Climate News Roundup 8/21/2015

  • Ivy Main had a post about the EPA’s Clean Power Plan for Virginia. She calls it a “powderpuff.”
  • A study from DOE’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has found that the price of installed photo-voltaic panels fell for the fifth consecutive year.
  • You are aware of the seriousness of climate change or you wouldn’t be reading this email. Have you ever wondered why society seems unable to do anything about the problem? Perhaps the findings of psychologists can supply the answer.
  • Eric Holthaus has a very interesting essay in Rolling Stone summarizing the extreme responses of the climate system that have been observed just this year. While it may be a bit scary to read, it contains things that we should all be aware of.
  • July 2015 was the Earth’s hottest month on record. The current El Niño is expected to intensify in the latter half of the year. This, in combination with the Pacific Decadal Oscillation moving into a positive phase, is expected to make 2015 significantly hotter than 2014. Joe Romm summarizes the evidence for these events and discusses their implications for the climate.
  • Most studies on climate change focus on the physical and biological consequences, but research by Geoffrey Heal and Jisung Park focused on the economic impacts, which can be significant. Unfortunately, not enough attention is being paid to how rising temperatures will impact worker productivity.
  • This week the U.S. EPA released new proposed regulations for methane leaks from the natural gas supply system. There has been much attention given to this in the media, but in case you missed it you can learn more here. What you may not have heard is that a new study has found that leaks from natural gas gathering facilities are much worse than had been thought, being about eight times greater than EPA estimates. In addition, Joe Romm takes everyone to task, including the EPA, for low-balling the global warming potential of methane in the press releases and news articles.
  • The wildfire situation in the western U.S. is dire, with five states battling 10 or more fires each. As a consequence the U.S. is at a Wildfire Preparedness Level 5, the highest, and has been since Aug. 13.
  • International organizations have been overestimating the CO2 emissions from China’s coal-fired power plants by around 14%.
  • Greenland’s Jakobshavn glacier just calved a huge area of ice, around 5 sq. miles, from its face, causing its calving line to retreat markedly. This has several implications for the future, which are discussed in the article.
  • Global investment bank Citigroup joins the chorus of studies showing that acting on climate change by investing in renewable energy results in significant savings; in this case, $1.8 trillion by 2040. In addition, the study finds that electricity from solar PV panels will be competitive with electricity from conventional fossil fuels by 2030 so there is a strong economic incentive for their installation.
  • Writing in The Atlantic, John Light asks “What will it take to get climate change on the Republican agenda?”
  • You are probably aware of Bill McKibben’s article on the “Terrifying New Math” in the July 19, 2012 issue of Rolling Stone that launched the fossil fuel divestment movement. What you may be less aware of is the work of Carbon Tracker Initiative (CTI), which provided the data for McKibben’s article. Ed King has an interesting essay at RTCC that provides the story of CTI and the response of the financial industry to their report on the need to keep fossil fuels in the ground.
  • As we contemplate the consequences of a warming world, one concern with severe economic consequences is the rate and magnitude of sea level rise. Melting of ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica is an important contributor to sea level rise. Unfortunately, our knowledge about ice sheet collapse is still too limited for accurate projections, although new research is increasing our understanding. Chris Mooney at the Washington Post summarizes recent research on this important topic.
  • In an effort to help us get to know the people who are working for global change on the climate issue, Elizabeth Kolbert has profiled Christiana Figueres, who heads the Secretariat of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the organization convening the Paris Conference in December.
These news items have been compiled by Les Grady, member and former chair of the CAAV steering committee. He is a licensed professional engineer (retired) who taught environmental engineering at Purdue and Clemson Universities and engaged in private practice with CH2M Hill, the world’s largest environmental engineering consulting firm. Since his retirement in 2003 he has devoted much of his time to the study of climate science and the question of global warming and makes himself available to speak to groups about this subject. More here.
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