Renewables are Winning the Race Against Fossil Fuels — But Not Fast Enough

We have to reverse global warming urgently, if we still can. — Stephen Hawking

The world is dangerous not because of those who do harm but because of those who look at it without doing anything. — Albert Einstein.

*****

Whether you realize it or not, you’ve been drawn into a race. A race against time to swiftly reduce carbon emissions in order to prevent ramping climate harms on the path to a fifth hothouse extinction. For the current burning of fossil fuels and the ongoing dumping of carbon into the atmosphere at the rate of 13 billion tons each year is an insult to the global climate system that has likely never been seen before in all of the deep history of planet Earth. And the swifter we draw that emission down to zero and net negative, the better.

In the early part of this race, there is one factor that can provide the greatest overall benefit — the rate of renewable energy (RE) adoption. For adding RE at a high rate removes future market share from fossil fuels even as it draws down emissions, enables efficiencies, and undercuts fossil fuel industry revenues. Such a systemic change saps the economic and political power of destructive entities that have for decades attempted to lock in greater and greater volumes of climate-harming emissions. And when RE begins to overcome not just future market share, but also current fossil fuel markets, this loss of power and influence hastens.

Hawking We have to reverse global warming urgenty if we still can

Once fossil fuels begin to lose their grip on political systems around the world, it becomes easier to implement other consumption based policies like a carbon tax or further disincentives to a very wasteful use of resources at the top of economic spectra across the globe. An energy renaissance of this kind is not a perfect fix. It can’t halt all the climate harm coming down the pipe. But it does hit hard at the center of gravity of a corrupt and deleterious global economic power base that, if it had its way, would lock in the worst effects of a hothouse extinction in very short order — inevitably wrecking human civilization and inflicting a global ecocide in the process. It shrinks the might and reach of bad carbon actors. And it opens up avenues for a ramping up of more powerful climate change mitigation and response policies in the future.

In this context of a drive pull the rug out from under the bad carbon actors, it appears that RE adoption rates are now starting to hit a level that makes just such a political and economic power shift possible.

Renewable Energy Adds Nearly 150 GW in 2015 Despite Low Fossil Fuel Prices and Backward Policies in Some Countries

During 2015, according to a new report out by REN21, renewable energy added 147 Gigawatts of total global electricity generation capacity to hit 1,849 gigawatts overall. This big jump came even as fossil fuel prices plummeted, as policies adverse to renewable energy adoption took hold in places like Australia and the UK, and as global subsidy support for fossil fuels remained at a level four times that of government support for renewables. Factors showing a serious lack of commitment to the safety of human civilization that lead to a slower overall RE capacity growth in the range of about 3 percent year on year for the entire sector.

Christine Lins, Executive Secretary of REN21, noted in Clean Technica that renewables gains against this tide were significant and impressive:

“What is truly remarkable about these results is that they were achieved at a time when fossil fuel prices were at historic lows, and renewables remained at a significant disadvantage in terms of government subsidies. For every dollar spent boosting renewables, nearly four dollars were spent to maintain our dependence on fossil fuels.”

Rates of solar and wind growth were particularly strong. Both technologies benefited from prices that increasingly undercut gas, coal, and diesel generation in an expanding number of markets. Solar added 50 gigawatts (GW) of new capacity during 2015 — which is a stunning 40 percent jump over the amount added in 2014. This nearly matched wind’s jump of 63 gigawatts — about a 14 percent increase above 2014 wind additions. In total, global solar capacity now stands at 277 GW and wind at 433 GW.

REN 27 renewable energy share

(Renewables continued to gain ground against traditional power sources in 2015. Wind and solar together now account for about 5 percent of global electricity generation with total renewable generation now nearing 23.7 percent. Image source: Renewables Global Status Report.)

