Climate and Energy News Roundup 3/17/2017

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

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

Climate

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

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

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

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

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

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

Energy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Climate and Energy News Roundup 3/10/2017

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

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

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

Climate

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

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

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

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

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

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

Energy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Climate and Energy News Roundup 3/3/2017

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

Climate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Energy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Climate and Energy News Roundup 2/24/2017

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

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

Climate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Energy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Climate and Energy News Roundup 2/17/2017

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

Climate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Energy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Climate and Energy News Roundup 2/10/2017

Scott Pruitt is drawing up plans to repeal climate rules, cut staffing, close offices, and permanently weaken the regulatory authority of the EPA, which he has been nominated to lead.  As a result, on Monday almost 500 former EPA employees sent an open letter to Senate Majority Leader McConnell explaining why they oppose making Pruitt administrator of the agency.  The New York TimesCoral Davenport explored how Pruitt might go about his task, using interviews with senior former EPA officials.  In addition, Eric Roston at Bloomberg, examined how EPA’s history and structure might limit Pruitt’s actions.  If you are too young to remember what the U.S. was like before the EPA, then you may want to read this introduction to Documerica.

According to Politico, George David Banks, a former George W. Bush climate aide, is expected to join the National Security Council as an adviser to President Trump on international energy and environmental issues.  He would work with the State Department to help shape the approach to climate change negotiations, including whether the U.S. should remain committed to the Paris Climate Accord.  And according to E&E News, Mike Catanzaro, an energy lobbyist who’s worked on environmental issues in the executive branch and both chambers of Congress, is expected to become special assistant to the president for energy and environmental issues in the National Economic Council.

Climate

You may recall that in 2015 Thomas R. Karl of NOAA and eight coauthors (seven of whom were from NOAA) published a paper in the journal Science correcting the sea surface temperature record to bring older measurements taken in ship engine rooms into line with more recent measurements taken with buoys and other modern techniques.  The paper received a lot of press because the impact of the corrections was to eliminate the “global warming hiatus” that apparently occurred during the first 15 years of the 21st century.  This caused outrage on the part of those who question whether climate change is occurring.  Now the paper is back under the microscope because of an article published over the weekend in the British paper The Mail on SundayE&E News, the Associated Press, and The Guardian had good coverage of the events while Carbon Brief presented a guest post by climate scientist Zeke Hausfather, who fact-checked the article that appeared in the Mail on Sunday.  The bottom line: the science is sound, but some NOAA data handling protocols may have been breached.  There were two good posts on RealClimate related to this incident.  One was about living in a time of fake news and “alternative facts.”  The other presented NASA climate scientist Gavin Schmidt’s views on the challenges of science communication in a politicized world.

Robert McSweeney at Carbon Brief reported on two new papers that appeared in scientific journals this week.  One, published in Current Biology, concerns African penguins.  Warming sea surface temperatures and overfishing have made food scarce in the usual feeding areas for the penguins.  Unfortunately, young penguins instinctually head north and west for food, while the fish are shifting south and east, setting up an “ecological trap” for the penguins.  The other, published in Nature, concerns the impact of changes in ocean circulation patterns on the amount of CO2 they take up.  It found that weakening circulation patterns since 2000 have resulted in an increase in CO2 uptake, but the authors caution that there is no guarantee this will continue in the future.

Towns and cities in the mid-Atlantic region could see more than 160 high tide floods every year by 2045, according to a paper published in the journal PLOS One.  That’s up from once-a-month flooding in the region now.  In addition, high tide floods along southeastern shorelines are expected to strike more than 100 times a year.

A new paper, published in Nature Ecology & Evolution, used satellite data and climate change projections for the middle of this century to estimate how climate change will impact the frequency of large wildfires.  The study suggests that there will be a 35% increase in the days with high danger of large fires across the world, with some regions seeing even larger increases, such as the western states of the U.S., southeastern Australia, the Mediterranean region, and southern Africa.  In addition, a paper in the journal Nature suggested that a warming climate will fundamentally change the chemistry of mountain soils by shifting the balance of nutrients, visibly disrupting fragile, high-elevation ecosystems of grasses, flowers, and trees within decades.  That, in turn, will substantially alter the way these sensitive ecosystems function.

Authors of a new book entitled Climate Change and the Health of Nations: Famines, Fevers, and the Fate of Populations examined the history of climate and human health and concluded that “The main general conclusion to be made about climatic impacts on health and survival during the Holocene is this: whether in the Arctic, temperate regions, or the tropics, the climatic comfort zone that sustains food and water supplies, stability of ecosystems, and other basic needs is confined within a narrow range of temperatures and a particular pattern of seasonal rainfall.”  That does not bode well for life in the Anthropocene.

