Ocean Air Temps Keep Cool

Presently sea surface temperatures (SST) are the best available indicator of heat content gained or lost from earth’s climate system.  Enthalpy is the thermodynamic term for total heat content in a system, and humidity differences in air parcels affect enthalpy.  Measuring water temperature directly avoids distorted impressions from air measurements.  In addition, ocean covers 71% of the planet surface and thus dominates surface temperature estimates.  Eventually we will likely have reliable means of recording water temperatures at depth.

Recently, Dr. Ole Humlum reported from his research that air temperatures lag 2-3 months behind changes in SST.  He also observed that changes in CO2 atmospheric concentrations lag behind SST by 11-12 months.  This latter point is addressed in a previous post Who to Blame for Rising CO2?

The June update to HadSST3 will appear later this month, but in the meantime we can look at lower troposphere temperatures (TLT) from UAHv6 which are already posted for June. The temperature record is derived from microwave sounding units (MSU) on board satellites like the one pictured above.

The UAH dataset includes temperature results for air above the oceans, and thus should be most comparable to the SSTs. The graph below shows monthly anomalies for ocean temps since January 2015.

The anomalies are holding close to the same levels as 2015. In June, both the Tropics and SH rose, while NH declined slightly, resulting in a small increase in the Global average of air over oceans. Taking a longer view, we can look at the record since 1995, that year being an ENSO neutral year and thus a reasonable starting point for considering the past two decades.  On that basis we can see the plateau in ocean temps is persisting. Since last October all oceans have cooled, with offsetting bumps up and down.

UAHv6 TLT 
Monthly Ocean
Anomalies
Average Since 1995 Ocean 6/2018
Global 0.13 0.14
NH 0.16 0.28
SH 0.11 0.03
Tropics 0.12 0.11

As of June 2018, global ocean temps are slightly higher than May and close to the average since 1995.  NH remains higher, but not enough to offset much lower temps in SH and  nearly average Tropics (between 20N and 20S latitudes).  Global ocean air temps are matching the last two March temps, but are the lowest June temps since 2012.  Both NH and SH are the lowest June temps since 2014.

The details of UAH ocean temps are provided below.  The monthly data make for a noisy picture, but seasonal fluxes between January and July are important.

Open image in new tab to enlarge.

The greater volatility of the Tropics is evident, leading the oceans through three major El Nino events during this period.  Note also the flat period between 7/1999 and 7/2009.  The 2010 El Nino was erased by La Nina in 2011 and 2012.  Then the record shows a fairly steady rise peaking in 2016, with strong support from warmer NH anomalies, before returning to the 22-year average.

Summary

TLTs include mixing above the oceans and probably some influence from nearby more volatile land temps.  They started the recent cooling later than SSTs from HadSST3, but are now showing the same pattern.  It seems obvious that despite the three El Ninos, their warming has not persisted, and without them it would probably have cooled since 1995.  Of course, the future has not yet been written.

 

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Arctic Ice Persisting in July

AARI072008to2018

In June 2018, Arctic ice extent held up against previous years despite the Pacific basins of Bering and Okhotsk being ice-free.  Now in July when ice extent typically declines, 2018 extents were flat, and now declining slowly.  The Arctic core is showing little change, perhaps due to increased thickness (volume) as reported by DMI.  The image above from AARI shows ice extents first week of July for years 2008 through 2018. (Image format was different for previous years.  In 2018, water is showing typically in Chukchi in July, a bit more than usual in Laptev and less in Beaufort.

The graph below shows how the Arctic extent has faired from mid June to July 7 (yesterday) compared to the 11 year average and to some years of interest.
Arctic day 188Note that 2018  was on average and comparable to other years from Mid June on.  Then recently ice extents have held steady just below 10M km2, while averages and other years declined.  2018 is now 288k km2 above the 11 year average,  400k km2 higher than 2017, and 624k km2 greater than 2007 at this date.   SII 2018 was tracking the same as MASIE in June but is now showing 335k km2 lower.

The table below shows ice extents by regions comparing 2018 with 11-year average (2007 to 2017 inclusive) and 2017 as of day 179.

Region 2018188 Day 179 
Average
2018-Ave. 2007188 2018-2007
 (0) Northern_Hemisphere 9465018 9181173 283844 8841116 623902
 (1) Beaufort_Sea 977561 863028 114533 871601 105960
 (2) Chukchi_Sea 635350 682991 -47641 622583 12767
 (3) East_Siberian_Sea 1037340 996766 40574 855273 182067
 (4) Laptev_Sea 545304 684244 -138941 644539 -99236
 (5) Kara_Sea 568399 477164 91236 523575 44824
 (6) Barents_Sea 54547 88754 -34206 91567 -37020
 (7) Greenland_Sea 353292 477433 -124141 506546 -153254
 (8) Baffin_Bay_Gulf_of_St._Lawrence 592755 393419 199336 411743 181013
 (9) Canadian_Archipelago 778940 756496 22444 752103 26837
 (10) Hudson_Bay 791754 543956 247798 354253 437502
 (11) Central_Arctic 3128568 3203921 -75353 3202400 -73832

2018 is above the 11 year average,  with BCE (Beaufort, Chukchi, East Siberian) higher, Laptev and Kara offsetting.  Barents and Greenland Sea are down, but Baffin and Hudson Bays have larger surpluses.

Footnote: 

Arctic extents are shaped by the three Ws: Water, Wind and Weather.  This video shows how a massive cyclone in 2012 broke up the ice, moved it around and flushed much of it out through the Fram strait.The ice has recovered since then and is now quite thick.

 

 

 

Takeaways from Green Fund Meltdown

From Climate Home is this post today by Megan Darby 8 takeaways from the Green Climate Fund meltdown  Excerpts in italics below with my bolds and images.

The UN’s flagship climate finance initiative had a public setback this week. What went wrong, what are the political implications and what happens next?

The UN’s flagship climate finance initiative had a major setback this week, with the board failing to agree on any big ticket decisions.

Longstanding tensions at the Green Climate Fund came to a head in Songdo, South Korea, as it opened talks on raising a new round of contributions.

On top of that, the head of the secretariat abruptly resigned, adding top level recruitment to the fund’s woes.

As the dust settled, Climate Home News spoke to several participants and observers about what went wrong, the fallout and next steps. Here are eight takeaways.

1. Absent Oquist

The meeting got off to a bad start when the Nicaraguan co-chair failed to show up. Ok, so things were pretty bad back home, with anti-government protests turning violent.

But it was ironic, given Paul Oquist had done a major U-turn to get the job. He notoriously refused to endorse the Paris Agreement in 2015, saying it was too weak. Nicaragua only joined last year when it became apparent Oquist otherwise had no chance at leading the GCF board.

In his absence, developing country board members complained they had not been properly consulted on the agenda, kicking off a protracted procedural dispute.

2. Trump towers

After president Donald Trump made clear he had no plans to put any more money into the GCF, you may wonder why the US still has a seat on the board.

Trump sizes up the benefits were Paris Accord to actually succeed.

Well, the country has already handed over $1 billion and Geoffrey Okamoto is the Trump appointee charged with seeing it is spent wisely. But he can afford to be provocative, having no stake in the fund’s sustainability.

His insistence that the replenishment process should be “donor-driven” did not go down well, on a board deliberately structured to give the developing world an equal say. Nor did his lobbying to end talks on time, while others were trying to salvage some agreement.

3. Fundraising

If there was any doubt on where the talks got stuck, a glance at the video page should dispel it. There are no fewer than six sessions recorded on “matters related to replenishment”, spanning more than 24 hours.

