International News

Two secret funders of Nigel Lawsons climate sceptic organisation revealed

Guardian - 12 hours 49 min ago

Neil Record and Nigel Vinson confirm their donations, and are both linked to thinktank that took funds from oil companies

Two secret funders of Nigel Lawsons climate sceptic organisation have been revealed. This is the first time anyone financing the group has confirmed their contributions. Both are linked to a free-market thinktank, the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), which has admitted taking funding from fossil fuel companies and has also argued against climate change mitigation.

Lord Lawson has steadfastly refused to name the funders of the Global Warming Policy Foundation since its inception in 2009, stating only that none have significant fossil fuel interests. The GWPF has become the most prominent climate sceptic group in the UK, but critics of the GWPF argue that funders names should be made public in the interest of transparency.

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Categories: International News

September 3rd Web Workshop: Divestment as a Solidarity Tactic

350.org - September 1, 2014 - 4:48pm

August has been a month of big news stories that weigh heavy on our hearts: injustice and unrest in Ferguson, escalating conflict in the Middle East, Ebola outbreaks, droughts, fires, and more. With these pressing social justice issues that need immediate action, divestment might feel like an afterthought. But it’s not. Not at all.

For our web workshop on September 3rd, we are joined by two fossil fuel divestment leaders to discuss how divestment can be used as a solidarity tactic, and how climate change is innately intertwined with social justice.

Joshua Kahn Russell is the Global Trainings Manager at 350.org. He has trained thousands of activists, and he’ll be joining us to offer insights about building relationships of solidarity with integrity and power.

Sachie Hopkins Hayakawa is a Youth and Student Organizer with the New Economy Coalition, and helped organize the country’s first fossil fuel divestment campaign with Swarthmore Mountain Justice. Sachie will speak to the implications and possibilities for divestment campaigns standing in solidarity with communities on the frontlines of fossil fuel impacts.

Here’s everything you need to know to join this powerful workshop:

WHAT: Divestment as a Solidarity Tactic
WHEN: Wednesday, September 3, 8:30 PM EDT/5:30 PM PDT
WHERE: Online! We’ll send you the link to view the workshop when you RSVP.

Click here to RSVP.

Bring your questions and your friends!

Photo taken from: http://rabble.ca/toolkit/guide/solidarity-activism

Categories: International News

Renewable Energy Target review confirms influence of coal and climate sceptics

The Conversation - September 1, 2014 - 4:29pm
The Renewable Energy Target represents another shift towards fossil fuel power.Brian Yap (葉)/Flickr, CC BY-NC

The release of the Renewable Energy Target review last week is yet another indication of the disproportionate influence of the fossil fuel industry and climate sceptics on governments in Australia.

Many experts have said that, if the recommendations are implemented, they would have a serious impact on the renewable energy sector.

The review follows the repeal of Australia’s carbon “tax” (read: fixed price period of an emissions trading scheme) with government bills to abolish the independent Climate Change Authority, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency put before the Parliament.

Review process was not consistent with legislation

The legislation which established the Renewable Energy Target states that the independent Climate Change Authority, now facing abolition, must review the operation of the Act. Yet this statutory task was given to a “panel of experts” chaired by Dick Warburton, a well-known sceptic of human-induced climate change.

Not only that, but the panel’s terms of reference were not consistent with the legislation and were skewed to require consideration of the government’s agenda of “reducing business costs, cost of living pressures, cutting red and green tape, and the Direct Action plan”.

It seems that not even those wealthy people who the government is levying 2% for budget recovery can afford any climate change impost on their electricity prices. Certainly not AUD$550 a year for the carbon price and probably not any short-term increases to electricity prices resulting from the Renewable Energy Target. What’s more, the Direct Action plan has not even been approved by the Parliament.

And now the recommendations weaken the target in favour of coal-fired power. Although Warburton states publicly that he brought an open mind to the review, in a democracy we expect those who exercise public functions to “be seen to be” impartial.

We have already witnessed the Prime Minister and Treasurer ordering the Clean Energy Finance Corporation to stop disbursing funds contrary to its statutory mandate. Again, our democracy requires the repeal of the legislation by the Parliament to achieve this, not orders barked from the executive.

Coal lobbying in NSW

In New South Wales, the Independent Commission against Corruption has been investigating corruption associated with the opening up of land for coal mining, the granting of coal licences, the construction of coal terminals, and the taking of illegal developer donations.

What is also of great concern is the political influence of the coal mining lobby. In October 2012 the NSW Minerals Council lobbied the NSW government to cut funds to the Environmental Defender’s Office of NSW. The council objected to the EDO bringing applications, on behalf of communities, for judicial review and merits appeals against mining approvals granted by the government.

Yet these remedies are essential to a functioning democracy and are indeed protected legal rights in Australia. That month, the O’Farrell government cut the Environmental Defender’s Office’s funding by 25%. The Federal government has since cut funding of A$10 million to EDO offices around Australia.

Last year when a NSW court refused consent for a coal mine on the grounds of ecological sustainability, the O’Farrell government amended a NSW mining environmental planning policy to make the economic significance of coal the principal factor in assessment.

Environmental and social factors must now only be considered proportionately to the economic significance of coal. This was ostensibly to give “certainty” to the coal miners and the community.

