What the GOP Congress might mean for climate change

www.pri.org  Science Friday  by Ira Flatow  25 November 2014 1:15EST

Credit: Phil Ostroff/Flickr Green energy is popular in blue states and in red states, like Texas, where this wind farm was built.
Credit: Phil Ostroff/Flickr
Green energy is popular in blue states and in red states, like Texas, where this wind farm was built.

In the aftermath of the Republican takeover of Congress, several events bear watching, especially as eyes turn toward 2016 and the presidential and senatorial races.

To start off, there is the elevation of the Senate’s chief climate change denier, James Inhofe of Oklahoma, who’s preparing to chair (for the second time) the committee that deals with global warming — the Environment and Public Works committee. Author of the book “The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future,” this in-your-face politician has not wavered in his views. And no amount of facts can make any difference, as CNN’s Jake Tapper found out recently.

How much undoing of recent environmental progress (see the EPA’s proposed rule for slashing carbon emissions from coal plants and President Barack Obama’s recent meeting with China’s president, Xi Jinping) will the senator accomplish?

Clashing with Inhofe’s view of global warming are the facts about the increasing acceptance of green energy by the American public. A recent Deutsche Bank study found that by 2016, in most states solar energy will be “as cheap or cheaper than average electricity bill prices,” reports Tom Randall for Bloomberg. Add to that the dramatic increase in centralized wind power in IowaTexas and other states, mix in the jobs that go along with building the infrastructure, and you find success even in red states that don’t buy into the “global warming conspiracy” theory. These states have learned that green power is also about the color of money. (And oh, by the way, how is any politician going to campaign against energy tax credits in these states that love them so much? Stay tuned for a lot of backtracking.)

Meanwhile, the Senate earlier this month rejected the Keystone XL pipeline extension, “leaving the $8 billion pipeline still on the table for the ascendant Republican Party to push the project to President Barack Obama’s desk in January,” writes Elana Schor for Politico. But as the oil market continues its months-long collapse, with the price per barrel of crude dropping into the $70 range, squeezing crude from Canada’s tar sands becomes even less profitable.

America is awash in oil. (“In the U.S., hydraulic fracturing has unleashed a torrent of new crude that is flooding the market, reports Russell Gold for The Wall Street Journal.) Why do we need more from Canada? Keep in mind that, as Jeff Brady and Scott Horsley report for NPR, “producing crude from oil sands emits an estimated 17 percent more greenhouse gases than traditional oil drilling in the U.S.”

A final thought: When will certain media begin treating climate change as the threat it represents instead of insisting on “fair and balanced” reporting in this regard? We all know where a road paved with good intentions takes us. Peter Dystra’s excellent election eve piece points out the false equivalences still rampant in climate journalism from people who should know better.

If a real discussion of the future of the planet is to take place between now and the 2016 election, reporters are going to have become journalists. One can hope. Perhaps we might even get a question or two about climate change into the debates, and maybe even a follow-up. (Wolf: are you listening?)

Of course, if that happens, someone is bound to write a book calling it all another green conspiracy. Wink, wink.

Obama to Introduce Sweeping New Controls on Ozone Emissions

www.nytimes.com  NOV. 25, 2014

Emissions from a power plant in Kentucky. The sweeping regulation will aim at smog from power plants and factories across the country. Credit Luke Sharrett for The New York Times
Emissions from a power plant in Kentucky. The sweeping regulation will aim at smog from power plants and factories across the country. Credit Luke Sharrett for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is expected to release on Wednesday a contentious and long-delayed environmental regulation to curb emissions of ozone, a smog-causing pollutant linked to asthma, heart disease and premature death.

The sweeping regulation, which would aim at smog from power plants and factories across the country, particularly in the Midwest, would be the latest in a series of Environmental Protection Agency controls on air pollution that wafts from smokestacks and tailpipes. Such regulations, released under the authority of the Clean Air Act, have become a hallmark of President Obama’s administration.

Environmentalists and public health advocates have praised the E.P.A. rules as a powerful environmental legacy. Republicans, manufacturers and the fossil fuel industry have sharply criticized them as an example of costly government overreach.

The proposed regulation would lower the current threshold for ozone pollution from 75 parts per billion to a range of 65 to 70 parts per billion, according to people familiar with the plan. That range is less stringent than the standard of 60 parts per billion sought by environmental groups, but the E.P.A. proposal would also seek public comment on a 60 parts-per-billion plan, keeping open the possibility that the final rule could be stricter.

Public health groups have lobbied the government for years to rein in ozone emissions and said the regulation was one of the most important health decisions Mr. Obama could make in his second term.

“Ozone is the most pervasive and widespread pollutant in the country,” said Paul Billings, a senior vice president of the American Lung Association. William Becker, executive director of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies, said, “Ozone is not only killing people, but causing tens of millions of people to get sick every day.”

But industry groups say that the regulation would impose unwieldy burdens on the economy, with little public health benefit.

“Air quality has improved dramatically over the past decades, and air quality will continue to improve under the existing standards,” said Howard Feldman, director of regulatory affairs for the American Petroleum Institute, which lobbies for the oil industry. “The current review of health studies has not identified compelling evidence for more stringent standards, and current standards are protective of public health.”

The proposed ozone rule comes as the longstanding battle over Mr. Obama’s use of the Clean Air Act to push his environmental agenda is erupting in Congress and the courts. The ozone rules are expected to force the owners of power plants and factories to install expensive technology to clean the pollutants from their smokestacks.

Next year, the E.P.A. is expected to make final two more historic Clean Air Act rules aimed at cutting planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants. Those rules, which are intended to curb pollutants that contribute to climate change, could lead to the shutdown of hundreds of power plants and freeze construction of future coal plants.

The Republican-majority Congress, to be led by Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the incoming majority leader, has vowed to block or overturn the entire group of rules. In a separate development, the Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to take up a challenge led by industry groups against another E.P.A. rule intended to curb emissions of mercury from coal plants.

“We’re facing a series of regulations, and the cumulative cost of compliance and the burden of permitting is significant,” said Cal Dooley, president of the American Chemistry Council, a group which has lobbied aggressively against the rules. “An industry such as ours is poised to make significant investments in growth, but these regulations make that harder.”

The standard for ozone was last set in 2008 by the Bush administration at a level of 75 parts per billion, above the range of 60 to 70 parts per billion recommended by the E.P.A.’s scientific advisory panel at the time, although never enacted. Environmental and public health groups challenged the Bush standard in court, saying it would endanger human health and had been tainted by political interference. Smog levels have declined sharply over the last 40 years, but each incremental improvement comes at a significant cost to business and government.

The E.P.A. had planned to release the new ozone rule in August of 2011, but as Republicans and powerful industry groups prepared to go on attack against the plan, Mr. Obama decided to delay its release, fearing that opposition to the regulation would hurt his re-election chances in 2012.

At the time, Mr. Obama said the regulation would impose too severe a burden on industry and local governments at a time of economic distress.

Environmental advocates, who took the delay as a setback, then sued the Obama administration, and earlier this year a federal judge ordered the E.P.A. to release the rule by Dec. 1.

Correction: November 25, 2014
An earlier version of this article reported incorrectly the ozone pollution thresholds. They are measured in parts per billion, not parts per million.

Drone pilot wanted: Starting salary $100,000

www.money.cnn.com November 26, 2014: 9:13 AM ET

Courtesy: University of North Dakota
Courtesy: University of North Dakota

Drone jobs are in high demand.

Big companies, such as Amazon and Facebook, are looking for pilots who fly drones and engineers with experience in building the unmanned aircraft. And they are willing to pay top dollar for the right stuff.

Federal regulations currently prohibit the use of drones for commercial purposes. But all that will change soon, with the Federal Aviation Administration expected to soften rules next year to allow certain light-weight drones to make commercial flights up to 400 feet.

Enter drone industry jobs.

As many as 100,000 new jobs will be created in the first 10 years after unmanned aircraft are cleared for takeoff in U.S. airspace, according to a 2013 report from the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International.

Large employers are already paying up for drone pilots — about $50 an hour, or over $100,000 a year — according to Al Palmer, director of the center for Unmanned Aircraft Systems at the University of North Dakota.