At heart, it is a rich-poor fight of the kind familiar to anyone who follows UN climate negotiations. Donor countries try to attach conditions to funding, while beneficiaries demand they quit stalling and deliver.

In previous meetings, the board has tended to push through some headline outcomes – usually project approvals – at the last minute, while deferring contentious policy decisions. This time round, representatives from Canada and Finland as well as the US were not prepared to just muddle through.

4. Performance review

Before it can raise new money, the fund will need to show donors what it has done with the initial round of contributions. This and other preparatory work is expected to take six months or so.

“If there is one thing we need to decide this time, it is to start a review, because that is a precondition to replenishment processes,” said Germany’s Karsten Sach in the meeting.

The problem was in deciding who should carry out the review. Most saw it as the natural remit of the fund’s independent evaluator Jyotsna Puri, but a handful of developing countries wanted to outsource it. So here too, there was no agreement.

5. Bamsey bails

After a weary-looking chair admitted defeat on replenishment, he dropped a bombshell: the fund’s top executive Howard Bamsey resigned with immediate effect.

Nobody blamed Bamsey for the chaos, which was essentially political, or cast doubt on his explanation the move was for “pressing personal reasons”. The Songdo-based role had kept him away from his family in Australia. (He could not be reached for further comment.)

But the timing took some – including the secretariat’s communications team – by surprise. He had been expected to oversee the replenishment process before leaving. His replacement must take on the heavy lift of fundraising and resolving a backlog of governance issues, while navigating the heated boardroom politics.

6. Projects in limbo

The collapse means a three-month delay for 11 projects bidding for nearly $1 billion of GCF money. Solar panels in Tonga, water management in the Guatemalan highlands and climate finance upscaling across 17 countries are some of the interventions that will just have to wait.

“The people and communities the GCF is meant to support – those who are most vulnerable – are the ones who suffer the most when progress is delayed,” said Action Aid’s Brandon Wu.

It does nothing to help the fund’s reputation for being slow to get money moving. Then again, with a cash crunch looming, the fund cannot afford to make cavalier spending decisions.

7. Political fallout

It comes in a critical year for the UN climate process. Ministers are due to take stock of global action at the Cop24 negotiations in Katowice, Poland this December.

Climate finance is a key part of that. The industrialised world has promised to mobilise $100 billion a year by 2020. Many countries’ climate plans hinge on that support.

The GCF is not expected to deliver all that investment, but is a totem of international cooperation. If it breaks down, it bodes poorly for the Paris Agreement.

8. Optimism

Despite the public meltdown, everyone CHN contacted was hopeful of getting things back on track. There is time for the fund to redeem itself before Cop24, at the next board meeting in October. Behind the scenes, its advocates will knock some heads together in the coming months.

While finance people may be horrified at the inefficiency and game-playing, those coming from a climate negotiations background see the occasional political upset as par for the course.

“Anything about new money is always very thorny,” said Meena Raman of the Third World Network. “I don’t think we have given up on [the GCF] and I don’t think anyone should.”

Footnote:  The last takeaway is wishful thinking from Climate Home, who are desperately hopeful that Paris Accord and the Green Fund succeed, despite the obvious signs of collapse.  Staying hopeful is also a signal of virtue.

Climate Change Induces Biodiversity

Quartz reports Climate change will force species to find new homes. We have to embrace it. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

During the last Ice Age, species adapted to warmer climes survived in refugia: places that, through some quirk of topography and geography, stayed temperate in a glacial world. By this century’s end, new refugia will emerge—locales where plants and animals will shelter from rising temperatures, protected until such time as they can proliferate again.

For that to happen, though, nature-loving people will need to be open-minded to change. After all, these places will become very different from what they are now.

“The important species turnover expected in northern protected areas emphasizes the hopelessness of trying to preserve a snapshot of today’s biodiversity,” write researchers led by biologist Dominique Berteaux of the Univery of Quebec in Rimouski. “This challenges the traditional paradigm of conserving the ecological integrity of national parks.”

In a study published in the journal Scientific Reports, Berteaux’s team model the likely near-future climate suitability of a 230,000-square-mile network of protected areas in Quebec for 529 species of birds, amphibians, plants, and trees. That’s only a portion of possible biodiversity, but it’s enough to signify larger trends—and by the year 2100, Quebec’s nature could be a jumble of existing and newly-arrived species.

The total number of species living in the region will soar by about 92%. An estimated 24% of species now found there will become locally extinct. Species turnover—a metric used by ecologists to represent these gains and losses—comes in at 55%. Those are just averages: Some places are predicted to experience less change, but others could have far more.

Reality is more complicated than models, of course, and the results are not intended to be exact predictions. Rather, they “provide the best-available indication of the strong pressure that climate change will impose on biodiversity,” write Berteaux and colleagues. There are several implications.

First and foremost, “northern protected areas should ultimately become important refuges for species tracking climate northward”—but only if they can get there. Urbanization and habitat fragmentation could block them, squeezing species between inhospitable climate to the south and impassable landscapes to the north. Protecting migration corridors is vital.

And once new species do arrive, ecological disruption is inevitable. Newcomers may degrade ecosystem function; they may also be necessary to preserve ecosystem function. These are not mutually exclusive propositions. “In this context,” write Berteaux’s team, “deciding which new species should be controlled and which should be tolerated or favored will represent an immense challenge.”

Ultimately it may make more sense to take a big-picture approach, protecting a diversity of habitats rather than worrying about particular species. It may also be sensible, says Berteaux, to be more welcoming of newcomers than conservationists now tend to be.

People tend to “see all the bad things they could bring. We forget that nature is always transient,” said Berteaux when asked about dismay over the northward expansion of beavers into the Arctic—something not discussed in this study, but emblematic of its themes. “Change has to be accepted and conservation must be thought in this context of permanent change.”

Source: Berteaux et al. “Northern protected areas will become important refuges for biodiversity tracking suitable climates.” Scientific Reports, 2018.

Berteaux et al provide a summary of results and a plan for adapting.

The Northern Biodiversity Paradox predicts that, despite its globally negative effects on biodiversity, climate change will increase biodiversity in northern regions where many species are limited by low temperatures. We assessed the potential impacts of climate change on the biodiversity of a northern network of 1,749 protected areas spread over >600,000 km2 in Quebec, Canada. Using ecological niche modeling, we calculated potential changes in the probability of occurrence of 529 species to evaluate the potential impacts of climate change on (1) species gain, loss, turnover, and richness in protected areas, (2) representativity of protected areas, and (3) extent of species ranges located in protected areas.

We predict a major species turnover over time, with 49% of total protected land area potentially experiencing a species turnover >80%. We also predict increases in regional species richness, representativity of protected areas, and species protection provided by protected areas. Although we did not model the likelihood of species colonising habitats that become suitable as a result of climate change, northern protected areas should ultimately become important refuges for species tracking climate northward. This is the first study to examine in such details the potential effects of climate change on a northern protected area network.

Conservation implications
The protected areas of Quebec are poised to becoming biodiversity refuges of continental importance, which has four imbricated conservation implications. First, the efficiency of the Quebec network of protected areas in preserving biodiversity could be compromised by limitations to species dispersal. A biodiversity deficit could occur in some areas of Quebec if many species are trapped for decades or centuries between rapid retreat at their southern edge and slow advance at their northern edge38. Therefore, increasing connectivity between protected areas and preserving and restoring potential immigration corridors are priorities.

