Climate and Energy News Roundup 10/19/2018

In light of the recent IPCC report on holding global warming to 1.5°C, I suggest that you start your reading this week with Rebecca Solnit’s essay in The Guardian last Sunday.  Its title is “Don’t despair: the climate fight is only over if you think it is.”

Politics and Policy

National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow on Sunday downplayed the significance of the recent IPCC report.  During an appearance on 60 Minutes on Sunday night and an interview by the Associated Press on Tuesday, President Donald Trump was asked about climate change.  His answers led to reactions from a number of publications, including The Washington Post, Vox, and The Guardian.  He also said that climate scientists who find that human activities are driving climate change have a “very big political agenda,” causing the American Meteorological Association to push back forcefully in a letter published Tuesday.  The IPCC’s report said that government policies alone won’t ensure the “unprecedented” societal changes needed over the next decade to stem climate change.  Rather, we must have buy-in from the business community.  However, a number of scientists contend that the report wasn’t strong enough and that it downplayed the full extent of the real threat.  Meanwhile, at Scientific American, six climate scientists stated: “Rather than resign ourselves to a dystopian path, or deflect reality through cycles of denial, we need a fundamental attitude shift: we must instead see climate change as one of the greatest opportunities we have ever faced.”  Finally, science historians Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway wrote in an opinion piece for The New York Times, “None of the major technological transformations of the 19th and 20th centuries were the product of the private sector acting alone and responding only to the market.  Railroads, radio, telegraph, telephone, electricity and the internet were all the result of public-private partnerships.  None was delivered by the ‘invisible hand’ of the marketplace.  All involved significant interventions by the visible hand of government.”

DOE’s efforts to force economically struggling coal and nuclear power plants to stay online for as long as two years has evidently been scrapped because of opposition from the president’s own advisers on the National Security Council and National Economic Council, according to an article in Politico.  The EPA has released the list of finalists being considered for positions on its Science Advisory Board.  The list includes researchers who reject mainstream climate science and who have fought against environmental regulations for years.  Economist William D. Nordhaus, a co-recipient of the 2018 Nobel prize in economics for his work on pricing carbon emissions, was interviewed by Coral Davenport of The New York Times about which governments are getting his ideas right.  Following the announcement of Nordhaus’ Nobel Prize and the release of the new IPCC report, Felix Salmon of Axios wrote about the costs associated with warming of 1.5° and 2°C.  Exxon-Mobil is contributing $1 million to Americans for Carbon Dividends, a group that is working to establish a carbon fee and dividend to reduce fossil fuel use.  The Global Commission on Adaptation was launched at The Hague this week.  It aims to bring together expertise from around the world to identify the best ways of adapting to climate change.

On Wednesday, a group of researchers released an updated version of the 1973 report, “The Limits to Growth.”  They found that efforts to satisfy social Sustainable Development Goals with conventional policy tools come at the price of unsustainable use of natural resources such as water, land, and energy.  Hence, environmental goals, including stabilizing climate, threaten to fall by the wayside.  According to the Yale Program on Climate Change Communications, most Americans are unaware that 97% of climate scientists agree that global warming is happening and is human-caused.  On Thursday, for a second time, the Trump administration asked the U.S. Supreme Court to stop a lawsuit filed by young activists who have accused the U.S. government of ignoring the perils of climate change.  On Friday, the Court issued an order freezing the trial until lawyers for the young people provide a response and the Court issues another order.  On Monday, the judge in the case had ruled that President Trump could not be included in the lawsuit.  On Tuesday, FERC gave permission for developers of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to begin cutting trees on the site of a planned natural gas compressor station in Buckingham County, VA.  Also on Tuesday, Dominion Energy announced that it is seeking renewal of its licenses for the two nuclear units at Surry Power Station.  The current licenses are valid through 2032 and 2033, so a renewal would extend them through 2052 and 2053.

Climate

A recent study finds that tourism is responsible for 8% of the world’s annual carbon pollution.

While writing about the tendency of IPCC reports to focus on the median potential responses, rather than the extremes, Kurt Cobb referred to risk expert Nassim Nicholas Taleb, who wrote in his book Fooled by Randomness, “It does not matter how frequently something succeeds if failure is too costly to bear.”

A new study, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that populations of arthropods in a Puerto Rican rainforest have fallen drastically since 1976.  The study’s authors implicate climate change in the loss.  If you are concerned about the spread of malaria into the U.S. as a result of the warmer temperatures associated with climate change, then you should read the advice from Sara Peach at Yale Climate Connections.

Climate change has been having mixed effects in West Virginia.  On the one hand, the climate has become milder with warmer winters, cooler summers and generally more humid conditions year-round.  On the other, in the forests, oaks are being replaced by maples, which prefer shadier and wetter conditions, thereby altering forest ecosystems.

A new paper in the journal Climate and Atmospheric Science has found that tornado activity is increasing in Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee, Louisiana, Alabama, Kentucky, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Iowa, and parts of Ohio and Michigan, while decreasing in Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas.  This pattern is consistent with the eastward movement of the “dry line”, where there is dry air to the west and moist air to the east.  The lead author of the paper said, “This is what you would expect in a climate change scenario, we just have no way of confirming it at the moment.”

One possible impact of climate change may be increased migration.  Four social scientists from Europe explored this possibility in The Washington Post.  Since much migration may occur in the Global South, projections of what may happen there are particularly important.  Unfortunately, a lack of historical data hampers efforts to make those projections.

As global temperatures rise and the Arctic Ocean becomes increasingly sea ice-free, phytoplankton blooms are expanding northward at a rate of 1° of latitude — or 69 miles — per decade, moving into waters where they have never been seen before, according to a new study in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

Energy

Carbon dioxide emissions from the U.S. power sector fell 4.5% in 2017 due to the closure of coal-fired power plants.  Overall, emissions dropped by 2.7%.  The fight continues over the exportation of coal to Asia from ports in the state of Washington, with the Army Corps of Engineers reviving an environmental review of a coal-export project a year after state environmental regulators denied the project a key permit.  In addition, U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said that the Trump administration is considering using military bases and federal properties in Washington, Oregon and California to ship coal and natural gas to Asia.

A year ago, General Motors announced plans for 20 new electric vehicle models by 2023, but in the U.S. market, GM was aggressively transforming its product line for something else—it was scaling back on cars and doubling down on higher-emissions pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles.  GM is not alone.  All of the Big Three automakers—GM, Ford and Fiat Chrysler—have shifted toward big, heavy vehicles that use more fuel per mile.  City Lab has an analysis of the status of electric vehicle adoption in the U.S.  A major determinant of the lifetime CO2 emissions associated with an electric vehicle is the source of electricity in the factory where the battery is made.  If it is a coal-fired power plant, it may take many years before the lifetime emissions become less than that of a diesel-powered vehicle.

As of August, non-utility buyers had announced contracts for more than 3.5 gigawatts of renewable energy projects in 2018, setting a new single-year record in the U.S.  Since then, procurement numbers have continued to grow, as the corporate renewables market has matured and expanded to include new geographies and new buyers.

The Trump administration is considering allowing companies to build offshore wind farms off the coast of California.

Solar and wind energy now generate more than 20% of electricity in 10 states, according to a new report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.  Iowa is at the top of the list, with 37% of its electricity coming from wind and solar in 2017, followed by Kansas, Oklahoma, and South Dakota, all above 30%.

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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Climate and Energy News Roundup 10/12/2018

Because of the importance of the IPCC Special Report on holding global warming to 1.5°C, rather than the normal Roundup this week, I have compiled below some of the articles about it.

Brad Plumer and Nadja Popovich said in The New York Times: “Holding warming to 1.5 degrees, the report said, would entail a staggering transformation of the global energy system beyond what world leaders are contemplating today.”

Also in The New York Times, Coral Davenport said: “A landmark report from the United Nations’ scientific panel on climate change paints a far more dire picture of the immediate consequences of climate change than previously thought and says that avoiding the damage requires transforming the world economy at a speed and scale that has ‘no documented historic precedent.’”

At The Washington Post, Chris Mooney and Brady Dennis wrote “The world stands on the brink of failure when it comes to holding global warming to moderate levels, and nations will need to take ‘unprecedented’ actions to cut their carbon emissions over the next decade, according to a landmark report by the top scientific body studying climate change.”

Also at the Post, Margaret Sullivan took the media to task for not giving enough coverage to climate change and the impacts it is having and will have.

Carbon Brief published a Q&A about the report.

The new IPCC report expanded the “carbon budget” for 1.5°C – a simplified way to measure the additional emissions that can enter the atmosphere to stay below 1.5°C.  This report expands the budget for a 66% chance of avoiding 1.5°C to the equivalent of 10 years of current emissions.  This compares to the IPCC’s fifth assessment report (AR5), which put the time to exhaustion of the budget at around three years.  Zeke Hausfather at Carbon Brief looked into the details of the new, larger carbon budget and explored the reasons behind the shift.

At The Guardian, Jonathan Watts provided a synopsis of the report, while he and Matthew Taylor wrote of the moral obligation of world leaders to act on climate change.

Inside Climate News had a detailed look at what it will take to avoid 1.5°C of warming.

