Climate and Energy News Roundup 11/17/2017

Policy and Politics

The Trump administration used its only public forum at the U.N. climate talks in Bonn on Monday to promote fossil fuels and nuclear energy, prompting Michael Bloomberg to tweet, “Promoting coal at a climate summit is like promoting tobacco at a cancer summit”.  Meanwhile the UK and Canada launched a global alliance of 20 countries committed to phasing out coal for electrical energy production.  Environmental writer Elizabeth Kolbert provided her take on the activities of the Trump administration.  One of the accomplishments of the Paris Climate Agreement was the concept that all nations had a responsibility to fight climate change and should contribute what they could, “in light of different national circumstances”.  There has been a movement in Bonn to walk that back and divide the world’s countries into two groups, which many countries, both developed and developing, oppose.  French president Emmanuel Macron promised to replace the $2 million annual donation withdrawn by the U.S. from the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.  On Saturday, Nov. 11th, Virginia became the latest U.S. state to commit to action on climate change, becoming a member of the Under2 Coalition of leading sub-national governments at a side event hosted during COP23 in Bonn.  On Thursday, Virginia’s Air Pollution Control Board unanimously approved a rule that would cap emissions from the electricity sector beginning in 2020 and reduce them by 30% over a decade. In addition, Virginia would join nine other states in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).

There is a civil war brewing within the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).  At issue is whether they should support withdrawal of the 2009 endangerment finding for CO2 and other greenhouse gases that is the basis for the Clean Power Plan.  In a chilling article in The Washington Post, Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis report on a closed-door meeting of climate change deniers who were critiquing the Trump administration on its dismantling of environmental regulations.  Almost as chilling is Robinson Meyer’s article in The Atlantic, in which he says that most progressive voters “trust that Democrats have a legislative plan to resolve [the] climate crisis, and that the party only needs to be granted control of Congress to pass it.  But nothing of a similar scale exists, and some of the Senate’s most vocal Democrats on the issue resist formulating one.”  Some good news: U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R FL), who started the House Climate Solutions Caucus, and May Boeve, executive director of, were presented with this year’s John F. Kennedy New Frontier Awards on Thursday evening at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.

In a very informative New Yorker article about atmospheric CO2 removal, Elizabeth Kolbert wrote: “Carbon-removal plants could be built anywhere, or everywhere.  Construct enough of them and, in theory at least, CO2 emissions could continue unabated and still we could avert calamity.  Depending on how you look at things, the technology represents either the ultimate insurance policy or the ultimate moral hazard.”  Speaking of insurance and hazards, the major insurance companies recently said that the potential damage from severe weather events may become so unpredictable that it is impossible to model, which is an unacceptable risk to them.  The issue of damages from climate change has been important at COP23, causing Julie-Anne Richards of the Climate Justice Programme to say “A climate damages tax on the fossil fuel industry is one way to reverse the injustice of climate change, and ensure the fossil fuel industry pays for its damage – not poor people.”


Solar radiation management (SRM) is one form of geoengineering, whose objective is to decrease the amount of solar radiation reaching Earth’s surface, thereby cooling the planet and buying time for reduction of CO2 emissions.  Now a new paper in Nature Communications has found that if aerosols were released just from the northern hemisphere, other parts of the world could face an increase in droughts, hurricanes, and storms.

According to a new paper published in Nature Scientific Reports, better soil management could boost carbon stored in the top layer of the soil by up to 1.85 Gt/year, about the same as the carbon emissions of transport globally.  Another paper, this one in the journal Nature Communications, concluded that by adopting organic farming practices, in combination with other changes, the projected world population in 2050 could be fed without increasing the amount of land under cultivation, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  This paper was met with skepticism by the agricultural community.

A new study by NASA scientists, published in Science Advances, reported that public officials in charge of preparing for sea level rise need to consider the melting rate of specific glaciers, not just their aggregate impact.  This is because as glaciers melt, they become lighter, which impacts gravitational forces in their vicinity, thereby influencing whether nearby land masses rise or fall.  Speaking of melting glaciers, scientists have long known that West Antarctica has many more melting glaciers than East Antarctica.  Now a new study published in Geophysical Research Letters has found that West Antarctica receives more heat from within the Earth than East Antarctica.  In Sunday’s Washington Post, Bill McKibben had a review of Jeff Goodell’s book The Water Will Come.

On Wednesday, Carbon Action Tracker released a report prepared by three independent European research groups, saying that current policies meant the world was headed for warming of 3.4°C by 2100, down from 3.6°C it predicted a year ago.  Unfortunately, even if all countries adhere to their pledges under the Paris Climate Agreement, global temperature rise will exceed 3°C.  Deutsche Welle examined what five cities would experience under such a situation.

A modeling study published in Nature Geoscience found that with business-as-usual climate change, mid-latitude storms could travel further before reaching their maximum intensity and, as a result, countries further from the equator, including the UK and the U.S., could face more frequent and more intense storms during winter months.

The extreme rains that inundated the Houston area during Hurricane Harvey were made more likely by climate change, according to a new study by MIT hurricane expert Kerry Emanuel, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  The work also suggested that such extreme flooding events will become more frequent as Earth continues to warm.


After three years of almost flat emissions, global CO2 output is expected to rise in 2017.  Much of that rise is due to increased CO2 emissions by China.  Somini Sengupta of The New York Times analyzed the apparent contradiction between China’s desire to lead on climate change and its continued reliance on coal.  However, coal-fired power capacity across China will be capped at 1,100 gigawatts by 2020 as they work to increase transmission capacity to make better use of their renewable energy.  Increasing the use of hydrogen in power generation, transportation, heating, and industry could deliver around 20% of the total carbon emission cuts needed to limit global warming to safe levels by mid-century, according to a report released at COP23 by the Hydrogen Council.

A growing number of insurance companies increasingly affected by the consequences of climate change are selling holdings in coal companies and refusing to underwrite their operations.  However, none of the major U.S. insurers such as Berkshire Hathaway, AIG, and Liberty Mutual have taken action.  In an effort to make its sovereign wealth fund less vulnerable to a permanent drop in oil prices, Norway has proposed dropping oil and gas companies from its benchmark index, which would mean cutting its investments in those companies.

The supply surge from U.S. shale oil and gas will beat the biggest gains seen in the history of the industry, the International Energy Agency predicted in its annual World Energy Outlook.  By 2025, the growth in American oil production will equal that achieved by Saudi Arabia at the height of its expansion, and increases in natural gas will surpass those of the former Soviet Union.  The report also projected that renewable energy is likely to grab a bigger share of the market in the coming decades, generating more electricity than coal by 2040.  Zeke Hausfather provided an in-depth summary of the report at Carbon Brief.

Dozens of groups and individuals filed requests this week challenging FERC’s certificate orders approving the Atlantic Coast (ACP) and Mountain Valley (MVP) pipelines.  Contending that FERC’s approvals for the ACP and MVP violate the Natural Gas Act, the National Environmental Policy Act and the Constitution, the groups called on the Commission to immediately stay its certificate orders pending rehearing.

On Thursday evening Tesla introduced its new long-haul truck, which will travel 500 miles at 60 mph on a single charge and accelerate to 60 mph in 5 sec empty and 20 sec fully loaded.  Bloomberg analyzed the truck and what it will take to succeed, particularly given the rivals that are already working hard.

According to 50 States of Grid Modernization, a new policy update from the North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center, in the third quarter of 2017, there were 184 actions on grid modernization proposed, pending, or enacted across 33 states and the District of Columbia.

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 11/10/2017

Policy and Politics

During Senate hearings on Wednesday, Kathleen Hartnett White, President Trump’s nominee to head the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality, when asked about the link between human activity and climate change, acknowledged that there was probably some human contribution, but said “the extent to which I think is very uncertain.”  On Thursday, the Senate confirmed William Wehrum on a 49-47 vote to head the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation.  Also on Thursday, the EPA proposed a rule to repeal tighter emissions standards for heavy-duty trucks with older engines that had been put into place by the Obama administration.  Moving in the opposite direction, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality will begin presenting its draft greenhouse gas reduction program next week to the state’s Air Pollution Control Board for approval to create the state’s first cap-and-trade program, possibly by joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative to become the 11th member of the multi-state cap-and-trade system.  When Robert Litterman, chairman of the Risk Committee at Kepos Capital, decided to apply the basic tenets of Wall Street risk management to climate change, he came to the conclusion that carbon taxes should be higher than anything proposed or enacted almost anywhere in the world.  He also decided that a carbon tax would be a great way to eliminate the deficit in the current Republican tax reform plans.

In a very interesting essay on disaster planning in an age of climate change, Brad Plumer of The New York Times quoted Dr. David Titley, who heads a climate center at Pennsylvania State University: “If climate adaptation is a marathon, we’ve run about the first 50 yards so far.  Grudgingly.”  Part of our adaptation should be to fix the National Flood Insurance Program.  Bob Henson of Weather Underground took a deep dive into why that has been so difficult.  With respect to planning, New Zealand’s climate change minister hopes to create an experimental humanitarian visa for climate refugees.  Planning requires that we know what is happening with the climate.  Consequently, 26 scientists published a paper in the journal Earth’s Future, which was released Thursday, that calls for a coordinated and expanded measurement network focused on answering key scientific questions about Earth’s climate.