Yet public submissions on the changes showed that over 84% of individuals and over 66% of organisations were opposed to the amendment.

Climate change off the agenda

Meanwhile the Federal Government has said that climate change will not be on the agenda when the G20 meets this November in Brisbane. The Prime Minister only wants to talk about “economic security and private sector-led growth for a strong prosperous future” — and does not consider climate change part of that agenda, despite evidence to the contrary.

Instead, the Abbott government enthusiastically celebrates the repeal of the carbon price mechanism, for which it claims it had a democratic mandate, as a win for the economy. But a question remains whether those who voted for the Abbott government really understood that the government intended to abolish the emissions trading scheme as well, leaving the fossil fuel industry free to emit greenhouse gas emissions.

Also, instead of building a scientific citizenry to fully engage with climate change, the Climate Change Commission was axed on the Abbott government’s second day in office. There’s also now no longer a Minister for Science. Funds to the CSIRO have been slashed, impacting their climate change programs. Yet an informed and engaged public discussion is essential to democratic participation in decision-making around climate change.

Australia going against the grain

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fifth Assessment Report tells us with high confidence that from 2000-2010 greenhouse gases in the atmosphere were the highest in human history with CO2 accounting for 78% of the total.

Energy supply contributed 47% of total increases in emissions during this decade. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the energy supply sector must reduce its emissions by 90% below 2010 levels between 2040 and 2070 if we are to have a reasonable chance of avoiding dangerous global warming.

The EU’s growth strategy Europe 2020 aims to “absolutely decouple” economic growth from the environmental impacts of energy use, while reducing greenhouse gases by 20% below 1990 levels, enhancing competitiveness, and promoting energy security.

Jobs growth is key to the “green economy” with the renewable energy sector alone expected to generate more than 400,000 new jobs by 2020 .

Yet the Abbott government keeps attempting, sometimes successfully, to deliver knock-out punches to controls on fossil fuel energy sector emissions and Australia’s potential to move towards smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.

Governments in Australia should govern to protect the interests of all sectors of society — not just a business sector that wants to free itself from the tangles of “green” and “red” tape. What’s more, Australian governments should stick to the rules and democratic conventions which protect all of our rights and interests. There are too many instances which suggest that many of those who govern don’t even know, or care, that the rules exist.

Something is rotten in the state of Australia and that something is the disproportionate influence of the fossil fuel industry and climate change sceptics over government in Australia.

Rosemary Lyster has received funding from the Australian Research Council (2009-2013) to investigate, with others, Indonesia's efforts to establish legal and policy frameworks for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+)

Categories: International News

United Nations predicts climate hell in 2050 with imagined weather forecasts

Guardian - September 1, 2014 - 2:18pm
'Reports from the future' warn of floods, storms and searing heat in campaign for climate change summit

The United Nations is warning of floods, storms and searing heat from Arizona to Zambia within four decades, as part of a series of imagined weather forecasts released on Monday for a campaign publicising a UN climate summit.

"Miami South Beach is under water," one forecaster says in a first edition of "weather reports from the future", a series set in 2050 and produced by companies including Japan's NHK, the US Weather Channel and ARD in Germany.

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Categories: International News

A doomed Earth of science fiction may well become a reality

Guardian - September 1, 2014 - 12:50pm

Our climate altering activities are hurtling us towards the fictional future of a hot, melting world

27 months and counting

Theres a scene in the newly-restored science fiction classic The Day the Earth Caught Fire (premiered last week in the summer open air cinema at the British Museum) when The Daily Expresss fictional, bull-nosed science reporter, Bill Maguire, barks at a newsroom junior to fetch him information on the melting points of various substances. Its to illustrate a spread in the paper which is investigating how massive nuclear tests have shifted the planet on its axis, causing chaotic weather and a heat wave to slowly marinate London.

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Categories: International News

Labor Day 2050: Global Warming And The Coming Collapse Of Labor Productivity

Climate Progress - September 1, 2014 - 9:53am

Los Angeles City Street Services Field Engineering Aide Winston Chu drinks water as his crew paves streets in a heat wave.

CREDIT: AP Photo/ Damian Dovarganes

Global warming is projected to have a serious negative impact on labor productivity this century. Here is a look at what we know.

In 2013, a NOAA study projected that “heat-stress related labor capacity losses will double globally by 2050 with a warming climate.” If we stay near our current greenhouse gas emissions pathway, then we face a potential 50 percent drop in labor capacity in peak months by century’s end.

Many recent studies project a collapse in labor productivity from business-as-usual carbon emissions and warming, with a cost to society that may well exceed that of all other costs of climate change combined. And, as one expert reviewing recent studies put it, “national output in several [non-agricultural] industries seemed to decline with temperature in a nonlinear way, declining more rapidly at very high daily temperatures.”

Here is the key chart from a 2010 Ziven-Neidell paper for the National Bureau of Economic Research, “Temperature and the Allocation of Time: Implications for Climate Change.” It plots “the number of minutes in a day that individuals (who work in outdoor or temperature-exposed sectors in the USA) spent working as a function of maximum temperature (in Fahrenheit) that day.”

Productivity starts to nose-dive at 90°F and falls off the cliff at 100°F.

