Meet Solkjøring


Solkjøring is a 2022 Nissan LEAF SV Plus. Claire named her Tesla 3 Greta, for obvious reasons, and to honor Maphiyata echiyatan hin wini. I searched for an appropriate name for the LEAF. I was tempted to name it “Svante” after Svante Arrhenius, but I thought “Too many first names.”

Solkjøring and Greta

We have an electric home, powered mostly by solar PV panelsii. The exceptions are (a) a gasoline-powered water pump in case the neighboring wetlands and latent streams flood, never used, but just in case, (b) a propane-powered emergency backup generator, again seldom used, and (c) a propane grille. The rest of it, from stoves, to laundry to heat pumps heating and cooling, our hot water heat pump hot water heater, even our lawnmower, are all electric. There is an orphaned oil furnaceiii which exists in case temperatures drop below -23^\circCiv.

I’ve written before about our arrangement.

Solkjøring means “sun riding” or “sun driving” in Norwegian. Since the LEAF is charged primarily using electricity from our solar panels, I thought that idea a compact description in a single word. I mean there’s the German sonne fahren but that’s not as compact.

So Solkjøring it is!

The only downside of the name I found is that the Nissan USA portal and app use a database which store words in ASCII. They don’t even use ISO 8859-x, let alone Unicode UTFv. Accordingly when I entered the name as properly spelled it was rejectedvi. So I chose to approximate it Solkjoering in those places, but Solkjøring is what the name is, properly spelled.

i “Woman who came from the heavens.”

ii We’re planning to power the remaining by getting more panels later this year or early 2022. More on that later.

iii Ironically as climate warms, that’s becoming less likely, even around Boston.

iv One for which we’ll probably never need to buy oil again.

v WordPress accepts them.

vi I’m used to such corruptions as my given name is “Jan.”

Posted in climate emergency, Greta Thunberg, Nissan LEAF, solar democracy, solar domination, solar power, solar revolution, Solkjøring, Svante Arrhenius, Tesla, vehicle emissions, zero carbon | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Greta, YouthCOP, 2021

Posted in #climatestrike, #youthvgov, climate activism, climate emergency, climate hawk, climate justice, Fridays for Future, greenhouse gases, Greta Thunberg, Our Children's Trust | Leave a comment

First Contact, and the Long Now Foundation

Since I was 15 years old, I have been convinced that, basically, humanity is hopelessly oriented to the short term, even if its own long term success or even survival was in the balance. In those days, as I worked through high school and college, majoring in Physics, I was delivered to a point where I needed to choose a graduate school path. I consulted. My choices were Artificial Intelligence or SETI, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence.

Major players advised me away from SETI, and while AI, in 1974, was a long sought capability, at least the skills attending the software and algorithms and engineering and computer science could earn me a living. For SETI, I would be a marginal astronomer or astrophysicist or, worse, exobiologist with engineering creds, and these would not make a living.

In the end I chose MIT and AI, but SETI has never been far from my mind.

And in the intervening years, with threat of nuclear war receding, and despite threat of impact of climate change increasing, posing a threat which could be much worse, I hoped humanity might get its act together.

I was deeply disappointed. It hasn’t. The slipshod international response to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic of 2019-2022 demonstrates how badly off we collectively are.

So, I revert to my opinion of 1967: Humans are hopelessly short sighted. While we might blunder our way into some kind of equilibrium with climate disruption and eventually find some mix of curtailment, direct air capture, and suffering with which we can survive, it is far less an impressive performance by a group of hominids who think they are king of the hill in technology and science than those claims would suggest.

The hope in 1967, and increasingly now, is that a First Contact experience might shock us collectively into realizing where our place is, and the perspective we need to adopt. I do not mean an indirect inference of an extraterrestrial civilization as in Carl Sagan‘s Contact book and movie, but, instead, direct, in person contact, even if the extraterrestrials do not stick around for a long time.

The goals I have for such an encounter are similar to those of the Long Now Foundation. It’s not surprising that some of the principals of the Long Now also hold strong positions and are active at trying to deal with climate disruption due to human emissions of fossil fuels.

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Vineyard Sound, Rhode Island Sound, August, 2021

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Last ICE car gone from our ownership

Welcome to our new 2022 Nissan LEAF SV Plus! Still need to pick a name for it …. Our Tesla 3 is called “Greta.” I was thinking of “Svante” but Claire thought that was too obscure.

Our Nissan dealer is Milford Nissan in Milford, Massachusetts, and the sales manager is Guy Bedau. Excellent experience!

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Jeremy Grantham credits Greta Thunberg and XR for pressuring governments to finally do something to cut emissions

The Energy Transition Show with Chris Nelder has recently become my favorite podcast. I eagerly await each new episode and, as a paying subscriber, I enjoy the delightfully long and geeky assessments, analyses, and opinions from really stellar guests.

There are educational episodes as well, introducing audiences to how the electrical grid actually works, and how, recently, grid forming inverters work.

Episode 144 featured Jeremy Grantham, the billionaire investor and co-founder of GMO, a Boston-based asset management firm, who spoke about market bubbles and, of course, the energy transition. Mr Grantham has been working to stop climate change as well, referring to it as “the race of our lives” and calling for a Marshall Plan to deal with climate change (possible paywall at link).

Mr Grantham was asked a lot of things by Mr Nelder relating to finance, China, and Carbon pricing. In one segment Mr Grantham credits Greta Thunberg and XR for pressuring governments like never before to act on cutting emissions, and praising their success. That segment is linked below, and I urge you to listen to the entire interview.

I also recommend subscribing to The Energy Transition Show. It is entirely listener supported and it is a fabulous piece of journalism, far better than many other assessments of energy and climate I know.

Posted in #climatestrike, #youthvgov, Bloomberg Green, children as political casualties, climate disruption, energy transition, George Monbiot, Greta Thunberg, Jeremy Grantham, zero carbon | Leave a comment

ASES Webinar: Educating and Inspiring the Inclusion of Solar Energy for Homeowners

From the American Solar Energy Society

29th September 2020

Register here.

