Climate and Energy News Roundup 4/21/2017

Although it is a couple of weeks old, I thought this article about the healing powers of nature was worth sharing with you.  I also just learned about the new book by Michael Bloomberg and Carl Pope entitled Climate of Hope.  From the book’s website: “In Climate of Hope, Bloomberg and Pope offer an optimistic look at the challenge of climate change, the solutions they believe hold the greatest promise, and the practical steps that are necessary to achieve them.”  I just picked up a copy at a local bookstore and look forward to reading it.  Hannah Rothstein, a Berkeley-based artist, has reimagined some iconic National Park posters in 2050.  Warning, they’re not pretty.  If you have had a frustrating discussion with a climate change denier, you might be interested in this article about an AskReddit discussion that asked former climate deniers what changed their minds.  Take four minutes and watch this powerful video featuring Neil deGrasse Tyson talking about science and science-denial.  The editor of the journal Nature Communications devoted this month’s editorial to the threat fake news poses to action on climate change.  Finally, Bloomberg has added a section called “Climate Changed.”

The main political news this week was the meeting that didn’t happen.  The group of Trump advisors that was going to meet to prepare a recommendation on whether the U.S. should stay in the Paris Climate Accord, didn’t.  The meeting hasn’t been rescheduled.  Nevertheless, other countries are quite interested in what we plan to doCarbon Brief interviewed Michael Gerrard, director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School, about the ramifications of the U.S. pulling out of the Paris Accord, among other things.  Energy Secretary Rick Perry directed his department to conduct a study of the U.S. electric grid, causing concern within the renewable energy industry.  Also, changes to the DOE website downplay the climate benefits of each form of technology and distance the agency from the idea that they might be used to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, instead emphasizing their economic advantages.  During the congressional recess Republican lawmakers have been receiving heat at town hall meetings over their positions on climate change.  A group of 11 Republican state attorneys general is protesting an investigation into whether Exxon Mobil Corp. violated consumer protection laws when selling fossil fuel products while failing to reveal information about the effects of burning them on the global climate.  Their argument is that the “debate” over whether carbon emissions cause climate change is not settled.

Climate

NOAA scientists have determined that the average global temperature in March was 56.8°F (13.8°C), second only to last year’s record, which was boosted by a strong El Niño.  This was the first time the Earth was more than 1°C (1.8°F) warmer than normal without an El Niño.  NASA scientists also concluded that March 2017 was the second hottest on record.  Meanwhile, the U.S. (lower 48) is in the middle of the warmest period ever recorded.  A new study published in Nature Communications examines changes in solar activity and CO2 levels over the past 420 million years. It found that unless we change, by mid-century we will be causing the fastest climate change in approximately 50 million years.

A pair of papers in the journal Nature provide a new understanding of how water moves across Antarctica’s ice sheets and shelves through a network of interconnected lakes and rivers.  The authors suggest that this transport could make ice shelves increasingly vulnerable to collapse as melt rates accelerate under future climate change.  On the other hand, in at least one instance, a drainage system appears to be stabilizing an ice shelf rather than weakening it.  The Arctic is melting as well.  Writing for Bloomberg, Eric Roston and Blacki Migliozzi are presenting a three-part series entitled “How a Melting Arctic Changes Everything.”  Part I, “The Bare Arctic” came out this week.

A new study by the Berlin thinktank Adelphi and commissioned by the German foreign office investigated the links between insurgency and terrorism in a warming world.  Their conclusion: climate change will fuel acts of terrorism and strengthen recruiting efforts by terrorist groups such as Islamic State and Boko Haram.  The New York Times Magazine published a new world map that overlays human turmoil with climate turmoil, illustrating the striking correlation between the two.  This is one of six articles in this “climate issue.”

A paper in the journal Nature Climate Change reported on a study of possible migration patterns in the U.S. in response to sea level rise by 2100.  Surprisingly, the study suggested that many migrants will move to inland locales in different states, not just in the state where they originally resided.  This suggests that inland states will also be impacted by sea level rise and should plan for it.

Between 2004 and 2012 deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon fell from 11,000 square miles per year to 1,700 square miles, causing many to think that the deforestation problem had been solved.  Unfortunately, deforestation has trended upwards since 2012, with a sharp 29% increase in the rate of clearing in 2016.  As explained by Philip Fearnside, a Brazilian ecologist who has worked in the Amazon for more than 30 years, the forces acting to cause deforestation are many and complex.

NOAA has a new interactive map that shows how planting zones have changed due to climate change.  Cassie Kelley at EcoWatch explained the map and presented a graphic showing how the zones have changed.  Generally, the zones have moved northward.  Growing zones have also changed in the Arctic, bringing woody shrubs to regions that haven’t had them.  As a consequence, beavers are also moving north, which is having a variety of effects on the ecosystem.

Energy

The small Danish island of Samsø, population 3750, has received a lot of attention because it became energy independent 10 years ago using a mixture of wind, solar, and biomass.  What is really interesting about this achievement is that it was attained by conservative farmers.

Writing at Think Progress, Mark Hand reviewed the role of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the idea that it could take actions that favor the climate.

In 2016, for the first time, more than 100,000 people in the United States were employed in some manner by the wind industry, according to an annual report released Wednesday by the American Wind Energy Association.  A new report by the Union of Concerned Scientists that ranks states on their recent clean energy momentum finds leaders in states led by Republicans and Democrats alike.  Currently the largest offshore wind turbine has a generation capacity of 8MW, but projects slated for completion by 2025 will have turbines with capacities between 13 and 15 MW, allowing them to deliver electricity at market prices without subsidies.

A report from the European Commission, prepared by the German research group Öko-Institut e.V., has found that mechanisms that allow countries to offset emissions by purchasing credits linked to green-energy projects in another country via an international market are unlikely to actually reduce emissions and should be phased out.  Jerry Taylor of the Niskanen Center, a former climate change denier who is now a strong advocate for a carbon tax as a way to reduce emissions, countered anti-tax arguments in a blog post on Thursday.

Southern California Edison has installed a unique system that uses gas turbines in combination with 10MW lithium-ion battery storage units to cover peak loads during summer evenings when solar production is shutting down but electricity demand is up.  The hybrid system reduces greenhouse emissions and cooling water use.  Nevertheless, in the long-term, gas-fired power plants will either have to capture and store their carbon emissions, or they will have to be shut down.  In an earlier Roundup I linked to an article about the partnership between researchers at Colorado State University and Google Street View to map pervasive natural-gas leaks.  Well, this article provides more details about their joint venture.

If you are like me, you may have wondered how we (the U.S.) could have invented solar panels and yet now only have a 2% market share of global solar panel sales.  Well, a new paper in Science Advances studied that question and has some answers that might surprise you, such as financialization of our economy.

Four of the five states with the most net zero energy schools underway in 2016 were in the South — despite low power rates and few policy incentives.

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 4/14/2017

I thought some of you might be interested in this site for climate change podcasts.

On the political front, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has been facing increasing criticism from the right for his refusal to challenge EPA’s endangerment finding, which provides the legal basis for all climate change regulations.  Meanwhile, at a Pennsylvania coal mine on Thursday, Pruitt spoke as part of a new public relations campaign, gathering together the Trump administration’s EPA priorities into an effort called “Back 2 Basics,” which does things like reconsider the rule limiting the discharge of heavy metals in wastewater from coal-fired power plants.  Elsewhere on Thursday, Pruitt said the Paris Climate Agreement “…is something we need to exit in my opinion.”  On Monday, G7 energy ministers failed to agree on a statement supporting the Paris climate accord after the US delegation said it was reviewing its position.  On Tuesday, China, Brazil, India and South Africa urged industrialized countries to honor financial commitments made in Paris in 2015 to help developing countries fight against global climate change.  Younger Republicans increasingly say they believe climate change is a human-caused problem and that Americans have a responsibility to act on it, according to a Thomson Reuters Foundation review of college Republican clubs across the U.S.

Climate

Carbon Brief has updated its data dashboard, summarizing key indicators on our climate, atmosphere, oceans, and cryosphere.  NOAA now has its Climate Explorer online.  It is a collaborative effort of several agencies and lets you look at both historical data and projections for two future emission scenarios for locations all over the U.S.  Unfortunately, the Trump administration has signaled a desire to eliminate funding for the NASA satellites that provide the type of data used to construct those images.  Henry Fountain discussed the concerns of climate scientists about such cuts.

A new study published in Nature Climate Change compared the amount of permafrost likely to be lost with 1.5°C warming to that likely lost with 2°C warming and found that the difference was an area equivalent to that of Mexico.  Although not quantified, the release of larger amounts of CO2 and methane would also result from the greater warming.  Meanwhile, a freezer malfunction at the University of Alberta in Edmonton caused ice cores from across the Canadian Arctic to melt, destroying them and the scientific information they contained.  Although this article about the impacts of climate change on Glacier National Park is over a week old, I thought the story it told is well worth its inclusion this week.

Using helicopter borne instruments, scientists have been able to measure the depth and configuration of the ice in the Jakobshavn glacier in Greenland.  Their findings show that the glacier extends farther below sea level than previously realized and that the depth increases the farther inland the glacier extends, forming a grounding with a “retrograde” slope.  This means that the glacier is susceptible to melting from warm sea water against its face and that the area exposed increases the more the glacier melts and retreats, leading to accelerating melting over time.  Another large Greenland glacier, the Petermann, has apparently developed a new crack in its floating ice shelf that could contribute to a future break, releasing a large ice island like those released in 2010 and 2012.  Mashable compiled a group of stunning photos from the Arctic and paired them with an interesting essay by Andrew Freedman about the fate of Arctic ice.

Most research on melting glaciers in Antarctica has been carried out in the western part of the continent, which contains only about 10% of the ice.  Now researchers are learning more about eastern Antarctica, thanks to better airborne sensors and a successful cruise along parts of the coastline.  Writing in Nature, Jane Qiu has summarized the surprising, and disturbing, new findings by the scientists.

Although the reason is not well understood, liana vines are proliferating in the world’s tropical rainforests and are having a negative impact on the storage of carbon by the trees.  Because climate models do not account for this effect, they may be overestimating the amount of carbon storage that will occur in the future.

Scientists just completed a 5,000 mile aircraft survey of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef in which they found that 900 miles of its 1,400 mile length experienced severe bleaching at some point during the past two years.  Having two years of back-to-back bleaching greatly raises the possibility that the affected sections will die.  The 2017 bleaching occurred in the absence of an El Niño event, raising questions about the ability of the reef to recover.

Energy

A new study, published in the journal Nature Communications, has found that to keep global warming below 1.5°C the world economy would need to achieve net zero carbon emissions before 2040.  Net zero means that any CO2 emissions would be removed from the atmosphere, either through natural systems or carbon capture and storage (CCS).  To put the difficulty of achieving that into perspective, you might want to check out the World Resources Institute’s latest release of its CAIT Climate Data Explorer.

The Petra Nova CCS project at a coal fired power plant in Texas is now capturing 90% of the CO2 released from its combustion.  Meanwhile, the Illinois Industrial Carbon Capture Project, operated by ethanol giant Archer Daniels Midland, has launched.  It couples CCS technology with biochemical ethanol production, thereby removing CO2 from the atmosphere, making it an early application of BECCS.  Carbon capture technology is also being applied by NET Power, only they are applying it to a unique gas turbine design.  Brad Plumer at Vox has analyzed the possible future of CCS during the Trump administration.

You may recall that in an earlier Roundup I linked to an article about President Trump announcing that his administration would reevaluate EPA’s CAFE standards for light trucks and cars.  Associated with that is the question of whether California will continue to be granted a waiver to issue its own standards.  Writing at Yale Climate Connections, Bruce Lieberman provided the history of the California standards and the state’s willingness to fight to retain them.  On Tuesday, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers stated that it hoped to reach a deal with California and the Trump administration on the standards.  On another front in California, a state appeals court upheld the California Air Resources Board’s cap-and-trade program for controlling CO2 emissions.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk stated via Twitter on Thursday that the company will unveil a concept version of an electric semi-truck in September.  In addition, a Tesla pickup is also in the works and will be unveiled in 18 to 24 months.  But, the big question is still whether the cars and trucks of the future will be powered by batteries or by fuel cells.  If this new development in battery technology turns out to really be the breakthrough that it appears to be, then batteries may beat out fuel cells for cars.  It will also have a major impact on the energy storage field.

Although we tend to hear less about the shift from coal to renewable energy in India than in China, a significant shift has been occurring.  This piece by Keith Schneider chronicles the cancellation of plans for Ultra Mega Power Projects.  An example of circumstances driving the shift is the recent winning bid to build a 250 MW solar PV facility, which set a new record low for India at the equivalent of 5¢/kWh.  It should be noted, however, that China effectively controls the global solar panel market, and this can cause cascading effects on solar employment all over the world.

If you have ever wondered why the Southeast U.S. has so few wind farms, then this essay by Lyndsey Gilpin at Inside Climate News is for you.  Speaking of wind farms, Texas is the top state for wind energy jobs.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration said energy-related CO2 emissions in 2016 from petroleum and natural gas increased 1.1% and 0.9%, respectively, while coal-related emissions decreased 8.6%, leading to an overall 1.7% decline in energy-related CO2 emissions.

On Tuesday, Advanced Microgrid Solutions announced it is working with Walmart to install behind-the-meter batteries at 27 stores in Southern California to balance on-site energy production and use, and to provide flexibility to utilities.  Speaking of batteries for energy storage, their size and weight combine to make it logical to build them near the facilities where they will be used.

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 4/7/2017

In a bit of good news, the U.S. House Climate Solutions Caucus has increased its membership by 10, bringing the total to 34, evenly split between Republicans and Democrats.  Nevertheless, many in the House view those colleagues with skepticism.  Still, there are some Republicans who doubt President Trump’s climate policies, as do three quarters of the public.  In a real “in-your-face” move, the Bureau of Land Management changed the banner on its home page from backpackers looking at the sunset in the mountains to a huge coal seam.  In the courts, environmental groups, led by the Environmental Defense Fund, and 17 Democratic states are fighting the Trump administration’s request that a federal appeals court put on hold its case regarding the Clean Power Plan.  Meanwhile, Lamar Smith, chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, continued to attack climate scientists, saying Wednesday that people raising red flags about climate change have ulterior motives beyond wanting to protect the environment: “It is all posturing for their own purposes, including a desire to control people’s lives or get another government grant or an academic promotion.”  In a Yale Environment 360 interview, climate scientist Kevin Trenberth talks about why scientists need to continue to speak out.  Finally, if you like out-of-the-box prognostications, you may be interested in Brad Plumer’s ideas on the climate surprises that might be in store during Trump’s presidency.

Climate

Although it didn’t come out this week, I thought you might be interested in this article about Paul Hawken’s new book Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed To Reverse Global Warming, which will be released April 18.  Also, Chicago Review of Books Senior Editor Amy Brady interviewed Kim Stanley Robinson, author of New York 2140, a new climate fiction book mentioned recently.  On the subject of the arts and climate change, another artist who works with climate themes has been profiled.  Check out this piece about Zoria Forman’s hauntingly beautiful drawings of ice.  Also, the Geological Society of America recently published a paper featuring the work of photographer James Balog, who has documented the retreat of glaciers around the world.  Finally, Justin Nobel had a touching essay at National Geographic on changes in the snowy region of Japan.

Two scientists at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science’s Horn Point Laboratory in Cambridge, MD have spent the last two years studying 114 years of environmental data around the Chesapeake Bay to document the impacts of climate change on the Bay.

Carbon Brief has updated its chart showing the times remaining before the carbon budgets for 1.5°C, 2.0°C, and 3.0°C are exhausted if we continue to emit at current rates.  The allowable budget to have a 66% chance of staying below 1.5°C will be exhausted in 4.1 years.  And speaking of CO2, a new paper in the journal Nature Communications reported on studies to determine its atmospheric concentration during the past 420 million years.  The authors found that until humans started burning fossil fuels with the start of the Industrial Revolution, CO2 concentrations had been fairly stable for the past 20 million years.  Now CO2 levels are higher, causing plant growth to accelerate.  Furthermore, 50 million years ago CO2 concentrations were much higher (600 ppm or more) and a new paper in Nature has reported that Antarctic temperatures were much warmer, allowing palm trees to grow there.

Have you been uncertain about how and why the “discount rate” influences the social cost of carbon, i.e., the costs associated with the release of a ton of CO2 to the atmosphere?  If so, then this piece from the New York Times by Michael Greenstone, an economics professor at the University of Chicago, may be helpful.  When it comes to the economics of the market place, a very important component is hedging against risk.  John Sutter of CNN, among others, has said that we must view climate change from the same perspective.

Three recent studies have examined climate change impacts on ecosystems and the creatures that live in them.  Taken together they suggest that most species on Earth are being impacted by climate change, some for the good, but some for the bad.  How it all turns out will depend largely on how we respond.

A new study, published this week in Advances in Atmospheric Sciences, has found that flight turbulence during transatlantic flights could increase significantly under climate change.  Furthermore, fuel and maintenance costs for air carriers could increase.  The author of the paper explained its broader significance at Carbon Brief.

In most oceans of the world, water gets colder as you go deeper.  Historically, this has not been true in the Arctic Ocean, where denser, saltier water flowing north from the Atlantic Ocean tends to sink beneath the colder, less salty water covered by ice.  That is now changing, according to a new paper in Science, which found that the warmer Atlantic-originating water is rising and melting sea ice from the bottom.

Energy

David Roberts at Vox has attempted to answer two important questions about the goal of 100% renewable energy: Is it the right goal, and is it even possible.  Which, raises another question, is an electric or hybrid electric air craft possible or desirable.  Zunam Aero thinks the answer to both questions is yes.