As for the cumulative impact, here’s a key figure from the 2013 NOAA study, “Reductions in labour capacity from heat stress under climate warming.”

ndividual labor capacity (%) during annual minimum (upper lines) and maximum (lower lines) heat stress months. RCP8.5 (red lines) is our current emissions path.

CREDIT: NOAA

If carbon pollution remains unrestricted, we are risking catastrophic drops in labor productivity.

Andrew Gelman, director of the Applied Statistics Center at Columbia University, summed up the research this way in a 2012 post: “2% per degree Celsius … the magic number for how worker productivity responds to warm/hot temperatures.” The negative impact appears to start at about 26°C (79°F).

This loss of productivity is by no means the most life-threatening of climate impacts when compared to, say, Dust-Bowlification and its impact on food security. But it is one of the most important unmodeled climate impacts that makes the likely cost of climate change far higher than standard economic models suggest.

If we stay anywhere near our current path of carbon pollution emissions, then as we move towards the middle of the century, a larger and larger fraction of our summertimes will be intolerable outside.

In a 2011 post, “Mother Nature is Just Getting Warmed Up,” I discussed this trend and newly-released research forecasting permanently hotter summers:

The tropics and much of the Northern Hemisphere are likely to experience an irreversible rise in summer temperatures within the next 20 to 60 years if atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations continue to increase, according to a new climate study by Stanford University scientists…

“According to our projections, large areas of the globe are likely to warm up so quickly that, by the middle of this century, even the coolest summers will be hotter than the hottest summers of the past 50 years,” said the study’s lead author, Noah Diffenbaugh.

It’s worth another look at projected days above 100°F on our current emissions path, via the National Climate Assessment (NCA):

Days above 100°F in higher emissions (business as usual) scenario.

Yes, absent a sharp and deep reduction in national and global emissions, much of Kansas (!) by century’s end could well be above 100°F for nearly the whole summer. Labor Day will mean a return to those pleasant mid-to-upper 90s.

By century’s end, much of the Southern U.S. will see temperatures above 90°F for five months of the year or more, which is just a stunning change from just the recent past (again via NCA):

It truly will be an endless summer over much of the South (see also NASA’s Hansen: “If We Stay on With Business as Usual, the Southern U.S. Will Become Almost Uninhabitable”).

So what does this mean for productivity? Prof. Solomon M. Hsiang wrote last year:

In my 2010 PNAS paper, I found that labor-intensive sectors of national economies decreased output by roughly 2.4% per degree C and argued that this looked suspiously like it came from reductions in worker output. Using a totally different method and dataset, Matt Neidell and Josh Graff Zivin found that labor supply in micro data fell by 1.8% per degree C. Both responses kicked in at around 26C.

Here is the key chart from Hsiang’s own work, which shows “national output in several [non-agricultural] industries … declining more rapidly at very high daily temperatures.”

Hsiang also directs us to a New York Times article in which a Japanese professor found that, indoors, “every degree rise in temperature above 25 Celsius (77 degrees Fahrenheit) resulted in a 2 percent drop in productivity.”

Thus, very different types of research using different data sets yield similar results. This research is essentially about adaptation — one key way that healthy people respond to high temperatures is simply to work less. NOAA notes an important caveat about its research, which tends to make the results conservative: “In focusing on the capacity of healthy, acclimated individuals, this study also severely underestimates heat stress implications for less-optimally acclimated individuals such as the young, old, and sick.”

Hsiang points out the bottom line:

It’s worth noting that reductions in worker output have never been included in economic models of future warming (see here and here) despite the fact that experiments fifty years ago showed that temperature has a strong impact on worker output (see here and here). In my dissertation I did some back-of-the-envelope estimates using the above numbers and found that productivity impacts alone might reduce per capita output by ~9% in 2080-2099 (in the absence of strong adaptation). This cost exceeds the combined cost of all other projected economic losses combined.

So the next time you see a projection of the economic cost from climate change — and a resulting social cost of carbon — you might want to double the numbers to get a more accurate picture of what we are risking by our callous inaction.

The post Labor Day 2050: Global Warming And The Coming Collapse Of Labor Productivity appeared first on ThinkProgress.

Categories: International News

INTRODUCING THE GLOBAL CLIMATE AMBASSADORS!

350.org - September 1, 2014 - 9:02am

On September 21 the largest climate mobilisation will be taking place in NY and beyond. A delegation of globally diverse grassroots leaders will be in attendance at the NY march to ensure voices from movements and campaigns around the world are heard. They will also emphasise various ongoing struggles which will carry forwards beyond September. We… Read more »

Categories: International News

New satellite maps show polar ice caps melting at 'unprecedented rate'

Guardian - September 1, 2014 - 7:34am

Scientists reveal Greenland and Antarctica losing 500 cubic kms of ice annually, reports Climate News Network

German researchers have established the height of the Greenland and Antarctic ice caps with greater precision than ever before. The new maps they have produced show that the ice is melting at an unprecedented rate.

The maps, produced with a satellite-mounted instrument, have elevation accuracies to within a few metres. Since Greenlands ice cap is more than 2,000 metres thick on average, and the Antarctic bedrock supports 61% of the planets fresh water, this means that scientists can make more accurate assessments of annual melting.

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Categories: International News

Would you reduce meat consumption to help fight climate change?