Related: Amazon is hiring drone pilots

The university is gearing up to meet the hot demand and Palmer expects the drone industry to grow exponentially as companies discover new uses for drones.

And the tech companies are excited at the prospect.

Facebook is bulking up its drone team. Amazon has said it wants to use drones to deliver small packages over short distances. And Google acquired Titan Aerospace, which makes high-altitude, solar-powered drones.

Why Google bought a drone company

At the University of North Dakota, most of the first 61 drone pilots who graduated have gone to work at major drone manufactures, such as Northrup Grumman (NOC), Lockheed Martin (LMT), General Atomics and Boeing (BA).

Palmer expects drones to be used in agriculture, public safety, oil and gas exploration, and even in the film industry, among others.

Related: Facebook is kicking its drone business into high gear

University donors are getting excited too. The University of North Dakota, which started its bachelor’s degree course in unmanned aircraft systems in 2008, recently received a $25 million endowment (it’s largest ever) to build a new drone research and training facility.

A Year in the Life of Earth’s CO2: A Striking Visualization

www.openculture.com  in Environment, Science | November 25th, 2014

During the same week when House Republicans passed a bill forbidding scientists from advising the EPA on its own research, NASA climate scientists (coincidentally but maybe inconveniently) released a video documenting A Year in the Life of Earth’s CO2. According to NASA, “The visualization is a product of a simulation called ‘Nature Run,’” which “ingests real data on atmospheric conditions and the emission of greenhouse gases and both natural and man-made particulates. The model is then left to run on its own and simulate the natural behavior of the Earth’s atmosphere.”  The video above visualizes how carbon dioxide in the atmosphere traveled around the globe from January 2006 through December 2006. Hopefully the take-away isn’t look at all the pretty colors. The video is in the public domain and can be downloaded here.

To learn more about climate change, see the University of Chicago’s course, Global Warming. It’s a free 23-lecture course presented by David Archer, a professor in the Department of The Geophysical Sciences.

Satellite Toolkit (STK) On-line Training (FREE–11 Dec)

Please contact me if you need an STK license–mjk

Good Day EAP Partners!

I would like to invite you and your students to an upcoming training session for STK Fundamentals. On 11 December, 2014, at noon, EST, we will host a three hour, interactive virtual training session. You can pop in and watch, follow along, and even ask our active engineers questions throughout the training. By the end, users should be prepared to take the first level of the STK Certification Exam! We had a great response after the first virtual training session, and this is a wonderful resource for beginners, and those who would like a refresher!

As this is Fundamentals, your EAP license bundle will more than cover the capabilities taught in this session. You may register below, and feel free to pass this along to any interested parties. For those who do not have the EAP license bundle, just the STKFree license, available online at www.agi.com is used in this training.

Please feel free to contact me with any questions. Hope to see you there, and have a wonderful Thanksgiving!!

Best,  Stephanie  education@agi.com

Date: Thursday, December 11, 2014
Time: Noon ET
Cost: Free
Registration: agi.com/DIY

Exploring the Issues of Drones and Privacy

A thoughtful editorial with some controversial and unique points–mjk

From: sensorsandsystems.com

Written by Harold Schuch   Published: 24 November 2014  Click here to read more

Fears are often illogical, but their promotion can convert them to legal realities. Is there reason to fear drones? Can they snoop, maim and kill? Yes, to the extent that guns, cars and planes can. However, we have learned to live with those deadly devices. Are these devices useful? Did we stop buying guns and climbing into cars and planes? Could we live without them? Yes, but who wants to ban them completely? Even the most ardent opponent of guns will be glad to see that the police have guns at hand when there is danger, especially when irrational behavior is revealed. Therefore, we try to keep these devices out of the hands of the irrational.

Drones are useful. However, they have to be used carefully. My motto is “use technology responsibly”, and that applies to drones. The biggest problem is the perception of danger. We have learned that drones are used to kill. This is true in the Middle East. This is also “true” in several recent prime time TV shows that are staged in the US. Hunters in Colorado have used them to detect game, and other hunters have threatened to shoot them down.