Second, colonizing species favour protected over unprotected sites and managers of protected areas in northern regions will have to deal with an increasing number of new immigrant species. Newly arriving species can impact negatively ecosystem structure and function. At the same time, self-sustaining populations of non-native species could become necessary in some protected areas to ensure local ecosystem functions and services if historical communities are deeply modified. In this context, deciding which new species should be controlled and which should be tolerated or favored will represent an immense challenge.

Third, in Canada as in several other high-latitude countries, northern peripheral species are already a significant portion of species at risk. These species can have negative impacts on native communities locally, but from a wider point of view, genetic diversity of leading-edge peripheral populations may help species to cope with climate change. Hence, assigning conservation status to rare and recently naturalized species is a thorny issue, and conservation value of rare new species should be considered in a long-term continental perspective rather than short-term national perspective.

Fourth, the important species turnover expected in northern protected areas emphasizes the hopelessness of trying to preserve a snapshot of today’s biodiversity. This challenges the traditional paradigm of conserving the ecological integrity of National Parks. Designing conservation to preserve site resilience and a diversity of physical features and abiotic conditions that are associated with ecological diversity could be a valuable biodiversity conservation strategy under climate change.

Source: Phanerozoic_Biodiversity.png Author: SVG version by Albert Mestre

See Also:  Sixth Mass Genesis, Not Extinction

Arctic Ice Resilient in July

IMSSandIce07to18day179

In June 2018, Arctic ice extent held up against previous years despite the Pacific basins of Bering and Okhotsk being ice-free.  Now in July when ice extent typically declines, 2018 extents are essentially flat.  The Arctic core is showing little change, perhaps due to increased thickness (volume) as reported by DMI.  The image above shows ice extents on day 179 for years 2007 through 2018.

The graph below shows how the Arctic extent has faired from mid June to July 3 (yesterday) compared to the 11 year average and to some years of interest.
NH arctic ice day 184Note that 2018  was on average and comparable to other years from Mid June on.  Then recently ice extents have held steady just below 10M km2, while averages and other years declined.  2018 is now 370k km2 above the 11 year average,  535k km2 higher than 2017, and 660k km2 greater than 2007 at this date.   SII 2018 was tracking the same as MASIE in June but has now dropped 360k km2 lower.

The table below shows ice extents by regions comparing 2018 with 11-year average (2007 to 2017 inclusive) and 2017 as of day 179.

Region 2018179 Day 179
Average
2018-Ave. 2007179 2018-2007
 (0) Northern_Hemisphere 10029935 10054734 -24798 10034293 -4358
 (1) Beaufort_Sea 1015808 919074 96734 948463 67345
 (2) Chukchi_Sea 711178 732616 -21437 680534 30645
 (3) East_Siberian_Sea 1053171 1032249 20923 963850 89321
 (4) Laptev_Sea 647574 745700 -98126 663276 -15702
 (5) Kara_Sea 726226 598140 128086 665920 60307
 (6) Barents_Sea 60948 134229 -73281 177419 -116471
 (7) Greenland_Sea 356614 552157 -195543 627602 -270989
 (8) Baffin_Bay_Gulf_of_St._Lawrence 714402 552083 162319 531706 182696
 (9) Canadian_Archipelago 794355 783057 11298 775033 19322
 (10) Hudson_Bay 900609 761919 138690 777550 123058
 (11) Central_Arctic 3047677 3217803 -170125 3216654 -168977
 (12) Bering_Sea 185 6350 -6165 1080 -895
 (13) Baltic_Sea 0 4 -4 0 0
 (14) Sea_of_Okhotsk 0 17972 -17972 3531 -3531

2018 is 25k km2 below average, entirely due to Okhotsk plus Bering being ice-free.  Greenland Sea and Barents are down, offset by surpluses in Beaufort, Kara, Baffin and Hudson Bays.

Footnote: 

Arctic extents are shaped by the three Ws: Water, Wind and Weather.  This video shows how a massive cyclone in 2012 broke up the ice, moved it around and flushed much of it out through the Fram strait.The ice has recovered since then and is now quite thick.

 

 

 

California: World Leading Climate Hypocrite

California’s Climate Extremism
Joel Kotkin reports from the Golden State. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

The pursuit of environmental purity in the Golden State does nothing to reverse global warming—but it’s costing the poor and middle class dearly.

Environmental extremism increasingly dominates California. The state is making a concerted attack on energy companies in the courts; a bill is pending in the legislature to fine waiters $1,000—or jail them—if they offer people plastic straws; and UCLA issued a report describing pets as a climate threat. The state has taken upon itself the mission of limiting the flatulence of cows and other farm animals. As the self-described capital of the anti-Trump resistance, California presents itself as the herald of a green, more socially and racially just society. That view has been utterly devastated by a new report from Chapman University, in which coauthors David Friedman and Jennifer Hernandez demonstrate that California’s draconian anti-climate-change regime has exacerbated economic, geographic, and racial inequality. And to make things worse, California’s efforts to save the planet have actually done little more than divert greenhouse-gas emissions (GHG) to other states and countries.

Jerry Brown’s return to Sacramento in 2011 brought back to power one of the first American politicians to embrace the “limits of growth.” Brown has long worried about resource depletion (including such debunked notions as “peak oil”), taken a Malthusian approach to population growth, and opposed middle-class suburban development. Like many climate-change activists, he has limitless confidence in the possibility for engineering a green socially just society through “the coercive power of the state,” but little faith that humans can find ways to address the challenge of climate change. If Brown’s “era of limits” message in the 1970s failed to catch on with the state’s voters, who promptly elected two Republican governors in his wake, he has found in climate change a more effective rallying cry, albeit one that often teeters at the edge of hysteria. Few politicians can outdo Brown for alarmism; recently, he predicted that climate change will cause 3 to 4 billion deaths, leading eventually to human extinction. To save the planet, he openly endorses a campaign to brainwash the masses.

The result: relentless ratcheting-up of climate-change policies. In 2016, the state committed to reduce greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. In response, the California Air Resource Board (CARB), tasked with making the rules required to achieve the state’s legislated goals, took the opportunity to set policies for an (unlegislated) target of an 80 percent reduction below 1990 levels by 2050.

Brown and his supporters often tout their policies as in line with the 2015 Paris Agreement, note Friedman and Hernandez, but California’s reductions under the agreement require it to make cutbacks double those pledged by Germany and other stalwart climate-committed countries, many of which have actually increased their emissions in recent years, despite their Paris pledges.

Governor Brown has preened in Paris, at the Vatican, in China, in newspapers, and on national television. But few have considered how his policies have worked out in practice. California is unlikely to achieve even its modest 2020 goals; nor is it cutting emissions faster than other states lacking such dramatic legislative mandates. Since 2007, when the Golden State’s “landmark” global-warming legislation was passed, California has accounted for barely 5 percent of the nation’s GHG reductions. The combined total reductions achieved over the past decade by Ohio, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Indiana are about 5 times greater than California’s. Even Texas, that bogeyman of fossil-fuel excess, has been reducing its per-capita emissions more rapidly.

In fact, virtually nothing that California does will have an impact on global climate. California per-capita emissions have always been relatively low, due to the mild climate along the coast, which reduces the need for much energy consumption on heating and cooling. In 2010, the state accounted for less than 1 percent of global GHG emissions; the disproportionately large reductions sought by state activists and bureaucrats would have no discernible effect on global emissions under the Paris Agreement. “If California ceased to exist in 2030,” Friedman and Hernandez note, “global GHG emissions would be still be 99.54 percent of the Paris Agreement total.”

