Tuesday, April 30, 2013
- Scanning the entire internet. This is what you need to do in preparation to release a global flash worm. Interesting now that a motivated individual can do it with personal resources.
- Difficulties in heating green homes - standard heating equipment is too big for the job and then tends to heat the house unevenly. Amazing quote: "But if the doors are closed, the bedrooms will be 5 degrees colder than the hallway — even 10 degrees is possible. That’s OK for some people, but other people don’t like that. What temperature ranges are acceptable? The mass market is saying 3 degrees of variation from room to room. But in homes without any heat distribution to the bedrooms, when we measure the temperatures we get more than that." Boy are we pampered. I hate to go into "when I was a kid" mode, but I can't help myself. My bedroom as a child would often get down into the high thirties and low forties on the coldest days of winter (as a scientifically minded child I made a point of obtaining a thermometer and measuring it). And people now won't tolerate more than 3oF drop in the bedroom?
- What happens to workers who drop out of the labor force.
- If this was a pill, you'd do anything to get it.
Monday, April 29, 2013
Friday, April 26, 2013
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
- The above is an amazing National Geographic documentary, Chasing Ice, about photographer James Balog's quest to take multi-year time lapse photographs of receding glaciers. It will take 1hr 12min of your life, but will likely profoundly affect you, at least it did me. Some breathtakingly beautiful images, and an amazing story. And of course, the always sobering facts of what climate change is doing to ice everywhere. It's really well done.
- Fairly serious sectarian conflict in Iraq. If Iraq were to go the way of Syria, it would likely cause a noticeable oil shock to the global economy.
- Sounds like BP, during the Gulf disaster, knowingly exposed its cleanup workers to highly toxic dispersants, lied to them about the toxicity, and fired them if they complained. While human affairs are always highly vulnerable to corruption, it does seem like oil companies are particularly prone to it. It would be interesting to know more systematically what factors predispose an industry/company to corruption.
- Fisker is pretty much dead. Sometimes start-ups work out, sometimes they don't. C'est la vie. "If you can meet with triumph and disaster, and treat those two imposters just the same".
- Congress is actually holding hearings on the use of drones.
- New era of American innovation never gonna happen. (Onion humor).
I'm resolved to follow Saudi Arabia a bit more closely after the big cut-back this winter. The above is the latest data: March shows a very slight increase in production (probably less than the uncertainties in the data, so we could call it basically flat over February). There was also one extra oil rig in country. No sign of a return to the mid 2012 production level at present.
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
- Tim Duy discussing the trade-offs between financial instability, low inflation, and full employment (essentially the idea that we can now only achieve full employment during an asset price bubble). I could be wrong, but my gut feel is that widening income-inequality has a good deal to do with this.
- Steve Randy Waldmann makes a related argument that technology/globalization has essentially turned societies like the US more like societies such as Nigeria - a generalized resource curse.
- Sudden stratospheric warmings. I didn't know the first thing about this, but it's fascinating, and seemingly very relevant to the weather this spring.
- Wunderground has seven Earth Day essays on Climate Change. Worth looking over.
- The Chinese are starting to get into SUVs according to the NYT. This was inevitable, I imagine:
S.U.V. sales jumped 49 percent in March from a year ago as new models poured into the market. Overall auto sales in China climbed 13 percent in March and are on track for almost 21 million vehicles sold this year. By comparison, the latest forecasts in the United States this year are for a little more than 15 million vehicles. Both totals include sales of pickup trucks and other light commercial vehicles.
- However, it's getting very hard to breath in Beijing. Sounds like China is close to reaching the kind of inflection point that came in the west with the Great Smog in London in 1952, which killed thousands of people and led to the 1956 Clean Air Act. If China adopts similar measures, this may worsen global warming in the short term as China is currently a large source of reflective sulphate aerosols that offset warming. Here's a picture of global spring-time anthropogenic aerosol depth from Fig 2 of Bellouin et al.
Clearly China is a massive contributor. Note that the distribution is different in different seasons, however - check the link for full details.
Monday, April 22, 2013
Sunday, April 21, 2013
Friday, April 19, 2013
A few quick hits from the conference.
- I went to the opening plenary last night. I estimate there were about 250 people in the room. I thought this was seriously impressive for a local conference organized in two counties (Tompkins and Cortland) with about 150000 population between them. The conference is perhaps drawing from the larger region to some degree, but still, this is not a state-level conference in Albany or a national conference in Manhattan.
- My impression is the high level of interest is driven by two things: a) we have had some very extreme and variable weather here in recent years and it's really got people's attention, and b) the big fight about fracking has led quite a few people to a larger interest in energy/climate issues (if you start insisting that you don't want your region to be a fossil-fuel supplier, your conscience is apt to start nagging you that maybe you shouldn't be using too much fossil fuel either).
- The keynote speaker was Mark Hertsgaard, author of Hot: Living through the next Fifty Years on Earth. I liked his speech, it was inspiring.
- I couldn't help noticing that the parking lot outside the conference venue had a mix of vehicles that looked very typical of the region. Wall-to-wall Priuses and bicycles it was definitely not. I have a half a mind to do an actual sample tomorrow to get a sense of where we are at; have people who care enough about climate to attend a conference cared enough to make any detectable changes in their own lifestyle?
- The definitive word on climate change and New York State is NYSERDA's Climaid (600 pages but you can get it one chapter at a time).
