Climate and Energy News Roundup 12/15/2017

Policy and Politics

Under the guise of enhancing “environmental stewardship around the world,” EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt met with officials in Morocco about their interest in importing natural gas from the U.S.  Environmental groups, Democratic lawmakers, and some industry experts noted that EPA has no formal role in overseeing natural gas exports.  Last week I included an article about Pruitt’s plans for the “red team/blue team” debate on climate science.  Well, this week, those plans were put on hold.  Since Pruitt took over as administrator of the EPA in March, more than 700 employees have either retired, taken voluntary buyouts, or quit.  The largest number was in the Department of Research and Development.  John Abraham had a column in The Guardian arguing that the Trump administration is being shortsighted by cutting funding for climate research.  Making good on French President Emmanuel Macron’s promise to provide research funding for climate scientists working in the U.S. who are worried about the political climate here, the French government unveiled a list of 18 “laureates”, 13 of them working in the U.S., who have won grants to conduct research in France.  Also on Tuesday, in concert with the One Planet conference in Paris to mark the second anniversary of the Paris Climate Agreement, the EU announced funding of €9bn for action on climate change.  The funds will be focused on sustainable cities, clean energy and sustainable agriculture.

On Monday, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit heard arguments concerning the Trump administration’s request for a writ of mandamus to halt the climate change lawsuit brought by 21 children.  An administration attorney claimed that the discovery requests in the case were “burdensome” and that litigating the case could distract the executive branch from carrying out “its constitutional duties.”  Award-winning poet Megan Hunter published her first novel this month, entitled The End We Start From, and it is a work of climate fiction.  In an interview with Amy Brady, she said “I think that hope is actually essential if we are to take action: If there is no hope for the planet then there is no point doing anything.  And hope…[is] about recognizing the essentially unknown nature of the future…”

California and Washington state joined Canada, Mexico, Costa Rica, Colombia, and Chile on Tuesday in an agreement to step up the use of a price on CO2 emissions as a central economic policy to slow climate change.  A new paper in the journal Climatic Change reported on a survey of Republican attitudes about climate changeClifford Klaus had an interesting piece in The New York Times about the people of Converse County, Wyoming, and their attitudes about energy and President Trump.  They would be very happy with Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s plan to boost coal.  In a report released on Wednesday, the Government Accountability Office said that the Pentagon must do more to prepare its overseas bases for the impacts of climate change.

Climate

Attribution studies were in the news this week.  Two dealt with Hurricane Harvey and its impacts.  As published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, scientists at the World Weather Attribution project calculated that the record rainfall experienced in Houston was made three times more likely because of climate change.  Furthermore, if we continue with business-as-usual CO2 emissions, rainfall events on the same scale as Hurricane Harvey’s downpour could become up to ten times more likely by 2100.  The results are supported by the second study, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, which found that Harvey’s rainfall was made 3.5 times more likely by climate change.  In a first for the American Meteorological Society’s annual report on the role of climate change in extreme weather events, their 2016 report, released this week, included three events that would not have happened without the increase in CO2 level in the atmosphere.  Previous reports had never determined that events could not have occurred under “natural” conditions.  Brad Plumer and Nadja Popovich summarized five cases from the report at The New York Times.  A number of additional attribution studies were presented at the meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in New Orleans and they were summarized by Joel Achenbach at The Washington Post.  In addition, the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit issued a report examining the climate change links of all extreme weather events that have occurred since the Paris Climate Agreement.

Also at the AGU meeting, Jeremy Mathis, director of the Arctic Research Program at NOAA, unveiled the Arctic Report Card 2017.  The report stated that the decline of Arctic sea ice is “outside of the range of natural variability and unprecedented” in the past 1,450 years and that the speed at which Arctic surface temperatures are rising is unprecedented in (at least) the past 2,000 years.  Indicative of the changes in Alaska, some temperature readings in Barrow (now known as Utqiagvik) were automatically deleted from the data record because they were so high they looked like outliers.

A paper published in the journal Earth’s Future examined potential sea level rise associated with the melting of Antarctic glaciers.  The paper reported on the first modeling study to take into consideration two new mechanisms that could lead to rapid collapse of the Antarctic ice sheets: disintegration of floating ice shelves and mechanical failure of tall ice cliffs facing the sea.  The study found that under a business-as-usual emissions scenario sea level could rise by 3 to 8 feet by the year 2100, much higher than projected by the last IPCC report.  Climate Central released a new version of their sea level rise maps to reflect the new findings.

