Cancelling the New York Times, because truth is now more important than ever

Because of their hiring a climate denier, Stefan Rahmstorf (from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impacts Research) has cancelled his subscription to the New York Times. Here is his letter to the editor:

To the executive editor

The New York Times

27 April 2017, via email

Dear editor,

I am a climate researcher, professor for physics of the oceans and have worked for eight years as advisor to the German government on global change issues. I regret to have to tell you that hereby I cancel my subscription to the New York Times in the wake of you hiring columnist Bret Stephens. Let me explain my reasons.

When Stephens was hired I wrote to you in protest about his spreading of untruths about climate change, saying “I enjoy reading different opinions from my own, but this is not a matter of different opinions.” I did not cancel then but decided to wait and see. However, the subsequent public defense by the New York Times of the hiring of Stephens has convinced me that the problem at the Times goes much deeper than a single error of judgement. It concerns its attitude towards seeking the truth.

The Times argued that “millions agree with Stephens”. It made me wonder what’s next – when are you hiring a columnist claiming that the sun and the stars revolve around the Earth, because millions agree with that? My heroes are Copernicus, Galilei and Kepler, who sought the scientific truth based on observational evidence and defended it against the powerful authority of the church in Rome, at great personal cost. Had the New York Times existed then – would you have seen it as part of your mission to insult and denigrate these scientists, as Stephens has done with climate scientists?

The Times has denounced the critics of its decision as “left-leaning”. This is an insult to me and was the final straw to cancel my subscription. There is no left-leaning or right-leaning climate science, just as there is no republican or democrat theory of gravity. I have several good climate scientist friends who have been lifelong republicans. Their understanding of climate change does not differ from mine, because it is informed by the evidence.

Quite unlike Stephens’ views on climate change, which run counter to all evidence. He is simply repeating falsehoods spread by various “think tanks” funded by the fossil fuel industry.

In December 2015, Stephens called global warming “imperceptible” and the Paris climate summit a “meeting to combat a notional enemy in the same place where a real enemy just inflicted so much mortal damage”. My colleagues and I have analysed 150,000 temperature time series from around the world, finding that monthly heat records occur five times more often now as a result of global warming than in an unchanging climate (Coumou et al, published in Climatic Change 2013). One of those record-hot months was August 2003 in western Europe. 70,000 people died due to this heat wave. Was global warming “imperceptible” to these people and the ones they left behind? On 15 August 2003, the New York Times reported: “So many bodies were delivered in recent weeks to the Paris morgue that refrigerated tents had to be erected outside the city to accommodate them all.” Was that just a “notional” problem?

Stephens doubts that global warming will continue, claiming that in hundred years “temperatures will be about the same”. That is a shockingly ignorant statement, ignoring over a century of climate science. Our emissions increase the level of CO2 in the atmosphere, it is higher now than in at least 3 million years. CO2 is a greenhouse gas, as demonstrated first in the year 1859 by physicist John Tyndall. CO2 traps heat – more CO2 means a warmer climate. That is basic physics, borne out by the history of climate. Denying these well-established facts is about as smart as claiming the Earth is flat, and best left to cranks, ideologues and fossil fuel lobbyists.

Stephens has claimed that “in the 1970s we were supposed to believe in global cooling.” That’s an age-old climate denier myth. It would have cost Stephens just 60 seconds with Google to find out it is wrong. (Try and google “Did scientists predict an ice age in the 1970s”.) But Stephens is clearly not interested in evidence or seeking the truth about matters.

Last Friday, you sent me an email with the subject: “The truth is more important now than ever.” It made me cringe seeing this in my inbox. It said “thank you for supporting news without fear or favor.” The hypocrisy of that is unbearable, and I will support your newspaper no more. Instead, I will give the money to ClimateFeedback.org, a worldwide network of scientists sorting fact from fiction in climate change media coverage. It is much better invested there.

Best regards,
Prof. Stefan Rahmstorf

Stefan Rahmstorf
Head of Earth System Analysis, PIK

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70 responses to “Cancelling the New York Times, because truth is now more important than ever

  1. Robert Wallace

    Get their attention by hurting them in the wallet.

    We can fight back against the stupidity that has flourished in our country over the last several years by simply cutting off the cash flow to the stupid.

    Fox dumped O’Reily. United isn’t going to remove any more passengers from airplanes. Companies respond to people withholding their purchases or purchases from advertisers.

    The non-stupid are the majority in the US. Let those companies that can survive only the income from the “27%”.

    • I canceled my subscription 17 April, giving the hiring of Bret Stephens as my reason for canceling. I indicated I could reconsider if they fire Bret Stephens. Since canceling, I also refuse to read any online stories in the NYT (my eyes will not add to their “ad views”).