At COP 23 in Bonn, Syria announced it plans to join the Paris Climate Agreement, leaving the U.S. as the only country not on board.  Because of his plans to remove the U.S. from the Agreement, President Trump is, “for the time being,” not invited to a climate change summit to be held in Paris in December, according to an official in French President Macron’s office.  “We Are Still In”, the organization established in response to President Trump’s decision to pull the U.S. out of the Agreement, has opened the U.S. Climate Action Center, a pavilion and forum where dozens of American leaders will convene throughout the negotiations.  China under President Xi Jinping is moving to shape the consensus on how to rein in greenhouse gases after President Donald Trump decided to scale back U.S. involvement.  The head of the Africa group of climate negotiators said on Thursday that the wealthiest countries on earth are failing to take seriously the need to speed up the money they have promised to help the poor cope with climate change.  One example of the need is Fiji, a small island nation that is facing climate adaptation costs over ten years that exceed its GDP.  Meanwhile, Michael Bloomberg, U.N. Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change, announced a $50 million commitment to partners worldwide to catalyze a global effort to move nations away from coal dependence.  The New York Times has an interesting infographic showing how far we have to go to keep warming below 2°C.


Let’s start off with a little hope!  Damian Carrington, environment editor at The Guardian wrote on Wednesday about “the seven mega-trends that could beat global warming.”  And in an opinion piece at MacLean’sclimate scientist Katharine Hayhoe wrote: “It’s not the science of climate change that we must emphasize to prevent ‘dangerous human interference with the climate system.’  It’s the immediacy of its impacts, and the hope its solutions offer for a better future for us all.”  On the other hand, while David Roberts at Vox agrees that it is futile to emphasize the science to conservative elites, he argues that the way to win the climate warsis to do “everything possible to publicize their intransigence and make it core to their identity” so they end up crying “‘Hey, We Like Clean Energy Too!’”

In a statement released on Thursday, NOAA formally declared that La Niña conditions were present in the tropical Pacific Ocean.  Andrew Freedman explained what this might mean for winter weather in the U.S. and Canada.  Vox presented some interesting graphics of climate change data.

A study published Monday in Geophysical Research Letters found that algal growth was more important than deposited dust and soot to the darkening of ice in one region of western Greenland.  Dark ice melts more rapidly than clean ice.  On the other side of the Arctic, black guillemots nest on Cooper Island, an uninhabited strip of land 5 miles offshore near Barrow, Alaska.  They have been studied each summer since 1975, providing one of the longest, continuous records of the impact of climate change on a single species.

Like the U.S., data from New Zealand’s National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research indicates that their winter has decreased in length by a month over the last 100 years.

On Wednesday, a subcommittee of the House Science Committee held a hearing on geoengineering, which was quite informative and without the usual posturing.  One of the witnesses, Douglas MacMartin, is a co-author on five papers examining by simulation the impacts of the injection of sunlight-reflecting aerosol particles into the stratosphere.  They were published together in the Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres this week.  One reason some climate scientists are beginning to consider geoengineering is their inability to model cloud behavior.  How and where clouds move and how that will change as the climate warms and the atmosphere becomes either more or less polluted remain among the biggest unanswered questions in climate science.

In case you haven’t had a chance to look at Part 1 of the National Climate Assessment that was released last week, Sabrina Shankman has a summary at Inside Climate News.  In another article there, Georgina Gustin wrote: “Scientists at the University of Hawaii at Manoa reviewed medical literature to identify ways in which the body responds to heat and how organs are affected.  They calculated that there are 27 ways, physiologically speaking, for a person to die from extreme heat.”

In a new peer-reviewed article in the journal Nature Climate Change, scientists from World Weather Attribution and the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research wrote that they had developed techniques that “make it possible to assign extreme events to human-induced climate change and historical emissions” and “allow losses and damage associated with such events to be assigned country-level responsibility.”


Renewables combined with energy storage technologies could generate enough secure power to cover the world’s entire electricity demand by 2050 while proving cheaper than the current fossil-fuel dominated system, according to a study by German non-profit Energy Watch Group and the Lappeenranta University of Technology in Finland, released on Wednesday at COP23 in Bonn.

China Energy Investment Corp. plans to invest $83.7 billion in shale gas development, chemical manufacturing, and underground storage of natural gas liquids derivatives in West Virginia over 20 years, according to a memorandum of understanding.  European governments have drastically underestimated methane emissions and will miss their Paris Agreement goals unless they urgently scale down its use, a major new study by the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research has found.

According to the International Energy Agency’s new “Energy Access Outlook 2017” report, the number of people without access to electricity fell to 1.1 billion in 2016 from 1.7 billion in 2000.  More than 100 million people have gained electricity access every year since 2012, much of it with renewable energy.

The Energy Storage Association, in collaboration with Navigant Research, has released a white paper entitled “35×25: A Vision for Energy Storage”, which charts a path toward 35 GW of new energy storage systems by 2025.

On Wednesday, the EU proposed sharp automobile emission cuts over the next decade to support the Paris Climate Agreement and compete with China by spurring electric vehicle (EV) production.  To be prepared for greater penetration of EVs in the market, filling stations are experimenting with ways to retain their customers’ loyalty after they buy an EV.

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 11/3/2017

Policy and Politics

The 600-plus-page Climate Science Special Report, which is Volume 1 of the fourth National Climate Assessment, has been released by the White House.  It concludes that it is “extremely likely” that human activities are the “dominant cause” of global warming.  President Donald Trump’s pick to lead NASA, Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.), was slammed by Senate Democrats on the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation during his nomination hearing Wednesday, while he waffled on the scientific consensus about climate change.  Also on Wednesday, President Trump’s nominee to be the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s chief scientist, Sam Clovis, withdrew his name from consideration.  He previously had admitted in a letter to Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D., Mich.), ranking member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, that he has no academic credentials in science or agriculture.  On Thursday, the Senate confirmed the appointments of Republican Kevin McIntyre and Democrat Richard Glick to FERC, giving the commission a full panel for the first time in two years.  Rep. Lamar Smith (R, TX), climate change denier and Chair of the House Science Committee, has announced that he will not seek reelection in 2018.

The four commissioners of the U.S. International Trade Commission on Tuesday voiced their support for tariffs and other import restrictions to protect domestic solar companies from an influx of cheap solar panels being produced overseas, but South Korea’s trade ministry said it may consider filing a complaint with the World Trade Organization if tariffs are imposed.  According to a new report entitled “Creating Markets for Climate Business”, released by the International Finance Corporation, a subsidiary of the World Bank, at least one trillion dollars are being invested globally in ways to reduce the threat of climate change.  On the other hand, a report, co-authored by Corporate Accountability, asserts that global negotiations seeking to implement the Paris Climate Agreement have been captured by corporate interests and are being undermined by powerful forces that benefit from exacerbating climate change.

A new report published by World Resources Institute suggests that 49 countries have already seen their greenhouse gas emissions peak, representing around 36% of current global emissions.  Another 8 countries representing another 23% of emissions have commitments to peak in the next decade or so.  In addition, according to the latest Low Carbon Economy Index from PwC, the carbon intensity of the world’s economy fell 2.6% in 2016, although that falls well short of the 6.3% rate needed to keep temperature increases under 2°C.  Meanwhile, the Trump administration will promote coal, natural gas, and nuclear energy as an answer to climate change during a presentation at the UN’s COP23 climate talks Nov. 6-17 in Bonn, Germany.  Entitled “The Role of Cleaner and More Efficient Fossil Fuels and Nuclear Power in Climate Mitigation,” it will have speakers from Peabody Energy, a coal company; NuScale Power, a nuclear engineering firm; and Tellurian, a liquefied natural gas exporter.


Tens of millions of people will be forced from their homes by climate change in the next decade, creating the biggest refugee crisis the world has ever seen, according to a new report from the Environmental Justice Foundation.  Meanwhile, the Congressional Budget Office has projected that by 2075 10 million Americans, most in coastal areas, will be impacted by climate change, causing government spending on disaster relief to increase.  Even more dire warnings have come from the U.N. Environment Program (UNEP), which released its annual emissions gap report this week.  The report warned that current pledges to cut emissions are only sufficient to hold warming to 3°C.  With that much warming, hundreds of millions of urban dwellers around the world face their cities being inundated by rising seawaters.  Writing at Carbon Brief, Zeke Hausfather summarized the UNEP report and discussed the six actions recommended to close the emissions gap.

This year Sri Lanka has faced what U.N. officials describe as the worst drought in 40 years.  With harvests expected to fall by as much as 50% and rice facing the worst harvest in a decade, the drought has accelerated migration from the countryside to the major cities.

