In a curious bit of timing, two reports of great significance are being released today. The one that will get all of the headlines is the latest assessment on climate change coming from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The second report will see far less attention, but is inevitably linked - the report for the California Public Utilities Commission on the costs and benefits of Net Metering. We will have more to say about both in the coming days, but here is our first take.
Since 1947, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has kept a “Doomsday Clock” showing how close to midnight - and thus, human-induced annihilation - the world was. At the depths of the Cold War the clock was as close as 2 minutes away, but by 2007 the clock was wound back to twelve minutes to midnight - the “safest” the world had been since the dawn of the Atomic Age.
But for Rajendra Pachauri, the lead scientist on the IPCC report, climate change has replaced nuclear destruction as mankind’s greatest threat. According to him, “we have five minutes before midnight." The report’s Summary for Policymakers, which can be downloaded now from the IPCC website, includes numerous graphs and illustrations to buttress Pachauri’s conclusion, here are two:
That map makes it pretty clear that the globe is heating up and in some parts of the world, heating very significantly.
But what about the “Global Temperature Standstill” that deniers like to tout? Isn’t it true that for the past decade, surface temperature rise has leveled off and thus, Climate Change is nothing to worry about?
The short answer to that is, not so much - take a look:
That last bar is for the past decade and it clearly shows yet another decadal increase - and that is based on observed temperatures, not computer models. And keep in mind that these are surface measurements - yet many climate scientists believe that the majority of the warming effects are occurring in the deep ocean.
So no, warming hasn’t halted, and we need to do all that we can to reduce emissions of Greenhouse Gases if we are to avoid making the clock strike twelve.
Which brings us, sadly, to the other report just released on the Costs and Benefits of Net Metering in California. Currently, the overwhelming number of residential and commercial solar installations in the state benefit from Net Metering which provides a one-for-one credit for energy produced and exported to the grid against energy consumed at a later time. In a sense, the grid acts as a storage device for solar clients, allowing them to bank credits during the day and then drawing on those credits in the evening, at night, or on cloudy days when the solar system cannot meet current needs.
The take-away from the 319-page draft report is summarized in this chart:
According to this analysis, the net cost of Net Metering by 2020 when the caps on how many net metering customers the IOUs must allow is reached, will be over $1.1 billion, or slightly more than 3% of the “revenue requirement” of the three utilities studied.
That sounds like a significant imbalance—until your realize that the report contains this incredibly important caveat which renders the entire analysis suspect:
Lastly, it is important to note that the attached NEM [i.e., Net Metering] Cost-Effectiveness Evaluation is focused exclusively on the utility ratepayer impacts of NEM, and does not include the overall societal benefits from the deployment of clean energy resources, although significant environmental, public health and other non-energy benefits occur.
We are supposed to suspend consideration of environmental, public health and other non-energy benefits, even though we know that they are significant? How can that make any sense? Worse still, we are supposed to suspend those very considerations at the same time that we are being told that it is “five minutes to midnight” for the world if we do not reduce our GHG emissions. Talk about a disconnect.
It is patently absurd to ignore the societal benefits provided by solar installations, particularly in light of the existential threat posed by climate change brought about by burning fossil fuels. The entire analysis views the world from the perspective of the status quo in which fossil-fueled utilities have a “revenue requirement” that the rest of us are expected to provide. Such a world view - and such a business model - leads to skewed results like these and if followed, would push us all closer to Midnight.
A tale of two visions today - one from Capital Hill where a congressional committee is about to hold a hearing on climate change, and the other via the Wall Street Journal noting that more and more companies are installing their own energy generation - particularly solar.
As the graphic shows, they are finally holding a hearing in the House on Climate Change but the committee is stacked with climate change deniers - you know, the same folks who believe in Unicorns. So while there will certainly be some entertaining sound bites, it is unlikely in the extreme that any meaningful policy will come from this committee. Instead we will be advised that climate change is a hoax, that humans are too puny to harm the Earth, and that in any event, doing anything about it is too expensive and a “job killer.”