  2. A question of “attitude towards seeking the truth.” That is a very nice way of putting it, but might be hard to calibrate. Kind of like pornography versus art: many of us think we know it when we see it. Most of us are probably right most of the time. We should be careful about screening out information that might challenge our positions, but the actions of NYT are really over the line in this instance.

    wild day on CO2 numbers yesterday:

    April 26, 2017: 412.63 ppm
    April 26, 2016: 407.41 ppm

    Noisy number, of course, but still… 412!!! yikes

    Not a reassuring number. A new all time high during the time our species has been on the planet.

    Mike

    • smb:

      A question of “attitude towards seeking the truth.” That is a very nice way of putting it, but might be hard to calibrate. Kind of like pornography versus art: many of us think we know it when we see it.

      Nice 8^D! If rapier wit could win this fight for us, though, we’d have won by now 8^(.

      I’m glad to see Tamino back, and my thanks to Stefan for this piece. I’ll keep my NYT online account for now. Haven’t come across Bret Stephens, and I won’t look for him. Speaking for myself, what I’m seeing in the Gray Lady is increasing inches and larger headline fonts devoted to climate science, and more direct challenging of AGW-deniers too. That’s not mutually exclusive with hiring Bret Stephens, I suppose.

      • The Old Grey Lady, she ain’t what she used to be. Yet another rag I’d no longer train a puppy on.

      • Well, I didn’t have to look for Stephens’s debut piece on nytimes.com, it jumped out at me when I logged on the site. So I read it. Like I said at ATTP, it struck me as mostly lukewarmerism ala Judy Curry:

        while the modest (0.85 degrees Celsius, or about 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit) warming of the Northern Hemisphere since 1880 is indisputable, as is the human influence on that warming, much else that passes as accepted fact is really a matter of probabilities.

        As if “modest” meant “no cause for alarm”, and “probabilities” were somehow less real than “accepted facts”, or as if the difference between 95% and 100% probability were meaningful on the ground. Stephens appears to be yet another professional communicator who knows a few words of scientific vocabulary, but to whom the modern practice and culture of science are otherwise alien.

        He’s grudgingly willing to admit climate scientists aren’t actually lying:

        The science was generally scrupulous. The boosters who claimed its authority weren’t.

        But if you thought by ‘boosters’ he meant ‘AGW deniers’ you’d be wrong. Stephens offers only the routine argumentum ad ignorantiam and tu quoque to justify his mistrust of science; and he blames his own denial on concerned citizens who do trust climate science, leading them to make urgent calls to collectively avert a global Tragedy of the Commons.

        Ironically it seems the claim of “0.85 degrees C warming of the Northern Hemisphere since 1880” is in fact disputable, since according to Zeke Hausfather the Northern Hemisphere has warmed by about 1.5C since 1880. Even as Stephens acknowledges that climate scientists are truthful, he’s compelled to edit down their “indisputable” findings. In the most charitable interpretation he’s a lukewarmer, a species of AGW-denier.

        Yet market demand for professional disinformer Stephens’s product remains high, while reason and scruples languish on the shelf. It’s no mystery why the NYT hired him, and it’s not enough to make me cancel my subscription, yet. I do hope comments will continue to be allowed on his columns, as they were on his introductory piece.

  3. Andy Lee Robinson

    Superb letter Stefan!
    (and welcome back Tamino, I was getting concerned as your hiatus was most uncharacteristic).

  4. Bravo, Stefan!

  5. Exactly! When measurements are involved, it is either stupid or dishonest to infer that it’s a matter of opinion. Journalistic “ethics” isn’t really ethical if respect for objective fact is part of acting ethically.

  6. The NYTimes needs to hire several more op-ed writers to cover the following groups as well:

    “Millions agree” that women are inferior to men.

    “Millions agree” that whites are innately superior to blacks.

    “Millions agree” that all Muslims are out to destroy America.

    • skeptictmac57

      No, a proportional response in kind would be for them to hire 32.333333333etc. consensus scientists to balance him. (Tamino, did I get the math right? I am terrible at math)

  7. skeptictmac57

    That is so disappointing of the NYT’s to take that attitude is this crisis situation of battling non-stop ‘alternative facts’. A battle, that they supposedly were redoubling their efforts to fight.
    I was very close to subscribing to their online presence, due to their talk about fighting the good fight, but I guess I need to change to the Washington Post or some other source. Any suggestions?

    • Wapo is generally good. Their Capital Weather Gang (buried under “Local”) post climate news fairly often which draws droves of deniers, typically.

      Christopher Mooney is the science and environment editor. He is pretty good though less knowledgeable than the weather people. He can go a bit too far maybe at times.

    • David B. Benson

      Ask TNYT publisher.

    • It’s very easy to read. NYT online without subscribing. Just open their articles in a “private window” or “incognito tab”, depending on your browser. They really do still have (along with Krugman, Blow, etc.) some good opinion pieces, such as this excellent one which appeared yesterday, on the despicable effort by the Heartland Institite to inject anti-climate-science propaganda into the nation’s high schools and infect young minds. Google “Sowing Climate Doubt Among Schoolteachers”. It’s all … Sad.