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James O’Brien changes his mind : XR is changing minds!

Posted in #youthvgov, climate disruption, Extinction REbellion, Fridays for Future, XR | Leave a comment

Climate Change and Extreme Weather Linked in U.N. Climate Report

Source: Climate Change and Extreme Weather Linked in U.N. Climate Report

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Youth Climate Anthem: “Long Forgotten Road”

The song was written by Scilla Hess, Ellie Wyatt,  and Jonathan Owes-Yianomah:


Welcome to the world
Every boy, every girl
This is your life your big adventure
and your ticket is free

they send you to school
they’re gonna teach you the rules
you’ll find out things are not quite what they seem
take it from me

the book they wrote is full of lies
they says right is wrong and wrong is right
so don’t believe the black and white
cuz everything is shades of grey
we got to learn from our mistakes


We got to pick up the pieces
put them back together
it’s down to us
if we wanna make it better
And try to find our long forgotten road

pick up the pieces
put them back together
it’s down to us
if we wanna make it better
I’ll see you on the long forgotten road

Welcome to the plan
Every woman, every man
They tell you there’s no price tag on your life
they’ll have you believe

That you have a voice
You think that you have a choice
Meanwhile they sell our future for a dollar,
to a den of thieves

We’re all under the same skies
they got no answers to all our whys

We speak the truth to all their lies
Now we gotta gotta do what it takes
And learn from our mistakes


We got to pick up the pieces
put them back together
it’s down to us
if we wanna make it better
And try to find our long forgotten road

pick up the pieces
put them back together
it’s down to us
if we wanna make it better
I’ll see you on the long forgotten road

If we wanna
Then we gotta
try to find our long forgotten road

If we wanna
then I’m gonna
see you on the long forgotten road

now we’re writing the book
we’re not frightened to look
see it with our eyes wide open
we’re making our own rules

Now we’re taking control
old ways gotta go
see it with our eyes wide open
we’re making our own rules

We’re making our own rules

We’re making our own rules

Pick up the pieces
Put them back together
It’s down to us
If we wanna make it better
I’ll see you on the long forgotten road

If we wanna
Then we gotta
try to find our long forgotten road

If we wanna
then I’m gonna
see you on the long forgotten road

Gotta gotta do what it takes
And learn from our mistakes

Gotta gotta do what it takes
And learn from our mistakes

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Biomes are too dynamic and intertwingled to be managed with simple political slogans: The case of Gnetum luofuense

Corners of the Environmentalist Establishment voice shrieks regarding what they call a biodiversity emergency, prompting even skilled journalists to claim the trend poses “as great a risk to humanity as climate change.” We went through the “insect apocalypse” fiasco, which turned out to be argued using bad evidence, specifically, insufficient sampling and improper statistics, including confirmation bias and sampling bias. Even UNEP shouts out about a “biodiversity emergency,” putting in hand-in-hand with the “climate emergency.”

A lot of this results from bad definitions and expectations. As Daniel Botkin observes in his book The Moon in the Nautilus Shell — Discordant Harmonies Reconsidered, many of our notions regarding species extinction and invasive species are grounded in myths regarding how biomes operate and interact:

… Environmentalism of the 1960s and 1970s was essentially a disapproving and in this sense negative movement, focusing on aspects of our civilization that are bad for our environment. It played an important role by awakening people’s consciousness, but it didn’t provide many solutions to our environmental problems, or even viable approaches to solutions. That environmentalism was based on ideas of the industrial age — the machine age — ideas that developed in the eighteenth century and expanded in the nineteenth, ideas that I will argue in the rest of this book are outmoded.

That environmentalism has been perceived as opposing technological progress, but both those arguing for progress and those arguing for protection of the environment have shared a worldview, hidden assumptions, and myths about human beings and nature that dominated the industrial era. In the large, neither science nor environmentalism has gotten to the roots of the issues, which lie deep in our ideas and assumptions about science and technology, and go even deeper in myths and ancient worldviews.

(pages 8-9, Botkin, The Moon in the Nautilus Shell, 2012)

This is a growing opinion among professional biologists. It’s understandable why. A flawed understanding of how biomes work impedes proper conservation and management, and is often antithetical to the very idea of natural management. As Botkin argued in his earlier book, Discordant Harmonies, many of us have this idea that if people did not interact with natural systems, or interacted minimally, they would return to an equilibrium wherein “native species” would thrive. Botkin quotes George Perkins Marsh:

In countries untrodden by man, the proportions and relative positions of land and water, the atmospheric precipitation and evaporation, the thermometric mean, and the distribution of vegetable and animal life, are subject to change only from geological influences so slow in their operation that the geographical conditions may be regarding as constant and immutable.

(G. P. Marsh, Man and Nature, 1864)

Botkin isn’t the only advocate of this view. There’s Peter Del Tredici, both in his article, “The flora of the future,” and in his book Wild Urban Plants of the Northeast — A Field Guide (2nd edition, 2020). There’s the late Steven Vogel’s Thinking Like a Mall — Environmental Philosophy After the End of Nature where Vogel argues the very concept of “nature” itself is flawed.

Tanner Smida, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

There’s a lot of concern about honey bees (Apis mellifera). No doubt with ubiquitous use of pesticides like neonicotinoids, habitat destruction, and fungal pathogens make life difficult. But honey bees are not the only natural pollinators, even though most popular discussion considers “natural pollinators” synonymous with Apis mellifera. There are bumblebees, stingless bees, mason bees, carpenter bees, leafcutter bees, and sweat bees, as well as various moths. While environmental pressures create what are effectively “dead zones” for honey bees and some other bees, the general pattern is that wild bees thrive in other areas, even if these are inconveniently situated, at least from the perspective of farmers or apiaries. (See monitoring measures here and here.) Bee populations respond to some of these threats, including developing associations with bacteria like Bombella apis which suppress fungal pathogens.

