Sorry to be late with this Weekly Roundup. The CAAV Steering Committee had its annual retreat on Saturday and in preparation for the meeting we read What We Think About When We Try Not to Think About Global Warming by Per Espen Stoknes (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2015, ISBN 978-1-60358-583-5). The subtitle is “Toward a New Psychology of Climate Action.” I highly recommend this book for anyone concerned about climate change, but particularly those engaged in climate action. I think its message is extremely important.
- The Zika virus is a major news item right now, but just how serious a threat is it to the U.S.? Writing in Slate, Eric Holthaus describes how climate change is impacting the spread of Aedes aegypti and the associated Zika virus, as well as an analysis of the disease’s potential impact in the U.S.
- A new report from the Niskanen Center, a fiscally conservative think tank, makes the case for why the coal industry should embrace a carbon tax. In addition, the International Monetary Fund has called for a carbon tax on shipping and aviation as a way of spurring innovation in those sectors.
- A developer of coal-fired power plants in India is seeking to install a photovoltaic solar energy array rather than a coal-fired thermal power plant at a site in Punjab because the economics of solar are more attractive. Meanwhile, in Africa the Rwandan government has partnered with Ignite Power to provide rooftop solar to 250,000 households by 2018. On another renewable energy front, China installed just under 29 gigawatts of new wind energy capacity in 2015, accounting for more than 46% of all wind power installed globally for the year. Meanwhile, Dong Energy, Denmark’s state-backed energy utility, announced this week that it will build a 1.2 gigawatt windfarm 72 miles off of the Yorkshire coast of the UK.
- A new analysis by Bloomberg New Energy Finance and Ceres finds that investment in the renewable energy industry must increase by around 75% over current projections in order to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement signed in December. Meanwhile, Karl Mathiesen argues in The Guardian that outdated grid infrastructure and inadequate storage options are two factors holding solar back.
- During 2015 declines in electricity generation from coal combined with increases in generation from natural gas and renewable sources resulted in coal contributing only 34% of our electricity production. Furthermore, natural gas now contributes 32% so it is likely that natural gas will surpass coal in 2016. More importantly, 70% of new generating capacity installed last year was renewable. This raises the question of how electric utilities will respond to more rooftop solar.
- Roz Pidcock at Carbon Brief is a really good “explainer” and this week she explains the difference between the surface and satellite temperature records. Although I have included other posts on this topic, I’m including this one because I think it is particularly good. Perhaps she should have been asked to explain the difference to John Christy who testified Tuesday at the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology chaired by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) during a hearing entitled “Paris Climate Promise: A Bad Deal for America.” One thing Pidcock explains is that the major heating of the atmosphere by an El Nino event occurs as the event is winding down. Consequently, England’s Met Office predicts that 2016 will be even warmer than 2015.
- At this time of year Arctic sea ice usually closes in around the northern and eastern coasts of Svalbard, 800 miles from the North Pole. But not this year. A recent cruise by a Norwegian ice-breaker found open water. Writing in Discover, Tom Yulsman describes the changes occurring in the Arctic and discusses their implications. Meanwhile, the area covered by Arctic sea ice in January was the lowest value recorded since record keeping began in 1979. It was 42,500 sq. miles less than the previous January record low, recorded in 2011.
- Although thermal expansion from warming waters is the major contributor to sea level rise on a global scale, many other factors can influence sea rise at a given locality. Unfortunately, several factors interact to make sea level rise along the U.S. east coast greater than the global average.
- During the winter of 2013/2014 relentless heavy rainfall and associated severe flooding caused extensive property damage in parts of southern England and Wales. A new study published Monday in Nature Climate Change has found that human-caused climate change increased the likelihood of the event by 43%. Two-thirds of the increase was caused by increased moisture in the atmosphere and one-third by changes in the path of the jet stream.
- One component of our climate system is natural variability, caused by the complex interactions among the various elements influencing climate. Natural variability is a major cause of all of the ups and downs (squiggles) in a global temperature chart. For some time now we have been experiencing an upward trend in temperature superimposed on those squiggles, i.e., global warming. An important question, however, is whether Earth would experience global warming in the absence of an external forcing, such as that caused by more CO2 in the atmosphere. In other words, could natural variability alone cause global warming. A study published Monday in Journal of Climate has found that it can’t, providing even more evidence that our current warming is indeed the result of increases in CO2.
- A new study by NOAA scientists published in the journal PLOS One has found that under a business-as-usual CO2 emission scenario, 16% of Atlantic marine species found off the U.S. coast from North Carolina to Maine are either very highly or highly vulnerable to climate change. Among the very highly vulnerable species are Atlantic Salmon and Bay Scallops. Eighty-two species were included in the study.
- The DC area, as well as other large cities in the northeast, has been experiencing fewer, but larger, snow storms than in the past. Jason Samenow of The Washington Post weather gang examines the possible link between this and global warming.
- A study published Thursday in the journal Geophysical Research Letters suggests that the southwestern U.S. may have already drifted into a drier climate state. The study did not attempt to determine whether the change was due to climate change or natural climate variability.
- A new study, published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports, shows that more than half of the highest CO2-emitting countries rank among the least vulnerable to climate change and nearly two-thirds of the countries with low or moderate CO2 emissions are acutely vulnerable to the effects.
The new study provides a new way for policymakers to quantify inequality when it comes to tackling climate change.
- Recarbonizing Earth’s soils can reduce the accumulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, thereby decreasing global warming, while simultaneously increasing soil productivity and increasing food security, according to soil scientists and some farmers.
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.