Many of California’s “green” policies may make matters worse. California, for example, does not encourage biomass energy use, though the state’s vast forested areas—some 33 million acres— could provide renewable energy and reduce the excessive emissions from wildfires caused by years of forest mismanagement. Similarly, California greens have been adamant in shutting down nuclear power plants, which continue to reduce emissions in France, and they refuse to count hydro-electricity as renewable energy. As a result, California now imports roughly one-third of its electricity from other states, the highest percentage of any state, up from 25 percent in 2010. This is part of what Hernandez and Friedman show to be California’s increasing propensity to export energy production and GHG emissions, while maintaining the fiction that the state has reduced its total carbon output.

Overall, California tends to send its “dirty work”—whether for making goods or in the form of fossil fuels—elsewhere. Unwanted middle- and working-class people, driven out by the high cost of California’s green policies, leave, taking their carbon footprints to other places, many of which have much higher per-capita emission rates. Net migration to other, less temperate states and countries has been large enough to offset the annual emissions cuts within the state. Similarly, the state’s regulatory policies make it difficult for industrial firms to expand or even to remain in California. Green-signaling firms like Apple produce most of their tangible products abroad, mainly in high-GHG emitting China, while other companies, like Facebook and Google, tend to place energy-intensive data centers in other, higher GHG emission states. The study estimates that GHG emissions just from California’s international imports in 2015, and not even counting imports from the rest of the U.S., amounted to about 35 percent of the state’s total emissions.

California’s green regulators predict that the implementation of ever-stricter rules related to climate will have a “small” impact on the economy. They point to strong economic and job growth in recent years as evidence that strict regulations are no barrier to prosperity. Though the state’s economic growth is slowing, and now approaches the national average, a superficial look at aggregate performance makes a seemingly plausible case for even the most draconian legislation. California, as the headquarters for three of the nation’s five largest companies by market capitalization—Alphabet, Apple, and Facebook— has enjoyed healthy GDP growth since 2010. But in past recoveries, the state’s job and income growth was widely distributed by region and economic class; since 2007, growth has been uniquely concentrated in one region—the San Francisco Bay Area, where employment has grown by nearly 17 percent, almost three times that of the rest of the state, with growth rates tumbling compared with past decades.

Some of these inequities are tied directly to policies associated with climate change. High electricity prices, and the war on carbon emissions generally, have undermined the state’s blue-collar sectors, traditionally concentrated in Los Angeles and the interior counties. These sectors have all lost jobs since 2007. Manufacturing employment, highly sensitive to energy-related and other regulations, has declined by 160,000 jobs since 2007. California has benefited far less from the national industrial resurgence, particularly this past year. Manufacturing jobs—along with those in construction and logistics, also hurt by high energy prices—have long been key to upward mobility for non-college-educated Californians.

As climate-change policies have become more stringent, California has witnessed an unprecedented level of bifurcation between a growing cadre of high-income earners and a vast, rapidly expanding poor population. Meantime, the state’s percentage of middle-income earners— people making between $75,000 and $125,000—has fallen well below the national average. This decline of the middle class even occurs in the Bay Area, notes a recent report from the California Budget and Policy Center, where in 1989 the middle class accounted for 56 percent of all households in Silicon Valley, but by 2013, only 45.7 percent. Lower-income residents accounted for 30.3 percent of Silicon Valley’s households in 1989, and that number grew to 34.8 percent in 2013.

Perhaps the most egregious impact on middle and working-class residents can be seen in housing, where environmental regulations, often tied directly to climate policies, have discouraged construction, particularly in the suburbs and exurbs. The state’s determination to undo the primarily suburban, single-family development model in order to “save the planet” has succeeded both in raising prices well beyond national norms and creating a shortfall of some 3 million homes.

As shown in a recent UC Berkeley study, even if fully realized, the state’s proposals to force denser housing would only reach about 1 percent of its 2030 emissions goals. Brown and his acolytes ignore the often-unpredictable consequences of their actions, insisting that density will reduce carbon emissions while improving affordability and boosting transit use. Yet, as Los Angeles has densified under its last two mayors, transit ridership has continued to drop, in part, notes a another UC Berkeley report, because incentives for real-estate speculation have driven the area’s predominantly poor transit riders further from trains and buses, forcing many to purchase cars.

Undaunted, California plans to impose even stricter regulations, including the mandatory installation of solar panels on new houses, which could raise prices by roughly $20,000 per home. This is only the latest in a series of actions that undermines the aspirations of people who still seek “the California dream;” since 2007, California homeownership rates have dropped far more than the national average. By 2016, the overall homeownership rate in the state was just under 54 percent, compared with 64 percent in the rest of the country.

The groups most affected by these policies, ironically, are those on whom the ruling progressives rely for electoral majorities. Millennials have seen a more rapid decline in homeownership rates compared with their cohort elsewhere. But the biggest declines have been among historically disadvantaged minorities—Latinos and African-Americans. Latino homeownership rates in California are well below the national average. In 2016, only 31 percent of African-Americans in the Bay Area owned homes, well below the already low rate of 41 percent black homeownership in the rest of nation. Worse yet, the state takes no account of the impact of these policies on poorer Californians. Overall poverty rates in California declined in the decade before 2007, but the state’s poverty numbers have risen during the current boom. Today, 8 million Californians live in poverty, including 2 million children, by far the most of any state. The state’s largest city, Los Angeles, is also now by some measurements America’s poorest big city.

To allay concerns about housing affordability, the state has allocated about $300 million from its cap-and-trade funds for housing, a meager amount given that the cost of building affordable housing in urban areas can exceed $700,000 per unit. These benefits are dwarfed by those that wealthy Californians enjoy for the purchase of electric cars and home solar: Tesla car buyers with average incomes of $320,000 per year got more than $300 million in federal and state subsidies by early 2015 alone. By contrast, in early 2018, state electricity prices were 58 percent higher, and gasoline over 90 cents per gallon higher, than the national average, disproportionately hurting ethnic minorities, the working class, and the poor. Based on cost-of-living estimation tools from the Census Bureau, 28 percent of African-Americans in the state live in poverty, compared with 22 percent nationally. Fully one-third of Latinos, now the state’s largest ethnic group, live in poverty, compared with 21 percent outside the state.

In a normal political environment, such disparities would spark debate, not only among conservatives, but also traditional Democrats. Some, like failed independent candidate and longtime environmentalist Michael Shellenberger, have expressed the view that California’s policies have made it not “the most progressive state” but “the most racist one.” Recently, some 200 veteran civil rights leaders sued CARB, on the basis that state policies are skewed against the poor and minorities. So far, their voices have been largely ignored. The state’s prospective next governor, Gavin Newsom, seems eager to embrace and expand Brown’s policies, and few in the legislature seem likely to challenge them. The Republicans, for now, look incapable of mounting a challenge.

This leaves California on a perilous path toward greater class and racial divides, increasing poverty, and ever-more strenuous regulation. Other ways to reduce greenhouse gases—such as planting trees, more efficient transportation, and making suburbs more sustainable—should be on the table. The Hernandez-Friedman report could be a first step toward addressing these issues, but however it happens, a return to rationality is needed in the Golden State.

Joel Kotkin serves as Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and executive director of the Center for Opportunity Urbanism (COU).

Canada Convicts Pipeline Outlaws

CBC reports on the trials in BC: First of 202 Trans Mountain pipeline protesters await sentencing Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Nine pipeline protesters found guilty June 18, 2018 of criminal contempt by a judge in B.C. Supreme Court are facing fines of up to $3,000 or 150 hours of community service. Fines stemming from later arrests will escalate from $500 to $5,000 as trials progress this summer.

The protesters were among the first arrested on Burnaby mountain on March 17. They will be sentenced on June 28.

Earlier this month, more than a dozen protesters arrested on the same day pleaded guilty. They were fined $500 or 25 hours of community service, because they pleaded guilty before the case went to trial.