At Vox, David Roberts wrote about “What genuine, no-bullshit ambition on climate change would look like”, while Eliza Barclay and Umair Irfan discussed “10 ways to accelerate progress against climate change.”

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.

Climate and Energy News Roundup 10/5/2018

Policy and Politics

Representatives of over 130 countries and about 50 scientists were meeting in Incheon, South Korea, this week to try and reach consensus on a report detailing what it would mean — and what it would take — to limit the warming of the planet to 1.5°C.  Climate Home News provided some insights into the U.S. position.  According to comments from a scientist who helped prepare the report, limiting warming to 1.5°C will be “a really enormous lift.”  This and the climate talks in Poland in December, have caused Fiona Harvey to declare the next three months as crucial to the future of the planet.  The role of forests in combating climate change risks being overlooked by the world’s governments, according to a group of scientists that has warned that halting deforestation is “just as urgent” as eliminating the use of fossil fuels.  On the brighter side, the Heinrich Böll Foundation has released a publication entitled “Radical Realism for Climate Justice” that lays out in eight chapters a path for limiting warming to 1.5°C.

President Donald Trump will nominate DOE official Bernard McNamee to the FERC seat left vacant by former commissioner Robert Powelson.  McNamee was one of the key architects of the DOE’s proposed rule to bail out nuclear and coal-fired power plants, which FERC rejected unanimously in January.  Last Friday, President Trump signed the Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act, which is expected to speed up the development of advanced nuclear reactors in the U.S. by eliminating several of the financial and technological barriers standing in the way of nuclear innovation.  ProPublica, in partnership with the Charleston (WV) Gazette-Mail, reported that following a ruling by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that blocked a key permit for the Mountain Valley Pipeline, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection began rewriting the state construction standards for pipeline river crossings that prompted the appeals court to block the plan.  The vast majority of Democrats and Republicans running for federal office do not mention the threat of global warming in digital or TV ads, in their campaign literature, or on social media.

The documentary Above and Beyond: NASA’s Journey to Tomorrow, will air October 13 on Discovery Channel and Science Channel.  In addition to focusing on NASA’s historic accomplishments in space, the film sheds light on the agency’s lesser-known, but vital, role in measuring the health of Earth.  To mark the film’s release, the writer and director published an opinion piece in The New York Times highlighting the latter role.  Another documentary, Living in the Future’s Past, was reviewed in the L.A. Times.  In The Guardian, Bill McKibbon had an opinion piece in which he discussed the link between the Trump administration’s policies on climate change and child refugee camps, while Leo Barasi argued that further progress on climate change will require people to begin to make changes in their lives, a much more difficult task than shutting down coal-fired power plants.  Fifteen-year-old Greta Thunberg agrees with him.  That is why she is protesting outside of the Swedish Parliament.  Photographer Adriene Hughes presented some photos of icebergs in Wired that are sew great.  The October issue of National Geographic has an essay by Anne Lamott on hope, the subject of her new book Almost Everything: Notes on Hope.

Climate

Carbon Brief released an amazing new interactive, in which the authors extracted the key data and metrics from around 70 peer-reviewed climate studies to show how global warming is projected to affect the world and its regions across a range of temperatures.  The data cover a range of impacts, such as sea level rise, crop yields, biodiversity, drought, economy, and health.

A study published in Science Advances last month looked at tsunami impacts in a world of rising seas and found that as sea level rises, small earthquakes will cause tsunamis as devastating as those caused by large earthquakes today.  For example, today, it would take an 8.6-magnitude quake to flood Macau, but with 50 years of sea-level rise, an 8.2 quake, which is six times less powerful, would inundate the city.

The Guardian has a new series about drought in Australia entitled “The New Normal.”  Here are Part I and Part II.  New research in Nature Communications suggests that the summer fire season in Mediterranean Europe is going to get worse.  Under 3°C warming, the area that is currently burned every year would double.  Even more worryingly, 40% more area would be burned even if the Paris Climate Agreement is fulfilled and warming stays below 1.5°C.

A paper published this week in the journal Frontiers in Marine Science analyzed 13 ocean-based solutions to address climate change.  The study considered the effectiveness and feasibility of both global-scale and local solutions using information from more than 450 publications.

A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has found that global warming of 1.5°C would cause economic losses in China of $47 billion annually, whereas warming of 2°C would increase them to $84 billion.  Annual economic losses due to drought were $7 billion per year on average between 1984 and 2017.

If the effects of climate change go unmitigated, the world’s agricultural trade network will shrink dramatically by 2050, a group of researchers show in a new paper in the journal Palgrave Communications.  The U.S., which produced 30% of global food exports in 2015, would only produce 2% by 2050, if temperatures are left to rise by more than 2°C.

Energy

David Roberts published another column at Vox this week about the recent market research and polling done on behalf of the Edison Electric Institute on the subject of the public’s perception of 100% renewable energy.  Roberts’ summary of the public’s sentiment is: “We want clean, modern energy, and we’ll pay for it. We’re willing to let experts work out the details, but we don’t want to hear that it can’t be done. Just do it.”  In a second article, Roberts pointed out that “Silicon PV dominates the market more than ever,” so that most new technologies complement it, rather than replacing it.

Renewable energy companies are beginning to build hybrid wind/solar projects in the U.S.  The rationale is that wind and solar facilities complement each other.  They hit their peaks at different times of day and night, allowing them to provide a steadier output together than if each was alone.  On the other hand, three renewable energy companies are planning new solar projects in the California desert that will include battery storage to meet nighttime demand.  A new paper in the journal Chem presented the design principles for and the demonstration of a highly efficient integrated solar flow battery device with a record solar-to-output electricity efficiency of 14.1%.  The device integrates photovoltaics, storage, and energy delivery.  Energy Storage News reported on the pairing of energy storage with gas generators, which some call a game changer because it allows renewable energy to provide the base load with gas plus batteries serving peak loads.  Two new papers released on Thursday find that wind farms generate comparatively low power for the area they take up, and that installing lots of them could heat up the surrounding land.  The heating is localized, however, and others have criticized the conclusions about the energy generated per area taken up.

According to a study by the German group Urgewald released Thursday, 1,380 coal-fired power plants are under construction or development worldwide.  Export credit agencies such as the Japan Bank for International Cooperation, China Development Bank Corp. and Korea Trade Insurance Corp. were among the biggest supporters of those power plants.

The International Energy Agency has issued a new report entitled “The Future of Petrochemicals.”  In it they predict that direct greenhouse gas emissions from petrochemicals production would increase 20% by 2030 and 30% by 2050.  Furthermore, the main driver of the petrochemical industry’s growing climate footprint is plastics.  On Monday, the Swiss startup Climeworks opened its third plant removing CO2 directly from the air.  It will capture 150 tonnes of CO2, which will be converted to methane and used to power trucks running on “green gas.”

Oil prices have been rising lately, having increased 27% this year to more than $85 a barrel.  This is good news for auto makers, who will be rolling out new electric models over the next three or four years, beginning with the Paris Auto Show this week.  It also means there is a need for more charging infrastructure.  Virginia has entered into a public-private partnership with Los Angeles based EVgo Services to conduct the initial buildout of its electric vehicle charging network.  It is dedicating 15% of its Volkswagen settlement money, the maximum amount allowed, toward the project.

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy has released its “2018 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard” and John Rogers has written about it at the Union of Concerned Scientists website.  Gov. Ralph Northam released his 2018 Virginia Energy Plan on Tuesday and it emphasizes renewables, energy efficiency, electric vehicles, and modernizing the electric grid.

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.

Climate and Energy News Roundup 9/28/2018

Policy and Politics

A new space station sensor that will lay the foundation for future long-term observations of Earth’s climate is moving ahead, despite repeated attempts by the Trump administration to kill it.  The Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures has issued its first status report, revealing that over 500 companies are now supporters of it, including the world’s largest banks, asset managers, and pension funds, responsible for assets of nearly $100 trillion.  On the subject of preparing for the effects of climate change, more academics are approaching questions once reserved for doomsday cults: (1) Can modern society prepare for a world in which climate change threatens large-scale social, economic, and political upheaval?  (2) What are the policy and social implications of rapid climate disruption?  In his Wednesday column in The Guardian, George Monbiot tackled the threat that continued economic growth poses to limiting greenhouse gas emissions.  A new study published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change, examined the cost of climate change to the economy of each country, as well as to the global economy.  They found the biggest impact to be on India, but that the global impact was much greater than the impact on any individual country.

Speaking to Oliver Milman of The Guardian, Drew Shindell, a Duke University climate scientist and a co-author of the upcoming IPCC report on the feasibility of limiting warming to 1.5°C, said “It’s extraordinarily challenging to get to the 1.5°C target and we are nowhere near on track to doing that. … While it’s technically possible, it’s extremely improbable, absent a real sea change in the way we evaluate risk. We are nowhere near that.”  Nevertheless, reviewers of the report are concerned that the “Summary for Policymakers” is being altered to make the dangers of climate change seem less alarming.  As a result, they say, policymakers could seriously underestimate the risks of global warming.  A new paper in the journal Annual Review of Environment and Resources, written by a group of UK academics after reviewing almost 200 published papers, concluded “Further delay in pursuing an emissions path consistent with 1.5°C likely renders that target unattainable by conventional means, instead relying on expensive large-scale CDR [carbon dioxide removal], or risky solar radiation management.”  Amazingly, the Trump administration appears to be using this situation as justification for freezing the Obama administration’s automobile fuel efficiency standards, stating in the environmental impact statement for the freeze, that things are going to be so bad that additional CO2 in the atmosphere will have a minor effect on the outcome.

