Climate and Energy News Roundup 11/9/2018

Politics and Policy

The elections provided good news and bad news on the climate front.  The good news is that at least 10 new governors campaigned on aggressively moving their states away from burning fossil fuels and toward relying on renewable forms of energy for electricity.  Also, seven people elected to the House and one to the Senate have science backgrounds.  Finally, the citizens of Nevada voted to require utilities to generate or acquire incrementally larger percentages of electricity from renewable energy so that by 2030 at least 50% is renewable.  The bad news is that a similar measure was defeated in Arizona, while an attempt to enact the nation’s first carbon tax was defeated in Washington State.  Reporters Brad Plumer and Lisa Friedman provided their five climate take-aways and Bill McKibben reflected on the election in an opinion piece, both in The New York Times.  Contrary to an article I linked to last week that said Democrats have no long-term climate agenda, Josh Siegle of The Washington Examiner reported that they plan to use their House majority to prepare for major climate change legislation in 2020.  They also plan to resurrect a special committee focused on climate change, giving them a platform to spotlight the issue.

According to three experts who issued a warning to their profession in the journal Science on Thursday, the Trump administration is empowering political staff to meddle with the scientific process by pushing through reforms disguised to look as though they boost transparency and integrity.  EPA.gov pages that previously provided information about climate change have been changed from claiming that they are “updating” to an error message that reads, “We want to help you find what you are looking for,” as revealed by a report released this week by the Environmental Data & Governance Initiative.  The change indicates that information related climate change is not being “updated,” but removed entirely.  Newly elected Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, an authoritarian nationalist sometimes called the “tropical Trump,” has staked out an environmental agenda that would open the Amazon to widespread development, putting at risk a region that plays a vital role in stabilizing the global climate.

The Children’s Lawsuit is on hold again after the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday granted the Trump administration’s motion for a temporary stay.  A federal judge blocked the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline on Thursday, saying the Trump administration’s justification for approving it last year was incomplete.  The developers of the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) filed an application with FERC on Tuesday to extend the natural gas pipeline into North Carolina.  On Wednesday afternoon, the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered a temporary halt to a water-crossing permit for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) in West Virginia.  As battles over the gas pipelines played out in court, West Virginia state regulators continued to cite the MVP and ACP for environmental problems.  The Virginia State Corporation Commission approved Dominion Energy Virginia’s proposed Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project last Friday.

Bonnie Tsui, a writer based in Berkeley, CA, had a photo-essay in The New York Times, reflecting on Yosemite National Park after the Ferguson fire.  Friday’s radio story at Yale Climate Connections featured “tempestries.”  A tempestry is a knitted representation of the year’s temperatures at a specific location.  Each color represents a temperature, and each line, the daily high.  Put together 365 of these lines, and you get a thin, striped tapestry that shows a full year’s changing seasons.  Katharine Hayhoe has posted a new episode of “Global Weirding”.  It’s all about climate models.  Writing at Transition Network.org, Rob Hopkins called for the use of imagination in fighting climate change, stating: “My main take-away from the 2018 IPCC report is that there may still be time, but only if we can bring about a deep reimagining of what the world could be and how it might work.  As Daniel Aldana Cohen put it, ‘we are only doomed if we do nothing’”.  Consequently, if you’re worried about climate change and its impacts at home and around the world, focus on your own actions and habits, say environmental advocates.  Here are six things you can do.

A new study, published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, highlighted the tendency among all Americans to underestimate how much minority groups (blacks, Latinos, and Asians, in particular) and low-income groups care about the environment and climate change.  And another study, which appears in the journal PLoS One, suggests that people of color, especially Native Americans, face more risk from wildfires than whites. It is another example of how the kinds of disasters exacerbated by climate change often hit minorities and the poor the hardest.

Climate

A new article in the journal Global Change Biology reports on a 30-year study of changes in 106 long‐term inventory plots in Amazonian forests.  The senior author summarized their findings thusly: “The data showed us that the droughts that hit the Amazon basin in the last decades had serious consequences for the make-up of the forest, with higher mortality in tree species most vulnerable to droughts and not enough compensatory growth in species better equipped to survive drier conditions.”