The expected sentences are based on recommendations put forward by the B.C. Prosecution Service in May, but it will be up to the judge to actually decide the sentences.

Those recommendation include a series of escalating fines and jail time based on when protesters were arrested and how they pleaded to the charges of criminal contempt.

Trials to run all summer

The trial, which wrapped up Monday, is the first in a series of trials scheduled to run over the summer and into the fall. A second trial of four more protesters was expected to get underway Monday afternoon.

In all, about 202 protesters were arrested at Kinder Morgan’s worksite on Burnaby mountain. Those who were arrested after May 8 are facing fines of up to $5,000 or 14 days in jail.

Legal support co-ordinator Kris Hermes says no protesters have been arrested since the Crown raised the sentencing recommendation to seven days in jail for anyone arrested after May 28 even if they plead guilty before trial.

“The Crown is clearly escalating its attack on anyone protesting at the site and it has had an effect of eliminating protests outside the Kinder Morgan worksite,” said Hermes.

About half a dozen protesters are also facing Criminal Code charges of assault, mischief and obstruction of a police officer, said Hermes.

A report in the National Observer gives more details on the proceedings Judge hands down decision in first anti-pipeline protester trial  By Dylan Waisman in News, Energy, Politics | June 18th 2018

Nine anti-pipeline protesters who were trying to blockade the Kinder Morgan tank farm on Burnaby Mountain will be sentenced on June 28 after a B.C. Supreme Court judge found that they were all guilty of criminal contempt of court for violating an injunction on March 17.

Justice Kenneth Afflect said on June 18, 2018 that the BC Prosecution Service proved beyond a reasonable doubt that “the accused disobeyed a court order in a public way, with intent, knowledge or recklessness that the act will tend to depreciate the authority of the court.” He also said he was satisfied that the protesters “openly, flagrantly, and continuously” acted in a way that undermined the court’s authority.

The verdicts follow a week of testimony and cross-examination for the defendants who opted to stand trial, unlike 70 others, among more than 200 people arrested, who opted to plead guilty to avoid a hearing. Federal MPs Elizabeth May and Kennedy Stewart were among the 70 who pleaded guilty and were sentenced to pay fines for violating the injunction.

Many of those who pleaded guilty were persuaded by the court’s practice of awarding lower fines for earlier pleadings. Penalties for early guilty pleas have been as low as $500, with fines for unsuccessful trials as high as $5000, with the option of a corresponding amount of community service hours (ranging 25-240 hours) as an alternative. The court reasons that early guilty pleas take up less court time and resources, and therefore warrant lower fines.

The Crown presented video evidence for each defendant as well as testimony from RCMP and Kinder Morgan security agents. By contrast, self-representing defendants employed both humour, and ethical and environmental considerations to argue their cases, while using friends and each other as witnesses.

Some also chose to put forward largely unconventional legal arguments, cross-examining each other, and telling personal anecdotes in an attempt to sway the court.

Kat Roivas, a defendant who is also on trial for breaking the injunction on two other occasions, advanced several arguments to prove her innocence. Roivas said she had no prior knowledge of the injunction, and explained that due to dyslexia, she was not able to read it when RCMP handed copies out, nor was she able to hear it being read, due to the loud singing and drumming of the other protesters.

Roivas also told the court that she was stationed in front of the gate for spiritual reasons, to support other arrestees.

While she was on the stand during the trial, Monte Ruttan of the Crown Prosecution, was skeptical, referencing RCMP footage and asking “when I see you in the video I don’t see you outwardly doing that [prayer].”

This provoked some laughter from the gallery.

Errol Pova, a friend of Roivas and fellow defendant, cross-examined her afterwards, in an attempt to use humour to “lighten things up,” he told National Observer. He questioned her about an eagle that was in the sky that day, and asked her to provide proof. The stunt was short, but was also met by more laughter in the courtroom.

Affleck ultimately rejected the defence offered by Roivas, agreeing with Ruttan’s arguments that the law does not protect someone who chooses “to remain willfully blind and willfully ignorant” of a court order, despite knowing of its existence.

Chantler also argued that RCMP arrived at the Burnaby terminal already “expecting, and prepared to make arrests.” He added that RCMP had one to two days’ notice of a planned protest in which people would be intending to be arrested, and the RCMP “seemed to accept Trans Mountain’s conclusion that the injunction was being breached, without putting his mind to it,” referencing an affidavit from a RCMP chief constable, Andrew McCauley.

Justice Affleck was not persuaded by either argument, saying that “a higher standard of proof is not required.” He said it was enough that Contable McCauley “had a subjective believe that people were breaking the injunction, I conclude that that belief was objectively justified.”

Following the verdicts, Errol Pova, one of the defendants in the trial, stood up to address Justice Affleck.

“To say that I am disappointed is a major major understatement.”

Affleck replied, “You’re not the first person to be disappointed in the outcome of a trial.”

Sixth Mass Genesis, Not Extinction

Chris D Thomas Professor of Evolutionary Biology, University of York writes in the Conversation New species are coming into existence faster than ever thanks to humans. Excerpts below in italics with my bolds.

Animals and plants are seemingly disappearing faster than at any time since the dinosaurs died out, 66m years ago. The death knell tolls for life on Earth. Rhinos will soon be gone unless we defend them, Mexico’s final few Vaquita porpoises are drowning in fishing nets, and in America, Franklin trees survive only in parks and gardens.

Yet the survivors are taking advantage of new opportunities created by humans. Many are spreading into new parts of the world, adapting to new conditions, and even evolving into new species. In some respects, diversity is actually increasing in the human epoch, the Anthropocene. It is these biological gains that I contemplate in a new book, Inheritors of the Earth: How Nature is Thriving in an Age of Extinction, in which I argue that it is no longer credible for us to take a loss-only view of the world’s biodiversity.

The beneficiaries surround us all. Glancing out of my study window, I see poppies and camomile plants sprouting in the margins of the adjacent barley field. These plants are southern European “weeds” taking advantage of a new human-created habitat. When I visit London, I see pigeons nesting on human-built cliffs (their ancestors nested on sea cliffs) and I listen out for the cries of skyscraper-dwelling peregrine falcons which hunt them.

Climate change has brought tree bumblebees from continental Europe to my Yorkshire garden in recent years. They are joined by an influx of world travellers, moved by humans as ornamental garden plants, pets, crops, and livestock, or simply by accident, before they escaped into the wild. Neither the hares nor the rabbits in my field are “native” to Britain.

Parakeets from Asia have established themselves in cities across Britain. Alicja Korbinska / shutterstock

Many conservationists and “invasive species biologists” wring their hands at this cavalcade of “aliens”. But it is how the biological world works. Throughout the history of the Earth, species have survived by moving to new locations that permit them to flourish – today, escaped yellow-crested cockatoos are thriving in Hong Kong, while continuing to decline in their Indonesian homeland.

Nonetheless, the rate at which we are transporting species is unprecedented, converting previously separate continents and islands into one biological supercontinent. In effect, we are creating New Pangea, the greatest ecological pile-up in the Earth’s long history. A few of the imported species cause others to become extinct – rats have driven some predator-naïve island birds to extinction, for example. Ground-nesting, flightless pigeons and rails that did not recognise the danger were no match for a deadly combination of rodents and human hunters.

But despite being high-profile, these cases are fairly rare. In general, most of the newcomers fit in, with limited impacts on other species. The net result is that many more species are arriving than are dying out – in Britain alone, nearly 2,000 extra species have established populations in the past couple of thousand years.

