What Are the Reasons for Reduced Emissions in the U.S.?

“All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them.”
Galileo Galilei

What’s the main reason for the decline in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions seen in recent years? Well, it depends on who you listen to. According to an analysis published a year and a half ago by Yale Climate Connections there are numerous factors, but their final conclusion was that natural gas played the biggest part in the reduction, more than either improved efficiency or renewables.

But a much more recent analysis by Greenpeace Energydesk published earlier this week states that it’s wind power and not shale gas that is the largest single explanation for the fall in U.S. emissions. They also found that mproved efficiency also contributed substantially to the reduction.

In the six years between 2007 and 2013, the U.S. experienced the largest decline in the use of coal ever. In fact it was the largest decline in coal use for any nation ever. Renewables, improved energy efficiency and shale gas from fracking are the main reasons why. The Energydesk analysis, however, found that because renewables have zero emissions, their growth had a more significant impact than did shale gas. Continue reading

Share

We’ve Just Had the Hottest Twelve Months Ever

“Global warming isn’t a prediction. It is happening.”
James Hansen

Supporting James Hansen’s claim, earlier this week the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced that our planet has just completed its warmest consecutive 12-month period we’ve ever recorded. According to their announcement:

The past 12 months—October 2013–September 2014—was the warmest 12-month period among all months since records began in 1880, at 0.69°C (1.24°F) above the 20th century average. This breaks the previous record of +0.68°C (+1.22°F) set for the periods September 1998–August 1998, August 2009–July 2010; and September 2013–August 2014.

These last twelve months don’t comprise one calendar year, but does that matter? Not to me it doesn’t since beginning the count in January is arbitrary, but in case it matters to you don’t worry: the NOAA says that 2014 is on track to be our hottest calendar year ever as well. The NOAA also pointed out that globally our oceans have hit another record high. In fact it’s the third time this year that our oceans’ temperatures have broken records.

Continue reading

Share

Nuclear Fusion: Will It Save Our Planet?

“I would like nuclear fusion to become a practical power source. It would provide an inexhaustible supply of energy, without pollution or global warming.”
Stephen Hawking

For years we’ve heard about the possibility of nuclear fusion becoming a source of energy that’s practically limitless. Current any nuclear energy we use on Earth is from fission—the splitting of the atom. Fusion is the combining of atoms, making a different atom in the process but releasing significant energy in the process. (Fusion is what powers our sun and every other star in the universe: hydrogen fuses into helium with substantial energy released according to E=mc2.) Nuclear reactions provide much more energy than chemical reactions (like what we get with fossil fuels) and there are no greenhouse gas emissions in the process. It’s a win-win. The problem on our planet is that up until now any concept of nuclear fusion has taken about as much energy if not more in order to get the fusion energy out, and has required reactors as large as buildings so it hasn’t been practical.

That was then, this is now. Lockheed Martin is a global aerospace company that has had a longstanding relationship with the U.S. government providing defines contracts, but in recent years has also been exploring alternative sources of energy. Their Skunk Works division announced last week that it has created a concept for a nuclear fusion reactor that’s compact enough to be practical and could provide all of our world’s energy needs cleanly, safely, and adequately. From providing electricity for our homes to flying our planes and spacecraft, fusion can do it all.

Skunk Works believes that their fusion concept could be reality within a decade. It’s called the Compact Fusion Reactor (or CFR for short) and is no bigger than a jet engine, an important feature if it’s going to truly be practical.

Is it going to work? We have reason to be doubtful because we’ve been let down before with fusion technology concepts never coming to reality. But Lockheed Martin isn’t some fly-by-night company and with them making these claims, I’m a little more optimistic. Here’s a four-minute video with Dr. Thomas McGuire from Skunk Works explaining how it works and why they’re so optimistic:

Share

The U.S. Government Ignores Its Own Military About Climate Change

“America must not ignore the threat gathering against us. Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof, the smoking gun that could come….”
George W. Bush, referring to the threat of terrorism in the Middle East, but the same argument could be made about climate change

In the case of the United States government, it’s not so much a matter of the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing. It knows fully well. It simply chooses to ignore it.

Case in point: earlier this week, the Pentagon released a report in which it stated in no uncertain terms that climate change is a “threat multiplier” that can worsen such important national security problems as terrorism and the spread of infectious disease.

The 20-page “2014 Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap” indicates that the U.S. Department of Defense—along with the rest of us—is already witnessing impacts of climate change including sea level rise, changing precipitation patterns with droughts and floods, rising global temperatures, and an increase in extreme weather. According to the report, these all have the potential to do the following: Continue reading

Share

That Was the Hottest September We Ever Recorded

“One cool judgment is worth a thousand hasty counsels. The thing to do is to supply light and not heat.”
Woodrow Wilson

Remember last month when I reported that August 2014 was the hottest August our planet has experienced since accurate records began back in the late 19th century? Keeping that trend alive and well, it turns out that last month was the hottest September globally we’ve ever recorded as well, according to NASA this past weekend. The year 2014 to date is also the third warmest year ever. (It would appear our planet is unaware of what denialists tell us, that global warming stopped back in 1997.) The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration projects that 2014 could actually be our hottest year yet if an El Niño takes force in the coming months.

Just like the month before, what makes this September record so concerning is that it happened without an El Niño contribution, clearly pointing out just how significant the underlying trend of global warming that’s due to us and us alone actually is. In the years to come when the combination of this long-term warming trend and El Niños kick in, we can expect even more broken global temperature records.

Once again the temps were so high over West Antarctica that NASA had to use brown on its maps to depict the 4° to 8.7°C (or 7° to over 15°F) increase from average temperatures as defined by the time period 1951-1980. Continue reading

Share