As a share of global electricity generation, renewables grew by nearly 1 percent year on year from 2014 to 2015 — jumping from 22.8 percent to 23.7 percent. A rate of growth that edged out coal and gas in many markets. Meanwhile, the number of people now employed in the renewable energy sector globally expanded to 8.1 million.

99.2 Percent of all New US Electrical Power Additions Came From Renewables During the First Quarter of 2016

Moving on to 2016, the US saw a stunning 99.2 percent of all electricity power additions coming from renewables during the first quarter. Overall adding about 2.1 gigawatts of new capacity, wind and solar dominated.

The biggest contributor to these gains was residential solar which installed 900 megawatts of new capacity. Falling customer costs in the residential market spurred these gains even as state and federal incentives provided a sunny outlook for those taking the rooftop solar plunge. Solar leasing accounted for about 60 percent of this new capacity. But a healthy 40 percent came from outright purchases. Rates of solar purchases have benefited from easy access to loans and a positive policy environment in many states (although exceptions like Nevada did put a drag on the national rate of adoption).

New Electric Generating Capacity

(A staggering 99.2 percent of all new electricity production capacity came from renewables during Q1 of 2016. If we’re wise, we’d work to ensure that all new energy comes from non carbon sources on into the future. Image source: Renewables — 99 Percent of New Electricity Capacity in the US During Q1.)

These substantial residential adds marked a continued trend in which individual homeowners are enabled more and more to chose between utility sourced energy, solar leasing contracts, and individual ownership of energy production. A new freedom that provides resilience to renewable energy growth across the US so long as adversarial policies aren’t enacted (as we’ve seen in Nevada with Warren Buffet’s strong-arming of the political process in an attempt to protect legacy coal and gas holdings).

Meanwhile, wind added 707 megawatts of new power and utility solar added 522 megawatts. Gas, which maintained near historically low fuel prices only added 18 megawatts. Together, this picture shows that climate change concern based resistance to new fossil fuel infrastructure has combined with falling renewable prices to push most utilities to opt out of new carbon based infrastructure. Larger trends like Obama’s Clean Power Plan, the Paris Climate Summit and vigorous fossil fuel divestment, anti-pipeline, and anti-coal campaigns spear-headed by 350.org and the Sierra Club, serve as a powerful moral backstop to renewables improving economies. A combination of government and NGO action that has now generated a decent level of enforcement to reducing dependency on harmful fuels.

US Energy Generation by Sector

(Large renewable additions outpaced natural gas year on year as coal saw big cuts. Overall, US electricity usage was also down. Image source: Renewables — 99 Percent of New Electricity Capacity in the US During Q1.)

Year on year differences in power generation from Q1 2015 to Q1 2016 paint a rather bright picture for what appears to be an ongoing US energy transition. Overall coal use fell by 7.3 percent to 28.6 percent of the US total. Renewables jumped by nearly 3 percent to 17.1 percent of the US total — taking up almost half the loss coming from coal. Most of the renewable gain came from wind and solar which jumped from 5.2 to 7.2 percent of the US total. At more than 1 million rooftops and taking in a growing portion of utility power generation, solar for the first time exceeded 1 percent of US electricity generation — a threshold that many see as a tipping point for ramping rates of adoption. Water generation added about another 1 percent. And rounding out the non-carbon energy sources, nuclear power added 1.2 percent to increase to 20.9 percent of the US total (though the nuclear generation addition was smaller than either wind or solar, its larger net total figured favorably over a period in which overall US power use fell).

Led by drops in coal and petroleum liquids use at a combined total 94,000 gigawatt hours, US electricity generation fell by more than 50,000 gigawatt hours — a drop of nearly 5 percent. This continues a larger trend of US electricity demand softening — one that has been driven in part by increasing efficiencies across the electricity chain. And the only fossil fuel based energy system showing year on year gains was natural gas — which added just over 19,000 gigawatt hours. A total that trailed the renewables add by nearly 3,000 gigawatt hours.