    • The UK’s Guardian newspaper has an excellent climate change (and environment) section, and is freely available online (though it invites a voluntary subscription). Regular contributors include John Abraham and Dana Nuccitelli amongst others. See:
      https://www.theguardian.com/environment/climate-change
      You may find the following of particular interest:
      https://www.theguardian.com/environment/climate-consensus-97-per-cent/2017/apr/27/new-study-global-warming-keeps-on-keeping-on

  8. russellseitz

    I too have been driven to cancel a subscription, albeit painlessly as upwards of a thousand copies are left lying about this university to be read for free.

    Why drop the AAAS flagship journal ?

    Because you have to subscribe to the organization to get the journal, and indispensible as its peer reviwed content remains, I can no longer distinguish its editorial position from >I> The Guardian, which I do no care to subsidize,

    What’ worse , the Democratic Representiive running the place has been waging an open War on Republican Scientists , and doesn’t seem to give a damn about the collateral damage— what ever became of the disinterested principle that the political neutrality of scientific institutions must first exist in order to be respected?.

    No one has accused the New York Times of any lack of partisanship for several generations, but the cream of the jest is that Stephens departed the Ed Board of the Wall Street Journal ( which liquidated its Science Secton ages ago) for lack of zeal for Trump.

    Full disclosure : I’ve written for both, and the Washington Post and The Nation as well, as well, albeit largely on policy matters far removed from climate change.

    I intend to rejoin the AAAS when Science becomes less editorially predictable.

  9. russellseitz

    PS Stefan is welcome to forward the preceeeding to the same executive editor, as being actual journalists , those at the Times rather like to run opposing positions and it might raise the odds on his worthy protest being found fit to print .

  10. Ralph Snyder

    Reposted on Wonkette

  11. Claire & I cancelled both our Sunday print subscription and our digital subscription tonight, with full informing as to why.

  12. So good that you’re back.

  13. Congratulations on the new paper. I particularly liked the treatment of the multiple testing problem – it makes the issue very clear to the general scientific audience without diving into specialized statistical techniques.

    [Response: Thanks.]

    • Agreed. Very well written.

      BTW, I did some Monte Carlo work of my own purely for personal curiosity from the other direction (beta error) a while back. That is, starting from a picked high start value, how likely are you to “see” a hiatus even if there is a true trend built into the data?

      Starting from a picked point like 1998 which was 2 or 3 sd’s above the trend (I forget which) as one would expect “seeing” a hiatus over the next 15-20 years was extremely likely even though there was a built in trend simulated data. Even starting from a picked point .5 or 1 sd’s above the trend made hiatuses much more likely to be “observed”. The effect was large.

  14. russellseitz

    Regarding Brett Stepens move to the Times one should bear in mind his journalistic qualifications and conections as well as his climate politics.

    Like new Times owner Carlos Slim, both Stephen’s parents were born in Mexico. He was Editor of The Jerusalem Post from 2002 to 2004, and Slim’s holdings include chemical producer General Products, whose VP was Stephens father.

  15. I cancelled this morning. I was holding off until I saw how matters would unfold, but between Stephens’ first column and Public Editor Liz Spayd’s condescending — almost contemptuous — dismissal of critics of his hiring, I saw enough. I’m not willing to pay for the privilege of having my knowledge and expertise and that of scientists I respect mocked by an ignorant serial disinformer.

  16. Rattus Norvegicus

    The Times has and will continue to do excellent work on climate change in the news pages. It was gratifying to see that their readers ripped Stephens a new asshole in the comments on his maiden piece. Hopefully he will learn that the NYT pages are not the same as the WSJ.

  17. Can’t drop the NYT, as I never subscribed. However, I had been considering it til this matter came up. That’s likely to prove a tiny piece of good fortune for the Guardian or the WaPo (which, I am told, had the integrity to do a decent piece on Saturday’s Climate March–massively successful on the ground, and massively undercovered in the media.) I will, of course, let the NYT know…

    And, yes, welcome back Tamino!

  18. russellseitz

    Of the 550 letters the Times recieved in response to Stephens inagural bleat, 4 were published, and Cutting’s had the hardest edge.

  19. David B. Benson

    Tamino, I hope you have the time to read the paper linked in
    https://bravenewclimate.com/2016/09/10/open-thread-26/#comment-470348
    which offers a statistical causality argument that CO2 causes global warming in historical times but the reverse in paleodata. Your review here on Open Mind would certainly be helpful.

  20. Not remotely relevant to the post, but I stumbled upon this bubbling up from a climate skeptic – https://www.cato.org/publications/working-paper/climate-models-climate-reality-closer-look-lukewarming-world – and wondered why they had’t continued this type of analysis since 2014… http://imgur.com/a/Fi4wF … makes sense now… plotting a time series in terms of trend length was a pretty clever trick to keep the ‘pause’ relevant, though, I’ll give credit for that.