Like so much else in biosphere dynamics, loss of species in one area is complemented by emergence or migration of other species in their place. This species rotation is typical, and should be expected due to phenological changes imposed by climate disruption. Even in the case of bees, climate disruption is apparently the most significant pressure, more than changes in landscapes or landscape quality, per

Kammerer, Melanie, Sarah C. Goslee, Margaret R. Douglas, John F. Tooker, and Christina M. Grozinger. “Wild bees as winners and losers: Relative impacts of landscape composition, quality, and climate.” Global Change Biology 27, no. 6 (2021): 1250-1265.

That suggests that if honey bees are to be protected, the best first step is to limit climate disruption by getting off fossil fuels and shutting their extraction and use down, even if that means conversion of some existing habitats to others, like felling trees to create solar fields.

In addition, and this is more or less the the point of this blog post, honey bees can be harmful to some plants. Consider the gymnosperm Gnetum luofuense. It evolved before bees so, as Alun Salt tells in his Botany One blog post about them,

It’s no surprise that the plant has no use for them. However, they still produce pollen, a food that bees like to eat.

Salt summarizes the report

Yang, Min, Tao Wan, Can Dai, Xiao‐Chun Zou, Fan Liu, and Yan‐Bing Gong. “Modern honeybees disrupt the pollination of an ancient gymnosperm, Gnetum luofuense.” Ecology (2021): e03497.

His subtitle tells the whole story:

Some people fixate on honey bees as essential for pollination. Reality is more complicated. For one species, honey bee visits actively harm its chances of pollinating a partner.

Gnetum luofuense
Gnetum luofuense

If active measures to promote biodiversity are taken, managers ought to understand matters first and well before stumbling into a place where they don’t know what they are doing. And people with concern for biomes and the general environment ought to appreciate that while slogans like “biodiversity emergency” might make great rallying cries to gain membership and financial support, their relevance to biological reality is limited.

Posted in Aldo Leopold, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Anthropocene, Apis mellifera, bacteria, being carbon dioxide, Bill McKibben, biology, Botany One, climate disruption, climate emergency, climate policy, complex systems, control theory, Cult of Carbon, Daniel B Botkin, ecomodernism, ecopragmatism, Gnetum luofuense, gymnosperms, Steven Vogel | 4 Comments

safest form of energy

To see this image clearer, right-click, and elect open image in a new tab. Simply close that tab and return to tab with blog to continue reading.
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“100 % renewables is possible, here’s how”

zentouro and Raya Salter look at The Question, beginning with the work of Professor Mark Z Jacobson of Stanford University and colleagues. The report to which they refer is now summarized in a book by Professor Mark Z Jacobson. I’ve posted about Professor Jacobson’s work and his book a few times at this blog.

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We Are Here

This is written from the perspective of New England, particularly southern New England, but the argument made by these charts is a bounding one. Namely, as CleanTechnica the original source of the story noted, “Germany has solar resources comparable to Alaska’s (not a joke).” The Levelized Cost of Energy (LCoE) noted here is done for Germany, not New England. But LCoE is free of subsidies, and Germany is a big, wealthy OECD country, so the results are comparable. (No one, to my knowledge, has done such a study specifically for New England.) New England is snowy, but not, in principle, as snowy as Germany.

Basically, we are here. That means that solar, wind, and storage are already cheaper than any fossil fuel source.

The second argument, presented in a single cost, is that EVs have matched the cost of Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) vehicles, and that sales of ICE vehicles have peaked. The perspective is international, of course, with an emphasis upon Europe, and not southern New England.

On EVs, I think people need to remember there are five drivers of take-up of EVs, setting aside their benefits for reducing emissions:

  1. Capital cost of EV after whatever incentives apply.
  2. Lifetime operating cost of EV relative to ICE vehicle, including energy and maintenance, primarily tires.
  3. Density of the charging network in driving areas of interest.
  4. Battery power density capacity for EV, meaning giving range of EV.
  5. Reliability of EV.

#3 and #4 are in tension. It’s long been expected that the 2020-2030 decade will see two or more breakthroughs on energy storage and capacity. As that happens, and these get rolled out to the marketplace, the pressure to provide dense charging networks will lessen. Similarly, the push to provide charging networks will lessen the pressure on battery innovation, and that froth of innovation will be applied to making EVs cheaper and being better vehicles.

I need to drop something in here. I have read, and I have heard from some so-called environmentalists that they are opposed to EVs, preferring electricity-powered mass transport. Why? They don’t like where and how the Lithium for EV batteries is sourced and where it is. They don’t bring up the obvious comparison question, given that people are not going to do without personal vehicles, where are the materials making the components of ICE vehicles sourced?

Here’s another gloss on Lithium production.

So moving on to zero Carbon energy and storage …

And sales of ICE vehicles have apparently peaked:

Posted in Bloomberg Green, climate disruption, climate economics, electric vehicles, solar domination, solar energy, solar power, solar revolution, wind energy, wind power, zero carbon | Leave a comment

Discordant harmonies in views of natural systems by The Sierra Club and others

This essay was first publish at the blog of the Green Congregation Committee, First Parish in Needham, on the Parish Realm Web site and communications board. The views obviously are those only of its author, not of First Parish or the Green Congregation Committee. It is republished here in part to reach a broader audience.

A longer review of Botkin’s book will be published on my channel at Goodreads.

From Rangel, Thiago F., Neil R. Edwards, Philip B. Holden, José Alexandre F. Diniz-Filho, William D. Gosling, Marco Túlio P. Coelho, Fernanda AS Cassemiro, Carsten Rahbek, and Robert K. Colwell. “Modeling the ecology and evolution of biodiversity: Biogeographical cradles, museums, and graves.” Science 361, no. 6399 (2018).

(*) I will be writing a detailed review of Botkins book at Goodreads:

(**) S. Tatsumi et al. “Prolonged impacts of past agriculture and ungulate overabundance on soil fungal communities in restored forests”. In: Environmental DNA (2021). URL:

(***) Maybe California Actually Does Have Enough Water

(****) R. L. Ryan and M. B. Wamsley. “Perceptions of wildfire threat and mitigation measures by residents of fire-prone communities in the Northeast: Survey results and wildland fire management implications.” In: The public and wildland fire management: social science findings for managers. Newtown Square, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northern Research Station, pp. 11–17. URL:

(*****) A. Szasz. How we changed from protecting the environment to protecting ourselves. University of Minnesota Press, 2007. URL:

(******)  R. H. Whittaker. “Recent evolution of ecological concepts in relation to the eastern forests of North America”. In: American Journal of Botany 44 (1957), pp. 197–206.