Energy

Members of the Climate Leadership Council met Wednesday with White House officials to discuss the idea of imposing a national carbon tax, rather than using federal regulations, to address climate change.  The plan appears to be patterned after the Carbon Fee and Dividend proposal of Citizens’ Climate Lobby.  It comprises four elements: a gradually increasing carbon tax, carbon dividends for all Americans, border carbon adjustments, and significant regulatory rollback.  In an op-ed in The New York Times, members of the Council stated “…an ideal climate policy would reduce carbon emissions, limit regulatory intrusion, promote economic growth, help working class Americans and prove durable when the political winds change.  We have laid out such a plan…”  Nevertheless, the proposal by the group of elder statesmen in the Republican Party “is already meeting entrenched opposition from within their own party.”  Brad Plumer of Vox has an analysis of the carbon tax proposal.  In his article, he states “Every few years, various economists and wonks will try to sell the Republican Party on a carbon tax as a conservative solution to climate change.  And so far, these campaigns have attracted public support from … exactly zero elected Republicans in Washington.”  While this may be technically correct, it apparently ignores the 12 Republican members of the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus, which is exploring policy options for addressing climate change.  Finally, opposition from most Republicans should come as no surprise since the energy industry spent $160 million on federal candidates during the last election cycle, with 80% of it going to Republicans.  In addition, it spends $300 million a year lobbying Congress, deploying three lobbyists per member.

On Wednesday the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers granted the developer of the Dakota Access pipeline formal permission to lay pipe under a Missouri River reservoir in North Dakota and the developer has resumed work.  Phillip Ellis, a spokesperson for Earthjustice, an environmental law firm representing the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, stated that they will file litigation against the Army Corps within days, but legal experts have said the tribe faces long odds in convincing any court to halt work on the pipeline.  Also on Wednesday, former interior secretary Sally Jewell said that the Corps of Engineers was “reneging” on its commitment to other federal agencies and tribal leaders to conduct a thorough environmental review of the pipeline.

According to a report released on Tuesday by the solar advocacy group The Solar Foundation, jobs in the U.S. solar industry grew 25% last year to include more than 260,000 workers.  In addition, a new report released Wednesday by the Business Council for Sustainable Energy and Bloomberg New Energy Finance found that Americans spent less of their average annual household income on energy in 2016 than ever before. Furthermore, retail electricity prices fell 2.2% in real terms from 2015.

Wind, solar, biomass and hydro made up 86% of new power added to Europe’s electricity grids last year.  As a result, wind power now contributes 16.7% of Europe’s total power capacity.  In the U.S., during the last quarter of 2016 wind passed hydropower dams to become the largest source of renewable electricity, according to a new study by the American Wind Energy Association, making wind the fourth-largest energy source overall.  And in China, installed photovoltaic (PV) capacity more than doubled last year, rising to 77.42 GW with the addition of 34.54 GW over the course of the year.

California’s three largest utilities have filed proposals with the state’s public utilities commission that would allocate up to $1 billion in new spending to “accelerate widespread transportation electrification.”  The money would come from surcharges on utility bills submitted by all three companies to their subscribers.  The goal is to remove as many medium and heavy duty diesel powered vehicles from the roadways as possible.  Electric vehicle (EV) sales numbers in the U.S. for 2016 were recently released.  Following a 5% decline in sales from 2014 to 2015, U.S. EV sales increased by 37% in 2016.  More than half of all EV sales took place in California.

Recently The Guardian held a roundtable on the future of wind and solar power with participants from several organizations with an interest in energy.  The consensus was that the Trump Administration will have little impact on the prospects for renewable energy because the strength of the renewables sector is driven by decreasing costs and increasing interest among both the public and businesses.  Meanwhile, the nuclear power industry is having to revamp its arguments for government support in light of the views of the Trump Administration about climate change.

If Europe’s 300 coal-fired power plants run to the end of their natural lifespans, the EU nations will exceed their carbon budget for coal by 85%, according to a new report by Climate Analytics.  It says the EU would need to stop using coal for electricity generation by 2030 to meet its Paris climate pledges.

