Climate and Energy News Roundup 6/30/2017

Writing in the journal Nature, Christiana Figueres and colleagues argued that the world has limited time to respond to climate change and set out a six-point plan for reducing the world’s CO2 emissions by 2020.  They also listed three steps by which the plan could be achieved.  Carbon Brief reported on the plan and included reactions from several individuals.  A coalition of mayors of more than 7,400 cities across the world has pledged to work together to combat climate change.  Writing in Rolling Stone, Bill McKibben posed three questions you can ask politicians at any level to determine whether they are serious about acting to slow climate change.  Dana Nuccitelli published an interesting essay at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists about the economics of fighting climate change.  Federal judge Ann Aiken has set a trial date of Feb. 5, 2018 for the lawsuit brought by 21 children and young adults over the U.S. government’s alleged failure to rein in fossil fuel development and address climate change.  She also granted a request by the American Petroleum Institute, the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers, and the National Association of Manufacturers to withdraw from the case.  Sophie Kivlehan, James Hansen’s granddaughter and one of the youth plaintiffs, wrote about why she is suing.  Her op-ed is here, along with a few other items from Hansen.

The House Appropriations energy subcommittee met on Wednesday to mark up their bill for funding the Department of Energy.  The good news is that the overall agency budget was set at $37.6 billion, giving it only $209 million less than in fiscal 2017, but $3.65 billion above President Trump’s request.  The bad news is that ARPA-E was zeroed out.  In a speech on Thursday to celebrate “Energy Week”, President Trump emphasized his plan to focus on fossil fuel development during his term, but his ideas have met with skepticism from a number of analysts.  Meanwhile, although German Chancellor Angela Merkel has stressed that the EU is fully committed to the Paris Climate Agreement and will not “overlook tensions” with the U.S. during next week’s G20 meeting in Germany, Climate Home said “Germany’s G20 presidency dramatically weakened a climate action plan, gutting it of ambitious language and defining gas, and potentially even some coal power, as ‘clean technologies’, in an attempt to appeal to U.S. president Donald Trump.”  E&E News has reported that according to a senior administration official, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is leading a formal initiative to perform a critical review of climate science.  Joseph Majkut of the Niskanen Center thinks there could be value in such an exercise, if it leads to further acceptance of mainstream climate science.  Others disagree.

Climate

Although this topic is a little wonkish, the information is important to any who might interact with Congressman Goodlatte or other politicians who deny the seriousness of climate change.  From the start of the 21st century until 2015, climate models projected warmer global average temperatures than were observed by satellite readings in the upper troposphere.  Some have used this as evidence that models are too sensitive to the effects of CO2 and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.  Now a new paper in the journal Nature Geoscience has provided a likely explanation for the discrepancy: rather than being too sensitive to CO2, the models didn’t adequately account for three cooling effects during the first part of this century.  The paper above was based on Remote Sensing Systems (RSS) data set 3.  However, a new paper in Journal of Climate by RSS updated their data set with new corrections for factors such as satellite drift known to be associated with satellite-based temperature measurements.  Those corrections increased the rate of warming detected since 1998 by 140%, bringing it into close agreement with surface temperature measurements and weakening arguments that satellite temperature records don’t show as much warming.  However, the change in the satellite temperature record should not detract from the findings of the Nature Geoscience paper, although the differences between measured and modeled temperature are smaller.

The Paris Climate Agreement called for limiting global warming to 2°C over preindustrial times, with an aspirational goal of 1.5°C of warming.  This raises the question of how large an impact an additional 0.5°C of warming would have.  A new paper in Nature Climate Change sought to answer that question by examining changes in the incidence of extreme weather indicators over two time periods, 1960-1979 and 1991-2010, both of which experienced a 0.5°C temperature increase.  They found that the intensity of hot extremes increased by 1°C, while the intensity of cold extremes decreased by 2.5°C, and extreme rainfall intensity increased by 9%.  Another paper in the same journal examined the potential for hail storms in a warming U.S.  They found that while fewer hail storms are expected over most areas of the country, an increase in mean hail size is projected, with fewer small hail events and a shift toward a more frequent occurrence of larger hail.