A new study, published Wednesday in the journal Science Advances, found that as the winds around Antarctica intensify with rising global temperatures, they will enable warmer water from the depths to reach the base of the Totten Glacier’s floating ice shelf, accelerating its flow to the ocean.

The British medical journal Lancet has released a new meta-analysis that examines data from many studies to assess the impacts of climate change on health.  However, the analysis has been criticized because of its methodologies.

In a long piece in bioGraphic, Hannah Hoag writes “Years of sampling have shown that the Arctic Ocean is losing its distinctly Arctic traits and becoming increasingly more like the Atlantic. Its sea ice is melting, its water warming. In response, animals from warmer climes are encroaching, leading to a reorganization of its biodiversity.”  She then continues to describe research activities seeking to understand the changes occurring.

Driven by a combination of human activities and the El Niño weather phenomenon, concentrations of CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere surged to a record high in 2016, the UN’s World Meteorological Organization said on Monday.  The 2016 increase was 50% higher than the average of the past 10 years.  On a related note, the length of the U.S. winter is shortening, with the first frost of the year arriving more than one month later than it did 100 years ago, according to more than a century of measurements from weather stations nationwide.


Wind Europe, which promotes wind power in Europe, said in a press release that European wind energy set a new record on October 28, producing over 24% of the EU’s electricity demand.

In 2015, Mark Jacobson, a Stanford University professor, and colleagues, published a widely-cited paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) asserting that the U.S.’s electrical needs could be met fully by solar, wind, and hydroelectric power by 2050-2055.  This year, Christopher Clack, previously with NOAA and the University of Colorado, Boulder, but now with Vibrant Clean Energy, and coauthors, published a critique in the same journal of the Jacobson et al. paper, challenging its conclusions, followed by a rebuttal by Jacobson et al. and a reply by Clack et al. to the rebuttal.  Now in an unusual move, Jacobson has filed a $10 million law suit against Clack and the NAS.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said in a unanimous opinion that the Energy Department fulfilled its legal obligations under the National Environmental Policy Act and other laws when approving liquefied natural gas export terminals in Maryland, Louisiana and Texas.

The federal tax credit for electric vehicles will be eliminated under the tax reform plan introduced by Republicans in Congress.  Even if it survives, Tesla and Chevy Bolt buyers will soon face the limits built in to the current credit.

Using the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus as a test case, New York will be experimenting with a new micro-grid pricing system for renewable electricity.  The system has been designed to encourage the campus to sell electricity from its onsite solar panels, batteries or other generators to doctors’ offices and businesses in the vicinity.  And on the subject of renewable energy, according to financial adviser Lazard Ltd., it is starting to become cheaper to build and operate solar and wind farms than to continue to operate aging coal-fired and nuclear power plants in parts of the U.S.

Argentina plans to start building two new nuclear reactors in 2018, a 720 MW reactor to be built by a Canadian company and the Argentinian state nuclear company, and a 1,150MW reactor to be built by the China National Nuclear Corp.

These news items have been compiled by Les Grady, member and former chair of the CAAV steering committee. He is a licensed professional engineer (retired) who taught environmental engineering at Purdue and Clemson Universities and engaged in private practice with CH2M Hill, the world’s largest environmental engineering consulting firm. Since his retirement in 2003 he has devoted much of his time to the study of climate science and the question of global warming and makes himself available to speak to groups about this subject. More here.

Climate and Energy News Roundup 10/27/2017

Policy and Politics

A new report by the Government Accountability Office says that the extreme weather events of the last decade that scientists say were exacerbated by climate change added more than $350 billion in costs to taxpayers.  Furthermore, those costs threaten to increase by $12 billion to $35 billion each year by the middle of the century.  The Trump administration said Tuesday that next March it will sell leases for some 77 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico for oil and gas drilling, the largest sale of offshore leases in U.S. history.  Monday was the deadline for filing opening comments with FERC on Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s proposal to boost coal and nuclear power, and the Commission was swamped with negative comments.  According to a new study published by Yale scientists in Environmental Research Letters, Americans are willing to pay a carbon tax that would increase their household energy bills by $15 per month.  Surprisingly, they would prefer that the money be spent to support the development of solar and wind energy or to fund infrastructure improvements, rather than having it returned to taxpayers.

A conference entitled “State of Narragansett Bay and Its Watershed” began Monday in Providence, RI.  It was newsworthy in part because at the 11th hour EPA prohibited two of its scientists (one the keynote speaker) and one contractor from speaking at the conference.  EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has claimed that the U.S. leads the world in the reductions of its CO2 footprint.  The Washington Post Fact Checker has given him three Pinocchios for that claim.  You may recall that Pruitt wants to subject climate science to a “red team/blue team” debate.  Well, the Heartland Institute has submitted a list of over 200 people they consider qualified to serve on the red team.  Nineteen Democratic senators issued a letter to Pruitt on Thursday, questioning his methodology and logic for repealing the Clean Power Plan.  Meanwhile, on Monday Nicaraguan Vice President Rosario Murillo announced that her country is set to join the Paris Climate Agreement, leaving the U.S. and Syria as the only nations outside the pact.


Three new research articles were published this week dealing with the melting of ice sheets and their impacts on sea level rise.  Writing in The Washington Post, Chris Mooney summarized them this way: “So in sum — new research is affirming that seas have risen quite rapidly in the planet’s past, and that major glaciers have retreated quickly because their enormous size makes them potentially unstable. Meanwhile, additional modeling projects these kinds of observations forward and suggests that the century in which we are now living could — could — see similar changes, at least in more severe global warming scenarios in which the world continues to burn high volumes of fossil fuels.”  On the subject of sea level rise, Climate Central has ranked the U.S. cities most vulnerable to major coastal floods using three different metrics.  No matter which metric is used, at least 20 of the top 25 cities are in Florida.  Naval Station Norfolk is particularly susceptible to “sunny day flooding”, but according to reporting by Inside Climate News, little is being done about itRolling Stone published an excerpt from Jeff Goodell’s new book, The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World, which was released on Tuesday.  The excerpt deals with Lagos, Nigeria, which is a delta city on the forefront of sea level rise.

A study, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, used computer modeling to examine the possible future impacts of hurricanes on New York City.  One conclusion was that flood height return periods that were ∼500 years during the preindustrial era have fallen to ∼25 years at present and are projected to fall to ∼5 years within the next three decades.  Brian Resnick had some questions about the 2017 hurricane season, such as was it normal to have so many strong storms in a row and what was the impact of climate change.  So, he called several climate and hurricane experts.  The answers he got were complicated.  Because of hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, reinsurer Munich Re will report a fourth quarter loss of $1.7 billion and only a “small profit” for the year.

Calling droughts “misery in slow motion”, the World Bank said in a new report that droughts have “shockingly large and often hidden” consequences.  Furthermore, they annually destroy enough food to feed more than 80 million people every day for a year.  Sadly, droughts and hotter temperatures in India have been linked to suicides by farmers.  In a photo essay for The New York Times, Geeta Anand and Vikram Singh presented the stories of two Indian families.

According to the National Weather Service office in Los Angeles, Southern California has been scorched by an unseasonable heat wave, with temperatures in some areas breaking records by double-digit margins.  On Tuesday, a report issued by the Natural Resources Defense Council said that daily summertime high temperatures in the decade from 2007 through 2016 were hotter than the decades of the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s.

New research, published in Nature Communications, has found that eradicating extreme poverty globally (by moving the 770 million people in extreme poverty up into “poor”) would add only 0.05°C to global temperatures by 2100.  However, moving them and the current poor into a “global middle class” income group, which earns a modest $2.97-8.44 a day, could add 0.6°C.

A team of international scientists has studied the impact that 20 “natural climate solutions” (NCS) could have on meeting the goal of keeping warming below 2°C.  As reported in a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, they found that NCS can provide over one-third of the climate mitigation needed between now and 2030 to meet that goal.

An eight-year study, carried out by the Biological Impacts of Ocean Acidification group, a German network of researchers, has found that many organisms that could withstand a certain amount of acidification are at risk of losing this adaptive ability because of pollution from plastics and the extra stress from global warming.


An analysis published Thursday by the nonprofit ShareAction argued that BP and Shell continue to put both their businesses and shareholder capital at risk by failing to grasp the pace of change as the world moves towards a low carbon economy.  Nevertheless, the world’s major oil companies more than doubled the number of acquisitions, project investments, and venture capital stakes in renewable energy, to 44 in 2016 from 21 the year before, according to research published Tuesday by Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Full lifecycle analyses by Belgium’s VUB University have revealed that electric vehicles (EVs) have significantly less greenhouse gas emissions than diesel-powered cars, even when the EVs are charged with the most carbon intensive electricity.

A new paper in the journal Reviews on Environmental Health, written by scientists at the non-profit Center for Environmental Health who reviewed studies on chemicals found at fracking sites, said that the presence of pollutants ranging from airborne particulates to heavy metals could affect the neurodevelopment of babies and children in the area.  However, researchers at the University of Michigan conducted a comparative analysis of the harmful health effects of electricity produced by both shale gas and coal and found that the lifetime toxic chemical releases were 10 to 100 times greater from coal than shale gas.

