Advertisements

NOAA’s 2017 Arctic Report Card Shows Transition Toward Not-Normal Polar Environment Continues

The Arctic shows no sign of returning to the reliably frozen region of recent past decades. — NOAA

Reading this [Arctic Report Card], I feel physically sick. I feel so anxious. I’m not sure how many more years or months I’m going to be able to work daily on climate change. — Eric Holthaus

*****

During 2017, the Arctic experienced much warmer than normal winter and fall temperatures. Meanwhile, according to NOAA’s 2017 Arctic Report Card, somewhat cool late spring and early summer temperatures did little to abate a larger ongoing warming trend.

NOAA notes:

The average surface air temperature for the year ending September 2017 is the 2nd warmest since 1900; however, cooler spring and summer temperatures contributed to a rebound in snow cover in the Eurasian Arctic, slower summer sea ice loss, and below-average melt extent for the Greenland ice sheet.

(NOAA’s Arctic Report Card shows a Polar environment experiencing serious and harmful changes.)

This warming trend was evidenced by continued systemic long term sea ice losses with NOAA stating that sea ice cover has continued to thin even as older, thicker ice comprised only 21 percent of Arctic Ocean coverage compared to 45 percent during 1985.  NOAA noted very slow Chukchi and Barents sea ice re-freeze during fall of 2017 — which was a feature of much warmer than typical sea surface temperatures during late August. Temperatures which ranged up to 4 C above average for this time of year and that created a kind of heat barrier to typical fall ice cover expansion.

Sea ice is a primary indicator of Arctic health. But losses over recent decades have been quite precipitious as indicated by the graph below:

Sea Ice Coverage Loss

(Arctic sea ice loss since 1978 during September [red] and March [black]. Image source: NOAA.)

NOAA also found evidence of ongoing increases in ocean productivity in the far north — which tends to be triggered by increasing temperature and rising ocean carbon uptake (also a driver of acidification).

Other observations of systemic warming came as permafrost temperatures hit record levels during 2016.  Decadal rates of permafrost warming as measured at Dead Horse along the North Slope of Alaska proceeded at a rate of 0.21 to 0.66 degrees Celsius every ten years.

(Changes in Arctic ground temperature [20 meter depth] at varying locations shows widespread movement toward permafrost thaw. Image source: NOAA.)

Tundra greening trends also continued over broad regions:

Long-term trends (1982-2016) show greening on the North Slope of Alaska, the southern Canadian tundra, and in the central Siberian tundra; tundra browning is found in western Alaska (Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta), the higher-Arctic Canadian Archipelago, and western Siberian tundra.

Rapid warming of the Arctic, loss of sea ice, permafrost thaw, greening tundra, changes in ocean productivity and other factors are all starting to seriously impact the people of the Arctic. Coastal towns have been forced to move inland due to erosion and sea level rise. And a number of communities have lost access to key food sources due to sea ice loss or migration of local species away from warming regions. Subsidence has generated harmful impacts to infrastructure. Meanwhile, the increased incidence of Arctic wildfires presents a rising hazard to Northern Communities:

High latitude fire regimes appear to be responding rapidly to environmental changes associated with a warming climate; although highly variable, area burned has increased over the past several decades in much of Boreal North America. Most acreage burned in high latitude systems occurs during sporadic periods when lightning ignitions coincide with warm and dry weather that cures vegetation and elevates fire danger. Under a range of climate change scenarios, analyses using multiple approaches project significant increases (up to four-fold) in area burned in high latitude ecosystems by the end of the 21st century.

Taken together this is tough news — a technical report written in the lingo of science but that, in broad brush, describes evidence of a world fundamentally changed. For those of us with sensitive hearts, it’s a rough thing to write about:

Overall, NOAA calls for increased efforts to adapt to climate change in the far north. In addition, the need for mitigating harms from climate change by speeding a transfer to renewable energy could help to preserve cryosystems and ecosystems that are now under increasingly severe threat.