Lawmakers are divided on whether to extend a popular tax credit for electric cars.  EV manufacturers face a cap of 200,000 vehicles that are eligible for the credit, a level now being reached by Tesla and General Motors.  The Washington Post published content from Siemens about the infrastructure that will be required for cities to accommodate large numbers of EVs.  According to The Hill, the EPA plans to merge its Office of the Science Advisor, a senior post that was created to counsel the EPA administrator on the scientific research underpinning health and environmental regulations, with the Office of Science Policy and place them under the Office of Research and Development.  This moves the Science Advisor one tier lower in the organizational structure.

Climate

Carbon Brief has produced a new map showing both how the temperature has changed up to present day and how it might change in the future for every different part of the world.  The map combines observed temperature changes with future climate model projections.  It breaks up the world into “grid cells” representing every degree latitude and every degree longitude.  Clicking on a grid cell produces a side bar with the temperature information for that location.

Beyond Meat –makers of meat-free burgers – commissioned a study with the Center for Sustainable Systems at the University of Michigan to conduct a “cradle-to-distribution” life cycle assessment of its Beyond Burger and compare it to that of an uncooked quarter-pound beef burger.  They found that the Beyond Burger generates 90% less greenhouse gas emissions, requires 46% less energy, and has 99% less impact on water scarcity and 93% less impact on land use than the beef.

In its continuing coverage of the impacts of climate change on human heritage sites around the world, The New York Times published an article about the efforts to protect ancient archaeological sites in the Orkney islands of Scotland from sea level rise.  Closer to home ProPublica investigated the on-going costs and environmental justice issues of beach replenishment on the East Coast of the U.S.  A new study published Monday in the journal Environmental Research Letters has warned that climate change has adversely and uniquely affected many of the 417 national parks spread across the U.S. and its territories.  Eroding coastlines, recurrent flooding, increased temperatures, etc., will all act to cause Americans to move during the remainder of this century.  Writing in The Guardian, Oliver Milman looked at the impacts of the “climate migrants.”  A sea level research and communications group’s rapid analysis of the storm surge from Hurricane Florence has found that 1-in-5 of the homes impacted along the Carolina coast wouldn’t have fared so badly had sea levels not risen significantly since 1970.

We typically think of sea level rise as the main consequence of melting glaciers and increased CO2 and methane emissions as a major consequence of melting permafrost.  In mountainous regions of the world, however, those events can lead to slope destabilization, causing more landslides.  On the subject of melting permafrost, scientists have discovered that a lake in Alaska formed by it is leaking large quantities of methane.  It is also leaking other hydrocarbon gases typically found in gas wells, suggesting that at least part of the methane is from a fossil source, rather than being formed by microbial decomposition of organic matter in the lake bottom.

According to a study published Thursday in the journal Science, last year’s record hurricane season – which saw Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria cause devastation across North and Central America – was primarily driven by “pronounced warm conditions” in the tropical Atlantic Ocean.  On September 19 and 23, Arctic sea ice appeared to have reached its seasonal minimum extent for the year, at 4.59 million square kilometers (1.77 million square miles). This ties 2018 with 2008 and 2010 for the sixth lowest minimum extent in the nearly 40-year satellite record.

A recent paper in the journal Earth’s Future used modeling to estimate climate sensitivity (the warming associated with a doubling of CO2 in the atmosphere) using the energy balance technique, but with corrections for the two weaknesses that have been discovered in the technique.  The results showed that the estimates were larger than previously calculated with the technique and were consistent with mainstream climate science estimates.

Energy

In earlier Roundups I have linked to articles about zinc-air batteries, potential competitors to lithium-ion batteries for energy storage.  Now NantEnergy has announced that it has made zinc-air batteries rechargeable and reduced their cost to $100 per kilowatt-hr, compared to $300 to $400 per kilowatt-hr for lithium-ion batteries.  Currently, there are still limitations on the applications of zinc-air batteries, but they hold promise for micro-grid and other utility-scale energy storage.

The Northern Indiana Public Service Company (NIPSCO) announced Wednesday that it will speed up the retirement of its coal-fired generation by as much as 10 years — planning to retire the majority of its remaining plants in the next five years and the entire fleet within 10.  In its place, NIPSCO is looking to renewable energy sources such as solar and wind coupled with battery storage.  Spanish electric utility Iberdrola SA, the world’s biggest wind power producer, plans to expand its renewable capacity in the U.S. by about 50% over four years as part of its global plan to reduce carbon emissions.

The unfinished nuclear power plants in Georgia and South Carolina are facing different fates.  In Georgia, the primary owners of Plant Vogtle say the project will continue after they resolved a disagreement about multibillion-dollar budget overages.  In South Carolina, the Office of Regulatory Staff argued that SCE&G should have abandoned construction of two more nuclear reactors at the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station more than two years before the project ultimately collapsed, and thus construction costs after March 12, 2015, should be disallowed as “imprudent”, freeing ratepayers from having to pay them.  Two federal appeals courts have now upheld state nuclear power plant subsidies, and in doing so, they have also helped to solidify the legal footing for state renewable energy programs across the country.

The UK, Canada, Denmark, and Spain have joined the now 19-strong global Carbon Neutrality Coalition, a group of nations striving to achieve net zero CO2 emissions during the second half of the century, in line with the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.  China is aiming for renewables to account for at least 35% of electricity consumption by 2030, according to a revised draft plan from the National Development & Reform Commission.  Nevertheless, according to CoalSwarm, newly released satellite photos appear to show continuing construction of coal plants that China said it was cancelling last year.  Wind is set to become the European Union’s largest source of electricity by 2027, according to International Energy Agency.

Sunpreme, a California-based solar cell and bifacial panel maker, plans to open a Texas manufacturing facility in 2019.  Canadian solar panel manufacturer Heliene is opening a solar panel manufacturing plant in Mountain Iron, Minn.

Since 2012, Texas has approved 43 petrochemical projects along the Gulf Coast that will add millions of tons of greenhouse gas pollution to the atmosphere, according to an environmental study released this week by the Environmental Integrity Project.  The Oil and Gas Climate Initiative committed to cutting methane emissions to an intensity of 0.25% of the group’s total fossil fuel production.  Such a reduction would equate to 350,000 tonnes of methane annually.

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.

Climate and Energy News Roundup 9/21/2018

Policy and Politics

While some have touted the necessity of using negative emissions technologies for removing CO2 from the atmosphere to limit warming, researchers from the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change, Berlin, Germany, urged a thorough ethical analysis of the technologies before they are broadly applied.  An analysis commissioned by Greenpeace has found that the sale of new gasoline and diesel cars in Europe must be phased out before 2030 if the auto sector is to play its part in holding global warming to 1.5°C.  Although many advocate for carbon pricing as a way to decrease fossil fuel use, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has concluded that carbon prices in major advanced economies are too low to cut greenhouse gas emissions and stave off the worst effects of climate change.  Recently released documents show that like Exxon, Shell knew in the 1980s the impacts that continued burning of fossil fuels would have on the planet.  Exxon Mobil, Chevron, and Occidental Petroleum will join the European-led Oil & Gas Climate Initiative, adding $300 million to its fund for carbon-reduction ventures.  “The Climate Mobilization” is a nonprofit that advocates for a World War II-style mobilization for fighting global warming.

The Interior Department eased requirements that oil and gas firms operating on federal and tribal land capture any methane released.  The move will have negative impacts on the fight against climate change and thus environmentalists and Democrats vowed to fight it in court.  On the other hand, Shell announced on Monday plans to limit leaks of methane across its oil and gas operations.  On Wednesday, the EPA announced that it is proposing a rule to rescind a 2016 regulation that would have phased out the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), strong greenhouse gases, as refrigerants in appliances.  A number of states have moved to make it harder to protest oil and gas projects.  Now in Louisiana, the first felony arrests of protesters could become a test case of these tougher laws as opponents vow a legal challenge.  If all of the flooding associated with Hurricane Florence has you concerned about the susceptibility of your home to flooding, you can check FEMA flood maps here.  If you are thinking of buying a house, you might want to look into the laws in your state requiring disclosure of flood risk.  Virginia has essentially none.

When David Goodrich retired from his job as a climate scientist at NOAA, he resolved to ride his bike across America to see what climate change was doing up close.  He shared some of his observations at National GeographicWired published an interview with Stewart Brand, who had this to say about climate change: “We can see the problem but we can’t see the solution.  So the problem fills our minds.  But here’s the thing: Solutions don’t have to fill everybody’s mind—they just have to fill enough minds so that we can work them out.”  Peter Sinclair has two new videos, one entitled: “Textbook Trauma – The Emotional Cost of Climate Change” and another entitled: “Jennifer Francis: How Climate and Ice Melt Intensify Hurricanes.”