Guardian - September 1, 2014 - 7:20am
Greenhouse gases caused by meat production will go up 80% if meat and dairy consumption continues to rise, according to a new report. Would you ration your consumption to help meet global emissions targets? Continue reading...






Categories: International News

Join the grassroots environmental revolution

Guardian - September 1, 2014 - 5:33am

The UK is thriving with eco community projects. In September we will be profiling 17 vote for your favourite and win a prize

There is a grassroots environmental revolution going on across the UK that gets little or no recognition. We hear about examples individually a project here, a green group there but we rarely stitch together the full picture.

But a closer look at almost any small or large community, any city or village, reveals a multitude of people working on a local scale to make their homes and neighbourhood kinder, closer, and greener. There are projects to calm or eject traffic, projects to grow food and to plant flowers, projects which bring people together, where the stronger provide help and support for the more vulnerable. There are farms which have been set up by the local community, there are gardens planted on rubbish heaps, there are local harvests scattered across a streets front gardens.

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Categories: International News

Pessimism wont do. We need an energy revolution | Zoe Williams

Guardian - September 1, 2014 - 1:30am
Government could achieve so much, like investment in tidal or solar tech. But the parties offer only petty measures

The interesting thing about energy policy, as it comes into focus for the start of manifesto season, is that it gives each party the chance to be dreadful in its own unique way. The Conservatives are going with the line that bills are too high (they are), this is because of Labours high taxes (it isnt), and can be rectified by slashing green levies. This is their offer: it makes very little financial difference (an average of £50 a year) and no demands on energy companies except to simplify their bills. It looks like a lot of bluster about the mess they inherited paired with some ineffectual flapping.

In fact it isnt, its an extremely bold statement; by casting green levies as expendable, they show they are not serious about transforming the energy market. Theyre not serious about renewables. Theyre not worried about carbon targets. Theyre not going to prioritise investment in green infrastructure. Theyre not 100% convinced that climate change is even happening, and this bit is crucial theyre not going to do anything to undermine the market dominance of existing companies selling fossil fuels. Only alternatives will challenge the energy oligopoly, and alternatives need investment.

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Categories: International News

Liberal Democrats seek to ban 'unabated' coal power

Guardian - August 31, 2014 - 7:03pm
Measure will form the centrepiece of party's commitment on the environment in 2015 general election manifesto

Electricity generated from coal in old power plants without carbon capture would be banned in a proposal that will form the centrepiece of the Liberal Democrats' commitment on the environment in its general election manifesto.

Ed Davey, the energy and climate change secretary, will announce on Monday that the zero carbon Britain bill will be among five green laws that the Lib Dems would demand in any future coalition negotiations.

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Categories: International News

No, the Bureau of Meteorology is not fiddling its weather data

The Conversation - August 31, 2014 - 4:07pm
Australia's weather records need careful analysis to correct any introduced errors.Photographic Collection from Australia/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY

Over the past week or so, the Bureau of Meteorology has stood accused of fudging its temperature data records to emphasise warming, in a series of articles in The Australian. The accusation hinges on the method that the Bureau uses to remove non-climate-related changes in its weather station data, referred to as “data homogenisation”.

If true, this would be very serious because these data sets underpin major climate research projects, including deducing how much Australia is warming. But it’s not true.

Crunching the numbers

Data homogenisation techniques are used to varying degrees by many national weather agencies and climate researchers around the world. Although the World Meteorological Organization has guidelines for data homogenisation, the methods used vary from country to country, and in some cases no data homogenisation is applied.

Homogenisation can be necessary for a range of reasons: sometimes stations move, instruments or reporting practices change, or surrounding trees or buildings at a site are altered. Changes can be sudden or gradual. These can all introduce artificial “jumps” (in either direction) in the resulting temperature records. If left uncorrected, these artifacts could leave the data appearing to show spurious warming or cooling trends.

There are many methods that can be used to detect these “inhomogeneities”, and there are other methods (although much harder to implement) that can adjust the data to make sure it is consistent through time. The Bureau uses such a technique to create its Australian Climate Observations Reference Network – Surface Air Temperature (ACORN-SAT) data set. These data are then used to monitor climate variability and change in Australia, to provide input for the State of the Climate reports, and for other purposes too.

In a statement about its climate records, the Bureau said:

The Bureau measures temperature at nearly 800 sites across Australia, chiefly for the purpose of weather forecasting. The ACORN-SAT is a subset of this network comprising 112 locations that are used for climate analysis. The ACORN-SAT stations have been chosen to maximise both length of record and network coverage across the continent. For several years, all of this data has been made publicly available on the Bureau’s web site.

Complex methods

Australia has played a leading role in developing this type of complex data-adjustment technique. In 2010, the Bureau’s Blair Trewin wrote a comprehensive article on the types of inhomogeneities that are found in land temperature records. As a result the International Surface Temperature Initiative (ISTI) has set up a working group to compare homogenisation methods.

Some of our own research at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science has tried, with the help of international colleagues, to assess the impacts that different choices can make when using these different homogenisation methods. Much of our work focuses on temperature extremes. We have studied the impacts on large-scale extreme temperature data of changing station networks, different statistical techniques, homogenised versus non-homogenised data, and other uncertainties that might arise.