Advertisements
Leave a comment

84 Comments

  1. eleggua

     /  December 12, 2017

    Over the next few months, communities around the globe will launch Fossil Free Resolution Campaigns to build a world free from fossil fuels, powered by 100% renewable energy for all. Everyone has a role to play in the #FossilFree movement. It’s a global movement, anchored by local action. Join Us. gofossilfree.org/usa/

    Like

    Reply
    • Just in time to cheer me up. Thanks for this Eleggua 🙂

      Like

      Reply
    • Jim

       /  December 13, 2017

      Eleggua,

      Your comment reminded me of a report produced by the Paris based consultancy, Kepler Cheuvreux, which concluded in 2014 that the biggest threat to oil prices was the move to electric vehicles, and in particular, electric vehicles in China.

      From the report:

      ” [W]e think the fact that up to 30% of the IEA’s projected demand growth for
      oil out to 2035 is for cars and light commercial vehicles in China and India – both of which
      have a huge interest in reducing air pollution and minimizing future oil imports – means
      that electric vehicles (EVs) have the potential to take a much larger share of projected oil demand growth than either the IEA or the oil industry itself is currently assuming.
      In particular, we think the single biggest risk posed to long-term demand outlook for oil is
      China’s policy stance on EVs. As a result, if China decides to put in place a coherent
      strategic policy framework to accelerate the take-up of EVs, the IEA’s current demand
      projections for 2035 would in our view have to be radically revised.”

      Although they missed the drop in prices due to US fracking, they were pretty prescient in the overall scheme of things.

      https://www.keplercheuvreux.com/document.aspx?tag=EG_EG_274333.pdf

      Like

      Reply
  2. wili

     /  December 12, 2017

    Thanks for the follow up on this.

    Right now I, and many others, are thinking about Alabama. And in good rsblog tradition, we must provide musical background:

    Like

    Reply
  3. Bobinspain

     /  December 12, 2017

    Always slightly off topic and always banging on about wealth, I know. Strike me down but we won’t ever fix ourselves until we get rid of the undermining causes. I read a lovely article this morning about an Indian family who received a small solar panel via a charitable donation. The most notable difference was that they could run a couple of light bulbs in the evening and their two daughters were able to study for an extra two hours per day.
    I turn on the TV to wind down a bit before retiring and I find myself watching ‘The Wealthiest Christmas’, or something like that. £250k to decorate a Christmas tree on the off chance that you might be spending the festive season in your Mayfair pad. A star to decorate your Christmas tree up for grabs at £650k, cocktails at £3k a piece. An endless list of ridiculous profligacy.
    In my naivety I fantasize about having that kind of wealth and just going on a world tour and fixing things. Just seeing the light shining from young eyes that finally have clean water, food, warmth, education and decent healthcare.
    Just a dreamer – always will be

    Like

    Reply
    • Well, if the wealthy world is powered by renewables, that does reduce carbon emissions considerably and, yes, it does help solve the climate crisis. And if the developing world leap-frogs to renewable energy rather than using fossil fuels as a so-called bridge, then it does help to solve climate change. However, there are systemic issues RE income inequality that need to be addressed outside of the climate crisis, which is why I vote democrat.

      Like

      Reply
      • Greg

         /  December 13, 2017


        In response to above discussion. The above video, recently gone viral, is an interview with Chamath Palihapitiya, CEO/ founder of Social Capital. His language is a little salty but he is, in my opinion, one of the very few who can and will make an extraordinary difference regarding climate change (around 20 minutes he speaks about this specifically). Why him? He is a visionary with a 50 year plus timeline. He is deadset and capable of becoming one of the richest men on earth and demonstrates he intends to now and henceforth create that money responsibly and use that money to solve climate change and other vital human concerns.

        Like

        Reply
    • Bobinspain

       /  December 13, 2017

      Do you think voting democrat is enough? I’d like to see a worldwide revolt against runaway capitalism. Again, I accept my own naivety. Down tools world. Let’s stop everything tomorrow.

      Like

      Reply
      • If we vote democrat and do all the other things, it’s certainly enough. But we have to do all the other things. Peaceful political and economic revolution is far more effective than active warfare. I think we can win this by generating megatrends in society, economics, and politics. A considerable advantage we have at present is the fact that our institutions are designed to protect things like clean air, clean water, and human welfare. Those who misuse those institutions are beholden to law, if the law is strong.

        Like

        Reply
        • eleggua

           /  December 13, 2017

          “Peaceful political and economic revolution is far more effective than active warfare.”

          yes

          Like

      • Man it is windy as all hell here… Just howlin at the gates in Gaitherburg, MD.