U.S. renewable energy production grew 7% between 2015 and 2016, but electricity from coal decreased 18%, reaching its lowest level since 1978 according to the Energy Information Administration.  Globally, 139GW of renewable capacity was installed in 2016, an 8% increase over the previous year, according to a new report from the UN Environment Program and Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

The Washington Post had an interesting article in their Sunday edition about the solar energy projects in Chile’s Atacama Desert.  Chile hopes to become “A Solar Saudi Arabia”.  Across the Atlantic, in Africa, the demand for electricity is growing rapidly.  A new paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences examined the potential for wind and solar generation to meet that demand and found that it could do so, with proper siting and interconnectedness.  Meanwhile, the European Environment Agency issued a report stating that the use of renewable energy helped Europe reduce its CO2 emissions by about 10% in 2015.  In the U.S., however, some states are continuing to adopt policies to limit rooftop solar development; also see here and here.  It is interesting to note, though, that the Kentucky Coal Mining Museum is adding solar panels to its roof.

During the past three weeks, E&E News posted a series of articles about energy storage.  The articles were “Energy storage is America’s industry to lose”, “Is energy storage the next jobs creator?”, and “Where the energy storage industry is happening now.”  On the subject of storage, South Australia’s desire to build a 100MW energy storage system has generated a lot of interest, and not just from battery manufacturers.  Thermal storage is also being proposed.

I’ve recently linked to articles about the new wind energy lease off the shore of North Carolina.  One thing that the leasee must consider before starting construction of a windfarm is how the electricity generated will be transmitted to shore and to market.  Another point of interest concerns the number of jobs that would be associated with a strong offshore wind energy industry in the U.S.

One of the objections to the rule requiring companies to monitor for methane leaks at oil and gas facilities is that the equipment is expensive and labor-intensive.  Now, IBM scientists and engineers, working with researchers at Harvard and Princeton universities, have devised a miniature sensor chip that continuously monitors for methane.  Will this be the key that allows continuous, autonomous monitoring at reasonable cost?  A recent study of the environmental impacts of a tar sands oil pipeline found that the carbon emissions associated with tar sands oil are around 21% larger than the emissions associated with an average U.S. refinery mix.

The leaders of two large U.S. coal companies are urging the Trump administration not to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, arguing that their interests are better served by the U.S. having a place at the bargaining table.  In addition, a Reuters survey of 32 utilities indicates that the bulk of them have no plans to alter their multi-billion dollar, years-long shift away from coal, suggesting demand for the fuel will keep falling.

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 3/31/2017

The big political news this week was President Trump’s executive order reversing the efforts of the Obama administration to fight climate change.  As might be imagined, this order was covered heavily in the news.  Science reprinted an article from E&E News outlining the main content of the order and Carbon Brief staff compiled a comprehensive summary of news around this actionVox reprinted the executive order annotated by Emily Hammond, a professor of energy, environmental, and administrative law at George Washington University.  Less than 24 hours after the order was signed, a coalition of environmental groups sued the Trump administration in Federal court over the order.  The White House announced that a decision on whether to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement will be made before the G7 Conference on May 26.  The Sierra Club and five other conservation groups filed a lawsuit on Thursday to undo President Trump’s approval of the Keystone XL pipeline.  On Wednesday, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology held a hearing entitled “Climate Science: Assumptions, Policy Implications, and the Scientific Method,” which became a bit heated.  Two of the witnesses urged Congress to fund “red teams” to challenge the findings of the IPCC.  If you have a couple of hours to spend, you can watch the hearing here.  The Heartland Institute is sending a packet of “educational” material, including their booklet “Why Scientists Disagree About Global Warming,” to more than 200,000 K-12 science teachers in the U.S.  President Trump has cited a study by the Heritage Foundation that claims the costs of complying with the Paris Climate Agreement are too high and the benefits too low.  A review of the document by the World Resources Institute found that Heritage did not provide credible estimates of either costs or benefits of climate action.  At The New York Times, Coral Davenport compiled statements by officials in the Trump administration denying the established science of human-caused climate change.  On Friday, The Washington Post published more detailed information about the proposed cuts to EPA and the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

Yale Environment 360 had two interesting articles this week.  Marc Gunther presented an overview of the “small yet growing number of Republicans, conservatives, and libertarians [who] are starting to push for action on climate.”  Several commentaries on President Trump’s executive order speculated that China would now become the world’s leader on addressing climate change.  While that may well occur, it is important to keep in mind China’s larger environmental impact.  William Laurance, who is a Distinguished Research Professor and Australian Laureate at James Cook University in Cairns, Australia, wrote a piece expressing his opinion about that impact.

Climate

A new paper in Nature Climate Change examined the practice of “managed retreat” away from changing shore lines or flooding rivers as one form of adaptation to climate change.  In a special guest column at Carbon Brief, lead author Miyuki Hino summarized their findings.  CNN columnist John Sutter told the story of the people of Shifmaref, Alaska, who would like to move their village in response to the rapidly eroding coastline, but so far have been unable to.  Be sure to watch the short video that accompanies the article.

A review article by an international team of scientists in the journal Science examined the changing geographical distribution of plant and animal species in response to climate change and concluded that such changes affect “ecosystem functioning, human well-being, and the dynamics of climate change itself.”  This mass movement of species is the biggest since the peak of the last ice age, about 25,000 years ago, with land-based species moving poleward by an average of 10 miles per decade, and marine species by 43 miles per decade.

The Arctic continues to be unseasonably warm, with temperatures 5-7°F above “normal.”  This will cause large impacts on the sea ice, which is already experiencing thinning and early breakup.  In light of the record low sea ice extents reported last week, Carbon Brief interviewed three polar scientists and asked them to put those records in perspective.  According to a new study published Friday in the journal Nature Communications, ice caps and glaciers along the coast of Greenland passed a tipping point in 1997, and since then have been melting three times faster than before.

A new paper in the journal Nature Scientific Reports links the persistent weather events that have been occurring recently to human-caused climate change.  The warming Arctic has altered the northern-hemisphere jet stream, making it more susceptible to stalling under certain temperature conditions, leading to persistent, extreme summer weather events such as the 2003 European heatwave, the Pakistan flood and Russian heatwave in 2010, the 2011 Texas drought, and the recent unprecedented drought in California.  The paper showed that the conditions needed to stall the jet stream position are significantly more likely because of global warming.

One consequence of Trump’s energy policy will be a delay in slowing and reversing the buildup of CO2 in the atmosphere.  Therefore, attention is turning to geoengineering as a way to slow global warming even in the face of increasing CO2 concentrations.  This led to a series of articles on the subject in The Guardian.  First was a news article about experiments being planned by a team of scientists at Harvard.  It was then followed by a post by an independent journalist, which appears to be an opinion piece, to which the Harvard scientists responded.

Another technology that has been touted for its potential to sequester carbon in the soil is the application of biochar, which is a stable, non-decomposing form of charcoal.  Opinions about biochar appear to vary widely, with those in the industry touting it as a climate change solution, and others, not so sure.  Now DeSmog has released a six-part report, entitled “Biochar: Climate Change Solution or False Hope?”, that examines both the technology and the industry around it.

Energy

While most news organizations have been focused on the drama in Washington, DC, lots of things have been happening at the state level about renewable energy, both pro and con.  Inside Climate News prepared a summary of that activity.

Westinghouse Electric filed for bankruptcy on Wednesday, hit by billions of dollars of cost overruns at four nuclear reactors under construction in South Carolina and Georgia.  Chris Martin and Chris Cooper told the story of Westinghouse’s big gamble at Bloomberg while Brad Plumer at Vox asked if radical innovation could save the nuclear power industry.  Meanwhile, in Virginia, Dominion is moving forward with its plans to build a third reactor at North Anna.  In the UK, EDF has been given approval to begin construction on the Hinkley C nuclear power plant and in France, construction continues on ITER, or the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, for the study of nuclear fusion, the ultimate energy source.

In past Roundups I have linked to articles about President Trump’s decision to reopen the CAFE standards issue for light trucks and autos.  Amory Lovins, chief scientist at the Rocky Mountain Institute, took issue with this decisionThe New York Times had a good infographic showing the impact of a rollback of the CAFE standards, the Clean Power Plan, and other actions on meeting our Paris pledge.

The International Renewable Energy Agency has estimated that global renewable energy capacity exceeded 2,000GW for the first time in 2016.  Growth was 8.7% for the year, including 71GW of new solar energy, 51GW of wind capacity, 30GW of hydropower, 9GW of bioenergy, and just under 1GW of geothermal energy capacity.  Looking ahead, Sweden’s state-owned utility, Vattenfall, plans invest $1.94 billion in onshore and offshore wind power during 2017-2018.

A paper in the journal Environmental Research Letters provided the first comprehensive life-cycle analysis of how a global switch to low-carbon energy sources might impact both human and ecological health.  They found that low-carbon energy sources had less impact on both.  Somewhat surprisingly, they also found that biomass fuels have a large environmental impact, providing additional evidence in the controversy over that fuel.  On a related note, an analysis of DOE jobs data by the Sierra Club revealed that nationally, clean energy jobs outnumber fossil fuel jobs by more than 2.5 to 1 in the U.S.

