Tag: "global warming"


  02:48:00 pm, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 165 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Climate Change

100 Years of Global Warming in 35 Seconds!

As regular readers of this blog know, we are major “data geeks” here at Run on Sun, and there is hardly anything that lights our fires more than a brilliantly executed data visualization!  Well Antti Lipponen, a researcher at the Finnish Meteorological Institute, has just published what may be one of the greatest data visualizations ever, demonstrating 100 years of global warming in a mesmerizing 35 seconds! (H/T Yale Environment 360.)

Check it out…

Using temperature data from the world’s 191 countries, Lipponen’s stunning video turns a boring dataset into a compelling image of the rapid change that we are experiencing.  Using both color (warmer temperatures appear in warmer colors) and height (the length of each country’s bar is its departure from the averaged baseline), you can almost feel the pulse of the ever-warming Earth.

This visualization brings vividly home that we have a lot of work ahead of us, and such is the power of data used properly.  Congratulations, Mr. Lipponen, you are our new favorite data geek!



  03:24:00 pm, by Laurel Hamilton   , 1009 words  
Categories: Climate Change

World Leaders Talk Climate Solutions - Solar Stands Out

COP21 LogoMonday marked the onset of what may be the most important (and most exciting) gathering of world leaders in human history. From November 30 to December 11, representatives from more than 190 countries are coming together to reach agreement on global climate efforts at the United Nations Conference of Parties (COP21) in Paris.

There is a great deal of optimism around the world as national heads come together with commitments in hand. This is a huge step forward compared to past climate conferences which have failed to reach any target that the world could agree upon. It remains to be seen if this positive momentum will result in an accord with the power to spur change on a global scale. 

So what is COP21 all about?

United NationsIn preparation for the conference, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) evaluated the current research (over 30,000 papers) on the science of climate change. The key takeaway in their synthesis: Scientists are now more certain than ever that climate change is real; it’s caused by human activities – especially the burning of fossil fuels; and it’s already impacting people around the world, from rising sea levels to more extreme weather events. Hence the overarching goal in Paris this week is to frame a deal to prevent Earth from warming above the point of no return (more than 2°C).

In the months leading to the conference nearly every country on the planet submitted their commitments to reduce greenhouse gases based on the IPCC report, called Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs). The United States’ INDC outlines a commitment to cut emissions by 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2025, mostly by reducing CO2 emissions from coal-fired power plants.

All 156 INDCs, representing 97.8% of global emitters, will be plugged into a final document crafted through the high level negotiations. The COP21 final accord will actually be divided into a “core agreement,” laying out the broad objectives for emissions reduction and how to pay for poor nations’ efforts, and “decisions” describing how these objectives will be achieved.

One hot issue to be settled in Paris is over the legal status of this document. A formal treaty would need the impossible approval of the Republican-controlled US Senate. Instead, President Obama will likely sign off on the accord as an “executive agreement.” There seems to be an understanding that the “agreement” would have more binding legal status than the “decisions,” which would include the national pledges and be subject to revision. The US has held that they will not sign any legally binding emissions targets.

While the commitments to cut emissions by the world’s countries is a great start, without legally binding targets and accountability, these promises hold little weight. It will also be interesting to see if, and how, leaders will establish a path forward with plans to reconvene and re-affirm their targets regularly.

Will the Paris accord stop climate change?

The unfortunate reality is that even if every country followed through with their commitments, scientists estimate that global warming will be about 2.7 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Given that a 2 degree increase is the limit necessary to avert the worst impacts, we will still need to focus on adaptation as well as mitigation to climate change. But on the bright side, it’s a lot less warming than would happen if we continue the status quo without curbing any emissions at all!

This summit isn’t the end of the fight to limit climate change. But considering there has never before been international agreement on climate efforts - the Kyoto Treaty never got off the ground, due in large part to the failure of the US to join - it is a huge step to come together in the battle. As technologies such as solar improve and countries become more confident in their ability to transition to cleaner energy, they can step up their action over time.

COP21 Too Late

What impact will COP21 have on the fate of clean energy?