Climate

Scientists studying the Wilkes Subglacial Basin of East Antarctica have found that during the late Pleistocene interglacial intervals, when air temperatures were at least 2°C warmer than pre-industrial temperatures, extensive melting of the glaciers occurred, causing sea levels to be between 18 and 40 feet higher than they are today.  NASA is continuing with its Oceans Melting Greenland (OMG) project, a five-year, $30 million effort aimed at improving sea level rise projections by understanding how warming oceans are melting ice sheets from below.  Last week I linked to an article about the planned launch of ICESat-2 by NASA on Saturday, Sept. 15.  The launch was successfulReuters had a very interesting article about the difficulties and dangers of collecting data in Greenland.

Perhaps as a result of a blocking pattern associated with a warm Arctic, Hurricane Florence produced an extraordinary rainstorm that statistically had a 1-in-100 chance of occurring each year (a 100-year storm).  Over substantial areas, the deluge had a 0.1% chance of happening (a 1,000-year storm).  Flooding from Florence was widespread and its impacts disproportionately hit poor and minority communities, as reported in this story in The Guardian.  The U.S. isn’t the only place with climate-related flooding.  In a paper published on Wednesday in the journal Science Advances, researchers reported that extreme floods on the Amazon River that had occurred roughly once every 20 years in the first part of last century are now happening about every four years.  Climate change is also impacting the nature of summer thunderstorms in the U.S. desert Southwest, making groundwater recharge more problematic.

Although most of us are unaware of it, fungi play a major role in regulating the climate by influencing the amount of carbon stored in the soil.  Tropical forests were once a major carbon sink, taking up much of the CO2 released to the atmosphere by the burning of fossil fuels.  Now, deforestation, degradation, and general disturbance have combined to make tropical forests a net carbon source rather than a sink, meaning they’re losing more carbon than they can absorb.  Writing for Yale Climate Connections, Daisy Simmons reviewed the status of tropical forests today.

Rising temperatures have a direct impact on those who work outdoors.  Michelle Chen wrote about those impacts, as well as other occupational health issues associated with climate change.  The number of undernourished people around the globe increased to nearly 821 million in 2017, the third straight year of growth and the highest figure since 2009, according to a new report from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization.

The New York Times will publish a “Climate Solutions Special Report” in the September 24 print edition of the International NYT.  Today’s electronic edition of the NYT carried nine articles from the report: (1) things that are being done to adapt; (2) examples of fighting climate change or its impacts; (3) turning chicken waste into jet fuel and other useful products; (4) how Costa Rica is moving toward being the globe’s first carbon-neutral nation; (5) how reforestation in Columbia is saving hummingbirds as well as fighting climate change; (6) in Sweden, trash heats homes, powers buses, and fuels taxi fleets; (7) electric trucks are being used by UPS in London for deliveries; (8) G.E. has entered Europe’s offshore wind market; and (9) Rwanda is trying biogas as a way to curb deforestation.

A combination of warmer water and nutrient runoff is thought to be fueling a bloom of sargassum seaweed in the Caribbean, threatening everything from the tourist industry to turtle survival.

Energy

A new report by BVG Associates and commissioned by Virginia’s Sierra Club chapter says Virginia’s port infrastructure, experienced maritime workforce, and geographical advantages make it an ideal candidate for becoming a hub for the East Coast offshore wind supply chain.  However, Virginia will face stiff competition in doing so, as evidenced by New Jersey’s recent solicitation for 1,100 MW of offshore wind capacity — the largest single-state offshore wind solicitation in the U.S. to date.  All forms of energy have an environmental impact; the trick is to examine the costs and the benefits when siting a project.  An example of the tug-of-war that takes place whenever a project is sited is the proposed wind farm more than 30 miles off the coast of Montauk, Long Island.

ARPA-E, the Department of Energy’s blue-sky research program, this week announced $28 million in R&D grants for 10 projects aimed at delivering energy storage systems that can last for days.  David Roberts provided some background on ARPA-E and a summary of some of the ways for storing energy that are being investigated.

A new paper by Amory Lovins, co-founder of the Rocky Mountain Institute, argues that the costs of improving energy efficiency are lower than previously believed and the benefits are verging on unlimited. The paper says the world can sustain continued improvements in efficiency much more easily than previously thought, a key part of fighting climate change.

Faced with Hurricane Florence’s powerful winds and record rainfall, North Carolina’s solar farms held up with only minimal damage while other parts of the electricity system failed.  According to a report by Bloomberg NEF, solar projects that incorporate battery storage are becoming cheaper to build per megawatt-hour in parts of the U.S. Southwest than new gas-fired generation.  Consequently, some analysts question gas industry projections for growth.  Net metering is the policy that compensates rooftop solar owners at retail rates for the electricity their solar arrays send to the grid.  Replacements for it have been debated nationally for years and now sector leaders say some replicable policies may finally be emerging.

EU energy ministers agreed on Tuesday to pool efforts to increase the use of hydrogen in transport and power as part of the bloc’s attempt to cut carbon emissions by 40% by 2030.  Meanwhile, Germany has rolled out the world’s first hydrogen-powered train, signaling the start of a challenge to diesel trains by costlier but more eco-friendly technology.

David Roberts at Vox wrote about market research and polling concerning renewable energy done on behalf of the Edison Electric Institute.  After presenting some of the findings, he summarized this way: “The basic message from the public … is this: We want clean, modern energy, and we’ll pay for it.  We’re willing to let experts work out the details, but we don’t want to hear that it can’t be done.  Just do it.”  The Japanese energy conglomerate Marubeni will no longer build coal-fired power plants and it plans to slash its ownership in coal-fired energy assets in half by 2030.  Chicago-based Middle River Power LLC and New York-based Avenue Capital said Thursday that they would end their efforts to purchase the largest coal-fired power plant in the West, the Navajo Generating Station in Page, Arizona.

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.

Climate and Energy News Roundup 9/14/2018

Policy and Politics

California solidified its role as a world leader on climate action as Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation Monday to shift the state to 100% carbon-free electricity by 2045.  Timed to coincide with the opening of the Global Climate Action Summit on Wednesday in San Francisco, Gov. Brown and UN Special Envoy for Climate Action Michael Bloomberg had an op-ed piece in the Los Angeles Times touting the many actions that have been taken in the U.S. to counter the negative impacts of the Trump administration on the fight against climate change.  Nevertheless, a new report released Wednesday at the Summit projected that by 2025, the U.S. will have cut greenhouse gas emissions by only 17% below 2005 levels, rather than the 26-28% it had pledged under the Paris Climate Agreement.  Thousands took to the streets of San Francisco, New York, and other cities around the world prior to the summit.  Climate Home News reported on the Summit and the significance of the large Chinese delegation.  Meanwhile, at the UN, Secretary General António Guterres said in a speech to world leaders, “If we do not change course by 2020, we risk missing the point where we can avoid runaway climate change.”  Some of the world’s biggest investment houses, controlling $30 trillion worth of funds, have agreed to join forces to put pressure on governments to adhere to the promises they made in the Paris Climate Agreement.

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s administration announced Wednesday that the state would seek to regulate methane emissions from natural gas infrastructure.  On the other hand, the EPA plans to make public a proposal to weaken an Obama-era requirement that oil and gas companies monitor and repair methane leaks and the Interior Department is expected to release its final version of a draft rule, proposed in February, that essentially repeals a restriction on the intentional venting and burning of methane from drilling operations.  A comment published Wednesday in Nature Communications by a group of prominent climate scientists criticized a new European directive that treats wood harvested directly for bioenergy use as a carbon-free fuel, stating “replacing fossil fuels with wood will likely result in 2-3x more carbon in the atmosphere in 2050 per gigajoule of final energy.”

Bill McKibben introduced a video of poets Aka Niviana of Greenland and Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner of the Marshall Islands as they present their moving poem “Rise”.  Speaking of Greenland, in order to understand how climate change is affecting both the animals and the Indigenous communities that depend on them for food, income, and cultural identity, the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources teamed up with scientists to listen to what locals have observed.  Economic columnist Robert Samuelson had a thought-provoking piece in the Washington Post entitled “Why we don’t prepare for the future.”  New York Times best-selling author Anne Lamott, author of Almost Everything – Notes on Hope, recently wrote in National Geographic: “Hope is the belief that no matter how dire things look or how long rescue or healing takes, modern science in tandem with people’s goodness and caring will boggle our minds, in the best way.”  There is another cli-fi book out: The Completionist by Siobhan Adcock.  Amy Brady interviewed her at Yale Climate Connections.  Nathaniel Rich reviewed William T. Vollmann’s two-volume Climate Ideologies in The Atlantic.  Rich wrote “Vollmann’s meager wish is for future readers to appreciate that they would have made the same mistakes we have.”  The National Science Teachers Association called on science teachers from kindergarten through high school to emphasize to students that “no scientific controversy exists regarding the basic facts of climate change.”