In a commentary released Monday, the International Energy Agency concluded that about 40% to 50% of current methane emissions from the oil and gas sector worldwide could be avoided at no net cost.

The Community Foundation Serving Richmond and Central Virginia has just launched RVA Solar Fund to provide grants of $20,000 to $100,000 to local governments and K-12 public school districts that install solar energy systems at their facilities.  Valley Elementary in Bath County is the first school in Virginia to get 100% of its electricity from roof-top solar panels.

According to projections released this week by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the top-growing job classification over the next nine years will be solar photovoltaic installers.  Wind turbine service technicians came in at No. 2.  The median worker employed installing solar panels made $39,340 last year, while the median salary for a wind turbine technician was $52,260.

These news items have been compiled by Les Grady, member and former chair of the CAAV steering committee. He is a licensed professional engineer (retired) who taught environmental engineering at Purdue and Clemson Universities and engaged in private practice with CH2M Hill, the world’s largest environmental engineering consulting firm. Since his retirement in 2003 he has devoted much of his time to the study of climate science and the question of global warming and makes himself available to speak to groups about this subject. More here.

Climate and Energy News Roundup 10/20/2017

Policy and Politics

California recently enacted the Buy Clean California Act, which will serve as a first attempt to address the question of how best to handle the emissions imbedded in goods transferred over state lines or national borders.  The act requires the state to set a maximum “acceptable lifecycle global warming potential” for different building materials, such as steel, glass, and insulation, and prohibits the purchase of materials with imbedded emissions above that potential.  It is odd, therefore, that the oil produced in California has a carbon footprint almost equal to that of the oil from the Alberta tar sands.  Perhaps cleaning it up would have as big an impact as the Buy Clean California Act.  Speaking of California, five of the state’s biggest newspapers published editorials clearly connecting the dots between this year’s out-of-control wildfire season and climate change.

Beginning on Nov. 6, representatives from the nearly 200 countries that signed the Paris Climate Accord will gather in Bonn, Germany, for the annual meeting of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.  The U.S. plans to send a small delegation, but what exactly they will do there is unclear.  In contrast to President Trump’s actions, at the opening of the Communist Party congress in Beijing on Wednesday, Chinese President Xi Jinping said China has taken a “driving seat in international cooperation to respond to climate change.”  DOE Secretary Rick Perry evidently wants the U.S. to drive backwards.  In response, eight former members of FERC, including five former chairmen, have filed a letter with the commission opposing his proposal that would give coal and nuclear power plants credit for resilience, so that they would have a better chance of beating solar, wind, and natural gas competitors.  EPA is also looking backwards, having removed dozens of online resources that could help local governments adapt to climate change.  Not to be outdone, GOP leaders in the House and Senate explored ways to expand drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans, and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) through budget rules that allow them to pass major policy changes on simple majority votes.  For example, on Thursday the Senate rejected an amendment that sought to block the Energy and Natural Resources Committee from raising revenue through drilling in ANWR.  Finally, if you wish President Trump would resign and let Mike Pence take over, you might consider that he was a strong proponent of the “No Carbon Tax” pledge that led to the scuttling of cap and trade legislation in 2009.

Seth Heald, Chair of the Virginia chapter of Sierra Club, wrote the cover article of the Nov./Dec. issue of Environment.  The subject is climate silence and moral disengagement, a problem that prevents us from having open and candid conversations about the impending climate crisis.  Upon reading it, my wife commented: “Best article I’ve read in a long time…”.  Peter Sinclair has another video at Yale Climate Connections, this one on climate change communication.  The Richmond Times-Dispatch published a three-part series about Dominion Energy and its impact on Virginia politics.  Blogger Ivy Main offered her take on the series.


A new study, published in the journal PLOS One, found that the abundance of flying insects in nature reserves all across Germany has plunged by three-quarters over the past 25 years.  Although the cause of the decline is unclear, it is thought that climate change may have played a role.

Phoenix, Arizona’s, hot season — when temperatures exceed 100°F — starts an average of almost three weeks earlier than it did 100 years ago and lasts two to three weeks longer in the fall.  This has many people hurting and has the city working on ways to reduce the heat island effect, such as planting trees and painting roofs white.

A giant polynya, an ice-free zone surrounded by sea ice, with an area of almost 30,000 square miles appeared in September off of Antarctica.  Scientists are uncertain whether its appearance is related to climate change, but it is releasing a lot of heat from the ocean into the atmosphere.

In a moving piece in The Atlantic about Puerto Rico, author Vann R. Newkirk II wrote: ”Maria blew through the island in a matter of hours, but what was left behind wasn’t just traditional hurricane damage. The storm uncovered and intensified long-term environmental challenges that have long blighted Puerto Rico and now threaten its future.  And securing a viable future for the island will mean more than just rebuilding what was lost from the wind and rain—it will require addressing those challenges in sustainable ways.”  Writing at Yale Climate Connections, Bruce Lieberman reviewed ways in which Puerto Rico’s electrical system could be made more resilient.

According to a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, planting trees, restoring peatlands, and managing land better could play a major role in limiting global warming under the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.  However, managing CO2 through forests can be tricky, as illustrated by the results of a NASA study.  During the 2015 El Niño event, atmospheric CO2 concentrations surged because of increased emissions from three tropical forest regions, each of which responded to the rising temperatures in very different ways.  But then, there are some who argue that increased CO2 levels will be beneficial because of its stimulatory effect on plant growth.  The bulk of evidence, however, suggests that increased temperatures and altered rainfall patterns will result in a net negative effect.

Solar radiation management (SRM) is a very controversial form of geoengineering to manage climate change.  Most research being done on it is happening in wealthy nations, but now a fund is being set up to provide grant money to scientists in developing nations to investigate the potential impacts of SRM on their countries.


Even though the number of people without electricity around the world has shrunk by 600 million since 2000, over a billion people still lack access.  A new report on energy access by the International Energy Agency has found that the number will shrink by a third by 2030, with 60% being supplied by renewables.  If the world commits to universal access by 2030, 90% of the additional two-thirds will be supplied by renewables.

On Wednesday, the world’s first floating offshore wind farm began delivering electricity to the Scottish grid.  The 30 MW installation will be coupled with a 1MWh lithium-ion battery to help regulate power delivery and optimize output.  The wind farm employs several innovative technologies, both in the anchoring devices and the turbines.  On a related topic, you’ve heard of the Jones Act and the necessity to wave it to expedite emergency relief to Puerto Rico.  Now Emma Foehringer Merchant has written about how it is hindering development of the U.S. offshore wind industry.  In a rather poetic essay, Paula Cocozza explored various aspects of the wind and our attempts to harness it.

Solar panels have proliferated in California, flooding the grid with power in the middle of the day when the sun’s out, and then quickly vanishing after sunset.  This making it increasingly difficult to maintain the reliability of the transmission system.  Now First Solar Inc. has proposed a pricing scheme that it claims will help solve the problem.  On the subject of solar panels, ConnectDER is a new technology that allows rooftop solar panels to be connected to the grid without the installer having to enter the home and rework the service panel, thereby reducing installation costs.

Late in the day on Friday of last week, FERC issued its approval of the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley natural gas pipelines.  On Monday of this week, the U.S. State Department approved a permit covering a three-mile segment of Enbridge Inc’s Line 67 crude oil pipeline, allowing the company to nearly double capacity of the Alberta Clipper pipeline.  An Indigenous activist from the Secwepemc Nation in central British Columbia was in Europe this week to deliver a message to European banks based on a report by the Indigenous Network on Economies and Trade.  She warned that the Secwepemc Nation will oppose expansion of the Kinder Morgan TransMountain pipeline through their “unceded” territory.

A new study, published on Tuesday in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, used airplane surveys to measure methane emissions from oil and gas infrastructure in two regions in Alberta, Canada.  It found that the oil and gas industry could be emitting 25 to 50% more methane than previously believed.  According to energy experts at UK-based Wood Mackenzie, world demand for gasoline will peak by 2030, thanks to the impact of electric cars and more efficient internal combustion engines.

On several occasions I have provided links to articles about battery chemistries that are alternatives to lithium-ion.  Writing for Greentech Media, Jason Deign explored the possibility that the huge size of the lithium-ion infrastructure will make it impossible for alternative technologies to survive in the marketplace, even when they are less expensive, technologically superior, and more environmentally friendly.

These news items have been compiled by Les Grady, member and former chair of the CAAV steering committee. He is a licensed professional engineer (retired) who taught environmental engineering at Purdue and Clemson Universities and engaged in private practice with CH2M Hill, the world’s largest environmental engineering consulting firm. Since his retirement in 2003 he has devoted much of his time to the study of climate science and the question of global warming and makes himself available to speak to groups about this subject. More here.

Climate and Energy News Roundup 10/13/2017

Policy and Politics

On Tuesday, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt signed the notice starting the process of scrapping the Clean Power Plan, arguing that it exceeds the agency’s authority under the Clean Air Act.  In contrast, on Thursday the UK released its “Clean Growth Strategy”, setting out how it hopes to meet the nation’s legally binding climate goals.  In a portent of things to come, EPA’s decision to repeal the Clean Power Plan was based on an analysis that greatly reduced the “social cost of carbon” by limiting the benefits of combating climate change to the U.S. alone and sharply increasing the discount rate used to calculate the “opportunity cost” of fighting climate change.

An unusual coalition of business and environmental groups opposes DOE’s plan to boost nuclear and coal power plants, and are pressuring the Trump administration to scrap it.  An energy policy think tank also opposes itFrontline has released a documentary entitled War on the EPA, which details the Trump administration’s effort to cater to the fossil fuel industry’s demands and roll back environmental regulations.  In spite of the actions of the Trump administration, the states of the U.S. Climate Alliance are moving forward with plans and actions to reduce their carbon emissions.  And, the recent ten-year extension of California’s cap and trade program gives it important stability.

President Trump has nominated Barry Meyers, the CEO of AccuWeather, to serve as the Commerce Department’s undersecretary for oceans and atmosphere, which oversees NOAA.  Mr. Myers has served as CEO of AccuWeather since 2007, but is not a scientist.  Trump also has nominated Kathleen Hartnett-White, a former chairperson of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, to head the White House Council on Environmental Quality, which plays a central role in the implementation of the National Environmental Policy Act.


A commentary paper in the journal Geophysical Research Letters argues that the temperature limits in the Paris Agreement should be understood as changes in long-term global averages attributed to human activity, which exclude natural variability.  Two of the three authors of the paper had a guest post at Climate Brief to further explain the implications of their paper.  Many scientists believe that it will be impossible to limit warming to 1.5°C, or even 2°C, without removing CO2 from the atmosphere, which is one type of geoengineering.  While CO2 removal is not controversial, other forms of geoengineering are, so a conference was held this week in Berlin to discuss what the emerging field of geoengineering might mean for the planet.  Daisy Dunne of Carbon Brief attended and summarized the proceedings.

A new paper in Geophysical Research Letters reported that the Dotson ice shelf, which receives ice from the Kohler and Smith glaciers in Antarctica, is not melting uniformly on its underside, which may speed up its disintegration.  Be sure to watch the short video.

The impacts of climate change take many forms.  Melting ice and permafrost in the Arctic are causing all sorts of problems for coastal villages, requiring expensive actions to protect or relocate them.  Further south, in Japan, the increasing frequency of intense rainstorms has officials concerned that the huge system they have built to protect Tokyo from flooding may not be enough to contain future deluges.

The destructive and deadly wildfires in California are being driven by the Diablo winds, which normally occur this time of year and are a result of the unique geography of California, Nevada, and Utah.  While the impacts of climate change on the winds are uncertain, it is likely that the prolonged drought, followed by a wet winter and a hot dry summer, has contributed to the devastation.  This has caused some to conclude that wildfires will only get worse.  Relatedly, more than half of Americans are linking extreme weather and climate change (either mostly or in part).


EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt wants to eliminate the Production Tax Credit and Investment Tax Credit, both of which greatly benefit wind and solar energy.  David Roberts, writing at Vox, has done a deep dive into the federal subsidies that the fossil fuel industry receives in the U.S.  The findings might surprise you.  On a global scale, according to a report from Oil Change International, funding for fossil fuel projects from the six main international development banks totaled at least $5bn in 2016.  A second report, from analysts at E3G, found that some funding agencies have given similar levels of funding to fossil fuels as to climate-friendly energy projects.  The funding agencies strongly disagreed with the analyses in the reports.

The Washington Post’s Peter Holley listed three developments that make him think 2017 may go down as the year that electric vehicles (EVs) became an industry-wide inevitability.  He then went on to list five ways a shift to EVs will affect our economy and our society.  Certainly, China is counting on EV production as a key component in their plan to transform the country into a high-tech industrial power.  India wants all new passenger car sales to be electric by 2030, but it faces many hurdles in achieving that goal.  Meanwhile, Paris authorities have announced that they plan to prohibit all gasoline- and diesel-fueled cars from the city by 2030.

Toshiba has developed a new anode for its Super Charge ion Battery that allows it to store twice as much electricity per unit weight as the original version.  If incorporated into a compact EV, it would allow for a range of 186 mi after just six minutes of ultra-rapid charging, which is around three times the range offered by a standard, similarly charged lithium-ion battery.  Amazon was granted a patent for roving drones that can latch onto EVs and extend their range with an infusion of energy.

Barclay’s Bank has examined what the boom in EVs, along with gains in fuel efficiency, might mean for oil demand.  Their research suggests that by 2025 oil demand could drop by an amount almost equal to Iran’s total production, and if EVs seize a third of the car market by 2040, the drop in demand would be nearly as much as Saudi Arabia produces.

A new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has found that wind power generation over some ocean areas can exceed wind power generation on land by a factor of three or more.

Using data up to May 2017 published by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Carbon Brief has prepared interactive maps for all states in the U.S. showing the type and capacity of electric power generating facilities.  They have also analyzed the information, including planned facilities.  Also this week, an analysis from the Union of Concerned Scientists found that 19% of coal-fired power plants are economically unviable compared to alternative energy sources such as renewables and gas.

Royal Dutch Shell will purchase a top European operator of electric vehicle charging stations, Netherlands-based NewMotion, in a push to roll out the technology at many of its 45,000 service stations around the world.  Virginia has issued a request for proposals to create a statewide, public, EV charging network while Colorado and six other western states plan to install fast charging stations along eleven interstate highways.  All of these developments will require adaptation from the electric power industry according to a report from the Rocky Mountain Institute.

Research on carbon-capture and storage is still moving forward and has reduced the cost of the technology from $100 per metric ton to around $40 per metric ton.  As part of the tax overhaul, advocates would like to increase the carbon-capture tax credits from $10 or $20 per metric ton, depending on use, to $35 or $50.

These news items have been compiled by Les Grady, member and former chair of the CAAV steering committee. He is a licensed professional engineer (retired) who taught environmental engineering at Purdue and Clemson Universities and engaged in private practice with CH2M Hill, the world’s largest environmental engineering consulting firm. Since his retirement in 2003 he has devoted much of his time to the study of climate science and the question of global warming and makes himself available to speak to groups about this subject. More here.

Climate and Energy News Roundup 10/6/2017

Policy and Politics

On Thursday, President Donald Trump named Andrew Wheeler, a coal industry lobbyist and former congressional staffer, as his pick for deputy administrator of the EPA.  Reuters reported that reaction to the nomination was “mixed”.  The EPA will propose repealing the Clean Power Plan, according to an EPA document seen by Reuters.  The agency now intends to issue what it calls an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to solicit input as it considers “developing a rule similarly intended to reduce CO2 emissions from existing fossil fuel electric utility generating units.”  The New York Times has additional information, including some background.  The CPP joins a long list of environmental regulations (many related to climate change) that the Trump administration has overturned (or tried to).  In contrast, on Thursday Stephen Badger, Chairman of the food company Mars, Inc., published an Op-Ed in The Washington Post that concluded with “This is a call to action for all in business to double down in support of the Paris agreement and the sustainable development goals.”

The Department of Interior was in the news this week.  First, a group that, without invitation, listened-in remotely to an invitation-only Bureau of Land Management meeting and webinar gave their notes to The Washington Post.  Among the items discussed was how to weaken the National Environmental Policy Act, a 1970 law that has been called an environmental Magna Carta, to facilitate fossil fuel development.  In addition, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke was expected to issue a proposal to delay a BLM rule requiring oil and gas companies operating on federal and tribal lands to capture methane that would otherwise be vented or burned off, using a different legal provision than the one blocked by a federal judge on WednesdayJoel Clement, a senior Interior Department official, resigned on Wednesday, stating in his resignation letter to Zinke “You and President Trump have waged an all-out assault on the civil service by muzzling scientists and policy experts like myself.”  You can read his full letter here.  Meanwhile, the Department of Energy announced additional loan guarantees for construction of the Vogtle nuclear power plant in Georgia and asked FERC to adopt new regulations concerning the way in which base-load power plants (i.e., coal and nuclear) recover costs.  However, E&E News reported that energy industry experts disputed the claim of the need for such action.


Yale Climate Connections presented a sobering video of glaciology professor Jorgen Peder Steffensen of the Neils Bohr Institute in Denmark discussing the risks of abrupt climate change.  The most disturbing revelation is that we simply don’t know what will trigger abrupt events like those that occurred in the past.  Even without abrupt changes, however, climate change represents an extreme threat to the future of wildlife, according to Jim Murphy of the National Wildlife Federation.  A new paper in the journal Geophysical Research Letters reported on a comprehensive seabed mapping project of Greenland.  A major finding of the study is that the Greenland ice sheet is far more exposed to the warming oceans than previously known.  In fact, more than half of Greenland’s ice lies in or flows through areas that could be influenced by warming seas, accelerating their melting.