Concerns are growing that because of increasing CO2 levels, wheat, rice, and other staple crops could deliver less of some minerals and protein in decades to come than they do today.  In 2017, three reports highlighted what changes in those crops could mean for global health.

In the past I have provided links to articles about “negative emissions” technologies for removing CO2 from the atmosphere and the necessity for their use to meet the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.  Wired has published a long investigative piece about “bioenergy with carbon capture and storage”, or BECCS, which is one of those technologies.

Energy

New research, published in Nature Energy, measured the full lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions of various electricity sources out to 2050. It showed that the carbon footprints of solar, wind and nuclear power are many times lower than coal or gas with carbon capture and storage.  This remained true after accounting for emissions during manufacture, construction and fuel supply.  Even though Florida is called the “sunshine state”, it gets most of its electricity from gas-fired power plants, with relatively little from solar.  The Center for Public Integrity had a rather long investigative piece about the electric power industry there.  It also released a report on the relationship between the American Petroleum Institute and the U.S. government.

National Australia Bank says it will halt all lending for new thermal coal mining projects, although it will continue providing finance for coal projects already on its books.  Meanwhile, in Paris the World Bank announced on Tuesday that after 2019 it will no longer finance upstream oil and gas projects.  In response to the “Powering Past Coal Alliance,” which was launched by Canada and the UK, the Trump administration has proposed the “Clean Coal Alliance” to encourage cooperation on technologies that reduce the carbon footprint of coal.  It has not yet begun recruiting members.

Two recent research papers, one in Nature Geoscience and the other in Nature Scientific Reports, demonstrate clearly the perversity of nature.  The first paper, reporting on a modeling study, found that as Earth warms, wind patterns in the midlatitudes of the Northern Hemisphere will change and diminish somewhat, having a negative impact on wind energy installations.  The second paper reported on a study of wind energy potential in key regions of China from 1979 through 2015, and found that it had declined by about 10%.

According to GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association’s latest U.S. Solar Market Insight report, 2,031 megawatts of photovoltaic (PV) solar generation were installed in the U.S. in the third quarter of the year, resulting in the market’s smallest quarter in two yearsAppalachian Power has announced that its first PV solar generation project, a 15 MW facility, will be built in Rustburg, Va.  Global installations of solar PV panels are set to reach 108 GW next year according to forecasts by IHS Markit Ltd.  They project that the rate of installations will require a large percentage of global panel manufacturing capacity, driving prices up and making the economics of some projects questionable.

Babies born to mothers living near fracking sites have a higher chance of being underweight, according to new research published this week in the journal Science Advances, which surveyed data on more than 1.1 million births in Pennsylvania between 2004 and 2013.  On a 4-3 vote Tuesday, the Virginia Water Control Board approved the certification of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline with an amendment that prevents it from becoming effective until the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality finishes reviewing and approving a series of plans and mitigation measures.

Toyota Motor Corp. has strengthened its partnership with battery producer Panasonic Corp.  They will work together on solid-state batteries for electric vehicles (EVs), among other things.  As EVs replace cars powered by internal combustion engines, one thing that will change is the auto repair shop, simply because EVs have far fewer parts to break down.

Akshat Rathi continued his series in Quartz about “The Race to Zero Emissions.”  You can read Part 5 here, Part 6 here, Part 7 here, and Part 8 here.  In addition, he has provided a game to test your ability to reduce carbon emissions from electricity generation.

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 12/8/2017

Policy and Politics

The EPA will not block its scientists from freely discussing their work in public, Administrator Scott Pruitt promised lawmakers this week, in the wake of a recent incident in which researchers were barred from presenting findings on climate change at a conference.  However, he also told lawmakers that early in 2018 he plans to review the 2009 endangerment finding that climate change is a risk to human health by using the “red team/blue team” approach used by the military.  In further EPA news, the agency announced Wednesday that it will take comments on its proposed repeal of the Clean Power Plan at upcoming hearings in San Francisco; Gillette, Wyoming; and Kansas City, Missouri.  The dates, times and venues have not yet been announced.  The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee held Congress’ first hearings on climate science in 1976, and it resulted in passage of bipartisan legislation to establish a National Climate Program Office.  Today, the Committee is best known for being hostile to climate scientists.  What happened?  Inside Climate News reviewed the transformation of this powerful committee to help answer that question.