Climate

There was much media coverage of Hurricane Florence as it approached the Carolinas, so I will not attempt to cover it.  However, there were two articles I would like to call to your attention.  Andrea Thompson explained “compound flooding” and why it could make the impacts of Florence more severe than the storm’s category would suggest.  And Eric Holthaus, a meteorologist and contributing writer for Grist, had this to say about Florence: “We have entered the heart of climate change’s period of consequences.”  In addition, a team of scientists from Stony Brook University, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and the National Center for Atmospheric Research estimated that Florence’s rainfall forecast is more than 50% higher than it would have been without global warming, and that its projected size is about 48 miles larger.  The population along North Carolina’s coast is almost 50% higher now than 20 years ago, fueled in part by a pro-development government that rejected long-term projections of sea level rise.  The New York Times examined the history and impacts of such policies.  Meanwhile, on the first anniversary of Hurricane Maria, Rolling Stone reporter Jeff Goodell wrote that the impact of the storm on Puerto Rico “was a manufactured catastrophe, created by an explosive mix of politics, Wall Street corruption, poor planning and rising carbon pollution.”  Lest we forget, in the Pacific, Super Typhoon Mangkhut is expected to barrel through the northernmost tip of the Philippines early on Saturday, carrying the 125 mph wind speeds and the gusts of up to 155 mph that it has maintained since it struck Micronesia earlier in the week.  Finally, new research, published in Journal of Climate, investigated the intensification of hurricanes in a warming world and found that it will occur more rapidly, just as it did with Maria last year and Florence this year.

A recent study published in Environmental Research Letters revealed that precipitation during the rainy season in the Amazon rainforest increased by 7 to 24 inches between 1979 and 2015.  Furthermore, the increase was caused primarily by increases in the sea surface temperature in the Atlantic Ocean.  A modeling study published Monday in the journal Science found that placing large wind and solar farms in the Sahel could increase precipitation there by nearly 20 inches a year.

A study published Thursday in the journal Climatic Change found that global warming of 3°C to 4°C could raise mortality rates by between 1 and 9% compared to limiting warming to 2°C or less.  Global hunger has reverted to levels last seen a decade ago, wiping out progress on improving people’s access to food and leaving one in nine people undernourished last year, with extreme weather a leading cause, the UN has warned.

A new study in the journal PLOS One has examined changes in the arrival of spring along four bird migratory routes in North America.  It found that the changes varied from north to south along three of the routes, which could impact reproductive success of the birds.  A warmer world also impacts the reproduction of alpine wildflowers, which along with other pressures, makes them more susceptible to extinction.

NASA plans to send the Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2) into space on 15 September from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. It will focus on measuring changes in ice thickness in Greenland and Antarctica, but it will also collect data on forest growth and cloud height.

In an effort to reduce methane emissions from rice fields, farmers have been advised to intermittently flood them, rather than leaving them constantly flooded.  Now, research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has revealed that the practice greatly increases the emissions of nitrous oxide, another potent greenhouse gas.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has stated that there is a 70% chance of a recurrence of an El Niño weather event before the end of this year.  El Niño events have a number of impacts on the weather, including increased warming.  In addition, the WMO indicated that climate change may be influencing the frequency with which the events occur.

Energy

Accurate carbon counting has two practical goals. The first is to establish the current trends and future trajectories of global emissions, so we can determine whether the world is on target for restricting global warming to less than 2°C. The second is to determine whether individual nations are meeting their promises under the Paris Climate Agreement.  Fred Pearce reviewed progress toward each of those goals at Yale Environment 360.  On Thursday, Jocelyn Timperley published an article at Carbon Brief explaining why the cement industry has such high CO2 emissions (if it were a country, it would rank 3rd in the world) and what might be done to reduce them.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration said on Wednesday that, based on preliminary estimates, the U.S. “likely surpassed” Russia in June and August, after jumping over Saudi Arabia earlier this year, to become the globe’s biggest oil producer.

A record 8.5 GW of utility solar projects were procured in the first six months of this year after President Donald Trump in January announced a 30% tariff on panels produced overseas, according to a report by Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables and the industry trade group Solar Energy Industries Association.  Because of the falling prices of solar farms, companies around the world are now building them without government subsidies.  Juan Monge of Greentech Media interviewed Jonathan Adelman of Excel Energy about the utility’s transition to renewable energy.  The large number of sunny days this summer allowed Europe to set records on solar PV production.

United Airlines said on Thursday it has set a goal to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent over the next few decades to help reduce its carbon footprint and its dependence on fossil fuels.  Several other airlines are also increasing their use of biofuels to cut their fossil carbon emissions.  Ikea is accelerating its plans for a zero-emissions delivery fleet, planning to achieve it in New York, Los Angeles, Amsterdam, Paris, and Shanghai by 2020 and worldwide by 2025.

Global demand for fossil fuels will peak in 2023, the thinktank Carbon Tracker has predicted, posing a significant risk to financial markets because trillions of dollars’ worth of oil, coal, and gas assets could be left worthless.  Oil and gas firms have rejected the idea that their assets are at risk.  By the end of the decade, Europe’s largest oil companies must roughly double the amount of money they’re now dedicating to “new energies” in order to meet key climate targets, according to a report from JPMorgan Chase & Co., suggesting that the challenge facing the fossil fuel industry has been vastly underestimated.

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.

Climate and Energy News Roundup 8/31/2018

Policy and Politics

One question in the ongoing negotiations over NAFTA is whether Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will stick by his demand that climate change be recognized in it.  Last week I provided links to articles about the fall of Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.  This week, Robinson Meyer of The Atlantic examined the possible connections between the climate positions of the Trump administration and the changing climate positions in Australia and Canada.  This is potentially quite important in light of a new report that found that while action by cities, states, regions, and businesses can go a long way towards meeting the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement, their actions alone, in the absence of national actions, are not enough to hold the global temperature increase to well-below 2°C.  Meanwhile, in spite of the EU’s strong actions on climate change, there are influential people who challenge the consensus on its causes.  A non-binding opinion written by a Member of the EU Parliament, John Stuart Agnew of the UK Independence Party, has shocked EU lawmakers for its dismissal of climate science – and the support he received to write it from mainstream rightwing and liberal political blocs.  Without first notifying his Prime Minister, environmentalist Nicolas Hulot resigned from his position as France’s minister of ecological and solidarity-based transition Tuesday morning during a live breakfast show on national radio.  A new report produced for the UN by Bios, an independent research institute based in Finland, has concluded that free market capitalism will not be able to meet the challenges posed by climate change and the need to move away from fossil fuels.  Rather some other, as yet unidentified, economic model will be required.

The California legislature voted on Tuesday to require that 100% of the state’s electricity come from carbon-free sources by 2045.  In a letter dated Wednesday, FERC cited a recent analysis by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management as justification for allowing construction to resume along most of the Mountain Valley Pipeline’s 303-mile route through West Virginia and Southwest Virginia.  A federal judge ruled that the coastal city of South Portland, Maine, did not violate the U.S. Constitution when it passed an ordinance that blocked Portland Pipe Line Corporation from bringing Alberta tar sands oil through its port for export.  Meanwhile, the Canadian Federal Court of Appeal on Thursday released its decision delaying the Kinder Morgan Trans Canada pipeline, which would carry tar sands oil to the Canadian West Coast.  In reaction, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said she is pulling her province out of the national climate change plan.

This week Yale Climate Connections presented 12 books illustrating authors attempts to meet the challenge of talking with children about climate change at different age levels, from pre-school to young adult.  Wes Granberg-Michaelson, former General Secretary of the Reformed Church in America, wrote this week at Sojourners about the role of ecumenical Christians in the fight against climate change.  Ivy Main explained the Virginia Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Affiliates Act with respect to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

Climate

According to a new paper in Earth Systems Dynamics, by 2035 we could pass the “point of no return” for reducing carbon emissions in order to limit global temperature rise to 2°C.  Furthermore, the authors determined that the deadline to stop global warming reaching 1.5°C has already passed, unless we commit to radical action now.

A new paper in the journal Science Advances reported that even if global average temperatures rise by as much as 4°C above pre-industrial levels, the damaging effects on fishing can be reduced through improved management of fisheries, allowing even greater catches.  However, without improved management, negative impacts will be severe.

A study published recently in Geophysical Research Letters used modeling to study the impacts of climate change on El Niño/La Niña events.  Summarizing their work, the lead author of the paper told John Abraham of The Guardian: “We can’t say from this study whether more or fewer El Niños will form in the future — or whether the El Niños that do form will be stronger or weaker in terms of ocean temperatures in the Pacific.  But we can say that an El Niño of a given magnitude that forms in the future is likely to have more influence over our weather than if the same El Niño formed 50 years ago.”

As documented in a new paper in Science Advances, scientists have discovered a new source of heat under the sea ice in the Beaufort Gyre of the Canadian Basin in the Arctic Ocean.  Summer sea ice has been absent from the Chukchi Sea for quite some time, allowing sunlight to directly contact the water, heating it.  That warm water is being carried under the sea ice into the Beaufort Gyre, but at a lower depth so that it doesn’t contact the ice above it.  However, should currents change, allowing the warm water to rise and contact the ice, its heat content is sufficient to melt the ice.

John Schwartz has a very interesting article in The New York Times, accompanied by beautiful photos and videos by Josh Haner, about the decline of Atlantic Puffins.  While climate change is involved, the interconnections are complex and difficult to tease apart.