On September 22, Australia experienced its hottest September day since records began more than a century ago, reaching an average maximum temperature across the continent of 92.2°F, breaking the previous record set nine years ago.  In a special climate statement, the Bureau of Meteorology said climate change played a role.  Even worse, a new study published in Geophysical Research Letters has found that even if the Paris Agreement goal of limiting average global warming to 2°C is met, summer heat waves in major Australian cities are likely to reach highs of 122°F by 2040.

Zeke Hausfather at Carbon Brief examined how well climate models have projected future warming and concluded: “Climate models published since 1973 have generally been quite skillful in projecting future warming.  While some were too low and some too high, they all show outcomes reasonably close to what has actually occurred, especially when discrepancies between predicted and actual CO2 concentrations and other climate forcings are taken into account.”

Data published on Thursday by the EPA showed that greenhouse gas emissions from the U.S.’s largest industrial facilities fell 2% in 2016, to 2.99 billion tonnes, led by a large cut from the power sector.  On the other hand, an analysis by an Australian think-tank revealed that Australia’s annual emissions reached an all time high.

Scientists at the U.S. Marine Biological Laboratory, with contributions from scientists at the Universities of Massachusetts and New Hampshire, conducted a 26-year study in the Harvard Forest of the impact of soil warming on CO2 emissions from the soil.  The results supported projections of a long-term, positive, carbon feedback loop wherein warming leads to more carbon emissions, which increases warming, leading to more emissions, etc.

The Associated Press analyzed 167 years of federal storm data and found that no 30-year period in history has seen this many major hurricanes, this many days of hurricanes in the Atlantic, or this much overall energy generated by those powerful storms.

A report released Tuesday by the Food Climate Research Network at the University of Oxford found that cattle fed on grass release more greenhouse gas emissions than are offset through soil carbon sequestration by root growth associated with the plants on which they feed.  In other words, grass-fed beef is “in no way a climate solution”, according to the lead author of the report.

Writing at Yale Environment 360 about the connection between climate change and increased wildfires, Nicola Jones stated: “Globally, the length of the fire weather season increased by nearly 19 percent between 1978 and 2013, thanks to longer seasons of warm, dry weather in one-quarter of the planet’s forests.  In the western United States, for example, the wildfire season has grown from five months in the 1970s to seven months today.”


The International Energy Agency issued a new forecast indicating that global renewable energy capacity will rise by 43% by 2022.  This forecast is largely driven by increasing expansion of solar energy in China and India.  The report also said that in 2016, almost two-thirds of new power capacity came from renewables.  Illustrating this is the increased interest in battery-backed local energy systems, such as solar, in response to the recent spate of hurricanes.

A new study, published in the journal Nature Energy, found that, at recent oil prices of $50 per barrel, tax preferences and other subsidies at the state and federal level push nearly half of new, yet-to-be-developed oil investments into profitability, potentially increasing U.S. oil production by 17 billion barrels over the next few decades.  Using that oil would put the equivalent of 6 billion tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere.  This is one of the reasons Tim McDonnell argued in The Washington Post that the solution to climate change is in the U.S. tax code.

For the past two weeks, I have included articles about the decision of the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) in the Suniva/SolarWorld America solar panel trade case.  This week, Bloomberg Technology reported that the trade dispute has stalled solar-energy projects across the U.S.  However, Bloomberg Technology also reported that “[g]rowing demand for more resilient power supplies will spur $22.3 billion of global investment in battery-backed local energy systems over the next decade, according to Navigant Research.”  Also Ivy Main wrote about a new study by the Solar Foundation that showed that over 50,000 jobs could be created in Virginia if it commits to building enough solar energy in the next five years to provide just 10% of its electricity supply.

Two items from Rocky Mountain Institute dealt with energy efficiency in homes and the real estate market.  One was about an mpg-like rating for homes that are for sale.  It provides insights into things like the expected cost of maintaining the home, the environmental impact of the home, and how comfortable the home is likely to be.  The other explained how residential property assessed clean energy (R-PACE) financing could be used to allow people to buy net-zero energy homes with no additional upfront costs.

On Monday General Motors announced that it would rollout at least 20 all-electric vehicles by 2023, including two within the next 18 months.  The new models will be a mix of battery electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.  In addition, Ford Motor Co has formed a team to accelerate global development of electric vehicles.  A current impediment to adoption of battery electric vehicles is a lack of charging stations and charging time.  This situation is changing, however, with a big push underway to install more stations with fast chargers.

These news items have been compiled by Les Grady, member and former chair of the CAAV steering committee. He is a licensed professional engineer (retired) who taught environmental engineering at Purdue and Clemson Universities and engaged in private practice with CH2M Hill, the world’s largest environmental engineering consulting firm. Since his retirement in 2003 he has devoted much of his time to the study of climate science and the question of global warming and makes himself available to speak to groups about this subject. More here.

Climate and Energy News Roundup 9/29/2017

The big news this week about Hurricane Maria is that aid has been incredibly slow getting to people on Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.  The devastation in both territories, in combination with their ongoing financial crises, has caused speculation about increased migration to the U.S., and what its effects might be, both for the islands and for U.S. cities receiving the migrants.  An article in Vox looked at how the large amount of rain associated with this season’s hurricanes is a sign of climate change.  Conversely, an article in The Atlantic explains why it is difficult to draw a definitive conclusion about long-term changes in hurricane activity.  On a related note, a new study from the Universal Ecological Fund concluded that the costs to the U.S. of stronger hurricanes, hotter heat waves, more frequent wildfires, and more severe public-health issues will reach almost $1 billion a day within a decade.  On a more positive note, some see the destruction of the power grids on Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands as an opportunity to redo them with less reliance on imported fuel oil and diesel.

In a chapter released ahead of the publication of next month’s World Economic Outlook, the International Monetary Fund has told rich countries they must do more to help poor nations cope with climate change or suffer from the weaker global growth and higher migration flows that will inevitably result.  Meanwhile, suggestions that the U.S. might reduce its commitments to the Paris Climate Agreement have sparked outrage from developing countries.  In other international news, Ontario has joined California’s cap-and-trade program limiting CO2 emissions.  Quebec joined the program earlier.

The Trump administration is expected to release its plans for replacing the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan ahead of an Oct. 7 court deadline.  The announcement is expected to have several key parts: a legal analysis detailing why they think the rule wasn’t justified; an economic analysis showing why they think it overestimated benefits and downplayed costs; and a signal about what the administration is planning to put in place of the Clean Power Plan.  Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke delivered a string of comments this week that caused conservation groups and public lands advocates to conclude that the Trump administration does not view renewable energy development as a priority.  He also is unhappy with the failure of Department of Interior employees to buy into the Trump administration plans to expand fossil fuel production from public lands.


Last week I devoted a paragraph to a new paper in Nature Geoscience that examined the possibility of limiting global warming this century to 1.5°C.  I indicated in that paragraph that several articles in the popular press misinterpreted some of the results in the paper and provided links to fact-checks of those articles.  Now, in a guest post at Carbon Brief, the authors of the original paper respond and “explain what the article did, and did not, do”.

A new study, published in the journal Carbon Balance and Management, found that global methane emissions from agriculture are 11% larger than previous estimates have suggested.  However, when Carbon Brief asked about the impact of this finding on the chances of holding global warming to 1.5°C, they were told that it would be marginal.

The Pine Island Glacier in West Antarctica has calved another large iceberg, its fifth since 2000, increasing concern among scientists for the stability of the glacier.  Also, a new article in the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters reported that four glaciers that feed into Marguerite Bay, on the western side of the Antarctic Peninsula, have speeded up because water temperatures in the bay have increased, accelerating melting.

A new study in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society provided additional evidence concerning the “warm Arctic, cold continents” hypothesis, although the continent is this case is Eurasia, not North America.

An article in the journal Science reported that forest areas in South America, Africa, and Asia, which have historically played a key role in absorbing greenhouse gases, are now releasing 0.425 Gt carbon annually, which is more than all the traffic in the U.S.  This story of the Paiter-Suruí tribe, who live in the Amazon forest on the border between the Brazilian states of Rondônia and Mato Grosso, is a tragic case study of why preservation of forests is so difficult.

A new analysis by the World Weather Attribution group found that the scorching temperatures across Europe’s Mediterranean nations this summer were made at least 10 times more likely by climate change.  They also analyzed the heatwave that struck southeast France, Italy and Croatia in early August and found it was made at least four times more likely.


Last week I included an article about the decision of the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) in the Suniva/SolarWorld America solar panel trade case.  The hearing for potential remedies is set for Oct. 3, after which the ITC will make a recommendation to the president.  SolarWorld America is not waiting for Trump’s decision, however.  On the basis of the ITC ruling, it announced that it will immediately increase production and hire more workers.  Nevertheless, most of the solar industry is opposed to the decision and predicts dire consequences if tariffs are imposed.  Utility Dive presented a summary of the positions being taken in the case, while GreenTech Media offered six ways to boost U.S. solar panel manufacturing without imposing a tariff.

