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Philip Bump's Posts


Sea levels could rise 22 feet by the year 3000

From the Institute of Physics:

Our greenhouse gas emissions up to now have triggered an irreversible warming of the Earth that will cause sea-levels to rise for thousands of years to come, new research has shown.

Oh, neat.

The research showed that we have already committed ourselves to a sea-level rise of 1.1 metres by the year 3000 as a result of our greenhouse gas emissions up to now. This irreversible damage could be worse, depending on the route we take to mitigating our emissions.

If we were to follow the high A2 emissions scenario adopted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a sea-level rise of 6.8 metres could be expected in the next thousand years. The two other IPCC scenarios analysed by the researchers, the B1 and A1B scenarios, yielded sea-level rises of 2.1 and 4.1 metres respectively.

So by the year 3000, unless we take action, we can expect the ocean to be 6.8 meters higher. As in, 22 feet.

Your house, eventually.
Read more: Climate & Energy


New poll shows that politicians can say people like solar, if they want

The Solar Energy Industries Association commissioned a poll of American voters and -- guess what? -- American voters like solar!

The industry advocacy organization released the results of its poll today for an obvious reason: to argue that voters support government investment in solar energy, which they do, generally, and to encourage Congress to enact policies supporting solar. Solar solar solar, we want solar!

Before we undermine the findings -- which we will -- let's look at the findings.

Energy is an important issue!

Everyone loves solar!

There were other findings, too, which are about solar and how solar is great. And I'll jump in here to note: It is! It is great! But SEIA doesn't really help itself (or the industry it represents) here.


The Ohio State University will soon be 25 percent wind-powered

About 10 years ago, the Ohio State University was not great for your lungs. I am not only referring to the exhortations of fans cheering the football team to intermittent success over the loathsome Michigan Whoevers, but to the on-campus power plant that ran on coal and oil.

McCracken Power Plant.

In 2001, the McCracken Power Plant -- located just west of the heart of campus, about two blocks from the main library -- switched from natural gas to coal and oil. Natural gas costs were skyrocketing at the time, and the university moved to dirtier fuel sources to save money. In 2007, after years of fighting with the EPA, it switched back.

But now, at last, the Ohio State University is really starting to get green. (In addition to scarlet and gray.)

Read more: Cities, Climate & Energy


TransCanada protests reveal a bum deal for Texas landowners

For weeks, protestors affiliated with activist group Tar Sands Blockade have tried to halt construction of the southern leg of TransCanada's pipeline from Alberta to the Gulf Coast. On Monday, one protestor chained himself to an underground piece of equipment, delaying for hours a crew tasked with clearing the the pipeline's path.

Tar Sands Blockade
The protestor, in position.

The local ABC affiliate, KLTV, covered the story.

What's remarkable about this isn't just the protestor's action. It's also striking to note how the landowner feels about TransCanada.


How Gov. Romney threw his climate plans into reverse

This Sunday's New York Times Magazine features a long retrospective on the tenure of a particular Massachusetts governor. You know the guy: salt-and-pepper hair, winning smile, 45 kids. Name escapes me.

It's the sort of article that responsible citizens should carve out 30 minutes to read. For the first time that I've seen, it walks through how Romney governed -- and how, halfway through his first and only term in office, he began to rejigger his positions with an eye toward the presidency.

Mitt Romney

What's most notable, and most of interest for the average Grist reader (if I may be so bold), is how Romney reversed (or, if you will, substantially amended) his position on the environment. His 2003 declaration that coal plants kill people gets the press during this election, but his 2004 outline of a comprehensive plan for combatting climate change was probably a high-water mark.

According to one of a half-dozen environmental officials with whom I spoke (and all of whom insisted on anonymity so they could speak candidly about their experiences), the governor sat through more than 20 hours of briefings on the climate-change plan: “We went through about 80 measures. He left almost everything in, and the things he took out weren’t because they were ideologically off-base but because they weren’t well thought out.”

A sentimental subtext underlay his conservationist outlook: his father’s company had produced one of the world’s first fuel-efficient cars. And when discussing the global dimensions of climate change, the governor displayed a level of humaneness that fellow congregants in his Mormon church often saw but that his current presidential campaign has been at pains to highlight. Two environmental officials recall him saying: “I think the impacts of this are going to be large. We in the Western world may have the money to work our way out of the problem. But what are poor people in Bangladesh going to do?”