A new paper in the journal Science describes an almost science-fiction like way to increase the cooling of objects, thereby increasing their efficiency in cooling applications.  The technique applies “passive cooling”, which increases the rate of infrared radiation to space without the input of mechanical or electrical energy.  It is papers like this that give me hope that humankind can solve the climate change problem.

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

Climate and Energy News Roundup 2/3/2017

In the face of a boycott by Democrats, on Thursday Republican members of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works suspended their rules and approved the nomination of Scott Pruitt to head EPA.  The vote was 11-0 to send the nomination to the full Senate.  The Los Angeles Times has explained why a challenge to California’s unique authority to set rules for car and truck emissions would be hard for Pruitt to win if confirmed.  On Tuesday, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee voted 17-6 to approve Rick Perry’s nomination to head DOE, sending it to the full Senate.  On Wednesday the Senate confirmed Rex Tillerson, former ExxonMobil CEO, as Secretary of State with a vote of 56-43.  Justin Gillis of The New York Times presented an interesting analysis of how the Republican position on climate change has changed subtly over time and how the appointment of Rex Tillerson and Rick Perry may actually give some cause for hope.  Neil Gorsuch is President Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court.  His position on the Chevron rule may be very important to environmental cases coming before the court.  John Cushman has an explanation of why at Inside Climate News.  In response to statements by members of Congress, the President, and some nominees for leadership positions in the new administration, and actions by the transition team, scientists plan to hold a “Listen to Evidence” march in Washington, DC on Earth Day, Saturday, April 22.  Supporting events will be held around the country, as well as in other countries.  In addition, climate scientist Michael Mann expressed his views about recent events in an op-ed piece on The Hill.

Climate

Writing in The Washington Post, Jason Samenow of The Capital Weather Gang stated: “The Arctic is so warm and has been this warm for so long that scientists are struggling to explain it and are in disbelief.  The climate of the Arctic is known to oscillate wildly, but scientists say this warmth is so extreme that humans surely have their hands in it and may well be changing how it operates.”  One impact of the warmth is that the extent of Arctic sea ice is well below any previously recorded value for this time of year.

A study published Thursday in the Nature journal Scientific Reports has found that ocean acidification (caused by increased CO2 levels) increases the potency of coral-killing seaweeds, allowing them to take over and kill off coral reefs.  The only effective way to address the problem is to reduce CO2 emissions and the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere.

Like California, which just went from extreme drought to intense rainfall, Peru is struggling to cope with heavy downpours and flooding as its drought has ended.  The precipitation has been fueled by unusually warm temperatures in the Pacific, which is odd since an El Niño period just ended last year.  Meanwhile, in Chile, which is still in a decade-long drought, the worst wildfires in the country’s history are raging across the central and southern regions of the country.

According to a recent survey by researchers from the University of New Hampshire, just 25% of people who voted for Donald Trump believe climate change is occurring and is caused by human activity, compared to 90% of Hillary Clinton voters.  Interestingly, 99% of people who voted in the election, but did not cast a vote for president, believe climate change is occurring and is human-caused.

Scientists gathered in Anchorage last week for the Alaska Marine Science Symposium reviewed new research probing the impacts of increasing water temperatures on marine ecosystems.  This article focused on Arctic cod, bird populations in the Bering Sea, and the impacts of toxic algal blooms on marine mammals.

Energy

Recently I have provided links to reports by BP and others stating that fossil fuel demand will continue to grow for the foreseeable future.  Now a new report by The Carbon Tracker Initiative and the Grantham Institute of Imperial College, London, challenges such conclusions.  Rather, their analysis suggests that the fossil fuel giants are vastly underestimating the disruptive power of solar panels and electric cars, which could cause coal and oil demand to peak by 2020.  Carbon Brief has provided two graphs that summarize the findings.  David Roberts at Vox agrees that we are probably underestimating how quickly electric cars will disrupt the oil market.  It is worth noting that the European Union is on track to meet its 2020 goal of getting 20% of its energy from renewable sources.

The owners of Arizona’s Navajo Generating Station, the largest coal-fired power plant in the West, announced in early January that low natural gas prices and the rising costs of generating electricity using coal make it too expensive to operate the plant.  A decision on the plant’s fate is expected this spring.

A new paper in Nature Climate Change uses “a nested structure of key indicators to track progress through time” toward the goals established by the Paris Climate Accord.  While many key indicators are consistent with emission levels required to meet temperature goals, the continued lack of large-scale carbon capture and storage is a major threat to their attainment.

