Saturday, April 28, 2012

Global Warming and Hurricanes

An Overview of Current Research Results

1. Has Global Warming Affected Atlantic Hurricane Activity?

Two frequently asked questions on global warming and hurricanes are the following:

  • Have humans already caused a detectable increase in Atlantic hurricane activity
  • What changes in hurricane activity are expected for the late 21st century, given the pronounced global warming scenarios from current IPCC models
In this review, I address these questions in the context of published research findings. I will first present the main conclusions and then follow with some background discussion of the research that leads to these conclusions. The main conclusions are:

  • It is premature to conclude that human activities--and particularly greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming--have already had a detectable impact on Atlantic hurricane activity. That said, human activities may have already caused changes that are not yet detectable due to the small magnitude of the changes or observational limitations, or are not yet properly modeled (e.g., aerosol effects).
  • Anthropogenic warming by the end of the 21st century will likely cause hurricanes globally to be more intense on average (by 2 to 11% according to model projections for an IPCC A1B scenario). This change would imply an even larger percentage increase in the destructive potential per storm, assuming no reduction in storm size.
  • There are better than even odds that anthropogenic warming over the next century will lead to an increase in the numbers of very intense hurricanes in some basins—an increase that would be substantially larger in percentage terms than the 2-11% increase in the average storm intensity. This increase in intense storm numbers is projected despite a likely decrease (or little change) in the global numbers of all tropical storms.
  • Anthropogenic warming by the end of the 21st century will likely cause hurricanes to have substantially higher rainfall rates than present-day hurricanes, with a model-projected increase of about 20% for rainfall rates averaged within about 100 km of the storm center. More

    Monday, April 23, 2012

    Scholarships for new MSc in Energy Policy for Sustainability at the University of Sussex, UK

    Dear colleagues,

    Just a quick reminder that we still accept applications for two partial scholarships for our new MSc programme in ‘Energy Policy for Sustainability’ for the 2012 entry. The programme is led by the Sussex Energy Group (SEG), one of the largest independent social science energy policy research groups in the world and a core partner in the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research and the UK Energy Research Centre.

    For more information on the programme please see:

    For more information on how to apply for the scholarships, please see:

    Please forward this information to potentially interested students

    Connect the dots

    Bill McKibben’s has launched Connect the Dots Day. Scheduled for May 5 this global initiative is to draw attention to the fact that people all over the world recognize that climate change is happening (see poll results in New York Times article) and it is creating unpredictable weather events.
    McKibben is asking everyone to get involved with an event of some kind: a presentation, a protest, a community project, pictures, or another idea. Once compiled, they will deliver the message to politicians and media the world over.


    Another initiative regarding climate change has been undertaken by iMatter. Five youths have taken the bold step of suing the federal government for failing to protect the atmosphere. They held rallies throughout the United States on Earth Day, March 22, 2012. And on May 11 in Washington, DC, the lawsuit is being heard. The basic premise is that the atmosphere is a public trust for all generations and the government has a legal responsibility to protect it. The lawsuits would also require the government to put into place plans to reduce carbon emissions by at least 6 percent per year.

    In 2008, Lester Brown wrote about the need to connect the dots in his book Plan B 3.0 in relation to water and food.

    The link between water and food is strong. We each drink on average nearly 4 liters of water per day in one form or another, while the water required to produce our daily food totals at least 2,000 liters—500 times as much. This helps explain why 70 percent of all water use is for irrigation. Another 20 percent is used by industry, and 10 percent goes for residential purposes. With the demand for water growing in all three categories, competition among sectors is intensifying, with agriculture almost always losing. While most people recognize that the world is facing a future of water shortages, not everyone has connected the dots to see that this also means a future of food shortages.” More


    Saturday, April 21, 2012

    Looting the Pacific: ICIJ investigation on BBC World News

    Produced by London-based tve for BBC World News, "Looting the Pacific" features an International Consortium of Investigative Journalists' probe into the plundering of one of the world's last great fish stocks. Read the full investigation here: BBC World News will broadcast "Looting the Pacific" at the following times (all times GMT): Saturday April 21 at 9:30 am and 9:30 pm Sunday, April 22 at 2:30 am and 3:30 pm


    Tuesday, April 17, 2012

    Government pushes for more renewable energy choices

    Lawmakers voted in favour of a private member’s motion by UDP backbencher Cline Glidden to make it easier for people to produce and use renewable energy in their homes or businesses.

    The motion by Mr. Glidden, a West Bay Member of the Legislative Assembly, called for the government to “take all necessary steps to eliminate all utility-imposed restrictions on a person’s individual or business right to use renewable energy systems to offset utility consumption, thus reducing or eliminating utility costs and … to implement net metering using the [US] Interstate Renewable Energy Commission model rules for both net metering and grid interconnection”.

    Under the current Consumer-owned Renewable Energy arrangement of Feed-in Tariff System, or FITS, the Caribbean Utilities Company, which has the exclusive right to distribute electricity in Grand Cayman, buys 100 per cent of electricity produced by alternative energy systems from those who have signed up for the programme at 37 cents per kilowatt hour. Those individuals then buy electricity back from CUC’s main grid at the retail rate, which is currently 29 
cents per kilowatt hour.

    Net metering enables a bi-directional flow of electricity. Throughout the day, a customer’s solar, wind-generated or other alternative energy system may produce more or less electricity than is needed for his or her home or business. When the system’s production exceeds the customer demand, the excess energy generation automatically goes through the electric meter into the utility grid, running the meter backward to credit the customer’s account. When the customer’s electricity demand is higher than the renewable energy system is 
producing, the customer relies on additional power from the utility company.

    Mr. Glidden pointed out that there had not been much uptake from consumers of the pilot FITS system.

    The one-year pilot programme was introduced in January 2010 and is under review. By last month, only nine people had signed up for the programme – eight residential customers and one commercial business.

    “What is proposed in this motion is a system that would allow a homeowner to produce electricity for his own use and whatever electricity that is not used in its own facility, that would then be sold on to the gird, sold to CUC, at a rate equivalent to the rate that is charged by CUC. Hence, we have net metering,” said Mr Glidden. More

    Sunday, April 15, 2012

    Cuba Prepares For Rising Sea Levels And Extreme Weather

    Havana, April 11, 2012: One of the major challenges facing Cuba as it designs climate change adaptation policies is the preservation of its coastal ecosystems against the predicted rise in sea level and increasingly catastrophic extreme weather events.

    With the country’s 5,500 km of coastline and 4,000 cays and islets, almost everyone on the Cuban archipelago feels their life is tied to the sea in one way or another. “It’s lovely, but it is also dangerous,” said 78-year-old Teresa Marcial, who lives on the coast in Santa Fé, in the northern outskirts of Havana.

    For decades, Marcial has lived with the ocean practically lapping her patio. In 2005, floods caused by hurricane Wilma left her family and neighbours virtually on the street. “Huge waves swept everything away. We were taken by surprise. The water took away an extremely heavy wardrobe, which simply disappeared,” she told IPS.

    Her son, Martín Pérez Marcial, added that they have decided to sell their house and move to a safer place.

    “But as you can imagine, with the expectation that future hurricanes will be more intense because of climate change, no one wants to come and live here,” said a neighbour who did not mention his name.

    A few blocks away, builders are constructing a house that is raised more than two metres above ground level, using part of an older house and strong pillars for support. “If there is flooding, the water can circulate freely underneath the house,” said the construction foreman, José Luis Martínez.

    Behind the house, which is being built by “self help”, as private construction initiatives are called in Cuba, there is an outer wall of solid concrete and hard stone. “It saves on cement, and does not require steel, which rusts over time,” Martínez said.

    The talkative builder showed how the base of the containment wall has spillways for drainage, to let water flow back and forth. At the corners, the walls are shaped like a ship’s prow, “to break up the waves.” Several houses in the vicinity have similar walls, which “cost a pretty penny,” Pérez said.

    Santa Fé is at permanent risk of flooding due to hurricanes. Studies by state bodies put it among the coastal areas of the capital that face the greatest direct impact of tropical storms, and to a lesser extent of rising sea levels.

    Adaptation, an inevitable necessity

    Carlos Rodríguez, a researcher on land use planning and the environment for the government’s Physical Planning Institute (IPF), says 577 human settlements could suffer the combined onslaught of rising sea levels and oversized waves from swells and storm surges associated with hurricanes.

    In an interview with IPS, Rodríguez emphasised that according to a joint study by several Cuban scientific institutions, led by the Ministry of Science, Technology and the Environment and including IPF, an area of 2,550 square km of coast could be submerged by 2050.

    By 2100, the flooded area could expand to some 5,600 square km, according to sea level rise projections, he said. More



    Thursday, April 12, 2012

    Bill Gates Never Ran an Energy Company

    Last year, Bill Gates noted in an interview with Alan Murray of the Wall Street Journal that technologies like solar photovoltaics and LED lights were "cute" but could never deal with the bigger issue of climate change and powering the developing world.

    And, this week, writer Marc Gunther wrote in his postthat "Germany, once the world's leading market for solar power, is pulling back its subsidies. Q Cells, once the world's largest solar company, just went bankrupt.' This isn't happy news."

    So, I am writing to point out three things:

    1. The solar industry is growing and is significant, but is not going to solve all the ills of carbon;

    2. Mistakes are a blessing; and
    3. Theory is theory, not a solution

    1. Solar Growth: First, let me make note that I, and others, have just spent the last decade in solar creating the solar services industry which, according to the 2011 National Solar Jobs Census published by the Solar Foundation, grew 6.8 percent between 2010 and 2011.

    Plus, the solar industry installed $90 billion of equipment last year. That's double the amount of equipment that was installed for the new coal industry.

    And, GTM research and Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), issued a report that the showed that U.S. installed 1,855 MW (or 1.86 GW) of solar in 2011 and is expected to install a full gigawatt more than that in 2012: 2.8 GW.

    GTM Research and SEIA estimate the U.S. solar market's total value surpassed $8.4 billion in 2011.

    So, solar is winning and growing. But, no one is saying it is the only solution -- just a compelling piece of the puzzle.

    In fact, there is no silver bullet. We must find efficiencies and new solutions in solving the carbon issue in several areas: transport, agriculture, energy, forestry, industry, buildings and waste.

    However, when we think about carbon, most of us tend to think of two areas: transportation and electricity. While Bill Gates might label solar and LED lighting as "cute," the numbers seem to suggest otherwise. Both are billion-dollar industries and together with hundreds of other solutions will help reach the $5+ trillion in new investments necessary to make an impact by 2020.

    Remember, we did not get to this point with one major offender, and we will not solve our ills with one major solution. More



    Barbados to build first waste to energy plant at major landfill

    BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, April 12, 2012 - A waste-to-energy facility expected to process approximately 350 tonnes of solid waste a day, and provide between 10 to 14 megawatts of electricity is on the cards for Barbados.

    This was announced by the island’s Minister of the Environment and Drainage, Dr Denis Lowe, as he disclosed that Cabinet had recently approved BDS$377 million for the creation of a Mangrove Pond Green Energy Complex.

    Along with the waste-to-energy facility, this complex will include a solar power facility, a wind energy facility, the Mangrove Pond Beautification Programme, the construction of a new mechanical maintenance facility, and the Landfill Gas Management System.
    Dr Lowe said the complex formed part of Government's efforts to develop a comprehensive programme to manage solid waste disposal and create energy options for the country.
    "What we are also going to be doing in that package of services is to decommission cells one, two and three [at the Landfill], and commission the new cell four towards the end of June," he said.
    The projects listed under the programme are expected to assist with the development of the infrastructure that is necessary for achieving sustainability, efficiency and effectiveness in the execution of solid waste management in Barbados. More

    The Cayman Islands should, no matter where the new land-fill is placed, seriously consider a major recycling program. Editor


    The Pursuit of Low Gas Prices is Bad for the U.S.