While coastal cities in the U.S. face the risk of sea level rise as Earth warms, cities in the American Southwest face another hazard, extremely high temperatures.  This is requiring people to adapt in many ways.  California published its Fourth Climate Change Assessment this week, which includes a 67-page section on the state’s desert areas.  Sammy Roth summarized five major takeaways from the report.  The New York Times had an interactive graphic that allows you to enter your birthplace and year of birth and then see how the number of days with maximum temperatures exceeding 90°F has changed, among other things.  One way to lower temperatures in cities is to plant trees.  Unfortunately, nationally, 36.2 million urban trees are lost each year, along with a corresponding depletion of all their benefits, including carbon storage and cooling.

When we think about the impacts of sea level rise on Miami-Dade County, FL, the first things that comes to mind are the effects on roads, houses, and stormwater infrastructure.  Writing at Climate Changed, Christopher Flavelle argued that the main threat of sea level rise to the habitability of Miami-Dade is to its water supply.

Two articles published this week examined the impacts of warming on global food supplies.  One, published in Science, looked at losses of wheat, corn, and rice to insects.  It found that global yield losses of the three crops will increase by between 10 and 25% per degree Celsius of global mean surface warming.  The other, in Nature Climate Change, estimated that at atmospheric CO2 levels of 550 ppm, an additional 175 million people would be zinc deficient and an additional 122 million people would be protein deficient.  One South Korean company thinks the way around such problems is to grow non-commodity food crops in tunnels, while a company in Scotland says that their indoor farm is the most advanced in the world.  And another large study of global fossil and temperature records from the past 20,000 years suggests that Earth’s terrestrial ecosystems are at risk of drastic changes as Earth warms, especially if humans continue burning fossil fuels as in the past.

Energy

Some time back I provided a link to an article about the plans of Dyson to build an electric car.  The company has now announced plans to build a ten mile test track in Wiltshire, UK.  There are now more than a million electric cars in Europe after sales soared by more than 40% in the first half of the year.  Amy Harder at Axios sought to put Telsas and other electric cars in perspective in the fight against climate change.

By 2020, Facebook plans to power its global operations with 100% renewable energy and reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 75%.  Orlando, FL, has set a goal of generating all of its energy from carbon-free sources by 2050, and they are going about doing it in some interesting ways.  In Australia, a new analysis says wholesale electricity prices will almost halve over the next four years because of the installation of renewables.  A household just outside of Berlin has become the recipient of the 100,000th grid-connected residential battery energy storage system in Germany.

Japan’s consumption of liquefied natural gas is set to fall as the country’s nuclear reactors restart, with output from atomic power set for its highest since the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster.  Russia is almost ready to deploy its first floating nuclear power plant.  Needless to say, the idea is controversial.  On the other hand, the South African Department of Energy this week announced that the Cabinet has approved a draft updated Integrated Resources Plan which will see increased renewable energy generation in place of a planned nuclear expansion.

A high pressure system that stalled over Britain this summer was responsible for a decline in surface winds, causing electricity generation by wind turbines to decline.  On the subject of wind turbines, research published in the journal Ecology and Evolution has revealed that European pipistrelle bats are drawn to red lights.  Researchers say that to limit bat deaths by collisions with wind turbines, operators should install on-demand lighting that only turns on if an airplane approaches.

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.

 

Climate and Energy News Roundup 8/24/2018

Policy and Politics

The big news this week on the policy front was the announcement of the Trump administration’s replacement for the Clean Power Plan (CPP), which substantially rolled back regulations limiting CO2 emissions from coal-fired power plants.  Nevertheless, according to Brad Plumer at The New York Times, “… the reality on the ground for the nation’s coal industry remains bleak.”  One reason the Trump administration was able to propose a weak replacement for the CPP is that they used a much lower value for the social cost of carbon.  Brad Plumer also summarized the impacts on climate change of the CPP replacement and the proposed rollback of auto efficiency standards.  In addition, the EPA itself said the CPP replacement will result in 1,400 additional premature deaths each year due to pollution, with those deaths falling disproportionately on poor and minority communities in places like southwestern Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Missouri.  Several states were critical of the change and promised to challenge it in the courts.  Included in the CPP replacement is a change in the New Source Review program that will allow an increase in the total amount of pollutants emitted when an old power plant undergoes an upgrade.  The New York Times also fact checked President Trump’s claims about coal, the environment, and West Virginia.  Analysis by the Rhodium Group has revealed that 25 states are likely to beat their emission targets under the CPP despite its repeal, 10 states are close to meeting their targets, but could miss, and 12 states will likely miss their targets.  (Note: 3 states were excluded from the CPP.)

In what has to be the biggest example of chutzpah ever seen, Texas and its petroleum industry want the federal government to help pay for a nearly 60-mile “spine” of concrete seawalls, earthen barriers, floating gates, and steel levees on the Gulf Coast to help protect the industry from the consequences of climate change.  The price of carbon on the European Union carbon market is becoming high enough to impact fuel choices for power generation.  In a report published on Tuesday, think tank Carbon Tracker forecast the price hitting $29/t by the end of 2018 and averaging $41-$47/t over 2019-23.  After dropping a national policy to cut carbon emissions from the energy sector that was supposed to help Australia fulfill its obligations under the Paris Climate Agreement, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was still ousted by his own party and replaced by Scott Morrison.  Damien Cave examined why Australian politicians are divided even more on climate policy than U.S. ones.  The State Water Control Board in Virginia considered revoking permits for the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast natural gas pipelines during a hearing Tuesday, but in the end simply pushed for stricter enforcement of state regulations.  The Advisory Council on Environmental Justice recommended that Virginia Governor Ralph Northam rescind Clean Water Act certifications for the two pipelines and not issue any more permits in order to protect minority communities along their routes.  The Economist has addressed the question of how to design a carbon tax.

Millennial climate scientist Kate Marvel has written “Courage is the resolve to do well without the assurance of a happy ending.”  Writing about her and other millennials, Eric Holthaus has concluded that “The aim of climate activism isn’t to erase the sins of the previous generations; it’s to ensure that future generations are handed a world that isn’t at the threshold of going to hell.”  Of course, climate change is not just something for future generations, it is already impacting many people, especially those that are marginalized.  It may be more difficult for millennials and others to take direct action because dozens of bills and executive orders have been introduced in at least 31 states since January 2017 that aim to restrict high-profile protests of fossil fuel projects.  Here is how things are playing out in Louisiana, which recently enacted such a law.   Female scientists are not immune to the sexual harassment experienced by women in many occupations.  Unfortunately, for female climate scientists, the harassment has been particularly vitriolic, leading many to fear for their safety.  If you are interested in what has happened in Puerto Rico since last year’s hurricanes, Wired has an article on it.

Climate

A study of the forests of Central Europe suggests the higher temperatures—combined with pollution from auto exhaust and farms—are making wood weaker, resulting in trees that break more easily and lumber that is less durable.  Speaking of plant growth, new research has found that over the past 30 years, the areas across the globe where cold temperatures limit it have declined by 16%.

With wildfires continuing in the western U.S., Bob Berwyn of Inside Climate News examined how they can affect climate change.  New research, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found “previously unnoted” declines in summer rainfall across almost a third of forests in the western U.S. over the past four decades.  These declines are “strongly correlated” with wildfire increases.

On Sept. 15, NASA will launch the Ice, Cloud, and Land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2) about 300 miles above Earth, where it will use six lasers to measure the changing heights of Earth’s polar ice over the course of its three-year mission, which can be extended to as many as 10 years.  The oldest and thickest sea ice in the Arctic has started to break up, opening waters north of Greenland that are normally frozen, even in summer.

Sea level rise is impacting home values along the East Coast, but so far it is mainly reducing the rate at which homes appreciate.  A growing body of research by economists and climate scientists shows that extreme weather will increasingly harm economic growth. Yet almost no mainstream economic forecasting model takes this into account, which could affect the accuracy of economic predictions.

Although the data can only be considered to be preliminary and the studies need to be replicated, scientists in both Siberia and Alaska have reported that in some regions the active layer above the permafrost did not refreeze this past winter.  If this represents the beginning of a trend, the implications are concerning.

A review paper in Nature Communications has examined the links between Arctic warming and summer weather in the Northern Hemisphere.  In particular, three hypotheses were reviewed: warming could weaken certain eastward blowing winds, cause the jet stream to shift southward, and cause the jet stream to meander up and down.

Energy

A floating tidal stream turbine off the coast of Orkney produced 3GWh of renewable electricity during its first year of testing at the European Marine Energy Center.  This is the greatest amount of energy produced by a tidal generator to date.

Jan Ellen Spiegel has an article at Yale Climate Connections reviewing the short history of off-shore wind energy in the U.S. and looking ahead to its hopefully rosy future.  Its message is reinforced by three new reports released Thursday on the state of U.S. wind power that show how the industry is expanding onshore with bigger, more powerful turbines that make wind energy possible even in areas with lower wind speeds.  Offshore, the reports describe a wind industry poised for a market breakthrough.

In the past I’ve provided links to articles about fully electric long-haul trucks.  Writing at Bloomberg, Brianna Jackson outlined some of the challenges they will face trying to unseat diesel engines as the power trains of choice.  Regarding passenger electric vehicles (EVs), experts suggest the freezing of CAFE standards through 2026 alone likely won’t slow EV growth, but the Trump administration’s proposal to roll back California’s waivers to institute stricter emissions rules and EV mandates could have an impact.