Renewable energy stands out as the most common strategy for meeting targets out of all of the INDCs! This is a great sign of growing prospects for the solar industry. According to research by the World Resources Institute, if Brazil, China, the EU, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, and the United States follow through on their commitments, the amount of clean energy installed will more than double by 2030! 

The US targets were largely based on the projected outcome of Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which limits greenhouse gas emissions from coal plants and aims to get 20% of electricity from renewables by 2030. The Clean Power Plan has yet to be approved by the Senate and has significant opposition. One can hope that the COP21 and international pressure to act will help on this front. But in a climate where federal tax credits are under threat and state-level clean energy incentives are rapidly drying up, the US commitments on an international stage could be an important backstop to helping the renewable energy sector grow.

Outside the negotiating rooms, thousands of business leaders, state officials, activists, scientists and others from the private sector are also holding events and meetings. The mere existence of the political agreements taking place will lead to increased investment in the renewable energy sector. While the value of political will to accomplish the enormous task of an energy transition shouldn’t be underestimated, the private sector is likely where the real growth will occur without the partisan challenges of the government.

On a final note, we at Run on Sun are thrilled about the events in Paris this week. As the international community finally comes together to tackle climate change our optimism about the world’s ability to act meaningfully is renewed! However, the work that must be done doesn’t end this week. Next week, next month, next year and on and on the fight will continue. Governments, the private sector, and even individuals must continue to act every day on behalf of the only planet we’ve got. Going solar is one of the best ways to reduce your emissions impact from your home or business. We look forward to doing our part!


  07:05:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 235 words  
Categories: Climate Change

US & China Agree on GHG Reductions - UPDATE

In a dramatic joint announcement coming out of the APEC summit in China, President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping have committed to significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. (H/T climatecrocks.com)

The agreement calls on China to peak its GHG emissions by no later than 2030 and increase the use of non-fossil fuels to 20% by that date.  Meanwhile, the US will cut its GHG emissions by 26-28% (compared to 2005 levels) by 2025.  For the two largest emitters of GHG, these steps by the US and China are historic and much needed.

“As the world’s two largest economies, energy consumers and emitters of greenhouse gases, we have a special responsibility to lead the global effort against climate change,” Obama said Wednesday in a joint press conference with Xi.

UPDATE - We noted that this was a really big deal, but the graph below is truly the picture worth a thousand words:

Significance of US-China carbon deal

While the impact of the actions from the US and China alone are significant, as the graph shows, their greatest benefit is in serving as an example for other countries to follow.

Beyond the practical significance in helping to combat climate change, China’s commitment - coming as it does from the head of the Communist Party - takes away the deniers’ favorite argument: that it is meaningless for the US to act since China never will.  Well guess what, China is acting.

Sorry deniers, what else have you got?


  08:00:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 172 words  
Categories: Climate Change

2014 - Warmest Year Ever?

The folks over at NASA are reporting something that folks out here in the West will not find at all surprising: 2014 is on track to contend for the title of warmest year ever.  (No doubt this will come as a shock to folks who regularly watch Fox News.)  (H/T Climate Crocks.)

Warmest year ever?

The chart shows the temperature anomaly for 134 years with the zoom in on the five warmest. 2014 is the heavy grey line; 2010 (the hottest year on record) is in red.  (Oh, and contrary to the Fox canard about a global cooling trend, in fact of the five warmest years ever, two were in the past five - 2010 and 2013.)

Of course, 2014 isn’t over yet so the dotted lines provide a number of possible scenarios.  To give you a sense of how far “ahead” we are so far this year, if the remaining months simply hit their 21st century averages, 2014 will tie 2005 for the second warmest year ever.

Hang on to this link, you may need to refer to it next month over Thanksgiving dinner!


  10:21:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 771 words  
Categories: Climate Change, Ranting

Why Sandy Matters

It's Global Warming, Stupid!In 2008, then Senator Barack Obama and his Republican rival, Senator John McCain, did not agree on much but they did agree on this:
Global Warming was real, the activities of human beings were the likely cause, and serious measures - most likely some form of cap-and-trade regime - were needed to deal with the problem.

