Climate and Energy News Roundup 8/26/2016

Let’s start with a little inspiration.  Ashton Hayes is a village of around 1000 nestled in the English countryside.  What makes it unique is that its residents have taken it upon themselves to reduce the village’s carbon footprint and have succeeded in doing so, while also having fun.  Les Anglais is a village of around 3000 in Haiti.  EarthSpark International has built a solar-powered microgrid in town that is currently supplying reliable power to around 2000 people at around 20% of the cost they had paid.

Climate

Arctic sea ice has not melted as rapidly this year as feared at the start of the melt season.  Consequently, it is unlikely that a record low ice extent will be seen by the time the minimum cover is experienced in September, unless something unexpected occurs.  Nevertheless, this hasn’t kept one person from predicting a new record low, much to the dismay of others.  In a guest post on Carbon Brief, Dr. Alexandra Jahn, from the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research at the University of Colorado, explores how accurately scientists can predict when the Arctic will see its first sea ice-free summer.

As spring light returned to Antarctica, scientists were stunned to find that the crack in the Larsen C ice shelf had grown by 14 miles, for a new total length of over 80 miles.  In addition, the width had expanded to over 1000 ft.  It is feared that sometime in the next few years, the crack will expand sufficiently to release an ice island the size of Delaware, thereby making the entire ice shelf less stable.

A new paper just published in the journal Nature reports on new paleoclimate data examining Earth’s temperature back to 1500.  Those studies suggest that human-caused warming began as early as 1830, but others disagree with the authors’ interpretation of their results.

In a beautifully illustrated essay at Mashable entitled “Cruel Summer: Floods, Fires and Heat”, Andrew Freedman connects the dots and argues that the fingerprint of global warming is increasingly apparent in events happening now.  Out west, populations of the American pika are vanishing in many mountainous areas as climate change alters its habitat, according to findings released Thursday by the U.S. Geological Survey.

The South China Morning Post reported on Thursday that it had learned that the leaders of China and the U.S. will announce their countries’ ratification of the Paris Climate Agreement prior to the G20 summit beginning in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, on September 4.  Brazil’s interim president Michel Temer reportedly wants for Brazil to ratify the pact ahead of the US and China.  Brazil has the 7th largest CO2 emissions.  Ed King of Climate Home discusses what will happen once ratification has occurred.

If we continue using fossil fuels at the rate we now do, scientists predict that sea level will rise 6 ft by 2100.  According to a new analysis by the real estate data firm Zillow, this would inundate nearly 1.9 million homes in the U.S., 46,000 of which would be in Virginia.  As expected, Florida would be the hardest hit state, with over 930,000 homes under water (literally).

Research published Wednesday in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives reveals that the number of people in Europe suffering from hay fever due to ragweed pollen could double in 35 years, with climate change being responsible for two thirds of this increase.  Here in the U.S., Climate Nexus and the American Public Health Association have teamed up to develop four infographics that illustrate the connection between climate change and a variety of health-related issues.  Jeremy Deaton and Mina Lee of Nexus Media introduce them in a guest post at Think Progress.

Energy

I have put in information previously about the question of using natural gas (methane) as a bridge fuel to allow us to shut down coal-fired power plants while waiting for wide-scale adoption of carbon-free energy sources.  Nevertheless, I thought that the discussion of the issue at Yale Climate Connections was sufficiently good to include it here.

Southern Co.’s nuclear unit and X-energy LLC have signed a memorandum of understanding to commercialize and use X-energy’s high-temperature, gas-cooled, advanced technology nuclear reactor.  The goal is to have the reactor ready for use in the 2027-2030 time-frame.

Chile accepted a bid from Spanish developer Solarpack Corp. Tecnologica for 120 megawatts of solar energy at the stunning price of 2.91 cents per kilowatt-hour.  This beats the 2.99 cents/kwh bid Dubai received recently for 800 megawatts, making it the cheapest unsubsidized power plant in the world.

Writing at Vox, David Roberts brings us up to date on the status of wind power in the U.S.  In addition, electricity generation from wind, solar, and other renewable energy technologies have set monthly records every month so far this year, based on data released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy has released its 2016 International Energy Efficiency Scorecard.  Chris Mooney at The Washington Post summarizes how increases in energy efficiency in the U.S. since the mid-1990’s have helped to decouple GDP growth from energy use.  Kristen Satre Meyer at Ensia reports on how several nations fared on the Scorecard.  Germany came in first; we came in eighth.

Results of a new study funded by the American Petroleum Institute, published in the journal Climatic Change, find that burning ethanol derived from corn in cars results in more CO2 emissions than burning gasoline.  Others strongly disagree with the results.

“Tesla’s Elon Musk unveiled his new lithium-ion battery pack that can deliver an unprecedented 315-mile range for his electric vehicles (EVs). But SolidEnergy Systems, a new startup spun out of an MIT lab, says it is in the process of commercializing a lithium metal battery that can double the range of all existing EVs.”  Joe Romm argues that these developments are really big deals.

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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