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Philip Bump's Posts


America supports helping farmers adapt to climate change because obviously

Most Americans are smart enough to think we should give this guy some tips.

For some completely inexplicable reason, the public is quite supportive of government programs that would help farmers adapt to climate change. It is almost like people enjoying eating food/not starving to death/having agriculture! From

Regardless of what those surveyed believe causes climate change, more than 65 percent of them support government assistance for farmers, said Scott Loveridge, MSU professor of agricultural, food and resource economics. ...

Aid for farmers can come in a number of forms. Some examples include addressing potential threats and opportunities related to climate change, securing more support for science-based crop projections, and finding and testing varieties and techniques that will perform well in the future, Loveridge added.

Why does this support exist? Here is a Google search for "grist news drought" that might answer your question.

Actually, if you think about it, what's remarkable about this study is that one-third of people don't support helping farmers adapt. There are undoubtedly a few folks in the mix who would gladly remove the majority of the skin on their fingers and then hand-squeeze lemons for 40 straight hours rather than pay an additional penny in taxes. So let's assume that's like half of the objectors. Is it really the case then that 15 percent of Americans just flat out don't want to do anything about climate change?

Read more: Climate Change, Politics


After much trial and error, we’re finally generating power from the ocean

Another ugly power plant. (Photo by Avery Studio.)

The key to power generation is motion. Somehow, you need to rotate a magnet within a coil of wires (unless you're using solar power, of course). The most obvious way to rotate the magnet is to use some sort of turbine to catch the flow of air or water or steam. The turbine turns, rotating the magnet. So for a long time, people have looked at the ocean and thought: Hmm.

The ocean moves in two ways: through currents and through waves. For decades, as journalist Alexis Madrigal notes, inventors struggled to figure out how to translate wave motion into power. They sat buoys on the water surface, created shoreline installations, tried various random combinations of mechanical parts -- all for naught. Well, not entirely for naught. The stories are at least amusing.

With currents, there's been more success. Yesterday, Ocean Renewable Power Company (ORPC) held the ceremonial launch for its project in Eastport, Maine. The Cobscook Bay Tidal Energy Project will put 20 small turbines on the ocean floor, generating enough power for 1,200 homes.

Tidal power has also been tried before -- in Eastport. In the early 1930s, President Roosevelt championed an effort to build a dam at Eastport that would capture the tide when high and release water through a turbine system when the tide went back out. The project was soon revealed to not be worth the cost. More recently in New York, a pilot project by Verdant Power placed turbines at the bottom of the East River using the river's currents to generate 70 megawatts of energy. Verdant received approval earlier this year to expand the project.

Read more: Uncategorized


Uncommon headlines: Rising Republican star (Chris Christie!) embraces solar

Solar panels on an Oakland rooftop. (Photo by Solar Mosaic.)

On Monday, New Jersey Gov. Chris "Chris" Christie (R) signed into law an effort to expand the state's fast-growing solar industry. ThinkProgress has the wonky details.

New Jersey has the second-most solar installations in the country, behind only California. According to the Solar Energy Industry Association:

In the first quarter of this year, 174 megawatts of new solar capacity were connected to the N.J. grid. Cumulatively, more than 775 megawatts of solar has been installed in the state, enough to power about 130,000 homes.

That kind of growth is hard for any politician to ignore.

Read more: Politics, Solar Power


Massive rain causes havoc in Beijing as infrastructure fails

Infrastructure's curse is that we quickly take it for granted. It's like that Louis CK bit on technology, but with sewers and electricity.

Infrastructure is amazing and nobody's happy. Before infrastructure is in place, people want the infrastructure. Once it's there, people ignore it until it breaks.

Image courtesy of

The 18 million residents of Beijing are no longer ignoring their sewer system.

Over the weekend, the city was drenched by the most rain it had seen in a single day since the 1950s. Nearly seven inches fell in the afternoon and overnight, quickly overwhelming the city's sewers. Thirty-seven people were killed: drowned, electrocuted, in collapsed homes, by lightning.

