Weather extremes are damaging parts of the U.S. infrastructure [NY Times]

The United States ranks 9th out of 12 of the world’s largest economies on energy efficiency but feels the least guilty []

Demolition began at the West Branch of the Berkeley Public Library – when completed, it will be a zero net energy building [Berkeleyside]

The Feds say the PACE retrofit program is still too risky []

Photo: A blooming artichoke in Berkeley, CA, by Anna LaRue

Land Surface Temperatures Over Time

This video shows the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature groups’s land surface temperature data from 1800 to 2009, illustrating overall global warming since the industrial revolution.

Click the image below to watch it on The Guardian website or click here (there may be an ad first).


More information on the results of the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature group can be found on their website, here. Team members include Art Rosenfeld.

Cancun Climate Summit, part 2


Global Temperature Anomaly Map 2000-2009, NASA

(see my previous post for background info on the Cancun Climate Summit)

The Cancun Climate Summit, 16th Conference of the Parties (COP16) wrapped up on Saturday morning. With modest expectations widely held after the last years’ highly anticipated COP15 in Copenhagen failed to come to an accord, in the end the Cancun summit has succeeded in achieving a broad-based consensus and vision, if not a road map on how to get there.

Delegates from 194 countries remained deadlocked over the week of meetings in Cancun until a compromise was dramatically reached on the closing day. The conference did not produce another legally binding framework like 1997’s Kyoto Protocol- the terms of which expire next year- but it puts into place the building blocks for such an agreement to be forged.

Key goals include:

– Industrialized countries are charged with developing low carbon development plans and strategies and assessments to meet them.

– A Green Climate Fund will be established and administered by the United Nations in order to provide financial support to the climate change mitigation goals of developing nations. A total of $30 billion in “fast start” finance from developed nations will be secured up to 2012, with a goal of $100 billion in longterm funds to 2020.

– For the first time, a U.N. document sets the imperative that global temperatures must not rise more than 2 degrees C, based on pre-industrial levels.

– A new “Cancun Adaptation Framework” will become established to help undeveloped nations with the necessary planning and technical support to implement their climate mitigation goals.

The next U.N. Climate Change Summit will take place next winter in Durban, South Africa.


More on the outcome of the COP16 Summit:

U.N. Climate Talks End, The Wall Street Journal

Progress on Climate Fund, but Questions Remain, Mother Jones

The United Nations Framework on Climate Change website

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A Gift to Fight Proposition 23

Via the New York Times:

Citing figures from the California secretary of state, reports that Bill Gates has donated $700,000 to the campaign against Proposition 23, the ballot measure that would repeal a California law related to reining in global warming. According to Maplight’s list, that would make him the 11th-biggest contributor to the opposition effort to date.

The story is here.

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Cool Planet – Art Rosenfeld


In Berkeley, we are fortunate to have such events as Science at the Theater, where Lawrence Berkeley National Lab researchers give talks on their work at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre. The lectures are free and get a pretty sizeable audience.

On Monday, October 11, I was in the audience as researchers from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (and the beloved Art Rosenfeld) gave a presentation titled “Cool Roofs, Cool Cities.” The post below consists of Part 4 of my record of the presentation – Art Rosenfeld gives an overview of how cool roofs and cool cities can leader to a cool planet. All portions are included in chronological order.

An ellipsis (…) indicates that I was not able to capture the words or thoughts skipped. The presentation is transcribed as accurately as possible – punctuation choices are mine. I also added any images.

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I’m going to bring us into modern times and the question of global warming … Two thousand years ago, people tried to figure out how to keep houses cool, then a couple hundred years ago, we tried to figure out how to keep the cities cool, and now we’re trying to figure out how to keep the planet cool.

Taking a trip around the world … [looking at photos].

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Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

In Bermuda, they use sloped white roofs to collect water.

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Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

In Santorini, Greece, even the sides of the buildings are white.

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Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

In Hyderabad, people like to sleep on the roof to be cool at night.

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Here’s a Wal-Mart store in Northern California with white roof – they’ve done 4500 of their stores, and have 1500 to go.

