Climate News Roundup 3/4/2016

If you tend to worry too much about climate change, then perhaps Andrew Revkin’s interesting and introspective essay will help. I particularly like his climate change “serenity prayer”: “Change what can be changed, accept what can’t, and know the difference. Science can help clarify which is which.”

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe has vetoed a bill that would give the General Assembly authority over the state’s implementation of the Clean Power Plan for curbing CO2 emissions for electric power generation. The Senate failed to override the veto.

I subscribe to a blog called RealClimate that is run by climate scientists. I don’t normally include links to posts in it because they tend to be pretty technical. However, while I was out of town there was a post about sea level rise that I thought you would appreciate. Scientists have been able to reconstruct historical sea levels back around 2500 years. This shows that what has happened during the 20th century is indeed extraordinary. Similarly, The Atlantic had an article on how scientists study sea level rise, which gives a good perspective, but lacks the graphics in the RealClimate post. Meanwhile, German scientists, using Copenhagen as a case study, have concluded that damage costs increase much more rapidly than sea level rise itself, which seems logical.

Utility Dive has released its 2016 State of the Electric Utility Survey. It revealed that for the second year in a row, electric utility executives responding to the survey ranked energy storage first among the technologies for future investment. DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) claims to have made significant advances in battery technology so things may be happening rapidly in the future. The Utility Dive survey provides interesting insights into how electric utilities are planning to respond to the changing energy landscape. In addition, 91% of respondents indicated they expect utility-scale solar to increase significantly or moderately in their fuel mixes over the next five years, while 77% see wind doing so.

Heather Clancy writes on GreenBiz: “Despite uncertainty surrounding the future of the Clean Power Plan and contractual nuances that make even the smallest project feel unnecessarily complex, big businesses seem more committed to renewable energy than ever.” In fact, new data just released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration suggest that in the coming year, the solar sector will add more new electricity-generating capacity than any other — including natural gas and wind.

A new paper published in Journal of Geophysical Research – Atmospheres adds further evidence for the concept that drought was a contributor to the ongoing Syrian conflict. Using tree ring data going back 900 years the investigators found that the recent drought is likely the driest period on record and almost certainly the worst in 500 years.

According to data from its National Bureau of Statistics, China cut its CO2 emissions by 1-2% in 2015 while installing a record amount of wind (32.5 GW) and solar (18.3 GW) power. (Joe Romm has an analysis of China’s coal policy and Sophie Yeo takes a deep dive into what is happening with China’s coal consumption.) Meanwhile Australia’s CO2 emissions increased 3.2% from July 2014 to July 2015.

A draft inventory of US greenhouse gas emissions reports that emissions in 2014 were 1% higher than they were in 2013, marking the third year in a row that they have increased. Most disturbing was a 27% increase in methane emissions, causing EPA to hold off on publishing an official value until they have reviewed the data more thoroughly.

Even though El Nino was supposed to bring rain to California, as of last Tuesday 38% of the state was still in “exceptional drought” compared to 40% at a comparable time last year. Furthermore, according to an analysis of official temperature records by the Los Angeles Times the average high temperature during February in L.A. was almost 2 degrees F above the previous record.

French-speaking Indians who live deep in a Louisiana bayou, some 50 miles south of New Orleans, became the United States’ first official climate refugees last week when the federal government awarded them $48 million to relocate.

ClearPath is a foundation whose mission is to accelerate conservative clean energy solutions. They have recently released a survey of voters concerning their views on energy. Their website allows you to view state and district level opinions on energy by party affiliation. The results for the 6th congressional district are quite interesting. Meanwhile, Ivy Main reports on the fate of renewable energy bills in the Virginia General Assembly this year. Perhaps the members of the GA should examine the results of the ClearPath poll.

Did global warming really slow down for a decade or so in the 2000s and does it really matter if it did? Graham Readfearn of The Guardian examines this question in light of a recent paper in Nature Climate Change that has analyzed air temperature and other data relevant to global heat content. Michael Mann, one of the authors of the paper, comments on the attempts by climate change skeptics to manufacture a controversy among climate scientists as a result of the paper.

Satellite images suggest tropical forests from the Amazon to the Philippines are disappearing at a far more rapid pace than previously thought, a University of Maryland team of forest researchers say. Others, however, disagree with the methods used.

A new study published in the journal The Cryosphere finds that Greenland is darkening, contributing to a positive feedback loop in which melting leads to a “darker” surface, increasing heat absorption, leading to more melting, etc. I have put darker in quotes because the darkening is not necessarily visible to the naked eye, but may occur at wavelengths outside of our visual range. Unlike other studies, this one did not find that soot from wildfires elsewhere on Earth was a significant factor.

A couple of weeks ago I provided links to a study that showed that middle and high schools teachers were often unprepared to teach effectively about climate change. Now John Cook, founder of the Skeptical Science website and Climate Communication Fellow at The University of Queensland in Australia, has written about an effective technique for teaching “controversial” topics.

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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