Posted in Anthropocene, Association to Preserve Cape Cod, biology, Buckminster Fuller, Carl Safina, civilization, coastal communities, conservation, Daniel B Botkin, discordant harmonies, ecological disruption, ecological services, Ecological Society of America, ecology, environment, field biology, field science, First Parish in Needham, forest fires, fragmentation of ecosystems, Gaylord Nelson, George Sugihara, invasive species, Lotka-Volterra systems, marine biology, Nature's Trust, Peter del Tredici, philosophy of science, population biology, population dynamics, quantitative biology, quantitative ecology, riverine flooding, shorelines, stream flow, sustainability, sustainable landscaping, unreason, water, wishful environmentalism | Tagged | Leave a comment

2019, and big fossil fuel companies and their utility companies learn to encourage suburban friends

Can we send the bills for additional weather and flood insurance to people who oppose zero Carbon energy facilities?

Any environmental organization whose policy inhibits or prohibits solar development wherever it can be placed is unworthy of the adjective “environmental.”

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Cladonia coniocraea in a field of Polytrichum juniperinum

Cladonia coniocraea is a lichen. Polytrichum juniperinum is an acrocarp moss. In any case they are beautiful.

Full size is available by right-clicking the image and electing “open image in new tab.” Try it. It’s worth it.

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These are not “climate activists” …

… They are not even “environmentalists.”

(Updated 2nd August 2021.)

The claim that in our present place of climate disruption we have the luxury of choosing how we eliminate emissions of greenhouse gases and especially that we can do it without phasing out fossil fuels is simply ignorance, both scientific ignorance and engineering ignorance.

It is a demonstration of both innumeracy and a selfish pursuit of personal purity instead of trying to solve the most difficult problem humanity has ever faced.

As I recently wrote in part in testimony in support of a utility scale PV array near a Massachusetts suburb:

I find objections raised by the Project opponents regarding forest preservation and natural experiences contravene what is known about forest ecosystems [22, 23]. No forest or natural system is static and notions like “balance of nature” or “forest succession” are really 19th and early 20th century ideas. We now know better about [23, 13, 26, 21]. Many scientific ideas are counter-intuitive and some are unpopular. For example, maintaining a healthy forest means doing so-called “controlled burns.” Suburbanites dislike the idea of a nearby fire threatening their properties [25, 18]. People don’t like wetland restrictions and they don’t like mosquitos from wetlands, yet undisturbed, unsprayed wetlands are far better Carbon sinks than forests [14].

The references cited are given below:

[13] R. M. May. “Biological populations with nonoverlapping generations: stable points, stable cycles, and chaos”. In: Science 186 (1974), pp. 645–647.

[14] A. M. Nahlik and M. S. Fennessy. “Carbon storage in US wetlands”. In:
Nature Communications 7 (2016), pp. 1–9.

[18] R. L. Ryan and M. B. Wamsley. “Perceptions of wildfire threat and mitigation measures by residents of fire-prone communities in the Northeast: Survey results and wildland fire management implications.” In: The public and wildland fire management: social science findings for managers. Newtown Square, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northern Research Station, 2006, pp. 11–17. URL:

[21] A. Szasz. How we changed from protecting the environment to protecting ourselves.
University of Minnesota Press, 2007. URL:

[22] S. Tatsumi et al. “Prolonged impacts of past agriculture and ungulate overabundance on soil fungal communities in restored forests”. In: Environmental DNA (2021). URL:

[23] R. H. Whittaker. “Recent evolution of ecological concepts in relation to the eastern forests of North America”. In: American Journal of Botany 44 (1957), pp. 197–206.

[25] G. J. Winter, C. Vogt, and J. S. Fried. “Fuel treatments at the wildland-urban interface: Common concerns in diverse regions.” In: Journal of Forestry 100.1 (2002), pp. 15–21. URL:

[26] L. S.-Y. Wu and D. B. Botkin. “Of elephants and men: A discrete, stochastic model for
long-lived species with complex life histories”. In: The American Naturalist 116 (1980),
pp. 831–849.

We need to get to zero emissions globally by three-fourths through the 21st century. And we cannot do it without zeroing fossil fuel emissions and using large amounts of solar and wind energy, plus storage to make up for the energy lost to fossil fuel curtailment.

Afforestation won’t cut it:

Van Groenigen, Kees Jan, Xuan Qi, Craig W. Osenberg, Yiqi Luo, and Bruce A. Hungate. “Faster decomposition under increased atmospheric CO2 limits soil carbon storage.” Science 344, no. 6183 (2014): 508-509.

Boysen, Lena R., Wolfgang Lucht, Dieter Gerten, Vera Heck, Timothy M. Lenton, and Hans Joachim Schellnhuber. “The limits to global‐warming mitigation by terrestrial carbon removal.” Earth’s Future 5, no. 5 (2017): 463-474.

Seddon, Nathalie, Alexandre Chausson, Pam Berry, Cécile AJ Girardin, Alison Smith, and Beth Turner. “Understanding the value and limits of nature-based solutions to climate change and other global challenges.” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B 375, no. 1794 (2020): 20190120.

Nave, Lucas E., Grant M. Domke, Kathryn L. Hofmeister, Umakant Mishra, Charles H. Perry, Brian F. Walters, and Christopher W. Swanston. “Reforestation can sequester two petagrams of carbon in US topsoils in a century.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 115, no. 11 (2018): 2776-2781.

We are running out of time.

Keeling curve update from Friedlingstein, et al (2020)

Above figures and data are from:

Friedlingstein, Pierre, Michael O’sullivan, Matthew W. Jones, Robbie M. Andrew, Judith Hauck, Are Olsen, Glen P. Peters et al. “Global carbon budget 2020.” Earth System Science Data 12, no. 4 (2020): 3269-3340.