        Like

        Reply
      • Revolt isn’t a good idea, most of the times. If done right, like the French Revolution, there’s a bloodbath and destruction and distractions, and would be dictators to be overthrown again and just after a long rough time things get better. If done wrong, like Libia in recent times or failed, like Siria, things get even worst. Working within the system, though less glamourous, normally gets better results. We’re seeing those now in gay rights, woman rights and others. It’s slower and more frustating, but overall it works better.

        Like

        Reply
        • Good points, Ubrios. Thanks for commenting.

          Like

        • eleggua

           /  December 19, 2017

          The United States was created by revolution. It’s in our DNA to revolt.

          “Working within the system”

          We need a new system to work *together* within. The system as-it-is was designed to be top-down, them-vs-us. No way to work with that and expect equality.

          Like

        • Democracy’s purpose was to institutionalize equality. We live in a democracy. Only the corruption of that system will result in inequality. Remove corruption from a democratic system enable and empower the people and we win.

          Like

  4. Bobinspain

     /  December 12, 2017

    The very foundation of our existence is dependent upon our acceptance of our mortality. Once we have accepted that one day we will die, then and only then, can we begin to achieve.

    Like

    Reply
    • Not certain that awareness of individual mortality is at all linked to success. I see a lot of successful individuals who appear to think they’re immortal.

      As for human civ, well, if we’re interested in not just ourselves, but our posterity, then we’ll do everything to ensure it continues to exist — healthily.

      Like

      Reply
    • What keeps me going? Well, it’s the ever more certain knowledge that we can make it through this together if we make the right choices.

      Like

      Reply
  5. Loni

     /  December 13, 2017

    In my opinion, Bobinspain, you’ve hit on how to help fix climate change.
    God speed and fulfillment to you, and let’s hope it catches on.

    Like

    Reply
    • Jim

       /  December 13, 2017

      +100 Loni.

      Like

      Reply
    • Brian

       /  December 13, 2017

      I believe this comment is incredibly naive.

      He says up above “Let’s stop everything tomorrow.” Does this include farmers? How do you incentivize them to grow food for people other than their families without capitalism? Or do you expect them to be peasants or slaves?

      I accept that one day i’m going to day, but i sort of want to keep being able to eat until then. Or do you consider my desire to keep eating selfish?

      Yes, we have many problems, and runaway capitalism is just one of many on that checklist of how we got to where we are today, but we need to be working towards viable solutions. Stopping everything tomorrow, or even the suggestion thereof, doesn’t help.

      Like

      Reply
      • It’s most helpful if you can leverage the present strengths of institutions and systems to achieve the desired ends. Stopping everything is a monumentally bad idea. We’ve basically got to rebuild the plane in flight. Tough, but doable.

        Like

        Reply
      • Overall, I think this is a good discussion to have. There’s this view that’s not very realistic that you can somehow push some button and solve everything. Action is necessary, but the transition will take time and encounter numerous challenges.

        Like

        Reply
        • eleggua

           /  December 19, 2017

          “There’s this view that’s not very realistic that you can somehow
          push some button and solve everything. ”

          MAGAnificent.

          Like

  6. eleggua

     /  December 13, 2017

    ‘Arctic permafrost thawing faster than ever, US climate study finds ‘
    12 December 2017

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/dec/12/arctic-permafrost-sea-ice-thaw-climate-change-report

    “….The annual report released on Tuesday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration showed slightly less warming in many measurements than a record hot 2016. But scientists remain concerned because the far northern region is warming twice as fast as the rest of the globe and has reached a level of warming that’s unprecedented in modern times.

    “2017 continued to show us we are on this deepening trend where the Arctic is a very different place than it was even a decade ago,” said Jeremy Mathis, head of NOAA’s Arctic research program and co-author of the 93-page report…..

    ” The Arctic has traditionally been the refrigerator to the planet, but the door of the refrigerator has been left open”
    Jeremy Mathis

    Preliminary reports from the US and Canada in 2017 showed permafrost temperatures are “again the warmest for all sites” measured in North America, said study co-author Vladimir Romanovsky, a professor at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks….

