On the same day as the end of #climatesilence, we get a glimpse of how we’re already restoring the Pleistocene shoreline (which goes with the previous post about Pleistocene rewilding).
Worse than the credit-default swap great recession that we are slowly recovering from, America is depleting our future by squandering our water resources. Once our fossil water is all flushed down the drain, it will not be coming back.
The decades-long pursuit of fermenting woody plants into fuel aka cellulosic biofuels is now a commercial reality with two pilot plants just opened and more under construction. This renewable fuel – not made from corn or other food crops – has one-sixth the amount of carbon dioxide compared to petroleum-based fuels. If those forests get, then it could even be claimed that cellulosic fuels are carbon neutral. Of course, there is the ecological footprint of chopping down forests for energy – but that is a debate that is yet to come.
In Columbus, Miss., KiOR has spent more than $200 million on a plant that is supposed to mix shredded wood waste with a patented catalyst, powdered to talcumlike consistency. Its process does in a few seconds what takes nature millions of years: removes the oxygen from the biomass and converts the other main ingredients, hydrogen and carbon, into molecules that can then be processed intoand diesel fuel…
And Ineos, a European oil and chemical company, is putting the final touches on a plant in Vero Beach, Fla., that would cook wood and woody garbage until they broke down into tiny molecules of hydrogen and carbon monoxide. Those molecules would be pumped into a giant steel tank, where bacteria would eat them and excrete ethanol. – NYTimes.com
The Owens Valley community is invited to a free public design workshop, 6-9pm on October 15th at the Methodist Center, 205 North Fowler Street, Bishop, California 93514.
This workshop will explore designing resilience and adaptation into the landscape of Owens Valley with California State Polytechic University Pomona Landscape Architecture students. The Landscape Architecture students will be visiting Owens Valley on a field trip as they learn about designing large-scale sustainable infrastructure systems as part of the Cal Poly Pomona’s Aqueduct Futures Project.
Please RSVP to help us plan the event: http://owensvalleyfutures.eventbrite.com/
If you wish to participate in the resource fair, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Richard A. Muller shares the findings of the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Project in an NYTimes Op-Ed. Dr. Muller was a vocal critic of the IPCC and earlier climate change research, but the project finds that human carbon emissions are the entire cause of observed change in the climate over the past 250 years! (The IPCC only stated the link was for the past 50 years.)
…studied issues raised by skeptics: biases from urban heating (we duplicated our results using rural data alone), from data selection (prior groups selected fewer than 20 percent of the available temperature stations; we used virtually 100 percent), from poor station quality (we separately analyzed good stations and poor ones) and from human intervention and data adjustment (our work is completely automated and hands-off)…
How definite is the attribution to humans? The carbon dioxide curve gives a better match than anything else we’ve tried. Its magnitude is consistent with the calculated greenhouse effect — extra warming from trapped heat radiation. These facts don’t prove causality and they shouldn’t end skepticism, but they raise the bar: to be considered seriously, an alternative explanation must match the data at least as well as carbon dioxide does. Adding methane, a second greenhouse gas, to our analysis doesn’t change the results. Moreover, our analysis does not depend on large, complex global climate models, the huge computer programs that are notorious for their hidden assumptions and adjustable parameters. Our result is based simply on the close agreement between the shape of the observed temperature rise and the known greenhouse gas increase.
What about the future? As carbon dioxide emissions increase, the temperature should continue to rise. I expect the rate of warming to proceed at a steady pace, about one and a half degrees over land in the next 50 years, less if the oceans are included. But if China continues its rapid economic growth (it has averaged 10 percent per year over the last 20 years) and its vast use of coal (it typically adds one new gigawatt per month), then that same warming could take place in less than 20 years.
Science is that narrow realm of knowledge that, in principle, is universally accepted. I embarked on this analysis to answer questions that, to my mind, had not been answered. I hope that the Berkeley Earth analysis will help settle the scientific debate regarding global warming and its human causes. Then comes the difficult part: agreeing across the political and diplomatic spectrum about what can and should be done.
So what do we do next? My money and scholarly efforts are focused on developing site and municipal scale solutions to reduce emissions, increase energy/locational efficiency, and improve the resilience of our cities. But what about the bottom billion and the majority of humanity that isn’t historically responsible for climate change (yet will bear the brunt of the impacts) – there are plenty of efforts that working to improve their standard of living (health, education, food/energy security) while reducing our global footprint. Policy is a huge factor, but don’t count on either national or global consensus or action – the polical/economic forces of the status quo have too much to loose (see ‘Canada’s oil, the world’s carbon‘) – humanity has too much to loose by inaction.
Fires across the United States, and their relative intensity, from 2001 through July 9, 2012.
CREDIT: John Nelson, IDV Solutions.
The data, provided by two NASA satellites, were “about two mouse clicks away,” said John Nelson, the map’s maker, and the user experience and mapping manager for IDV Solutions, a Lansing, Mich., data-visualization company.
Nelson also created a map of 100 years of earthquakes:
and Earthquake Map
The report provides a glimmer of hope that the world will experience a ‘carbon spring’ (led by architects and the building sector) where the tyrants King Coal and Big Oil are deposed before it’s too late for the climate and the mountains of Appalachia. The flip side of the drama (and the new faustian bargain being made) is the increase in fracking that is providing all the natural gas that is our Hamlet in this story and replacing coal as the fuel of choice for electricity generation.
The rest of this post is from Architecture 2030:
In May 2012, the New York Times reported that “Coal and electric utilities, long allied, are starting to split. More than 100 of the 500 or so U.S. coal-burning power plants are expected to be shut down in the next few years. While coal still provides about a third of the nation’s power, just four years ago it was providing nearly half.” According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) there was a nationwide decrease of 22.8% in net electricity generation from coal between April 2011 and April 2012. The reasons given in the press for the decline of U.S. coal consumption include new pollution rules, fuel switching, and environmental pressure.
The unstated, yet requisite, driver of this trend is the dramatically declining demand for energy in the Building Sector due to slower growth in the U.S. building stock and increases in building energy efficiency.
The Annual Energy Outlook 2012 (AEO 2012), prepared by the EIA, presents long-term projections of energy demand based on results from EIA’s National Energy Modeling System. AEO 2012 concludes “The rate of growth in energy use slows over the projection period, reflecting moderate population growth, an extended economic recovery, and increasing energy efficiency in end-use applications.” Visualizing AEO Building Sector data in a graphic format clearly illustrates the key drivers of the recent trend in U.S. energy infrastructure planning.
According to AEO 2012, if the ‘best available demand technologies*’ are incorporated, the projected energy consumption for residential and commercial buildings in 2030 is expected to drop 12% below 2005 levels; CO2 emissions are expected to drop 21.8% below 2005 levels.
AEO projections do not include sustainable planning applications or incorporate passive heating and cooling, natural ventilation, daylighting, or spatial configuration and site design strategies. With the growing number of architects and planners incorporating these strategies to meet the 2030 Challenge targets, actual energy consumption and emissions in the Building Sector will drop substantially lower.
All of this is particularly good news because the alternative of continuing coal use is rather dire. To quote from a previous E-News Bulletin:
“The only practical way to preserve a planet resembling that of the Holocene [i.e. the world as we know it],…is to rapidly phase out coal emissions…”
Note: Seventy-six (76%) percent of all electricity produced in the U.S. is consumed by buildings.
* Best available demand technologies – new equipment purchases are limited to the most efficient versions of technologies available in the residential and commercial buildings sectors.