The rate of “daily nest predation“— eggs stolen from the nest by predators such as foxes or rodents — has increased threefold over the past 70 years in the Arctic, according to a study published Friday in Science that looked at more than 38,000 nests from 237 shorebird populations in 149 locations throughout the world.

Scant rainfall, hot temperatures, high winds, and plentiful fuel are to blame for the tinderbox conditions that fanned the flames of the Camp, Hill, and Woolsey fires in California.  And in a rapidly shifting environment characterized by rising temperatures, climate change played a role as well.

Jennifer Collins explored how climate change is altering the Bavarian Alps, reporting on things like disappearing glaciers, less snowfall and increased landslides.  And in another part of the world, Stephanie Leutert examined the relationship between climate change in Honduras and the movements of Honduran migrants northward.  Finally, climate scientist Michael Mann commented on the impacts of climate change on the extreme weather events in the U.S. this summer.

Rapid warming and vanishing sea ice in the Arctic have enabled new species, from humpback whales to white-tailed deer, to spread northward.  Scientists are increasingly concerned that some of these new arrivals may be bringing dangerous pathogens that could disrupt the region’s fragile ecosystems.

Energy

A new report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), ‘Long-Term Energy Storage Outlook,’ is much more bullish on energy storage than last year’s report, saying that they expect battery costs to drop 52% by 2030.  In addition, BNEF claimed that this would “transform the economic case for batteries in both the vehicle and the electricity sector”.  Reuters reported that Germany has earmarked 1 billion euros ($1.2 billion) to support a consortium looking to produce electric car battery cells and plans to fund a research facility to develop next-generation solid-state batteries.  SolarEdge is targeting a world where the “majority of solar systems will include storage”, according to CEO Guy Sella.  Along those lines, a demonstration project was initiated in Germany in which a hybrid battery system containing both lithium-ion and sodium-sulfur batteries will be used to stabilize a grid containing significant wind energy.

In a new report, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) is joining a growing number of environmental organizations to back existing nuclear power plants because of climate reasons, despite continued concerns about the technology’s safety and radioactive waste.  Steve Clemmer, a co-author of the report and director of energy research and analysis at UCS was quoted by Axios as saying: “We’re in a place right now from a climate perspective [where] we have to make some hard choices. We need every low-carbon source of power we can get.”

Scientists at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden have developed a new molecule for use in a molecular solar thermal (MOST) energy storage system.  In such systems, a photo-switchable molecule absorbs sunlight and undergoes a chemical isomerization to a metastable high energy species.  The fluid containing that species can then be stored, and when heat is needed, passed over a catalyst that causes heat to be released for use as the molecule returns to its original state.

In the past five years, the amount of renewable energy capacity in the UK has tripled while fossil fuels’ capacity has fallen by one-third.  The result is that between July and September, the capacity of wind, solar, biomass and hydropower reached 41.9GW, exceeding the 41.2GW capacity of fossil fuel-fired power plants.  And in the U.S., a record number of coal-fired power plants will close this year, with cheap natural gas and renewables expected to replace lost capacity.  A report by the Institute for Energy Economic and Financial Analysis shows that a record 15.4GW of coal capacity will close.

A new paper in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution has found that the impacts of wind turbines are more far-reaching than previously thought.  The authors wrote: “By reducing the activity of predatory birds in the area, wind turbines effectively create a predation-free environment that causes a cascade of effects on a lower trophic level.”  In the developing world, an estimated 3,700 dams, large and small, are now in various stages of development.  A new paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences studied this proliferation of large dams and the importance of incorporating climate change into considerations of whether to build a dam.

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

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Climate and Energy News Roundup 11/2/2018

Politics and Policy

On Thursday, Emily Holden reported in The Guardian: “Democrats don’t have a plan to address climate change comprehensively – or even to a significant degree – if they regain control of the US government in the near future, despite criticizing Republicans as the party of pollution.”  In spite of that, according to Lisa Friedman of The New York Times, climate change has made its way into high-profile races this fall.  It is literally on the ballot in Washington state in the form of Initiative 1631, which would impose the nation’s first carbon tax.  Consequently, the oil industry has spent a record $30 million fighting the initiative, double what an alliance of green groups and billionaire activists has spent to support it.  On Wednesday, a conservative group released a report concluding that a national carbon tax would raise less revenue and cut emissions less than often claimed.  Among other energy-related issues on the ballot, both Arizona and Nevada are considering requiring power companies to get half of their electricity from renewable sources by 2030.