    “Overall, the new data fit with the long-term trends, showing the clear evidence of warming causing major changes,” in the Arctic, said Pennsylvania State University ice scientist Richard Alley.”

    Like

    Reply
  7. Bobinspain

     /  December 13, 2017

    It depends how you define ‘success’. Whilst I agree entirely with your point about the behaviour of ‘successful’ individuals, it’s a question of motives. There is so much striving, competition and aggression and achieving and…… It goes on and on. These are the cultural dominants. Push, shove, argue, fight, dominate. ‘Yang’ style, alpha male aggression has become almost universal and I’d even go as far as saying that it’s overtaking true scientific analysis as a modus operandi. Too much argument and not enough cooperation. Too much opinion and nit enough logical reasoning. By the way, this is not a criticism of this page, by any means. It’s an excellent forum and we should all be greatly appreciative of your efforts.
    But we should be wary, very wary of cultural paradigms regarding ‘success’.
    I’m a failure, and I’m proud of it. I’ve never cheated a darned soul out of a dime in my life. In that way, I consider myself to have been moderately successful 😊😊

    Like

    Reply
    • If you’re criticizing hyper-individualism and dominance based paradigms, you’ll get no argument from me. My opinion is that cooperation produces more success in either case. But when it comes to the lifespan of civilization, that’s something we should fight to preserve.

      Should we be aware of our vulnerability, yes. But should we let it lead us into despair and hopelessness, no.

      Like

      Reply
    • Brian

       /  December 13, 2017

      “…alpha male aggression has become almost universal and I’d even go as far as saying that it’s overtaking true scientific analysis as a modus operandi. Too much argument and not enough cooperation. Too much opinion and [not] enough logical reasoning.”

      You bemoan your perception of “too much opinion” by… providing your own opinion.

      How do I embed music videos? I’m thinking about Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror”.

      Like

      Reply
      • As a matter of opinion, the issue of harmful male dominance is a continuing social problem. One that needs to be addressed. And one that likely contributes to a plethora of abuses. However, this is a broader issue than climate change.

        Like

        Reply
  8. eleggua

     /  December 13, 2017

    Hmmm.

    Like

    Reply
  9. Jim

     /  December 13, 2017

    With Neil Young in the background I did a calculation I’ve been thinking about.

    Imagine a 100% switch to EV cars over a 20 year period for the US light vehicle fleet. Were that to happen, how much clean energy would be needed – say from wind – and is it feasible for such a transition to take place? At what pace? What would be required?

    Americans drive 3.2 trillion light vehicle miles per year (Federal Reserve Board Data 2015). Assuming 3 miles per kWh (Tesla average), this would require the annual production of 1.1 trillion kWh of electricity. [3.2 *10^12 mile / 3 miles/kWh = 1.1 * 10^12 kWh.]

    Each 2.5 MW – 3.0 Wind turbine generates about 6 Million kWh of electricity per year (Wikipedia). Thus we would need 183,000 2.5-3.0 MW wind turbines. [1.1 *10^12 kWh / 6 *10^ 6 kWh / 2.5 – 3.0 MW rated turbine = 183,000 2.5 – 3.0 MW turbines or about 495 GW of generating capacity [ 183,000 turbines * 2.7 MW average power per turbine = 490 GW ]

    The US currently has 87 GW of wind power generating 226,000 million kWh of energy, so we’re about 18% of the way there and if we added the remaining 408 GW over 20 years it would require the installation of 20GW of wind power capacity annually.

    How does this compare to what we’ve been doing? In 2012 (the peak year for US construction) we added 13GW of new capacity, so 20GW is not an unreasonable goal.

    This would free the US from purchasing 140 billion gallons of gasoline per year and the greenhouse gas equivalent of 1,527 million metric tons per year (Union of Concerned Scientists: 24 lbs of CO2 + equivalents / gallon).

    Somebody please check my math.

    And of course with wind turbines getting taller and accessing more reliable winds, it’s would not be unfeasible to accomplish this goal in 15 years or even 10 years. We’d need a moon-shot type program to do it, and some responsible leadership in Washington to drive it.

    Like

    Reply
    • Considering how inefficient ICEs are, you need about 1/3 to 1/2 the net energy currently used to power the vehicle fleet.

