Archive for January, 2012

Rising home insurance rates point to climate change

(January 17, 2012)

LA Times via NPR/ The Hill

Insurance executives at major firms are planning to raise home insurance rates as much as 10% “in response to the record number of tornadoes, floods, fires, blizzards and other heavy weather that hit the country in 2011.”

In Washington, the Interior is preparing for the worst (The Hill), establishing a “Strategic Sciences Group” to bolster the department’s ability to respond to environmental crises and natural disasters.

The Year That Winter Forgot: Is It Climate Change?

(January 9, 2012)


All across the United States, and many other parts of the planet, December and the first part of January has been strangely mild.  This article examines the recent warmth in relation to current climate trends and the larger-perspective picture that is climate change.

A short new video also offers a very simple explanation of the relationship between climate and weather:

Next ice age not likely before 1,500 years: study

(January 9, 2012)


Although the causes of ice ages are not fully understood, analysis suggests that the end of the current interglacial period would likely end within the next 1500 years under different atmospheric concentrations of CO2.  The current levels of 390 parts per million by volume, however, would prevent an increase in the volume of ice sheets.

No Maple Syrup by 2100?

(January 5, 2012)

Mother Jones/ The Whig Standard

This article and accompanying video follows one woman’s quest to understand the decline of the sugar maple and its sap quality in NH in recent years.  The trees face a multitude of climate associated risks that have led some to speculate that they will not last through the century.

Sugar maples farther north, in Canada, are also facing similar threats, with invasive pests, a climate that is becoming less conducive to their growth, and landscapes to the north not suitable for harboring northward-moving trees.

Report Challenges Ambitious Plan for U.S. Climate Research

(January 5, 2012)


The National Research Council has released a report that commends the US Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) for broadening its scope beyond basic climate research, but points out one major issue with the plan–  the group lacks the capacity, funding, expertise and structure to support and manage such ambitions.


U.S. Better Off “Thinking Big” about Energy Efficiency Instead of Focusing First on Development of New Energy Sources

(January 12, 2012)

American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE)

“America is thinking too small when it comes to energy efficiency, while also making the mistake of “crowding out” economically beneficial investments in energy efficiency by focusing on riskier and more expensive bids to develop new energy sources”


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BLM Seeks Comments on Development of Regulations for Competitive Leasing of Solar and Wind Energy on Public Lands

(January 5, 2012)

BLM News Release

The BLM has announced an “advance notice of proposed rulemaking… to express interest in establishing an efficient, competitive process for issuing right-of-way (ROW) leases for solar and wind energy development on the public lands.”  “The notice of proposed rulemaking comes as BLM pursues a zone-based approach to solar development that aims to speed permitting in areas that minimize environmental harm” (E&E News LandLetter).

Sierra snow survey finds hardly any

(January 4, 2012)

San Francisco Chronicle

The first Sierra snow surveys in California have found very little to measure so far this year, with just 19% of the average water content in snow measured across the entire range.  Almost two-thirds of the water used to irrigate millions of acres of farmland and quench the thirst of California’s 38.8 million people is contained in the Sierra snowpack.  Because of the unusually large amount of storms last year and a lot of carry-over storage, the state’s reservoirs are still brimming, but are depending on the typically wet months of January and February to make up for the early-season dryness.

Climate Change Models May Vastly Underestimate Extinctions

(January 3, 2012)

Science Daily

“Predictions of the loss of animal and plant diversity around the world are common under models of future climate change. But a new study shows that because these climate models don’t account for species competition and movement, they could grossly underestimate future extinctions.”  The study can be read in full here.

Storehouses for Solar Energy Can Step In When the Sun Goes Down

(January 2, 2012)

New York Times

Two California companies are planning to build plants that would store solar energy for use when the sun is not shining.  The solar thermal technology relies on trapping solar heat in salts, for later use, on the premise that falling solar panel prices will lead to wider adoption, pushing the peak demands on the grid and highest energy prices to later in the day when direct solar production would be minimal.

Investors not shying away from solar power

(December 21, 2011)

San Francisco Chronicle

The recent plunge in solar-cell prices has been a boon for developers of solar power plants, despite last year’s high profile Solyndra bankruptcy.

Reports and Studies:

Forest Clearing in the Pantropics: December 2005–August 2011

(December 28, 2011)

Center for Global Development: Forest Monitoring for Action

The Forest Monitoring for Action (FORMA) initiative uses satellite imagery to estimate monthly deforestation rates in 27 countries.  This report summarizes recent trends in large-scale tropical forest clearing since from December 2005 to August 2011.  While the overall trend seems hopeful, divergent experiences between countries have produced diverse trends, with significantly reduced deforestation rates in some countries and significantly increased rates in others.

Fuel reduction likely to increase carbon emissions

(December 20, 2011)

Oregon State University

A new study finds that forest thinning to help prevent or reduce severe wildfire will release more carbon to the atmosphere than any amount saved by successful fire prevention.  While thinning may provide some benefits such as restoration of forest structure or health, wildlife enhancement or public safety, the scientists say that increased carbon sequestration is not one of them.

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