On Monday, Honda and General Motors announced an $85 million collaboration in which, beginning in 2020, they will assemble hydrogen fuel cells for both companies at a Brownstown, Michigan, GM plant.  The fuel cells will be used in vehicles from both companies.  The big question is whether the needed hydrogen infrastructure will be available.

On Thursday, the Senate passed 54-45 a Congressional Review Act bill undoing the Interior Department’s Stream Protection Rule, a regulation requiring coal firms to clean up waste from mountaintop removal mining and prevent it from going into local waterways.  The House passed the bill 228-194 on Wednesday night.  Brad Plumer of Vox provided some history on the rule and why Republicans were intent on killing it.

Construction of Generation III+ nuclear reactors is being plagued by delays and cost overruns, causing former U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission official Lake Barrett to state: “The cost overrun situation is driven by a near-perfect storm of societal risk aversion to nuclear causing ultra-restrictive regulatory requirements, construction complexity, and lack of nuclear construction experience by the industry.”  This is not the situation globally, however.

Maryland lawmakers voted overwhelmingly Thursday to override Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto of a bill to increase the use of renewable energy in the state.  The law requires that 25% of the state’s electricity come from renewable sources by 2020.  The previous requirement had been 20% by 2022.

A new study by the University of Texas Energy Institute published in Nature Energy has found that if your house has solar panels, it is better to stay connected to the grid than to store energy in batteries for use when the sun isn’t shining.  That is because the energy loss associated with batteries results in 8 to 14% more energy use when energy is stored in them.  Despite those losses, as net metering is eliminated or scaled back in some states, battery storage is likely to find increased use.  In addition, electrical companies are increasingly turning to battery farms for energy storage.

One of the vicious cycles associated with global warming is that the warmer Earth gets, the greater the demand for air conditioning, which typically requires electricity to operate, causing more greenhouse gases to be emitted, driving the temperature even higher, etc.  There is another way, however, even though it is not yet in widespread use: solar thermal cooling.  If that sounds like an oxymoron, read this piece, or at least look at the excellent graphics.

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 1/27/2017

As might be expected, much of the news related to climate and energy this week has focused on the Executive Branch and the often contradictory signals about what the Trump Administration (TA) will/won’t do to/about government climate science and related activities.  Since there is so much confusion and press about what is happening, I will limit the number of items I include on this subject.  One example of contradictory signals had to do with climate change information on EPA’s website.  As reported by Robin Bravender and Hannah Hess for E&E News (and reprinted by Science), at first EPA employees were told to scrub all such information from the website, but then were told not to do so.  The Washington Post also covered the story, with a little more historical perspective.  On Wednesday, the lawyers for the 21 children suing the federal government, the fossil fuel industry, and related trade associations hit them with a legal preservation notice.  If a judge agrees, they would all be prohibited from deleting files, taking down websites, etc. without archiving them first.  One development that is in line with the worst fears of anyone concerned about the climate is that computer scientist David Gelernter, a Yale University professor, is being considered for the role of science adviser in the TA.  For this, and other reasons, some leaders of U.S. scientific societies are concerned about the policies of the TA and the keepers of the Doomsday Clock have advanced it forward 30 seconds, making it the closest it has been to midnight since 1953.  There has also been much speculation about what the TA can do about environmental regulations issued by the Obama Administration.  Coral Davenport of The New York Times interviewed several lawyers and legal scholars about this question and has a good summary.  Also, a new tool launched by the Columbia Law School is tracking every step the TA takes to roll back or eliminate existing federal rules on climate change and energy.

In response to the policies of the TA, a new People’s Climate March is being planned for Washington DC by a steering committee of more than two dozen organizations.  Bill McKibben recently wrote about the march in Rolling Stone magazine.

In December there was an interesting infographic online about the reliability of news sources that I missed, but which you will probably find interesting.  While I take some comfort in fact that many of my sources come from the center and upper center, I also must note one of the comments: “The definition of irony: Getting info on what news to trust from an image sharing site…”  The source of the infographic is here.

Climate

A new report by the European Environment Agency (EEA), Climate change, impacts and vulnerability in Europe, has found that extreme weather cost Europe more than $378 billion and ended the lives of 85,000 people over the last three decades.  Furthermore, during the 1980s, the damages averaged about $8.2 billion a year, but by the 2000s the figure had risen to $14.7 billion a year.  While the EEA expressed caution about how much of this could be attributed to climate change, it warned that weather was likely to get worse as the global temperature continues to rise.  In particular, it stated that Europe’s Atlantic-facing countries will suffer heavier rainfalls, greater flood risk, more severe storm damage, and an increase in “multiple climatic hazards.”

