Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Climate Journey series of films

These come from the British Guardian, and are presented by John Vidal and Dan Chung. Look to the right of the page to see the rest.

Here's the link:


And here's one embedded.

Chuing the fat on green energy race

From today's Guardian:

US energy secretary warns of 'Sputnik moment' in green technology race

Steven Chu says US must invest urgently in research and innovation to keep pace with China and other countries

Thursday, November 25, 2010

MPBN on Fox Islands wind shear

Finally, the Maine public is getting some better information on wind shear and turbine noise.


This is just a short news clip, but it mentions the proper reason for the unplanned noise.

Without understanding this complex phenomenon, you can't understand turbine planning, but Maine "Home Rule" planning regulations basically require amateur planning of wind power proposals, and have resulted in numerous restrictive ordinances, town by town, with many more in the pipeline, some of which essentially prohibit even the smallest and most innocuous of turbines (such as the Southwest Wind Power Air X) for noise planning reasons.

There's nothing wrong with Home Rule, or amateur involvement in planning, but we should understand that some things are complex and can't be easily understood without at least some hard work.

See the last post but one for the best information I've seen yet in the public domain.

MPBN of Fox Islands wind shear


Excellent report on wind turbine noise from the Acoustic Ecology Institute

I finally had chance (on Thanksgiving morning!) to catch up with some of the New England Wind Energy Education Project (NEWEEP) webinars. NEWEEP is a service of NREL and DOE, and aims to provide good information on which to base a reasoned discussion of commercial and community-based wind power in the New England region.

What pleased me greatly was a very balanced report from Jim Cummings of the Acoustic Ecology Institute. The report is well-detailed and provides a wealth of reasoned and scientific explanation of noise concerns related to wind turbine siting. Read side by side with the survey results from a recent survey of Vinalhaven residents, which one of my students is analyzing for an independent study (preparatory to graduate school in the applied social sciences), things begin to make more sense.

And the broad comparison of different perceptions of a "proper" rural lifestyle fit in well with some work we did much, much earlier on Sense of Place, now (partly) available via Google Books preview (page 191).

The AEI report is in the form of a well-referenced PDF slideshow.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

(Todd) Stern on Cancun

It must be confusing to some that two of the key players have the same last name.


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Abraham on Monkton, for class

Students in GL 4003, Global Change, who are interested in the validity of Christopher Monkton's opinions on climate change, recently quoted by a class visitor, are directed to this fairly exhaustively researched lecture by John Abraham, PhD (of the University of St. Thomas, MN.

It is possible to skip through to the various slides that address the questions raised in class.


Monday, November 22, 2010

Update on Stern comments

OK, this makes more sense. What Lord Nick did say was that US exports would suffer if, as is very likely, Europe taxed carbon produced through the production chain to source on all products including imports.

He did not threaten a boycott. The Huffington Post extrapolated his comments to make it seem as if he did.

How likely is it that Europe begin to directly tax carbon instead of, or in addition to, their current cap and trade scheme? I'd say pretty likely, if as is also likely, there becomes a protectionist effect. Euro-unions would love that.

What would this then do to US politics? I expect we'd try to complain via the WTO and then, when that failed, individual companies with a strong stake in Europe, such as GE and GM, would reverse engineer their European exports to reduce carbon content.

Money talks. Nick is just explaining the facts of life.

Meanwhile, conservatives all over the country will continue to try to act as if climate change wasn't happening, and as if the rest of the world had not already realized this and moved on to a new economic reality. The ultimate result, in five, ten, fifteen or twenty years, will be to hand over many if not most US leads in green technology to Europe and even China. Because despite burning millions of tons of cola per year, China is investing heavily in green.

While the US owns the patents on all of the best technology solutions but refuses to join the party.

Unless, of course we keep seeing that scarcity premium attaching to the oil price. In which case it will be oil price, and the price of substitutes such as Bloom Boxes, Hyperion reactors, wind, solar, and yes, even coal, that condition US markets for engineering products.

