Global Warming for Dummies — Climate Change for Dummies

Burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas for our energy has increased levels of heat-absorbing gases, especially carbon dioxide, in the atmosphere. So, our planet has warmed over one degree Fahrenheit, and will continue to heat further and faster, as more of these gases build up.* Most climate scientists, including the National Academy of Sciences, agree this is what’s happening, and that something must be done soon to stop the heating, before climate change starts accelerating.

The heat doesn’t sound like much, but a little goes a long way towards changing climate. Scientists predict that our planet could heat up another 6 to 11 degrees by the end of this century, roughly the same DIFFERENCE in temperature that separates our climate from the last ice age, when 300-foot thick ice sheets covered the northern US.

Think of Earth as a big ball, covered with water and air. The sun heats up the water and air, and some heat becomes motion, moving the mix around the ball, just like heating moves water in a pot. The long-term patterns of this heat and these movements are our climate, changing slowly enough over the eons so that most life can adapt to it. But add to this water-air mixture a sudden jolt of heat,* and the planetary water cycle speeds up, something scientists are seeing now. This results in bigger and stronger storms and floods. The extra heat also creates more extreme heat waves, droughts, and melts ice globally, which raises sea levels.  All this is threatening our sources of food, water and shelter, the basics of our survival.

The good news is that we can stop too much harmful climate change if we act fast. We just have to stop emitting global warming gases. We can do this mostly by: a. using energy more efficiently; b. switching from fossil fuels to clean renewable energy — like solar, wind, and geothermal energy; and c. stopping deforestation. We’ve got the technology to do all this, and doing so would create more jobs and improve our economy, as other countries have already shown. So would another important solution: bringing our populations to sustainable levels.

Changing energy sources won’t be easy or cheap politically. But it’s cheaper economically than what we’re doing now. We’ve spent trillions defending foreign oil sources. Furthermore, fossil fuel pollution and mining inflicts heavy damage on human health and our environment.  So, even if climate change wasn’t happening, it pays for us to switch to clean renewable energy anyway.

How do we solve this?  MOVE THE MONEY. Our government must stop supporting fossil fuels and tax breaks for the rich, and start creating tax breaks for clean energy and energy efficiency in the marketplace.  But fossil fuel lobbyists are strong and influential.  So, it’s up to you, the voters, to elect strong leaders who are going to pull the plug on fossil fuels, and promote clean renewable energy and efficiency, as fast as possible.

It’s all about our economy, our future.   

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You can help the planet by making this go viral — please spread it far and wide!

Another way to help? I  started a Clean Energy Voting pledge online, to let Congress know many voters are monitoring their action on climate change. When we can show Congress that a large voting bloc consider this an important voting issue, Congress will act seriously on it. You can pledge here:
http://signon.org/sign/we-are-the-clean-99?source=c.em.cp&r_by=487176
Please help make THIS go viral, too — spread it far and wide! Thanks!

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*SOME BASIC SCIENCE:

for a summary of the science behind climate change that uses the simple analogy of boiling water, see my posting: Climate Change for Dummies: Go Boil Water at the HuffingtonPost

Why do some gases absorb more heat than others?

 All gases can absorb heat, but some absorb more than others. Why? Different gases are made up of molecules of varying complexity. Since the building blocks of molecules are atoms, the more atoms in the molecule, the more complex it is.  More complex molecules can hold, or absorb, more heat than simpler ones, just like larger houses can hold more heat than smaller ones.  So, the more heat-absorbing gases in the atmosphere are ones that have more than 2 atoms (#)  in them – carbon dioxide (3), water vapor (3), methane (4), nitrous oxide (3), and so on. Lucky for life on Earth, there are relatively small amounts of these more complex molecules in the atmosphere.

Large amounts of simpler molecules make up the bulk of our atmosphere:

Nitrogen (2) makes up about 78 percent,

Oxygen (2) makes up about 21 percent

Yeah, that’s right!!  All those bothersome, heat-absorbing, so-called greenhouse gases that are creating climate change make up only about 1 percent of our atmosphere, but boy are they potent, especially in terms of the climate change they can affect when their levels are changed!

