the General Assembly that I got the chance of speaking with, amoung those were Representative Pond, Representative Ruskey, and Senator Holdman. I got a lot of complements for WESCO, and the State is backing us 100% of the way. :)