- This morning I was in Cortland all morning for the section on adapting agriculture to climate change. The audience was smaller (it being a weekday), but the speakers were excellent - in the main session we heard from scientists and then at lunch we heard from actual growers. The basic message was the same from everyone:
- New York State has warmed noticeably, particularly in the winter. The growing season is longer. One big dairy operator mentioned that in 1973 he was planting 80 day corn on his hills and 90 day on his river bottom land, whereas today he is planting 95 day corn on the hills and 110 day corn on the bottomland.
- The weather is also noticeably more extreme. There are more droughts, more floods, more risk of frosts during the longer growing season, more occasions when they can't get machinery into the fields because the weather is too wet, and more big snowfalls. This showed up both in the scientist's statistics and also the grower's anecdotes. The scientists all pinned this on more moisture in the warmer atmosphere and changes in the circulation due to a warmer Arctic.
- Here are corn yields in New York State since 1945. There is the same linear pattern that yields often show nationally and globally. Although the climate is certainly affecting agriculture here in both positive and negative ways, apparently it all nets out to maintain roughly the existing trend:
- I got to ask a lot of questions. The most intriguing answers came in response to me observing that climate scientists seem to have been repeatedly blind-sided in the last decade, and did the scientist speakers have confidence in mainstream climate science projections or did they think there was a material risk of non-linear poorly understood processes causing significantly more radical change. None of them sounded reassuring. Dave Eichorn said that he agreed the situation was poorly understood and he wasn't confident that the changed weather patterns we are currently observing will still be the same in 20 years, or something else altogether might be occurring. Larry Klotz said that scientists are inherently conservative because they don't want to publish something that won't hold up in twenty years, so they shy away from making strong claims without being very confident of their ground, which contributes to the impression that they underplay the issues. He personally is speaking out more in part because he has a new grandchild. David Wolfe said that he, like a lot of his colleagues, tends to stick to mainstream projections to avoid losing credibility and/or sowing panic with less likely but possible scenarios. However, privately, climate scientists discuss amongst themselves the possibility of much more extreme scenarios and they cannot be ruled out.
Thursday, April 18, 2013
I'll be spending some/much of the next few days at the Climate Smart/Climate Ready conference, which has a focus on regional response and adaptation here in upstate New York. Normal blogging will be interrupted, but there may be some conference blogging to the extent I think it has interest to my readers (who are globally distributed). The line-up of speakers is pretty impressive, so I'm hoping to learn quite a bit.
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Monday, April 15, 2013
Sunday, April 14, 2013
- The above is the number of minutes to midnight on the Doomsday Clock at various times since it was inaugurated in 1947. The artist who designed the first version of it recently passed away.
- More on the prospects for a rapid melt of Arctic sea ice this summer.
- Wordpress blogs under attack (for possible use in a DDOS - distributed-denial-of-service - attack down the road).
- The argument for a pre-emptive strike in North Korea.
- Jeremy Grantham interview worth reading.
- People in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.
- Tim Duy: When can we admit the euro was a failure.
Thursday, April 11, 2013
- The amount of thick sea ice in the Arctic in March appears to be way down in 2013 compared to prior years. Doesn't bode well for this year's melt season.
- Good sense on North Korea.
- The EIA is expecting gas prices to be about the same this summer as last year. That doesn't sound crazy - the US tight oil boom probably has some more to run, the Saudi's could also increase production a bit if necessary, and they can certainly lower production if prices get too low. So absent some unforeseen development (which can, I admit, very easily happen in the oil world), I'd expect (Brent) oil prices to stay in the general $100-$120 band where they've lived for the last couple of years, and then gas prices to stay around the same also.
- The spirit of Hugo Chavez lives on, it seems, and is influencing the presidential election that is about to happen.
- There are no grownups, says Paul Krugman. I fear this explains a lot about life in general.
- I love this Dave Roberts essay on how all aspects of the climate/environmental movement are important and necessary. More great stuff here.
- The state of the art in sustainable cities (Växjö, Sweden).
- Natural gas usage for electricity in 2013 is down significantly from the (very elevated) 2012 level due to higher natural gas prices.
Wednesday, April 10, 2013
Tuesday, April 9, 2013
Monday, April 8, 2013
Sunday, April 7, 2013
- The above image comes from Torsten Becker and is an illuminating way of visualizing the dramatic decline in Arctic sea ice.
- What makes ground source heat pumps so expensive?
- A carbon neutral office building.
- Things aren't going too well in Egypt.
- Talks with Iran didn't go well either (can anybody possibly be surprised by this?)
Thursday, April 4, 2013
- An on-the-ground report that is skeptical that Chinese "ghost cities" are actually ghost at all. The website, Vagabond Journey, looks like an interesting resource generally.
- Jim Hamilton has a retrospective at the peak-oil debate from around 2005. He concludes that those of us saying that oil supply couldn't go much higher were a lot closer to the truth than those claiming there would be ample supply.
- More Kim Jong Un sabre rattling. Here's the Wiki page on him for background.
- Japan goes big on quantitative easing.
Monday, April 1, 2013
- The above is unemployment in Europe which is reaching new highs (since the creation of the Euro, at least). The economy in Europe is clearly continuing to worsen.
- Hmmm. This is a dangerous situation between the Koreas - the risk of an actual war is probably not zero. The north is restarting it's plutonium generating reactor also.
- Climate scientist James Hansen is retiring from NASA in order to be able to function more freely as an activist. Hansen is one of my heroes.
- Cyber-attacks are getting more destructive.
- Things are going worse and worse for the bees.
- If Kim Jong-un is trying to convince us that he is a lunatic, it's working on me.
- Explaining this spring's strange weather in Europe and the eastern US.
- I like this Jeffrey Sachs op-ed on the need for a long-term perspective on the US economy's challenges.