Climate News Roundup 7/8/2016

Should people only be able to advocate for action on climate change if they have a zero carbon footprint?  A very interesting piece on Climate Wire explores this question and asks what we should all be doing about our carbon footprints.

Many people who read this weekly roundup advocate actively for a carbon fee and dividend as a way to move our economy away from fossil fuels.  Adele Morris, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institute, has written a piece entitled “Eleven Essential Questions for Designing a Policy to Price Carbon.”  Although long, this piece deserves careful study before making another trip to Washington, D.C. to lobby with CCL.  It gives a good understanding of what is required to address such a major policy change.

Climate

CAAV member Dave Pruett has a new blog post on The Huffington Post entitled “What Economists Don’t Know about Physics – and Why It’s Killing Us.”

Last month was the hottest June on record for the contiguous U.S., the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Thursday.  It was 3.3°F above the 20th century average of 68.5°F, beating the previous record set in 1933 by 0.2°F.

A new study in Nature Climate Change reconciles the differences in estimates of Earth’s climate sensitivity, showing that the lower values obtained by the energy budget technique are not accurate, suggesting that the degree of warming projected by the various models used by the IPCC is more likely to be accurate.  While this finding is good for our understanding of the climate, it is no solace for those concerned about the future.

The Indo-Pacific Warm Pool is a region of the Indian and Pacific oceans centered on the equator that has significant impacts on weather patterns, including the formation of monsoons and tropical cyclones, in south Asia.  Now a new study published in Sciences Advances has shown that it is growing larger.  Chris Mooney, writing in The Washington Post, explains the significance of this finding.

On Friday, super-typhoon Nepartak hit the east coast of Taiwan with sustained winds of 145 mph.  Although the winds dropped as it passed over Taiwan, Nepartak was expected to make landfall in China on Saturday morning, bringing heavy rains.  Andrew Freedman summarized the characteristics of the storm and why it was so strong.  While the impacts of climate change on the frequency and magnitude of tropical cyclones is still unknown, sea level rise from climate change increases the damage in low-lying areas.  This article is an example of what often happens to the women on the coasts of India and Bangladesh following a typhoon.

One puzzle that has plagued climate science for a while and provided fodder for climate change deniers is that while the extent of Arctic sea ice has been shrinking (go here to see a new spiral plot of the ice volume), the area of Antarctic sea ice has been increasing.  Now a new study published in Nature Geoscience has attributed the behavior of the Antarctic sea ice to a natural cycle in the Pacific Ocean.

Deforestation is a major driver of climate change.  Consequently, it is both interesting and important that a study in Uganda has demonstrated clearly that paying owners of forest land not to cut down their trees (so-called payment for ecological services) decreases the rate of deforestation.

Energy

As one might expect, the U.S. is not the only country with methane leakage from gas wells and fractures in the earth.  Australia has similar problems, with methane leakage from coal seam gas wells.  Unfortunately, at this point, no one knows how extensive the leakage is.  Yale Climate Connections summarizes the promises and pitfalls of natural gas (i.e., methane).

With the Interior Department set to finalize a five-year offshore drilling plan later this year, climate activists and representatives of the oil industry are lining up for what will likely be the last major battle over Arctic drilling during the Obama administration.  Meanwhile, the Obama administration on Thursday finalized rules that will require companies to have strict safety and environmental protection plans in place before they drill for oil or natural gas in the Arctic Ocean.

According to Ian Urbina in The New York Times the Kemper clean-coal power plant “project is a story of how a monopoly utility, with political help from the Mississippi governor and from federal energy officials who pressured state regulators in letters to support the project, shifted the burden of one of the most expensive power plants ever built onto the shoulders of unwitting investors and some of the lowest-income ratepayers in the country.”  The Southern Co. responded in the Atlanta Business Chronicle.  Dan Zegart at DeSmog has additional background information.  Urbina also has an article about clean coal technology.

According to Nichola Groom of Reuters, “The cost of electricity from large-scale solar installations now is comparable to and sometimes cheaper than natural gas-fired power, even without incentives aimed at promoting environmentally friendly power, according to industry players and outside cost studies.”  This causes some to suggest that the focus should now shift away from residential, rooftop solar to larger installations.  Let’s hope the VA Legislature and SCC are paying attention.  Tom Gorter of Dynamic Mechanical Energy Systems/Helios Nevada told the Roanoke City Council that his company had bought property close to Roanoke and plans to build a renewable energy power plant system.  He said their goal is to build a 50-megawatt 24/7 renewable energy plant, beginning with solar power and combining with other technologies.  Speaking of rooftop solar, Dow Chemical is shutting down its solar shingle business.

Kelly Vaughn of Rocky Mountain Institute makes the case for net zero energy schools.  There are lots of reasons for having them.  Perhaps we could convince our local school boards.

The World Nuclear Association, a nuclear power industry trade group, has the goal of supplying 25% of the world’s electricity by 2050.  There are many reasons why that goal might be unrealistic.  Indeed, although continued use of nuclear energy is inherent in the plans announced last week by President Obama and the leaders of Canada and Mexico, Chris Mooney says that the future of nuclear (and CCS) is murky.

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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