After all, the science about Global Warming was settled, with 97% of all scientists in the field having concluded the same facts that the presidential candidates acknowledged, and cap-and-trade was a fundamentally conservative, market-based mechanism for regulating emissions which had already been proven successful in addressing the problem of Acid Rain.

Going into the 2008 election it seemed pretty clear: those of us who had been waiting for action on this issue were about to see political will get behind scientific reality.  And not a moment too soon.

Once elected, President Obama and his Democratic allies in the Nancy Pelosi lead House of Representatives turned to making cap-and-trade the law of the land.  The House passed the Waxman-Markey bill in June of 2009, but in the sausage factory that is the U.S. Congress, the bill became larded down with concessions that converted a simple concept into a 1,200 page leviathan that was (almost) as easily opposed from the Left as it was from the Right.

But not quite - the opposition on the Right was well-funded by fossil fuel industry groups that knew that ultimately a tax on carbon emissions, in whatever form, would ultimately lead to the demise of their industry.  Attacks on the science - often headed by the same folks who brought us the denialist attacks from Big Tobacco - were systematic and coordinated at an AstroTurf level.  So-called Climategate soon followed and suddenly Global Warming - or its more malleable cousin, Climate Change - had become an epithet, with prominent Republican Senator James Inhofe labeling it “The Greatest Hoax."  The bill died in the Senate.

Fast forward to the present presidential campaign when it became a matter of faith for all of the contending Republican primary challengers to swear allegiance to the Denialist creed.  We saw that reach its peak during the Republican Convention this summer in Tampa (ironically delayed by a day due to hurricane Isaac), when the newly chosen Republican Presidential Nominee, Mitt Romney, used the idea of sea-level rise from Global Warming as a punch line in his acceptance speech, to the delight of his partisan audience:

Today, no one is laughing.

Hurricane Sandy roared ashore amidst the most densely populated section of the U.S. coastline.  Strengthened by ocean temperatures five degrees above normal and diverted by a high-pressure region believed to have been created over a relatively ice-free Arctic ocean, Sandy caused almost unimaginable destruction: at least 110 deaths over nine states, nearly 8 million people without power, massive flooding in New York (including subways and tunnels never before flooded in the history of the city), New Jersey and Connecticut, and total property damage expected to exceed $50 billion.

After mocking President Obama’s efforts to “reduce sea-level rise and heal the planet,” Sandy revealed Mr. Romney’s misguided taunt for what all denialist memes are - a  colossal policy failure that threatens our ability to exist in coastal zones.  Governors from New Jersey’s staunch Republican Chris Christie (a Romney surrogate and keynote speaker at the RNC) to New York’s Democratic Andrew Cuomo were confronted with the “new normal” of a world experiencing Global Warming, brought home by Sandy.  And New York City’s Independent Mayor Michael Bloomberg - who had vowed to stay neutral in this year’s Presidential contest - found himself compelled to endorse President Obama, citing it as a “Vote for a President to Lead on Climate Change.”

We agree.

Hurricane Sandy should finally, once and for all, bring an end to the debate over Global Warming.  It is here, now, and it is going to get worse.  We need to change what we can, and mitigate what we cannot.  It is going to be incredibly expensive, but to continue denying the impacts of Global Warming will only make things far, far worse.  Sandy was our wake-up call.  Pity that it had to cost over a hundred lives, billions in damage and tremendous pain and suffering for millions.  But we as a Nation are finally awake and the deniers will be tolerated no more.  It is just too costly, too deadly, to follow their lead.

That is why Sandy matters.  It will be remembered as the turning point in our effort to combat Global Warming. Now, finally, it is time to move Forward and tackle this problem with the intensity and focus that its consequences demand.  Your vote on Tuesday should reflect that reality.

Jim Jenal is the Founder & CEO of Run on Sun, Pasadena's premier installer and integrator of top-of-the-line solar power installations.
Run on Sun also offers solar consulting services, working with consumers, utilities, and municipalities to help them make solar power affordable and reliable.

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