I never thought I d find a reason to be thankful for high oil prices, but there it is. The only reasonable hope for keeping the US in the green energy lead.

And all this, when you think about it, begins to make sense out of the Gubernator's recent promise to reorganize after his final term as a climate campaigner for green business. Silicon Valley technology leaders have a major stake in US green technology. And of course Arnold would be very well connected. Leading to his new career. It's going to be the Terminator versus the Koch Brothers for the heart and soul of American business.

The real Nick Stern story is on the AFP wire:

UK climate economist warns US of trade boycott

LONDON — A British climate change economist at the heart of international negotiations seeking a greenhouse gas deal said Friday that the US faces a trade boycott if it fails to rein in its carbon emissions.

Lord Nicholas Stern, author of the British government's 2006 report on the economics of climate change, warned the US that many countries would shun its goods if they deemed them to be "dirty."

"The US will increasingly see the risks of being left behind, and 10 years from now they would have to start worrying about being shut out of markets because their production is dirty," Stern told The Times newspaper.

"If they persist in being slow about reducing emissions, US exports will start to look more carbon intensive."

Stern advises several G20 countries and his 2006 Stern review is regarded as the most in-depth and well-known study into climate change economics.

World leaders will meet at the UN climate change conference in Cancun, Mexico, in 10 days' time to try and kickstart emissions negotiations which faltered at the Copenhagen conference last December.

Stern said that countries who have pledged to reduce their emissions would resent competition from "dirty" exports. He highlighted aircraft, cars and machine tools as goods which could face restrictions.

"If you are charging properly for carbon and other people are not, you will take that into account," he said. "Many of the more forward-looking people in the US are thinking about this."

US President Barack Obama pledged before the Copenhagen conference to cut US emissions by 17 percent on 2005 levels by 2020, but has been thwarted by Congress.

Any new US commitments within the next two years are highly unlikely following the Republican party's gains in the midterm elections.

Hitting where it hurts

The following appeared in my email today, copied from the Huffington Post. I haven't investigated to see how speculative Nick Stern's comments were intended to be. However, being European, I do have a much better idea about the feelings most Europeans have in regard to the lack of US participation in climate reductions. A partial trade boycott is at least a distinct possibility.

But being at least part American these days, I also have a good idea of how American conservatives might react to such a boycott, at least in the first instance, and what might then ensue in US politics.

I would not have advised these comments. But I'll be fascinated to see what happens next. Lord Nick has stirred up a real hornets nest here.

Nicholas Stern: U.S. Trade Boycott Could Result If It Doesn't Address
Climate Change And Reduce Carbon Emissions

The Huffington Post | Travis Walter Donovan First Posted: 11-19-10
07:09 PM | Updated: 11-19-10 07:15 PM

Just 10 days ahead of international leaders convening in Cancun,
Mexico for the UN climate change conference, British economist
Nicholas Stern warned Friday that the U.S. could face a boycott on its
products from other countries if it doesn't adequately reduce carbon
emissions, AFP reports.

Stern told The Times, "The US will increasingly see the risks of being
left behind, and 10 years from now they would have to start worrying
about being shut out of markets because their production is dirty."

Author of the British government's 2006 report on the economics of
climate change, Stern is also a member of a high-level advisory group
that recently issued a report to the UN stating bank financing, carbon
permit auctions, and new carbon and transportation taxes are necessary
to raise enough money -- $100 billion a year by 2020, committed to in
last year's Copenhagen accord -- to effectively reduce emissions and
mitigate the damages climate change will have on developing nations.

"A modest price on emissions, in the range of $20-25 per tonne of CO2
would push incentives in the right direction and raise substantial
revenues," Stern told the Guardian.