The trend in the US is therefore pretty amazingly clear. Despite historically low coal and gas prices, renewables and efficiencies are now the dominant force in a US electricity market that presently appears to be making solid moves away from traditional fossil fuel based energy sources.

Positive Trends, but Still too Slow

To be clear, these are very positive trends. On a Q1 2015 to Q1 2016 comparison, US fossil fuel use for power generation fell from around 67 percent to 62 percent. But 62 percent is still a majority of the US electricity generation base. And with climate change already ramping up to dangerous extremes, the goal here should be to push US fossil fuel burning for electricity past the 50 percent level and on to 0 percent as swiftly as possible. So for the US, which has clearly shown global leadership in cutting carbon based fuels over the past year, there is still a very long road ahead. And the globe, even in the more positive electricity generation context, lagged the US rate of renewable energy adds by about 50 percent while net power use is growing (not shrinking).

To this point, electricity power use is not all power use. And from a global perspective, adding in transportation, renewable energy only managed to gain a 0.1 percent additional share of the global energy pie (rising to 19.2 percent). This lag was due in large part to growing oil use for transportation — which benefited from lower prices. And though the jump in global oil demand was not as much as some fossil fuel interested parties had hoped for, it did manage to forestall a greater overall net gain in the global renewable energy total.

LCOE costs for all power sources

(Falling wind and solar LCOE prices have combined with global concern over human caused climate change to push ramping rates of renewable energy adoption. A second wave of increased market access will necessarily be driven by renewed policy efforts combining with falling energy storage prices and a flood of new electrical vehicle production coming from 2017 to 2022. Image source: Commons.)

Looking forward, the world will need to add in the range of 250 to 350 gigawatts of renewable energy each year while rapidly adopting electric vehicles and related energy storage technologies to provide annual rates of renewable share increases in excess of 2 percent while trimming fossil fuel use in the transportation sector. Synergies between electrical vehicle production increases and falling battery costs provide a pathway for this next phase of renewable energy expansion. For garaged electric vehicles (EVs) can act as energy storage devices with the right software, smart grids, and organized energy trading. Meanwhile, old EV batteries can be re-purposed for low cost home, business, and utility energy storage devices that can aid in ramping renewable energy grid penetration.

Fossil fuel industry special interests are likely to fight this phase of renewable energy growth with everything they’ve got. But, so far, they’ve pretty much failed to take out the renewables renaissance in its infancy. Now as it moves into adolescence, the stakes are higher and the game is likely to get even rougher. But it appears that despite all opposition from various fossil fuel bad actors, this critical energy renaissance is in the process of taking hold. And given the fact that a very dangerous human-caused climate change is ramping up far more rapidly than expected, the building impetus for an energy switch couldn’t happen soon enough.

Links:

Global Renewable Energy Adds 147 GW in 2015

Renewables — 99 Percent of New Electricity Capacity in the US During Q1

Cost of Energy by Source

Thirty Years of Climate Deception Could be Offense Under New California Law

Stephen Hawking Quotes

Renewables Global Status Report

350.org

Sierra Club Beyond Coal

The Clean Power Plan

The Paris Climate Accord

Hat tip to Colorado Bob

Hat tip to DT Lange

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55 Comments

  1. Kalypso

     /  June 2, 2016

    Just thought you might want to see this… Locusts just ate 10% of southern Russia’s crops. Warmer weather has contributed to this unusual swarm. Possible climate change link?

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3616707/Shocking-video-shows-moment-huge-swarm-locusts-attacks-farms-devastates-crops-Russia-officials-declare-state-emergency.html

    Reply
    • Robert Schmidt

       /  June 2, 2016

      I would guess very likely.

      However the busy engineers of the 6th Great Extinction, the Koch brothers, Exxon, etc would certainly disagree and spend millions to say so if they felt it necessary to protect their wealth and power. Funny, they are every bit as doomed as we are and yet they use their wealth and power to promote the Extinction Event that will take ALL of us out. NO ONE will survive this Event and it is coming VERY soon.