Physical and Ecological Feedbacks Mostly Speed Up Global Warming

Relatively little global warming is caused directly from the heat trapped by the gases emitted from burning fossil fuels — it is what comes next that really creates an ultimately unsafe situation. The initial warming creates physical and ecological effects that usually, in turn, speed up global warming and reinforce themselves. These reinforcing processes are known as positive (as in reinforcing) feedbacks. Remember, all an effect needs to do is to cause a further increase in heat absorption or in atmospheric greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane, which, in turn, reinforce that effect, for it to be a positive feedback.

Physical effects include decreasing the ability of the planet’s surface to reflect light and heat. When the warming causes ice to melt, for example, the light surface of ice is replaced by the much darker surface of water and soil, decreasing its reflective ability, or albedo. This new surface will absorb more heat, causing adjacent areas to melt faster. And so, the albedo effect reinforces itself as it adds to global warming by absorbing more heat.

Warming in the Arctic melts frozen methane deposits in the soils, lake beds, and sea beds. Once melted, the methane rises into the atmosphere, significantly adding to the global warming effect that will help melt more methane deposits. There is a huge amount of methane stored in these Arctic deposits.

Ecological feedback effects occur because many ecosystems store carbon, keeping it from becoming greenhouse gases. Huge amounts of carbon are stored soil and in forest trees, for example. As soils warm, soil microbes start releasing the carbon as carbon dioxide. Global warming also results in warmer drier seasons and more extreme droughts. These create longer fire seasons, increasing the frequency and size of wildfires, which release large amounts of carbon in the form of carbon dioxide.

These are just some examples of physical and ecological feedbacks, the overwhelming majority of which are positive feedbacks that result in further warming of the planet and further climate change. There are plenty more.

About that “Sudden” Jolt of Heat

 “Sudden” is a relative term in time, of course.  What’s sudden for the planet can be nonexistent for us, who usually live less than a century.  The planet as a whole usually changes so slowly that to see its changes, we have to look at the history of how it changes geologically (like how mountain ranges form or continents drift) over millions of years, or how it evolves biologically over the same time scale.   Most atmospheric changes on the planet have happened slowly, over thousands of years.  The rate at which we are changing the atmosphere is SO fast on that timescale, however, that it constitutes a veritable explosion. So, jolt is actually a pretty conservative term.

Although the total average increase in temperature is small so far, this constant infusion of extra heat represents an energy inbalance in our planetary system, points out NASA climate scientist Pushker Kharecha.  “No question about it, it’s a lot of energy,” says senior climate scientist Warren Washingtion at the National Center on Atmospheric Research.  Just how much?  250-500 million Megawatts of energy. It’s like having up to half a million EXTRA, large coal burning plants on Earth. Yeah, a half million….

Sources:

1. Cool The Earth, Save the Economy: Solving Climate Change Is EASY , a free, downloadable book available at: www.CoolTheEarth.US . Readable, and comprehensive, with lots more information and detail, accrued from hundreds of reports, peer-reviewed scientific studies, and informative articles, listed in the Bibliography. Published in 2008 by an award-winning environmental scientist and a biologist (that’s me), online only. Although the sections on technological advances are already outdated, the relevancy of the bulk of it is pretty much unchanged. Am still trying to work on an updated edition.

2.  250-500 Million MW of Extra Energy Now Roiling the Earth’s Climate System

Posted: 29 Jul 2011 09:30 AM PDT.  As extreme weather events multiply, scientists are still in the early stages of understanding how more energy is influencing complex weather phenomena.  By Lisa Song, SolveClimate News

3. Wikipedia, Composition of the Atmosphere:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atmosphere_of_Earth

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Welcome to the Climate Change Reports Blog

Welcome to my blog.  Here you’ll find the Climate Change Reports — newscasts  being uploaded every weekday for those of you who want to keep updated with developments, both good and bad, related to climate change and global warming.  The reports are basically compressed newscasts about events, studies, reports, and more that are being churned out around the planet about the consequences of and solutions to global warming EVERY DAY, but rarely see the light of day, especially in US broadcast media. If you want to listen to most of them, go to http://cooltheearth.us/climate-report.php which features downloadable podcasts, suitable for rebroadcast on radio. While you’re at that website, check out the free, downloadable book co-authored by an internationally recognized climate change scientist and ecologist, John Harte, and myself, Mel (Mary Ellen) Harte.