Our data on extreme temperature trends show that the warming trend across the whole of Australia looks bigger when you don’t homogenise the data than when you do. For example, the adjusted data set (the lower image below) shows a cooling trend over parts of northwest Australia, which isn’t seen in the raw data.

Trends in the frequency of hot days over Australia – unadjusted data using all temperature stations that have at least 40 years of record available for Australia from the GHCN-Daily data set.

Trends in the frequency of hot days over Australia – adjusted ACORN-SAT data. The period of trend covers 1951-2010 when both datasets have overlapping data. All data used in figures are available from www.climdex.org

High-quality data

Far from being a fudge to make warming look more severe than it is, most of the Bureau’s data manipulation has in fact had the effect of reducing the apparent extreme temperature trends across Australia. Cherrypicking weather stations where data have been corrected in a warming direction doesn’t mean the overall picture is wrong.

Data homogenisation is not aimed at producing a predetermined outcome, but rather is an essential process in improving weather data by spotting where temperature records need to be corrected, in either direction. If the Bureau didn’t do it, then we and our fellow climatologists wouldn’t use its data because it would be misleading. What we need are data from which spurious warming or cooling trends have been removed, so that we can see the actual trends.

Marshalling all of the data from the Bureau’s weather stations can be a complicated process, which is why it has been subjected to international peer-review. The Bureau has provided the details of how it is done, despite facing accusations that it has not been open enough.

Valid critiques of data homogenisation techniques are most welcome. But as in all areas of science, from medicine to astronomy, there is only one place that criticisms can legitimately be made. Anyone who thinks they have found fault with the Bureau’s methods should document them thoroughly and reproducibly in the peer-reviewed scientific literature. This allows others to test, evaluate, find errors or produce new methods.

This process has been the basis of all scientific advances in the past couple of centuries and has led to profoundly important advances in knowledge. Abandoning peer-reviewed journals in favour of newspaper articles when adjudicating on scientific methods would be profoundly misguided.

Lisa Alexander receives funding from the Australian Research Council. Andy Pitman receives funding from the Australian Research Council.

Andy Pitman receives funding from the Australian Research Council.

Categories: International News

We Are On The Verge Of An Electric Car Battery Breakthrough

Climate Progress - August 31, 2014 - 11:07am

An electric plug decal is seen on the back of a Tesla electric car.

CREDIT: AP Photo/Mel Evans

Electric vehicles are cool. They’re inexpensive to operate, can make our air cleaner, and help reduce the amount of climate change-causing gases released into the atmosphere. But right now, they’re also mostly just for rich people. The initial cost of buying the car, combined with their limited availability, is just too much for most people to justify making the switch.

That could soon change, though, because investment pundits think that Tesla Motors is on the verge of achieving something big: A battery cheap enough to make electric vehicles cost-competitive with conventional cars. Daniel Sparks at Motley Fool is reporting that the company is on the right track towards developing a battery that costs only $100 per kilowatt-hour — a cost widely believed to be the threshold where electric vehicles can finally be cost-competitive.

There are a few reasons for this, Sparks writes. The central one is that the company plans to build something called the “Gigafactory,”a giant $5 billion battery manufacturing plant with 6,500 workers. The second is CEO Elon Musk’s own admission that he would be “disappointed” if it took his company 10 years to make a $100 per kilowatt battery pack, and suggested it might happen before 2020.

Sparks acknowledges that CEOs make overzealous predictions all the time. But what makes him more confident that Tesla will be able to achieve the cost reductions necessary to make the battery pack is that Panasonic — a company “arguably more knowledgeable and experienced regarding lithium-ion production than any company in the world” — apparently admitted that Tesla has been making “conservative predictions” about how quickly it will be able to reduce costs. (Panasonic isn’t a disinterested party, though; it’s helping Tesla build the Gigafactory.)

“There is still room for doubting,” Sparks wrote. “But Tesla and Panasonic’s growing confidence certainly makes a good case for the enormous potential of the Gigafactory.”

If the planned Gigafactory is going to be key to Tesla’s success with a cheap electric car battery, it’s still going to take a couple years. That’s because the Gigafactory isn’t even built yet. In fact, Tesla’s not even sure where it’s going to put it, and there’s a fierce competition between at least five states over which one is going to house it.

Musk did recently announce that the company had placed a construction pad in Nevada, but he also said the company may “do something similar in one or two other states” so that the early stages of construction are complete when the decision is finally made. Which state Tesla decides to put the factory in depends on the incentive packages state governments are willing to give Tesla in exchange for heightened economic activity.

The main reason for having a huge factory dedicated to building these batteries is the simple fact that a lot of people want electric cars, but automakers don’t have enough batteries to make them. Musk said the Gigafactory would be able to produce 500,000 vehicles every year. That’s a huge increase from current production rates — as Forbes notes, the batteries produced at the gigafactory in one year would be “more than the entire worldwide production of lithium-ion cells in 2013.”

With the heightened production, Musk says battery costs will eventually be able to be cut by about 30 percent. Tesla doesn’t disclose how much batteries cost it now, but Anthony Ingram at Green Car Reports notes that general predictions are that the company pays $200 to $250 per kilowatt hour, the lowest of any electric automaker.