Scientists in Sweden have discovered a complex chain of events that increases the level of methylmercury in estuaries and oceans as global temperatures rise in response to climate change.  The increased levels of methylmercury, in turn, increase the level of mercury in fish, thereby elevating human exposure to mercury.  The research was published in the journal Science Advances.

A new study published in Global Challenges: Climate Change has found that “inoculation” may provide the key to effectively debunking misinformation.  The study provides a key message for those fighting against the growing “post-truth”, “alternative facts” culture: facts by themselves are insufficient, but explaining the flaws underpinning associated misinformation can help weaken its effect and increase public acceptance of the facts.

NOAA has released a new technical report on projected sea level rise written by scientists at NOAA, USGS, EPA, and Rutgers University.  The purpose of the report is to update sea level rise projections used by coastal planners in the U.S.  Since the last report in 2012, the increased understanding of sea level rise suggests that under a worst-case scenario, climate change could raise the oceans an average of more than 8 feet by 2100, about 20 inches more than the previous estimate.  Tom Avril reports on what this might mean for the Jersey Shore.

Most articles I link to about Arctic ice are rather coldly analytical (no pun intended).  But in a beautifully written piece for Hakai Magazine, Eli Kintisch describes what changes in the shoreline ice in northern Canada mean to the 1400 residents of Nain, the largest community in Newfoundland and Labrador’s self-governing Nunatsiavut territory.

Energy

Ivy Main has a new post on Power for the People VA about the renewable energy bills that are still alive in the Virginia General Assembly.  The major foci of the two bills in the Senate are on community solar and small agricultural generators.  Bills in the House will be heard by the energy subcommittee on Tuesday afternoon.

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe’s office has announced that Pennsylvania-based Community Solar Energy will build a 100 MW solar energy facility in Southampton County.  Amazon Web Services will purchase power from the new facility.  Speaking of solar energy, in early 2011 U.S. utility fixed-tilt system pricing was close to $4.00/watt.  In early 2017 it is below $1.00/watt, thanks in part to the DOE loan program, which has a loss ratio of 2.33% on $32 billion in commitments.

In contrast to other projections, BP’s Energy Outlook for 2017 predicted that in spite of growth in electric cars and renewable energy, oil demand will still be rising in 2035 because of rising prosperity in emerging Asia.  In addition, the report predicted that global energy demand will grow nearly a third by 2035 and that fossil fuels will still account for 75% of the energy mix, although renewables will be the fastest-growing energy source in coming years.  Carbon Brief had an analysis of how BP’s Energy Outlook has changed over the years.

Just 27% of Americans surveyed this month by the Pew Research Center said they thought the U.S. should prioritize expanding the coal, oil, and gas industries, while 65% thought alternatives like wind and solar should be the priority.  However, adding more renewable energy sources to the grid presents significant challenges, as this article about the Midwest illustrates.  Unfortunately, instead of trying to solve those challenges, some politicians in Indiana appear to be trying to kill rooftop solar.  A new bill in the Indiana legislature would not only eliminate net metering, it would mandate a “buy all, sell all” solar model, in which homeowners with solar panels must sell all the electricity they generate to their power provider at wholesale price and then buy all the electricity they use at retail cost.  Since such a model doesn’t recognize any of the benefits provided to utilities by resident-owned solar panels, let’s hope it gets shot down.

The Long Island Power Authority approved the nation’s largest off-shore wind farm on Wednesday.  It will be between the eastern tip of Long Island and Martha’s Vineyard, although it will not be visible from the former and barely visible from the latter.  The initial phase of the project will have only 15 turbines, but the site contains sufficient space for 200.  Speaking of off-shore wind energy, MHI Vestas Offshore Wind has unveiled its new 9 MW wind turbine, which broke the energy generation record over a 24 hour period.  Meanwhile, in the Midwest, the proximity of regional transmission lines appears to be a big factor in the siting of new wind farms.

Although the findings are primarily associative, an increasing number of scientific studies is suggesting that exposure to ultra-small particles of air pollution from automobiles and other combustion sources can increase the risk of dementia.  This, in turn, suggests that there might be additional benefits associated with moving away from fossil fuels.