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Here’s an overview of UC Davis … Since 2005, the CEC Title 24 has required that if a roof is flat, cool roofs are required …

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Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Here’s the University of Tucson in the middle …  residential areas nearby also have white roofs … …

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Here’s Washington, DC (federal) … The House and Senate office buildings do not have white roofs.

The most fun was this – this is the Pentagon. I went to a hilarious meeting – I got invited to give a talk at the Pentagon. There were innumerable generals and such around …

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Now what about the Earth? … Part of what keeps the earth cool is ice and snow, which is decreasing in size … It would be nice to add some more white … …

Atmospheric climatologists have been aware of this issue for years, and back in the 1980s, Jim Hansen published a paper wondering whether cooling cities would make a difference – and he got an answer of about a 1/10th of a degree … But we weren’t so worried in those days … But we asked, maybe there’s a better way to sell this? … Look, carbon dioxide reflects heat, that’s called a positive radiation forcing onto the ground. And white roofs reflect heat … Carbon dioxide has a price … So we’ve got to do it per unit … 1000 square feet, winds up being about 10 tons of carbon. Suppose we multiply this by about 3 billion, since there are about 3 billion units of roof in cities, then avoid the heating effect of 25 billion tons of carbon dioxide…over the life of the roof. So let’s say 1 billion tons a year for 25 years … This winds up being 300 million cars off the road for 20 years … There are only about 600 million cars right now …

So what to do now? First, get other states to follow California… Arizona and Florida and Georgia have followed suit with cool roofs … The problem is a lot of the rest of the country, the hot part … the United States relies  on model building codes, and states are not required to adopt them. They can make them stronger and adopt them, but they are not required to adopt them. Texas doesn’t have any, the cities there have taken the lead …  DOE is going white, the Marine Corps is going white …

We’re going to launch a private club called 100 Cool Cities, with some DOE help, where were’ going to approach the 100 largest cities, which gets us  to a population of 200 million, where we’ll talk to them about cool roofs and try to get it into the building code … This will involve the Sierra Club, the Clinton Global Initiative, USGBC, ICLEI, the Energy Foundation, the Alliance for Climate Protection, ACEEE, and others …

Steve Chu will offer assistance to the first few countries to sign up to address this issue … …

So things are moving along nicely, and thank you very much.

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Part 1 is posted here. Part 2 is posted here. Part 3 is posted here.

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Chris Field – Director of Dept. of Global Ecology


On Friday (10/1) and Saturday (10/2), I was in the audience at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre in Berkeley, California, as Chris Field, Director of the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Global Ecology at Stanford University, gave a presentation titled “The Velocity of Climate Change: 2010”.

The post below consists of selected snippets of my record of the presentation. All portions are included in chronological order.

An ellipsis (…) indicates that I was not able to capture the words or thoughts skipped. The presentation is transcribed as accurately as possible – punctuation choices are mine.

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… What I want to do is talk about pace … in four different contexts … We already know enough to make smart decisions and the challenge is how we go from at atmosphere of doubt to one where we can really make decisions … … The idea of a threshold isn’t necessarily the best way to think of this issue – there are some places that have probably already passed their threshold … we need to instead think of risk management …

Risk = probability x consequence

In terms of the calculation of risk, there’s risk in high-probability events, but also risk in low-probability events that happen over a wide spectrum … Steve Schneider compared climate change to playing with loaded dice …

… … …

Today, I want to talk about the velocity of climate change in terms of the rate of climate change, the history of understanding climate change, the velocity required for ecosystem and societal responses (adaptation), and commitments to future changes.

The warming of the climate system is unequivocal … there is some indication that the pace is increasing … What we do in the future makes a huge difference … It’s really striking that there’s still a tremendous amount of uncertainty about where we’ll wind up … We can see a very wide range between the low end and the high end of temperature impacts … We need research into coping and adaptation strategies …

There is now more thinking about climate change impacts in the context of risk … fire in the western United States … risk of extreme events (2003 heat wave in Western Europe) …

There is also thinking about velocities of ecosystems on the ground … the plants and animals that are best at moving and taking advantage of climate change are the weeds and pests …