While Suniva and SolarWorld have continued to appeal to President Trump to impose tariffs on imported solar panels, installers and others have argued that a tariff will cause more jobs in solar installation to be lost than will be gained in solar panel manufacturingGreentech Media had a detailed summary of the hearings.  Both the House and Senate versions of the tax-cut bill contain provisions that pose a threat to the development of wind and solar power.  Paraphrasing Martin Luther King Jr., who in turn had paraphrased the great abolitionist leader Theodore Parker, Bill McKibben wrote in Rolling StoneThe arc of the physical universe appears to be short, and it bends toward heat.  Win soon or suffer the consequences.”

More than 50 mayors from cities of all sizes wrapped up a climate change summit in Chicago on Wednesday, at which they signed a formal agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in their cities.  In order to do that, they will need to consider housing, land use, and transportation as a single system, since they are all intertwined, complementary, and reinforcing.  A recent study published in the journal BioScience showed how important it is to consider the sources used by any blogs you read on the subject of climate change.  Those that aren’t based on the peer-reviewed scientific literature can be very misleading.

Climate

In 2015 journalists from The New York Times accompanied a team of scientists to Greenland, where they were studying the fate of meltwater from the ice sheet.  The question being studied was whether the water flowed directly to the sea, or whether some was retained in cavities within the ice sheet.  The results of those studies have now been published in the Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences and the Times has an interesting article about the study, complete with excellent graphics.  Another article in the Times, which I missed last week deals with the mental stress of climate change on Inuit people.  It is accompanied by some wonderful watercolors.

Several climate change models are used by climate scientists to project future warming.  Because of differences between them, they provide a variety of projections.  Scientists at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Stanford, Calif. ranked the models by how well they simulated historical temperature changes.  When they then examined projections of future temperature changes they found that those that best simulated past temperature changes gave the highest projections of future changes, by around 15%, on average.

As wildfires once again raged across California, Robinson Meyer of The Atlantic examined the question of whether they were being made worse by climate change.  A paper this week in Nature Communication provided additional evidence linking the loss of Arctic sea ice with drought in California and extreme cold winter temperatures in the eastern U.S.  This does not bode well for the current California wildfires.  Another consequence of melting Arctic sea ice is more human activity, such as boat traffic and oil exploration.  As a consequence, conservationists are concerned about the impact on marine life that is not adapted to such activities.  One example is narwhals, which have a unique stress response that may not be compatible with human activities.

One impact of increased concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere is to make the oceans more acidic.  Consequently, scientists have been studying the impacts of increased acidity on a variety of marine species, such as shellfish.  A recent article in the Proceedings of the Royal Society, B, Biological Sciences reported on studies on mussels.  The acidity of sea water varies with location and in shallow coastal waters, where mussels grow, it also varies with time.  When the scientists subjected mussels to varying acidity levels they found that condition to be more stressful than constant exposure to waters with low acidity.

A new study in the journal The Condor: Ornithological Applications, found that some U.S. Pacific coast bird species are migrating earlier in the spring and later in the fall than they used to.  These changes appear to be linked to warmer, wetter climate conditions.  Climate change is also having an impact on birds in the UK, as documented in a new report.

Rivers in the Amazon are cycling between increasingly severe states of flood and drought, as predicted by climate change models, and the results are directly impacting local wildlife and the indigenous people who protect the forest, according to a new study published in the journal Conservation Biology.

Energy

A notice that was slated to be published Friday in the Federal Register by the Bureau of Land Management will suspend a rule to limit methane leaks from oil and gas operations on federal land.  On the other hand, the American Petroleum Institute announced on Tuesday that a consortium of oil and gas companies is undertaking a voluntary program to reduce their methane emissions.  Speaking of methane, last Friday the U.S. Forest Service gave its approval for the Mountain Valley Pipeline to cross the Jefferson National Forest and on Thursday of this week the Virginia Water Control Board approved the pipeline, its last major regulatory hurdle.  Finally, a note about pipelines in general.  Regulators are concerned that the oil leak from the Keystone Pipeline may have been caused by the weights that keep it from floating when it is below the water table.  One problem is that the regulators don’t know where the weights are.