Global emissions of CO2 remained static in 2016, due to less coal burning and increasing renewable energy, according to data published on Thursday by the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency.  The Washington state Department of Ecology has denied a water quality permit to a company that wants to build a coal export terminal near the city of Longview.

The Indian government has pledged to provide solar power and battery storage by the end of 2018 to the 300 million people without power in rural and remote towns and villages.  And speaking of renewable energy, many people still think it is too expensive, particularly for developing countries.  Well, in her newest video, climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe tackles that misconception.  A new study in Environmental Research Letters found that the benefits of renewable portfolio standards (RPSs) substantially outweigh their costs.

Two articles about H2-fuel cell vehicles appeared this week, one in The Economist and the other in Chemical and Engineering News (C&EN).  The Economist article concentrated on comparing fuel cells to battery-powered and traditional internal combustion engine-powered vehicles, whereas the C&EN article focused more on how fuel cells operate.  Neither article, however, addressed the issue of how the production method for the H2 impacts the carbon footprint of the vehicle, which is a shame.  Speaking of battery-powered cars, British inventor Sir James Dyson, the billionaire who revolutionized the vacuum cleaner, announced plans to build an electric car that will be “radically different” from current models and go on sale in 2020.  Traditional auto manufacturers appear to see 48V mild hybrids as a bridge to more efficient vehicles, because such systems can easily be added to conventional power trains.  Finally, Rocky Mountain Institute announced that based on the experience of seven participating trucks that drove a combined 50,107 miles during a 17-day event, it is possible for long-haul trucks to achieve 10 mpg using technologies available on the market today.

In an effort to spur an industry that has flourished in Europe but sputtered in the U.S., a bipartisan team of senators is proposing a 30% investment tax credit for the next 3 GW of offshore wind built in U.S. waters.  So, what are the issues surrounding offshore wind energy?  Last week, a panel at Columbia University’s Earth Institute, convened as part of Climate Week NYC, addressed that question.  Sarah Fecht summarized the discussion.

Remarks by a Dominion Energy executive suggest that the developers of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline plan to extend it into South Carolina.  The pipeline will deliver natural gas, composed primarily of methane.  On the topic of methane, ExxonMobil said on Monday that it will take a series of steps to cut methane emissions from its U.S. onshore oil and gas production.

These news items have been compiled by Les Grady, member and former chair of the CAAV steering committee. He is a licensed professional engineer (retired) who taught environmental engineering at Purdue and Clemson Universities and engaged in private practice with CH2M Hill, the world’s largest environmental engineering consulting firm. Since his retirement in 2003 he has devoted much of his time to the study of climate science and the question of global warming and makes himself available to speak to groups about this subject. More here.

Climate and Energy News Roundup 9/22/2017

For the second time in two weeks, a hurricane (this time Maria) hit the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and other islands in the Caribbean, causing major damage to Puerto Rico’s electrical power system.  One thing unique about this year is that four hurricanes in a row have undergone “rapid intensification”, which makes it difficult to properly warn people.  Consequently, Eric Holthaus at Grist wondered if we had entered a new era of tropical storms, while climate scientist Kerry Emanuel argued that our policies have added to the cost of such disastersThe Washington Post fact-checker examined President Trump’s claim that “We’ve had bigger storms than this” when questioned about Harvey and Irma.  While the political climate may make it hard to discuss the impacts of climate change on hurricanes and other storms, one area that people are talking about is resiliency planning and implementation.

In a speech to the U.N. general assembly, British prime minister Theresa May argued that Donald Trump’s plan to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement ranks alongside North Korea’s nuclear missile tests as a threat to global prosperity and security.  Meanwhile, Nicaragua announced it will sign the Paris agreement, leaving the U.S. and Syria as the only two countries not participating in the global accord.  On the other hand, President Trump has indicated he might stay in if he can negotiate a better deal for the U.S.  The question is, just how will he do that, particularly in light of French President Emmanuel Macron’s assertion that the agreement “will not be renegotiated.”  Brad Plumer of The New York Times addressed the question of what the states can do to fight climate change in the face of President Trump’s plans.

Speaking at a climate change conference hosted by former Secretary of State John Kerry at Yale University, South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham called for a “price on carbon.”  Also, Arizona Senator John McCain delivered recorded remarks calling for the federal government to act on climate change.  On the other hand, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has asked the Heartland Institute for a list of researchers who have a “non-alarmist” approach to climate science and some of the possible candidates for positions on EPA’s Science Advisory Board have questioned mainstream climate research.


A new paper in Nature Geoscience examined the possibility of limiting global warming this century to 1.5°C.  In it, the authors state “limiting warming to 1.5°C is not yet a geophysical impossibility, but is likely to require delivery on strengthened pledges for 2030 followed by challengingly deep and rapid mitigation.”  In a guest column at Carbon Brief, senior author Richard Millar concluded “Our results indicate that based on the current understanding of the Earth system, the window for achieving 1.5°C is still narrowly open. If very aggressive mitigation scenarios can be implemented from today onwards, they may be sufficient to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement.”  A number of climate scientists were surprised by the results and think that they need additional study to be fully understood.  Unfortunately, some articles in the popular press ignored the main conclusion and focused on another aspect of the work to claim that climate models are overestimating the amount of warming associated with a given level of CO2 emissions.  In a “Factcheck” column at Carbon Brief, climate scientist Zeke Hausfather countered that claim, explaining why it is incorrect, as did Millar and another author of the Nature Geoscience article in a Guardian article.  Finally, four climate scientists critiqued one of the misleading papers at Climate Feedback.

Preliminary figures from the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center indicate that Arctic sea ice for 2017 reached its minimum extent on September 13.  The area covered was 4.64 million sq km, the eighth lowest in the satellite record.  According to the UK Met Office, after slightly slowing from 1999-2014, global average surface temperature is once again rising more quickly, due to a “flip” in the Pacific Decadal Oscillation from its cool phase to its warm phase.  Meanwhile, Australia had its warmest winter on record.

An article in the journal Science Advances argued that Earth appears to be on course for the start of a sixth mass extinction of life by about 2100 because of the amount of carbon being pumped into the atmosphere.

The New York Times posted answers to 17 questions about climate change that you might find of interest.  However, in a farewell column, journalist Justin Gillis said that the biggest question of all concerning our future climate is how much carbon we will pump into the atmosphere before we take climate change seriously.

Ever heard of kernza, a perennial wheat variety?  I hadn’t, until I listened to this 1.5-minute clip from Yale Climate Connections.  Sounds like it has some very important climate benefits.

Harvey and Irma may not be 2017’s deadliest U.S. disaster.  Rather, over the last 30 years, increasingly broiling summer heat has claimed more American lives than flooding, tornadoes, or hurricanes, according to the U.S. National Weather Service.  This raises the question of the link between climate change and extreme weather.


The U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) has voted 4-0 in favor of proceeding with the Suniva solar panel trade case, having seen enough evidence to convince them that imports are the major cause of injury to U.S. solar manufacturers.  The verdict of the four commissioners means the case will now proceed to the ‘remedy’ phase whereby the ITC will decide what measures, such as tariffs on imported panels, to recommend to the White House, which has the final say.  This article, while primarily about a Wall Street lender, provides some background on the importance of this decision.  And speaking of solar, roofing manufacturer GAF has introduced its own solar roof.

On Tuesday, a coalition of global corporations (EV100 Coalition) launched a campaign to accelerate the shift to electric vehicles.  On the subject of electric vehicles, Mercedes-Benz plans to start producing them in Alabama as part of a $1 billion expansion, which includes a massive new battery production facility near the auto assembly plant.  Electric-bus startup Proterra set a world record by test-driving an electric bus for 1,100 miles on a single charge.  The previous world record was 632 miles for an electric bus and 1,013 for an electric car.  As sales of electric cars and electrical storage systems increase, so will the demand for lithium, an important component of modern battery technology.  This raises the question of the environmental and human costs of lithium mining.  Unfortunately, the answer is not all that encouraging.

A team of engineers from Australian National University has identified 22,000 potential pumped hydro energy storage sites across Australia.  Those sites can be developed to allow up to 100% renewable energy in the Australian grid.  Speaking of storage, a test and demonstration facility operated by South Africa’s main utility Eskom will test Primus Power’s flow batteries.  Primus Power’s EnergyPod2 system utilizes zinc-bromine flow batteries, which can store energy for longer periods than lithium-ion batteries.

In the wake of President Trump’s announcement that he was going to pull the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Agreement, many cities pledged to reduce their carbon emissions anyway.  In order to do that, most will have to step up enforcement of their energy efficiency codes for buildings and/or adopt stricter codes.  Sixty-two of the world’s 100 largest companies consistently cut their emissions on an annual basis between 2010 and 2015, with an overall 12% decline during that period, according to a report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance.  In a commentary at HuffPost, Carl Pope, former head of the Sierra Club, summarized U.S. progress on cutting carbon emissions, in spite of the Trump administration.