      Tragic.

      Reply
      • Sociopaths and ponerologists are incapable of normal reasoning. They are also incurable. The French had the right idea with the guillotine.

        Reply
      • Robert, would you be willing to give us an approximate time frame for the “very soon” you menton here? I KNOW, I know, no one really knows and I’mnot expecting yiu to know all, but Iwonder all the time whzt our time left is so I’m always asking fhe question.

        Thanks, Sheri

        Reply
        • Robert Schmidt doesn’t really know.

          Based on the best research I can put together, global civilization collapse becomes a serious risk under BAU fossil fuel burning in the 2035 to 2050 timeframe. Human extinction under BAU becomes a possibility after around 2100 when Canfield Ocean states start to ramp up following the loss of most global support structures.

    • Scheduling tweet on this, thanks.

      Reply
    • Absolutely. Locust swarms are generated by the very climate forces that warming sets in place — overlapping periods of extreme drought and heavy rainfall.

      Reply
      • Kalypso

         /  June 2, 2016

        This concerns me, will the Russian invasion of Ukraine become worse as they look to secure larger areas of the Eurasian grain belt due to climate change impacting their domestic harvest? Very disturbing.

        Reply
    • Just wanted to say thanks for the head’s up on this one. It’s similar to the big swarm that hit the same region last year during mid summer. But this one started much earlier — likely due to hotter conditions.

      Reply
  2. Tongue in cheek here but… maybe the race would get better recognition if it was entered as an Olympic event…? After all, people aren’t getting all twisted over climate change, but give it to them as a sport and… all hell could break lose. And for once in my life, I might even get interested in one organized sport.

    Reply
  3. climatehawk1

     /  June 2, 2016

    Tweet scheduled.

    Reply
    • Listen up Canada: now you have to worry about those damn lobsters, eh? Refugees or terrorists in disguise? Or maybe they’re just part of the smart American movement up into Canada, you know, before Americans begin the mandatory chant “Heil Trump!” and “USA Uber Alles!” in every classroom of the Reich. I dunno, pass me another beer…

      Reply
      • “Listen up Canada: now you have to worry about those damn lobsters, eh? Refugees or terrorists in disguise?”

        I personally think they are either traitors or collaborators in the global warming hoax, hoping to receive fat government checks for their collusion.

        Reply
      • Cate

         /  June 3, 2016

        Sorry, not seeing the humour in this story. Maybe I’m too close to it? Anyone with eastern seaboard coastal roots knows the value of lobster in a local economy, to the communities and livelihoods that depend on it. I’ve seen the devastation to traditional lifestyles that can happen when a core species moves or disappears. Happened to my whole province with the northern cod in 1992.

        Reply
        • It’s rough. More like police humor or ambulance humor. Kinda a way of acknowledging the wrongness of it all and sharing the notion that too few souls really care enough about what’s going on. So you crack a little, and laugh at the darkness. Because you’re small and helpless before the awful power and isolation of it all.

        • Sometimes in the midst of disaster, horror, terror or death, all you have left is humour.

    • Cate

       /  June 2, 2016

      Sorry, not seeing the humour in this. I guess I’m too close to the story? Anyone from coastal areas will appreciate the value of lobster to the local economy, and what it means for communities and livelihoods when an entire stock disappears or moves. It’s not that funny when it happens to you. Happened to my entire province in the case of northern cod.

      Reply
  4. Colorado Bob

     /  June 2, 2016

    Russian Rains Put Grain Record in Doubt by Complicating Sowing

    Much of central and southern Russia was deluged with two to six times normal rains in May, according to World Ag Weather data. That slowed corn planting and meant farmers missed the best time for sowing, said Andrey Sizov Jr., managing director at consultant SovEcon in Moscow.

    http://www.agweb.com/article/russian-rains-put-grain-record-in-doubt-by-complicating-sowing-blmg/

    Continued rain is raising concerns that excessive moisture means the wheat will suffer from fungal diseases such as rust, smut, mildew, mold and root rot, according to MDA Information Systems Inc. in Gaithersburg, Maryland. The situation echoes conditions in France where a deluge of rain hit wheat fields in the past month. Harvesting of wheat is expected to start at the end of June in southern Russia, and in July in France.

    Reply
    • They still seem somewhat optimistic, perhaps overly so given the combined rains to the north and locusts to the south.

      Reply
  5. Jeremy in Wales

     /  June 2, 2016

    Lets try to be positive, this renewable energy surge is worldwide, http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/apr/08/solar-installation-in-british-homes-falls-by-three-quarters-after-subsidy-cuts

    Portugal kept its lights on with renewable energy alone for four consecutive days in early May, that is supply for 10.5 million people. http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/may/18/portugal-runs-for-four-days-straight-on-renewable-energy-alone

    Even the UK has 10GW of installed solar capacity (luckily missed the rain in France it has been sunny in Wales which makes a change) http://www.solarpowerportal.co.uk/news/exclusive_uk_solar_industry_hits_10gw_cumulative_pv_capacity_3728

    and in the UK solar electricity is now getting to the point where it is exceeding coal generation.

    This is more of a political problem than a technical one, and as the economics of adoption grow more attractive the momentum becomes difficult to stop.

    Reply
    • marcel_g

       /  June 3, 2016

      I always feel really dorky when I get all excited about seeing solar farms and wind turbines in the wild, but they do get me all excited like a little kid.

      I get to see them When I take the train fron Ottawa to Toronto, as there are a number of solar farms, as well as some panels on barns and houses and a small wind farm. Hoping we get more bigger wind farms here in Ontario. Our provincial govt is certainly trying to make some progress, and I think our success will come down to how well designed the programs are, and whether the anti wind NIMBYs can ignored.

      Reply
      • I get that nostalgia too each time I see a wind turbine or a solar panel covered roof or an electric vehicle or a bike lane or a solar farm. I’m to the point now that when I see a lot of empty roofs I lament the lack of solar panels.

        Here in MD, we have some pretty decent renewable energy policies (despite the efforts of our backward republican governor Larry Hogan). And you can see that any time you drive out to a cluster of homes. Pretty much every neighborhood now has at least one or two solar panels.

        If you go to the neighboring state of Virginia, you can seen what the fossil fuel based utility dominance (Dominion Power) of the government there has done. It’s basically squashed solar development by failing to provide the proper economic supports and by contesting any policy to allow net metering, solar leasing, or even solar loans in the state.

        The difference between bad policy and good policy is like night and day between these two states. In essence, there are some groups that — in protecting harmful legacy fossil fuel assets — are making renewables swim up stream. And it’s these guys who basically stand in the way of the kind of renewable energy adoption rates that we need. Einstein was right, if we stand by and just watch what is a systemic economic and environmental injustice take place in the form of active resistance to positive, helpful energy sources, then we’re a part of the problem. Burke was right — we should not allow evil to triumph by simply standing aside and doing nothing.

        There are a hundred thousands reasons why I will never vote republican again. At the top of the list is their cultural resistance to renewable energy and their penchant for supporting a dangerous and deadly continued dependence on fossil fuels. Any politician enforcing a captive consumption of these dangerous energy sources needs to go. And based on actions of sitting governors and members of legislature — that’s about 95 percent of the republican party. In other words, 95 percent pure evil and the rest are well, mostly unhelpful and probably unwittingly harmful, due to their ideological opposition to anything public. Sometimes you’ve got to call out the darkness when you see it. And to anyone who’s watching it should be plain as midnight.