Lithium-ion battery packs used in electric vehicles are selling at an average price of $209 a kWh, down 24% from a year ago and about a fifth of what it was in 2010, a Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) survey shows. Furthermore, according to a report by BNEF, the cost will likely fall to below $100 a kWh by 2025.  Of course, the price of the battery packs will depend in part on the price of lithium, which is now at a record high due to high demand and limited supply.  This is causing one of the world’s largest lithium producers to consider expanding into a fourth country.

According to new data from the U.S. Energy Information Agency (IEA), transportation has surpassed electricity generation as the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S.  The transportation sector now emits 1.9 billion tons of CO2 annually; the electric power sector emits 1.8 billion tons.  There is growing interest in electric vehicles (EVs) coupled with renewable energy as a way of reducing emissions from both sectors, but one deterrence is a lack of EV infrastructure.  This raises the question of whether car-sharing services can increase demand for both EVs and their infrastructure.  Of course, if the new EVs look as good as the concept cars shown at this year’s Los Angeles Auto Show, a lot of people won’t take too much convincing, particularly since EVs are cheaper to own and operate over four years than gasoline or diesel cars.  The IEA also reported that U.S. solar photovoltaic electricity output in the first nine months of 2017 grew 47% over the same period in 2016.

More than half of the EU’s 619 coal-fired power plants are losing money, according to a new report by Carbon Tracker.  Furthermore, stricter air pollution rules and higher carbon prices will push even more plants into unprofitability, with 97% losing money by 2030.

Read it and weep.  China’s share of the global market for protection against climate change more than tripled over the 13 years leading to 2015, according to a report commissioned by the German government and published by the Federal Environment Office.  Germany fell to second place and the U.S. finished third.

This week, Akshat Rathi started a series about carbon capture on Quartz.  The first article provided an overview, the second with the Allam cycle which uses supercritical CO2 to drive the turbine in a gas-powered system to generate electricity, the third with negative-emissions concrete, and the fourth with a new process, invented by a teenager, that absorbs CO2 at about 15% of the cost of the industry standard.  The series will conclude next week.

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.

EPA and Sierra Club Hearings on the CPP

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EPA hearing to repeal the Clean Power Plan, Charleston, WV
November 28 and 29, 2017
– Cathy Strickler

Climate change activists are fighting battles on many fronts.  There are 10 new pipelines on the East Coast alone, either proposed or under construction.  The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is in the hands of gas and oil supporters and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is run by a climate denier.  My husband Charlie and I went to Charleston, West Virginia, to attend the EPA’s public hearing on their proposal to repeal the Clean Power Plan (CPP) knowing it was a sham but reluctantly thinking it was the right thing to do to support the counter event, Hearing for Healthy Communities sponsored by the Sierra Club.  We went to both and as always, it is enlightening to be in the middle of people who care and speak out against the huge odds of overpowering money, greed and influence.

We were shuttled by Sierra Club representatives from the University Of Charleston where their hearing would start in the afternoon, across the Kanawha River to the gold-domed state capital where the EPA held its hearing.  We immediately came upon a press conference of the United Mine Workers of America with 20 members standing behind their legal team.  They are against the CPP stating that good jobs and pensions will be lost and jobs in the renewable energy sector will not be as high paying.  They acknowledge climate change and want a different CPP that would ensure the future of coal.  It was impossible for me to get the details of their proposals but I felt sad that they were seeing renewable energy as the enemy instead of the lack of a just transition that would protect their incomes.

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Inside, three concurrent hearings were in process and we listened to one for about an hour. The PA system was poor but people methodically read their 3 minute prepared speeches.  A representative from the Natural Resources Defense Council told Charlie the next day that the testimonies were running about 80% against repeal.  People came from all over, even to the remote center of coal country.

We shuttled back across the river for a nice buffet lunch provided by the Sierra Club and then heard an expert panel tell of the health impacts of coal.  Two representatives from latino organizations started off stressing environmental justice issues.  One, from Green Latinos, stressed the importance of informal testimony that we all do every day and that people believe what they are told more than what they read.  The League of Latinos stated the projected cost of Hurricane Maria to Puerto Rica is $200 billion and that it is possible to have both a healthy environment and economy.