Ikea’s Midwest distribution center near Joliet, IL, will have the state’s largest rooftop solar array with almost 9,000 panels and a capacity of 2.91MW.  The output will be consumed on-site and is part of the company’s goal of using 100% renewable energy by 2020.  In spite of Ikea, Bloomberg Markets said that U.S. rooftop solar is facing consolidation as growth is slowing nationally.

Last month Avangrid Renewables won the right to erect a windfarm offshore of Kitty Hawk, NC.  However, as Elizabeth Ouzts recently wrote in Southeast Energy News, because of a number of factors, it could be 2025 before the facility is built.  Looking to a future with more renewables, mid-Atlantic grid operator PJM has conducted modeling studies to assess grid reliability with less coal and nuclear generation and more natural gas and wind power.  They found that grid reliability would not decline with up to 20% renewables.  Early in 2017, Utility Dive surveyed more than 600 electric utility professionals across the U.S. to compile their 4th annual State of the Electric Utility Survey. The results indicate that utilities expect to source more power from renewables, distributed resources, and natural gas in the coming years, with coal continuing to decline.

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 3/24/2017

The House Science Committee, chaired by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) will hold a hearing next week entitled “Climate Science: Assumptions, Policy Implications, and the Scientific Method.”  The Republican witnesses at the hearing will be Judith Curry, John Christy, and Roger Pielke Jr, whereas the lone Democratic witness will be Michael Mann.  Speaking at the Heartland Institute’s 12th annual International Conference on Climate Change, Smith said: “Next week we’re going to have a hearing on our favorite subject of climate change and also on the scientific method, which has been repeatedly ignored by the so-called self-professed climate scientists.” Also at the conference, speakers who had been on President Trump’s transition team emphasized the need to revoke the 2009 finding that CO2 endangers public health.  On Tuesday, a White House official said that the Trump administration is not considering a carbon tax, such as that proposed by the Climate Leadership Council six weeks ago.  However, the tax’s very proposal set off a fierce debate within the White House and has emboldened Republicans concerned about climate change.  One reason a carbon tax is not popular at the White House is that it doesn’t fit into the administrations “America First Energy Plan,” which aims to take advantage of domestic fossil fuel resources.  This week, Jeremy Proville and Jonathan Camuzeaux of the Environmental Defense Fund examined the claimed value of those resources.  Another aspect of the Trump energy plan is deregulation, yet Reuters reported that the major oil and gas companies have been telling shareholders that regulations have little impact on their business.  On Friday of last week, White House budget director Mick Mulvaney asserted that studying climate change is a “waste of your money.”  This Friday, the State Department signed and issued a presidential permit to construct the Keystone XL pipeline.

Perhaps the one good thing to come out of the anti-environmental stance of the Trump administration is that it has united the environmental movement in a major way.  For example, Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said he has never seen so much collaboration and coordination among environmentalists.  A new study by Media Matters revealed that during 2016, ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox spent a combined total of 50 minutes on climate change, “[a]nd none of them aired a single segment on the effect a Trump or Clinton presidency would have on the climate — until after the election.”  On the other hand, in response to the Trump administration’s anti-climate stance, both The Washington Post and The New York Times have increased their coverage of climate news.

Climate

The World Meteorological Organization issued its annual statement on the State of the Global Climate on Tuesday, noting that several records were broken, pushing the world into “truly uncharted territory.”  The trend of broken records has continued this year with sea ice experiencing the smallest winter maximum extent in the Arctic and the smallest summer minimum extent in the Antarctic.  On the subject of ice, Yale Climate Connections’ “This Is Not Cool” video for this month is about the impacts of soot and algal growth on the melting of ice in Greenland.

A paper in the journal Nature Geoscience links the drop in the level of groundwater in India to the impacts of climate change on monsoons.  This drop is having significant consequences to people in rural India.  To get an idea of just how severe the problem is for southern India, look at this rainfall map prepared by NOAA that shows the deviation from the long-term average.  India is the region on the left.  To translate, 1 inch = 25.4 mm, or 500 mm = almost 20 inches of rain that some regions have lost in just a six month period.

China’s State Oceanic Administration reported on Wednesday that average coastal sea levels in 2016 were up 1.5 inches compared to the previous year, and saw record-breaking highs in the months of April, September, November, and December.  Historically, since 1980, sea level along China’s coast has risen at an average rate of 1/8 inch per year, so last year’s increase was extraordinary.  Rising sea level is of increasing concern to coastal cities everywhere.  Here in the U.S., cities are taking different approaches, as documented in these articles about Atlantic City, Miami Beach, and New Orleans.

The Gulf of Mexico has been really warm this winter, as have the towns and cities around it.  Given the right conditions, this could cause a larger number of severe thunderstorms in the southern and central parts of the U.S. this spring.  Further south, an extremely warm Pacific Ocean off the western coast of South America is contributing to severe rainfall and flooding in Peru.

In a report released Wednesday, the Natural Resources Defense Council said that U.S. per capita beef consumption fell by 19% from 2005 to 2014, equivalent to removing 39 million cars from U.S. roads.  The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association disputed the findings.

Citing climate change as a factor contributing to the decline of the rusty patch bumblebee, the Department of Interior placed the bee on the Endangered Species List, the first bee so designated.

Energy

Take a break from all the heavy news about climate and energy and read about stained glass artist Sarah Hall who incorporates solar cells into her architectural creations.  Be sure to watch the video in full screen at the end.

Frustrated with the vagueness of the Paris Climate Agreement on how to keep global warming below 2°C, a group of European researchers has prepared a concrete pathway and published it in the journal Science.  Dubbed the “carbon law”, by analogy with “Moore’s law” for transistors, it calls for a halving of CO2 emissions from energy and industry each decade, and imposes a stiff carbon tax globally.  The lead author of the study told Brad Plumer of Vox, “It’s way more than adding solar or wind.  It’s rapid decarbonization, plus a revolution in food production, plus a sustainability revolution, plus a massive engineering scale-up [for carbon removal].”  The idea was presented to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon in New York on Friday.  It is interesting that this week Martin Boucher and Philip Loring argued that climate change is not, fundamentally, a technological problem.  Rather, it requires “solutions that emphasize place-based, social and behavioral innovations.”  On a more practical level, the International Energy Agency and the International Renewable Energy Agency issued a new report that sets out the “essential elements” needed to transition the energy sector in a manner consistent with the Paris Agreement.  However, the two agencies weren’t in total agreement, causing them to issue separate press releases.

The lead article in the business section of the print edition of The Washington Post on Sunday was on U.S. coal in the age of Trump.  The conclusion was that the prospects for jobs are weak.  UK-based Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit examined coal usage in China and India.  Indeed, coal use is declining worldwide.  According to a report released by Coalswarm, Greenpeace and the Sierra Club, from Jan. 2016 to Jan. 2017, the number of announced coal projects dropped from nearly 500,000 to fewer than 250,000 and the number of coal projects on hold jumped from 230,000 to more than 600,000.  Adding to the problems here at home, Moody’s Investor Services, has stated that some 56 GW of Midwest coal-fired generation are at risk because of lower-cost wind energy.

In the U.S., during the past seven years, the price of utility-scale solar has dropped 85%, fueling strong growth in the technology.  Writing on Yale Environment 360, Cheryl Katz provided an update on the status of large-scale solar technology.  An article in the journal Nature Energy revealed that Japanese scientists have developed a solar cell with the highest efficiency ever attained, although it is not yet ready for commercial application.  As further evidence for continued growth of solar in regions of the U.S. where sunlight is limited in winter, GE is developing more than 17MW in projects across six states in the northeastern U.S.

Energy efficiency mandates are under review in at least two states, Ohio and Kentucky.  It appears that regulators are concerned about declining income for energy companies and wonder why they should require them to invest in energy efficiency when energy demand is declining.  Meanwhile, at the federal level, the Trump administration plans to eliminate the Weatherization Assistance Program, a grant program in the Department of Energy that helps states improve the energy efficiency of the homes of low-income families.  The Energy Star program is also slated for elimination, but dozens of companies and organizations have come to its defense.  In spite of a negative attitude about energy efficiency in the new administration, two RMI authors argue that the federal government can significantly reduce its operating costs by focusing on the energy efficiency of its facilities.

A paper in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, described a collaborative effort among Colorado scientists, the Environmental Defense Fund, and Google’s Street View program to reveal leaks in urban natural gas pipelines, thereby helping utilities decrease methane leaks.

While the children’s lawsuit in the state of Oregon has gotten more press, another children’s lawsuit in Colorado just resulted in a victory for the children in that state’s Court of Appeals.  The ruling elevated protection of public health and the environment to “a condition that must be fulfilled” by the state before oil and gas drilling can be done.