On Tuesday, President Trump invited TransCanada to reapply for a permit to build the Keystone XL pipeline and on Thursday they did so.  At the same time, President Trump signed an executive order instructing the Army Corps of Engineers to “review and approve in an expedited manner” the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).  The Standing Rock Sioux chairman David Archambault II warned the TA that the legal issues around the DAPL are not subject to change “simply by the president’s whim,” and that the executive order shows a “disregard for tribal diplomatic relations and the potential for national repercussions.”  Bill McKibben had an op-ed piece in The New York Times on President Trump’s actions.

The DOE has released its 2017 U.S. Energy and Employment Report.  Unfortunately, the news reports that I’ve seen so far appear to have misinterpreted some of the numbers relative to renewable energy, so I haven’t linked to them.  On a related topic, Paul McDivitt at Ensia has an interesting opinion piece asserting that many news articles tend to inflate the contribution of renewables to total electricity generation.  It is a cautionary tale worth reading.

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 1/20/2017

On Wednesday President-Elect Trump’s nominee to head EPA, Scott Pruitt, appeared before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, while on Thursday his nominee to head DOE, Rick Perry, appeared before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.  As was done last week, Science magazine had reporters following the hearings and they have prepared a summary of major points covered in the Pruitt and Perry hearings, as well as others in which science policy was discussed.  Science staff also compiled a list of ten questions scientists might like Perry to answer.  As pointed out by Brady Dennis and Chris Mooney at The Washington Post, there was a remarkable degree of consistency among the nominees regarding climate change.  Indeed, Zack Colman and Amanda Paulson at The Christian Science Monitor argued that the nominees are amplifying small disagreements among model projections to sow doubt about the widely-held conclusion that humans are driving emissions higher and raising temperatures, mainly from burning fossil fuels.  In a recent issue of Nature Climate Change, climate modelers Ben Sanderson and Reto Knutto wrote that if the Trump administration caused 4 to 8 years of U.S. inaction on climate change, it would set back climate efforts by 15 to 25 years.  Science writer Dan Grossman interviewed Sanderson and the transcript was posted on Yale Climate Connections.  Finally, at The New Yorker, Madeline Ostrander interviewed William Ruckelshaus, the first administrator of EPA, to learn about EPA’s history and powers, and science writer Elizabeth Kolbert presented her views on the Pruitt hearing.

Our Children’s Trust issued a press release announcing that the U.S. Department of Justice had filed its answers to the youth plaintiffs’ complaint in Juliana v. United States, the lawsuit being brought by a group of young people alleging that governmental action against climate change is insufficient to protect their future rights.  In the press release they listed several allegations admitted by the defendants.  Climate Home had a post about this development.

Climate

NASA, NOAA, and the UK Met Office/University of East Anglia all confirmed that 2016 was the hottest year on record globally, making it the third year in a row to set a record.  As Chris Mooney of The Washington Post explained, NASA and NOAA disagree on the global average temperature in 2016, primarily because of differences in the way they handle temperatures in the Arctic, with NASA posting a slightly higher temperature.  Roz Pidcock at Carbon Brief offered more details about the year, along with an interview with Gavin Schmidt of NASA.  Schmidt had a post on RealClimate about the new record and James Hansen’s team at Columbia University provided a deeper analysis.  The New York Times provided an interesting interactive showing the daily temperature range from AccuWeather during 2016 for more than 5,000 cities worldwide.

NOAA and Princeton University scientists produced the first global analysis of how climate change may affect the frequency and location of mild weather. The scientists defined “mild” weather as temperatures between 64°F and 86°F, with less than a half inch of rain and dew points below 68°F, indicative of low humidity.  The research, published in the journal Climatic Change, projects that by the end of the century the tropics will lose milder days while the U.S., Canada, and northern Europe will gain them.

A new paper in Nature Communications examined the impact of business-as-usual CO2 emissions on the yields of corn, wheat, and soybeans at the end of this century in the U.S.  The study found that under rain-fed conditions the yields will fall 49%, 22%, and 40% for the three crops, respectively, compared to yields today.  The expected boost from the extra CO2 in the atmosphere did little to reduce the loss.  Irrigation, on the other hand, largely eliminated the loss in yield, suggesting that it was primarily due to water stress associated with the elevated temperatures.

A new study published in the journal Science compiled estimates of sea surface temperatures during the last interglacial period, which lasted from about 129,000 to 116,000 years ago.  The global annual mean temperatures were indistinguishable from the 1995–2014 mean.  This is a sobering point, because sea levels during the last interglacial period were 20 to 30 ft higher than they are now.  It should be noted that it would take centuries for sea level to come to equilibrium with temperature.