The next four panelists were a Georgetown University professor of Public Health Nursing, a representative from Healthy Downstream Strategies based in Morgantown, WV, the N.Y. Attorney General’s general counsel, an activist from Upshur County, WV, and a representative from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).  The last, Jeremy Richardson, was a brother, son and grandson of WV coal miners.  Their points were that the CPP is doable as proven in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) states, and necessary to lessen climate change; that the EPA needs to go further and address fracked methane gas which isn’t addressed in the CPP; WV has no large scale solar and is near the bottom of state rankings for energy efficiency and life expectancy; the UCS stance on nuclear is nuanced, based on each situation; the Rockefeller Fund has done good work with job retraining in coal communities.

Testimony from the public followed with 30-40 people stating the reasons repeal is repugnant, including a 12 year-old boy.  I am happy he is being taught to do public speaking at an early age.  I used to be critical of children speaking in similar settings but now think it’s important for their experience and for the rest of us to have a face of the future right there.

The next morning, all of the transcribed testimonies from the Hearing for Healthy Communities were delivered to the EPA representatives, after a woman from Harlan County, KY, gave her testimony on how coal has devastated her family’s health.  Another man, representing Energy Efficiency for All (EEFA) which is supported by NRDC, stated the CPP is needed to fund programs that would be a lifeline for poor families and a smart investment that creates local jobs, eliminates the need for expensive new power plants, reduces pollution and saves money for taxpayers nationwide.

As we were leaving I had a conversation with an EPA employee who was working at the registration table.  She works at the EPA office in the research triangle in North Carolina.  We talked about the need of faster change and of thinking about how inside EPA information could be important in this.  She was not condescending and emphasized that there are many in EPA who ‘get it’ and are trying to strategize their effectiveness.

There were 100+ at the Hearing for Healthy Communities.  I applaud the Sierra Club for organizing this event that brought the press to educate the public and that gave courage to those who attended.

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Climate and Energy News Roundup 12/1/2017

Policy and Politics

President Trump’s nominee to head NOAA, Barry Meyers, former CEO of AccuWeather, affirmed during his confirmation hearing on Wednesday that he accepts the scientific consensus that humans are causing global warming.  In addition, he said “I fully support the ability, as I said, of scientists to do their work unfettered.”  State department official Judith Garber said the U.S. is starting the process to ratify the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, which sets a phasedown path for HFCs, a group of potent greenhouse gases used as refrigerants in refrigerators and air conditioners.  President Trump’s trade representative requested more details about how low-cost imported solar panels have harmed U.S. manufacturers as the White House considers imposing tariffs.

Most of us concerned about climate change think of the Clean Power Plan (CPP) as a regulation to decrease CO2 emissions.  In reality, it is much more, also reducing a host of other pollutants that impact human health, as was emphasized during testimony at the CPP hearings in Charleston, WV, this weekEmily Atkin had an interesting commentary on the hearings in the New Republic.  While we were on break last week, Carbon Brief published an interview with everyone’s favorite climate scientist, Katharine Hayhoe.  It’s very interesting.  Writing at Southeast Energy News, Jim Pierobon examined the hurdles still to be faced as the McAuliffe and Northam administrations strive to have Virginia join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).

Climate

A new study, published in the journal PLoS One, has found that almost 14,000 coastal archeological sites and national monuments in the southeastern U.S. could be lost by the year 2100 because of sea level rise.  Meanwhile, in the Arctic, melting permafrost is threatening artifacts that have been preserved for centuries.  Speaking of sea level rise, in the last Weekly Roundup I provided a link to Bill McKibben’s review of Jeff Goodell’s new book The Water Will Come.  This week, Amy Brady posted an interview with Goodell.

Writing in Nautilus, Victor Gomes cataloged seven climate change impacts you may not have considered.  One impact not covered by Gomes is on the tiny creatures in the oceans that form the base of the food chain.  Amorina Kingdon took a brief look at them at Hakai Magazine.  Another consequence that you may not have considered is an increase in the number of child brides in Africa.

In a report to its clients on Tuesday, Moody’s Investors Service Inc. explained how it incorporates climate change into its credit ratings for state and local bonds.  If cities and states don’t deal with risks from surging seas or intense storms, they are at greater risk of default, and hence they will have to pay a higher interest rate for their bonds.  Speaking of risks, an analysis by NOAA showed the amount of rain that defines a “100-year storm” has risen by 3 to 5 inches in the Houston area since the last estimates were put in place in 2002.  Instead of expecting 12 to 14 inches in a day during a 100-year storm, the data show the area should expect 15 to 18 inches.

