Climate and Energy News Roundup 11/11/2016

Given Donald Trump’s statements concerning climate change, it is not surprising that his election as President on Tuesday has generated a lot of buzz in both the domestic and international media.  Here are some articles that are relevant to the question of how he will handle climate and energy.

  1. Donald Trump could put climate change on course for ‘danger zone’
  2. What Trump can—and can’t—do all by himself on climate
  3. Trump win signals titanic U-turn on energy, climate policies
  4. Trump could pull out of global climate accord in a year: lawyers
  5. The Paris Agreement will survive President Trump
  6. Climate change: Nations will push ahead with plans despite Trump
  7. ‘Trump effect’ will test global momentum on climate change
  8. All bets are off: 4 takeaways on what President Trump means for the power sector
  9. How President Trump could upend Obama’s climate and energy legacy
  10. Ivy Main – “Why Trump won’t stop the clean energy revolution

Here is episode 4 of Global Weirding with Katharine Hayhoe.  It is important to recognize that many conservatives accept the science of climate change and are working to convince their associates of the need for action.  For example, consider the case of Alex Bozmoski of the Energy and Enterprise Initiative at George Mason University.

Climate

A federal judge in Eugene, OR, ruled on Thursday that a lawsuit filed by young climate activists, who contend the U.S. government is failing to protect them from the harmful effects of greenhouse gas emissions, can move forward.  U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken denied motions by the federal government and trade groups representing energy companies to dismiss the lawsuit.  The plaintiffs are seeking a court order that requires the government to create a plan to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions released by the burning of fossil fuels.  The press release from Our Children’s Trust can be found here.  Judge Aiken’s Opinion and Order can be found here.

A new paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences examines the variability in sea level rise around the globe for two warming scenarios.  One surprising finding is that because of variability in sea level rise associated with factors ranging from ocean circulation patterns to mass redistribution, “more than 90% of coastal areas will experience sea level rise exceeding the global estimate.”  One particularly vulnerable region is the U.S. East Coast, which could experience a foot of rise by 2040 under a business-as-usual scenario.  Andrew Freedman has a list of the world’s largest cities that are particularly vulnerable to sea level rise.

Continued CO2 emissions are causing two major stressors on coral reefs: elevated sea surface temperatures and ocean acidification.  Now research published in the journal PLOS One combines mapping of where people most depend on reefs for their livelihood with mapping of areas where reefs are most under stress.  The results show that countries in Southeast Asia would bear the brunt of the damage, but so would coastal communities in western Mexico and parts of Australia, Japan and Saudi Arabia, with potentially severe economic consequences.

Irrespective of Donald Trump’s election, keeping global warming below 2°C (relative to preindustrial times) may have just gotten a whole lot harder.  That is because new research published this week in Science Advances suggests that Earth is more sensitive to greenhouse gases when it is warmer, as it is now.  If this is true, it means that under business-as-usual emissions Earth’s average temperature could rise by 4.8°C to 7.4°C by 2100 rather than by the 2.6°C to 4.8°C range projected by the IPCC.

The World Meteorological Organization has issued a new report examining Earth’s climate and weather over the period 2011-2015.  Not surprisingly, it was the warmest five year period on record.  They also found that many extreme events in the period have had their probabilities substantially increased, by a factor of 10 or more in some cases.  NOAA announced on Tuesday that October was the third warmest on record in the U.S.  In addition, 37 states had one of their five warmest January-October periods.

A new study, published in Nature Communications, explains why the rate of increase of CO2 in the atmosphere leveled off and became constant this century.  It was because of increased plant growth in response to increased CO2 concentrations and temperature.  As stated by the authors, “Enhanced carbon uptake by the biosphere to date has slowed the growth rate of atmospheric CO2 and our results [suggest] uptake has been especially strong recently.  Without effective reduction of global CO2 emissions, however, future climate change remains a stark reality.”

New research, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, found that a 40% tax on beef and a 20% tax on milk would be required to account for the damage their production causes people via climate change.  Instituting such a tax would discourage people from consuming as much of these foods, reducing both emissions and illness.  The research also found that the taxes needed to compensate for climate damage were 15% on lamb, 8.5% on chicken, 7% on pork and 5% on eggs.

In October 2006 Nicholas Stern issued his important report on the economic impacts of climate change.  Now, in an interview with Robin McKie of The Observer, he reflected on his warning that the cost of inaction would be far greater for future generations than the costs of actions taken today: “With hindsight, I now realize that I underestimated the risks.  I should have been much stronger in what I said in the report about the costs of inaction.  I underplayed the dangers.”

Energy

Voters in the state of Washington voted down a proposal for a revenue-neutral carbon tax, even though it would have reduced other taxes and provided grants to households with low and moderate incomes to help off-set the costs of the new tax.  The vote raises questions as to what exactly “revenue neutral” means and how a carbon tax could be structured so that a broad segment of the electorate favored it.

TransCanada has said it hopes to persuade a new Trump administration to revive the Keystone XL crude oil pipeline.  Meanwhile, Energy Transfer Partners, owner of the Dakota Access Pipeline, has said it is “mobilizing horizontal drilling equipment” in preparation for tunneling under Lake Oahe, a reservoir on the Missouri river near the protest camps and Standing Rock Sioux reservation. The corporation said it would be ready to start crossing the water in two weeks and felt that federal approval for the drilling was “imminent”.  The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, on the other hand, once again called on Energy Transfer Partners to voluntarily stop work in the area.

A new paper in the journal Current Biology reports on a study into bat mortality by wind farms.  It found that Environmental Impact Analyses do not predict the risks to bats accurately, and even in those cases where high risk was correctly identified, the mitigation deployed did not avert the risk.  Hopefully, ongoing research into the causes and repercussions of bat fatalities at wind farms will help minimize them.

The city of Denver plans to add 200 plug-in electric vehicles to its fleet by 2020.  Toyota announced that it will introduce a fully electric vehicle at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.  This will be quite a change for them because they have been a major proponent of fuel cell vehicles.  Meanwhile, the Alliance of Automobile Manufactures asked the incoming Trump administration to roll back fuel efficiency standards issued during the Obama administration.

The EU is planning to spend €320 “in a comprehensive, inclusive and ambitious plan for building up ocean energy in Europe” according to environment commissioner, Karmenu Vella.  The money is intended to serve as a buffer for companies that are attempting to cross the “valley of death” between demonstration projects and the energy market.

Some renewable energy developers are exploring the installation of both solar and wind systems at the same site.  They claim that there are several benefits from doing so, such as saving money on grid connections, site development, and regulatory approvals.  In addition, combined systems can yield up to twice the amount of electricity as either system working alone.

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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