      Like

      Reply
      • Jim

         /  December 13, 2017

        Even less if you’re just looking at light passenger vehicles. ICE engines have a well to wheel efficiency of about 16%. Electric transportation is about 85% efficient after considering transmission line losses and inverter inefficiency, so the primary energy ratio is .85/.16 or about 1/5.

        You’ll often see renewable generation expressed as a percentage of Primary Energy (the gross caloric output of the fuel used) rather than the work actually done. So while a 6% renewable figure may seem low, if that electricity is used efficiently, it can displace a disproportionate amount of oil.

        Like

        Reply
        • And a disproportionate amount of carbon emission. Now that’s doing something.

          Like

        • Really impressed by the economies about to be achieved by EV trucking as well.

          Like

        • Really impressed by the economies about to be achieved by EV trucking as well.

          Like

        • Jim

           /  December 13, 2017

          EV truck transportation is ready to take off. It’s more economical, so most companies are behind it. Tesla, WrightSpeed, Cummings, Nikola Trucks, Daimler, Proterra, BYD, and plenty of other competitors jumping into the space. With payback periods of 2-4 years, there’s a lot of change that’s going to happen in this space in the next few years.

          Like

  10. Bobinspain

     /  December 13, 2017

    What keeps me going Robert is that despite all the conflicts I find people individually intriguing and highly fascinating, but also collectively disappointing. That’s the simple intellectual reduction. If we’re talking about nature and our beautiful planet and our profound and wonderful discoveries, well, then they are the bookmarks for what we could become. This great intellectual future compassionate society with a profound understanding for each other, nature and our future role in our collective development as a species which will ultimately reverse the destruction we’ve witnessed in recent generations and we’ll all move on into a higher plane. I’ll have a robot maid called ‘Doris’, and she’ll eventually run off with ‘Guy’, my android gardener.

    Like

    Reply
  11. Bobinspain

     /  December 13, 2017

    Hic

    Like

    Reply
  12. Bobinspain

     /  December 13, 2017

    I don’t drink. I think too much. That’s my only vice these days

    Like

    Reply
  13. Bobinspain

     /  December 13, 2017

    These difficulties, prejudices and discords would not exist in an ideal society. The question is – what is an ideal society? This is crucial to our survival. How are we going to continue?

    Like

    Reply
  14. Bobinspain

     /  December 13, 2017

    I don’t need Jesus, the Dalai Lama, Gandalf to tell me to do my best. We all need to get up off our fucking arses, stop judging each other and get fucking moving. Come on people, come on!
    Pull your trousers up! Take a good look at yourselves!
    And for Christ fucking sake, get up off your asses and do something!

    Like

    Reply
  15. Bobinspain

     /  December 13, 2017

    We need a peaceful,widely all embracing cultural revolution. It won’t be easy.
    Where do we start?

    Like

    Reply
  16. wili

     /  December 13, 2017

    Holy….

    Jones freakin’ won!!! I can’t quite believe it. Let’s hope this is the beginning of a tidal change…no, let’s MAKE this a tidal change!!!

    Like

    Reply
  17. utoutback

     /  December 13, 2017

    bobinspain –
    When people tell me that Jesus died for my sins, I tell them – “no thank you, I’ll take responsibility for them myself.”
    As for energy for EVs. If just 1/4 of the people who buy an EV also invest in a solar panel and home charging set up than will greatly increase the production of alternative power and reduce grid load.
    I have a friend here, in Bend, OR who drive an electric smart car charged at home. Brilliant. Our next vehicle will be an EV and I hope to go that route.

    Like

    Reply
    • wili

       /  December 13, 2017

      “Jesus died for someone’s sins, but mine…
      My sins are mine, they belong to me…”

      Like

      Reply
    • A lot of people use Jesus as an excuse to do wrong. This is tantamount to a false witness in the Christian frame. Faith without good works is no faith at all. And if Christianity’s version of the Devil were living in this world today, he’d use Jesus as a cover for all his evil deeds. And most especially as an excuse to spread hate — toward women, homosexuals, African Americans, liberals. Because corruption almost always bends toward hatred of the weak and the different and the innocent and those who do good.

      How do we reconcile this as aetheists and Christians and Muslims and others? Well, we should recognize that the first rule of the effective psychopath is to play on people’s compassion in order to extract avoidance of consequences for wrongdoing (This is not true forgiveness. It is securing enablement for harms and injustice.). The second rule is to point to a false version of god (whatever that may be) to justify harms. Some other thing always caused ‘me’ to do this. Not ‘me.’ The third rule is to, as we have seen with Moore and Trump and so many others, never take responsibility for harm done. Never to utter the words — I did this. I was wrong to do this. I am deeply sorry. No, the blame is always shifted. The buck never stops here.

      This is why it is so, so very important to hold bad actors accountable. To see harm for what it is. To see it clearly. And to not be swayed by the symbols, illusions, flags and myths that will, inevitably, be waved in our faces as a distraction. The just action must transcend all idols. Injustice cloaked by flags, gods, or myths is a falsification, a corruption, a bastardization of an ideal. We should always look beyond the flag or the faith to the person and the true substance or lack thereof that they reveal to us with their actions.

      Like

      Reply
      • Robert E Prue

         /  December 13, 2017

        Indeed I wonder about the belief system of those who would vote for these Bible in one hand,gun in the other types. Sometimes I feel they are trying to bring on Armageddon so Jesus will come back.

        Like

        Reply
        • Well, Alabama just elected Jones. So maybe there is some hope for the Bible belt after all.

          Like

        • wili

           /  December 14, 2017

          Some called the Jones victory a victory of the Religions Left, especially of Black churches. I think it also showed to many how hollow the claims of piety and values are of many who call themselves Rightwing Christian Evangelicals, perhaps weakening their power going forward.

          Like

  18. wharf rat

     /  December 13, 2017

    New York Utilities Learned a Lot From Superstorm Sandy. Will That Help Them in Puerto Rico?
    “We are well prepared and uniquely qualified to help them restore power.”

    https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/new-york-utilities-help-puerto-rico-with-hurricane-recovery#gs.ljL4Ekg

    Like

    Reply
  19. kassy

     /  December 13, 2017

    Long ago when driving from the Netherlands to France for holidays you could see that you were near the border because of all the lights on the side of the highways in Belgium. Back then we wondered why and one reason we could think of was that maybe their roads were worse then our dutch roads (they sure looked worse).

    The answer is simpler…turns out to be money:

    Belgium’s Lavish Energy Use Sheds Light on More Than Just Its Roads

    BRUSSELS — When an astronaut took nighttime pictures of Europe from the International Space Station this year, one nation stood out far below on the twinkling surface of the earth: Belgium.

    It is the only country in Europe to keep nearly all of its 2.2 million streetlights on through the night, making it a world leader in light pollution, and easily identifiable even from space.

    The phenomenon has been a source of ridicule and humor in Belgium for decades. But since the images were published in May, some have also begun to ask a simple but tough question: Why?

    “If that’s what it looks like, we still have a long way to go in terms of sustainable development,” one commenter, Valy Liégois, wrote on the astronaut’s Facebook page. “What purpose does it serve to illuminate at full power?”

    The official explanation is that it helps road safety and provides security. But critics doubt this and say the phenomenon sheds light not only on Belgium’s roads but also on a mutually profitable relationship among its politicians, electricity distributors and main energy supplier, Electrabel.

    Belgium’s system rewards local politicians for keeping the bulbs blazing, said Peter Reekmans, speaking from his experience as the mayor of the town of Glabbeek.

    Streetlight consumption translates into profits for electricity producers, distributors and the state, he said. The profits of electricity distribution companies are paid out “in dividends to the local municipalities that own shares in them, and in salaries and stipends to the local politicians who sit on their oversight boards,” he explained.

    The system has “built-in conflicts of interest” for local politicians deciding on energy policy, including about streetlights, he said. “It also makes politics in Belgium quite a profitable profession.”

    Mr. Reekmans recently published a book exposing hundreds of obscure government structures involved in what he calls “ethically dubious decision-making.”

    He estimates that about 10,000 remunerated seats on the governing boards of public utility companies — not only in the energy sector — are occupied by local politicians.

    “With seven governments, six parliaments, 10 provincial governments, 589 municipalities and hundreds of public utility companies, the state has grown so complex that many shady government structures have remained hidden for a very long time,” he said.

