Southern California environment news and trends

What's the German word for bankrupt? Blythe Solar Power Project's parent seeks protection

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Parabolic solar would have delivered solar power for the Blythe Power Project, until Solar Trust switched to PV panels. What happens now is anybody's guess.

While I've been off participating in the daily dispensation of justice under the law, a big solar project in Riverside County is hitting the skids. Solar Millennium is the German parent company behind Solar Trust, the Oakland-based company backing the Blythe Solar Power Project, and it's seeking Deutsche court protection for its debts.

Blythe's Solar Power Project won more than 2 million dollars in loan guarantees from the federal Department of Energy last year. Cue the turmoil: originally slated to use parabolic photovoltaic technology, plans shifted when project managers later ran the numbers and figured out that using solar photovoltaic panels penciled out better, largely because the price of PV had dropped precipitously. That forced the Solar Trust of America to gave up the loan guarantee


America’s coast threatened by rising sea levels

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Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

A new study by Climate Central finds that as much as 32 percent of America’s coastal regions could potentially be affected by rising sea levels caused by global warming over coming decades. As reported in the New York Times, up to 3.7 million Americans live within four feet of high tide, where the effects would be the most drastic.

"Sea level rise is not some distant problem that we can just let our children deal with. The risks are imminent and serious," said Ben Strauss, a member of Climate Central and primary author of two papers outlining the research to "Just a small amount of sea level rise, including what we may well see within the next 20 years, can turn yesterday’s manageable flood into tomorrow’s potential disaster."

While Florida is the most vulnerable state, California is among the top five alongside New York, New Jersey, and Louisiana. According to Strauss in the Chicago Tribune, Southern California is particularly susceptible as the area rarely sees storms that rise beyond three feet, and "they'll be seeing water to 4 feet regularly,” resulting in “coastal flooding like they've never seen before."


Pressure on Asia Pulp & Paper yielding corporate responsibility, new strategies on rainforest policy [UPDATED]

[author's note: see comments for an apparent dispute between Nat Geo & GP over what, if anything, they've discussed. Following...]

It's not spring yet, but corporate responsibility, and maybe some new savvy about rainforest politics, has been blooming all over.

National Geographic makes books in addition to magazines; they're the latest paper consumer to respond to a years-long joint campaign by several environmental groups to pressure retailers and other companies to end their paper-buying relationship with the Asia Pulp and Paper group of companies. [UPDATE: This may be wrong. See below for my explanation.] The World Wildlife Fund and Greenpeace have been increasing the profile of their separate-but-related pushes in the last six months or so. WWF released a report entitled Don't Flush Tiger Forests: Toilet Paper, U.S. Supermarkets and the Destruction of Indonesia’s Last Tiger Habitat.


With a GOP debate tonight, remember: scientists are Republicans, too. Even climate scientists.

In the last couple of days, political fires have been spreading across the climate policy landscape, with Peter Gleick and Heartland Institute atop headlines. I don't think this story from Inside Climate News is trying to put them out, exactly. But with a Republican debate tonight, author Katherine Bagley might be offering a roadmap back to substantive discussion. 

Bagley tells the stories of five scientists who identify as Republican who say, in varying ways, to varying degrees, that they've given up on talking to leaders within their political party about their science. 

Kerry Emmanuel, an atmospheric scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is one scientist who believes Republican values best align with his own. And not those of Lincoln, or Eisenhower; he's registered GOP right now: 


What does Peter Gleick's Heartland Institute admission do to his role in California's water politics?

World Economic Forum/Flickr

Oakland-based Pacific Institute water and climate analyst Peter Gleick speaks during the session 'The Politics of Water' at Davos, Switzerland, in 2009.

A northern California-based water expert and climate researcher has admitted his involvement in a political and legal imbroglio concerning leaked documents from the Heartland Institute, a Chicago-based nonprofit think tank that funds research as well as libertarian and conservative advocacy work.

A week ago, political strategy documents and donor lists from Heartland shed more light into the way that group challenges the vast majority of climate scientists whose research points to human involvement in a warming planet. One document lists past individual and corporate donors from whom Heartland apparently intends to extract more money this year and next. 

Oakland-based Peter Gleick, who works at the Pacific Institute, admitted on his HuffPo blog that he obtained these now-leaked documents by misrepresenting himself to Heartland. And today he apologized: