Dr. Ken Caldeira's Elevator Pitch

Here’s another video in the “Elevator Pitch” series where climate scientists desiccate what they would say about global warming and climate change in a conversation during an elevator ride. This one is with Dr. Kenneth Caldeira, an atmospheric scientist who works at the Carnegie Institution for Science’s Department of Global Ecology. His research is primarily in ocean acidification, climate effects of trees, intentional climate modification, and interactions in the global carbon cycle/climate system.

See what you think about his take on the morality of not acting now to change our ways.

Keystone XL: Vetoed

“Good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly, while bad people will find a way around the laws.”
Plato

Yesterday, President Obama vetoed the bill that would have approved construction of the Keystone XL pipeline which would have transported tar sands oil from Alberta down to refineries on the Gulf coast. The veto comes as no surprise since Obama was expected to reject the bill and the Congress doesn’t have enough Republican votes to override him.

Sadly, the fight over Keystone XL is not over. Obama’s veto means Congress can’t force the pipeline’s construction through legislation. Rather, now it goes back to the State Department where, frankly, it’s been for the last six years. Ultimately the State Department will make a recommendation to Secretary of State John Kerry on whether Keystone XL is “in the national interest.” Secretary Kerry gets to make the official determination with no official timeline in sight, but that decisions is something that will likely have substantial influence on the President’s final decision.

However, there are a few things to watch that will help State to make its final determination:  Continue reading

Anti-Wind Takes Another Blow! (Get it?)

“The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.”
William Arthur Ward

Along with Australia, Ontario has one of the largest anti-wind movements on the planet, to the point where groups have resorted to lawsuits in their opposition to wind energy. The bulk of their arguments comes down to wind turbines hurting two things: their health and their property values. So far, not one legal case based on health concerns in Ontario has been successful. Now you can add a constitutional challenge to the list.

Wind farms have been increasing in number in Ontario since 2009 when the Ontario Green Energy Act prevented municipalities from blocking their development. A Feed-in Tariff also helped, giving owners the opportunity to sell their unused electricity. Such wind farms need a Renewable Energy Approval (REA), and these can be appealed on various grounds including serious harm to health. When those appeals were rejected because evidence of serious harm wasn’t found, opponents looked to the courts for the next step in their fight. The Ontario Divisional Court has rejected their claim that the test for harm is itself unconstitutional.

The onus is on the opponents of wind turbines to prove they cause harm. Continue reading

The Heat Continues! (Just Not in My Part of the World!)

“The last 12 months have been the hottest 12 months ever recorded. So far, this February is much hotter than last year’s. This means that in a month, we will again break the all time record. These records just keep falling.”
—climate expert Professor John Abraham

Brrrrrrrrrr! It’s frigging cold where I live, north of Toronto!

So it’s hard to believe that January was the second hottest January on record (after January 2007) according to NASA. Even more importantly, February 2014 to January 2015 was the hottest twelve consecutive months we’ve ever recorded. Looking at the last twelve months—even month to month—provides more useful information rather than waiting for each calendar year to be over. This way we get to see the gradual rise in temperature over time.

Yes, lately it’s been cold where I live, as well as for everyone living in the eastern half to the U.S. (as the blue in the diagram illustrates). But guess what! It’s been hot almost everywhere else. Not just the rest of the North American continent, but in fact the rest of the whole planet. Large portions of North America and Asia have been experiencing temperatures that are off the charts for January.

And don’t forget what makes these recent records all the more remarkable: our planet is breaking global temperature records without an El Niño’s contribution. (That’s what helped 1998 to be such an outlier year, something that deniers continue to argue as evidence that global warming stopped.) If we get an El Niño warming pattern anytime in the near future, our global temperatures will reach heights that no human being has ever witnessed.

If 2015 is an El Niño year, it is likely to break the record for the hottest year ever, but even without one the trend has been such that a record may be inevitable anyway. Thanks to the fact that we have pushed atmospheric carbon dioxide to levels not seen for millions of years, we can count on continuing to break both annual and monthly temperature records on a regular basis for years to come.

Keystone XL: On-Again, Off-Again

“Nebraska landowners are not going to cave to their threats and we will now see them in our Supreme Court to finally get clarity on the legality of a foreign corporation using eminent domain for private gain.”
—Jane Kleeb, Director of Bold Nebraska

Just last month, the Nebraska Supreme Court decided to reverse a lower court’s decision that would allow TransCanada’s Keystone XL’s pipeline route through the state. The law (with the sexy name of LB1161) made it possible for final approval to come solely from the governor’s office rather than through the Public Service Commission, much more involved process. It also allowed for “eminent domain,” a cryptic way of saying that land owned by others could be turned over to TransCanada for the pipeline’s use. Soon after the Supreme Court’s decision, TransCanada put eminent domain to good use by trying to get the last holdouts to turn their land over to the pipeline’s route, about 90 people in total. That’s what led some landowners to file their own lawsuits against TransCanada, challenging its right to eminent domain.

In the latest turnaround in this whole Keystone XL topsy-turvy process, a Nebraska district judge has put a stop to TransCanada’s plans to use eminent domain. Nebraska State District Court Judge Mark Kozisek issued a temporary injunction last week. A hearing had nearly 70 landowners calling on him to grant the injunction which now will remain in place until Nebraska’s Supreme Court looks at the landowners’ argument.

Of course, Congress is going to submit a bill to approve Keystone XL soon, but President Obama will almost definitely veto it. Will this fun never end?