Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Wyoming's mandate for ignorance

How many years has the USA been at the forefront of science and technology, only to come to this?

Friday, May 23, 2014

The pain of models

Here's a piece from Revkin's Dot Earth blog at the NYT with Gavin Schmidt discussing climate models, and how they never really work perfectly but are vital and useful all the same.

This is interesting to me right now because I'm ruminating, as is my general wont during the summer vacation. I use my long hours of manual labor in gardening, animal husbandry, mechanics, construction, and renewable energy fieldwork to regurgitate the semester's highs and lows and think up new ways to teach useful stuff.

And let's face it, for almost all the students I taught models to last semester, in GL4003 Global Change and PS 3003 Sustainable Energy, how many of you were dragged kicking and screaming to the table of college-level, multivariate, dynamic, predictive mathematics?

Nearly all.

It was like pulling teeth! Or more like jumping into a cold pool. Nearly all of you needed one-on-one encouragement before you even cracked open the software.

This is partly because of the unique and own-to-earth nature of the average Unity College student. We are practical people, after all. If my job were primarily to teach practical engine rebuilding or basic construction, I'd get joyful participation our of 95% of my students.

But models are useful too. In fact, without design models or building systems models, there wouldn't be engines or houses to build or rebuild.

It's all in the translation from physical reality to mathematical abstraction. You have to be able to imagine and even visualize the process.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Antarctica, part I

Here's the first of what seems very likely to be a series of posts about the news this week that the West Antarctic ice sheet is on the verge of collapsing. This is one of several tipping points that climate scientists have pointed to over the years and that has been a feature of my classes on climate change, including the previously-required third year "Human Ecology" class.

(The others, of course, are the arctic albedo and arctic methane feedbacks, both of which also seem to be well under way.)

The first connection I want to make is to this editorial here by Eric Rignot at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Rignot, quite sensibly, asks in near-despair "what next?" The time to act is now, he says, and yet rightly implies that climate scientists have no power to do so.

Our politicians, who do have the power, are grievously irresponsible, but the greatest opprobrium is to be reserved for the Koch brothers and their paid denialists.

Ordinary people, kept ignorant by the press and the denialists, have no idea just how much grief is now stored up as a result of these events.

Most of the news is about western places like Miami, which will disappear, but whose residents have resources to cope, the backing of a great nation, and inland, upland territory into which to retreat.

The place I'm most worried about is Bangladesh, a country of millions, most of whom are living on the global poverty line, a third or more of whose territory will disappear beneath the sea, possibly politically destabilizing the entire Indian subcontinent.

It will take a Churchillian act of leadership on the part of some as-yet unidentified politician or group of politicians to produce the action Rignot requires

Will it also take the loss of territory, a Rhineland, an anschluss, a Czechoslvakia, and finally a Poland?

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Interns on the job, part II

Here's Arthur at the CT DEP.

Interns on the job

I don't have a picture yet from Arthur, who has more of a white-collar position for the CT DEP. But here is Clark in his new "green collar" role as Intern for Revision Energy. This looks like a solar thermal installation. We've also arranged for him to do some PPA and other analysis and planning work.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

John Oliver's nod to statistics

There's some bad language in this clip, so don't click if you don't want your kids or grannie to hear some.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Graduation day gift: Solar back on the White House

What a long, strange trip it's been:



The White House, Washington
Hi, everyone --

On America's path toward a clean energy future, solar power is an increasingly important building block.

That's why we installed solar panels on the roof of the White House -- it's a clear sign of our commitment to energy efficiency.

Go behind the scenes with Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz and other experts, and take a closer look at the solar panels on the White House roof:

Learn more about the solar panels on the White House roof.

But it's not just the White House that's going solar.

Earlier today, President Obama announced that more than 300 organizations in the public and private sector have made commitments to advance the deployment of solar power and invest in energy efficiency.

These new commitments mean thousands of homes will go solar in the next few years, and electricity bills will be lower for more than 1 billion square feet of buildings.

Simply put, solar panels mean less carbon pollution, and more jobs for Americans -- jobs that can't be outsourced. They're good for our energy future, and they're good for our economy.

Last year, jobs in the solar industry increased by 20 percent. And a new American home or business goes solar every four minutes.

Find out more about this outstanding solar progress, and how it’s leading to a cleaner future and a healthier environment.

Thanks, and stay tuned,


John Podesta
Counselor to the President
The White House

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Neoliberal blues

This from Zach M., with help from Ben H., his project submission for Economics of Resource Conservation and Sustainability.

I have to say, it's unconventional, but I like it.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Done and dusted

That's the last exam of the semester done with, except of course for the grading, but that can be done from home. Most students have left already or are getting ready to leave. In celebration, I put the sheep out to graze on green grass for only the second time this spring.

Here's your semester-end picture, from Alecia in Marketing. Arthur and I were testing the students' small home-made turbine generators outside in a variable breeze, when we discovered that the cooling fan on Mr. Fox's greenhouse made a natural wind tunnel.

Much more effective!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

My MIT Climate CoLab submission

My most recent public academic "profession" is my MIT Climate CoLab submission on a Green Keynesian solution to Climate Change, available here.


(Taken from a quote from Dr. Mark Lapping, former President of Unity College "If you're a professor, profess!")

Another oil train derails

Of course, one consequence will be heightened calls for a pipeline.