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Complete Archive (organized by chapter)
New World View
Climate Change
Life and Climate
Losing Biodiversity
Energy Flow
Ecosystem Change
Population Growth
Energy Use
A Changing Cosmos
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Latest News and Updates

August 2015. ENERGY DARWINISM II Why a Low Carbon Future Doesn’t Have to Cost the Earth

posted Sep 2, 2015, 9:43 AM by Alan Gould

Citigroup Inc. A new report from Citibank states that investing in low-carbon energy would save the world $1.8 trillion through 2040. Not acting will cost $44 trillion by 2060 from the “negative effects” of climate change. Here are two quotes from the report, Energy Darwinism:
  • “We believe that that solution does exist. ...The incremental costs of following a low carbon path are in context limited and seem affordable, the ‘return’ on that investment is acceptable and moreover the likely avoided liabilities are enormous. Given that all things being equal cleaner air has to be preferable to pollution, a very strong ‘Why would you not?’ argument begins to develop.”
  • "Overall, we find that the incremental costs of action are limited (and indeed ultimately lead to savings), offer reasonable returns on investment, and should not have too detrimental an effect on global growth....”
Implementing renewable energy sources and improving efficiency would very likely boost the global economy. The report also addresses the cost of stranded assets, i.e. to prevent 2ºC of warming, a third of the world’s oil reserves, half of its gas reserves, and more than 80 percent of its coal reserves need to stay in the ground, or be used at a dramatically reduced rate.

2015-08-26. NASA Science Zeros in on Ocean Rise: How Much? How Soon?

posted Aug 30, 2015, 7:59 AM by Alan Gould

NASA Release 15-174. For GSS Climate Change chapter 8. Excerpt: Seas around the world have risen an average of nearly 3 inches since 1992, with some locations rising more than 9 inches due to natural variation, according to the latest satellite measurements from NASA and its partners. An intensive research effort now underway, aided by NASA observations and analysis, points to an unavoidable rise of several feet in the future. ...“Given what we know now about how the ocean expands as it warms and how ice sheets and glaciers are adding water to the seas, it’s pretty certain we are locked into at least 3 feet of sea level rise, and probably more,” said Steve Nerem of the University of Colorado, Boulder, and lead of the Sea Level Change Team. “But we don't know whether it will happen within a century or somewhat longer.” ...“Sea level along the west coast of the United States has actually fallen over the past 20 years because long-term natural cycles there are hiding the impact of global warming,” said Josh Willis, an oceanographer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. “However, there are signs this pattern is changing. We can expect accelerated rates of sea level rise along this coast over the next decade as the region recovers from its temporary sea level ‘deficit.’” Scientists estimate that about one-third of sea level rise is caused by expansion of warmer ocean water, one-third is due to ice loss from the massive Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, and the remaining third results from melting mountain glaciers. But, the fate of the polar ice sheets could change that ratio and produce more rapid increases in the coming decades. Images and video supporting the media teleconference today are available at: ...Learn more about NASA's research into sea level change at: ...Full release at

2015-08-24. How a Volcanic Eruption in 1815 Darkened the World but Colored the Arts.

posted Aug 25, 2015, 7:31 AM by Alan Gould

By William J. Broad, The New York Times. For GSS Energy Flow chapter 2. Excerpt: In April 1815, the most powerful volcanic blast in recorded history shook the planet in a catastrophe so vast that 200 years later, investigators are still struggling to grasp its repercussions. It played a role, they now understand, in icy weather, agricultural collapse and global pandemics.... ...Around the lush isles of the Dutch East Indies — modern-day Indonesia — the eruption of Mount Tambora killed tens of thousands of people. ...More surprising, investigators have found that the giant cloud of minuscule particles spread around the globe, blocked sunlight and produced three years of planetary cooling. In June 1816, a blizzard pummeled upstate New York. ...A recent history of the disaster, “Tambora: The Eruption that Changed the World,” by Gillen D’Arcy Wood, shows planetary effects so extreme that many nations and communities sustained waves of famine, disease, civil unrest and economic decline. Crops failed globally.... Thomas Jefferson...Jefferson expressed concern about the possible ruin of his Monticello farm “if the seasons should, against the course of nature hitherto observed, continue constantly hostile to our agriculture.” The countless victims and occasional beneficiaries of Tambora’s fury were oblivious to the volcanic roots of their circumstances, Dr. Wood noted, making the challenge of writing about it formidable and “occasionally mind-bending.”...