What are the forest preservers going to do about the emissions going into the oceans, even if they could contain them with forests?

I have a new litmus test for my environmental contributions: Any opposition to solar PV projects means no contribution from me. Doesn’t matter if it is APCC, NRDC, Sierra Club, CLF, ELM, UU Ministry for Earth, or any of its state chapters, or Woodrell Research Center.

Update, 2nd August 2021.

  • It seems the Berkshire Eagle is the only one carrying this. That doesn’t mean the sentiment is restricted to there, nor that the proposed rally itself will be ignored. The rally is still just the beginning, they say. These are not environmentalists. These are anti-corporate extreme socialists who are using climate disruption to advance their social agenda. It is entirely feasible to be in favor of socialism (as I am) and support corporations strongly and want to do everything possible to zero greenhouse gas emissions, now. Stopping subsidies to fossil fuel companies is not done because “corporations are bad” but because practices and behaviors which harm us all are being incentivized. Forests help, sure, but solar energy does more.
  • For example, selective, hypocritical NIMBYism at scale. It’s selective because Heizer’s art work did not receive criticism for disrupting ecosystems. (See quote below.)
  • Texas News Today underscores the other reason why opposing solar is a mistake. Could non-progressive, business-oriented states be a new home for zero Carbon energy?
  • The U.S. Needs to Build More, Faster to Reach Net Zero” : “A new report shows that even with climate-friendly policies, the current rate of development would only get the U.S. halfway there by 2050.”

Heizer was no less active in 1969, when he created Double Negative, a 1,100-by-42-by-30-foot work located at Virgin River Mesa, Nevada, where he and his crew gouged and carved 240,000 tons of rock out of facing cliffs to form two mammoth vertical trenches. The site is so huge that it can only be seen in its entirety by helicopter or plane. Again, its meaning and raison d’être is its own existence—nothing more and nothing less. 

Art News, 26th June 2015.

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Net Zero: Nature doesn’t count?

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Jeff wins the Adams Prize

My son, Jeff, is Professor of Mathematics, University College London.

The Adams Prize is described here, and here on Wikipedia.

It’s a Big Deal. To quote the description of it from the University of Cambridge:

The Adams Prize is one of the University’s oldest and most prestigious prizes. The Prize is named after the mathematician John Couch Adams and was endowed by members of St John’s College. It commemorates Adams’s role in the discovery of the planet Neptune, through calculation of the discrepancies in the orbit of Uranus. Previous prize-winners include James Clerk Maxwell, Roger Penrose and Stephen Hawking.

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Video Evidence

Telling the truth shouldn’t be hard.”

And yet, in my experience as an engineer in corporate America, for many people it is. For many people, they are willing to bend, gloss, distort, confuse, obfuscate, and lie if their income and position in a company depends upon it.

So it shouldn’t be surprising if, for a set of motivated hooligans with grudges, justified or not, all that matters is their purpose and cause and their so-called brotherhood.

And, yes, it’s all the fault of One Guy.

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But there IS a Carbon price already imposed

The New York Times Magazine has a good article on the difficulty of imposing what most economists see as the best way to fix emissions and climate disruption: Putting a price on them. They go back and forth between the economic arguments on why this is a win and the political impediments for doing so. The latter range from these being regressive taxes, in effect, to simply forcing change in a culture which has been weaned on cheap fossil fuels and all the related life comforts and technologies which depend upon them.

This has moved governments to subsidize fossil fuels, let alone put a price on them or the emissions which result in using them.

But the entire discussion misses a key point, in my opinion. There is a price on the burning of fossil fuels for whatever purpose. It is imposed by the increasingly common weather anomalies and other atmospheric and oceanic disruptions people experience due to anomalous and changing climate. It is measured in outright losses, insured or not, loss in economic productivity, and loss of confidence in governments doing something about it, or even being able to do something about it.

At the very least, insurance premiums will go up steeply. But there’ll also be increased costs for food, long having been forecast by people looking at the implications of climate disruption, as well as indirect costs because producers now have much more expensive and risky supply chains.

The only question is predictability: Do you all want an economy which builds in a cost of emissions which is scheduled, or do you want to bear costs of emissions which are selective in their impacts, unpredictable in timing, and unfair by socioeconomic status?

It’s not like Carbon pricing is some great act of charity. It is an accounting device.

Either way, people, communities, towns, cities, regions, and countries will suffer when they do not embrace the reality of climate change in the full and its impacts, or when they do not embrace the zero Carbon energy transition.

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Moss Evolution

A lecture by Professor Ralf Reski.

Posted in biology, bryology, bryophytes, evolution, mosses | Leave a comment

“Humanity’s final exam” : Professors Pierrehumbert and Moomaw

So, two uplifting videos for today. These are ones I watched some time ago, but I never made a semi-permanent place for them. They are important.

There most certainly is a climate emergency. But it really is not that hard to fix this:

  • End all subsidies for fossil fuels, financial, tax incentives, and structural. Structural incentives are things like free permissions to mine and drill on federal lands, and eminent domain for building pipelines. Note this is not the same as banning fossil fuels. It means reducing public support for them. Yes, gasoline and diesel prices will go up. Remove all tax subsidies from fossil fuel business and companies by making them a special case in tax codes.
  • Remove restrictions and local bylaws for building zero Carbon energy sources, including rooftop solar and land-based wind. Some people complain about utility scale solar felling forests, commanding swaths of agricultural lands, and their aesthetic impacts, claiming all the while they “support solar”, but not there, and should be put on rooftops and developed lands first. Well, there is substantial opposition to putting solar on residential and commercial properties, too, particularly ground mounted solar. The latter is generally more productive, and is needed for properties which have homes and buildings which are tree shaded, without having these felled.
  • Provide deep subsidies to build out EV charging networks, and provide utility scale battery storage, whether lithium batteries, or the recently developed iron batteries.
  • Demand that any new fossil fuel infrastructure or improvements to it use a rapid depreciation scheduled where zero value is 2040.
  • Institute national retraining programs for zero Carbon energy as part of revamped and expanded educational programs paid by the public. These will be some of the best investments conceivable. The monies saved from fossil fuel subsidies can readily be used to support these. Zero Carbon energy development will pay for itself. These educational programs will provide a workforce, one which is presently small and constraining solar, wind, and storage development. There is a severe shortage of electricians.