Why don’t more people in the US recognize that global warming exists and is creating harmful climate change?  I don’t buy the argument  that it is “because people tune out news they don’t want to hear.”  Nah. US voters are hearing bad news every day — about jobs, the economy and more — and not tuning out, as the Occupy movement shows.

Rather, I think the lack of recognition of global warming is because mainstream US media rarely mention it or connect it to the every day news events that affect our lives — such as the weather and its consequences, or the latest advances happening in clean renewable energy. Did you know, for example, that the first big heatwave in Russia in 2010 was actually part of a giant continental heatwave that extended across Eurasia, from Europe to Japan?  And which of these facts are you more aware of — the failure of a solar company, Solyndra, or that the solar industry is the fastest growing industry in the US today? And when was the last time you heard a TV meteorologist mention global warming in the context of the record-breaking heatwaves, droughts and floods we’ve been having?

Let’s look at a more explicit recent example.  Despite all the coverage of Hurricane Irene, the media, for the most part, once again managed not to say the words “climate change” or “global warming”.  Apparently, these words are the Potterian “Voldemort” of the daily news media when extreme weather is reported. Media hawks are noticing, as the slate of extreme weather events continues to pile up, and the words are rarely spoken.[1]  Amy Goodman herself noted as much on Democracy Now as she introduced Bill McKibben,[2] who advocates averting climate change.

This surreality reminds me of a Jon Stewart segment in which Samantha Bee tried, without saying the word herself, to get Republicans to utter “choice” at a convention a while back.  Similarly, my husband and I play a spectator form of this game with one of the most liberal mainstream broadcast media, National Public Radio. (There is no sport in even attempting this with the lalaland of Fox et al.) In fact,  we think a record of sorts occurred as we listened one warm morning in July 2011 to a slate of NPR headline topics. It started with the huge wildfires burning in the west, then smoothly segued into US heat waves, and finally discussed the plight of polar bears watching their habitat literally melt away. All of these events are intimately tied to climate change, as our free online book explains.[1] Each time, we slyly speculated if we would hear the forbidden words – would we? would we? — but they remained forbidden, even with polar bears. We laughed through tears of hilarious sadness.

How are we going to vote for leaders who will act on slowing global warming, if we aren’t being reminded every day how global warming is intimately tied to our economy and jobs, our health, and our future?  Just remember, folks, that if we don’t roll on this soon, all those other important voter issues will go out the window as things turn catastrophic. It already has been for farmers (and food prices) affected by drought, and people affected by extreme weather, such as heatwaves, floods and hurricanes.

So, I’m hoping US media coverage will improve, but in the meantime, welcome to my blog.  My reports come from items I find, sifting through feeds from:   The Daily Climate,   World Environment News (Reuters),    Inside Climate News,    GreenTech Media,    EnvironmentalResearchNews,  and RSOE EDIS – Climate Change News, among others. And they represent just my personal highlights. I welcome yours.

Mel (Mary Ellen) Harte

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Keeping Carbon Stored in Forests: Madagascar, Congo, and More!

KEEPING CARBON STORED: FOREST UPDATES

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One of the colorful inhabitants of the Amazon rainforest, the scarlet macaw. Credit Rhett Butler, mongabay.com

OO Scale Of Amazon Rainforest Carbon Loss Is More than thought due to small scale deforestation: wildfires, pasture intrusion, and selective logging, besides large scale deforestation.

OO Only 15 % Of World’s Biodiversity Hotspots Left Intact – much of the losses were once carbon-storing forests.

OO Forests As Important As Farming For Some Rural Communities

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When the magnificent biodiversity of a carbon-storing rainforest is destroyed for growing oil palms, which produce an unhealthy cooking oil, the climate future of our children suffers. Wikimedia Commons.

OO New Palm Oil Sustainability Manifesto Still Has Deforestation Loopholes say environmentalists.

OO Downturn In Shade-Grown Coffee Putting Forests, Wildlife, People At Risk

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The giraffe beetle is unique to Madagascar. Wikipedia.