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 3/17/2017

Political news continues unabated.  The President unveiled his budget proposal for 2018.  Luckily, this is more of a philosophical statement than a concrete budget proposal because it is a disaster for science at all levels, as can be seen in this departmental-level summary.  Commentary can be found in the following for EPA, NOAA, NASA, and DOEThe Washington Post had a summary of all climate-related cuts while Climate Central analyzed the impacts on energy programs and Bloomberg Politics documented all of the independent agencies and programs that would be eliminated.  Finally, Science presented reactions from a number of sources.  As you read about the budget, remember that Congress controls the purse strings.  Last week I linked to an article about former staff of Senator James Inhofe joining Scott Pruitt’s staff at EPA.  This week, Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis had more information about that in The Washington Post.  Meanwhile, according to Reuters, the Trump administration has been contacting U.S. energy companies to ask them about their views on the Paris Climate Accord.  In addition, President Trump vowed to reopen the review of the 2025 CAFE standards for autos and light trucks while meeting with auto executives in Detroit.  Earlier in the week, the auto industry filed suit against the EPA to overturn their final determination last year on the standards.  Nevertheless, the leaders of two dozen Fortune 500 companies and roughly 1,000 others signed a letter addressed to Trump and Congress stating that “Failure to build a low-carbon economy puts American prosperity at risk” and scientists pushed back hard against the statements by Scott Pruitt about climate change.

On Wednesday, 17 House Republicans introduced a resolution that acknowledges the negative impacts of climate change and calls on the House to work on solutions for mitigation and adaptation.  You can read the resolution here.

Climate

An important news article came out during the evening of March 9, but I missed it and didn’t include it last week.  Unfortunately, it is disturbing news; the Great Barrier Reef in Australia is undergoing another significant bleaching episode, which is unprecedented and could lead to widespread death of the coral.  As a consequence, a week-long survey of the entire reef is being done this week to better assess the extent of the current bleaching event.  Robert McSweeney at Carbon Brief has a good retrospective of the previous three bleaching events.  Also, this week the results of a study by an international team of scientists of prior bleaching was published in the journal Nature.  It concludes that the only way to save the reef is to stop global warming.  As if the coral bleaching wasn’t enough, Australia has also suffered from a massive die-off of mangrove forests, making their coastline more susceptible to erosion.

According to a new paper in the journal Science Advances, the extreme air pollution over Chinese cities is not just due to local emissions from their coal-fired power plants.  It is also due to climate change, which is causing Arctic sea ice to melt and snow falls to increase over Siberia, thereby altering winter weather patterns and making periods of stagnant air more common, trapping the air pollution.

Eleven national medical organizations have banded together to form the Medical Society Consortium on Climate Health to help accelerate the transition to a clean energy society.  Because doctors are seeing first-hand the impacts of climate change on people’s health, they thought it was important for them to speak out on the issue.  You can download their report here.  In addition to our physical health, climate change also impacts our mental health, as documented in this piece.

NOAA has announced that for the second year in a row, CO2 levels in the atmosphere have increased at a rate of 3 ppm/year, bringing the level to about 405 ppm.  The rate of increase is the highest ever recorded.  Meanwhile, the International Energy Agency announced that global energy-associated CO2 emissions were constant for the third year in a row.

One side effect of a more global economy is a greater role for aviation, from rapid transport of critical products to increased tourist travel.  Many passengers have been concerned about the carbon footprint of their air travel, causing them to buy offsets for the emitted CO2.  A bigger problem, however, lies in the other emissions, which can have an impact on climate change several times greater than that of CO2.  Jocelyn Timperley has provided an “explainer” about those emissions at Carbon Brief.  Meanwhile, a new paper in the journal Nature reports that during cruise conditions jet aircraft burning a 50:50 blend of traditional jet fuel and biofuel produced 50–70% fewer particles, which are part of the “other emissions” problem.

A new study, published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change, found that between 30 and 50% of the decline in summer sea ice in the Arctic since 1979 may be due to natural processes, with the remainder (50 to 70%) due directly to human-caused global warming.  The natural process of most importance is the air circulation over the Arctic, which helps distribute the heat associated with increased greenhouse gases.

Energy

Another example of innovation in energy storage comes from Germany where the state of North-Rhine Westphalia will turn the Prosper-Haniel coal mine into a 200 MW pumped-storage hydroelectric facility when it closes in 2018.  They will build a water reservoir on the surface above the mine.  When wind turbines and solar farms cannot produce enough electricity to meet demand, water will flow from the reservoir down shafts to a depth of 3,300 ft where it will turn turbines to generate the needed power before flowing into old mine tunnels.  Then when the wind turbines and solar farms are producing more electricity than needed, the excess will be used to pump the water back to the surface.  Would this work in southwestern Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, and other Appalachian states?  Speaking of energy storage, will Tesla solve South Australia’s energy crisis with 100 MW of batteries?

The American Wind Energy Association in partnership with Navigant Consulting has issued a report examining the impacts of wind energy on the U.S. economy.  At the end of 2016 the wind industry had an installed capacity of over 82,000 MW and is expected to install another 35,000 MW and drive $85 billion in economic activity over the next four years.  Avangrid Renewables, the Spanish energy conglomerate that was the developer and operator of the Amazon Wind Farm in North Carolina, has won the lease to build an off-shore wind farm 24 to 49 miles off the coast of North Carolina near Kitty Hawk.

The mayors of thirty cities jointly asked automakers for the cost and feasibility of providing 114,000 electric vehicles for a variety of applications from police cruisers to street sweepers.  The intent is to provide electric vehicle manufacturers with reliable demand in the face of Trump administration policies.  Meanwhile, a quiet battle is going on at the state level over incentives for buying an electric vehicle and China is considering decreasing its quotas for electric vehicles required of its domestic car manufacturers.

U.S. rooftop solar installations increased 19% in 2016, which looks good until you consider that the average growth rate year-over-year from 2012 to 2015 was 63%.  Several factors were responsible for the decline, but the national solar association expects to see continued growth in both utility-scale and rooftop solar installations.  One driver of demand for both wind and solar is expected to be power purchase agreements with corporate users, according to Moody’s Investors Service.  On the subject of solar, a new study from the Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative, called Consumer Driven Technologies, found that 80% of survey respondents were willing to forgo net metering provided the excess electricity they produced from their residential solar PV system went to their communities to provide clean energy for everyone.  Unfortunately, in India the promise of solar power has not been met as attempts at using distributed electricity in rural villages via solar panels and batteries have fallen prey to theft and equipment failure.

President Trump’s budget proposal includes funds to restart the licensing for Nevada’s Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository, although Nevada lawmakers pledge fierce opposition to it.

A new study published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology examined methane leakage from gas-fired power plants and refineries.  It found that methane leakage was 2-120 times higher for power plants and 11-90 times higher for refineries than calculated from data provided by facility operators.

On several occasions, I have provided links to articles about the difficulty developers of electrical transmission lines are having acquiring right-of-way for their projects.  This is essentially stranding renewable energy generated in the west or Midwest, preventing it from getting to markets in the east, where it is needed.  Now a new proposal to rejuvenate and electrify rail lines in the U.S. has as one component the use of the rail corridors as routes for electrical transmission lines.  The entire proposal is called Solutionary Rail.

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 3/10/2017

Each week, while putting the Roundup together, I try to include as much positive news as I can, even though there always seems to be far more negative news.  Please don’t let that get you down.  On Friday evening as I was reading The Book of Joy, which is Douglas Abrams’ account of an extended conversation between the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, I came across this passage, and I offer it as a kind of antidote to the negative.  The Dalai Lama said “When bad things happen they become news… Then we can feel that there is not much hope for our future… All these things happen, but they are unusual, which is why they become news.”  He then talks about good things that happen and continues “But this is so common that none of it becomes news… When we look at the news, we must keep this more holistic view… We must have a sense of proportion and a wider perspective.  Then we will not feel despair when we see these sad things.”  You are also invited to the monthly meeting of the CAAV-sponsored Apocaloptimists on the last Tuesday of each month at the Harrisonburg Mennonite Church at 7:00 pm.

On Thursday morning, speaking on CNBC, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt made one of his strongest statements yet rejecting the science of human-caused climate change, a statement that is in direct opposition to information on EPA’s own website.  The Editorial Board of The Washington Post responded to Pruitt’s comments in a strong editorial and his office was deluged with phone calls.  He also questioned whether EPA has the authority to regulate CO2.  Speaking of Pruitt, last week I mentioned that he had named Ryan Jackson, a former staff member of Senator James Inhofe, as his chief of staff.  He has also named other Inhofe staff members to his staff.  Byron Brown, will serve as Jackson’s deputy.  Andrew Wheeler, is a finalist to be Pruitt’s deputy, but requires Senate confirmation.  You can go here for a list of proposed cuts to the EPA budget and to Inside Climate News for an analysis of their impacts.  Also, The Washington Post had an analysis of the impact of the proposed cuts to NOAA’s budget on coastal communities.  Since the election, activists have been archiving climate and other scientific data from government websites, but this has turned out to be a more difficult task than originally thought.  On the international scene, Bloomberg New Energy Finance reports that the finance ministers of the G20 nations may scale back the funding pledges of their nations made under the Paris Climate Accord.

It has been said that the public only begins to understand a problem after the arts become involved.  Well, science fiction author Kim Stanley Robinson has been doing his part to move that along.  First it was with his Science in the Capital trilogy, which brings the impacts of climate change to Washington, DC.  Now it is New York 2140, which takes place in New York City after sea level has risen 50 ft.  It will be out March 14.