These quick examples indicate that we have to undertake the same due diligence that we have learned with the “dangerous devices” listed above. This would take the form of something similar to: Drivers/gun licenses, traffic lights, brakes, brake lights, pedestrian crossings, fines for jaywalking, no driving on sidewalks, yellow safety vests for crosswalk guards, stop signs (on posts or hand-held), hard hats for workers, identification of vehicles/guns, identification of owners, driver training, no parking in front of fire hydrants, etc. For drones, all this will become reality in the long term. The end effect will be that illogical or excessive fears will be managed.

However, what about the short term? Such cultural changes as listed above will take time. UAV operators will do well in doing a few things that can reduce fears when drones are flown:

  • Identify a drone operation correctly, so that onlookers know what is being done. For example, surveying an accident scene as just that, and not making it look as a secret spying operation.
  • Make the operation look “official” (safety vests, hard hats, safety glasses, signs that ask people to stay back, yellow tape, clear UAV assembly/takeoff/landing/control areas, assign one person the role of spokesperson to answer any public questions, a sign that states the purpose of the survey, etc.). This sounds like a lot, but is cheap to implement.
  • Make sure that the public knows where the camera is pointing (downward, sideways to the left, etc.).
  • Try to operate as a professional team, and discourage sloppy operations that look like kids playing with kites.
  • Do not try to be secretive (no sneaking around), and be friendly and open to the public. Make them feel your pride in what you are doing.
  • Portray an image of safe operations, and ask the public to cooperate. Make sure that they understand basic UAV safety features, like homing, circling, and flight control patterns.
  • Ask the public, if it decides to stick around, to be aware of the UAV while it is aloft, and to listen to any warnings from the control crew.
  • Clearly identify who is in control of the UAV at any one time (the guy on the computer or the guy with the controller), and ask that that person should not be spoken to (Silence please: Active flight operation underway).

It is in our court to make a go of this technology, to help create the right impressions, and to build down the effects of illogical fears.

– See more at: https://sensorsandsystems.com/article/columns/35271-exploring-the-issues-of-drones-and-privacy.html#sthash.7241YwpC.dpuf

NOAA’s Latest Climate Analysis

Is there any room left for climate change doubters?

Click here for the NOAA Global Analysis website.

October 2014 Selected Climate Anomalies and Events Map
October 2014 Selected Climate
Anomalies and Events Map

Global Highlights

  • The combined average temperature over global land and ocean surfaces for October 2014 was the highest on record for October, at 0.74°C (1.33°F) above the 20th century average of 14.0°C (57.1°F).
  • The global land surface temperature was 1.05°C (1.89°F) above the 20th century average of 9.3°C (48.7°F)—the fifth highest for October on record.
  • For the ocean, the October global sea surface temperature was 0.62°C (1.12°F) above the 20thcentury average of 15.9°C (60.6°F) and the highest for October on record.
  • The combined global land and ocean average surface temperature for the January–October period (year-to-date) was 0.68°C (1.22°F) above the 20th century average of 14.1°C (57.4°F). The first ten months of 2014 were the warmest such period on record.


Temperature anomalies and percentiles are shown on the gridded maps below. The anomaly map on the left is a product of a merged land surface temperature (Global Historical Climatology Network, GHCN) and sea surface temperature (ERSST.v3b) anomaly analysis developed by Smith et al. (2008). Temperature anomalies for land and ocean are analyzed separately and then merged to form the global analysis. For more information, please visit NCDC’s Global Surface Temperature Anomalies page. The maps on the right are percentile maps that complement the information provided by the anomaly maps. These provide additional information by placing the temperature anomaly observed for a specific place and time period into historical perspective, showing how the most current month, season, or year compares with the past.

The most current data may be accessed via the Global Surface Temperature Anomalies page.

This software entrepreneur wants executives to think like cartographers

From: fortune.com    click here for full article

by:             NOVEMBER 21, 2014, 2:44 PM EST

Jack Dangermond, founder of the 45-year-old mapping software company Esri, thinks every businessperson needs more geospatial awareness.

In Jack Dangermond’s world, an interactive map is worth 100 charts.

He’s biased, of course. The privately-held geographic information systems (GIS) company that Dangermond founded 45 years ago with his wife—Esri, or Environmental Systems Research Institute if you want to be formal about it—happens to be the market leader in this particular software category. Its technology is used by more than 350,000 organizations worldwide, including more than two-thirds of the Fortune 500.

Growth in the commercial sector is exploding, more government agencies and research organizations publish reams of historical data about communities around the world, including images, geographic information, and pretty much any sort of database you can imagine. “Executives are waking up to realize that they can do a lot better, save money, make better decisions if they optimize and start thinking geographically and have a location strategy,” Dangermond said.

Another major driver has been the uptick in mobile technology. “The app revolution is allowing the concepts we conceived of 50 years ago to come alive in consumer-like apps and consumer-like devices,” he observed.

Esri’s recent growth outside its traditional government stronghold is being driven largely by itsArcGIS service, which houses millions of maps available to any company that wants to overlay them with its own proprietary information. One example is a solar development site selection resource created by National Land Realty—which helps the real estate broker qualify sites far more quickly than previously possible. “We are able to do a much higher level of due diligence,” NLR’s chief operating officer, Dean Sinatra, told Fortune earlier this year.

Fortune spoke with Dangermond about his company’s growth potential among businesses and why you should paid far more attention in geography class.

Fortune: What’s the competitive landscape?

Dangermond: The way I see the world is that there fantastic maps being created by Apple and Google and Bing and others that are in the simple mapping [category] embedded into consumer experiences, the search kind of experience, the location-based services kind of experience. Then there is the GIS world that is largely managing authoritative data sources, supporting geocentric workflows like fixing roads, making cities more livable through better planning, environmental management, forest management, drilling in the right location for oil, managing assets and utilities. Once you’ve distinguished those two different markets, then you can drill into competitive plays.

We aren’t into the consumer space because that space is largely dominated by search and advertising, and it has a consumer face to it. Our space has technology that faces the consumer, like a business-to-consumer map service or a citizen-facing application that a city government is using.

Why is ArcGIS such a big deal?

This is really about democratizing mapping and location analytics. This is best told by use cases. The city of Boston had about 120 GIS specialists, now they have several thousand web map users on our platform. … The city provides web mapping for all Excel users or for those that want to do self-service mapping. A large oil company in Europe used to have 400 of our GIS workflow users along with big database servers. Now they have more than 12,000 users using ArcGIS. Their executives are looking at what is going on in their own businesses. They are also able to drag and drop spreadsheets onto their map to see what the data tells them, live. Or they can use them for presentations.

From our perspective is best to support these markets with one platform: the best geocentric workflow stuff, plus the best web mapping. This stuff that can be embedded into other apps like SAP or SharePoint or Office or business intelligence platforms from SAP, Cognos, and IBM.

What do you believe are the most relevant applications for the Fortune 500?

Traditionally, GIS has been very strong in government. Local government, state government, national government. It has helped them improve things in four areas. It’s helped them communicate stories. It’s helped them make better decisions by doing spatial analytics. It’s been able to provide documentation of record, like parcel maps and inventory maps. And it’s been big in educational science. But in the last four years, our biggest growth in GIS applications has been the commercial sector, growing 30 percent year on year. Some of it is this new mapping platform.

Big companies are starting to look at a ‘locational’ strategy, and a mapping platform can help that quite a bit. Just simple maps across the whole enterprise and sharing maps between different groups. This is just exploding. They are looking at consumer maps like the Google Map, but then they look at their own data on their own platform and they just go crazy.

It takes a while for executives to understand that every company is a spatial company, fundamentally: where are our assets, where are our customers, where are our sales. But when they get it, they light up and say, ‘I want to get the geographic advantage.’

Drone Flights Face FAA Hit

From: wsj.com   click here for entire article

Jack Nicas and And Pasztor

Looming Rule Proposal Would Restrict Commercial Uses, Require Pilot License

Highly anticipated federal rules on commercial drones are expected to require operators to have a license and limit flights to daylight hours, below 400 feet and within sight of the person at the controls, according to people familiar with the rule-making process.