Which brings us to the other story (h/t ClimateCrocks.com) about companies installing their own energy generation. Whether it is biomass from their own waste or solar modules on their roofs, more and more companies are installing energy generation as a hedge against increasingly expensive energy from the conventional utilities.
Now no one would accuse Walmart of being some enviro-hugging feel good corporation - so why are they leading this parade? It is simple, they know that these measures are saving them lots and lots of money - and that is the type of green they value the most.
So while their allies on the Hill insist that measures to address climate change are ruining the economy, companies like Walmart are boosting their economic fortunes by adopting the very measures that, coincidentally, reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. And that’s no hoax.
We came across this image of recent precipitation patterns in the United States over the past thirty days (H/T ClimateCrocks.com) and it is pretty startling - check it out:
What this map reveals is the Western half of the continental United States consisting of two broad swaths of record drought bracketing an area of record rainfall - none of which is anything like “normal.”
The red in California has contributed to the Rim Fire near Yosemite National Park that burned to an area greater than the size of New York City.
Dead center in that sea of purple lies the flooded cities and towns of Colorado.
This sort of “extreme” weather is becoming less extreme in the sense that it is far less rare and approaching the new normal.
For the full story, click on the map.
As everyone knows, major storms, like hurricanes, are given human names like Katrina, Sandy or Ivan. But what did these folks ever do to deserve such infamy? Why not names storms, made far worse by climate change, after those who deny climate change? Surely they are more, worthy! (H/T Climate Denial Crock of the Week.)
That thought experiment leads to the following, very clever and very snarky video:
If you care to sign the petition, you can do so here. (We were number 2986.)
Unicorns are a charming fantasy; mythical creatures from a world that never was.
But to activists trying to bring reason to the Climate Change debate, Unicorns are just as real as the world inhabited by climate change deniers. Noting that “one good fantasy deserves another,” yesterday, activists awarded Unicorn shaped statues to 135 members of Congress who deny that the climate is changing and that human activities are the cause.
Sadly, such mockery is well deserved. Look at this collection of jaw-dropping quotes collected just from members of the California Congressional delegation:
The earth cools, the earth warms…It could be caused by carbon dioxide or methane. Maybe we should kill the cows to stop the methane, or stop breathing to stop the CO2…Thousands of people die every year of cold, so if we had global warming it would save lives…We ought to look out for people. The earth can take care of itself.
Rep. Duncan Hunter
One of the difficulties in examining the issue of the climate change and greenhouse gases is that there is a wide range of scientific opinion on this issue and the science community does not agree to the extent of the problem or the critical threshold of when this problem is truly catastrophic.
Rep. Darrell Issa
We’re all told of course the debate is over and that all the scientists agree… and as all of you know, that is succinctly [sic] not the case.
Rep. Tom McClintock
However, scientists admit that they cannot be sure whether the Earth’s temperature is rising due to cyclical warming and cooling processes, or whether and how much humans are influencing it.
Rep. Devin Nunes
Too often, when congress is asked to pass environmental legislation, the legislation is based on emotional junk science rather than data based on reproducible, rigorous, tested, peer-reviewed results. In no area has this been more obvious than climate change. Because the Kyoto Treaty and much of the suggested environmental legislation would decimate jobs in southern California, constituents may be interested to learn of the growing scientific consensus that global warming is not manmade, if it is in fact even occurring.
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher
Wow. And because a picture is worth a thousand words, here’s some highlights (er, lowlights) of these wizards of Fantasyland in action:
Fortunately, we have our own antidote to this brand of concentrated stupidity. It is called solar energy and it is a great way to do your part in reducing our carbon footprint, making the world a better place for our children to inherit. Give us a call today and let’s start moving toward a cleaner world, no matter what the deniers say.
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