As an example of the continued penetration of battery storage into electric power systems in the U.S., a renewable energy developer filed applications with the Montana Public Service Commission to build 320 MW of wind and 160 MW/640 MWh of battery storage spread over four separate projects in the state.  A new report from GTM Research predicts that global lithium-ion battery deployments for utility-scale energy storage will grow by 55% annually over the next five years.  However, because of cost we can’t depend upon lithium-ion batteries for all the energy storage we will need if all electricity is provided by renewable sources.  An article from July 27 (which we missed) estimated it would cost $2.7 trillion for the U.S. to provide the needed storage with the batteries.  A Swiss startup says it can provide storage much more cheaply, just by stacking concrete blocks.  Or, perhaps someday we will be able to use lithium-oxygen batteries for utility-scale storage, at 1/10 the volume of lithium-ion batteries.  They are still a long way from application, but they are another example of what may come to pass.

Inside Climate News reported that the tariffs on imported solar panels imposed by the Trump administration six months ago have done little to dampen the booming solar market in the U.S.  In an effort to cut the cost of clean electricity, power utilities around the world are supersizing their solar farms, although there are limits.

Halogen lightbulbs will be banned across Europe on 1 September, to be replaced by LEDs.

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.

 

 

Climate and Energy News Roundup 8/17/2018

Policy and Politics

The Trump administration’s proposed replacement for the Clean Power Plan is expected to be released by the EPA late next week, an agency source said on Thursday.  Politico says that the strategy for the plan is changing the way the costs and benefits are calculated.  After stating on Sunday that the California wildfires had “nothing to do with climate change,” Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke suggested on Thursday that climate change may have a role.  Last Friday climate scientist Kevin Trenberth had an article at The Conversation outlining the links between climate change and wildfires.  When Zinke took over as Interior Secretary, he instated a new requirement that scientific funding above $50,000 must undergo an additional review to ensure expenditures “better align with the administration’s priorities”.  The person overseeing that review is Steve Howke, whose highest degree is a bachelor’s in business administration.  During his confirmation hearing on Thursday, Lane Genatowski, President Trump’s nominee to lead the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) within DOE, told members of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee that he would be glad to run the agency if it continues to be funded.  However, he also supports Trump’s budget, which zeros out the program.

A federal judge in Montana on Wednesday ordered the U.S. State Department to do a full environmental review of a revised route for the Keystone XL crude oil pipeline.  On Thursday, the Southern Environmental Law Center and Appalachian Mountain Advocates filed a lawsuit with the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals challenging the necessity of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. A review by the Charleston Gazette-Mail, in collaboration with ProPublica, showed that, over the past two years, federal and state agencies tasked with enforcing the nation’s environmental laws have moved repeatedly to clear roadblocks and expedite the Mountain Valley Pipeline.  Nevertheless, the strategy of environmental groups opposing the pipelines appears to be paying off.  A group of young climate advocates who sued the state of Washington to force it to reduce greenhouse gas emissions lost their case on Tuesday when King County Superior Court Judge Michael Scott sided with the state and agreed to dismiss it.  The lawyers for the young people said they will appeal.  Across the Atlantic, the People’s Climate Case, a lawsuit by families across Europe calling for stronger EU climate action, has gotten the go-ahead from the European General Court.

Ivy Main has a new post on her blog asking Dominion Energy Virginia to fully reveal their plans for modernizing the grid.  In a commentary in the journal Joule, climate scientist James Hansen and colleague examined the cost to future generations of carbon capture and storage.  In an opinion piece in The New York Times, Justin Gillis and Jameson McBride advocated for a national clean energy standard as an alternative to a carbon tax.  I was unaware until recently of an article in a 1912 New Zealand newspaper about how burning coal might produce future warming by adding CO2 to the atmosphere.  Snopes checked it out and found it to be true.

Climate

A new study, published in Nature on Wednesday, used satellite-based observations of sea surface temperature from 1982 to 2016 to detect a doubling in the number of marine heat wave days.  Furthermore, this number is projected to increase by a factor of 16 for global warming of 1.5°C and by a factor of 23 for global warming of 2.0°C.  Today, 87% of marine heat waves are attributable to human-caused warming, with this ratio increasing to nearly 100% under any global warming scenario exceeding 2°C.  Meanwhile, sea surface temperatures are increasing in the tropical waters of the equatorial Pacific Ocean, creating conditions for the development of an El Niño event beginning this fall.

One driver of sea level rise is the melting of glaciers in West Antarctica.  Part of that melting is due to warm ocean water washing against and under the face of the glaciers.  In a paper in Nature Geoscience, scientists reported that periodic arrival of the warm currents is due to natural variability in those currents, as explained by Daisy Dunn at Carbon Brief.  A study in Science Advances has found that sea level rise will allow tsunamis to reach much further inland, significantly increasing the risk of floods.  This means that tsunamis, associated with a given magnitude earthquake, that might not be deadly today, could wreak havoc in the future.  On the subject of sea level rise, when I first started studying climate change impacts it was a surprise to me to learn that sea level varied around the globe.  This clear, short piece from Science News explains why.

A new paper in Nature Climate Change examined the likely damages in coastal Europe over the rest of this century associated with sea level rise.  The authors found that the present expected annual damage of €1.25 billion is projected to increase by two to three orders of magnitude, ranging between €93 and €961 billion.  Furthermore, the current expected annual number of people exposed to coastal flooding of 102,000 is projected to reach 1.52–3.65 million.

In a new paper in Nature Communications, French and Dutch scientists have forecast that there is a 58% chance that the period 2018-2022 will be warmer than the global average trend, although that chance increases to 72% for the period 2018-2021.  Many high temperature records were set around the world during the month of July, with many exceeding 50°C (122°F).  Writing at The Guardian in a series on “Sweltering Cities”, Amy Fleming and coworkers wrote about the “cool haves and hot have-nots”, Jonathan Watts and Elle Hunt explored what cities will be like when such temperatures become commonplace, Oliver Milman explored heat in U.S. cities, and Philip Oldfield presented four ways to cool cities.   Prof. Stefan Rahmstorf, a prominent German climate scientist, wrote an essay for Politico explaining this summer’s strange weather in Europe.  In it he stated “Climate change does not just mean that everything is gradually getting warmer: It is also changing the major circulations of our atmosphere and ocean. This is making the weather increasingly weird and unpredictable.”

Energy

Germany has set a goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 40% below 1990 levels by 2020 and another 15% by 2030.  Many analysts think the country will miss those targets.  Even though Germany is a leader in renewable energy, it has been shutting down its nuclear power plants, which emit no CO2, while continuing to depend on coal.  Nevertheless, one German startup is doing what it can to reduce emissions by integrating flexible solar panels into the body of its new EV.  (This article has a neat photo from inside the car.)

In a new study in Nature Communications, Anna Harper and colleagues found that expansion of bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) to meet the 1.5°C limit on temperature increases could cause net losses of carbon from the land surface.  Instead, they found that protecting and expanding forests could be more effective options for meeting the Paris Agreement than BECCS.

According to the Australian Energy Market Operator, South Australia is likely to source the equivalent of 100% of its electricity from renewables by 2025.  British renewable energy investor Quercus said it will halt the construction of a $570 million solar power plant in Iran due to recently imposed U.S. sanctions on Tehran.

Analysis of government data by Climate Home News has identified roughly 300 active and 200 abandoned coal mines that are the source of almost one-tenth of U.S. methane pollution, equivalent in warming potential to roughly 13 million cars.

A note released this week by the research firm Rhodium Group stated that absent “market interventions at a grand scale” — such as the Trump administration’s plan to force utilities to buy uncompetitive coal-fired power under the mandate of national security — the trends leading to coal-fired power plant closures are accelerating and could lead to the country’s coal fleet being nearly halved again by 2030.  Evidence for that comes from the Midwest where electric utilities in states such as Iowa, Kansas, Wisconsin and Michigan have recently announced goals to close coal-fired power plants and pivot toward cleaner resources.  However, as pointed out by Richard Newell and Daniel Raimi of Resources for the Future, the world still hasn’t started a transition away from fossil fuels.  While their percentage contribution to the total has decreased or remained stable, their absolute contribution is still increasing.

The UK is heavily dependent on natural gas, with the fuel meeting about two thirds of domestic heating demand.  However, meeting Britain’s 2050 climate goals will require the nation to wean itself off natural gas, but the nation’s electricity system probably won’t be able to cope without energy storage.  Consequently, reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the heating sector is “one of the toughest challenges the country faces in its low-carbon transition,” according to a report published Friday by the UK Energy Research Centre.

A new report by GTM Research examined the changing landscape of EV charging infrastructure.  Currently, there are many participants, with no clear leaders.  Nevertheless, the report predicted that growth in EV sales worldwide is expected to boost demand for charging points, with up to 40 million being installed by 2030.  New England governors and eastern Canadian premiers say they will work together to build infrastructure for EVs and take other steps to address climate change.

