Climate and Energy News Roundup 10/26/2018

Politics and Policy

The Canadian government has developed a comprehensive plan to meet Canada’s carbon targets under the Paris Climate Agreement.  At its heart is a carbon fee and dividend system with 90% of the revenue returned to the people.  The federal government has worked with the provinces to develop systems appropriate to each province’s circumstances, but four provinces have refused to cooperate, so now the federal government is imposing its system on them.  President Trump named Neil Chatterjee to be the chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Wednesday, replacing previous chairman Kevin McIntyre, who will remain as a commissioner.  Federal regulators have pulled another permit for the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) construction project, which now lacks authority to build through streams and wetlands along the project’s entire 303-mile route.  The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality said late Friday that it had signed off on plans to control erosion and sediment, manage water runoff from storms, and limit damage to the fragile “karst” geography of certain mountainous areas as blasting and digging for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) get underway.  FERC on Tuesday approved Dominion Energy’s request to proceed with construction of the ACP in parts of West Virginia, although it said the authorization does not include construction on National Forest Service Lands.

Inside Climate News had an update of where the major climate change lawsuits stand today.  Science reported that there are scientists on both sides of the Children’s Lawsuit.  Vann R. Newkirk II, a staff writer for The Atlantic, had an essay on the impact of climate change on American democracy.

Gavin Schmidt, director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), had an opinion piece in The New York Times in which he laid out the forensic evidence for humans being responsible for all of the recent trends in global temperatures.  Leo Hickman of Carbon Brief interviewed GISS scientist, Kate Marvel, about a range of topics.  Even though the recent IPCC report made clear that the causes of climate change must be acted on now, in most schools, climate change is still just starting to make its way into classrooms, and many teachers don’t have the training or the resources they need to teach it.

A group of landowners whose property was taken against their wishes for the MVP is seeking relief from the U.S. Supreme Court.  Among the constitutional questions raised is whether eminent domain should be awarded to a private company in pursuit of profits.  In an essay at Resilience, Mia Gray and Betsy Donald argue that we need to create new models of regional economic and environmental well-being, focusing on reducing inequality and waste.  A commentary at Energy News Network praised Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s plan to transition the state’s economy to clean energy.  Aron Chang, an urban designer in New Orleans, provided advice to cities preparing for climate change.  Andrew Simms and Peter Newell called for a fossil fuel nonproliferation treaty.

The UN-backed Green Climate Fund has approved more than $1 billion for 19 new projects to help developing countries tackle climate change, officials said Sunday.  European Union lawmakers voted on Thursday to press EU countries and the European Commission to harden their stance on climate action ahead of United Nations climate talks in Katowice, Poland in December.  They called for countries to set their Nationally Determined Contributions at 55% or more by 2030.  “Saudi Arabia spent the last three decades throwing sand in the global gears of containing climate change”, writes Jean Chemnick, a journalist who covers international climate policy for E&E News.  Its tactics continued at climate change conferences this year, now with “the help of the United States”.  The Puerto Rican government is considering committing the island to a 100% renewable energy grid by 2050, according to a new plan introduced Wednesday.  Peter Maurer, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross, told Guardian Australia that climate change is already exacerbating domestic and international conflicts, and governments must take steps to ensure it does not get worse.

Climate

We know that cattle production has a big carbon footprint, all the way from the fuel that it used to grow the grain that cattle are fed to the methane produces by their digestive system.  Well, what if you could grow beef without an animal?  That is a goal being pursued by at least two companies, as well as two working on poultry and three on fish.  The cover article in C&EN describes how far they have come and the challenges still facing them.

 Inside Climate News is publishing a series of articles on agriculture, climate change and the American Farm Bureau’s influence.  The first appeared Wednesday and is about how the climate agenda of the American Farm Bureau Federation is failing American farmers.  Also on Wednesday, Paul Horn provided an infographic illustrating why farmers are ideally positioned to fight climate change.  On the subject of agriculture, NPR investigated the impacts of climate change to five important crops.