Global sea ice is now the smallest it has been since measurement began in 1978.  This is due to declines in both the Arctic and the Antarctic.  In the Arctic, sea ice extent is running well below last year, as well as below the expected range observed from 1981-2010.  Sea ice growth is being hampered by a surge of warm air and stormy weather.  Unfortunately, as sea ice melts, more open water is exposed to solar radiation, allowing it to absorb heat, reinforcing Arctic warming.  A new study published in the journal Earth’s Future found that to offset the warming associated with a full month free of Arctic sea ice, global CO2 emissions would need to reach zero levels 5–15 years earlier and the carbon budget would need to be reduced by 20%–51%, depending on what happened to sea ice thereafter.

A new survey from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication taken after the election has revealed several important findings relative to climate change.  Sixty-one percent of Americans describe themselves as ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ worried about climate change, with 19% being very worried.  Furthermore, 55% understand that climate change is mostly caused by human activity.  Sixty-nine percent of registered voters think the U.S. should participate in the Paris Climate Agreement and 70% support proposals to set strict CO2 emission limits on existing coal-fired power plants.

A study of the rings of Picea balfouriana trees, a type of spruce that can live for more than 300 years, revealed that climate change started impacting the Tibetan Plateau as early as the 1870s, at the start of the industrial revolution.  The results were published in the journal Nature Communications.

Energy

According to Greenpeace, China has suspended work on 104 coal-fired power plants with a total capacity of 120 GW that were being planned or were under construction.  A follow-up story provides a map of the locations of the suspended projects as well as more background on the suspensions.  However, coal is still a powerful industry in China and this has hampered full use of the many large wind farms being built.

A group of 13 companies, called the Hydrogen Council, is pledging to invest more than $10 billion during the next five years to accelerate infrastructure-construction and technology advancements to support hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles.  The group says that hydrogen “can play an important role in the transition to a clean, low-carbon, energy system.”  Nevertheless, Europe and China are still moving forward with battery-electric vehicles, even though sales have slumped in the U.S.

Within an hour of President Trump’s swearing-in, an “America First Energy Plan” was posted on the White House website and all reference to climate change was removed.  Although written before that posting, Julia Pyper at GreenTech Media reminded us that the U.S. is losing the race on clean energy innovation and examined courses of action that might be taken to develop a truly innovative energy plan.  Meanwhile, even some states led by Republican governors are considering strengthening their renewable energy portfolio standards as a way of stimulating job growth.

According to Jeff St. John at GreenTech Media: “Last summer, First Solar and California grid operator CAISO ran a set of tests to show that utility-scale solar PV, instead of being a disruptive influence on the power grid, could actually help stabilize it.··· All told, the data from CAISO, First Solar and the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) indicates that a utility-scale solar farm, equipped with standard inverters and software controls, can serve to smooth out grid fluctuations from the solar itself or from other sources.”

Energy storage with batteries is beginning to see more application, on both large and small scale.  On the large side are the utility scale installations in California that are being made in reaction to the large natural gas leak in the fall of 2015.  On the small side is the installation at Sierra Nevada brewery, which is being used to reduce peak energy charges, thereby reducing cost.

Small modular nuclear reactors were in the news this week.  TVA has submitted an early site permit application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for the site to be approved and ready if such plants are ultimately developed and TVA decides to pursue them.  Meanwhile, NuScale Power, based in Portland, Ore., has submitted a design for a small modular nuclear power plant to the NRC for approval.

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 1/13/2017

During the Christmas break Jeff Goodell had an interview in Rolling Stone with climate scientist James Hansen, but I missed it.  Even though it didn’t come out this week, I thought you might find it of interest.

Last week I provided a link to an article about the eco-right and how they are working to combat climate change.  On Tuesday Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D, RI) had an opinion piece in The Washington Post entitled “Republicans want to fight climate change, but fossil-fuel bullies won’t let them.”  Of course, as indicated by last week’s link, not all businesses are opposed to action to combat climate change.  For example, more than 530 companies and 100 investors are calling on the Trump administration and the new Congress to support policies to accelerate a low-carbon future.  Furthermore, on Monday, President Obama had an article published in Science in which he asserted that the clean-energy revolution is irreversible and highlighted the economic benefits of cutting carbon emissions and investing in renewable energy.

On Tuesday the National Academy of Sciences issued a report entitled “Valuing Climate Damages: Updating Estimation of the Social Cost of Carbon Dioxide.”  The social cost of carbon dioxide is an important metric used in doing cost/benefit analyses required when promulgating federal regulations.  It also will be central to any discussion of a carbon tax.  Andrew Revkin examines this important parameter and its possible future during the Trump administration.  Chelsea Harvey also has an excellent discussion of the metric.