    And where there is complexity, some energy companies see opportunity, said Eric De Keuleneer, an academic at the Solvay Brussels School of Economics and Management and an expert on the Belgian electricity market.

    “Many people who work for distributor companies, and even for the government energy regulator, used to work for Electrabel before, and vice versa,” he said.

    In fact, he said, “Electrabel engineered the high profitability of the distributor companies.” Electrabel owned shares in those companies, and appointed senior management positions in them, until last year, when the state bought them out “at inflated prices,” he said.

    Today, a big part of the profits from distributor companies “are used to repay bank loans they took to buy out Electrabel’s shares,” he said.

    Anne-Sophie Hugé, a spokeswoman for Electrabel, denied in an interview that the company still maintained ties to state-owned distributor companies, since it sold its shares in those companies last year.

    She also said that the prices for its electricity and the shares it sold to the state simply reflected “Belgium’s free and very competitive market forces.”

    She added that the utility was working hard to increase the share of Belgium’s energy supply that comes from renewable sources, which requires costly infrastructure upgrades.

    Even so, the country’s share of energy from renewables is around 7.8 percent, about half the European Union-wide average, while the government has extended until at least 2025 Electrabel’s permits for seven nuclear reactors that date from the ’70s.

    Electrabel remains Belgium’s sole nuclear producer and its main energy supplier, a virtual monopoly that critics say has left Belgians paying dearly for their electricity.

    Even as most of Belgium’s energy comes from nuclear power — a comparatively cheap source of energy — the price of electricity excluding taxes is the highest in the European Union.

    Since 2010, the average yearly electricity bill of Belgian households has risen 40 percent, to about 900 euros, or $1,060, leaving 20 percent of Belgians with difficulties paying their bills. Prices across Europe rose half as much in the same period.

    While other European countries are working to comply with the Paris climate agreement by cutting emissions and investing in renewables, Belgium is projected to fail in reaching its targets for 2020.

    Belgian energy consumption per capita remains among the highest in Europe — behind only much colder countries like Norway, Finland, and Iceland.

    “The nuclear power lobby in Belgium not only dominates the energy market,” said Mr. De Keuleneer, the economist, “it also dominates Belgium’s complex political system, exploiting conflict-of-interest situations on all government levels.”

    That system has proved profitable for Electrabel. Since 2007, the company has operated as a subsidiary of the French energy giant Engie, the biggest independent utility in the world, according to Forbes.

    Engie has $168 billion in assets in 70 countries, but a fifth of its profits over the last decade have come from Electrabel alone, annual accounts from the National Bank of Belgium show. (Some say even that estimate is low.)

    Electrabel is not the only party to profit, however.

    Electricity-distribution companies and politicians have done well, too, according to Michel Vercaempst, 63, who has worked for both the Belgian government’s Energy Department and for Electrabel over four decades.

    The state-owned companies that distribute electricity to consumers each have a de facto monopoly in certain municipalities, charging far more for the service than it costs, Mr. Vercaempst said.

    About one-third of the price of household electricity in Belgium goes to distribution companies, a third to energy producers and a third to the state, he said.

    The distribution companies make a profit of about 12 percent, on average, he added, compared with about 6 percent in France, where a similar system exists.

    “That’s enormous,” he said. “Not even Goldman Sachs can ensure such profits.”

    The conflicts and contradictions of such a system come together at the local level, where politicians like Koen Kennis make their living, as well as decisions about when and whether to leave streetlights on in their districts.

    Mr. Kennis is a city councilor in Antwerp, which has about 45,000 streetlights. He is also a board member of a state-owned electricity distribution company, Eandis.

    Antwerp keeps 95 percent of its lights on overnight and buys the electricity for them from Electrabel. Eandis then distributes that electricity. For overseeing this transaction as a board member, among other things, Eandis pays Mr. Kennis €10,000 a year.

    In total, Mr. Kennis holds over 35 political positions in relation to his public office, half of which are remunerated.

    Asked if he saw any conflict in the arrangement of his mandates, he said that the system preceded his entry into politics and that his remunerations were fixed by law.

    “I’m working hard from the inside to reform the cluster of conflicting agencies and reduce the number of mandates,” he said.