2015-08-21. Saturn’s moon has a fluffy heart.

posted Aug 22, 2015, 2:25 PM by Alan Gould

By Nola Taylor Redd, Science. For GSS A Changing Cosmos chapter 7. Excerpt: Saturn's moon, Enceladus, may not have a heart of stone—at least, not completely. A new model suggests the satellite has a rubble-filled pile of boulders and ice at its core, rather than a more conventional solid stone center. This “fluffy core” could help solve the mystery of the moon’s underground ocean. A watery layer beneath Enceladus’s crust has long been suspected to exist because of the constant eruption of geysers at its southern pole. But scientists have said that any such ocean should have frozen over the lifetime of the Saturn system. Tidal heating that warms the insides of moons and planets in orbit would simply not be enough to keep this ocean in a liquid state if Enceladus had a solid core. ...A heart of rubble would flex more easily with the tidal pull of Saturn, emitting enough heat to maintain a liquid layer....

2015-08-20. Climate Change Intensifies California Drought, Scientists Say.

posted Aug 20, 2015, 2:33 PM by Alan Gould

By Justin Gillis, The New York Times. For GSS Climate Change chapter 8. Excerpt: Global warming caused by human emissions has most likely intensified the drought in California by roughly 15 to 20 percent, scientists said Thursday, warning that future dry spells in the state are almost certain to be worse than this one as the world continues to heat up. Even though the findings suggest that the drought is primarily a consequence of natural climate variability, the scientists added that the likelihood of any drought becoming acute is rising because of climate change. The odds of California suffering droughts at the far end of the scale, like the current one that began in 2012, have roughly doubled over the past century, they said. “This would be a drought no matter what,” said A. Park Williams, a climate scientist at Columbia University and the lead author of a paper published by the journal Geophysical Research Letters. “It would be a fairly bad drought no matter what. But it’s definitely made worse by global warming.”  ...Rising temperatures dry the soil faster and cause more rapid evaporation from streams and reservoirs, so they did not need any research to tell them that the drought was probably worse because of the warming trend over the past century — the same is true for pretty much any drought in the world. The challenge has been to quantify how worse the California drought has become because of human emissions....

2015-08-20. Project Sunroof.

posted Aug 20, 2015, 1:58 PM by Alan Gould

Google. For GSS Energy Use chapter 10. Excerpt:  Project Sunroof puts Google's expansive data in mapping and computing resources to use, helping calculate the best solar plan. ...When you enter your address, Project Sunroof looks up your home in Google Maps and combines that information with other databases to create your personalized roof analysis. ...Project Sunroof computes how much sunlight hits your roof in a year. It takes into account: Google's database of aerial imagery and maps; 3D modeling of your roof; Shadows cast by nearby structures and trees; All possible sun positions over the course of a year; Historical cloud and temperature patterns that might affect solar energy production. ...Project Sunroof recommends an installation size to generate close to 100% of your electricity use, based on roof size, the amount of sun hitting the roof, and your electricity bill. ...We recommend an installation that covers less than 100% of your electrical usage because, in most areas, there is little financial benefit to producing more power than you can consume. ...Project Sunroof uses current solar industry pricing data to run the numbers on leasing, taking a loan, or buying solar panels for your house to help you choose what's best for you. ...Project Sunroof also compiles the following incentives to calculate your final cost: Federal and state tax credits; Utility rebates; Renewable energy credits and net metering....