Lightning-caused forest fires have risen 2 to 5% a year for the last four decades, according to a paper published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change.  The study found that lightning storms were the main driver of recent massive fire years in Alaska and northern Canada, and that these storms are likely to move further north as the climate warms.  Meanwhile, wildfires in Siberia have burned 133,000 acres as of last week.  In addition, a new study, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, has found that wildfires in Canada can deposit soot on Greenland, darkening its surface.  Nevertheless, a new paper in Science found that the global burned area declined by 24.3% over the past 18 years, primarily due to agricultural expansion and intensification.

A new report from UNESCO found that 72% of the world’s major coral reefs suffered severe and repeated heat stress during the past three years.  Thus it is particularly important to note that a new paper in the journal Climate Dynamics has confirmed that three different data sets show that all of Earth’s ocean basins are warming.  One impact of that warming is a rise in sea level, in part due to thermal expansion.  However, a new study published in the journal Nature Climate Change has reported that melting ice is now a greater contributor than thermal expansion to sea level rise.  The paper also confirmed that the rate of rise is increasing.

A new study, published Thursday in the journal Science, details how global warming could disproportionately affect poor areas of the U.S., contributing to widening economic inequality among Americans.  In Uganda, where poverty is widespread, climate change is causing increasingly extreme weather events like longer dry spells and erratic rainfall.  This is having negative effects on traditional agricultural practices so local climate champions are training both students and farmers on organic farming practices as a means of adapting to the increasingly erratic climate.

Western Europe experienced an exceptionally warm June and scientists associated with World Weather Attribution have concluded climate change has made such heat waves ten times more likely in Spain and Portugal, and four times more likely in England, France, Switzerland and the Netherlands.  Meanwhile, further east, on Wednesday at 4:30 pm local time, the temperature in Ahvaz, Iran reached 129.2°F, with a heat index of 142.1°F.  If verified, this would tie the all-time heat record for the Eastern Hemisphere.  Meanwhile, in the U.S. temperatures were pretty high in Arizona; high enough to cause some to conclude that they preview what life will be like in a warmer world.

Energy

I have previously provided links to articles about the carbon capture power plant being built be Southern Co. in Mississippi.  It was to have used a new technology for providing “clean coal” electrical generation, but Southern Co. is pulling the plug on the project and will, instead, operate with natural gas.  On a more positive note, perhaps this teen’s idea will someday pan out as a way to remove CO2 economically.

In a blog post in The Guardian, David Robert Grimes noted that climate change is an energy problem and urged people to have an honest conversation about nuclear energy.  However, a study conducted for the Natural Resources Defense Council cautions against focusing on nuclear power plants’ so-called “baseload” attributes.  Consequently, it is interesting to note that one company is studying how small nuclear reactors can be paired with renewable energy facilities.

The trend for utility-scale energy storage appears to be growing as more states have adopted policies to encourage it.  Lithium-ion batteries will supply much of that storage.  While we tend to focus on Telsa’s Gigafactory, we need to keep in mind that roughly 55% of global lithium-ion battery production is based in China, compared with 10% in the U.S.  By 2021, China’s share is forecast to grow to 65%, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.  Another form of energy storage, which doesn’t involve batteries, is pumped hydroelectric storage.  Dominion Energy is considering sites in southwestern Virginia to build such a facility.

On several occasions, I have linked to articles about India’s plans to greatly increase its solar energy capacity and move swiftly to meet its commitments made under the Paris Climate Agreement.  However, writing in Climate Home, Aditi Roy Ghatak questions Prime Minister Modi’s sincerity, given his relationship with Gautam Adani and his ties to coal-fired electricity generation.

Norway’s Statoil is installing the world’s first floating windfarm off the coast of Scotland.  Although more expensive than fixed-base turbines, floating turbines can potentially be installed at many more locations around the world, greatly expanding the potential of wind power.  On the subject of wind turbines, engineers are working on designs for turbines taller than the Empire State Building.

GTM Research expects a 27% drop in average global solar project prices by 2022, or about 4.4% each year.  However, in the U.S., if Suniva’s and SolarWorld’s trade dispute with China is successful, analysts think the resulting increase in solar panel prices could reduce the number of installations by two-thirds over the next five years.  Ivy Main has released her 2017 guide to Virginia wind and solar policy.

A new report by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation has concluded that the North American power grid is reliable and resilient despite the growth of variable, renewable energy sources.

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.

Advertisements