Source: Phanerozoic_Biodiversity.png Author: SVG version by Albert Mestre

Extinction and evolution
The processes of evolution also continue, as animals, plants and microbes adjust to the way humans are altering the world around them. Fish have evolved to breed when they are smaller and younger, increasing the chances that they will escape the fisherman’s nets, and butterflies have changed their diets to make used of human-altered habitats.

Entirely new species have even come into existence. The “apple fly” has evolved in North America, thanks to European colonials bringing fruit trees to the New World. And house sparrows mated with Mediterranean “Spanish” sparrows somewhere on an Italian farm. Their descendants represent a brand new species, the Italian sparrow. Life on Earth is no longer the same as it was before humans arrived on the scene.

There is no doubt that the rate at which species are dying out is very high, and we could well be in for a “Big Sixth” mass extinction. This represents a loss of biological diversity. Yet, we also know that the Big Five mass extinctions of the past half billion years ultimately led to increases in diversity. Could this happen again? It seems so, because the current rate at which new animals and plants (such as the apple fly, the Italian sparrow and Oxford ragwort) are coming into existence is unusually high – and it may be the highest ever. We are already on the verge of Genesis Number Six – a million or so years from now, the world could end up supporting more species, not fewer, as a consequence of the evolution of Homo sapiens.

The Italian sparrow only evolved after humans caused its ancestors to meet. Chris Thomas, Author provided

The ongoing ecological and evolutionary success stories of the Anthropocene epoch require us to re-evaluate our relationship with the rest of nature. Change is ultimately the means by which species survive and turn into new species. So, perhaps we should not spend quite so much time bemoaning the losses that have already taken place, and trying to recreate some imagined past world. We cannot rewind history. It might be more effective for us to facilitate future biological gains even if, in so doing, we move further away from how the world used to be.

This does not let us off the hook – species are genuinely dying out – but it does mean that we should not regard change per se as negative. We should perhaps think of ourselves as inmates and moulders of a dynamic, changing world, rather than as despoilers of a formerly pristine land.

Footnote: I dislike the trendy word “Anthropocene”. It strikes me as hubris to claim for ourselves powers comparable to geologic or astronomical forces. I appreciate Chris Thomas pointing out human influences, both positive and negative, upon the natural world, and the responsibilities that follow from our actions. But I also appreciate what Michael Crichton wrote in State of Fear (2004):

Our planet is five billion years old, and it has been changing constantly all during that time. […] Our atmosphere is as violent as the land beneath it. At any moment there are one thousand five hundred electrical storms across the planet. Eleven lightning bolts strike the ground each second. A tornado tears across the surface every six hours. And every four days, a giant cyclonic storm, hundreds of miles in diameter, spins over the ocean and wreaks havoc on the land.

The nasty little apes that call themselves human beings can do nothing except run and hide. For these same apes to imagine they can stabilize this atmosphere is arrogant beyond belief. They can’t control the climate.

The reality is, they run from the storms.

Estimating Cost of Trudeau’s Carbon Tax

We’re finally told what the carbon tax will cost us. Are you sitting down?
Kenneth Green writes in Financial Post.  Excerpts below in italics with my bolds.
Households in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia will be hit with more than $1,000 of carbon tax per year, while those in British Columbia, Quebec and Manitoba will pay around $650

It took some poking and prodding and (finally) committee testimony, but now we know what the bill will be for a $50-per-tonne carbon tax, similar to one the federal Liberals plan to impose. In a report to the Senate Standing Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources, University of Calgary economics professor Jennifer Winter revealed the bottom line of a $50-per-tonne carbon price.

Tax advocates say it is a small % of GDP. But it is still $10 Billion extracted from Canadian households.

Using energy-consumption data from Statistics Canada, and imputing prices from average household expenditure on transportation fuels and provincial gasoline prices, Winter calculated the impact of a a $50-per-tonne model of a carbon tax on a typical Canadian household across different provinces. Far from being painless as advertised, the costs to households will be significant.

Three provinces — Alberta, Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia — will be hit with more than $1,000 of carbon tax per year to comply with the $50-per-tonne carbon tax Ottawa has mandated for 2022. Nova Scotia ($1,120) and Alberta ($1,111) will have the highest bills, followed by Saskatchewan ($1,032), New Brunswick ($963), Newfoundland ($859) and Prince Edward Island ($788). The average household in Ontario will pay $707 a year to comply with the carbon tax once its fully implemented.

Who gets the lowest bill? British Columbia ($603 per year), Quebec ($662) and Manitoba ($683). Simply put, households in provinces with the lowest bills will pay just a bit more than half compared to households in the hardest-hit provinces.

But it gets worse, since most experts say carbon prices must continue to increase sharply to effectively lower emissions. At $100 a tonne, for example, households in Alberta will pony up $2,223, in Saskatchewan they’ll pay $2,065 and in Nova Scotia, $2,240. In fact, at $100 a tonne, the average price for households in all provinces is well north of $1,000 per year.

Already across Canada, particularly in the Maritimes, a significant number of households fit the definition of “energy poverty” — that is, 10 per cent or more of household expenditures are spent simply procuring the energy needed to live (to power the home and transportation). In 2016, the Fraser Institute measured energy poverty in Canada and found that when you add up the costs to power the home and cars, 19.4 per cent of Canadian households devoted at least 10 per cent or more of their expenditures to energy.

 

Energy Changes Society: Transition Stories

Energy Sources and the Rise of Civilization. Source: Bill Gates

Richard Rhodes won the Pulitzer Prize for The Making of the Atomic Bomb. He’s written countless other books and his new book about energy called Energy: A Human history.

He takes us on a journey through the history behind energy transitions over time from wood to coal to oil to renewables and beyond. Some stories are well known, some much less so, a fascinating set of characters that go back in time all the way to Elizabethan England.

It also provides fascinating insights into how energy history should help us today understand a possible energy transition of the future towards lower carbon economy, to provide affordable reliable and sustainable energy for a growing global population. Rhodes shared some transition stories in an interview with Jason Bordoff at Columbia University, podcast and transcription entitled Richard Rhodes — Energy: A Human History. Excerpts below in italics are from Rhodes unless otherwise indicated, with my light editing, headers, bolds and images.

Jason Bordoff: I think some people may be familiar with more recent energy innovations electricity obviously, oil, nuclear power. But you really start with animals, with woods and what it meant for human civilization as we know it to depend on that for their energy sources and how transformative it was to then convert initially to coal and then beyond. Talk a little bit about how big, how big a deal that was and what it meant for the human experience as we know it.

From Wood to Coal in Elizabethan England

Richard Rhodes: Well, the story of the transition by the Elizabethan English from wood to coal was one of the most fascinating and in some ways comical although of course it wasn’t comical for them. One of the things that I wanted to do with this book was to tell the human stories that are behind the technologies involved, since so many books on the history of energy focused almost entirely on the technological changes.

The Wood Burning Society

And of course there are vast human stories, because changing from one source of energy to another is as much a social phenomenon as it is a technical phenomenon perhaps more so. So, the Elizabethans had been cutting down their trees in vast numbers, primarily for firewood for their homes. And they burned firewood usually on stern platforms or fire places set against the wall that didn’t have chimneys.

They liked the smell of wood and they thought that the smoke hardened their rafters, so either there was just a hole in the roof leading straight up from the fire place or they let the smoke drift through the rooms and out through the windows. Well, that was fine as long as they had enough wood, but as they cut the wood down farther and farther away from London it got more and more expensive to transport.

