Climate and Energy News Roundup 8/12/2016

Carbon Brief’s U.S. Election Tracker has been updated to include Trump’s positions outlined in his speech in Detroit on August 8.  A group of more than 50 science organizations is working to have the presidential candidates address key science issues, including climate change.

Bill McKibben had an opinion piece in the “Sunday Review” of The New York Times discussing the stalkers that follow him and his family.  Ben Jervey provides some background on DeSmog about those responsible for funding the stalkers.

Climate

National Geographic Channel will premiere Season 2 of the critically-acclaimed TV series, “Years of Living Dangerously” on Sunday, October 30 at 8 pm (ET).  There is a trailer at the link, as well as an article.  Note that the regular time for the series will be Wednesdays at 10:00 pm, starting with episode 2 on November 2.

Climate scientists have expressed some very sobering thoughts about the likelihood of being able to keep global warming below the aspirational goal of 1.5 C set last December at the Paris Climate Summit.

Conclusions about changes in Arctic sea ice extent are typically based upon the satellite record, which begins only in 1979.  Because of the short length of this record, scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Center examined a number of other sources containing information about Arctic sea ice extent in an effort to extend the length of the data record.  These included such things as whaling ship logbooks, aerial surveys, and maps from meteorological agencies.  In a guest post on Carbon Brief, scientist Florence Fetterer summarizes their findings.  If you just want the bottom line, scroll to the end of the article and look at the last two figures.  They are startling.

A federal appeals court has ruled that it is valid for the government to include the cost of climate change (in the form of the social cost of carbon) when conducting cost-benefit analyses of new regulations.

A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science has found that rising sea surface temperatures in the North Atlantic are likely to be behind a recent surge in cases of diarrheal diseases from marine bacteria in northern Europe and the US east coast.  Chris Mooney also reported on the study in the Washington Post.

In a live telephone town hall call-in on Tuesday, Congressman Bob Goodlatte stated that we would be better off spending money to adapt to climate change rather than trying to mitigate it.  He should read the editorial in Monday’s New York Times about the many countries that will need help in adapting.  And, he should read BBC correspondent Justin Rowlatt’s thoughts on what he has observed in India.  Perhaps they will cause him to reconsider his position.  Even more important, if you live in the 6th district, you can let him know that you care about climate change.  Just give him a call at 202-225-5431.

A heat wave in the Middle East is shattering records all over the region.  For example, the temperature in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, reached an all-time high of nearly 126 F.  Unfortunately, the heat wave is expected to continue.  Here is the U.S., 2016 through July was the third warmest year on record according to data released by NOAA.  In addition, Florida and New Mexico experienced their hottest Julys on record.

Energy

Last week New York’s governor announced a plan that would effectively subsidize the state’s nuclear power plants by forcing the utilities that rely on them to pay “zero emission credits” to the operators of those reactors.  As a consequence, Exelon, the country’s biggest nuclear power producer, announced it would rescue one of those power plants from being shut down.  Meanwhile, Pacific Gas & Electric has submitted a proposal to the California Public Utilities Commission to close both units at the Diablo Canyon nuclear facility near San Luis Osbispo by 2025, replacing its electricity generation with a combination of renewable sources, energy storage, better energy efficiency, and changes to the power grid.  Closer to home, as noted by Mark Chediak on Bloomberg Markets, “Utilities including Duke Energy Corp., Dominion Resources Inc. and NextEra Energy Inc. are being allowed by regulators to charge $1.7 billion for reactors that exist only on paper, according to company disclosures and regulatory filings.  Duke and Dominion could seek approval to have ratepayers pony up at least another $839 million, the filings show.”

Heavy duty vehicles, such as long-haul trucks, are major consumers of fossil fuel.  Consequently, five years ago President Obama announced the first fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas standards for them.  In 2011 the Obama administration finalized Phase 1 of the Clean Truck standards, which are beginning to have an impact on fuel consumption.  In recognition of these standards, the Environmental Defense Fund has published a series of blog posts about changes in heavy duty trucks.  The first summarizes the economic and environmental benefits of the Phase 1 standards.  Phase 2 standards are currently being formulated and will build on the success of Phase 1.  Finally, Jason Mathers has compiled statements from a variety of sources showing the broad support for the Clean Truck standards.

Last week I provided a link to an article about the cost of replacing aviation fuel with biofuel, thereby reducing the carbon footprint of flying.  The information in the article came from a new report by the International Civil Aviation Authority.  Now Carbon Brief has examined the report to ask how much of the remaining carbon budget for keeping warming below 1.5 C will be used by aviation under several scenarios.  If aviation continues to grow at its current rate and makes no changes in the type of fuel it uses, it will consume 27% of the carbon budget by 2050.  Even if it succeeds in switching to 100% biofuels by 2050 and makes technological improvements to its fleet, aviation will still consume 12% of the remaining carbon budget.

A study of methane emissions in Indianapolis, IN, and its comparison to an earlier study in Boston, has revealed that many sources of methane leakage are unknown and perhaps come from entities such as gas meters, furnaces, boilers and hot water heaters.  When people think of the concept of methane as a bridge to a renewable energy future it is usually as an interim replacement for coal until more renewable energy systems come on line.  (Many question this concept because of the current leakage rates of methane from gas infrastructure.)  However, a new study suggests that methane is serving as a bridge fuel until large-scale and reliable energy storage systems are available.  Only when that happens will power companies be able to phase out rapid-response gas turbines.

Three Virginia counties in the path of the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline have asked FERC to delay issuing a draft environmental impact statement until most of the questions raised have been answered.  Meanwhile FERC has said that it will not conduct a coordinated review of the three pipelines proposed to cross Virginia, including the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipelines.

In a Thursday letter, EPA’s Science Advisory Board told Administrator Gina McCarthy the agency “should provide quantitative analysis that supports its conclusion that hydraulic fracturing has not led to widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources.”

The American Petroleum Institute is making quiet efforts to revamp its climate messaging, creating a task force that could revisit the industry’s long-held opposition to taxing greenhouse gas emissions.  Note, an earlier version of this article was released on June 28, hence the outdated references to the Democratic platform.

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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