Candidates Question Climate Science

Third-party candidates for governor call the science of global warming “junk science” and “a scam at worst.”

Photo: Craig Miller

While Meg Whitman and Jerry Brown debate the pros and cons of the state’s global warming law (AB 32) and the ballot initiative that would suspend it (Proposition 23), two of the four “alternative” candidates interviewed this morning on KQED’s Forum program, attacked the science behind California’s climate change policy.

“I’ve become convinced that the whole thing is an exaggeration at best, and a scam at worst,” said Dale Odgen, the Libertarian Party candidate.  “The science has been fudged in order to get grants for people.  People like Al Gore have used it to become even more wealthy at the expense of the rest of us.” Continue reading

Prop 23: The Statistical Maze

How long would California’s climate law be frozen under the ballot measure to suspend AB 32? It depends on how you read the state’s labor statistics.

There were moments during Monday’s Forum program on KQED when I thought I’d stepped through the Looking Glass.

The two principal guests were, by design, on opposite sides of the campaign for Proposition 23, the upcoming ballot measure to suspend California’s 2006 greenhouse gas law. So I didn’t expect the “Yes” campaign’s Anita Mangels and Solaria VP David Hochschild to agree on much.  But I never expected a dust-up over California’s historical unemployment rate. I mean, that’s a pretty easy one to settle — a matter of public record, right? Nevertheless, the two duked it out over just that. Continue reading

Author: Polar Bears Doomed No Matter What We Do

US Fish & Wildlife Service

Photo: US Fish & Wildlife Service

Because our charter at Climate Watch is to examine climate change from the California perspective, you don’t see a lot here about melting ice caps and imperiled polar bears. But Michael Krasny’s interview with Richard Ellis on KQED’s Forum program is well worth an hour of your time.

Ellis is the author of On Thin Ice: The Changing World of the Polar Bear (Random House, 2009) and it’s fair to say that he managed to stun Krasny with a declaration that the species is “doomed,” no matter what we might try to do to save it at this point. Ellis says there is already too much warming in the pipeline (what scientists call “committed” warming) to reverse the disintegration of the bears’ arctic habitat.

Polar bear populations have been a topic of persistent confusion, recently amplified in an op-ed piece written by former Alaska governor Sarah Palin for The Washington Post.

According to the advocacy group Polar Bears International, there is little room for doubt about the animal’s decline. The organization’s website breaks down the numbers, which point to a “scientifically documented decline in the best-studied population, Western Hudson Bay, and predictions of decline in the second best-studied population, the Southern Beaufort Sea.”

The PBI analysis goes on to explain that:

The Western Hudson Bay population has dropped by 22% since 1987. The Southern Beaufort Sea bears are showing the same signs of stress the Western Hudson Bay bears did before they crashed, including smaller adults and fewer yearling bears.

At the most recent meeting of the IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group (Copenhagen, 2009), scientists reported that of the 19 sub-populations of polar bears, eight are declining, three are stable, one is increasing, and seven have insufficient data on which to base a decision. (The number of declining populations has increased from five at the group’s 2005 meeting.)

Regardless of whether you share the conclusions of Ellis and PBI about the future of the “poster child for global warming,” the Forum interview is a fascinating hour.

An Hour with Amory Lovins

In case you missed it amid the flurry of climate-related news last week: On September 30, Amory Lovins, founder and chief scientist of the Rocky Mountain Institute, and an honest-to-goodness energy guru to many, spent an hour in conversation with Michael Krasny and callers to KQED’s Forum program. You can listen to the entire archived broadcast or scan some of the highlights here, compiled by Climate Watch intern David Ferry.

On China:

“We can count on China to lead the world out of the climate mess…Even though the U.S. has led the world in wind installations the past three years, this year China’s going to pass us so fast we won’t even hear them go by. China’s doubled its wind installation each of the past four years, and there’s a new paper in Science from Harvard and Tsinghua in September saying that China can meet all its electric needs–not the growth but the total–till at least 2030, cost effectively, from its wind resources.”

On Nuclear Power:

“Basically nuclear and coal plants are getting walloped in the global marketplace by efficiency and renewables and cogeneration because they’re a lot cheaper and they have less financial risk so they can attract private investment.”

Grading the Obama Administration on Renewables:

“Greatly improved and I think on the whole doing very well.”

On the Upcoming UN Climate Talks in Copenhagen:

“I’m cautiously optimistic…But remember that governments are usually the last to figure these things out. Most governments still think climate protection is costly. They haven’t figured out yet that economic theorists got the sign wrong and actually climate protection is profitable. Once you change the conversation from cost, burden and sacrifice to profit, jobs and competitive advantage it makes the politics a whole lot easier.”

On Energy Efficiency & Steve Chu’s “Low-Hanging Fruit” metaphor:

“The technologies keep improving faster than we use them, so efficiency is an ever bigger and cheaper source–it’s as if the ‘low hanging fruit’ had fallen on the ground; it’s mushing up around the ankles, it’s spilling in over the tops of our boots and the efficiency tree keeps dumping more fruit on our heads.”

On Large-Scale Solar Farms v. “Distributed” Power Generation:

“The sun is distributed for free. Why gather it in one place and then pay to spread it out again? The National Renewable Energy Lab says if we put solar cells on seven percent of the structures in this country it would run all our electric needs without using any land. And for that matter, the wind potential on available windy land in this country is several times our total electric need and the footprint is actually very small.”

On Whether Climate Change is Irreversible:

“There are a half-dozen known mechanisms of rapid climate change. Several of them show like they may be starting up, so it’s urgent to reverse that…we have plenty of technology already available to stabilize climate to the extent that irreversible changes have not already started. We don’t know what that extent is, so we ought to go full bore on best buys first and hope that we’re in time.”

You can also take a virtual tour of Lovins’ home in Colorado, which doubles as a laboratory for energy innovation.