CO2: One More Bad Milestone; One Small Improvement

From the BBC:

Global carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations have reached a new monthly record of 400 parts per million, according to scientists.

The milestone was announced by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa).

They said it was the first month that the entire globe broke 400ppm, reaching levels that haven’t been seen for about two million years.

400 ppm environment(1)

In Holland, meanwhile, good folks are still trying to come up with another grain of sand in the effort to reverse the above record setting.

Engineers in the Netherlands say a novel solar road surface that generates electricity and can be driven over has proved more successful than expected.

Last year they built a 70-metre test track along a bike path near the Dutch town of Krommenie on the outskirts of Amsterdam.

In the first six months since it was installed, the panels beneath the road have generated over 3,000kwh. This is enough to provide a single-person household with electricity for a year.

“If we translate this to an annual yield, we expect more than the 70kwh per square metre per year,” says Sten de Wit, spokesman for SolaRoad, which has been developed by a public-private partnership.

Aljazeera

Environment Solar Road Pre-fabricated-concrete-slabs2-700x400

Power Progress

Elon Musk of the Tesla car fame is leveraging the battery technology for the car into much bigger stuff — wall batteries for home storage of solar power.

Calling it the “missing piece” in the renewable power revolution, Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk on Thursday unveiled the electric automaker’s latest products — batteries big enough to power homes, businesses or communities.

Paired with rooftop solar panels, Tesla batteries promise the ability to tap the sun’s energy, day or night. They could upend the way we produce and use electricity. And at a nighttime ceremony powered entirely by stored sunlight, Musk cast the batteries as essential to ending the reign of fossil fuels and fighting global warming.

“It’s the only path I know that can do this,” Musk told a crowd gathered at Tesla’s design studio in Hawthorne (Los Angeles County). “It’s something we must do, and we can do, and we will do.”

SFChron: David Baker

And even better, he is not alone.  Baker cites several others working on similar small scale power storage technology:

Oakland solar company Sungevity announced its battery offering on Wednesday, teaming up with Germany’s Sonnenbatterie to supply the equipment. Petaluma’s Enphase Energy, which makes microinverters for solar arrays, is testing a battery system that it plans to release next year. SunEdison, in Belmont, bought solar-battery startup Solar Grid Storage last month. And SolarCity, whose corporate board Musk chairs, has installed Tesla’s battery packs in a handful of its customers’ homes.

Of course one wants to know the full cradle-to-grave cost of such batteries, and what by products and unintended consequences might ensue.  If the numbers and the first models all work out, all I can say is that public power companies will have to re-think their business models.  The service of distributing power will remain, and some power generation, but far less in the next 50 years than in the previous 50.

Ω

And, some of the energy pumped into those batteries could well come from food waste – a 34 million ton per year problem in the U.S.  We’re glad to see the Cleveland Indians out in front on this one.

At Progressive Field, Mr. Gholston and the other dishwashers feed loads of food waste into the InSinkErator grinder, which is about 13 to 20 times as powerful as home models. The milkshake-consistency slurry that results from the discarded fruit and vegetable peelings, uneaten pasta, used cooking grease or leftover hot dogs that cannot go to a food bank is then pumped into a 3,000-gallon tank.

Once the tank signals to Grind2Energy that it is full, Quasar is alerted to send a truck to take the mass to its plant, where it is put into giant anaerobic digesters full of bacteria that break down the slurry. The system captures the released gas, which is then converted into electricity for the grid or transportation fuel. The leftover solids become fertilizer.

There is also a similar, pilot program being run by East Bay MUD 

Unloading Food Waste at EBMUD

Unloading Food Waste at EBMUD

Water Watch: Saudi Arabia Sends a Warning

Very interesting report at revealnews.org about the big money exploitation of Saudi aquafers — now depleted and disaster looming.

 

A decade ago, reports began emerging of a strange occurrence in the Saudi Arabian desert. Ancient desert springs were drying up.

The springs fed the lush oases depicted in the Bible and Quran, and as the water disappeared, these verdant gardens of life were returning to sand.

“I remember flowing springs when I was a boy in the Eastern Province. Now all of these have dried up,” the head of the country’s Ministry of Water told The New York Times in 2003.

The springs had bubbled up for thousands of years from a massive aquifer system that lay underneath Saudi Arabia. Hydrologists calculated it was one of the world’s largest underground systems, holding as much groundwater as Lake Erie.

So farmers were puzzled as their wells dried, forcing them to drill ever deeper. They soon were drilling a mile down to continue tapping the water reserves that had transformed barren desert into rich irrigated fields, making Saudi Arabia the world’s sixth-largest exporter of wheat.

… A Saudi banker turned water detective put together the pieces in 2004 and published the now seminal report “Camels Don’t Fly, Deserts Don’t Bloom.” Elie Elhadj’s investigation revealed the culprit: Wealthy farmers had been allowed to drain the aquifers unchecked for three decades.

Beginning in the late 1970s, Saudi landowners were given free rein to pump the aquifers so that they could transform the desert into irrigated fields. Saudi Arabia soon became one of the world’s premier wheat exporters.

And, as to California?