One finding in the recent IPCC climate report is that it will most likely be necessary to remove CO2 from the atmosphere in order to hold the global average temperature increase below 1.5°C.  Consequently, San Francisco-based startup accelerator Y Combinator has announced a new initiative to invest in long-shot research into ways to cheaply do that.  Even as scientists learn more about hurricanes and climate change, FEMA flood-risk mapping does not take into account how global warming is changing the climate, including how sea level is rising.

A study done by the UK-based Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment and the ESRC Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy found that only 58 of the 197 countries signing the Paris Climate Agreement have set economy-wide targets for emissions reductions in their domestic laws or policies and just 16 of these are as ambitious as, or more ambitious than, the pledges contained in their Nationally Determined Contributions.  The State Air Pollution Control Board of Virginia voted Monday to create a new set of regulations to limit CO2 emissions from power plants that burn fossil fuels as part of a proposed new emissions trading system with nine other states in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast (RGGI).

On Friday night, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to halt a novel lawsuit filed by young Americans that attempts to force the federal government to act on climate change, turning down a request from the Trump administration to stop it before trial.  Mary Heglar, a policy publications editor at a prominent environmental advocacy organization had a very moving and personal essay at Vox that provides insight into how one 20- or 30-something is dealing with the reality of climate change.  Jody Tishmack had a thought-provoking essay at Resilence entitled “Wake up. Stop Dreaming.”  Paul McAuley, a former research biologist who is now a full-time novelist with more than 20 books to his credit, has a new book of climate fiction (cli-fi), Austral.  Amy Brady interviewed him for Yale Climate Connections and Chicago Review of Books.  Amazon Original Stories, an Amazon Publishing imprint, this week launched a cli-fi series called “Warmer” about “possible tomorrows” in a U.S. ravaged by climate change.  The series contains seven books, each taking place in a different state.

Neil Chatterjee, the new chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, has pledged to keep politics out of the agency’s decisions.  PJM Interconnection, the nation’s largest power market operator, released a long-awaited study on Thursday finding that there is no immediate threat to the country’s grid, undermining arguments from the Trump administration that favor bailing out coal and nuclear energy.  The New York Times reported that new data from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication – in partnership with Utah State University and the University of California, Santa Barbara – show how Americans across the country view climate and energy policies.

Climate

While violence and poverty have been cited as the reasons for the Central American migrants trudging through Mexico toward the U.S., experts say the big picture is that the changing climate is forcing farmers off their land.

A new paper published Wednesday in the journal Nature revealed that the world’s oceans have warmed 60% more than previously thought.  As a consequence, the maximum CO2 emissions that the world can produce while still avoiding warming of 2°C must be reduced by 25%.  Reuters Investigates released a new series entitled “Ocean Shock” that was produced by a team of journalists, photographers, videographers, and artists to report on the changes that are occurring in the oceans as a result of their warming.  Eliza Barclay and Umair Irfan updated their post about 10 ways to accelerate progress against climate change.

A team at Vox prepared an interesting infographic presentation about how temperature and rainfall are projected to change in 2000 U.S. cities over the next 30 years if the world’s greenhouse gas emissions continue increasing as they are today.  “Unworkable”, a report from Public Citizen and the Farmworker Association of Florida released on Tuesday, spells out the risks of rising temperatures to Florida’s large population of outdoor workers, particularly construction and agricultural workers.  A new paper, published Wednesday in the journal Science Advances, asserts that greenhouse gases are increasingly disrupting the jet stream, causing more frequent summer droughts, floods, and wildfires in the Northern Hemisphere.  Heatwaves in the UK are lasting twice as long as they did 50 years ago, according to a Met Office report.