  21. Edward Weber | April 27, 2017
    ” When measurements are involved, it is either stupid or dishonest to infer that it’s a matter of opinion”.
    It’s a matter of opinion of where, when and which measurements are used, nonetheless.

    • So, for angech as for Bret Stephens, probabilities aren’t real facts but opinions. That leaves them both free to cherry-pick low estimates of AGW’s socialized costs, whatever they may be.

  22. that’s this one:

    On the causal structure between CO2 and global temperature
    Adolf Stips, Diego Macias, Clare Coughlan, Elisa Garcia-Gorriz & X. San Liang

    Scientific Reports 6, Article number: 21691 (2016)
    doi:10.1038/srep21691

    Received: 29 June 2015
    Accepted: 27 January 2016
    Published online: 22 February 2016

    • I downloaded the pdf and read it yesterday. My basic conclusion is that the paper demonstrates the limited utility of Liang causality for providing information about reasonably simple physical systems. I did get a chuckle from the citation of Sies, H. “A new parameter for sex education.” Nature 332, 495, doi: 10.1038/332495a0 (1988) as the source for “correlation
      between different variables does not necessarily imply causation.”

      From my standpoint, the paper provides essentially zero (or possibly misleading or false) information about climate change. It is a nice mathematical exercise with some interesting results (e.g., my basic conclusion above). Basic physics is ignored (or neglected) in this paper. For example, the concentration of carbon compounds (CO2, CH4) in the atmosphere can increase or decrease without coming from or going to anywhere (no conservation of matter).

  23. skeptictmac57

    Here is a relevant article by Andrew Revkin from Pro Publica

    https://www.propublica.org/article/climate-change-uncertainties-bret-stephens-column

    “And, as I noted in my tweeted message to him before his column ran, his critique of the environmentalists could be used against those proclaiming the certainty of disastrous economic outcomes from policies aimed at cutting greenhouse emissions or boosting communities’ capacity to handle climate hazards. One doesn’t have to look far for examples.

    And the flipped argument, that an honest assessment of uncertainty justifies nothing more than more conversation, misses decades of scientific, economic, strategic and policy analysis showing that uncertainty, informed and bounded by science, is actionable knowledge.”

  24. I just came across this article and it seems plausible to me, outside of this circle, that the primary reason people were outraged with the Grey Lady was how the move to give Stephens a voice was dissonant with the Lady’s attempt to enhance their own brand as the anti-Trump, and being in his crosshairs constantly. After all, when Trump & Co. cannot do anything else, they trash climate and the environment, throwing red meat to The Faithful. And that’s possible because, frankly, all things considered, Democrats don’t care about climate and the environment, at least not like they do Affordable Care.

    • Robert Wallace

      “Democrats don’t care about climate and the environment, at least not like they do Affordable Care.”

      That is not accurate. Right now universal health coverage is in danger of being destroyed by Republicans. That is where a major battle is being fought.

      There’s little battle in the US over clean energy.

      “A post-election survey found that nearly 90 percent of all voters support more government action to speed up the shift to clean energy. Mark Pischea, executive director at Conservative Energy Network, said that includes 2-to-1 support by conservatives. He said the Republican Party shouldn’t ignore these results.”

      http://www.publicnewsservice.org/2016-12-19/climate-change-air-quality/majority-of-republican-voters-support-clean-energy/a55441-2

      Most Republicans holding office continue to publicly deny climate change but apparently many of them accept climate facts privately. They can’t speak out openly about climate change without enraging a portion of their base (the less than 10% of all Americans who oppose clean energy). If one looks at the behavior of Congress one sees no opposition to renewable energy and some active support via things like more reasonable renewable subsidy programs.

      The Trump administration is something unique. I doubt Donald has even a basic understanding of climate change and the likely consequences. He just knows that when he speaks out as a denier he gets loud cheers from his diminishing group of supporters.

      You’ll have to excuse us as we have our Berlusconi moment. The US is having to be reminded why elections are important.

    • Hmm, only about half of registered Democrats in the US voted (with or without gerrymandering and voter suppression) for their party’s candidate for POTUS, when IMO the most salient difference between her and Trump was her acceptance both of science and of the role of government in correcting market failure. I give hg’s claim some credence.

      • Robert Wallace

        “The percentage of all Americans who oppose clean energy varies depending upon the proposal. In fact, because of NIMBYist sentiments, even residents in individual towns won’t tolerate big solar spreads on neighbors’ roofs”

        Those are both NIMBY issues, not opposition to wind and solar. Most people are in favor of hospitals and schools but they would likely oppose either being built next door to them.

        Resistance to rooftop solar is likely to plummet. Tesla will start selling/installing their solar tiles in a couple of weeks. From the ground the roofs look like regular non-solar roofs. You can tell which parts of solar time roof contain solar receptors and which don’t from overhead, a helicopter view.

        Watch when Elon briefly holds a solar “slate” tile face to the camera early in the video. And then look at the installed roofs from ground level.

        Expect wind turbines to not be welcomed inside densely populated areas. We have no need to put them there. We’ve got over 3,000,000 km3 of usable areas outside of cities/communities where capacity factors will exceed 50% (up to 65%) with 140 meter hub heights.

        The US ‘countryside’ is starting to love wind. Wind brings jobs and money into areas which have been on the downcline as farming became more mechanized and the best jobs moved to the coasts. Small towns are coming back from the walking dead as farmers/ranchers have more money to spend and tax revenues pour into county and municipal coffers.

        Then there’s offshore. We can install far enough off the beach so that one has to look carefully to see turbines or can’t see them at all. Heavily populated coastal areas – just go offshore. The wind is better out there anyway.

      • Sorry, many people oppose solar on principle, and use the aesthetics argument as a fig leaf.

        Also, some of the best wind on the east coast is near the shore, and these, fortunately, are close to where power is needed. They are also reasonably densely built, although not as much as in urban areas.

        Also, you are forgetting the transmission losses, and habitat impacts of bringing zero Carbon power long distances, whether from wind turbines located in remote areas, or offshore, or hydropower. These can be significant, and, in the case of hydropower, can result in their own incremental Carbon emissions.

        And you are forgetting the most important part of this: Bringing control of energy generation to local areas. This is the key part of reforming “the grid”: Making the authority and responsibility for generation be a local matter. Without this transformation, the resulting grid will in fact be more fragile than it needs to be, and that will bolster arguments for the need for continuing traditional “base load” electrical generation.

        But it does not matter. In the long run, homes and locales and towns and states which use zero Carbon energy, and efficiency measures like demand response, for most of their generation will have cheaper energy, and so costs of living and business will be lower. And states which punish zero Carbon development will simply encourage movements away from the grid, starving it of customers, revenue, and relevance.

        My point was that things are not as rosy as you think, and people often answer hypothetical questions on surveys differently than when they have money at stake.

      • Robert Wallace

        “Sorry, many people oppose solar on principle,” As our president would say “Some people say…”.

        Of course you can find people who oppose solar on principle, but they are a minority.

        Gallup poll March 8 – 15, 2015
        % More Emphasis % Same Emphasis % Less Emphasis
        Solar power 79 12 9

        GALLUP Poll 2015 vs. 2013
        % MORE EMP 2013 % MORE EMP 2015 DIFFERENCE
        Solar power 76 79 +3

        GALLUP Poll March 5-8, 2015
        % REPUBLICANS % INDEPENDENTS % DEMOCRATS
        Solar power 70 83 82

        Nine percent want less emphasis on solar.

        The aesthetic excuse should become unusable with Tesla’s solar tiles. (Do look at the video.)

        The best NE wind is well offshore, not near the beach….

        https://goo.gl/hQOF3y

        Transmission losses are minimal. It’s really a matter of correctly sizing the line and using the appropriate voltage.

        Birds do run into transmission lines and towers. That’s a current problem which we might be able to reduce. I don’t think fish will be bumping into cables buried under the seafloor.

        Hydropower emits carbon?

        “And you are forgetting the most important part of this: Bringing control of energy generation to local areas. This is the key part of reforming “the grid”: Making the authority and responsibility for generation be a local matter”

        I don’t think you’ve thought this through. Yes, if the electricity can be generated close to the point of use that means less transmission cost and loss. And if we distribute storage around the grid then we can lower the size of our feed in lines and decrease outage times. But what makes renewables the cheapest is to use a wide capture area. Few small areas have a good mix of wind, solar and hydro. With only one or two they have to overbuild (and curtail), add more storage, or add dispatchable generation. Connect wind farms over a moderate range and their combined output becomes much more stable than any of the single farms on its own.

        (We’re already move a lot of electricity around the country. Hydro from the Pacific Northwest to SoCal, Canadian hydro down into the US NE.)

      • Bird kill from modern turbines is negligible. As I’ve noted at this blog before, many many more birds per day are killed in strikes against glass-sided tall office buildings in cities, and from wandering cats.

        As far as wind placement goes, while 90m wind is higher offshore, the unsubsidized levelized cost of energy (Lazard, version 10.0) for offshore wind is $118/kWh and for land-based wind is $32/kWh-$62/kWh, which, according to NREL maps, while not as good is still great. Y’need a lot of improvement offshore to make up for a factor of 2x-5x.

        The Carbon emissions from new hydropower comes from (a) flooding previously unflooded forest and landscape, and long term methane releases from decomposition, and (b) from the huge amounts of concrete needed to construct the dams. (Latter also affects nuclear power, and it is an interesting calculation to reckon how long a nuclear plant needs to operate until it offsets the CO2 emissions from the concrete used to construct it.)

        Curtailment is becoming less and less of a problem with creative ways of dealing with negative cost energy as Eli has recently sketched. In fact, setting aside batteries, many people (including our home) have a ready-made way of storing excess solar generation: Well-insulated air source heat pumps for hot water heating, which can be shifted in time to coincide with periods of maximum solar generation. In fact, our household’s increased appetite for electrical energy (with new semi-EV, a Chevy Volt) and the hot water heater, makes us interested in adding another 3 kW to our array. We’d think about more, but Westwood bylaws — recently passed — limit us to 15 kW without all of our neighbors approving. So much for support of zero Carbon energy!

      • Robert Wallace

        ” the unsubsidized levelized cost of energy (Lazard, version 10.0) for offshore wind is $118/kWh and for land-based wind is $32/kWh-$62/kWh”

        Lazard’s LCOEs are based on the state of things in the US. The US is just now starting to install offshore wind and our prices are lagging far behind what we’re seeing in Europe. Bids for offshore wind starting production in 2024 in Europe are around $60/MWn. (Your kWh should be MWh.)

        I think we saw some US onshore break under $30/MWh, $0.03/kWh in 2016. We should know in a couple of months when the DOE releases their report of 2016 wind prices.

        Sorry, I knew about methane problems with hydro and, obviously, about concrete and CO2 and just spaced on it.

        There’s also a methane problem in some Brazilian hydro reservoirs. The water level is comparatively very shallow and the area flooded extensive. When the water level drop vegetation grows and then during the rainy season that new growth is submerged, creating a yearly methane production.

        You’re correct. Bird kills by wind turbines is so low that to a large extent it can be ignored. Some studies have found less than one bird kill per turbine per year. There are a couple of problematic wind farms that were badly sited and remediation work is needed.

        Our first US wind farm, Altamont Pass, was a real bird killer. It used a lot of low to the ground rotors which were small and spun rapidly (hard to see motion blurs). And they used grid towers on which raptors would perch while looking for prey on the ground. When a ground squirrel was spotted the raptor would frequently launch itself toward the prey and into the spinning blades.

        Almost all those turbines have now been swapped out for turbines with much higher hub heights, much slower rotating blades, and tube towers.

      • @Robert,

        Thanks for the update on wind prices and Lazard’s U.S. bias. Do you know if the European Commission’s numbers are good or not? I also found this source, which suggests something in the Lazard LCOE range, And, from here:

        Wind energy is the most cost competitive renewable energy source. Onshore wind energy in particular is cheaper than any other renewable energy and it is competitive with conventional power generation sources such as coal and gas.

        According to the European Commission, the levelised cost of electricity (LCOE) of onshore wind ranges from €52 to €110/MWh.

        When taking into consideration pollution costs and subsidies, which are not included in LCOE estimations, onshore wind is the cheapest generation source in Europe.

        Offshore wind is on a steady cost reduction pathway with expected costs of €100/MWh by 2020 and €85 to €79/MWh by 2025 depending on projects pipeline.

        It’s interesting that their coal cost is so cheap, at least on the low end. Lazard claims coal is significantly more expensive than the cheapest competitor in the USA, which is land-based wind.

        Thanks for the correction of kWh –> mWh, by the way!

      • Robert Wallace

        Doc – interesting development. There’s a recently formed caucus in the US Congress, the “Climate Solutions Caucus, a place where those concerned about climate change can meet to exchange ideas about how the federal government should respond to environmental challenges.

        …half of the Climate Solutions Caucus members are Republicans. How can that be? “If you want to join as a Democrat, you have to bring along a Republican,” says co-chair Ted Deutch, a Democrat from Florida, as reported by The Guardian. “It’s a Noah’s Ark sort of approach, which is appropriate given the subject matter. We don’t argue about the science. It’s all very respectful.”

        The other co-chair is Florida Republican Carlos Curbelo, whose district includes the Florida Keys, an area that will be heavily affected by rising sea levels. “There are a lot of Republicans who understand this is a real challenge, and the caucus is giving them a place where they can explore ideas,” Curbelo says. “It was assumed that Republicans would take a position of denial, but that’s not the case. One of our main goals is to depoliticize environmental policy in the US.”

        https://cleantechnica.com/2017/05/07/climate-solutions-caucus-brings-republicans-democrats-together-climate-change/

        Currently 38 members. 14 Republicans. That’s not a lot but it shows that the denier-dam is starting to break. We’ve known for a while that there were a decent number of Republicans in Congress who understand that climate change is real but feared being voted out of office were they to state that publicly. Now some are finding it more acceptable to their constituents and they are willing to go public.

      • I do, too. And yet, it’s also true that polled US support for ‘generic’ climate action has run in the area of 60% upwards for quite a few years now, and true that the number has been trending upward. The rub with that appeared to me to be that way too few of those folks would actually vote their opinion. That may have shifted a bit with Trump, though; I think that his retrograde motion, as opposed to the previous (and anticipated) ‘ahead slow’, may have had the effect of making folks feel more urgent.

        Certainly the feel on the ground at last Saturday’s Climate March was pretty intense, and the numbers involved were very large–100,000+ in DC alone. Press coverage didn’t capture any of that–not even the numbers, which were generally specified as ‘tens of thousands’, which is technically accurate but much more tepid-sounding. I don’t think that the downplaying was coincidental, for what that’s worth. But the event did make me feel that ‘something is happening here’, even if ‘Mr. Jones’ is determined, for now at least, not to pay too much attention.

      • Robert Wallace

        ” Press coverage didn’t capture any of that–not even the numbers, which were generally specified as ‘tens of thousands’, which is technically accurate but much more tepid-sounding. I don’t think that the downplaying was coincidental, for what that’s worth.”

        Some years back we saw non-media corporations take over many/most of our TV stations, where most of us get our news. Large corporations are going to install executives that don’t do stuff to hurt business, it’s not in their best interest.

        But corporations don’t control the internet. Try reaching other through comments. I have signed up to about half a dozen newspaper websites in red, red areas and glance at their main stories every day. If I see something about energy I look to see if there are facts and ideas that I can add to the comment section. Wyoming coal crying session articles get a simple statement from me that Wyoming has excellent wind resources and the Pacific Coast wants more clean energy. Money can be made. The transmission lines are mostly in place already.

        We’re not going to get as far preaching to the choir as we would get if we did some missionary work.

      • Thanks for your efforts onlin education, Robert. I’ve long done some of that, too.

        Another related thing is online media, notably Democracy Now. They did 5 hours of live coverage on the climate march, and notably their marquee reporter, Amy Goodman, was the one North Dakota tried to charge for covering oppositon to DAPL–quite likely because she and DN were helping drive the mainstream media to cover it a bit better.

  25. Right on, Professor Rahmstorf!

  26. RS: the Democratic Representiive running the place has been waging an open War on Republican Scientists

    BPL: There are Republican scientists???

  27. Robert Wallace

    “The rub with that appeared to me to be that way too few of those folks would actually vote their opinion. ”

    It appears that humans have evolved to where they pay more attention to immediate dangers (tiger outside the cave door) than long term dangers (killing off all the game in the area over the next few years and having to move).

    People are likely to vote their current economic situation, for social changes which might improve their lives, etc. Climate change may be very important to them but paying bills is put first.

    As much as possible we should support politicians who care about the environment and climate but I don’t think we’ll elect anyone on those issues alone.

    Both wind and solar are very strongly supported.

    http://www.pewinternet.org/2016/10/04/public-opinion-on-renewables-and-other-energy-sources/

    What should help is getting that message over to elected officials. Republicans in several red states can no longer oppose wind without getting hurt. The same will be happening with solar. We should expend more energy reminding our senators and representatives that over 80% of voters support wind and solar.

    • “As much as possible we should support politicians who care about the environment and climate but I don’t think we’ll elect anyone on those issues alone.”

      Yes, probably. But that’s where ‘intersectionality’ comes in. There is a sizable coalition of folks who oppose the current federal regime on multiple grounds, including, but not limited to, climate change. Plug in to as many of such issues as you honestly can, and take advantage of the fact that the GOP has conveniently bundled so many odious positions for us. ( Sorry Republican readers–but you seriously need to take back your party from the loonies.)

      • Robert Wallace

        Mr. Metric, or may I call you Hyper?

        I had not seen the EU site you linked previously so I don’t know how accurate it may be. I do make use of the EU’s Eurostat database for things like electricity prices and I’ve seen no one suggest that they are problematic. I’d tend to trust the EU’s data overall until challenged.

        I pay less attention to average prices when it comes to wind, solar and storage. I’m interested in the lowest few prices because this, I think, is tell us where the industries will be very soon. Prices are falling very rapidly and if someone can bring, for example, solar to market for $0.04/kWh then I expect others soon will be (in the same insolation levels). Averages are usually reported for a year or two earlier and with the rapid chances we’re experiencing that data is generally out of date.

        I’ve just been in a discussion with a German who follows renewable developments there. Let me copy over his comment for you…

        “I look at prices bidders offer in response to tenders. So e.g.:
        – Offshore wind operational in 2021; av price ~5cnt/KWh (5 – 7 cnt in first 15yrs, 3cnt whole sale in second 15yrs).

        Operational in 2024: Whole sale prices only. Though only two bids now at a windy German part of the N.Sea; EnBW (~900MW) and Dong (~500MW).)

        It indicates that we can expect further price decreases towards prices of ~2cnt/KWh, already reached at the great plains of USA.”

        Euro cents so perhaps 10% higher in US. 2021 offshore for ~ 6 cents. 2024 for wholesale which appears to be about 3 cents.

        I’d say that your quoted price predictions (€85 to €79/MWh by 2025) for offshore is way too high. Major energy companies ( EnBW and DONG) are saying €30 by 2025.

        Coal is already losing money in Germany. It has been losing money. Coal can’t survive if the price of wind and solar keep falling. Cheaper storage will definitely do it in.