A report released Tuesday by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation said that the fashion industry currently creates 1.2 billion tons of carbon emissions per year–more than emissions from international flights and shipping combined.  It called on the fashion industry to alter its practices in order to become more sustainable.

A new paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences examined 20 conservation, restoration, and land management actions that could help the world reach the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.

Warm waters in the Bering and Chukchi Seas have hampered sea ice development this fall.  And that’s not all.  A new report completed by 90 scientists for the Arctic Council concluded that the Arctic is warming twice as fast as the mid-latitudes and is likely to see average warming of up to 5°C as early as 2040.

Energy

Bloomberg New Energy Finance held a conference this week in Shanghai on the future of energy in Asia.  Anindya Upadhyay and Iain Wilson presented some of the highpoints from the conference for Bloomberg Technology, including the projection that the growing market for electric vehicles (EVs) will cut oil demand by 8 million barrels a day by 2040.  Furthermore, according to a UBS global autos survey released Tuesday, EVs will make up 16% of all car sales by 2025.  However, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, battery prices need to drop by more than half before electric vehicles will be competitive with cars powered by internal-combustion engines, something that is likely to happen by 2026.  Before Thanksgiving I included information about Tesla’s new long-haul truck.  Now Bloomberg Technology has questioned whether Elon Musk’s claims are achievable.

According to data from the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, between January 2010 and November 2017, natural gas pipelines leaked a total of 17.55 billion cubic feet of gas, killed nearly 100 people, and injured close to 500.  Jonathan Thompson of High Country News has prepared an interesting infographic using that data.  ExxonMobil was the only American-owned company to sign an agreement with seven other energy firms to crack down on emissions of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that producers tend to emit along the natural gas production chain.  A new study, published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, sought to measure methane emissions from cattle, swine, and poultry production.  They found that total U.S. livestock methane emissions were 19.6 billion pounds per year, a figure close to that determined by the EPA.  Fuel cell technology based on methane as the energy source can produce electricity with fewer CO2 emissions than a gas-fired turbine.  Consequently, they are being considered by some companies for powering their data centers.

Shell is increasing the capital expenditure for its new energies division, to $1billion-$2billion a year for 2018-2020, up from a previous plan of up to $1bn a year by 2020.  Furthermore, its new climate change target aims to cut the net carbon footprint of its products by 50% by 2050, and by 20% by 2035.  In addition, Shell has partnered with top carmakers to deploy ultra-fast chargers at 80 European highway sites in 2019.

About 5% of all K-12 schools in the U.S. are powered by the sun, and their solar capacity has almost doubled in the last three years, according to a new study by the Solar Energy Industries Association, The Solar Foundation, and Generation 180, a clean energy nonprofit.

The world’s largest lithium-ion battery has officially been turned on in South Australia.  The 100 MW battery, produced by Tesla, is paired to the neighboring Hornsdale Wind Farm, owned by French company Neoen, to bring greater reliability and stability to the state’s electricity grid.  Hyundai Electric & Energy Systems Co. is building a 150 MW unit that will go live in about three months in Ulsan near South Korea’s southeast coast.

About 2,800 new hydroelectric dams are planned across a region stretching from Slovenia to Greece, 37% of which will be built in protected areas such as national parks or Natura 2000 sites, sparking fears of disappearing mountain rivers and biodiversity loss.

India’s Minister for New & Renewable Energy expressed confidence that the country could achieve 200 GW of operational renewable energy capacity by March 2022 instead of the current target of 175 GW.

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.

Ben Meredith

ben.meredithThe Climate Action Alliance of the Valley’s long-time friend Benjamin Meredith, founder and owner of Building Knowledge, a company that does energy audits and guides energy efficiency improvements, came to present to the November 21 steering committee meeting. Benjamin is one of 10 persons selected for a new committee established by Harrisonburg City Council in 2016, the Environmental Performance Standards Advisory Committee, or “EPSAC”. Two elected officials, Richard Baugh representing City Council, and Deb Fitzgerald, representative for the School Board, are among the group. Ritchie Vaughn was elected chairperson of the group to present back to the City Council. City planner Thanh Dang gives overall guidance.

