Author Archives: Craig Miller

Craig is KQED's science editor, specializing in weather, climate, water & energy issues, with a little seismology thrown in just to shake things up. Prior to his current position, he launched and led the station's award-winning multimedia project, Climate Watch. Craig is also an accomplished writer/producer of television documentaries, with a focus on natural resource issues.

Quick Link: “Warming nears point of no return, scientists say”

The “tipping point” revisited: Nobody knows exactly when our warming globe might pass through the dreaded portal. But a group of scientists led by Berkeley biologist and Climate Watch contributor Anthony Barnosky says it won’t be pretty.

The Earth is reaching a “tipping point” in climate change that will lead to increasingly rapid and irreversible destruction of the global environment unless its forces are controlled by concerted international action, an international group of scientists warns.

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Quick Link: “NOAA Reports Arctic Carbon Dioxide Reaches Highest Levels in 800,000 Years”

For the record, that would be 400 parts-per-million of atmospheric CO2, showing up at some Arctic measuring stations. Most of us are not far behind at about 396 ppm.

The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of six remote Arctic sites in Alaska, Canada, Iceland, Finland, and Norway reached 400 parts per million (ppm) this spring, according to measurements from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). This marks the first time a monthly average measurement for CO2 attained the 400 ppm mark in a remote location.

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A More Agreeable Climate for Iowa

The ship, not the state

The USS Iowa being readied for towing from Richmond to San Pedro, CA.

This has nothing to do with climate as we usually cover it here and everything to do with Memorial Day. But somewhere off the California coast, the battleship USS Iowa is on its final voyage to become a floating museum in San Pedro. That’s a long way from speculation a couple of years ago that she would become a reef at the bottom of some ocean.

People like Bob Rogers were not about to let that happen. “She’s the last of the dreadnoughts,” says Rogers, who led one of several efforts to save the Iowa from scrapping or sinking. “She was a true ship-of-the-line, designed to go toe-to-toe with any ship, including the enemy’s largest, slug it out and survive.” And survive she did, through five decades and three wars. And though Rogers’ campaign to land her for Stockton was not successful, he’s just glad she found a good home after eleven years in limbo. “She’s going to a great place,” he told me, on the ship’s final morning in Richmond. “We all had the same goal. We wanted to see this ship saved.” Continue reading

Fire Season Off to a Roaring Start

Wildfire response in California doubling last year’s pace — with fewer resources

For the second straight year, CalFire is running its engines with reduced staffing.

Get ready for what might be a nasty season for wildfires in California. Though few have made big news so far, CalFire says that its crews have already responded to more than 1,000 fires this spring — that’s double the pace from a year ago and well ahead of the five-year average.

And fires aren’t the only challenge. State firefighters are already trying to do more with less. CalFire is working with a smaller budget and reduced staffing on its engines.

“It’s tough,” says Clare Frank, CalFire’s assistant deputy director. “I won’t say we’re unimpacted. We’re doing our best to minimize the impact on the public.” Frank says that so far, budget cuts have not affected the agency’s basic attack strategy in the field. “We’re still going to pursue our goal of keeping 90% of the fires at 10 acres or less,” Frank told me after an inter-agency briefing on Wednesday.” “We want to keep small fires small, we want to hit them hard with initial attack, and that strategy remains the same.” Continue reading

Quick Link: “Peter Gleick Cleared of Forging Documents in Heartland Expose”

Pacific Institute founder has always denied forging any Heartland documents, though he admits using deception to get them.

A review has cleared the scientist Peter Gleick of forging any documents in his expose of the rightwing Heartland Institute’s strategy and finances, the Guardian has learned. Gleick’s sting on Heartland brought unwelcome scrutiny to the organisation’s efforts to block action on climate change, and prompted a walk-out of corporate donors that has created uncertainty about its financial future.

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Quick Link: “Did Apple Cave to Radical Environmentalist Group?”

Apple’s decision to power its new data center with 100% renewables–in the heart of coal country–would seem to affirm that public pressure works. It also raises questions about the Cloud itself and what it really takes to run it. We’ll answer some of those questions in an upcoming report.

Just this week, two Greenpeace protesters were arrested outside of Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., for parking a pod and projecting messages about the company’s unclean energy use onto the building. This isn’t the first time the environmental group has called out Apple on its energy practices.

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Cap-and-Trade and Your Electric Bill

State rebates could offset electrical sticker shock, finds a new study

Forcing utilities to pay for their carbon emissions, as California plans to do, will mean more costly megawatts. Six months before formal compliance with the state’s new cap & trade system begins, regulators are still sorting out what to do about that.

One of them is to provide rebates to offset hikes in electric bills. A new report from the clean-economy advocates, Next 10 attempts to sort out the options and put some concrete numbers on them. For example, the authors estimate that for PG&E customers, pricing carbon will add somewhere from two-to-seven dollars a month to summer electric bills, and anywhere from $2.50-to-more than $10 for customers served by Southern California Edison. Where you fall in that range depends in part on which of California’s many climate zones you live in. Places like the Inland Empire, which rely more on air conditioning, would fall in the upper end of the range. Continue reading

A Visual Deep Dive into California’s Delta

Ambitious mapping & data effort accompanies KQED multimedia series

"Deadlocked Delta" is a multilayered look at where much of California's water comes from.

If, like most Californians, you’re a bit fuzzy on why the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta matters to you, take a tour through the impressive new online resource from KQED’s science unit, the San Francisco Estuary Institute, and Stanford’s Bill Lane Center for the American West.

“California’s Deadlocked Delta” is more than a data trove for water geeks, it’s a visually pleasing deep dive into the single most important piece of California’s persistent water puzzle. It provides some eye-opening glimpses of how this critical intersection for the state’s freshwater supply has changed over generations. Continue reading

Quick Link: Bill Would Bypass Locals in Siting Solar Project

How much say should local communities have in proposed renewable energy projects? Does it serve the greater good to bypass them entirely? It’s a question that’s heating up in the SoCal desert.

Despite strong opposition from environmentalists, the state Assembly on Thursday approved controversial legislation that allows a solar energy developer to bypass local agencies in seeking to build a large-scale power plant in a valley that is home to desert tortoises, golden eagles and bighorn sheep.

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Quick Link: Icebreaker Post Sparks Online Reunion for “Coasties”

When we posted our piece about a retired icebreaker being towed off to the scrapyard, we saw it as a poignant moment for a hobbled U.S. polar fleet. We weren’t alone.

On Monday Climate Watch Senior Editor Craig Miller wrote about a Coast Guard icebreaker ship, the Glacier, that’s headed to the scrapyard… Glaciers are slipping away everywhere. It was tough to see this one go. I’m talking about a ship, not an actual river of ice.

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