For the past two years, stories similar to Saudi Arabia’s have been bubbling up in the Central Valley, which produces about 10 percent of America’s agriculture. Wells are going dry, farmers are forced to chase water ever deeper underground, and the ground is sinking.

California scientists warn that they have little idea how much groundwater is left, or how long it would take aquifers to refill even if all the pumping stopped now.

Some California aquifers have been so depleted by irrigated farmland that the state is now pumping water that trickled down more than 20,000 years ago. Rainwater won’t recharge these ancient aquifers. When it’s gone, it’s gone – at least for the next 800 generations or so.

Read All 

How Was Life Almost Wiped Out on Earth? Acid Oceans

One of the symptoms of rising CO2 in the atmosphere is increasing acidity of the oceans. Measurements have shown such a rise for several decades now, leading to coral die-off, changes and diminishment of fish spawning. Now, we begin to know how bad it could become.

Acidic oceans helped fuel the biggest mass extinction in the history of life on Earth, a study says.

The Permian-Triassic mass extinction, which took place 252 million years ago, wiped out more than 90% of marine species and more than two-thirds of the animals living on land.
Its causes have been much debated.

Now, studies of rock in the United Arab Emirates, which were on the ocean floor at the time, are providing a detailed record of rapid changes in ocean acidity — linked to massive volcanism in the Siberian Traps. Massive amounts of CO2 can not be absorbed by the atmosphere alone so much is ‘dumped’ into the oceans, leading to acidification too rapid for marine life to adapt.

AND

“This is a worrying finding, considering that we can already see an increase in ocean acidity today that is the result of human carbon emissions.”

It’s not just geology, folks.  It’s the future.

Dutch Government Taken to Court over CO2

From the BBC,  here’s an idea that might catch on:

Campaigners in the Netherlands are taking the government to court for allegedly failing to protect its citizens from climate change.

The class action lawsuit, involving almost 900 citizens, aims to force the government to cut emissions faster.

It is said to be the first time in Europe that citizens have tried to hold a state responsible for alleged inaction on climate change.

It is also believed to be the first case in the world in which human rights are used – alongside domestic law – as a legal basis to protect citizens against climate change.

NASA’s James Hansen, among the earliest to sound the alarm, is part of the suit.

California Heat Destroys all Records

Straight from the pages of Bloomberg news: It’s not just the drought, it’s the heat

California’s New Era of Heat Destroys All Previous Records – 

Sadly, this is only the beginning

The chart below shows average temperatures for the 12 months through March 31, for each year going back to 1895. The orange line shows the trend rising roughly 0.2 degrees Fahrenheit per decade, just a bit faster than the warming trend observed worldwide.

Drought CA

California Water Madness

A golf course in Sun City Palm Desert next to the original barren earth.

A golf course in Sun City Palm Desert next to the original barren earth.

Good article, great photos, about California water, NYTimes

We already know the Sierra Nevadas got nada, BUT NOW, you can’t depend on the Rocky Mountain snow pack to wet yer whistle, either….

Drought-weary Californians can’t expect much encouragement from mountains elsewhere in the West: Snow that fills the Colorado River is lagging, too, officials said Friday.

The snowpack in the Colorado and Wyoming valleys where the river originates now ranges from 51 to 79 percent of normal, said Brian Domonkos, Colorado supervisor of the U.S. Department of Agriculture snow survey, which monitors snowfall and water availability.

The Colorado River supplies water to about 40 million people and 6,300 square miles of farmland in seven states, including California.

The Desert Sun

University of Michigan Teach-In +50

Arctic Sea Ice Seasonal Max is Lowest Ever

From the BBC/Science

Sea ice in the Arctic Ocean has fallen to the lowest recorded level for the winter season, according to US scientists.

The maximum this year was 14.5 million sq km, said the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

This is the lowest since 1979, when satellite records began.

A recent study found that Arctic sea ice had thinned by 65% between 1975 and 2012.

Bob Ward of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics said: “The gradual disappearance of ice at the poles is having profound consequences for people, animals and plants in the polar regions, as well as around the world, through sea level rise.”

(NSIDC)

Global Hoaxing Threatening Florida

A new report by the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting says that not only don’t the Governor and Senators believe in Global Warming, the entire state appartus has been ordered not to use the term.

“The state of Florida is the region most susceptible to the effects of global warming in this country, according to scientists. Sea-level rise alone threatens 30 percent of the state’s beaches over the next 85 years.

But you would not know that by talking to officials at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the state agency on the front lines of studying and planning for these changes.

DEP officials have been ordered not to use the term “climate change” or “global warming” in any official communications, emails, or reports, according to former DEP employees, consultants, volunteers and records obtained by the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting.

The policy goes beyond semantics and has affected reports, educational efforts and public policy in a department that has about 3,200 employees and $1.4 billion budget.

“We were told not to use the terms ‘climate change,’ ‘global warming’ or ‘sustainability,’ ” said Christopher Byrd, an attorney with the DEP’s Office of General Counsel in Tallahassee from 2008 to 2013. “That message was communicated to me and my colleagues by our superiors in the Office of General Counsel.”

FCIR | Korten