2015-08-18. Islamic leaders issue bold call for rapid phase out of fossil fuels.

posted Aug 20, 2015, 1:47 PM by Alan Gould

The Guardian. For GSS Climate Change chapter 9. Excerpt: Islamic leaders have issued a clarion call to 1.6bn Muslims around the world to work towards phasing out greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and a 100% renewable energy strategy. The grand mufti’s of Lebanon and Uganda endorsed the Islamic declaration on climate change, along with prominent Islamic scholars and teachers from 20 countries, at a symposium in Istanbul. ...“We particularly call on the well-off nations and oil-producing states to lead the way in phasing out their greenhouse gas emissions as early as possible and no later than the middle of the century,” it says. ...So far, Morocco is the only Middle Eastern country to present an emissions-cutting climate pledge ahead of the summit.  ...The Istanbul declaration was made by Islamic figures from Bosnia to Indonesia and follows a ground-breaking Papal encyclical last month. ...We are in danger of ending life as we know it on our planet,” the statement says. “This current rate of climate change cannot be sustained, and the earth’s fine equilibrium (mīzān) may soon be lost.” “What will future generations say of us, who leave them a degraded planet as our legacy?” the religious leaders ask. “How will we face our Lord and Creator?” ...“To chase after unlimited economic growth in a planet that is finite and already overloaded is not viable. Growth must be pursued wisely and in moderation,” one passage reads....

2015-08-12. Arctic sea ice has melted so much, National Geographic had to redraw its atlas.

posted Aug 12, 2015, 8:04 PM by Alan Gould

By Clara Chaisson, NRDC. For GSS Climate Change chapter 8. Excerpt: Climate change is keeping the mapmakers over at National Geographic busy. As the Arctic warms twice as fast as the rest of the world, ...the updates to the region reflect “one of the most striking changes in the publication’s history,” the magazine says. So striking, in fact, that President Obama referred to it while unveiling his Clean Power Plan last week. The redrawn map is based on data from a 30-year NASA study, published in 2012....

2015-08-05. US Carbon Pollution From Power Plants Hits 27-Year Low.

posted Aug 12, 2015, 7:56 PM by Alan Gould

The Associated Press, The New York Times. For GSS Climate Change chapter 10. Excerpt: Heat-trapping pollution from U.S. power plants hit a 27-year low in April, the Department of Energy announced Wednesday. A big factor was the long-term shift from coal to cleaner and cheaper natural gas, said Energy Department economist Allen McFarland. Outside experts also credit more renewable fuel use and energy efficiency....

2015-08-09. Will these Alaska villagers be America's first climate change refugees?

posted Aug 10, 2015, 11:44 AM by Alan Gould

Science Friday, National Public Radio. For GSS Climate Change chapter 8. Excerpt: [hear recording of interview] In 2008, the Inupiat village sued 24 of the world's biggest fossil fuel companies for damages. In 2013, the Supreme Court refused to hear the case and the village has declared it will not file a new claim in state court. Meanwhile, nature, heedless of humankind’s eternal squabbles, goes about its business: the sea around Kivalina continues to rise, the storms get stronger, the ice gets thinner — and Kivalina's 400 residents must grapple with how to relocate in the decade they're estimated to have left. Kivalina is on a very thin barrier reef island between the Chukchi Sea and the Kivalina Lagoon, in the northwest of Alaska, above the Arctic Circle.  ...In May, June and July, the men of the village go out on the ice hunting bearded seals. They cut up the seals, dry them and store them for the winter. “That provides the winter supply,” Swan says. “That’s what keeps us warm in the Arctic.” About 15 years ago, the villagers noticed the season started two weeks early and the ice began to thin sooner than before. ...The village originally voted to relocate as far back as 1992, but it is massively expensive. ...Disaster management policies are designed to deal with the aftermath of a disaster, she says. A disaster declaration releases funding aimed at helping a community rebuild or relocate within the place the disaster occurred. But there are no policies in place to relocate an entire community, like Kivalina, prior to an actual disaster....

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