Outrage erupted immediately. Residents took to social media to document the storm -- and to wonder "how a city that spent billions building facilities to host the Olympics could struggle so badly in dealing with a thunderstorm," as the Wall Street Journal put it. The photos are really remarkable -- evocative, if I may, of post-Katrina New Orleans. Swamped streets, flooded cars.

Read more: Cities


Drought means bad news for Obama

Last week, we presented "Seven graphs that should make the Obama campaign very nervous." In short: Drought means higher food staple prices, which means higher food-and-many-other-things prices, just in time for Election Day. The post was what folks in the trade call "kinda-scientific."

Well, someone went ahead and went straight "scientific" on the issue. Namely, Larry Bartels of Princeton University. In a post at The Monkey Cage, he explains that there actually is a direct correlation between drought and reduced support for the incumbent president.

Several years ago, Christopher Achen and I examined the impact of droughts and floods in presidential elections throughout the 20th century. We found a surprisingly strong and clear tendency for voters to punish the president’s party when their states were too wet or too dry. In the 2000 election (the most recent in our data), we estimated that Al Gore got about 2.8 million fewer votes than he would have under ideal climatic conditions.

Read more: Politics


U.S. lays out the welcome mat for solar on public lands

Adelanto is a desert town northeast of Los Angeles. The average high in Adelanto is 75 degrees; it's in the high desert, so it gets a lot of sun. Yesterday, the L.A. Department of Water and Power put that sunlight to work.

The Department of the Interior today announced plans to make that practice far more common throughout the West. The New York Times reports:

After more than two years of study and public comment, the Department of Interior on Tuesday identified 17 sites on 285,000 acres of public lands across six Southwestern states as prime spots for development of solar energy. Agency officials said the government would fast-track applications for large-scale solar energy installations at those sites in the hope of speeding construction of thousands of megawatts of renewable, non-polluting electricity generation. …

But officials said they were fencing off more than 78 million acres of public land from solar development because the areas have less solar energy potential, do not have immediate access to transmission lines or pose a threat to important archaeological or cultural sites, endangered species, scarce water resources or other environmental values if developed.

Click to embiggen.
Read more: Politics, Solar Power


Lake Superior is so hot right now!

Lake Superior is the largest and northernmost Great Lake, containing almost three times as much water as Lake Michigan, the second largest in volume. In fact, it contains more water than the other Great Lakes combined. Which should mean that it's cold.

Click to embiggen.

Calling it hot is a stretch -- but all of that water is heating up far more than expected. From Climate Central (which is also the source of the graph):

As the above chart shows, based on the 30-year average, the lake’s average water temperature should be in the mid-50s. But thanks to scant lake ice cover this past winter, along with a rare March heat wave and warmer-than-average weather since then, the lake began warming earlier than normal, and that warming has kept right on going. Wintertime ice cover on the Great Lakes was the lowest observed since such records began in 1980.

The chart itself is pretty amazing. At no point in 2012 has the surface temperature been below average, and it's now spiking well above. Temperatures today range from 70 degrees at the southern shore to 60 at the northern-most points.

Click to embiggen.
Read more: Climate Change


The environment is trying to ruin the Olympics again

The carbon footprint of the Olympic torch is unknown. (Photo by Nicholas Heasman-Walsh.)

Before the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, there was broad concern about the impact that air pollution would have on the athletes. The city's well-documented problems with ozone and fine particles were not the sort of thing conducive to fast sprint times and/or not having a stroke. So authorities cracked down, greatly reducing vehicle traffic, closing factories, and inducing rain. It worked. They curbed ground-level pollutants and improved cardio-vascular health for residents and athletes alike (and brought down CO2 emissions along the way). A team at the University of Rochester noted a "direct correlation" between reduced pollution and an immediate health impact.

Unfortunately for England, the environment has taken up a new strategy for ruining the Olympics: rain.

