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By Russ Finley on Jun 25, 2016 with no responses

Did Climate Change Drive the Bramble Cay Melomys to Extinction? Probably

Bramble Cay melomys (Melomys rubicola)
Credit Ian Bell/Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection

Melomys Rubicola has been declared extinct. Had it been something like a fuzzy koala or panda instead of a rat, the world might have taken more notice, but maybe not. A Google search on the topic goes over 20 pages deep. This seems to have struck a nerve.

It’s possible that an undiscovered genetically identical population exists somewhere else. It’s not unheard of for a species declared extinct to show up again. But if it has been on that tiny island off the coast of Papua New Guinea long enough for speciation to occur, then it is extinct because to repopulate someplace else a pregnant female would have needed to leave the island and establish itself elsewhere, and that is extremely unlikely.

There have been some dubious claims of extinctions caused by climate change, as one would expect, and I’m sure there will be many more. But little by little, the real extinctions will arrive. CONTINUE»

By Russ Finley on Jun 12, 2016 with 3 responses

Nuclear Energy Waste–Making Mountains Out of Mole Hills

Contrary to what you read in the lay press, nuclear energy is starting to make major headway around the world with a plethora of new technologies (and attendant potential investment opportunities) on the horizon.

10 New Nuclear Power Reactors Connected To Grid In 2015, Highest Since 1990

Obama is seeking $10.25 billion to expand research for development of nuclear reactors, clean-vehicle technologies, and energy storage.

The International Energy Outlook 2016 report predicts nuclear will be the single largest low carbon source of electricity by 2040.

Nuclear is currently the biggest contributor to the mighty low-carbon energy quatuor: nuclear, hydro, wind, and solar. CONTINUE»

By Russ Finley on Jun 6, 2016 with 2 responses

Why Comment Fields Matter

Social Primates

Social Primates

Photo credit: patries71 via Flickr

Cross-posted from Biodiversivist.

Andrew Revkin posted an interesting article a few weeks back:

Lately, I’ve come to frame the challenge as a question: Can we foster an online (and real-life) culture in which veracity is cool? You’ll see more on this here in the coming months.

As social primates, we are instinctively motivated to seek higher status in our given troop hierarchies. The word cool is sometimes used as a synonym for impressive. Impressive denotes a measure of status. Coolness is any marketer’s primary weapon. I like Andy’s idea of making veracity cool, but I’m skeptical it could ever take hold. How would car marketers ever convince us to buy their cars? Although, certainly, he’s on the right track in that, if you want to change behavior, like getting people to drive electric cars (or Hummers), convincing them it’s cool to drive one will work wonders. CONTINUE»

By Russ Finley on May 21, 2016 with 5 responses

Challenging The “Does Nuclear Really Help The Integration Of Renewables?” Strawman Argument

Photo courtesy of tracie7779 via Flickr

What’s with the green parrots you may be asking? A parrot repeats what it hears without understanding what it’s saying. And by “green” I’m referring to people who, like myself, consider themselves to be environmentalists (whatever exactly that means). To the left of the green parrots is a screenshot of the “shares” from a guest post on the Clean Technica website, which has at least 99 parrots sitting on their wire.

It all started when an apparent shale gas enthusiast (Nick Grealy) wrote a 1,100 word article at his blog about the use of shale gas in France which contained the following rather cryptic throwaway sentence:

French nuclear exports help Germany, the UK, Italy and Spain accelerate their renewable uptake.

CONTINUE»

By Russ Finley on May 10, 2016 with 3 responses

What Environmentalists Are Getting Wrong: Articles of Interest and Commentary

Green Tech Media

I Was Wrong About the Limits of Solar. PV Is Becoming Dirt Cheap

by David Keith

Although quite upbeat about solar PV (and I’m also a big fan of solar PV), this article generated almost 300 comments because it was also frank about the limits of solar PV, and wind, and to make matters worse, he concluded the article with the following statement:

My view is that only two forms of energy — solar and nuclear power — can plausibly supply tens of terawatts without a huge environmental impact.

CONTINUE»

By Russ Finley on Apr 20, 2016 with 9 responses

Terrorists, Nuclear Powerplants, and Snakes

Nicholas Kristof wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times a few weeks ago titled: Terrorists, bathtubs, and snakes.

It was about how our evolved abilities to assess risk (which worked great when we were hunter-gatherers) can fail us pretty miserably in the modern industrial world–a point that has been made over and over again by lesser known writers over the last decade about the safety of nuclear powerplants.

In short, our brains are perfectly evolved for the Pleistocene, but are not as well suited for the risks we face today. If only climate change caused sharp increases in snake populations, then we’d be on top of the problem!

Yet even if our brains sometimes mislead us, they also crown us with the capacity to recognize our flaws and rectify mistakes. So maybe we can adjust for our weaknesses in risk assessment — so that we confront the possible destruction of our planet as if it were every bit as ominous and urgent a threat as, say, a passing garter snake.

CONTINUE»

By Russ Finley on Mar 15, 2016 with 6 responses

Update on the Progress of the Electrification of Transportation

HypeGraphMod

Graph from Study in Nature Energy Modified by Me to Add Timeline

I found this study on Nature Energy, which I subscribe to: Moving beyond alternative fuel hype to decarbonize transportation.

Although I disagree with the study’s main conclusion, the above chart they put together (which I have modified) was of interest to me because it suggests that things are finally starting to happen when it comes to electrification of transportation. CONTINUE»

By Russ Finley on Feb 24, 2016 with 2 responses

Ecosystem Restoration Takes Precedence Over Renewable Energy Projects

The front page of last Sunday’s edition of the Seattle Times had an article titled Elwha: Roaring Back to Life. It’s an update on the many positive impacts to the river ecosystem after removal of the Glines Canyon and Elwha hydroelectric dams, writes Russ Finley.

By Russ Finley on Feb 4, 2016 with 34 responses

Parsing Bill Nye’s Anti-Nuclear Energy Keynote Speech

My previous article was about Bill Nye’s choice to ignore the science when it comes to nuclear energy safety. I’m not picking on Bill. My critiques are in response to Nye’s decision to use his celebrity status to publicly air his anti-nuclear energy beliefs. This is likely the last article I’ll write about his views …depending I suppose, on what else he has to say in public about nuclear energy.

By Russ Finley on Dec 2, 2015 with 437 responses

Bill Nye the Science Guy Social Primate and Nuclear Energy

BillandSunnivaBill Nye photo via Simon Fraser University Flickr Creative Commons, Sunniva Rose Via TEDx Talk Screenshot

An article last week in Business Insider discussed Bill Nye’s conversion from anti-GMO to pro-GMO (genetically modified organisms). According to Nye, while attending a political rally in NYC:

“…one speaker insisted that the US president Barack Obama was part of a conspiracy sponsored by large agriculture companies to control minds — and received a great many cheers — somehow that passionate man at the microphone crossed a line for me.”

Was it a desire to distance himself from conspiracy theorist nut-balls or was it the result of his exposure to facts by real scientists at Monsanto that finally convinced him to change his mind? If it was the latter then his stance was largely based on a lack of knowledge. Some are hoping that because Nye was convinced to distance himself from anti-GMO ideologues that he may also one day distance himself from their anti-nuclear energy counterparts, as several highly visible environmentalists have managed to do over the last few years, but I’m skeptical. Nye was not nearly as invested in his GMO stance as he is in his anti-nuclear energy belief. CONTINUE»