        Reply
    • So I’d say it’s pretty amazingly good news overall. It’s a huge achievement, especially when you consider the fact that the deck is still stacked on the side of fossil fuels when it comes to subsidy support and the economic power and political influence of the players involved. That said, we really need to be hitting about 250 to 350 GW added each year + smart grid development and storage. The key, in my view, is to keep a high sense of urgency and to continue to push for more public supports for an energy transition, not less. We need a high pace of change to help mitigate what is now a rapidly worsening climate situation.

      Reply
  6. Colorado Bob

     /  June 2, 2016

    Part of Antarctica has been losing ice to the ocean for far longer than had been expected, satellite pictures reveal.

    A study of images along 2000km of West Antarctica’s coastline has shown the loss of about 1000km2 of ice — an area equivalent to the city of Berlin — over the past 40 years.

    Researchers were surprised to find that the region has been losing ice for such a length of time. Their findings will help improve estimates of global sea level rise caused by ice melt.

    A research team from the University of Edinburgh analysed hundreds of satellite photographs of the ice margin captured by NASA, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and the European Space Agency (ESA).

    They found that ice has been retreating consistently along almost the entire coastline of Antarctica’s Bellingshausen Sea since satellite records began.

    https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/06/160601110736.htm

    Reply
    • Just goes to show you that you don’t have to push the climate system hard at all to get negative results. That the human forcing is just crazy bad and always has been.

      Reply
    • CB, (and Robert) I am going to use your comment to jump to a slightly OT question: Back on October 6th, Robert did an essay, “We’re gonna need a bigger graph” about accelerated sea level rise. He included a graph attributed to a study by Hansen that showed the acceleration from 0.8 mm per year (1870-1924) to 1.9 mm (1925-1992) to 3.1 mm (1993-2012). My question – why was there sea level rise from about 1875 to about 1915 when global temps actually went through clear a cooling phase? (possibly due to increased volcanic activity) Was it a relatively slow feedback effect due to earlier warming coming out of the “LIA”? I haven’t been able to find an explanation on-line. Many thanks.

      Reply
      • So during that time CO2 levels were approaching 300 ppm and Earth’s energy imbalance was increasing. Though the global atmosphere did not show net surface warming compared to the prior decade, the ocean system was already accumulating heat. This heat lead to thermal expansion which generated sea level rise. To be very clear, atmospheric temperatures can vary a bit due to natural variability. But the best proxy for overall Earth system warming is the rate of sea level rise (that is until all the glaciers go down, then it’s just ocean heat accumulation if you can measure it directly).

        Reply
      • Thanks, Robert, very helpful. Whew…In the book I am writing, I am attempting to explain quite nuanced climate developments in a clear, simple and accessible manner. As I am sure you are very aware, this can be a bit challenging!

        Reply
    • Jacob

       /  June 2, 2016

      Huh? While I would agree there is plenty we don’t know about pre-history and our place in the universe, that has nothing to do with the present climate change. The pre-Industrial trend suggests the Earth should naturally be going into an Ice Age in the coming millennia. That the trend has been interrupted/shattered is entirely due to humanity’s actions and humanity’s technology. Man’s negative effect on the Earth is very much measurable.

      Reply
      • “The pre-Industrial trend suggests the Earth should naturally be going into an Ice Age in the coming millennia. That the trend has been interrupted/shattered is entirely due to humanity’s actions and humanity’s technology. Man’s negative effect on the Earth is very much measurable.”

        Agree. Here’s a pretty good article that summarizes some of the evidence, from the Union of Concerned Scientists:

        http://www.ucsusa.org/global_warming/science_and_impacts/science/human-contribution-to-gw-faq.html#.V1CfuJErLbI

        Reply
      • Ok, I’ll give you that, and time shall tell, as time always does. I’m always suspicious when certain academic, scientific, economic, government and religious upper echelon segments of the “establishment” suddenly seem to wake up and begin pushing a particular agenda. It’s a peon thing. Get peed-on too often and eventually you don’t trust any top dog lifting his leg above you.

