Climate and Energy News Roundup 9/9/2016

Last Saturday, Presidents Obama and Xi Jinping formally joined the Paris climate agreement in a joint event in China.  John Upton of Climate Central explains what that means.  The New York Times has an interesting interview with President Obama about climate change and his responses to it during his time in office.  Rocky Mountain Institute has recently completed a study with its collaborators of how China can reduce its carbon emissions while growing its economy.

Last week I provided a link to a new study that shows that belief in human-caused climate change has become subject to greater partisan polarization over the past few years.  Now, David Roberts has provided a more detailed summary of the study and some reflection on what it means for the future.  Dana Nuccitelli argues, based on a new study by Media Matters, that much of the increase in polarization is due to conservative media bias about climate change.  Finally, sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild sheds some light on the conundrum of why people living in one of the most polluted areas of the country hate the EPA.


Scientists, working together through World Weather Attribution, have determined that climate change increased the chances of the August extreme rainfall in Louisiana by at least 40%.  Significantly, the lead author of the study also stated “we found that the mostly likely impact of climate change is a near doubling of the odds of such a storm.”  The team has submitted its results to the journal Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, which means they are still subject to peer-review.  In addition, Peter Sinclair has a new post and video looking at the broad issue of the impact of climate change on extreme weather.

A new study, published in Nature Geoscience, has found that the power of Asian typhoons has increased by 50% in the past 40 years due to warming seas.

Andrew Rice has an interesting (but long) essay in New York Magazine about what the future of NYC will be as sea level rises in response to climate change.  Also, Justin Gillis has a very informative article in The New York Times about “recurrent flooding” or “sunny-day flooding” along the Atlantic coast as sea level rises.  The article is date-lined Norfolk.  Finally, as this article (and the recent Louisiana flooding) reminds us, you don’t have to live along the coast to experience flooding from extreme weather events.

Over the past few decades, in the United States the East has experienced colder winter days, while the West has experienced warmer winter days.  According to a new study published in the Journal of Geophysical Research, the ‘warm West, cold East’ temperature gap is steadily expanding, and is likely being driven by human-caused greenhouse gas emissions.

Global warming is disrupting ocean life from plankton to whales and the heat may linger in the depths for centuries even if man-made greenhouse gas emissions are halted, according to a new report by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.  While polar bears, walruses and ice seals appear to be suffering as a result of the reduction in Arctic sea ice associated with global warming, humpback, fin and minke whales appear to be benefiting, according to a new study published in Biology Letters.

Land-use changes are among the many factors in addition to CO2 emissions that influence climate.  Thus it is disturbing to read about the rapid rate at which wilderness is being lost from the world, as documented in a new study in the journal Current Biology.  Perhaps this item got my attention because I am finally reading The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert, a book that really makes one pause and consider the future of life on Earth, even without the added impacts of climate change.

A new meta-study, published Thursday in the journal Science, examines the ways in which climate change is affecting people and our societies, affirming some that are well known and introducing others that are less recognized.


Dakota Access Pipeline’s private security unleashed attack dogs and sprayed mace on protesters over the weekend as tensions over the pipeline in North Dakota escalated into violence for the first time.  In a moving essay, Phil McKenna of Inside Climate News provides the background of the struggle.  Lisa Song reports on the destruction of some burial sites and the failure to get a restraining order for the pipeline construction.  Joe Heim writes about the transformation of the struggle into a national movement for Native Americans.  Friday afternoon a federal judge denied the Native American tribe’s request for an injunction that would have temporarily halted construction on the pipeline; however, shortly thereafter the Department of Justice, the Department of the Army, and the Department of the Interior issued a statement that read in part: “The Army will not authorize constructing the Dakota Access pipeline on Corps land bordering or under Lake Oahe until it can determine whether it will need to reconsider any of its previous decisions regarding the Lake Oahe site under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) or other federal laws.  Therefore, construction of the pipeline on Army Corps land bordering or under Lake Oahe will not go forward at this time.”

Dominion Energy Chairman and CEO Tom Farrell has said that the company has pushed back the date at which the Atlantic Coast Pipeline will go into service to early 2019.  He also said that FERC’s issuance of a Notice of Schedule on August 12 means that “FERC believes that the route is essentially complete.”  Reps. Bob Goodlatte, H. Morgan Griffith, and Robert Hurt sent a letter to the FERC requesting that they hold both one-on-one meetings and public hearings with constituents in Virginia pertaining to the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Mountain Valley Pipeline.

According to several studies, moving the U.S. away from our reliance on fossil-fuel derived electricity to almost total use of renewable energy will require a smart supergrid relying on high-voltage direct-current (HVDC) transmission lines to be overlaid on our existing grid.  John Fialka of E&E Publishing has a three-part series documenting what will be required for its development.  Part One provides some background, Part Two deals with the impact of regulations on the development of the needed supergrid, and Part Three explains the benefits of a supergrid and the obstacles to its development.  If you can’t spare the time to read all three, I urge you to at least read Part Three.

A new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, entitled The Power of Change, examines the changes that will be required in how we get electricity if we are to achieve cleaner electricity production.  Among the steps that are proposed for the federal government to take is putting a price on pollution from electricity production to reflect the hidden costs of fossil fuels to human health and the environment.

Because of drought and insect infestations, the western United States contains millions of dead trees; 66 million in California alone.  Since those trees will decay or burn, releasing their CO2 to the atmosphere, a new study proposes that they be burned with coal in coal-fired power plants to reduce the fossil-fuel related CO2 emissions.  Not surprisingly, the proposal is controversial.

Matex Virginia Power LLC plans to build a 1,400 MW combined-cycle natural gas-fired power plant next to the southern branch of the Elizabeth River in Chesapeake, VA.

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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