… … …

… We are not looking at consequences of a century or two of climate change, but essentially fixed changes … The inertia in the system is really dramatic … The Hoover Dam was completed in 1936, and we are still using it … When we’re thinking of setting up energy infrastructure for the future, we need to remember that the infrastructure lasts for a long time. We’re building the energy infrastructure for the next century now … There are significant emissions commitments from existing infrastructure … In China, much of the infrastructure is new and won’t be retired very fast. In the United States, we have mostly old infrastructure, so the committed emissions could drop rapidly. This type of analysis gives us a sobering picture of the amount of climate change we can’t avoid …

In looking at where the missions are coming from, it’s useful to look per country and per capita … the United States still has fives times the emission per capita as China …

… … …

In terms of the pace of human responses to climate change, there are many reasons we might want to delay: to avoid unnecessary expenditures, to allow natural progress with technology development, and to start from a position of greater wealth … But there are questionable economics in the study of rapid emissions reduction. In a paper in Nature (Wigley et al, 1996), it was concluded that if you want to optimize economically, you would stay with “business as usual” but then deploy technologies aggressively. But the paper didn’t really discuss the implications of delay. Delay doesn’t mean do nothing – it has to mean get prepared with investment and readiness to aggressively deploy technology …

Is the technology available? Humanity already possesses the fundamental scientific, technical, and industrial knowledge now to solve the carbon and climate problem for the next half century …

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This exchange was followed by a question and answer session with the audience.

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Update on Spending on Prop 23

From the New York Times today:

At the start of the campaign for California’s Proposition 23, the ballot measure that would suspend the state’s global warming law, opponents darkly warned that the Texas oil companies backing the initiative would spend as much as $50 million to win the election.

But with three weeks until Election Day, it is the No on 23 coalition of environmentalists, investors and Silicon Valley technology companies that is raking in the cash, taking in nearly twice as much money as the Yes on 23 campaign.

As of Monday, the No on 23 forces had raised $16.3 million to the Yes campaign’s $8.9 million, according to California Secretary of State records. Over the past two weeks, nearly $7 million has flowed into No campaign coffers while contributions to the Yes effort had fallen off dramatically.

Read the entire story here.

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A Quote

Roger Revelle, 1957:

Human beings are now carrying out a large scale geophysical experiment of a kind that could not have happened in the past nor be reproduced in the future.

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Assorted Links

The fight over Proposition 23, the California ballot initiative that would suspend the state’s landmark global warming law, has spawned some unusual political alliances. Mainstream environmentalists, venture capitalists, labor unions, tech chieftains and even some Republicans have all made common cause to oppose the measure, which is backed by two Texas oil companies.

Department of the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has issued a memorandum laying out the codes of conduct for scientific activities and the use of science in decision making.

At the Renewable Energy Finance Forum-West, energy bankers said that clean technology segment leaders should be able to IPO successfully and that energy efficiency is an attractive sector.  But they also predicted that oil companies will scale back their investments in wind energy and that the availability of capital will remain limited in the short term.

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As Climate Bill Falters, California is Crucial


AB32? Prop. 23? National climate bill? Keep it straight.

It seems that California is going to lead by example when it comes to climate change legislation in more ways than one. In 2006, California passed the historic Assembly Bill 32 (AB32), becoming the first state in the nation to address climate change broadly through a suite of emissions reductions and land use  regulation. Leading the charge, California’s legislation helped pave the way for the national climate bill. While the climate bill squeaked through the House of Representatives in the summer of 2009, the full bill was abandoned in the Senate this week, indefinitely. Because of an obvious lack of  Republican support to get the full bill through, Democrats offered a pared-down proposal on Tuesday. The new proposal has taken several distancing steps from a comprehensive “global warming bill”, and has the significant raising of a $75 million liability cap on oil spill damages as its focal point. With the aim of ushering the slimmed-down bill through before the August recess, its passage appears tenuous.

Meanwhile, California’s climate legislation, AB32 is meeting with similar opposition that will come to a head in the form of Proposition 23 on the November ballot that would effectively halt the implementation of AB32. How California reacts to the challenge will likely prove to the testing ground for climate change policy nationwide, for years to come.

We will be following this issue very closely, as well as the progress of local Bay Area implementation of AB32.