Climate

The young people’s lawsuit against the federal government about climate change was back in the news this week.  The Trump Administration filed a motion to overturn a ruling by a federal judge in November that cleared the lawsuit for trial and filed a separate motion to delay trial preparation until that appeal is considered.  Meanwhile, in South Africa the government lost its first climate change lawsuit when the country’s highest court ruled against its plans to build a coal-fired power plant.

NOAA announced on Wednesday that February was the second warmest on record in the U.S., trailing only February 1954 by 0.2°F.  The average temperature was 41.5°F, over 7°F above normal.  East of the Rocky Mountains, it was the warmest February ever recorded.  A study by World Weather Attribution found that thanks to climate change, the warm February was at least three times more likely now than it was 120 years ago.  Furthermore, around 1900, this type of persistent heat was a 1-in-160 year event, whereas today it is a 1-in-12 year event.  The New York Times has some very interesting graphics.

An important new study was published in Science Advances on Friday documenting the heat uptake by the oceans using the extensive data from the Argo float program.  The results showed that the world’s oceans have taken up around 13% more heat than had been estimated previously.  They also showed that heat uptake was not uniform, with 59% being stored in the Atlantic and Southern Oceans, even though they make up less than 50% of the ocean area.

For some time now, a favorite meme among those not concerned about climate change is that it will be beneficial to humankind by increasing agricultural productivity.  Well, a 26-year study by the Australian national science organization CSIRO has challenged that claim.  Rather, the researchers found that while wheat growers made significant productivity gains over the study, they were off-set by the negative effects of climate change, so that yields stayed constant.  On a similar note, many have claimed that higher atmospheric CO2 levels will lead to more carbon storage due to greening of the planet.  That may well be true, if all other nutrients are supplied in excess, but a new study published in Nature Climate Change has found that in phosphorus-limited soils (which are common in the tropics and subtropics) forests will store around 10% less carbon than expected.

A new paper in the journal Nature Communications reports that by 2030, if CO2 emissions continue unabated, over half of the world’s ocean will be exposed to more than one source of stress, affecting everything from plants to whales.  By 2050, that figure rises to around 86% of the ocean.  This does not bode well for the large percent of Earth’s population that depends on the oceans for its protein.

In a news release on Tuesday, the National Snow and Ice Data Center, which tracks sea ice trends, warned that further losses of satellite capabilities may cause sea ice observations to be compromised until 2023.  A study in Nature Climate Change has found that a 2°C rise in global mean temperature would lead to a 39% risk that ice will disappear from the Arctic Ocean in summers, although it is almost certain to survive with just 1.5°C of warming.

Energy

This one is very intriguing, but as an environmental engineer who worked with microorganisms in a variety of municipal and industrial applications, I’d like to see a complete energy and carbon balance before I fully buy in.  Nevertheless, the idea of using bacteria, instead of cement with its high carbon footprint, to bind aggregate together into “concrete” bricks is a really interesting one.  Meanwhile, Swiss researchers have shown that ceramic materials can be made without heating by starting with nanoscale calcium carbonate powder and applying pressure.  Let’s hope they both pan out because their potential benefits are great.

In an article on Yale Climate Connections, Bruce Lieberman argues that no matter what President Trump does, the long-term outlook for employment in the coal industry looks bleak.  Market forces are just too strong in other directions.  Coal use in the UK dropped 52% in 2016 due to both market forces and a carbon tax, while CO2 emissions declined by 6%, according to a report published last Friday by Carbon Brief.

Tesla Inc. has completed a solar project on the island of Kauai in Hawaii that incorporates batteries so that the utility can sell solar power in the evening, as well as during the day.  This will displace 1.6 million gallons of diesel fuel per year that is currently used to power generators to provide power at night.  On the subject of solar, GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association announced that the U.S. solar market is expected to nearly triple in size over the next five years.  In addition, worldwide, 76 GW of solar power was installed in 2016, up from 50 GW in 2015.  Globally there is now 305GW of solar power capacity.

The costs of off-shore wind continue to drop in Europe, making it much more competitive in the energy market place.  According to Bloomberg, the price of building an offshore wind farm has fallen 46% in the last five years, and 22% last year alone.  That, plus the entry of Royal Dutch Shell, Statoil ASA, and other oil and gas giants, with their experience building structures at sea, into the business suggests that even the U.S. will see expanded off-shore wind development.

Alaskan villages are employing on-shore wind turbines connected to microgrids to supply their electricity at lower costs than the diesel generators they used to use.  The lessons learned could be helpful to remote villages everywhere.  Also, surprisingly, Georgetown, TX, in the heart of oil and gas country, is one of the first U.S. cities to be powered entirely by renewable energy.

All but 10% of Royal Dutch Shell’s oil-sands interests will be sold to Canadian Natural Resources Ltd.  Shell will continue to operate the Scotford upgrader, which converts heavy oil to lighter liquids for easier transport, and the Quest carbon capture and storage project.  Shell also announced that progress in cutting greenhouse gas emissions from its refineries and chemical plants will determine 10% of executives’ bonuses.  Meanwhile, Shell’s CEO has said that the oil and gas industry risks losing public support if progress is not made in the transition to cleaner energy.

In earlier Weekly Roundups I had linked to articles about auto executives asking the Trump Administration to roll back the 2025 fuel efficiency standards.  Now, 12 Senate Democrats have said that it is “critical” that the rules be left in place.  In addition, Jody Freeman, a professor at Harvard Law School and counselor to Former President Obama on energy and climate change in 2009-10, has provided background about the standards and laid out arguments for their retention.

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 3/3/2017

Ryan Jackson, who worked for the Senator James Inhofe (R, OK) for more than a decade and was staff director for the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, has been hired as EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s chief of staff.  The Trump administration’s 2018 budget blueprint calls for deep cuts in the EPA budget that would reduce the agency’s staff by one-fifth in the first year and eliminate dozens of programs, according to details of a plan reviewed by The Washington Post.  Climate change initiatives are among the programs to be eliminated entirely.  The budget blueprint also calls for a decrease in NOAA’s budget, with steep cuts to research funding and satellite programs.  According to The New York Times, the White House is “fiercely divided” over president Trump’s pledge to withdraw from the Paris climate accord.  Steve Bannon is urging Trump to pull out, but is being opposed by secretary of state Rex Tillerson, the president’s daughter Ivanka and a “slew of foreign policy advisers and career diplomats”.  On Wednesday the Senate confirmed Ryan Zinke’s nomination to lead the Interior Department by a 68 to 31 vote.  On Thursday they voted 62 to 37 to confirm Rick Perry as energy secretary.

Climate

The Yale Program on Climate Change Communication has a released a new version of their Climate Opinion Maps.  These maps are really interesting because they allow you to look at opinion data at the county and city level.  They also provide information at the congressional district level, which clarifies why your representative responds as he/she does.

You may recall that a few weeks back I included links about the “social cost of carbon” (SCC), the parameter that would be used to put a price on carbon should we decide to do so.  Well, on Tuesday, the Subcommittee on Environment and Subcommittee on Oversight of the House Science Committee held a hearing to examine the SCC.  Joseph Majkut, Director of Climate Science at the Niskanen Center, a Libertarian think tank that is concerned about climate change, wrote a very interesting analysis on the Center’s climate blog of the issues involved in determining an appropriate value for the SCC.  Dana Nuccitelli of Skeptical Science also had thoughts about estimating the SCC.

The Australian state of New South Wales, which includes Sydney, Australia’s largest city, has experienced the hottest summer on record, with temperatures of 118.7°F on February 11-12.  Analysis by a team from World Weather Attribution and the University of New South Wales found the record average heat was 50 times more likely because of climate change.  In addition, such heat would have occurred once every 500 years in the past, but now can be expected to occur once every 50 years.  And speaking of a warmer world, a new paper in Nature Climate Change reports that snow will melt more slowly.  This, in turn, will have serious consequences for water availability in areas that rely heavily on the snowpack as a water source.  Finally, Amanda Paulson at CSM Inhabit presented six questions (and answers) about how climate influences weather.

Although it will be short while before data analysis is complete, it appears almost certain that the minimum summer sea ice extent around Antarctica will reach a record low this year.  Meanwhile, verification and analysis of Antarctic temperatures during 2015 are now complete, revealing that March 24 of that year set a new record high of 63.5°F at an Argentine research base near the northern tip of the Antarctic peninsula.

Climate Central has completed an analysis of meteorological winter 2016-2017 (Dec., Jan., and Feb.), which is now over, and has found that 84% of 1500+ weather stations studied experienced a warmer than average winter, whereas 16% experienced a cooler than average winter.  Furthermore, 8% of the weather stations reported the hottest winter on record, while 0.4% reported the coldest.  Andrew Freedman at Mashable addressed the question of why it has been so warm.  The warm winter has led to an early spring in many parts of the U.S.  The National Phenology Network, is cooperation with USGS, has a set of maps, updated daily, showing how early spring has arrived in each state this year.