    It's a fallacy that we can drill our way to low gas prices, and trying to do so not only threatens our health, but also wastes our money and misdirects innovation. If we stop focusing on the problem of high gas prices and who’s to blame and start pursuing solutions to the true problem—our oil dependence—we might find we agree more than we think.

    Oil price volatility carries a huge economic cost. High oil prices have preceded every recession since 1973, and have put mobility industries especially at risk. Savvy companies get this. FedEx (which burns 1.5 billion gallons of petroleum-based fuels) is now betting on electric or hybrid vehicles, and adding biofuels and natural gas to the mix for its delivery van, truck, and jet fleets.

    The relentless pursuit of low gas prices forces us to spend trillions and risk young Americans' lives. The Pentagon gets this, and has made “more fight, less fuel” a central part of its sweeping strategy to not only reduce through efficiency the amount of oil the military uses, but also to replace it with alternative sources.

    The North American Council for Freight Efficiency’s fleet efficiency survey shows that once the leaders in trucking started adopting efficiency measures, they continued doing so even when diesel prices dropped. Now that fuel prices are rising again, that investment is rewarding them even more.

    Many have pointed to the Obama Administration and its energy strategy, in spite of the fact that gas prices and volatility are tied to the world market (which pays little regard to who is president).

    Energy Secretary Steven Chu is in hot water for having said in 2008—before he was energy secretary—that, “somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe.” Politically inconvenient given Chu’s position now, but did he have a point? More



    Alaska’s 1st Utility-Scale Wind Farm Gets Energy Storage Boost from Xtreme Power

    Xtreme Power, a power management and energy storage company, has been selected to supply Alaska’s first utility-scale wind farm with a significant energy storage boost, or backup.

    Xtreme Power will supply a 3-MW Dynamic Power Resource (DPR) power management and energy storage system to Kodiak Electric Association (KEA) for its 9-MW Pillar Mountain Wind Project.

    The Pillar Mountain Wind Project was originally 4.5 MW in size, and has been supplying KEA with nearly 10% of its electricity generation, but KEA’s satisfaction with it, combined with wind power’s cost compared to other alternatives, has triggered the company to boost the capacity to 9 MW. At 9 MW, though, KEA feels that an energy storage and power management boost would be helpful in maintaining or improving grid stability.

    “We were drawn to Xtreme Power for its proven performance in renewable rich grid environments and sought to bring this same stability assurance to our Pillar Mountain Wind Project,” said Darron Scott, President and CEO of the Kodiak Electric Association. “The XP team assessed Pillar Mountain’s energy storage needs to develop a Dynamic Power Resource system that enhances grid operations while adhering to KEA’s financial targets. Together, we are furthering KEA’s goal of reaching 95 percent renewable power generation by 2020.” More

    Source: Clean Technica (

    Start the shift to a better future for transportation

    FedEx Chairman, President and CEO, Fred Smith has said [1] of our nation's dependence on oil, "What is needed now is an urgent, national commitment to action." As oil prices once again top $100 a barrel, we're unveiling a video that we hope will help bring more attention to doing just that. Seventy [2] percent of oil used in the United States is for transportation fuel. In his testimony [3] to Congress, Fred Smith outlined the incredible costs and burdens this dependence creates on families, businesses and our national security. There are better alternatives. And while we're used to delivering overnight at FedEx, we know this shift is something that's going to take a little longer [4]. Check out this short piece about the current challenge and go here [5] to find out what other steps you can take right now. [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]


    Sunday, April 8, 2012

    Choking on Rising Fuel Costs for Electricity, Barbados Launches Multiple Source-Multiple Use Renewable Energy Plan

    Another sign of the rapidly changing (for the better) energy landscape: the southeastern Caribbean island nation of Barbados is taking an integrated, multiple source-multiple use approach as it launches a program to shift away from its almost total reliance on imported fossil fuel imports to clean, homegrown renewable sources for electricity generation and other uses.

