Climate News Roundup 9/25/2015

  • The big news this week was the visit of Pope Francis to the U.S. and his speeches before a joint session of Congress and the U.N. Since they have been covered so extensively in the mainstream media I am not providing links to them here. However, I thought there were two particularly good articles in The Washington Post. One, by Chelsea Harvey, enumerated five important things about climate change that the Pope understands. The other, by Chris Mooney, made the case for why we might gain a little cautious optimism from the Pope’s visit.
  • While most attention has been on the Pope’s visit, the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping has resulted in some significant commitments that will have a strong impact on their CO2 emissions. One of them is a nationwide cap and trade system on CO2 from several major sectors of their economy. The Spark, the newsletter of the Rocky Mountain Institute has links to a number of articles about the Chinese and U.S. commitments.
  • Last week I gave you links to the first two reports from Inside Climate News (ICN) about Exxon’s climate change research program in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Here is the third installment, plus an infographic that lays out the timeline. In addition, here is a response from Exxon/Mobil.
  • Adam Ozimek at Forbes reports on an interesting idea for keeping fossil fuels in the ground patterned after conservation easements.
  • Miguel Canete, the EU’s climate chief, has stated that the EU will push for a robust, ambitious, and binding climate change agreement at the UN talks in Paris in December. The EU nations call on all nations of the world to phase out fossil fuel use by 2100. At the same time, some are expressing optimism that the Paris talks in December will lead to a landmark agreement.
  • When electrical distribution systems were first being built, the big battle was between alternating and direct current, with alternating current, or AC, winning out. Today the big battle is in the energy storage and automotive technology areas and is between hydrogen and batteries. Who will win? Germany appears to be betting on hydrogen as discussed in this article from E&E News.
  • The number of carbon pricing schemes, either taxes or cap and trade systems, have almost doubled worldwide since 2012 according to the World Bank. Unfortunately they still cover only 12% of emissions and are insufficiently high to keep global warming below 2C. Interestingly, a number of large corporations have begun charging themselves a price for carbon emissions as a way for preparing for the day in which carbon is priced globally.
  • We’ve known for some time that as the planet warms, permafrost will melt, allowing the organic matter stored in it to decompose, releasing carbon dioxide and methane, which are both greenhouse gases that will cause the planet to warm even more. What we haven’t known are the economic impacts of the additional warming associated with the melting permafrost. Now, a scientist and an economist have teamed up to estimate what those costs are.
  • A study just published in Nature Climate Change indicates that if nothing is done to curb global warming, flooding along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts will increase by 35 to 350 times over historical occurrences due to the combined effects of storms and sea level rise. Of course, sea level rise occurs everywhere and this means that birds that nest on low-lying islands will be increasingly vulnerable to its impacts.
  • Another study in Nature Climate Change has found that more methane is being emitted by landfills in the U.S. than previously thought because those landfills are receiving more organic waste that undergoes rapid decay.
  • Investors representing $2.6 trillion in assets have now pledged to divest from fossil fuels. Also, an increasing number of global corporations are increasing their efforts to fight climate change through actions such as using more renewable energy and stopping deforestation. The effort of the shipping industry to become more fuel efficient is one example.
  • In a previous Weekly Roundup I provided material about a possible weakening of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), which is a major circulation that carries heat from the equator to the North Atlantic. Now NOAA has released data showing that the North Atlantic is indeed cooling. Chris Mooney of the Washington Post discusses this.
  • A report released Wednesday by the U.S. Energy Information Administration states that the total number of operating coal mines in the U.S. has hit the lowest on record while the number of new coal mines opening has fallen to the lowest point in a decade. Records go back to 1923.
  • Scientists at Harvard have published a paper in Science reporting on a new type of flow battery that is made with cheap, non-toxic, non-corrosive, non-flammable, high-performance materials. Such batteries are easily scaleable and are targeted at stationary locations, such as homes and businesses.
  • You often hear that 97% of climate scientists believe that climate change is happening and is being driven by human activity. But what about other scientists? Is there such strong acceptance among them? To find out a survey of biological and physical scientists was conducted, finding that 92% of the more than 700 scientists surveyed agreed with the 97% of climate scientists.

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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