        BTW, some people in the industry are saying that PV solar will end up cheaper than onshore wind. We could be looking at very inexpensive electricity by 2025 to 2030. That, to me, along with EVs becoming cheaper to manufacture than same-feature EVs is how we save our bacon. Make it a big money saver to give up fossil fuels.

      • Good news, and thanks for the details.

        I also think PV solar will end up being cheaper than onshore wind. It certainly is easier to site, simply because of its physical scale.

        What I don’t know if anyone has figured out, or can figure out, is the mutually supportive dance PV and storage (of all technologies, including household hot water) and massive adoption of EVs will take us.

        You can call me anything you like. Doesn’t matter. I hope the observations and arguments have substance, and those should be as independent of who I am as possible.

      • Robert Wallace

        Tesla released some cost numbers for their solar roof tiles today. Price per square foot, installed…

        Asphalt/composition $6
        Tesla Tile $11
        Clay Tile $13
        Metal $14
        Slate $16

        (I’m reading the numbers off a bar graph so there could be rounding errors.)

        But. But when you count the electricity produced over 30 years the cost of a Tesla tile roof drops to -$2/square foot. The roof more than pays for itself.

        There’s likely variance from region to region, especially in electricity prices so these numbers are not universal.

        Seems to me that it would make no sense to use anything else. The glass tiles should last for more than 100 years. They are stronger than clay tile, slate and ceramic tile. The solar parts will likely lose about 0.5% output per year. 85% of original output at age 30, 75% at age 50, 50% at age 100.

        Here’s a short video that will give some idea what a finished roof might look like (there will be four different styles/looks). And a demonstration of the tile’s toughness.

        If this holds we should expect most of the roofs in the world to end up being mini-solar farms. Only if you would otherwise install an asphalt roof would there be any additional cost in building your house. And, of course, you should get that money back along with the full price of the roof.

      • Robert Wallace

        “What I don’t know if anyone has figured out, or can figure out, is the mutually supportive dance PV and storage (of all technologies, including household hot water) and massive adoption of EVs will take us.”

        There are multiple studies that have worked out 100% renewable solutions, but what will happen is that various solutions will evolve.

        At this point we are fairly sure that both wind and solar will become very inexpensive (possibly under $0.02/kWh. We don’t know how cheap storage will become.

        Only recently have we started investing large amount of money and effort in improving storage. Before most research was going into how to make better cell phone and laptop batteries. Grid storage will likely use a different solution. Stationary (grid) storage cares less about weight and volume. The emphasis will be primarily on cost where cellphones and EVs will pay more for dense, lightweight storage.

        If wind and solar become really cheap but storage remains a little expensive then the solution will be to overbuild wind and solar and simply throw away (curtail) potential electricity at times. If storage becomes cheap the we’ll build less generation and use most of what we make.

        If you want to see what the mix of renewables might be for each of the US states and most other countries take a look at what Mark Jacobson and his group have done with The Solutions Project.

        http://thesolutionsproject.org/why-clean-energy/

        Hover over maps for the US and for the globe. Linger and see what looks to be the optimal mix at this point in time.

        (Thanks, Tamino, for letting me get so far off topic. Just feels like people very concerned about climate change might want to learn some stuff about our most promising ways to limit the damage.)

      • very familiar with Jacobson’s work, although it’s a hard sell to and for some. Alsp Prof Tony Seba’s work which, statistically, is based on sound business forecasting, but I find engineers and scientosts find those kinds of arguments flimsy.

      • There is some small hope where we see some Republicans allying with solar and wind supporters to end various legal mechanisms by which some power companies have limited renewable sources in favor of their own fossil fuel business models.

  28. Two interesting items to note.

    First, came across an old article by Wald in the Periodical Which Shall Not Be Named, which suggests wind power is limited, more than other renewable sources, by limitations on transmission. Original discussion came from CleanTechnica.

    Second, my employer, Akamai Technologies, today announced signing a 20-year with a wind farm in Texas (onshore!) to provide 7% of the electrical energy they need for data centers. More to come! See the links on sustainability plans.

    • Robert Wallace

      ” wind power is limited, more than other renewable sources, by limitations on transmission. ”

      That may be true. If you’ve ever spent time in the places in the US where the best wind resources are found you’ll know that there are not a lot of people. It’s no fun living in places where the wind blows like stink much of the time.

      I spend a little time wandering around the Front Range area in Colorado looking at turbines (seeing how much noise they made). What I noticed was that the few houses in the area are largely tucked back in little spots below hills on the downwind side. No one build out in the open, only where their house was somewhat shielded.

      That low population density tells us that there is not much existing transmission. There’s no need.

      If you’ve been to one of the big US hydro sites you’ll see that large transmission lines were built to the higher populated centers where the power was needed. Building transmission for wind is simply part of the package.

      The EIA states that transmission costs for wind will average $0.03/kWh. And transmission costs for nuclear will average $0.01/kWh.

      2 + 3 = 5
      13 + 1 = 14