EPSAC began functioning this year. In only three meetings they have reached consensus on a substantial number of issues and possible actions. Excellent minutes are available online at City of Harrisonburg/EPSAC. The purpose of the committee has been established and many ideas have been submitted. Chris Brown, the city attorney, was brought in to explain how Dillon’s Rule governs what can be done by the city independent of state approval. At this point, much research is going into what is getting done and by whom on the issues of interest. The lofty ideals in evidence at the first meeting have been trimmed somewhat by the political climate in which we live. They are reaching out to both Roanoke and Charlottesville for input from their sustainability officers.

Members of EPSAC have now divided into three groups based on their particular interests and expertise: Water Quality, especially concerning the Dry River watershed; Sustainability, led by Tom Benevento; and Building Standards, led by Ben. As so much work has been done already by various city departments on water issues, Ben says that committee appears to be dissolving, although there is no city-wide conservation plan that he knows about. Underway is a plan to draw water from the South Fork of the Shenandoah River in the future. Currently Harrisonburg water comes about equally from Dry River at Switzer Reservoir (the original source) and North River in Bridgewater.

The Sustainability/Integrated plan under development by Tom Benevento’s subcommittee, after hearing from Roanoke and Charlottesville sustainability personnel, are working on a first draft action plan to include many environmental initiatives: greenhouse gas emissions inventory, energy efficiency for buildings, affordable renewables, transportation issues, water, and waste and recycling. The draft will be submitted to city council for feedback in January, after which an action plan and monitoring program will be developed.

The Building Standards subcommittee, led by Ben, will be developing proposals for city properties, including schools, and private commercial properties. They have met with building managers of many of these, and there are complications. While the city has little latitude on how state building codes are enforced, it also isn’t surprising that builders don’t like being pushed to change what they are doing. All MUST build to a minimum standard, but that is rarely more than the Code dictates. There have been recent attempts to track energy usage by city buildings, and all agree on the need for more data collection.

The new Bluestone Elementary School was built “solar ready”. The school board is interested in adding solar panels, and hopes to have the new high school built to the same standard. EPSAC members are encouraging that.

There is a lack of state incentives for energy efficiency, improvements for which often drive up building costs; but, Harrisonburg owns its buildings, so this is in their control. This subcommittee is working on how they can do that without substantial greater expense, and calculate the payoff from improvements.

Ben suggested that the subcommittee would like to create a working group among city operations staff to allow them to upgrade energy efficiency each time repairs or remodeling are done. THAT MAKES EMINENT SENSE TO US, BEN!

– Anne Nielsen, for the CAAV Coalition-Building Committee, November 2017

Most months, the CAAV Coalition-Building Committee invites a community member or group to present to the CAAV steering committee about projects with which they are involved. We are grateful to be working with so many other groups and individuals passionate about creating a more resilient, healthy and just world.

Climate and Energy News Roundup 11/17/2017

Policy and Politics

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

There is a civil war brewing within the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).  At issue is whether they should support withdrawal of the 2009 endangerment finding for CO2 and other greenhouse gases that is the basis for the Clean Power Plan.  In a chilling article in The Washington Post, Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis report on a closed-door meeting of climate change deniers who were critiquing the Trump administration on its dismantling of environmental regulations.  Almost as chilling is Robinson Meyer’s article in The Atlantic, in which he says that most progressive voters “trust that Democrats have a legislative plan to resolve [the] climate crisis, and that the party only needs to be granted control of Congress to pass it.  But nothing of a similar scale exists, and some of the Senate’s most vocal Democrats on the issue resist formulating one.”  Some good news: U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R FL), who started the House Climate Solutions Caucus, and May Boeve, executive director of 350.org, were presented with this year’s John F. Kennedy New Frontier Awards on Thursday evening at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.

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

Climate

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

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

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

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

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

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

Energy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Climate and Energy News Roundup 11/10/2017

Policy and Politics

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

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

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

Climate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Energy

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sun Power for Puerto Rico

Thanks to everyone who participated in this fundraiser! Together we are supporting Resilient Power Puerto Rico with close to $3500.00!


sunpowersnip

Help Puerto Rico Recover with Solar Power
Proceeds to support the work of Resilient Power Puerto Rico

Saturday, November 18
4:30-6:00PM
The Golden Pony
181 N. Main St., Harrisonburg

For years the Climate Action Alliance of the Valley has championed bringing solar power to the Valley for people who could afford it. Now we want to help bring it to hurricane ravaged communities in Puerto Rico that can’t afford it but are still left in the dark without power after Hurricanes Irma and Maria. This fundraiser will raise money to give to the marvelous group, Resilient Power Puerto Rico (you can read all about them below).

