An Environmental News Roundup

A quick, non-exhaustive collection of recent environmental news stories, with some comments.

Here's a quick roundup of environmental news stories that caught my attention. It's not intended to be exhaustive.

  • Last we heard from Richard Muller, head of the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) study, his work on BEST had convinced him that climate change was real. Now he has gone farther.  This is from a piece he wrote for the New York Times (emphasis is mine):

Three years ago I identified problems in previous climate studies that, in my mind, threw doubt on the very existence of global warming.  Last year, following an intensive research effort involving a dozen scientists, I concluded that global warming was real and that the prior estimates of the rate of warming were correct.  I’m now going a step further: Humans are almost entirely the cause.

The name of the piece? The Conversion of a Climate-Change Skeptic.

  • Here's some hopeful news: Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club describes, in the latest Sierra magazine, going to the White House Correspondents' Dinner:

One of the more refreshing aspects of the event was a series of conversations I had with Republican leaders who talked (off the record) about their interest in tackling climate change—and the political constraints preventing them or their colleagues from speaking out about it.

"Mike, we may not agree on much," one prominent Republican said.  "But on climate change, there's not really that much separating us."  Then he added, "But there's no way I can say that publicly."

  • James Hansen, director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, has released a new study.  He describes it in the Washington Post and once again, the title tells the story: Climate change is here – and worse than we thought.  Considering our weather this summer, it's hard not to argue. This has been the hottest summer I've known, and I've lived here a long time.

  • On the positive side, after the Clarkson Valley Board of Alderman refused to allow Jim and Frances Babb to put solar panels on the roof of their home, a judge ruled that the city was wrong, giving the Babbs legal authority to install the panels.  According to an article in West Newsmagazine, the Board's refusal was “ostensibly due to concerns about the aesthetics of the panels.”  Surely solar panels are no uglier than utility poles, fire plugs, air conditioners, and the dozens of other outdoor appurtenances of modern living.  To the contrary, they're beautiful because of what they represent – clean energy.

  • On August 28, the Christian Science Monitor and other news sources reported that Arctic sea ice has melted to a new low, and the melting season isn't even over yet.   British columnist George Monbiot, commenting on the contrast between the significance of this news and the lack of interest in it, called the 28th The day the world went mad.


Am I an alarmist?  Crying wolf?  If I were heading for a cliff, I'd want someone to let me know.   If climate change is a global left-wing conspiracy, where is the proof?  Daniel Patrick Moynihan said “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.”

Constructive comments are welcome.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

David Corbitt September 03, 2012 at 11:07 PM
Dirk Thanks for the updates! I would amend Moynihan's statement based on an interview on the Diane Rehm Show today. Dr. Stuart Firestein was discussing his book "Ignorance: How It Drives Science" In light of this interview I would say "Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, facts change with further discovery, but Truth never changes."
James Douglas Jenkins September 05, 2012 at 12:07 AM
So, I need help understanding a 'fact' above, please. I can't find good data quantifying the 'cleanliness' of solar power. Some years ago I spent many hours investigating the matter when considering purchasing a solar array only to find that the panels did not produce enough electricity during their lifespan to recoup the energy consumed in their manufacture. Help, please!
Dirk Maas September 05, 2012 at 01:07 AM
Thanks for the lead on that book, David. I will try to get my hands on a copy.
Dirk Maas September 11, 2012 at 02:59 AM
You're asking about energy returned on energy invested (EROEI). There's good info on EROEI on wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_returned_on_energy_invested. For data specific to photovoltaic (PV) solar panels, read the National Renewable Energy Lab's “PV FAQs”: (http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy05osti/37322.pdf). At the time of publication, 2004, it took, at most, 4 years for a solar panel to produce energy equal to the energy required to produce it. By 2009, they predicted, it would be down to 1 year. Here are a couple of summarizing quotes: “Assuming 30-year system life, PV systems will provide a net gain of 26 to 29 years of pollution-free and greenhouse-gas-free electrical generation.” “PV is clearly a wise energy investment that affords impressive environmental benefits.” Another informative read is http://www.oeic.us/articles/renewable_energy/beer_cans_or_solar_panels. The trend, discernible from the change between what you were told years ago and the 8-year old data above, is that solar panels are becoming more efficient, and this is consistent with technology in general. I have to believe the prediction above has been realized, and that a book on the subject coming out in December (http://www.amazon.com/Returned-Invested-Photovoltaic-SpringerBriefs-Analysis/dp/144199436X) will confirm this.
James Douglas Jenkins September 18, 2012 at 02:37 AM
That's perfect, Dirk, thanks for the good information.


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