National Geographic had a moving article with beautiful images about the warming of the Antarctic Peninsula and its impacts on the ecosystems there.  It also had an article about migration due to drought in Latin America.  For example, in Guatemala, increasingly erratic climate patterns have produced year after year of failed harvests and dwindling work opportunities across the country, triggering migration.  Writing at Yale Environment 360, Nicola Jones summarized some of the features that have shifted in the face of climate change: how people grow their food, access their drinking water, and live in places that are increasingly being flooded, dried out, or blasted with heat waves.  Nancy Fresco, a member of the research faculty at the University of Alaska, wrote of the many aspects of climate change the citizens of her state must deal with on a daily basis.

Carbon Brief has issued its latest “State of the Climate” report for 2018.  As one might expect, ocean heat content reached the highest level since records began, showing that global warming continues unabated.  Several other records were also set.  NOAA has forecast a 60% chance that the entire Great Barrier Reef will reach alert level one, which signals extreme heat stress and bleaching are likely from November 2018 to February 2019.

Energy

The recent IPCC report on the difference between 1.5°C and 2°C of warming made it clear that removal of CO2 from the atmosphere or power plant exhaust will be required to hold warming below 1.5°C.  Just how that will be achieved is less clear.  Luckily the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine just released a report on the state of carbon dioxide removal technologies.  Writing at Vox, Umair Irfan summarized the major findings of the report.  The IPCC report also called for rapid decarbonization of the global economy.  In a new report, energy consulting firm Wood Mackenzie projected that by 2035 the global energy transition will reach a point of no return, creating an “unstoppable” shift for companies and countries around the world.  The question is, will that be fast enough.

Even though the U.S. currently has only one operational off-shore wind farm, more are in the planning stage.  One of the advantages of off-shore wind turbines is their larger size, compared to on-shore turbines.  David Roberts explained why larger turbines are advantageous and discussed General Electric’s new monster turbine, the 12 MW Haliade-X.  If you’ve ever driven from Los Angeles to Palm Springs on Interstate 10, you drove through San Gorgonio Pass, where wind turbines blanket both sides of the highway.  The area looks like a museum for wind turbines because some date back to the 1980s.  As those older turbines approach the end of their lifetimes, a number of factors, both political and economic will determine whether they will be replaced with newer, larger ones, as explained by Sammy Roth of the Palm Springs Desert Sun.

Hyundai has introduced its Kona EV in the U.S.  The 64kWh battery gives it a range of 258 miles, and on the latest fast-chargers it will go from flat to 80% state-of-charge in 54 minutes.  Dyson announced that it will build its EV in Singapore.  Reuters had a brief description of each of the companies planning to build an all-electric big rig truck.

Some 20,000 German coal miners marched through Bergheim demanding protection for their jobs as the coal commission met to draw up a plan to phase out coal-fired power generation.  China has made efforts to cut the share of coal in its energy use, but its overall coal consumption and production are again rising.  In Arizona, Proposition 127, an amendment to Arizona’s constitution that would require power companies to generate 50% of their electricity from renewable sources by 2030, is on the ballot this fall.  It has faced aggressive opposition from the state’s largest utility, Arizona Public Service, or A.P.S.

In a new report, the International Energy Agency warned that oil-dependent nations (Iraq, Nigeria, Russia, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela) face “unprecedented challenges” and it is essential that they diversify their economies.  In the U.S. the fracking boom has led to increased domestic production of oil and gas, and associated greenhouse gas production.  A new report from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis and the Sightline Institute has revealed that the industry is awash in red ink.

Dominion Energy plans to develop 3 GW of clean energy in Virginia by 2022.  Toward that end, on Wednesday they issued an RFP for development of 500 MW of onshore wind and solar.  To the dismay of environmental groups, the application by Hilcorp Energy (a company with a checkered record of oil leaks) to drill for oil six miles off the Alaskan coast in the shallow waters of the Beaufort Sea has been approved by the Interior Department.

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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