    The debate about all-night lighting was still continuing, he said, because people have gotten used to it.

    Otherwise, “It’s very simple,” he said. “One phone call to Eandis today, and they turn off those lights with one switch tonight.”

    But for now, most lights remain on, especially along local roads and Belgium remains visible from 250 miles above Earth.

    Like

    Reply
  20. eleggua

     /  December 13, 2017

    ‘Global warming made Hurricane Harvey deadly rains three times more likely, research reveals ‘
    13 December 2017

    https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/dec/13/global-warming-made-hurricane-harvey-deadly-rains-three-times-more-likely-research-shows

    “….The scientists from the World Weather Attribution (WWA) initiative usually publish their assessments of the role of climate change in extreme weather events around the world as soon as possible. However, in this case they waited for the work to be confirmed by peer review because of the current US government’s opposition to strong action on climate change.

    The researchers said their new work shows global warming is making extreme weather events worse right now and in the US. The cost of the damage caused by Hurricane Harvey has been estimated at $190bn (£140bn), which would make it the most costly weather disaster in US history, more than Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy combined…..

    The WWA scientists used both historical rainfall records and high-resolution climate models to determine the influence of global warming. “This multi-method analysis confirms that heavy rainfall events are increasing substantially across the Gulf Coast region because of human interference with our climate system,” said Geert Jan van Oldenborgh, at the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI) and lead author of the new study published in Environmental Research Letters.

    “It was very a rare event – they were very unlucky,” said van Oldenborgh. But the research shows the chance of it happening was raised threefold by climate change.

    The team also estimated that, even if the world limits warming to the internationally agreed 2C limit, the likelihood of such extreme downpours will triple again. “But, if we miss those targets, the increase in frequency and intensity could be much higher,” said Karin van der Wiel, also at KNMI.

    “The link between global warming and more extreme weather is nowhere more obvious than in the US. Even if Donald Trump isn’t seeing the picture, many others are,” said Richard Black at the ECIU…..”

    Like

    Reply
  21. 12volt dan

     /  December 13, 2017

    OT but another player in the electric truck market that’s new (to me anyway)
    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-12-13/this-electric-truck-will-probably-beat-tesla-s-to-market

    more for in city delivery this truck feeds a different market than long haul but just as important. School bus, garbage,plows ect this will have an impact imo

    Like

    Reply
  22. Oldest ice core ever drilled outside the polar regions
    The 1,000+ feet of ice may contain more than half a million years of climate history. Dec 13, 2017. Ohio State University. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/12/171213104607.htm

    At the American Geophysical Union meeting on Thursday, Dec. 14, they report that there has been a persistent increase in both temperature and precipitation in Tibet’s Kunlun Mountains over the last few centuries. The change is most noticeable on the Guliya Ice Cap, where they drilled the latest ice core. In this region, the average temperature has risen 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) in the last 50 years and the average precipitation has risen by 2.1 inches per year over the past 25 years.

    Lonnie Thompson, Distinguished University Professor in the School of Earth Sciences at The Ohio State University and co-leader of the international research team, said that the new data lend support to computer models of projected climate changes.

    “The ice cores actually demonstrate that warming is happening, and is already having detrimental effects on Earth’s freshwater ice stores,” Thompson said.

    Like

    Reply
  23. Ronald

     /  December 14, 2017

    Just in: the East Antarctic Ice Sheet is also less stable than previously suspected (of the WAIS this was already known, collapse of which could lead to over 3 meter sea level rise).
    http://www.nature.com/articles/nature25026
    If this one would collapse it would lead to some serious sea level rise.

    Like

    Reply
  24. Bobinspain

     /  December 15, 2017

    It’s interesting. I wouldn’t consider myself naive. More idealistic I’d say, and an anarchist, in the true sense of the word. Here’s a highly interesting discussion from one of my intellectual heroes. I’d still opt for downing tools. Not farm tools, Brian, shame on you for picking an argument over a nicety. Down with the super-capitalist way of life that we’ve all been sucked into. All I desire is peace. Anyhow, Robert please kindly delete me. I have nothing more to say but to wish you all well. Kind regards.
    https://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/noam-chomsky-kind-anarchism-i-believe-and-whats-wrong-libertarians

    Like

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: