The Skywriter

Climate blogs this week: inside a wind turbine, Hansen at 20, the good life & more -- 8/31


Climate blogs this week: inside a wind turbine, Hansen at 20, the good life & more -- 8/31

We begin this week's roundup with an inside look into the renewable energy industry—literally! Summer Rayne from It's Getting Hot in Here recently had the opportunity to tag along for the installation of some wind turbines by AES Energy in Abilene, TX. Here's an excerpt and a taste of the amazing pics Summer took:

“It’s kinetic art,” Ned Hall, President of AES Wind Energy said to me as we looked out over the miles and miles of magnificent white wind turbines. The rotating blades were hypnotizing, leisurely spinning their 120ft arms in the wind. The blades may only turn 20 revolutions per minute, but the 20 mph winds were enough to whip our hard hats off as we craned our necks David-&-Goliath-style to ogle at the impressive structures that easily rival the Statue of Liberty in height.

The producers told me I’ll be climbing to the top of the windmills. Ha! Good thing I didn’t tell them I am terrified of heights until we were in the safety training. They seemed pretty pissed that I didn’t let them in on that important tidbit of information beforehand. Hell, I didn’t even know you could climb up the belly of a windmill. What’s in there anyway? How does it convert wind to electricity? And what does it look like from the top of a turbine? I guess my curiosity totally outweighed my acrophobia, because I had a blast climbing to the top to salute the breeze.

Inside a windmill

Stating that "just 20 years ago scientists were worried about the new Ice Age” is a favorite line of attack used by global warming deniers. But as Joe at Climate Progress reminds us, the work of those who 20 years ago sounded the global warming alarm has held up remarkably well:

The myth has been utterly debunked in the scientific literature (see “Another denier talking point — ‘global cooling’ — bites the dust,” RealClimate here and here, “Was an imminent Ice Age predicted in the ’70’s by scientists, in scientific journals? No.” and Skeptical Science).

In fact, 27 years ago Thursday, James Hansen and six other NASA atmospheric physicists, published a seminal article in Science, “Climate Impact of Increasing Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide.” The paper has a number of caveats, as befits a major projection before modern climate models and modern supercomputers were available, before we had decades of verifying observations, and before we knew just how fast greenhouse gas emissions would rise. But the analysis bears up unbelievably well — any one of us would be delighted if we published something a quarter century ago that was this prescient.

Joe goes on to quote extensively from the Hansen paper, so if you're feeling nostalgic, do check it out.

As we continue on the road to Copenhagen 2009, NRDC's Jake Schmidt wonders whether countries have been doing their homework in preparation for the conference—and he finds some encouraging signs:

Clearly, some countries did their homework.  They were told by the school master—Yvo de Boer, the Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention—to start moving ideas to proposals.  Some parties took this seriously and did their homework, including proposals from:
  • Norway (using auction revenues from emissions trading systems), Switzerland, Mexico (creation of a Global Fund), and the group of developing countries (the “G77 and China”) on financial incentives to assist developing countries in enhanced actions
  • EU and the African countries on adaptation
While other countries didn’t put specific proposals forward, they did undertake the second task of a student—start to figure out answers to the questions—including from:

Lot’s more homework and questions to answer before we can get agreement in Copenhagen.  But clearly some students are giving this critical issue the serious attention that it deserves.  After all, I’m sure they were good students in “regular school” so now they need to become good students in “climate school”.

The bell is about to ring for new US leadership.  So, I hope that they are doing their homework and getting prepared to answer key questions well in advance of the final exam in Copenhagen.

No Impact Man has been writing a series of posts on the concept of "the good life," how we define it, and its relationship to global warming and the environment. Here's an excerpt from the most recent one:

What makes us happy? What makes us fulfilled? What makes us feel as though we have made best use of the 75 years or so we get?

I ask myself this all the time, because I think it is crucial. And one thing I think is that the true good life might actually mean less stuff, fewer working hours to buy the stuff but a lot more leisure time.

That might mean fewer of us would have our own boats and jet skis, but more of us would know how to play guitar and make great art.

I might not have the money to fly around the world, but I would get to spend more time reading literature and playing with Isabella.

In other words, we could let the planet save its resources and, at the same time, instead of working our butts off, maybe become the people we really want to be.

That's called redefining the good life.

Be sure to read the whole thing and to check out his other musings on this topic. Colin is asking important questions that have large implications not only for the future of the fight against global warming, but the very quality of our lives.

Finally, Alisha at WattHead comments on Google's journey to the center of the Earth in search of geothermal energy:

I can't really think of a better headline for this article than one I came across earlier today: "Looking for energy, Google goes to hell." Except, maybe: "Google goes to hell (in search of energy)."

Google's philanthropic arm,, is in fact sinking $10 million into the advancement of technology that harnesses energy coursing deep below the Earth's surface.

While this technology, advanced geothermal technology (AGT), has not received as much attention as solar or wind, its potential is simply enormous. According to MIT, by investing $1 billion in AGT over the next 40 years, the U.S. could develop 100 gigawatts of electricity that emits zero air pollution and provides even more reliable power than coal-fired power plants

Got any other must-read blogs? Share them in the comments!

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