On Tuesday, an iceberg about five times the size of Manhattan broke off of the Pine Island Glacier in West Antarctica.  It is the 6th largest iceberg to calve from the glacier.  Meanwhile, scientists in Canada have warned that massive glaciers in the Yukon territory are shrinking even faster than would be expected from a warming climate and bringing dramatic changes to the region.  Daniel Grossman interviewed several climate scientists about climate tipping points for Yale Climate Connections.  New research, published in the journal Nature Geoscience, suggests that while solar geoengineering could slow heating of the land, it may not slow the heating of the oceans and associated sea level rise.

A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has found that some bird species living near the tops of tropical mountains have been driven to extinction by rising temperatures because they can’t move higher to cooler climes.

Energy

The Trump administration’s case for repealing the CAFE standards for cars is riddled with calculation mistakes, indefensible assumptions, and broken computer models, according to economists, environmental groups, and a major automaker.  However, David Roberts at Vox predicted that the rise of electric vehicles will render the debate over those standards moot.  Unfortunately, GM managed to upset environmental groups, politicians, the auto industry and others with its announcement that it supports establishing a national program modeled after California’s zero-emissions vehicle program.  To help Virginia communities switch to electric buses, the state is committing $14 million of the VW settlement to help cover the difference in cost between conventional buses and electric ones.

Japan’s nuclear power plants were idled following the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi facility in 2011, but some are now being reopened to provide electricity again.  For decades, uranium mining has been banned by state law in Virginia.  On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a case testing whether the state has such authority, or whether it resides instead with the federal government.

Justin Mikulka reported at Desmog that “At current oil prices, most fracking companies are losing money while trying to get every last drop out of the known sweet spots in American shale plays. … These companies can’t hope to pay back their massive debts if the best days of the major shale plays are either in the past or rapidly approaching.”  Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest pork producer, announced a plan last week to cover and capture methane gas from thousands of its hog manure pits.

At MIT Technology Review James Temple explained why it is so difficult to develop a battery-powered airplane and what researchers at MIT and Carnegie Mellon are doing to solve the problem.  On a larger scale, vanadium redox flow battery maker VRB Energy has begun commissioning a 3MW/12MWh energy storage system in Hubei, China, which is expected to help serve as a demonstrator for much larger projects to come.  However, because vanadium is scarce and increasing in price, researchers are looking at other chemicals, such as iron and selected organic molecules, for use in flow batteries.

As much as $60 billion of coal-fired power assets may be stranded in the next decade across Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines, according to a new study by Carbon Tracker, which cited tighter environmental policies and competition from cheaper renewable energy.  As more solar and wind generation are added in those countries, coal plants will go idle and struggle to generate revenue needed to repay their loans.  The most promising “clean coal” systems burn coal at higher temperatures than conventional plants, capturing 48% rather than 30% of the energy out of each ton of fuel.  Their costs are about 40% higher than a regular plant, and their CO2 emissions are 25% to 35% lower, according to the World Coal Association.  Still, the economics just don’t add up.  This was reinforced by a new study from the University of Texas at Austin’s Energy Institute that found wind to be the cheapest energy resource across the Central Plains and down the Appalachian Mountains, natural gas across the Coastal Plain and parts of the northern Rocky Mountains, and solar across the Southwest and sporadically through the Midwest and Northwest.

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

 

Climate and Energy News Roundup 10/26/2018

Politics and Policy

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

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

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

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

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

Climate

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

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

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

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

Energy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Climate and Energy News Roundup 10/19/2018

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

Politics and Policy

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

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

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

Climate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Energy

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

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

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

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

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

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

Climate and Energy News Roundup 10/12/2018

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

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

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

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

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

Carbon Brief published a Q&A about the report.

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

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

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

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

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

Climate and Energy News Roundup 10/5/2018

Policy and Politics

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

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

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

Climate

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

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

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

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

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

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

Energy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Climate and Energy News Roundup 9/28/2018

Policy and Politics

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

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

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

Climate

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

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

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

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

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

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

Energy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Climate and Energy News Roundup 9/21/2018

Policy and Politics

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

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

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

Climate

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

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

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

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

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

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

Energy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Climate and Energy News Roundup 9/14/2018

Policy and Politics

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

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

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

Climate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Energy

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

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

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

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

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

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

Climate and Energy News Roundup 8/31/2018

Policy and Politics

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

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

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

Climate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Energy

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

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

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

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

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