OO Madagascar Forest Conservation: Rewards For Reforestation

OO Congo: Deforestation Escalates Despite Resource Shortages, Protests, Rape, Homicide

OO Big Asian Paper Conglomerate Won’t Include Companies That Continue To Destroy Forests

YOU CAN ACT

Ask Congress To Turn Heat Into Clean Energy here.

Join the People’s Climate March Sept 21: more information here.

Join the swelling numbers of voters TELLING Congress they’ll vote for Clean Energy candidates here. This is an ongoing campaign (the next Congressional election is this year!) so please, spread the word. It’s our way of telling Congress that a strong clean energy voting bloc is out there. This is how YOU can make a difference.

For more on Climate Change, check out my weekly column at the HuffingtonPost, Climate Change This Week

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WHAT DOESN’T WORK

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By exporting coal the US is enabling more global climate change.

OO Obama administration Tacitly Promoting US Coal Exports 

OO US Government Keeps Increasing Huge Fossil Fuel Subsidies 

OO America’s Oil Consumption Is Rising, Not Falling, Outpacing China’s 

OO Reaping What They Sow:
Texas, Leader In Greenhouse Gases, Stands Vulnerable To Their Effects 

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OO India: Underlying Optimism Is Biggest Driver Of Consumption Growth 

OO A Vision for A Sustainable India: Get Over the Growth Fetish notes an Indian columnist.

All nations on this planet have unsustainable numbers of humans; we ALL need to have families averaging fewer than 2 children to bring those numbers down humanely. In the past, the average consumption per person of developed countries was driving unsustainability, while the sheer numbers of people in developing countries was doing so elsewhere… now, as consumption rises in developing countries, unsustainability is accelerating.  ALL nations have to confront this with humane family planning policies.

Join the swelling numbers of voters TELLING Congress they’ll vote for Clean Energy candidates here. This is an ongoing campaign (the next Congressional election is this year!) so please, spread the word. It’s our way of telling Congress that a strong clean energy voting bloc is out there. This is how YOU can make a difference.

For more on Climate Change, check out my weekly column at the HuffingtonPost, Climate Change This Week

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Rising Climate Risks: Drying Forests Worsen Warming, and More!

RISING RISKS OF CLIMATE CHANGE

CC’s Ferocious Feedbacks:

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Climate-Linked Drought Cutting Forests’ Carbon-Storing Ability – Climate extremes are dramatically cutting the ability of trees to sequester carbon, threatening to convert some forests from carbon sinks into carbon sources, finds a study published this month in Environmental Research Letters, reports Mongabay.com. 

OO California Braces As Drought Sparks Early Fire Season

Biological Disruption:

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Tropical Fish Migrating To and Deforesting Temperate Oceans reportsJoanna Foster at Climate Progress. As grazing tropical fish migrate into the warming temperate zones, they are eating up temperate kelp forests, especially on the southern coast of Japan, where 40% of the kelp and algal beds have disappeared in the past 20 years.

The results are as dramatic as when terrestrial forests are clearcut. Similar undersea deforestation is occurring in the Mediterranean and off the west coast of Australia.

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The tiny Mediterraean hermit crab, Diogenes pugilator, is now turning up on northeast English beaches. Wikipedia.

Meanwhile, warming temperate waters are similarly allowing warmer water species to migrate into the northeast Atlantic, with equally dramatic results: the ratio of warmer water species are increasing, but overall biodiversity is dropping.

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The red necked phalarope, one of many Arctic birds disrupted by climate change.Credite Steve Kaufman/CORBIS

OO Arctic Warming Upsetting Birds’ Breeding Calendar, Study Warns

Spreading Disease:

OO Disease-bearing Ticks Appearing in Finland’s Arctic bringing encephalitis with them.

OO As Weather Gets Hotter, More People Come Forward With Kidney Stones finds a new study.

Extreme Weather:

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Natural Disasters Have Increased 500% Since 1970s says a new atlas of death and loss compiled by the United Nations, reports Suzanne Goldenberg at the UK Guardian. Disasters such as storms, floods and heatwaves have increased, which is predicted under continued global warming.