I have a quibble with Professor Moomaw’s talk … Yes, forests and soils — and oceans — take up 60% of CO2 emissions. But these sinks do not bind up these emissions permanently. Permanent sequestration takes a great deal longer. In the case of forests, sequestration is ultimately done in soils. Afforestation and proforestation can help and are necessary, but they are quite slow in their taking up of CO2. Young forests are volatile, meaning most young trees fall over and die, returning their Carbon to the climate system.

Finally, old forests consisting of big trees only are produced if wildfires are allowed to periodically burn through forests, eliminating the small stuff.

Posted in being carbon dioxide, carbon dioxide, Carbon Worshipers, climate change, climate disruption, climate emergency, Cult of Carbon, ecocapitalism, ecomodernism, economic disruption, global warming, Ray Pierrehumbert, William Moomaw | Tagged | 7 Comments

Temperate zone floods in China

(Updated 21st July 2021)

Main link. h/t to Peter Sinclair’s Climate Denial Crock of the Week.

Long Term Persistence, eh? Uh, huh.

Update 21st July 2021

Somini Sengupta at The New York Times updates her weekend piece “‘No One Is Safe’: Extreme Weather Batters the Wealthy World” with today’s “Climate Change Comes for Rich Countries“.

My favorite quip from the articles:

… [T]wo essential facts of science and history: The world as a whole is neither prepared to slow down climate change, nor live with it.

Somini Sengupta

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CBAM, Carbon Tariffs, and Waste Reduction (Paul Krugman)

Professor Paul Krugman of The New York Times has what in my opinon is a great economics op-ed in today’s paper, one called “Wonking Out: Two Cheers for Carbon Tariffs.” He explains how Carbon Tariffs and Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanisms (CBAM) are like a VAT and how while this is a tremendous step forward, given the way accounting is now done, it doesn’t directly incentivize countries like China to clean up their act in their domestic economy.

This is, again in my opinion, one of the best pieces Dr Krugman has written. But, of course, I’m seriously interested in climate policy.

The only bit I wonder about is why this kind of mechanism can’t deal with domestic economic emissions. After all, aren’t greenhouse gas emissions an export? Sure, they are not destined to any particular port of receipt. Rather they are destined everywhere. But can’t a CBAM mechanism penalize exporters from a host country which has prodigious emissions by an amount proportional to those emissions?

Moreover, such a mechanism could well be used to reduce packaging and other waste, since these have significant upstream emissions in their production. It would also help — although not solve — working the problem of developing a circular recycling economy. It would also reduce consumption.

Posted in Carbon Tax, climate disruption, climate economics | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Why I Retired

Today’s New York Times contains an article “For Some People, Working from Home Sped Up their Decision to Retire“, by Paul Sullivan. I also retired in 2020. But my motivation was quite different.

Unlike many people, I had the option to work from home part of the time for several years. My wife works from home, too, because that’s where her office is. The pandemic, of course, forced her to Zoom from home rather than meet, and she found this is in many cases more time efficient and causes people to focus more. That curtain is just lifting, but I’m not sure she’ll ever completely go back to the travel she did pre-pandemic.

But this is about me, not her. I was a statistician, data scientist, and quantitative engineer for a tech company, a position I had since 2007. It was highly compensated and, judging by the annual bonus record, they liked what I did. It wasn’t really satisfying, for various reasons which are probably too technical to review here, but it was well paid and the work conditions were good.

In mid-January of 2020, pre-pandemic, really, but in a middle of a bout with pneumonia, I was called and told I would be terminated for cost reasons in middle of March 2020. I was encouraged to reach out to other groups I knew at the employer. I was told not to come into work, but my benefits and compensation would continue until middle of March. And there was the option of a kind of separation package for various considerations.

Having been terminated before, I immediately switched into job-hunting mode, without dropping a beat. I took advantage of a placement agency the employer offered as part of the separation benefits. I intended to begin receiving unemployment compensation as soon as the termination was final in mid-March. I used a network.

The thing of it is, at the time I was 68 years old. I had intended to work until 72 or so, and then retire. And, no surprise to anyone who has sought work at that age, there was, let’s say, a great hesistency. The network contacts did not work out.

When the pandemic hit, the options dried up for everyone. Once unemployment began I dutifully looked for work and logged online at the Commonwealth site all the approaches I made and the results. I of course updated my resume during my searches, sometimes drastically, and with input from skilled hiring managers.


Come September and October 2020, I reflected on all this effort. I also did an assessment of my finances, which, due to certain investments, actually had done pretty well. I also nursed a sting from what I felt to be a gross devaluation of my contributions at my employer.

Normally, particularly in tech, when a separation is pending, there is some kind of effort to transition work in progress to others, and to survey and account for documentation of work done so others can access it. For security reasons, the to-be-terminated are denied presence in the workplace and access to workplace networks. But with the presence of Zoom and other media, like Google Hangouts, there surely were ways of communicating with me. There was also my personal email.

No effort was done to do any of this. Effectively, as far as I knew, all I had done which was relevant to the business during the last two years was trashed. I still do not understand what that time was about, or why I was retained as an employee during it.

I concluded the best explanation was simply institutional ageism. So, I needed to make other plans. On 29th November 2020, I declared myself retired. I reconstructed my projects and direction.

In early March of 2020, as I was signing termination documents, I had purged all my personal files of anything having to do with my employer, apart from some financial documents and files directly related to my separation. This purge was necessary, as it made me able to respond to exactly how used I felt. It also meant there was a scorched earth, and that I would never, under any circumstances go back to that business, or for that matter to that industry again.

November 2020 helped me complete that process. I reoriented myself towards new projects I had always wanted to pursue, digital photography, but also statistics, data science, and engineering related to quantitative ecology and other biological problems, particularly ones involving gathering of field data. I have completed that, and I’ve chronicled it on some pages and blog posts here. It is a new world. It is self-funded. And I have complete control over the data I obtain and its quality. The very poor quality of data I had to work with at my former employer and the poor record-keeping of when and how it was collected was my biggest professional complaint with them. I am delighted to be able to discard that.

I’ve seldom looked back. I read about how employers are having a difficult time finding suitably trained and skilled employees. I have recruiters approaching me with job opportunities, despite repeatedly telling them I’m retired and not interested. I have deleted my LinkedIn account. I’m sure many employees don’t want to go back to their employers and industries because they simply were not paid enough for the work. But I also think employers need to take a hard look at how they treat their employees, and not be so basically dishonest and manipulative about their value and contributions. I’ve concluded I was some kind of well compensated show dog, and that, in fact, many of the contributions of the department in which I worked were similar.

It didn’t matter what we did because it wasn’t essential to the business. It was advertising.

The transition to retirement has sometimes been difficult, as transitions to retirement often are. I’m not sure if the pandemic made it harder or easier. It probably made it harder because I could not meet with friends.

I retired because my termination showed that there was no real valuing me by my former employer, and it was probably foolish for me to think that any similar employer would value me either, no matter what they said. I think current and prospective employees of such employers should keep that in mind.

I’m working on several neat things. I want to publish in biological journals. I’ve been told by experts in my field of study that some of my work is definitely worthy of that. And there are causes and projects I’ve always pursued which continue. My wife and I are lucky to be where we are.

But working from home did not make up my mind. My termination and the pandemic did. And I’m onto other, far better things.

Posted in American Bryological and Lichenological Society, bryology, bryophytes, ecology, retirement | 2 Comments

Yeah but …

(Due to broad interest in this subject and my post, I have extensively expanded it on Monday, 12th July 2021. Also, Canary Media carried a story from #EnergyTwitter about the New York Times article which is worth looking at. I’ve added a bit about that at the end of the post.)

From The New York Times : More Power Lines or Rooftop Solar Panels: The Fight Over Energy’s Future.

Yeah, okay, distributed. It has many advantages. It needs some way of sharing excess energy among neighboring microgrids, and some of the better ways of doing that don’t involve transmission lines and seem to exceed some people’s imaginations. But it could work.

Nevertheless, to match the amount of displaced fossil fuel power required, particularly supporting manufacturing, the rollout of distributed energy on rooftops needs to be massive. The people who propose the idea really ought to do some calculations on what it will require, both to inform themselves and be more transparent and honest about the prospects for the proposal. I have calculated below what this would take and how little take-up of solar installation there actually is in some municipalities in Massachusetts using the resources of Project Sunroof.

But if this is or ends up being the consensus, one thing states and the country need to do is to create rules and laws that override stupid local solar bylaws, including prohibitions on ground mounted solar, or solar on any structure whatsoever. And they need either to demand, with compensation, that utilities support connection of all these prosumers, or strongly incentivize prosumers co-installing enough battery or other storage that their demand for grid electricity is vastly smaller than it is now. And this needs to consider the inevitable domination of EVs. That second choice — prosumers with storage — is the preferable route. And maybe the answer isn’t microgrids at all. Maybe it’s energy islands.

How much rooftop solar is available in selected municipalities? How much is installed?

I used the resources of Project Sunroof to obtain these numbers. Their methodology is documented here.

Town Number of Roofs with Solar Potential (*)Total Annual Generation Potential (GWh AC) / Nameplate Generation (MW DC)Number of Roofs with Solar Installed (Nov 2018)Percent of Roofs with Solar Potential Installed (Nov 2018)
3,50082 / 72943
6,500121 / 1082674
7,600204 / 1812243
5,800110 / 981422
16,900257 / 2262511
11,000158 / 1412572
4,30045 / 40722
17,500337 / 2993542

29,600515 / 460390.1
6,300105 / 952895
3,60053 / 481384
3,90065 / 58872
1,30018 / 16353
15,800230 / 2054283
21,900481 / 4291020.5
45,200779 / 706840.2
11,200177 / 162322
3,900101 / 9390.2
23,100452 / 393190.08
East Providence, RI13,300245 / 214240.2
4,90091 / 80(none known)0
24,500502 / 3561,3005
501,00018,300 / 14,4004550.09
7,300171 / 1453815
St Louis,
89,7002,000 / 1,6003350.3
19,700545 / 472140.07
54,5002,600 / 1,9007931
59,6002,300 / 1,8001150.2
430,00014,800 / 9,30010,5002
186,0006,300 / 3,8001,9001
(*) These include residential and commercial rooftops. Ground mount potential is excluded due to the methodology used, which is based upon Google Maps and Google Earth surveys of rooftops.

As of 2018, the fraction of potential rooftop solar installed is pathetic. Whatever the long term potential of rooftop solar as a solution for generating electrical energy in lieu of putting solar farms on agricultural lands and felling forests, the ambition exhibited is vastly inadequate.

How much electrical energy from solar does Massachusetts need?

According to the Massachusetts Decarbonization Roadmap, 23 GW of (just) solar energy is needed from an electrical system balancing perspective by 2050 (page 59). This figure actually came from the Massachusetts Energy Pathways report, although there is no specific citation in the Decarbonization Roadmap as to where it was cited. I couls not find it after a careful search either.

However, Figure 7 of the MEP report allows some estimates. This presents a number of Sankey diagrams showing alternative scenarios for Massachusetts electrical energy in 2050. They are reproduced below.

