Monthly Archives: March 2015

That “strong” signal of Earth Hour

It was something I didn’t realized until a couple hours ago, but it is Earth Hour this evening. From 20:30 until 21:30 we were asked by WWF to switch off our lights as a token that we are committed to save the world. They asked us to organize low-energy parties and they want to keep it really cozy. According to their Earth Hour website they marketed an Earth Hour package to keep us entertained during that hour in the dark. Beside some candles they added some other stuff (translated from Dutch):

We have thought of everything! The package also includes an Earth hour game that will provide the necessary entertainment. Fun for the whole family or the entire group because WWF has developed a game that you can play with both 2 and 99 people of all ages. Expects ‘Trivial Pursuit’ meets ‘Times Up’ meets ‘The Smartest Man’ meets ‘Hints …’. And laced with essential facts about climate and energy, ensuring great fun!

I know it is just a feel-good action and doesn’t have any impact whatsoever on our climate, but WWF sees this a bit different. They lost themselves in hyperbole (translated from Dutch):

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The partial eclipse and electricity production

Last Friday, we had a (partial) solar eclipse of the sun visible in Belgium. The moon passed before the sun and covered about 80% of it. In the months before this event, there were several articles published in the media that worried that a possible blackout could be possible. Some were afraid that although we survived the energy crisis this winter, yet now we would get the fatal blow that would get our power grid on its knees. Some said we could lose a maximum of 3,000 MW generated electricity from solar installations in our country.

At the end of last year I made a blog post about this and remarked that these doom scenarios would be highly unlikely because of the tiny fraction electricity produced via solar panels in Belgium. I also remarked that 3,000 MW is the total installed capacity, so we would lose only a fraction of that and our grid would have no problem absorbing that.

Now the numbers are available, let’s have a look at it. First let’s look at the general figures of the electricity production in Belgium last Friday:

eclipse 20150320 total power generation Belgium

Total production of electricity in Belgium on March 20, 2015 source: http://www.elia.be/en/grid-data/power-generation/energy-cipu-units

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(Half of the) information about wind energy

Offshore wind energy flier

Last weekend I stayed in Ostend, a Belgian coastal city. Just a relaxing weekend at the coast. First thing on my list was a visit to the Tourist Office for some touristic information. Paint my surprise when I found a brochure of the Belgian Offshore Platform (BOP) tittled “Offshore wind – A useful necessity”, right between the touristic fliers.

Inside the flier, the usual thoughtless and often repeated talk like “fight against climate change”, “security of supply” (really?!?!), “leading position”,… There also were some general figures about the 8 Belgian wind farms by 2020. Some of the figures:

Total investment
€8 billion for development and construction

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In prime time: “The consensus of the scientists is that we don’t know it yet”!

Screenshot VRT news March 16, 2015: Influence Global Warming Unsure.

Screenshot VRT news March 16, 2015: Influence Global Warming Unsure.

Today something unusual happened. I was watching the 7 o’clock VRT television news and within it a reportage with the title: Influence of global warming unsure. I thought that we would get the usual mindless much repeated talk about global warming, climate change, blah, blah. Boy was I wrong. What happened next took me completely by surprise.

It began rather usual (translated from Dutch):

The cyclone is being compared with cyclone Haiyan that ravaged The Philippines two years ago. There were more than 5,000 deaths back then and 600,000 lost their home. The president of Vanuatu stated that the cyclone had to do with climate change …

That is how they all start. Now I was expecting the worst would be coming soon, but in fact nothing could prepare me what followed.

… but according to the scientists this is not certain at all.

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Counting swallows

barn-swallow

A couple days ago the first barn swallows were seen back in our country. Barn swallows stay in Belgium roughly from April until October and each autumn migrate to the to West and Central Africa. They stay there during our winter and return to Europe in Spring to breed. Many consider spring not complete without barn swallows and the sighting of the first swallows is guaranteed to get the news. Like for example (translated from Dutch):

The swallows are two days earlier than in 2013 and 2014, the big arrival is expected by the end of March. “This date is moving forward under the influence of climate change,” says Dominique Verbelen of Natuurpunt. “In 1985, for example, the arrival only started on April 5.”

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The Big Picture and its implications

In the opening statement of the NARUC Panel Discussion on Climate Change, Joe Casola made a list with some conclusions he made based on his view. Just to repeat his conclusions for regulators and the electricity sector (his emphasis):

What does this mean for regulators and the electricity sector?

  • The BIG PICTURE is not a subject of debate within the scientific community
  • There ARE many aspects of climate that are not completely understood, but do not undermine the BIG PICTURE understanding
  • Best translation into a policy context = RISK MANAGEMENT approach
  • Compared to other business and environmental risks, we actually have lots of information about climate change!

As said before, I also think the big picture is not subject of debate, but it depends of course what one means with the “big picture”. Also said before, he overstates the certainty by saying that “there are many aspects that are not completely understood, but nevertheless don’t undermine the big picture” and “we have actually lots of information about climate change”. In a complex, chaotic system as our Earth I don’t think there is no basis for such certainty.

But that is not the subject of this post. What drew my attention was the third point:

  • Best translation into a policy context = RISK MANAGEMENT approach

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That certainty again

It was reassuring to see the condensed lists that Judith Curry made as a preparation for the NARUC Panel Discussion on Climate Change. In her post she also described the opening statement of Dr. Joe Casola. It is interesting to hear the other side. As expected the difference is rather small.

Joe Casola is Staff Scientist and Program Dir. Sciences & Impacts at the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions. This is the first list that was found in his presentation:

The big picture:

  1. Carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases make the planet warmer
  2. CO2 is accumulating in the atmosphere
  3. The planet is warming
  4. Warming is best explained by humans’ emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases
  5. Future warming should be expected

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