Although improved warning systems are preventing loss of life, the social-economic impacts are increasing, due to the increased frequency and intensity of disasters, and increased vulnerability of human societies.

OO Coastal Flooding Has Surged In US says a new analysis.

OO Anxiety Mounts As Unusual Weather Floods North America’s Farm Belt

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Wildfires are burning over an unprecedented area in the US west.

Credit John McColgan at Wikimedia Commons

OO Soaring Mercury And Growing Wildfires Heat Up The Pacific Northwest

OO Lake Mead, Largest US Reservoir, To Reach Record Low

OO Heat Waves Could Triple Premature Deaths In Britain By 2050

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By 2100, southern Australia could look like this. Oxfam at Wikimedia Commons.

OO Southern Australia Faces Water Crisis By 2100 Due To Climate Changewith Perth particularly threatened with a 40% drop in rainfall.

OO Nicaragua: El Niño Triggers Drought, Food Crisis – the 2014 El Niño ispredicted to create weather disruptions globally, and likely be worsened by climate change.

Food Impacts:

OO Plant Genes Change With CO2: Plants More Vulnerable to Heat, Less Nourishing

OO Enjoy Your Coffee – You May Soon Not Be Able To Afford It as the water used to produce it and foods as basic as bread and fruit, becomes increasingly scarce and expensive, say resource experts.

OO Livestock Methane Emissions Much Greater Than Thought along with their impact on global warming, says a new study.

Join the swelling numbers of voters TELLING Congress they’ll vote for Clean Energy candidates here. This is an ongoing campaign (the next Congressional election is this year!) so please, spread the word. It’s our way of telling Congress that a strong clean energy voting bloc is out there. This is how YOU can make a difference.

For more on Climate Change, check out my weekly column at the HuffingtonPost, Climate Change This Week

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What Works for Climate Action: Churches Divest, and More!

WHAT WORKS

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New UN Report Outlines ‘Pathways’ to Cut CO2 Emissions of Major Emitters reports Brian Kahn at Climate Central. Switching from fossil fuels to clean renewable energy and upping energy efficiency runs through all the various national plans, and assumes solar and wind power coupled with storage will be able to feed the grid even when production is low.

This global roadmap aims to keep warming below 2 degrees C (3.6 F) and points out that reducing emissions and economic growth can occur together.

While technologically feasible, the plan’s real hurdle is electing the political leadership needed to act on it. Think about it the next time you and your friends vote…. you do vote, don’t you?

Good Ideas:

OO China Makes New Electric Cars Tax-Free

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OO India: PM Modi Accelerates India Solar Revolution, Doubles Tax On Coal

OO Equity Firm Restores Louisiana Marshland, Earning Green Credits To Sell Even as Louisiana waits for restoration funding from BP and the federal government.

(>(>(> Speaking Out <)<)<)

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Group Representing Half A Billion Christians Divests from Fossil Fuelsreports Emily Atkin at Climate Progress, and urged its members to do the same. The World Council of Churches represents 345 churches, including the Church of England.

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The announcement was welcomed as a “major victory” by climate campaigners; studies indicate that this divestment campaign is progressing faster than previous divestment campaigns, including tobacco and apartheid. This follows other religious groups who are divesting from fossil fuels.

OO Parents Blast Climate Denial In Schools: ‘You Have To Teach Real Science’

OO Call Climate Change What It Is: Violence – social unrest and famine, superstorms and droughts. Places, species and human beings – none will be spared. Welcome to Occupy Earth.

OO Green Groups Protest Transatlantic Trade Deal – as bad for addressing climate change.

OO DC Protest Rally Calls for a Halt of Fracked Gas Exports

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OO Outrage Sparked As Lego Collaborates to Greenwash Shell Oil – which is planning to drill in the Arctic; Greenpeace is fighting back, with a satire of the recent Lego movie.

OO French Foreign Minister Launches Attack Against Fossil Fuels

OO Incoming EU President Juncker Says He Opposes Fracking

Good Incentives:

OO Singapore Outlines Plans To Fine Foreign Air Polluters

OO Finland: Making Car Ownership Pointless

Join the swelling numbers of voters TELLING Congress they’ll vote for Clean Energy candidates here. This is an ongoing campaign (the next Congressional election is this year!) so please, spread the word. It’s our way of telling Congress that a strong clean energy voting bloc is out there. This is how YOU can make a difference.