As of now, transportation — the whole gambit of cars, trucks, trains, and planes — is the largest single source of air pollution in the country. Needless to say, air pollution causes respiratory conditions like asthma and bronchitis, and increasing the risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease.

There has been growing debate over whether the proliferation of electric cars will actually put a substantial dent in air pollution or greenhouse gas emissions, mainly focused on the power source of the electric car battery. If the power charging the battery comes from a fossil fuel plant, some say that the lifecycle environmental and health damages of an electric vehicle can actually be greater than gasoline-powered cars.

However, as Sierra Club points out, electric vehicles do emit significantly less air pollution when they are operated in places like California, which relies more heavily on renewables like hydropower to generate electricity. Lifecycle emissions from electric cars drop even further as we retire more coal plants and switch to cleaner sources of power. To find out how clean your electric car would be today in the state you’d charge it in, you can plug your zip code into the EPA’s “Beyond Tailpipe Emissions Calculator.”

The post We Are On The Verge Of An Electric Car Battery Breakthrough appeared first on ThinkProgress.

Categories: International News

Dame Julia Slingo: the woman who reads the skies

Guardian - August 30, 2014 - 2:00pm
The Met Office's chief scientist loves her job, despite the threat of maulings by the press

At the Met Office in Exeter the clouds are gathering ominously. It's a typical dodgy-looking summer's day and, glancing up, I have no idea whether to reach for the sun cream or dig out my brolly. But while the clouds have me baffled, they are one of Dame Julia Slingo's specialities. In fact they're one of the reasons why Slingo became a meteorologist in the first place. "Meteorology just seemed to me to be the epitome of physics in action," she tells me once I duck indoors. "You could look out of the window and see a rainbow, or you could see clouds form, and you knew exactly what was going on to create what you were seeing."

In taking up the mantle of chief scientist at the Met Office in 2009, Slingo returned to the very institution in which she began her career nearly 40 years before. Managing the work of around 500 scientists, it's Slingo's responsibility to steer research that ranges from forecasting tomorrow's weather to modelling what the climate will be up to a century from now.

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Categories: International News

Drought-Stricken California Makes Historic Move To Regulate Underground Water For The First Time

Climate Progress - August 30, 2014 - 1:27pm

The dry bed of the Stevens Creek Reservoir is seen on Thursday, March 13, 2014, in Cupertino, Calif.

CREDIT: AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

At least one in four Californians get their water from underground aquifers, and up until now, use of this water has been totally unregulated, with disputes about overuse settled in court. California is one of the few where it’s “pump as you please” with groundwater. That is about to change.

As the California State Legislature wrapped up their session, they passed the state’s first-ever plan to regulate underground water supplies. Urban Democrats, water district managers, and environmental advocates gave the measure enough support to pass it over the opposition of Republicans and farm-area legislators. The legislation now goes to Governor Jerry Brown for his signature.

Clean Water Action’s Jennifer Clary said, “the passage of the Sustainable Groundwater Management legislation takes an historic first step towards ensuring that our groundwater will remain a resource for future Californians.”

Three bills make up the groundwater regulatory plan: one tells local agencies to come up with water management programs, another establishes parameters for state intervention, and the third delays that intervention in areas where groundwater pumping has affected surface water. Some agricultural interests fear regulation of the groundwater reserves that many farmers have turned to in the midst of the worst drought in a generation. State Senator Fran Pavley, author of two of the bills, said she worked with farmers to draft them, gaining the support of the Community Alliance with Family Farmers.

“The state cannot manage water in California until we manage groundwater,” said Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego. “You cannot have reliability with no plan to manage water.”

If you are eating a fruit, vegetable, or nut grown in the U.S., there’s an almost 50-50 chance that it came from California. At the same time, it’s the only western state that does not exercise some sort of control over its groundwater.

Groundwater has become even more crucial as surface water supplies have dwindled. In fact, according to a study released last week, while only 70 million acre-feet of water flow through the state during a good year, 370 million acre-feet worth of water rights have been given out in the last hundred years. Yet even adding groundwater supplies to the equation still leaves the state with a water deficit, according to a recent report from the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Pacific Institute.

In fact, the Central Valley is consuming twice as much groundwater as can be replaced through normal precipitation. The Valley is the center of gravity to the state’s $36.9 billion agricultural industry because it contains the world’s largest mass of ultra-fertile Class 1 soil.

“It’s our savings account, and we’re draining it,” Phil Isenberg of the Public Policy Institute of California, told the San Jose Mercury News. The former Sacramento mayor and assemblyman continued: “at some point, there will be none left.”

In a normal year for precipitation, California receives about 40 percent of its total water from under the ground — in a dry year, that jumps above 60 percent. It’s gotten even worse this year, with wells drying, fields lying fallow, and most dramatically, the land actually sinking up to a foot a year as the water underneath it gets sucked dry.

Over 95 percent of the state is in a “severe drought” according to the latest data from the U.S. Drought Monitor — and 100 percent of the state has been in at least a “moderate” drought for the last three months.

In the rural San Joaquin Valley, hundreds of residents ran out of tap water as the drought dried up the flow of the Tule River which normally provides the area with water. Wells dried up and the county had to deliver bottled water supplies to affected residents last week — supplies that are meant to last only three weeks.