        Reply
  7. Colorado Bob

     /  June 2, 2016

    Twelve U.S. congressmen got campaign money from Exxon PAC. Now they want this man to shut up

    What the letter did not say is that, of the thirteen congressmen, twelve have received campaign contributions from the Exxon Mobil Political Action Committee since 2012 (totaling $93,500 USD), and seven of them for the 2016 election cycle alone (totaling $19,500 USD). (So far in the 2016 election cycle, the PAC has spent $1,092,140 USD). And of all the co-signers, the politician who received the most was Congressman Lamar Smith: $17,500 USD across the 2012, 2014 and 2016 election cycles. A Republican from Texas, Smith has chaired the Committee since 2013. He has also already received nearly $73,000 USD in contributions from oil & gas industry-related donors for the 2016 election cycle.

    http://www.nationalobserver.com/2016/06/02/news/twelve-us-congressmen-got-campaign-money-exxon-pac-now-they-want-man-shut

    Reply
    • So the big corps fought to make this kind of corruption legal. Now they exploit it and pretty much everyone suffers. The republican party has been morally compromised by corporate money for some time. They have the inability to refuse a deleterious and harmful yet powerful influence or the donations that keep coming from these polluted sources. A pretty clear incentive, it seems to me, for the criminalization of this kind of behavior. It’s underhanded, deceptive, and generates a level of corruption in the political system that basically represents a threat to the health, well being, and security of the citizens of the US.

      How many people will suffer from polluted air, contaminants in water, or the ravages of rapidly worsening climate change as a result? How many will die. Just because the parties are using dollars in such a way to inflict harm and loss of life doesn’t make it any less a crime. It has simply become the chosen method of obsfucation and cover-up. And when the political system itself becomes an accomplice, then that’s the very definition of systemic corruption.

      Reply
  8. Cate

     /  June 2, 2016

    The Louvre will be closed tomorrow. Priceless art is being moved upstairs out of the possible reach of floodwaters. Europe continues to endure extreme weather this week, with over a dozen dead so far.

    http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-36432429

    Reply
  9. Cate

     /  June 2, 2016

    Hmm. Trying again: Europe continues to endure extreme weather with over a dozen dead so far this week. The Louvre will be closed on Friday as priceless art is moved upstairs out of the way of the rising Seine.

    http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-36432429

    Reply
  10. Andy in SD

     /  June 2, 2016
    Reply
    • Big heatwave coming in the East this week. More fires likely to flare up.

      It’s the song of flood and fire all over again — with record rains in the Central sections and these gargantuan fires raging near Lake Baikal and on eastward.

      Reply
  11. Robert, thanks for your answer to my timeframe question. That is about what I have been reading lately. Sheri

    Reply
    • I’d advise against looking at things from the frame of inevitability. Note that this timeframe includes the caveat ‘under BAU.’

      So basically IF we continue business as usual fossil fuel emissions along a worst case or near worst case path (RCP 8.5), then we could potentially expect these bad outcomes. Then there’s a high enough risk of very harmful impacts that should warn us that continuing to burn fossil fuels in this way brings wreckage and ruin on very swiftly.

      But we should also be very clear that merely reducing the rate of carbon emissions only rolls the timeframe back. Even under 1/10th the current rate of emission, and considering the current elevated volume of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere, we still get to a decent global civilization collapse risk later this Century (2050 on) and possible human extinction on timescales of 300 to 2000 years (depending on Earth System sensitivity).

      The hopeful issue is that we can effect a better outcome by reducing emissions and give ourselves more time to act. However, the hard fact of the matter is that we really need to be looking at zero and net negative carbon emissions if we are to in any way get into a situation where we’re not contributing to a worsening scale of events.

      Science has looked at global warming in the context of just one Century. But the problem is one of setting off geological events. We are therefore dealing with a multi-century to multi-millenia issue. We can arguably improve our outcomes for this century and we can certainly wreck ourselves in just the next 85 years or so. But to solve the problem we need to look at big timescales and push for zero and net negative carbon emissions.