Substituting Coal for Wood

So, eventually it reached the point where it was really too expensive for the common people to afford, at that point the only alternative that they had was really smelly bituminous coal from New Castle up the river — up the country in the northeast, and they didn’t like its characteristics compared to wood. First of all imagine lighting a bituminous coal fire in the middle of your living room with no place for the smoke to go and imagine what – you’d be coughing and breathing from that. And then on top of that imagine resting your beef, your good English beef over a coal fire with all the sulfur that’s in coal smoke.

In a way England was just one vast coal mine made of these layers of coal which was black and dirty and smelled sulfurous when you burned it was literally the devils exponent. If the devil had hell down in the center of the earth this is where his body waste accumulated further up during the surface. Well, that obviously didn’t endear coal to the populous. So, they really struggled with it and basically what happened is the rich kept buying wood which they could afford and the poor had to find a way to survive with coal and they hated it.

A New King Adopts Coal

The transition really was a social transition when Elizabeth died at the end of the sixteen century, and just around 1598 or so King James I — VI of Scotland became the King of England. And he came down to London as James I and the Scots who had a much thinner forest to begin with up north then the English had had already switched to coal a long time ago. They had been working on coal for a hundred years.

And so Scottish coal was better quality, it didn’t have so much sulfur in it, so when the King came to London and started burning coal in the castle it became fashionable. Well, the King does it I suppose we can too, was the result and after that the transition was much facilitated. In addition they had to retrofit all the homes that didn’t have proper chimneys with chimney, which is another lesson that has extended across the entire history of energy transitions.

Converting Society to Burn Coal

In this regard it seems so simple – you find a new source of energy when it’s old – when it is causing you troubles and you switch over to it. I mean that’s the way people are talking today about wind and solar and other renewables. But it turns out, it takes anywhere from 50 to 100 years to make a full scale energy transition, because it’s not just a matter of the technology at all, it’s a matter of all sorts of social and societal changes.

In this case for example even they had to retrofit all the chimneys. They had to open coal mines and find a way to transport the coal down to London. They had to develop markets. They would sell the coal and then most of all you had to figure out how to burn it in your home without making the place un-inhabitable. So, it took a while. It was not really until the 1650s and the 1660s that coal had really moved in England and then of course they had the problem of air pollution.

Inventing the Coal Industry and Society

Well, just staying with the English, once they started digging coal they first dug of course the superficial layers that tended to out crop on hillsides. So, they could easily drain their mines just by putting in what they call adits which were to — basically channels for the water to flow out. But as they continued to dig deeper as they used the superficial coal they began to intersect the water table and the mines began flooding. They tried pumping them out with horses and what were called Rims which were basically horse turned pumps.

But that got more and more difficult as the mines continued to deepen, they were going down as far as 800 feet below ground to dig their coal. It’s hard to pump water that far with just a couple of horses. So, the solution that they found as time went on and this is now the early eighteenth century the middle eighteenth century was to develop an engine – a steam engine an early form of steam engine that was very inefficient less than 1%.

So, it was a big thing the size of a house, they would kind of sit on top of the coal mine opening to the surface and pump out the water, so that the mines could continue to be mined. This was the Newcomen engine which basically produced a vacuum which then allowed atmospheric pressure to rush in and function as a pump. That limited its function to the pressure of the atmosphere about 32 feet of lift. And therefore there continued to be a desire for innovation, a better way to pump water farther along, because if you had a – let’s say a 300 foot shaft in a coal mine.

Newcomen Atmospheric Steam Engine

Energy Necessity Calls for Innovation

The only way you could pump with a Newcomen engine would be to put the engines every 32 or so feet up and down the shaft, which was not a very efficient idea, especially since coal mines tend to release a certain amount of methane and other gases. And there were lots of explosions that people had to deal with. So, it quickly became apparent that there was a place for a better steam engine that’s where James Watt the Scotsman came along and invented a true steam engine one that worked by using steam to expand and push the piston back and forth.

And it could pump as much as its capacity was built to pump. Then of course they had the problem of moving the coal from the mine down to the river or the ocean in order to barge it to London. Again moving stuff around which turns out to be a large part of the problems in dealing with these forms of energy. At first the mines were close enough to the water to simply put the coal on a cart and roll it down hill. They used rails to do that, originally wooden rails, but then they started covering the wooden rails with cast iron plates on top to make it more efficient.

A late version of a Watt double-acting steam engine, built by D. Napier & Son (London) in 1859.

Transformation into a Coal Society

And you know, once you switch from wood to coal and as the country began to industrialize, particularly with advent of the steam engines, coal production got more and more enormous. And it wasn’t just a matter of heating homes anymore it became a matter of running factories as well. And you couldn’t do that with bags of coal on the saddles of horses, you needed some more large scale way to move the coal around.

Once the mines were farther back from the valleys where the rivers ran or the canals as they came to be, you had to find a way to move the material uphill as well as downhill. And horses weren’t going to do that job not at the scale that England was operating by then. So, someone realized that if you had a small steam engine and by then Watts engine could be made fairly small, you could mount them on wheels and move the coal with the steam engine, which is a certainly a railroad engine.

One of the early steam engine locomotives.

The Coal-Based Society Emerges

This whole story is about how self reinforcing all of these things were. You need to go deeper and deeper to get the coal for heating and cooking. You develop an innovation like the steam engine to do that, which enables an innovation to transport the coal, and then uses the very energy you were trying to get for another purpose to power that new innovation.

And once it was clear that you could move railroad carts of coal with a steam engine, someone realized that you could move people too. And England suddenly blossomed with railroads all over the country. The canal age was over and the railroad age began and it all followed from this early transition from wood to coal. And all the industrialization that came with the development of a stable, reliable source of continual power, which water power had not been, and animal power had been limited.

Here was an engine you fed it coal and it gave you – it gave you a turning wheel that would turn mills to loom cotton that would turn mills to make steel whatever you needed to do. So, it really was an innovation stage by stage just kind of piggyback from one to the next, really a fascinating transition time in history.

The Downside of Coal Energy

One of the interesting things that’s very clear, and it’s as clear today in Beijing as it was in London at 1660. The first thing you do is get your energy, you do what you have to do to increase the energy supply to your country or your society. Then as a kind of a luxury good in a way, you start looking at how to reduce the baleful side effect such as air pollution that comes along with that source of energy.

The first paper published by the newly formed royal society of London in 1664 was a study of how to improve the air in London and it was remarkably similar to today’s ideas to move industry into the suburbs, to ring the city with plant life, trees. So, this particular writer proposed all sorts of wonderful trees that put out perfume during their flowering season that should be built in a belt around London.

The King was so busy having just been restored to power – after the Roundhead Revolution that had caused his father to be beheaded– that he was much too busy selling monopolies and refilling his coffers to actually do anything about it. But the point is people were thinking about this prospect and it was not different from what happened when Pittsburgh at the turn of the century was so filled with coal smoke that from a nearby hill where you barely can see the city.

Pittsburgh train station in the 1940s.

Pittsburgh Faces Coal Air Pollution

And that was pretty much true in most American cities up until the 1950s. As they went about cleaning up their air supply in the early 1950s, there was a proposal by United States government to share the cost of building the first commercial nuclear power plant in the United States at a place called Shippingport near Pittsburgh on the river. I talked to the president of the Duquesne Light which was the company that was going to be the private contractor for this power plant.

He said you know, we sold this power plant to the city council of Pittsburgh as a green technology. People have come to think of nuclear as the devil’s excrement, but compared to burning coal, compared to burning what they had available to burn at the time, nuclear was great with its total absence of carbon production. The past can really inform the present when you look at how things have been done before and why they were done that way and what lessons they offer us to learn in the process.