    The Barbadian cabinet on April 5 approved the US$188.5 million Mangrove Pond Green Energy Complex, according to a Caribbean Journal report. The complex is to include solar power and wind power facilities, a new Mechanical Maintenance Facility, a Waste-to-Energy Facility, and a Landfill Gas Management System.

    In total, the Barbadian government expects the Mangrove Pond Green Energy Complex to produce more than 25 MW of clean electrical power that can be sold on to the island nation’s grid, reducing dependence on fossil fuels and helping reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

    Barbados relies almost entirely (96%) on fuel oil and diesel to generate electricity; 90% of it imported. That’s comparable to what the island nation spends on education. Barbados’s bill for oil imports in 2009 and 2010 totaled some $230 million, which amounts to nearly 6% of national GDP, about what it spends on education, Senator Darcy Boyce was quoted as saying in a Barbados Today article.

    Barbados’s Sustainable Energy Framework

    The government intends to reduce Barbados’s oil import bill significantly, Boyce, who heads the Prime Minister’s Energy Office, told attendees gathered for the launch of the Energy Efficiency Awareness Programme of the Sustainable Energy Framework for Barbados Pilot Project.

    The aim of the Sustainable Energy Framework for Barbados Pilot Project is to reduce fossil fuel use by some 30% by bringing renewable energy resources online, and to reduce electricity demand by over 21% by implementing energy efficiency measures and technologies over a 20-year period. TheInter-American Development Bank (IADB) is contributing $1 million in investment grants and loans through the World Bank Group’s Global Environment Facility (GEF).

    Rising global market prices for crude oil and derivatives have been rising consistently for several years, putting greater financial pressure on local businesses and residents alike. The direct effect rising fuel costs have on ratepayers’ pocketbooks and businesses’ operating budgets is compounded by the indirect effects, as they flow through into prices of all imports and are passed on to consumers. More


    Monday, April 2, 2012

    Ecocide is a crime.

    For almost twenty years, Garth's photography of threatened wilderness regions, devastation, and the impacts on indigenous peoples, has appeared in the world's leading publications. His recent images from the boreal region of Canada have helped lead to significant victories and large new protected areas in the Northwest Territories, Quebec, and Ontario. Garth's major touring exhibit on the Tar Sands premiered on Los Angeles in 2011 and recently appeared in New York. Garth is a Fellow of the International League Of Conservation Photographers

    For those interested to know more about our profile cover picture of before and after please watch this excellent TEDx talk by Garth Lenz about the destruction of the Athabasca wetlands and forest in Canada through extraction of the tar sands for oil.

    What does environmental devastation actually look like? At TEDxVictoria, photographer Garth Lenz shares shocking photos of the Alberta Tar Sands mining project -- and the beautiful (and vital) ecosystems under threat.



    We Need Many Strong, United Voices to Combat Climate Change

    To deal with the threats and challenges of climate change we need solidarity. We need to recognize that no matter where we live, we are one people on a single planet, the only planet that we have. We need many strong voices speaking together -- the voices of people from all those regions that the 2007 IPCC IV Report identified as “vulnerable.”

    by: Sheila Watt-Cloutier, Inuit environment, culture and human rights advocate, and former political leader, Ronald Jumeau, Seychelles Ambassador for Climate Change and Small Island Developing State Issues

    We need the Arctic, where the rapidly melting multi-year sea ice is just one symptom of massive changes now underway. We need the small island developing States (SIDS) like Tuvalu, Barbados and Seychelles whose homes are threatened with inundation. And we need voices of people who live in high mountain regions, on deltas and in the vast Savannah of the Sahel.

    We need many strong voices, united in their resolve to defend human rights and determined to see their cultures survive and thrive.