Climate legislation progress has effectively come to a halt in the
U.S. after a failed attempt this summer to pass a bill that would cap
greenhouse gases. The bill faced staunch opposition from many
Republican senators, despite having passed the House in 2009. With the
latest GOP victories in November's elections, there is little chance
that measures addressing climate change will succeed in the next two
years, although many states are moving forward with their own agendas.

According to Bloomberg, at a press conference on Wednesday, the Obama
administration's climate negotiator Todd Stern said that despite his
doubts about there being any "enormous leaps forward" in Cancun, he
still thinks "real and concrete steps" are possible.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Canadian study points to downside of Maine biomass fuel plans

Although I use firewood at home for heat, and manage a woodlot, I have never been a particularly aggressive advocate of biomass fuels as a major part of any large scale climate initiative. The potential to do real ecological damage by heavier harvests, shorter rotations, and so on seemed fairly obvious. And the various calculations of carbon cycling within biomass land-use areas, including forests and arable systems, seemed a little too simple to be true. At the very least, I wondered if the natural nitrogen cycle could keep up with the large forest biomass harvesting increases that already result from the search for carbon-neutral fuel.

It turns out that more complete knowledge is emerging. A recent study from a Canadian university looked at the carbon cycle in forest lands just a little east of here in Nova Scotia.

They discovered a substantial dip in soil carbon within a few years of harvest.

Bottom line: Maine land managers providing product to our rapidly expanding pellet mills will need to have, at the very least, some kind of average numbers for the carbon chemistry of their soils, including the deeper mineral layers, and they will need to relate these numbers to the overall areas under management, and perhaps to keep set-aside areas, to rationally claim carbon neutrality for fuel sources. When soil carbon is taken into account, longer rotations will likely be needed to achieve carbon neutrality.

Some further study will be required to apply the results of these initial studies to typical pellet forests in Maine, which have a greater proportion of hardwoods than the study areas used in the original work.

Here's the news article, from EnvironmentalResearchWeb.

Here are a couple of the related papers:

Diochon, A., L. Kellman (2009) Physical fractionation of soil organic matter: Destabilization of deep soil carbon following harvesting of a temperate coniferous forest, J. Geophys. Res., 114, G01016, doi:10.1029/2008JG000844.

Diochon, A. L. Kellman and H. Beltrami (2009) Looking deeper: an investigation of soil carbon losses following harvesting from a managed northeastern red spruce (Picea rubens Sarg.) forest chronosequence, Forest Ecology and Management, 257, 2, 31 January 2009, Pages 413-420, doi:10.1016/j.foreco.2008.09.015.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Proposition 23 fails

Among election news, the one I think most important for the future, but completely overlooked by the "chattering classes": A large majority of ordinary Americans in one state voted, essentially, to tax themselves more to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.


The new energy polity, which cuts across party lines, begins to be clear. Significant support came from otherwise conservative people, including a conservative governor with Silicon Valley investors.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

New: Maine Energy Handbook

Thought you all might be interested.
Please distribute widely.


New Resource Available:

The Maine Energy Handbook: A Comprehensive Guide to Municipal Energy Efficiency and Sustainable Energy provides a single, complete, and trustworthy guide to support a boom in local groups tackling energy problems.

The guidebook is intended to help municipalities and individuals achieve energy successes more reliably and quickly by putting all of the need-to-know information together for towns and cities in a patented ‘Six Steps for Success’ process:

1) Connect with Helpful Resources

2) Organize Efforts

3) Assess Energy Use

4) Identify Efficiency Options

5) Identify Financing Opportunities

6) Evaluate and Implement Measures

The Handbook was created by Clean Air-Cool Planet Climate Fellow Steve Erario, who was hosted this summer by the Greater Portland Council of Governments (GPCOG).

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Kahan et al, for class

Cultural Cognition of Scientific Consensus

Dan M. Kahan
Yale University - Law School

Hank Jenkins-Smith
University of Oklahoma

Donald Braman
Cultural Cognition Project; George Washington University - Law School


Also, Campbell, Converse, Miller and Stokes, 1960, The American Voter