Separately, the legislature also passed a $7.5 billion water bond proposal to invest in improvements to California’s water infrastructure with a nearly unanimous vote. This will go on the November ballot.

Lawmakers also passed a statewide ban on free single-use plastic grocery bags. Stores will be able to charge customers ten cents per bag in order to cut down on unneeded usage that results in bags strewn across neighborhoods and along coastlines.

The post Drought-Stricken California Makes Historic Move To Regulate Underground Water For The First Time appeared first on ThinkProgress.

Categories: International News

The scientific A-Team saving the world from killer viruses, rogue AI and the paperclip apocalypse

Guardian - August 30, 2014 - 2:00am
They don't look like Guardians Of The Galaxy-style superheroes. But the founders of the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk may be all that stands between us and global catastrophe

Cambridge, some time after the end of term. Demob-happy undergraduates, dressed for punting and swigging wine from the bottle, seem not so much to be enjoying themselves as determinedly following rites of passage on the way to a privileged future. I am heading towards the biggest, richest and arguably most beautiful college: Trinity. Of the 90 Nobel prizes won by members of Cambridge University in the 20th century, 32 were won by members of Trinity. Its alumni include Isaac Newton, Wittgenstein, Bertrand Russell and six prime ministers.

The porter's lodge is like an airlock, apparently sealed from the tribulations of everyday life. But inside the college, pacing the flagstones of what is called all modesty aside Great Court, are four men who do not take it for granted that those undergraduates actually have a future. They are the four founders of the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk (CSER), and they are in the business of "horizon scanning". Together, they are on alert for what they sometimes call "low-probability-but-high-consequence events", and sometimes when they forget to be reassuring "catastrophe".

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Categories: International News

The Pacific islands are drowning, we need the worlds help | Tuilaepa Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi

Guardian - August 29, 2014 - 5:30pm
As prime minister of Samoa I urge the global leaders who will gather at our small islands summit next week to rise above the rhetoric and forge binding agreements on climate change

Seeing is believing, it is often said, so I want world leaders to see for themselves what our islands are doing to deal with climate change, natural disasters and the tough economic challenges thrust upon us.

Samoa will host the third international conference on small island developing states (Sids) from 1 September, and I want leaders from the 193 nations attending to rise above rhetoric and grandstanding, and move closer to binding international agreements on climate change. We understand the concerns of industrialised countries about economic growth and greenhouse gas emissions, but if we dont act now it will be too late for many of our small islands that are already being inundated by rising sea levels. The international community has to understand that in an increasingly interrelated world, critical problems recognise no borders and ride roughshod over sovereignty.

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Categories: International News

5 Members Of Congress Who Oppose National Monuments But Love To Pose For Photos In Them

Climate Progress - August 29, 2014 - 3:03pm

Claire Moser is the Research and Advocacy Associate with the Public Lands Project at the Center for American Progress. You can follow her on Twitter at @Claire_Moser.

CREDIT: hastings.house.gov

If it’s August, there’s a good chance you’ll spot Members of Congress outside, celebrating a new wildlife refuge they helped create, pushing for the expansion of a wilderness area in their district, exploring America’s newest national monument, or encouraging people to visit the national parks in their state.

But this summer, you won’t just find lawmakers who support land conservation out and about in parks and public lands. Instead, it now seems that even those politicians who fervently oppose protecting America’s iconic landscapes just can’t resist having their pictures taken in them.

Below, we highlight five Members of Congress who are fighting to overturn the Antiquities Act of 1906, standing in the way of new wilderness protections, gutting funding for national parks, and working to sell off public lands. Yet, without any apparent sense of hypocrisy, these same members are eager to “show off” these “cool” places on their websites and to the cameras that are rolling back home.

1. Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT)

Earlier this year, Bishop stalled the bill to designate Tule Springs, an area north of Las Vegas known for its expansive fossil beds, as Nevada’s first national monument. Yet, just a month later, Bishop could be found touring the area, telling the Las Vegas Review-Journal that “this is cool.”

Bishop, a key supporter of the radical idea that Western states should seize federal public lands away from U.S. taxpayers, has a long record of blocking new federal land protections. He also authored the bill passed by the House in March to reduce the president’s authority to designate national monuments under the 1906 Antiquities Act.

2. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT)

CREDIT: chaffetz.house.gov

Chaffetz, author of a bill to sell off more than three million acres of public lands including more than 132,000 acres in Utah, spent some quality time this summer in one of Utah’s most iconic national parks. Trading visits to each other’s districts, the Congressman took Maryland Democrat Elijah Cummings on a tour of Arches National Park. Reporting on the tour, the Moab Sun News described them as the “Congressional odd-couple.”

Chaffetz was also an original cosponsor of Rep. Bishop’s bill to amend the Antiquities Act, calling the Act a “misguided and outdated law that lends itself to abuse by the Executive Branch.” However, Arches National Park, which is featured prominently on the homepage of Chaffetz’s website, was originally protected as a national monument by President Herbert Hoover in 1929 under the authority of the Antiquities Act.

3. Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ)

CREDIT: Facebook

An outspoken opponent of the Antiquities Act and also an original co-sponsor of Rep. Bishop’s bill to amend it, Gosar stated in a press release that “there is a long and shameful list of abuses of the Antiquities Act whereby Presidents of both parties far exceeded the intent and letter of the law.”