    Twenty years. That's how long we have both petitioned the world community to save our lands, our peoples and ways of life. We have done so in every conceivable manner and with ever-increasing urgency. Twenty years ago, when we began to experience climate change in our lands and communities, we began to worry that our children would no longer grow up in a safe and nurturing environment. We worried too that our ancient cultures, deeply connected to our lands, might not survive into future generations. Today, our children now experience those changes with us every day, and join in the appeal for future generations.

    It is hard to imagine us coming from more different backgrounds: one from a balmy archipelago in the Indian Ocean and the other from the cold expanse of the northern tundra. Yet today we join with our brothers and sisters from other islands and polar regions through the Many Strong Voices programme[3] — a network of individuals and communities in the Arctic and SIDS connecting for strategic action on climate change mitigation and adaptation. We reiterate our unequivocal appeal: The world must take action now to stop climate change and address the damage already done.

    Now as we approach the 20th anniversary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), we are running out of time. Last year’s climate change negotiations in Durban produced an agreement to adopt a binding legal agreement on climate change “as soon as possible, and no later than 2015.”[4]

    We heard this kind of pledge leading up to the 2009 negotiations in Copenhagen that produced little of substance. Indeed, at the time the fact that the negotiation process itself lived on was heralded as a major victory.

    Not to us.

    As climate science has advanced, we now know the consequences of the world’s unwillingness to act. Even once the world agrees to stabilize and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, warming from gases already in the atmosphere will tragically affect the most vulnerable regions of our planet. Sadly, as we have seen in places such as the Pacific island of Kiribati and the Alaskan community of Shishmaref, it may already be too late.

    Even if the world forges an agreement three years from now, it will be very difficult to make the deep GHG emissions reductions that hundreds of scientific studies tell us -- clearly -- that we need to make in order to keep the world’s global average temperature from rising 2ºC above pre-industrial levels, let alone the 1.5ºC that the SIDS and a majority of the countries that have signed the UNFCCC are calling for. And we need to make sure that the rising line of emissions starts to bend down as 2020 dawns or it may be too late for our peoples and lands.

    The impacts of climate change may be affecting small island states and remote Arctic communities with small populations, but they are also affecting hundreds of millions of people in the Ganges, Indus, Yangtze and other river systems dependent on glacial water for agriculture and drinking. If you look at it this way, the majority of the world’s population is experiencing the effects of climate change now.

    Let’s be clear. This isn’t a numbers game. Article 3 of the UNFCCC clearly states that countries “should protect the climate system for the benefit of future and present generations of human kind on the basis of equity and in accordance with their common but differentiated responsibility and respective capabilities.” This means “developed countries should take the lead in combating climate change and the adverse effects thereof.” We haven’t seen much of this leadership in the negotiating process.

    Other major emitters and emerging economies cannot afford to continue with business as usual.

    Now, as the world approaches the 20th anniversary of the Rio Summit where the UNFCCC was negotiated, much attention is being placed on how to achieve a sustainable future. We would like to point out that our peoples have overcome innumerable challenges to thrive in our Arctic and island communities for hundreds and thousands of years. Our cultures are sustainable. But recently, our elders have been warning us that the changes we witness are unprecedented in our histories. They see our ice melting and our seas rising and are very concerned about how the next generation will thrive in the rapidly changing lands of our ancestors. If we lose our ice and our lands, we lose our cultures — some of the richest on Earth.

    Our primary objectives are clear: reduce global emissions to avoid catastrophic warming while recognizing common but differentiated responsibilities between countries; ensure adequate adaptation measures are taken in areas facing the adverse effects of climate change now and in the future; and include human rights protections in the final agreement.

    If we can achieve these goals, it will mark a watershed in humankind's ability to look beyond immediate and parochial interests and to reconnect as a shared humanity. It isn’t that complicated. All it takes is for us to recognize our common interest and that we are all here on this planet together. More

    For more information or contact John Crump (john.crump [at]

    [1] Sheila Watt- Cloutier is an award winning Inuit environment, culture and human rights advocate and former political leader who was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007.

    [2] H.E. Ronald Jumeau is the Seychelles Ambassador for Climate Change and Small Island Developing State Issues.