Climate

In a report released Thursday, the World Economic Forum summarized the opinions of 750 experts on what the most likely and most impactful risks facing humanity are in 2017.  Extreme weather ranked as the most likely and the second-most impactful risk.  Several other factors also influenced by climate change ranked high on the risk matrix.

Late in the day last Friday (Jan. 6), climate reporter Eric Holthaus took to Twitter to share his despair about climate change and how he is dealing with it.  Then on Wednesday of this week, Andrew Freedman, a climate reporter to whom I frequently link, devoted his column on Mashable to the emotional toll of covering climate change.  Members of the Education and Events committee of CAAV are currently developing plans for providing a space where people in the Harrisonburg area can have open discussions about climate change, including how it is making them feel.  Look for an announcement soon about the first meeting.

The extent of sea ice globally took major hits during 2016, according to an analysis released January 6 by the National Snow and Ice Data Center.  At both poles, “new record lows were set for both daily and monthly extent,” according to the analysis.  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has issued a plan to save the threatened polar bear.  Unfortunately, it identified the rapid decline of sea ice as “the primary threat to polar bears” and said “the single most important achievement for polar bear conservation is decisive action to address Arctic warming,” something it has no control over.

A new paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has reported that short-lived greenhouse gases (such as methane) contribute to sea level rise due to thermal expansion of the ocean over much longer time scales than their atmospheric lifetimes.  In addition, the paper reported that the longer the world waits to reduce methane emissions, the longer seas will stay elevated.

A report from the Japanese environment ministry said that around 90% of the coral in Okinawa Prefecture’s Sekisei lagoon had suffered bleaching because of high water temperatures and that 70% had died.  The lagoon covers an area of approximately 150 square miles and had been a popular dive destination.

A week of powerful storms has significantly eased California’s water shortage, pulling nearly all of Northern California out of drought conditions, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.  However, much of Central and Southern California, are still locked in what officials classify as “extreme drought” — or worse.

A new report updating the plan for climate-related research at 13 federal agencies until 2021 was submitted to Congress this week by the U.S. Global Change Research Program.  For the first time it calls for research into geoengineering, specifically CO2 removal from the atmosphere and reflection of infrared energy from the sun.

Energy

Ivy Main has a new blog post in which she summarizes the energy-related bills before the Virginia General Assembly this session.

The Department of the Interior released a report on Wednesday calling for major changes to the federal program by which the U.S. manages the leasing of publicly-owned land to companies for exploration and production of coal.  The report proposes a series of changes to the current program, including charging a higher royalty rate, factoring in the climate impact of the coal by imposing an additional charge, and setting an overall carbon budget for the nation’s coal leasing program.  Speaking of coal, NRG Energy Inc said on Tuesday it had begun operations at a $1.04 billion carbon capture facility at a Texas coal-fired power plant.  This is the largest carbon capture project of its kind in the world.

New investment in clean energy worldwide fell to $287.5 billion in 2016, down 18% from a record high of $348.5 billion in 2015, according to new research from Bloomberg New Energy Finance.  The primary cause of the investment drop was a slowdown in China and Japan.  In spite of that, clean energy investment in China is outpacing investment in the U.S., causing Joel Jaeger and coauthors at the World Resources Institute to state: “China is poised to leap ahead of the United States on clean energy to become the most important player in the global market.”  Still, questions remain about China’s CO2 emissions.  In a “Memo from China” to The New York Times, Edward Wong examines the factors influencing China’s ability to accurately measure and report those emissions.

A new study by Abt Associates finds that the nine member states of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) (the six New England states plus New York, Delaware, and Maryland) have cut emissions two and a half times more than non-RGGI states while reaping $5.7 billion in benefits due to savings in health care costs and restored productivity.  On a related note, a new report from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory examined states’ renewable energy goals and found that, while renewables add costs, they more than make up for it in the health and environmental benefits they provide.

Automakers, both here and abroad, are working to bring to market a new generation of fuel-saving vehicles.  Those efforts are summarized by Jason Mathers of the Environmental Defense Fund.  Despite that, most of automakers’ advertising is for cars with traditional internal combustion engines.  Ariel Wittenberg looks at this practice on E&E News.  Finally, the EPA has rejected a request from the auto industry to weaken fuel efficiency standards for model years 2022 through 2025.

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.