Smog in Los Angeles

The stories that I tell are very much intertwined. So let’s jump to Los Angeles in the 1950s when what we now call smog was beginning to be a very serious problem there. The companies that refined oil in and around Los Angeles wanted to do whatever was available to clean up the air pollution, because it was commonly believed that it all was coming from their refineries or from trash burning.

Previously cities had been focused and states had been focused primarily on coal smoke – on smoke and its baleful effects on the atmosphere. Smog was originally smoke and fog two words combined. But in the 50s in Los Angeles they became this photochemical phenomenon that was going on in the atmosphere that was making everything look brown. And the question now was what do you do about that?

Anti-Smog Device.

Dr. Haagen-Smit at Caltech was carrying out an exercise in identifying the perfume essence of ripe pineapple. So, he had a room full of ripe pineapples that he was sucking the air in the room through a machine that included some liquid nitrogen that would freeze out of the air, the essential aroma of chemicals. It was to Dr. Haagen-Smit that the California county people turned and asked him if he could identify the component of this smog that was in the air.

So, he used the same machinery, but he put the pineapples away and he opened the window and sucked in about 30,000 liters of California smog into the room ran it through his machine and ended up with a few drops of very nasty brownish sticky material, which was essence of California photochemical smog, and identified where it came from. And its primary component with the other things like the refineries and so forth were certainly a part of it.

But the main component was automobile exhaust and that gave Los Angeles the beginning of what turned out to be a large national struggle with the automobile manufacturers to get them to put catalytic converter on their automobiles and eventually to get rid of the nitrous oxides, which was another component of automobile exhaust that was deadly. I repeat this not merely a technical book this is really a collection of the most amazing human stories.

But Haagen-Smit who was then of course put down by the great laboratories that had been turned to by automobile companies to refute his work, he with his simple experiments, he was a veteran of World War II. He had been a survivor of World War II so he knew how to make things simple. He with his laboratory work was able to identify what needed to be done and finally by the 1980s the entire country was trying to deal with smog by way of adding catalytic converter to cars.

Whale Oil and Petroleum

It’s a truism of the oil industry that the petroleum saved the whales. And they say that because one of the main sources of lighting for wealthier people – it was pretty expensive this whale oil–particularly spermaceti which was the very lovely refined oil that whales carry on their heads as a way of controlling their buoyancy. By heating and cooling the oil in their heads they can adjust their neutral buoyancy and therefore don’t sink to the bottom or rise to the top unless they want to.

So, these beautiful whales were used to make candles and were collected at the rate of 10,000 whales a year at the height of the whaling industry as Herman Melville beautifully describes it in Moby Dick. But most people couldn’t afford whale oil that was pretty expensive item. What they actually used — and I and most people had never known about this — was something that was called burning fluid which was basically the sap of the long leaf pines of south eastern United States which could be refined into turpentine and the turpentine could then be mixed with plain alcohol.

And with a little bit of menthol to sweeten the smell because turpentine burning is not a great smell, this then became something called burning fluid which is what almost everyone used in their lamps. One particular brand of burning fluid was called kerosene we know that name from its later application to petroleum I’ll jump to that in a sec. But — so most people burn lamps or they simply burn the cheap tallow candles, which smell like burning beef fat, not a great smell in your home either. Then came the discovery of petroleum in 1859 or rather the discovery of “rock oil” or “coal oil”. If you could drill for this stuff and pump it out in vast quantities, you could make all the kerosene you wanted.

There had been petroleum seeps in various parts of the country and particularly one in Pennsylvania where they tried to use the petroleum by soaking it up as it floated on the surface of streams where it oozed out from underground, in blankets, and squeezing the blankets out into a jug, and then selling that for liniment to rub on your sores and on your gums and swallow as a healthy item and so forth, if you can imagine. Anyway, once Colonel Drake went off to oil city as it came to be called and drilled a well and showed how you could pump oil out of the ground or indeed some wells would pump it for you and spate it into the air.

Gasoline, A Dangerous Byproduct, Transforms Society

All of a sudden petroleum was the new stuff, but it wasn’t the new stuff for powering machinery, nobody had found that use yet. Its first use for the next 50 years was for lighting, once they figured out how to refine petroleum into what was now called kerosene made from petroleum or it was used for the lubrication. But since the automobile hadn’t been invented and they had among their waste products their refinery — this stuff called gasoline which was much too volatile to put in a lamp.

The lamp would blow up from the fumes, so they would either pour it out on the ground to evaporate it into the air or they dump it into the streams and rivers of America in the dark of the night and so much other waste was in those days. It was beginning in the 1880s to be question among oil refiners so would they kind of run out of possible uses for their stuff. In a way the automobile saved petroleum. It was the automobile that came along just at the turn of the century and the industry took off.

Beyond the Petroleum Society

Jason Bordoff: You write about the disruptive, unexpected consequences of these innovations. As you said the whales are being slaughtered by the 10s of 1000s and oil is discovered and then that significantly reduces demand for whale oil. And then you wrote about the automobile and how one of the major problems at the turn of the century was horse populations and horse manure in cities like London and New York.  Problems were sort of solved with the technology innovation that we didn’t expect.  Does that tell you anything about what’s coming around the corner and maybe the level of humility we should have for our ability to anticipate it.

Richard Rhodes: We’re now in the middle of what I think is the largest energy transition in human history. And you know, I’ve written so much around this subject and here was the chance to take a look all the way back to what was really the beginning and the rest. One of the things that I discovered when I was working on The Making of the Atomic bomb, in fact one of the reasons I wrote that book is because we seem to be in the early 1980s at a crossroads where it looked so dangerous for the world. All the nuclear weapons brought in the world.

And it seems to me that if we went back to the beginning and took another look there might have been alternative pathways that would have led in a safer and better direction. And I thought that my thing – the same thing might be true for our energy dilemmas of today. So, that’s the reason I wrote the book.

I simply say we have to use every available energy source that isn’t carbon heavy in order to survive this largest of all energy transitions. But much of the world is just in the process of developing; that is to say people who have lived for millennia in deep poverty are slowly beginning to see the possibility. China being the most obvious example of moving up to the kind of middle class lives that we in the United States pretty much take for granted.

So, we have a double problem which is increasing the energy usage of large numbers of people around the world while at the same time reducing the carbon levels of the energy we use that is a really big challenge, bigger than people realize. And that means that we’re not going to be able to sit down and say well nuclear  is dangerous, because once in a while nuclear power plant blows up–which is true of any energy source and particularly unusual in the nuclear world by the way.

We’re going to have to find a way to work with nuclear, as well as, these other energy sources. You cannot power the world on renewables. The United States is rich enough that if it really wanted to it could probably work out a way to run its entire energy economy on renewables although I don’t think it would be a very efficient system it would be a very expensive system. But the rest of the world doesn’t really have that luxury. Right now China has on the drawing boards or in development some 125 nuclear power reactors. They are not even to deal with global warming. They are to deal with air pollution. And the Chinese are selling coal to the rest of the world unfortunately.

So, when Germany for example decided to eliminate its nuclear power and go all renewables, it has found itself compelled by its own energy demands to increase its use of brown coal which is the most carbon producing of all the various kinds of coal. They actually have increased their production of carbon dioxide since they decided to go — to eliminate their nuclear power supply.

The Italians eliminated their nuclear power, so now they buy their electricity from the French and the French of course are about 80% nuclear, which is pretty hypocritical of the Italians. I mean this is the kind of discussion that I think we’re all going to have to have and swallow hard and look again at nuclear, look again at all the other sources of energy we can think of that are not carbon producing to deal with what is the worlds – the histories most enormous energy transition yet.