The Colorado Public Utilities Commission has taken an important step in regulating the electric power industry in the state by requiring utilities to include the “social costs’’ of carbon when planning future energy resources.  A new report released by Oil Change International, Public Citizen, and the Sierra Club examines how a new wave of gas pipeline construction threatens to shunt serious risks and costs onto utility ratepayers.  In addition, a federal appeals court in Denver told the Bureau of Land Management that its analysis of the climate impacts of four gigantic coal leases was economically “irrational” and needs to be done over.

Westinghouse Electric Company has announced that it is exiting the nuclear reactor construction business.

These news items have been compiled by Les Grady, member and former chair of the CAAV steering committee. He is a licensed professional engineer (retired) who taught environmental engineering at Purdue and Clemson Universities and engaged in private practice with CH2M Hill, the world’s largest environmental engineering consulting firm. Since his retirement in 2003 he has devoted much of his time to the study of climate science and the question of global warming and makes himself available to speak to groups about this subject. More here.

Climate and Energy News Roundup 9/15/2017

On Saturday, ministers and representatives of up to 30 major economies will convene in Montreal for the first climate talks since the U.S. announced its plans to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord.  In what some described as a changing of the climate guard, the meeting was co-convened by the EU, China, and Canada.  After the U.S. withdrew its financial support for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Canada and other nations increased their contributions to ensure funding.  Working Group 1 of the IPCC has revealed the chapter outline for the 6th Assessment Report, due in 2021-22.  In advance of the annual UN General Assembly meeting in NYC, President Trump’s top economic adviser, Gary Cohn, is planning to meet with top energy and climate officials from major foreign countries.  Another indicator of change is a new report by the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, which found that more than 1,200 global businesses are moving to embrace a carbon price as a way to analyze current business practices and prepare for the future when global carbon pricing is the norm.  Finally, Environmental Defense Fund attorney Ben Levitan discussed four facts about climate law and science that help counter the distortions from EPA administrator Pruitt.

Early this week, the news was again dominated by a hurricane, this time Irma.  I am providing a link to Carbon Brief’s summary of media reaction, rather than trying to cover the articles.  Florida Governor Rick Scott (R) came under criticism for not doing more to prepare his state for the consequences of climate change.  Alexander Burns of The New York Times wrote that some in Congress think the conversation on climate change is shifting in the wake of Harvey and Irma, in spite of Scott Pruitt’s comments that talking about climate change now would be “very, very insensitive.”  In Bloomberg Politics Jennifer Dlouhy wrote “Research shows monster storms may only harden people’s position, underscoring already entrenched beliefs about the role humans play in warming the planet,” and in The Washington Post, researchers Llewelyn Hughes and David Konisky said “Our research shows that people who experience severe weather are only modestly more likely to support the types of efforts we need to build resilience to climate change.”  Perhaps this is due in part by the way the press has handled climate change and its impacts.  Indeed, Peter Dykstra commented on the total lack of the “C-word” during the otherwise excellent TV coverage of Harvey and Irma.  Meanwhile, in an interesting article at Nieman Reports, Michael Blanding wrote about how some “news outlets are bringing innovation, urgency and new audiences to stories on climate change.”


Last week I provided links to articles about how climate change is impacting hurricanes.  This week, Chris Mooney of The Washington Post considered some less-discussed hurricane attributes that could plausibly change in a warming world: season length, regions of formation and intensification, intensification rate, and storm size.  Also, Chelsea Harvey considered the impacts of declining coral reefs on the damage caused by wave action against the shore line.

A new paper, published in Nature, reported that two-thirds of the glacial ice in Asia’s high mountains could vanish by 2100 if we continue to emit CO2 at current rates.  Those glaciers provide water to at least 800 million people living in Asia.  On the other hand, if steps are taken to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C above preindustrial times, only one-third of the glacial ice will be lost.  Another paper, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), asserts that the loss of mountain ice creates a host of problems for the people who live downstream.  Meanwhile, in the Wind River Range of Wyoming, the largest concentration of glaciers in the American Rocky Mountains is melting.  Unfortunately, the Wind River glaciers remain some of the least understood ice sheets in North America.

Writing in Eos, the magazine of the American Geophysical Union, a group of scientists argued that ocean heat content and sea level rise are much better indicators of global warming than average surface air temperature, primarily because they are much less subject to natural variability.  And speaking of “natural”, climate scientists Katherine Hayhoe explained in a new video why natural cycles can’t explain current warming.

There have been many studies on the impact of rising CO2 levels on plant yields, i.e., the amount of grain produced per acre, but there have been few on how rising CO2 impacts the nutritional quality of the plants.  Politico senior food and agriculture reporter Helena Bottemiller Evich wrote an interesting article about this question and the quest of a mathematician to study it.  Although the answer to the question is uncertain, it is now beginning to receive more attention.  Meanwhile, a new paper in PNAS, by authors associated with Scripps Institution of Oceanography, reports that some plants appear to become more efficient at using water as atmospheric levels of CO2 increase.

Another new paper in PNAS by authors associated with Scripps Institution of Oceanography has asserted that there is a 5% chance that the impacts of climate change within the 30 years will be catastrophic, meaning that most people would have trouble adapting.  In an interview with The San Diego Union-Tribune, the senior author stated that few people would get on an airplane if they thought there was a 5% chance it would crash.

The costs of fighting U.S. wildfires topped $2 billion in 2017, taking wildfire suppression from 15% to 55% of the Forest Service budget.

After running for a decade beyond its planned life, the satellite-based Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE), which has helped scientists track the melting of ice around Earth, is nearly out of fuel and will soon make its final science run, NASA announced late Thursday.  In a rather long article in The New York Times Magazine, Jon Gertner explored the various satellites employed by NASA and NOAA to keep track of what is happening with our weather and climate, while also examining the potential impacts of federal budget cuts on the programs dependent on those satellites.


Carbon Tracker Initiative has issued a new report that found that energy consumers in the US could be paying an extra $10bn a year by 2021 to prop up ageing coal-fired power plants.  Interestingly, Dominion Energy is listed as facing the highest percent of potentially stranded assets of any U.S. electric utility.  Meanwhile, in the UK, off-shore wind won contracts at record-lows of $76 per MWh, making them among the cheapest new sources of electricity generation there, joining onshore wind and solar, with all three cheaper than new gas-fired power plants.  Note, that’s a 50% decline since a similar auction two years ago.

In a new report released Thursday, the U.S. Energy Information Agency projected that worldwide emissions of CO2 from the burning of fossil fuels would grow 16% by the year 2040 from the levels of 2015.  The report shows coal on a 20-year-long plateau, natural gas plentiful and growing, wind and solar growing rapidly in percentage terms but not fast enough to bring emissions down in absolute terms, and petroleum holding its own as the main source of energy for transportation, despite the arrival of electric vehicles.

Two lawsuits, one filed in Virginia and the other in the District of Columbia, are challenging FERC’s eminent domain authority under the Natural Gas Act.  They, along with other potential lawsuits in other jurisdictions, address the question of what constitutes a public necessity.  The outcomes may have impacts far beyond the natural gas pipelines involved.  North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper’s administration has delayed until mid-December its decision on whether to permit the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and West Virginia’s Department of Environmental Protection has rescinded its water quality certification for the Mountain Valley Pipeline.  And on the subject of pipelines, the Minnesota Department of Commerce recommended this week that a major tar sands oil pipeline should not be expanded and that the old, existing line should be shut down because the state’s refineries don’t need additional crude oil.  Minnesota was just one of several states closely examining new pipelines.

In its 2011 SunShot Initiative, the Obama administration set the goal of reducing the cost of utility-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) systems by 75% by 2020.  The Trump administration recently announced that the goal has been met.  While the rest of the solar industry is doing well, GTM Research has forecast that residential solar PV will experience its first down year ever in 2017, shrinking by 3% compared to 2016.  There are several reasons for this, as explained by Julia Pyper.

GE Renewable Energy unveiled its largest onshore wind turbine this week, a 4.8 MW turbine that can generate enough electricity at low to medium wind speeds for the equivalent of 5,000 homes.

In New York City, Daimler AG unveiled its new Fuso eCanter, an electric light-duty truck produced under the Mitsubishi Fuso brand.  Daimler is supplying a fleet to several New York City non-profits and United Parcel Service Inc. has signed on as the first commercial customer in the U.S.  At the Frankfurt auto show, Volkswagen AG announced that it plans to build electric versions of all 300 models in the 12-brand group’s lineup by 2030.  Also at the show, Mercedes Benz announced that it would begin selling the GLC F-Cell in the U.S. by late 2019.  The car is a plug-in hybrid, except that instead of an internal combustion engine it has a hydrogen-powered fuel cell for hybrid operation.

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.