Join us at The Golden Pony to lift a glass, eat some food (the Pony will donate 20% of your food and drink tab), and write a check to make a real difference. You might even win a door prize from The Sierra Club Shenandoah Group and others (all donors will be entered for the chance to win). You will also hear first-hand from a neighbor what her family in Puerto Rico has been facing during this difficult time period. Whatever you do, you’ll leave knowing you’ve made a real difference in the lives of American citizens who are facing a long road back to recovery.

If you cannot attend, please donate at ResilientpowerPR.org. You can also visit their website to read more about this organization’s work to steadily bring community-owned solar power to Puerto Ricans over a 4-year strategic plan.


Here’s some more information about Resilient Power Puerto Rico from architecturalrecord.com:

Architects Bring Solar to Hurricane-Battered Puerto Rico
October 27, 2017
James S. Russell, FAIA

hurricane-maria-puerto-rico-solar-power-01

Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico on September 20, 2017, as a Category 4 hurricane. Photo by Staff Sergeant Michelle Y. Alvarez-Rea, U.S. Air Force

On October 22, the Buena Vista community center in San Juan, Puerto Rico, switched off one of the many noisy generators that has become an inescapable part of life since Hurricane Maria devastated the country on September 20. For the first time in weeks, fans turned through the blessed silence. A refrigerator hummed and lights glowed.

This small miracle in an island staggering to recover was powered by a 5-kilowatt photovoltaic solar array. It was the first installation by an ambitious nonprofit called Resilient Power Puerto Rico that aims to rapidly restore electrical service by installing permanent solar arrays on the island, which lost almost its entire grid to the hurricane. Full restoration of the electrical system could take years.

Resilient Power Puerto Rico launched only a week after the hurricane, when the full extent of the tragedy became evident. …

The … (group is) targeting community facilities including health clinics, food kitchens, and nonprofit service providers, to increase each installation’s impact. The group raised $150,000 in days, permitting rapid deployment of solar panel and battery pack kits to the island.

At least five PV arrays are now in place, and the organization is ramping-up fundraising and training to bring 100 sites all over the island online in 100 days, …

Community centers in Puerto Rico, such as the long-established Buena Vista in the Caño Martín Peña area of San Juan, play a critical role in storm recovery. Each serves from 20,000 to 50,000 people. Volunteers share information, help storm victims apply for aid, and give out tarps, food, medicines, and other necessities.

The PV arrays charge phones and operate computers, water purifiers (since all the reservoirs are polluted), and refrigerators that store medicines and make ice. With battery packs supplied, … the centers can operate on three shifts if they want, … since volunteers are abundant.

The sun-drenched climate makes the island a perfect candidate for PV at large scale. People are being trained to mount the arrays atop the flat concrete roofs that top most nonresidential buildings. The arrays can resist 150 MPH winds, …

With donated labor and materials acquired at cost, the 5-kW solar arrays installed by Resilient Power Puerto Rico, cost around $25,000 each, less than half their retail value.*

(The partners behind Resilient Puerto Rico) expect the development of solar hubs to grow rapidly, linked together to form microgrids that could mix solar with other renewable sources. The road to energy independence could be a source of skilled jobs—sorely lacking before the storm—as well as a clean-energy alternative that can survive future hurricanes.

* Co-founder of Resilient Power Puerto Rico, Jennifer Bolstad offered this clarification on November 9: The initial sites cost around $6000 each, mostly due to transport costs, but the later work will be closer to the $25,000 mentioned since they’ll be hiring and training a labor force. She added that their crew of volunteers from here is already on the island, 79 additional sites have been scoped out and are ready to go, and two containers of supplies for the rest of the 1st phase has just landed. She was really excited and really appreciative of our efforts (and happy with the election returns).

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Climate and Energy News Roundup 11/3/2017

Policy and Politics

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

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

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

Climate

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

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

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

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

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

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

Energy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Climate and Energy News Roundup 10/27/2017

Policy and Politics

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

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

Climate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Energy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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