Despite his statement about the “lists of abuses” under the Act, Gosar has touted his connection to the Grand Canyon on social media, even celebrating the anniversary last year of its creation under the Antiquities Act. The Grand Canyon was originally protected as a National Monument by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1908 before becoming a national park in 1919.

4. Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT)

CREDIT: Facebook

As a freshman Congressman, Stewart has been aggressive opponent of public lands protections. Running for Congress in 2012 on a platform advocating for the seizure of public lands or their sale to energy developers, Stewart also signed on as an original cosponsor of Bishop’s bill to amend the Antiquities Act.

Nonetheless, Stewart touts Utah’s national parks and treasured outdoor landscapes as part of his outreach to constituents. “One of the many reasons I love Utah, is because of the beautiful mountains, scenery and national parks,” Stewart posted on his Facebook page in August. And with the headline, “Aren’t Utah summers the best?” Stewart also posted a #TBT photo of his family hiking in Zion National Park, which was originally protected under the Antiquities Act by President William Howard Taft in 1909 and later by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1937.

5. Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA)

CREDIT: hastings.house.gov

Finally, ten-term Congressman Hastings has consistently opposed the creation of any new protections on public lands; in particular, Hastings objects to any use of the Antiquities Act. In a press release, Hastings stated that, ”the Imperial President strikes again,” after President Obama’s designation of the Organ Mountain-Desert Peak National Monument earlier this year.

According to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Rep. Hastings “bitterly opposed President Clinton’s 2000 designation of a Hanford Reach National Monument,” and yet, Hastings features the Monument prominently on the homepage of his congressional website.

The post 5 Members Of Congress Who Oppose National Monuments But Love To Pose For Photos In Them appeared first on ThinkProgress.

Categories: International News

544 Young Women Want To Tell The UN About The Urgency Of Climate Change

Climate Progress - August 29, 2014 - 12:51pm

Members of civil society movements walk out of the U.N. talks on global warming held at the National Stadium in Warsaw, Poland on Thursday, Nov. 21, 2013.

CREDIT: AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski

The United Nations is looking for a young woman to, as BBC put it, be the ‘Malala’ of the climate change movement, serving as a voice that will energize this September’s climate change conference.

The organization has put out a call for a woman under 30 to speak at the opening session of the 2014 Climate Summit, which is being held on September 23 in New York City. The woman has to be from a developing country and must have a background that includes advocacy on climate change or work on implementing climate mitigation or adaptation solutions. So far, the call for applicants has drawn 544 women, who emailed short videos of themselves persuading world leaders to act on climate change to the Secretary-General’s office.

Organizers hope to find someone who can capture the hearts and minds of people around the world as much as Malala Yousafzai, a Pakastani schoolgirl who was shot in the head by the Taliban and has since become an advocate for women’s rights to education, did when she addressed the UN in July 2013. But as the BBC notes, the choice to include only women in the candidate pool could create some controversy. Susan Alzner, who works at the UN Non-Governmental Liaison Service and is the main person in charge of the search, told the BBC that the decision stems from the fact that women are often the ones who suffer the most from climate change impacts.

“If you consider the huge challenges that still exist for so many women across the world to realize their rights to participate in government and how important it is to show young women that they have this right, then we should give the one available slot to speak to more than 100 heads of state to a young woman,” Alzner said.

Around the world, women are often the most impoverished members of society — making up 70 percent of the world’s poor — which contributes to their vulnerability to climate change impacts. And because in many cultures women are the ones responsible for finding water, making food and securing energy, they’re the ones most affected when extreme drought dries up water supplies or unpredictable weather kills crops.

In addition, as the UN states, “by comparison with men in poor countries, women face historical disadvantages, which include limited access to decision-making and economic assets that compound the challenges of climate change.” For instance, according to a 2011 UN FAO report, only 10 to 20 percent of women living in developing countries have land rights, even though they make up the majority of small farmers worldwide.

Those barriers to having their voices heard is what Alzner and the UN are aiming to chip away at through their selection of the keynote speaker.

“Fully combating climate change is going to require women’s full empowerment everywhere,” Alzner said. “It is essential that we give women the space to speak on this critical topic that is an existential threat to humanity.”

The UN is also hoping to capture the interest of youth by selecting a speaker under 30. In recent UN climate talks, youth have been vocal on the need for world leaders to address climate change. During the 2012 climate talks in Doha, Qatar, the Arab Youth Climate Movement organized and led the country’s first-ever climate march, which drew hundreds of protesters. And during the 2009 climate talks in Copenhagen, Christina Ora, a youth delegate from the Solomon Islands who was among the applicants for this year’s keynote speaker, addressed negotiators, telling them to “stop negotiating away our future.”

Upcoming climate negotiations have already garnered headlines in the U.S., first for the news that President Obama will attend the summit in New York in September, and second for the news that the administration is working on an international climate change agreement, to be signed during the Climate Change Conference in Paris in 2015. The treaty, according to the New York Times, would be “politically binding” and would attempt to “name and shame” countries into committing to emissions reductions.

The post 544 Young Women Want To Tell The UN About The Urgency Of Climate Change appeared first on ThinkProgress.

Categories: International News

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