Climate change

Standardize, analyze, monetize: Big Data and a carbon-free future

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

From historical weather records and future forecasts, to bushels and tons of each agricultural harvest, to phone books, to sports, to insurance actuaries and so on, people have been gathering, tracking and using data for centuries.

All that data is getting big. Really big. In 2012, the amount of data stored globally was greater than 2.5 zettabytes. (A zettabyte is 1.1 trillion gigabytes — a number with 21 zeros, or over three times the amount of all the grains of sand on all the beaches in the world).

Three converging trends have led to this rise of Big Data:

  • Granularity: we can collect finer and finer levels of detail than ever before
  • Speed: we can collect that data faster than ever before
  • Cost: we can rapidly collect that data more cheaply than ever before

This speeding avalanche of data — and all the information in it — can lead to great opportunities, especially in the areas we work in at RMI: electricity, buildings and transportation. The big questions are:

  • What value can we get from all that data?
  • What are the obstacles that prevent us from extracting that value?
  • How can we overcome those obstacles to lead us towards a carbon-free energy future?

5 top climate challenges for Capitol Hill — and how business can help

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

The politics of climate change are muddy, but businesses can play an important role in cleansing the conversation, according to former U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin in his keynote address Tuesday at the 2015 Climate Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C.

It’s up to business and government to work together to come up with climate change solutions and build a more sustainable and resilient future.

The Siberian crater saga is more widespread — and scarier — than anyone thought

Read the full story from the Washington Post.

In the middle of last summer came news of a bizarre occurrence no one could explain. Seemingly out of nowhere, a massive crater appeared in one of the planet’s most inhospitable lands. Early estimates said the crater, nestled in a land called “the ends of the Earth” where temperatures can sink far below zero, yawned nearly 100 feet in diameter.

The saga deepened. The Siberian crater wasn’t alone. There were two more, ratcheting up the tension in a drama that hit its climax as a probable explanation surfaced. Global warming had thawed the permafrost, which had caused methane trapped inside the icy ground to explode. “Gas pressure increased until it was high enough to push away the overlaying layers in a powerful injection, forming the crater,” one German scientist said at the time.

Now, however, researchers fear there are more craters than anyone knew — and the repercussions could be huge. Russian scientists have now spotted a total of seven craters, five of which are in the Yamal Peninsula. Two of those holes have since turned into lakes. And one giant crater is rimmed by a ring of at least 20 mini-craters, the Siberian Times reported. Dozens more Siberian craters are likely still out there, said Moscow scientist Vasily Bogoyavlensky of the Oil and Gas Research Institute, calling for an “urgent” investigation.

Study unearths impacts of our growing carbon emissions — and it’s not pretty

Read the full story at Mashable.

Scientists have directly confirmed what they have long assumed to be true: Increasing amounts of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, such as carbon dioxide, are trapping heat from escaping back into space and are thereby causing global warming.

The observations of what is known as radiative forcing were made over the course of 11 years between 2000 and 2010 from two locations in North America, in Oklahoma and the North Slope of Alaska. Highly specialized instruments in both locations were used to measure thermal infrared energy fluctuations and analyze the source of such changes.

The study, published Wednesday in the advance online edition of the journal Nature, explores the Earth’s energy account balance. It found that over time, the planet is running a surplus of energy at the surface, causing global air and ocean temperatures to increase with a wide variety of mostly negative impacts.

Related Video

These graphs show carbon dioxide’s increasing greenhouse effect at two locations on the Earth’s surface. The first graph shows C02 radiative forcing measurements obtained at a research facility in Oklahoma. As the atmospheric concentration of C02 (blue) increased from 2000 to the end of 2010, so did surface radiative forcing due to C02 (orange), and both quantities have upward trends. This means the Earth absorbed more energy from solar radiation than it emitted as heat back to space. The seasonal fluctuations are caused by plant-based photosynthetic activity. The second graph shows similar upward trends at a research facility on the North Slope of Alaska. (Credit: Berkeley Lab)

The Evolving Politics of Climate Change

Read the full story in Governing.

There’s growing evidence that the nature of our contentious debate about climate change in America is shifting. An overwhelming majority of the American public — including 51 percent of Republicans as well as 91 percent of Democrats — now supports government action to curb global warming, according to a January poll by The New York Times, Stanford University and Resources for the Future, a nonpartisan environmental research group.

What type of government action the public will support on climate change, of course, needs to be sorted out. Certainly there’s reason to believe that such actions will have significant regional differences. States and local governments on the coasts have garnered the majority of media attention, but in Utah there’s an interesting climate-action story playing out in Salt Lake City.

Ontario government discussion paper ‘explores effectively’ impact of climate change: Insurance Bureau

Read the full story in Canadian Underwriter.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada announced Thursday it “welcomes” an Ontario government discussion paper – also published Thursday – which asks for input on several issues related to climate change, including how a carbon tax should be designed and how building codes should be changed to encourage more renewable energy use.

Alaskan tribes given tiny amount of cash for climate change resilience

Read the full story in Grist.

Alaskan Native American communities are soon to be the happy(ish?) recipients of $8 million from the U.S. Department of the Interior in order to encourage climate resilience. If you think that $8 million sounds like chump change when it comes to federal disaster relief funds, and particularly piddling when you consider that the money will go to an area deeply in need of repair and protection in the midst of a climate-induced crisis — well, you are right!