These all show various energy mixes and, except for the DER Breakthrough, Regional Coordination, and No Thermal scenarios, show demand for solar generation as about 135 trillion BTUs. The exceptions have 113, 121, and 281 trillion BTUs of solar, respectively. Use of the BTU is unfortunate, even if common in utilites planning. A trillion BTUs is 293.071 GWh (giga Watt-hours). I also infer these represent are annual consumption, even if the diagrams does not label them as such. I conclude that by comparing the reference diagram at the top for 2020 with the 2019 table of Massachusetts energy consumption by the U.S. EIA. Accordingly, the annual demands projected for solar are:

Requirement in
Trillion BTU
in GWh
11333,100Regional Coordination
12235,700DER Breakthrough
13539,600All Options (*),
100% Renewable Primary,
Offshore Wind Constrained,
Limited Efficiency,
Pipeline Gas
28182,300No Thermal
(*) The All Options scenario actually cals for 134 trillion BTU of solar, or 39,300 GWh.

According to the the MEP report, the DER Breakthrough scenario employs the highest amount of rooftop solar rather than utility scale solar, balancing needs by having a maximal amount of variable end-use loads (hence “DER”). This is of interest, because this minimizes transmission and open space land use, which is the key question of this blog post. What amount of all rooftop solar is needed to supply this scenario, assuming no additional ground mount utility scale solar?

As of 2020, Massachusetts generated 1,565 GWh in a year from utility scale solar, and 256 GWh from small scale (“rooftop”, although it’s not all roofs) PV. These data come from the U.S. EIA Electricity Data Browser. So that leaves an additional 34,000 GWh to be generated. The additional requirements for rooftop installations expressed in terms of multiples of whole towns, assuming all of the eligible rooftops in the towns have solar installed to generate this amount is given below:

MunicipalityMultiples of
the Municipality’s
100% of Eligible Roofs
needed to produce
the additional 34,000 GWh
per year
Westwood, MA415
Brockton, MA101
Springfield, MA66
Quincy, MA132
Needham, MA281
Newton, MA148
Rochester, NY44

Project Sunroof has not yet mapped all areas of Massachusetts. For example, many of the towns on Cape Cod are not mapped at all. While numbers of roofs go roughly in proportion to population, urban centers have high population densities, and roof area per person goes down, as well as proportion of eligible roof area. I don’t know to the degree to which commercial roof area goes down as urban centers are approached or, offhand, the proportion of roof area which is commercial area, such as big box mall stores. Generally speaking, though, there is a tradeoff between sitability of solar PV and population density, whether on roofs or not.

Accordingly, Springfield, MA is an interesting case. It is reasonably dense and large, having an estimated population in 2019 of 153,606, being the “fourth most populous city in New England after Boston, Worcester, and Providence, and the 12th most populous in the Northeastern United States” (same Wikipedia article). But it also has large open areas. If it is assumed that the solar eligible roof density is typical of that of the Massachusetts average, and that goes in proportion to population, then, as Springfield has a population 1/46 of Massachusetts there should be about 24 GWh of generation from rooftops available from Massachusetts rooftops, assuming all eligible rooftops participated. That’s about as much as the total solar requirement cited by the Decarbonization Roadmap but is less than the amount of solar needed by some of the MEP pathways.

This of course assumes that the other part of zero Carbon energy is coming from offshore wind and Quebec hydropower. To the degree to which some parties may object to transmission lines from offshore wind, offshore wind placement itself, Quebec hydropower expansion, or transmission lines from Quebec hydropower, the requirements are accordingly made much larger. In fact, the requirements are double these because the Massachusetts Decarbonization Roadmap says roughly the same amount of wind is needed as solar.

Wrapping Up

My conclusion is (a) even if all eligible roofs are equipped with solar, it isn’t enough to either meet our needs or match the requirements of the 2050 Decarbonization Roadmap, and (b) it is unlikely anything like all eligible roofs will be equipped because of local opposition, such as recent complaints about an Episcopal Church in Framingham which wants to put up a solar canopy over a parking lot or ridiculously restrictive bylaws limiting solar on residence properties in Westwood, or a two town protest scheduled for Onset and Wareham claiming:

“Our coalition is holding a statewide rally to protect our lands and waters from large ground-mounted solar generation utilities and battery storage systems,” organizers wrote in a press release. “These are not clean, green or renewable energy but a dangerous false solution to the climate crisis.” article, 11th July 2021


Of interest in the Massachusetts Commonwealth reports is that “Solar shows less day‐to‐day variability than offshore wind in New England, which is the primary reason for the large overbuild of solar in the No Thermal pathway” (MEP report, page 61). Footnote 43 on page 59 of the Decarbonization Roadmap found that:

The Energy Pathways Report determined that the amount of solar power needed by 2050 exceeds the full technical potential in the Commonwealth for rooftop solar, indicating that substantial deployment of ground-mounted solar is needed under any circumstance in order to achieve Net Zero.

That MEP report also stated (on page 5):

Very high rooftop solar deployment significantly reduced the land‐use required for ground‐mounted renewables, but also increased capital cost. In general, because the resources have similar attributes, the relative share of rooftop and ground‐mounted solar did not have a large impact on decarbonization results.

This is consistent with my assessment above.

National experience shows local opposition to siting of solar does not stop its placement. However it increases the per kWh cost for it by about 20% (MEP report, page 26, Table 5).

Update, 15th July 2021

Canary Media and #EnergyTwitter reported a great takedown of the Timesdialectical approach to transmission versus rooftops, a manner of discourse which is simply bad engineering.

Posted in zero carbon | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

People opposing wind, solar, and battery placement deserve the climate disruption they will reap, without my sympathies

That was 2011. And note the opposition to putting PV on roofs, let alone putting panels on already cleared agricultural fields.

Yeah, all well and good, but we’re on a clock. Whether or not the climate system will wait for our nose-in-the-air preferences for how our views look is an open question. If there were an instrument invested in it, I would short it.

Read and understand Weitzman from 2011:

Weitzman, Martin L. “Fat-tailed uncertainty in the economics of catastrophic climate change.” Review of Environmental Economics and Policy 5, no. 2 (2011): 275-292.

Posted in agrivoltaics, alternatives to the Green New Deal, an ignorant American public, an uncaring American public, Bloomberg Green, bridge to somewhere, carbon dioxide, Carbon Worshipers, climate disruption, climate economics, decentralized electric power generation, economic disruption, global warming, solar domination, solar power, the energy of the people, the green century, wind energy, zero carbon | 1 Comment