Sign up | Login with →

Comments by Mitchell Beer Subscribe

On $26,000 Social Media Campaign Trumps $900,000 Oil and Gas Ad Buy

IMPORTANT UPDATE from Climate Progress: Bombshell Study Finds Methane Emissions from Natural Gas Production Far Higher Than EPA Estimates

http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2013/11/25/2988801/study-methane-emissions-natural-gas-production/

November 25, 2013    View Comment    

On $26,000 Social Media Campaign Trumps $900,000 Oil and Gas Ad Buy

But methane is 21 times as potent a greenhouse gas as CO2 when it escapes from a production facility, and we've established (and you make a great point) that safe, clean natural gas operations depend on good enforcement and good governance.

I think that means we're each advocating for a solution that is as yet imperfect, but better than tar sands, offshore oil, or coal. Which reinforces your initial argument that natural gas can be an ally or a complement to the renewables...in essence, the "bridge to the future" argument.

I can live with that in a world (a mythical world, I'm afraid) where we do have good enforcement and good governance, including honest, transparent public consultation. But only if we're all working from a very clear low-carbon scenario that points us toward a GHG reduction of at least 80% based on a 1990 baseline, achieved no later than 2050. Once that long-term imperative is factored in, even if we still have a short-term mix of natural gas, renewables, and aggressive energy efficiency, surely the balance in investment and effort will have to favour the renewables and efficiency.

November 20, 2013    View Comment    

On $26,000 Social Media Campaign Trumps $900,000 Oil and Gas Ad Buy

That's an interesting point, Ed, thanks. As I'm sure you know, natural gas has been described as either a "bridge to the future" or a "bridge to nowhere", and from what I can tell, the difference in viewpoint depends on two factors: the observer's geographic proximity to fracking operations, and their level of concern about methane release. From your TEC bio, I see that you have a lot of background in natural gas. What's your sense of the facts and arguments that began to emerge with Howarth's work over the last couple of years? (The link is in my original post.)

To your point about grid distribution of non-dispatchable wind and solar, I strongly recommend that you have a look at NREL's 2012 Renewable Electricity Futures Study (http://www.nrel.gov/analysis/re_futures/). No one is suggesting that we can back out of fossil fuels overnight, but the modeling showed that renewable sources can meet the lion's share of U.S. electricity requirements, on the right time frame to help control runaway climate change. The NREL scenario depends on an upgraded grid, but this is the right time to have that conversation -- the North American grid is massively antiquated and in dire need of overhaul, and if we're doing the work anyway, it makes sense to rebuild it as the smart grid of the future, rather than the dumb grid of the past.

November 20, 2013    View Comment    

On $26,000 Social Media Campaign Trumps $900,000 Oil and Gas Ad Buy

Thanks, Paul. You're right that I'm not thrilled about fracking, partly because of the impacts that are showing up around fracking operations, mainly because of relatively recent concerns about methane releases (http://goldschmidt2012.conferencesymposium.com/june27/27-5s.html). Research on this particular issue is still going on, but given the precariousness of the global climate and methane's potency as a greenhouse gas, I think it's important to err on the side of caution until the matter is credibly resolved, rather than launching into a full-scale fracking boom.

Confidence in renewables and efficiency is about much more than faith! Solar and wind costs are plummeting--solar by 99% in the last three decades--and while I was working with the Trottier Energy Futures Project, we found that Canada would have sufficient supplies of sustainable, low-carbon energy to reduce energy-related GHG emissions by 80% by 2050 (http://www.trottierenergyfutures.ca/an-inventory-of-low-carbon-energy-for-canada-2/). There will be significant challenges along the way, but they have to do with institutions and infrastructure, attitudes and assumptions, not the basic technology.

November 18, 2013    View Comment    

On $26,000 Social Media Campaign Trumps $900,000 Oil and Gas Ad Buy

Great question, Jim. I don't know of any research on state- or province-wide campaigns, but my instinct is that Colorado gives us the template: Keep the content authentic and relentlessly honest, and focus at the local or neighbourhood level. I've heard of many "central campaigns" that stood or fell on their ability to identify with important issues in specific niches within a larger jurisdiction.

A generation ago, then-municipal candidate Harvey Milk said whoever could solve the dog droppings problem in San Francisco parks could be mayor for life. I'm not from San Francisco, but the comment rings true to this day. There's been a lot of commentary and analysis to suggest that, as we form online communities of interest, neighbourhood issues large and small--from natural gas fracking to picking up after our dogs--become more important to us, not less.

November 18, 2013    View Comment    

On Experts: Climate Scientists Have Obligation to Political Impartiality

John, in my original contribution to this thread, I think I was pretty clear in urging us all not to get tied down in endless, tangential debate. Not that there isn't value and some interest in tangents, but that if we have only 36 years to hit an 80% reduction in GHG emissions and only 28 to 30 hours in every day, we don't have time to go in circles. (Hmm. 28 to 30 hours in every day, and you're asking me about something quantitative??) So I hope you won't take offence when I say that I will respond to this once, but will not participate in extended dialogue on whether the reality in front of us is actually real.

Deniers might have a shot at disproving climate change if they could, y'know, find any evidence to counter the settled science. They claim -- and you appear to agree -- that the world is cooling, but that's not what the actual research shows. You'll sometimes see a very short-term graph that shows a temperature drop between 1998 and a year four or five years later (sorry, I don't have that specific chart right in front of me). But the full data set since 1880 shows conclusively that the world is warming -- quickly, alarmingly, and by our own hand. More recently, 2005 and 2010 were tied for the warmest years on record, and the 10 hottest years on record have all happened since 1998. And an overwhelming body of evidence points to the effects -- rising temperatures, rising sea levels, melting glaciers, melting Arctic sea ice, and increased humidity over the last several decades.

A system as large and complex as the global climate is bound to show some variability and, unfortunately, that variability is convenient for organizations out there that are being paid very well to distort the evidence and postpone decisive action on climate change. But that doesn't change the science.

 

September 27, 2013    View Comment    

On Experts: Climate Scientists Have Obligation to Political Impartiality

Are you looking for a way to disprove the model or to falsify the data?

If it's to disprove the model, go ahead -- if you can counter the weight of many thousands of scientific studies, all pointing to a correlation between broad climate patterns and human use of fossil fuels, be my guest. I think it's pretty clear what it would take to disprove the model; what's frustrating for climate deniers is that it can't be disproven because, as you say in your earlier comment, "proof always win out."

If you're looking for a way to falsify data, look no farther than the deniers. I'm sure they can help you out.

But, please, let's show more respect for the work legitimate climate scientists and the severity of the crisis than to cherry-pick limited data points from a much wider trend, all to prove a false argument that is discredited by 97% of the research and mounting experience around the world.

With a lot of hard work and some lucky breaks, there's a good chance that we still have time to confront and solve the climate crisis. We don't have time to tie ourselves down in this kind of ridiculous, deliberately endless debate. I propose that we get to work.

September 26, 2013    View Comment    

On Experts: Climate Scientists Have Obligation to Political Impartiality

If news that Howarth is connected to the Park Foundation, and that Park is "said to have" contributed millions to anti-fracking activities, comes from Forbes Magazine, it's important to bear in mind that Forbes is not nearly a balanced observer on climate science. And you can see their leaning reflected in the unstated assumption that an anti-fracking connection is automatically a negative or a source of bias.

Given that Entine's accusations are in print, it's more than likely that Howarth and Park have responded. If they haven't been invited to respond, I suspect that one or both would have relished the opportunity. Either way, this article would have been more credible if they'd been quoted.

September 26, 2013    View Comment    

On Is the Canadian Prime Minister Out of Options on Keystone?

That's a great point, Roger, thanks. As I'm sure you know, the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory broke new ground in this area with its 2012 Renewable Electricity Futures Study (http://www.nrel.gov/analysis/re_futures/). One of the main takeaways from the NREL website: "Renewable electricity generation from technologies that are commercially available today, in combination with a more flexible electric system, is more than adequate to supply 80% of total U.S. electricity generation in 2050 while meeting electricity demand on an hourly basis in every region of the country."

You're absolutely right that there are huge opportunities here for Canada, as well. Which is great news for anyone looking to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, not so good for a government intent on increasing the country's tar sands production and exports!

September 15, 2013    View Comment    

On Carbon Bubble a Turning Point for Climate Change Action?

Everyone, thanks for a good, varied discussion. I don’t want to belabour every point that has come up along the way, but here are just a couple of observations:

 

I K, as someone who works with words every day, I have to congratulate you on creating a new definition of “cheerleader,” a term I would never have thought to apply to the likes of the World Bank, the IMF, the International Energy Agency, HSBC Research, Deutsche Bank, Standard & Poor’s, investment analyst Jeremy Grantham, or (on the balance of evidence) the authors of 97% of the climate science papers ever published. But there’s more. Even if there were any likelihood that the fossil-funded deniers are right and the “cheerleaders” are all wrong, the co-benefits of a low-carbon energy transition are huge: If you’ve ever brought a young child to a pediatric emergency ward with a severe asthma attack, as we’ve had to do dozens of times, you have another good reason to phase out coal plants, even if you choose to disregard the overwhelming evidence that climate change is real, accelerating, and anthropogenic…and yes, that a warming world is already a worse world. Just ask the millions of people who’ve become climate refugees in the last year.

 

Schalk, you’re right that the low-carbon deployment rate will have to be very fast to adhere to the 565 Gt limit, but it might not take a miracle. (Although if we could line up *that* level of cheerleading…? J ) In our research in Canada, we’ve compared the ramp-up to an 80% GHG reduction by 2050 to the acceleration in fossil fuel development that followed the Second World War. So the scale of change we need is large, but not unprecedented: At this point, what’s missing is the political will and the policy momentum, but that’s not an issue of technology or capability.

 

May 16, 2013    View Comment