Siemens Gamesa has signed a subcontract with Ørsted to supply turbines for the Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project, initiated by Dominion Energy.  The blades for this project will be produced at the company’s manufacturing facility in Aalborg, Denmark, and the nacelle assemblies will originate from the Siemens Gamesa facility in Cuxhaven, Germany. Once in Virginia, the turbine components will be installed by Ørsted on monopile foundations. Deliveries are expected to begin in mid-2020.

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.

Climate and Energy News Roundup 8/10/2018

Policy and Politics

Last week’s Roundup started with an article by Nathaniel Rich, entitled “Losing Earth,” that comprised the entire issue of The New York Times Magazine for August 5.  Because of its conclusion, the article caused quite a stir.  Below I have listed some of the responses to it:

  1. Kate Aronoff, “What ‘The New York Times’ Climate Blockbuster Missed,” The Nation
  2. Emily Atkin, “Who’s to Blame for Global Warming,” The New Republic
  3. Alyssa Battistoni, “How Not to Talk about Climate Change,” Jacobin Magazine
  4. Peter Gleick, “Saving Earth: Don’t Fall into Climate Change Fatalism,” HuffPost Opinion
  5. Alexander Kaufman, “2018 Would Still Be a Climate Hellscape If We Acted 30 Years Ago,” HuffPost Environment
  6. Naomi Klein, “Capitalism Killed Our Climate Momentum, Not ‘Human Nature’,” The Intercept
  7. Joe Romm, “Scientists Aren’t Impressed with New York Times’ New Story on Climate Change,” Think Progress
  8. Rhea Suh, “The Moral of The New York Times Climate Story: We Need to Up Our Game,” Natural Resources Defense Council

President Donald Trump reportedly plans to fill a vacancy at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) with Bernard McNamee, executive director of DOE’s Office of Policy and a former top official at the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF), a conservative research and advocacy group that advocates for deregulation.  The EPA is floating the idea of changing its rulemaking process and setting a threshold level of fine particles that it would consider safe.  Previously, it has considered no level safe.  The change would affect how EPA counts the co-benefits of reducing fine particles when making rules aimed at reducing other pollutants, like greenhouse gases.  California air regulators on Tuesday said they plan to keep tightening state vehicle emissions rules despite a Trump administration proposal last week that would strip the state of the ability to set its own limits.  The Heartland Institute’s second “America First” conference on U.S. energy was held Tuesday in New Orleans.  Inside Climate News covered the gathering and found many singing a very negative tune.

Nader Sobhani analyzed Rep. Carlos Curbelo’s Market Choice Act for the Niskanan Center.  A new study in Nature Climate Change has found that if a blanket carbon tax is applied across all sectors, agriculture will be especially hard hit, increasing food insecurity.  The authors emphasize “Agriculture should receive a very specific treatment when it comes to climate change policies.”  Pete Myers reflected on Buckminster Fuller’s “energy slaves” as depicted in Stuart McMillen’s comic.  Environmental writer Cally Carswell ruminated in High Country News on the question of why she and her husband moved to Santa Fe during a time of drought.  New York Times science writer John Schwartz reviewed William T. Vollman’s two volume Carbon Ideologies.  The Yale Program on Climate Change Communication has a new set of climate opinion maps.

Climate

Probably the most written about scientific paper on climate change this week was the one by Will Steffen et al. in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).  The paper is pretty well summed up in the first sentence of the abstract: “We explore the risk that self-reinforcing feedbacks could push the Earth System toward a planetary threshold that, if crossed, could prevent stabilization of the climate at intermediate temperature rises and cause continued warming on a “Hothouse Earth” pathway even as human emissions are reduced.”  The paper is labeled as a “Perspective” and is open access.  It can be read or downloaded hereJonathan Watts had a good summary, while Steven Salzberg and Jeff Goodell had interesting commentaries.  Skeptical Science presented a graphic that clarifies the various periods discussed.  On the subject of uncertain futures, Amy Brady interviewed debut novelist Harriet Alida Lye about her new book, The Honey Farm.

One of the authors of another study in PNAS told Carbon Brief “Our analysis of methane uptake around the globe shows that methane uptake in forest soils has decreased by an average of 77% from 1988 to 2015. We conclude that the soil methane sink may be declining and overestimated in several regions across the globe.”  Daisy Dunne discussed the paper and explained its significance at Carbon Brief.  A paper in Nature Communications reported on a study that found that maintaining existing forests may be more effective than bioenergy with carbon capture and storage as a strategy for reducing CO2 levels in the atmosphere.

Solar radiation management (SRM) is a form of proposed geoengineering in which sulfate aerosols would be injected into the upper atmosphere to reflect some of the incoming sunlight, thereby helping to cool Earth.  Most consideration of SRM has been theoretical, but now a group of scientists has examined the impacts of two 20th century volcanoes (which also spew large quantities of sulfur into the atmosphere) to estimate what the effects of SRM would be on agriculture.  They concluded that the positive and negative effects would cancel each other out, leaving little net benefit.

Unless you have been completely cut off from the news, you are doubtless aware of the severe fires in California.  ABC News queried climate scientist Michael Mann about the impact climate change has had on them.  Meanwhile, Zeke Hausfather at Carbon Brief performed a fact-check on the assertion that wildfires in the U.S. burned more acres in the early part of the 20th century than today.  Last week Quirin Schiermeier had an interesting article in Nature about the increasing ability of attribution studies to determine how likely it is that certain weather events (such as heat waves) have been caused or influenced by climate change.

As evidenced by Death Valley having the hottest month of any location in the world, ever, heat waves have been hitting all around the Northern Hemisphere, so writers at The Christian Science Monitor asked whether they have changed people’s attitudes about global warming.  Regardless of attitudes, actions haven’t changed all that much, with the result that people and governments are ill-prepared for a warmer world.  Unfortunately, problems aren’t limited to the Northern Hemisphere.  In the Southern, in the middle of the worst drought in living memory, Australia is also heating up due to climate change. Critics say too little is being done to prevent increasing temperatures and decreasing rainfall.

A study published in PNAS found that 43% of the bird species in the Mojave Desert in the early 20th century have been lost because of climate change.  Climate Central analyzed the number of days each year in the spring, summer, and fall with an average temperature between 61°F and 93°F.  This is the range for transmission of diseases spread by mosquitoes of the Aedes or Culex type.  Of the 244 cities analyzed, 94% are seeing an increase in the number of days, indicating a heightened risk for disease transmission.

Energy

Quartz had a feature about a new battery developed by Pellion Technologies, that utilizes lithium-metal technology, rather than lithium-ion technology.  Quartz explained why this could be significant: “Pellion’s battery can pack nearly double the energy of a conventional lithium-ion battery.”  Minnesota electric cooperative Connexus Energy has confirmed recent press reports that it is building 15MW/30MWh of battery energy storage, while another not-for-profit, Vermont Electric Cooperative, will build a 1.9MW/5.3MWh system in its service area.

Companies and agencies, excluding utilities, have agreed to buy 7.2 GW of clean energy worldwide so far this year, shattering the record of 5.4 GW for all of 2017, according to a report last Friday from Bloomberg NEFBloomberg NEF also reported that global wind and solar developers took 40 years to install their first trillion watts (terawatts) of power generation capacity, but the next terawatt may be finished within the next five years.  They estimated that the industry reached the 1-terawatt milestone sometime in the first half of the year.  Apple is leading the development of two new wind and solar energy farms in Illinois and Virginia that will not only help bring green energy to its own operations, but also those of Akamai, Etsy, and Swiss Re.

This week’s “Clean Economy Weekly” from Inside Climate News had several items of interest, including the low electricity price from the Vineyard offshore wind farm off Cape Cod and news that demand for Tesla’s Powerwall is exceeding supply.  Julia Pyper at Greentech Media reviewed the status of wind energy in the U.S. in light of the cancellation of the Wind Catcher project in Texas and Oklahoma.

Virginia has picked a Los Angeles firm, EVgo, to build and operate a network of electric-vehicle charging stations across the commonwealth, with the state planning to use $14 million from the Volkswagen settlement to cover its share of the public-private partnership cost.  Gregory Schneider summarized recent actions by federal judges against the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipelines.

By the end of this year, Siemens Gamesa and its research partners in Denmark plan to install at sea a prototype suction bucket foundation that could reduce the cost to construct and install offshore wind turbine foundations by 40% compared to existing technology.  The U.S. wind industry will face tough times post-2021 when the value of the Production Tax Credit drops to 60% in 2022 and 40% in 2023, before disappearing entirely in 2024.  Using data and analysis from its latest “North America Wind Power Outlook”, Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables presented five drivers that will sustain demand for new wind capacity additions in the market during this time.  In documents and sworn statements filed with the Ohio Power Siting Board on Thursday, the developers of the six-turbine Icebreaker Wind project planned for Lake Erie presented evidence that Murray Energy Corp. has been bankrolling anti-Icebreaker consultants, as well as lawyers representing two residents who have testified against the project.

More than 3,500 hydropower dams are being planned or built around the world.  This could double by 2030.  Most of these dams are in the planning stage, and the data don’t include dams primarily designed for water supply, flood prevention, navigation and recreation – so the total number of dams being built could be much higher.  Needless to say, the construction of such dams is a contentious issue.

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.