"My biggest worry is actually the weather," said [London 2012 Chief Executive] Paul Deighton, adding that much of the construction was carried out in torrential rain in recent months.

"We've got a lot of events that are outside. I think the impact the weather has on people's mood, how they enjoy the games, is very big.

"So for me, if I have a prayer I could make, it's every extra day of sunshine just makes for a better experience for everybody here in town."

Deighton has cause for concern. An unusually static southward shift in the jet stream combined with increased atmospheric moisture has meant one of the rainiest summers in recent memory.


NASA: ‘Unprecedented,’ ‘extraordinary’ ice melt in Greenland

This was so extraordinary that at first I questioned the result: was this real or was it due to a data error?

This is not what you want to hear from scientists studying melting ice.

This is an unrelated-but-evocative iceberg breaking off a glacier in Greenland.

This morning, NASA revealed that Greenland's surface ice is melting over a larger area than they have ever before seen.

For several days this month, Greenland's surface ice cover melted over a larger area than at any time in more than 30 years of satellite observations. Nearly the entire ice cover of Greenland, from its thin, low-lying coastal edges to its 2-mile-thick center, experienced some degree of melting at its surface, according to measurements from three independent satellites analyzed by NASA and university scientists.

On average in the summer, about half of the surface of Greenland's ice sheet naturally melts. At high elevations, most of that melt water quickly refreezes in place. Near the coast, some of the melt water is retained by the ice sheet and the rest is lost to the ocean. But this year the extent of ice melting at or near the surface jumped dramatically. According to satellite data, an estimated 97 percent of the ice sheet surface thawed at some point in mid-July.

97 percent. Usually about half of the surface melts; this year, almost all. Hence: "extraordinary."

Read more: Climate Change


Sally Ride pushed us to understand our climate and our world

Those of us who grew up in the Space Shuttle era remember watching tiny, scratchy televisions on various mornings, at home or in school; remember the adrenaline of seeing that odd craft sitting on the launchpad. That visual is the one that sticks because it's the one we watched the most. A shuttle launch for us was all about the promise, the build-up. It's coming, it's coming. Five minutes. One minute. 30 seconds. You have X amount of time before something spectacular happens.

Sally Ride on the flight deck of Challenger. (Photo by NASA.)

Sally Ride lived a life of inspiration, engagement, exhortation. Her first trip into space was an accomplishment that lasted beyond that initial spark of the engines, a rare flight for which the anticipation of the launch was only a precursor to what we would learn and experience and appreciate. She was not only the first American woman to hover above the atmosphere, but she was a brilliant, savvy, compelling woman whom everyone, even a kid like me, understood was exceptional.

Ride's commitment, first and foremost, was to broadening understanding. After her time with NASA, she formed Sally Ride Science, with the goal of getting students engaged in and excited about science. (Who better to do it? What kid is going to look Dr. Sally Ride in the eye and say, "Nah, not interested"?) Three years ago, that push to inform resulted in a book -- co-written with Tam O'Shaughnessy, the woman we now know to be her partner. Titled Mission: Planet Earth, the book is an outline of how and why the climate is changing. The publisher provides an excerpt:

[From space,] I could see how fragile Earth is. When I looked toward the horizon, I could see a thin, fuzzy blue line outlining the planet. At first, I didn't know what I was seeing. Then I realized it was Earth's atmosphere. It looked so thin and so fragile, like a strong gust of interplanetary wind could blow it all away. And I realized that this air is our planet's spacesuit -- it's all that separates every bird, fish, and person on Earth from the blackness of space. ...

To a person standing on the ground, our air seems to go on forever. The sky looks so big, and people haven't worried about what they put into the air. From space, though, it's obvious how little air there really is. Nothing vanishes "into thin air." The gases that we're sending into the air are piling up in our atmosphere. And that's changing Earth's life-support system in ways that could change our planet forever.

Read more: Uncategorized