      Reply
  12. Something thing that is “bemusing” to me and not at all amusing for my finances is that solar stocks have been absolutely punished lately. Oil has almost doubled from its lows, nations around the world are presumably gearing up solar purchases and…the stocks, American, Chinese, you name it are going nowhere but down. I am not a big conspiracy guy, and of course it is the valuations of the company’s that are supposedly leading the eay but…..gotta wonder if the much. much more powerful fossil fuel industry has something to do with this.

    Reply
    • It’s not a secret conspiracy. If you read any of the financial media you can see why. The financial media is in love with fossil fuels and regularly trashes renewables. This creates a false impression that renewables are sell stocks. In addition, the recent action by Buffet in Nevada was an anti-competitive move that dramatically harmed the prospects of Solar City and other solar leasing firms. Buffet’s action is a microcosm to what’s going on across the board on the part of big money players like the Kochs who fund media and PR campaigns aimed at killing off renewable interests. Add in politicians like my Maryland Governor, Republican Larry Hogan who just vetoed a renewable energy standard bill and you can get an idea why some solar stocks are taking a beating.

      But we should be very clear that not all renewables are getting hammered in the stock market. Right now it’s primarily the solar leasing giants and a few of the panel manufacturers. Solar leasing is vulnerable due to the fact that a good portion of the market would rather own than lease. So cost of sales is high which threatens the business model of leasing. Leasing giants operate like utilities in that they own the power source. But homeowners don’t really want to trade one utility for another, which is why we see a huge interest in direct purchases of home solar systems which, despite huge sales efforts on the part of leasers, has grown to 40 percent of the market.

      With the original business model of leasing in doubt, investors are feeling more shy toward Solar City.

      The last piece is that these companies are in direct competition with gas and coal. Coal is bankrupt across the board, so we could very well see that though stocks have fallen, the big solar companies have fared far better than that market segment. Gas hasn’t been pretty either — with a number of the big gas players also suffering.

      There’s open warfare and serious competition in the energy markets right now. And the market perception is biased toward fossil fuels. That said, renewables overall are still winning. But I wouldn’t call any outcome certain in the current environment. And I do not doubt that a number of the monied fossil fuel interests are actively doing everything they can to manipulate the media, financial, and political system to effectively kill off renewables. Open and total warfare.

      Reply
      • ha!….why am I not surprised that I receive a more cogent and nuanced analysis from you than I have ever read in any financial section? As for me, at this point I am sipmly holding what I got and hoping that the “good guys” eventually win out.

        Reply
  13. Robert

     /  June 3, 2016

    Could anyone explain why, with the daily forecast for temperature range at all locales commonly 10 degrees F or more, Barrow’s forecasted daily range is typically a mere 2 or 3 degrees F between high and low. Often the reported temperature of this geographically significant Arctic town stays exactly the same for hours on end.
    Any explanation?

    Reply
    • 24 hour Arctic sunlight during this season reduces daily variation. Another strong moderating factor for Barrow is the influence of the local Arctic Ocean. Ocean temperatures tend to moderate nearby land temperatures. And Barrow is basically surrounded on three sides by Arctic Ocean ice or water. You tend to need a significant overland wind pattern to swing Barrow temps during spring and summer. This year, however, temps have been particularly stable. Even moreso than is usual. Weather patterns have been rather stagnant and fixed overall. And this has affected Barrow day-night variation as well.

      Reply
  14. Here’s one of the more encouraging stories on wind that I’ve seen:

    Wind power blowing across Montana: @KTVQ http://www.ktvq.com/story/32044888/q2-on-special-assignment-wind-power-blowing-across-montana

    Reply
  1. Renewables are Winning the Race Against Fossil Fuels — But Not Fast Enough | robertscribbler | GarryRogers Nature Conservation
  2. Energias Renováveis ​​estão a Ganhar a Corrida Contra Fósseis Mas

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