For more on Climate Change, check out my weekly column at the HuffingtonPost, Climate Change This Week

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Clean Energy Gets the Microgrid Lift, China Greening, and More!

GOOD CLEAN NEWS

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OO California Ready to Fund the Next Wave of Microgrids Paired With Renewables and Storage

OO As Extreme Weather Surges, Distributed Energy Takes On New Meaning for the US Grid

OO Investment In US Clean Energy Recovers from 2012 Slump

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OO Science Is Golden:
‘Cosmos’, ‘Years Of Living Dangerously’ Garner Multiple Emmy Nominations

OO Switzerland’s Biggest Insurer To Double Its Green Bonds Investments To $2 Billion

OO South Africa Preps Carbon Offset Program

OO Renewable Energy Provided 33% Of Germany’s Power In The First Half Of 2014

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China is moving forward on developing green energy.

OO China Could Reveal Carbon Cap By First Quarter Of 2015

OO China’s Latest Mandate: 30% of Govt Cars Must Be Electric or Use Alternative Fuel

OO China And US Sign Deals On Climate Change

Join the swelling numbers of voters TELLING Congress they’ll vote for Clean Energy candidates here. This is an ongoing campaign (the next Congressional election is this year!) so please, spread the word. It’s our way of telling Congress that a strong clean energy voting bloc is out there. This is how YOU can make a difference.

For more on Climate Change, check out my weekly column at the HuffingtonPost, Climate Change This Week

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Solar Power Keeps Seguing

SOLAR KEEPS SEGUING

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GTM’s Q2 market briefing is out, identifying current US trends in the residential solar market: residential installers are concentrating on expanding the market in 10 US states, especially California, Hawaii, Arizona and New Jersey. State incentives are becoming less important as installation costs fall. Direct ownership, rather than leasing, is becoming an increasingly attractive option.

Solar module prices recently reached yet another record low, making solar power ever more affordable. SunEdison stocks are near yearly highs, as the infusion of an activist board member in the past two years helped turn the company into one that is generating solar panels and projects around the world.

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The fast-growing US solar company Sungevity is now using instant quotes and views of how solar panels would look on your house to lure you into trying solar leasing – yet another way to smooth the way to a truly clean day in the USA! Meanwhile, US solar investment company Mosaic and Enphase are collaborating in an efforts to pushsolar loans instead of leases.

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Check it out here, right now!

In Iowa, a nationally-watched recent supreme court ruling in favor of a solar energy company could spur growth of the solar industry throughout the state – and create a positive precedent for solar power elsewhere in the US.

Led by Chile, South America is approaching a solar capacity of nearly 20 gigawatts, while in Europe, companies are partnering to provide solar leases to commercial customers.

Join the swelling numbers of voters TELLING Congress they’ll vote for Clean Energy candidates here. This is an ongoing campaign (the next Congressional election is this year!) so please, spread the word. It’s our way of telling Congress that a strong clean energy voting bloc is out there. This is how YOU can make a difference.

For more on Climate Change, check out my weekly column at the HuffingtonPost, Climate Change This Week

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Keeping Carbon Stored: Predicting Human Impacts, Deforestation, and More!

KEEPING CARBON STORED: FOREST UPDATE

OO Deforestation Rate in Indonesia Surpasses Brazil

OO Big Paper Company: Indonesia Needs A New Business Model to maintain its forests.

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As Siberian forests decline so do beautiful Siberian tigers. Photo by Appaloosa.

OO Japan’s Demand For Illegal Wood Driving Rampant Deforestation In Siberia

OO New Program Predicts When Forest Human Communities Impact Becomes Too Much

Join the swelling numbers of voters TELLING Congress they’ll vote for Clean Energy candidates here. This is an ongoing campaign (the next Congressional election is this year!) so please, spread the word. It’s our way of telling Congress that a strong clean energy voting bloc is out there. This is how YOU can make a difference.

For more on Climate Change, check out my weekly column at the HuffingtonPost, Climate Change This Week

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