Burger King has been buying animal feed produced in soy plantations formed  by burning tropical forests in Brazil and Bolivia, according to a new report by Mighty Earth, which says that evidence gathered from aerial drones, satellite imaging, supply-chain mapping, and field research shows a systematic pattern of forest-burning.  The New York Times had a more detailed report on the deforestation, including on-the-ground accounts by their reporters.  A paper in the journal Nature Plants analyzed the greenhouse gas impacts of bread production, looking at all steps in the supply chain.  The authors found that fertilizer production contributed 43% of global warming potential, the largest of any step.

According to a new paper in the journal Geology by researchers from the Northwest Territories Geological Survey, permafrost decay is affecting 52,000 square miles in northwest Canada, sending large amounts of carbon-rich mud and silt into streams and rivers.  Similar large-scale landscape changes are evident across the Arctic, including in Alaska, Siberia, and Scandinavia.

Energy

Let’s start off the Energy section with some optimistic news about batteries that use oxygen from the air in their charge/recharge cycles.  Batteries of this type have the potential for being less expensive with higher energy density than current batteries, making them good candidates for backup power storage for solar and wind installations.  In the meantime, lithium-ion battery arrays are going to be used at two wind farms in Texas.  They are slated to come on-line by the end of 2017.

Another form of renewable energy, which I have included previously but which is not as developed as wind and solar, is ocean energy.  Writing on the website of Columbia University’s Earth Institute, Renee Cho provided an overview of the technology, with a description of each of the techniques being considered.  Even though this article was posted on February 14, I have included it because it provides such a complete picture of the technology.

IKEA is installing a 470,000-square-foot solar array on its new Midwestern distribution center, which, once completed, will be the largest solar rooftop in the state of Illinois.  And speaking of solar panels, check out Business Insider’s photo report on Tesla’s alternative to traditional solar panels for residential installations.

Last summer EPA announced new regulations to restrict methane emissions from new or modified oil and gas operations.  At the same time, they sent out an information request to existing facilities asking for them to provide information about their emissions and how they were seeking to control them.  On Thursday, EPA withdrew that request.

Arizona has been a solar battle ground for the past five years, with major fights between electric utilities and rooftop solar advocates over the rates for households and businesses with solar installations.  Now an agreement has been reached between Arizona Public Service Co., the state’s largest public utility, and a group of solar interests, which, if approved by the Arizona Corporation Commission, will allow solar to remain a viable option in the state.  Nevertheless, solar advocates expressed dissatisfaction with the agreement.  On the subject of renewable energy and battles with traditional electric utilities, are you familiar with the “clean energy paradox”?  If not, then you might find “A World Turned Upside Down” in The Economist to be interesting.  It explains the complexities of adding renewable energy to traditional power grids, including why renewables can be “bad news for the vertically integrated giants that grew up in the age of centralized generating by the gigawatt.”

A forecast by China’s National Energy Administration predicts that China’s CO2 emissions in 2017 will drop 1% from 2016, making it the fourth consecutive year of either zero growth or a decline in the country’s emissions, despite its continued increase in energy consumption.  This decoupling is due to large deployment of renewable energy.  In contrast, Australia’s greenhouse gas pollution jumped 3.4% in 2015-16, compared to 2014-2015, as coal use continued to rise after the scrapping of their carbon price.  Meanwhile, in the U.S., 8.7 GW of electric generating capacity by wind and 7.7 GW of solar capacity were added in 2016, along with 9 GW of natural gas capacity and 1 GW of nuclear, offsetting 12 GW of coal and natural gas retirements, for a net increase of 15 GW, the largest increase since 2011.  Furthermore, off-shore wind energy companies point out that installing large turbines along the Atlantic coast will help create thousands of jobs, boost domestic manufacturing, and restore U.S. energy independence.

It is becoming more common for states to assess a fee for electric vehicles.  A stated reason is that the owners of electric vehicles do not pay road taxes, which are normally levied against gasoline and diesel fuel.  However, a Koch brothers initiative is also working to initiate fees on electric vehicles.  David Roberts argued in Vox that our broken federal gas tax is a major underlying cause of these levies.

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 2/24/2017

On Wednesday, the Center for Media and Democracy released over 7,500 pages of emails from EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s time as Oklahoma Attorney General after that office turned them over to a state court in Oklahoma.  They revealed several instances of close coordination between his former office and oil interests in Oklahoma.  Both The Washington Post and The New York Times also covered the story.  In addition, there are contradictions between Pruitt’s Senate testimony and statements in an interview with the Wall Street Journal after his swearing in that have caused some to sense a “bait and switch.”  Mike Catanzaro was recently appointed as President Donald Trump’s top energy aide.  Writing on Desmog, Steve Horn reviews his history and writings on climate and energy.  President Trump is expected to sign an executive order calling for the repeal of the Clean Power Plan.  But as explained by Brad Plumer on Vox, “… crafting a new rule will take many months, if not years, and Pruitt will face a slew of procedural and legal hurdles in trying to undo Obama’s plan.”

Scott Pruitt’s appointment, along with the activities of Rep. Lamar Smith (R, TX), chair of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, has some climate scientists concerned about future harassment.  Thus, it is encouraging that the National Academy of Sciences has called for continuing support of the U.S. Global Change Research Program following a new review of their activities.  Nevertheless, the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) has just reported that the 114th Congress was the most polarized on environmental issues in the 46-year history of the LCV scorecard, which does not bode well for environmental votes in the new Congress.  It is within this atmosphere that the March for Science is being planned for April 22, Earth Day, on the Mall in Washington, D.C.  Although the planned march has drawn criticism and concern from some, Rush Holt, chief executive of AAAS, has emphasized that the march is “for science rather than against anyone.”

Climate

New research, published in the journal Science Advances, has asserted that six marine “hotspots” of exceptional biodiversity are being impacted negatively by warming sea temperatures, weakening ocean currents, and industrial fishing, putting them at risk of losing many of their species.

The flooding in California this week has been attributed to the arrival of “atmospheric rivers” from the Pacific.  With respect to the effect of climate change on those “rivers”, UCLA climate scientist Daniel Swain has said “There is now quite a bit of evidence that future droughts here will be warmer and more intense, yet will be interrupted by increasingly powerful ‘atmospheric river’ storms capable of causing destructive flooding.”  Further east, the flow of the Colorado River has dropped more than 19% during the drought gripping the river basin since 2000.  A study published in the journal Water Resources Research has concluded that about one-third of the decline is due to a warming atmosphere induced by climate change.  How people in the Colorado River basin deal with the problem is an important indicator of how we will adapt to climate change.  Zack Colman visited southeastern Nevada to see how they are coping with the changes.

The U.S. Geological Survey has just announced that the record warm February temperatures in the U.S. are another symptom of climate change.  One bit of evidence of the link to climate change is that there were many more record daily high temperatures than record lows – 5,294 versus 84 through Feb. 20.  This has prompted Robinson Meyer of The Atlantic to ask “Is It Okay to Enjoy the Warm Winters of Climate Change?”.  If you are interested in the psychology of climate change, Yale Climate Connections has provided a list of books and reports on the subject.

It is summer in Australia, really summer, with temperatures in Sydney reaching 117°F.  As has happened elsewhere, this has reduced the number of people who deny human-caused climate change.  According to Simon Bullock, senior campaigner on climate change at Friends of the Earth, “Sadly, people are now seeing and experiencing climate change in their own lives.  No amount of media misinformation from climate deniers can alter that.”  Another place where people are “experiencing climate change in their own lives” is La Paz, Bolivia, a high-altitude city whose water previously came from glaciers.  Now that the glaciers are gone, they face severe challenges.  Leslie Kaufman described how the city is coping.

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has issued a new report, “The Future of Food and Agriculture: Trends and Challenges,” in which they warn that countries must undertake “major transformations” in the way they grow and distribute food if future widespread starvation is to be avoided.  Some of the challenges are increasing population, the shifting of diets from grain to meat-based, groundwater depletion, and climate change.  Meanwhile, the U.N. has issued an urgent plea for funds to help avert starvation in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen.

In October, almost 200 countries signed the Kigali Amendment as an update to the Montreal Protocol, agreeing to reduce their reliance on hydrofluorocarbons in refrigeration and air conditioning because of their strong global warming potential.  After considering thousands of options, scientists have narrowed the list of candidate replacements to 27, all of which have problems, according to a new paper in Nature Communications.

A 2013 World Bank report ranked Boston as the eighth most vulnerable major city in the world to property damage from rising seas, among 136 studied, with much of the waterfront only a foot above sea level during high tide.  Consequently, studies are underway to determine the most feasible way to protect the city from future sea level rise, including building a large sea barrier.

Energy

The burning of biomass in large power plants to generate electricity was back in the news this week with the release of a report by the UK’s Chatham House asserting “Although most renewable energy policy frameworks treat biomass as though it is carbon-neutral at the point of combustion, in reality this cannot be assumed, as biomass emits more carbon per unit of energy than most fossil fuels.”  Jocelyn Timperley of Carbon Brief has examined the main arguments of the report and concluded that “The debate over biomass [burning]is unlikely to be resolved soon.”