And then the tide receded.


After 2011 spill, Chevron pays fine of one drop from its bucket

Chevron Corporation has paid (more like "Shelled out" ha ha lol I apologize) a $17.3 million fine to the government of Brazil for a spill near Rio de Janeiro last year. That's after using a coupon.

The agency said in a Thursday statement that Chevron paid the 35.1 million real ($17.3 million) fine last week for 24 of 25 irregularities detected. The statement did not provide details on the irregularities.

Some 155,000 gallons of crude are thought to have been released in the November 2011 spill.

The agency said it granted Chevron a 30 percent discount because it paid the fine on time and did not challenge it.

$17.3 million is a lot of money -- at least to poor schlubs like you and me. To Chevron? Eh, not so much.


The Great Barrier Reef has lost half its coral since 1985

Coral of an unknown provenance.

Optimists look at the Great Barrier Reef and see it half-full of coral.

Australia’s Great Barrier Reef has lost more than half its coral cover since 1985, according to a new study published Monday. The loss has been spurred by a combination of factors including hurricanes, coral-eating starfish and coral bleaching.

The paper, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is the most comprehensive survey of a reef system over such a long period. The researchers from the Australian Institute of Marine Science found that reef cover fell from 28 percent to 13.8 percent over the past 27 years, with two-thirds of the decline occurring since 1998.

Pessimists are in the corner, sobbing and/or catatonic.

Read more: Climate & Energy


Cuomo punts NY fracking decision. Hollywood wins again!

Here’s an update on when New York will decide whether to allow fracking: No one knows when New York will decide whether to allow fracking. The New York Times:

A few months after Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo was poised to approve hydraulic fracturing in several struggling New York counties, his administration is reversing course and starting the regulatory process over, garnering praise from environmental groups and stirring anger among industry executives and upstate landowners.

Ten days ago, after nearly four years of review by state regulators, the governor bowed to entreaties from environmentalists to conduct another study, this one an examination of potential impacts on public health. Neither the governor nor other state officials have given any indication of how long the study might take.

Citizen Action NY
A few of fracking's 20,000 worst enemies.

To whom does the Times give the credit? Hippies and Hollywood!

The developments have created a sense in Albany that Mr. Cuomo is consigning fracking to oblivion. The governor has been influenced by the unshakable opposition from a corps of environmentalists and celebrity activists who are concerned about the safety of the water supply. The opponents include a number of people close to the governor, including Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a longtime environmental activist in New York whose sister is the governor’s ex-wife.

Proponents of fracking are -- wait for it! -- disappointed in the governor's decision. The Times quotes some of them, but it's nothing new.


Finland aims to be coal-free by 2025

Finns are probably worried about losing beautiful scenery like this. (N.B., this isn't Finland.)

Finland, setting the trends. From the Sydney Morning Herald:

Finland may phase out the use of coal in energy production by 2025, the first European country to do so, Economy Minister Jyri Haekaemies said.

Government subsidies and taxes seek to boost the use of renewable energy and cut fossil fuel use by 2020, according to the national climate and energy strategy drawn up by the former government in 2008. The policy document will be revised and updated by the end of this year, Haekaemies said. …

Finland imports all of its coal, mainly from Russia and Poland. During the past 15 years, Finland has shipped in an average of 5 million metric tons of coal annually. Imports of the mineral cost 70 million to more than 300 million euros ($388 million), according to the Finnish Coal Info association’s website.

The really exciting news is that the United States will become the second country to phase out coal. That is, if all of the other countries merge into one giant super country and make a long-term commitment to using coal forever.


Who killed one of Virginia’s dirtiest power plants?

The GenOn plant in happier, more pollute-y times.

Here's your "war on coal."

For two generations, the electricity generated [at the GenOn power plant in Alexandria, Va.] helped power the post-World War II economic boom across the land. It provided a good living for thousands of employees and good profits for shareholders.

An unmistakable landmark, the plant’s five short smokestacks identified the Alexandria riverfront as much as the George Washington Masonic Memorial does from a hill near the King Street Metro station.

Those stacks also pushed untold tons of air pollution into the skies over the District, Maryland and Virginia, marking the plant as the largest single source of air pollution in the Washington region.

That's it, in summary. It provided cheap power and polluted like hell; now it's dead. The end.

Who does GenOn blame for the closure? Not Obama, unless "Obama" is a brand name of natural gas.