Two lobbying groups representing auto manufacturers, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the Association of Automobile Manufacturers, sent letters to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, urging him to roll back the 2025 fuel economy standards established by the Obama administration.  Environmentalists objected.  Nevertheless, at about the same time, Royal Dutch Shell Plc announced that it will build seven fueling stations for hydrogen cars in California through a partnership with Toyota Motor Corp.

A 4.6 MW, community-based project in Red Lake Falls, MN will be the country’s first commercial integrated solar-wind hybrid power generation facility.  It will use two 2.3 MW wind turbines and 1 MW of solar panels.  The wind turbines will provide peak energy in winter and the solar panels will provide peak energy in summer.  On the topic of renewable energy, there is a very interesting editorial in the British magazine The Economist dealing with the impacts of renewable energy on the conventional electricity industry.  It provides some important insights into why some electricity providers are fighting renewable energy.

The U.S. started exporting liquefied natural gas last year and is increasingly piping more natural gas to Mexico while importing less gas via pipeline from Canada.  According to the Energy Department, the U.S. will likely become a net exporter of gas next year and a net exporter of total fossil energy products shortly after 2020.

Economics is the main cause of the closing of coal-fired power plants, and as long as natural gas continues to be cheap, that is likely to continue.  Thus, it is not surprising that President Trump’s election hasn’t slowed the pace of closings for those plants.  A case in point is the Navajo Generating Station that I wrote about last week.  Writing in the Los Angeles Times, Evan Halper characterized its closure as the first major test of “Trump’s vision for a coal industry resurgence.”

Computing technology can contribute to the success of wind energy installations by adding smart intelligence to machines, helping them operate more efficiently, and alerting developers about needed maintenance.

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 2/17/2017

Dr. Will Happer, an emeritus professor of physics at Princeton University, is being considered for the position of science adviser or director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy in the Trump Administration.  Andrew Revkin has an interesting and enlightening interview with him at ProPublica.  On Friday, the Senate confirmed Scott Pruitt as Administrator of EPA by a vote of 52 to 46.  According to a report from the Congressional Research Service, a complicated legal battle would await the Trump administration if it tried to withdraw from the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, the treaty under which the Paris Climate Agreement lies.  Finally, let’s hope Jason Samenow (and the rest of us) doesn’t regret his article in The Washington Post entitled “NASA is defiantly communicating climate change science despite Trump’s doubts.”

Climate

Preliminary data from the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center have shown that sea ice around Antarctica has shrunk to the smallest annual extent on record.  The smallest annual extent is typically reached in mid to late February during summer in the southern hemisphere.  This year, sea ice extent contracted to 883,015 square miles on Feb. 13, which is slightly smaller than the previous low of 884,173 square miles recorded on Feb. 27, 1997.  Satellite records date back to 1979.  In 2005 ice loss from the glaciers on the Queen Elizabeth Islands of Canada was almost equally split between calving glaciers and surface melt.  By 2015, however, 90% was due to surface melting.  In fact, according to a study just published in Environmental Research Letters, surface melt increased from 3 gigatons a year to 30 gigatons a year over that period because of warming air temperatures.

A new paper, published Wednesday in the journal Nature by scientists from the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Germany, found a decline of more than 2% in ocean oxygen content worldwide between 1960 and 2010.  Because oxygen is not evenly distributed in Earth’s oceans, the 2% overall decline means there is a much larger decline in some regions than in others.  The study attributes less than 15% of the oxygen loss to warmer ocean temperatures, which create lower solubility.  The rest was attributed to other factors, such as a lack of mixing.

At the end of last week, a powerful low-pressure storm system in the northern Atlantic helped carry warm air up to the Arctic, sending temperatures at the North Pole more than 36°F above the 1979-2000 average.  It was the third such warming event this winter, whereas 50 to 60 years ago, such events only occurred once or twice a decade.  In addition, record warmth was being recorded in the central U.S. and Australia.

Peter Sinclair has released an interesting new video in which he examines the ability of models to forecast what will happen as the climate changes.  It was featured by Yale Climate Connections on Wednesday.  Also, if you missed his video “Standing Up for Science” you can see it hereSinclair recently received a Friend of the Planet award from the National Center for Science Education, as did the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.

Geoff Summerhayes, from the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA), Australia’s financial regulator, has warned that climate change poses a material risk to the entire financial system, and has urged companies to start adapting.  Summerhayes said “Some climate risks are distinctly ‘financial’ in nature. Many of these risks are foreseeable, material and actionable now.”  Meanwhile, managers of 16 funds with assets totaling more than $2.8 trillion called for the G20 economies to phase out fossil fuel subsidies within the next three years to avert a catastrophe.  On the other hand, writing on Yale Environment 360, Mark Gunther examines the question “Why Won’t American Business Push for Action on Climate?”.

At the single-day Climate and Health Meeting in Atlanta on Thursday, the main theme was that climate change is poised to unleash an unprecedented, global public health crisis, although the participants left a little room for hope.  You can watch a recording of the meeting here.

In a meta-analysis of 130 studies reported between 1990 and 2015, scientists found that 47% of mammals and 24.4% of birds on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s red list of threatened species are negatively impacted by climate change – a total of about 700 species.  The analysis was published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

Energy

The members of the EU Parliament narrowly approved an overhaul of the EU emissions trading scheme in hopes of balancing greater cuts in greenhouse gases with protection for energy-intensive industries.  Environmental organizations denounced the legislation for not going far enough in strengthening the cuts.  The legislation will now enter negotiations between the European parliament, commission, and council, which represents member states.  Here in the U.S., Charles Komanoff of the Carbon Tax Center had an essay in The Nation about the carbon tax proposal put forth last week by the Climate Leadership Council.  Central to any carbon tax is the social cost of carbon.  Carbon Brief walks you through what it is, how it is calculated, and why it is so important.  Meanwhile, a coalition of conservative groups, including American Energy Alliance, Heritage Action for America, and Americans for Tax Reform, is asking for a meeting with high-level White House officials to rebut last week’s meeting and presentation by members of the Climate Leadership Council.  It appears, however, that members of the coalition are out of step with almost half of Trump voters.

In advance of their upcoming U.S. Solar Market Insight 2016 Year in Review report, set to be released on March 9, GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) announced that the U.S. solar industry installed 14,626 MW of solar photovoltaics in 2016.  This is a 95% increase over the amount installed in 2015.  Nevertheless, U.S. renewable energy capacity still lags way behind that of the EU and China.  For example, of the 24,500 MW of new electrical generating capacity built across the EU in 2016, 21,100 MW – or 86% – was from wind, solar, biomass and hydro.  Here in Virginia, Dominion is investing more than $800 million in solar power, with some 398 MW of solar generation either completed or under development.

On Monday, the utilities that own the coal-fired Navajo Generating Station in Arizona decided to decommission the plant at the end of their lease agreement with the Navajo Nation in December 2019.  This is decades earlier than expected and is the result of low natural gas prices.  On the subject of coal, President Trump on Thursday signed legislation ending the Office of Surface Mining’s Stream Protection Rule, a regulation to protect waterways from coal mining waste.  Federal regulators said the rule would have protected about 6,000 miles of streams and 52,000 acres of forests over two decades.  Warren Cornwall presented an analysis of what the rule’s demise will mean.

Thanks to generous tax incentives, plug-in electric vehicle sales reached 37% of market share in Norway during January 2017.  In the U.S., automakers played the jobs card in appealing to President Trump to reconsider greenhouse gas standards for vehicles instituted during the Obama administration.

Calling the decision “arbitrary, capricious, and contrary to law,” the Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Sioux tribes filed a motion on Tuesday asking the court to reverse an easement for the Dakota Access pipeline that the Army Corps of Engineers granted.  That easement lifted the final hurdle for the project’s completion.  According to Patrick A. Parenteau, a professor at Vermont Law School, “The strongest possible argument is that the Trump administration, with no change in facts, no change in conditions, reversed the government’s position.”  Still, legal experts considered the motion to be a longshot.  Meanwhile, TransCanada Corp filed an application with Nebraska authorities on Thursday to route its Keystone XL pipeline through the state.

As required by an agreement with the UN, on Tuesday the EPA issued its draft report, Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990 – 2015.  It will be available for public comment until March 17, allowing the final report to be released April 15, 2017.  In 2015, greenhouse gas emissions were the lowest they have been since 1992.  Unfortunately, emissions of hydrofluorocarbons, which are potent greenhouse gases, are rising.  Since much of our greenhouse gas emissions come from the oil and gas industry, understanding where the wells are in the U.S. is instructive.  Luckily, Tim Meko and Laris Karklis have presented maps showing where it all comes from.

Wind power was in the news this week.  On Sunday, the Southwest Power Pool (which coordinates the flow of electricity on the high voltage power lines from Montana and North Dakota to New Mexico, Texas and Louisiana) met more than 50% of its electrical demand from wind for a brief period.  This was the first time on any North American power grid.  On the other side of the world, in an effort to save its oil reserves for sale, Saudi Arabia plans to install almost 10 GW of wind and solar energy by 2023.

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.